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Syria blasts ‘misleading’ OPCW report on alleged Douma attack

The Cradle | January 29, 2023

Syria made a statement on 28 January rejecting the report issued a day earlier by the Investigation and Identification Team of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), regarding the alleged use of chlorine by the Damascus government in Douma in 2018.

“Syria totally rejects the report released by the so-called ‘Investigation and Identification Team’ of the [OPCW] about the alleged chemical attack in Douma in April 2018, in addition to its conclusions,” the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates said.

“Those who prepared this report … insist to ignore all the objective information which was provided by some countries, parties, experts, academics, documented media reports, and former OPCW inspectors with knowledge and expertise … which confirmed beyond any doubt that the Douma incident was completely fabricated,” the ministry’s statement added.

The Syrian statement was a response to the new report released by the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team on 27 January, which after five years, has renewed the accusation against Damascus “that the Syrian Arab Air Force carried out the chemical weapons attack on Douma.”

In April of 2018, Damascus was accused of a chemical attack against civilians in the city of Douma, resulting in illegal US military strikes against Syrian government positions. This was despite the fact that Syria had welcomed an OPCW fact-finding mission to inspect the alleged site of the attack.

A year later, WikiLeaks revealed that the OPCW had suppressed the initial results of the fact-finding mission deployed to Syria, results which suggested that the incident was, in fact, staged. That same year, a MintPress News report revealed that several journalists from a number of mainstream agencies had come to the conclusion that the Douma attack was staged with the help of the White Helmets, a criminal organization posing as the Syrian Civil Defense. This was initially brought to light by a whistleblower from within the OPCW.

In 2021, during a visit to Douma, The Grayzone reporter Aaron Mate referred to the 2018 incident as “one of the biggest pro-war hoaxes since Iraq.”

Since 2013, armed groups in Syria have attempted to pin chemical attacks on the government in attempts to instigate internationally-led regime change operations against it. This comes in the form of staged attacks, or actual false-flag chemical attacks which leave many dead and are designed to implicate Damascus – as was the case in Ghouta in 2013 and in Khan Sheikhoun in 2017.

The latest OPCW report comes as Washington is desperately trying to obstruct the reconciliation process currently underway between the Syrian and Turkish governments.

January 29, 2023 Posted by | Deception | , | 2 Comments

Russia, Syria reopen airbase after providing it with AD systems

The Cradle | January 24, 2023

Russia and Syria have restored the Al-Jarrah military airbase in northern Syria, Russia’s Defense Ministry announced on 23 January. The airbase, which had been destroyed during the Syria conflict, will now host both Russian and Syrian warplanes.

Russian forces have also deployed Buk M2E and Pantsir S1 air defense systems inside the airbase, with the aim of defending Syria’s northern border and closing Syrian airspace to Israeli warplanes, which have regularly bombed Syria since 2013.

The opening ceremony of the airbase was attended by the commander of the Russian armed forces in Syria, General Andrey Serdyukov, and the Syrian Minister of Defense, General Ali Mahmoud Abbas, in addition to military personnel and guests of honor from both countries.

During the ceremony, planes and helicopters of the Russian Aerospace Forces and the Syrian Air Force demonstrated their combat capabilities, while Syrian special forces carried out parachute drops from helicopters and carried out simulated surround and destroy exercises.

The Al-Jarrah airbase, which lies in Manbij, between Aleppo and Raqqa, was first captured by US and Saudi-backed militants from an Al-Qaeda affiliated Salafist militia, Ahrar al-Sham, in February 2013. The operation to capture Al-Jarrah was part of a broader Al-Qaeda led push, known as the “War of the Airports,” to capture Syria’s major military airbases, including Taftanaz, Wadi al-Deif, and Menagh.

According to Abu Abdallah Minbij, an Ahrar al-Sham commander, the 2013 capture of Al-Jarrah cut off Syrian army supply lines to the east and made it difficult for the army to send reinforcements to Raqqa province. Raqqa city fell to Al-Qaeda led forces, including Ahrar al-Sham and the Nusra Front, a month later, in March 2013.

In April 2013, the Nusra Front and Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) split with ISI and became ISIS. Many Nusra fighters and commanders pledged allegiance to the organization. This allowed ISIS to establish a foothold in Raqqa. ISIS then expelled its jihadist rivals and took full control of Raqqa city in January 2014, making the city its Syrian capital.

ISIS captured Al-Jarrah airbase from Ahrar al-Sham in January 2014 as well.

With Russian assistance, the Syrian army recaptured the airbase in 2017, in a bloody battle led by the Syrian Major General Suheil al-Hassan’s Tiger Forces. Some 3,000 ISIS militants were killed and wounded in the fighting.

The joint restoration of the Al-Jarrah airbase by Syria and Russia represents an increase in Russian presence in the country, as well as the recent surge in military cooperation between the two states.

January 25, 2023 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Saudi Crown Prince defies the US policy against Syria

By Steven Sahiounie | Free West Media | January 22, 2023

In November 2022, Saudi Arabia formally changed its stance on Syria. Saudi Arabia is the political powerhouse of the Middle East, and often shares positions on foreign policy and international issues with the UAE, which has previously re-opened their embassy in Damascus.

“The kingdom is keen to maintain Syria’s security and stability and supports all efforts aimed at finding a political solution to the Syrian crisis,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan told the November Arab League summit in Algeria.

Syria was suspended from the Arab League in 2011 following the outbreak of conflict instigated by the US, and portrayed in western media as a popular uprising of pro-democracy protesters.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said, “The developments in Syria still require a pioneering Arab effort. It is necessary to show flexibility from all parties so that the economic collapse and political blockage can be dispelled. Syria must engage in its natural Arab environment.”

The next Arab League summit will be held in Saudi Arabia, and there is a possibility of Syria once again taking its seat at the round table.

