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How a US-led Unholy Alliance is Preventing Syria’s Normalisation

By Salman Rafi Sheikh – New Eastern Outlook – 14.04.2021

If there is major stumbling block to Syrian unification and normalisation back to the pre-war years, it is the continuing presence of foreign forces inside Syria and the support they continue to provide to jihadi elements and militias that continue to seek to overthrow Assad’s government. Their presence, therefore, not only dovetails pretty closely with the underlying logic of the US and Turkish military interventions in Syria, but they continue to be the main instruments of a geo-political game the interventionist force, being led by the US, are playing in Syria against Syria and its principal allies, Iran and Russia. This was recently confirmed by a former US ambassador and special representative for Syria engagement, James Jeffrey, in an interview given to the US government’s Public Service Broadcasting (PBS) channel, where he was quoted to have said that militant and jihadi outfits like Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham remain an “asset” for America’s overall Syria strategy, currently territorially focused on Idlib, against Iran and Russia.

“They are the least bad option of the various options on Idlib, and Idlib is one of the most important places in Syria, which is one of the most important places right now in the Middle East,” Jeffrey said in an interview on March 8.

It is also a well known fact that Turkey has been supporting such elements in Syria with the sole objective of denying Assad regaining complete control of his country.

Nicholas Heras, Senior Analyst and Program Head for Authoritarianism at the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy recently said in an interview that “HTS cannot survive without Turkish support, it’s that simple,” adding that “Turkey’s significant military investment to protect Idlib is the key factor that protects that region from collapsing back into the control of Assad and his allies.” Accordingly, were Idlib to fall back to Assad, this will fundamentally shake Turkish position in Syria, and further curtail the US ability to use its military forces to control parts of Syrian territory.

To avoid this eventuality, the US continues to send reinforcements and fully loaded trucks with weapons to the Syrian region of Jazirah in northeast. That these weapons could be used to strengthen jihadi outfits is entirely possible, given that the US continues, as mentioned above, to treat groups like HTS as “assets.”

In a separate interview given to the US Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), the head of HTS, Abu Mohammad Jolani, confirmed how the group continues to work to overthrow Assad, and how it repeatedly engages the Syrian and the Russian forces. Jolani confirmed that his group poses no threat to the US.

The PBS report also noted that that for the last couple of years, Idlib has come under attack from Syrian, Russian and Iranian forces, with Turkey backing opposition groups, including, sometimes, Jolani’s.

Turkey’s support for HTS explains why it has so far refrained from targeting the group in a region that has been under its control for quite some time. The US calculations are crude & simple: benefits that emerge from a direct support for groups like HTS outweigh the benefits that more regular and non-radical militias like the Syrian Democratic Forces/Kurdish militias can yield. Maintaining strong ties with groups like the HTS also prevents the US-Turkey alliance from falling into hot water, since Turkey has its own reservations with respect to the presence of Kurdish militias closer to its border regions.

In addition, given the fact that the US-Turkey alliance aims to turn Syrian into a quagmire for Iran and Russia, support for such radical groups remains the key.

In other words, it remains that the Biden administration intends to stick to the erstwhile policy of weakening Damascus in favour of its “assets” based in Idlib. This is evident from the sudden flurry of US establishment media interest in the HTS and Abu Mohammed al-Jolani and the way he and his outfit are not only been appropriated, but also being presented as a “non-threatening” entity that could actually serve the US interests better than other available options.

Controlling the Economy

Whereas the US is using these “assets” to prevent Syria’s territorial unification and its return to normalisation, it also continues to control about 90 per cent of Syria’s oil and other economic resources to hurt its economic recovery as well.

The Syrian oil minister recently said that “The oil sector has been targeted chiefly because it is the main source of income for the Syrian economy.”

Continuing economic crisis, as it stands, makes it easier for outfits like the HTS to find fresh recruits from within the rank and file.

As irony would have it, Syria’s oil that was previously stolen by Daesh is now being stolen under the aegis of an occupying power, causing the Syrian state to lose billions of dollars in revenue.

