On Friday, we previewed the battle for Aleppo, Syria’s largest city prior to the war.
It’s now run by a hodgepodge of rebels and militants including al-Qaeda, the Free Syrian Army, and ISIS and for the Assad regime, regaining control of the city is absolutely critical. As Reuters noted last week, "the assault means the army is now pressing insurgents on several fronts near Syria's main cities in the west, control of which would secure President Bashar al-Assad's hold on power even if the east of the country is still held by Islamic State."
In other words, if Assad can secure Aleppo, Iran and Russia will have successfully restored his grip on the country for all intents and purposes.
The offensive is also notable for the scale of Iran’s involvement.
Between Hezbollah and Iranian forces, the battle for Aleppo is shaping up to be the largest ground operation orchestrated by Tehran to date. Underscoring how deeply involved Iran truly is, Quds Commander Qasem Soleimani (who we profiled here) showed up near the frontlines late last week to rally the troops. Here’s GOP mouthpiece Fox News (who are most assuredly not Soleimani fans):
Iran's shadowy top military commander has been spotted in Syria addressing Iranian military officers and members of the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, according to photos that emerged Thursday on social media.
Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani -- the commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps or Qods Force -- was pictured rallying Iranian military and Hezbollah members in western Syria in photos that appeared on Twitter.
On Thursday, Reuters confirmed Soleimani's presence in the western province of Latakia in Syria. The news agency said Soleimani was seen addressing Iranian officers and Hezbollah fighters with a microphone while clad in dark-colored clothes.
As WaPo, goes on to point out, some of the fighters called to Syria by Soleimani are from Iraq's Shiite militias, supporting our contention that as soon as Syria is "secure" (whatever that means in this context), Russia and Iran will take the fight across the border, where militiamen loyal to Tehran are already battling Sunni extremists:
Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s elite Quds forces and the public face of Iran’s military intervention in the region, has ordered thousands of Shiite militiamen into Syria for an operation to recapture Aleppo, according to officials from three Iraqi militias. The militiamen are to join Iranian troops and forces from Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite militia, the officials said. The Iraqi Shiite militia Kitaeb Hezbollah has sent around 1,000 fighters from Iraq, one said.
The new arrivals shore up the position of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose beleaguered forces had been losing ground before Russia began launching airstrikes three weeks ago. Pro-government forces have claimed victory in a string of villages around the Aleppo in recent days, in a conflict that Shiite militias frame as a single regional struggle between Shiites and Sunni extremists from the Islamic State.
“It makes no difference whether we’re in Iraq or Syria, we consider it the same front line because we are fighting the same enemy,” said Bashar al-Saidi, a spokesman for Harakat al-Hezbollah al-Nujaba, an Iraqi Shiite militia that says it has fighters around Aleppo. “We are all the followers of Khamenei and will go and fight to defend the holy sites and Shiites everywhere," he said, referring to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The Lebanese group Hezbollah and the Quds Force, which is part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, have also sent reinforcements, he said. Last week, a U.S. defense official said hundreds of Iranian troops were near the city in preparation for an offensive.
“It’s not a secret. We are all fighting against the same enemy,” said Saidi.
His militia released a photo of Soleimani, the Quds Force commander, with its fighters near Aleppo on one of its social media accounts last week.
History may eventually decide the ‘New World Order’ started on September 28, when Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama had a 90-minute face off at the UN in New York.
Irrespective of spin – “productive” according to the White House, “tense” according to a source close to the Kremlin – facts on the ground accumulated almost immediately.
Putin did press Obama for the US to join Russia in a real grand coalition bent on smashing ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. The Obama administration, once again, relented. I detailed here what happened next: an earth-shattering game-changer in the ‘New Great Game’ in Eurasia, straight out of the Caspian Sea, that caught the acronym fest of US intelligence – not to mention the Pentagon - completely off-guard.
So this was Putin’s first message to Washington, and the Pentagon/NATO combo in particular; your fancy ideas of stationing tactical nuclear weapons or expanding missile defense to Eastern Europe, or even Asia-Pacific, are just a mirage. Our cruise missiles are capable of wreaking real effective havoc; and soon, as this piece argues, there will be more hypersonic, high-precision long-range missiles added to the mix.
Old habits don’t die hard – they remain in a coma forever. The Pentagon’s response to the facts launched from the Caspian Sea was to conduct an airdrop of light weapons to “a select group of vetted leaders and their units,” as in those famously non-existent Syrian “moderate rebels.” The weapons will inevitably be captured by assorted Salafi-jihadi goon outfits in no time.
Then the British government was forced to deny a Murdoch-controlled Sunday Times “report” that British Tornadoes in Syria are now armed with air-to-air missiles to counter potential Russian aerial “attacks.”
A still apoplectic Pentagon will take time to absorb the new military facts on the Syrian ground – and skies. That will add to the utter desperation displayed by the ‘Masters of the Universe’ in the Washington/Wall Street axis – itching to break the China-Russia strategic partnership by all means necessary. Quite a feat when the Pentagon is still fighting World War II, with its weapons, ships and monster aircraft carriers displayed as sitting ducks against Russia’s new batch of missiles.
But then there’s also Putin’s second – silent - message to Washington, which didn’t even have to be delivered in person to Obama. US intel though may have a hint about it, as they closely follow Russian media.
It’s about Sergey Glazyev’s (presidential aide) plan for Russia’s immediate economic future here is a summary of the plan, in Russian. The plan was formally proposed to Russia’s Security Council. Here is a very good summary on how Russia’s Security Council works.
So what Glazyev proposes, essentially, is that Moscow must gain total control of its Central Bank, preventing speculators to move their credit around for non-productive purposes; Moscow should also establish currency controls; and must create a central organization of technological research to replace the loss of Western technology, imitating the US methodology of rolling out from its centralized military research those technologies that can be commercialized for the consumer market.
The fact is Russia has lost access to Western credit and cannot roll over its debt with the creditors. So Russia will have to pay the principle and the interest as it comes due. That is a trillion dollars plus interest. Russia also cannot import anything from the West without paying double for it. So arguably the country may be now in the very position it will be if Moscow opts for default. Thus, Russia would have nothing to lose by a default - as the damage is already done.
Essentially, once again, a Russian default on a $1 trillion-plus debt to private Western parties remains a possible scenario discussed at the highest level – assuming Washington will persist in its anti-Russia demonization campaign.
It’s clear the squeeze Russia is feeling has less to do with sanctions than the grip maintained by Western financial powers over the Russian Central Bank. The Russian Central Bank did create a debt trap by maintaining high interest rates in Russia while the West was lending at low interest rates.
Needless to add, such a default, if it ever happened, would collapse the entire Western financial system.
One should never forget the Big Picture; the Syria/Ukraine/sanctions saga runs in parallel to Russia-China and closer BRICS integration shifting the balance of geopolitical power. For the ‘Masters of the Universe’, this is beyond anathema. Enter, for instance, the use of cash settlement through their Wall Street proxies to raise the A shares of China to hysterical highs and then try to crash their entire stock market by a reverse cash settlement rig as in 1987.
China is moving toward their own SWIFT payment system, not to mention a whole new Chinese-led set of international institutions independent of US control. Russia, for its part, recently passed a bill that would allow the seizing of foreign assets if Russian assets in the West are seized. As Glazyev pointed out, investment in Russia by the West are more or less equivalent to investments of Russia in the West.