Escobar: Eagle-Meets-Bear & The Syria Tug-Of-War

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

Trump and Putin are likely to discuss the tricky situation in southern Syria when they meet; while the US president says he wants US forces back home, the CIA, Pentagon and Israel may be happier to see them stay so the war-torn state remains unstable…

Syrian government tanks and soldiers take positions in the town of Western Ghariyah, about 15km east of the southern embattled city of Daraa. Photo: AFP/ SANA handout released on June 30, 2018.

Ahead of the Eagle-meets-Bear Trump-Putin summit on July 16 in Helsinki, Syria-centered spin has gone into overdrive. Unknown sources have leaked what is billed as President Trump’s alleged Syria deal discussed with Jordan’s King Abdullah.

Trump would “allow” Damascus, supported by Russian air power, to regain its territory along the borders of Jordan, Israel and Iraq. In return, President Putin and Bashar al-Assad would agree to establish an extended demilitarized zone (DMZ) along these same borders, off-limits to any Iranian forces.

That would set the scene for Trump’s already announced desire to extract US forces out of Syria before October and the US mid-term elections. The president would be able to declare the proverbial “Mission Accomplished” in defeating Daesh or Islamic State.

The CIA and the Pentagon are not exactly enthusiastic with Trump’s alleged Syria gambit, to say the least. For assorted neocons and powerful factions of the industrial-military-surveillance complex, “Assad must go” Syria simply cannot be traded off.

And yet there’s nothing to trade. Syria cannot be “offered” to Russia because Russia is already the major player in deciding what happens in Syria, not only militarily but via the ongoing Astana format alongside Iran and Turkey. No wonder the alleged Trump “deal” was duly dismissed by the Kremlin. 

What will be negotiated in the Trump-Putin summit, as Asia Times has learned, is something completely different. This negotiation, incidentally, will happen after the NATO summit in Brussels and before the next Astana format meeting in Sochi on July 30, as confirmed by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin.

The heart of the matter remains Syria’s territorial integrity and the legitimacy of the government in Damascus. Russia, Iran and, after countless circumvolutions, even Turkey are for it. The NATO-Gulf Cooperation Council alliance is ferociously against it – especially after having, over the past few years, funded and weaponized those notorious “moderate rebels,” the overwhelming majority of which are nothing but takfiri jihadis.

Back to Daraa

And so, as a gloomy serpent biting its own tail, the tragic war in Syria is back to where it first started, seven and a half years ago, to a dusty, dirt-poor, religiously intolerant, back of beyond Daraa. Just across the border with Jordan, it is splendidly convenient crossroads for weapons smuggling destined to the takfiri hordes.

As it stands, the main narrative in Western media is that “regime forces” have unleashed air strikes and barrel bombs over “rebel-held” sections of southern Syria. 

Mohammad Hawari, the UNHCR spokesman in Amman, may be correct when he says: “We’re facing a real humanitarian crisis in southern Syria.” What he does not say is that quite a few “opposition bodies” – code for takfiri jihadis – have rejected Damascus-proposed deals to be back under government control, thus inflating the humanitarian crisis.

Analyst Elijah Magnier has correctly identified the state of things in the battlefield, and some key sticking points have already been agreed on by Moscow and Washington.

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is proceeding flat out in an offensive to reopen the nation’s borders. What has not been negotiated is what happens to a tricky patch partially bordering Jordan and partially in Quneitra province, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Damascus wants to reopen full trade connectivity between Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, a route that goes all the way to the Gulf via Masna, between Lebanon and Syria, and Naseeb between Syria and Jordan, that is essential to business for all concerned.   

Once again, the holy of the holies concerns al-Qaeda. Actually, Jabhat al-Nusra, as in al-Qaeda in Syria, is now rebranded as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and their allied collection of 54 takfiri militias, trained and weaponized in a base in Jordan, for years, by the CIA and British Special Forces.

It’s no secret in Syria, and Lebanon, how this rebranded al-Qaeda has been intertwined with the militia mishmash that is known as the Southern Front. Their intel HQ is a US-led war-room based in Amman called the Military Operations Center (MOC), as Asia Times confirmed over two years ago. The MOC, staffed by US, UK, France, Jordan, Israel and a few GCC operatives, is responsible for funding, weaponizing, salaries and intelligence for the takfiri galaxy.

