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Thursday, May 24

Reports on US-led bombing of Syrian Army are incorrect – Russian military

Reports on US-led bombing of Syrian Army are incorrect – Russian military source
Published time: 24 May, 2018 06:18
Edited time: 24 May, 2018 07:52

Overnight reports on US-led coalition strikes on Syrian Army positions are not “consistent with the reality,” according to a military source. Earlier, the Pentagon said it has no information on the operation.

Early Thursday, Syrian state media reported that US-led coalition warplanes targeted Syrian Army positions in the eastern Syrian province of Deir ez-Zor. The allegations, however, appear to not be completely accurate.

The information about the alleged attack on Syrian positions by the US-led coalition “is not consistent with the reality,” a military source said.

Shortly after reports on the attack emerged, a Pentagon spokesman said the US military has “no operational reporting” about any operation against the Syrian government.

Though the reports on the strike appear to be untrue this time, the US-led forces have repeatedly hit Syrian Army positions or allied forces. In one infamous case, a US-led strike killed 60 Syrian troops near the city of Deir ez-Zor in 2016. The US military later admitted it was a mistake.

However, that was not the only attack on pro-government forces gaining ground against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists in Syria. In February, US forces launched a drone strike that destroyed a tank of the pro-government forces in eastern Syria, and earlier that month, a separate attack killed around 100 pro-government fighters. The Pentagon claimed both bombings came in retaliation for alleged attacks on the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – US allies in the region.

The presence of the US contingent and its operations in Syria have not been sanctioned by either Damascus or the UN Security Council. The Syrian government has repeatedly called their presence an illegal aggression against a sovereign state.


What is to be done about Russian oligarchs laundering money in London?

The question was posed by John Batchelor in response to a report for his audience by the Wall Street Journal's Mary Kissel. (Podcast: "The Kremlin lets London as a laundromat & What is to be done?")

I think I can see how the Wall Street Journal would consider Russian oligarchs laundering money in London to be a newsworthy problem for Americans. But I'd say a bigger problem for Americans is that by 2016 the U.S. was becoming the world's largest tax haven for wealthy foreigners. 

Here's a more recent report on the issue: The peculiarities of the US financial system make it ideal for money laundering, published March 16, 2018. 

As for the corruption of the Russian government that Mary decried in her report, the United States of America is now the second most corrupt nation

It could be argued that the lack of transparency cited by the Tax Justice Network doesn't necessarily equate to corruption, but I think my point is clear enough. The answer to John's question is tend to your own fences.  

As for believing what the British Parliament says about Russian money laundering in London, what year does Mary Kissel think this is? Time was, the British regime could tell whoppers with assurance that the public would be none the wiser for at least a generation. Today it's more like 15 minutes.

Speaking of the Skripal case, tell us again, Mary and John, how the Skripals were poisoned with a nerve agent that is supposed to be about 8 times more deadly than VX. 

For the those who haven't been keeping track of the British investigation, suspicion has now fallen on the Persian cat. The Iranians, of course, if the cat was really Persian. If not, well, it must have been a Russian cat. 

Anyhow after petting the cat the Skripals drove to a cemetery to pay their respects to a deceased member of the family.  Then they went to a restaurant for lunch. After lunch they went to a pub. Then for a walk in a park. There they finally had the sense to notice they'd been poisoned with a deadly nerve agent. Then they collapsed on a park bench. 

As to how the cat managed to convey the poison on its fur without dropping dead -- well obviously the cat had the antidote. So don't you believe there's no antidote for that poison. Of course there's an antidote or the cat would've died. 

All right Pundita that's enough.      


Merkel: Germany to stay in the Iran nuclear deal

German FM: Germany and U.S. "are pursuing two entirely separate paths."

Angela Merkel, who is visiting China, said it would be up to Beijing to fill in the trade vacuum after the United States announced historic, tough sanctions on Tehran ... 

Merkel: Germany Remains Committed to Iran Nuclear Deal
May 24, 2018 - 07:25 (updated 08:04

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said her country will stay in the nuclear deal with Iran following the US decision to pull out.

"As for the Iran deal, it is far from ideal but other options are even less stable," Merkel admitted. "That is why we will continue to respect this agreement," she told reporters in Beijing on Thursday after meeting China's Premier Li Keqiang.

