The Decentralization Equation

Let me see….we have been trying to mop up the crap in Iraq since 2003….then there is the manure pile that is Syria since 2011….no matter what we try…..it is wrong.

In the beginning of the war in Iraq there was a couple of plans that would bring federalism to Iraq…..so far none of them have gone very far but the Iraqi military has had its hands full for a few years now…..I am sure it is still on a back burner some place.

The there is Syria and some have floated a similar plan of partitioning of Syria….. to save time and space…….

Source: Would Partitioning Syria Be Folly? | Ace News Room

So far these plans have been all talk……and now there is new talk about a plan for both Syria and Iraq….it is called “decentralization”……

The term “decentralization” embraces a variety of concepts which must be carefully analyzed in any particular country before determining if projects or programs should support reorganization of financial, administrative, or service delivery systems. Decentralization—the transfer of authority and responsibility for public functions from the central government to subordinate or quasi-independent government organizations and/or the private sector—is a complex multifaceted concept. Different types of decentralization should be distinguished because they have different characteristics, policy implications, and conditions for success.

Source: Different Forms of Decentralization

I bring this issue up because of several articles I found while doing research…..these writings bring up the possibility of Iraq and Syria being able to profit from a program of decentralization…….

Source: Iraq’s regional decentralisation debate is heating up – Al Jazeera English

Source: No Going Back: Why Decentralization is the Future for Syria | World Affairs Journal

Could this truly be a godsend for these two countries?

But the one thing to keep in mind…..this is not a cure all…..

Obstacles will be many….but if a workable plan can come to light then why not give it a try?  I mean could not be any worse than the situation these days….

Once again…it should be the people that decide the future not the powers that are looking for some sort of benefit….whether is is natural resources or location…..the people will know what is best and the people will make any plan either work or fail…….

Syria: OOPS! Our Bad!

Last week the powers involved in the fight in Syria were pleased with themselves…..after months of talks there is a ceasefire in place……there have been some violations but for the most part the ceasefire has held for 5 days and counting…..

Everyone was certain that it would not last….that there are too many players for all of them to act as responsibly as the US…..

And then the news broke…….

Syrian government warplanes and special forces on Sunday destroyed several positions of ISIS in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour. The advance regained territory lost Saturday when Syrian troops were accidentally hit with airstrikes by the US-led coalition, reports the AP. The incident has threatened an already-fragile US and Russian-brokered ceasefire that has largely held despite dozens of alleged violations on both sides. The Syrian Foreign Ministry called the strikes a “dangerous and blatant aggression.” The ministry’s statement, sent to the presidents of the United Nations and the UN Security Council, said US warplanes repeatedly attacked Syrian army positions Saturday in strikes that were “on purpose and planned in advance,” and killed dozens of soldiers.

Russia’s military said at least 62 soldiers were killed in the Deir el-Zour air raid and more than 100 wounded. On Sunday, the state-run SANA news agency quoted an unnamed military official as saying that dozens of ISIS fighters were killed in the offensive on Tharda mountain under cover of Syrian airstrikes; ISIS had claimed its fighters captured Tharda mountain. The Syrian military official said government troops had regained control of areas the extremists captured, “as a result of the American aircraft aggression.” Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ISIS fighters shot down a Syrian warplane over Tharda mountain, adding that its pilot was killed. The Observatory said intense strikes by Russian warplanes have killed at least 38 ISIS fighters since Saturday.

After all the finger pointing and accusations….it would seem that the US and its air power have destroyed a fragile ceasefire.

In the defense of the Deir Ezzor Airport, the Syrian military has long depended on an army base in Jebel Tharda to repel ISIS advances. That base has been lost this weekend, after a disastrous series of US-led airstrikes killed a large number of Syrian troops defending the base, and ISIS quickly overran what was left.

For over 20 minutes, the coalition warplanes attacked the base. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the attack killed at least 83 Syrian troops and wounded 120 others. The US Central Command claimed they thought the base belonged to ISIS.

