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    • Unlikely partners? How Western media largely ignored State Dept-Google-Al Jazeera plot against Assad     

    • The Western media has quietly ignored an unexpected collaboration between Washington, Google, and “independent” Al Jazeera aimed at helping to overthrow Syria’s Bashar Assad. Would they be as oblivious to a similar cozy “partnership” involving Russia?  

      Last Monday, WikiLeaks lifted the lid on a correspondence between Jared Cohen, the President of ‘Google Ideas,’ and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s staff in the summer of 2012. In his July 25, 2012 email to top State Department’s officials, Cohen pitched his about-to-be-launched “tool” to Clinton’s inner circle, asking it to “keep close hold” of it.

      The leak revealing the project, which would seem to be an outrageous scandal to some, has actually been quite difficult to spot in the news. Since WikiLeaks released the latest batch of Clinton’s emails on March 21, a Google news search spits back about 30 web sources related to the story.

    • Of those, only two – The Independent and Daily Mail – could arguably be considered major mainstream media outlets. That means there were slim chances that the eye of an average newsreader would catch wind of the State Department’s teamwork with the US’ biggest tech giant, Google, and Arab media outlet Al Jazeera.

      According to what Cohen wrote, it appears that Google’s innovative visualizer worked to “publicly track and map the defections in Syria and which parts of the government they are coming from.”

      “Our logic behind this is that while many people are tracking the atrocities, nobody is visually representing and mapping the defections, which we believe are important in encouraging more to defect and giving confidence to the opposition,” he said.

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    • They Made Him a Moron


      The strange career of Alec Ross

          Evgeny Morozov
    • One day in October 2009, I received an email from the office of Alec Ross, then the innovation adviser to Hillary Clinton. Informing me that my writing on technology and global affairs had attracted considerable interest at the State Department, the email mentioned that Ross would like to meet and chat about my work. A subsequent email, from Ross himself, asked me for advice on what the State Department should do. “What I’d really like to know,” wrote Ross, “is what are those things we can do, either materially or symbolically, to help ensure and extend Internet Freedom across the globe.”
    • Ross seemed like an intriguing type: he was the first such innovation adviser, one of the whiz kids brought in from the outside to help disrupt the stale world of U.S. diplomacy. He was a political appointee, with little experience in foreign policy. During the 2008 election campaign, Ross advised Obama’s team on technology policy; prior to that, he cofounded a nonprofit dedicated to bridging the digital divide. Here was someone young and ambitious, a poster child for Obama’s infatuation with digital technologies—after all, they had just got him elected.

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    • John Cusack and an Ex-Clinton Aide Wage a War of Tweets Over Internet Freedom

      Posted on Mar 23, 2016
    • An unlikely pair exchanged harsh words on Twitter on Saturday: former Hillary Clinton staffer Alec Ross and longtime actor John Cusack. The cause of their online brawl? A WikiLeaks tweet highlighting one of Clinton’s emails, in which Ross—her senior adviser for innovation when he wrote the message—stated:


      When Jared and I went to Syria, it was because we knew that Syrian society was growing increasingly young (population will double in 17 years) and digital and that this was going to create disruptions in society that we could potential[ly] harness for our purposes.

    • Cusack retweeted this and added: “Well that’s not very nice. ...” Ross quickly fired back: “What’s your point?” And then the war of words ensued, with both parties spending much of the day attacking each other via the social media platform.


      Ross, now an author and “advisor to investors, corporations and government leaders,” worked for Clinton from 2009 to 2013 in the State Department. During his time in the Obama administration, Ross said that defending Internet freedom was a “pillar of America’s foreign policy priorities.”

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    • The Disease is the Cure: Michael Walzer’s Solution to the Refugee Crisis
    • Greg Shupak      
    • In a recent essay for Dissent entitled “The European Crisis,” Michael Walzer offers a case study in liberal imperialist ideology. The article ostensibly offers a discussion of the challenge posed to Europe by the mass influx of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa. He urges European states to accept greater numbers of refugees than they have, albeit for a rather dubious reason:  failing to do so, he writes, will be bad for Europe. Furthermore, Walzer contends that it’s necessary to address the wars in the Middle East that have precipitated the refugees’ exodus by reinstituting a form of the inter-war colonial Mandate System. He writes that “There are countries in the world today that ought to be, for a time, not-independent and not-sovereign” and subject to an arrangement that is “like occupation.”