On January 16, the Syrian Foreign Ministry agreed to resume imports from Saudi Arabia after over a decade of strained relations, and Syria planned to import 10,000 tons of white sugar. This development signals a new beginning between the two countries.

Saudi and the Syrian tribes

The Arab tribes in the north east of Syria have traditionally had strong ties with Saudi Arabia, and have received support from the kingdom. The tribes have opposed the ethnic cleansing and forced displacement of Arab villages which the US-led YPG militia has conducted for years. Even though Saudi Arabia has been viewed as a US ally in the past, this has changed since the US military has supported the Marxist YPG who have oppressed Syrians who are not Kurdish.

The US occupied oil wells in north east Syria may come under attack by Arab tribes who are demanding their homes, farms and businesses back from the US-supported YPG. Some analysts foresee the US troops pulling out of Syria after the Kurds find a political solution with Damascus.

Turkey and Syria repair relationship

Turkey and Syria have begun steps to repair their relationship, which ended after Turkey supported the US-NATO attack on Syria for regime change, and hosted CIA operations  funneling weapons and terrorists into Syria, under the Obama administration.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad recently demanded the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Syria to begin to repair the relationship.

Russia is brokering the reconciliation between Erdogan and Assad, which began with the Moscow hosted meeting of the three defense ministers, and a meeting between the three foreign ministers is upcoming.

The developments between Turkey and Syria are being watched by Iran. Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said his country was “happy with the dialogue taking place between Syria and Turkey.” Amirabdollahian will travel to Damascus on Saturday for talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Mekdad.

Iran is looking to establish a new role in the recovery process in Syria. President Ebrahim Raisi will visit both Turkey and Syria soon, his first visit to Turkey since taking office two years ago. While analysts see Saudi Arabia and Iran as antagonists, some feel the kingdom will ultimately realize they have to work with Iran in Syria and Lebanon. Iran is part of the region and can’t be excluded from the geo-political sphere.

Saudi Arabian reforms

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) said on April 27, 2021 that the country was undergoing a sweeping reform which would restructure the role of religion in Saudi politics and society. The process began a few years before he became crown prince, but under his leadership it has accelerated. Islamic institutions in the Kingdom have seen changes in procedure, personnel, and jurisdiction. All of these reforms are in line with the future vision of the country.

Some analysts feel the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1960s eventually gave rise to support for domestic religious institutions, and eventually led to funding of religious activities abroad, while religious leaders at home wielded power over public policy.

Vision 2030

Saudi King Salman, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and his son, MBS have a plan for the country which is known as Vision 2030. MBS is also Prime Minister and Chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs.

The days of unlimited oil and markets are in the decline. Education, training, and employment opportunities are the stepping stones to building a thriving country and MBS is determined to plan for a long future of growth and innovation.

MBS

The Crown Prince is young and has new ideas. He is instituting sweeping reforms to the society which have included more rights and freedoms for women. He has championed projects to place Saudi Arabia as a tourist destination, year round golf and soccer venue, and encouraged cultural arts such as musical productions. MBS is breaking the mold: no longer will Saudi Arabia be a breeding ground for Radical Islam.

Extremist preachers

Saudi Arabia had hosted many extremist preachers. Some were featured on satellite TV channels located in Saudi Arabia, and others were local preachers, authors, or scholars. Some had traveled abroad preaching in pulpits and exporting their hatred and sectarian bigotry.

One of the most famous preachers was Muhammed Al-Arifi, who has had an electronic surveillance device attached to him by Saudi intelligence agents, after they seized all of his social media accounts. His last tweet is said to be on May 6, 2019, when he had 20 million followers, and 24 million likes on Facebook, which ranked him as tenth in the Arab world and in the Middle East. The kingdom is shutting down clerics who are extreme.

In 2014, Great Britain banned Arifi from entering the UK following reports that was involved in radicalizing three young British citizens who went to Syria as terrorists.

A YouTube video in 2013 showed Arifi preaching in Egypt and prophesying the coming of the Islamic State. Egyptian TV reported Arifi meeting with the former Muslim Brotherhood prime minister Hisham Qandil in his office.

Arifi is best remembered for his statement on the media Al Jazeera in which he called for jihad in Syria and supported Al Qaeda.

Adnan al-Arour is another extremist preacher who had appeared regularly on two Saudi-owned Salafist satellite channels. Arour was originally from Syria before settling in Saudi Arabia, and in the early days of the Syrian conflict he would stand up on camera, shake his finger, and call for his followers to ‘grind the flesh’ of an Islamic minority sect in Syria and ‘feed it to the dogs’.

These extremist preachers made it clear that the battles being waged in Syria had nothing to do with freedom or democracy, which the western media was pushing as the goal. The truth was the conflict in Syria was a US-NATO attack for regime change and utilized terrorists following Radical Islam, who fought a sectarian war with the goal of establishing an Islamic State in Syria.

The previous Crown Prince

Muhammad bin Nayef Al Saud (MBN) served as the crown prince and first deputy prime minister of Saudi Arabia from 2015 to 2017. On June 21, 2017 King Salman appointed his own son, MBS, as crown prince and relieved MBN of all positions.

MBN met with British Prime Minister David Cameron in January 2013. He then met with President Obama in Washington, on 14 January 2013. The discussion focused on the US-NATO attack on Syria and its support from Saudi Arabia.

In February 2014, MBN replaced Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then intelligence chief of Saudi Arabia, and was placed in charge of Saudi intelligence in Syria. Bandar had been in charge of supporting the US attack on Syria. Bandar had been trying to convince the US in 2012 that the Syrian government was using chemical weapons. However, research has shown that the terrorists used chemical weapons to push Obama into a military invasion, based on his speech of ‘The Red Line’.

In March 2016, MBN was awarded Légion d’honneur by French President François Hollande, another partner in the US-NATO attack on Syria.

