Gallery

War Chronicle 28-Jan-2016

1. In Libya U.S. and some European allies are about to take on ISIS

2A. US & Turkey eyeing military operation in Syria against ISIS if peace talks fail

2B. Is Turkey preparing to invade Syria? (Video) 

2C. Russian Marines expand into east Aleppo 

2D. Is the Pentagon Preparing for an All-Out Offensive in Syria? 

2E. Turkish army has entered Jarablus. 

2F. Assad Has It His Way – The Peace Talks and After

3. Syrian Army recaptures Baghiliyah in Deir Ez-Zor – Map update

4. Using Mojahedin Khalq (Rajavi cult) made the Americans look extremely hypocritical

5. Saudi Coalition Forces loot humanitarian aid convoys in southern Yemen

6. Is Qatar Changing Course on Syria?

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Introductory comment by Colonel W. Patrick Lang, retired senior officer of U.S. Military Intelligence and U.S. Army Special Forces wrote on 27 Jan. 2016:

Reality is a bitch. The Borg (US “deep state”) has never accepted the idea that our “friends and allies” have their own agendas and for very few of them the idea of actually fighting IS is an agenda item.  The Borg has never wanted to understand that a lot of the people whom we want to join us in fighting IS are actually quietly supportive of the anti-Western goals of IS.  And then there is the little problem of fighting an enemy who think prisoners of war are playthings to be beheaded, burnt alive, etc. Yes, reality is a bitch.  pl

http://www.rawstory.com/2016/01/pentagon-chief-ashton-carter-some-partners-in-anti-isis-alliance-do-nothing-at-all/

1. Libya: The Imperial Violence Keeps Giving (http://www.moonofalabama.org/26 January 2016)

Imperial violence is a gift that keeps giving. After the U.S. lied to the UN Security Council about alleged Ghaddafi threats against “protesters” in Benghazi the UNSC allowed for the use of force to protect them. Russia and China abstained instead of vetoing it (in Spring 2011).

The U.S. and its NATO allies abused the UNSC resolution. They weaponized the “protesters”, bombed the country to smithereens and killed the leading government figures including Muhammar Ghaddafi. Then U.S. Secretary of State, Clinton the monster, famously bragged (vid): “We came, we saw, he died.”

The UNSC resolution is the reason why then Russian President Medvedev was not allowed to run for a second term. Now President Putin – then as Prime Minister only responsible for interior politics – said that as he read the UNSC resolution he found holes in its wording a whole army could march through. Medvedev had made a huge mistake by allowing it to pass. That he had to go is the only positive result of the NATO attack on Libya.

Now the U.S. wants to attack Libya again:

Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Friday that military officials were “looking to take decisive military action” against the Islamic State, or ISIS, in Libya, where Western officials estimate the terrorist group has roughly 3,000 fighters. Administration officials say the campaign in Libya could begin in a matter of weeks. They anticipate it would be conducted with the help of a handful of European allies, including Britain, France and Italy.

This will go as it always goes, bomb strikes, special forces on the ground, proxy fighters trained by U.S. forces or private companies who will then develop into their death squads and terrorize the population.

There is chaos in Libya as was foreseeable and predicted here when the war on Libya began. [http://www.moonofalabama.org/2011/03/attack-on-libya.html#c6a00d8341c640e53ef0147e35d74ec970b]

There are many armed groups and two parliaments and two rudimentary governments, one in the east and one in the west. The UN just tried to set up a third, unity government and failed:

Libya’s internationally recognized parliament voted on Monday to reject a unity government proposed under a United Nations-backed plan to resolve the country’s political crisis and armed conflict. … Since 2014, Libya has had two competing parliaments and governments, one based in Tripoli and the other in the east. Both are backed by loose alliances of armed groups and former rebels who helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Many of the “rebels” who were paid by Qatar and others to overthrow the Libyan government are Islamists. Many went from Libya on to Syria to fight against the Syrian government and the U.S. helped to supply weapons from Libya to those foreign terrorists in Syria.

It is unlikely that the real U.S. interest now is to fight the few foreign Islamic State fighters in Libya. Most of the Islamic State followers in Libya are locals of some specific tribes who earlier were part of this or that local Islamist gang. They are not a threat and other local forces will hold them at bay.

The U.S. wants the whole country under its indirect control but has so far only half of it:

The armed forces allied to the eastern government are led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar, a former Gaddafi ally. He has also fought Islamist militants in the eastern city of Benghazi and has become one of Libya’s most divisive figures, enjoying strong support in the east but despised by forces allied to the government in Tripoli.

Haftar was once with Ghaddafi but was shunned after he screwed up in a war with Chad. Around 1990 he tried to overthrow Ghaddafi but failed. He went to the U.S., became a U.S. citizen and worked for the CIA. In 2011 he was back in Libya again attempting to overthrow Ghaddafi.

In 2011 the U.S. failed to install its proxy ruler over Libya. It is now going back in a new attempt to gain full control over the country and its resources. Once established in Libya it can subjugate countries in northern Africa.

It is easy to see that this will develop into more war, more terror and more refugees who will flee their home. The imperial violence keeps giving.

Posted by b |

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26 January 2016: NYTimes has an editorial reporting that the U.S. and some European allies are about to take on ISIS in Libya. And yes, (even!) the Times is suspicious.

Quoting General Joseph Dunford, head of the joint chiefs, the editorial reports: “that military officials were ‘looking to take decisive military action’ against the Islamic State… in Libya.” According to the editorial, Congress is taking a pass on any declaration of war, and the Obama Administration thinks “it would be nice, but not necessary,”  if Congress did.

The Times Editorial. Times News Story (1/22/16): “U.S. and Allies Weigh Military Action Against ISIS in Libya” http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/26/opinion/opening-a-new-front-against-isis-in-libya.html?ref=world&_r=0

http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2016/01/fill-in-the-many-blanks.html

The Librarian in Purgatory said in reply to William R. Cumming (who wrote: “Is there a Libyan government? ”): No. The Libyan Supreme Court ruled that the Tobruk-based govt was unconstitutional, even though that was the largely internationally recognized one. However, their legal mandate expired last October, unless they have voted themselves some kind of extension. The Tripoli-based govt’s claim to legitimacy was is based, in part, on the illegitimacy of the former and generally recognized by no one, though it was, at one time, the legal government. The Central Bank pays the salaries of all parties (and militias) and is on a fast track to near-term insolvency. Lastly, a West/UN team appointed a new govt which is currently based in Tunisia and recognized by no one in an effort to get/create a legal fig leaf for the bombing they want to do. In reality, there are a smattering of city/regional states: Tripoli, Misrata, Zintan, Tobruk, and then Benghazi as a free-fire zone and Sirte as Daesh’s defacto Libyan capital. Each has their own affiliated militias with Misrata, Tripoli, and Benghazi forming one camp and Tobruk and Zintan another.

The place is a (West) self-created mess and most do not understand it or just how dysfunctional it is.

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2A. US & Turkey eyeing military operation in Syria against ISIS if peace talks fail

23 January 2016: https://www.rt.com/news/329914-turkey-syria-us-military/

US Vice President Joe Biden says the US and Turkey are prepared for military solutions in Syria if a political settlement cannot be found. He added that Washington recognizes the Kurdistan Workers’ Party is as much of a threat to Ankara as Islamic State.

“We do know it would better if we can reach a political solution but we are prepared …, if that’s not possible, to have a military solution to this operation and taking out Daesh,” Biden said at a news conference after a meeting with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, as cited by Reuters. ‘Daesh’ is an Arabic term for Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS/ISIL).

A US official later clarified that Biden was talking about a military solution to IS, not Syria as a whole.

Biden added that he discussed with Davutoglu how the two allies could try and work together to support Syrian rebel groups who oppose President Bashar Assad. The US vice president backed Ankara in its battle with the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), saying it was as much of a threat to Ankara as Islamic State, and that Turkey must do everything necessary to protect its citizens.

However, the pair disagreed about the status of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in northern Syria, with Biden saying there is a difference between the PYD and PKK.

To say that these [groups] are separate, one should be unaware that those [PKK] guns are coming to [Turkey] from Syria,” Davutoglu said, according to Reuters.

Ankara believes the Syrian Kurds are looking to create a corridor along the northern border with Turkey, which would cut off Turkey from sharing a boundary with Syria.

The PYD is a terrorist organization that cooperates with the Syrian regime. Struggling against Daesh does not grant them legitimacy,” the Turkish prime minister said.

Turkey has carried out attacks on Kurdish forces in northern Syria. In late July, the Kurds said they had been bombed at least four times, with civilians being among the casualties. Ankara maintained its airstrikes were aimed at members of the PKK.

Kurdish fighters have proved to be some of the most effective forces in helping to combat Islamic State in northern Syria, while borders in territories under its control have been sealed to stop the flow of foreign IS militants into Syria.

On Friday, Biden said Turkey’s intimidation of the media, curtailing of internet freedom and accusations of treason made against academics was not setting a good example in the Middle East.

“The more Turkey succeeds, the stronger the message sent to the entire Middle East and parts of the world who are only beginning to grapple with the notion of freedom,” Biden mentioned.

“But when the media are intimidated or imprisoned for critical reporting, when internet freedom is curtailed and social media sites like YouTube or Twitter are shut down and more than 1,000 academics are accused of treason simply by signing a petition, that’s not the kind of example that needs to be set,” he said.

© Reuters

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Turkish Invasion Threat Escalates Syrian Conflict

http://www.globalresearch.ca/turkish-invasion-threat-escalates-syrian-conflict/5503017

By Bill Van Auken, 22 January 2016

The Syrian government has formally appealed to the United Nations over incursions into its territory by Turkish troops. The protest at the UN came amid reports that Turkish soldiers have crossed the border and entered the Syrian town of Jarablus on the western bank of the Euphrates River.

Turkish military action inside Syria threatens to escalate the internal conflict in that country and increase the threat of a confrontation between Turkey and Russia. Relations between Ankara and Moscow have remained tense since the November 24 Turkish shoot-down of a Russian warplane over Syrian territory.

Jarablus is under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but has come under increasing pressure from forces of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which have received backing from Washington in its so-called war on ISIS.

Turkey, a NATO ally of the US, is supposedly part of the anti-ISIS coalition. But there is extensive evidence that the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has facilitated the flow of fighters, arms and money to the Islamist militia and tacitly sanctioned the smuggling into Turkey of oil produced by ISIS-controlled installations in Syria.

The primary Turkish interest in Syria has been to block the consolidation of an autonomous Kurdish region on Turkey’s southern border. The government in Ankara has declared that any attempt by the YPG to cross to the western bank of the Euphrates and link up the two Kurdish cantons of Kobane and Afrin would be a “red line” that would trigger Turkish military intervention.

ISIS fighters have reportedly offered no resistance to the Turkish incursion, underscoring the barely concealed collaboration between the Islamists and the Turkish state.

The Syrian Kurdish ARA News service reported that the Turkish army carried out an artillery attack on Tuesday against the YPG headquarters in the Syrian border town of Tel Abyad, wounding at least two Kurdish fighters and destroying three armored vehicles.

The city, which is north of the de facto ISIS capital of Raqqa, was retaken by YPG units in fighting with the Salafist jihadi militia last June.

Turkey’s warmongering in Syria is bound up with its bloody campaign of repression against the Kurdish population within Turkey itself. Amnesty International on Wednesday condemned the Turkish government for carrying out “collective punishment” against its Kurdish population through “round-the-clock curfews and other arbitrary measures which have left residents without access to emergency health care, food, water and electricity for extended periods.”

The repression has escalated steadily since the collapse last July of a two-year “peace process” between the government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). More than 300 civilians have been killed in the Turkish campaign, including at least 61 children. Just in the period of December 11, 2015 to January 8, 2016, 162 civilians lost their lives.

US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Istanbul Thursday night for talks with Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu that will likely center on the twisted and multisided relationship between the Kurdish question, the campaign against ISIS and the Western-orchestrated war for regime-change in Syria.

Washington and Ankara both seek the toppling of the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and both are hostile to Russian interests in the region. There are, however, major tactical differences between them.

While the US has voiced support for Erdoğan’s crackdown against the PKK and the Kurdish population inside Turkey, the Pentagon has dispatched “advisors” to aid the Kurdish fighters of the YPG on the Syrian side of the border, using them as ground troops to seize territory in the US-led bombing campaign against ISIS.

Erdoğan has allowed the US to use the Incirlik air base in Turkey to carry out airstrikes against ISIS positions in Syria, but his military has centered its own strikes on Kurdish forces there as well as in Iraq, where the government in Baghdad has denounced Turkish intervention as a violation of the country’s sovereignty.

Biden is expected to press for Turkey to seal off a 60-mile unsecured stretch of its border with Syria that serves as the principal supply line for ISIS. The Turkish government, however, far prefers ISIS control of the border zone over control by the Kurdish YPG.

Any move to secure the border will inevitably be accompanied by a Turkish intervention to halt a Kurdish advance, either through direct Turkish military occupation or through control over the area by other Al Qaeda-linked militias such as the al-Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham or Jaish al-Islam, all of which have enjoyed Turkish support.

The mounting conflicts threaten to upend talks scheduled in Geneva next Monday for the ostensible purpose of achieving a negotiated end to the nearly five-year-old civil war that has claimed the lives of roughly a quarter of a million Syrians and turned millions more into refugees.

US Secretary of State John Kerry allowed on Thursday that the talks could be put off for “a day or two.” Asked by reporters at the World Economic Forum in Davos whether there would be a delay, Kerry responded, “When you say a delay, it may be a day or two for invitations, but there is not going to be a fundamental delay.”

The “delay,” however, concerns precisely the issue of which parties are to receive invitations to attend. Washington and Moscow have agreed that both ISIS and the al-Nusra Front will not be included in any peace talks. However, the Obama administration is insisting that Salafist jihadi outfits such as Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam, which share Al Qaeda’s essential outlook and methods, should be included as “moderate rebels.” The Russian government has insisted that they be excluded as “terrorists.”

Moscow, in turn, has called for the Syrian Kurdish YPG to be included in the talks, while Turkey has declared that it sees both it and ISIS as equally “terrorist.”

According to a report on the Foreign Policy web site, the United Nation’s special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, reported to the UN Security Council that Saudi Arabia was sabotaging his attempt to bring a broad range of Syrian opposition groups to the Geneva talks.

He said that the so-called High Negotiations Committee (HNC), cobbled together in Riyadh by the Saudi monarchy and dominated by Islamist militias, had rejected the participation of any other groups in the talks. He told the Security Council that the HNC and its “sponsors” insist on “the primacy and exclusivity of their role as ‘THE’ opposition delegation.”

These “sponsors” include not only the Saudi regime, but also Qatar, Turkey and the US itself. In a briefing Tuesday, State Department spokesman John Kirby said, “As we said after Riyadh, the opposition will be represented at that meeting by delegates chosen from the High Negotiating Committee and only from the High Negotiating Committee.”

Washington’s aim remains to secure through a combination of negotiations and continuing support for Islamist sectarian militias in Syria what it has so far been unable to achieve: the toppling of Assad and the imposition of a more pliant puppet regime. In continuing to press for this end, it has unleashed a series of bitter regional and international conflicts that threaten to escalate into a far wider

The original source of this article is World Socialist Web Site

Copyright © Bill Van AukenWorld Socialist Web Site, 2016

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2B. Is Turkey preparing to invade Syria? (Video)

http://southfront.org/international-military-review-syria-jan-21-2016-turkey-prepares-invasion/?RVPInstanceName=fwduvpPlayer0&RVPPlaylistId=0&RVPVideoId=0 

Written by Paul Antonopoulos on 21/01/2016
http://southfront.org/international-military-review-syria-jan-21-2016-turkey-prepares-invasion/

There are growing indications that Turkey is preparing a ground invasion in Syria. The Turks are determined to make the so-called “buffer zone” stretching along the Syrian side of the Turkey-Syria border. It’s clear that Erdogan needs this zone to defend supply lines of the Ankara-backed terrorist groups and the oil smuggling business. It would also prevent the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from expanding their reach westward.