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    • Obama urges Russia to stop bombing 'moderate' rebels in Syria


      Russian airstrikes help push Syrian army toward major victory at Aleppo


          Thomson Reuters  <script>  if(!CBC) { var CBC = {}; }  if(!CBC.APP) { CBC.APP = {}; }  if(!CBC.APP.SC) { CBC.APP.SC = {}; }  CBC.APP.SC.authors = "Reuters";  </script>    Posted: Feb 14, 2016

    • U.S. President Barack Obama urged Russia on Sunday to stop bombing "moderate" rebels in Syria in support of its ally Bashar al-Assad, a campaign seen in the West as a major obstacle to latest efforts to end the war.


      Major powers agreed on Friday to a limited cessation of hostilities in Syria but the deal does not take effect until the end of this week and was not signed by any warring parties — the Damascus government and numerous rebel factions fighting it.

    • Russian bombing raids directed at rebel groups are meanwhile helping the Syrian army to achieve what could be its biggest victory of the war in the battle for Aleppo, the country's largest city and commercial hub before the conflict.


      There is little optimism that the deal reached in Munich will do much to end a war that has lasted five years and cost 250,000 lives.


      Complicated co-operation


      The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin and Obama had spoken by telephone and agreed to intensify cooperation to implement the Munich agreement. But a Kremlin statement made clear Russia was committed to its campaign against Islamic State and "other terrorist organisations," an indication that it would also target groups in western Syria where jihadists such as al Qaeda are fighting Assad in close proximity to rebels deemed moderate by the West.


      Russia says the "cessation" does not apply to its air strikes, which have shifted the balance of power towards Assad. It says Islamic State and the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front are the main targets of its air campaign.

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    • Hillary Clinton and the Syrian Bloodbath

    • Jeffrey Sachs Director, Earth Institute at Columbia University
    • In the Milwaukee debate, Hillary Clinton took pride in her role in a recent UN Security Council resolution on a Syrian ceasefire:



      But I would add this. You know, the Security Council finally got around to adopting a resolution. At the core of that resolution is an agreement I negotiated in June of 2012 in Geneva, which set forth a cease-fire and moving toward a political resolution, trying to bring the parties at stake in Syria together.



      This is the kind of compulsive misrepresentation that makes Clinton unfit to be President. Clinton's role in Syria has been to help instigate and prolong the Syrian bloodbath, not to bring it to a close.

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    • Western warmongers have all the answers, and they're all wrong

      Nafeez Ahmed's picture
      Friday 29 January 2016
    • The wars in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan failed not because of noble errors, but because short-sighted Western interests trumped the needs of the people. And this is why the creeping return to war will fail again
    • Despite an almost total lack of public debate, Western military escalation in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya is on the rise.

      Renewed military interventionism has been largely justified as a response to the meteoric rise of Islamic State networks, spreading across parts of the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.

      Missing from government pronouncements, though, is any acknowledgement that the proliferation of Islamist terrorism is a direct consequence of the knee-jerk response of military escalation.

      Discarded to the memory hole is the fact that before each of the major interventions in these three countries, our political leaders promised they would bring security, freedom and prosperity.

      Instead, they have done precisely the opposite.

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    • Syrian War Could Turn on the Battle for Aleppo

        • Russia is bombing rebel-held areas in Syria at a furious pace. That is giving the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, the upper hand. Meanwhile, critics accuse the United States of dithering.

          The war, approaching its sixth year, may be reaching a turning point in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and once its commercial capital. Government-aligned forces are trying to encircle its eastern half, controlled by rebels since 2012. If the government succeeds, it would be the greatest blow to the opposition in years.

          But the battlefield is unpredictable. If the government regains full control of Aleppo, will the war begin to wind down, or will it escalate?

      • What Is Assad Doing?

        Backed by the Russian airstrikes, Syrian government forces and Iran-backed militias are trying to besiege the rebel-held section of Aleppo to starve the rebels into submission — the same method government forces used to recapture another major city, Homs. Using starvation as a weapon is a war crime, but it has been widely used in the Syrian war.

        Government-aligned forces have also severed the main supply route to Turkey that delivered food, weapons and aid to rebel-held areas, leaving one remaining route.

        The United Nations is warning that about 300,000 people in the rebel-held part of Aleppo could be at risk of starvation.

        The Syrian government has also succeeded in turning humanitarian aid — food — into a negotiating chit. In talks to end the fighting among world powers on Thursday, allowing food deliveries was offered as a government concession.

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      • 'No Bashar al-Assad in the future', says Saudi foreign minister: report

        Fri Feb 12, 2016
      • BERLIN (Reuters) - Bashar al-Assad will not be ruling Syria in the future and Russia's military interventions will not help him stay in power, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told a German newspaper in an interview published on Saturday.


        "There will be no Bashar al-Assad in the future," al-Jubeir told newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

      • "It might take three months, it might take six months or three years - but he will no longer carry responsibility for Syria. Period."


        Saying that the Syrian people's determination to topple al-Assad was unbroken despite heavy Russian air strikes and persecution within the country, al-Jubeir criticized Russia's involvement in the five-year-long war.


        He said that Assad's previous calls for help to his own military, Iran, Hezbollah and Shiite militia forces from Iraq and Pakistan were all in vain.

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        Russian air strikes in Syria 'good thing': Del Ponte

      • GENEVA (AFP) - 

        Former war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, who is currently probing rights abuses in Syria, on Monday backed Russia's air strikes on "terrorist groups" in the war-torn country.

        "Overall, I think the Russian intervention is a good thing, because finally someone is attacking these terrorist groups," Del Ponte told Swiss public broadcaster RTS, listing the Islamic State group and Al-Nusra among the groups targeted.

        But Del Ponte, a member of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, quickly added that the Russians apparently "are not distinguishing enough between the terrorists and others, and that is not as good."

        Her comments came amid international bickering over the Russian air strikes and what role they played in undermining last week's peace talks to end the country's five-year war.

      • Moscow launched a bombing campaign in Syria last year at the request of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying it was targeting the Islamic State group and other jihadist organisations.

        The West has accused Russia of targeting more moderate factions that oppose Assad's regime, and Syrian activists say the strikes have killed civilians, allegations Moscow dismisses as "absurd".

        UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura last week suspended attempts to begin a dialogue between al-Assad's regime and the opposition, as Russia pressed on with its bombing campaign on the ground.

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      • After   Entering Aleppo With Russia's Help, The Syrian Army   May Set Its Sights On Raqqa
      • By Robert Fisk

          February 08,   2016 "Information   Clearing House"   -   "The   Independent" -   After   losing up to 60,000 soldiers in five years of   fighting, the Syrian army has suddenly scored its   greatest victory of the war – smashing its way   through Jabhat al-Nusra and the other rebel forces   around Aleppo and effectively sealing its fate as   Russia provided air strike operations outside the   city.


        The rebel   supply lines from Turkey to Aleppo have been cut,   but this does not mean the end of the story. For   many months, the regime’s own military authorities –   along with tens of thousands of civilians, including   many Christians – were trapped inside Aleppo and at   the mercy of shelling and mortar fire by the Nusra   fighters, who surrounded them until the army opened   the main highway south.

      •  During   this period, the only way to Aleppo was by plane   because the army held a tiny peninsula of   territory going to the airport – I flew out one   night on a military aircraft crowded with   wounded Syrian troops.
          But the   tables have turned. It is the rebels themselves   who are now surrounded, along with the tens of   thousands of civilians in their sector of the   city – but they have no airport to sustain them.   On the basis of so many other battles in this   appalling war, there is unlikely to be any   offensive for the centre of this greatest of   Syrian cities; rather it will be a slow and   grinding siege to force the insurgents to   surrender.

          In an   ironic twisting of recent history, the two Shia   villages of Nubl and Zahra – whose people had   been surrounded by rebels and starved for three   years, fed only by Syrian military airdrops –   have now been retaken by the Syrian military.

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      • Gulf countries played a role in the Syrian uprising’ India's former ambassador to Syria on how the country has changed since 2009


        V. P. Haran served as India’s Ambassador to Syria from 2009 until 2012. He speaks to Fountain Ink on how sections of the media exaggerated the uprising as well as signs that al-Qaeda was a game player since the early days of the conflict.

      • What was Syria like when you arrived in January 2009?


        Syria was a peaceful country and there was no undercurrent of tension. The Syrian economy was doing well, there was over five per cent growth rate on average. Unemployment was at about eight per cent but Syrians who were unemployed could find work in the Gulf. There was, however, a high percentage of educated unemployed. Syria also had a comfortable foreign debt position at 12.5 per cent of the GDP. Much of the debt owed was to Russia which wrote off much of the debt. The real problem was the drought in the north-east that had led to massive relocation to the south and south–west.

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      • Macmillan backed Syria assassination plot 

          Documents show White House and No 10 conspired over oil-fuelled invasion plan 
      • Nearly 50 years before the war in Iraq, Britain and America sought a secretive "regime change" in another Arab country they accused of spreading terror and threatening the west's oil supplies, by planning the invasion of Syria and the assassination of leading figures. 

        Newly discovered documents show how in 1957 Harold Macmillan and President Dwight Eisenhower approved a CIA-MI6 plan to stage fake border incidents as an excuse for an invasion by Syria's pro-western neighbours, and then to "eliminate" the most influential triumvirate in Damascus.


        The plans, frighteningly frank in their discussion, were discovered in the private papers of Duncan Sandys, Mr Macmillan's defence secretary, by Matthew Jones, a reader in international history at Royal Holloway, University of London.

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      • As Syria Rebels Face Rout, Allies Saudi, Turkey May Send Troops: Experts
      • ated: February 06, 2016 15:42 IST
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        As Syria Rebels Face Rout, Allies Saudi, Turkey May Send Troops: Experts

        Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the claims 'laughable'.

        Riyadh:  With rebel forces facing the prospect of a crushing defeat by Syria's Russian-backed regime, their allies Saudi Arabia and Turkey may send in limited numbers of ground troops, analysts say.

         Riyadh on Thursday left open the possibility of deploying soldiers, saying it would "contribute positively" if the US-led coalition against the ISIS terror group in Syria decides on ground action.

         The fate of Saudi-backed Syrian armed opposition groups fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad is also a major concern for the kingdom.

        "I think Saudi Arabia is desperate to do something in Syria," said Andreas Krieg, of the Department of Defence Studies at King's College London.

         Krieg said the "moderate" opposition is in danger of being routed if Aleppo falls to the regime, whose forces have closed in on Syria's second city, backed by intense Russian air strikes.

         "This is a problem for Saudi and Qatar as they have massively invested into Syria via the moderate opposition as their surrogate on the ground," said Krieg, who also serves as a consultant to the Qatari armed forces.

         Russia, which along with Saudi Arabia's regional rival Iran is a major ally of Assad, meanwhile has accused Turkey of "preparations for an armed invasion" of Syria.

         Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the claims "laughable".

         But Krieg said Erdogan's policy in Syria has achieved nothing so far.

        Peace Efforts Stalled

         "Turkey and Saudi need to turn this war around. So any Saudi engagement would be in cooperation with Doha and Ankara," he added.

         Aleppo province is among the main strongholds of Syria's armed opposition, which is facing possibly its worst moment since the beginning of the nearly five-year war, at a time when peace efforts have stalled.

         The Saudi-backed opposition umbrella group, the High Negotiations Committee, says it will not return to peace talks which recently collapsed in Geneva unless its humanitarian demands are met.

         "The Saudis believe that the chance of a peaceful solution for the Syrian crisis is very limited," said Mustafa Alani, of the independent Gulf Research Centre.

         "They don't see that there is a real pressure on the regime to give major concessions... They think eventually it will have to end in the battlefield," Alani said.

         "Turkey is enthusiastic about this option (of sending ground troops) since the Russians started their air operation and tried to push Turkey outside the equation," he added.

         Alani said the Saudis are serious about committing troops "as part of a coalition, especially if the Turkish forces are going to be involved".

         But he and other analysts said Saudi involvement would be limited, given its leadership of a separate Arab coalition fighting in Yemen for almost a year and guarding the kingdom's southern border from attacks by Iran-backed Yemeni rebels.

        Saudi Special Forces

         "They are overstretched. But in principle I think they will not hesitate to send a certain number of their fighters to fight in Syria," Alani said, adding that this would probably include Saudi special forces.

         Turkey and Saudi already belong to a US-led coalition which officially has 65 members. It has been bombing ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq, as well as training local forces to fight the extremists.

         Krieg said that with Saudi and other Gulf kingdoms "bogged down" in Yemen, he could only foresee a possible expansion of "train and equip" missions involving Gulf special forces to help rebels in Syria.

         "Saudi and Qatar have already networks on the ground," he said, viewing Doha as a link between Riyadh and Ankara as relations improve.

         On Friday, US Central Command spokesman Pat Ryder welcomed Saudi Arabia's willingness to send soldiers against ISIS.

         The United States has been calling on coalition members to do more.

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      • Syrian Forces Press Aleppo, Sending Thousands Fleeing

        • Mr. Assad’s forces also broke the insurgents’ siege of two towns near Aleppo, Nubol and Zahra, which had survived on government airdrops of food. People there were celebrating on Friday and thanking the troops in videos posted on social media.
        • The Dirty War on Syria

          Global Research, November 27, 2015
        • The following text is the introductory chapter of  Professor Tim Anderson’s forthcoming book entitled The Dirty War on Syria
        • Although every war makes ample use of lies and deception, the dirty war on Syria has relied on a level of mass disinformation not seen in living memory. The British-Australian journalist Philip Knightley pointed out that war propaganda typically involves ‘a depressingly predictable pattern’ of demonising the enemy leader, then demonising the enemy people through atrocity stories, real or imagined (Knightley 2001). Accordingly, a mild-mannered eye doctor called Bashar al Assad became the new evil in the world and, according to consistent western media reports, the Syrian Army did nothing but kill civilians for more than four years. To this day, many imagine the Syrian conflict is a ‘civil war’, a ‘popular revolt’ or some sort of internal sectarian conflict. These myths are, in many respects, a substantial achievement for the big powers which have driven a series of ‘regime change’ operations in the Middle East region, all on false pretexts, over the past 15 years.

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        • Suppose a respectable opinion poll found that Bashar al-Assad has more support than the Western-backed opposition. Would that not be major news?
        • December 11, 2015


          By Stephen Gowans

        • In the view of Syrians, the country’s president, Bashar al Assad, and his ally, Iran, have more support than do the forces arrayed against him, according to a public opinion poll taken last summer by a research firm that is working with the US and British governments. [1]


          The poll’s findings challenge the idea that Assad has lost legitimacy and that the opposition has broad support.


          The survey, conducted by ORB International, a company which specializes in public opinion research in fragile and conflict environments, [2] found that 47 percent of Syrians believe that Assad has a positive influence in Syria, compared to only 35 percent for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and 26 percent for the Syrian Opposition Coalition.

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        • What the Syrian Constitution says about Assad and the Rebels
        • By Stephen Gowans


          The idea that the uprising against the Syrian government is inspired by a grassroots movement thirsting for a pluralist, democratic state is a fiction. The opposition’s chief elements are Islamists who seek to establish a Sunni-dominated Islamic state in place of a Syrian government they revile for being secular and dominated by Alawi “heretics.” “Al Qaeda-linked groups…dominate rebel ranks,” notes The Wall Street Journal. [1] “There is frustration with the West’s inability to help nurture a secular military or political opposition to replace Mr. Assad,” echoes The New York Times. [2] “Islamic forces seem to be ascendant within the opposition,” observes Gerald F. Seib. [3]


          Indeed, almost from the opening moments of the latest outbreak of Islamic unrest in Syria, the government has said that while some protesters have legitimate grievances, the uprising is driven by militant Islamists with foreign backing.” [4] It’s no secret that Saudi Arabia and Qatar- monarchies which abominate democracy—are furnishing Islamist militants with arms, while Turkey, Jordan, Israel, France, Britain and the United States are also lending support.