On February 10, 2017, the CIA granted its highest Medal to MBN and was handed to him by CIA director Mike Pompeo during a reception ceremony in Riyadh. MBN and Pompeo discussed Syria with Turkish officials, and said Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the US was “historic and strategic”. Just months later in June MBS would depose MBN and strip him of powers, in a move considered to be “upending decades of royal custom and profoundly reordering the kingdom’s inner power structure”.

US diplomats argued that MBN was “the most pro-American minister in the Saudi Cabinet”. That is what brought MBN down. The days of blindly following the US directives are over in Saudi Arabia. MBS has refused to bow down to Biden when he demanded an increase in oil production. The Vision 2030 that MBS developed does not include financing failed wars in the Middle East for the benefit of the Oval Office. MBS has a strained relationship with Biden, and he wears it as a badge of honor.

Saudi role in the Syrian war

Saudi Arabia played a huge role in the large-scale supply of weapons and ammunition to various terrorist groups in Syria during the Syrian conflict. Weapons purchased in Croatia were funneled through Jordan to the border town of Deraa, the epi-center of the Syrian conflict.

At the height of Saudi involvement in Syria, the kingdom had their own militia in Syria under the command of Zahran Alloush. The Jaysh al-Islam are remembered for parading women in cages through the Damascus countryside prior to massacring them.

In summer 2017, US President Donald Trump shut down the CIA operation ‘Timber Sycamore’ which had been arming the terrorists fighting in Syria. About the same time, Saudi Arabia cut off support to the Syrian opposition, which was the political arm of the terrorists.

Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6, expressed his view at the time that “Saudi Arabia is involved in the ISIS-led Sunni rebellion” in Syria.

Syria has been destroyed by the US and their allies who supported the attack beginning in 2011. Now, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are looking to find a solution which will help the Syrian people to rebuild their lives. Both Turkey and Saudi Arabia have turned away from past policies which found them supporting the conflict in Syria at the behest of the US. There is a new Middle East emerging which makes its own policies and is not subservient US interests.

January 22, 2023 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Russian military delegation meets with Kurds in northern Syria

The Cradle | January 19, 2023

Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported on 19 January that a meeting was held between a Russian military delegation and Kurdish representatives in the northern Syrian town of Ain al-Arab.

Kurdish sources told the newspaper that the meeting focused on securing Ain al-Arab, also known by its Kurdish name Kobani, as the northern Syrian town is among the principal targets of Ankara’s long-promised ground offensive against Kurdish militants in northern Syria.

According to the sources, the Kurdish representatives were informed by General Alexander Alkous – the Russian general at the head of Moscow’s delegation – that Russia is prepared to support the city in the sectors of health, education, and basic services.

This coincided with a renewal of Turkish military bombardment against positions of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Ain al-Arab on 18 January, reigniting Kurdish fears that the Turkish operation is imminent. It also coincided with a meeting between Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in the US capital.

Al-Akhbar also revealed that the Russian Reconciliation Center is working to recruit volunteers from the Arab tribes across northern Syria, in order to counter US efforts at reviving the Raqqa Revolutionary Brigade, which Washington aims to merge with a ‘restructured’ version of the SDF. The report adds that Ankara, during the 18 January meeting between Blinken and Cavusoglu, expressed a “categorical” rejection of Washington’s plan.

Additionally, Al-Akhbar suggests that Ankara is “sticking to [the] path” of reconciliation with Damascus.

A day before the meeting in Washington, a meeting was held by several EU representatives in Brussels, aimed at confirming “the continuation of the existing EU position, which constitutes a rejection of any normalization with Damascus, a refusal to lift sanctions, and the blocking of attempts to initiate the reconstruction of Syria,” according to Al-Akhbar.

Meanwhile, the sentiment expressed by the US and EU towards Turkish-Syrian reconciliation is shared only by Syria’s armed extremist opposition, led by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

As a result, HTS and other extremist armed groups have stepped up ambush operations and hit-and-run attacks against Syrian army outposts over the past week. Just yesterday, heavy clashes erupted between the forces of Damascus and extremist militants in the countryside of Aleppo.

January 19, 2023 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Why Arabs Bolster Energy & Security Cooperation With Russia in Defiance of Western Sanctions

By Ekaterina Blinova – Samizdat – 19.01.2023

Arab countries have not joined the anti-Russian sanctions, despite pressure from the West, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed during his press conference this week. What’s behind the Arab world’s resilience?

“The policy of the West in the East has gone bankrupt,” political analyst Vladimir Ahmedov told Sputnik.

“[Middle Eastern players’] trust in the United States, the leading western European states – the former colonizers who had colonies in this region – has already been largely lost,” the specialist in the modern history of Arab countries and senior research fellow at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences continued.

New major players have entered the global arena: China, India, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, the scholar emphasized.

Ahmedov believes that the sanctions imposed against Russia are dictated by purely political considerations of a narrow circle of the western political elite. Meanwhile, the system of international relations and the world order has been undergoing changes, and the indirect proof of this is the position taken by the Arab countries, according to him.

“Russia’s policy in the East at the present time, and Russia’s policy in the world in general, has changed in comparison with the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s,” the researcher continued. “Now it is a resolute policy aimed at defending [Russia’s] national state interests and the national interests of third countries. It impresses the countries of the East and, above all, the countries of the Middle East, which have been waiting for such a policy for a long time. This policy is in great demand in the East and therefore it meets with approval and understanding.”

In light of this, Russia’s efforts to mediate the Israeli-Palestine conflict as well as those in Syria and Iraq – mentioned by Lavrov during his Wednesday presser – are steps in the right direction, according to the scholar. In addition, Russia’s military presence in Syria serves as a stabilizing factor, he added.

Meanwhile, the West’s Ukraine strategy looks like nothing so much as its previous Middle Eastern policies. The West is using Ukrainians much in exactly the same way it previously used Arabs in order to reach its geopolitical objectives, and Middle Eastern players are well-aware of that, according to the researcher.

