By Sophie Mangal
March 22, 2017
Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham terrorists launched a surprise and powerful assault on government forces in the eastern suburb of Damascus on March 19, trying to break into the area of Al-Abbasin near Jobar. The clashes centered on a government-held gap between two besieged opposition enclaves, the Jobar and Qaboun neighborhoods.
The assault began after an attack made by two suicide bombers that attempted to undermine the positions and break through the defense of the Syrian Arab army (SAA). Rebels have detonated two large car bombs at 5:20 am on Sunday close to the Jobar neighborhood. Tahrir al-Sham claimed responsibility for the attack. The The rebel Free Syrian Army, which is fighting alongside militant groups including the Failaq al-Rahman group and the formerly al-Qaeda affiliated Fateh al-Sham, then blew up a bomb of great power, using an underground communication system. The explosion was felt even by the inhabitants of the suburbs of Damascus.
The militants managed to seize a number of buildings and industrial facilities in the western part of Jobar. Some separate units of the government troops were forced to retreat in an attempt to minimize losses and regroup. Several hundred soldiers were redeployed to recapture the previously abandoned positions in the northern part of the Al-Kabun area. At the moment SAA managed to regain control of most of the objects captured by the terrorists: a power plant, a weaving factory, a part of an industrial district and the Jobar district.
Dozens of Faylaq al-Rahman militants are surrounded after the Government forces conducted a counter-attack near the “Syrionics” area. Syrian Ministry of Defense has already published a video with the militants eliminated.
Recent events have shown some individual groups of terrorists are doing their best to disrupt the truce and negotiations in Astana and Geneva.
Some History on Terrorist Groups:
Abdullah al-Muhaysini, Abu Taher Al Hamawi, and Abd ar-Razzaq al-Mahdi worked on the formation of the group. Bilal Abdul Kareem reported on the formation of the new group. Tahrir al Sham stated that it may include the Turkistan Islamic Party in the future. The group received praise from the Gaza-based Salafist jihadist insurgent group Jaysh al-Ummah. The Damascus Umayyad Mosque is represented on the logo. The group is currently establishing an Islamic governing body (Majlis-ash-Shura), or the consultative council (hence the multiple signed documents creating decrees/laws which can be found on official Tahrir al-Sham outlets). The reasoning behind this is that with a governing body, the newly formed group will be able to work together & prevent infighting which had been seen as the cause of tension within the rebel held areas for weeks prior to the formation of the group. On 28 January, the same day that Tahrir al-Sham was born, the group announced the formation of its elite units, the “Inghimasi”, some of whom were deployed in Idlib city. They could also be used for suicide infiltration operations and as assault troops.
Since the death of Zahran Alloush there have been conflicts between Jaysh al-Islam and other members of the Unified Military Command of Eastern Ghouta, along with associated groups such as al-Nusra Front and its Jaish al-Fustat operations room. Ahrar ash-Sham have remained neutral. On 18 February 2016, Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union fighters based in eastern Ghouta announced the “full incorporation” of its fighters into al-Rahman Legion, though reiterating that its fighters based in the western Damascus suburbs of Darayya and Moadammiyyeh as well as in southern Damascus would still operate under the Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union banner and were not a part of this merger. On 26 April 2016 the 1st Brigade (then an FSA-affiliated group armed with TOW missiles) left the Southern Front and dissolved into the Legion. On 24 May 2016 leaders of Jaysh al-Islam & al-Rahman Legion met to sign a Qatari-backed deal to end hostilities after the East Ghouta inter-rebel conflict (April–May 2016), supervised by Riyad Farid Hijab. But on 14 June 2016 clashes erupted again, with the al-Rahman Legion taking control of several zones previously held by Jaysh al-Islam in the southern part of Eastern Ghouta. On 21 October 2016, fighters from the al-Rahman Legion opened fire on protesters demanding the formation of a joint military operations room between Jaysh al-Islam and the Rahman Legion. Up to 5,000 people attended the protests throughout eastern Ghouta. Less than a week later, the al-Majd Brigades seceded from the Rahman Legion, making it the 9th rebel group to leave the legion since the start of the war. Previously several of these groups have seceded in order to join the Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union and the now defunct Jaysh al-Ummah.
By Sophie Mangal
The political settlement of the Syrian crisis continues with the end of the 4th round of the talks in Geneva. The agenda includes such issues as counter-terrorism, the transitional period, the preparation to the general election and the draft constitution of 2017.
