Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Is The U.S. Now The Most Unpredictable 'Actor' In The World Today?

Center for Preventive Action / Council on Foreign Relations

Uri Friedman and Annabelle Timsit, The Atlantic: Global Conflicts to Watch in 2018

“The U.S. is now the most unpredictable actor in the world today.”

As conflicts ignite and burn and flicker out around the world, U.S. officials assess the dangers they represent back home. Not all of these conflicts directly threaten American interests, which is why the Council on Foreign Relations conducts an annual survey to help U.S. leaders prioritize threats in the year ahead. For the past decade, this survey has focused on the risks posed to America by foreign actors. Now it’s reckoning with the risks America poses to the world—and to itself.

“The U.S. is now the most unpredictable actor in the world today, and that has caused profound unease,” said Paul Stares, the director of CFR’s Center for Preventive Action, which produces the annual survey. “You used to be able to pretty much put the U.S. to one side and hold it constant, and look at the world and consider where the biggest sources of unpredictability, insecurity are. Now you have to include the U.S. in that. … No one has high confidence how we [Americans] would react in any given situation, given how people assess this president.” This president might welcome the development. “I don’t want people to know exactly what I’m doing—or thinking,” Donald Trump wrote in 2015. “It keeps them off balance.”

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WNU Editor: So among foreign policy experts .... many now see the U.S. (i.e. President Trump) as the most unpredictable actor in the world today. That is quite a mental leap .... when one looks at the multiple wars and conflicts that the U.S. sees itself in the world today  .... wars and conflicts that President Trump inherited.

The U.S. Navy's Newest And Latest Zumwalt-Class Stealth Destroyer Suffers A Breakdown

Popular Mechanics: The U.S. Navy's Newest Stealth Destroyer Promptly Suffers a Breakdown

It's not the first failure for Zumwalt-class destroyer's power system.

The USS Michael Monsoor, the second and latest Zumwalt-class stealth destroyer, suffered an equipment failure that prevented the ship from conducting sea trials. The ship returned to the shipyard for a fix. The repairs are not expected to delay handover of the ship to the U.S. Navy in March.

The Monsoor left Bath Iron Works shipyard in Maine on December 4th to conduct builder’s trials. All ships conduct builder’s trials, in order to test key systems before handing them over to their buyer. According to Reuters, “Monsoor’s problem was electrical in nature, with the loss of an induction coil causing the failure of another system. The shipbuilder decided it would be more efficient to make the fix at the yard.”

Read more ....

More News On The U.S. Navy's Newest And Latest Zumwalt-Class Stealth Destroyer Suffering A Breakdown

2nd Zumwalt-Class Destroyer Suffers Failure During Sea Trials -- AP
The Navy's newest stealthy destroyer is cutting sea trials short due to equipment failure -- Business Insider
US Navy's Top Battleship Zumwalt Reportedly Breaks Down During Trials -- Sputnik
2nd Zumwalt-Class Stealth Destroyer Suffers Equipment Failure -- The Diplomat

Tweets For Today

Is The U.S. Drone War Against al Qaeda In Yemen Working?

A man walks past a graffiti, denouncing strikes by U.S. drones in Yemen, painted on a wall in Sanaa November 13, 2014 Khaled Abdullah/REUTERS

Rathna K. Muralidharan, RCD: Trump Drone War Against al Qaeda Paying Dividends

Since taking office, Trump has been particularly focused on targeting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a major affiliate of the al-Qaeda network that operates primarily in Yemen and is a significant threat to the West. The Trump administration has escalated strike activity and walked back Obama era policies that restricted military and CIA operations in Yemen. As his first year in office comes to an end, it’s worth looking back at the president’s strike activity as a marker for what’s to come under, as well as after, his administration. How Trump dictates operations against AQAP will hold lasting consequences for future counterterrorism policies, regional stability, and the evolution of al-Qaeda’s threat to the U.S.

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WNU Editor:  Using drones is only a stop-gap measure .... not having boots on the ground to hold and deny territory to the enemy has never worked in the past, and will not now.