“Russia is not fighting against Ukraine or the fraternal Ukrainian people, but against the West, which wants to dismember Russia, belittle its role, minimize it, and so on,” Ahmedov said. “And [the Western policy] does not meet with any approval from the political elites of the East, who themselves suffered from it previously.”

Opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa

“The region of the Middle East and the Arab world in general is of tremendous importance in the world system in terms of geography, demography, a powerful energy market, the world’s oil and gas pantry and as a very important transport artery. Therefore the attention to this region will only grow,” Ahmedov emphasized.

The region develops its position by becoming an influential energy actor, echoed Ramy El Kalyouby, a visiting lecturer at the School of Orientalism of the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE).

“Gulf countries profited a lot from oil prices increase, and at some moment the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s oil revenues jumped to more than $1 billion daily,” El Kalyouby told Sputnik. “Egypt is also getting its chance to become an important gas supplier to the EU after discovering a few huge fields in the Mediterranean.

The academic singled out Egypt, the world’s biggest wheat importer. According to El Kalyouby, Russia can help Cairo replace a deficit of Ukrainian wheat, open its markets for Egyptian fruits and vegetables, and provide more tourists.

“There is also a project of a Russian industrial zone in Egypt that would help Russia to get around sanctions by changing the origin of products, and also to profit from the African Union free trade zone,” the lecturer highlighted.

Last year, the construction of Egypt’s first nuclear power plant was launched on July 20 in El Dabaa, Matrouh Governorate, by Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom.

The El Dabaa NPP is meant to be the cornerstone of Egypt’s energy diversification policy, allowing Cairo not only to cover its own electricity needs, but also to provide energy to its neighbors. On November 19, the main construction phase for Unit 2 of the NPP began in the northern African country.

“Gulf countries could cooperate with Russia in the regulation of the oil market, although this becomes more difficult, as Russia provides important reductions on Urals oil,” El Kalyouby continued, adding that “Russia also remains a key actor in Syria as a mediator between Damascus and Ankara.”

Regional Security

Nonetheless, the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) region is continuing to suffer from local conflicts stemming from the bitter consequences of the Arab Spring, according to Ahmedov. The scientist noted that the reformatting of political systems of these countries is still going on while the common regional security system has not been formed yet.

Russia shares the same “geopolitical space” with the countries of the region and its objectives there include not only maintaining working ties with Middle Eastern players but also to protect its “soft underbelly” from extremist and terrorist elements reinvigorated by the Arab Spring havoc, the researcher explained.

In addition, Russia’s experience as a power broker in the region could come in handy for the West, since the latter has proven incapable of solving regional conflicts on its own, continued the scientist. According to him, European countries have no other alternative but to deal with Russia in the Middle East in the future if they want to ensure their security in the Mediterranean and Southern Europe.

Ahmedov noted that while Moscow cannot ensure a complete comprehensive settlement and stabilization of the situation in the Middle East, it can help regional players reach these goals.

“Russia can make a certain contribution to ensuring the system of regional security with the participation of other states,” he said. “We have excellent relations with Iran. And in this regard, of course, the Arab countries are interested in Russia in terms of softening the Iranian policy towards the Arab countries, which causes concern today in the Arab world. We have excellent relations with Turkey, which also plays a very important role as a major regional actor or player in this region, just like Iran. And therefore, in this case, we have a lot of advantages that we can realize. We have long-standing ties with Palestine since Soviet times. And therefore, in this case, we have a lot of advantages that we can realize.”

Russia has a long and successful record of work in the region, according to the scientist: in the 1960-1980s the USSR provided the primary industrialization of many MENA countries, including Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, and Yemen. While developing ties with the region, Russia can build upon its expertise and best practices of the past, Ahmedov concluded.

January 19, 2023 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kurdish delegation visits Damascus as SDF loses faith in Washington

The Cradle | January 17, 2023

Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported on 17 January that a Kurdish delegation representing the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) visited Syria’s capital Damascus today, to engage in dialogue with the Syrian government in light of the potential Syrian-Turkish rapprochement.

According to the report, the SDF “welcomed” Damascus’ insistence that the rapprochement not officially begin until Turkiye guarantees its intention to withdraw from Syria. Quoting the head of the Kurdish Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) foreign relations office, Badran Jia Kurd, who led the delegation, it has a priority “to develop Syrian-Syrian dialogue as an ideal path to a political solution.”

At the same time, however, in continuation of its attempt to foil any chance of Syrian-Turkish reconciliation, Washington is now trying to, in a sense, reform and restructure the Kurdish organization to make it more acceptable to Ankara.

A 12 January report released by Al-Akhbar stated that in an attempt to do this, the US has asked the SDF to disassociate from Turkiye’s sworn foe, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and clear Raqqa and Deir Ezzor of Kurdish militants so that they could be overseen by ‘local councils’ made up of Arabs.

It is worth noting that the Kurds have expressed reluctance over this US project and have said that despite being willing to negotiate, they cannot accept to make such large concessions.

Proceeding with this plan, the US is currently recruiting Arab fighters to eventually incorporate into the SDF, thereby working to make it somewhat more acceptable to Turkiye. These Arab fighters are being recruited into the Raqqa Revolutionary Brigade (Liwa Thuwwar al-Raqqa), the revived version of a former extremist faction which was allied to Jabhat al-Nusra in 2012, and then fought ISIS alongside the SDF from 2015 to 2018 under US sponsorship before a dispute saw them break apart.

Having been inactive for a few years, Al-Akhbar reported on 20 December 2022 that Washington has brought this group into action once again, giving it the capacity to recruit fighters, and promised its members monthly salaries. Later reports claimed that the US has already begun making payments to the Raqqa Brigade, which it hopes can remerge with the SDF at some point.

Today, Al-Akhbar reports that the Raqqa Brigade is coordinating with the Syrian National Alliance (SNA), a New York-based opposition group made up of Syrian exiles, which is supposed to make up the brigade’s political wing.

