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Iranian General Injured in Syria

 US Amy Brig. Gen. (ret.) Ernie Audino, former Combat Adviser to the Kurdish Peshmerga, brought us interesting news.  Kurdish sources reported Iranian Quds Force commander, Gen. Qasem Suleimani has been wounded in action near Aleppo, Syria and evacuated to Tehran. If confirmed this is a stunning development as Suleimani was de facto commander of combined Iranian, Syrian national and Hezbollah forces propping up the Assad regime and directing Shiite militias in Iraq. This news comes following reports of IRGC heavy casualties in Syria. This will not be good news for the alleged interests of Putin in Syria. The issue is who caught Suleimani and his security unawares in Syria, Was it the Free Syrian Army, ISIS, al Nusrah, or the Syrian Kurdish YPG?

Here is the Kurdish BASNews report.

Reports: Iranian General Qassem Suleimani Wounded in Syria

TEHRAN – Local media are reporting that Iranian Quds Force Commander General Qassem Suleimani has been wounded in fighting in Syria, and is currently receiving medical treatment in Tehran.

Al-Arabiya TV claims that Amir Mousavi, director of the Center for Strategic Studies and International Relations in Tehran has confirmed Suleimani is injured and is in a stable condition in hospital.

In a press conference, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that while they have heard the news, they cannot confirm it.

Syrian opposition media reported that Suleimani wounded about 12 days ago in clashes around Aleppo, northern Syria, with two others. So far the Iranian government has not commented.

There were also reports in late October that claimed Suleimani was wounded in Syria; however the Iranian army dismissed the rumors. Iranian casualties in Syria are on the rise, notably the death of Hussein Hamadani, a senior Iranian commander and close friends of Suleimani.

According to media reports, in the last two months alone almost 80 Iranian soldiers have been killed by anti-Syrian regime forces.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Revealed: Russia’s Great Game in the Middle East

It was a bizarre turn of events at the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York on the 70th Anniversary of the world body.  President Obama gave a speech lambasting Putin’s Russia over its seizure of Crimea and  invasion of eastern Ukraine violating the country’s sovereignty. However, he paid court to Russia and China for supporting the  Iran nuclear pact unanimous approved  by the UN Security Council poised to release tens of billions in sequestered funds as of December 15, 2015. He  questioned Russia’s sudden military presence in western Syria building a military complex to bolster the Assad regime.  A regime that rained barrel bombs causing the deaths of 250,000. A regime ethnically cleansing the country’s Sunni population sending millions to displaced persons camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon and hundreds of thousands in flight to the EU.  The President got warm applause over his rapprochement with Cuba.

Putin, when he had his turn at the rostrum accused the U.S., without naming it, of causing the rise of the Islamic State through its invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan,  ultimately creating a Sunni supremacist Caliphate.  Following Putin Iranian President Rouhani  had his turn at the rostrum in the Assembly hall. He made the astounding proposal that an international alliance including Russia, Iran, Syria and Iraq  combat terrorism in the Middle East.  A proposal that Rouhani  said should be confirmed in another Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action akin to the Iran nuclear pact.  He noted the nuclear pact  was  concluded  “without the impediment of the Zionist enterprise”, meaning Israel.  Witness  the cheek of President Rouhani   of Iran  suggesting  a new Shia alliance in the Middle East, plus Russia welcoming  the US to join in fighting Sunni Supremacist  Islamic State.

What was on display at the UN was the supplanting  of the U.S. in the new great game of the Middle East by  Russia.  It was enough to make one’s head spin with these sudden turns  of events. It made the U.S., look like a “JV team “struggling  to keep up.

The usually astute Shoshana Bryen, senior director of the Washington, DC-based  Jewish Policy Center  was asked  by this writer during the September 27, 2015 Lisa Benson Show why  these developments occurred so suddenly.  She said that  Putin’s Russia like all great powers do when they are confronted by a vacuum, especially one that threatens its national  interests.  Thousands of Jihadists have left Chechnya, Dagestan, and Tartarstan in Russia attracted by the Salafist  Islamic doctrine of the Islamic State as a declared Caliphate.  Thus  Putin’s objective is to “bottle” up these Sunni Jihadists in Syria and Iraq.  Putin admitted as much in a CBS 60 Minutes interview with Charlie Rose  Sunday evening when he said:

More than 2,000 fighters from Russia and ex-Soviet republics are in the territory of Syria. There is a threat of their return to us. So instead of waiting for their return, we are better off helping Assad fight them on Syrian territory.