By controlling 90 per cent of Syria’s oil production, the US not only aims to keep the war-torn country impoverished, but also prevent Russia from stepping into the oil exploration industry in Syria and thus establish itself firmly in the Middle East. Last year in September 2020, Syria’s parliament approved contracts for oil exploration with two Russian companies in an effort to boost production hit industry and generate revenue for post war reconstruction.

However, the fact that the US forces in combination with Kurdish militias continue to control most of the oil means that Syria’s post war recovery through locally generated, albeit scant, resources cannot be possible.

In many ways, therefore, the US & its allies continue to play the same sinister “regime change” game that had actually caused the war to start in Syria in 2011.

Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs.

April 16, 2021 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

Syrian army takes control over all villages around Aleppo, eliminating threat of terrorist shelling

RT | February 16, 2020

The Syrian military has established full control of all areas surrounding Aleppo for the first time since 2012, putting an end to the terrorist shelling of the country’s second-largest city.

A total of 23 villages to the west and north of the city were liberated, as fighters from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group (formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra) fled from their positions, state broadcaster SANA reported.

The news prompted large-scale celebrations in Aleppo. Residents took to the streets after dark waving Syrian national flags, and drivers honked their car horns.

Aleppo was freed in 2016 in a joint operation by Syrian and Russian forces, but anti-government militants remained holed up in the suburbs and nearby villages. From there, they shelled the city with mortars on a regular basis, causing widespread destruction and civilian deaths.

February 16, 2020 Posted by | Video | , , | 2 Comments

Syrian Army captured Saraqib. Netanyahu and Erdogan come to the rescue

South Front | February 06, 2020

In Greater Idlib the defences of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other favorites of the foreign powers supporting ‘Syrian democracy’ are collapsing.

On February 5, the Syrian Army, supported by Russian airpower, took control of a number of villages in southeastern Idlib and southwestern Aleppo including Resafa, al-Dhahabiyah, Ajlas, Talafih and Judiydat Talafih. They besieged a Turkish observation post established near Tal Toqan and reached another one, near al-Sheikh Mansur.

Late on the same day, the army’s Tiger Forces captured the eastern entrance to Saraqib and established fire control over the open roads leading from the town. According to local sources, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other al-Qaeda so-called freedom fighters started fleeing the town. The Turkish Army had stuck several observation posts right in the area, but these apparently did not help.

Early on February 6, pro-government forces seized the area of Duwayr, cutting off the M5 highway north of Saraqib. Thus, the road through Saramin remained the only way to flee for militants remaining in the town. However, it is under the fire control of the Syrian Army.

Several hours after this government forces took full control of Saraqib.

Saraqib Nahiyah is the largest subdistrict of the Idlib district of the province. The subdistrict is located on the crossroad of the M4 and M5 highways. Its pre-war population was approximately 88,000. The fall of Saraqib into the hands of Damascus and its allies will allow government troops to continue the operation clearing the entire M5 highway and open the road to Idlib city itself.

Right on cue, while the Syrian Army was storming Saraqib, the Israeli Air Force delivered a wide-scale strike on targets in the countryside of the Syrian capital, Damascus, and in the province of Daraa. The Al-Kiswa area, Marj al-Sultan, Baghdad Bridge and the area south of Izraa were among the confirmed targets of the attack.

Syria’s State media claimed that the Syrian Air Defense shot down most of the Israeli missiles before they were able to reach their targets. Pro-Israeli sources claim that the strikes successfully hit Iran-related targets destroying weapon depots and HQs of Iranian-backed forces. The Israeli leadership once again officially confirmed its participation in the club of terrorism supporters in Syria.

Another member of the al-Qaeda Rescue Rangers is Mr Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On February 5, he vowed that Turkey would deploy locally made air-defense systems along the border with Syria. The President did not provide many details on the matter, but the aforementioned systems were likely the HISAR-A low-altitude air-defense system which will be deployed along the border with Idlib.