The Syrian draft constitution proposed by the Russian side does not cease to be an object of popular interest on the internet. From the front pages of the Western and Arab newspapers this question has dived into a heated discussion on the social media, forums and blogs. A month after the draft’s publication Inside Syria Media Center analyzes how the project was received by the Syrian experts and a wider audience.
The first observation is that the opinions have divided. While some of the political powers supported the document or at least welcomed its discussion, a special position on the political future of Syria was taken by the Kurds. Most of them stand for their own project, which they believe to be the only true solution. However, a number of Kurdish politicians consider Syrian draft constitution a positive step. Other politicians and experts have criticized the very idea of the draft, having seen the Russian project not as a proposal but as a condition or a requirement.
For example, a member of the Syrian parliament and a member of the government delegation at the Geneva talks Prof. Muhammad Kheir al-Akkam emphasized that the project “erases Arab identity and destroy Arab culture and society”.
The Head of the Syrian Centre for Democracy & Human Rights Studies Aktham Al-Naisse pointed out a number of legal errors in the draft. “The document mixes up the competences of executive and judicial powers. It also does not distinguish between the powers of the People’s Assembly and the Territories Assembly,” – said al-Naisse.
Syrian journalist, Afra’a Dagher, stressed that a constitution proposed by a foreign country could not be accepted. “Syria is a sovereign country. It is not acceptable to have a constitution which was written by another country, even if this country is our ally. Syrians and only Syrians are qualified to make a decision about their constitution,” – said Dagher in an interview for The Duran.
A livid debate about the possibility of changing the Sharia law was waged on Reddit, where the government loyalists clashed with the opposition supporters.
Meanwhile some representatives of the Syrian opposition began to use the UN resolution as a tool of sabotaging any attempt to get the ball rolling. The Syrian Party of Solidarity said in an official statement that the discussion of the constitution could only begin after a successful political transition. The same idea was expressed by the representative of the Free Syrian Army Fares Al- Bayoush.
Some Syrian historians, journalists, political scientists and experts defended the project. An accomplished historian and writer specialized in pre-Baath Syria, Sami Moubayed, supported the idea of ??decentralization, limitation of President’s power and the concept of empowering ethnic and religious minorities. According to Moubayed, “courage and leadership” is needed to say yes even to half of the proposed constitutional changes.
Professor Mahfud Akyl said “the initiative might become an attempt to synchronize the points of view to end a meaningless war.” Such statements indicate that the draft constitution is an important step towards the right direction.
Other experts, such as the director of the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies Radwan Ziadeh, reserved judgement. According to Prof. Ziadeh, the Constitution of 1950, which was very progressive for its time, especially in the domain of human rights, remains the best option for Syria.
A Turk Press author Nashat Shawamreh has cautiously mentioned that some provisions of the draft could drive a wedge between Syria’s ethnoreligious groups.
The analysis indicates that the project has both weak and strong points despite some of its provisions being quite lacking. Anyway, publishing the draft came as a well calculated political move to prepare the ground for negotiations in Geneva (to find common ground) and to create a discussion around the process of political settlement of the Syrian crisis.
In any case, for the development of Syria’s new constitution we need a compromise between different ethnic and religious groups, which have long been unable to agree on a number of contentious issues. Thus, any discussion of the constitution, whether in Geneva, Astana or just on the pages of social media, can only be welcomed. Of course, a constitutional commission specially organized for this purpose will take note of all the points of view in its future and it’s every Syrian’s duty to help it in this matter.
By Sophie Mangal
It is now the fifth day of the Geneva talks on Syria but a consensus has not yet been reached. Despite this fact, some opposition groups managed to introduce constructive suggestions.
Among them is the opposition group close to Moscow, which gave UN mediator Staffan de Mistura a list of measures on overcoming the humanitarian crisis in Syria, as well as a vision for the political process in Geneva.
The head of the Moscow group, Hamza Monzer, said on February 26 that the document includes a number of specific mechanisms to combat the terrorist threat.
He noted that the first point of the plan is to strengthen the fight against terrorism. Monzer said that it is impossible to solve the humanitarian problem of the Syrians without a victory over the militants, and emphasized it is important to stop the financial support of terrorism.
Following the results of consultations with special envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura, the head of the delegation noted that direct talks between the united opposition and the current Syrian government are also necessary to resolve the conflict in Syria. Moreover, he called for the creation of the only delegation that, in principle, should have been formed in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.