The above map, even without getting into detail, at least shows how the rebranded al-Qaeda in Syria is firmly embedded in areas under control by “US-backed rebels.”

Major border trouble

The current Damascus offensive in Daraa will be compounded with an inevitable, further offensive towards the US base at Al Tanf, on the Syria-Iraq border.

Al Tanf is absolutely key to the whole plot, because that’s where US advisers have been for all practical purposes rebranding takfiris into something called Maghawhir al Thawra (Commandos of the Revolution). These takfiri commandos are backed by US air power and have been attacking the SAA outside a “deconfliction zone” that the US has – unilaterally – set up within a 50-kilometer radius of Al Tanf.

The Pentagon narrative is that the US must remain in Syria to fight Daesh. That does not add up considering the Commandos of the Revolution takfiri rebranding coupled with the fact it was the SAA, Iranian advisers, Hezbollah and Russia air power who did the heavy lifting against all takfiri outfits, including Daesh.    

A few Hezbollah advisers are involved in the Daraa offensive. There are no Iranian advisers. Hezbollah special forces are present in areas near the Lebanese border. But the most important point is that after the jihadi outfits are destroyed, they won’t need to remain in Quneitra or near the occupied Golan Heights.

Across the chessboard, what’s really significant, as Magnier notes, is how “the presence of Takfiri Wahhabi jihadists on the Israeli-Syrian borders represents – in Tel Aviv’s view – a security factor to the Israeli Army. And Israel would rather not see the Syrian state recovering and eliminating all terrorists and jihadists.”

The Israeli military is, in fact, claiming that it “accepts” the SAA operations in Daraa and Quneitra. It’s as if Israel agrees to allow Syria to be operating inside … Syria.

Analyst Sharmine Narwani, recently returned from Daraa, is adamant “the US, Israel and their allies cannot win this southern fight. They can only prolong the insecurity for a while before the SAA decides to launch a military campaign against the 54-plus-militias-Nusra occupying the south of Syria.”

So there’s got to be a deal. And this is what Putin and Trump may be able to negotiate in Helsinki.

No Takfiri left behind

The key problem remains how to make Trump understand what’s at stake in terms of US forces leaving Al-Tanf. The Pentagon and the CIA absolutely love the idea of having the Maghawhir takfiris constantly attacking the SAA on the only available crossing between Syria and Iraq on al-Qaim-Albu-Kamal.

The reality, though, will soon set in. Russia is sending extra Special Forces. The SAA is already preparing for the offensive. And the Iraqi People Mobilization Units (PMUs) will also join, everything coordinated by an operations command in Baghdad.

All that is evidence the US does not “have” southern Syria. What the US does have is roughly 2,000 Special Forces embedded with the Kurdish YPG in the landlocked northeast and eastern Syria near the Turkish and Iraqi borders. Absolutely no one wants them there, except the YPG.

It’s no secret the usual War Party suspects want Syria balkanized and unable to concentrate on economic recovery, with help from Russia, China and Iran, to become a key node in Eurasia integration.

As for Putin’s priorities, they are crystal clear: Syria’s territorial integrity, the stability of the government in Damascus and The Gates of Hell for all takfiri jihadis, whatever their denomination, so there won’t be any further blowback in the Caucasus.

It’s up to Trump, or the CIA, or the Pentagon if they insist on considering “No Takfiri Left Behind” a sound geopolitical strategy.

NASA To Test ‘Quiet’ Supersonic Booms Over Texas 

The era of commercial supersonic flight could be just around the corner (again).

This November, residents will get to hear “quiet” sonic booms as military jets race above the skies of Galveston, Texas, said NASA.

NASA research pilot Jim “Clue” Less stands next to an F/A-18 that he is flying to help test low-boom flight research. (Source: Maria Werries/NASA)
 

Part of the Low-Boom Flight Demonstration program (LBFD), the space agency recently awarded Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works a $247.5-million contract to design, build and flight test a low-boom X-plane that could produce a quiet supersonic aircraft in the next three to five years.

