Essence of Time
June 20, 2017
/ Representatives of the coalition announced yesterday that coalition aircraft would be relocated. /
Colonel Ryan Dillon, the spokesman for the US-led coalition, gave an evasive response to a question regarding direct encounters between American and Russian servicemen, Interfax-Military News Agency reports on June 20.
Answering a journalist’s question about direct encounters between the US-led coalition and Russian forces, the colonel said that Syria is a complex battlefield where many elements are present: these are the US-led Coalition, Russian, and Syrian democratic forces.
Earlier, Pentagon spokesman Adrian Rankine-Galloway stated that “as a result of recent encounters involving pro-Syrian regime and Russian forces, we have taken prudent measures to reposition aircraft over Syria.”
On June 18, near Raqqa, the US-led coalition shot down a warplane belonging to the Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR). This incident caused a re-escalation of tension in Russian-American relations. Russia announced its complete withdrawal from the flight safety memorandum over Syria. The Federation Council (Russia) reacted negatively to the incident of the downing of the Syrian airplane on Sunday. It added that in order to eliminate further threats from the US, Syrians now have all the rights to use their air defense systems. The Russian Ministry of Defense condemned the US military action, saying that such actions by the coalition are considered a direct violation of international law, being classified as military aggression. As a result, representatives of the coalition announced yesterday that coalition aircraft would be relocated.
This is not the first incident caused by the Western coalition aggressively violating international norms. In early April 2017, the US launched Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base near the town of Homs.
By Jean Perier
News Front (From New Eastern Outlook)
June 21, 2017
The actions that the Pentagon has recently been taking in Syria resulted in the extreme risk of a direct armed engagement between American troops illegally deployed in Syria and the forces of Bashar al-Assad.
Upon realizing that the anti-terrorist operation, that the Syrian armed forces are conducting together with Russia’s and Iran’s forces in bid to liberate those regions of Syria that are still under control of the Islamic State, which is a major success, Washington decided to put its foothold in Syria before it’s too late. Once the Syrian government troops reached the border areas with Iraq it jeopardized all the plans that Washington has been making about the establishment of a large US-controlled zone in the east of Syria, the scenario that would have affected both the future of the country and the negotiation process to end the war that is going to be launched sooner or later.
Under these conditions, the United States rushed to redeploy its HIMARS multiple rocket launchers from Jordan to at Syria’s Al-Zakf, in an urgent attempt to create yet another American military base in the war-torn country. It’s reported the operational range of HIMARS systems reaches 300 miles, which is critical for understanding Washington’s plans. The systems have been deployed near a strategically important border crossing Al-Tanf, which means that they can block off the advancement of the government troops that would try to seal all border crossing in a bid to prevent new Islamist radicals from entering the country.
The advancement of Syrian government troops with the support of Russia and Iran forces towards the At-Tanf border crossing is not just a strategic event, but a historical one. It won’t be an exaggeration to state that at this point in Syrian war certain areas of Syria that have turned into disputed areas that global players contest. And Washington’s attempts to destroy fleeing ISIS detachments before . . . READ MORE>>
Quemado Institute does not necessarily agree with the opinions expressed by Jean Perier
The Saudis Demand Total Surrender But Qatar Will Not Fold
By Moon of Alabama
June 8, 2017
Many people believe that Qatar will soon give in to recent Saudi demands and threats. I first thought so too but have changed my opinion. Qatar will likely hold out way longer than anyone assumes and fight more intensive and much longer than foreseen.
The Saudi “young leader” has now given Qatar 24 hours to submit to 10 demands. These include (unconfirmed) the dismantling of Al Jazeera, breaking off of all diplomatic relations with Iran and (the Israeli demand of) ending all support for the Muslim Brotherhood and especially Hamas. The Saudis threaten with a military invasion.
But Qatar is not like Bahrain where 1,000 Saudi troops could easily take over to save a dictator from a mostly unarmed uprising of its people. It has way more resources and capable allies on its side and recent news shows that it knows how to use them.
Two days ago we extensively described the complex conflict between Qatar and some of its neighbors that has recently been escalating. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the main forces on one side, joined yesterday by Donald Trump but not by the Pentagon. On the other side is Qatar, geographically isolated and seemingly without any real allies even though it hosts a very large U.S. command center and air-base.