It should be recalled that the “Riyadh”, “Cairo” and “Moscow” groups have no consensus on the issue of conflict resolution. During the negotiations, an attempt was made to unite all the groups, but the parties were unable to agree. It seems the prospect of the direct talks between the Damascus delegation and unified opposition remains vague.
Meanwhile, opposition groups are not ready to accept concessions and to work out a joint solution on the Syrian crisis, and it will be very difficult for Staffan de Mistura to take into account the views of each member. Thus, the Geneva talks may result in indefinite prolongation.
About the Intra-Syrian Negotiations:
UN News Center
The United Nations has invited the Syrian government and opposition delegations to attend intra-Syrian negotiations in Geneva, starting on 23 February 2017. These negotiations will be guided by Security Council resolution 2254 (2015), focusing on matters of governance, including a new constitution for Syria and the holding of elections. Ahead of the UN-led negotiations, Special Envoy de Mistura took part in talks organized in Astana, Kazakhstan, by Russia, Turkey and Iran. Parties agreed to a nationwide ceasefire that began on 30 December 2016 and has generally been holding since. For all the key dates of the Syrian peace process, click here.
February 22, 2017
Moscow is waiting for Washington to lay out the details of how it intends to establish safe zones in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, adding that the proposal must also be agreed upon by the Syrian government. Lavrov said the issue was raised last week during his conversation with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Bonn, Germany.
“The US side informed us that this concept (safe zones) is currently in development,” the top diplomat said, adding that Moscow “will wait for further details” from Washington. The minister said that Russia is ready to consider the proposal, as well as any others the US may have on cooperation in Syria, expressing hope that Washington is now really interested in working with Moscow to settle the conflict.
“Such initiatives should take into account the real situation on the ground in Syria, where many players are working with their ground forces and in Syrian airspace,” he stressed.
“Of course, we will stress that any initiatives relating to Syrian territory need to be agreed upon by the Syrian government. Otherwise, these and other steps will probably not be so easy to implement,” Lavrov added.
US President Donald Trump, who announced in late January that he “would absolutely do safe zones in Syria,” reiterated his plan on Sunday, saying it would be good to create places for civilians in war-torn countries “so they can stay there and live safely” instead of bringing them to the US.
As for funding the project, Trump said “we’re going to have the Gulf States pay for those safe zones. They’ve got nothing but money.”
Lavrov said that he first met America’s new secretary of state in Bonn on February 16, when the two diplomats discussed bilateral relations as well as the situation in Syria, Afghanistan, and Ukraine. Afterwards, both parties described the talks as “productive,” stressing that they were eager to find ways to mend Russia-US relations.
US’s only way to defeat terrorism in Syria is cooperation with
Syrian government – Syrian President al-Assad
Syrian Arab News Agency
February 10, 2017
DAMASCUS (SANA) / President Bashar al-Assad gave an interview to Yahoo News in which he stressed that the US needs to be genuine regarding the fight against terrorism if it wants to really defeat terrorism in Syria, adding that this aim requires a clear political position on the part of the US towards the sovereignty and unity of Syria and cooperation with its government and people.
The following is the full text of the interview:
Question 1: Mr. President, thanks for giving us the opportunity. This is your first interview with American media since President Trump has taken office. Have you had any communications with President Trump directly or indirectly, or anybody in his administration?
President Assad: No, not yet.
Question 2: This is an opportunity for you to convey a message to President Trump, if you have one. What would you like to say to him?
President Assad: I wouldn’t convey the message through the media, I would send it through a different channel, maybe diplomatic channels. But any message for us is the public one, we don’t have two messages; we have one stand, one position toward what’s happening in Syria, and it’s about fighting terrorism.
Question 3: You said yesterday, I believe, that what you have heard from the new administration is promising. Explain what you meant.
President Assad: The position of President Trump since he started his campaign for presidency till this moment is that the priority is to fight terrorism, and we agree about this priority, that’s our position in Syria, the priority is to fight terrorism, and that’s what I meant by promising.
Question 4: You indicated that you thought there was some way for cooperation between the United States and Syria, but you didn’t explain what that would be. What sort of cooperation can you envision?
President Assad: Against terrorists, and against terrorism. That’s self-evident for us. This is beside having cooperation between any two nations, but in the meantime, in these circumstances, the priority is to have cooperation in fighting terrorism between the different nations, including Russia, Iran and Syria, of course.