Additionally, Erdogan delivered an ultimatum to Syria claiming that “if the Syrian regime will not retreat from Turkish observation posts in Idlib in February, Turkey itself will be obliged to make this happen.” In other words, the Turkish president threatened to declare war on Syria if the Syrian Army does not withdraw from the territory it liberated from terrorists.

Video Report

February 6, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Turkey Slams US-Led Coalition Members for Supporting Militants in Syria’s Idlib

Sputnik – 31.01.2019

ANKARA – Certain members of the US-led coalition fighting against Daesh support militants from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorist group in the Syrian province of Idlib as they are aspiring to wreck the Russian-Turkish agreement on de-escalation zone, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday.

“Certain partners from the coalition support HTS… First, for the termination of the Idlib memorandum. Second, there are countries that are making great efforts to prevent the establishment of a constitutional committee just because we are doing it”, Cavusoglu told the Hurriyet newspaper.

He specified that some Western countries from the coalition were provoking HTS militants to violate the provisions of the Idlib memorandum by paying them money for it.

“Russians have a joint operation offer. They say we should remove them [HTS militants] from there”, Cavusoglu added, noting that the countries of origin of foreign fighters from HTS were unwilling to take them back. “There are many people leaving the HTS after we came to the field”.

Earlier in the day, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said that HTS militants were actively building up their forces along the contact line between the armed opposition and the government in Idlib’s de-escalation zone.

Last September, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, agreed to set up a demilitarized zone in Idlib along the contact line between armed opposition groups and Syrian government forces, while the Russian and Turkish defence ministers signed a memorandum on stabilising the situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone. However, the agreements have not been fully implemented yet, and over 10 different militant groups are currently operating in Idlib.

January 31, 2019 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

US Admitting Syrian Militants Use Chemical Weapons ‘Welcome’ Overdue Corrective

Sputnik – October 21, 2017

WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, the US State Department issued a Syria Travel Warning, where it wrote that the Islamic State (commonly referred to as ISIL/ISIS or Daesh in Arabic) and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorists, linked to Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist group use “suicide bombers, kidnapping, small and heavy arms, improvised explosive devices, and chemical weapons” in Syria.

Earlier on Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry said that it was the first time the United States admitted the use of chemical weapons by terrorists in Syria.

“The new Travel Advisory is a welcome corrective,” historian and Middle East analyst Helena Cobban, a leading expert on Syria told Sputnik.

The terms used in the advisory abandoned monolithic official US insistence for more than four years that all chemical attacks in Syria had to be blamed on the legitimate government of President Bashar Assad, Cobban pointed out.

The US insistence on scapegoating the Assad government for all uses of chemical attacks despite serious evidence suggesting otherwise had strongly conditioned the US public to approve continued military action against the Damascus government, Cobban recalled.

“This has become the deeply ingrained ‘conventional wisdom’ in the public discourse here in the US, although experts in telemetry and chemical warfare have challenged this view at many points,” she said.

Cobban also observed that the new Travel Advisory nowhere explicitly accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons but it did finally identify by name al-Sham and Daesh terrorist groups.

“It is notable that ISIS, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and other violent extremist groups’ are the only actors singled out in this Travel Advisory as using chemical weapons,” she said.

The US government was now officially obligated to report its knowledge and evidence for the use of chemical weapons by the Islamist groups to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is based in The Hague, capital of The Netherlands, Cobban added.

The Travel Advisory appeared to have been aimed overwhelmingly at US citizens who might seek to travel to the opposition-held part of Syria, Cobban remarked.

The advisory “makes no mention of the threats that residents of or visitors to government-held areas continue to face from Daesh and from the until-recently-US-backed opposition forces,” she said.

The US government still needed to acknowledge more loudly and clearly that Islamist rebels had been using these weapons and to identify them specifically and publicly by name, Cobban insisted.

US KNEW ALL ALONG

The US government was finally started to acknowledge that groups it had supported had employed chemical weapons in Syria where the Trump and Obama administrations had sought to blame the Damascus government for such attacks, University of Illinois Professor of Law Francis Boyle told Sputnik.

These policies were part of a wider US strategy to topple the Damascus government that was clearly illegal under international law, Boyle pointed out.