The conflict has been simmering for years. Qatar has a strong media arm with Al Jazeera TV and other prominent news outlets.
Qatar and its media support the political Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood which won elections in Egypt before being kicked out in a Saudi financed military coup. The ruling Turkish AK Party is a Muslim Brotherhood branch as is Hamas in Palestine.
Muslim Brotherhood parties have thereby proven that it’s possible to have an Islam(ist) aligned government without a hereditary dictatorship. Their pure existence de-legitimates the al-Saud clan and other dictatorial family enterprises in the wider Middle East.
There is little reason to waste tears on Qatar. It is a small country with only 200,000 original inhabitants but with 2,000,000 expatriates living there too. Thanks to its large natural gas reserves Qatar is ultra rich and has a very modern (but also vulnerable) infrastructure. The country is way more liberal than Saudi Arabia. Its cities are somewhat cosmopolitan. Unlike in Saudi Arabia women are allowed to drive and other religions than Islam can build their places of worship. But the rulers of Qatar officially follow the same ultraconservative and proselytizing Wahhabi cult as the al-Sauds.
They support terrorists of the worst kind in the war against the Syrian people and elsewhere (just as the al-Sauds do).
The Saudis currently lack money. Oil prices are too low to finance the needs of its 26 million people and the exorbitant expenditures of its ruling family. The Qatari gas fields would be a very profitable extension of their oil empire. The UAE would like to take over strategic Qatari islands in the Gulf (and the hydrocarbon fields around them). Taking over Qatar would bring both countries into a better position to fight their presumed enemy in Iran.
As we wrote:
The extreme bullying of Qatar by the Saudis and the UAE, with total closure of all its borders, is designed to create an immediate capitulation. So far Qatar holds onto its course but in the end it is likely to fold. It will have to stop its support for “terrorism” i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood. Another scenario is a putsch in Doha with some Saudi puppet prepared to take over the realm. If that is unsuccessful a military move could follow. Qatar has little capabilities to withstand a potential Saudi invasion.
I have since changed my opinion and said so in a few conversation on Twitter. Qatar will hold out way longer than anticipated. It may not fold at all:
Twitter: Elijah J. Magnier: “If @realDonaldTrump is suddenly discovering that ‘Qatar is financing terrorism’ it means he is ready to move forward beyond his statement. Trump’s statement will push #Qatar to speed-up the reconciliation with #SaudiArabia (through #Kuwait) to save its skin.” Moon of Alabama: “I do not yet bet on Qatar reconciliation – still has lots of cards to play. Saudis demand total capitulation. Crisis can extend for a while.” Salamamoussa: “This is good from @Ibishblog But my bet is that #Qatar goes full frontal & becomes an Iranian client. Qatar crisis: a regional schism that’s been years in the making.”
. . .
Our piece on the Qatar crisis two days ago also included this graph:
“For Iran this is a chance to further blow up the GCC by intensifying its relations with Qatar. It could increase its food exports to the country and host Qatar airline flights. This in exchange for a Qatari retreat from Syria. The U.S./Saudi plan of confronting Iran through the GCC would then be in complete jeopardy.”
Iran did exactly what I proscribed – NBC:
“A top Iranian agricultural official responded by announcing Monday that Iran could send food shipments to Qatar by ship. He said the shipments would take 12 hours to reach Qatar. It is not known if any shipments have yet arrived.
An Iranian transportation official said Tuesday that Qatari flights bound to North Africa and Europe that used to cross Saudi, Egyptian or Kuwaiti airspace can now travel over Iran, Iraq and Jordan. Flights to Northern Europe can cross Iran.”
Today Qatar officially asked Iran and Turkey for additional food supplies. [Update June 8, 1:00am – Turkish freighter planes with fresh food just landed in Qatar.]