The experimental aircraft dubbed X-59 “QueSST,” is scheduled to take to the skies in 2021 with a top velocity of 1.5 times the speed of sound, or about 990 miles per hour at an altitude of 55,000 feet. The jet will only have room for a pilot, as it tests design principles that soften the sonic boom.

Artist drawing of the X-59 “QueSST” (Source: NASA)

“It is super exciting to be back designing and flying X-planes at this scale,” said Jaiwon Shin, NASA’s associate administrator for aeronautics. “Our long tradition of solving the technical barriers of supersonic flight to benefit everyone continues.”

The news comes about four months after President Trump signed the federal budget deal, which funds the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator (LBFD) program. In the budget proposal, the Trump administration noted that the X-plane “would open a new market for U.S. companies to build faster commercial airliners, creating jobs and cutting cross-country flight times in half.”

While the X-59 is more of a concept than reality, NASA will use McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornets over Galveston to imitate the sonic profile of the X-plane while residents and sound recording sensors document the sonic booms overhead — if there are any.

During the tests this fall, F/A-18 Hornets will perform dives at supersonic speeds, making powerful sonic booms over the Gulf of Mexico and quieter booms over the coastal city. Simultaneously, a network of “audio sensors strategically placed around the city” will provide scientists with a decibel reading of how loud the sonic booms were, said NASA. About 500 local volunteers will be dispersed around the region to document their experience. The combination of audio sensors and the “human factor” will give scientists a better understanding if the LBFD program can produce “quiet” sonic booms.

According to NASA, the Gulf Coast city was selected because of its location near the Gulf of Mexico, allowing the F/A-18s to keep its louder sonic booms (near the dive point) out to sea, while sending muffled sonic thumps [X-59 supersonic profile] towards the city.

“We’ll never know exactly what everyone heard. We won’t have a noise monitor on their shoulder inside their home,” Alexandra Loubeau, NASA’s team lead for sonic boom community response research at Langley, Virginia, said in a statement. “But we’d like to at least have an estimate of the range of noise levels that they actually heard.”

The technology behind the X-59’s noise-reducing ability is its uniquely shaped structure, designed so that supersonic shockwaves do not build up into strong sonic booms.

“With the X-59 you’re still going to have multiple shockwaves because of the wings on the aircraft that create lift and the volume of the plane. But the airplane’s shape is carefully tailored such that those shockwaves do not combine,” said Ed Haering, a NASA aerospace engineer at Armstrong.

“Instead of getting a loud boom-boom, you’re going to get at least two quiet thump-thump sounds, if you even hear them at all,” he said.

“This is why the F/A-18 is so important to us as a tool. While construction continues on the X-59, we can use that diving maneuver to generate quiet sonic thumps over a specific area,” Haering added.

The X-59 is expected for delivery by the second half of 2021. Once the prototype is built and its “quiet” sonic booms confirmed, NASA stated it would conduct test flights across the United States.

Sonic booms have been a problem for aeronautical engineers for decades. In 1973, the U.S. banned commercial supersonic flights over the mainland for concern that sonic booms posed an extreme public nuisance. This was a significant challenge for the Anglo-French Concorde project to expand, which ultimately led to its retirement in 2003.

While commercial supersonic airliners have been around for decades, commercial flights were halted following the Year 2000 crash of Air France Flight 4590. However, the Trump administration is making a move to reintroduce these planes by the mid-2020 period. That is, assuming “quiet” sonic booms can be confirmed via NASA.

Meanwhile, the real test is about a decade later, because it is around early 2030 or mid-2030s when hypersonic airliners are expected to be introduced to the public domain. When that happens, and assuming commercial flight is cost-effective, it would spark the next “travel” revolution around the world.

The Babies Are Growing Up… And They’re Gettting Cranky

Authored by Caitlin Johnstone via Medium.com,

When a baby is born, its parents teach it how to eat solid foods and walk and talk, which generally works out fine. Then they start teaching the baby all the lies their parents taught them, and things start to get messy.

When the baby is old enough, they send it to school, where it spends twelve years being taught lies about how the world works so that one day it will be able to watch CNN and say “Yes, this makes perfect sense” instead of “This is ridiculous” or “Why does this whole entire thing seem completely fake?” or “I want to punch Chris Cuomo in the throat.”

