Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Syria Update: Creeping Partition

By Peter Ford | October 23, 2018

The September crisis over Idlib was brought to a conclusion by the Russian Turkish agreement to create a partially demilitarised border strip. This should have been implemented by 16 October but hasn’t.

Idlib

Some armed groups have pulled back their heavy weapons from the 15-20 km wide 250 km long strip but others haven’t, while the groups internationally categorised as terrorist, including Hayat Tahrir Ash Sham (HTS), Hurras Ad Deen, and the Turkmenistan militia, have not vacated the area as the Turks promised. Russia was supposed to be allowed into the area to monitor but isn’t. In blatant violation of the ceasefire some of the groups are shelling neighbouring government-controlled areas including the outskirts of Aleppo and northern Lattakia.

The Turks claim all is well. The Russians, putting a brave face on a very unsatisfactory situation, call for patience. The reality appears to be that the Russians don’t think the Syrian government forces are strong enough to overcome the approximately 90,000 jihadi fighters in Idlib, many dug in in areas of difficult terrain, and all promised air cover by the US if Asad advances.

It has barely been noticed that the US has moved the goalposts on what it gives itself permission to do in Syria. The new US envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey, a former diplomat emerging from that neocon haven, the Washington Institute for the Near East Policy, stated explicitly recently that the US no longer felt itself bound to bomb Syria only if Asad used chemical weapons: henceforth the US would bomb ‘if Asad advances. Period’. (In such an eventuality it would be interesting to see how the British government went about following suit, although it is worth noting that its much contested legal opinion which was offered in April (attached) would startlingly licence the government to bomb under any circumstances whatever as long as it claimed to be acting for humanitarian reasons.)

Some claim that the standoff and emergence of an effectively separate entity in the North could force the Syrian government to make concessions at the negotiating table. This is wishful thinking. The Syrian government would never regard recovery of a lost province as a fair price for surrendering power. That being the case what we are witnessing appears to be the beginning of the emergence of a safe haven for terrorists under the guardianship of the Turks and the air umbrella of the Western powers: a replay of US/Saudi support for the Taliban in the days when removing the Russians from Afghanistan seemed like a good idea.

The North East

The dismemberment of Syria continues also in the North East (Al Hasakeh province and part of Deir Ez Zor province) which is under the joint control of the Kurdish-dominated SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) and the US. Here too the US recently moved the goalposts virtually unnoticed, Secretary of Defence Mattis declaring that the purpose of the US forces’ presence was to combat Iran, which has no presence whatever in the North East. The US barely even pretends now that the purpose is to defeat the lingering remnants of ISIS, a task which the Syrian forces could handle easily if they were allowed to enter the parts of Deir Ez Zor and Hasakeh provinces where ISIS lurks effectively under US protection. The US plan appears to be to condition the withdrawal of the US presence on the withdrawal of that of the limited number of Iranian military advisers in Syria and of the rather larger number of Iranian–funded militia forces, considered essential to its security by the Syrian government. As many have pointed out this is a recipe for another open-ended US commitment to a military presence in the Middle East.

When the US-led coalition does move against ISIS remnants it is careless of civilian casualties: 62 civilians were killed this week in an air strike on two villages in Deir Ez Zor. This being the conveniently anonymous ‘coalition’ we have no way of knowing if the RAF was involved.

Hopes had been aroused that the US might pull out because of the costliness of propping up local civilian services, which for Trump is anathema. The arrival of 100 million dollars from Saudi Arabia in the Pentagon’s bank account last week (totally unconnected of course with the current predicament of Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman) may have upset the Turks, unhappy to see another Kurdish statelet emerging, but it has eased the financial burden of de facto US occupation.

Al Tanf

The US had given some hints that it might be willing to draw back from the Al Tanf enclave it controls with UK military support near the apex of the Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi borders. Displaced persons started to go home from the jihadi-infested Rukban camp which lies within the Al Tanf perimeter. The Syrian government is offering to facilitate more returns but will not acquiesce in US control over sovereign Syrian territory. Hopes of US departure appear to have been dashed, however, as it becomes clearer that the new US strategy for Syria requires the US to keep all its assets in Syria, however vulnerable they would be in the event of major conflict, and however much they complicate the humanitarian situation, as potential bargaining chips to force the Syrian government to make concessions in terms of relinquishing Iranian military protection, preparatory to a reinvigorated Geneva negotiating process with a weakened Asad which would deliver the yearned for ‘transition’ away from him.

Return of refugees and reconstruction

With most territory clawed back and fighting now virtually on pause, the Syrian government is working hard to resettle the internally displaced and encourage the return of refugees. Syria’s enemies have discouraged return but many Syrians have voted with their feet: 50,000 have already returned from Lebanon in 2018. Much has been made by those enemies of Law 10 which required property owners to register their claims, an essential step before large scale reconstruction of heavily damaged districts could proceed and new housing be allocated. This was disingenuously portrayed as a land grab by the government. Reports suggest that registration has been put on hold.

Funds for reconstruction remain elusive. The Western powers continue to block any international development assistance as long as the holy grail of ‘transition’ has not been attained.

Meanwhile ordinary Syrians continue to groan under the handicaps of sanctions and government red tape.

Israel

Israel’s mis-step in causing the shooting down of a Russian plane has been heavily punished. Syria has now taken delivery of several Russian S-300 anti-aircraft systems, as well as aircraft communication jamming equipment. As a result Israel, which carried out over 200 air raids on Syria before the incident, has not carried out a single one since, possibly pending delivery by the US of more stealth fighter bombers. The US has categorised Russia’s delivery of the new (defensive) systems as ‘destabilising’ ….

Farewell Staffan de Mistura

The UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has announced his intention to step down in November, citing ‘personal reasons’. His great achievement in the eyes of Western powers was to keep the Geneva process alive when it was clearly moribund. Without Geneva they would lose the commitment to ‘transition’ which Russia conceded in a moment of great weakness in 2014. The Geneva process has been void of significance, however, for years. The besuited opposition representatives who attend the Geneva discussions are transparently stooges of the Western and Gulf powers and have absolutely no influence over the Islamist battalions, who have not the slightest interest in the refining of the constitution or sharing power and who listen only to Turkey, which controls their logistics. The only meaningful negotiation takes place between Turkey and Russia.

White Helmets

The government declined to answer Baroness Cox’s parliamentary question as to their plans for receiving White Helmets who fled Syria via Israel in July, citing the protection needs of this particularly ‘vulnerable’ category of refugee, only to leak details via the Daily Telegraph a few days later. It transpires that the country can look forward to receiving 28 of these ‘heroes’ with their families. Meanwhile a White Helmets local leader who remained behind, giving the lie to those who claimed they would all be rounded up, told a Western journalist that half of the evacuees were not White Helmets at all but jihadis masquerading as such.

Peter Ford was a British Ambassador to Syria; he is now an important, independent commentator on the dirty war.

October 24, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , , | 1 Comment

Helsinki summit’s positive fallout on Syria

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | August 6, 2018

In the debris of the Trump-Putin summit at Helsinki on July 16, the understanding reached on the Syrian conflict stands out as a positive outcome. The steady improvement in the politico-military situation in Syria and the easing of rivalries involving the external parties bears this out. Interestingly, a Xinhua report with a Damascus dateline on Sunday highlights this happy outcome of the Helsinki summit, citing Syrian experts.

The big picture is that there seems to be an understanding between Washington and Moscow that in the interests of the stabilization of Syria, the Assad administration regains control of the entire country.

Secondly, having realized that the regime-change agenda in Syria has floundered, the US and other Western powers see the need to secure their interests through negotiating with Russia. The Russians not only spearheaded virtually all the initiatives so far to strike deals with the rebel groups (and thereby avoiding use of military force as far as possible to ‘liberate’ territories from rebel occupation) but also acted as ‘bridge’ between the Syrian government and rebel groups. Indeed, the Russian credibility as reliable negotiators and guarantors has soared.

Thirdly, what emerges in the downstream of the Helsinki summit is that the US desires to withdraw forces from Syria while maintaining its interests in the Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria.

The above broad trends find refection in the developments through the past 3-week period both in southern and northern Syria. Thus, the situation on Syria’s southern border with Israel, which had assumed dangerous proportions, has calmed down on the lines that Russian President Vladimir Putin had outlined at the press conference with President Trump in Helsinki on July 16.

That is to say, the terrorist groups controlling the border region with Golan Heights have been vanquished, Syrian forces have gained control of Quneitra province (including the border crossing with Golan Heights) and, most importantly, on August 2, the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force returned to its positions on the line of separation between Syria and the Israeli-occupied territories in the Golan Heights (which it had to leave in 2014 following Israeli pressure tactic to create conditions for Israel’s covert nexus with the terrorist groups.)

Besides, Russian Military Police has also been deployed to Quneitra as guarantors. All in all, suffice to say, the most dangerous front in the conflict has calmed down appreciably in a matter of a fortnight since the Helsinki summit.

Similarly, in northeastern Syria, which is dominated by the Kurdish militia (supported by the US), there are new stirrings. Presumably with the knowledge and concurrence of their US mentors, Kurdish groups have begun talks with Damascus to negotiate the future of their traditional homelands in northeastern regions. The Kurdish groups have claimed that an agreement has been reached with Damascus “to draw a roadmap that would lead to a democratic, decentralized Syria.”

The Kurdish groups will explore the possibility of gaining some measure of local autonomy in the areas they control (a quarter of Syrian territory), whereas, Damascus will prioritize regaining the territories. Clearly, further negotiations are expected and the advantage lies with Syrian government.

Looking ahead, these substantial achievements and the fact that Syrian government has become more stable and is in greater control will give impetus to the efforts at finding a political solution to the conflict. Therefore, the fate of the terrorist groups ensconced in northern Latakia and Idlib in northwestern Syria bordering Turkey is fast becoming a residual issue.

Russia has given more time to Turkey to rein in these groups. The idea is to work out a deal for the terrorist groups to surrender, as has happened in southern Syria, so that fighting and bloodshed can be avoided. A deal may be in the works by the time the planned summit meeting of Turkey, Russia, France and Germany is held in Istanbul on September 7.

The Xinhua report titled Trump-Putin summit yields good results on Syria: experts is here.

August 7, 2018 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Turkey in panic as Assad seeks to reclaim occupied territory

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | August 1, 2018

The meeting of the senior diplomats from Russia, Iran and Turkey in Sochi on Tuesday was prima facie meant to hasten the Astana process on a Syrian settlement. But in reality, it took place in the backdrop of reports that Syrian forces, which have liberated the southwestern provinces of Quneitra (facing Golan Heights) and Daraa (on the Jordanian border) will now proceed to assault the northwestern province of Idlib on the Turkish border.

Ankara has warned that any such move by Damascus will prompt Turkey to pull out of the Astana process altogether in protest. Turkey’s fear is that unlike in the southern provinces, the terrorist groups that control Idlib may fight it out, which would lead to large-scale violence and an exodus of refugees and militants across the border into Turkey. Idlib is estimated to have a population close to 2.5 million. Importantly, though, Turkey seeks to maintain its presence in Idlib, thanks to its enduring links with many of the extremist groups ensconced there. Turkey is equally adamant that the Kurds should not spread their influence into Idlib close to eastern Mediterranean coast.

Turkish President Recep Erdogan personally took up the matter with Russian President Vladimir Putin twice during the past fortnight, demanding that Moscow should restrain Damascus from launching any operations in Idlib. After the meeting in Sochi today, Russian presidential envoy on Syria Alexander Lavrentyev was quoted as saying, “I’d rather refrain from speaking about the city’s (Idlib’s) storming or a pending operation. There are too many rumors and they are ungrounded. Any large-scale operation in Idlib is out of the question.”

He seemed to hint that Russia and Turkey are trying to find a way to influence the terrorist groups to surrender (which was how Daraa and Quneitra were liberated without fighting.) To quote Lavrentyev, “We still hope that the moderate opposition and our Turkish partners, who took responsibility for stabilising this region, will manage it.” But he added, “The threat coming from this zone is still significant.” (In the past 10 days, Russia had shot down as many as four drones launched by the militants from Idlib targeting the Russian military near the Hmeymim airbase.)

On the other hand, Damascus has insisted that it intended to liberate Idlib. All indications are that preparations have begun for a big military operation. The militant groups in Idlib are estimated to be over 50,000 strong and are drawn from Turkish, Uzbek, Chechen, Turkistani and Arab fighters from the Persian Gulf.

Overshadowing the Idlib issue, there is another development that worries Turkey – the direct talks between the Syrian Kurds (previously aligned with the US) and Damascus for reaching a modus vivendi regarding northern Syria up to the Euphrates in the east. The Kurds hope to reconcile with the Assad government in pursuit of their common interest to force Turkey to vacate the large chunks of Syrian territories occupied by it in military operations in the recent years.

Contradictions are galore. For one thing, Russia encourages the newfound proximity between Syrian Kurds and Assad regime. Russia is also keen to vanquish the jihadi fighters who migrated to Syria from North Caucasus and Central Asia. Again, Moscow is one with Damascus on preserving Syria’s unity and territorial integrity at any cost.