In what could be a sign of this intent, Turkish minesweeping vehicles have started clearing mines along a section of the border near the Syrian town of Jarabulus controlled by ISIS. Turkey has also ramped up its artillery strikes along its border with Syria. The public reason is to help its militant allies against ISIS. Indeed, it’s another move heading to the buffer zone in Northern Syria. What would prevent Turkey from a full-scale invasion is a possible military answer of the Russian grouping located in Syria amid a refusal of the US to support this risky choice.

However, Turkey may decide to move forward with its operation anyway. The SAA supported by the Russian Airspace Forces is continuing to gain the ground in Latakia and Aleppo. At the very same time, the Kurdish YPG is advancing westward toward the ISIS-controlled town of Manbij. Each of these developments decreases expected outcomes of the regional anti-Assad alliance – Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar – in the Syrian conflict.

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2C. Russian Marines expand into east Aleppo
Written by Leith Fadel on 22/01/2016
http://www.almasdarnews.com/article/russian-marines-expand-into-east-aleppo/

Thee first batch of Russian Marines have arrived to the Kuweires Military Airport as part of an advisory unit that is meant to overlook the Syrian Arab Army’s military operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) in the Aleppo Governorate’s eastern countryside. According to a field source with the Tiger Forces in the Al-Bab Plateau, a little less than 50 Russian Marines were deployed to the Kuweires Military Airport on Thursday morning after a short stint in the Latakia Governorate that included trying and advising the new recruits from the National Defense Forces (NDF). While the military source was unable to provide much detail regarding their contingency, he did inform Al-Masdar News that the Russian Marines brought their heavy weaponry with them, including several missiles that were housed in the Kuweires warehouses near the helicopter airfield.

Al-Masdar military analysts believe that the Russian Marines have deployed to the east Aleppo front in order to eventually meet-up with the U.S. backed “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF) and the predominately Kurdish “People’s Protection Units” (YPG) that are combating ISIS near the strategic city of Menbeij. The Russian Marines have spent the majority of their time advising the Syrian Arab Army’s 103rd Brigade of the Republican Guard in northern Latakia; however, it appears that the Russian Ministry of Defense has other plans in northern Syria.

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2D. Rmeilan Airfield: Is Pentagon Preparing for All-Out Offensive in Syria?

http://sputniknews.com/politics/20160123/1033605459/syria-pentagon-rmeilan-airfiled.html

On January 20, Diana Al Rifai of Al Jazeera reported that the US troops have been deployed at Rmeilan airfield to support Kurdish fighters against Daesh (Islamic State/ISIL), quoting the opposition Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesperson Taj Kordsh.

“Under a deal with the YPG, the US was given control of the airport. The purpose of this deal is to back up the SDF, by providing weapons and an airbase for US warplanes,” the SDF spokesperson said.

On January 22, however, a spokesman of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) “denied that US forces have taken control of any airfield in Syria” in an interview with Al Jazeera.

Curiously, on the same day Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence firm usually referred to as the “shadow CIA,” released low resolution satellite imagery taken on December 28. The images show construction underway at the Rmeilan airfield.

​”Before the war, the airfield was an agricultural airstrip used by the Syrian government. As such, its runway was only 2,300 feet (700 meters) long, a length that appears to be doubling,” Stratfor’s report elaborates.
The report assumes that the expanded airfield would accommodate larger aircraft which would help the SDF to conduct all-out offensive operations.

“The US involvement in al-Hasaka province would not be so unusual; the United States nearly always attempts to establish an air bridge to support the semi-permanent positions of the conflicts in which it operates,” Stratfor’s analysts emphasize.

Although the Pentagon has denied the reports regarding the US Special Ops deployed at Rmeilan, it is known that about fifty US military troops have been operating in Syria since December.

Though, theoretically, their role is limited to training and advising the so-called Syrian opposition forces on the ground, American Special Ops have also been directly involved in combat operations in the region, Majumdar stresses.

Furthermore, back in October US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter confirmed that the US special forces will continue to take part in direct combat missions in Syria and Iraq: “when we find opportunities to do things that will effectively prosecute the campaign, we will do that. I’m determined that we continue to adapt to get results.”

“That raises the specter of the US special operations forces facing another Black Hawk Down moment in Syria,” the journalist warns, referring to 1993’s Operation Gothic Serpent in Somalia when US Army Rangers were caught in a massive ambush.

“As US special operations forces step up their activity in Syria — the isolated American forces face even greater risks than their forbears,” he underscores.

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23 January 2016, We already know that meeting  (Geneva) has been ‘temporarily delayed’ The US played every card it held to ensure that happened! Meanwhile Syria has been making battlefield gains with the help of it’s allies. Including moving to take back Aleppo– US/Israel evil duo will not allow this to happen. US Preps for a Military Solution in Syria- Russian & US Troops in Close Proximity

http://pennyforyourthoughts2.blogspot.ca/2016/01/us-preps-for-military-solution-in-syria.html

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22 January 2016, I (Penny) posted news regarding US special forces taking over an airbase they undoubtedly created with the PKK/YPG militias in Northern Syria– Alongside the fact that Russia moved troops to an unused Syrian airbase not to far away.  http://pennyforyourthoughts2.blogspot.ca/2016/01/usnato-war-expansion-special-ops-to.html

27 January 2016, CrossTalk on Syria: US – Russia standoff

Vice President Joe Biden says U.S. is ready to impose a military solution in Syria. According to this American official, a political settlement is not essential. With this kind of loose rhetoric a U.S.-Russia conflict in Syria just became more likely… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1o-iLI1SzMw

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2E. Turkish army has entered Jarablus, 19 Jan 2016 ANHA News Desk.

http://www.bestanews.com/15234/anha-turkish-army-has-entered-jarablus

Hawar News Agency (ANHA) has reported that Turkish troops have entered Syrian territory through Jarablus border crossing Tuesday evening.

According to the ANHA report which is grounded on local sources, the Turkish force of military vehicles and heavy equipment accompanied a mine detection and removal device. After crossing the border, Turkish soldiers moved westwards within the Syrian territory.

Sources reported that ISIS gangs in the area were all unresponsive to the activity of Turkish soldiers, and just watched them as they moved.

According to another unconfirmed report,a Turkish troop of thousand soldiers has now been deployed on Syrian land close to the border.

Turkish Army vehicles and tanks wait near the Syrian border in Suruc on February 23, 2015

Read more at http://sputniknews.com/middleeast/20160120/1033456296/turkey-jarablus.html

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2F. Assad Has It His Way – The Peace Talks and After

By Joshua Landis and Steven Simon, 19 January 2016.

(Joshua Landis and Steven Simon are well connected with the Syrian government but even more so with the US administration. They make a case for allowing an Assad victory and explain and defend Obama’s Syria strategy. This essay reads as if it was written for consideration by the US State Department or the National Security Adviser, and it is a must-read in order to understand the current logic of the Vienna and Geneva process from the US viewpoint. The proposed solution of widening the present Syrian government through negotiations that would implant some of the US supported rebels into it, is not likely to be acceptable to Russia and Syria who both insist that the Syrian people must decide who is to rule them, and it would be unacceptable for Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel and Turkey, whose cooperation would be needed to stop the fighting.)

President Bashar al-Assad is winning in Syria. Russia has shifted the balance of power there dramatically. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the UN might insist that Assad negotiate with his opponents and ultimately cede power to them, but the Syrian president has no intention of accepting such demands. His advisers state that he will go to talks in Geneva this month “to listen, but not to negotiate.” In other words, he is still out for victory on the battlefield. As the United States enters the now delayed UN negotiating process, it will have to stay flexible in its expectations and objectives in light of the shifting military balance on the ground.

The main reason for Assad’s renewed confidence is a clear reversal of military fortune. Three months ago, Assad’s army was beleaguered. A large confederation of jihadist and Islamist militias calling themselves the Victory Army had achieved something resembling unity. Built around Syria’s two strongest militias—al-Nusra, al Qaeda’s Syria franchise; and Ahrar al-Sham, the most powerful Salafi militia in the country—the Victory Army conquered two strategic northern cities, Idlib and Jisr al-Shughour, in quick succession this spring. These victories attracted many other militias into their orbit and promised success. The expulsion of regime forces from Jisr al-Shughour not only meant the independence of Idlib more generally but put Latakia, a regime stronghold, in serious jeopardy. The new resistance army seemed to overcome the opposition’s chronic fragmentation; it was also well armed and supported by the region’s Sunni states.

But Assad’s greatest advantage — a fragmented opposition divided into more than 1,000 constantly feuding militias — seems to be back. Recently, over 20 rebel militia leaders have been assassinated, most by a breakaway faction of the Victory Army. The militias that the United States trained and armed at great expense have been crushed, not by Assad but by other rebels.

Meanwhile, Russia’s advanced aircraft, helicopters, and tanks have been pounding the Victory Army for months. Russian aircrews fly close to 200 sorties a day, allowing Assad and his allies to go on the offensive in both the north and south of Syria. Ahrar al-Sham has agreed to go to talks in Geneva, an about-face, after snubbing the UN envoy Staffan de Mistura as an Assad lackey only months ago. Al Qaeda’s Syria leader pronounced those who head to Geneva guilty of “high treason,” a clear death threat but also an indicator of clear anxiety. Another sign of desperation was the call put out by the Victory Army to foreign fighters to come join their ranks. Non-jihadist members of the coalition were infuriated by this tactic, which would inevitably associate them with the self-proclaimed Islamic State (also known as ISIS), and withdrew from the coalition. Assad, in short, is dividing his enemies and counting on his ability to pick off one at a time.

To be sure, Assad’s advances have been hard fought and slower in coming than his advisers insisted they would be. The reason is the state of the Syrian army, which is in shambles, worn down by years of fighting, poverty, and corruption. All the same, it is hard to imagine Assad losing or being thrown back to some Alawite ethnic canton.
The real question is how much of Syria Assad can retake. Assad believes that the Russians will carry him to the finish line, but that is not at all certain. The Syrian regime already rules over some 75 percent of Syria’s Arab population. Assad seems convinced that he can bully the remaining 25 percent into “accepting” the bitterness of defeat in exchange for the end to deprivation and war. But that will likely take years. Much depends on Turkey and the Gulf states, the primary sponsors of the rebels.

Syria’s Kurds may also accommodate themselves to Assad. They constitute ten percent of the population and live in a long ribbon of territory dividing Syria from Turkey that they have named Rojava. Despite wresting the land from Assad, ISIS, and the rebel militias at great cost, the Kurds may accept autonomy within a Syrian state rather than independence as the price of protection against Turkey. Assad, too, may find a Kurdish enclave a useful buffer against Turkey.

Most important to Assad has been the attitude of the United States. U.S. President Barack Obama’s first reaction to Russia’s entry into the war on September 30 was to state, “We’re not going to make Syria into a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia.” This was consistent with the administration’s long-standing reluctance to go beyond its current support for a small number of armed groups opposed to the Assad regime. Moscow has had a long and important relationship with Damascus; Washington has not.

But Obama has not ceded Syria to Russia entirely; rather, he established a tacit division of labor, by which the United States combats ISIS in the east of the country while Russia combats Assad’s foes in the west. Moreover, Obama believes Russia will fail in its endeavor to restore Assad’s control over the country as surely as it failed in Afghanistan in 1979. The fight will become a “quagmire,” he predicted, which will force the Russians to come back to the United States for a negotiated solution. He might be right.

Although Moscow would doubtless favor a negotiated solution that preserved the Assad regime, Russian officials dismiss the notion that Syria can be likened to Afghanistan or even to Iraq; rather, they insist that the better analogy is Chechnya, where Russia’s superior airpower devastated the rebels at Grozny. After all, they argue, no one is arming the Syrian opposition with antiaircraft weapons, as U.S. President Ronald Reagan did the Afghan mujahideen and Arab jihadists.

The war of analogies rages on a second front as well. The U.S. administration’s unwillingness to get involved as a combatant in Syria’s civil war—and not to make Syria into a proxy war between the United States and Russia—is explained as a desire to avoid Iraq redux. But in thinking analogically, the president’s critics say, Obama has mistakenly assumed that the cost of intervention will replicate the steep price paid by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan. Accordingly, the president’s alleged fixation on Iraq has blinded him to the costs of inaction, which are on display now in Syria and more broadly within the region: a humanitarian disaster, the empowerment of Russian President Vladimir Putin, ISIS’ emergence, Assad’s smug survival, and the anguished disappointment and resentment of traditional allies.

Radicalization was not the result of the United States’ inaction. Obama could do nothing to keep the opposition from radicalizing or from forming myriad militias based on clan, village, and tribal loyalty. Yet despite their bitter sniping, it seems unlikely that Putin’s activism will lead Israel or allies in the Gulf to distance themselves from the United States. Having favorably compared Russia’s indiscriminate use of force in Syria with U.S. reticence, Israeli officials are now fuming over Russia’s transfer of weapons and know-how to Hezbollah, Israel’s sworn adversary. And as far as the Gulf states are concerned, Putin’s on the wrong side in the Syrian civil war. Within Syria, the United States long found Russia’s military presence to be a manageable problem in the context of U.S. security requirements in the eastern Mediterranean. Why the presence of a much weaker Russia within a shattered country whose rump government can’t threaten Israel or Jordan, let alone Turkey, should induce panic is unclear. The limited threat to U.S. interests would not seem to be a compelling reason to plunge into someone else’s civil war.

It’s also unclear what the appropriate analogy might be, if not Iraq. The Balkans intervention took place under very different circumstances, when Russia was too weak, distracted, and dependent on Western aid to get in the way. Libya as an analogy is scarcely more encouraging than Iraq. The Saudi intervention in Yemen is unlikely to result in a more stable and habitable country.

The cost of inaction, where inaction is defined as the failure to turn the rebels toward the West and empower Syria’s moderates by providing them with arms and money early on, is difficult to assess. The assertion that the United States has already taken on such costs assumes that had the United States done something, the Russians would not have intervened, the armed opposition would be unified, jihadists marginalized, and Assad on the ropes.

But radicalization was not the result of the United States’ inaction. Obama could do nothing to keep the opposition from radicalizing or from forming myriad militias based on clan, village, and tribal loyalty. The same process of radicalization and fragmentation has taken place in every Middle Eastern country where the state has been overthrown by force, whether in Iraq, Yemen, or Libya. Although Syrian liberals do exist, they are not numerous enough or strong enough to take power and hold the country together. In every instance, foreign-driven regime change has led to state collapse, social fragmentation, and radicalization.

Unfortunately, Middle Eastern potentates have built states that are a reflection of themselves; they collapse when the dictator and his family are changed. They do not have professional civil services and are not built on solid institutional foundations. Regime change brings state collapse. This is what happened when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was overthrown, it happened with the destruction of the regime of Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi, and it would happen in Syria. Getting rid of Assad and his ruling clique would likely lead to state collapse, which is precisely why both the Iranians and the Russians will not risk it. Think of what Saudi Arabia would become without the Al Saud. Even Jordan would likely come unglued without the Hashemite monarchy to bind together its disparate parts. The radicalization and chaos in the Middle East is the United States’ fault to the extent that it has pursued too much regime change, not because it has pursued too little.

To judge how incompetent the rebels have been in providing a viable or attractive alternative to Assad, one need merely consider the situation in the province of Idlib, where the rebels rule. Schools have been segregated, women forced to wear veils, and posters of Osama bin Laden hung on the walls. Government offices were looted, and a more effective government has yet to take shape. With the Talibanization of Idlib, the 100-plus Christian families of the city fled. The few Druze villages that remained have been forced to denounce their religion and embrace Islam; some of their shrines have been blown up. No religious minorities remain in rebel-held Syria, in Idlib, or elsewhere. Rebels argue that Assad’s bombing has ensured their failure and made radicalization unavoidable. But such excuses can go only so far to explain the terrible state of rebel Syria or its excesses. We have witnessed the identical evolution in too many other Arab countries to pin it solely on Assad, despite his culpability for the disaster that has engulfed his country.

https://www.rt.com/shows/sophieco/321020-syrian-peace-talk-conflict/video/

(Joshua Landis and Steven Simon are well connected with the Syrian government but even more so with the US administration. They make a case for allowing an Assad victory and explain and defend Obama’s Syria strategy. This essay reads as if it was written for consideration by the US State Department or the National Security Adviser, and it is a must-read in order to understand the current logic of the Vienna and Geneva process from the US viewpoint. The proposed solution of widening the present Syrian government through negotiations that would implant some of the US supported rebels into it, is not likely to be acceptable to Russia and Syria who both insist that the Syrian people must decide who is to rule them, and it would be unacceptable for Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel and Turkey, whose cooperation would be needed to stop the fighting.)

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  1. Syrian Army recaptures Baghiliyah in Deir Ez-Zor – Map update

Written by Chris Tomson on 18/01/2016

Saturday afternoon (16 Jan 2016), the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) fully recaptured the village of Baghiliyah (Al-Bughayliyah) near Deir Ez-Zor after a successful counteroffensive was launched as to revert the gains of ISIS militants.

2 days earlier, ISIS fighters had stormed the village of Baghiliyah and managed to kill an estimated 280 civilians during a surprise offensive which temporarily had Jihadist forces capture most of Baghiliyah; however, these gains have since been undone with the Syrian Arab Army also recapturing Jami’yah Al-Rawad Neighborhood and the Radio Broadcast Tower entirely.

In total, an estimated 100.000 civilians live in government-held Deir Ez-Zor while most are completely dependent on supplies being delivered by Syrian government helicopters and planes. Regrettably, food prices have doubled while the unemployment rate in Deir Ez-Zor has gone through the roof due to the conflict.

While the SAA has recaptured Baghiliyah, ISIS gains at Ayyash are still to be challenged as the Ayyash weapons depot and Ayyash fuel station remain disputed for now. However, reservists of the Syrian Arab Army’s 104th and 137th Brigades of the 17th Division have been summoned so as to respond to the latest manuevers of ISIS fighters.

Syrian Army recaptures Baghiliyah in Deir Ez-Zor – Map update

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4. Using Mojahedin Khalq (Rajavi cult) made the Americans look extremely hypocritical

22 January 2016, by Iran Interlink http://iran-interlink.org/wordpress/?p=7050

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen with Mojahedin Khalq (Rajavi cult) members.


Using cult leader Maryam Rajavi to derail nuclear talks backfires

Using Mojahedin Khalq (Rajavi cult) made the Americans look extremely hypocriticalIran is well-versed in US tactics. I can’t imagine this bothered them much – though it did make the Americans look extremely hypocritical on their “War on Terror.” After all, the MEK had killed US citizens in Iran in the 1970s, attacked US soil in 1992, and continues to abuse its own members. This was the State Department’s very language when they delisted the group.

Listed or delisted, the MEK remains exactly the same. It always enjoyed western cover of sorts. Like many other western-groomed ‘opposition’ groups based outside the Middle East, it will be employed opportunistically by its hosts, and cut off when it is no longer of use.

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  1. Saudi Coalition Forces loot humanitarian aid convoys in southern Yemen

Written by Leith Fadel on 21/01/2016 http://www.almasdarnews.com/article/24809/

On Tuesday, the Saudi-led Coalition forces reportedly looted the humanitarian relief convoy that was on its way to the exhausted families in the Muqbena Directorate of the Ta’iz Governorate.

According to several reports from local sources, the Saudi-led Coalition forces intercepted the transport vehicles that were filled with humanitarian relief and looted the supplies that were found on-board.

The convoy was said to be passing through the village of Alukia in the Ta’iz Governorate before it was stopped.

In addition to the attack on Alukia, another contingent from the Saudi-led Coalition forces looted a humanitarian relief convoy on the way to the village of Al-Afirah in the Muqbena Directorate.

The Coalition forces reportedly stole 450 wheat bags that were destined for the Al-Seddiq School in the area of Ajaf.

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  1. Is Qatar Changing Course on Syria?

http://sputniknews.com/politics/20160119/1033369817/qatar-russia-syria-geopolitics.html

On Monday (18 January 2016), Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Thani arrived in Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin. And while the two men exchanged kind words, Putin highlighting Qatar’s important role in the Middle East, and Hamad countering by stressing Russia’s ‘decisive role in ensuring global stability’, analysts pondered the real reason for the visit.
For his part, Gevorg Mirzayan, special correspondent for the respected Russian business magazine Expert, suggested that what the Qatari emir may be after is a diplomatic solution which would offer his country something akin to peace with honor in Syria – in other words, an honorable surrender.

“At first glance, of course,” Mirzayan writes, “there wasn’t any talk of a capitulation. The two sides exchanged their positions, complemented one another, and talked about the Middle East. In the Middle Eastern tradition, the emir did not pass up a [chance to offer a] regal criticism of Israel, and asked Russia for help in ending the blockade of the Gaza Strip. However, it’s obvious that the main theme of the talks was the Syrian conflict.”
“The position of the Qatari leader, it might seem, was somewhat strange. From the start of the Russian air campaign in Syria, Qatari officials stepped out loudly and often, saying that the Kremlin was carrying out the wrong policy. The Qatari-owned television network Al-Jazeera reported on dozens of women and children said to have been the victims of Russian bombs, and claimed that Russia was not fighting a war against terrorism, but on the side of a ‘bloodthirsty dictator’.”

“However, in Moscow, the emir expressed a different opinion.”

