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Syria’s Arab Tribes Give Pro-American Forces and SDF One Month to Leave Eastern Syria

Sputnik – 11.08.2020

On 11 August, sheikhs and elders of the Arab Al-Uqaydat tribe met in the Syrian Deir ez-Zor province, agreeing that the US-led coalition is responsible for murdering tribal sheikhs in the province, and demanding that the region be cleared of SDF forces, local control returned to the Syrians, and stating: “leave the Arab region to the Arabs”.

Sputnik’s correspondent in al-Hasakah reported, citing civilian sources in Deir ez-Zor, that nearly 5,000 people attended a meeting of Al-Uqaydat sheikhs and elders. They agreed that the pro-American coalition and the SDF have one month to turn over all of those involved in murdering sheikhs in the Deir ez-Zor governorate, and demanded that the SDF and the coalition leave the province.

The tribal sheikhs condemned the security chaos caused by a series of murders of tribal elders and sheikhs, as well as condemning widespread corruption. These factors are reported to have forced the tribe to make the decision.

The most recent high-profile crime attributed to SDF fighters is the assassination of Sheikh Mutashar al-Hafil and his relative Dar Mihlef al-Khalaf, which has provoked a wave of protests and aggression by local tribes against both the armed SDF groups and the pro-American coalition.

“We are calling on the international coalition to transfer control over the province directly to its Arab population, respecting Syria’s territorial integrity, as well as the rights of Syrian citizens”, the trial elder’s statement said.

Al-Uqaydat tribal representatives also demand that the SDF release all prisoners and hostages: particularly and first, women and children.

Reportedly, the month given to the SDF and the coalition to meet the ultimatum starts today, August 11, 2020.

The Al-Uqaydat tribes have traditionally been situated in the eastern part of the Syrian Deir ez-Zor province. Popular protests hit these cities after pro-American SDF forces killed several sheikhs and tribal elders. In response, tribal representatives broke into SDF headquarters in several governorate cities and captured fighters.

August 11, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | 2 Comments

Syrian tribe declares popular war against US forces, SDF

Press TV – August 10, 2020

A Syrian tribe in the eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr has launched a popular resistance force against US troops and their allies, accusing the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) of stealing the country’s resources.

The US-based Rai al-Youm newspaper said on its website on Monday that the tribe of Akidat announced in a statement the formation of a military council and launching popular resistance against the US forces and their allied militants in an apparent direct accusation of the American troops of being behind the assassination of Matshar al-Hafl, a senior member of the tribe.

The statement also accused the SDF of stealing the country’s resources and killing its prominent figures.

According to the statement, the elders and notable members of the tribe had held a meeting to take action against the “American occupiers” and the US-backed mercenaries, and to liberate the Syrian territory.

The statement said they agreed to form a political council and a tribal army – to serve as its military wing – to manage the tribe’s affairs in cooperation with the relevant authorities.

It added that the council has begun the practical steps towards the formation of the Akidat army to liberate Syrian territory in coordination with the Syrian army.

The US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes and operations against what are said to be Daesh targets inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a United Nations mandate. Damascus has repeatedly condemned the airstrikes.

The military alliance has repeatedly been accused of targeting and killing civilians.

The US has dispatched new deployments to the Syrian provinces of Hasakah and Dayr al-Zawr following President Donald Trump’s October decision to keep hundreds of US troops in Syria to “secure” the country’s oilfields which Syrian troops have yet to retake from militants.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated that US attempts to control Syria’s oilfields were “illegal” and amounted to “robbery.”

Damascus is in great need of its major oil deposits in order to address its energy needs and rebuild the country amid crippling Western sanctions.

The Arab country has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups that are wreaking havoc in the country.

The Arab country is currently extracting oil at only 10 percent of its pre-war capacity.

August 10, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | 1 Comment

Popular Resistance: Armed Syrian Arab Tribes Able to Defeat US-SDF Alliance, Ex-Diplomat Reveals

Sputnik – 07.08.2020

Earlier this week, a group of Syrian Arab tribes representatives broke into the local headquarters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the cities of Deir ez-Zor, Diban, and Al-Hawaij in the eastern Deir ez-Zor Province.

Seyed Hadi Afgahi, an Iranian expert on the Middle East, and ex-diplomat at the Iranian embassy in Beirut, believes that Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) units play a destructive role in terms of Syria’s security and stability, but there are certain forces that can break them for good.

“After Daesh had been defeated, the Americans created an alternative force to destroy Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is a mixture of Arabs and Kurds, and plays a destructive role in terms of Syria’s stability and security. The Americans armed them and used them as a proxy to take control of oil in Eastern Syria. In fact, the United States is plundering Syrian oil reserves through these forces. That is why a popular resistance is being formed in Syria, similar to the one in Iraq in 2003, whose armed guerrillas repeatedly dealt a serious blow to the American military contingent in Iraq, forcing Barack Obama to conclude an agreement. This is exactly the way of forming a popular resistance among Arab tribes that is gradually gaining strength in Syria,” he said.

“Moreover, some of the Arab tribes elders’ sons in the area of Deir ez-Zor and in the east of Al-Hasakah have left their previous military units and returned to their homes, where they are already forming people’s armed resistance backed by the Syrian government. They are expanding their groups and attacking US forces,” he added.

“This is one of the ways to counter US presence in Syria, because currently the Syrian army is not strong enough to resist and is unable to strike, therefore the best way is to opt for popular resistance that can ‘strike and smash’”, the former diplomat concluded.

Afgahi’s comments come days after representatives of Syrian Arab tribes stormed several SDF headquarters in the cities of Deir ez-Zor, Diban, and Al-Hawaij in the eastern Deir ez-Zor Province. The armed tribesmen also detained SDF militants present in the buildings at that moment.

The storming of the SDF headquarters in the province happened after representatives of the tribes protested against arbitrary actions by militant groups supported by the US. The demonstration was held against a recent surge in killings of elders and sheikhs of the local tribes by the SDF militants. The protesters demanded that the group hand over those responsible for the killings.

The SDF and other Kurdish groups currently control most of Syria’s oil-rich east with the support of US troops, who have been tasked with “keeping” the local crude fields since October 2019 from alleged attempts by Daesh militants to seize them. The Syrian government has repeatedly slammed the presence of a US military contingent in the country as illegal since they didn’t receive a mandate either from Damascus or the UN.

August 7, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , | 1 Comment

SDF militants kill civilian protesting against US military presence in Syria

Press TV – August 5, 2020

A civilian has lost his life and several others sustained injuries during a rally in Syria’s northeastern province of Dayr al-Zawr to demand the withdrawal of US military forces and their allied militants affiliated with the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from the region.

Syria’s official news agency SANA, citing local sources, reported that residents of Diban town demonstrated on Tuesday afternoon to express their opposition to the presence of American soldiers and the arbitrary practices of SDF militants.

The US-backed militants responded by firing live bullets at the protesters, killing one of them and injuring several others.

SANA added that locals managed to expel SDF militants out of their checkpoints and the schools which they had been using as bases following the clashes.

Similar protests were held in other Dayr al-Zawr towns and villages, including al-Hawaij, Jadeed Ekedat, Tayaneh, al-Sobhah, Abu al-Nitel, al-Shuhayl and Shinan, where people called for the immediate pullout of SDF militants and US forces.

The militants reportedly brought in reinforcements from the towns of al-Shaddadi, al-Susah and al-Baghouz in order to bring the situation under control.

The Arabic service of Russia’s Sputnik news agency, citing sources speaking on condition of anonymity, reported that SDF militants, supported by military aircraft belonging to the US-led coalition, raided the towns of al-Shuhayl and al-Hawaij later in the day, triggering fierce clashes with locals.

Security conditions are reportedly deteriorating in areas controlled by the SDF in Hasakah and Dayr al-Zawr provinces amid ongoing raids and arrests of civilians by the militants.

Locals complain that the SDF’s constant raids and arrest campaigns have generated a state of frustration and instability, severely affecting their businesses and livelihoods.

Residents accuse the US-sponsored militants of stealing crude oil and refusing to spend money on services sectors.

Local councils affiliated with the SDF have also been accused of financial corruption. They are said to be embezzling funds provided by donors, and failing to provide basic public requirements.

