While all eyes in the Middle East have been on the civil society-military purge in Turkey after a failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, other important events have been taking place in the region.
In Syria, pro-government forces are handing the jihadists their 'Stalingrad' long planned by the Russian General Staff by blocking the last supply road into east Aleppo. While the Syrian Arab Army's Tiger Forces beat back waves of jihadists and suicide VBIEDs attempting to break the 'cauldron', Russian air strikes continue to pummel jihadist arms caches and vehicles.
While the anti-Assad forces aren't yet facing total defeat (they still control large parts of Idlib province and the northern Syrian countryside), the desperation of their situation is underlined by Secretary of State John Kerry's extensive negotiations with Moscow. The U.S. is now in the position of supplicant towards Russia in Syria and not the other way around, as highlighted further by the Turks' post-coup power shutoff to Incirlik Air Force base entering its fifth day.
The leaks out of Washington last weekend were that the Obama Administration was finally prepared to countenance jointly directed air strikes against Al-Qaeda's branch in Syria Jabhat al-Nusra -- provided the Russians make their SAA allies ease the pressure on the encircled 'moderate rebels'. The same 'moderates' including the CIA TOW missile equipped jihadists of Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki who beheaded a Palestinian boy this week because they suspected him of being a spy for the 'rafidah' -- the Iranian backed Shi'a militias fighting for Assad.
The response out of Cold War 2.0 hardliners and neolibcons in D.C. led by The Washington Post which published the 'leaked' U.S.-Russian agreement points was predictably furious. But these think tankers and humanitarian war hawks' collective humiliation was mercifully cut short for America's upstanding NYT/WaPost consumers, thanks to Friday's botched Turkish coup. The coup came as a long predicted (by yours truly as early as August 2015) but still shocking in its incompetence move, which many in the alternative media, including Team RogueMoney's BanksterSlayer and Dr. Joseph P. Farrell, linked to Erdogan's peacemaking with Putin.
How Russia's Ongoing Negotiation for Joint Operations Against Al-Nusra Has Exposed the State Department's Efforts to Protect the Jihadists from Bombing
Joint intelligence sharing and combined attacks on the Al-Qaeda terrorists Washington previously wanted to protect from bombing are in fact what Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has called for since the start of Russian air operations in Syria last October. But the devil as my friend The Saker writes is in the details of implementation. The Russians are taking a "trust, but verify" approach after the protracted U.S. excuses made for months that Syrian 'moderate rebels' were inextricably embedded alongside the terrorists, and therefore the latter could not be targeted without harming the former.
Such excuse-making of course led to all sorts of public relations headaches for the incompetents at the State Department, who would have enough trouble defending a coherent policy in good times rather than a manifestly contradictory one from a position of weakness. From the invitation of Ahrar-Al-Sham radicals to visit Washington reported after the fact by McClatchy, to awkward questions from the AP's Matthew Lee followed by near-bureaucratic jibberish answers from Foggy Bottom spokesman John Kirby shown on RT, the last few months have been heart-burn inducing for the State Department bureaucrats.
We May Have to Wait for a President Donald Trump to Clean House at (al)CIA(aeda)
Now the PR nightmares for the State Department and supporters of the 'moderate' Syrian rebels will get even worse after the Zenki jihadists gleefully filmed themselves beheading a child. Who knows? We might even witness a CSPAN moment when CIA Director John Brennan, a longtime friend of the Saudi royal family, is finally grilled by members of the U.S. House or Senate Intelligence Committee about how the CIA can continue to send TOW missiles to such Salafist groups and what consequences if any Langley's gun-runners face when their 'moderate' rebels show their true bloodthirsty jihadist colors.
Given the fear and awe that many lawmakers maintain for the 'Cocaine Import Agency', we won't hold our breaths waiting for that 'have you at last no sense of decency, sir?' moment. If Brennan and the other Saudi/Qatari firsters at CIA and State are going to be ousted, it's going to take a President Donald J. Trump and perhaps a director of national intelligence retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn to clean house. In the meantime...
Yemen: The Losing War the Langley/Neocon Wahhabi Lobby Can't Hide Forever
Even if we set aside Washington's ongoing pants-ing at the hands of the despotic neo-Ottoman Sultan who accuses the Americans of being behind Friday's coup, or ignore the fact that D.C.'s 'moderate rebel' proxies are being crushed in east Aleppo, there's another turd in the Mideast hummus bowl as the Guerrilla Economist would say: Yemen. Namely, Saudi Arabia's losing war against Saleh loyalist and Houthi tribesmen that has gone beyond a mere debacle to become a potentially existential threat to the continued reign if not survival of certain haughty princes, most famously the 31-year-old Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud.
IF the Saudis really were one of the major players behind the coup that feared Turkish-Russian rapprochement based on throwing their and the Sultan's beloved Syrian jihadis under the bus, then they have surely been carefully analyzing the reasons for its failure. And IF you are a Saudi Prince who sees the bloody writing on the wall that the sectarian proxy campaigns against the Allawite Assad and the Yemeni Shi'a are miserable failures draining the royal treasury, along with the Pyrrhic victory over U.S. shale oil, then there is only one conclusion to splash on one's face like warm camel piss (a Saudi delicacy); either Riyadh cozies up to the Russians and Chinese while turning towards Beijing's desire that it play nice with its hated Iranian rival...or else. And that 'else', given how weak and pathetic Washington now looks under the lame duck Obama, unable to stand up even to the same Erdogan that the Saudis once bossed around as a hireling, could include increasingly harsh penalties for those pro-Wahhabi Arabian hardliners who won't get with the Eurasian peace in Syraq program.
How the Saleh Loyalists/Houthis Are Using Soviet and Iranian Made Ballistic Missiles to Kill Saudis and Pro-Saudi Mercenaries By the Bushel -- and MSM Is Ignoring the Kingdom's Thousands of Casualties
It would seem the hints are being dropped that if the Saudis won't sincerely try to make peace in Syria, the price they will continue to pay in blood and humiliation at the hands of the Houthis will be increased. Including via the high explosive message delivered one Soviet made (and we suspect Russian 'modernized' since being pulled out of mothballs) Tochka ballistic missile at a time. According to Al-Masdar News Yemen correspondent 'TonyToh', the latest OTR-21 'Tochka' ballistic missile strike on a Saudi forces run mercenary camp near Taiz killed 179 mercs and Saudi coalition troops near the strategic Bab-al-Mandeb strait that divides war-torn Yemen from the Horn of Africa. Below is video footage of the launch and a clip that purports to show the Saudi military base struck by the Tochka missile on fire:
According to 'TonyToh', many Saudi-hating Yemeni resistance fighters love the Soviet/Russian missiles so much they jokingly talk about naming their newborn sons 'Ibn Tochka'. Nor are Tochkas the only type of rocketry raining down on Saudi and their Hadi forces allies. Iranian-made Zilzal ("Quake") ballistic missiles have also been fired more often at Saudi troops, as well as a Yemeni/Iranian modified ballistic version of the venerable Soviet SA-2 SAM.
Saudi TV propaganda claims U.S.-made Patriot missiles can and nearly always do shoot down these incoming threats. But Al-Masdar News and reports from their 'Saudi whistleblower' say otherwise, as the death toll of African and Gulf Cooperation Council Sunni Muslim mercenaries continues to rise. The United Arab Emirates, for example, recently announced it was pulling its soldiers and aircraft out of the conflict while supporting the on again, off again peace talks between the two sides in Kuwait. The UAE's leadership apparently knows a quagmire when they see one.
The latest reports from 'TonyToh' also confirm that Saudi troops are now calling in more air strikes to repel brazen raids inside the Kingdom's border towns of Jizan province. The Houthis are killing Saudi border guards, seizing and burning the Kingdom's 'technicals' and light armored vehicles, and despoiling bases they're capturing on Saudi soil.
The bottom line: the Saudis are stuck in a quagmire, their losses are several thousand soldiers and mercenaries, and there's no end in sight sort of humiliating concessions which may not appease a hornet's nest of Shi'a tribesmen who historically regard southwestern parts of the Kingdom as Yemeni territory. Yet thanks to erratic and often heavily censored coverage coming out of Yemen, the Saudis' humiliating defeats and the billions they've sunk into the Yemen war with all the implications for their ability to indefinitely sustain Washington's Syria jihadists have not been discussed.
This is likely due to the neoconservative and neoliberal Saudi lobby in Washington and London, well taken care of by their Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) patrons, and their desire to maintain a certain 'frame'. Which is that Riyadh can support jihadists in Syria indefinitely and not pay a price for this in blood from greater covert Iranian/Russian (and according to the Guerrilla Economist, even French) support for the Houthis. That indeed, the Yemen war is simply an isolated conflict or an example of Saudi-Iranian/Sunni-Shia rivalry, rather than part of a larger power play that signals nothing less than a changing of the superpower guard in the Mideast.
As we've noted before in RogueMoney reports on the Yemen war, it's no accident that China is establishing a military base in Djibouti near the Bab al-Mandeb Strait. Nor is it unlikely that whatever covert Russian technical and intelligence (read: SIGINT/ELINT) support is being provided to the Houthis and patriotic Yemeni resistance via the GRU is being done through China's base in the region.
Therefore, if the Saudis are looking to cut their losses -- and we've seen largely fruitless negotiations in Kuwait to try and create a face saving 'out' for the Sauds -- don't be surprised if a palace coup finally removes Crown Prince Mohammed from the picture. And given that the lesson for every potential coup plotter in the Middle East was clear from last weekend's debacle in Istanbul and Ankara (if you aim for the Sultan, don't miss), we strongly suspect Saudi coup plotters won't settle for merely trying to arrest the young prince, but will try to take him out. If we were Crown Prince 'Mo', we'd be seriously packing our bags and getting ready to permanently relocate to Switzerland or Paris. That is, before someone decides he needs to be removed from the picture in order for Saudi Arabia to follow its one time client Erdogan's pivot to Eurasia.