Question 5: The President has tasked his Secretary of Defense with developing plans for defeating ISIS or Daesh. Among the proposals they are reportedly considering is using more special forces and even military assets such as Apache helicopters inside Syria, and arming Kurdish fighters who are fighting Daesh in the north. If such moves would defeat ISIS, would you welcome them?
Americans’ only way to defeat terrorism in Syria is through cooperation with Syria’s government and people
President Assad: Could the American prowess defeat the terrorists in Afghanistan or in other places? No, you cannot… it’s not enough to have this Apache or F-16 or F-35, whatever you want to label it, to defeat terrorists. There has to be a more comprehensive way of dealing with that complicated issue. So, if you want to start genuinely, as United States, to do so, it must be through the Syrian government. We are here, we are the Syrians, we own this country as Syrians, nobody else, nobody would understand it like us. So, you cannot defeat the terrorism without cooperation with the people and the government of any country.
Question 6: But you have welcomed Russian troops into your country. Would you welcome American troops into your country?
President Assad: We invited the Russians, and the Russians were genuine regarding this issue. If the Americans are genuine, of course they are welcome, like any other country that wants to defeat and to fight with the terrorists. Of course, with no hesitation we can say that.
Question 7: So, you want American troops to come into Syria to help fight ISIS?
President Assad: Troops is part of the cooperation. Again, let’s go back to the comprehensive, you cannot talk about sending troops if you’re not genuine, if you don’t have a clear political position toward not only the terrorism; toward the sovereignty of Syria, toward the unity of Syria. All these factors would lead to trust, where you can send your troops. That’s what happened with the Russians; they didn’t only send their troops. First of all, there’s a clear political position . . . READ MORE>> [Total 48 questions at source.]
Syrian Constitution Is Questionable
By Sophie Mangal
February 3, 2017
The Russian-proposed constitution for Syria is raising a storm in Media. Not only the opposition but the governmental circles are discussing it. Many forums are endlessly debating its 85 controversial articles. Some Syrians feel insulted by a charter authored by one outside power and approved by two others, Turkey and Iran.
The Islamists are furious, because the draft constitution scraps Article 3, which specifies Islam as the religion of the president of the republic. This is a long-standing article since 1920 which several Syrian leaders, including Hafez Al Assad, tried to change, with little luck. Arab nationalists are also very unhappy with the new charter, because it changes the name of the country from “Syrian Arab Republic” into “Syrian Republic.” This was proposed in order to please non-Arab components of Syrian society, like the Turkmen, Armenians, Circassians, and Kurds. It is how the republic was called between 1932-1958; the word “Arab” was only injected into its name as late as 1961, in response to a character slaughter campaign waged by then-Egyptian President Jamal Abdul Nasser, accusing Syrians of being “bad Arabs” for supporting a coup against the short-lived Syrian-Egyptian Union.
But in fact the Russian-authored constitution gives a little bit to everybody — keeping everybody satisfied, and equally furious. For example, in order to please the opposition, it slashes some of the Syrian presidency’s legislative powers, taking away 23 authorities currently vested in the Office of the President. Such powers include the right to name judges on the Higher Court of Justice, the right to name governor of the Central Bank, and to appoint the prime minister and his deputies. To please Damascus officialdom, it keeps the president in full-control of the army and the security apparatus.
By Sophie Mangal
January 25, 2017
A few months ago, the mass media reported on the United States military base construction in northern part of Syria, allegedly as part of ongoing campaign against Islamic State. It was stated by Syrian Democratic Forces representatives.
However, currently there is contradictory information. According to the preliminary estimates, to realize this aim it is planned to use Tell Beydar military camp, located north of Al-Hasakah, which is currently controlled by Democratic Union of Kurdish troops. This can be judged based on increasing troops shift. According to Al-Hadath Lebanon news agency, in recent days several weapon’s deliveries by air and by road on the territory of the camp were reported. The U.S. have already deployed about 800 military men there.
Evidently, a large-scale operation to liberate Raqqa is being prepared. However, the source also claims that several hundreds of the Deir Ez-Zor Military Council militants are currently being trained by the US military experts on the territory of the camp to fight against ISIS.
It should me mentioned that Syrian Democratic Forces early stated that the military air base with the logistics infrastructure would be built between the settlements of Al-Shaddadi and Al-Hasakah. Moreover, the Americans have already built military air bases in the settlement of Rmelan and Kobani in Hasakah and Aleppo provinces without a permission of the Syrian government.
