Author Topic: Picking Cain's Brains  (Read 38456 times)

Cain

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Re: Picking Cain's Brains
« Reply #105 on: November 05, 2015, 10:56:46 pm »
The internet is fucking dumb.  The Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis have been blowing up tanks in the Sinai since 2014, and pledged themselves to the Caliphate less than a month after it was declared.  No-one else bothered to pay attention to the insurgency there in the media, because it wasn't "sexy" enough, but the Sinai ISIS fanbois have been capping Egyptian police officers and carrying bombings at a fairly consistent rate.  Rumour has it they have support from Muslim Brotherhood aligned former military officers and Qatar, but that could be Sisi blowing smoke up everyone's arses, since it was his coup that toppled the democratically elected MB government.

And you'd have to be at least twice as dumb as the CIA actually are to think killing a couple of hundred civilians is going to affect a change in Russia's strategy in any way.  Russia already claims they're bombing the shit out of ISIS to the home crowd, even though they're clearly not.  If this was a CIA plot, Putin would respond by...doubling down on the propaganda.  Achievement Unlocked: I killed a couple of hundred people and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.

American intelligence did apparently know something about a security lapse at the al-Sham airport, but it very much sounds like ad hoc signals intelligence that they only threw together recently.

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Re: Picking Cain's Brains
« Reply #106 on: November 05, 2015, 11:49:07 pm »
I love you, Cain.

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Re: Picking Cain's Brains
« Reply #107 on: December 23, 2015, 07:12:20 pm »

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Re: Picking Cain's Brains
« Reply #108 on: December 26, 2015, 07:30:57 pm »
It's a complex piece.  I'll tackle it when I'm back in town, in a few days.

Cain

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Re: Picking Cain's Brains
« Reply #109 on: December 28, 2015, 10:41:38 pm »
OK.

So, the Libyan arms pipeline is pretty much confirmed at this point.  Consider the words of  Libyan army commander Hamed Belkhair, when questioned about it by Reuters:

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"The weapons are not supplied to extremists, but only to the Free Syrian Army".

Especially in conjunction with this:

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A United Nations Panel report dated February this year also backs Haroun's assertions that weapons smuggling to Syria from Libya is widely known about.

"The Syrian Arab Republic has presented a prominent destination for some Libyan fighters and Libyan military materiel," the writers say.

Transfers have been organized under the supervision, or with the consent, of a range of actors in Libya and the Syrian Arab Republic."

The report adds: "the significant size of some shipments and the logistics involved suggest that representatives of the Libyan local authorities might have at least been aware of the transfers, if not actually directly involved."

The weapons then go to Turkey or Jordan, where they cross the border.  Jordan, as you may recall, was the site of a US training program for Syrian rebels.

Of course, there's no smoking gun that the CIA were involved, but the transfers specifically to the FSA and to Turkey and Jordan are...telling.  The CIA would only oversee this kind of operation, working through local actors to actually procure and transfer the goods.  The CIA regularly works with arms dealers, so this kind of operation would be nothing new or exciting.  The FSA were not the richest, or biggest faction in Syria either, so monetary considerations or a desire to see Assad overthrown at all costs are clearly not paramount here.

A DIA report from 2012 shows the US intelligence community were aware of weapon smuggling from Benghazi to Syria.

That Turkey co-opted the rebels and purposefully supported the most extreme elements is, I think, now without question.  They definitely backed Jabhat al-Nusra, and I believe they back IS against the Kurdish YPG, and to a lesser extent against the regime and the Saudi-backed rebel groups.

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Germany, Israel and Russia were in contact with the Syrian army, and able to exercise some influence over Assad’s decisions – it was through them that US intelligence would be shared.

At least two of these are correct - it was recently confirmed the BND was in contact with Syrian state intelligence, and of course Russia is as well.  Via Russia, it appears Israel is cooperating and sharing intelligence with the regime (not that this will stop the tiresome ISIS = Israel theories).

This, however, is false:

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Russia had an alliance of very long standing with Syria, and was worried by the threat to its only naval base on the Mediterranean, at Tartus.

Russia recently negotiated and renewed treaties with Cyprus which would offset the loss of Tartus.  Obviously, they'd rather not lose it, but it's not a vital strategic interest, per se.

US intelligence cooperation with Syria is definitely correct.  You may recall the Canadian citizen America deported to Syria?  Can't comment on what caused the bust-up, maybe that is the case, maybe something else happened.

Can't comment on JCS circumventing Obama on Libyan arms, though there is definitely some intelligence sharing going on at a military level.  After a year of sorties and bombing raids, there hasn't been a single Syrian state on USAF fire incident.  Someone is clearly communicating US attack information, to prevent Assad's anti-airforce systems and fighters from engaging them.

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Re: Picking Cain's Brains
« Reply #110 on: December 29, 2015, 05:24:12 am »
So Israel is not supporting Daesh?

Cain

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Re: Picking Cain's Brains
« Reply #111 on: December 29, 2015, 09:59:26 am »
Nope.  As far back as 2013, Israeli officials were being quoted as saying they would prefer Assad remain in power, however problematic he is, than Islamists take charge.

While ISIS isn't a primary concern, Jabhat al-Nusra are dangerously close to the border.

Not everyone in Israel agrees, of course, a recent publication by the National Security Institute argued the focus should still be on ousting Assad, while nevertheless supporting Russia's intervention in the country. 

The only evidence of support I have seen has been incredibly blown beyond all proportion, in that Israel provided humanitarian assistance, including medical care, to Syrian rebels who may have been part of ISIS.  Which is unlikely in the first place because the men were described as "Syrian", which most of ISIS is not, and because they were picked up across the border.  Israeli humanitarian aid may have been quid quo pro for being allowed access to civilians (fairly usual in these sort of conflicts...."treat my men and you can treat the civilians"), may also have been a military propaganda campaign to convince the rebels that Israel is not their enemy.

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Re: Picking Cain's Brains
« Reply #112 on: December 29, 2015, 01:15:16 pm »
Thank you, Cain!  There's more meat there than I expected.

Cain

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Re: Picking Cain's Brains
« Reply #113 on: December 29, 2015, 02:41:18 pm »
No worries.  It is also worth putting this in the context of a US military campaign that, as far as most people can see, is doing very little against ISIS.

I don't believe for a minute that the Pentagon are as on the ball as they're portraying themselves to be via Hersh.  Ramadi is the key example here: the Pentagon was claiming for at least a month it wasn't going to fall.  When ISIS did their customary blitzkrieg attack, the city was taken with relative ease, only the remnants of the Sons of Iraq denying them the city centre for a time (the Iraqi army retook Ramadi recently, but only with the help of Shiite militias.  The Sunni Sons of Iraq are not going to be happy, seeing government empowered death squads who, only a decade ago were targeting them strolling around what they consider their stronghold).

Partly this is due to political constraints, Obama does not want boots on the ground.  But partly this is the fault of the military, they've shown they don't have good tactical intelligence re: ISIS and they oversold the effect of a bombing and drone attack campaign.  If it weren't for the YPG and Syrian Democratic Forces, this would be an even bigger military disaster than it already is.  Hersh is clearly being used by the military to pre-emptively cover their arse.

Brother Mythos

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Re: Picking Cain's Brains
« Reply #114 on: December 30, 2015, 04:13:34 am »
Cain,

What are your thoughts on the level of civilian support for ISIL from within Saudi Arabia?

Thanks,

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Cain

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Re: Picking Cain's Brains
« Reply #115 on: December 30, 2015, 12:51:06 pm »
There was a poll, by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy last year, that suggested ISIS was viewed favourably by 5% of the Saudi population, or about half a million people.

Polls are notoriously unreliable in that part of the world, and especially in a dictatorship like that, but I would suggest that is in the right ballpark, it could be 3-5% higher, but I'd be surprised if it was any higher (or indeed lower at all).

Of course, it depends how we are defining civilian too.  For the purposes of this, I'll ignore the elements within the Saudi aristocracy who are still bankrolling the group, against the wishes of their government, and focus on what they call the "grassroots" support.

Out of that, a small fraction, likely less than 500 people, will be materially supporting the group.  ISIS has carried out successful attacks in Saudi Arabia, suicide bombings in particular.  Much like Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in 2002-4, they're probably sourcing and building locally as opposed to smuggling them in.  To do that, however, they will need safe houses, funding, banking expertise, a bombmaker....all the little necessities of a terrorist campaign.  More interestingly, ISIS border attacks have also succeeded, on at least two occasions, in killing high ranking Saudi military officers, one general and one...brigadier, I think.  Given how protected the Saudi military officer class normally are, and how insulated they tend to be from the front lines, that suggests they also have intelligence sources reporting to them.  AQAP also made great use of intelligence assets in their Saudi campaign, but having tactical intelligence on the location of a general for assassination...that's some serious assistance.

Also worth noting here that an estimated 1500-2000ish Saudi citizens have joined up to fight with ISIS.  Some of these may have returned, and could account for part of their support network in country, though I would expect only in a command and control capacity.

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Re: Picking Cain's Brains
« Reply #116 on: December 30, 2015, 01:10:53 pm »
I don't say it enough, but I feel genuinely lucky to have access to a brain and skills such as yours, Cain.  IR is something I have scant knowledge of.  It's like pulling back a curtain.

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Re: Picking Cain's Brains
« Reply #117 on: December 30, 2015, 08:28:29 pm »
I don't say it enough, but I feel genuinely lucky to have access to a brain and skills such as yours, Cain.  IR is something I have scant knowledge of.  It's like pulling back a curtain.

I totally agree with this.  Cain, you are awesome.
If someone does the “Fine, you’re right, I’m clearly a terrible person, I’m Satan, I’m the worst person alive, I should just die” thing in response to criticism of their harmful behavior, they are trying to manipulate people and flip the situation around so that they look like a victim.

As a neuroscientist I have to disagree with the perception that anyone is doing mathematical modeling of cognitive intelligence, yet; intelligence as an economist defines it, yes, but economists are worlds away from actual cognition.


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Re: Picking Cain's Brains
« Reply #118 on: December 30, 2015, 09:44:33 pm »
So Israel is not supporting Daesh?

Why would they?
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Re: Picking Cain's Brains
« Reply #119 on: December 31, 2015, 12:08:24 am »
Thank you Cain,

If you would care to elaborate, I’d also like to know your thoughts on the Saudi aristocracy and their support for ISIL. I imagine the palace intrigue in a place like Saudi Arabia is quite interesting.