However, as Washington scrambles to forge together alliances in an attempt to keep Turkiye and the SDF away from Damascus and closer to each other, the Kurds have expressed wariness over these efforts.

“This vision cannot be viewed positively, given the difficulty of persuading Turkiye to end hostility towards the Kurds in general … the most appropriate solution for the region lies with Damascus,” Kurdish sources close to the SDF have said.

In other news, the armed opposition’s leading faction, the extremist, former Al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), has continued to voice its complete rejection of Ankara’s diplomatic turnaround and is currently mobilizing heavy reinforcements.

January 17, 2023 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Turkiye-Syria talks fuel jihadist relocation to Ukraine

Abdel Hakim al-Shishani, formerly the leader of the foreign ‘Soldiers of the Caucasus’ group in Syria, and now an official member of Ukraine’s international legion (Photo: Atlas News )
The Cradle | January 12, 2023

As the prospect of a rapprochement between Ankara and Damascus becomes more imminent, the most extreme elements of Syria’s armed opposition have been feeling a sting of betrayal, accelerating a trend that, over the past year, has seen many jihadists relocate to Ukraine.

This is especially true for foreign militants, particularly those from Central Asia or the Caucasus.

On 12 January, Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported that after several months of disappearance, the well-known Chechen extremist and leader of the ‘Soldiers of the Caucasus’ militia, Abdel Hakim al-Shishani, has reappeared in Ukraine as a member of Kiev’s so-called ‘international legion,’ established in order to attract and recruit foreign fighters against Russia.

According to the report, there has recently been news of an increased number of foreign fighters leaving Syria to make their way over to the “new battlefield,” reinforced by “Turkiye’s lack of need for ‘jihadists’ on Syrian soil” and its “definite interest … to get rid of them.” This comes following recent talks aimed at reconciling Damascus and Ankara, over which the opposition has already expressed a great distaste for.

The report also highlights a leading role played by Turkish intelligence in facilitating this cross-country transfer of extremists, “at least during the first months of the Russian-Ukrainian war.” This could have been Ankara’s way of disposing of militants from Syria and clearing the way for a solution to the Syrian war (provided it was serious about reconciliation at the time, and still is). According to Al-Akhbar, Shishani himself passed through Turkiye on his way to the “new land of jihad,” just as he initially had on his way to join the war in Syria.

Syrian officials have also suggested Washington’s role in facilitating these transfers to Ukraine, as the US has been involved in the relocation of extremists between Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan.

On 7 January, the official account of Ukraine’s intelligence agency posted a video on Twitter showing Shishani and a group of fighters engaging in clashes with Russian troops in the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. The video essentially serves as propaganda designed specifically to attract extremist militants from Syria to Ukraine.

Shishani’s disappearance coincided with the establishment of recruitment centers in northern Syria designed to send fighters off to Ukraine, as Al-Akhbar reported in March last year.

Soon after the start of the Ukrainian war, hundreds of fighters from ISIS and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), formerly the Al-Qaeda linked Nusra Front, began making their way to Ukraine to take part in a newer, more direct front against Russia.

On 1 March, before these reports began emerging, Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Bashar al-Jaafari, predicted this.

“We, as a state, have evidence that the US military in Syria is transferring terrorists from one place to another, especially members of ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra … So, one should not be surprised, and we do not exclude, that tomorrow ISIS terrorists will be sent to Ukraine,” he said.

If the plan for a restoration of ties between Syria and Turkiye is fruitful, and if Ankara chooses to officially abandon Syria’s armed opposition, which the extremists fear has already happened, then it is a likely possibility that the raging battlefield in Ukraine will emerge as a new safe haven for Syria’s jihadist movement.

January 12, 2023 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

US on alert as UAE seeks to join Turkish-Syrian reconciliation talks

The Cradle | January 8, 2023

During a speech in Ankara on 5 January, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinted that a meeting with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad may soon take place, “as part of efforts for peace.” He added that a tripartite meeting between the foreign ministers of Turkiye, Russia and Syria is scheduled to be held in the near future for the first time since 2011.

The upcoming meeting aims to enhance communication after Russian-sponsored talks between the Turkish and Syrian defense ministers were held in Moscow on 28 December. The meeting was the highest-level of official meetings between Ankara and Damascus since the start of the Syrian war.

In a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on 5 January, Erdogan called on the Syrian government to “take the steps to achieve a tangible solution concerning the case of Syria.”

US seeks to establish a middle ground between Ankara and the SDF so as to prevent Turkish-Syrian reconciliation

The Syrian-Turkish rapprochement via declared Russian mediation was paralleled by Emirati-Syrian rapprochement – the latest of which was a “brotherly” meeting aimed at strengthening cooperation and restoring historical relations between Assad and Foreign Minister of the UAE Abdallah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, according to SANA.

Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported that the UAE seeks “to join Russia in sponsoring Syrian-Turkish relations at a high level,” noting that the Emirati foreign minister’s visit to Damascus sought to arrange Turkiye’s participation in the tripartite meeting of Syrian-Turkish-Russian foreign ministers, making it a quadripartite meeting.

The meeting is meant to pave the way for a presidential meeting between Erdogan and Assad in the presence of Putin. Reportedly, the UAE has offered to host this summit, with a possibility of a high-level UAE official being present at the meeting if it will be held in Moscow.

Asharq Al-Awsat added that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu plans to visit Washington on 16-17 January to brief US officials on the developments of Turkish-Syrian normalization, his meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Faysal Mikdad, and the “roadmap” sponsored by Moscow in the context of security, military, political and economic fields – as agreed upon by the defense ministers as well as the intelligence chiefs in Syria, Turkiye and Russia over the past weeks.

As Turkiye has been launching successive operations against Kurdish groups both on the Turkish-Syrian border as well as within Syria itself under ‘Operation Claw Sword,’ a Western official informed Asharq Al-Awsat that a high-ranking US official will be visiting Ankara in the coming hours as part of efforts to mediate between Turkiye and the SDF in northeastern Syria.

