2016 Predictions from Terrorism Expert Mohammed Faqwahdi

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

We wanted to get some eclectic input on the holiday season and what we might expect in 2016, so we consulted with our Bayard & Holmes intelligence, terrorism, and asymmetric warfare expert, retired terrorist Mohammed Faqwahdi Al-Lansingi, a.k.a. Mo. We found Mo’s mobile command center and falafel truck near the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center.

 

Holidays at Rockefeller Center Image by Rob Young, wikimedia commons.

Holidays at Rockefeller Center
Image by Rob Young, wikimedia commons.

 

Hi, Mo. How’s business?

Hello, Jay and Piper. Business has been great! I’m pulling in more customers than Madam Flemstein’s whorehouse in Haifa. I can’t believe how much people tip at Christmas time. I wish we could have Christmas every month.

Sounds like you’re getting used to Christmas in America.

Well, it has taken a while. This Christmas thing, it’s so confusing. I want to be American, so I bought a Christmas tree. Then some Jews tell me you should only have a tree if you’re Christian, and the Christians tell me the tree has nothing to do with Christianity. I remember back in the old days, we only had six trees in all of Gaza.  So I’m always happy for any reason to have a tree, and I don’t care what religion it is.

Have you gotten used to Santa Claus coming around once a year?

It took a while. When I first heard some damn foreigner from the North Pole was going to break into my house, I thought he was a Mossad agent. Instead of leaving out cookies, I boobie trapped my doors with Semtex. Then I started seeing Santas everywhere. After a while I realized that Santa does not work for Mossad at all. I’m beginning to suspect that he works for a ruthless and cunning terrorist organization named WalMart.

Did you give your friends presents this year?

Oh, yes. I gave them all perimeter lights.

Perimeter lights?

Yes! Most of my neighbors use them, and they can get very fancy – red, green, blue, and some even look like icicles. I have them in three colors, myself. The HOA sends me a letter every year telling me to take them down. I don’t understand why. These Americans are so clueless with their security. Only my terrorist friends and rednecks and hippies understand that perimeter lights are for the whole year.

 

Actual photo of Mo's perimeter lights, taken on the 4th of July.

Actual photo of Mo’s perimeter lights,
taken on the 4th of July.

 

What did Santa bring you?

Santa? Santa doesn’t bring me anything. He just keeps trying to get me to sit on his lap when I go to the mall. I stay away from that guy.

But my neighbors – they gave me presents. The nice lady across the street gave me a fruitcake. In fact, I got seventeen fruitcakes this year. Like every other year, I glued them to the south side of my house. A few more Christmases like this, and my bulletproofing will be complete.

Do you have any plans for New Year’s Eve?

No. I stay home. Evading all the drunks on the road on New Year’s Eve here is more dangerous than trying to sneak over the fence into Israel from Gaza.

We stay home for the same reason. Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?

My New Year’s resolution is the same this year that it was last year and every year since I came to America. I’m resolving to not go back to the Middle East. I love America. Everyone has indoor plumbing, the government doesn’t throw people off of buildings, and the only people at risk of being stoned are the ones who smoke pot.

As our terrorist expert, do you have any predictions for 2016?

 

Bayard & Holmes Intelligence, Terrorism, and Asymmetric Warfare Expert Mohammed Faqwahdi Al-Lansingi, a.k.a. Mo

Bayard & Holmes Intelligence, Terrorism, and Asymmetric Warfare Expert
Mohammed Faqwahdi Al-Lansingi, a.k.a. Mo

 

I do have a few predictions about what we can expect from the War on Terror in 2016.

  • The start up cost for a terrorism business is very low, so we will continue to see plenty of Islamic terrorism in the West this year. How much of it your American newspapers will actually report is another matter. I can’t help you with that.
  • The Russians will continue to avoid hitting any terrorists while they are bombing innocent civilians in Syria.
  • With all the money that Iran is spending in Yemen, the terrorists there will continue running wild; however, they won’t defeat the Saudis. But the Saudis won’t defeat them, either.
  • In Turkey, Erdogan will continue to pretend that all Kurds are terrorists and will bomb them at every opportunity.
  • NATO will continue to ignore Erdogan’s bombing of the Kurds.
  • Libya will continue to struggle with Islamic terrorists, but neither ISIS nor any other terrorist group will solidify any gains in that country.
  • Any terrorism that occurs in any part of the world will be used as an excuse by defense contractors to continue to justify fantastically overpriced defense projects.
  • In broader terms, you have to understand that wherever you have ridiculously corrupt and thoroughly incompetent governments, high poverty, and a few AK-47s, you will continue to see new terrorist groups popping up. Therefore, I don’t expect to see an end to terrorism in third world regions such as Detroit or New Orleans any time soon.