Picture Of The Day

R20 founder and former California state governor Arnold Schwarzenegger rides the new Velib' Metropole self-service public bicycle by the Smovengo consortium as he arrives at a news conference ahead of the One Planet Summit in Paris, France. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

WNU Editor: The above picture is from this photo-gallery .... Editors Choice Pictures (Reuters).

Is Pakistan Making Progress In Countering Terrorism?

Michael Kugelman, War On The Rocks: Progress and Peril in North Waziristan

Last month, I had a rare opportunity to visit North Waziristan, a Pakistani tribal region blessed with rugged beauty, yet cursed with a long history of conflict. Long a haven for terrorists, both local and foreign, it’s been described as the most dangerous place on earth.

My visit was eye-opening — but it also raised some unsettling questions. There were clear signs that Pakistan has made progress in countering terrorism in North Waziristan, but also good reason to believe that a less positive picture lay beyond the small area I saw. Moreover, Pakistan’s efforts in the region cannot be designated an unqualified success, given its lack of decisive action against certain terror groups, particularly the Haqqani Network. I also was struck by how easily the progress made could be squandered, thanks to the enduring presence and appeal of extremism around the country. Ultimately, the North Waziristan counterterrorism campaign highlights the broader disagreements between the United States and Pakistan over the latter’s support for militants, a divide that has widened with the Trump administration’s threats to Pakistan over its ties to terrorists.

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WNU Editor: Pakistan showed this reporter what they wanted him to see. But it is true that terror incidents have decreased in Paksitan this past year .... and heh .... they felt that at least this part of the country was safe enough for an American reporter to be giving a tour, albeit probably under heavy protection.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The U.S. Military Believes It Will Take Two Years To Drive Back The Taliban In Afghanistan

U.S. Army General John W. Nicholson Jr., center, commander of Resolute Support forces and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, arrives during a transfer of authority ceremony April 29 at Shorab camp in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. (Reuters)

Thomas Joscelyn and Bill Roggio, The Cipher Brief: The U.S. Military Believes It Will Take Two Years To Drive Back The Taliban In Afghanistan

America’s plan of attack in Afghanistan has evolved significantly, since President Donald Trump announced his new strategy for confronting the Taliban-led insurgency and the Islamic State’s inroads in Afghanistan – but the poor state of the Afghan troops, and the inability of the Afghan government to care for all its people are just two of the red flags warning of a long fight to come.

The U.S. defines victory in Afghanistan as a state in which the government in Kabul firmly controls most of the country, and is able to fend off challenges to its authority mostly on its own. Despite some progress, we are a long way from that day, and the U.S. will have to confront some hard truths in its latest iteration of America’s longest war.

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WNU Editor: I have mentioned it before, but sending in a few extra thousand U.S. soldiers and accelerating the training of Afghan recruits is not going to reverse the stalemate that currently exists in Afghanistan. As for General John W. Nicholson Jr.'s view that it will take two years to reverse the gains that the Taliban have made in recent years .... I personally do not see how that is possible.

Iranian Leaders Are Vowing To Back Hamas In Their Fight Against Israel

General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the IRGC Quds Force, has offered Iran's "complete support" for Palestinians in their struggle against U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize al-Quds (Jerusalem) as Israel's capital. Tehran Times

Bloomberg: Soleimani Says Iran Is Ready to Back Palestinian Forces

* Soleimani offers support to Gaza-based groups over Jerusalem
* Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as capital of future state

Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani says his nation is ready to support Palestinian forces in the Gaza Strip, days after the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Soleimani, commander of the Al Quds force, made the offer in a phone call late Monday with leaders of groups in Gaza, according to the Revolutionary Guard Corps’ website, Sepah News, which didn’t give details of the assistance proffered. Other forces in the region are ready to defend the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, Soleimani also told the Gaza faction leaders, without identifying them. The mosque is Islam’s third-holiest shrine and a frequent flashpoint for tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.

Read more ....