But Iran can not send military support to Qatar – at least not openly and not yet. The Yemeni Houthi, who until very recently fought against Qatari soldiers on the Saudi side of the Yemeni border, now offer their support to Qatar. The Muslim Brotherhood ruled Turkey had planned since 2015 to set up a large “training base” in Qatar. Currently only 150 Turkish soldiers are there to prepare the ground. That will soon change:
Lawmakers from Erdogan’s AK Party have proposed debating two pieces of legislation: allowing Turkish troops to be deployed in Qatar and approving an accord between the two countries on military training cooperation, AKP and nationalist opposition officials said.
Both draft bills, which were drawn up before the spat between Qatar and its Arab neighbours erupted, are expected to be approved by the Ankara parliament later on Wednesday.
[Update June 8, 1:00am – The laws passed in record time. I expect additional Turkish troops in Qatar within 24 hours.]
The large Qatar Airways fleet is able to bring 10,000nds of Turkish troops to Qatar within days. It is somewhat amusing that these will use Iranian airspace while Iran financed proxy fighters in Syria are fighting Turkish and Qatari supported “insurgents”.
The Saudi/U.S. strategy of bringing Qatar fully into the anti-Iran and anti-Muslim Brotherhood camps seems to have the opposite effect.
The U.S. controlled Al-Udeid air-base in Qatar is leading the fight against ISIS. The Pentagon surely does not want any interruption of its functioning. Many buildings and institutions in London are owned by Qatar. 90% of British gas imports, 17% of its total consumption, comes from Qatar. Qatar is an important industrial investor in Germany where it owns the largest minority share of the huge Volkswagen Group. It has friendly relations with Russia. Yesterday the Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani talked with President Putin:
“Russian-Qatari cooperation, primarily in the trade, economic and investment areas, was discussed, and the results of the meeting of the bilateral Intergovernmental Commission in April 2017 were highly praised. International issues were also discussed. Vladimir Putin reaffirmed Russia’s principled position in favour of settling crises by political and diplomatic means, through dialogue.”
Translation: Qatar offered additional money for Russia’s support. A preliminary deal was made but there was no promise (yet) of full Russian support in a military conflict.
The Saudi coalition may have the backing of minor (paid off) nations and from tweets by Donald Trump. But the U.S. military is against a Saudi war on Qatar. It does not want to strengthen the Saudi position in the Gulf at the cost of other allies.
The British government and other Europeans have also many reasons to not let Qatar fall into the hands of the al-Sauds.
Qatar is quite fast in getting its ducks into a row. It quickly solved the most immediate problems resulting from the Saudi border blockade. It called in Turkish military reinforcement to stave of a Saudi invasion. Iranian and Russian (military) supplies will be very valuable in any longer fight. Europe will not back the Saudis and will not support a Saudi annexation.
It will press for solving the issue peacefully. Qatar has enough financial capabilities and reserves to withstand a longer crisis.
There is no reason for Qatar to give in soon to the overbearing Saudi demands. The ruling “young leader” – Deputy Clown Prince Mohammad bin-Salman – has (again) overestimated his capabilities. The Saudis were sure that Bashar Assad in Syria would leave in 2011 or 2012. The Houthis in Yemen would be defeated in a few days or weeks they thought. Years and billions of Saudi dollars later both are still in place.
Now the Qatari ruler Tamim bin Hamad is expected to fold in a day or two. Qatar may eventually have to submit to the Saudi demands and rule, but I sincerely doubt that this will happen anytime soon.
June 4, 2017
Edited by Quemado Institute
It has become known there has been a full release of the last strongholds of the “Islamic State” in Aleppo. Syrian Army soldiers have dislodged militants from the key town Maskana.
After the advance of the Syrian army into Maskana, the surviving militants fled from Maskana and surrounding villages. In addition, they lost the major commanding heights that tower the city.
The Army carried out the operation to liberate Maskana with the support of Air and Space Forces of the Russian Federation. Leadership was carried out by the assault division Tiger Force, headed by General Suhail — the same shock units which this year conducted the offensive in the East of Aleppo.
Now Maskana is controlled by Syrian government forces. Future military operations will be led to the East in the province of Hama, where there are plans to expel the terrorists.
Qatari approach to refugees and security in the Middle East
By Sophie Mangal
May 23, 2017
According to Gulf Times, The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, called for a political settlement of the conflict in Syria, where millions of people had been forced to leave their homes. Addressing the opening session of the two-day 17th Doha Forum, being held under the topic ‘Development, Stability and Refugees Issues,’ the Emir stressed that the international community must take responsibility for a huge number of migrants and finally solve this problem, and dialogue, he said, is the most suitable way for resolving all the regional and international conflicts.
Sheikh’s words on the Syrian refugees look right, at first glance, but are at least cynical, given the country’s vast contribution to financing terrorism. Throughout the conflict, Qatar contributed to the escalation of the conflict by supplying arms to the radical groups in Syria.
It seems that Al Thani also ignores the fact that the State of Qatar in co-ordination with its powerful Al Jazeera’s disinformation campaign is one of the catalysts for a humanitarian disaster—the refugee disaster. It was Qatar that became one of the key sponsors of the ‘Arab Spring’, which influenced the entire Middle East region for decades to come. The refugee crisis could have been settled if Qatar really had wanted to help Syria. However, Doha will not refuse to support the Syrian anti-government forces under any circumstances. Why so?
According to El Mundo, there are members of the Muslim Brotherhood among the so-called moderate opposition and Sheikh maintains close ties with radical movements.
Do not forget that Doha granted political asylum to the former Syrian Prime Minister, Riyad Farid Hijab. He actively called for a fight against Bashar al-Assad, emphasizing the role of Qatar in defending and supporting Islamists, whom he even called “fighters for justice” from Al Jazeera TV studios afterward. Such a policy cannot be called friendly but surely can be called an escalation of the conflict.
It is an open secret that Qatar has long-standing plans to build a gas pipeline through the territory of Syria to Europe. This particular explains the Emir’s desire to arm and finance various radical groups.
An expert in the field of Gulf States’ gas-oil geopolitics, James Durso, confirms this in his analysis of Qatar’s strategy on organizing direct gas supplies. He argues that irresponsible activity of the leaders of the country aimed at gaining super profits has led to the most serious and negative consequences for the entire Middle East.
Apparently, the appeal to help the Syrian people will remain unrealized. Speaking like that The Emir of Qatar only tries to create the image of a faithful country on the eve of the sixth round of the inter-Syrian talks in Geneva. Qatar seeks to present itself as a state with an ideal Islamic society, the main center of Arab and Islamic culture and as a state where the modern age, Islamic social justice, freedom and equality are successfully combined.
A coordinated approach to refugee crisis is something that perhaps should be pursued. But in fact, the leadership of this country does not make any efforts toward a political settlement of the Syrian conflict, but only seeks to rekindle it with renewed vigor in every possible way. Even The Washington Post accuses Qatar of supporting the Islamists in fact. It looks like Qatar is unlikely to abandon such an aggressive policy in the near future.
By Sophie Mangal
May 19, 2017
On May 18, the moving convoy of the Syrian pro-government forces consisted of militias was hit by a massive airstrike of the U.S.-led international coalition. The accident occurred at the Syrian-Jordanian border near the settlement of At-Tanfa.
As reported by the official representative of the U.S. Central command Josh Jakes, the Pentagon did not have any information about the number of casualties as a result of the airstrike.
It is worth noting that the U.S. has previously hit the pro-government forces in Syria. For example, during Obama’s presidency the Syrian army positions in Deir ez-Zor were attacked by ISIS terrorists right after the United States had launched their own airstrike. According to the US officials that attack was a mistake caused by “the human factor”.
In April the U.S. Navy has already bombed Syria’s Shayrat Air Base, in response allegedly to the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack.
So, what’s the true reason of such aggressive actions of the US-led international coalition this time? A number of Syrian military analysts believe that the U.S. Air Force main task was to hamper Syrian pro-government forces and to slow down their further advance towards Deir ez-Zor rather than to ‘protect’ U.S. ‘partners’.
Their actions are motivated by the fact that the Syrian military command is ready for a large-scale military operation to liberate the city from ISIS. Damascus sees the complete liberation of Deir ez-Zor province from the blockade as the restoration of the control over the largest oil fields. This may significantly improve the economic situation in the country.
This Syrian city is also a tasty little deal for the coalition forces. The overwhelming desire of the West to plunge the country into a state of constant chaos is the main reason for the planned seizure of oil rigs.
