[ Ed. note – One might wonder: why are the Russians allowing this? According to a report here, no Russian or Syrian planes have conducted operations over Aleppo for the past 10 days. The terrorists clearly seem to be using the reprieve to their advantage–much to the detriment of civilians in Western Aleppo. Below are news and perspectives from various sources. ]
Putin Rejects Russian Military Request to Resume Airstrikes in Eastern Aleppo
“The Russian president considers it inappropriate at the present time to resume airstrikes in Aleppo,” Dmitry Peskov told the press.
However, Peskov added that “in case of extreme necessity to prevent provocative actions on the part of terrorist groups, the Russian side reserves the right to use all means at its disposal to provide an appropriate level of support to the Syrian armed forces.”
Russia will make a decision on further action in accordance with the events on the ground in Aleppo, the spokesman added.
The Russian president believes that the humanitarian pause should continue “to allow the withdrawal of the wounded and the militants who wish to leave the city. And, which is also significant, to allow our American partners to fulfill the obligations to separate the so-called ‘moderate’ opposition and the terrorists, which they took upon themselves,” Peskov said.
Earlier on Friday, Lt. Gen. Sergey Rudskoy, head of operations in the Russian General Staff, said: “Due to the fact that there are still deaths among civilians and that the militants have resumed military activities against government forces, we’ve addressed Russia’s commander-in-chief, asking permission for the resumption of airstrikes targeting illegal armed groups in eastern Aleppo,”
Earlier on Friday, militants “used the moratorium of Russian and Syrian combat flights” and attempted to break into eastern Aleppo, the General Staff representative said.
“The attack was carried out by three groups [of militants]… with support of 20 tanks and 15 APCs. All this was accompanied by heavy fire from rocket launchers and artillery,” he said.
The offensive was repelled, with the terrorists losing six tanks and five armored personnel carriers, Rudskoy said.
During the last three days, the terrorists have shelled western Aleppo on 62 occasions, killing 43 people and injuring 76 more, Rudskoy said.
On Thursday, a school in the Hay al-Andalus district of the city came under fire, with 12 civilians, including three school children, losing their lives and 14 others receiving injuries.
Russian air forces in Syria have not carried out combat flights in eastern Aleppo for 10 days in order to facilitate humanitarian access to the city.
Russia’s center for reconciliation in Syria is currently in talks “with representatives of the public authorities of eastern Aleppo and several armed groups on the evacuation of the civilian population and withdrawal of militants from areas under their control,” Rudskoy said.
Does the Russian Government Have a Reality Disconnect?
During the decades-long Cold War the belief in America was that the Soviet Union had an ideology of world domination. Every nationalist movement, such as Vietnam’s effort to throw off French colonialism, was misinterpreted as another domino falling to Soviet world conquest. This mistaken American belief persisted despite Stalin’s purge of the Trotsky elements that preached world revolution. Stalin declared: “socialism in one country.”
As the Soviets did not have the aim that the US attributed to them, the two governments could cooperate in reducing the dangerous tensions that nuclear weapons presented.
The rise of the American neoconservatives and their doctrine of US world hegemony has given the United States the expansionist ideology formerly attributed to the Soviets. Only this time the expansionist ideology is real. Yet, Russia’s foreign minister, Lavrov, said today that “we [the US and Russia] have no ideological differences which make the Cold War inevitable.”
The inability of the Russian government to understand that the neoconservative ideology of US world hegemony is the driving force of US foreign policy leaves Lavrov puzzled at the high level of hostility toward Russia. As Lavrov believes that there are no ideological differences between the two countries, he doesn’t understand the hostility. However, he does understand that this hostility toward Russia is a negation of Cold War rules that both countries avoid surprising the other with what could be perceived as a dangerous threat.
There is no sign that the US government understands the danger in Russia’s perception of threat or that Washington cares.
Islamist Rebels Gain More Ground in Massive West Aleppo Offensive
By Chris Tomson
Following the capture of the Dahiyat Al-Assad district, Islamist rebels fighting under the Jaish al-Fatah banner continued advancing in western Aleppo.
Primarily due to a suicide bombing conducted by the Turkistan Islamic Party, Islamist rebels were able impose full control over the 1070 Apartment Complex, located roughly a kilometer southeast of the Al-Assad district.
After a month of back and forth clashes, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) was reduced to 20% control of the 1070 Apartment Complex prior to today. Although several Syrian soldiers were killed by foreign suicide bomber Hozaifa Alturki, most of the SAA’s forces were able to withdraw to the neighbouring Ramouseh Artillery Base and 3000 Apartment Complex.
The Turkistan Islamic Party bragged about suicide bomber Hozaifa Alturki on social media.
Meanwhile, reports of Jaish al-Fateh entering the 3000 Apartment Complex and Hamadaniyah district are false although fierce clashes continue on the perimeter of these suburbs. SAA troops stationed here are also facing heavy artillery bombardment.
In a related development, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported at least 15 civilians were killed and over 100 wounded by rebels shells landing on government-held areas of western Aleppo.
If the Islamist rebels are to capture the aforementioned districts and the Ramouseh Artillery Base, they will effectively have broken the siege of insurgents in eastern Aleppo. It will nevertheless require their forces to advance 3 kilometers eastwards through territory the SAA seems far from willing to surrender.
Simultaneously with Jaish al-Fateh attacking western Aleppo, the Islamic State launched an offensive on government-held areas near Kuweiris Airbase in the eastern Aleppo countryside. The latter ISIS offensive was completely thwarted, arguably due to the redeployment of the Desert Hawks Brigade to this region.
“Russia is Concentrating” 2.0: Putin’s New Policy of ‘Active Defense’
At yesterday’s session of the international Valdai Discussion Club, Vladimir Putin made a number of statements about the system of international relations. He reminded listeners that American hegemony has already left a long trail of military invasions of sovereign countries – Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc. This was followed by the reminder that Russia “opened up” in the mid-1990’s and hoped for equal dialogue, but did not receive the expected.
By this Putin had in mind the (naive) trust in Western countries during the decade of Yeltsin’s rule that was unprecedented in Russian history. The United States responded to Russia’s openness with attempts to maximally weaken Russia from within (including by means of ‘reforms’ and privatizations carried out with the participation of American specialists) and from without, such as by creating a chained perimeter of border countries controlled by Washington around Russia’s borders. Russia was forbidden from having its own interests beyond its borders while US’ interests stretched up to Russia’s borders and even inside the country.
President Putin also could have added that he himself, at the beginning of his presidency, pursued policies maximally open towards the West. After all, it was he who first lent a hand to the American people after the terrorist attack on September 11th, 2001 by clearly condemning this act of terrorism and allowing America to establish air bases in Central Asia. Patriotic experts harshly condemned Putin for this. The Russian president also closed the country’s last military bases and intelligence stations in Cuba and Vietnam. After the closure of Russia’s last military bases abroad, NATO expanded its borders East and accepted the former Warsaw Pact countries and union republics (the Baltic states) into its ranks. If not for Russia’s tough diplomatic resistance, Georgia and Ukraine also could have been added to the list of NATO member countries.
This was a huge mistake on Moscow’s part, but the president gained invaluable experience and is now no longer inclined to trust the pseudo-democratic demagogy of Washington, now constantly calling on Eastern European countries (Poland and the Baltics) to defend against the mythical Russian threat.
In fairness, let us note that many serious observers in the West have spoken against the disastrous policy of pushing Russia into a corner. Very bold predictions were made (which seemed fantastical 16-20 years ago) that Russia would revive its military might and restore the country to the status of a great world power.
The semi-marginal, “light-heavyweight” American politician Patrick Buchanan, for example, called for relying on Russia’s remaining strength rather than constantly annoying it. Today, his views do not appear to be marginal even though, as far as we can see, they remain the ideology of the minority. On the other hand, in Russia there is the marginal liberal minority whose ideology is that of unilateral concessions to the West. Putin’s popularity lies in that he is supported in foreign policy issues and issues of national security even by opposing trends, from communists to nationalists.
In his Valdai speech, President Putin demonstrated a realistic understanding of the external and internal challenges and threats facing Russia. Russia has a number of domestic problems ranging from economic and social to demographic ones, but the US has no less such problems.
Hence why Russia is not going to pursue and is not pursuing an expansionist policy. Not only because this contradicts its principles, but also because it is contrary to Russia’s national interests. In NATO itself there are those who don’t believe that Russia actually has plans to conquer the Baltic states or Poland. Pushing this line is, perhaps, in the interests of these countries (or rather, their comprador establishments), but not Russia’s.
What Russia is interested in is searching for allies in Europe and even the US itself, mainly those outside of the these countries’ political classes that are so tightly controlled by Washington.
As shown by the legislation on “plutonium disarmament” and Putin’s speech yesterday, Russia is already tired of giving unilateral concessions and sacrificing its own interests without getting even moral compensation. Thus, Vladimir Putin’s strategy in recent years and even months can be called a transition to active defense.
Russia is outlining the (not too extensive) circle of its interests outside its borders and concentrating on its internal problems. As the foreign minister of the Russian Empire, Prince Gorchakov, said after Russia’s defeat in the Crimean War and the signing of the humiliating Treaty of Paris in 1856, “Russia is concentrating.” After a long 20 years, Russia has come to pursue a policy of active defense, carefully avoiding occasions for war.
Russia has not suffered any defeats in 2016, but it still faces the same problems, such as concentrating on resolving internal tasks. But Russia does not intend to surrender its positions, whether inside our outside the country. This idea was the main message of Vladimir Putin’s speech on October 27th.
NATO War Crimes: Attack on School in Syria’s Idlib
Oct. 27, 2016
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova commented on the bombing of a Syrian school in Idlib, as well as possible US’ deliveries of hardware to Syrian terrorist gangs during her weekly press conference.
“A number of international media outlets, including Independent and al-Jazeera, have immediately carried out an information attack on Russia, and accused Russia, Russian Aerospace Forces, Syrian Armed Forces, saying that the bombing was conducted by Russia and Syria,” Zakharova said.
“Russia has nothing to do with this horrible tragedy, this attack. This terrible tragedy requires immediate attention of all international institutions to its investigation,” Zakharova said.
Russian reconnaissance means have registered a US attack drone in the area where a school in Syrua’s Idlib had been bombed, the Russian Defense Ministry said Thursday. A US’ MQ-1B Predator drone has been seen in the area, the ministry’s spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
No Russian aircraft entered the area over the Syrian Idlib, where the alleged strike took place, he added.
Moreover, Russian UAVs have not registered any signs of the destruction of the school’s roof or shell craters, Maj. Gen. Konashenkov said.
“The photograph published by AFP shows that only one wall of the school is damaged, and all the desks inside the classroom are in place. The outer fence seen through the hole has no traces of damage from bomb fragments. In a genuine airstrike this is physically impossible – the furniture would have been swept away by the blast wave, and there would have been damage marks on the classroom wall and the outer fence.”
By Cooperating with Washington on Syria, Russia Walked Into a Trap
A month ago I wrote a column , “He Who Hesitates Is Lost—And Russia Hesitated.” http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2016/09/24/he-who-hesitates-is-lost-and-russia-hesitated-paul-craig-roberts/ The consequences of this hesitation are now apparent:
1. A UN report orchestrated by Washington has accused Syria and Russia of war crimes in Aleppo. According to the report, “indiscriminate airstrikes across the eastern part of the city by Government forces and their allies [Russia] are responsible for the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties. These violations constitute war crimes. And if knowingly committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against civilians, they constitute crimes against humanity.”http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20723&LangID=E
The UN Human Rights Council has now voted to start an “independent” investigation. The purpose of the investigation is to indict Russia and Putin as war criminals and to “bring to justice those responsible for the alleged abuses.” Moreover, “the situation should be urgently referred to the International Criminal Court. Every party to this conflict must know that they will be held accountable for the international crimes they commit – all, without selective protection or discrimination.” Keep in mind that Washington provides the largest share of the UN’s budget, and the UN will overlook that it was Washington that sent ISIS to Aleppo.
Obviously, neither Washington nor the UN will be able to drag Putin into the International Criminal Court, but a war criminal charge can serve Washington’s purpose by stopping Putin from traveling abroad and curtailing his diplomatic efforts. The purpose of this orchestrated exercise is its propaganda value. Among Washington’s many concerns is that some Eastern European countries, alarmed by the conflict that Washington is leading them into with Russia, will threaten NATO with a non-participation statement. If Russia is branded a war criminal, it becomes even more difficult for countries that foolishly and thoughtlessly joined NATO to extricate themselves from the consequences.
2. Washington has succeeded in bringing to power in Poland the far right-wing Law and Justice Party. These agents of Washington have re-opened the matter of the death of Poland’s President Kaczynski in a plane crash, making wild claims that the crash was a terror attack by Russia aimed at depriving Poland of its political leadership. https://www.rt.com/news/363726-polish-plane-crash-conspiracy-tusk/
Despite massive and convincing evidence to the contrary, the Law and Justice Party’s claims will find traction thanks to the scary portrait of Russia painted by Washington’s demonization campaign. The intended result is to further blacken and isolate Russia and its government.
3. As the anointed spokesperson for the neoconservative warmongers, Hillary wants Washington to enforce a no-fly zone in Syria. A no-fly zone would require Washington to attempt to prevent Syrian and Russian air strikes against ISIS positions. It seems clear enough that Syria and Russia would not accept any attempt to deny Syria the use of the country’s own airspace in the conflict against forces sent by Washington to overthrow the Syrian government, as happened to Gaddafi in Libya. Unless Russia and Syria surrender, Hillary’s no-fly zone would result in military conflict between Russia and the US.
To advance the no-fly zone proposal, the “use of chemical weapons” ruse has been resurrected. Fabricated reports are appearing that the Syrian air force is guilty of dropping chemical weapons on the Syrian population. On October 22, the Indian Express reported that on October 21 the UN-Led Joint Investigative Mechanism informed the UN Security Council that the chemical attack on Qmenas “was caused by a Syrian Arab Armed Forces helicopter dropping a device from a high altitude which hit the ground and released the toxic substance that affected the population.” The report concluded that three of the chemical attacks investigated were made by Syria and one by the Islamic State. http://indianexpress.com/article/world/un-says-syrian-army-used-chemical-weapons-in-qmenas-village-in-2015-3096558/
The fact that the Russians resolved the chemical weapons issue in 2014, a year before the alleged attack on Qmenas, by taking possession of the weapons and removing them from Syria means that the report has little credibility. http://www.wsj.com/articles/removal-of-chemical-weapons-from-syria-is-completed-1403529356 However, at no time during Washington’s 15-year-old attack on Muslim countries have facts played any role, and certainly facts have played no role in Washington’s demonization of Russia.
4. Diana Johnstone has concluded that Hillary intends regime change for Russia and will use the presidency for that purpose.
It is impossible to imagine a purpose more reckless and irresponsible. Many members of the Russian government have stated that Washington’s provocation and demonization of Russia have brought trust between the nuclear powers close to zero and that Russia will never again fight a war on her own territory. Sergey Karaganov told the German news magazine, Der Spiegal, that if Washington and NATO move from provocations to encroachments against Russia, a nuclear power, they will be punished. http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/interview-with-putin-foreign-policy-advisor-sergey-karaganov-a-1102629.html
Many foolish people believe that nuclear war cannot happen, because there can be no winner. However, the American war planners, who elevated US nuclear weapons from a retaliatory role to a pre-emptive first strike function, obviously do not agree that nuclear war cannot be won. If nuclear war is believed to be unwinnable, there is no point in a war doctrine that assigns the weapons the role of surprise attack.
The Russians are aware and disturbed that Washington has made the situation between the US and Russia more dangerous than during the Cold War. Vladimir Putin himself has stated that the West does not hear his warnings. In an effort to avoid war, Putin wrings everything possible out of diplomacy. He enters into agreements with Washington that he must know will not be kept.
So much has happened to teach him this lesson— the Washington instigated invasion of South Ossetia by Georgia while he was at the Beijing Olympics, Washington’s coup in Ukraine while he was at the Sochi Olympics, Washington’s abandonment of the Minsk Agreement, the advantage Washington took of the Syrian ceasefire agreements, the violation of Washington’s promise not to move NATO to Russia’s border, Washington’s sacking of the Anti-ABM Treaty, the orchestrated blame of Russia for MH-17, Hillary’s hacked emails, etc.
Washington clearly intends to use Russia’s military and diplomatic assistance to Syria to convict Russia in world public opinion of war crimes. It was Russia’s hesitancy in Syria that enabled Washington to recover from the defeat of its ISIS mercenaries and substitute control of the explanation for defeat on the ground.
Russia’s air assault on ISIS in Syria caught Washington off guard and quickly rolled up the Washington-supported ISIS forces, completely reversing the tide of war. Had Russia finished the job, Syria would have been cleared of hostile forces before Washington could catch its breath.
Instead, pressured by the Atlanticist Integrationist element in the Russian elite, the Russian government withdrew, announcing mission accomplished and relying on the Syrian Army to complete the job. This strategic error allowed Washington not merely to replenish the ISIS munitions that had been destroyed and to muster more mercenaries, but more importantly to come up with a plan for Russia’s and Assad’s undoing.
By the time that the Russian government realized that early withdrawal was a mistake and re-entered the conflict, Washington had decided that if Dasmacus could not be “liberated,” Syria could be partitioned and pressure kept on Assad in that way. Yet the Russian government continued to postpone victory by cease fire agreements that Washington used to rearm ISIS and as propaganda weapons against Russia.
Whatever the outcome of the military conflict in Syria, Russia faces a war criminal conviction by the Western media, if not by the UN Human Rights Council, and a no-fly zone in Syria if Hillary becomes president of the US.
This is the huge cost that Putin paid for listening to the unrealistic, American-worshiping Atlanticist Integrationists who are determined that Russia be accepted by the West even if it means being a semi-vassal. If there is nuclear war, the Russian Atlanticist Integrationists will share the blame with the American neoconservatives. And all of us will pay the price for the disaster produced by these few, the neoconservatives demanding war and the Atlanticist Integrationists demanding appeasement of Washington.