        • Syria’s post-colonial history is punctuated by Islamist uprisings. The Muslim Brotherhood organized riots against the government in 1964, 1965, 1967 and 1969. It called for a Jihad against then president Hafiz al-Assad, the current president’s father, denigrating him as “the enemy of Allah.” By 1977, the Mujahedeen were engaged in a guerrilla struggle against the Syrian army and its Soviet advisers, culminating in the 1982 occupation of the city of Hama. The Syrian army quelled the occupation, killing 20,000 to 30,000. Islamists have since remained a perennial source of instability in Syria and the government has been on continual guard against “a resurgence of Sunni Islamic fundamentalists.” [5] The resurgence, touched off by uprisings in surrounding countries, prompted Glen E. Robinson to write in Current History that the rebellion was a continuation of “Syria’s Long Civil War.” [6]


          But the Western media, echoing former colonialist powers and high officials in Washington, would call it something different: a popular, grassroots uprising against a brutal dictator. Today, however, the flood of YouTube videos by Islamic terrorists, chronicling their killings of POWs, eviscerations of captured soldiers, and barbecuing of heads, has spoiled the narrative. It’s no longer possible to angelize the Syrian rebellion as a popular insurrection against dictatorship. Now even the Wall Street Journal and New York Times share Assad’s view.

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        • Syrian deal thwarted by Obama’s call for Assad to resign


          Analysis: Crisis might have been resolved in 2011 if US president had not intervened

        • The Syrian crisis might have been resolved in 2011 if US president Barack Obama had not declared on August 18th that year that his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad had to “step aside”.


          This view is supported by former US defence secretary Chuck Hagel who said earlier this month: “We have allowed ourselves to get caught and paralysed on our Syrian policy by the statement that ‘Assad must go’.”


          It appears Obama intended to continue with a policy of removing Assad, initiated by the George W Bush administration.

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        • Are U.S. Special Forces Facing a Syrian 'Black Hawk Down'?
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          As part of an expanding campaign in the region, American special operations forces have taken the Rmeilan air base in Syria. The base is located in the northeastern part of Syria near the Turkish and Iraqi borders—which is an area dominated by the Kurds.


          According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR)—which is affiliated with the opposition—the U.S. advisors arrived at the Rmelian base several weeks ago. The base’s infrastructure is being expanded so that it can support U.S. military operations in the area. U.S. helicopters are already using the base according to the SOHR. The group expects that fixed-wing aircraft will soon operate from the runways, which are currently being expanded.

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          U.S. Central Command spokesman U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren would not comment on the matter. “That operation is ongoing. But because of the special nature of these forces, it's very important that we not discuss specifically where they're located,” Warren told reporters Wednesday, according to Military Times.


          The United States is likely to use the base for bringing in supplies and weapons for the various opposition groups that are fighting ISIS and the Assad regime. The base could also be used to base strike aircraft—which would increase sortie generation rates. The base might additionally serve as a staging ground for special operations forces—a likely scenario in the short term.


          Given that the Pentagon is not commenting on what forces are operating in the area, it’s difficult to say with certainty what kinds of troops are deployed on the ground. What is known, however, is that the U.S. military deployed about fifty special operations troops to Syria in December. Those troops have been in contact with opposition forces and have been coordinating with U.S. air power.

        • The U.S. forces currently operating at Rmelian might include U.S. Air Force Special Tactics Squadron operators, such as combat controllers, pararescue jumpers and special operations weathermen. Those units specialize in scouting out and preparing austere airfields behind enemy lines and calling in air strikes. Special tactics squadron airmen—particularly combat controllers—are often embedded with U.S. Army Special Forces and U.S. Navy SEAL units. Indeed, the shadowy 24th Special Tactics Squadron is assigned to the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC)—which includes the Delta Force, Intelligence Support Activity and the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, also known as SEAL Team Six.

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