More News On Iranian Leaders Are Vowing To Back Hamas In Their Fight Against Israel

Soleimani offers support for Palestinian groups to resist Trump’s move on al-Quds -- Tehran Times
Iranian leaders vow to back Hamas in fight against Israel -- The Times of Israel
Iran's Revolutionary Guards offer support to Palestinians -- Gulf Times
Revolutionary Guard Commander Says Iran Will Support Palestinian Forces In Fight Against Israel -- Zero Hedge

U.S. Secretary Of State Rex Tillerson: US Ready For Talks With North Korea 'Without Preconditions'

The Guardian: US ready for talks with North Korea 'without preconditions', Tillerson says

Secretary of state’s remarks appear to mark shift in state department policy, which had previously required proof North Korea was giving up nuclear arsenal.

Rex Tillerson has said that the US is ready to begin exploratory talks with North Korea “without preconditions”, but only after a “period of quiet” without new nuclear or missile tests.

The secretary of state’s remarks appeared to mark a shift in state department policy, which had previously required Pyongyang to show it was “serious” about giving up its nuclear arsenal before contacts could start. And the language was a long way from repeated comments by Donald Trump that such contacts are a “waste of time”.

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WNU Editor: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has always been pushing to have talks with North Korea .... President Trump has always said that it was a waste of time. It looks like Tillerson has convinced President Trump to give it a try. What's My take? I have zero expectations.

Update: Maybe U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke too soon .... White House: Trump stance on North Korea has 'not changed' (Politico). More here .... White House walks back Rex Tillerson’s comment on North Korea talks (Washington Times)

More News On U.S. Secretary Of State Rex Tillerson Remarks That The U.S. Is Ready For Talks With North Korea 'Without Preconditions'

US ready for North Korea talks without preconditions, says Tillerson -- BBC News
Tillerson overture to North Korea: U.S. ready to talk without pre-conditions -- Reuters
Tillerson says US open to North Korea talks 'without precondition' -- NBC
US Is Ready to Talk to North Korea 'Anytime,' Tillerson Says -- Bloomberg
US Secretary Of State Wants To Start Talks With North Korea With No Conditions -- NPR
Tillerson on North Korea: 'I will continue our diplomatic efforts until the first bomb drops' -- Business Insider

Russian Soldiers Put Syrian President Assad 'In His Place' During 'Victory' Announcement In Syria

Daily Mail: Humiliating moment Assad is stopped from following Putin by Russian soldiers on SYRIAN soil during 'victory' announcement

* Putin was in Syria to announce a 'victory' following Russian intervention in Syria
* Clip shows Syrian president Bashar al-Assad walking behind Kremlin strongman
* But a Russian soldier then puts his hand on Assad's arm and tells him to wait
* Humiliating scene is believed to have been captured at a airbase near Latakia

This is the humiliating moment Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad was stopped from following Vladimir Putin by Russian soldiers on his own soil when the pair staged a 'victory' announcement.

The Russian President yesterday declared that his alliance with Assad had been a success and that Moscow will start to withdraw troops from the war-torn country.

But on the same day, footage shows the Syrian strongman being humbled on his own turf - when a Kremlin serviceman ordered him to wait while Putin walked off in front of him.

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WNU Editor: This was a Russian President Putin show .... from beginning to end. And while Putin had his security entourage in force, I noticed that Assad's security presence was absent or minimal at best.

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- December 12, 2017

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin walks with his counterparts Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Hassan Rouhani of Iran after a joint news conference in Sochi, Russia, on November 22, 2017. Photo: Sputnik / Mikhail Klimentyev / Kremlin via Reuters

M.K. Bhadrakumar, Asia Times: How Jerusalem issue plays into Iranian, Turkish (and Russian) hands

Iran has, predictably enough, taken a hard line on the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. There were public demonstrations in several Iranian cities following Friday prayers and statements by President Hassan Rouhani and other senior politicians. Notably, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, warned: “Al-Quds (Jerusalem) will be the place where the Zionist regime will be buried.”

It was Turkey’s reaction that set the mind thinking that the ground beneath our feet is shifting, however. President Recep Erdogan used exceptional language in his response, calling Israel a “terrorist” state. His stance is important for a variety of reasons. Turkey is currently chairing the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and has called for an emergency summit in Istanbul on Wednesday. This puts Erdogan in the driving seat.

Read more ....

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- December 12, 2017

Did the Saudis Shoot Down a Houthi Missile on Nov. 4? It Doesn’t Much Matter -- Defense One

Kim Jong Un's Mount Paektu visit may signal big decision -- Jennie Oh, UPI

North Korea's Nuclear Threat Reaches New Heights, But US Policy Remains Unchanged -- The Diplomat

The two Koreas have tried to make peace before – and they could do so again -- Dong Jin Kim, The Conversation

It’s time to educate the Chinese public about the nuclear threat next door -- Wang Xiangwei, SCMP

Why China Won't Cut Off North Korean Oil Lifeline: QuickTake Q&A -- David Tweed, Bloomberg

Moon Jae-in faces tightrope act in China over North Korea -- Fabian Kretschmer, DW

Diplomat’s warning of Taiwan invasion is no threat, says Global Times -- Asia Times

Why China Plans to Invade Taiwan -- Ian Easton, National Interest

China and India sail into choppy waters in New Great Game -- Pepe Escobar, Asia Times

How Trump can get tough on Ukraine corruption -- Josh Cohen, Reuters

Macron’s World: How the New President Is Remaking France -- Ronald Tiersky, Foreign Affairs

Vladimir Putin 4.0 — Russia's wartime president -- Roman Goncharenko, DW

Brexit leads to conflicting demands from Ireland, Scotland, Wales -- Kelly McParland, National Post

Fears grow across the Atlantic over Brexit fallout -- Kamal Ahmed, BBC

What Is Bitcoin? -- George Friedman, Geopolitical Futures

World News Briefs -- December 12, 2017

AFP: US urges talks as North Korea brags of nuclear arsenal

The United States is ready to talk to North Korea "without preconditions" but remains determined to force it to abandon its nuclear arsenal, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday.

But even as Washington stressed the importance of a negotiated end to the standoff, Kim Jong-un vowed to make his nation "the strongest nuclear power and military power in the world."

President Donald Trump has promised that Kim will not be allowed to complete his effort to develop nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching mainland US cities.

Read more ....


Syrian opposition urges Russia to rescue UN peace talks.

Iraq’s Sadr militia agrees to disband, surrender weapons to Baghdad .

Russian diplomatic staff leave Yemen's Sanaa.

Two Palestinian militants killed in Gaza explosion.

Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah vows to focus on Palestine.

Tens of thousands of Israelis attend ultra-Orthodox rabbi's funeral.

'We are one': Palestinian Christians and Muslims unite against Trump's Jerusalem call.


Tillerson, in new overture to North Korea, says ready to talk without pre-conditions.

N Korea criticises planned naval blockade as 'declaration of war'.

China building network of refugee camps along border with North Korea .

China can stop North Korea's nuclear aggression, former UN Secretary-General says.

North Korea camp survivor says guilt haunts her in South.

North Korean diplomat: Talks with U.S. are 'possible'.

US ready for North Korea talks without preconditions, says Tillerson.

Communist parties close in on Nepal election win.

China rubbishes claims that its intelligence services use LinkedIn to gather information.

Russian military chief warns Japan over U.S. exercises near Korean Peninsula.

US military touts drug lab air strikes in Afghanistan.

China marks 80th anniversary of Nanjing massacre.


UN: 4,500 civilians killed, wounded in Somalia since 2016.

South Sudan clashes 'kill 170'.

400,000 children in DR Congo could die from hunger, says Unicef.

Liberia elections: Run-off vote set for December 26.

Kenya's election violence worsens inter-ethnic divisions.

Togo's opposition coalition boycotts government talks.

Amnesty International claims EU 'complicit' in Libya migrant abuses.

Zimbabwe ex-leader Mugabe on 1st trip abroad since resigning.

Oscar Pistorius bruised in a jail fight over telephone use.

Egypt singer jailed for 'inciting debauchery' in music video.