All highly mentioned settlements of Al-Hasakah province are located in the area of the major oil and gas fields. Thus it is no surprise that the US is quite interested in the creation of military facilities in this region. It seems that the United States has only just begun an active intervention in Syrian civil war.
Quemado Institute comments: The active US intervention in the Syrian civil war is a holdover from the Obama administration. It may increase in the short term, but will no doubt wane by the end of 2017. President Donald Trump, now five days into his term, has stated his intention to end American military intervention abroad. Months may be required, however, to turn the situation around. Trump faces huge opposition from the corporate global elite, who make their fortune on war, who manipulate Congress, and who are now delaying the approval of Rex Tillerson, a friend of Russia and Trump’s pick for Secretary of State. Once Trump is able to cooperate freely with Vladimir Putin, illegal US intervention in Syria will undoubtedly cease. Meanwhile, Trump’s every attempt toward friendly relations with Russia is vilified by the neoliberal Western media and many officials in the U.S. Government.
By Sophie Mangal
January 20, 2017
However, in this context, the minister’s statement sounds a little bit strange as throughout the Syrian conflict, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have been providing comprehensive assistance to Islamic State terrorists, supplying weapons, equipment and mercenaries to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. There are undeniable proofs of these “acts of good will” on behalf of Saudi Arabia.
Large chemical reserves seized by the Syrian army last week in eastern Aleppo destined for the manufacture of explosives can be characterized as a striking example of an “act of a good will”. The bags with chemical materials had the name of the Saudi chemical plant Sachlo printed on them. Besides, the previous month, Saudi Interior Ministry stated that more than 1,500 Saudi Arabia subjects fought in the ranks of ISIS in Syria.
Moreover, along with the strong evidence of the Saudi presence in Syria, there are also witnesses of and even participants in Riyadh’s intervention. At the very beginning of conflict, Daily Telegraph journalists stated that Syrian Army arrested several opposition militants who confessed to being paid by the representatives of Saudi Arabia directly through their commanders. They also admitted that they got about $25 per day, without including $400 for their participation in military operations against the Syrian government.
It should be mentioned that Saudi Arabia’s Defense budget is still one of the biggest in the world and equals to $18.7 billion, while the manpower of Saudi Arabia is estimated at some 200,000 servicemen. In comparison, China spends $17 billion on defense with the strength of 2,4 million servicemen. Consequently, it is believed that the military budget is spent on financing terrorist and radical organizations, due to which the KSA government intends to overthrow the legitimate government of Syria.
To be mentioned is that Al-Jubeir’s statement drastically differs from the earlier stated goal that Saudi Arabia is unlikely to beinterested in a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis. Saudi Arabia also fears that if the Syrian government gets an upper hand over the terrorists, they will have to return home. Thus, the major part of the militants are Persian Gulf citizens, and this is a direct threat to the Saudi Arabia regime.
By Sophie Mangal
Posted January 21, 2017
Repeated statements by Western politicians about Russia’s involvement in war crimes in Syria have suddenly shifted. The U.S. president-elect’s pick for secretary of state, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, refused to name Russia’s actions in Syria as war crimes when questioned on January 11 at a Senate hearing on his nomination.
Senators Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez asked Tillerson several times during the hearings to share his opinion on war crimes in Syria. He dodged.
Tillerson said that he wouldn’t want to rely solely upon what has been reported in the public realm. He said he can’t support serious allegations against Russia without having a lot of sufficient information before making such a conclusion.
Clearly it was difficult and inconvenient for the candidate to answer such questions. Apparently the U.S. has no direct evidence of Russia being guilty of war crimes, of which Tillerson would likely be informed.
Regardless of Syria, the main task of the future head of the U.S. State Department is preparing for his appointment to office. That means not only correctly answering questions but also developing the ability to dodge a question. This will undoubtedly be important and useful for Tillerson if he wants to gain public support for U.S. foreign policy. All this may explain the difficulties in answering some of the questions at the Senate hearings. [QI editor’s note: It is likely Tillerson does not believe Russia is guilty of war crimes, yet the neocons questioning him demand agreement with their radical Russophobic views. Tillerson should have no trouble gaining public support for Trump’s foreign policy. It is congressional support that could be problematic. Note that “Trump’s foreign policy” and “U.S. foreign policy” may refer to different things.]
Meanwhile, the deputy spokesperson for the States Department, Mark Toner also had to answer questions like that during a regular press conference on January 12. Once again, the topic of accusations against Russia was raised.
Mark Toner said the Obama’s administration was not ready to accuse Russia of conducting war crimes in Syria. Being an experienced spokesperson, however, he hastened to point out that the U.S. condemns Russia’s actions in Syria, especially in Aleppo.
These are difficult times for U.S. policy in Syria. The U.S. has watched the successful conclusion of the operation in the Eastern Aleppo where tens of thousands of civilians were rescued and saved from further warfare and bloodshed. The ceasefire in Aleppo was a big blow to the massive campaign by the U.S. and others to discredit Russia in the eyes of the international community.
It is strange to hear the cautionary statements made by Tillerson and Toner after the West’s persistent allegations of atrocities committed by Russia in Syria.
According to The Independent newspaper in the UK 11 months ago, UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond made especially harsh condemnations of Russia’s actions in Syria.
He said that Russian military power increase in Syria strengthens the position of President Bashar al-Assad and, thus, increases the responsibility for the crimes committed by the government forces during the civil war. “The Russians have given the regime [Syrian government] another gasp of life and that is bad news for everyone,” Hammond said.
Bloomberg went even further in accusations that were levied in September 2015. The news agency reported that Russia and its leaders could be vulnerable under international law to accusations of direct incitement to commit war crimes.
Former United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues Stephen Rapp also remembers when Bashar al-Assad was accused of using the chemical weapons and torturing civilians or committing war crimes such as dropping barrel bombs on civilians, which, by the way, has not been confirmed. According to the former ambassador, it is sufficient to prove that Russian officials were aware of the Syrian president’s actions.
Perhaps, Western countries are afraid of getting into a trap themselves. International law professor William Schabas tells Bloomberg that other countries could also find themselves charged with involvement in war crimes. For example, he says, there is a real opportunity the U.S. could find itself charged with war crimes. According to the current ‘Leahy Law’, the U.S. government is obliged to prevent aid delivery to armed forces that violate human rights. But the U.S. is presently supporting the Iraqi military and South Sudan’s army, both of which stand accused of war crimes. What’s more, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez has called on the United States to investigate the violations of ‘Leahy Law’ concerning the annual multimillion-dollar military aid from the United States to the armed forces of Azerbaijan.
Thus, the question of Russia’s responsibility for war crimes in Syria is an easy target for those who wish to manipulate public opinion for the sake of selfish political or economic interests. Western responsibility includes not only war crimes and ‘mistakes’ by the international coalition but also the absence of any strategy in the actions taken by the U.S. administration. A lack of coordination leads to distrust and a continuing humanitarian crisis in Syria. Let us hope that Trump’s team will aim at resolving the conflict in Syria instead of groundlessly accusing one side.
By Sophie Mangal
Written for Quemado Institute
January 13, 2017
According to The Wall Street Journal, American Air Force pilots are accusing Russian jets of dangerous high-speed maneuvering in the skies over Syria. The U.S. says this is one of several violations by the Russian side of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation and the Department of Defense of the United States of America on the Prevention of Flight Safety Incidents in the course of operations in the Syrian Arab Republic, signed in October 2015. At that time, the Pentagon was obliged to increase its cooperation with the Russian side.
The Journal also states that Russian pilots over Syria don’t know the agreed safety rules or do not want to follow them. US Air Force commanders express fears that an incident could add tension to the relationship between Moscow and Washington in the efforts to settle the Syrian conflict.
The irony is that the Russian Air Force operates in full compliance with international law—at the request of the official government of the Syrian Arab Republic. But US jets do not have any legal authority to fly in the skies over Syria and therefore have no legal basis for their actions nor any moral authority to make groundless accusations against Russia. The activities of the US-led international coalition do not have the approval of the UN Security Council, and neither have Syrian authorities addressed the Western countries with an official request to support their action against ISIS.
It should be recalled that the US-led coalition has repeatedly been criticized by both the international community and NATO for its ‘mistakes’ during air strikes in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Some servicemen from Western countries have even staged protests and organized demonstrations to protest their respective countries’ military interventions.
A recent case in point is a Danish military serviceman serving in the NATO contingent deployed in Afghanistan. He organized a protest near the Danish Parliament on January 10, voicing concern over the real terrorism he witnessed while on duty. He held a cardboard sign in his hand reading, “They ordered us to Afghanistan to fight against terrorism. We were tricked! It was only for the sake of the war. NATO is terrorism! Please forgive us for what happened, Afghans!”
Earlier, a number of photographs appeared in social networks showing American soldiers with protest posters expressing their displeasure with the military campaign against Bashar al-Assad . Their faces are disguised in order to protect them from persecution. They argue that supporting the anti-government forces in Syria is a betrayal of the Syrian people, as by doing so the U.S. provide direct support to Al-Qaeda in Syria.
By Mark Patricks
League of Power
January 13, 2017
Of all the tragedies of Barack Obama’s administration, perhaps none is as heartbreaking as Syria. This five-year-old conflict has been perpetuated by the United States at a tremendous cost in human lives, mostly Syrian, but also Kurdish, Turkish and Iraqi. Over 400,000 civilians have died in the struggle between the Syrian government and the “rebel forces” — whose composition is of very questionable legitimacy.
The original uprising, which began in 2011 as part of the “Arab Spring” movement that saw revolutionary protests in Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, Sudan, Iraq, Bahrain and Libya has since been expanded and funded beyond all scope of the original movement, which was merely aimed at protesting actions (and lack thereof) of the Assad government.
Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad cracked down on Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated political prisoners who had been released after his father Hafez passed away in 2000. Ironically, it was Bashar’s brother Bassel who had been his father’s chosen heir to power, but Bassel’s unexpected death in a car accident in 1994 meant that Bashar — who had studied to become an eye doctor in London — would ultimately take the reins over the country instead.
In the beginning of the Arab Spring movement, the United States stood by longtime dictators such as Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya rather than take the side of “the people” who wanted to overthrow them. However, as time went on, it became clear that in many cases, the dictators who were fighting masses of citizens in many of these countries were true despots who had abused their countrymen and plundered their nations’ resources.
In Assad’s case, though, the facts are less clear-cut. It’s true that a certain percentage of Syrian citizens wanted to protest against Assad’s non-implementation of government reforms that had been promised at the beginning of his reign. But equally true is the fact that the U.S.-aligned governments of Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia wanted a gas pipeline to run through Syria, and Assad did not.
The mass protests became a convenient way the U.S. could take the side of the opposition and fund a movement to try to wrest power from Assad and/or perhaps try to split the country in two. But as Middle East watchers are well aware, Syria is not Libya, and Assad was not Gaddafi — he was not an autocratic ruler who made decisions on a whim and dressed in ridiculous outfits, surrounded by a coterie of armed bodyguards.
In fact, at no time since the uprising began did Assad ever enjoy less than majority support from the Syrian people — indeed, Assad boasted a higher favorability rating among his citizens than Obama had in the United States; the number of people opposed to Assad’s rule under any condition (versus negotiation over a few unpopular policies) was and is actually incredibly small.
Since the conflict began, Assad was reelected by his countrymen in 2014 in the nation’s first truly democratic election in more than fifty years, and today, he enjoys popular support despite the tragic events taking place in his country’s territory.
The argument that Assad has “committed atrocities on his own people” is very debatable; a U.N. investigation into infamous chemical weapons attacks in 2013 never assigned blame for the incident to any party; the media that spun the story are aligned with globalist forces that stand to profit if Assad were to fall or be forced from power.
But the real problem in Syria is that once it was clear that the U.S. wanted to fund opposition to the government in a major way, it became apparent that the country didn’t have enough hardcore fighters willing to risk their lives to become terrorists to attack the regime, which was (and still is) very well-armed.
Various amorphous groups stepped into the fray in order to try and seize territory from Syria using money and weapons provided by the United States. Sometime around 2013, some of these groups splintered into ISIS (or ISIL — The Islamic State in the Levant — or also Daesh).
The idea of ISIS was larger than simply toppling Assad; the purpose of the organization is to create a new nation — a Caliphate — out of territory of Syria and Iraq that could eventually grow to be one of the most powerful regimes ever known in the Middle East.
Its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has visions of a realm on the order of the Ottoman Empire of the 16th century, which stretched from the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf at the peak of its power.
Although most people are unaware of this fact, al-Baghdadi was actually held in U.S. custody in Iraq from 2004 to 2009 before being released. It’s rumored that when he was released, his last words to his former captors were “see you in New York.”
At this point — in 2013 when ISIS was founded — is when things began to become cloudy. There’s a picture on the Internet floating around of U.S. Senator John McCain standing next a person who is said to be al-Baghdadi.
While the authenticity of the photo is in question, the fact of the matter is that McCain met with high-level commanders belonging to at least one Syrian rebel group, and by this time, elements of al-Qaeda in Iraq and other acknowledged terrorist groups had begun to infiltrate or even compose many of the Syrian opposition forces the U.S. was arming and funding via the CIA.
