Belmont Club

The Night Before

2014 will be a year when the populations of the world began to wake up and smell the smoke. “Began” because sleep has habits all its own. It would be unnatural if Mr and Mrs Joe Average didn’t hit the alarm snooze button because the ringing they hear doesn’t correspond with the familiar. It isn’t time for office yet; the Home Depot’s still closed and Jimmy’s soccer practice is still at 10 am.  “Honey will you get up and answer the door. There are some bearded men outside the window and I think they want something.”

But it may be no dream. David Cameron just warned Britain to brace for a possible ISIS attack on its shores. The jayvee ISIS team Obama scoffed at sure gets around. Cameron says ISIS ‘is more dangerous than al-Qaeda’. The doorman the president contemptuously glowered over at the summits is acting uppity too. That doorman, Vladimir Putin, has just used the “N” word in Ukraine. The “N” word being “Nuclear”.

Russia’s president, speaking at a pro-Kremlin youth camp at a lake near Moscow, said “it’s best not to mess with us,” adding “I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers”

And maybe nuclear ain’t enough neither. Foreign Policy writes that “buried in a Dell computer captured in Syria are lessons for making bubonic plague bombs and missives on using weapons of mass destruction.”  If they can get it, they’ll use it. So far the enemy’s — can we use that word yet? — wrath has been limited only by capability and not by intent. That capability has just increased exponentially. The Long War Journal says radical Islam is seizing territory. Territory gives them a secure base, legitimacy and the resources of a country.

ISIS has just handed Assad one of his biggest defeats ever achieving the equivalent of seizing Hawaii and capturing Pearl Harbor. The Business Insider reports:

Over the past two months, jihadist fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) have waged an increasingly successful campaign against Assad regime forces in Syria’s northern Raqqa province, culminating in the capture of al-Tabqa Airfield earlier this week.

The defeat in Raqqa has major military implications — it represents a loss at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of war, raising questions about whether the regime or Syrian rebels can defend other, more important areas of the country against further ISIS offensives.

The three key regime positions in the province — the 17th Division headquarters outside Raqqa City, the 93rd Brigade garrison at Ayn Essa, and the military airfield near al-Tabqa — were distant from one another, largely isolated (requiring resupply by air) and under sporadic attack by rebel forces for some time.

After a long period of uneasy coexistence in the area, ISIS began serious attacks against the division headquarters in July. Once it fell on July 25, the group moved on and captured the 93rd Brigade facility on August 7, then began operations against al-Tabqa Airfield on August 19. After four assaults, sustained bombardment, several suicide vehicle attacks, and regime evacuation of some of the defenders by air, al-Tabqa finally fell on August 24.

The regime did little to save its positions other than provide aerial resupply and supporting airstrikes. Local forces made a few attempts to assist one another but without much effect. So over the course of three months, the regime’s military position in the province, and the forces that maintained it, were effectively destroyed.

This stands as the most significant defeat of regime forces since the beginning of the rebellion.

They’re not junior varsity any more. The Raqqa defeat also demonstrates ISIS’ mastery of regional and tribal politics. Mary Madigan quotes Lee Smith:

…ISIS is not exactly what we’ve become accustomed to seeing in the Middle East of late. “This is not a classic insurgency,” says Itani, “or a non-state actor. Rather, it’s a state-building organization.” ISIS’s effort right now is to secure borders and lines of communication. Comparing ISIS’s project with al Qaeda’s, Itani notes that bin Laden’s logic was to draw the United States into conflict with the Muslim world in the hope of making the people so disgusted with their regimes that al Qaeda could take over. ISIS is different: It aims to take territory, hold it, and build a state. That is, at a moment when much of the rest of the Middle East is moving toward chaos, the Islamic State is consolidating. …

ISIS’s first success in tribal politics was in Raqqa, which it snatched from the hands of the Assad regime and turned into its capital. Until the middle of 2013, Raqqa remained loyal to Assad. Although few Syrian security forces were present in the city, and the capital, Damascus, is nearly 300 miles away, making it virtually impossible to maintain communications and supply lines, Raqqa remained in Assad’s control because the city was run by the Sharabeen tribe.

In the tribal world, the Sharabeen are not part of the elite. They are a cattle-raising tribe, considerably less prestigious than, say, the camel-raising Shammar, one of the biggest tribes in the Middle East, whose members are known for their valor. When the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, Abdul-Aziz Ibn Saud, defeated the Shammar in 1910, the tribe pledged allegiance to him. Even as the British and French forced Ibn Saud to relinquish much of the Shammar territory he’d won, the Saudi king issued many Shammar Saudi passports.

Former Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, father of Bashar, well understood the significance of the ties between the Shammar and the Saudis. To counter Saudi influence in Raqqa, he propped up the Sharabeen, funding them, arming them, and giving them government jobs. All this came at the expense of the Shammar, many of whom picked up and moved to Saudi Arabia. When the anti-Assad rebellion erupted in 2011, Riyadh sent some Shammar tribal leaders back to Syria, like onetime head of the Syrian National Council Ahmed al-Jarba. The potential return of the powerful Shammar became a pressing concern not just for the Sharabeen, but for other tribal groups as well, which is what prompted 14 Raqqa clans to pledge allegiance to ISIS in November 2013. This is how Raqqa turned, quickly and peacefully, from an Assad stronghold into ISIS’s capital.

Got an opinion on that Mr. President? Well maybe he’ll read a prepared statement after attending to more urgent business.  Obama to interrupt weekend fundraising trip, will return to DC… attend MSNBC wedding.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is interrupting a weekend trip to return to the White House.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama changed his plans for Friday and will return to Washington late in the evening after fundraisers in New York and Rhode Island, instead of overnighting in New York as originally planned.

Earnest said Obama himself made the decision to return to the White House and that it was unrelated to any current events

He’s not worried about the damage his optics are doing to the Democratic Party. They’ll vote for him: he’s got them by the Obamaphone and the Obamacare.  And the ObamaDream, which is another word for bribing people by promising them lower middle class American jobs.  CBS says Obama plans to blame the Republicans not giving him enough money to deport illegal aliens, which he would have done, giving him no choice but to in effect, legalize them.  Lisa Navarrete, adviser to the president of La Raza, told Breitbart News that 5 million people was the floor of what her organization could accept.

President Obama’s lawyers are developing a careful legal rationale that would allow the administration to take executive action on immigration enforcement while holding up in a potential court challenge. Republicans are expected to greet any unilateral moves by the White House with intense opposition.

The lawyers are expected to argue that Congress has left the administration with too few resources to enforce every law and deport all of the roughly 11.5 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. That forces the government to prioritize which immigrants to remove from the country.

It’s a perfect storm.  And storms blow down houses and sweep away institutions.  Obama’s proposed executive actions and the planned Islamist attacks on the West are doing just that: sweeping things away. Too bad he doesn’t realize he and his buddies are standing on the carpet. Got an opinion on that, Mr. President? A Carnegie Foundation article by a former US ambassador to Germany says In Ukraine, the Old Order Ends in a Farce.

Six months after Russian intervention in Ukraine began, hopes for long-term democracy and integration between Russia and the West are near total collapse. A conflict on Europe’s periphery has ignited crosscurrents of violence and confusion that are already bordering on farce. Neither side seems to know what it is doing. Clowns are everywhere.

The EU’s poorly conceived European Neighborhood Policy flutters in the winds of war, lacking even a semblance of relevance to the crisis it created. Self-proclaimed “republics” rise and fall in accordance with whatever support Russia wishes to provide them with. Drunken “separatists” (or was it Russian regulars?) shoot down a civilian airliner with horrible consequences. A mysterious Russian aid convoy shows up and then leaves.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s game plan is impossible to decipher. Europe worries, and the United States dissembles, trying hard not to become involved in yet another failed state. Popular opinion in Russia celebrates Western sanctions as a test of a national spirit attuned to the nineteenth century.

May the farce be with you. Why, oh why is the alarm clock ringing today? There are many reasons. But one no doubt is that the American elite put an empty hat on a pole and ordered everyone who passed to bow down to it, as if bowing were the most natural thing in the world.

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