Watch the CBS 60 Minutes Charlie Rose interview with Russian President Putin:

When Lisa Benson asked Bryen about  where Iran’s proxy Hezbollah stood in these developments, she  replied  Hezbollah “had not been an efficient fighting force in Syria.  Further, she commented that Russian presence in Syria is meant to actually limit Hezbollah’s  involvement, perhaps  to a defensive role “in the Alawite enclave.”  Moreover, she noted  that Putin is not interested  in a war with Israel ,suggesting that the meeting with Netanyahu  in Moscow was  to coordinate means to avoid conflict. However, Bryen  noted  Putin has another interest in the region, “control over the flow of gas to Europe” being developing offshore in Israeli, Egyptian,  and Lebanese fields.  Bryen thinks there is ‘no evidence’ of Russian presence on the Syrian frontier on Israel’s Golan Heights.  Notwithstanding a spate of rocket and mortar attacks on the Golan responded to by the IDF this past weekend that Israeli Minister of Defense Ya’alon thinks were ordered by Iran.  We shall soon see whether Putin’s gamble pays off.  Or results in another graveyard  like Afghanistan  rout of the Soviet 40th Army in 1989.

We could see this  thunder clap about to occur in the run up to the UN General Assembly session.  We had the Russian announcement of  military aid and mission to be established in the Alawite bastion of Latakia province.  Included were  the building of expanded landing fields to accommodate Ilushin cargo aircraft  and squadrons of  Mig and Sukhoi fighters, transiting from Russia to Syria  via Iran and Iraqi airspace. Then there was the announcement of Black Sea fleet maneuvers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.  In late July, following the UN endorsement of the Iran deal, Revolutionary Guards Quds Force Commander  Qasem Soliemani in Moscow  met with Putin and  Russian Defense Minister Shogui. Those discussions were  ostensibly to expedite deliveries of Russian advanced air defense systems, but  in reality to plan for Russian direct involvement with Iranian forces . In May , we witnessed an alleged US ally, Iraqi Premier Haidar al-Abadi traveling to Moscow  to obtain additional fighter  deliveries to aid in the battle against the Islamic State. Meanwhile, President Obama had committed 3, 500 American military trainers to assist  the  Iraqi National Security forces  to recover Anbar province and  Mosul. Abadi, our alleged ally in the coalition against ISIS,   brought in Russian military advisors to link  up with   Soliemani  directing  Iraqi Shia militia forces.

The unkindest  cut of all was the announcement  on the eve of the UN General Assembly of a joint intelligence and security operations center in Baghdad sharing  information among Russia, Iran, Syria and Iraq.

There was  also evidence that the U.S. led coalition strategy in Syria and Iraq “defeating and degrading” ISIS had collapsed.  That was reflected  in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee by CENTCOM commander, Gen. Lloyd Austin who told Senators that  the $500 million program to train Syrian opposition fighters had failed ignominiously. We had spent $40 million training and equipping 60 candidates, who signed waivers that they were to fight ISIS, not Assad. 40 of those surrendered their weapons and joined Al Qaeda affiliate jabhat al Nusra.    If that wasn’t  enough, we had the roiling scandal of a revolt by CENTCOM  intelligence analysts who requested a Pentagon Inspector General  investigation into why assessments were being prettied up by superiors  to present a misinformed picture to the President and National Security Staff that we were succeeding in the air campaign without US boots on the ground.  That was further depicted in testimony by ex-CIA director, retired Army General Petreaus , who  testified  before the same Senate Armed Services Committee  recommending establishing   no fly zones, sanctuary havens in country and deploying  Special Forces teams.  Add to that the failure of the Obama White House to honor its commitment to supply  Syrian Kurdish YPG  and Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces with updated weapons, ammunition and equipment.  The Kurds are  being attacked by Turkish air force fighters.  To cap things off, retired Marine Gen. John Allen, coordinator of the  Coalition effort,  resigned after a year of service.  As former Defense Intelligence Agency  head, retired Army General Michael Flynn observed, this is what you get when you “politicize intelligence”. The President suggested in his UN address  that the Islamic State   “violent extremism , distorts ”the true meaning of the Islamic faith.”

Russian may have “frozen” the Syrian conflict in a stalemate.  The U.S. finds itself suddenly on the sidelines, largely, by its own “red lines”. Now with Russia’s direct involvement in Syria and Iraq, we will soon find out if ISIS is vanquished or remains a growing global threat. Such are the rules of The Great Game that in the 19th Century pitted imperial Czarist Russia against the British Empire.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Kerry: No Sanctions Against Conventional Arms and Missile Technology in Iran Nuclear Deal

Secretary of State Kerry appeared on a Reuters Newsmaker interview today with the apt title of Iran: Moment of Truth. He dropped another bombshell, this time about the lifting of UN sanctions barring Iran’s purchase of conventional arms and missile technology. Kerry indicated there would be snap back of arms sanctions. However, during a recent House Armed Services Committee Hearing, he admitted lifting of financial sanctions would enable deliveries of arms to terror proxies in the Middle East threatening both Americans and Israelis.