The group known as the “al-Nusra Front” has commonly been acknowledged to be a cover name for al-Quaeda in Iraq, and many rebel groups are alleged to have extremely strong ties to ISIS, which itself pays its soldiers in U.S. dollars and transports its forces using military equipment and vehicles that were conveniently “left behind” in Iraq by U.S. forces when President Obama evacuated our troops from that country in 2011.
There’s speculation that much of the arms and funding the U.S. has been providing to “rebel” groups in Syria actually winds up in the hands of ISIS. Whether this happens with the implicit knowledge of the Obama administration is impossible to say.
But there’s most definitely an argument that can be made that had the U.S. not pulled out of Iraq in 2011, ISIS would not have been able to form or become the force in the region that it is today.
Some pundits argue that a speculative globalist “playbook” — to overthrow the governments of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria (and possibly Iran), in that order, is currently being carried out — but obviously, the battle in Syria is likely stretching out beyond the original goalposts that had been intended for it.
The fact of the matter is that Russian involvement, which may not have originally been anticipated or calculated to the extent that it’s taken place, has shored up Assad’s regime in ways that may have been unexpected to U.S. forces.
Now that the administration of Obama is on its way out, and the Russia-friendly administration of President-Elect Donald Trump is about to take power, the prospects for the “rebels” are likely starting to look bleak. Indeed, the timing of the recent fall of Aleppo to pro-Assad troops coinciding with the election of Trump might be no accident.
The “rebel groups” may now be under pressure to retreat and/or disband if they sense that the U.S. may be about to side with the Russians instead of fighting them through the imposition of a “no-fly zone” as Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton had pressed for in her ill-fated campaign for the U.S. presidency.
In fact, had Clinton won, it’s highly possible the war in Syria might be looking quite a bit different as of today — with highly catastrophic, international ramifications.
But the worst part of the entire Syrian conflict — the most tragic part — is the number of civilians who have died because they were caught in the crossfire. The U.S. government has gotten the mainstream media (and especially social media) to repeat the lies of atrocities — that for some reason, Assad was killing his own people in Aleppo by refusing to let them evacuate the city, formerly Syria’s largest.
But the fact of the matter is that the government of Syria had announced that all citizens of Aleppo were free to leave it at any time; it even provided buses as transportation.
In Aleppo specifically, there has been tremendous propaganda claiming the government was slaughtering people and that 250,000 citizens were “trapped” by government forces. In fact, it was the supposedly “moderate” rebel groups which have tortured people, beheaded children and refused to let civilians leave the besieged parts of the city.
A supposedly neutral humanitarian group called The White Helmets was organized by U.S.-backed and British security forces, which has been accused of killing Syrian soldiers even as it’s solicited donations via Facebook.
Now that the goalposts of the conflict may be changing, the truth about the battle of Syria may finally be emerging — that it has been the administration of President Barack Obama that has expanded and enlarged the conflict there at great cost to human life as well as to U.S. taxpayers.
Like the infamous secret bombings of Cambodia in 1969 and 1970 ordered by then-Secretary-of-State Henry Kissinger to disrupt Vietcong supply chains, the funding and arming of Syrian “rebel forces” may ultimately be looked at historically as acts of extremely dubious legitimacy.
The same protesters who argue that Kissinger should be brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague may one day accuse Obama of playing a significant part in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in Syria.
Certainly, if Bashar al-Assad had killed all of those people purposefully, it would undoubtedly be considered a war crime. But the fact that they died in the midst of battles means that it can not fall into such a category. At the same time, a strong argument can be made that Obama has blood on his hands from the affair.
It’s highly probable that President-Elect Donald Trump’s policy of getting the U.S. out of foreign conflicts (with the admitted exception of battling ISIS) would reduce the war in Syria; in fact, some people believe it would effectively end the conflict as we know it as the opposition forces would simply run out of arms and funds.
One can hope that the new presidential administration will bring some peace to much of the Syrian nation, which has suffered out of all proportion to its Middle Eastern brethren in the Arab Spring nations’ conflicts.
Dealing with ISIS is another matter, but if recent events are any indicator, they are already on the run and may yet melt away to places from whence they came once Trump steps into the Oval Office.
QI Editor’s note: Quemado Institute does not necessarily agree with the opinions about Gaddafi expressed in this article.