The German chancellor, however, emphasized some EU businesses will be forced to wind down operations in Iran to avoid US sanctions. "Sanctions will likely lead some European companies to pull out of Iran," she told reporters.

Angela Merkel, who is visiting China, said it would be up to Beijing to fill in the trade vacuum after the United States announced historic, tough sanctions on Tehran over its alleged violation of a 2015 nuclear deal.

On Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said after meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, that both countries "are pursuing two entirely separate paths."

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on an earlier occasion, laid out a list of demands for EU signatories of the nuclear pact, failing which Tehran could restart its atomic program.

Khamenei has accused Germany, France and the United Kingdom of staying silent over the course of two years while the United States violated the 2015 agreement.

US President Donald Trump earlier this month said his country would quit the agreement with Iran in a bid to negotiate a wider pact. The European Union, China and Russia have vowed to abide by the deal, which saw Iran wind down its nuclear activities in return for sanctions easing.



"How can reach Shirdi by train?" Practice.

"By Train: Kopergaon Railway Station, 16 kilometres away, is the nearest railway station to Shirdi. Kopergaon is well-connected to major cities of India through rail. State-run buses, cabs, taxis and private buses are available from the station for Shirdi."
He'll be waiting for you.



Wednesday, May 23

SouthFront SYRIAN WAR REPORT:May 23, 2018

Biggest ISIS attack near Palmyra in months
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On May 22, ISIS attacked positions of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) near the T3 pumping station, near the city of Palmyra, in the province of Homs. The attack started with the explosion of a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. Then, ISIS infantry stormed the SAA positions. However, the advance was repelled.
According to pro-government sources, at least 16 SAA soldiers were killed, 14 others were injured and a few vehicles were damaged or destroyed. Pro-militant sources claim that the number of killed soldiers was at least 30.
These were probably the biggest ISIS attacks on government positions since the formal defeat of ISIS in the Euphrates Valley. ISIS units in the Homs-Deir Ezzor desert are still a notable security threat.
Considering that a group of the ISIS terrorists evacuated from southern Damascus will likely end up route in this desert area. The security threat will grow even further.
After the liberation of Yarmouk, the Syrian military has started redeploying its forces, including battle tanks, artillery pieces and rocket launchers, from the Damascus countryside to southern Syria. These reports as well as alleged arrival of the one of the most prominent Syrian military commanders, General Suheil ‘the Tiger’ al-Hassan, have already caused a disagreement among militant groups in the province of Daraa.
Militants operating in the villages of Nahaj and Mahjeh have requested negotiations with the Syrian government and its Russian backers on the terms of a possible reconciliation deal.
Some pro-government sources speculated that some Nahaj militants have even started surrendering weapons. But this is still unconfirmed.
According to Syrian experts, if Daraa militant groups reject a reconciliation deal and refuse to surrender weapons, a military operation in the area will become inevitable.
F-35I stealth fighters from the Israeli Air Force (IAF) have participated in strikes on Syria, IAF commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin said at the IAF Senior Air Force Conference in Herzilya on May 22.
“We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East. It had become part of our operational capabilities. We are the first to attack using the F-35 in the Middle East and have already attacked twice on different fronts,” he said.
According to Maj. Gen. Norkin, the F-35I stealth fighter did not participate in the last strike in Syria but did in two previous ones.
Currently, Israel has nine F-35I warplanes. The IAF is expected to receive a total of 50 jets to make two full squadrons by 2024.

"Syria says withdrawal of Iran, Hezbollah is not on the agenda"

via Daily Mail
PUBLISHED: 06:56 EDT, 23 May 2018 | UPDATED: 06:56 EDT, 23 May 2018

Syria's deputy foreign minister said Wednesday Damascus did not envisage Iran and Hezbollah participating in the withdrawal of foreign forces from the war-torn country as announced last week by Russia.

Asked whether the removal of Iranian and Hezbollah forces could end Israel's strikes on Syria, Faisal Mekdad told RIA Novosti state news agency that "this topic is not even on the agenda for discussion."

"All these forces oppose terrorism. They are not making an attempt to violate the sovereignty and territory of Syria," he said in comments translated into Russian.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Thursday, with the Russian leader saying "foreign armed forces will withdraw from Syrian territory" although he gave few details.

But Russia's chief Syria negotiator Alexander Lavrentyev later told journalists that the withdrawal of foreign troops should be done "as a whole" and include Iranians and Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese group that is an ally of Iran and Assad.

"We are talking about all the foreign troop divisions which still have troops in Syrian territory. That includes the Americans and the Turks and Hezbollah, of course, and the Iranians," Lavrentyev said on Friday, quoted by RIA Novosti.

Mekdad, however, suggested Russia had not meant to say this.

"I don't think that our Russian friends meant the forces that entered Syria in agreement with the Syrian government," he said.

"Russia demanded the withdrawal of forces that are here without agreement: that is the forces of the US, France, Turkey and other forces that are here illegitimately."

Russia and Iran are both allied with Assad. Together with rebel-supporting Turkey, they have been brokering peace talks in Astana, the Kazakh capital, running in parallel to talks supervised by the United Nations.

Last year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was acting on the basis that both Hezbollah and the Iranians, "just like the Russian air forces, are in Syria at the invitation of the legitimate government."



(UPDATE 5:15 AM ET 5/24: RU military says reports incorrect) US coalition bombs Syrian army positions in E. Syria


Reports on US-led bombing of Syrian Army are incorrect – Russian military source
Published time: 24 May, 2018 06:18Edited time: 24 May, 2018 07:52


US-Led Coalition Hits Syrian Army Base - Reports
03:04 - 24.05.2018

According to the SANA News Agency [Arabic version], US-led Coalition Air Forces struck several positions of the Syrian army in the eastern Syrian desert.
According to Reuters and AFP, the strikes allegedly took place near an energy installation located near the Iraqi border, about 100 km (60 miles) west of the Euphrates river where the US-led Coalition is fighting against Daesh militants.
"Some of our military positions between Abu Kamal and Hmeima were hit this morning in an aggression by American coalition warplanes," a Syrian military source was quoted as saying by AFP citing state news agency SANA.
The attack was first reported by the press office of Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant movement, an ally of the Syrian government. It said warplanes had targeted army positions near the T2 oil facility in the eastern Syrian province of Deir ez-Zor.
Al Masdar News
May 24, 2018

BEIRUT, LEBANON (3:00 AM) – The U.S. Coalition bombed the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) positions in the vast Badiya region located between Deir Ezzor and Homs.

According to an official military source in Damascus, the coalition bombed at least two positions belonging to the SAA near the T-2 Pumping Station and Ma’ezleh Dam.

No casualties have been reported thus far.

The U.S. reason for the attack is unclear at the moment.


Published time: 24 May, 2018 00:09 Edited time: 24 May, 2018 01:35

US-led coalition warplanes have bombed several Syrian army positions in the eastern Syrian province of Deir ez-Zor, state media outlet SANA reports, citing a military source.

The attack took place shortly after midnight on Thursday. SANA reported that the US-led coalition aircraft inflicted limited material damage and no casualties. The airstrikes, which hit near the city of Al-Bukamal, were reportedly coordinated with anti-government militants.

Earlier, Lebanon’s Hezbollah group, an ally of the Syrian forces in the fight with Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) said the coalition jets targeted two Syrian army outposts, including an energy installation near the Iraqi border.

The area has seen rapid advances by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) pushing against IS militants near Al-Bukamal and moving towards the eastern bank of the Euphrates River.

Last week, the SDF announced they took control over a former IS base on the Euphrates River near the Syrian-Iraqi border, moving closer to territory controlled by the Syrian government.



Breaking News: WSJ's Mary Kissel refers to Syria's government as a government

Actually the news is from last night, during Mary Kissel's discussion with John Batchelor about Russians in the U.K. She may have said, "the Assad government" rather than "Syria's government." Anyhow I was so surprised to hear a Wall Street Journal reporter refer to the government of Syria as a government I might have fallen down if I hadn't been sitting down. As everyone who reads the WSJ knows, Syria has a regime, not anything that could be called a government.

So what could prompt a loyal WSJ employee to substitute the word "government" for "regime?" Was it tiredness due to the time difference between New York and London? (Mary was reporting from London.) Was she perhaps tipsy?

Another possibility is that Mary is being polite because her  bosses at WSJ heard of the tack Israel's defense chief had taken recently. He made an offer that Assad is not supposed to refuse: Get rid of the Iranians and "maybe it will be possible to have a different kind of life.”

That isn't quite as thuggish as it sounds. The Israeli leadership accepted a deal when Saudi and Emirati rulers made them an offer they couldn't refuse. I'd venture Israel's defense chief doesn't see why Assad shouldn't take the same kind of deal.

Is this the defense chief who said he preferred Islamic State running Syria instead of Assad? I don't remember. The years run together, the names change. All that stays constant is the valiant stand of Bashar al-Assad against armies of demons.


Americans only learn enough from their mistakes abroad to keep making different mistakes

Study this photograph of President Donald Trump with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and tell me what you see. 

Photo: AFP

Here's what I see. Trump is propping an illustration board on his knee and gesturing at photos of military hardware that the U.S. is proposing to sell to Saudi Arabia or has already contracted to sell. The Prince is looking down at the board and smiling. 

The scene in the photograph is completely unremarkable to my eyes. It shows Trump engaging in the kind of act that routinely occurs when businessmen in the West are discussing proposals.  

Now here is what Prince Khaled bin Farhan, an exiled member of the Saudi royal family, told Middle East Eye he saw in the photograph:
For example, the last visit for Mohammed bin Salman to the United States, President Trump put a board on his chest. I’m criticising even the president himself, Trump. He’s got a board on Mohammed bin Salman’s chest and by doing that he’s not only putting it on the chest of Mohammed bin Salman, but on the chest of every Arab, Saudi or Muslim. This is humiliating to us all.
Unfortunately, he was representing the country. I felt like I was watching a car crash. The leader of the greatest country in the world, and they put a board and describing items as if they’re in a supermarket.
Until bin Farhan pointed it out, I didn't notice that the board could've been resting against MbS's chest -- and I don't think the angle of the photograph allows certainty that it was.

But bin Farhan saw an outrageous insult to all Arabs and Muslims not to mention the Saudi royal family. And yet he's obviously not a 'primitive.' He lives in Germany; from his clothing and mien we can see he's a cosmopolitan Saudi.

And while it's not entirely clear from the brief excerpt I quoted from the MEE interview, I think bin Farhan was also directing anger at MbS for getting into a humiliating position. Bin Farhan's anger at the ruling Saudi royals is part of a long story, which the complete interview reveals is also a very complicated story about an opaque society.

But when billions of dollars in weapons and American entanglements with Middle Eastern wars are involved, this is not about cultural gaffes. It's about the government of the United States getting into alliances with governments it understands not at all, such as Saudi Arabia, in order to remake societies it understands not at all, such as Syria. The upshot invariably piles more death and destruction onto whatever havoc existed in the societies in the first place. 

Every time this happens we say that we must learn from our mistakes. Often we do learn lessons. But then we make new horrific mistakes when we invariably run into yet more situations in other foreign societies we've gotten tangled up with and don't understand.

So it's not about whether Americans should be 'engaged' with the rest of the world or become isolationist. Nor is this about Americans learning to make smarter foreign policies. It's about recognizing that it's no use learning from our mistakes if we don't limit our foreign engagements to doing the least harm.


Tuesday, May 22

Well well. It turns out Donald Trump is the Red Queen

Off with everybody's head if you trade with Iran!

At least it's a relief to learn Russia isn't responsible for all the world's evils. It's Iran.

I'll tell you what really bothers me about all this. Trump is only doing what Al Saud tells him but it's not the Saudis who will be left holding the bag. No, it will be us -- the American people. It's always us. 

Lord, how much longer? Until the world stops using petroleum?


"Battle of Damascus ends in complete victory for Syrian Army" INCLUDING Yarmouk Camp

Internal Security Forces hoist national flag over al-Hajar al-Aswad and al-Yarmouk Camp

All right; finally. Congratulations to the SAA!

By Leith Aboufadel
May 22, 2018
Al-Masdar News

BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:10 A.M.) – The battle for the historical city of Damascus has ended in a complete victory for the Syrian military after more than seven years of fighting.

Led by their 4th Mechanized Division and Republican Guard troops, the Syrian Army was able to pressure the last Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists inside of the Yarmouk Camp and Hajar Al-Aswad to surrender their positions in exchange for transportation to eastern Syria.

This transfer of Islamic State terrorists to the Badiya Al-Sham region of Syria marked the end of the Battle of Damascus and a decisive victory for the Syrian government. With Damascus secured, the Syrian military will now focus on the southern provinces of Dara’a and Al-Quneitra, which have long been a problem for the government.


See also SANA's report with pix.


Remember that report, 'Keeping the lights on in rebel Idlib'? Now rebels are stealing the lights

Here's the report, for those with a short memory but enjoy stories about how British, European and American taxes are wasted. Anyhow, now they're stealing the lights. Soon they'll be breaking down the buildings for the concrete and shipping the chunks to Turkey. There's going to be nothing left of that province except shrub by the time the 'rebels' get through with it. Then they'll scream and yell at Assad for not plugging any reconstruction money there.  

Northeastern Syria: Militants Continue Plundering Public Assets, Transferring Infrastructures to Turkey
May 21, 2018

TEHRAN (FNA)- Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) continued looting infrastructures in Western Idlib to sell them later in Turkey.

Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at and Turkistani Party are plundering railway lines and power cables in al-Rouj Plain in Western Idlib.

Local sources reported that the railway was one of the most important communication lines between al-Rouj Plan and Idlib city, adding that the terrorists' move has sparked a wave of anger among the Western Idlib's residents.

The sources further said that the terrorists transfer the stolen infrastructures made of steel and copper to Turkey to sell them in the country's market.

Media sources said on Sunday that the Ankara-backed militants plundered several old infrastructures of Afrin in Aleppo province as the Turkish army and its allies continue driving out civilians and looting their properties in the town.

Media activists said that the Ankara-backed militants in Afrin detached and stole the old railway of Afrin which linked Qatmeh to Akbas square and was built in 1913.

Also, the Kurdish sources reported that the Olive Branch forces, affiliated to the Turkish army, fully destroyed the tomb of Sheikh Zeid in al-Zeidiyeh district in Afrin and looted the ancient artifacts inside.

Meantime, some reports said that the Turkish government planed to annex Jandaris to the town of al-Reihaniyeh in Turkey by issuing new identity cards for the residents of Afrin, creating fear and panic among the residents of this region.



"Crane Crashes Again in Mecca's Grand Mosque"

What the?!?!!  

During Ramadan, no less. I wonder if this is another omen.


Monday, May 21

"At what point does Trump realize the U.S. military has sold him a bill of goods on Afghanistan?"

Those words are from Long War Journal's Bill Roggio during his regular Monday update for the John Batchelor Show on America's global war on terrorism. 

Bill's remark was one of several he made tonight that reflect his rising exasperation with the fairy tales foisted on the public about the situation in Afghanistan. To hear the U.S. military tell it, the Taliban group's attacks on various Afghan provincial capitals are the sure sign of desperation.

The normally phlegmatic Bill snapped, "This desperate group keeps having battlefield successes."

Right. But far be it for the American military to break a sterling record of telling whoppers about what's going on Afghanistan. 

What's actually going on? Same thing that's been going on:  Always from bad to worse.

For readers who'd like details -- they could always follow the Afghan War reports at Long War Journal, starting with this one published on May 17:

Taliban’s 2018 offensive encompasses all regions of Afghanistan.

And here's the podcast for Bill's Wednesday May 16 discussion with John Batchelor, which was obviously to answer protests from the U.S. command that his scathing remarks during his Monday update were inaccurate. John titled the Wednesday podcast, "The Taliban plunders Afghanistan provincial capitals at will & What is to be done?"

And here is the Monday May 14 podcast that set off the ruckus, titled "Taliban surge in Farah City, Western Afghanistan."  

As to what is to be done -- my view is that nothing can be done. Bill doesn't want the U.S. to walk away; he voiced concern tonight that Trump is so mercurial he might yank all U.S. troops from Afghanistan if he really understood what was going on there. I don't think that will happen as long as the Get Russia crowd rules the roost in the District of Columbia. The crowd fears that if the U.S. pulls out of Afghanistan this will create a vacuum Russia will fill.  

I'm not sure Russia's military wants the Afghanistan headache; however, if Islamic State and al Qaeda continue making inroads there Putin might rethink. But first the USA and whatever NATO gofers are still left in A'stan would have to leave because they've given no sign of wanting to cooperate with Russia despite all the Kremlin's attempts, over years, to establish cooperation. 

The bottom line is that the Taliban remain what they've always been -- a proxy fighting force for Pakistan's military. The U.S. will not confront Islamabad on this matter any more than it's already done; to do so would mean confronting Riyadh and London. The cows will come home before that happens.

So the U.S. will continue throwing good money after bad, continue conducting just enough military operations to prevent the Taliban from overrunning Kabul, and continue making contractors rich with training programs for Afghan security forces. All the while continuing to lie in their teeth to the American public about the true situation in the country.


So much for speculation that MbS was killed or wounded in an alleged coup attempt

Meanwhile, a Russian media report released by Sputnik International discounted the rumours, stating that a week after the coup speculations, the Crown Prince, along with Saudi King Salman, was seen at the opening ceremony of a huge entertainment resort Qiddiya – an ambitious multi-billion dollar project that is expected to include a Six Flags theme park, water parks, motorsports, cultural events and vacation homes.
The May 18 report, from Pakistan Today, includes a pix of the prince at the ceremony.


From Iran a film drama about fighting ISIS in Syria. "This is not New York and there are no Twin Towers here"

The above quote is from an 'action' film, the first full-length film drama on the war in Syria against Islamic State and other Islamist terrorist forces. The film is from Iran and told from the Iranian view of the war; it's called Damascus Time. Here's a note at YouTube about the plot:
The city of Palmyra in eastern Syria has fallen to ISIS and they have surrounded the airport in a nearby city where many of the wounded people and also the last defenders of the airport await their emergency evacuation. A young pilot has to risk his life and reach the airport in order to help evacuate these people while they are under direct ISIS fire. A close confrontation with ISIS fighters determines their fate in a dramatic turn of events.
Here are two trailers for the film posted at YouTube; I like the first one a little better than the 'official' one.

Looks like a good film but be warned there is graphic footage of Islamic State carrying out atrocities interspersed with the fictional parts although it's not shown in the trailers.
Thanks to Rick Sterling, writing on May 17 at Consortium News, for alerting Westerners to the film, which is currently being shown in Iran, and for providing some background. Here are some of Sterling's notes:
The movie comes from Iranian screenwriter and film director Ebrahim Hatamikia. Two award-winning Iranian actors, Hadi Hejazifar and Babak Hamidian, play father and son pilots trying to rescue civilians besieged and attacked by ISIS forces in eastern Syria. The pilots have come to help the townspeople escape in an aging Ilyushin cargo plane.
Syrian and Iraqi actors play Syrian civilians and ISIS terrorists hell bent on blowing up the plane or using it on a suicide mission against Damascus.
Will Damascus Time make it into Western movie theaters?  Given the vast gulf between the Iranian account of the war against ISIS and the Western ones, we'll be lucky if it's shown for two days in an 'art house' theater with 15 seats in Los Angeles and Amsterdam. But eventually, after English subtitles are provided, surely it'll be available to Westerners someplace through the internet.  

Anyhow, you don't need subtitles to understand the trailers. You would need subtitles to follow NATO/GCC propaganda about the war against Islamic State.   


Sunday, May 20

"BREAKING NEWS: ISIS to begin leaving southern Damascus"

By Leith Aboufadel
May 20, 2018
Al-Masdar News

BEIRUT, LEBANON (3:20 A.M.) – An agreement was put in place in southern Damascus, tonight [early morning on the 20th?], after the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) agreed to surrender their last positions in the Yarmouk Camp and Hajar Al-Aswad.

According to a military source in Damascus, dozens of buses started entering the Yarmouk Camp and Hajar Al-Aswad to transport the Islamic State terrorists to the Badiya region in eastern Syria.

ISIS was forced to surrender these districts in southern Damascus after losing a large chunk of their territory to the Syrian Army this month.

With the Islamic State’s future pending departure, the city of Damascus will be free of any militant groups for the first time in seven years.


That turned out to be a long 48 hours, didn't it? But with the tunnels cut off to them for the past two weeks, the last pocket of ISIS holdouts in Yarmouk camp have finally run out of supplies. Time for a nice bus ride courtesy of the Syrian army. Sure with free box lunches thrown in. 

[dusting her hands] Next.


Saturday, May 19

Putin greets Assad with a joke, Merkel with flowers

As to what Putin said that made Assad laugh so hard, I wish I knew. 

DW's take on the Putin-Merkel meeting in Sochi; Reuters and RFERL on the Putin-Assad meeting, also in Sochi. 

A big thanks to RFERL for providing Americans with a link to the Kremlin's summary of what was said at the Putin-Assad meet. It's in Russian. Such a help. Yes yes but I just don't feel like fooling with Google Translate at the moment. 

But for me the most illuminating summary is that Putin waited outside for Assad's car to arrive so he could immediately greet Assad -- a gesture of great respect for a national leader to accord another --  and that he obviously wanted the video record of this to be seen by the public. 

SANA has posted the video, also available at YouTube.


Thursday, May 17

It so happens MbS hasn't been seen in public since a ruckus at the palace last month UPDATE 5/21


So much for speculation that MbS was killed or wounded in an alleged coup attempt. See this May 18 report from Pakistan Today, which makes it pretty clear that MbS is still alive and well.

*****    Where's Mohammed? Media Speculate About Possible Death of Saudi Crown Prince
15:59 17.05.2018

The apparent disappearance of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from the public eye has led several Iranian media outlets to wonder if one of the most powerful men in the kingdom might’ve been killed during an attempted coup last month.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was allegedly hit by two bullets during the April 21 attack on the royal palace in Riyadh and may actually be dead as he has not appeared in public since the incident, Kayhan newspaper reports citing "a secret service report sent to the senior officials of an unnamed Arab state."

As [Iran's] Press TV points out, no new photo or video of bin Salman has been released by Saudi authorities since that day, and the prince "was not even seen on camera when new US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made his maiden visit to Riyadh in late April."

"Bin Salman was a man who almost often appeared before the media but his 27-day absence since the gunfire in Riyadh has raised questions about his health," the Fars news agency remarks.

The Saudi authorities however are yet to comment on this matter.

On April 21 several media agencies reported heavy gunfire emanating from the Saudi royal palace in Riyadh, prompting speculations about a possible coup attempt taking place.

Saudi authorities claimed that the incident merely involved palace security guards firing upon a drone which allegedly was flying too close to the premises.

A number of local media outlets, however, reported that King Salman himself was evacuated to a nearby military installation during the shooting, with Saudi analyst Ali al-Ahmed naming the [U.S.-protected] King Khaled base as the monarch’s destination.


There was a report of a second assault on the palace on the night after the first attack but professional analysts in the West only discussed reports of the first attack -- at least in their public utterances  See Pundita posts for April 22 and April 23

What I didn't mention in the posts was a rumor from a few months earlier that King Salman was going to step down and MbS would be crowned king on June 4, if I recall the date correctly. It might have been the anonymous Saudi 'whistleblower' that FARS loves to quote who passed along the rumor. 

I remember thinking that if the rumor had credence MbS needed to triple his security detail, even though he'd already gone to extreme lengths to neutralize his opponents in the kingdom. 

We'll see.


If Judy could live in the moment, we can at least try

John Batchelor has rebroadcast his 2015 discussion with Robert Weintraub, which I wrote about at the time. So below I've republished my post, which has a link to the 2015 podcast of the discussion. 

Only God knows when the train will pull into the station. Yet we stand on the platform and look at the schedule and say, 'The train is late' or 'The train isn't coming.'     

So it's not a matter of never giving up; it's learning to refrain from trying to play God with one's life. I think one of the best lessons to this effect is the life of Judy, who by human reckoning was supposed to die so many times it's not possible to make an accurate count.     

No Better Friend      

At one point in the telling the suspense got so awful that John Batchelor reassured the audience before a station break, "Don't worry; she survives."

"She" was Judy: shipwreck survivor, dowser, jungle guide, prisoner of war, savior, enemy of pirates and Japanese troops, decorated World War II veteran and barker at sharks. 

That's not the half of it. She inspired many human prisoners to find the will to survive horrific conditions in Japanese internment camps because they saw Judy toughing it out. 

They said, "If a dog can do it, so can I."

Judy, or "Gunboat Judy," as the British press dubbed her, was likely the most amazing purebred Pointer who couldn't point who ever lived.

As to how a dog became a POW -- an official POW -- instead of being shot by her captors, thereby hangs one of the tales of her exploits and those of the soldier she befriended.

It's all been told in a book, No Better Friend: One Man, One Dog, and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage and Survival in WWII and last night John Batchelor and the author, Robert Weintraub, sat around the campfire and told stories from the book.

John finished by suggesting, "Read this book to your dog."

Yes, and rent a hall and read it to everyone lucky enough to wander in. Read it to banish the doldrums cast by the day's news. Read it to be reminded of the incredible mettle that man and dog can muster.

And if you can't wait to read the book there's the podcast about some of Judy's adventures, well told by Batchelor and Weintraub. Many thanks to both raconteurs. 

August 14, 2015

Judy and Frank after the war


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