Furthermore, the air strike was performed amid the ongoing Syrian talks in Geneva. A show of power like that may have targeted at making the talks even more difficult and troublesome as they are.
Apparently, the US-led coalition’s regular strikes on the pro-government troops in Syria testify that Washington intends to continue its double-standard policy towards the Syrian conflict. We remember how they supported the establishing “de-escalation” zones but now their actions indicate the opposite. It is sheer cynicism to strike against those who really fight ISIS terrorists. But this doesn’t come as a surprise either in Syria or in the world.
May 18, 2017
A Jordanian warplane operating under the US-led coalition carried out airstrikes against a Syrian Arab Army (SAA) convoy advancing along the Al-Tanf-Damascus-Baghdad international road. The airstrikes targeted Syrian forces in Al-Shuhaimi area, 50 km from the town of Al-Tanf located at the Syrian-Iraqi border.
The airstrikes destroyed two battle tanks, and damaged a Shilka vehicle, several pickups and trucks. Six SAA fighters lost their life and 3 were injured.
According to some US defense official, cited by the Russian state-run news agency Sputink, the US coalition commander considered the Syrian army as a threat to coalition troops.
“The commander on the ground perceived this force to be a threat to coalition forces,” the defense official said.
Meanwhile, Jaish al-Thwar, a US-backed Free Syrian Army group, claimed that its militants have clashed with the SAA and prevented it from approaching the Al-Tanf area.
According to pro-US sources, coalition warplanes targeted some Shiite militias, not the SAA. However, Shiite militias operation at the Al-Tanf road don’t have tanks or Shilka vehicles and there were many pictures and videos showing the presence of elements of the SAA in the area.
It is believed that the US is going to use the Shiite militias issue as a pretext to stop the advance of the SAA in the area. The US-led block is working to isolate Syria from Iraq by land, supporting the Israeli desire to prevent Iran from transferring weapons to Hezbollah in Syria via Iraq.
May 19, 2017
The US strike on Syrian pro-government forces is illegitimate and violates Syria’s sovereignty, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday.
NICOSIA / Lavrov slammed the US-led coalition’s decision to attack Syrian pro-government forces on Thursday. “Whatever the reason for the decisions that the US command made to carry out that strike was, the strike is illegitimate, it is illegal and a regular gross violation of the Syrian Arab Republic’s sovereignty,” Lavrov told reporters.
Moscow believes that the recent US-led coalition’s strike on Syria’s pro-government forces means the desire to prompt oppositionists and some extremists to fight the Syrian government, Lavrov said. “Again we see the desire of Jabhat al-Nusra [terrorist organization banned in Russia] and those who cooperate with it, to leave [the group’s activities] outside the coalition’s military activities. Again and again we see the desire and confirmation of this desire as for the deployment of oppositionists and some extremists, including from Jabhat al-Nusra, to fight against the legitimate government of Syria,” Lavrov told reporters, commenting on the US strike.
At the moment, Moscow is inquiring about the details of the recent US strike on Syria’s pro-government forces, Lavrov said. “We are still clarifying all the details, but according to some reports, several dozen civilians died as a result of the strike. I repeat, all this needs to be double-checked,” Lavrov told journalists.
Russia is alarmed that the general understanding of the need to unite efforts against terrorists begins to erode, Lavrov said. “We are very much worried that the general, seemingly looming, understanding of the need to unite the efforts of all who really oppose on the ground and in the air the terrorists of Daesh and former Jabhat al-Nusra [terrorist organizations banned in Russia] is beginning to erode,” Lavrov concluded.
On May 18, the US-led coalition struck the pro-Assad fighters near the town of al-Tanaf in the area of an established deconfliction zone with Russia. Earlier on Friday, Syrian Defense Ministry confirmed on state TV Friday that the airstrike conducted by the US-Led coalition on Thursday hit one of military points held by the Syrian Army near the southern town of al-Tanaf.
May 19, 2017
US-led coalition’s attack on Syrian convoy on Thursday was an act of ‘government terrorism’, Bashar Jaafari, head of the Damascus delegation to the intra-Syria talks in Geneva, said Friday.