Do you have any predictions about the upcoming presidential election?

Yes. I predict that all of your media outlets will make countless billions on this election, just like they did on the last one. I also predict that whomever is elected will be blamed for violence in the Middle East, starvation in Africa, and all of the failed states in Latin America. Those are the two results we can always predict for any American election.

Thank you for your time, Mo. We’ll let you get back to your customers. Enjoy that big Rockefeller Center tree.

 

Canstock 2015 Dec 2016 with popped cork

Happy New Year from Bayard & Holmes!

 

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Crooked Line in the Sand — Russia and Turkey

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

On Tuesday, November 24, 2015, two Turkish Airforce F-16s shot down a Russian SU-24. How will that incident impact Russia-Turkey relations, Russia-West relations, NATO response, and the fight against ISIS?

 

Russian Sukhoi SU-24 Image by US Dept. of Defense, public domain.

Russian Sukhoi SU-24
Image by US Dept. of Defense, public domain.

 

Not surprisingly, Russia and Turkey disagree on what occurred leading up to Turkey shooting down the SU-24.

Russia claims that its aircraft flew along the Turkish border, making sharp turns along the crooked and sharp-angled Northwestern Syrian border to avoid flying into Turkish air space. According to Russia, its pilot received no warnings prior to being shot down. The Russians claim they were hitting ISIS targets in the area.

Turkey claims that the Russian plane flew a two mile route across a small section of Turkey that borders Syria to the east and west. Turkey claims that it radioed ten warnings to the Russian pilot before shooting down the SU-24. According to Turkey, there are no ISIS terrorists in the area that the Russians were bombing – that ethnic Turks that do not support ISIS, but do oppose Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, inhabit the targeted area.

Russia’s claim that the downed SU-24 never flew across Turkish airspace is highly improbable.

The SU-24 lacks the maneuverability required to fly the route that the Russians are claiming that it flew. Also, the Russian claim that they were attacking ISIS targets in the area is most likely at least partially false. ISIS members would be scarce in that area. The Turks seem to be telling the truth about those elements of the shoot down.

However, the Turks could not have radioed ten warnings in the few seconds that would have elapsed while the SU-24 was crossing over Turkish airspace. It’s possible that they could have been broadcasting warnings as the SU-24 flew the long leg of its route that paralleled Turkish airspace. In any case, Turkey had previously warned Russia to keep their warplanes out of Turkish airspace in response to earlier incursions by Russian planes. (For one example, see Russia Upskirts Turkey.)

So why did Russia allow their pilot to fly over Turkish air space?

Given the highly regimented air combat control structure employed by the Russians, it’s not likely that the pilot acted on his own initiative. Russian avionics equipment is not cutting edge, but it is certainly adequate to prevent an accidental flyover on the particular route taken by the SU-24. My guess is that Russia had decided that their pilots should limit their incursions into Turkish air space, but that they approved the flight path that led to their plane being shot down. It seems that Russia miscalculated Turkey’s resolve concerning its incursions.

So how will this incident affect the famed “international coalition to combat ISIS”?

Since the famed coalition is more a product of rhetoric and wishful thinking than of substance, it’s not likely to matter much. Russia is in Syria to prop up the hapless Bashar Assad. Russia’s opposition to ISIS is secondary to that goal. The West opposes both ISIS and Assad. Non-ISIS rebels are receiving Western aid, and both Turkey and its Western allies are opposed to Russian airstrikes targeting non-ISIS rebels. None of this will be greatly impacted by Turkey’s shoot down of the Russian SU-24.

On the diplomatic front, Putin claimed that Turkey “backstabbed” them by shooting down the plane.

Given that no real cooperation between Turkey and Russia has occurred in Syria, and given that the Syrian regime previously shot down a Turkish F-4 on the Syrian Turkish border, it’s more accurate to describe Turkey’s actions as a “counter slash.”

Russia canceled some official meetings between Russian and Turkish ministers and has asked Russians to halt any tourist travel in Turkey. Russia is also claiming that it is scaling back plans for gas exports through a new Russian gas line across Turkey. This seems unlikely since the alternative is for Russia to continue to rely on gas lines crossing Ukraine to reach European markets. With the current low prices of crude, Russia cannot afford to scale back on energy exports. Their fragile economy needs the revenue generated by oil and gas exports.

In military terms, Russia has reacted by deploying better air defense missiles in Syria.

This, when combined with the uncertainty that Putin relies upon so heavily in his foreign policy tactics, may present a new threat to Western and Jordanian aircraft flying in Syrian airspace hunting ISIS targets.

Putin likely does not want to further escalate the situation in Syria by attacking Western or Jordanian aircraft, but he might feel justified in shooting down Turkish aircraft that fly into Syrian air space. The possibility that Russia might mistake a French or American aircraft for a Turkish aircraft cannot be ignored. In recognition of that, the West might, without much fanfare, inform Russian commanders in Syria of Western flight plans when attacking ISIS targets.

As for Russian relations with Western nations, the impact will be minimal.

The US views Erdogan as unreliable on his best day. If Erdogan has “backstabbed” anyone, it has been his NATO partners. Nobody in the US military community will forget that on the eve of the 2003 US-coalition invasion of Iraq, Erdogan withdrew his permission for US troops to invade Iraq via Turkey. More recently, Turkey has been inconsistent in dealing with the Kurds in their fight against ISIS. Erdogan claims to want to fight ISIS, but he has spent far more effort fighting Kurds both in Turkey and in Syria.

Turkey is a NATO partner, but thanks to Erdogan, it is the least trusted and least liked member. NATO will not ignore direct military aggression by Russia against Turkey, but given Erdogan’s long, ugly record of ignoring the interests of his “allies,” NATO partners are not going to allow Erdogan to control their agenda in Syria.

As for the war on ISIS and statements by US cabinet members and DOD spokesmen that “this further complicates our efforts against ISIS” – that’s more PR effort than reality.

The Obama administration’s opponents have been critical of Obama’s minimalist approach to combating ISIS. The White House now has one more excuse for not escalating efforts against the Islamic extremists.

Given the economic trouble at home and the expensive conflict in Ukraine, Putin does not want to escalate a conflict with Turkey. Given the growing discontent and political violence in Turkey, along with troubled relations with his NATO allies, Erdogan does not want to escalate a conflict with Russia. NATO does not want Turkey or Russia to escalate a conflict. Neither Erdogan nor Putin have demonstrated skill in foreign policy or diplomacy, but both have strong reasons to avoid a serious engagement with each other.

Most likely, the status quo will continue in Syria. The fight against ISIS will remain in low gear, and since Russia has few friends, economic convenience will prevent a long term freeze of Turkey-Russia relations.

Vetting Syrian Refugees — The Practical Issues

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

News and social media are awash with opinions and pseudo-facts about the Syrian refugees. One fact, though, is that hundreds of thousands of people are caught in a desperate situation between a Europe that is closing its doors and a country back home that is shattered into warring factions, some of which are sponsored by Titans with their own agendas.

As Westerners, we, as nations, strive for open hearts and open minds, and we want to help these desperate people. However, another fact we know is that thousands of jihadis are mingled among the desperate, exploiting this opportunity to position themselves in the West.

Therein lies the crux of the problem. How do we tell the difference? How is it possible to vet refugees with no recorded past?

 

Intelligence, Terrorism, and Asymmetric Warfare Expert Sheik Mullah Ali Baba Mohammed Faqwahdi al-Lansingi a.k.a. Sheik Mo

Intelligence, Terrorism, and Asymmetric Warfare Expert
Sheik Mullah Ali Baba Mohammed Faqwahdi al-Lansingi
a.k.a. Sheik Mo

 

We decided to pose the refugee dilemma to our staff intelligence, terrorism, and asymmetric warfare specialist, Sheik Mullah Ali Baba Muhammad Faqwahdi al-Lansingi, a.k.a. Sheikh Mo. Mo, a retired terrorist himself, knows how to see things through the eyes of the enemy. Jay tracked him down to his new mobile communications and command center to question him about the Syrian refugee situation.

The following is Jay’s actual conversation with Sheik Mo . . .

Sheikh Mo, that’s quite the antenna array on the roof of that lovely catering van you have there.

You know, Jay, with this van, I can talk to people all the way in Pakistan or Gaza without paying for a phone call. And I get all my favorite football games. There’s a big game in Qatar this weekend.

Isn’t that the New York City FBI building behind you?

Yes, I sell to them all day. This is a great location. So many federal employees around here. They love my food. I have health food, too. Sugar free, fat free, gluten free, caffeine free, whatever free you want, I get for you. No problem.

Thank you. I’ll keep that in mind. I can’t help but wonder, don’t any of the FBI folks or the DHS people ask you about those antennas? I mean you’ve got that vast array right at Federal Plaza….

 

Sheik Mo's catering van at Federal Plaza, NYC

Sheik Mo’s catering van at Federal Plaza, NYC

 

Antennas? They ask me all the time, “Can you get the Jets games? Can you pick up the hockey games?” They all want to know the scores, so I give them the scores from all the games. It’s great for business. I can always tell which FBI agent has a gambling problem. When I tell them the score, they turn white and choke on the falafel. I like these FBI guys. They are great customers. And so polite. They always tip.

That’s very thoughtful of you . . . Our readers need your expert input. What do you think about the Paris attacks? Many in the West are pointing to them as a reason why Syrian refugees should be refused.

Wow, those attacks were so stupid! Those ISIS people are so yesterday, like thirteen centuries behind everybody else. In the PLO, we learned that random bombings are no good. You start bombing planes and cities, and you end up eating cruise missile for breakfast. ISIS looks like they are not happy until everyone hates them. Now they are not just losing ground in Syria, they are losing ground in Europe. The way they are going, they won’t even be able to sleep in the Libyan desert. I think they might be first Islamic terror group to have to move their headquarters to the South Pole.

What do you think about the President’s plan to bring more Syrian refugees to the US?

Well, you know, I like Obama. In the last elections, I voted for him twenty times back in Lansing.

I’m sure he appreciates your support, but you should only vote once in each election.

I’m sorry, but you know me. I love this whole democracy thing. I love voting. It’s like an addiction. I need a Voters Anonymous . . . But this Syrian refugee thing sounds a little strange to me.

It’s kind of funny, everything they are saying about “vetting.” They must not know what Syria looks like today. Are they going to call the Syrian police and ask what record the guy has? Who do they think is going to answer the phone? That’s so crazy.

And UN is supposed to interview the refugees first . . . Didn’t the UN just put Saudi Arabia on Human Rights Council? The same Saudi Arabia that funded those ISIS amateurs in the first place? That UN can’t tell a jihadi from a goat in a tutu.

Then the FBI and everybody else is going to interview each one? Like they say here in New York, “Forget about it.”

The government says it will take more than eighteen months. It takes eighteen months to get no reliable information from Syria? They should pay me to do it. For half price, I get them the same “no information” in five minutes. But you Americans think it’s good when the government is slow. It makes you think they are doing something. It makes you think they are so busy. It’s crazy.

I like these FBI people. I am making friends with lots of them. Very nice people, but what are they going to do in an interview? They ask the guy if he is terrorist, he says “No.” Big deal. Remember those kids from Chechnya, the ones that bombed Boston? Russia told the FBI they were terrorists. The FBI talks to them and says “No problem, nice guys.” But then you have big problem in Boston.

So, good luck with all this “vetting” business. I just don’t see how this is going to work. And anyway, there are already enough catering vans in the United States. We don’t need more!

Maybe I should add Mobile Vetting Service to my menu….

Mo, it’s always interesting getting your expert opinions on terrorist issues. Good luck with your lovely catering van, and please stop voting. You are not a US citizen.

Ok, ok. Just for you, my friend, no more voting. But ask your bigshot government friends if I can get in on this “vetting” business. Tell them I have friends in Syria. I give them half off just because they know you.

I’ll be sure to mention it to them, but I have no close friends at the FBI. I think you are closer to them than I am. Thanks for all your insight. I’ll talk to you again soon. Best of luck to you.

OK, Jay. Have a nice Thanksgiving.

You too, Mo.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

And there are the issues. We encourage people to remember that compassion and caution are not listed as opposites in the dictionary. It is only by coming out of entrenched positions and facing reality that we will be able to handle this humanitarian crisis. The reality is that desperate people are in need, and that evil people, whose goal is to destroy us, are seeded among them. The reality is that there actually are no ways to verify the difference. What risk are we, as a nation, willing to take in our compassion?

A Real Terrorist Expert’s Take on ISIS

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Given recent problems with several Western “expert” commentators in the fields of intelligence, counterterrorism, and asymmetric warfare, we know that many of our readers are anxious to find an authority they can trust. Rather than risk engaging with yet another bugus fly-by-night camera hound, we have recruited a genuine terror specialist.

 

Intelligence, Terrorism, and Asymmetric Warfare Expert Sheik Mullah Ali Baba Mohammed Faqwahdi al-Lansingi a.k.a. Sheik Mo

Intelligence, Terrorism, and Asymmetric Warfare Expert
Sheik Mullah Ali Baba Mohammed Faqwahdi al-Lansingi
a.k.a. Sheik Mo

 

We are proud to introduce our new intelligence, terrorism, and asymmetric warfare expert, Sheik Mullah Ali Baba Mohammed Fuqwahdi al-Lansingi, a.k.a. Sheik Mo.

After retiring to America from an exciting life of Mideast terror exploits, Mo has agreed to join our staff to help Westerners better understand the real world of terror and asymmetric warfare.

We’re here today in one of modern Islam’s cultural hotspots – downtown Lansing, Michigan – with Sheik Mullah Ali Baba Muhammad Fuqwahdi al Lansingi. In his first ever interview, Mo gives us an insider’s analysis of the ISIS phenomenon in Syria and Iraq.

Sheik Mo, thanks for joining us.

Hey, Jay and Piper, thanks for having me. It’s so nice to be seeing you again.

Sheik Mo, can you offer an expert analysis of the ISIS phenomenon in Syria and Iraq?

I am so glad you asked me this question. These so-called ISIS, IS, ISIL – whatever the daesh are calling themselves today – they are an embarrassment to honest, hardworking Mideast terrorists. Every time you turn on the TV, they are beheading more Muslims and burning more villages. Where did these idiots study terrorism? They don’t even know who to attack!

In my day, we knew who the enemy was . . . Well, at least we pretended to know, and we kept things straight from week to week. With a few AK’s and discount explosives from East Germany and Czechoslovakia, we got big results.

We were elite groups. We trained for years before going on our first missions. Now these ISIS types give any hash head that shows up a pair of black pajamas, and next thing you know they are parading in front of cameras, screaming like drunken English soccer fans. It’s embarrassing to the entire terrorist industry. They can’t even scream “allahu akbar” properly. Do you hear them? It’s terrible. I’ve seen better terrorists at the local preschool.

 

 

And these so called ISIS monkeys like all the publicity. In the old day, no self-respecting terrorist made videos. What’s next? ISIS book signings in London? Are they entering a float in the Rose Bowl parade?

Yet, they have captured a lot of territory, and they seem to keep recruiting more members. ISIS claims they are the new Islamic conquerors. They call themselves the “new caliphate” and the “new Islamic champions.” How should the West respond?

Well, of course, the West should oppose them. It’s always good to bomb people like that before they all get too comfortable. And anyway, with so many new models of drones competing for defense contract money all over the world, you have to test those drones somewhere. Nice videos of drones defeating a surplus Humvee on a test range is only going to sell so many. The West needs to use the advertising value from drone strikes on ISIS. A video of an ISIS convoy blowing up has sales power.

By the way, you need drones? Come see me. I have a brother-in-law that works for a defense contractor. I get you wholesale, even on small orders. No cheap Chinese junk. Only the latest drone fashions.

But please, “the new caliphate?” “The new Islamic champions?” No way. They only invade Muslim countries. It’s all a big fraud. You want a real Islamic conquest, you have to invade some high value real estate. When they capture Marbella and Manhattan, let me know, and I’ll buy some black pajamas.

For the West the answer is simple. More drones. And when they have nice big ISIS parades for the cameras, you drop lots of bombs. Remember, bombs have a shelf life. Why waste them dropping them in deserts in Nevada and New Mexico when you can drop them on ISIS?

What about the Kurdish fighters that are opposing ISIS?

Well those Kurds are serious fighters. You give them almost nothing and they show up and fight. When those ISIS clowns invaded the Kurdish region, a bunch of Kurdish farmers and girls beat the hell out of them. It was embarrassing! They call themselves big league terrorists? In my day we didn’t get beat up by girls!

 

Kurdish YPG fighters -- nobody's "girls." Image by About SLIMANY, wikimedia commons.

Kurdish YPG fighters — nobody’s “girls.”
Image by About SLIMANY, wikimedia commons.

 

But you know, many bigshots in the West don’t want to arm the Kurds because the Kurds will declare independence, and that Erdoğan guy in Turkey don’t like that. And if the Kurds declare independence in Iraq, what does that leave? That leaves you too many Iranian carpet merchants and amateur politicians in Iraq!

The Kurds don’t need Baghdad, but Baghdad needs the Kurds. Otherwise, you could send the Kurdish women’s soccer team to Syria with a few hand grenades, and they would take care of business.

Sheik Mo, thank you so much for joining us today. We look forward to our next interview with you concerning Afghanistan. In the meantime, we wish you the best of luck with your new defense contracting business.

Okay, Jay and Piper, and best wishes to your readers. Next time I’ll be contacting you from my new mobile communications and command center.

We look forward to it. Thanks again, Sheik Mo.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

And there you have it folks, a genuine insider’s view on ISIS.

 

Russia Peeks Up Turkey’s Skirts

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

On Saturday, October 3, a Russian fighter flown from Syria entered Turkish airspace without Turkey’s permission.

 

Russian SU-27 Flanker aircraft. Image by UK Royal Air Force, wikimedia commons.

Russian SU-27 Flanker aircraft.
Image by UK Royal Air Force, wikimedia commons.

 

Turkey responded by summoning the Russian Ambassador to Turkey to receive a formal complaint from the Turkish government. The US, the UK, and NATO officials reiterated that they will stand by Turkey against any aggression. Naturally, Russia will pretend that the incursion was accidental.