Ankara has demanded that Moscow and Washington commit to the implementation of the bilateral military agreements signed at the end of 2019. The agreements stipulate the withdrawal of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to beyond 30 kilometers from the Turkish border, and from the areas of Manbij and Tal Rifaat, in addition to the withdrawal of all heavy weaponry.

The SDF says that it has fulfilled its obligations, and will not withdraw its police force – known as the Asayish – nor dismantle its local councils, despite Turkiye’s insistence on dissolving all Kurdish military and civil institutions in the area.

Meanwhile, Cavusoglu told media on 29 December that Ankara is willing to withdraw from the territory it occupies in northern Syria and hand it over to Damascus in the event that “political stability” is reached – after cooperation in “neutralizing ISIS members, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the YPG.”

The Saudi newspaper’s report stated that US mediation seeks to reach a “compromise” between the Kurdish groups and Ankara without a new Turkish incursion taking place ahead of the Turkish presidential and parliamentary elections in mid-2023. This mediation seems to be an attempt at circumventing the imminent Syrian-Turkish reconciliation.

Another official source disclosed that Ankara was “uncomfortable with the leaks following the meeting of the Syrian, Turkish and Russian defense ministers in Moscow, and that it had agreed to a full withdrawal.” However, the source confirmed that, “it is true that Ankara and Damascus consider the PKK a common threat, and will work against any separatist agenda, because it is an existential threat to both countries,” adding that the two countries will “work to open the Aleppo-Latakia Highway.”

Following the UAE’s visit to Damascus, which came after the US called on its allies and international partners to refrain from normalizing ties with Syria, Asharq Al-Awsat quoted an official as saying that the US has been the only western country to issue a statement against normalization, and is working alongside Paris, Berlin, and London to assume a united stance against normalization with Syria.

Communication is currently underway for a meeting between the representatives of Paris, Berlin, London, and Washington and UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pederson in Geneva on 23 January. This meeting will take place before Pedersen’s visit to Damascus to meet with the Syrian foreign minister to “confirm the position against normalization, and support the provision of funding for electricity projects within the timeline of early recovery,” stipulated by a resolution for international aid that will be extended before 10 January.

Asharq Al-Awsat said that the UAE has proposed to contribute to the funding of economic and electrical projects in Syria – within the confines of the Caesar Act.

Simultaneously, Jordan, who was the first to open high-level channels of communication with Damascus, is leading efforts alongside other Arab countries to reach a “united Arab position that defines Arab demands in order to make normalization possible.”

The newspaper quoted another western official as saying that Jordan is calling for coordination to put pressure on Damascus to provide political and geopolitical steps for the coming phase in southern Syria, as Amman confirmed that there has been an increase in the smuggling of Captagon, weapons and ammunition across the Syrian border following the start of the normalization process. Additionally, Amman has said that the Iranian presence in southern Syria near the Jordanian border has not diminished, and that there has been an expansion of ISIS activity in the area, according to the official.

Syria’s Arab League membership was suspended in November of 2011 following the start of the Syrian war, and it has been excluded ever since.

January 8, 2023 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 2 Comments

Leaders of Turkey, Syria may meet to discuss peace, stability: Erdogan

Press TV – January 5, 2023

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed the possibility of meeting with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad in forthcoming talks with Russia to discuss peace and stability in the region and in the Arab country.

Erdogan said on Thursday that a trilateral meeting of the foreign ministers from Turkey, Russia and Syria would first be held to further develop contacts after last week’s landmark talks between the defense ministers of the three countries in Moscow.

“We will bring our foreign ministers together and then, depending on developments, we may come together as the Russian, Turkish, and Syrian leaders. So, our aim is to establish peace and stability in the region,” Erdogan said at a meeting of his Justice and Development (AK) Party in the capital Ankara, without specifying an exact date for the possible meeting.

“Turkish, Russian, and Syrian defense ministers and intelligence chiefs came together in Moscow. Hopefully, the foreign ministers will come together in a trilateral format,” he added.

On December 28, the Turkish, Russian, and Syrian defense ministers gathered in Moscow to discuss counter-terrorism efforts in Syria, and they agreed to continue tripartite meetings to ensure stability in Syria and in the wider region.

The meeting revolved around the Syria crisis, the refugee issue, and joint counter-terrorism efforts against terror outfits in the Arab country.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said a second meeting could take place in mid-January.

Turkey severed its relations with Syria in March 2012, a year after the Arab country found itself in the grip of rampant and hugely deadly violence waged by foreign-backed militants and terrorists, including those allegedly supported by Ankara.

Turkey has for the past 11 years backed armed terrorists that unsuccessfully sought to topple the democratically-elected government of Assad, with Erdogan even calling him a “murderer.”

Since 2016, Turkey has also conducted three major ground operations against United States-backed militants based in northern Syria.

The Turkish government accuses the militants, who are known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG), of bearing ties with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party terrorist group.

Turkey has been launching airstrikes on northern Syria and Iraq since November 20, against, what it calls, hideouts belonging to the PKK.

January 5, 2023 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | Leave a comment

A Gloomy 2023? Here Are Some Bright Spots

By Ron Paul | January 2, 2023

The prospects for peace, justice, and the advancement of liberty in 2023 may at first seem further away than ever. Washington’s determination to overthrow the Russian government via a proxy war in Ukraine has brought the threat of nuclear war closer than ever in history. The mainstream media is even “normalizing” the idea that a nuclear attack on the US is really no big deal. Yahoo News wrote yesterday that a “public health expert” is “concerned” that Americans are not sufficiently prepared for nuclear bombs hitting major US cities!

The Yahoo article even links to a FEMA-authored “nuclear detonation planning guide” to help us better get through a barrage of nuclear missiles. Are they insane? They act as if a nuclear attack on the United States is just another inconvenience to plan for, like an ice storm or a hurricane.