The United States had backed the Syrian terror groups “as part of an illegal attempt to overthrow the Syrian government in violation of the United Nations Charter and the rulings of the World Court in the Case of Nicaragua versus United States of America (1984-1986),” he said.

US policymakers could have had no doubt that the terror groups they were financing, helping to organize and arming had been using chemical weapons, Boyle observed.

“Of course the United States government knows full well that some of its surrogate terrorist organizations in Syria have used chemical weapons,” he said.

Over the past four years, successive US administrations had deliberately and cynically blamed Damascus for chemical attacks that they knew their own allies had carried out, Boyle stated.

“Both the Obama administration and now the Trump administration have maliciously exploited their surrogates’ uses of chemical weapons as pretexts and propaganda to justify direct US military intervention into Syria,” he said.

Boyle also warned that even after the admission buried deep in this week’s Travel Advisory, the US government could again in the future blame the Syrian government for chemical attacks that it knew had been carried out in reality by its own allies.

“It very well could happen again. Caveat emptor!” he said.

Al-Nusra Front controls Syria’s Idlib Governorate through the umbrella terrorist group al-Sham and is still thought to be a front for al-Qaeda.

SEE ALSO:

OPCW Says Found Evidence of Chemical Weapons Use in Syria’s Hama in March

October 21, 2017 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

US State Department admits Al-Nusra affiliate using chemical weapons in Syria

RT | October 20, 2017

The US Department of State admitted that militants linked to Al-Nusra Front are carrying out terrorist attacks using chemical weapons in Syria. Russia’s defense ministry says it’s the first admission of its kind.

The assertion was made in the latest Syria travel warning issued by the State Department on Wednesday. It also mentions Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL].

“Terrorist and other violent extremist groups including ISIS and Al-Qaeda linked Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham [dominated by Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization], operate in Syria,” the travel warning reads.

“Tactics of ISIS, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and other violent extremist groups include the use of suicide bombers, kidnapping, small and heavy arms, improvised explosive devices, and chemical weapons,” it said.

Terror groups have targeted roadblocks, border crossings, government buildings and other public areas in major Syrian cities of Damascus, Aleppo, Hama, Daraa, Homs, Idlib, and Deir-ez-Zor, the State Department acknowledged.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Defense Ministry said a precedent had been set by Washington acknowledging that Al-Nusra linked terrorists use chemical weapons in Syria.

“This is the first official recognition by the State Department not only of the presence, but the very use of chemical weapons by Al-Nusra terrorists to carry out terrorist attacks, which we repeatedly warned about,” General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the ministry, commented on Friday.

Previously, the US military reported chemical attacks in Syria. Last November, Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesman for the US-led coalition in Iraq, said it is “concerned about Islamic State’s use of chemical weapons.”

“[Islamic State] has used them in Iraq and Syria in the past, and we expect them to continue employing these types of weapons,” Dorrian said in an emailed statement to the New York Times.

The military official said the terrorist group’s ability to stage chemical attacks is “rudimentary,” adding that US, Iraqi and other coalition forces are capable of dealing with the impact of these attacks, namely “rockets, mortar shells or artillery shells filled with chemical agents.”

Earlier in April, the US launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Syrian military’s airbase Shayrat in response to an alleged chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib Province, where dozens of civilians including children died from suspected gas poisoning in the rebel-occupied territory. Washington was prompt to point the finger at the Syrian government for the incident.

Moscow said international efforts to investigate the alleged chemical attack did not help to establish hard facts.

“There is a Joint Investigative Mechanism [JIM], established in 2015 by the UN and the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, to find those behind [the use of chemical weapons in Syria],” Mikhail Ulyanov, director of Russian Foreign Ministry’s Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Department, told TASS.

He said the Joint Mechanism’s experts have visited Shayrat airfield on October 8 and 9, but did not collect ground samples at the site.

“The JIM are categorically refusing to carry out this important function,” the diplomat said, adding, “we can’t say this investigation is of any quality… this is an unprofessional approach that raises huge questions.”

October 20, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment