Whether you're a Council on Foreign Relations globalist, a McInsane-neocon, or a 'liberal humanitarian' interventionist, the hits keep coming for Washington's crumbling position in the Middle East. This week Iraq showed off its new China-supplied missile-armed combat drone to the press. Israeli newspaper Maariv also reported that Baghdad's Shi'a dominated government may invite Russian forces into Iraq to bomb ISIS from Iraqi bases.
Will Russian Forces Soon Operate from Military Bases the U.S. Built or Expanded During its Occupation of Iraq?
Friday night on the October 16, 2015 Guerrilla Radio show we closed out the first hour by saying the next gasoline canister to drop on Washington's foreign policy dumpster fire would be the U.S.-installed Iraqi government inviting the Russians in to the country to bomb ISIS.
The Shi'a dominated Baghdad government has not only been observing Russia's air strikes on behalf of the Assad government in Syria, but Shi'a politicians and social media warriors have hailed Putin's intervention against ISIS and other jihadist groups after over a year of what they believe has been Americans pretending to fight the Islamic State.
U.S. para-drops of supplies on to ISIS positions, supposedly committed in error, have not helped Washington's reputation in Iraq. Nor are the Iraqis very enthusiastic about Washington's alleged new strategy of arming Kurdish YPG fighters to battle the Islamic State, since the Kurds have enjoyed de facto independence within northern Iraq and clashed with the post-Saddam Baghdad government over oil revenues for years. The Iraqis also recognize the same reality stated by the Guerrilla Economist on the Friday, October 9, 2015 radio program, that the spectacular gains of ISIS and captures of massive quantities of U.S.-supplied ammunition and equipment from Sunni Iraqi units in and around Mosul in 2014 were a pre-arranged coup, organized by ex-Baath Party Saddam loyalists. The Iraqis also understand that ISIS would've used up much of the ammunition and cash they captured 16 months ago if it weren't for illicit oil sales that benefit many parties outside of Daesh's territory and resupply of ammo coming from somewhere. Not surprisingly, the belief that ISIS is an Anglo-American/Saudi/Turkish creation is strong among the Iraqis.
Contributing to U.S.-Iraqi distrust has been Pentagon foot dragging on training and heavily arming Shi'a fighters who, let's face it, are under Iranian command. Including Iraqi Shi'a units that answer to U.S.-sanctioned Iranian Quds force Gen. Qasem Soleimani, a man regarded by many in the intelligence community as the mastermind of the Shi'a insurgency against American troops during the post-2003 U.S. occupation. The Iraqis correctly see that America's highest priority in the Middle East is not defeating Daesh. If ISIS had been the huge threat that Washington had touted it as in autumn 2014, the Obama Administration would've committed more troops and the Iraqis would not be by and large fighting on their own against the Islamic State. And Iraqis would not have to turn to China for advanced missile-armed drones to kill Daesh leaders, or establish a joint intel sharing operations center with the Russians to track ISIS reinforcements and arms flows.
This wasn't supposed to happen...US sold M1 Abrams tanks to Iraq and now they're being equipped with Russian machine guns and Iranian ammo
Given these facts, is it any wonder that some Iraqis according to Agence France Presse (AFP) are calling Russia's paramount leader 'Hajji Putin'. Others refer to him as 'Abu Ali Putin' for finally doing what the U.S. failed to do in over a year of bombing, inducing panic in the ranks of Daesh:
Sitting at his easel in his central Baghdad workshop, painter Mohammed Karim Nihaya touches up a portrait of Putin he copied from the Internet.
"I have been waiting for Russia to get involved in the fight against Daesh," he says, referring to the Islamic State group that last year declared a "caliphate" straddling Iraq and Syria.
"They get results. The United States and its allies on the other hand have been bombing for a year and achieved nothing," the bespectacled artist says.
The US-led coalition has had some successes in helping Iraqi forces reconquer territory lost to IS in 2014 but overall the campaign has also suffered setbacks.
Russian warplanes began bombing targets in Syria on September 30 and on Wednesday Moscow ramped up its air war, unleashing cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea.
Some of them crossed Iraqi airspace and many here, especially among the Shiite majority, would welcome a bit of Russia's firepower on home soil as a much-awaited game-changer.
Only a fraction of Russian air strikes in Syria may have been destined for IS [this is directly contradicted by the Russian Defense Ministry which claims to have destroyed 40% of the super terrorist group's infrastructure and have many of its fighters fleeing for their lives to Turkey- JWS] but Mohammed, a young jobless man outside the painter's shop, does not let statistics cloud his enthusiasm.
"We don't want the international coalition, we want only Russia and we will slaughter a sheep to welcome them," he says.
Some Iraqis see Moscow -- which has staunchly backed Damascus and Tehran in recent years -- as a more natural ally than the United States, which occupied the country for eight years.
Putin's patented leadership brand of bare-chested antics and cold determination is a also hit in Iraq, where the cult of the strong leader is alive and well 12 years after Saddam Hussein's ouster.
Note the negative spin AFP tries to put on Putin and the Russians' growing popularity in Iraq, while downplaying its strategic and petrodollar implications (Iraq like its patron Iran is a major producer in OPEC, with whom Moscow has reportedly contemplated deals with to coordinate production). AFP also doesn't mention the factoid frequently brought up by GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, that after all the American blood shed in Iraq the country's single largest oil export customer is...China.
Syria Isn't Stricly a Sectarian Conflict, but Religious Minorities and Seculars By and Large Support Assad for Lack of Any Alternative
It should also be mentioned here that Putin has disavowed any sectarian interest by Russia in the Middle East, and the fierce Chechen fighters loyal to pro-Putin strongman Ramzan Kadyrov are all Sunnis, not Shi'a. Moscow's other emerging ally in the Middle East besides Iraq is Egypt, the most populous Arab state, which is home to the Al-Azhar university in Cairo that is the main rival to Saudi Arabia for training clerics in the Sunni Islamic theology. Yet the Egyptian government, while supportive of Russia's efforts in Syria, fears committing troops to support Assad and thus angering Egypt's main source of foreign aid, Saudi Arabia. It's the Middle East -- it's complicated.
We should also mention here that many soldiers in the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) fighting for the Allawite-led regime of Bashir al-Assad are Sunnis, though many are proudly secular (see the scenes from the pro-government region of Latakia, which resemble Italy or Greece in the Instagram slides below). This is in stark contrast to the takfiri or salafists of Al-Nusra, Jaesh al-Islam, and other jihadist groups fighting Damascus, many of whom are recruited from one of Syria's poorest regions Idlib where the rate of consanguineous (1st and 2nd cousin marriages) that have been scientifically shown to reduce IQs is high. The coastal Latakia region's population has swelled since the start of the Syrian civil war as secular Sunnis, Allawites, and Christian refugees have fled the the jihadists supported by the United States and its Sunni Persian Gulf allies rule in Aleppo, Homs and Hama.
Baghdad Joint Operations Center a Sign Moscow Will Send Fighter Jets, Attack Helicopters and Advisers to Iraq Like it Did for Syria
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and the chief of Iraq's parliamentary security committee have already gone on record as saying U.S. assistance against Daesh has been inadequate and that Russia should have "a bigger role than the Americans" in the war-torn country's anti-ISIS campaign. The AFP report we cited above indicates a growing support among Iraqis for a Russian intervention in their country, though we haven't seen any 'scientific' polling data released to support this notion (perhaps the Levada polling center in Moscow will soon get hired to pay some Iraqi pollsters to find out). The Iraqi Army is making progress against Daesh, retaking the Baiji oil refinery northwest of Baghdad. But the Iraqis have yet to make the kind of rapid advances that have boosted the morale of the Syrian Arab Army and its allies over the past week -- including Iraqi Shi'a militiamen who are fighting for Assad. Getting the Baiji refinery repaired and back online will clearly be a high priority for the Iraqis -- and their crude oil customers the Chinese -- in the coming weeks and months.
Just as it has taken many days of operations for the Syrian Arab Army and its Hezbollah/Iranian allies to coordinate their radio communications with Russian close air support, it will take the Iraqis some time to get on the same frequencies as the Russians. Nonetheless, the establishment of the joint operations center with the Russian military is already introducing senior Iraqi officers and intelligence personnel to their counterparts for the coming all-out offensive. And with the closure of the Latakia airport to civilian traffic as well as new Iraqi bases allowing strikes from the east and west, an all-out campaign is being planned to rout ISIS and the Al-Qaeda loyalists on both sides of the Syrian-Iraq border this winter.
Some Russian humor amidst the shelling and din of war: a pop love song as the soundtrack to a drone flight over Syrian Arab Army arty/GRADs...
“Al-Rai” learned from a high ranking source in joint operation room in Baghdad, which includes Russia, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Hezbollah (4+1) that “the Russian operation Air Command room in Syria expressed the need to increase the number of daily air strikes from 60 down to 200 and up to 300 to cover three fronts extending from Latakia to rural countryside of Idlib and Aleppo. This is the minimum required to allow an effective progress of the attacking forces engaged and those ready to take part of the battle to retake further strategic objectives. ”
The source explained, “The first wave of attack, which began a week ago, is, in the military term, a forced reconnaissance to test the readiness, reaction and defense strategy and effectives of the enemy”.
“The Joint Command decided to send sorties over specific terrorist’ military targets. None the less, the number of sorties are not enough to prepare the military operational ground and satisfy the targeted area with enough fire required. The two airports used by the Russian Air Force , Hameemeem and Latakia, , are unable to provide services for more than 60 sorties. The ongoing military operation needs at least 100 to 200 and more sorties daily to achieve the desired goals. The theater of the military operation of the countryside Latakia to Jisr al-Shughur and reef Aleppo is a vast area of about 20,000 square kilometers. Therefore, there is a need to use a third airport which we are preparing and organising in the coming month”. To give a better picture, Israel carried out 300-400 sorties daily in the July 2006 war Hezbollah’ zone of influence in Lebanon and which does not exceed an area of more than 3,000 square kilometers. Therefore, one can imagine the actual need to increase the number of airstrikes against terrorist targets and to support the advance to the ground troops”, said the source.
As we mentioned on the Friday, October 9 Guerrilla Radio show the Iraqis have already received their first TOS-1 thermobaric multiple launch rocket system (so fiercesome is the 'Buratino' system's reputation that the British government is pestering Moscow to explain why one of these has supposedly been spotted by members of the OSCE monitoring mission in Donbass, though neither the UK nor OSCE spokesmen have supplied any photographic proof to support their claims, using only pictures of Buratinos on parade in Moscow in their Twitter posts). It would not take very many of these awesome area weapons in use to inflict huge casualties on Daesh and have the once super-jihadist group's battlefield reputation crumble as takfiris flee for their lives with the ashes of their comrades in their nostrils.
Simply put, ISIS like their rival jihadi gang the Al-Nusra front ain't seen nothing yet in terms of the firepower the Russians can and will unleash. Nor has Daesh had to operate yet using ATGMs to try and slow Iraqi or Syrian advances under an iron sky awash with drones and Russian Hind helicopters.
How Will the U.S. Foreign Policy Establishment and Neocons React to this Iraqi 'Betrayal'? Likely with Even Bigger Temper Tantrums...
Meanwhile, back in the Empire of Chaos 'homeland' Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has appealed to the (World Wrestling Entertainment) #Putin316 image of the Russian leader as a tough guy. Unlike the political Establishment which sees Putin as alternatively an evil genius or overstretched enemy, Trump declares to applause at campaign stops "let the Russians bomb the hell out of ISIS" and declares the Kremlin leader someone he can do business with. That these positions happen to coincide with the majority of war-weary Americans either apathetic towards or enthusiastic about Russia's Syrian intervention matters little to the Washington Establishment.
The mainstream media will continue putting out lame propaganda pieces like the Fox News clip above. Even after Daesh loses territory to the Syrian Arab Army's advance in numerous places, the Pentagon and NATO will keep pushing the laughable claim that Russian strikes aren't hurting ISIS at all and only the wonderful moderate anti-Assad jihadists are being targeted. Expect emotional, almost teary eyed appeals from Sen. John McCain and others that "our soldiers didn't bleed and die in Iraq so Vladimir Putin could come in and take over the place!"
Beware the Dragon's Fire in the Middle East if Washington Insists on Provoking Beijing in the South China Sea
A last but not least thought for this weekend post is the one ton Dragon sitting quietly in the room while the 1,000 pound Russian grizzly bear from Kamchatka has drawn all the press coverage: what will China do? As we've already mentioned the Chinese have provided the Iraqis with a missile-armed drone that looks remarkably like a reverse engineered version of the American MQ-1 Predator. Whether the Chinese obtained a shot down Predator from the Iranians, or copied the design from specs stolen by their hackers and spies is an interesting question. One thing is clear: the presence of Chinese BJ2022 Brave Warrior 'Hummers' in Syrian Army stocks indicates that Beijing was 'in the loop' with the Russians on the Iranian-planned offensive in Syria months ago. As we observed to agent 'W' Friday night these vehicles would've been painted in desert camo and shipped from China across Siberia to the Black Sea ports in mid-to-late summer 2015.
While the Debka and Russian media reported rumors of China sending its Admiral Kuznetsov-class, Ukraine-built and modernized training carrier Liaoningto Syria with a full air combat compliment and guided missile escorts proved false, we could still see direct Chinese intervention in the conflict. Particularly if Russian air strikes help the SAA create a shocking (for Washington, Riyadh and Ankara) collapse in the anti-Assad forces and Daesh positions and morale. As the ancient expression goes, "Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan."
The Liaoning is not headed to Syria, but China has plenty of other military options -- and can provide hardware and especially badly needed financial aid to the Assad and Iraqi governments
Two other possible spurs to direct Chinese participation in Russia's anti-ISIS campaign would be additional jihadist or mysterious unclaimed terror attacks on Chinese soil, and the United States pissing off Beijing with aggressive posturing in the South China Sea. As my White Russian Floridian friend The Saker reports, the U.S. withdrew its last carrier battle group on station in the Persian Gulf/Arabian Sea and won't have another carrier strike group in the Middle East for weeks or months. The Saker's post on that subject speculated last week that the number of Russian Kalibr cruise missiles (which had previously been thought to only be limited range anti-shipping weapons) fired -- 26 -- may have been the Russians sending a message to the US Navy. The USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), launched in 1984, is named after the 26th President of the United States.
At any rate, the 'TR' is reportedly bound for India's east coast this weekend to participate in joint exercises with the fleets of India and Japan. The Malacca Strait which marks China's overseas petroleum lifeline is not far from where the Teddy battle group will be steaming, and there has been some anonymous bravado coming out of the usual Pentagon sources that Washington plans to contest China's claims that man-made islands it has built up out of South China Sea reefs for military bases are sovereign Chinese territory. Zerohedge reported this weekend that China has issued strongly worded statements warning the U.S. not to send aircraft over Fiery Cross reef and other Chinese naval and air stations or approach to within 12 miles of the nautical exclusion zones that Beijing has unilaterally decreed around these points in the Spratly Islands archipelago.
In addition to Chinese forces being deployed to Iraq or possibly Iran alongside Iranian and Russian units, another way Beijing could retaliate against Washington is by putting even more pressure on the U.S. dollar. China has already dumped most of its U.S. Treasury holdings, forcing the U.S. Federal Reserve to find covert ways via the 'BLICS' and other methods to cover up the massive, expanding USTs sinkhole. The Chinese also officially announced the launch of their yuan-based CIPS system for international trade settlement as an alternative to the Brussels-based SWIFT system. The implications according to Dr. Joseph P. Farrel are staggering:
...to put it country simple, China isn't waiting around to gain admission of the yuan into the SDR(Special Drawing Rights, the international basket of currencies that forms the units of account for the IMF, World Bank, and other international clearing and finance institutions). It is making its play to transform the yuan into a parallel reserve currency now, and hence taking direct aim at the US dollar hegemony.
What does this portend?
One thing, and a highly significant one, is what it is implying about China's space capabilities. As I've noted many times on this website, international financial clearing is dependent upon two large factors: a strong navy to protect actual physical commerce moving globally, and a strong space communications system and the ability to protect it. By all public measures of such assets of power and power projection, China's capabilities in these areas is still dwarfed by America's. And this leads us to an interpretive problematic: either China's move is bluster, a bit of "financial gun boat diplomacy", or there are largely unknown and undisclosed naval and space assets and technologies backing it up. It's the latter possibility that's going to have western intelligence services, particularly in the UK and USA, burning the midnight oil. And I suspect - strongly in fact - that it is a mixture of both cases, weighted on the side that China has "unknown and undisclosed" capabilities.
There's yet another geopolitical factor at work here: Russia, and Japan. Recall that recently Russia and Japan signed an agreement giving Russia access to the Japanese Credit Bureau's clearing system in Eastern Asia and the Western Pacific, a significant move that builds redundancy into the clearing mechanisms Russia is trying to contruct, for this gives it access bypassing any Chinese system, while at the same time, Russia and China have also entered into bilateral clearing arrangements by-passing the dollar entirely.
Put all this together and one obtains a very intriguing picture: Japan, Russia, and China are engaged in erecting parallel clearing systems bypassing the CHIPS-SWIFT system entirely, and in addition to this, they are building redundancyinto the global system of international clearing, capable of functioning in more than one currency.
Of course, the real question here is why? Why the need for such redundancy, besides the clear desire of those countries to get out from under the thumb of Washington? The answer is a suggestive one: one typically builds redundancy into communications systems out of "worst case scenario" analysis, i.e., out of real or potential perceived military threats. With the heightening of geopolitical tensions on planet Earth, it's a smart move. The real question is, are those tensions the only reason for the redundancy?
For what steps China would take next to bring the pain for the U.S.-led Anglo-globalist empire and the dying dollar, stay tuned for Dr. Jim Willie and the Guerrilla Economist's upcoming reports.