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 Post subject: Cubans to Syria
PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2015 8:06 pm 
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US sources: Russia has brought Cuban troops to Syria

DEBKAfile October 14, 2015, 10:31 PM (IDT)
A Russian airlift has just carried a Cuban military unit to fight for Bashar Assad’s army in Syria, according to US defense sources, who add that the Cuban chief of staff Gen. Leopoldo Cintra Frias has just also arrived in Syria. DEBKAfile: The Cuban military injection into the Syria war expands the Russian warfront. Finding Cuban troops to drive Syrian tanks in assaults on Syrian rebels is a major achievement for Moscow, especially since Washington has presented the recent reconciliation between the US and Cuba as one of the great diplomatic feats of the Obama administration.

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 Post subject: Re: Cubans to Syria
PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2015 8:07 pm 
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American officials have confirmed a report from the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies that Cuban special forces are operating on the ground in Syria in defense of dictator Bashar al-Assad, and are expected to operate Russian tanks in battles against anti-Assad rebels.

In a press release, the Miami institute revealed that there was evidence General Leopoldo Cintra Frias, head of the Cuban Armed Forces, had visited Syria recently and consulted with both Assad’s generals and Russian advisers, who are in Syria to defend Assad against assorted militias, possibly including the Islamic State terrorist group. Their report suggests that Syrian troops have been reinforced with Russian technology, particularly armed tanks, but that Assad’s soldiers are untrained in operating these vehicles and will need the Cubans’ help. “It will also operate as a military force against Isis and other opponents of the Assad regime,” the Institute said of the Cuban contingent.

Fox News confirmed the report with a U.S. official, who cited intelligence reports that confirmed Frias’ presence. The source told Fox News that Russian planes may have shipped the Cuban soldiers into Syria, as Cuban military personnel often train in Russia before returning home. In addition to the U.S. official, Fox News cites the Institute’s report indicating that an “Arab military officer” saw Cubans in the Damascus airport.

The PanAmerican Post reports that, in addition to Frias’ consulting help, it is estimated that around 300 Cuban soldiers are currently operating in Syria.

Speaking before the United Nations General Assembly in September, Cuban dictator Raúl Castro, a longtime ally of Bashar al-Assad, advised the audience to keep their militaries out of Syria. “Let the people resolve their own problems,” Castro said. Since then, Cuba’s staunch ally Russia has disregarded the advice and begun airstrikes against anti-Assad forces in Syria, which has apparently prompted Havana to rethink its position on intervention in Syria.

“It is a slap in the face by Raúl Castro to President Barack Obama,” said Dr. José Azel, a scholar at the University of Miami, of Cuba’s operation in Syria. “This should affect the normalization process with the United States,” Azel suggested, but adding that President Obama was “obsessed with these relations” and may not want to add tension to the relationship with Cuba by challenging Castro’s geopolitical mischief in any way.

Castro’s support for Assad contradicts President Obama’s repeated statements calling for Assad to step down. In the same General Assembly session that Castro urged the international community not to intervene in Syria, President Obama called Assad a “tyrant… who drops barrel bombs to massacre innocent children” and that he must be removed from power as soon as possible. President Obama’s statement contradicted Secretary of State John Kerry, who had said the same week that Assad’s “long-term presence” was necessary for peace to be established in Syria.

Following Russia’s invasion of Syria in late September, President Obama vowed to find a “compromise” with Russia, whose leadership has insisted that Assad remain in power in Syria indefinitely.

As Politico wrote in May, the Cuban military will be significantly strengthened by President Obama’s overtures to the Castro regime– a fact that may now embolden sworn White House enemy Assad, as well. Opening American tourism trade to Cuba will directly fund the Cuban military, writes former State Department representative James Bruno:

Today, senior FAR [Revolutionary Armed Forces] officers are in charge of sugar production, tourism, import-export, information technology and communications, civil aviation and cigar production. It is estimated that at least 60 percent of Cuba’s economy and 40 percent of foreign exchange revenues are in the hands of the military and that 20 percent of workers are employed by the FAR’s holding company, GAESA.

Tourists sipping a mojito at Varadero beach, flying by commuter to lush resorts in the Cuban keys, visiting historic attractions, enjoying the cuisine at a five-star hotel or lighting up a Cohiba after one of those meals are unconsciously contributing to the coffers of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias and the communist government to the tune of several billion dollars a year.

Bruno, who negotiated extensively with the Cuban military while working for the State Department, wrote then, in what now reads as tragic irony, that “our most reliable partner on that long-isolated island is probably going to be the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias, Cuba’s military establishment.”

That the Cuban government has decided to exercise its military muscle in Assad’s name not surprising. Cuba has been allied with Syria for decades. Cuba voted against a UN General Assembly resolution calling for Assad to resign in 2012 following extensive attacks on Sunni Muslims civilians (along with Cuba were Venezuela, North Korea, and Zimbabwe, among other rogue states). Havana hosted Assad in more peaceful times, in 2010, when the Syrian leader paid homage to Cuban poet José Martí following a meeting in Caracas with Hugo Chávez. Two years later, Raúl Castro met with a Syrian envoy in Havana to confirm his support for Assad.

In addition to supporting Assad, the communist Cuban regime has a long history of sending young Cuban men off to die in wars of little consequence to the Cuban people. Most notable among these is the Cuban intervention in Angola, in which at least 10,000 Cubans died. Fox News notes that the U.S. official confirming intervention in Syria has described the affair as akin to the “Cuba-Angola arrangement.”

The Cuban government was paid at least $250 million for sending troops to Angola, according to a 1988 Atlantic piece. The piece notes that, while “some 3,000 East Germans and 1,500 Russians are also in Angola… the Cubans do the fighting and the dying.”

The Atlantic notes that, in addition to Angola, Cuba’s military imperialism has extended to Ghana, Algeria, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, South Yemen, and, yes, Syria:

In 1973, probably at Moscow’s behest, Castro dispatched 500 Cuban tank commanders to Syria. These men performed well and died well in the Yom Kippur War with Israel. Not long after their debut in Syria, Cuban military personnel were training, arming, and advising Polisario guerrillas who were fighting for the independence of the Western Sahara.

http://www.breitbart.com/national-secur ... -in-syria/

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 Post subject: Re: Cubans to Syria
PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2015 8:07 pm 
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The Key Players in the Syria Crisis, Explained.

Ian Bremmer· Tuesday, October 13, 2015

President at Eurasia Group, Foreign Affairs Columnist & Editor-at-Large at TIME and Global Research Professor at New York University

http://ianbremmer.com/



Four years ago, there were 22 million people living in Syria. As many as 12 million are now gone. More than 200,000 have been killed, 7.6 million have fled their homes, but remain inside Syria. More than four million more have fled the country.

The scale of violence in Syria. Source: The New York Times

The security vacuum in Syria has attracted a dangerous mix of players. Syria’s President Assad is reaching out to old friends. ISIS is entrenched. The US and some of its allies are involved. Russia’s President Putin has charged into the fray. Turkey’s President Erdogan is ordering airstrikes, the Saudis are issuing threats, and Iranian soldiers are already on the ground. Qatar, Syrian Kurds, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah are also important players.
In recent days, we’ve learned a new military term. “Deconfliction” is the process of changing the flight path of an aircraft or weapon to avoid an accidental collision. In Syria, this word refers to a lot more than just flight patterns. Given the number of players in this small arena, how can this conflict possibly end well? Here's a breakdown of what each player wants.
The United States
What does the Obama administration want? To get rid of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and destroy ISIS.
What has President Obama pledged to do? To “hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons” and to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS.
What is the Obama administration actually doing? As for Assad, Obama famously drew a red line before his use of chemical weapons. When Assad crossed that line, Obama backed off threats of force and accepted a Russian-brokered compromise that forced Assad to give up his remaining banned weapons.


Radar tracking of Russian (green) and US (yellow) aircraft over Syria. Source: CBS News.


Since September 2014, the US has joined allies in bombing ISIS and other jihadi groups. An earlier attempt to train Syrian rebels to take down both Assad and ISIS has become a serious political embarrassment. The US is now preparing to do more. The president has announced a new plan to train and arm 5,000 Syrian rebels to team with 20,000 Kurdish fighters to directly attack ISIS strongholds with support from coalition aircraft from France, Australia, Canada, Turkey and other countries.
The problem? Beyond the question of whether any of its goals is achievable without an unthinkably costly ground war, unless you believe that a patchwork of Syrian rebel groups is ready to govern what’s left of Syria, and that Iran and Russia will choose not to interfere, the removal of Assad and destruction of ISIS are not compatible goals.
Russia
What does Putin want? To strengthen long-time ally Assad, assert that Russia is an international player with national interests to protect outside its immediate neighborhood, boost Russian pride in the country’s military prowess, and secure an end to European sanctions by presenting Russia as a force for long-term stability in Syria that can ease Europe’s refugee crisis.


Bashar Assad and Vladimir Putin. Source: Handelsblatt


What does Putin say he’s doing? Joining the international fight against “terrorists,” an enemy of civilization.
What is Putin actually doing? Defining terrorists to include US- and Saudi-backed Syrian rebels who oppose Assad. He has ordered the bombing of those groups to protect the Syrian president, Russia’s position in the region, and its only port facility outside the former Soviet Union. He’s also dropping a few bombs on ISIS to create the appearance of cooperation with the West.
The problem? Putin doesn’t have the level of domestic support for action in Syria that he has in Ukraine. Just 14 percent of Russians surveyed in a recent poll favor direct military involvement to support Syria’s president. Nearly 70 percent are opposed. Other polls show much higher support for attacks on ISIS, and that’s part of why Putin has chosen to sell his action on these terms. But what happens if something goes wrong? Or if declaring war on ISIS triggers a terrorist attack in Moscow? Might Russia find itself sucked into deeper trouble?
Iran
What does the Iranian leadership want? To bolster Assad, its most valuable ally in the Middle East, beat back the ISIS threat to both the Syrian and Iraqi governments, and prove that a nuclear deal with the US and its allies does not mean Iran has gone soft.
What does the Iranian leadership say it’s doing? It’s not saying much publicly. Iran has long preferred to play this game behind the scenes.


Qasem Soleimani, head of Iran's Quds force. Source: ISNA


What is the Iranian leadership actually doing? Until recently, Iran confined its support for Assad to financial backing and weaponry for the Syrian president and support for Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi Shia militia groups fighting inside Syria. But Reuters has reported that Lebanese sources say hundreds of heavily armed Iranian soldiers have now entered Syria to support Assad directly.
The problem? It’s the lifting of sanctions, and the hoped-for economic surge expected to follow, that enjoys solid popular support inside Iran. If Iranians that are already skeptical of their government decide these gains are being squandered on military adventurism, the clerical leadership could lose a lot of the good will they’ve won back since the election of reformist President Hassan Rouhani.
Saudi Arabia
What do the Saudis want? Assad gone, the Russians chastened, and ISIS contained.
What do the Saudis say they’re doing? “ There is no future for Assad in Syria,” said Saudi foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir last week, but beyond calling for a no-fly zone to undermine Assad’s ability to bomb rebels, the Saudis haven’t taken on a direct role—though they are threatening direct military action if Assad doesn’t leave.
What are the Saudis actually doing? Providing financial support for Sunni rebels threatening Assad from the south and threatening to sell them much more sophisticated weaponry.
The problem? The Saudis are already directly involved in a civil war in Yemen. The Saudis also face a declining economy as lower oil prices take a toll on the government’s longer-term ability to buy public support through higher spending. Increased oil production from Iraq and the lifting of sanctions on Iran will cut into Saudi market share and empower the Saudis’ primary Shia rivals. All this at a time when American staying power is open to question. Finally, ISIS is useful for the Saudis when it creates trouble in Iraq and Syria, but it can become a major threat if it begins to carry out successful attacks inside Saudi territory. The fight against ISIS is one the Saudis will let others lead.
Turkey
What does President Erdogan want? Assad gone, the Russians chastened, Syrian Kurds beaten, and the return of two million Syrian refugees from Turkey back into Syria.


Syrian refugee children in a camp in Turkey. Source: The Guardian


What does Erdogan say Turkey is doing? Joining the fight against ISIS following an attack in southern Turkey in July blamed on ISIS militants.
What is Erdogan actually doing? Turkish air strikes appear mainly to have targeted Kurds in Syria (and maybe Iraq) to prevent them from providing support for Kurdish separatists inside Turkey. Erdogan’s government is also supporting rebels attacking Assad from the north and providing coalition members with access to the strategically important Incirlik air base for bombing runs against ISIS.
The problem? Turkey is at risk of making a lot of new enemies. First, Erdogan has said he feels that Russia has blindsided and bullied his country with multiple illegal intrusions into Turkish airspace en route to Syria. He has since issued threats that Russia might face a NATO response. In addition, Turkey already faces militant Kurds within the country’s southeast. Inviting new support from Iraqi and Syrian Kurds can only make matters worse.
****
What does it all add up to? Here’s one telling story. A few days after U.S. officials began talking publicly about their efforts to avoid accidental conflict with Russia in Syria, they had to walk back their talking points. The appearance that the US was cooperating with Russia, even on such a minimal scale, was causing trouble for the White House. All the US and Russia had done, the defense secretary explained, was conduct “basic technical discussions.” Even “deconfliction” seems to much to hope for.

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 Post subject: Re: Cubans to Syria
PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2015 8:11 pm 
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Inadvisable—Even by His Own Advisors?

Walter Russell Mead & Staff
The American Interest
Posted: Oct 14, 2015 - 2:09 pm

President Obama responds with contempt to advice from outside experts, Eliot Cohen wrote in his column on Tuesday, an unattractive and self-sabotaging habit. The same day, Politico came out with an exposé confirming the President’s unwillingness to listen on the issue of Syria—not only to outsiders, but also to those within his Administration, even at the highest levels. Here’s a damning paragraph:

Sources familiar with administration deliberations said that Obama’s West Wing inner circle serves as a brick wall against dissenting views. The president’s most senior advisers — including National Security Adviser Susan Rice and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough — reflect the president’s wariness of escalated U.S. action related to Syria or Russia and, officials fear, fail to push Obama to question his own deeply rooted assumptions. “Susan and Denis channel him,” says a former administration official who has witnessed the
dynamic.

Obama’s top advisors have pushed for more, but the President hasn’t listened yet:

In senior meetings, some of Obama’s top national security officials have pressed for a bolder response to Putin’s muscle-flexing in Syria. They include Kerry, who has argued for establishing a no-fly zone in Syria, an option Obama recently suggested is “half-baked.”

A former Cold War nuclear deterrence expert, Defense Secretary Ash Carter has fretted that the
U.S. isn’t standing up firmly to Putin’s provocations. And CIA Director John Brennan has complained that Putin is bombing Syrian rebel fighters covertly backed by his agency with
seeming impunity.
Meanwhile, this lackadaisical policy has alienated Russia experts in the Administration:

Obama’s refusal to take firmer action against Moscow has increasingly isolated several of his administration’s Russia specialists, who almost uniformly take a harder line toward Putin than does the president himself. They include Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs; Celeste Wallander, the National Security Council’s senior director for Russia and Eurasia; and Evelyn Farkas, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. Farkas’ recent announcement that she will exit the Obama
administration this fall raised eyebrows among officials aware of her frustration that Obama hasn’t responded more forcefully to Putin’s annexation of Crimea and his support for pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east. (Farkas has told friends that she is not resigning over policy disputes.)

As one former advisor summed it up, “This is driven by one man, and one man only, and it is Barack Obama.”

The question is, what is that one man thinking? Eliot Cohen answers that question as best as one can outside of the President’s inner sanctum in that must-read column. As he says, just because the Administration probably won’t listen to the larger discussion of first-order problems that outside experts can and should conduct doesn’t mean those experts shouldn’t go forward with it. If nothing else, it will serve to prepare the next Administration, which one hopes will be more attentive. His contribution to that discussion is a great place to start.

the-american-interest.com

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