Sunday, October 18, 2015

Welcome to The Fisk & Cock – a Tavern for the Lunatic Bunch

The predominantly Kurdish town of Kobani is devastated after months under siege by Islamist forces and airstrikes by a United States-led coalition.

DDGD – October 19, 2015

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Today’s Post is brought to you by: The Society of Fucking Lunatics & the Fucked-Up Lunatics Who Listen To Them: are you fucking listening?

 Briefly Noted
 Ground Realities

“With a little help from his friends – Russia, Iran, Hezbollah – the Syrian dictator looks set to end the immediate threat to the regime enclave in Latakia.” So goes the convincing argument of Jonathan Spyer.

The regime advances represent a reversal of the trend in the war since the beginning of 2015. The current fighting, however, appears to be merely a prelude to an upcoming, much larger offensive.

Indeed, one of the main objectives of the Russian intervention, backed with Iranian ground troops, is to secure the coastal enclave, and yes, as Spyer notes, Iranian might need to maintain a permanent force of occupation on the ground for the foreseeable future in order to keep the enclave secure. But I think both the Russians and the Iranians have already foreseen that possibility and are reconciled to it. In fact, they seem to see in it an advantage.

Still, the Syrian War has seen too much seesawing to expect the current advance to last. True, the rebels may not be able to retake the lands they are currently losing any time soon, but that does not mean that the reestablishment of regime control will usher a return to normalcy. Low intensity warfare is bound to continue for long. That is, unless these advances were also accompanied by an intensification of ethnic cleansing. President Obama predicts that the ground offensive will fail, because to “the overwhelming majority of the Syrian people” the regime “is not legitimate.” But, what kind of majority will exist in the areas currently being retaken? Most the population have already been “cleansed,” and more cleansing is likely to follow the reoccupation.

Indeed the Turkish PM has just predicted that current battles in Aleppo are bound to pave the way for a fresh exodus of refugees.

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Caught between Fisk and a Cocked-up place, the truth has no chance on earth of being found. Between these two morons, Robert Fisk and Patrick Cockburn, still high on their long forgotten and mostly hallucinated “accomplishments,” Assad might as well be knighted, if not canonized as a holy saint of Arabist resistance, rather than tried at the International Criminal Court as the mass murdering psychopathic thug that he is.

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The oft-repeated statistics — more than 4 million have left the country and 8 million are internally displaced — hardly hint at the physical and psychological demolition of Syria, once a cultural and intellectual hub of the Middle East.

Still, ever-resilient Syrians strive to maintain some shreds of social cohesion amid an overriding sense of insecurity and uncertainty about the future.

… Syria today is an often surreal place of contrasts: Damascus' fabled Hamidiya covered market is, as ever, a swirling gyre of seemingly carefree shoppers. The storied ice cream emporium Bakdash does a brisk business; its workers pound away theatrically at crafting fresh, Arabic-style ice cream topped with pistachio flakes…

… Just a few miles away, however, on the highway north toward Homs, a visitor encounters an apocalyptic tableau: Block after block of bullet-riddled apartment buildings and blown-open shops are now the face of once densely populated suburbs such as Jobar, Qaboun and Duma. The echo of gunfire and the thud of artillery are heard in the distance. Soldiers staff small outposts along the highway. Motorists are advised not to let up on the gas pedal...

 The Surreal Adventures of Pu Bear

Putin’s Syria Gambit Aims at Something Bigger Than Syria. Despite making the point that “[s]horing up the Assad regime and killing jihadi fighters are not, of course, the only objectives that Russia is pursuing in Syria,” and that “Moscow’s intervention is as much about Washington as it is about IS,” Dmitri Trenin really spell out exactly what that practically means. True, he does note that the leaderships in Moscow and Beijing are working more closely, and that Putin is allying himself with Iran and the Shia in the Middle East, while trying hard to appease the Sunnis both nationally, by showing greater respect for Islam, and internationally, by increasing high level contacts with the Turks and the Saudis, but Trenin still fails to spell out the purpose of all these activities. But, after reading his excellent assessment, the purpose is not too hard to guess: a kind of imperial restoration that Moscow wants Washington to accept as legitimate. For Putin cannot hope to be treated as an equal by an American President if he doesn’t have equal sway on the ground, and on important global and regional developments. In practical terms, Putin has to forge new alliances, and conduct a variety of military campaigns, and engage in the occasional land grab here and there.

Yes, this means that as long as America is perceived as “weak,” and reluctant to act, as former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad described the Obama Administration, the Russians, Iranians, the Chinese, and all other ambitious autocrats out there, will seek to take advantage of that. Meanwhile, and as Anne Applebaum has noted, the Russian show of force coupled with its “charm” offensive continues to make new friends in Europe, and beyond. Indeed, these new friends are neither “idiots” nor “provocateurs.” For some, especially those based in Central and Eastern Europe, it might just be a case of old habits resurfacing, for others, ideology and political calculations seem to be involved.

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*** Flash Notice ***

Benjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institution’s Lawfare Institute has just launched a direct challenge to Vladimir Putin, the “fraud martial artist” who “only fights people who are in his power, and they are all taking falls for him.” It’s exactly for these reasons that Mr. Wittes, a dear friend of mine who is of sound mind and body, at least as far as I still know, and as far as I can reliably judge such matters, believes that Putin would refuse to take him on in a direct mano a mano smackdown. That does not mean, however, that Mr. Wittes is not serious about his throw of the gauntlet. Just hear what he has to say:

“Man up, dude! Either fight a reasonably well-trained but not especially expert middle aged martial artist in a situation in which he's actually allowed to kick your ass without fear of reprisal, or face condemnation worldwide as a wuss.”

Now if only Putin cared about international condemnations!

 Jihadopolis

With so much focus on Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, on Sunni Jihadism in general, and the underlying millennialism involved in most of these cases, Shia Jihadism and millennial beliefs are often neglected, allowing for some to speak of an alleged ecumenical streak harbored by Shia and Iranian leaders. In reality though, the Iranian and the Shia have been struggling with their own form of Jihadism for decades, and millenarian have afflicted many of their leaders, include the late Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who lives in expectation of the eminent arrival of the Mahdi signaling the end of time. This is why this study, The Other Apocalypse, by Charlie P. W. Gammell is important. It analyses and sheds important light on this oft-neglected phenomenon.

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Meanwhile, the nuclear arms race between Sunnis and Shia might be about to take an interesting turn, with IS joining the market for the acquisition of nuclear materials, this time, the potential sellers are in Moldova. Bear in mind that it is the Center for Strategic and International Studies that is reporting on this matter, and not some obscure website.

 Refugenics


*** Announcement ***

Starting this fall, The Washington Post Helping Hand will support national and international human service organizations in times of great need by aiding their fundraising efforts during major, unexpected humanitarian crises. To donate, please visit: www.UNrefugees.org/wp

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While Europe keeps on struggling with how best to deal with its migrants and refugees crisis (that is, its sudden case of migraint), leave it to the masked militias of the town of Zawara in Libya to try to police their shores and hunt human smugglers, even though the move does require adjustment to a way of life based on smuggling. While the impact of this development will remain too small at this early stage to make a serious dent in the problem, it does highlight the usefulness of helping Libyans stabilize their country, even if one town at a time.

But as the Zawarans try to adjust their way of to make it more humane, some in France are charting a course in the opposite direction. Indeed, the town municipal council of Chalon-sur-Saône, choosing to ban offering a pork-free option at lunch in its schools. Apparently offering such an option is a form of “discrimination,” according to the town’s mayor, Gilles Platret! But, then, the mayor’s position is not a minority one. Former French president Nicholas Sarkozy and current head of the Les Républicains party also endorsed the ban in an attempt to pander to growing far-right sentiments in the country. As such, the issue is bound to fester, as it pertains to something larger than mere school lunches. 

Meanwhile, the Spanish seem to have stumbled on the right approach, at least as far as the Economist is concerned, when it comes to stemming the tide of illegal refugees and migrants (refugrants): cooperate with transit countries.

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For those still struggling with who’s to blame for the crisis, a poll in Germany finds that the majority of Syrian refugees blame the Assad regime for the fighting that drove them out of their cities and their country. The Wawieh family who settled in Pomona, California, also holds that belief, with father describing Assad as being the “cause of our misery, him and his gangsters.”

 Quote of the Day

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it. Pablo Picasso

 Tweets of the Day
 Video(s) of the Day


 Artistic Delirium

“The Refugee Crisis,” by Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr

 Cartoons



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