The FEMA guide’s advice on what to do during a nuclear attack is, “Get inside, stay inside, and stay tuned.” Stay tuned to what? Have they not seen the photos from Hiroshima or Nagasaki?

While we are foolishly edging toward war, with the media and Beltway neocons cheering it on, there are still some bright spots we can look to in 2023.

First, polls consistently demonstrate increasing American opposition to US involvement in Ukraine. Republicans are set to take control of the House this week right as Republican voter support for more military aid to Ukraine has seen a dramatic and steady decline. US households continue to struggle under runaway inflation and a looming economic crack-up and more Americans are going to demand answers from their government as to why we have sent more than $100 billion to Ukraine while so many are struggling at home.

Second, a recent Rasmussen poll has revealed that in light of the “Twitter Files” – which showed that the FBI viewed the social media platform as a paid subsidiary of the US government – some 63 percent of likely US voters “believe Congress should investigate whether the FBI was involved in censoring information on social media sites.” A large percentage of those polled believe the FBI has been politicized by the current Administration, which may give incoming Republicans in the House some backbone to launch an actual investigation. Without the First Amendment, the other Amendments are virtually meaningless, and when the US government can strong-arm “private” businesses to attack free speech, freedom has no future.

A third bright point is that the nearly twelve-year war on Syria might finally be closer to settlement. Syrian and Turkish defense ministers held negotiations brokered by Moscow which resulted in an agreement by Turkey to withdraw its military forces from Syrian soil. There are rumors that a meeting between the leaders of Turkey and Syria may come as soon as early this new year.

The destruction of Syria was part of the Obama/Hillary/neocon plan to “remake” the Middle East, but as always these interventionist schemes have only resulted in death and destruction. Washington continues to lecture Russia about occupying Ukrainian soil, yet the US military has for years occupied Syrian territory for the sole purpose of backing extremists and stealing Syrian oil. Turkey leaving Syria will add pressure for the US to leave Syria. That is a good thing.

The new year is upon us. It might be easy to feel dejected. But for we who promote peace, freedom, and justice, there is much to build on. Do not allow your voices to be silenced!

Copyright © 2023 by RonPaul Institute

January 3, 2023 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Foreign Ministry: Assassination of Gen. Soleimani by US, ‘glaring example of an organized terrorist act’

Press TV – January 2, 2023

Iran’s Foreign Ministry says the assassination of the country’s top anti-terror commander Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani by the United States is a “glaring example of an organized terrorist act.”

The ministry made the remark in a Monday statement, issued to mark the third anniversary of the assassination of Gen. Soleimani and his companions on the direct order of then US President Donald Trump.

“Indubitable as it is, the criminal act of assassinating General Soleimani, designed and executed by the United States, constitutes yet another glaring example of an ‘organized terrorist act’,” the statement said.

It added that based on legal and international regulations, “the American regime bears ‘definite international responsibility’ for this crime, noting that all the agents, instigators, perpetrators, aiders and abettors of this terrorist crime bear responsibility.

“In this regard, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in conjunction with the Judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran and other agencies, has adopted, from the very outset, a number of measures premised upon the legal principle of ‘combating impunity of crimes’ in order to hold the above-mentioned to account and bring them to justice,” it added.

The ministry noted that the Joint Judicial Committee between Iran and Iraq also continues its work to follow up on the US act of terrorism.

Elsewhere in the statement, the ministry said that in cooperation with other relevant institutions, it has “set up the Special Committee on Legal and International Follow-up of the Assassination Case of General Soleimani and His Companions.”

“Ever since its establishment, the Committee has been investigating and pursuing the legal aspects of the case and has thus far taken several measures to press the issue at all domestic, bilateral, regional and international levels. The Committee is determined to proceed in all seriousness until its objectives are fully met and the international responsibility of the American government is invoked,” it noted.

“In line with its principled policies to counter terrorism and extremism, the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue to work towards the establishment of peace and stability at the regional and international levels. And although the martyrdom of General Qassem Soleimani is too great a loss for Iran and Iranians, it will by no means prevent the Islamic Republic of Iran from pursuing its lofty goals,” the statement said.

General Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and his Iraqi trenchmate Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), were martyred along with their companions in a US drone strike on January 3, 2020.

The two anti-terror commanders were tremendously respected and admired across the region for their instrumental role in fighting and decimating the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria.

Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, who heads a special committee formed to follow up on General Soleimani’s murder case from legal and international aspects, on Saturday said Tehran is seriously pursuing a judicial process to serve justice in the case of Soleimani’s assassination, stressing that the indictment in the case is nearing its final stages.

January 2, 2023 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , | 4 Comments

Russia consolidates in East Mediterranean

BY M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | INDIAN PUNCHLINE | DECEMBER 31, 2022

The curtain is coming down on the brutal 11-year old Syrian conflict, which former US President and Nobel Laureate Barack Obama initiated, as the Arab Spring swept through West Asia two decades ago. The United States has suffered yet another big setback in West Asia as the year 2022 draws to a close. The unfolding Turkish-Syrian reconciliation process under Russian mediation is to be seen as a saga of betrayal and vengeance. 

Ankara came under immense pressure from the Obama Administration in 2011 to spearhead the regime change project in Syria. Obama blithely assumed that Turkiye would gleefully serve as the charioteer of “moderate” Islamism for the transformation in West Asia. But Ankara took its time to calibrate its foreign policies to adapt to the Arab Spring before responding to the shifting landscape in Syria.

Erdogan was caught unprepared by the uprising in Syria at a juncture when Ankara was pursuing a “zero-problems” policy with Turkiye’s neighbours. Ankara was unsure how the Arab Spring would play out and remained silent when the revolt first appeared in Tunisia. Even on Egypt, Erdogan made an emotional call for Hosni Mubarak’s departure only when he sensed, correctly so, that Obama was decoupling from America’s  staunch ally in Cairo. 

Syria was the ultimate test case and a real challenge for Erdogan. Ankara had invested heavily in the improvement of relations with Syria within the framework of the so-called Adana Agreement in 1998 in the downstream of Turkish military’s massive showdown with Damascus over the latter harbouring the PKK [Kurdish] leader Ocalan. Erdogan initially did not want Bashar al-Assad to lose power, and advised him to reform. The families of Erdogan and Assad used to holiday together. 

Obama had to depute then CIA chief David Petraeus to visit Turkey twice in 2012 to persuade Erdogan to engage with the US in operational planning aimed at bringing about the end of the Assad government. It was Petraeus who proposed to Ankara a covert program of arming and training Syrian rebels.

But by 2013 already, Erdogan began sensing that Obama himself had only a limited American involvement in Syria and preferred to lead from the rear. In 2014, Erdogan went public that his relations with Obama had diminished, saying that he was disappointed about not getting direct results on the Syrian conflict. By that time, more than 170,000 people had died and 2.9 million Syrians had fled to neighbouring countries, including Turkey, and the fighting had forced another 6.5 million people from their homes within Syria. 

Simply put, Erdogan felt embittered that he was left holding a can of worms and Obama had scooted off. Worse still, the Pentagon began aligning with the Syrian Kurdish groups linked to the PKK.  (In October 2014, US began providing supplies to Kurdish forces and in November 2015, US special forces were deployed in Syria.) 

Indeed, since then, Erdogan had been protesting in vain that the US, a NATO ally, had aligned with a terrorist group (Syrian Kurds known as YPG) that threatened Turkiye’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. 

It is against such a backdrop that the two meetings in Moscow on Wednesday between the defence ministers and intelligence chiefs of Turkey and Syria in the presence of their Russian counterparts took place. Erdogan’s reconciliation process with Assad is quintessentially his sweet revenge for the American betrayal. Erdogan sought help from Russia, the archetypal enemy country in the US and NATO’s sights, in order to communicate with Assad who is a pariah in American eyes. The matrix is self-evident. 

On Thursday, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said: “At the meeting (in Moscow), we discussed what we could do to improve the situation in Syria and the region as soon as possible while ensuring peace, tranquility and stability… We reiterated our respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty rights of all our neighbours, especially Syria and Iraq, and that our sole aim is the fight against terrorism, we have no other purpose.” 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been counselling Erdogan in recent years that Turkiye’s security concerns are best tackled in coordination with Damascus and that the Adana Agreement could provide a framework of cooperation. The Turkish Defence Ministry readout said the meeting in Moscow took place in a “constructive atmosphere” and it was agreed to continue the format of trilateral meetings “to ensure and maintain stability in Syria and the region as a whole.” 

Without doubt, the normalisation between Ankara and Damascus will impact regional security and, in particular, the Syrian war, given the clout Turkiye wields with the residual Syrian opposition. A Turkish ground operation in northern Syria may not be necessary if Ankara and Damascus were to revive the Adana Agreement. In fact, Akar disclosed that Ankara, Moscow and Damascus are working on carrying out joint missions on the ground in Syria.

The Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu’s willingness right in the middle of the Ukraine war to take the steering wheel and navigate its reconciliation with Syria adds an altogether new dimension to the deepening strategic ties between Moscow and Ankara. For Erdogan too, Syria becomes the newest addition to his policy initiatives lately to improve Turkiye’s relations with the regional states. Normalisation with Syria will go down well with Turkish public opinion and that has implications for Erdogan’s bid for a renewed mandate in the upcoming elections.

From the Syrian perspective, the normalisation with Turkiye is going to be far more consequential than the restoration of ties with various regional states (starting with the UAE) in recent years who had fuelled the conflict. Turkiye’s equations with Syrian militant groups (eg., Syrian National Army and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham), its continued occupation of Syrian territory, Syrian refugees in Turkiye  (numbering 3.6 million), etc. are vital issues affecting Syria’s security.    

The US resents Erdogan’s move to normalise with Assad — and that too, with Russia’s helping hand. It is now even more unlikely to give up its military presence in Syria or its alliance with the Syrian Kurdish group YPG (which Ankara regards as an affiliate of the PKK.) 

But the YPG will find itself in a tight spot. As Syria requests Turkiye to withdraw from its territories (Idlib and so-called operation areas) and stop supporting armed groups, Turkiye in return will insist on pushing the YPG away from the border. (The government-aligned Syrian daily Al-Watan reported quoting sources that at the tripartite meeting in Moscow, Ankara has committed to withdrawing all its forces from Syrian territory.) 

Indeed, the replacement of the YPG militia by the Syrian government forces along the borders with Turkiye would lead to the weakening of both YPG and the US military presence. However, the question will still remain unanswered as regards the place of Kurds in the future of Syria. 

The US State Department stated recently, “The US will not upgrade its diplomatic relations with the Assad regime and does not support other countries upgrading their relations. The US urges states in the region to consider carefully the atrocities inflicted by the Assad regime on the Syrian people over the last decade. The US believes that stability in Syria and the greater region can be achieved through a political process that represents the will of all Syrians.”

Last week’s meetings in Moscow show that Russia’s standing in the West Asian region is far from defined by the Ukraine conflict. Russian influence on Syria remains intact and Moscow will continue to shape Syria’s transition out of conflict zone and consolidate its own long-term presence in Eastern Mediterranean. 

OPEC Plus has gained traction. Russia’s ties with the Gulf states are steadily growing. The Russia-Iran strategic ties are at their highest level in history. And the return of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s prime minister means that the Russian-Israeli ties are heading for a reset. Clearly, Russian diplomacy is on a roll in West Asia. 

Conventional wisdom was that Russia and Turkiye’s geopolitical interests would inevitably collide once the floodgates were opened in Ukraine. Herein lies the paradox, for, what has happened is entirely to the contrary. 

December 31, 2022 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 4 Comments