On May 18, the US-led coalition struck the pro-Assad fighters near the town of al-Tanaf in the area of an established deconfliction zone with Russia.
Jaafari told reporters in Geneva that he had raised the issue of the “act of aggression” on the US’ part in talks with UN mediator Staffan de Mistura.
“We discussed the massacre that the US aggressor committed yesterday in our country. This subject was widely discussed,” Jaafari said. “The important thing is that our political ambition is higher because we want to focus on fighting terrorism represented by armed groups and the state and government terrorism happening against our country. This includes the American aggression, French aggression and British aggression.”
Earlier on Friday, Syrian Defense Ministry confirmed on state TV Friday that the airstrike conducted by the US-Led coalition on Thursday hit one of military points held by the Syrian Army near the southern town of al-Tanaf.
The airstrike was not the first time the US-led coalition intentionally or accidentally struck the Syrian army. In the early hours of April 7, the United States launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Syrian military airfield in Ash Sha’irat, located about 40 kilometers from the city of Homs. Moreover, on September 17, 2016, US-led coalition aircraft carried out four strikes against the Syrian army near the Deir ez-Zor airport, killing 62 soldiers and wounding some 100.
May 19, 2017
What we never seem to learn is who exactly gave the command for the airstrike. This is important at a time when we are trying to assess President Donald Trump’s foreign policy performance.
According to SouthFront, the strike was carried out by a single Jordanian warplane, not a U.S. warplane. This could mean Trump did not give the order. Of course he is still responsible, even if he knew nothing about the strike in advance. Trump should immediately withdraw the United States from this war criminal terrorist coalition. American involvement dangerously undermines our relations with Russia, and contradicts Trump’s campaign promises of U.S. non-intervention.
It should be noted that the U.S. President remains in an extremely perilous position, facing, among other things, threats of impeachment for alleged collusion with Russia. We believe he would not strike Syria were he allowed to do his job. Foreign aggression was never Trump’s goal. Is he stumbling and blundering under pressure? Is he ignoring the operations of US coalition forces? Is he too distracted by the libtard 5th-column globalist subterfuge to really pay attention?
No President in recent memory, not even Bill Clinton, has faced the kind of subversive threat Donald Trump is facing, up to and including assassination. We believe his foreign policy is reasonable and will be enacted, once he is free to act. That is why we continue to support him.
Meanwhile, the atrocities committed under his watch are alarming and reprehensible. No sooner did we forgive him for the first Syria strike than the U.S. struck again.
Hopefully, the strike was not an intentional prelude to Trump’s Saudi Arabian visit.
The dilemma: If Trump had no support, his position would be even weaker. He needs all the support he can get, including that of commentators like Paul Craig Roberts, Alexander Mercouris, Stephen Cohen, Ron Paul, and so forth. On the other hand, to support him through these atrocious mistakes and even war crimes seems hypocrisy.
Quemado Institute chooses to continue to support Trump, since the alternative—impeachment followed by a Pence presidency—is even worse.
See also: Russia condemns America’s attack on Syrian and allied forces, By Adam Garrie (The Duran, May 19, 2017)
By Sophie Mangal (Inside Syria Media Center)
April 22, 2017
The details of the Israeli Air Force attack on the position of the Syrian Arab army (SAA) in the Quneitra Governorate have been disclosed. As it turned out, Israeli aviation attacked the Syrian government troops with unmanned aerial vehicles. The soldiers of SAA’s 90th Infantry Brigade were under fire. The Israeli Air Force drones executed the missile attack on the positions of the Syrian army in the Khan Arnabeh district of Quneitra Governorate. It was also reported earlier the strike was carried out to the east of the village of Ein Ayshaa. Two missiles were fired at 06.45 p.m. when government forces were repulsing Al-Qaeda’s attacks in the vicinity of the city of Quneitra. The incident led to heavy losses of equipment and material in the Syrian Arab army.
There are reports that Al-Qaeda terrorists infiltrated Quneitra from the Golan Heights occupied by Israel with the aim of strengthening the front in Madinat al-Ba’ath. Apparently, Israel had prepared and launched a missile strike in order to provide artillery support to Al-Qaeda terrorists. The Israeli drones recorded in the province of Quneitra make it possible to conclude that Al-Qaeda is provided with reconnaissance information from the battlefields with Israel help too.
Video By Inessa S
April 19, 2017
The plot thickens: In the meeting with Italian President in Moscow on 11 April, President Putin said that the US “deep state” military-financial interests potentially pressured President Trump into the airstrike on Syria. “Should anything go really wrong – Trump is who they will blame” – he said. A day later, Putin revealed in an interview that he was made aware of the airstrike a number of hours in advance. Given what we know about the situation so far – 1) Russia was given sufficient warning time to remove any personnel from the airbase, both Russian and Syrian, and 2) Not only did half of the US cruise missiles fail to reach the destination, but the ones that did were seemingly off-course. Very little damage was sustained at the Syrian airbase or the aircraft, as pointed out soon after the incident, by the Russian Ministry of Defense.
This leads me to believe that the whole thing was a facade, designed to appease certain “financial-military” interests inside the US ‘deep state’, as originally alluded to by President Putin. The slander of #RussiaGate has seemingly disappeared since Trump became a ‘war President’. The issue of ‘whodunnit’ over the preliminary gas attack, which served as justification for the US airstrike, remains at large.
Quemado Institute comments: Facade yes, but to appease, no. There may be a deeper reason for the Syrian air base attack related to deterring North Korea. Our theory fits the facts, but we don’t want to give away the details, lest the information fall into the wrong hands.
Translated from InfolPolk.ru by Tom Winter
April 18, 2017
The US Air Force is forced to ask Russia for permission to fly over Syria, so as not to fall into the sphere of air defense and the Russian military aviation space, a Russian military-diplomatic source reported.
According to him, the US pilots must act cautiously, “so as not to bring on the Russians.” Despite the fact that the memorandum on the prevention of air incidents in Syria is still suspended, the US troops “are using other available channels.”**
The source explained that “the Syrian sky, by the standards of military aviation, is very small, so the American side often asks us for permission to enter a particular area of the Syrian airspace on other accessible channels.” And “We understand the importance of ensuring the safety of flights and therefore often go meet them, but no more. ”
He also added that “a number of officers of the command of our air group in Khemeymim had good personal relations with the Americans during the contacts. Now there is no such interaction in the old format.”
In fact, the Russians are monitoring international coalition flights in the Syrian skies with their means of objective airspace control, along with the Su-30 fighter aircraft.
“Renewal of the memorandum with the United States is possible, but on one condition,” the press secretary of the Russian president, Dmitry Peskov, said, “that Washington should not repeat unpredictable actions,” the media have reported.
An earlier edition of the site Whatdoesitmean*** informed that allegedly Russian Air Force had a full right to decide on the spot, to shoot down or not shoot down NATO planes in its patrol zone. However it is agreed by military experts, that the “Made in USA” guide on opening fire does not work in the Russian Aerospace Forces.
“We read with interest about some ROE (Rules of Engagement), according to which now, allegedly, the Russian Aerospace Forces are to carry out their tasks.” Well we do not have any ROE, we have never, and hopefully will not. “We have quite a Russian-language manuals and combat manuals, and we perform our tasks by the book,” military experts have written.
They add that “despite the termination of the memorandum on Syria, the old agreement of 1972 on the prevention of incidents at sea and in the airspace has not been canceled.”
“No … Starleyev Ivanov and Colonel Petrov from the airbase at Khemeymim have not granted the right for independent decisions to open fire,” experts say, adding that “all operational decisions are still taken within the walls of the National Center for Defense Management.”
“In the event of a clash between the current US air forces and the NATO countries, Russian MIGs and Su will certainly take them from the skies — not a boast, but a comparison of the technical characteristics of gliders and weapons.” Western military experts also admit this, but better not: “Nobody wants World War III,” summed up a high-ranking source in the Russian Defense Ministry.
**The US side notes “we are still in De-confliction mode.” And “We talk to them everyday from the Combined Air Information Center.” General Carlisle, quoted at Defense One.
***I have never seen a report on the Whatdoesitmean site that could be documented and confirmed. Their typical article takes something current and adds something shocking. — Tr.
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.