UK's May faces parliamentary showdown with Brexit rebels.

Russian youth activists canvass uphill for opposition leader.

New Polish PM: must defend national interest in debate on EU future.

Ukraine authorities to appeal Saakashvili's release.

EU pushes to curb Africa migration more, still split on hosting refugees.

Italy declares state of emergency following deadly explosion at Austrian pipeline.

NATO prolongs chief Stoltenberg’s term for 2 more years.


Decision day in Alabama after long, bitter U.S. Senate campaign.

Donald Trump calls sexual misconduct allegations 'fabricated', says he never met accusers. Trump attacks senator and dismisses sexual harassment claims as Democratic conspiracy.

Trump signs into law U.S. government ban on Kaspersky Lab software.

Venezuela's opposition rebuffs threats by President Nicolas Maduro.

US and Venezuela spar over ban on opposition parties.

Venezuela to investigate ex-oil tsar over corruption.

Honduras army moves in to quell post-election protests.

California Thomas Fire: No end in sight for week-long wildfire.

U.S. Coast Guard intercepts semi-submersible vessel packed with 3,800 pounds of cocaine.

Homeless in Rio skyrockets, creating tensions, violence.


US drone strike removes ‘imminent threat’ to Somali capital.

Trafficking of pills used by suicide bombers soars in Sahel.

Turkey: 'Islamic State' militant on trial for New Year's Eve terror attack.

Russian security agency says it busts IS suicide bomber cell.


US stock indexes close mostly up; New highs for S&P 500, Dow.

Bitcoin hits another record high in march towards $20,000.

Facebook hits back at former executive Chamath Palihapitiya.

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- December 12, 2017

Al Arabiya/AFP: On Russia’s Syria pullout claims, Pentagon voices skepticism

The Pentagon on Monday voiced skepticism about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement that he had ordered the partial withdrawal of troops from Syria.

Putin visited the war-torn nation Monday and said a “significant part” of the Russian troop contingent in Syria is heading home after their mission had been largely completed.

But Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway said such declarations were not necessarily reflected by action.

Read more ....

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- December 12, 2017

Russia not withdrawing forces from Syria, Pentagon says -- Reuters

Russia will keep bases in Syria to strike at insurgents: Kremlin -- Reuters

Pentagon not yet ready to declare victory over ISIS in Iraq -- Washington Examiner

China's Second Aircraft Carrier Is Its Most Crucial Yet -- Popular Mechanics

North Korea says it is a 'matchless nuclear weapons state' -- UPI

Report: U.S. Navy deployed spy plane near North Korea -- UPI

U.S. 'well postured' to deal with possible N.K. SLBM: Pentagon -- Yonhap News Agency

US officials fear North Korea building biological weapons amid signs of microbe production -- The Telegraph

N.Korea media reports on munitions industry conference for first time -- NK News

Russia's top general warns against US-South Korea exercises -- Nikkei Asian Review

Spat over the F-35 bubbles up in Germany -- Defense News

Lawmakers extend German military missions until spring -- FOX News/AP

UK defence minister on $6.7bn arms deal with Qatar -- Al Jazeera

Potential ‘harm’ to economy now a factor in all Canada defense competitions -- Defense News

Pentagon Looking to Triple Size of Afghan Air Force by 2025 -- Sputnik

Hunting Taliban and Islamic State Fighters, From 20,000 Feet -- New York Times

Helmand again the focus of US strategy in Afghanistan -- Military Times

A return of flying sergeants? Air Force says no despite too few pilots -- Dayton Daily News

Fix the Fighter Pilot Shortage: It Can Be Done -- George Perry, RCD

SECNAV Memo: Navy Won’t Reactivate Perry Frigates for SOUTHCOM Mission; Will Send Ships to Fight Drug War in 2018 -- USNI News

Bath Iron Works to support Arleigh Burke-class destroyers -- UPI

Marine Corps Wants Hundreds More Small Boats for Coastal Operations -- Defense Tech/