Iran demanded and the Administration negotiating team consented to lift bans on Iranian purchases of conventional arms and missile technology adopted under 2010 UN Security Resolution 1929. At the time of the adoption of those UN sanctions both Israel and the US had objected to the sale of the Russian S-300 system to Iran. This comes in the wake of a trip to Moscow on July 24th by Qod’s Force commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani to expedite the delivery of the advanced Russian S-300 air defense system . Russian’s Putin had lifted the ban in mid- April 2015 following the announcement of the framework for the final Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).  The JCPOA was announced in Vienna on July 14th and unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council on July 22nd. This was just prior to Gen. Soleimani’s trip to Moscow to meet both Putin and Russian Defense Minister Shogui. Add to that the announced $10 billion dollar oil barter deal with China for stealth fighter jets and it would appear that once again, Iran has been allowed to breach conventional arms sanctions. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov had suggested that expediting lifting these arms sale bans would enable sales would enable Iran and Syria to combat the Islamic State.

Reuters reported these latest revelations by Kerry:

Violations of an arms embargo by Iran or restrictions on its missile program would not force an automatic reinstatement or “snapback” of United Nations sanctions under a landmark nuclear deal, although other options would be available, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday.

“The arms embargo is not tied to snapback,” Kerry said. “It is tied to a separate set of obligations. So they are not in material breach of the nuclear agreement for violating the arms piece of it.”

“There is a specific U.N. resolution outside of this agreement that prohibits them from sending weapons to Hezbollah. There is a separate and specific U.N. resolution that prohibits them from sending weapons to the Shia militia in Iraq,” he said.

Kerry added that similar U.N. restrictions banned arms sales to the Houthis in Yemen, North Korea and other potential recipients of weapons from Iran.

Tehran has consistently violated the U.N. arms embargo and missile sanctions. Since 2010, those breaches have been documented by the U.N. panel of experts on Iran.

Kerry said a new U.N. monitoring mechanism would have to be created to replace the panel of experts, suggesting that much of the monitoring work could be done by the United States and its allies on their own.

“We’re not dependent on the U.N. to do that and I think Israel and others are much happier that we’re not,” he said. “We will depend on our own intel community, on our own military, on our own information, we will work with Israel, and we will work with others.”

Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi made clear last month that Tehran had no intention of complying with the arms embargo and missile sanctions.

“Whenever it’s needed to send arms to our allies in the region, we will do so,” he said. “We are not ashamed of it.”

Watch the Washington Free Beacon YouTube video of Secretary Kerry’s Reuters Newsmaker interview:

Watch this response by Kerry to this issue in this C-Span video clip during a House Hearing Armed Services Committee Hearing:

Syrian made M-302 missiles captured by Israeli Naval Commandos from Klos-C March 2015  Ariel Schalit AP

M-302 missiles captured by Israeli Naval commandos on display in Eilat March 2014Source:  AP/Ariel Schalit.

Notwithstanding and even before the 2010 UN conventional arms sanctions were adopted, Israel has unilaterally intercepted shipments attacked arms deliveries to Iranian proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas. Israel is not waiting around for implementation of UN arms control and missile technology sanctions or any Presidential executive orders by the Obama Administration to defend against Iran violations. Israel naval commandos intercepted Iranian shipments of conventional arms and missiles in both the Mediterranean off Gaza and in the Red Sea.  In March 2014 the Klos C  was boarded by Israeli Naval commandos in the Red Sea and brought to the Port of Eilat.  Multiple IAF attacks on missile and other weaponry  prevented deliveries for proxy to Hezbollah in both Syria and Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.

In an NER/Iconoclast post yesterday on” Obama’s Dangerous Spin on Iran Nuclear Deal,” this writer suggested the latest conventional arms sanctions by Iran with the connivance of both Russia and China may have jeopardized any military option by the U.S. or Israel. I suggested that this was a breach of both UN travel bans on the Quds Force Commander as well as the UN Resolution 1929 sanctions against purchase of conventional weapons and missile technology precluded by both five and eight year  sunsets under the JCPOA.  It makes any military option harder by orders of magnitude. While both the U.S. and Israel aren’t without resources of their own, Iran’s  breaches of sanctions makes the decision to use American of Israeli military power more complicated.  Kerry’s Reuters Newsmakers interview comments today virtually confirmed that assessment.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in New York August 11, 2015. Source: Reuters/Brendan McDermid.