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Total number of comments: 32 (since 2013-11-28 16:32:54)

Jürgen Wiesmann

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  • Syria After Trump's Withdrawal: Top Reasons an "Arab Force" will Fail
    • The US getting out of Syria more or less means that the Syrian government has won the war. Without US backing, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries would most likely not want to get involved. With Russia's and Iran's help the remaining ISIS pockets in Eastern Deir-Ezzor can be addressed, all the more so as Iraqi army and militias would close the border from the other side. It would also mean the resurrection of Syria as a unified sovereign state. The Kurds would have to be satisfied with some limited autonomy but would also be protected against Turkish attacks. One could consider this a defeat of the US, and it would be up to President Trump to sell it as a victory.

  • Why Trump can't reverse Syrian regime dirty win in Ghouta & why Iran is Gloating
    • If the Islamist rebels were Saudi proxies they had no business controlling Syrian territory. If they used Douma as a promising base for the takeover of Damascus and had Saudi strategists planning bombings of regime facilities in the capital, it's unambiguously good news to see them leave.

    • It's very encouraging that the Islamist rebels left East Ghouta and Douma in buses rather than fighting to their deaths and taking many civilians and Syrian soldiers with them. Good to see some of the rebels decided to stay, taking up the offer of amnesty. After military action comes to a close, Syria needs reconciliation between ethnic, religious and political groups in order to remain a unified and sovereign country.

  • Trump: "US out of Syria 'Very Soon'"-- Quip or Policy Reversal?
    • This is very welcome news. For Syria, since this opens the way to the restoration of a unified and secular state. For the US, starting to bring troops home and saving lives and treasure. And for the world, as this removes one potential area where the new cold war could turn hot at any time. For the Kurds, there best protection is as part of the Syrian state under a secular non-islamist government that can stand up to Turkey. The creation by force of an independent Kurdish statelet at the expense of Syria aould leave them surrounded by hostile powers.

  • Trump Happy, Bolton Sad? Syrian Regime claims 90% of E. Ghouta as 105k civilians Flee
    • There has also been a major effort to bring armed rebels towards reconciliation with the Syrian govenrment. The Russian-led Centre for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in Syria claims to have concluded more than 2000 such agreements at the local level, probably for individual villages or small towns. The agreements typically result in an amnesty for those rebels willing to lay down their arms, many subsequently have to do military service in the Syrian army. The current events in East Ghouta could accelerate these efforts.

    • Sounds like unambiguous good news to me. Civilians are being separated from the armed rebels, and the war is coming to an end. The majority of the population has stuck with Assad, and the foreign interventions should finally stop, rebuilding should start and sanctions against the Syrian government should be removed. Anything that accelerates that is welcome. If Trump is for that and Bolton against, let's hope that the President prevails against his Advisor.

  • Syria: War is over at the Center, but Powers nibbling at Edges
    • Absolutely it is different and the evidence should be closely analyzed whether it is one or the other. What makes an assessment difficult for the outside observer is that East Ghouta is a very urban area where Al Qaeda-affiliated rebels are intermingled with the civilian population. Also there have been many shifts in strategy, ceasefires have been frequent and movement of the front has been super slow, to be measured in hundreds of meters per month, back and forth.

  • Russia Mounts intensive Syria Air Campaign in Response to Downed Jet
    • The Syrian Arab Army with the help of Russia and their allies have within 6 weeks taken almost a third of the area of the Idlib pocket, which actually included parts of Hama and Aleppo provinces. Clearly the more population-rich places and Idlib City still have to be taken, but that's clearly the direction where things are moving. The internet has a lot of stories about local populations welcoming the Syrian Army and being relieved that the Al Qaeda-linked rebels are gone. You are talking about 150,000 displaced people, and it would be interesting to know more about where these people are going, towards government-held areas or towards rebel-controlled areas.

      Certainly the Russians are going to deeply investigate the first question and will try to punish those responsible. In the recent past the US has not been a unified actor, even if the Pentagon was not the source, that does not mean that the CIA or other rogue / deep state parts of the US government were not involved. Other intelligence services in the region may also be involved, but we will probably never find out. Anyway the timing shortly before the Russian presidential elections is interesting. Apparently the Russian pilot fought to his death rather than be captured alive and is being celebrated as a hero. Looks like Russia remains undeterred for now. Perhaps one also needs to keep in mind that the largest loss of life Russia has taken during the Syria engagement was the bombing of the Russian airliner (which took off from Egypt) which resulted in 224 dead only a month after the start of Russia's operations in Syria. I am sure the Russian government will consider this in weighing whether to see the war in Syria all the way to the end.