August 5, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Civilian Taxi Driver Shot and Killed by US Military in Deir Ezzor

By Ahmad Al Khaled | American Herald Tribune | May 12, 2020

Before the outbreak of the Syrian conflict, Yasser Aslan used to teach programming. With the war and ever-dwindling economy, Yasser, the only breadwinner in the family of six, had to look for additional sources of income. Like thousands of other Syrians, he turned his car – a KIA Rio – into a taxi, and drove along the dangerous roads of Deir Ezzor province in an attempt to make the ends meet for himself, his wife and four daughters (15-years-old teenager and 4-years-old triplets).

Deir-Ezzor, as well as other eastern provinces of Syria, still suffers from small-scale yet lethal attacks carried out by remnants of ISIS terror group. The terrorists mostly target SAA and SDF checkpoints and patrols in the area, but civilians also fall victim to the attacks.

However, it was not ISIS activities that ultimately resulted in Yasser’s death. On May 1st, he and a passenger were driving through the area of Koniko oil facility that hosts a large US military base. As the car drew closer to the base, it unexpectedly came under fire. Yasser was fatally wounded in the head while the passenger survived and was taken prisoner by SDF.

Shortly after Yasser’s relatives were informed that his body was taken to a hospital in Jadid Baqara village. Posts on their social media pages blamed a “US sniper” for the death of their relative and friend, expressing outrage over the incident.

Although Yasser’s demise, most likely at the hands of US military personnel, was reported on-line, neither the Pentagon nor the International Coalition commented on the incident. The story gained no traction in the media. One report described the incident as a ‘clash with ISIS during which a civilian was killed’ without indication of the side responsible for his death.

May 12, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

“Scorched Earth” Terror Policy Sets Syrian and Iraqi Agricultural Land Ablaze

Although Daesh has claimed sole responsibility for recent crop fires, other culprits have a motive and share responsibility too

By Sarah Abed | InfoRos | June 20, 2019

After years of deprivation and financial turmoil farmers across the most fertile parts of Syria and Iraq were looking forward to a much-needed return on their investment. Unfortunately, before that could happen, their hard work went up in flames, literally. The devastation and pain that these fires have caused a countless number of families is heartbreaking and immeasurable.

Recently, tens of thousands of acres of agricultural land have been set on fire in the northern and eastern regions of Syria. 0ver 84,000 acres of wheat and barley crops have been destroyed, estimated losses are well over $3,000,000, as of June 17th. Over 20,000 acres of crops in a dozen Iraqi provinces have been destroyed as well.

I spoke with a Qamishli resident under the condition of anonymity, on June 17th about the recent wheat and barley crop fires in his region and he had the following to say, “If you were to come to Qamishli right now, you would not be able to smell anything but the fire. I get up in the morning and there’s ash covering my entire car, from the crop fires. The entire region has been affected, people’s livelihoods have been destroyed, people are confused and upset, and the fires are spreading beyond the fields and into towns, many families are suffering right now. Have you seen the size of the flames? They can’t be contained. There are birds that were killed, they couldn’t escape from the fire. Imagine that, they have been photographed sitting, some protecting their nests, completely burned alive.”

I asked about fatalities, he said “Over 25 people have been killed so far.”

When I asked who owns the land and who would have a motive to do this he answered,

“The majority of the lands that have been affected were owned by Arab families, not Kurds.” He also said, “75% of the people here think the Kurdish militias are responsible”.

A new policy implemented by the self-proclaimed Kurdish administration prevents wheat from being sold to areas under the Syrian governments control. Farmers who were offered a better rate by the Syrian government for their crops were not allowed to sell and coincidentally, now their crops have been destroyed.

Laith Marouf, Senior Consultant of Community Media Advocacy Centre (CMAC) stated on June 14th,

“For the past month, Kurdish Contras in Syria implemented a scorched earth campaign against Arab and Assyrian farm lands, with 100s of acres of crops burnt to the ground in an effort to force the majority population to accept Kurdish minority rule and occupation by the Empire. Yesterday, as a follow up to this campaign, Saudi sent an envoy who has toured the areas along with the US ambassador offering money to Arab and Assyrian tribal leaders, now hungry and financially ruined after their annual harvest was destroyed, in return for their allegiance against their homeland.”

When I spoke to Laith on June 17th about allegations being made against Turkish militias for the fires on Turkey’s borders Laith stated

“Fires started first in regions close to the Euphrates and Khabour rivers. Only in past few days fires started in border regions with Turkey”.

In 2017, when Daesh lost a significant amount of territory in Iraq and Syria including Mosul, Palmyra and Raqqa, the terrorist group took on a campaign of mass destruction and sabotage. Their goal was to destroy anything of value including priceless artifacts, factories, buildings, oil wells, water wells, electricity, sugar and cement factories and burning crops. Their aim was to inflict as much economic turmoil as possible on not only the governments but the civilians that lived in these areas. This led to what has been referred to as Daesh’s “scorched earth policy”.  The idea is simple, if they can’t have something, then no one else can either.

With these recent crop fires however, there could be multiple culprits that are using this opportunity to further their own destructive plans while Daesh or sleeper cells takes the entire blame. Even though Daesh has claimed responsibility and has called for their followers to continue to burn crops and cause the “apostates” to suffer, other parties have motives as well.

The Kurdish self-administration has blamed the Syrian government along with Daesh, for the fires. Salman Barudo the head of Kurdish administrations agriculture committee stated,

“We cannot say the regime and ISIS are working together, but they share the same interest in not seeing the success of this area”.

Ironically, we have proof that SDF has not only worked with Daesh and other terrorist groups during the war, but has used Daesh war tactics such as kidnapping and forced conscription.

Some have alleged that Iran was responsible for the fires in Iraq, implying that they were trying to force the Iraqi government to buy Iranian wheat. Syrian Opposition groups have blamed the Kurdish led, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces or SDF. And the blame game continues.

Amidst all the allegations, (some more ridiculous than others) the simple fact that certain parties aside from Daesh, have much to gain from these terrible acts remains. They can only hide behind Daesh for so long before the responsible parties are fully exposed.

Earlier this month, Syria’s Ikhbariya state TV journalist and correspondent Muhammad as-Saghir was detained by the SDF after filming wheat fields on fire and obtaining evidence that the SDF was not in a hurry to put them out. He also stated that the SDF was seeking to destroy Syrian wheat stocks as a means of furthering the US economic war against Damascus.

Given this information, it appears that crop fires are part of Washington’s next phase of economic warfare/terrorism (in addition to the existing harsh sanctions), being imposed on war-ravaged Syrians who have courageously fought against western-supported global terrorism, within their borders for over eight years.

June 21, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , | Leave a comment

Arab Protesters Clash With SDF In Raqqa Province

Syrian War Report | South Front | January 24, 2019

On January 23, hundreds of civilians took to the streets in the town of al-Mansoura in the province of Raqqa to protest against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) after the group’s security forces had murdered a civilian.

According to local sources, Ahmad al-Zaban, a member of the prominent al-Bukhamis tribe, was killed because he had refused to join the SDF. In 2018, the Kurdish-dominated group started to employ forced conscription as a measure to form some Arab units within its ranks. This effort is a part of attempts to justify the political and military dominance of US-backed Kurdish armed groups in northeastern Syria.

During the protests in al-Mansoura, the locals and members of the al-Bukhamis tribe clashed with the SDF’s security forces and burned down their center. This forced the SDF to temporarily withdraw from the town. The locals also demanded that the SDF hand over those of their members who had been involved in the crime. The situation is developing, but it is not likely that the group will find a comprehensive peaceful solution with the protesters. In most of the cases, the SDF’s security forces just crack down on protests and accuse the opposition of links with terrorists.

Earlier this week, several tribes living on the eastern bank of the Euphrates held rallies asking Russia and the Damascus government to restore river bridges, which had been destroyed by the US-led coalition. The destruction of bridges is one of the tools used to prevent movement of people and goods between SDF-held and government-controlled areas.

The isolation of the SDF-held area from the rest of Syria as well as an ongoing large-scale propaganda campaign claiming that the bloody Assad regime is preventing people from returning to their homes are tools, which are being used to undermine Syria’s territorial integrity.

Meanwhile, the SDF has achieved notable progress fighting ISIS in the terrorist-held pocket near the Iraqi border. The SDF has captured the villages of al-Baghuz al-Fawqani and Shajlah and advanced on ISIS positions in the village of Murashida. When this village falls into the hands of the SDF, the ISIS-held pocket will be formally eliminated.

According to pro-Kurdish sources, more than 5,100 people have fled the ISIS-held area. At least 500 ISIS members were among them. They surrendered themselves to the SDF.

In Moscow, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin held a meeting discussing a wide range of topics, including the situation in Syria. In a press briefing following the meeting, Putin announced that Moscow and Ankara had agreed to work on additional measures to implement the Idlib deconfliction agreement.