The baby is taught history, which is the study of the ancient, leftover propaganda from whichever civilization happened to win the wars in a given place at a given time.

The baby is taught geography, so that later on when its country begins bombing another country, the baby’s country won’t be embarrassed if its citizens cannot find that country on a globe.

The baby is taught obedience, and the importance of performing meaningless tasks in a timely manner. This prepares the baby for the half century of pointless gear-turning it will be expected to undertake after graduation.

The baby is taught that it lives in a free country, with a legitimate electoral system which facilitates meaningful elections of actual representatives in a real government. It is never taught that those elections, representatives and government are all owned and operated by the very rich, who use them to ensure policies which make them even richer while keeping everyone else as poor as possible so that they won’t have to share political power. It is never taught that highly secretive intelligence and defense agencies form alliances with those rich people to advance murderous and exploitative agendas for profit and power. It is never taught that the things it sees on television are mostly lies.

The baby is smoothly, seamlessly funneled from uterus to full-time employment through this system, often with a little religion mixed in to really drive home the importance of obedience and meekness and the nobility of poverty. From there the various screens in the baby’s life take over its continuing education, tightening the bolts of the propaganda cage and making sure that baby keeps turning those gears without asking too many questions. This continuing education continues until the baby dies in a mass shooting or nuclear holocaust, or of cancer from trying to numb the pain of living with cigarettes, or of liver failure from trying to numb the pain of living with alcohol, or of suicide because it just couldn’t take it anymore, or from its body and brain simply falling apart after a long, pointless, immensely unsatisfying life.

So now you’ve got all these babies wandering around, just as confused and clueless as the day they were born, thinking thoughts they were told to think and believing beliefs they were told to believe. Some are better at feigning confidence than others, but one baby’s guess about what’s going on is really as good as the next baby’s. The only thing any of them have ever known is the stories that they have been told.

So those stories get treated as something very important. All they’ve been taught to believe from womb to present moment tells them that it’s very important to keep turning those gears and walking in the same direction as all the other babies, so if all of a sudden one baby steps out of line and starts saying things like “Uhh, guys? We’re marching off a cliff of ecocide and omnicide. Maybe we should turn around?” or “It’s all a lie! We’re being exploited and deceived by an Orwellian oligarchy!”, that baby will usually sound crazy to all the other babies.

“Shut up you crazy conspiracy theorist baby,” they might say.

“We all agree on our story about what’s going on. Our parents told us the same story, our teachers told us the same story, the news man on TV told us the same story, and the politicians told us the same story. We can’t all be wrong!”

But of course they can, and they are.

All it takes is a dominant power structure wielding sufficient control of the stories that all the babies are told.

Imagine, though, if one of the other babies stepped forward and said,

You know what? Maybe that baby is right. None of the stories we’re told have ever added up.

How come voting never seems to make much difference no matter who we elect and our lives stay shitty even though we always vote for the politician who promises to make them better?

How come the news man on TV is always telling us about a New Official Bad Guy we need to go bomb, and how come it always happens the same way each time?

And how come they can always afford all those big fancy bombs while we’re getting poorer and poorer?”

Then the story of total agreement would be disrupted. If another baby steps forward and does the same thing the story loses even more weight. If those babies get better at communicating with other babies, say with the invention of the internet, more and more babies start questioning the official stories they’ve been told since birth, and before long there’s no more herd mentality keeping all the babies moving in the same direction.

But those gears still need turning if the rich are going to remain rich and powerful. So they come up with even more stories to restore authority to their old stories about what’s going on. Stories about Russian propaganda, stories about fake news, stories about “useful idiots”, a term applied to babies who believe different stories from the ones they were taught by their parents and teachers and the news man. They do this because they know if they no longer have widespread consensus giving the illusion of credibility to their stories, they’re going to have to start relying on facts and evidence. And that won’t go well for them at all.

And now the babies are growing restless. The babies are growing cranky. The old lullabies aren’t keeping them asleep anymore.

The babies are waking up. The babies are growing up. Soon the babies won’t be babies anymore. Soon the babies will be able to tell their own stories. True stories.

What will happen to those gears then? What will happen to the machines they power? The answer to that question is why the rich have been fighting so hard for so long to sing the old lullabies, and keep the babies asleep.

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