“We are counting on our friends in Russia to play a large role in resolving the catastrophic situation which has befallen the Syrian people, with this tragedy, and to reach a political settlement,” Tamim noted, during his meeting with Russian lower house speaker Sergei Naryshkin on Monday.

“Qatar has indeed supported a political settlement from the first day. In addition, we support all organizations and international initiatives aimed at finding a political solution, provided that it shall be satisfactory to all parties,” Tamim added.

For his part, Mirzayan believes that “such a sharp change in rhetoric” is not mere diplomatic courtesy: “The emir is simply adapting, and it’s no secret that Qatar is now in a very difficult situation.”

This, the journalist notes, is the result of Qatar’s regional conflict with Saudi Arabia. “After former emir [Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani’s] plans to seize the leadership of the Middle East collapsed [in 2013], he was forced to resign, and it fell upon his son, Tamim, to improve relations with Doha’s neighbors, who had long sought to put the emirate in its place.”

The new government’s “plans did not succeed. Less than 10 days after Tamim’s accession to the throne, the Egyptian military, in an unholy alliance with the Saudi monarchy, toppled the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt, in whom the Qataris had invested a great deal of effort and resources. The new emir found himself isolated, and was forced to maneuver desperately to salvage the emirate’s influence in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and its allies presented Doha with an ultimatum looking to deny Qatar any influence in the region.”

“However,” Mirzayan recalled, “in the summer of 2015, the pressure suddenly stopped. In July Saudi Arabia’s King Salman met with Tamim and resolved all their outstanding issues for the sake of their efforts against a common enemy: Iran and its Syrian friends. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its allies allowed Qatar to retain its influence in exchange for support for the anti-Assad resistance in Syria.”

“Factually, Doha went all in on Syria, even to the point of spoiling relations with the West (Washington and Brussels are well aware of who provides support for Daesh). For a time, it appeared that the gamble was working – Daesh successfully attacked government troops, expanding their zone of control even in Latakia, the stronghold of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Then, suddenly, Russia joined the war, and the balance of power in the region changed dramatically.”

Subsequently, according to Mirzayan, Tamim’s visit to Moscow is connected to a search for options on how Qatar might extricate itself from the Syrian conflict.

“It is hardly likely that Emir Tamim hoped to ‘reach a deal’ with Vladimir Putin – to convince him to withdraw from Syria and allow Qatar to win. The Saudis had already tried this option and it led them nowhere. Moreover, it would make no sense for Putin to leave now, given that his chances for victory (and the associated dividends) are very high.”

In any case, “it cannot be excluded that the emir’s apparent willingness to take a constructive stance on Syria has one long-term goal: to achieve a rapprochement with Iran. After all, following a normalization of relations with Iran, Qatar would be able to cool the Saudis’ ardor, and get them to stop the dangerous pressure on Qatar which threatens to push the emirate to the ‘other side’.”

“Of course,” Mirzayan says, “this does not mean that the emir’s visit to Moscow resulted in some agreement. But the very fact that Qatar has begun a dialogue on changing its position serves as an important signal to all participants of this ‘game’, which covers not just Syria, but the Middle East as a whole.”

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2 responses to “War Chronicle 28-Jan-2016

  1. Australia & Syria: continuing obfuscation

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  2. "After Entering Aleppo with Russia's help, the Syrian Army may set its sights on Raqqa" ...

    Dear friends,

    Since there has been a lot of media interest in the current conflict in Aleppo in Syria, this article from Robert Fisk in the UK Independent gives a quite different slant to the picture.

    He is one of the more objective on-the-ground voice from the Middle East in my view.

    None of the Australian media have picked up on the points he makes.

    Ross

    __oOo__

    After Entering Aleppo with Russia’s help, the Syrian Army may set its sights on Raqqa

    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.

    The Shia, co-religionists of the Alawite people from which President Bashar al-Assad comes, have been cornered in several villages in the region, although their plight has gone largely unreported.

    Now the people in the rebel-held part of Aleppo are going to feel the same sense of isolation – and, no doubt, the shellfire of their besiegers. There has always been a movement of people between the two sectors of the city – will these passages now be closed? And what of the tens of thousands of civilians streaming north towards Turkey?

    Aleppo itself was late to join the war. By some kind of historical miracle, it remained disentangled from the conflict until 2012 when rebels – thinking they were en route to Damascus – managed to infiltrate into the ancient city. Its streets were then burned out in months of fighting. Now it appears to be the first of Syria’s large cities to be effectively back in the hands of the regime. What comes next? The retaking of the Roman city of Palmyra? The clearing of the lands around Deraa (of Lawrence of Arabia fame)?

    And, much more dramatically, how soon will the Syrian army, its Hezbollah allies and the Russian air force set their course for the Isis “capital” of Raqqa?

    Isis, which holds Palmyra, must be learning of the extraordinary developments of the past few hours with deep concern. The everlasting Sunni “Islamic Caliphate” in Syria doesn’t look so everlasting any more. Is this why the Sunni Saudis have suddenly offered to send ground troops to Syria? And why the Turks are so flustered? I doubt if anyone is weeping in Shia Iran.

    Anyway, the Saudi military is already having its feet chewed off in the disgraceful Yemen war. As for the Turks sending their own Nato soldiers across the Syrian border – presumably at risk of being attacked by the Russians – that is a nightmare which both Washington and Moscow must avoid. Otherwise, we’ll find ourselves in another Gavrilo Princip moment – and we all know what happened in 1914.

    Robert Fisk

    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article44160.htm

    Like

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