“We see that our Turkish partners are making great efforts to eliminate the terrorist threat there and it is necessary to work together to remove tension in that region”, Putin said. He added that Russia is also working to support negotiations between the SDF and Damascus.

January 24, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , | Leave a comment

Kurdish Fighters Selling US-Supplied Weapons on Black Market – Reports

Sputnik – 15.07.2018

Just as Washington has ramped up its support for Kurdish units in Syria, the fighters are selling their US-made weapons on the black market to make up for their expenses, the Arabic-language Daily Sabah reported, citing local sources in Northern Syria.

In keeping with an agreement between the US and Turkey, the Kurdish forces are to withdraw from Manbij and other areas west of the Euphrates River and surrender their weapons to the UN before the end of this year.

According to the sources, the Kurdish fighters fear that once they have handed over their weapons, Turkey might launch a new military operation against them in Northern Syria.

“Hence, they are selling the weapons to other militant groups that operate in the same region,” they added.

The US has delivered light and heavy weapons on a large number of trucks to the Kurdish forces in northern Syria under the pretext of fighting Daesh, Fars News reported.

Earlier this month, the US dispatched a new 200-truck military convoy to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Hasaka province in Northern Syria.

The Arabic-language al-Watan daily quoted local sources as saying that the US-led coalition had sent several personnel carriers and armored vehicles from Iraq to the Kurdish units stationed in Northeastern Hasaka.

The US looks upon the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as an ally in Syria and a constituent part of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has allegedly been trained, equipped and monitored by the Americans.

In December 2017, President Donald Trump approved providing $393 million worth of weapons to what Washington calls partners in Syria, including the YPG. Shortly thereafter, the US announced its intention to set up an all-Kurdish battalion comprising about 30,000 people, which was supposed to be deployed along the Turkish border.

Washington’s move was condemned by Turkey which launched a military operation in January aimed at ousting SDF forces from areas in northern Syria near the Turkish border.

July 15, 2018 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Forced Recruitment by US-Backed SDF Reported Again in Deir Ezzur

Fars News Agency | June 30, 2018

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have detained and forcefully recruited a large number of civilians in Deir Ezzur.

Local sources in Eastern Deir Ezzur reported on Saturday that the SDF has detained tens of civilians during heavy attacks on the villages of al-Tiyanah, al-Shanan and al-Jarzi.

The Kurdish forces also arrested a number of civilians in the villages of Mahimideh and Haqayej al-Bomasa’h.

Meantime, reports said that they have attacked and beaten a number of civilians in the town of al-Kashisheh in Eastern Deir Ezzur.

Tensions have heightened between the civilians and the SDF in Deir Ezzur, Hasaka and other regions occupied by the US-backed Kurdish forces.

In a relevant development on Thursday, local sources in Eastern Deir Ezzur reported that tensions and uprising of civilians against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have intensified, adding that assassination attempts by unknown assailants have also increased against the SDF in the region.

The sources said that residents of the town of al-Shahil have held protest rallies against the SDF and blocked the roads in Eastern Deir Ezzur.

They added that the SDF then detained nearly 70 local residents of the region, noting that several other people were also arrested in the town of Zabiyan and the village of al-Hawayej in Eastern Deir Ezzur.

Meantime, a number of SDF forces have been killed and wounded during repeated explosions and assassination attempts by unknown assailants in Eastern Deir Ezzur.

June 30, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Chomsky Among “Progressives” Calling for US Military Involvement in Syria

By Whitney Webb | Mint Press News | April 26, 2018

On Monday, the New York Review of Books published an open letter and petition aimed at securing Western support for putting pressure on Turkey to end its occupation of Afrin, opposing further Turkish incursions into Syria, and backing autonomy for Rojava — the region of Northern Syria that has functioned autonomously since 2012 after its administration was taken over by U.S-allied Kurdish factions. Authored by the Emergency Committee for Rojava, it has since been signed by well-known progressive figures such as Noam Chomsky and Judith Butler in its bid to organize efforts for the fulfillment of the group’s demands.

Those demands are entirely focused on U.S. government policy. The petition asks the government to “impose economic and political sanctions on Turkey’s leadership, . . . embargo sales and delivery of weapons from NATO countries to Turkey, . . . insist upon Rojava’s representation in Syrian peace negotiations,” and – most paradoxically of all — “continue military support for the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces],” the Kurdish-majority group that has acted as a U.S. proxy and has been accused of ethnic cleansing in its bid to construct a Kurdish ethnostate in Northern Syria.

The group’s first three demands are reasonable, in the sense of seeking to punish Turkey for its illegal invasion of Syrian territory. However, they are also rather fanciful, in the sense that the U.S. government is highly unlikely to stop weapons sales or to sanction Turkey, which it needs to court in order to prevent Ankara from pivoting towards Russia. Indeed, the U.S. — by refusing to support the Kurds during the battle for Afrin – made it clear that its “alliance” with Syrian Kurds is opportunistic and very much secondary to the U.S.’ relationship with Turkey.

The third demand is equally unlikely to come about, as Turkey has previously called the involvement of Syrian Kurds in peace talks unacceptable and has essentially issued an “it’s either us or them” ultimatum. In addition, past attempts to invite the Kurds to participate in the peace talks have been rejected by Western nations, including the United States, in order to please Turkey.

More recently, Kurds themselves refused to attend peace talks earlier this year over the Turkish occupation of Afrin in light of the lack of international response to that event. However, even prior to the occupation of Afrin, Syrian Kurds had declared they were “not bound” by any decisions made during Syrian peace talks, thereby weakening the peace process.

Yet, beyond the impractical nature of the petition’s first three demands, the final demand – that the U.S. continue military support for the Syrian Democratic Forces – is by far the most unusual, in the sense that well-known progressive figures, in signing this petition, are asking for the continued U.S. occupation of Syria and for increased military and financial support for the U.S. proxy forces, the SDF.

While most progressive figures, likely including those who signed the petition, would never publicly call for extending a U.S.-led military occupation, this petition shows that the war propaganda in Syria – particularly as it relates to the Kurds – has been highly effective in subverting the progressive anti-war left as it relates to the Syrian conflict.

Indeed, the Kurds in Syria have long been romanticized by Western media for having built “the world’s most progressive democracy” and for being trailblazers for gender equality and gay rights. While the Kurds have incorporated some progressive policies, the realities on the ground are more nuanced. Furthermore, the U.S.’ “support” for Rojava, which the petition seeks to extend, is hardly helping progressive or even Kurdish causes.

Distinguishing the Kurds and the SDF

Since the rise of Daesh (ISIS) in the Syrian conflict, Western media has placed the Kurds on a pedestal and has long treated them as the only “effective” fighters against the terrorist group. However, praising the local Kurdish militias for their fighting prowess has since given way to praising the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), even though the two could not be more different.

While the SDF does boast a significant portion of Kurds among its ranks, it is not expressly Kurdish and is an umbrella group of several militias. Though this itself is not concerning, the identities of many of its Arab fighters do give cause for concern. For instance, one of the groups operating under the SDF’s banner is the Deir Ezzor Military Council (DMC) — a group whose fighters were former members of Daesh and al-Nusra (Syria’s Al-Qaeda affiliate), who were “retrained” by U.S. forces in Northern Syria after surrendering to the SDF and U.S.-backed forces in Raqqa. In addition, tribes that were formerly allied with Daesh have joined forces with the SDF over the past year.

The loosely-knit coalition of Syrian rebel groups, including Kurdish factions, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), are armed, trained and backed by the U.S. (SDF Photo)

In addition to hosting former members of Daesh and other terror organizations among its ranks, the SDF also regularly collaborates with Daesh in Northeastern Syria in targeting Syrian and Russian forces. Though the Kurds and Daesh are ostensible “enemies,” they have been shown to move amongst each other like allies, and Kurds have even worked alongside Daesh in coordination with U.S. special forces. Perhaps, then, it is little surprise that the SDF allowed Daesh terrorists to leave Raqqa peacefully last June as they took the city.

This collaboration with groups like Daesh, which the SDF has been praised in the West for fighting, has led to major defections of Kurds from the SDF — including SDF’s former spokesman Talal Silo, who accused the group of making secret deals with terrorists.

Along with their troubling ties and collaboration with Daesh, the SDF have participated in war crimes in Syria, in tandem with U.S. forces, and have been accused of ethnic cleansing in order to justify the establishment of a Kurdish ethnostate in Arab-majority areas of Northern Syria.

For instance, in the battle for Raqqa, the SDF — along with the U.S.-led coalition — committed war crimes, such as using chemical weapons and cutting off water supplies to Raqqa, which is still without water nearly a year after its “liberation.” The SDF also played a key role in the operation that left, by some estimates, as many as 8,000 dead and 160,000 more driven from their homes. The operation also left 80 percent of the city completely uninhabitable, and as many as 6,000 bodies are still believed to be buried in the rubble six months after the joint U.S-led coalition/SDF operation concluded.

Some journalists, such as Andrew Korybko, asserted that Raqqa’s civilian population was directly targeted because it was highly unlikely that any Arab, or non-Kurd for that matter, living in Arab-majority Raqqa would freely choose to live in a “Kurdish-dominated statelet” as a second-class citizen instead of choosing to have equal standing within the Syrian Arab Republic. In other words, the operation was, in part, targeting civilians who could resist Raqqa’s annexation by the U.S.-backed Kurds instead of Daesh forces, who were allowed to escape and were later re-assimilated into the SDF. The UN, however, has claimed that the SDF’s removal of Arab populations from Raqqa was done out of “military necessity” and thus did not constitute “ethnic cleansing.”

Have progressives thought through what they’re asking for?

Aside from the SDF, asking the U.S. to maintain its support of the group also means asking the U.S. to continue its illegal occupation of Syria. As MintPress has previously reported, the U.S.’ occupation of Syria is aimed at partitioning the country and preventing Syria’s Northeast from again coming under the control of the Syrian government.

Though partition has also been a goal of some U.S.-allied Kurdish nationalists, who have sought to use the division of Syria as a launching pad for an independent “Kurdistan,” the U.S. in recent months has made it clear that the partition of Northeastern Syria will not benefit the Kurds as much as Wahhabi Sunnis whose ideology is virtually indistinguishable from that of Daesh.

Early last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump’s new National Security Advisor John Bolton was working with U.S.-allied Middle Eastern nations to form an “Islamic coalition” that would replace the U.S. troops currently present in Northeastern Syria with an army composed of soldiers from nations like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt. This coalition would be a permanent military “stabilizing force” in the region.

In addition to pushing for foreign Arab soldiers to police Rojava, the Trump administration has also sought Saudi commitment to funding the reconstruction of the region. Saudi Arabia — known for its deplorable treatment of religious and ethnic minorities, and funding terror groups like Daesh — and its Gulf allies are highly unlikely to support the Kurds’ nationalist aims as well as their “progressive” direct democracy and promotion of gender equality and gay rights. Indeed, Saudi Arabia is the complete opposite of the Western progressive view of the Kurds, as it is a dictatorial monarchy well known for its repression of women and minorities and execution of members of the LGBT community. However, it is also the country that the U.S. is seeking to give the leading role in governing the area of Syria it currently occupies.

In effect, by asking for the continuation of U.S. military presence in Syria in order to aid the SDF, the Emergency Committee for Rojava is actually undermining the “progressive” Kurds they seek to support — and aiding yet another U.S. government attempt at nation-building, which is likely to result in a Wahhabist enclave that would differ little from a Daesh-led “caliphate.”

The Emergency Committee for Rojava’s efforts come amid major attempts aimed at defending and extending the U.S.’ illegal involvement in Syria. However, this petition is aimed at Western progressives, the group that has historically opposed illegal U.S. military occupations and wars in the past. Given how it has enticed well-known members of the progressive community, the petition shows that the push for Western “humanitarian” intervention in Syria is stronger than ever.

April 29, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 9 Comments

SYRIA: US War Crime in Jabal Al Tharda, Deir Ezzor and the Implausible Denials

By Prof. Tim Anderson | 21st Century Wire | December 17, 2017

On 17 September 2016 a carefully planned US-led air raid on Jabal al Tharda (Mount Tharda), overlooking Deir Ezzor airport, slaughtered over 100 Syrian soldiers and delivered control of the mountain to DAESH / ISIS. After that surprise attack, the terrorist group held the mountain for almost a year, but did not manage to take the airport or the entire city. US-led forces admitted the attack but claimed it was all a ‘mistake’. However uncontested facts, eye witness accounts and critical circumstances show that was a lie. This article sets out the evidence of this crime, in context of Washington’s historical use of mercenaries for covert actions, linked to the doctrine of ‘plausible deniability’.

Syrian eyewitness accounts from Deir Ezzor deepen and confirm this simple fact: the US-led air raid on Syrian forces at Jabal al Tharda on 17 September 2016 was no ‘mistake’ but a well-planned and effective intervention on behalf of the terrorist group ISIS (DAESH in Arabic). After days of careful surveillance a devastating missile attack followed by machine gunning of the remaining Syrian soldiers helped ISIS take control of the strategic mountain, that same day.


Colonel Kanaan on the mountain. October 2017. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

Mercenary forces – like ISIS and the other jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria – were a staple of US intervention during the early decades of the cold war, deployed in more than 25 conflicts, such as those of the Congo, Angola and Nicaragua. Whatever their claimed aims and ideologies, they allowed for the ‘multiplication’ of US power and were associated with the doctrine of ‘plausible deniability’, where the ‘formal’ denial of the mastermind role in covert operations minimised damage to domestic public opinion and international relations (Voss 2016: 37-40).

That doctrine was discussed during the 1976 Church Committee hearings into CIA covert operations (especially assassinations and coups) and resurfaced during the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s (Hart 2005; Dorn 2010). The key idea behind the doctrine is to be able “to use violence without directly incriminating the [contracting out] regime” (Ron 2002). The use of terrorist proxy armies in Iraq and Syria, both overtly and covertly supported by US forces, is thoroughly consistent with this history.

By September 2016 a US-led coalition had been active in both Iraq and Syria for more than two years, supposedly to help Iraq fight ISIS, but without permission to enter Syria. The foreign powers tried to side-step that legal problem by claiming the invitation from Iraq allowed them to conduct cross border raids against ISIS (Payne 2017). By this time the Russian air force had been assisting Syria for almost a year against multiple terrorist groups, all of them, as senior US officials would admit (Biden in RT 2014 and Usher 2014; Dempsey in Rothman 2014), armed and financed by the US and its allies.


Syrian solider at the front line against ISIS, on the Euphrates. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

Contrary to the stated aims, there is little evidence the US-led group did anything to fight ISIS in Syria. Washington’s group sat back and watched ISIS twice take over Palmyra (in 2015 and 2016), then did nothing to help the Syrian Army take back Palmyra and Deir Ezzor. Most US activity focused on bombing Syrian infrastructure and helping a Kurdish-led separatist force (the SDF) replace ISIS in the city of Raqqa. On the other hand, the 17 September air raid positively helped ISIS in attempts to wrest the remaining parts of Deir Ezzor from the Syrian Army.

US, Australian, British and Danish forces quickly admitted their role in that attack, but claimed the slaughter of over 100 Syrian soldiers was a ‘mistake’. Now mistakes in war do happen. However they are usually associated with a single, unprepared incident. This attack was well-planned, sustained and achieved a key objective in the attempt to drive ‘the Syrian regime’ from Deir Ezzor. Assisting extremists create an ‘Islamic State’ in eastern Syria, US intelligence wrote back in August 2012, was “exactly” what Washington wanted so as “to weaken the regime in Damascus” (DIA 2012).

One year later, as Syrian forces re-took the whole of Deir Ezzor city from ISIS, I spoke with the commanding officer at Jabal al Tharda on that day, Colonel Nihad Kanaan, one of 35 survivors of the US-led attack. He confirmed US admissions that surveillance aircraft had overflown the mountain days before. He also said that the Syrian Army had held the mountain for many months and that their position was clearly marked with Syrian flags. One year later he still showed shock at recalling attack aircraft return to finish off his wounded comrades, with line-of-sight machine-gunning (Kanaan 2017).

That Washington could block most western media from serious study of this treacherous attack, simply by saying ‘sorry, mistake’, is testament to the near absence of critical media voices, at a time of war. The surprise attack was treacherous, not only to the Syrians whom the US had promised to not attack, but to the western populations who mostly believed what their governments said: that they were in Iraq and Syria ‘to fight ISIS’.

It was not that the denials over the crime at Jabal al Tharda were particularly ‘plausible’, just that they had been made. Formal denial was enough, it seems, to stop the western corporate and state media in its tracks. The practice of ‘plausible deniability’ was never so much intended to fool those familiar with the facts, as it was to set up a shield of formal denial which might be used to deflect or discredit ‘potentially hostile’ investigations (Voss 2016: 40; Bogan and Lynch 1989: 205). In past and present propaganda wars, less importance is given to independent evidence than to insistent repetition, denunciation and distraction.

This paper is a prosecuted case, not reportage where one side says this and the other side says that. I have announced my conclusion at the outset and intend to demonstrate that case with evidence. I also support the idea that readers are entitled to see all evidence, including the cover story of the criminals. However in this case the crime and its authors, I suggest, can be convincingly established by uncontested facts. Review of the Syrian perspective simply helps deepen our understanding of the conflict.

1. Uncontested facts

There are eight elements of this massacre where the facts are virtually uncontested:

1: First, the attack was on the forces of a strategic opponent, whom the US wished to overthrow, weaken or ‘isolate’;

2:  Second, there was no semblance of provocation;

3: Third, this was a well-planned operation, with days of advance surveillance;

4: Fourth, the attack was sustained and effective, meeting conventional military objectives;

5: Fifth, there was both immediate and longer term benefit to ISIS;

6: Sixth, the US gave false locality information to the Russians before the attack, and their ‘hotline’ to Russia was defective during the attack;

7: Seventh, the US made false claims about being unable to identify Syrian troops;

8: Eighth, the US ‘investigation’ was hopelessly partisan, self-serving and forensically useless; there was no attempt to even contact the Syrian side.

Let’s look at each element in a little more depth

ONE: the attack was on a strategic opponent

Syrian forces were seen as adversaries. This was no ‘friendly fire accident’. The political leadership of the US-led operation had called for the dismissal or overthrow of the Syrian Government and had provided material support to armed opponents of the Government since mid-2011. The terrorist group ISIS had a campaign to create an Islamic State in the region and that objective was shared by Washington. US intelligence, in August 2012, had expressed satisfaction at extremist plans for a “salafist principality” (i.e. an Islamic State) in eastern Syria, “in order to isolate the Syrian regime” (DIA 2012).

The US had not admitted providing finance and arms to ISIS / DAESH, but several senior US officials acknowledged in 2014 that their ‘Arab allies’ had done so (Anderson 2016: Ch.12). After the attack US and Australian officials referred to their victims as forces aligned with the ‘Syrian regime’ (Johnston 2016; Payne 2017), reinforcing the fact that the assailants did not recognise Syrian soldiers as part of a legitimate national army.

TWO: no suggestion of provocation

There was no suggestion of any provocation, as had happened in previous ‘mistakes’; for example where a pilot had mistaken gunfire or fireworks for a hostile attack. This attack was premeditated.

THREE: a well-planned operation, with substantial surveillance

All sides agree this was a carefully planned operation, with surveillance days in advance. Colonel Nihad Kanaan, the Syrian Arab Army commanding officer on ‘Post Tharda 2’ (a military post on the second of three peaks of Tharda mountain range) that day, told this writer that US-coalition surveillance aircraft were seen “repeatedly circling” the area on 12 September, 5 days before the attack (Kanaan 2017). US reports confirm this. On the day of the attack the New York Times cited US Central Command saying that “coalition forces believed they were striking a DAESH fighting position that they had been tracking for a significant amount of time before the strike” (Barnard and Mazzetti 2016). A US military report, some weeks after the attack, said a “remotely piloted aircraft” (RPA) was sent to “investigate” the area the day before and two RPAs revisited the same area on the 17th, identifying two target areas with tanks and personnel (Coe 2016: 1).


General Aktham at the bridge to Raqqa, one of many destroyed by US planes. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne wrote that “target identification was based on intelligence from a number of sources”, and that the US-led group had “informed Russian officials prior to approving air strikes on the DAESH position” (Payne 2017). Australian Chief of Joint Operations Vice-Admiral David Johnston pointed out that his country’s contribution to the attack had included “an Australian E7 Wedgetail airborne early warning and control and 2 FA-18 hornet strike fighters” (Johnston 2016).  The Wedgetail E-7 is based on a Boeing 737 and came into operation in 2015. It is an intelligence and control aircraft said to have “tonnes of electronic wizardry” (Military Shop 2014) and to be “the most advanced air battlespace management capabilities in the world” (RAAF 2017). All this speaks of a well-planned and technologically capable operation.

Further, surveillance of the area over two years meant the US group were well aware of the strategic troop placements. Kuwait based Journalist Elijah Magnier, who had followed the battles around Deir Ezzor, said that defence of the airport depended on ‘four interconnected Syrian army positions on the Thardah mountain range. Largely because of these elevated fire power positions the “daily attacks’ by ISIS on the airport had failed (Porter 2016: 6). Fabrice Balanche, a leading French expert on Syria, adds that the Syrian Army had held positions along the Tharda range “from March 2016 until the US air strikes”, when ISIS took control (in Porter 2016: 6).

FOUR: the attack was sustained and effective, meeting conventional military objectives

The attack was carried out for an extended period and destroyed the Syrian Arab Army post, killing more than 100 soldiers and destroying tanks and all heavy equipment (O’Neill 2016; Kanaan 2017). The Syrian commander says the attack “continued for 1.5 hours, from 5.30 to 7pm”, as night fell (Kanaan 2017). There is some disagreement over exact times. Syrian Army Command said the attack began at about 5pm while US CentCom said the attack began earlier but “was halted immediately when coalition officials were informed by Russian officials that it was possible the personnel and vehicles targeted were part of the Syrian military” (Barnard and Mazzetti 2016). However the US military confirms that this sunset attack was extended, lasting for just over an hour (Coe 2016: 1).

The Syrian command said at first that 62 soldiers had been killed and 100 injured (RT 2016). Within a short time the numbers killed had been raised to “at least 80” (Killalea 2016). In addition, three T-72 tanks, 3 infantry vehicles and anti-aircraft gun and 4 mortars were destroyed (MOA 2016). A surviving solider said he saw planes “finishing with machine guns our soldiers who tried to take refuge … I saw with my own eyes the death of about 100 soldiers” (SFP 2016).

Colonel Kanaan puts the final number of dead at 123, with 35 survivors (Kanaan 2017). The US side did not bother reporting numbers killed, with General Richard Coe at first mentioning “15 dead regime loyalists” (Watkinson 2016) then late simply saying “Syrian regime/aligned forces were struck” (Coe 2016: 2). There is no report of ISIS forces on the mountain being struck by the coalition aircraft that day; nor any day over the next year.

FIVE: the attack created immediate and longer term benefit to ISIS

The Syrian side made it clear that the massacre had allowed an almost simultaneous ISIS attack on and takeover of the hill. After planes had pounded the Army position on the mountain, ISIS quickly moved in and took full control of the mountain range (FNA 2016a). Within hours they had posted video of themselves standing on the bodies of the Syrian soldiers, killed by the air strikes (Charkatli 2016). The US side failed to comment on the immediate consequence of their attack, but they did not contradict the Syrian and Russian reports. Colonel Nihad Kanaan confirms that, as the US strikes were being carried out, ISIS attacked the Syrian Army post at Thardah 2. Survivors had to flee, as they did not have time to repel the DAESH attack (Kanaan 2017). Syrian Army defences meant that ISIS did not manage to take the airport, but Syrian forces did not retake the mountain until early September 2017, when the Syrian Army broke the siege and began to liberate the entire city (Brown 2017).


Victory! Father and son at Deir Ezzor markets. October 2017. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

SIX: false information to and delayed communications with Russia

The US military report admits that “incorrect information [was] passed to the Russians” about the locale of the attack. They said:

“the strikes would occur 9 kilometres south of DAZ ‘airfield’. However this information was incorrect, as the strikes were planned approximately 3 to 6 kilometres south of the airfield and 9 kilometres south of Dayr az Zawr city. This may have affected the Russian response to the notification and caused considerable confusion in the DT process” (Coe 2016: 3).

Brigadier General Richard Coe agreed with reporters that this misleading information prevented a Russian intervention: “had we told them accurately, they would have warned us”, he admitted (Porter 2016: 4). Providing false information to Russia was quite consistent with a plan to protect the attack from any unwanted interference.

After that, there was yet another ‘mistake’. The US military admits there was a half hour delay in responding to a Russian alarm (that the US was striking Syrian forces) on their specially constructed ‘hotline’. The US military tried to shift blame for this delay to the Russian caller:

“when the Russians initially called at 1425Z, they elected to wait to speak to their usual point of contact (POC) rather than pass the information immediately to the Battle Director. This led to a delay of 27 minutes, during which 15 of the 37 strikes were conducted” (Coe 2016: 3).

The less benign view of this event was that the ‘hotline’ was left unattended during the attack. Haddad (2017) reported that: “During the attack, a hotline between Russia and US forces was reportedly left unattended for 27 minutes” (Haddad 2017). Certainly Russia had to ring twice to pass on the urgent message (McLeary 2016) and, by that time, the attack was virtually complete.

SEVEN: the US made false claims about non-identification of Syrian forces

The US military apologia relies heavily on claims that, despite their several days of surveillance, they identified “irregular forces” on the mountain. US General Coe claims that “in many ways, the group looked and acted like the (Islamic State) forces we have been targeting for the last two years” (Dickstein 2016). Echoing this story, Australian Vice-Admiral David Johnston, Chief of Joint Operations said

“in many ways these forces looked and acted like DAESH fighters the coalition has been targeting for the last 2 years. They were not wearing recognisable military uniforms or displaying identifying flags or markings” (Johnston 2016).

Colonel Kanaan said they had flags flying. The US military confirms this, admitting that they received a report about sighting a “possible [Syrian] flag … 30 minutes prior to the strike”, but did nothing about it (Coe 2016: 2). Could ‘doing nothing’ have been just another ‘mistake’, in such a well-planned operation? It tends to corroborate the case for a deliberate strike, with some attempt at cover up, for “plausible deniability”.

EIGHT: the US ‘investigation’ was hopelessly partisan

A brief report issued in November exonerated US forces of any wrong doing. It did admit some critical facts, as noted above. But this was the US military investigating itself. US General Richard Coe said:

We made an unintentional, regrettable error, based on several factors in the targeting process” (Watkinson 2016).

The ‘errors’ relied upon were a series of random or ‘human’ mistakes and misidentification of the Syrian troops, supposedly because they were dressed in an irregular way. No attempt was made to contact the Syrian side (Coe 2016; Dickstein 2016). By reference to principles of criminal law some admissions made in this report are important and would be admissible evidence in a criminal trial. But the conclusions of the US report are entirely ‘self-serving’ and ‘recent inventions’ after the event. For that reason they are forensically worthless.

Summing up, the US-led air attack was a pre-meditated, brutal and effective massacre of the armed forces of a declared opponent. It gave an immediate and longer term advantage to one of the terrorist groups the US and its allies (as Biden and Dempsey admitted) were covertly supporting.

Even before we consider the Syrian perspective, uncontested facts destroy the feeble claim that this well planned and treacherous crime was a ‘mistake’. The US military admits that it gave false information to its Russian counterparts, then admits that its ‘hotline’ did not function properly during the attack. Despite all their sophisticated technology and days of surveillance, they pretend they could not distinguish between entrenched Syrian troops and terrorist ISIS gangs. They admit they had a report of a Syrian flag, but claim they just neglected it.

Having carried out a devastating attack on Syrian forces that day, allegedly by ‘mistake’, they did not return even once over the following year to attack the ISIS encampment on the mountain. This is as flimsy a cover story as any criminal has ever presented in court. If the commanders of this appalling massacre ever faced criminal charges, no independent tribunal could fail to convict.


Syrian soldiers at the Eurphrates, October 2017. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

2. The cover story

The ‘defence’ case centres around three matters.

First, they say that the 2014 request for assistance against ISIS from the Government of Iraq gave authority to the US coalition to venture into Syria.

Second, they insist that there was no intent to kill Syrian soldiers.

Third, they argue that their slaughter of soldiers was due to poor intelligence and mistaken identification.

Other aggravating factors were random ‘errors’. Then, by way of general excuse, and alluding to the supposed bases of human error, there was reliance on the ‘complexity’ of the situation. US CentCom, in its apologia, said ‘Syria is a complex situation’ (RT 2016); a phrase echoed by Australian Prime Minister Turnbull who said “it is a very complex environment” (Killalea 2016). None of this is compelling but, as was mentioned at the outset, the history of ‘plausible deniability’ rests not so much on its actual plausibility as on formal denials; that is thought sufficient to distract, intimidate and raise doubts.

The US apologia was repeated by its collaborators. Australian involvement in Syria had already been criticised at home (Billingsley 2015). After the attack on Jabal al Tharda, this writer wrote to ask Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about the massacre and the legal basis for Australian air force presence in Syria. Defence Minister Marise Payne responded on 4 May 2017, addressing the legal question in the following way. Australia’s presence in Syria, the Minister claimed, came from a request made by the Government of Iraq for international assistance against DAESH/ISIS:

The legal basis for ADF operations against DAESH in Syria is the collective defence of Iraq … The Government of Syria has, by its failure to constrain attacks upon Iraqi territory originating from DAESH bases within Syria, demonstrated that it is unable to prevent DAESH attacks” (Payne 2017).

Indeed, two Iraqi ministers of foreign affairs had made requests to the UN Security Council in June 2014 (Zebari 2014) and again in September 2014 (al Ja’fari 2014). Those requests referred to “thousands of foreign terrorists of various nationalities” coming across the border from eastern Syria (Zebari 2014). Both requests also stressed the need to respect national sovereignty. So the US-led forces might have relied on this argument, had they helped Syria reclaim its eastern cities and regions from ISIS. However, as discussed above, they did not.

On the general legal authority question there is one relevant matter. The Australian side was not so confident about its own law, before the strike. Two weeks before the attack it was said that the chief of the Australian Defence Forces Mark Binskin had “fears that Australian Defence Force members could be prosecuted in Australian courts for military actions that are legal internationally [sic]” (Wroe 2016). It is not clear why they were considering this matter at that time, two years after they had committed forces to Iraq and Syria.

The general apologia for the massacre relied on a supposed lack of intent. “We had no intent to target Syrian forces,” said Air Force Brigadier General Richard Coe. He blames, in part, the soldiers’ form of clothing. “The group looked and acted like the (Islamic State) forces we have been targeting for the last two years” (Dickstein 2016). In addition, Coe claimed, the soldiers displayed “friendly” interactions with other groups in an Islamic State “area of influence.” He blamed the massacre on “human factors,” including miscommunications and an optimistic view of the intelligence (Dickstein 2016).

Taking the ‘mistake’ cover story at face value (i.e. assuming that the attack was aimed at ISIS, and defending Syrian forces), some western commentators quickly suggested the massacre of Syrian soldiers represented an alarming turn to US coalition air support for the ‘Syrian regime’. Time magazine said “the location of the strike in Deir al-Zour suggested the raid could have been a rare, even unprecedented attempt to assist regime forces battling ISIS”. Similarly, Faysal Itani, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council tweeted: “U.S. airstrikes on ISIS in such close proximity to regime positions are unusual. Arguably constitute close air support for regime” (Malsin 2016). Following the same logic, but in open disbelief, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin asked:

“Why would, all of a sudden, the United States chose to help the Syrian Armed forces, defending Deir Ezzor? After all they did nothing when ISIL was advancing on Palmyra … All of a sudden the United States decides to come to the assistance of Syrian armed forces defending Deir Ezzor?” (Hamza 2016).

Of course, they did not decide to do that, nor did they ‘assist’ Syrian forces. Nor did Russia believe the attack was a mistake. Damascus was also under no such illusions. President Bashar al Assad, invoking the wider antagonistic role of the US, said the surprise attack “was a premeditated attack by the American forces … the raid continued more than one hour, and they came many times” (Haddad 2017).

The US report of November 2016 became the core of explanations from US collaborators in the attack. Australian Vice-Admiral David Johnston gave more detail on Australian involvement in the Jabal al Tharda attack before he presented the official US version of events (Johnston 2016). The coalition air contingent, which included Australian aircraft, had “conducted multiple air strikes against what was believed to be DAESH fighters near Deir Ezzor”, he said. The Australian contingent had included “an Australian E7 Wedgetail airborne early warning and control and 2 FA-18 hornet strike fighters”, along with aircraft from the US, UK and Denmark.  These planes carried out the attack “under the coordination and control of the US combined air operations centre” (Johnston 2016). The Australians were thus deeply involved in intelligence and coordination.

Johnston repeated the self-exonerating conclusions of the US report: “The air strikes were conducted in full compliance with the rules of engagement and the laws of armed conflict”. The investigation found that the decisions that identified the targets as DAESH fighters were supported by the information available at the time … [there was] no evidence of deliberate disregard of targeting procedures or rules of engagement” (Johnston 2016). He repeated the line that situation on the ground in Syria was “complex and dynamic. In many ways these forces looked and acted like DAESH fighters … They were not wearing recognisable military uniforms or displaying identifying flags or markings” (Johnston 2016).

A typical shallow Australian media review of the incident would admit that “something went badly wrong”; but then asserted, based more on loyalty than anything else: “no credible person suggest the RAAF pilots committed war crimes; everyone knows things go wrong in war” (Toohey 2016). Yet some independent, more detailed western commentaries expressed stark disbelief at the cover story. David MacIlwain complained about the failure of media scrutiny of Australia’s role in Iraq and Syria, asking why US coalition forces had not returned immediately to the mountain to correct their “mistake” (Macilwain 2016). Lawyer James O’Neill said, far from a mistake, “what happened at Deir Ezzor is entirely consistent with the long-standing American aim of regime change in Syria” (O’Neill 2016).

This “error” which killed over 100 soldiers who were defending Deir Ezzor from ISIS, was the only serious attack on what US coalition forces “believed to be DAESH fighters” near Deir Ezzor city. US-led forces would do nothing to help liberate Deir Ezzor. The ‘innocent massacre’ story just does not accord with known facts

3. The Syrian Perspective

For those not bound by wartime propaganda attempts to demonise or prohibit the ‘enemy’ media (a demand which results in reliance on US, British and French media), a Syrian perspective on the crime at Jabal al Tharda helps deepen our understanding. Sources in this section are Syrian, Lebanese, Iraqi, Iranian and Russian. We can speak of a Syrian perspective from the wider view, concerning the particulars of the attack and of events after that attack.

In the wider view the Syrian side has seen the US as the mastermind of all terrorist groups in Syria, making use of regional allies in particular Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel and Turkey. The Syrian armed forces make little distinction between ISIS and the western jihadist groups, which collaborate from time to time and whose members pass from one to the other, depending mainly on pay rates (Lucente and Al Shimale 2015). When Aleppo was liberated ISIS flags were seen alongside those of the al Nusra led coalition (RT 2016). Both international terrorist groups fought together for many years with the other jihadist groups which western governments had tried to brand as ‘moderate rebels’ (e.g. Paraszczuk 2013; Mowaffaq 2015).

The Syrian Government has regularly expressed ‘strong condemnation’ of US attacks on civilians and infrastructure, calling the group a “rogue coalition” which had  added “new bloody massacres” to its record of “war crimes and crimes against humanity” (RT 2017).

US forces mounted several direct attacks on Syrian forces, over 2015-2017. An online investigative group has compiled information of four such attacks, between mid-2015 and mid 2017: on Saeqa airbase in Deir Ezzor (December 2015); on Jabal al Tharda (September 2016); on Shayrat Airbase (April 2017) and an attack on an SU-22 aircraft near Tabqa (June 2017) (MMM 2017). In June 2017 the US group also attacked Syrian forces near the southern al Tanf border crossing (Islam Times 2017). All attacks had different pretexts.

US bombing in Deir Ezzor at the time of the Jabal al Tharda attack (in the name of anti-ISIS operations) was notable for its destruction of infrastructure, in particular the destruction of seven bridges across the Euphrates in September and October 2016 (Syria Direct 2016; SANA 2016). Syrian Army sources told Iranian media that the US aimed to extend its influence in the region and stop the Syrian Army’s advance, as also to cut supply routes between the provinces and separate Deir Ezzor’s countryside from the city’ (FNA 2016a). Syrian General Aktham told me that the US bombing of bridges was to isolate Deir Ezzor, when the city was under siege from ISIS (Aktham 2017).

Direct US support for ISIS had been reported many times in Iraq, over 2014-2015. This was mainly to do with arms drops and helicopter evacuation assistance, as Iraqi forces struggled to contain a strong ISIS offensive. Iraqi MP Nahlah al Hababi said in December 2014 that the US coalition was “not serious” about air strikes on ISIS; she added that “terrorists are still receiving aid from unidentified fighter jets in Iraq and Syria” (FNA 2015a).

In February 2015 there were multiple and more specific reports. The Salahuddin Security Commission said that “unknown planes threw arms … to the ISIL” in Tikrit city (FNA 2015c). Majif al Gharawi, an Iraqi MP on the country’s Security and Defence Commission said that the US was “not serious” in its anti-ISIS fight, and that it wanted to prolong the war to get its own military bases in Mosul and Anbar (FNA 2015b). Jome Divan, member of the Sadr bloc in the Iraqi parliament, said the US coalition was “only an excuse for protecting the ISIL and helping the terrorist group with equipment and weapons” (FNA 2015b). Khalef Tarmouz, head of the al Anbar Provincial Council, told Iranian media that his Council had discovered weapons that were made in the USA, Europe and Israel, in areas liberated from ISIS in the al Baghdadi region (FNA 2015b). Hakem al Zameli, head of the National Security and Defence Committee, reported that Iraqi forces had shot down two British planes carrying weapons for ISIS, and that US planes had dropped weapons and food for ISIS in Salahuddin, al Anbar and Diyala provinces (FNA 2015b).

In other words, within a few months of the US military re-entering Iraq in late 2014, on a ‘fight ISIS’ pretext, there were several reports of exactly the reverse, from senior Iraqi figures. Although these reports were in English, none of them reached the western media. Apparently those channels had no interest in listening to those actually affected by ISIS, or perhaps they just saw it as unthinkable that their own governments were lying to cover up their support for terrorism.

On the Jabal al Tharda massacre, the Syrian Government immediately said that the strike was no mistake but “a very serious and flagrant aggression” which had aided DAESH (Barnard and Mazzetti 2016). President Assad said the troops were deliberately targeted, pointing out that there had been an hour of bombing (Watkinson 2016). “It was a premeditated attack by the American forces, because ISIS was shrinking”, said the Syrian President (Haddad 2016). Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested the attack must have been deliberate:

“Our American colleagues told us that this airstrike was made in error. This ‘error’ cost the lives of 80 people and, also just ‘coincidence’, perhaps, ISIS took the offensive immediately afterwards … [But] how could they make an error if they were several days in preparation?” (Putin in RT 2016).

Russian spokesperson Maria Zakharova said the attack showed the world that “The White House is defending ISIS” (FNA 2016a). More detail was hinted at. President of the Syrian Parliament, Hadiya Khalaf Abbas, said that Syrian intelligence had intercepted an audio recording between the US and ISIS before the airstrike on Deir Ezzor (Christoforou 2016). Syrian UN Ambassador Bashar al Jaafari denounced the attack as a movement from proxy aggression to “personal aggression”, lamenting the US renunciation of the Russian-US agreement of 9 September to combat al Nusra and ISIS (Mazen 2016).


Col Kanaan at the attack site, at Jabal al Tharda. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

The detail of eye-witness evidence gives a fuller picture. In October 2017, as the Syrian Army was liberating Deir Ezzor city, Syrian film-maker Sinan Saed and I interviewed Colonel Nihad Kanaan at Jabal al Tharda, where the attack took place.  He told us they had seen US coalition surveillance aircraft on 12 September. On the day of the attack:

“Five Coalition aircraft began attacking the site. The fifth aircraft had a synchronized [line of sight] machine gun … I had 2 T-72 tanks, 2 BMP tanks, a 57mm gun on its base, and a 60mm mortar on a base. The aircraft first began attacking the arsenal. They did this by circling the site at very close distance. Once they were done targeting the arsenal, they began targeting the soldiers with perfect precision” (Kanaan 2017).


Col Kanaan at the attack site, at Jabal al Tharda. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

He says the raid continued for 1.5 hours, using missiles, bombs and machine guns. As the attack took place, ISIS launched “a very heavy attack” from the north-west shoulder of the mountain, using:

“all types of weapons- 14.5 mm, mortars, BKC machine guns and every other weapon they had. This was happening at the same time. They [ISIS] were attacking the post while the aircraft were bombing from above” (Kanaan 2017).

ISIS was using the US-coalition air strikes as cover as they advanced on the army posts, showing “connection and coordination between the US Coalition and ISIS”. The post fell and the airport was then cut off from the Maqaber road. “Then 2 aircraft bombed the actual airport from the Tharda 2 post” (Kanaan 2017).


Col Kanaan at the attack site, at Jabal al Tharda. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

Colonel Kannan’s group was flying Syrian flags, as the US military would later admit:

“When the Coalition aircraft attacked the post, the post had 3 Syrian flags up – one at the entrance, one in the middle and one at the forefront, and the soldiers were wearing the official military uniforms of the Syrian Arab Army … It is not true what the media reported, that the attack was a mistake. It was very clear that their target was the Syrian army and the Syrian soldiers. The Syrian flags were there, and the Syrian army uniforms were showing, and the site was so obviously belonging to the Syrian army. At the same time, ISIS were attacking us under their cover; the Coalition aircraft didn’t even shoot one bullet at them” (Kanaan 2017).


Eyewitness to the attack, Dr al Abeid in surgery at Deir Ezzor hospital. October 2017. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

There were other eye witnesses. A wounded solider saw dozens of his comrades being finished off with aircraft machine gunning (SFP 2016). Two days before speaking with Colonel Kanaan I had met Doctor Abd al Najem al Abeid, surgeon and head of Deir Ezzor health. As he rushed to the surgery from a group meeting I asked him a question about which I was embarrassed:

‘have you seen any sign of the US coalition helping remove DAESH [ISIS] from Deir Ezzor?’

I asked it this way because I wanted the answer to an open question for a western audience. But as I asked I also apologised, because I knew that the question, to an educated Syrian, would be rather insulting. He immediately said that the US forces had only helped ISIS and that he had seen the attack on Jabal al Tharda. He watched in shock for more than half an hour, as the aircraft attacked the strategic mountain base he knew was guarding the city (Abeid 2017). After that he rushed off to surgery to dig ISIS drone shrapnel from the abdomen of a young boy.


Children in Deir Ezzor, after liberation by the Syrian Arab Army. October 2017. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

After the massacre, reports of US forces providing logistic and intel support to ISIS, aiding regroupings and evacuations came from all along the Euphrates in late 2017, as Syrian forces took back Deir Ezzor. In September Press TV reported that the US had evacuated 22 DAESH commanders from Deir Ezzor.

This writer was in the city for 4 days in late October, as it was being liberated. On 26 August a US air force helicopter was reported as taking two DAESH commanders “of European origin” with family members. On 28 August another 20 DAESH field commanders were also taken by US helicopters from areas close to the city (Press TV 2017a). Then in November Muhammad Awad Hussein told Russian media he had seen US helicopters evacuate more DAESH fighters, after an airstrike outside al Mayadin, a city south of Deir Ezzor (Press TV 2017b). The anti-Syrian Government and British-based ‘Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’ confirmed that US helicopters were transferring DAESH fighters out of eastern Syria. Four DAESH members, including three Egyptians, and a civilian were taken from a house in Beqres, a suburb of Deir Ezzor which had been used as an arms depot (UFilter 2017).

Lebanese and Iranian media corroborated these reports. US forces were backing up ISIS with intelligence during the Syrian Army troops’ operation to liberate the town of Albu Kamal in Southeastern Deir Ezzur, according to the Secretary-General of Iraq’s al-Nujaba Resistance Movement Sheikh Akram al-Ka’abi. The al-Mayadeen news network quoted Sheikh al-Ka’abi saying that the US forces tried hard to push the Syrian army’s operation in Albu Kamal towards failure, and that US forces were targeting pro-government resistance forces before the AbuKamal battle, in ultimately unsuccessful attempts to block their advances (FNA 2017).

In late 2017 the Russian Defence Ministry announced it had evidence that “the US-led coalition provides support for the terrorist group Islamic State”. The US military had twice rejected Russian proposals to bomb identified ISIS convoys retreating from al Bukamal, saying that they enjoyed the protection of international law. That shielding of the terrorist group and its heavy weapons allowed them to regroup and carry out new attacks (TNA 2017). At the same time the US backed deals by the Kurdish-led SDF militia to allow ISIS fighters and their families to leave Raqqa for other parts of the region (Paterson 2017).

A senior Syrian General in Deir Ezzor confirmed to me helicopter evacuations from three points on the east bank of the Euphrates: south Deir Ezzor, east al Mayadeen and al Muhassan. He also spoke of US satellite intelligence being passed to ISIS. From this catalogue of US coordination and collaboration I asked him: ‘you must feel that you are fighting a US command?’ “100%” he responded (General SR 2017).

4. Assessment

As the Syrian Army liberated eastern Syria, over 2016-2017, the US military tried to slow its advance by a series of covert and overt actions. The massacre of more than 100 soldiers at Jabal al Tharda was one of five direct US attacks on Syrian forces, since 2015. Mistakes do happen in war, but this was no isolated mistake. The US-led attack on this strategic anti-ISIS base, protecting Deir Ezzor city, was a pre-meditated slaughter of Syrian forces which allowed ISIS to advance its plan to take the city. As it happened, Syrian Army defences meant that they did not do that. A series of uncontested facts make it clear this was a well-planned and deliberate strike, in support of ISIS. The US military gave false information to its Russian counterparts about the attack, left their ‘hotline’ unattended and hid evidence that showed they knew Syrian forces held the mountain. Having destroyed Syrian forces on that base, they did not return to attack ISIS on the mountain. Their cover story was weak and, while it served to block investigation by the western media, does not hold up to any serious scrutiny.

No independent tribunal would fail to convict US coalition commanders of this bloody massacre. 

US and Australian denials over their responsibility for the 17 September 2016 massacre at Jabal al Tharda are not credible, on any close examination. However they did serve their immediate purpose. Most of the western corporate and state media was stopped in its tracks. Yet the crime was “entirely consistent with the long standing American aim of regime change in Syria … [and] the Australian Government provided a willing chorus to the regime change demands of the Americans” (O’Neill 2016).

North American, British and Australian arms sales to the chief ISIS sponsors, the Saudis, could proceed without interruption or scrutiny (Begley 2017; Brull 2017). The cold war doctrine of ‘plausible deniability’, as on many previous occasions, helped deflect ‘potentially hostile’ investigations. Nevertheless, I urge closer examination of this crime, using conventional principles of criminal law, considering the uncontested evidence and ignoring the intimidation of war propaganda. Particularly adventurous western observers might even read the Syrian perspective, drawing on Syrian, Lebanese, Iraqi, Iranian and Russian sources. That would help deepen their understandings of the conflict.

Watch video with Prof Tim Anderson in Deir Ezzor,  made by Sinan Saed and Nisreen Al Khadour:

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December 17, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

War Crimes as Policy

By Mark Taliano | Global Research | November 17, 2017

Despite appearances and differing ideologies, both the Kurds’ SDF and ISIS are Western intelligence assets in Syria. Neither would exist in Syria without the West and its allies, and both serve to destroy the country.

The Empire’s anti-democratic SDF proxies are not defeating the U.S Daesh proxies. They are simply replacing them.

One might reasonably ask how two seemingly opposed terrorist groups could possibly share the same strategic purpose. The answer would likely escape the awareness of the fighters as well, and it certainly escapes the awareness of most Canadians, whose tax dollars are supporting the terrorists. But the answer isn’t that complicated.

Consider the similarities between the two groups:

  • Both groups seek to illegally “impose their will” on Syria, and are effectively destroying Syria, contrary to the wishes of the vast majority of Syrians[1]
  • Both groups seek to partition Syria
  • Both groups require and receive support from the same aggressor nations
  • Both groups engage in activities that are illegal under international law and punishable according to Nuremburg Principles

ISIS/Daesh serves the military strategy of “place-setter”[2], as outlined in an earlier article. Empire first infests an area with terrorists, then destroys the area, using the fake pretext of “going after terrorists”, subsequently, it channels the original terrorists elsewhere, and then replaces the former terrorists with new terrorist occupiers who are portrayed as “liberators”.

Syrian journalist Nasser Atta describes the following video as an ISIS convoy “carrying 4500 fighters and their families leaving Raqqa a month ago after an agreement with US-backed Kurdish forces”:

The West, their allies, and their proxies are not wanted in Syria. They are the problem, not the solution. Their foreign “interventions” in Syria amount to war crimes as policy.

Notes

[1] TESEV (2012) ‘The perception of Turkey in the Middle East 2011’, TürkiyeEkonomikveSosyalEtüdlerVakfi, Istanbul, February, online: http://tesev.org.tr/en/yayin/ the-perception-of-turkey-in- the-middle-east-2011/ Accessed 17 November, 2017

[2] Mark Taliano, “The Islamic State as “Place-Setter” for the American Empire. ISIS is the Product of the US Military-Intelligence Complex.” Global Research, 26 October, 2017.  (https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-islamic-state-as-place-setter-for-u-s-empire-isis-is-the-product-of-the-us-military-intelligence-complex/5606371). Accessed 11 November, 2017

Copyright © Mark Taliano, Global Research, 2017

November 18, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment