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Thursday, November 26

Well, Mr Obama, you know what the Natives did to the Pilgrims when they figured out Pilgrims were there to grab their lands

President Obama Compares Syrian Refugees to Mayflower Pilgrims, Administration Says States Can't Block Them

Of course you might also recall what the foreign land grabbers then did to the Natives. 

Always helpful to think through our analogies before we utter them in front of a microphone.  


Maybe Daily Mail should rethink their headline wording?

Obama Thanksgiving dinner put on lockdown as man draped in the American flag jumps the White House fence while the first family celebrate

President Obama and his family were tucking into their turkey dinner when they were put on lockdown after Joseph Caputo hopped the fence of the White House (pictured). The intruder - who was wearing a baseball shirt, gloves and the flag as a cape - also appeared to holding a binder in between his teeth (center) as he climbed the metal railings. He then threw his hands up in the air in celebration (right) after making it over and began walking towards the White House before he was brought down by Secret Service agents and taken into custody. 
A witness claims she heard Caputo take a deep breath and tell himself  "Alright, let's do this" before jumping over the fence.

They're all dead

If a few escaped the shelling and bombing raids, special forces and Hezbollah units in the area would have hunted them down by this hour. The surviving "Syrian Turkmen" had better make up their minds fast about whether they're Syrian or Turk. The Syrian Army is very forgiving if a Syrian opposition group decides to help them drive out the foreign instigators. If not, the army can't afford to be merciful.
Terrorists in Su-24 search operation area killed - Russian Defense Ministry  [emphasis throughout mine]
Published time: 26 Nov, 2015 16:38 - edited time: 19:58

Russian and Syrian military have killed terrorists in the search area of the downed Russian Su-24 jet, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

“The moment our pilot was in safety the area was heavily bombed by the Russian Air Force and shelled by Syrian government forces artillery,” ministry spokesman General-Major Igor Konashenkov told a media briefing.

He stressed that terrorists and other “mysterious groups” were killed in the assault.

Konashenkov also added that the Turkish General Staff had denied Russia access to any materials related to the downing of the Russian Su-24 jet by a Turkish F-16 on Tuesday, adding that they did not release any recording of the radio communications between the pilots.
“In this case this is just more proof that the audio recording of communication between the Turkish pilots and our crew published by several media outlets is a regular fake.”
The Defense Ministry has said that all channels of military cooperation with Turkey were suspended on Thursday, including a hotline set up to share information about Russian air strikes in Syria. Moscow has also recalled its military representative from Turkey.
The Russian Air Force base in Latakia has been reinforced with an S-400 SAM system, which was deployed on Thursday.
Now we are going to ensure the safety of our planes fighting against ISIS militants and other terror groups by taking more reliable measures,” Konashenkov said.
The Russian Air Force has conducted 134 sorties in the past three days hitting 449 targets in the Syrian provinces of Aleppo, Damascus, Idlib, Latakia, Hama, Homs, Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor, according to the spokesman.
All planes have safely returned to base.
As a result of multiple air strikes conducted by Russian forces against terrorists, Syrian governmental forces took control of the mountainous regions in the north of Latakia province, thus fully blocking the cross-border arms and ammunition shipments to terrorists in the area, Konashenkov said during the briefing.
He also stressed that in other regions in northern Syria, Russian air forces have been keeping all Islamic State weapons, ammo and equipment supply routes in check.
Konashenkov said that that reports distributed by foreign media about Russian air forces allegedly hitting a Turkish ‘humanitarian convoy' near the Bab al-Salam border crossing in northern Syria were "misinformation."
Russian aviation is continuing to carry out air strikes against oil-refining infrastructure controlled by Islamic State militants. On November 24, Russian SU-34 bombers hit Islamic State convoys of oil trucks as well as oil refineries and oil storage facilities in the eastern Syrian provinces of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor.

Wednesday, November 25

Turkey's PM trips himself with his tongue: I gave order to shoot down Russia's jet

Turkish Prime Minister: I Gave Order to Shoot Down Russia's Plane Myself
22:12 - 25.11.2015 (updated 23:38)

As details continue to emerge about the downing of a Russian bomber along the Turkey-Syria border on Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has admitted to personally giving the order to fire on the aircraft, Canadian news outlet ThinkPol reported.

Hours after the incident which destroyed a Russian Su-24 bomber and left one pilot dead, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan went on the defensive, blaming an alleged incursion of Turkish airspace.

"We did not want this situation to happen, but everybody has to respect Turkey’s right to defend its borders," he told reporters, adding that the military’s actions were "fully in line with Turkey’s rules of engagement."

Many of the Turkish claims have already been called into question, raising doubts that the incident was a mere in-the-moment misunderstanding. Adding to that doubt are comments made by Davutoglu on Wednesday, in which he took direct responsibility for the crash.

"Despite all the warnings, we had to destroy the aircraft," he said during a meeting with his party, according to Canadian news site ThinkPol. "The Turkish Armed Forces carried out orders given by me personally."  

[Pundita note: The surviving Russian navigator asserts that the Turks gave no warning whatsover.]

Given the speed with which the incident occurred, it’s hard to know what to make of Davutoglu’s claim. According to the Turkish government’s own letter of explanation written to the United Nations Security Council, the military gave the Russian jet a series of warnings during a five-minute stretch, warning the pilots to move away from the border.

While the Russian Ministry of Defense has provided video evidence proving that the bomber never entered Turkish airspace, Ankara’s claim alleges that the incursion occurred for only 17 seconds.

It’s hard to imagine military personnel getting through to such a high-ranking government official, explaining the situation, and still having time to fire in a 17-second time frame.

Davutoglu’s statements seem to back up comments made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier on Wednesday, suggesting that the incident had been premeditated.

"We have serious doubts that it was unintentional, it looks like a planned provocation," he said. "We are not planning to wage a war against Turkey, our attitude towards the Turkish people has not changed. We have questions only to the Turkish leadership."

In response, Turkey’s Western allies in NATO have urged for calm.



Turks gave us no warning: Surviving Russian pilot

From unfolding events it is increasingly clear that the Erdogan regime didn't expect a survivor -- and as it went down, it was still a close call.  It took combined Russian and Syrian special forces in an hours-long battle with Turkey's operatives (the "Turkmen rebel militia") to get the surviving pilot to safety. A battle that cost the life of a Russian marine.

‘Turkish jets gave us no warning before shooting’ – rescued pilot of downed Russian Su-24
Published time: 25 Nov, 2015 14:33
Edited time: 25 Nov, 2015 17:41

[See RT website for videos]

It’s impossible that we violated their airspace even for a second,” Konstantin Murakhtin told RT and other Russian media. “We were flying at an altitude of 6,000 meters in completely clear weather, and I had total control of our flight path throughout.”

As well as denying Ankara’s assertions that the plane was in Turkey’s airspace, Murakhtin, who says he knows the mission area "like the back of my hand," also refuted Turkish officials’ claims that the pilots were warned repeatedly.
In actual fact, there were no warnings at all. Neither through the radio, nor visually, so we did not at any point adjust our course. You need to understand the difference in speed between a tactical bomber like a Su-24, and that of the F16. If they wanted to warn us, they could have sat on our wing,” said Murakhtin, who is currently recuperating at Russia’s airbase in Latakia, northern Syria.
As it was, the missile hit the back of our plane out of nowhere. We didn’t even have time to make an evasive maneuver.”
READ MORE: Leaked Ankara UN letter claims Su-24's ‘air space violation’ lasted 17 seconds
As the plane was hit and went down in Syria, the two pilots ejected. Captain Sergey Rumyantsev was killed, with a rebel Turkmen brigade claiming they shot him to death while he was still parachuting.
Murakhtin was extracted in a 12-hour joint operation by Russian and Syrian special forces, in which a Russian marine died.
The 39-year-old airman, who won the Top Navigator award at Russia’s biggest military flying competition last year, says he will ask to return to front-line service as soon as he is declared fit.
I must ‘pay back’ the debt for my captain,” said Murakhtin.
The incident has led to Russia accusing NATO member Turkey of a “planned provocation,” as military co-operation has been suspended between the two states. Both sides, however, have vowed to avoid further escalation, with a meeting planned between foreign ministers.
Turkey has been supporting anti-government forces in Syria since a rebellion broke out against Bashar Assad in 2011. Russia has staunchly backed Assad, and has been conducting an airstrike campaign at his request since September.
Both Russia and Turkey have condemned Islamic State, but have also accused each other of enabling its progress, with Vladimir Putin calling the downing of the Russian jet “a stab in the back by the accomplices of terrorism.”

Afghanistan's bold pivot to India is long overdue

"An October 2015 [U.S.] Congressional Research Service report supports Afghanistan’s claim that Pakistan interferes with Afghan internal affairs and supports proxy elements fighting an undeclared war against Afghanistan."

By the way Russia has been giving -- outright giving -- Afghanistan desperately needed weapons and ammunition for years. That news surfaced recently at RT or Sputnik. 

As to why no NATO country has provided the Afghans with enough materiel to fight a war launched against them by Pakistan, and why Afghanistan had to turn to India for desperately needed attack helicoters, shall we ring up NATO and ask them?  Or ask lobbyists for the American company that makes F-16 fighter jets and its Man Men in Congress?

From Foreign Policy magazine (a conduit for the U.S. Department of State); Nov 25, 2015, by Shawn Snow: Ghani’s Pivot Away From PakistanReaching out to India may bring immediate benefits for Afghanistan, but will weakening ties with Pakistan be the cost?
The October 2015 announcement that a Pakistani operative was the focus of U.S. airstrikes on the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) facility in Kunduz only widened the rift between Pakistan and Afghanistan, lowering expectations for any future reconciliation between the Taliban and Kabul. American intelligence analysts had tracked an alleged Pakistani operative to the MSF facility, believing this individual was working for Pakistani intelligence and coordinating battlefield efforts for the Taliban in Kunduz. Pakistan has staunchly denied any involvement in the Kunduz operation, rejecting accusations linking its government to direct aid of the Taliban.
No longer willing to rely on Pakistan to end its interventionist policy in Afghanistan, Ghani has decided to revive his predecessor’s strategy and approach Pakistan’s longtime foe, India. It is anyone’s guess whether Ghani’s bold move will pay off, though it is sure to generate anxiety in Pakistan.
But Islamabad has failed to grasp what Afghanistan stands to gain from a stronger relationship with India.
For Kabul, the benefits of strengthened ties between Afghanistan and India go well beyond military hardware. Afghanistan provides India access to Iran’s port of Chabahar, providing India with a direct route to Central Asian markets and facilitating North-South transit trade throughout the region, creating “the Asian roundabout, a key hub of in the revival of the Silk road[sic],” as Ghani said at the BRICS Summit in Ufa, Russia, earlier this year. Strengthening trade ties with Afghanistan allows India to project economic power in the region and demonstrate that its foreign policy is not dictated by Pakistan and China.
By granting India access to the port of Chabahar and the Delaram-Zaranj road, which connects the Afghan-Iranian border town Zaranj to major Afghan roads, Afghanistan offers it an alternative to the Gwader port, a mere 72 km (44 miles) away but under the control of China and Pakistan. It also provides India with a surveillance post to monitor Chinese and Pakistani warships in the region.
India and Afghanistan will have to gauge whether the cost-benefit analysis of drawing closer will be worthwhile in the long run. Cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan is vital to achieving peace in the region. India has suffered heavily for interfering in the Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship, as evidenced by the 2008 bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul that left 54 dead.
Afghanistan must also be careful of possible responsive Pakistani actions. An October 2015 Congressional Research Service report supports Afghanistan’s claim that Pakistan interferes with Afghan internal affairs and supports proxy elements fighting an undeclared war against Afghanistan. The report states that Pakistan’s objectives in Afghanistan seek to utilize militant groups to counter Indian influence and create strategic in-roads for Pakistan.
Increasingly, Congress and the Obama administration are validating Afghan claims that Pakistan supports militant groups inside Afghanistan. Washington is growing weary of the Islamabad government and its repeated overtures to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. Prior to the visit of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif this fall, the White House levied threats to pull its financial assistance to the Pakistani military. However, senior American officials reported prior to the prime minister’s visit that the United States would sell Pakistan eight F-16 fighter jets to assist in its counterterrorism efforts, highlighting the regional importance of Pakistan to the United States, and its understanding of Pakistan’s vital role in the Afghan peace process.
It is too soon to tell if Ghani’s India gamble will pay off, though the pressure on Pakistan to change course has certainly been ramped up. With Pakistan’s recent move to invite India’s foreign minister to attend a regional conference on Afghanistan next month, Pakistan is surely feeling the heat.

North Korea

From the Daily Mail, yesterday:
A photographer has captured the everyday reality of North Korea, revealing a mixture of national pride and ever-present militarism in the nation for a new calendar.
German-born Christian Petersen-Clausen, who lives in China, recently travelled across the country with a tourist company - snapping everything from passengers on packed buses to children playing outside.
Although he was shepherded towards the propaganda of the country by his guide, Christian was able to capture candid moments like two children holding hands, a mother taking her daughter's picture on a smartphone and even a traditional wedding. ...
The photos are portraits of the incredible human spirit. Overwhelming, when one thinks of surviving in such a country.


Gah. Yet more breaking news.

Russian Cruiser Moskva Will Cover Air Groups in Syria With Fort Air Defense  From RT

All right, that's enough. It's going to be like this all day from RT and Sputnik. The two of them have been having a nervous breakdown since yesterday. And by the way, a breaking news report I linked to hours ago about Russia willing to form a coalition with US, France and Turkey to fight Islamic State seems to have vanished. 

Anyhow, I can't keep my eyes open any longer; I'm going to have to get some sleep. Then Thanksgiving prep, etc., then the holidays. I will see you next week. By then, hopefully, the good guys will have wrested Palmyra back from IS. See the previous post.  

Before closing I do want to at least put up a link to a Nov 24 Sputnik report that I'd planned to discuss but which got lost in the shuffle of events yesterday. It's about the Syrian Army discovering a network of tunnels in the Homs region, dug it seems by al Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front.

These tunnels are like ones built by the Sinaloa cartel. Very expensive to build and requiring advanced engineering skills.  

Those fiends really got dug in, literally and figuratively, in Syria, while the West dithered -- and Obama and his team downplayed the threat from al Qaeda.

Bill Roggio and Thomas Joscelyn penned a ringing and detailed retort to the Obama regime, Al Qaeda has not been neutralizedpublished at Long War Journal on November 20. This is a 'must read' on several counts -- not the least of which is that it conveys the regime has misled the American public about al Qaeda's ever-expanding reach. 

The regime has gone for showy hits on commanders and other 'names' in the movement. But it's as the Pakistani official said years ago to a reporter, "You Americans have killed al Qaeda's Number 3 man five times."

The good news is that the Syrian Army doesn't go for show but for thoroughness. They turned the tables on Nusra when they captured some of the tunnels, as you'll see from the Sputnik report.

Happy Thanksgiving to the Syrian Army. And the Russian and Syrian air forces. And President Vladimir Putin. And to Sputnik and RT; thank you for all your reports during this wild seven weeks.   

Happy Thanksgiving to all readers, and to all a good night and good morning.

The noose tightens around Islamic State in Palmyra

I've been hesitating for weeks to mention this story, although news about the action has popped up in Syrian Army sitreps from time to time. But today things look hopeful enough that Sputnik has once again picked up on the action. And I can't resist passing along the next presumed target on the road to liberating Palmyra. 

It's touch and go, of course, and from the last Sputnik report weeks ago on the planned assault, the army is worried that IS has wired what remains of the ancient monuments, so they've been inching along very carefully....

The Noose Tightens: Syrian Army, Allies Hammer ISIL All Around Palmyra
10:14 - 25.11.2015

Elements of the Syrian Arab Army, National Defense Forces and Hezbollah, aided by Iraqi Harakat al-Nujaba militia fighters, launched an assault against ISIL positions on al-Hayal mountain to the south of Palmyra, Iranian Fars News Agency (FNA) reports.

At the same time, Syrian military continued its advance along the Homs-Deir ez-Zor highway towards the western outskirts of the ancient city. FNA points out that their next target there will likely be a luxurious villa previously owned by the Qatari royal family, which is now being used by ISIL as its forward base of operations and as a training facility for the new recruits.

With these gains, and with Russian military aircraft poised to attack ISIL forces holding the eastern part of the city and the Palmyra Airbase, the Syrian army and its allies now stand ready to execute a three-pronged attack against the Islamist-occupied city.

The Islamic State has already moved a considerable number of troops, weapons and equipment to Palmyra in preparation for the inevitable battle, FNA adds.

The ancient city of Palmyra is a site of major archaeological importance and features in UNESCO's World Heritage list. The Islamic State militants who currently control the city shocked the world when they looted and destroyed a countless number of priceless historic sites in Palmyra, including its ancient temples of Bel and Baalshamin; it fell under the control of the jihadi militants in May.


I see Sputnik also has a report from two days ago: Syrian Army Liberates Two Christian Villages From the Clutches of ISIL


"S-400 Will be Deployed at Syrian Airbase Hmeymim" - Yet more Breaking News

I have no idea what the S-400 is.

Breaking News: S-400 Will be Deployed at Syrian Airbase Hmeymim - Russian Defense Minister
11:37 25.11.2015 (updated 11:39 25.11.2015) 
Russia will deploy S-400 defense missile systems to Hmeymim airbase in Syria, Russian Defense Ministry Sergey Shoygu said Thursday.




1 of 2 Russian pilots shot down by Turkey picked up by Syrian Army: BREAKING NEWS UPDATE 3:30 AM ET, 4:02 AM ET


The very brief RT report I quoted in the original rpt. has been expanded with a few more details.  From the additional info, it's a toss of the coin right now whether the pilot who died was killed by the Turkmen or was killed in the fall to ground:
“The [rescue] operation is successfully over. The pilot has been delivered to our base.   Safe and sound,” Shoigu said during a meeting of the Defense Committee, adding that   the operation was performed by Russian and Syrian special forces.
Shoigu said the joint operation had taken about 12 hours and thanked all special forces’ personnel that took part in the operation to rescue the pilot.

The information that one of the two pilots from the downed plane is alive was released earlier on Wednesday by the Russian ambassador in France, Aleksandr Orlov. He said the pilot had been wounded.
Also on Tuesday, videos emerged allegedly showing one of the Russian pilots unconscious and surrounded by armed rebels. He was probably dead. His face is bruised and bloodied. The men seem to be happy and are praising Allah, with some regretting they hadn’t burned him on the spot.
The footage was sent by a rebel group operating in the northwestern area of Syria, where groups including the Free Syrian Army are active but Islamic State has no known presence, according to Reuters.
However, Jahed Ahmad, a representative of the 10th Brigade in the Coast, the rebel group that claimed it attacked the pilots, told AP that one of the Russian pilots was dead upon landing.
The report doesn't say whether the body has been given up by the rebels.

Sputnik has just picked up the same report but headlines that the Syrian Army "saved" the pilot who escaped. Haven't checked Reuters in the last few moments but when last I checked they still hadn't posted what I'll guess was a 'wire' report to news organizations. I see the New York Times has just picked up the story although it might be they've published an AP wire story on the rescue. Haven't read the Times story yet. As for the rest of U.S. media, still getting their beauty sleep.  

Also I forgot to mention that last night at 8:51 PM ET Reuters reported:

"The United States believes that the Russian jet shot down by Turkey on Tuesday was hit inside Syrian airspace after a brief incursion into Turkish airspace, a U.S. official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.  The official said that assessment was based on detection of the heat signature of the jet."

That was the entire report. 

I'll add Reuters link when I find it at Reuters; it's not yet up at Google News:

One of 2 Russian pilots shot down by Turkey picked up by Syrian Army – Russian ambassador to France
Published time: 25 Nov, 2015 07:51 Edited time: 25 Nov, 2015 07:55

"One on board was wounded when he parachuted down and killed in a savage way on the ground by jihadists in the area. The other managed to escape. According to the latest information he has been picked up by the Syrian Army and should be going back to the Russian Air Force base," Ambassador Aleksandr Orlov told Europe 1 radio as cited by Reuters.


Russia Ready to Create Joint Command Center with France, US, Turkey: BREAKING NEWS

Heh, Sputnik so excited the typist lost control:

10:39 25.11.2015 (updated 10:46 25.11.2015)

Russia is ready to create joing commend center with France, US and Turkey for delivering strikes against ISIL, Russian ambassador to France said Wednesday.



Um, has the Syrian Army managed to take over the supply routes to Raqqa? (UPDATED 2:45am ET)

The following was buried in the Syrian Army's daily sitrep, published yesterday at SANA under the "Aleppo" heading:
Field sources said in statements to SANA that army units completely cut off Aleppo - al-Raqqa international road, two kilometers far from the mills in the surroundings of Kweires Airport.
The Sources asserted that by cutting the international road, army units have established control over all villages surrounding the Air Force Academy and Kweires Airport and completely securing their surroundings in addition to cutting off ISIS supplies with al-Raqqa.
I might misunderstand what I'm reading because if the passages mean what they seem to mean, where was the headline yesterday at Sputnik? At RT? (I wouldn't expect a Western news outlet to report on such momentous good news.) 

Granted, the Russian press was a little distracted yesterday. The downed Russian jet and helicopter, the presumed killings of three Russian troops during the incidents, the meeting between presidents Obama and Hollande, and the NATO announcement related to Turkey's downing of the jet.

I myself was so distracted by the hubbub it wasn't until late last night when I could collect myself to plow through the Syrian Army's Nov 24 report. And there it was, the stupendous passages quietly hanging before my wondering eyes. 

Now what exactly does the army mean by the "international road?" No no I'm not going to look at a map; I probably couldn't make sense out of it anyway. Maps are for people like Bill Roggio. But an international road does suggest to me that it crosses a border. Now which border might that be, I wonder?

Well, if they really did cut off the supply routes for Islamic State's caliphate, I'm sure we'll hear about it in some fashion, some kind of tantrum from IS or its international backers.


Oh, look, Sputnik also caught up with the Nov 24 sitrep! And it does look as if I didn't misread (emphasis mine), although no discussion of where that international road leads to. I guess I'll have to break down and look at a map:

Syrian Army Drives ISIL Out of Villages Around Key Airbase Near Aleppo - 10:20 - 25.11.2015 (updated 10:25)

The Syrian Army has reportedly driven ISIL militants out of all of the villages near Kweiris Airbase in the eastern part of Aleppo province.

Supported by the National Defense Forces, the Syrian Army managed to regain control of all villages near Kweiris Airbase in eastern Aleppo province from Islamic State militants, sources said.

It was reported that terrorists were driven out of settlements located 40 kilometers east of the city of Aleppo.

Additionally, the government forces took control of part of the Aleppo-Raqqa highway, which is located two kilometers from the Kweiris base.

It means that the army cut off the main supply route of the Islamic State group leading from the city of Raqqa, according to the sources.

Media reports said that during the offensive, the army seized a large number of enemy artillery pieces and systems equipped with homemade rockets.

It was also reported that militants suffered heavy losses in manpower and materiel and that they are retreating in the direction of Raqqa.

Kweiris Airbase has been besieged by terrorist groups for more than three years. The airport's garrison of about 1,000 officers and soldiers repelled over 400 attacks by militants, killing about 1,500 terrorists.

On November 10, the army managed to break the blockade of [Kweiris] Airbase, in a move that won the personal praise of Syrian President Bashar Assad.



Obama seems to have no awareness of the meaning of words

From a Reuters report Nov 24, Obama, Hollande urge Russia to focus Syria attacks on Islamic State:
... Obama said the United States did not have enough information yet to form conclusions about the incident but added similar confrontations could be avoided if Russia stopped attacking "moderate" Syrian rebels who are battling forces loyal to the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
"This points to an ongoing problem with the Russian operations in the sense that they are operating very close to a Turkish border and they are going after moderate opposition that are supported by not only Turkey but a wide range of countries," Obama said. ...
Obama expressed "U.S. and NATO support for Turkey's right to defend its sovereignty," the White House statement added.
So it would be okay to attempt to overthrow the government of the United States, as long as the insurgents were supported by a U.S. neighbor and a wide range of other countries. Check.  

Bloomberg had a somewhat more muscular take on the outcome of the Obama-Hollande meeting yesterday: Obama, Hollande Put Up Unified Front on Russia and Islamic State:
“We’ve got a coalition: 65 countries," Obama said. "Russia right now is coalition of two: Iran and Russia supporting Assad."
So if Nazi Germany and the rest of the Axis powers could have scared up a larger coalition, that would have put the Axis powers in the right. Check.

And the Bloomberg report picks out the same theme in Obama's words as the Reuters one:
"Turkey, like every country, has the right to defend its territory and its airspace," Obama said.
But Syria isn't a country if a coalition of 65 countries says it isn't. Check.

So that's where humanity stands in the Year of 2015 by the Gregorian Calendar. Might makes right, and no nation has a right to exist if the mighty say otherwise. 

What a long way we've come from the cave!


Tuesday, November 24

Timeout: Amma's Song for World Peace

About 10 of Amma's countless bhajans have been keeping me going during this time of a world on fire with hatred. Makes no matter I can't understand a word unless someone takes pity and translates for YouTube's audience, unless it's one of those ghastly English-language bhajans written by a Western devotee.  

But this one, which she composed in the Tamil language in 2012, I'd missed until it popped up all by itself in my playlist at YouTube. 

I'd been getting ready to fire off an angry lecture to Sputnik International News for overplaying their hand. After listening to the bhajan and looking at the photos accompanying it, I decided to chill a bit. 

I don't know about world peace but maybe a little more prayer and a little less snapping and growling. Especially during Thanksgiving week here in the USA....


Russian pilots who bailed from targeted jet could still be alive

A "Syrian Turkmen brigade"claims to have shot dead both pilots as they were parachuting through the air, which of course is a violation of the Geneva Convention, which somehow I don't think the Turkmen can read, but from this RT report, filed Nov. 25 local time (00:55 , updated 02:01):
... reports have emerged that the two pilots may be still alive. Ankara is working to secure their release from Syrian rebels, a Turkish government official told Reuters.

"Our units, who received the information that the two pilots were alive, are working to get them from opposition rebels safely," the official said.
This is the passage from the Reuters report, Update 10, that RT seems to be quoting (RT I really wish you'd add links when you're referring to another news report and Reuters will you kindly add timestamps to your updates):
A deputy commander of rebel Turkmen forces in Syria said his men shot both pilots dead as they came down. The Russian military confirmed one pilot had been shot dead from the ground and another soldier died during a rescue operation.
A senior Turkish official said at least one of the pilots could still be alive. "It's not a fact but a possibility. We're trying to verify the information and taking all necessary steps to facilitate their return," the official said.
So RT -- or senior Turkish officials -- might be clutching at a straw.  

From an earlier report today at Sputnik, Ankara is also claiming they didn't know the jet was Russian. 

Regarding a Russian who was reportedly killed by the same Turkmen during an attempted rescue mission of the two jet pilots. From NBC News today 5:12 PM EST:
A Russian pilot was killed Tuesday while parachuting from his downed plane and so was a Marine dispatched to save him.
The doomed pilot was one of two Russians who ejected from their aircraft after it was struck by a Turkish missile, Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoy said in a statement.
The Russian Marine, whose name also was not released, was aboard one of two Mi-8 helicopters Moscow dispatched to a contested area along the Turkish/Syrian border to find the downed pilots, Rudskoy said in a statement.
"In the course of the operation, one of helicopters was damaged by small arms fire and performed an emergency landing in the neutral area," his statement read. "One contract serviceman — member of Marine Troops — was killed."
Rudskoy said one of the choppers "was destroyed by mortar fire conducted from the territory controlled by illegal armed groups."
The slain Marine and the rest of his crew were evacuated to the Hmeymim airbase, Rudskoy said. He did not address the fate of the second pilot.
Already furious with the Turks for shooting down their warplane, Rudskoy closed by declaring that "contacts with Turkey will be terminated at the military level."
Russia will also beef-up defenses at their Latakia air base in Syria and deploy the guided missile cruiser Moskva off the Syrian coast, Rudskoy vowed.
"We warn that every target posing a potential threat will be destroyed," Rudskoy said during the briefing.
All that says nothing about President Erdogan's flip-flop, although Sputnik has plenty to say about it:

Erdogan in 2012: Brief Airspace Violations Can't Be Pretext for Attack (00:55 25.11.2015 - updated 02:01 25.11.2015):

Turkey has cited airspace violations as its justification for shooting down a Russian Su-24 bomber on Tuesday. But only three years ago, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan specifically stated that such actions should "never be a pretext for an attack."

In response to the downing of a Russian bomber by Turkish fighter jets on Tuesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted that the military’s actions were justified.

"We did not want this situation to happen, but everybody has to respect Turkey’s right to defend its borders," he told reporters, adding that the military’s actions were "fully in line with Turkey’s rules of engagement."

Yet, three years ago, Erdogan had somewhat different thoughts on the matter.

In 2012, Ankara accused Syria of shooting down a Turkish F-4 Phantom. That plane crash-landed in the Mediterranean after veering into Syrian airspace. In response, an outraged Erdogan lambasted the Syrian military for acting in haste.

"A short-term border violation can never be a pretext for an attack," he told Parliament at the time.

The Russian Ministry of Defense released video earlier on Tuesday which proves the Russian aircraft never entered Turkish airspace. But even if we take Ankara at its word, a leaked letter to the United Nations Security Council reveals that Turkish authorities justified their actions based on a 17-second airspace violation.

Surely Erdogan would consider 17 seconds "short-term."

The Turkish justification also appears hypocritical given the fact that Turkey’s own military planes have violated Greek airspace repeatedly over the last few years. Less than two weeks ago, Greek defense officials reported eight Turkish fighter jets entering Greek airspace, conducting a total of 19 transgressions.

These incidents have increased dramatically since 2013, and in 2014, alone, Turkey entered Greek airspace a total of 1,017 times.

The Russian Su-24M Fencer bomber was shot down Tuesday morning while conducting legitimate operations over Syria, where Moscow has been targeting the self-proclaimed Islamic State terrorist group.

The two pilots ejected, and while the fate of one remains unclear, Russian officials confirm that the other was killed by ground fire from local militant groups.  [This confirmation might have been premature, from the latest reporting at RT, above.]

Russian President Vladimir Putin called the incident a "stab in the back, carried out against us by accomplices of terrorists."



At a time and place of Russia's choosing. Until then, keep winning the war in Syria

Surprisingly measured advice from Tony Cartalucci at Land Destroyer in response to Turkey's downing of a Russian fighter jet. I'd expected him to yell, 'I told you so!' I think he was the first to warn in public about Turkey's deep involvement with Islamic State but for a long time he was warning in a glass booth. Here are highlights from his post today:

Russian Warplane Down: NATO's Act of War
Despite blatant provocation, Russia must continue toward the finish line.
November 24, 2015 (Tony Cartalucci - NEO) 

Russia Continues Toward the Finish Line

In recent weeks with Russian air support, Syrian troops have retaken large swaths of territory from ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other terrorist fighters. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has even begun approaching the Euphrates River east of Aleppo, which would effectively cut off ISIS from its supply lines leading out of Turkish territory.
From there, Syrian troops would move north, into the very "safe zone" the US and its Turkish partners have long sought but have so far failed to establish within Syria's borders. This "safe zone" includes a region of northern Syrian stretching from Jarabulus near the west bank of the Euphrates to Afrin and Ad Dana approximately 90-100 kilometers west.

Once Syrian troops retake this territory, the prospect of the West ever making an incursion into Syria, holding territory, or compromising Syria's territorial integrity would be lost forever. Western ambitions toward regime change in Damascus would be indefinitely suspended.

The endgame is at hand, and only the most desperate measures can hope to prevent Russia and Syria from finally securing Syria's borders. Turkey's provocation is just such a measure.
Russia's time, place, and method of retaliating against Turkey is something only the Kremlin will know. But Russia's actions upon the international stage have been so far thoroughly thought out, allowing Moscow to outmaneuver the West at every juncture and in the wake of every Western provocation.
For Turkey's government -- one that has been consistent only in its constant failure regarding its proxy war against its neighbor Syria, and which has been caught planning false flag provocations to trigger wider and more direct war in Syria, and whose government is now exposed and widely known to be directly feeding, not fighting ISIS -- the prospect of Russian retaliation against it, either directly or indirectly, and in whatever form will leave it increasingly isolated.
Until then, Russia's best bet is to simply continue winning the war. Taking the Jarabulus-Afrin corridor and fortifying it against NATO incursions while cutting off ISIS and other terrorist factions deeper within Syria would be perhaps the [the most damaging] of all possible retaliations.
With Syria secured, an alternative arc of influence will exist within the Middle East, one that will inevitably work against Saudi and other Persian Gulf regimes' efforts in Yemen, and in a wider sense, begin the irreversible eviction of Western hegemony from the region.
Right on, Tony. Until the West extricates itself from entanglement with very bad actors, it's best that it backs off from trying to 'save' the Middle East. President Obama had assured Americans he intended to do just that. Slowly, the American public began to learn he'd only switched U.S. war policy from overt to covert actions. "The tip of the shadowy spear" as Zenpundit's Mark Safranski once called it. 

Trouble was, nobody outside the highest circles knew back then that the tip of the shadowy spear was not U.S. Special Forces but foreign mercenary armies made up of terrorist groups and their fellow travelers.

Instead of leading the U.S. forward, Obama had simply recreated the wheel the U.S. made during the Cold War.


How did a nice democratic country like the USA get involved with these skanks?

But then we know how, don't we.  

Now, now, it's not like these guys are Kim Jong-un. They just want a say in how Syria is run.

REUTERS/ Jacquelyn Martin/Pool

I'm trying to remember exactly what Bashar al-Assad said recently about Syria but it eludes me; it was something to the effect that the country is like a giant fault line in an earthquake zone. I'm beginning to feel my way to an understanding of what he means.  Man, so many people are trying to control that one patch of land. Maybe it was always that way....

Will the Real Syrian Moderates Please Stand Up? US Allies Stage Conference
Published 12:59 local time - 24.11.2015

The United States, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have reportedly promised further support to the so-called "moderate opposition" in Syria.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed and his Saudi Arabian counterpart Adel Al-Dzhubey vowed to continue backing Syria's "moderate opposition" during a joint meeting on Monday.

[Pundita note: I have no idea where Sputnik came up with the name "Adel Al-Dzhubey" for the Saudi foreign minister (at Kerry's right in the picture) but his name is Adel bin Ahmed al-Jubeir.]  

High on the agenda was finding ways to settle the Syrian conflict and destroy the Islamic State (ISIL).

"The three men pledged to continue to lend support to the moderate Syrian opposition and discussed plans on holding an opposition conference under the auspices of Saudi Arabia," the US State Department said.

The conference's goal is to "bring together all moderate opposition groups and the elaboration of common principles," according to the State Department.

During the Monday gathering, the three men also called for strengthening the fight against ISIL and urged the coalition partners to do more to destroy the jihadists.

On Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry rejected allegations by some US army officials that Russian air strikes in Syria have targeted the country's moderate opposition.

Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow is cooperating with the moderate Syrian opposition, including the Free Syrian Army.

Last month, the Russian President's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that it was hard to differentiate between the "moderate" opposition forces in and terrorist groups acting in Syria.


Here is the  U.S. Department of State's statement about Kerry's meeting yesterday with the Saudi and UAE foreign ministers.

And here's the lede for another report from Sputnik:  

The Russian Defense Ministry, for its part, said that it was coordinating its efforts with the Syrian opposition members who were fighting against terrorists in the war-torn country. The Ministry added that representatives of the Syrian opposition had shared data on the location of terrorist targets with the Russian air group in Syria.



Turkey shoots down fighter jet near Turk-Syria border; pilots reportedly bail out UPDATES (Eastern Time)- 4:15 AM, 5:25 AM, 5:45 AM, 6:00 AM, 7:50 AM, 8:02 AM

Ah! I see Erdogan's regime is getting very cranky these days. I don't blame them, considering all the embarrassing gossip about their involvement with Islamic State's oil trade. (Some of the gossip is about members of the Erdogan family, but what do those people at Voltaire Network know, anyhow?)

This will be my last update on the incident.

One of Putin's statements to Jordan's king was that the downing of the Russian jet would have "serious consequences" for Russia-Turkey ties, which Sputnik is now reporting as breaking news with "details to follow."

Also, NATO has called an emergency meeting in response to the plane downing. 

Live televised report at RT -- Putin speaking in person to Jordan's king about the downing of the Russian jet.  (live stream ended 7:55 AM ET; Putin spoke for about 10 minutes.)  

RT television (English language online) has live updates

From the Guardian's live blogging on the incident, first entry 4:37 AM ET; two most recent entries:

Putin's spokesman calls for patience (7 min ago)

Video purporting to show dead Russian pilot (9 min ago)

From SANA (Syrian Arab News Agency), Nov 24, no timestamp

Update2- A Russian Su-24 fighter jet shot down in Syria, Moscow confirms

Moscow, SANA- A Russian Su-24 fighter jet has been shot down in Syria, Russian Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

Russia Today quoted the ministry as saying in a statement that the plane hadn’t violated Turkish airspace, and it was at an altitude of 6,000 meters.

The two pilots managed to eject from the downed jet, the ministry said, adding their fate is still unknown.

Meanwhile, three Russian journalists injured, in a rocket attack, while covering the Syrian Army operations against terrorists, the ministry said.


For more on the shelling of the journalists, see this Sputnik report, 12:02 24.11.2015 (updated 13:26 24.11.2015)

From Associated Press, Nov 24 - 4:13 AM ET
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey has confirmed that it shot down a Russian warplane Tuesday, claiming it had violated Turkish airspace and ignored repeated warning. Russia denies that the plane crossed the Syrian border into Turkish skies.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said: “We are looking into the circumstance of the crash of the Russian jet. The ministry of defense would like to stress that the plane was over the Syrian territory throughout the flight.”

Russia said the Su-24 was downed by artillery fire, but Turkey claimed that its F-16s fired on the Russian plane after it ignored several warning.



BREAKING NEWS: Turkish military shoots down fighter jet near Syria-Turkey border - reports (VIDEO)
RT, Published time: 24 Nov, 2015 07:43 Edited time: 24 Nov, 2015 08:41
[see RT site for pix and video]

A military jet that had reportedly violated Turkish border has crashed in Syria near the Turkish border, media said, adding the jet of unknown origin was shot down by Turkish F16 jets. Two pilots are reported to have ejected.

Habertürk TV reporter on the scene said that the aircraft “turned into a fireball.” Numerous witnesses wrote on social media, saying thick plumes of smoke have been rising from the jet crash site.

The pilots of the crashed jet managed to eject, Habertürk reported, adding that the plane had reportedly violated Turkish airspace.

A Turkish military official told Reuters the jet was warned before being targeted, adding that the nationality of the downed plane is as yet unclear. The official added that the plane was shot down by Turkish F-16 fighter jets.

The plane crashed in a village mostly populated by Syrian Turkmen. The place has been a hotspot between the opposition and the Syrian Army.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has met with officials from the Foreign Ministry. He instructed them to consult with NATO and the UN on the latest developments on the Syrian border, Davutoglu’s office said in a statement.



The Irish Times adds these details:
Turkey called this week for a U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss attacks on Turkmens in neighbouring Syria, and last week Ankara summoned the Russian ambassador to protest the bombing of their villages.
Ankara has traditionally expressed solidarity with Syrian Turkmens, who are Syrians of Turkish descent.

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