It does now. With the forces decimated by the US attack, ISIS quickly overran the base. Syrian state media claimed an ongoing effort to recover the site, but it does not appear to have been successful yet, as ISIS managed to shoot down a Syrian warplane, flying out of Deir Ezzor Airport, over Jebel Tharda.

Never ask what could go wrong….just a thought.

While writing this post it became official……

Syria’s military command has declared the US-Russian brokered ceasefire over, blaming the country’s rebel groups for undermining the agreement that lasted seven days, reports the AP. In a statement Monday, the Syrian military said that “armed terrorist groups” repeatedly violated the ceasefire that came into effect last week. It said the armed groups also took advantage of the truce to mobilize and arm themselves while attacking government-held areas. The statement said the rebels wasted a “real chance” to stop the bloodshed. Activists and rebel groups also accuse the government of violating the ceasefire. The UN said the Syrian government has obstructed the delivery of aid, a key component of the deal.

Speaking earlier Monday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, US Secretary of State John Kerry said some humanitarian assistance is moving. The truce took effect last Monday with the goal of creating a joint US-Russia military facility to coordinate airstrikes on ISIS and an al-Qaeda affiliate. That was to be set up after seven days of reduced violence and sustained aid deliveries to Aleppo and other areas. Syrian state TV earlier quoted President Bashar al-Assad as saying that the airstrike of the US-led coalition against his troops was meant to support ISIS. Assad described the attack that killed dozens of Syrian soldiers in the eastern province of Deir ez-Zour as a “blatant American aggression.”

Syria: A Ray Of Hope

There is news and then there is NEWS…..over the weekend there was some major news only it has been shuffled to the background thanx to the antics of the political process and the political games….

Syria has been a mess for years….everyone fighting everyone else to the point that it is more confusing than a plot on Reality TV……but through all this death and destruction a small ray of hope has broken through……

Russia and the US announced plans for a ceasefire in the five-year Syrian civil war Friday, CNN reports. Under the agreement—which both the Syrian government and opposition groups have tentatively agreed to—calls for an end to hostilities starting at sundown on Monday. Secretary of State John Kerry says the “bedrock of the agreement” is the government’s cessation of air force missions in any areas occupied by rebel groups. “That should put an end to…the indiscriminate bombing of civilian neighborhoods,” Kerry says. According to the AP, Kerry calls the ceasefire a possible “turning point” in the war that has killed more than 500,000 people.

The announcement came after “intensive” talks in Geneva, the BBC reports. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gave journalists waiting for the end of 13 hours of negotiations pizza “from the US delegation” and vodka “from the Russian delegation.” The ceasefire will allow the UN to deliver humanitarian aid to hard-hit areas, including Aleppo, where nearly 700 civilians—160 of them children—have been killed in the past 40 days. If the ceasefire lasts a week, the US and Russia will start planning joint military operations against al Qaeda and ISIS fighters in Syria. But such ceasefire agreements have failed in the past. “We think [the arrangement] has the capability of sticking, but it’s dependent on people’s choices,” Kerry says. “It is an opportunity and not more than that.”

Beginning sundown today……A nationwide cease-fire by Assad’s forces and the U.S.-backed opposition is set to begin across Syria at sundown Monday. That sets off a seven-day period that will allow for humanitarian aid and civilian traffic into Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and commercial capital, which has faced a recent onslaught.

Fighting forces are to also pull back from the Castello Road, a key thoroughfare and access route into Aleppo, and create a “demilitarized zone” around it.

Also Monday, the United States and Russia will begin preparations for the creation of a Joint Implementation Center that will involve information sharing needed to define areas controlled by the radical Nusra Front and opposition groups in areas “of active hostilities.”

The center is expected to be established a week later, and is to launch a broader effort toward delineating other territories in control of various groups.