Given the equipment used by Russian fighters, it is unlikely that the incursion was accidental or unknown to the Russian pilot. Given the command and control procedures enforced by the Russian Air Force, it is highly unlikely that the Russian pilot acted without the prior approval of bosses in Moscow.

So why would Russia look to annoy Turkey? It wouldn’t.

The incursion was not meant to insult or annoy the Turkish government. It was almost certainly an intelligence operation. Other Russian aircraft and ships in the area likely were listening to the Turkish reaction. The Russian GRU (military intelligence) will carefully analyze data collected, such as radar and radio signals from Turkey, along with a timeline of the mission. Apparently, the Kremlin felt that the information gained would be worth the minor diplomatic fallout.

Let’s see if Moscow risks the same trick with Israel. I doubt it will. Israel, given its small area, cannot afford to be so patient with aircraft incursions.

Russia Advances In Syria — What Does It Mean?

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

Stories and concerns are circulating about an escalated Russian military presence in Syria.

Many of the stories focus on the fact that Russia has sent four Sukhoi SU-30SM fighter jets and eight military helicopters to Syria. We know that Russia has also sent antiaircraft batteries. Less noticed, but possibly more important, is the fact that Russia has ramped up construction at an air base near Latakia, Syria. The construction upsurge appears to indicate facilities for a significantly larger military presence than Russia currently has in Syria.

 

Russian Sukhoi SU-30SM fighter. Image by Aktug Ates, wikimedia commons.

Russian Sukhoi SU-30SM fighter.
Image by Aktug Ates, wikimedia commons.

 

So what does this Russian buildup in Syria mean? The US just posed that same question to Russia.

US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter spoke with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu on Friday, September 18. This was the first official conversation between their two institutions since February 2014, when the US broke off military discussions with Russia due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The purpose of this recent conversation was to discuss “de-escalating” any possible meetings between Russian and US forces in Syria.

While Russia’s presence in Syria might seem sudden and new, Russia has, in fact, been in Syria for over half a century.

Since the 18th century reign of Catherine the Great, Russia has sought military alliances in the Mediterranean. After over two centuries of effort, Russia’s presence in Syria is the only real, lasting diplomatic success that Russia has ever achieved in the Mediterranean. Small though Syria is, the Assad regime has always been a “Russia project.”

Current Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s dictator father, Hafez al-Assad, became president of Syria in 1971. The Soviets trained Hafez al-Assad both as a pilot and as a president. The Assad One-Party-Many-Secret-Police style of government is a copy of the Soviet model. It is the same model that Putin is doing his best to reinstate in Russia today.

 

Dictator Bashar and wife Asmaa al-Assad in Moscow, March 26, 2008. Image by Ammar Abd Rabbo, wikimedia commons.

Dictator Bashar and wife Asmaa al-Assad
in Moscow, March 26, 2008.
Image by Ammar Abd Rabbo, wikimedia commons.

 

The US and Europe are backing Assad’s enemies in Syria while they struggle to oust the Assad regime.

Russia does not want Assad ousted. The real impacts of Russia’s buildup in Syria will depend on how far Putin is willing to go in backing Assad. However, the recent Russian upgrade still leaves Assad and Russia at a tremendous tactical disadvantage against US and European forces in the area.

Because of this disadvantage, it is unlikely that the Russians will attempt to directly engage with any US or European aircraft that are flying missions in Syria.

The Russians are explaining their buildup in Syria as their attempt to help their ally Assad fight off ISIS.

Since ISIS is also the enemy of the West, then in theory, the West has nothing to worry about from Russian forces in Syria. The equation becomes much more complicated if and when Russian forces engage with Western-backed rebels, which are rebels who oppose both Assad and ISIS. Russia has offered no explanation as to how their forces will differentiate between Syrian rebels and ISIS fighters. They obviously won’t.

From my perspective, the only surprise about the Russian buildup in Syria is that Russia waited so long to go this far.

Russia has a lot to lose in Syria, and it needs Assad or an Assad-clone to remain in power for two major reasons. The first and most obvious reason is for Russia to keep its one Mediterranean naval base. The second and more subtle reason is that a critical part of Putin’s empire rebuilding strategy revolves around maintaining and creating allies. The ally-creation part of Putin’s grand strategy has failed miserably.

Most of Russia’s old Cold War European allies have either joined NATO or are trying to. Even the stubbornly neutral Swedes are considering joining NATO. Beyond Europe, most of Russia’s old allies have come to expect less aid from Russia in the post-Cold War environment. Russia’s popularity has, in most cases, plummeted amongst undeveloped nations around the world.

In the narrow and mostly closed mind of Vladimir Putin, keeping Assad in power has become a critical need for maintaining a facade of Russian relevancy in the 21st century.

This, of course, is more bad news for both the Syrian people and the Russian people. Putin is once again missing an opportunity to move past his Cold War childhood and embrace modern opportunities.

So how will the West respond to Russia in Syria?

The same way we have for the last half-century. The US and Europe will continue to support enemies of the Assad regime without directly confronting Russian troops in Syria. If Russian forces “mistakenly” fire on US or Western aircraft in Syria, the West will then likely upgrade the weaponry of Syrian rebels in order to make life more miserable, and more dangerous, for the Russians in Syria.

It appears that Putin is willing to invest heavily in propping up the Assad regime. As long as Czar Putin is able to maintain his stranglehold over Russia, I would not expect a Russian retreat from Syria in the near future.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Bayard & Holmes Official Photo

Piper Bayard is an author and a recovering attorney. Her writing partner, Jay Holmes, is an anonymous senior member of the intelligence community and a field veteran from the Cold War through the current Global War on Terror. Together, they are the bestselling authors of the international spy thriller, THE SPY BRIDE, to be re-released in September, 2015.

THE SPY BRIDE Final Cover 3 inch

Keep in touch through updates at Bayard & Holmes Covert Briefing.

You can contact Bayard & Holmes in comments below, at their site, Bayard & Holmes, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Bayard & Holmes, or at their email, BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

 

ISIS–Who Are the Players, and Where Do They Stand?

By Jay Holmes

This week, ISIS remains a major news item. For the sake of continuity, we will continue referring to them as ISIS, but be aware that, in recent weeks, they have acquired more aliases than the average Brooklyn mob goon.

 

ISIS logo public domain, wikimedia commons

ISIS logo
public domain, wikimedia commons

 

Since their defeat at the hands of the lightly armed but well organized Kurds of northern Iraq, ISIS has focused on training, recruiting, and re-establishing their local dominance in Syria. Even if ISIS were forced to retreat from all of Iraq, that would be of secondary importance to them as compared to maintaining their strongholds in Syria.

Where does Iraq stand?

The success of the Iraqi Kurds, with assistance from U.S. air support, was no surprise to anyone who knows or has studied the Kurds. It remains to be seen how well the Iraqi National Army will capitalize on the U.S. and allied airstrikes to recapture ISIS-held areas in their country. With Maliki no longer in charge in Iraq, and with so many Shia Iraqis rediscovering their long forgotten love of U.S. firepower, the ISIS offensive in Iraq is stalled for the moment.

If the new Iraqi government can deliver a closer approximation of “functioning government” than Maliki did, then Iraq should be able to eventually push ISIS forces out of their country. However, no amount of U.S. or anti-ISIS coalition airstrikes will push ISIS out of Iraq completely unless Iraqis take some responsibility for saving themselves by fielding a credible army and establishing and maintaining a functioning administration.

 

F/A-18E Super Hornet on Deck of U.S.S. George H.W. Bush image by U.S. Navy, public domain

F/A-18E Super Hornet on Deck of U.S.S. George H.W. Bush
image by U.S. Navy, public domain

 

More recently, the U.A.E., Jordon, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar joined in coordinated airstrikes against ISIS bases and assets in their Syrian strongholds. Aircraft from Belgium and Denmark also joined in strikes in Iraq. Simultaneously, the U.S. stepped up aid to non-ISIS anti-Assad rebels in Syria. The trick is—and long has been—to assist the legitimate indigenous freedom fighters of Syria without accidentally funding and equipping ISIS or any “Ali come lately” ISIS wannabes.

What does ISIS mean to the Gulf States?

Fortunately, the Gulf States are now exercising more discretion in how they fund and arm anti-Assad groups in Syria. For most Gulf Sates, enemies of the Shia Iranians are their natural friends. In the case of ISIS, the supposed “friends” have become an even greater danger to their former benefactors in the Gulf than the danger presented by the Shia theocracy in Iran.

Even if all outside financing of ISIS were halted, and it pretty well has been, ISIS would not be bankrupt. For the last few months, they have skillfully built a strong economy based on violent tax collection, bank robbery, and oil sales. Note that the recent coalition airstrikes against ISIS included oil refineries as priority targets. Destroying ISIS oil export operations has the added advantage of making the Gulf States happy to participate in the air campaign. Anything that drives up oil prices is good news for the Gulf States.

 

Map of coalition airstrikes on Syrian oil refineries September 24, 2014 image by Department of Defense, public domain

Map of coalition airstrikes on Syrian oil refineries
September 24, 2014
image by Department of Defense, public domain

 

How do the airstrikes benefit the coalition members?

While ISIS bases are being destroyed, ISIS is less able to plan and conduct effective terrorist strikes against its enemies. In the ISIS reality, its enemies, real or imagined, can be roughly defined as the non-ISIS segment of the human population. If nothing else, we can appreciate that ISIS is consistent and predictable. If it lives, and it is not ISIS, they want it dead.

Where is France in all of this?

During the last week, France made a moderate effort at conducting independent airstrikes against ISIS. It is not in the nature of French politicians to place their troops, ships, or planes under foreign control, so French efforts might remain independent and somewhat uncoordinated with US-led airstrikes. It’s possible that the French Air Force and Navy are quietly receiving refueling support, reconnaissance, and intelligence from U.S. forces. If that is so, it’s best that it happen quietly so that French voters can view French airstrikes as being a strictly French affair. Call it “Operation Les Belles Artes” if you like. As long as the bombs drop on suitable ISIS targets, it doesn’t much matter who dropped them or which national anthem they were humming at the time.

What are our allies in the U.K. doing?

Having settled the critical question of Scottish secession, the U.K. government turned some attention back toward ISIS. David Cameron called for the U.K. to join in airstrikes against the group, and it has done so to a minimal degree.

How is Syria’s largest neighbor, Turkey, reacting to the “ISIS crisis”?

The Turkish position is somewhat complex. Turkish President Recep Erdogan can see both potential opportunities and potential disasters in the ISIS crisis, and Erdogan is highly skilled at envisioning potential disasters.

The potential benefit of ISIS to Turkey comes from the fact that ISIS hates Iran. The group has destabilized the already-pretty-unstable pro-Iranian Iraqi government.

 

Map of U.S. airstrike areas in Iraq image by JhonsJoe, CC3.0

Map of airstrike areas in Iraq
image by JhonsJoe, CC3.0

 

One of the potential disasters is already manifesting itself in the form of hundreds of thousands of refugees flooding into Turkey. Some of those refugees are Syrian Kurds, and Erdogan’s secret target number of Kurds in Turkey is zero. Rather than having more Kurds moving into Turkey, Erdogan would prefer to get rid of the independence-minded Kurds that are already there. And yet, these refugees are close cousins of the Iraqi Kurds that are willing to export oil to and through Turkey.

ISIS captured over forty Turkish diplomats during its summer blitzkrieg in Iraq. On most days in the ISIS universe, Turks are “filthy western lapdogs.” Yet, rather than staging the usual “ISIS entertainment hour” publicly broadcasted beheadings of their Turkish prisoners, ISIS released them. Why? Western observers are asking what deal Erdogan might have made with the devil to secure the safe return of his diplomats. My suspicion is that any deal was likely brokered through Erdogan’s friends in Qatar and might have involved oil. However, in truth, Turkey needs ISIS to be defeated nearly as urgently as Iraq and the Assad regime in Syria do.

The view from my kitchen window here in the U.S. is different from the view from Turkey. I cannot see ISIS from my house. Erdogan, on the other hand, sees ISIS standing right past his border crossings with Syria. He needs the Sunni fundamentalists vanquished far more than we do, but when we decide that ISIS has been suppressed enough for our liking, we will stop bombing them, and they will still be across the border from Turkey.

Given the basic ISIS tenet that everyone outside of their direct control is their mortal enemy, it’s likely that any deals that Erdogan might have made with the devil will be null and void once the bombs stop falling on ISIS heads. As he so often does, Erdogan missed the easy play. ISIS will never be a friend to Turkey. In the long run, Erdogan further damaged Turkey’s relationship with its supposed NATO allies without obtaining any long-term benefit for his country.

 

U.S. Marines constructing Kurdish refugee camp image by Department of Defense, public domain

U.S. Marines constructing Kurdish refugee camp
image by Department of Defense, public domain

 

What is the Syrian point of view?

The Assad regime is grateful for the tactical windfall being delivered by its distant enemies against the closer and more immediately threatening ISIS forces in Syria and Lebanon. However, Assad and his gang cannot express any happiness with the U.S. or its allies. From the Syrian point of view, while ISIS is a threat to the Assad regime, once ISIS is substantially defeated, the Assad gang would be the next obvious target.

So what can we see in the crystal ball?

My best guess is that Gulf States will remain willing to cooperate just long enough to save themselves from ISIS. As the casualties mount for ISIS, the ISIS leaders will try to understand why their We Will Kill You All publicity campaign has failed them. If their current gangster-in-chief and/or enough of his closest pals are killed, ISIS might transform itself into a more publicity-friendly criminal enterprise and survive under some new name with a slightly less visible agenda of hate and destruction. When the dust from the bombs settles, the region will still be a hellish mess, but we in the West might succeed in avoiding or blunting major terrorist strikes by ISIS. If we can do so without investing more ground forces in the region, then we can declare a victory before moving on to the next “catastrophe du jour.”