  • Nearly a year after Trump bombed Syria, al-Assad and Russia extend control
    • Do Syrians see Al Qaida-dominated rebels and Saudi Arabia's proxys as their local militia and prefer them to the Syrian Arab Army? If so, do you see this as an Idlib-specific phenomenon? I am asking because similar things were said about East Aleppo, and now we are seeing pictures of the city being rebuilt and people celebrating Christmas.

  • Russia: Permanent Bases planned in Syria to fight Terrorism
    • Putin's withdrawal announcement makes sense if one reads it as a withdrawal of most of the on-the-ground special forces, advisors, spotters and specialists. The air force will stay to support the push by the Syrian government to clear Idlib and some other pockets of the remaining Al Qaeda and ISIS. The air defense will stay to protect the Russian bases and as a signal to third party (US coalition / Israel) air forces so they let the Syrian government finish the job.

  • Another way Trump will get us Killed: to move US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem
    • INterestingly, the US was not the first superpower to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The Russians did it first in April 2017.

      link to businessinsider.com

      If Russia and the US are aligned on a geopolitical issue in the Middle East it will actually be achieved.

  • German Poll: Trump a bigger Challenge than N. Korea, Russia or Syria
    • Germany needs a solution to the Syria / Iraq wars in order to stop the flow of refugees and start repatriating the large percentage of refugees who have not qualified for political asylum. If you add Refugees & Turkey & Syria you arrive at 49% of the people who are concerned. If you add ISIS and Syria you arrive at 67% of the people who are concerned.

      The German main stream press has consistently portrayed Trump as a monster, crazy person and fascist, very much in line with CNN, the NYT or the Washington Post. So negative opinions are very much prevailing. Of true concern is the non-relationship in evidence between Trump and the German government. Merkel as well as most leading German politicians openly supported Hillary during the 2016 election and continue to denigrate him. In a rare feat the German government has now managed to alienate the leadership of the US, Russia (who is also China's most important ally), Turkey, the UK, Poland and much of Eastern Europe, as well as Greence and much of Southern Europe.

  • Will Trump manage to stab both Syrian Kurds and Turkey in the Back at same time?
    • If US and Russia work constructively together, a Saudi-Iran war will be easily prevented. Also, the Syrian Kurds will be protected by the Syrian government against the Turks, as they are part of Syria. If the US can accept the possibility of a negotiated peace in Syria, there is no reason why this cannot happen.

    • It is now time for the political solution that all parties (especially the US and European countries) have always said they wanted. According to UN Security Council resolutions everyone has committed to a unified Syria where Syrians decide on the Constitution and the government. There is no point in further arming the Kurds unless you want to encourage a civil war between the Syrian Arabs and the Syrian Kurds. On the contrary, maintaining a US presence in Kurdish areas until a settlement is reached does make some sense to ensure their legitimate interests are protected during the negotiation phase. In any case Kurdish forces should hand over the areas that are majority-Arab to the Syrian government, this includes the Eastern Deir-Ezzor Region and even Raqqa City. If the US and Russia work together constructively on Syria and Iraq this, along with eliminating Al Qaida's presence in Idlib, is all realistic for 2018.

  • World, horrified at Trump, sends US Ranking Plummeting
    • Angela Merkel is not the leader of the free world, in fact she is very weak now. Germany cannot even get back German journalists who are imprisoned by Turkey on espionage charges. She also cannot (or does not want to) lean on Ukraine to start complying with the Minsk Agreements, even though Germany is a guarantor of the agreements. She now has bad relations with the governments of most major countries (US, Russia (whose most important ally is China), UK, Turkey, Poland and other East European States, Greece and other Southern European States). On some key international issues, such as Syria, North Korea or Saudi Arabia, Germany's voice is not even articulated, much less heard.

  • Rice Vindicated: She did Unmask Trump, Bannon-- but they were meeting UAE
    • How could this possibly be a vindication of Susan Rice? On PBS she publicly stated that "she knew nothing about this", after the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said that "Trump and the people around him may have been caught up in surveillance of foreign individuals and that their identities may have been disclosed." Please check Alexander Mercouris article (link to theduran.com). At a minimum, she lied to the American public on TV, regardless of whether one considers this UAE story a legitimate or a bogus excuse.

  • The Last time there was this much CO2 in the air, Florida was under Water
    • According to IPCC (the most authoritative source for climate data), in the 20th century, global sea levels rose by approx 20-30 cm. IPCC expects expect global sea levels to rise by another 30-60 cm during the 21st century. The question is whether US power plants and US cities can adapt to this challenge over this timeframe.

  • Did Bashar al-Assad win New Hampshire? Trump & Sanders Mideast Policies
    • Projessor Cole, I am wondering how the candidates compare with regard to Lybia, as this may be the next hot spot for intervention.

  • 3 Years War? Obama to Bomb Syria in fight against ISIL
    • I am intrigued by the three-year time horizon. This plants the idea that the US will be engaged in combat in Iraq by the time that Obama leaves office. They are already kicking the responsbility for actually finishing this task to the next President.

  • Second Libyan Upheaval, this Time Against Political Islam, Extremist Militias
    • Dear Prof. Cole,
      you continue to describe the Libyan situation as a popular revolution. Clearly the suffering, courage and determination of Libyan revolutionaries evokes sympathy. However, Western powers acted as a decisive third party, and they need to be held responsible for the results of their actions. It is clear that the revolution could only succeed because Western powers chose to back one side in a civil war and used a military bombing campaign to cause the defeat of the Ghaddafi government. Thereafter the same Western governments left the country to the regional militias they brought to power. Many of them are extremists, which have continued to dominate and exploit the country, which is more and more looking like a failed state. In 2013 the economy was approx. 20-25% smaller than in 2010, and in 2014 it is on a path towards further decline. The behavior of the intervening Western governments can therefore only be characterized as irresponsible, is hard to justify and clearly not an answer to the problems facing the world today.

      It will be telling to see whether France and the US condemn or back Hafter's actions in an attempt to fix some of the problems they helped create and whether the result is a reactionary counterrevolution as in Egypt.

    • Dear Professor Cole,

      not long ago your assessment of Ansar al-Sharia and Al-Qaeda was as follows. May I ask what has changed your assessment?

      "7. Al-Qaeda is not for the most part even a “thing” in Libya. The only formal al-Qaeda affiliate in the region is al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which is not a Libyan but an Algerian organization. [...] The main al-Qaeda connection in Benghazi is to Abu Yahya al-Libi, who was killed in northern Pakistan by a US drone strike in June. [...] 8. Ansar al-Sharia (Helpers of Islamic Law) is just an informal grouping of a few hundred hard line fundamentalists in Benghazi, and may be a code word to refer to several small organizations. There are no known operational links between Ansar al-Sharia and al-Qaeda. It is a local thing in Benghazi."

  • Militant Secularism in the Middle East?
    • Dear Prof. Cole,

      I understand that there were parliamentary elections scheduled for the summer of 2013 in Egypt. What were the expectations for how the Muslim Brotherhood would do in those elections? Were the Tamarrud expected to challenge in these elections or would the Brotherhood have won again? Of course we will never know, as the coup preempted this outcome.

      DJ

  • Kerry signals US Intervention in Syria, but to What End?
    • Dear Prof. Cole,

      would it not make sense to let the UN inspectors complete their work to at least identify which chemical agent was used, whether it was weapons-grade and how it may have been delivered before drawing conclusions on who did it. Your scenario is not implausible but it is clearly just guessing at this point. Militarily attacking a country based on guesswork, without UN authorization, without any clearly defined goals and against the will of the overwhelming majority of Americans is not only a violation of international law but a recipe for disaster.

      DJ

  • Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Defiant as Government Mulls Dispersing Crowds in Cairo, Giza
    • Dear Prof. Cole,
      is it not high time to put the responsibility for the great deal of bloodshed and heartbreak that you are forecasting where it belongs, i.e. squarely with the Egyptian Army and its international backers?

      In the past you have been a proponent of non-violent public protest in the Arab Spring countries. Should this not equally apply to the Muslim Brotherhood? Pointing out potential illegality under whatever martial law is now in place in Egypt seems out of place. Is the highly-touted "Rebellion" movement aware that the tactics they used for their revolution are now illegal? Are we not on the way to the restoration of the Mubarak system (without the man himself) rather than the secular constitutional democracy that was heralded in 2011 and again a month ago? Whatever fault Morsi and the new constitution may have had, once you get tear the constitution up via a coup there is no protection left for the democratic process and civil liberties. If the "Rebellion" thought they had all the people behind them could they not just have waited for parliamentary elections later this year?

  • Egypt: 8 Wounded in Clashes as Salafi Fundamentalists Object to Elbaradei as PM
    • Dear Prof. Cole,

      would it be fair to say that the US Government bears partial responsibility for the coup? The coup was carried out by the Egyptian Army, the recipient of billions in annual US military aid. One would assume that objections by the US government would have stopped the Egyptian military from carrying out the coup. The Army had well publicized their deadline for intervention, so the coup cannot have come as a surprise to the US government. Moreover Obama had direct contact with Morsi during his final days as President. If the US government had tried to stop this they certainly had the means to do so.

      DJ

  • Republicans Tip world off to covert CIA Role in Libya
    • Dear Professor Cole,

      it is very interesting that the continuing pressure on the Benghazi story has now led to the revelation that there is a concerted effort by the US government to funnel arms from Libya to Syria to support the rebels there. The large CIA presence in Benghazi and Ambassador Stevens' meetings with Turkish representatives that night are both linked to the secret arms smuggling operations. I think US citizens are better off knowing what is being done in their name. You have eloquently written yourself about the dangers from flooding Syria with weapons. Do you apprecaite that this story is coming out now?

      Best regards,

      DJ

  • Air Massacre in Maaret al-Numan, Syria as Fighting Intensifies
    • Dear Juan,

      do you have any further information on who the "opposition sources" are and how credible their information on the targets of the bombings and the death toll is? In Libya a great many of the claims made by the rebels turned out to be false, even though they were highly effective in rallying international support to their side. At a time when the drums of war are being beaten, one has to be extra cautious on what information to rely on.

      The other point I would like to make is how similar the description of "bombs striking residential units" is to similar reports about Nato bombs hitting civilian areas in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, ... and Libya. I gues there is always the question whether it's war crimes or collateral damage, but the question has to be asked regardless on who is doing the bombing.

      Best regards,

      DJ

  • 10,000 Syrian Refugees Trapped on Iraq & Turkish Borders
    • Dear Juan,

      why is it that the Syrian rebels can continuously get away with rejecting negotiations or ceasefires, even if they are temporary. It appears that Western governments and media will not criticize them for this refusal no matter what. Given the continued military strength of the Assad government, there are only two outcomes that this will lead to. The first one is continuing long-time civil war which will effectively destroy the country. The second one is military intervention by NATO powers, with or without UN Security Council approval. Given these options, it is short-sighted and anti-humanitarian that political negotiations are not given any chance to work.

      Some may say that military intervention is necessary because Assad is butchering peaceful demonstrators. However, according to news reports about 25% (approx 8500 of 30,000) of the dead are Syrian military and police, which clearly indicates that this is a civil war, and not a slaughter of unarmed civilians by a military machine.

      Best regards,

      DJ

  • On Libya, Biden Let Ryan Get Away with Murder (Smith)
    • Dear Chris,

      thank you for exposing some of the extreme misinformation from conservative sources about the attack in Benghazi. Perhaps you can also shed some light on the following two issues:

      (1) What was the status of the building where the attack happened? I have seen it be referred to as embassy or as consulate, but according to the Stae Department website, there are no consular services in Libya except in Tripoli. Could it be that the building was just a minor mission, it has been suggested that it was mostly for CIA activities tracking the flow of weapons.

      (2) You note the following abot the recent elections for Prime Minister: "Similarly extraordinary are the two American-educated technocrats who faced off in Libya’s largely-overlooked runoff election for prime minister the day after the consulate attack. The Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate didn’t even qualify, having in the general election placed a distant third."
      Despite being an "American-educated technocrat", the winner of the run-off election then proceeded to stack his cabinet with Islamists and was subsequently dismissed by the General National Congress. Can you shed some light on why the Prime Minister felt compelled to give so much power to the Islamists, whether this indicates a stalemate between secularist and Islamist forces and how this jives with your description of the real Libya.

      Best regards,

      DJ

  • Acting Like a Democracy, Libyan National Congress dismisses Prime Minister
    • Dear Professor Cole,

      when Mr. Abushagur was selected as Prime Minister you hailed the event as "a little-noted major event" and "a remarkable achievement". In your words, "Libyans again showed themselves nationalist and non-fundamentalist", as Mr. Abushagur defeated the Muslim Brotherhood candidate.

      His prompt dismissal after only one month in office appears to indicate the profound regional/ethnic/clan differences separating Libyan society. Almost one year after Gaddafi's death there is still no functioning government in place. This does remind me of Iraq where forming a government often took many months, even after a successful (purple fingers) election.

      You now say that "The National Congress now needs to move quickly to install a more decisive prime minister, one who can put together a government with popular support and who can rapidly address the country’s security problems." THis is however exactly the task they failed to accomplish the first time around. What makes you confident that they will be more successful in the second go-around?

      Best regards,

      DJ

  • Did Bashar al-Assad Betray Qaddafi?
    • Dear Mr. Cole,

      this is very interesting story. It clearly reflects poorly on Mr. Sarkozy and the French government. However, it is difficult to see why it would reflect poorly on Bashar Assad at all. First, if anything giving up information leading to Gaddafi's capture at that point helped to end the civil war that Gaddafi had clearly already lost. It does not mean that Bashar Assad bears responsibility for the launching or the outcomes of the civil war, which you helped cheerlead. Second, he gave the information to the French and not the Lybian Revolutionaries. If this resulted in the lynching of Gaddafi, this falls much more heavily on the French, who actually had influence with the Lybian revolutionaries. Third, it reinforces again that the promises of Western governments cannot be trusted. The fact that open intervention in Syria has not happenend, yet, is due to reluctance on the part of the Russians and Chinese, certainly not the French. Finally, if it is now conventional wisdom that Sarkozy only bombed Lybia for electoral reasons, why is this not heavily criticized and examined as a war crime.

      Best regards,

      Jürgen

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