US Officials, Lawmakers Warn More Cyberattacks Coming -- VOA

Trump signs $700B defense budget into law -- UPI

Trump announces pick for nuclear weapons czar -- Defense News

US military: 1 soldier dies, 2 injured in vehicle incident -- Fox News/AP

Ex-US Army defector Charles Robert Jenkins who spent decades in North Korea, dies at 77 -- DW

Does the U.S. Military Maintain Secret Underwater Bases? -- Diana Brown, How Stuff Works

After Court Ruling, Military Will Accept Openly Transgender Recruits As Of Jan. 1 -- NPR

Why Military Women Are Missing from the #MeToo Moment -- Time

Global U.S. military presence questioned -- Bryan Bender, Politico

Cruise Missiles – A Greater Threat Than North Korea’s Ballistic Missiles -- Sandy Clark, RCD

The White House Is Ready To Let Assad Stay Until 2021

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is seen during an interview with the American magazine Foreign Affairs published in Damascus January 26, 2015. REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters

Robin Wright, New Yorker: Trump to Let Assad Stay Until 2021, as Putin Declares Victory in Syria

Despite the deaths of as many as half a million people, dozens by chemical weapons, in the Syrian civil war, the Trump Administration is now prepared to accept President Bashar al-Assad’s continued rule until Syria’s next scheduled Presidential election, in 2021, according to U.S. and European officials. The decision reverses repeated U.S. statements that Assad must step down as part of a peace process.

As recently as October, after a swing through the Middle East, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, “The United States wants a whole and unified Syria with no role for Bashar al-Assad in the government.” He told reporters travelling with him, “The reign of the Assad family is coming to an end. The only issue is how that should that be brought about.”

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WNU Editor: Russian media is covering this story extensively .... White House Ready to Accept Assad’s Rule in Syria - Reports (Sputnik). What's my take? If true, this is what I call facing reality, and the realization that there are no suitable alternatives to Assad. The Syrian rebels are deeply divided, and no one has any appetite to support the more extremist elements in the opposition. If Assad is not assassinated in the coming years, it looks like he will be in power for a long time. But power over what? A country that has been utterly destroyed, and one that will not receive the monies and resources from the international community necessary to rebuild and establish some form of peace. This is a hollow victory for Assad and his supporters .... and one where the war will only continue but at a low-intensity level.

President Trump: U.S. Has ‘Won’ Against Islamic State in Syria, Iraq

Bloomberg: Trump Says U.S. Has ‘Won’ Against Islamic State in Syria, Iraq

President Donald Trump said the U.S. has won the fight against Islamic State terrorists in Syria and Iraq and is pursuing the extremists as they spread elsewhere.

“We’ve won in Syria, we’ve won in Iraq, but they spread to other areas and we’re getting them as fast as they spread,” Trump said Tuesday at the White House during a ceremony to sign defense policy legislation.

Trump spoke a day after the arrest of a Bangladeshi immigrant after a bombing at a New York City subway station. Police said the explosion was a botched suicide mission. The suspect, who was burned in the blast, told law enforcement officials at the hospital that he “did it for the Islamic State,” according to a criminal complaint.

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WNU Editor: President Trump made these remarks when he signed the the National Defense Authorization Act today (see above video). The defeat of the Islamic State was the result of a multi-nation coalition, and while everyone is taking credit for the defeat of ISIS, the ones who bared the heaviest casualties were the Syrian Kurds, the Iraqi Army, and Iraqi Shiite militias. And while the Islamic State has been defeated, the key is to now win the peace. Of the two countries, I am more optimistic on the future of Iraq than Syria. The Iraqis have been fighting for years .... if not for generations. And while I am not there, my sense from what I am reading is that the people of Iraq are genuinely tired of war. Syria is another situation entirely. Assad is dependent on Iran, Hezbollah, and Russian air power to stay in power, and when a government is that heavily dependent on foreign powers to stay in power while showing little if any interest to pursue a diplomatic resolution to a sectarian conflict .... perpetual war is usually the outcome.

The Russian View On The Defeat Of ISIS And The Future Of Syria

RT: Russia’s Syria op: Key points of campaign that helped crush ISIS & gave peace a chance

After more than two years of anti-terrorist operations in Syria, Russia is withdrawing its troops. RT looks at the milestones and achievements of the campaign, which played a key role in the defeat of Islamic State and helped Syrian reconciliation efforts.

Russia’s military operation in Syria was launched on September 30, 2015, following an official request from the Syrian government for help in fighting jihadists trying to overrun the country. Now, more than two years on, President Vladimir Putin has ordered the withdrawal of a “significant part” of the Russian military contingent. Putin made the announcement during a surprise visit to Syria’s Khmeimim Airbase, after the defeat of “battle-hardened” Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) forces in the country. Russian special forces, military police, sapper teams and 25 aircraft will leave Syria, although the Reconciliation Center for Syria, as well as the Khmeimim base and Tartus navy supply point, will continue their work.

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WNU Editor: I do not share this optimistic and positive view of the campaign .... and the future of Syria.

Russian Military Contractors Now Have A Stake In Syria's Oil Fileds

Moscow Times: Russian Mercenaries Offered Cut of Profits from Oil Fields in Syria

A Syrian state oil company offered Russian military contractors a cut of the profits from oil refineries liberated by the mercenaries from Islamic State (IS), a cache of documents obtained by the Associated Press (AP) revealed Tuesday.

President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to withdraw from Syria during a surprise visit to an airbase there on Monday, two years after the Kremlin entered the Syrian war in support of Bashar Assad's regime.

Russia’s Defense Ministry does not officially recognize the role of private contractors in Syria, but their involvement has kept the country's official death toll low ahead of Putin’s bid for reelection next year.

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WNU Editor: Russian military contractors have been in Syria for a long time .... The Remarkable Story Of Russian Mercenaries Who Went To War Against Syrian Rebels (December 29, 2013). As for the battle to recapture the oil fields help by ISIS, Russian contractors have suffered heavy casualties in the past few months .... Syrian Forces And Russian Mercenaries Suffer Heavy Losses In The Battle For The Eastern Syrian Province Of Deir el-Sour (October 15, 2017).

Is Putin's Declaration Of ‘Mission Accomplished’ On Syria Premature?

Russian President Vladimir Putin (2nd L) and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (2nd R) meet with servicemen as they visit the Hmeymim air base in Latakia Province, Syria, Dec. 11, 2017.

Jamie Dettmer, Voice of America: Putin Declares ‘Mission Accomplished’ on Syria; but, Could It Prove Premature?

Vladimir Putin confirmed last week he would seek a fifth term as Russia’s president next March — and this week, he kicked off his re-election campaign, not in his home country, but overseas in the Middle East.

With stops in Egypt, Turkey and Syria, where he declared Monday that Russia’s military had accomplished its goal of saving President Bashar al-Assad from ouster, an upbeat Putin appeared eager to stoke national pride and showcase how he has restored Russia’s Soviet-era role as a serious power.

Putin’s re-election is assured — polls show an easy win for the man who has dominated Russian politics for nearly two decades — but he and his aides reportedly fear voter apathy and seem determined to secure a large turnout in March and a big legitimacy-boosting vote.

Read more ....

Previous Post: Putin Orders Partial Withdrawal of Russian Troops From Syria (December 11, 2017)

WNU Editor: I am not the only one who was/is skeptical of Russian President Putin's order to start withdrawing soldiers from Syria .... Putin’s ‘mission accomplished’ moment in Syria was all for show (Bessma Momani, The Globe and Mail). And now I am reading this .... Russia will keep bases in Syria to strike at insurgents: Kremlin (Reuters). And for those soldiers who are leaving, it appears that they are being replaced by contractors .... Thousands of Russian private contractors fighting in Syria (Washington Post/AP). Bottom line .... his announcement of victory was for public relations and for a Russian audience, but there is going to be no change in the Russian composition in Syria, and the war is far from over.

Update: The Pentagon is also seeing no Russian withdrawal .... Russia not withdrawing forces from Syria, Pentagon says (Reuters).