On the other hand, it is of supreme importance for Moscow that Turkey is somehow assuaged so that the Astana process as such doesn’t get derailed. At the same time, Russia also places store on its working relationship with Turkey at the bilateral level that is steadily deepening and assuming a strategic character, especially with the downswing in Turkish-American relations lately. The business ties between Russia and Turkey are also flourishing with Russia winning multi-billion dollar contracts in energy projects.

Realpolitik aside, however, morally or legally Turkey has no business to stop the Assad regime from regaining control of the entire Syrian territory. Turkey has blood on its hands by fostering al-Qaeda groups and Islamic State. Equally, Turkish occupation of Syrian territory is untenable on any ground. In reality, Turkey overreached, hoping that it could exploit the US-Russia tensions to bargain with both superpowers and maximize its returns in a Syrian settlement. But President Trump has instead begun tightening the screws on Erdogan lately. Equally, Ankara didn’t expect the stunning victory of the Syrian-Russian operations in southwestern Syria.

There will be growing pressure on Turkey to pull out from Syrian territory in the coming months. Evidently, an American withdrawal from Syria in a near future is on the cards. The Syrian Kurds’ move to reconcile with Damascus is the sure indicator that their American mentors are exiting the war. In short, the US’ capacity to create new facts on the ground in favor of Turkey is virtually zero. This puts Turkey under immense pressure to negotiate a deal with Russia on the best terms available.

To be sure, Assad’s tenacity to reclaim all lost territories is not to be doubted. Make no mistake, he will liberate Idlib, no matter what it takes, and he will thereafter head east towards Jarablus, Azaz, al-Bab and Afrin — territories that are under Turkish control — as well as areas near the Euphrates front line that have been under the control of the Kurdish groups backed by the US. It seems some skirmishes have already begun in the region adjacent to Idlib between Syrian government forces and terrorist groups. Read a report by FARS news agency, here.

August 2, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Trump threatens Turkey with sanctions. What if he’s serious?

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | July 27, 2018

The frequency with which US President Donald Trump holds out threats to other countries is such that he is no longer being taken seriously. The list of countries threatened by Trump so far includes North Korea, Germany, Canada, China, Venezuela, Pakistan, Syria, Iran and Turkey.

In all fairness, Trump makes no distinction between enemies, adversaries, friends or allies. Turkey, a NATO ally, holds a record of sorts as the country most threatened by the Trump administration. In separate tweets on Thursday, Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence gave an ultimatum to Turkey that unless Andrew Brunson, an American evangelical pastor of a small Protestant church in western Turkey, is released from detention immediately, Ankara should be “prepared to face the consequences” in the form of “significant sanctions.”

For the benefit of the uninitiated, Brunson who has been living in Turkey for 23 years was arrested in the aftermath of the failed 2016 coup attempt to overthrow Erdogan, charged with spying and involvement in the failed coup. The Turkish government had probably hoped for a tradeoff – Brunson in exchange for the Islamist preacher Fetullah Gulen who is living in Pennsylvania whom Ankara regards as having masterminded the 2016 coup attempt to overthrow Erdogan. Ankara has been pressing Gulen’s extradition and Washington has been stonewalling. It’s a complicated case history, since Gulen has had links in the past with the CIA.

Turkey has shrugged off the latest threat from Trump and Pence. However, for Trump, Christian groups form a core constituency politically, and taking a tough stance on the high-profile Brunson case has endeared him to those groups. Dr. Ronnie Floyd, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, recently made the following remark in praise of the White House effort: “I thank God we have an administration that cherishes the freedom of religion as our founders hoped we would.”

Trump’s latest threat puts Erdogan in a fix because releasing Brunson without a reciprocal move on Gulen’s extradition means a loss of face. Erdogan is acutely conscious of his strongman-image. He must be wondering whether Trump is serious about the ultimatum on Brunson’s release. Brinkmanship comes naturally to Trump. Indeed, with Trump one really doesn’t know what happens next.

But Erdogan can be more than a match for Trump in the ‘art of the deal’. At a meeting today with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in South Africa, Erdogan added disdainfully that Trump’s real grouse in giving such an ultimatum yesterday could be that Turkey has drawn close to Russia in the recent times. That is a spin, of course. But then, Erdogan is also hoping to extract a big concession from Putin – deferment of the planned military operation to liberate the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib on the Turkish border from Ankara’s proxy groups. Turkey is keen to retain Idlib as its zone of influence.

Does Putin feel impressed that US-Turkish ties are deteriorating? There are no easy answers here. Nonetheless, Erdogan sees no harm in playing Trump against Putin. After all, who knows, Putin may hold back on the assault to liberate Idlib…

Yet, the chances are that this time around, Trump probably intends to carry out his ultimatum to impose sanctions on Turkey. The point is, US patience with Turkey seems to be wearing thin. Turkey is no longer a ‘swing’ state in the US’ Middle East strategies, given the poor state of Turkish-Israeli relations, Erdogan’s ‘pivot to Russia’ and the overall trust deficit in Turkish-American relationship. Erdogan snubbed the US threat of sanctions and upheld his decision to purchase S-400 missile defence system from Russia. Last week, Erdogan bluntly rejected the demarche by Washington that Turkey should cut back its oil imports from Iran.

July 29, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Russia and Iran review Syrian operations

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | April 9, 2017

The reverberations of the US missile attack in Syria on Thursday are inexorably felt in the geopolitical arena. A series of developments through the weekend signals that the Syrian conflict is entering a new phase. The most consequential development was a phone conversation Sunday afternoon between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani, at the latter’s initiative, to discuss the emergent situation in Syria and in the region.

Earlier in the day, Rouhani also had spoken with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to assure him of full Iranian support. On a parallel track, the Iranian and Syrian military chiefs also confabulated on Sunday. Prior to that on Saturday, Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri and the Russian Chief of General Staff General Valeri Gerasimov discussed the Syrian situation. They vowed to continue their military cooperation in support of Assad “until the total defeat of the terrorists and those that support them” (according to the Iranian news agency.)

Again, on Saturday the chiefs of the Iranian and Russian national security councils, Admiral Ali Shamkhai and Nikolai Patrushev held a phone conversation to discuss Syria. Shamkhani hinted at intelligence available with Tehran that the chemical attack in Idlib on April 4 was executed “by a third party in order to create a pretext for carrying out a (US) military attack on Syria.”

Broadly, Moscow and Tehran have voiced identical demands that an independent investigation must be conducted on the chemical attack in Idlib to establish the culpability. Both have strongly condemned the US missile attack as an act of “aggression” and a violation of the UN Charter and international law.

The text of today’s Kremlin statement is reproduced below:

  • On the initiative of the Iranian party a phone conversation between Vladimir Putin and President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Hassan Rouhani was held. … [The presidents] exchanged their views of the situation in Syria.
  • Both parties pointed out the inadmissibility of US aggressive actions against the sovereign state in violation of the international law. Putin and Rouhani called for holding an objective, impartial investigation of all circumstances of the incident involving chemical weapons in the Syrian province of Idlib on April 4.
  • Particular importance was paid to the key aspects of the bilateral cooperation in the sphere of counterterrorism, a readiness to deepen cooperation in order to ensure stability in the Middle East was expressed.
  • The Leaders also noted the importance to continue close cooperation on political and diplomatic settlement of the armed conflict in Syria.

The statement hints at an intensification of the Russian-Iranian military operations in Syria. The intention could be to accelerate the liberation of areas still under the control of ISIS and Al-Qaeda affiliates. Importantly, Idlib province bordering Turkey is one such priority area. The extremist groups ensconced in Idlib still enjoy the backing of Turkey, and some of them used to be the CIA’s proxy groups.

Secondly, it is more than likely that discussions have taken place as to how to counter any future US attacks in Syria. Iranian media linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps reported today on a statement by the so-called Syria-Iran-Russia Joint Operations Room, which coordinates the military strategies in Syria. The statement warned that any future US aggression will be “given a lethal response”. It said, “We will respond to any aggression powerfully, as Russia and Iran would never allow the US to dominate the world.”

Significantly, the latest Iranian statements have referred to strategic cooperation among Iran, Syria, Russia and the “resistance front”. Today’s Kremlin statement pointedly touched on a mutual Russian-Iranian “readiness to deepen cooperation in order to ensure stability in the Middle East.” Taken together, Russian-Iranian military cooperation in Syria may assume new dimensions as a coordinated regional strategy.

April 10, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Welcome to Idlib: America’s Model Syrian City

By Ulson Gunnar – New Eastern Outlook – 18.12.2016

A report published by The Century Foundation (TCF), a US-based policy think tank, helps shed light on the inner workings of the small northern city of Idlib, Syria.

Idlib is to US State Department-listed foreign terrorist organization Jabhat Al Nusra (also known as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham or Al Qaeda in Syria) as the eastern Syrian city of Al Raqqa is to the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (IS).

It is also home to a wide range of other militant groups cooperating with the terrorist organization, as well as a myriad of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) funded and directed by the US, Europe, Turkey and the Gulf states.

And while great hope resides within statements of US, European and Gulf state politicians, echoed across their respective media platforms for this city’s possible role as an alternative “capital” for an alternative “government,” opposed to the current Syrian nation-state, TCF’s report dumps a cold bucket of water on what was but a spark, not even a flame of hope.

The “Opposition” Exists Solely Through the Support of Foreign Interests

The report titled, “Keeping the Lights On in Rebel Idlib,” describes a city so dangerous and dysfunctional, the authors of the report could not even venture there to conduct their interviews, which were instead conducted remotely from the other side of the Turkish-Syrian border.

The report even admits that the “provincial council” meant to replace the Syrian government remained based in Turkey for years and still maintains an office there today.

The report states:

In Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province, residents have established local governance bodies that provide needed services and simultaneously pose a political challenge to the regime of Bashar al-Assad. No overarching authority has replaced the state after it was forced from Idlib. Islamist and jihadist armed groups hold power at the local level, and have developed relatively sophisticated service coordination bodies. Yet ultimate decision-making power has typically sat with donor organizations outside the country.

The report points out that armed groups compete not only for influence within Idlib, but also for access to the constant stream of resources foreign donor organizations provide. The report admits that this foreign aid (dominated by USAID) sustains Idlib’s occupiers, who themselves lack the ability to unify the city, fund any of their activities, let alone challenge the Syrian state.

The report also admits that initially the Syrian government was able to protect Idlib’s urban centers, and that they only fell after the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey was taken over. This suggests that an influx of weapons, supplies and fighters over the border from Turkey, with Turkish and other state-sponsors’ backing, helped turn the tide against Syrian forces, not the momentum of the “uprising” itself.

Idlib province is now one of the few regions in the country that still has an unsecured border with Turkey, making it no surprise that Idlib remains one of the few areas still left beyond the Syrian government’s control. The report also admits terrorist organizations (Ahrar al-Sham and Al Nusra) dominate this remaining region, contrary to US and European rhetoric.

Dysfunction in Idlib Mirrors Failed Intervention in Libya, Afghanistan  

The TCF report explores the various facets of dysfunction plaguing Idlib including corruption, nepotism and interference from armed groups. The crippling dependency on foreign aid and the constant infighting is not only the shape of things to come nationwide should the Syrian government ever be toppled, but it is also a reflection of Libya post US-NATO intervention, or even US-occupied Afghanistan.

With contractors interested only in getting paid, and local groups being consumed with infighting, Idlib provides the latest example of failed US-European “nation building.”

Idlib a Failed City, Would Preside Over a Failed Nation 

The report refers to Idlib as a “microcosm of the war.” It states:

Idlib’s governance and service sector has been, in many ways, a microcosm of the Syrian war and Idlib’s fractious rebel scene. As with the province’s armed opposition, an existing tendency towards localism and disparate, uncoordinated streams of external support have resulted in a service sector that is discombobulated and fractious.

Even if the US and its allies believed it was politically possible to announce Idlib as an alternative “capital” to Damascus, Idlib in reality could never serve such a role. Between its small size, the fact that it is transparently dominated by armed terrorists and completely dependent on foreign aid means that Idlib cannot even administer itself, nor the province it resides in, let alone the entire country. Any nation subjected to “rule” from the failed city of Idlib, would without doubt be a failed nation.

All Idlib could ever be used for is the illusion of viable opposition. The city and province’s administration is as artificial as the armed conflict its current state of dysfunction resulted from. Both city and provincial administration depends entirely on foreign support that is interested only in the overthrow of Damascus, not Idlib’s peace and prosperity.

Like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, once the war is over and regime change accomplished, contractors will seek to make as much money “nation building” as possible, interested more in returning home to spend their new fortunes than leaving behind a functioning and “free” nation state.

The report concludes with the question of whether or not the Syrian government could reassert itself in Idlib. The Syrian government possesses absolutely everything the current “administrators” of Idlib lack, namely unity, ability and resources. Just as is happening across Aleppo, when areas are finally returned back to Syrian control and the supply of foreign aid, weapons and support is removed, so too is the illusion of opposition.

December 18, 2016 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

“Syrian Opposition Won’t Attend Geneva II unless It Becomes Militarily Strong”

Al-Manar | July 8, 2013

The new head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition said he expected advanced weapons supplied by Saudi Arabia to reach militant mercenaries soon, strengthening their currently weak military position.

Ahmad Jarba, who has close links to Saudi Arabia, told Reuters in his first interview since being elected president of the coalition on Saturday that the opposition would not go to a proposed peace conference in Geneva sponsored by the United States and Russia unless its military position improves.

“Geneva in these circumstances is not possible. If we are going to go to Geneva we have to be strong on the ground, unlike the situation now, which is weak,” Jarba said on Sunday after returning from the northern Syrian province of Idlib, where he met commanders of insurgents’ brigades.

Asked if shoulder-fired weapons that could blunt President Bashar al-Assad’s massive advantage in armor and air power would reach the militant groups after Saudi Arabia took a lead role in supporting the opposition in recent weeks, Jarba said: “We are pushing in this direction.”

“I think the situation is better than before. I think these weapons will arrive in Syria soon,” he stated.

“We are working on getting advanced and medium-range weapons to the Free Syrian army and the liberated areas,” he added referring to the regions occupied by the armed opposition groups of foreign mercenaries fighting the Syrian government and people.

Jarba offered Assad’s forces a truce for the duration of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins on Tuesday, to stop fighting in the city of Homs, where armed gangs face a ferocious ground and air onslaught by the Syrian army. There has been no indication that the government is ready to accept such a truce, probable to fears of more military support the opposition might receive from foreign actors.

Homs, 140 km (90 miles) north of Damascus, is situated at a strategic crossing linking the capital with army bases in coastal. The city also links Damascus and the coast with neighboring Lebanon.

“We are staring at a real humanitarian disaster in Homs. Assad, whose military machine was on the verge of defeat, has been propped up by Iran and its Hezbollah proxy,” Jarba said, denying all the massacres committed by his militant groups against the people of Aleppo, Homs, Idlib, Hama, Latakia and Deir Ezzor.

“I will not rest until I procure the advanced weapons needed to hit back at Assad and his allies. … I give myself one month to achieve what I am intent on doing,” Jarba said in an implicit hint at his intend to arm the opposition groups during month of Ramadan and exploit any possible truce period.

Jarba was speaking in Istanbul after a meeting of the so-called Syrian National Coalition, which has little physical presence in Syria and little influence over al-Nusra Front militant brigades that play a major role in the fight against President Assad’s forces.

July 8, 2013 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | Comments Off on “Syrian Opposition Won’t Attend Geneva II unless It Becomes Militarily Strong”

German aid workers ‘kidnapped’ in Syria

Press TV – June 30, 2013

German aid group Gruenhelme says three of its members who had been reported missing in Syria for more than 45 days have been kidnapped in Idlib Province.

“It has been 45 days since three members and employees of Gruenhelme were kidnapped overnight on May 14-15, in the village of Harem” of Idlib, the group’s founder Rupert Neudeck said in a statement on June 28.

The three members have been identified as Bernd Blechschmidt, Simon S. and Ziad Nouri.

Neudeck added that Gruenhelme (Green Helmets) has asked the German Foreign Ministry, German police, and the Syrian opposition in Germany for help, but the identity of the kidnappers has not been clarified yet.

The German Foreign Ministry confirmed that three German nationals have been “reported missing” in Syria, without giving further details.

Neudeck said his group was “very surprised to see that… the media in Germany have been silent” on the issue.

“But we are no longer able to remain silent,” he said.

The aid group has been active in northern Syria for several months to help provide healthcare to local people.

Syria has been gripped by a deadly unrest since March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of Syrian forces, have been killed in the violence.

Foreign-sponsored militants have committed major crimes in the country including kidnapping Syrians and foreigners.

In April, the militants released two Orthodox archbishops kidnapped in the northwestern city of Aleppo.

Several international human rights organizations have also accused militants operating in Syria of committing war crimes.

June 30, 2013 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , , | Comments Off on German aid workers ‘kidnapped’ in Syria

Syria: After Qusayr, Regime Eyes Aleppo

By Radwan Mortada | Al-Akhbar | May 28, 2013

As the battle for Qusayr winds down, regime forces are preparing to wrest Aleppo from the Syrian opposition, which overran the city last July.

According to Syrian security sources, the Syrian army has begun building up its forces in several areas in preparation to storm opposition-controlled Aleppo. The sources explained that they are in the process of surrounding the city in order to cut off the oppositions supply lines.

If it were to succeed, then the regime would have managed to regain two of Syria’s most important governorates: Homs and Aleppo.

Homs was the “capital of the Syrian revolution,” until government troops retook the city. Ten months have passed since opposition fighters managed to flood Aleppo by the thousands, surprising both the regime and the city’s residents. The city had remained solidly in the loyalist camp for more than a year into the Syrian crisis and no one expected it to fall into the hands of the opposition so quickly and easily.

Government sources attributed the fall of Aleppo to the collusion of Mohammed Mufleh, the former chief of Syrian Military Intelligence in Hama, with the opposition’s Tawhid Brigade. According to military sources, Mufleh was paid a large sum of money to facilitate the passage of thousands of opposition fighters into the city.

Military sources maintained that the Aleppans were not particularly welcoming of the opposition, which committed massacres against whole loyalist families, like the Bazzi clan. The same sources estimated the number of fighters in the city may have now reached 20,000.

Mufleh’s defection and the role he played in Aleppo is old news by now. What has not been known until now, however, is his relationship to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Tawhid Brigade, particularly in its initial phases.

Reports suggested that the intelligence chief – before announcing his defection – was in cahoots with Tawhid as it tried to establish its hold in the areas of Aleppo and Idlib.

The relationship reached a point in which Mufleh was prepared to hand over all the weapons at his disposal to the brigade. Tawhid waged a series of successful side battles with other armed groups, accusing them of working for the regime.

After Mufleh’s defection, contacts between Tawhid and commanders loyal to him continued. The breaking point, however, came when these commanders requested that Tawhid “lay down its weapons and declare that it will enter into negotiations with the regime,” only to discover that the opposition brigade had opened up new channels with Turkey and Qatar, before finally announcing its loyalty to the Muslim Brotherhood.

May 29, 2013 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Syria border guards foil infiltration attempt from Turkey: Report

Press TV – May 5, 2012

Syrian state media say border guards have foiled an attempt by an armed group to infiltrate into the country from neighboring Turkey.

According to the official Syrian news agency, SANA, clashes broke out between Syrian forces and members of the armed group near the village of Allani, close to the border with Turkey, in the northwestern province of Idlib on Saturday.

Syrian officials said several border guards were killed and injured during the fighting on Saturday. A number of armed men were also killed and wounded.

Meanwhile, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said five people were killed in a bomb attack in the northwestern city of Aleppo on Saturday. Two similar attacks were also reported in the capital, Damascus.

The clashes on the Syrian-Turkish border come despite a ceasefire that took effect on April 12 and the presence of UN observers tasked with monitoring the truce.

The UK-based Observatory also said on May 2 at least 15 Syrian security forces were killed in a terrorist attack near the village of Rai in the northern province of Aleppo.

The ceasefire in Syria was part of a six-point peace plan proposed by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan in March.

The first group of the UN observers arrived in Damascus late on April 15. The observers were approved for the mission according to UNSC Resolution 2042 passed on April 14.

On April 21, the UN Security Council met and unanimously voted on Resolution 2043 to send a mission of 300 observers to Syria.

May 5, 2012 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Comments Off on Syria border guards foil infiltration attempt from Turkey: Report

Ban Ki-moon Slams Syria “Terrorist Attacks”

UN Monitors Continue Mission

Al-Manar | May 1, 2012

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday condemned the terrorist bomb attacks in two Syrian cities but said UN observers had brought some improvement in areas where they have been deployed.

The UN chief called on “all parties” in the Syria conflict to halt violence and work with the growing UN Supervision Mission in Syria, UN deputy spokesperson Eduardo del Buey said in a statement.

Ban “condemns” what he called “terrorist bomb attacks” in Idlib and Damascus on Monday, the spokesperson said.

“While noting improvements in areas where UN monitors are deployed, the secretary general remains gravely concerned by reports of continued violence, killing and abuses in Syria in recent days.”

“He calls for armed violence in all its forms by all parties to cease immediately and full cooperation of all parties with the work of UNSMIS as it expands its presence on the ground,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

The UN monitors are scheduled to visit the western cities of Homs and Hama on Tuesday.

The latest UN schedule comes a day after at least 20 people were martyred and scores of others injured in two bomb attacks in Idlib.

May 1, 2012 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Ban Ki-moon Slams Syria “Terrorist Attacks”