As part of the arrangement, Russia is expected to keep Syrian air force planes from bombing areas controlled by the opposition. The United States has committed to help weaken the Nusra Front, an extremist group that has intermingled with the U.S.-backed opposition in places.

A resumption of political dialogue between the government and opposition under U.N. mediation, which was halted amid an upsurge in fighting in April, will be sought over the longer term.

Now the part that should the blogs in multiple directions is the fact that US and Russia are working in partnership (for now)……..

The United States and Russia working in lockstep against ISIS and al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. A rejuvenated truce that will compel President Bashar Assad’s air and ground forces to pull back. New flows of badly needed humanitarian aid. Those details emerged Saturday as US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov capped another marathon meeting in Geneva to present their latest ambitious push to end Syria’s devastating and complex war, the AP reports. The potential breakthrough deal, which promises a new US-Russian counterterrorism alliance, launches a nationwide cessation of hostilities by sundown Monday.

The military deal would go into effect after both sides abide by the truce for a week and allow unimpeded humanitarian deliveries. Then, the US and Russia would begin intelligence sharing and targeting coordination, while Assad’s air and ground forces would no longer be permitted to target Fath al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front; they would be restricted to operations against ISIS while the US and Russia target both groups. The deal will hinge on compliance by Assad’s Russian-backed forces and US-supported rebel groups, plus key regional powers such as Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia—though as with previous blueprints for peace, Saturday’s plan appears to lack enforcement mechanisms.

What could possibly go wrong (he asked smilingly)……

What are the chances of success with this effort?  Now there is a good question.

In order to evaluate the value of the Kerry-Lavrov effort, we only have the patterns of previously exerted efforts, conducted separately or in a minimum de-confliction mode, to assess the extent of the individual impact of each power, then proceed to explore the potential impact of both combined.

In the case of Russia, its recent intensive air raids around Aleppo and Hama have not achieved their purpose on either front. The armed opposition, including Jabhat al-Nusra, has made very impressive progress on both battle fields.

In the case of the US, the state of play in northern Syria shows a very limited ability to influence the dynamics of the on-the-ground-course of the fight: Turkey’s incursion – the defection of hundreds of Arab Syrian fighters from the US-backed, predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to join the Turkish-assisted opposition west of the Euphrates – previous failed US attempts to train Syrian forces in order to set them up against terrorist forces – these are but a few examples of a long list of trials and failures for US involvement in Syria.

Therefore, it is safe to say that Russia’s heavy bombardment plus Assad’s and Iran’s repeated offensives on multiple fronts have not reversed the dynamics on the ground in any substantial way. The US has not fared any better. Neither have its attempts to train forces, play the SDF off pro-Turkish forces, and other shallow and similar tactics changed the dynamics.

Considering such a dismal record for the two powers on the ground, independently, it is only natural to review whether together they can achieve any degree of success in fighting terrorism jointly. In other words, we must return to examining the link between the two powers, either working together or alone, on the one hand, and the course of the actual conflict on the ground as it progresses.

(MEBriefing.com)

Time will tell if this will be a successful endeavor……my guess is there are too many players with too many goals for it to be successful…..and I hope I am mistaken.

But am I?

One group has already rejected the truce……

An influential Syrian rebel group, the hardline Islamist Ahrar al-Sham, on Sunday rejected the truce deal brokered by Russia and the United States hours before it was due to begin.

A high-ranking member of the group, which works closely with former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front, said in a statement on YouTube that the deal would only serve to “reinforce” the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and “increase the suffering” of civilians

Not a good start, huh?

ISIS, Who’s Your Daddy?

2016 has brought about many a debate….most is just words to elicit some sort of applause and yells……but one of the better accusations was the one made by Trump that ISIS was created by Obama and Clinton….

Trump was asked by host Hugh Hewitt about the comments Trump made Wednesday night in Florida, and Hewitt said he understood Trump to mean “that he (Obama) created the vacuum, he lost the peace.”
Trump objected.
“No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS,” Trump said. “I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton.”
Hewitt pushed back again, saying that Obama is “not sympathetic” to ISIS and “hates” and is “trying to kill them.”
“I don’t care,” Trump said, according to a show transcript. “He was the founder. His, the way he got out of Iraq was that that was the founding of ISIS,
(cnn)
His words were a bit off topic…..I know that will not please those the drink from the Trump cup but nonetheless accurate…..

To understand why Trump’s claim that Obama “founded” ISIS is so off base, you need to understand the group’s actual origins.

ISIS has its origins in a Jordanian group called Jamaat al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (JTWJ), founded in 1999 by a militant named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Zarqawi, himself from Jordan, was a kind of thuggish figure, known more for brutality than theological sophistication. Initially, his group was fairly marginal in the global jihadist movement, especially compared with al-Qaeda.

The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 changed everything. The American-led war, by destroying the Iraqi state, left much of the country in chaos. Foreign fighters and extremists began moving into Iraq, assisted by Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, which sought to bog down the United States. Zarqawi and his group were among those foreign fighters.

Maybe Trump is referring to an intel memo from 2012…….after a little research I found this info….I can see where the mistake could have occurred…..

US military intelligence warned the White House in 2012 that the West’s covert war in Syria would produce “an Islamic State” (precisely what Daesh (Isis/Isil) claimed to be creating two years later in 2014)

The following was revealed in a declassified Pentagon ‘Secret’ Intelligence Information Report (US Defense Intelligence Agency). Note that the ‘Salafists’ (aka Wahhabis) mentioned are followers of the ultra-conservative state sect of Saudi Arabia – which has inspired al-Qaida, Daesh, and other jihadi groups on the ground in Syria.

A. Internally, events are taking a clear sectarian direction.

B. The Salafist [sic], the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [al-Qaida in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.

C. The West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition; while Russia, China and Iran support the regime…

8.C. If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in Eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).

8.D.1. …ISI [Islamic State in Iraq] could also declare an Islamic State through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria…

I would like to be fair(I know a concept that is not really embraced these days)……..It is possible that this is where the confusion originated…..

I know that the accusation makes great news fodder…..and as long as the news is talking about the accusation he wins this round.

The Partition Of Syria

Back in the glorious year of 2003 and the invasion and the following occupation of Iraq there was an answer floating around to all the sectarian violence……partitioning.

The idea was first floated in the media by Sen. Joe Biden…..he stated that this would make all units or factions in the country happy….in essence a power sharing deal for all people.

Later others jumped on the bandwagon as the violence grew and grew..

Now the same type of idea is being floated about the violence in Syria…..

Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama emerged from talks this week predictably far apart on the question of Bashar Al-Assad’s future. Russia wants him to remain as their client, recognising him as the country’s leader. Britain and the US say he will never be accepted by a majority of Syrians, who want him to go. What neither side will countenance is the only feasible option: dividing the country into separate ethno-sectarian cantons.Putin and Obama agree on the need to take on ISIL. But doing so now, when the war has come to be defined as Sunni versus Alawi – and other minorities – will only feed Sunni resentment and bolster the popularity of ISIL. A key first step is to create two arenas: one a coastal strip dominated by Alawis, Christians and sections of the urban middle classes; the other a Sunni zone, much of which is already controlled by opposition groups. Only with a safe and defensible canton will Alawis be willing to see Assad fall. Once the Sunni zone has been established, the West can assist ISIL’s opponents without bolstering Assad or conferring legitimacy on IS.In other words, intervention only becomes possible with the creation of a federal Syria operating under a power-sharing, or consociational, system.

Source: Partition: It’s time to recognise reality in Syria | USAPP

Image result for partition of syria

 

The Partition of Syria is a scenario to end the Syrian Civil War.  It would mean the division of the country along sectarian (religious) and ethnic lines.   The war is viewed of as largely a sectarian conflict.   Russia, the United States, Israel, and other UN representatives have suggested the idea of “federal division” (an effort deemed “Balkanization” President Bashar al-Assad has not ruled out the possibility of a federal democratic state of Syria. The opposition, however, has rejected the offer during negotiations; it has been stated that “dividing Syria is not acceptable at all”, and that a “non-central government” is the right direction. The Kurds, however, are open to the idea.  (wikipedia)

This idea will hold the same outcome as that in Iraq…..the violence will not end and the central government will be unable to govern.

Source: Iran’s Plan B: The Partition of Syria | Middle East Briefing

Then there is the US and their “Plan B…….

US secretary of State John Kerry called for Syria to be partitioned saying it was “Plan B” if negotiations fail.  But in reality this was always plan A. Plans to balkanize Syria, Iraq and other Middle Eastern states were laid out by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a 2006 trip to Tel Aviv. It was part of the so called “Project For a New Middle East”. This was a carbon copy of the Odid Yinon plan drawn up by Israel in 1982. The plan outlined the way in which Middle Eastern countries could be balkanized along sectarian lines. This would result in the creation of several weak landlocked micro-states that would be in perpetual war with each other and never united enough to resist Israeli expansionism.

“Syria will fall apart, in accordance with its ethnic and religious structure, into several states such as in present day Lebanon, so that there will be a Shi’ite Alawi state along its coast, a Sunni state in the Aleppo area, another Sunni state in Damascus hostile to its northern neighbor, and the Druzes who will set up a state, maybe even in our Golan… ” Oded Yinon, “A strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties”,

Source: John Kerry’s Plan to Balkanize Middle East Countries. The Partition of Syria “if Negotiations Fail” | Global Research – Centre for Research on Globalization

Personally I do not believe that this, the partitioning of Syria, is the answer to this problem……I think it will create more hard feelings than there exists today.

China Comes To The Middle East

While the country pops its chops about this candidate’s taxes or that ones health a major development is occurring in the Middle East…….maybe you should stop looking for Pokemon and paying attention…..

Back at the first of this year there were rumblings that China might be considering a bit of their own adventurism in the Middle East….in Syria most namely…..I posted a warning back then……

Source: Can China Get A Buy In? – In Saner Thought

Most people thought that I was being unnecessarily paranoid about the possibility……well sports fans….”I Told You So”!

Country has joined Russia and Iran in supporting the Syrian government in war

China signalled it was prepared to join them by dispatching high-profile rear admiral Guan Youfei, head of Beijing’s office for international military co-operation, to Damascus to hold discussions with the Syrian defence minister Fahd Jassem al-Freij.

China offered to train Syrian military personnel and provide humanitarian aid. While Chinese advisers are routinely deployed to teach Syrian soldiers how to use Chinese weapons, the proposal to have advisers on a regular basis amounts to direct engagement in the conflict on the government’s side.

Source: China enters fray in Syria on Bashar al-Assad’s side

Now we have another bloc to contend with…..Syria, Russia, Iran and now China.

Does this appear to the powers lining up and choosing sides like the start of so many other great wars?

Director of the Office for International Military Cooperation of China’s Central Military Commission, Guan Youfei arrived in Damascus for talks with Syrian Defense Minister Fahad Jassim al-Freij and other officials of the Damascus government. Guan announced that Beijing and Damascus had come to an agreement that the Chinese military will provide humanitarian aid to Syria and discussed a possibility of involvement of Chinese military servicemen in training of the Syrian army personnel and other operations to ensure security in the Arab country.

Xinhua has not provided details about the agreed Chinese humanitarian aid mission in Syria. Furthermore, there are constant rumors that Chinese military advisers already operate in Syria, observing Damascus’ anti-terrorism efforts. However, there is no clear evidence that China has been involved into the conflict.

Source: Video: China Increases Its Involvement in the Syrian War | Global Research – Centre for Research on Globalization

How long before something goes horribly wrong?  Not always a good sign when the world’s military powers start picking sides in a fight…..am I wrong?

Keep in mind that China is building a military base in Djibouti which is on the Persian Gulf….just a hop skip and flight from the Middle East….

Maybe now would be a good time to step back and take a hard analytical look at Syria and the situation….

Or go back to looking for Pokemon……that is probably more important to you anyway.

Thoughts?

What The “Experts” Get Wrong

Ever noticed that many of the “experts” on the Middle East have Anglo-Saxon surnames?  Most could not find the Middle East on a map……

When in my younger years I was employed by a Spanish newspaper and spent much of my time in North Africa and the Middle East……for 2 years I worked in Iraq beginning just after Saddam came to power and I got to know the people and the region as well as a Westerner could in that amount of time.

I have tried to tell my story about the people and region but usually I am met with the ignorance that most Westerners show…..most seem to think they are experts and that they get the expertise from people with names like Smith, Jones, Strickland and Schmidt and most have never set foot in the region to get this false expertise…

It is not that these people are stupid…..but rather they just do not want to hear or believe that the info they have on the Middle East is flawed….it minds me of one of my fave quotes….”Stupidity Is The Deliberate Cultivation Of Ignorance”….

A very good site, War On The Rocks, has a great 2 part series and then a rebuttal, if you will,  about what is happening in the Middle East written by someone who is there….on the ground…..

If you read Western media outlets, includingWaronthe Rocks, you might think that most of the problems in the Middle East can be traced to Sunni disenfranchisement, especially in Syria and Iraq. The broader Western debate about the ongoing civil wars in the Middle East is plagued by a false understanding of sectarian identities. Washington elites imagine a broader Sunni sense of identity that does not exist outside the confines of Saudi Arabia and territories held by jihadist groups. This has the malign effect of encouraging polices that add fuel to the fires consuming Syria and parts of Iraq. Alongside this narrative exists another that portrays Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces as bloodthirsty sectarian militias engaged in constant abuses against Iraq’s Sunni Arabs — but this is simply not the case.

Source: Washington’s Sunni Myth and the Civil Wars in Syria and Iraq

And the second part of the series……

I was not surprised to see my first article greeted with so much outrage by those who adhere to the conventional Western narrative of the civil wars in Iraq and Syria as well as the larger tumult of the Middle East. In truth, these conflicts are not so easily defined by the easy sectarian narrative offered in the Western press.  I argued that Western elites were surrendering to and even embracing the Saudi definition of what Sunni identity should mean. And I provided accounts of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq that do not comport with what you likely have been reading in the newspapers.

Source: Washington’s Sunni Myth and the Middle East Undone

This will probably fall on deaf ears….but that is okay….for those same deaf ears are the reason that we are destined to fight in Iraq for a generation….maybe longer….all because of ignorance and stupidity….and sadly it could have been avoided….

To be fair….War On The Rocks published a rebuttal to this series…..

The smug implication, of course, was that Syria under the Assad regime was different: Contrary to the fractured polities of Lebanon and Iraq, it had achieved a superior sense of national belonging and purpose, a genuine supra-confessional identity. Sectarianism was not an issue, I was told. Syria was no democracy, to be sure, but Bashar Al-Assad had married a Sunni woman who wore stylish Western clothes, women could walk around unveiled, and alcohol was available (that’s a lifestyle liberalism of the kind that appeals to Western audiences but actually obscures more than it reveals). Many Sunnis populated the high spheres of business, politics, and the military, and minorities could worship at will as long as they remained loyal to the Assads. No wonder that this image of Syria, marketed ad nauseam, partially hid the country’s unraveling during the previous 15 years. While admitting it was not perfect, many of those who bemoan the Syria of yesterday cannot seem to find the link between this romanticized narrative and the current catastrophe.

Source: “Assad or We Burn the Country”: Misreading Sectarianism and the Regime in Syria

It is always best to have both sides of an argument…..that is if one wants the whole picture and not just a corner……