Archive for the ‘Aleppo Syria’ category

Article On Syrian Opposition Website: The Political Solution Is Unfeasible; We Should Ignite All-Out War

October 19, 2016

Article On Syrian Opposition Website: The Political Solution Is Unfeasible; We Should Ignite All-Out War, MEMRI, October 19, 2016

‘Ali Hamidi, a Syrian journalist opposed to the regime, called on regime opponents to abandon the political solution and ignite an all-out war in Syrian order to force the world to step in and end it. Writing on a Syrian opposition website, he said that the brutal offensive waged in recent weeks by the Assad regime and by Russia against the rebel-held eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo is nothing less than a holocaust and slaughter for its own sake. He leveled harsh criticism at the international community, headed by the U.S., for the situation in the city, saying that their failure to intervene does not stem from helplessness or a lack of influence but rather from a lack of willingness to stop Assad and Russia.

The following are excerpts from his article:[1]

30329Devastation in Aleppo (image: Aljazeera.com)

“It would be absurd to write anything or make any comment about the all-out war of extermination currently being waged by Russia and the Assad regime against the ‘besieged neighborhoods’ of eastern Aleppo. This is [nothing less than] a holocaust; it is the ongoing indiscriminate killing of civilians without any military justification… Its objective was and is nothing but killing for its own sake. Many of us have made efforts to find definitions and reasons for this [military] action. We have heard, for example, that its objective is ethnic and sectarian cleansing; that it is an attempt to pressure the civilians in eastern Aleppo to leave or to disassociate themselves from the militants; that it is a holy war against the Sunnis, and many other analyses that are belied by the scenes of bombing and indiscriminate killing. At this point analyses and theories fail, and the main [insight] that emerges is that [it is nothing but] the killing of anyone opposed to the Assad regime…

“Can we really say today that the world is helpless? I think that would be the greatest and falsest compliment we could bestow upon this world – for the international community was not, is not and will never be helpless. It has ability and influence, if it only wanted [to use them]. But the simple [truth is] that nobody wants to stop Assad and Russia – neither the U.S. nor Europe nor anyone else…

“In the UN Security Council session on Aleppo [on September 25, 2016], UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura expressed concern about the firing of ‘[gas] canisters’ from [rebel-held] eastern Aleppo into the [regime-held] western [parts of the city]. But he did not mention the kinds of missiles and mortars fired on the people [of the city], nor did he mention the over 300 victims [that are killed] every day as he delivered this miserable speech. Even more disturbing were the statements made by the representatives of the permanent Security Council members, who parrot hollow words of commiseration that are nothing but humiliating pleas [directed at] Russia, beseeching it to do its best to restrain Assad and restore the fragile ceasefire…

“Are we not being naïve when we wait for others to make their considerations, and hand them the keys to our cities [while we sit around,] waiting to be bombed? We wait for Barack Obama to [formulate] a policy [on Syria], when everyone is quite convinced that his departing administration will do nothing for those who are being killed in Aleppo and elsewhere, and that he and his team are not really doing anything to topple the Assad regime or to compete with Russia and Iran by supporting [the Syrian opposition]. If this is the position of the [world] leadership, there is no point in expecting anything from the countries it leads.

“Eastern Aleppo is in flames and its people are dying, and the entire world is party to this crime. Therefore, all the efforts that are currently being invested in renewing the dialogue with the Assad regime must be diverted to starting a war – an all-out war that will burn everyone. Then the world will hurry to stop it.

“The statements we hear, that only the political solution exists, are not realistic in the least. In fact, even the Assad regime does not accept them. Hence it would be folly to continue pinning our hopes on political [solutions] or on the ‘friendly’ countries. [Such suggestions] are tantamount to asking the people of Aleppo to surrender [just] in hope of being allowed to negotiating for the lives of those who still survive…

“To those who ask what alternative exists, [I say]: Why shouldn’t everyone who is dedicated to the cause [of saving syria] divert his efforts from the political channel to looking for weapons, even on the black market, so as to deliver them to the fighters in order to start an [all-out] war[?]”

 

Endnote:

[1] Orient-news.net, September 26, 2016.

Russia & Turkey carve anti-US enclaves in Syria

October 15, 2016

Russia & Turkey carve anti-US enclaves in Syria, DEBKAfile, October 15, 2016

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US President Barack Obama told Pentagon and military chiefs he met Friday, Oct. on Oct. 14, that instead of arming anti-Assad rebel groups in Syria, Washington was going back to negotiations with Moscow for cooperation in achieving a cessation of hostilities in the Syrian war.

US Secretary of State John Kerry therefore scheduled his umpteenth meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for Saturday in Lausanne. This time, the foreign ministers of Turkey, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and possibly Qatar, tagged along.

Beyond the high words, recriminations and the unspeakable horrors attending the battle for Aleppo, Obama never seriously considered providing the anti-Syrian rebels holed up in Aleppo with the anti-air weapons they need to shoot down the Russian and Syrian warplanes blitzing them – any more than UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s statement that it was time for British military involvement in the Syrian war was for real

Above all, Britain is short of the military heft for backing up hypothetical intentions.

The options for serious Western intervention in the Syrian war are constantly diminishing for the reasons outlined here by DEBKAfile’s military sources:

1.  American missiles have no way of reaching Syrian rebel groups, certainly not those still fighting in eastern Aleppo. Neither Russia, nor Turkey, whose army now controls 5,000 sq. km of northern Syria, would let them through to that destination.

2. Had Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan chosen to do so, he could have simply ordered his army to open up a route for the supply of missiles to the rebels who are hemmed in in Aleppo by Russia, Syrian, Iranian and Hizballah forces. He is withholding that order because the military deals he concluded with President Vladimir Putin last week in Istanbul override any concerns he may have for the fate of those rebels or Aleppo’s population.

3. Those deals in a word sanctify the Turkish “security zone” in northern Syria which is covered by a no-fly zone for all but Russian and Turkish flights. They also provide for the Syrian rebels retreating from the various Syrian war zones, including Aleppo, to be taken in and absorbed in the Turkish enclave. Erdogan would thus become the senior patron of the Syrian opposition rebel movement, barring only the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front and other Islamic extremist groups. This would enable him to steal from the United States, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar their sponsorship roles and their influence in the anti-Assad movement.

4. Ankara’s military alliance with Moscow is steadily eroding Turkey’s ties with the United States as well as NATO. Matters have gone so far that the two capitals or in advanced discussion of the supply of Russian air defense missiles to the Turkish army.

DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources reveal that under discussion is the installation in Turkey of a system of advanced Russian missiles linked to the Russian anti-air missile shield under construction in Syria.

Turkey would thus become the first member of NATO to arm itself with a Russian anti-air missile shield.

How was this allowed to happen?

According to our sources, Putin and Erdogan are moving fast to cash in on President Obama’s repugnance for military intervention in Syria and his waning powers at the tail end of his presidency.

Furthermore –

a) Neither is configuring Syrian President Bashar Assad into their calculations. They are going forward with their plans while ignoring him and his drastically diminished army as factors worth consideration.

b)  Their objectives are similar and interlocking:  Both are intent on developing their respective enclaves in northern Syria, Moscow for a long-term military presence in the country: likewise, Ankara.

Up until now, the Obama administration stood firm against the two goals, which is why Washington and Moscow were unable to achieve any real cooperation over a secession of hostilities in the war-torn country;  even when Kerry and Lavrov struck a truce accord on Sept 9, it never held up beyond a few hours.

Most recently, Putin and Erdogan tried signaling the US president that their sole ambitions with regard to Syria’s future lie in the two military enclaves now under construction.

Obama saw this as a sufficient basis to continue withholding advanced arms from Syrian rebel groups and to go for another round of diplomacy with Russia – with Turkey hitching a ride this time on the opposite side of the table..

Obama set for Mosul battle, leaves Aleppo to Putin

October 8, 2016

Obama set for Mosul battle, leaves Aleppo to Putin, DEBKAfile, October 8, 2016

(Please see also, The Obama administration is pushing Iraq into further chaos. — DM)

aleppo_destruction

Obama is brooking no distractions from his main objective, He hopes the Mosul operation will be over and done with by mid-December, so that when he exits the White House in January, he will have chalked up a major victory against the Islamic State as part of his legacy.

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The warlike rhetoric heard from Washington over the plight of the stricken Syrian town of Aleppo does not represent any current Obama administration plan for military intervention to halt the ever-mounting carnage.

President Barack Obama’s mind is elsewhere.

This was discovered by his national security adviser Susan Rice every time she tried to arrange for Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford to be received by the president. After the collapse of diplomacy with Moscow for a cessation of hostilities, they had drawn up a plan for limited US military intervention in Syria that would enable essential humanitarian aid to reach the population.

Obama refused to hear what the trio had to say and the plan was shelved.

DEBKAfile’s Washington sources report that, for now, the US president’s mind is fixed exclusively on the preparations for the Oct. 19 offensive for the liberation of the Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIS occupation. US, Iraqi, Iraqi and Kurdish forces are aligned for the battle.

Obama is brooking no distractions from his main objective, He hopes the Mosul operation will be over and done with by mid-December, so that when he exits the White House in January, he will have chalked up a major victory against the Islamic State as part of his legacy.

In the process, the Democratic president intends to debunk the Republican candidate Donald Trump’s criticism of his administration as showing weakness in the face of ISIS.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is exploiting Obama’s preoccupation with the Mosul offensive to snatch a free hand for pushing the Aleppo battle to its barbaric limit. He is letting Bashar Assad and his allies conduct a scorched earth policy – even if this means reducing Syria’s second town to ruins.

Russian and Syrian jets are bombing the city, building by building, leaving the 8,000 rebels still fighting there with little hope of survival, since food, water, medicine or ammunition and anti-air missiles are out of their reach. The only form of resistance remaining to them is marksmen sniping from the rubble in an attempt to slow the advance of Syria, Iranian and Hizballah foot soldiers.

Obama, Putin and Assad are not alone in sentencing Aleppo to its doom: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, after grabbing 5,000 sq. km of northern Syria, is letting his army stand by idly as every attempt to bring life-saving assistance from Turkey to the beleaguered population is thrown back.

The Turkish leader is shielding himself with his secret deal with Putin, whereby his army is given a free hand in northern Syria without Russian interference, while the Aleppo arena becomes a Russian-Syrian precinct that is off-limits to Turkey.

This secret deal has also neutralized the US special operations forces deployed in northern Syria as well as the small Syrian rebel militias they trained and sponsor. Washington has therefore lost any leverage for swaying events in that part of the country. Since they are hemmed in on all sides, Obama refuses to hear of any military intervention in an area under Russian-Turkish control.

As he sees the larger picture, the northern Syrian devolution as a sphere of Turkish-Russian influence is balanced by US-Iraqi-Kurdish domination of northern Iraq

On paper, the US plans and preparations afoot for the liberation of Mosul are impressive.

Elite US troops are being pumped into the Mosul region – 600 just this week. Altogether an estimated 12,500 US servicemen are assigned for the offensive, which is due to be launched in 11 days, on Oct. 19.

This is the largest American military force to fight in Iraq since the battles against Al Qaeda during 2006-2007.

US military engineers are working overtime on the construction of bases around Mosul for the intake of US and Iraqi army units. The Kurdish Republic’s Peshmerga army is in position to the north.

Two new US facilities have just been completed. One is near the Mosul Dam, which regulates the flow of the Tigris River bisecting the targeted city. A second is located in the Bashiqa Mountains north of Mosul.

The two bases plus Kurdish army posts are designed as jumping-off points on the city from the south, east and Uninvited military forces are hovering nearby hoping to pick up a piece of the action. Among them are Turkish military units, local Iraqi militias, such as Turkmen, which the Turkish army is training for combat, and pro-Iranian Iraqi militias, such as the Badr Brigades and the Popular Mobilization Forces.

US commanders are intent on keeping these hangers-on out of the action, because their participation in the Mosul offensive would deepen the discord dividing Iraq’s Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities, and throw the city into chaos after the jihadists are driven out. US officers failed to check the sectarian violence that erupted in another Sunni-dominated town, Fallujah, in the wake of the battles for its recovery from ISIS in May and June.

US, Russia on brink of military showdown in Syria

September 30, 2016

US, Russia on brink of military showdown in Syria, DEBKAfile, September 30, 2016

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The fact that President Obama instituted a secret inquiry to discover which link in the American chain of command ordered the attack pointed to his suspicion that a high-up in the Pentagon or possibly the CIA, had ordered the air strike, in order to sabotage the US-Russian military cooperation deal in Syria, which Secretary Kerry obtained after long and arduous toil.

The concessions he made to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in those negotiations, especially his consent for extensive sharing of intelligence, were found totally unacceptable in the US Defense Department, its military and intelligence community.

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There is a sense in Washington and Moscow alike that a military showdown between the US and Russia is inevitable – direct this time, not through proxies, like the downing of a Russian warplane by Turkish jets last year. When the big powers are in direct confrontation, minor players step aside and run for cover.

When President Barack Obama Friday, Sept. 30 attended the funeral in Jerusalem of the Israeli leader Shimon Peres, he must have realized he was only 514km as the crow flies from Aleppo, the raging crux of the escalating big-power conflict.

The moment after the ceremonies ended the president and his party, including Secretary of State John Kerry and his security adviser Susan Rice, made haste to head back to Washington to navigate the crisis.

The first step toward a direct showdown was taken by the United States.

By now, it is no secret in Moscow, or indeed in any Middle East capital, that the American A-10 air strike of Sept. 17 against a Syrian military position at Jebel Tudar in the Deir ez-Zour region of eastern Syria was intentional, not accidental, as originally claimed. Scores of Syrian soldiers died in the attack.

The fact that President Obama instituted a secret inquiry to discover which link in the American chain of command ordered the attack pointed to his suspicion that a high-up in the Pentagon or possibly the CIA, had ordered the air strike, in order to sabotage the US-Russian military cooperation deal in Syria, which Secretary Kerry obtained after long and arduous toil.

The concessions he made to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in those negotiations, especially his consent for extensive sharing of intelligence, were found totally unacceptable in the US Defense Department, its military and intelligence community.

uspalnvsrussian480

The Russian-Syrian reprisal came two days after the A-10 strike. On Sept. 19, an emergency aid convoy was obliterated on its way to the desperate population of Aleppo. Moscow and Damascus denied responsibility for the deadly bombardment, but no other air force was present in the sky over the embattled city.

On the ground, meanwhile, an unbridled onslaught on rebel-held eastern Aleppo was launched Wednesday by the Russians, Syria, Hizballah and pro-Iranian Shiite militias under the command of Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers.

The fall of Aleppo, Syria’s second city after Damascus, would give Bashar Assad his most resounding victory in the nearly six-year civil war against his regime.

On Sept. 29, Kerry threatened Moscow that “the United States would suspend plans to coordinate anti-Islamic State counter-terrorism efforts if Moscow does not stop attacking Aleppo.”

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov answered with a sneering: “Once again there was a certain emotional breakdown yesterday against the backdrop of the Obama administration’s unwillingness to fulfill its part of the agreements.”

This was a strong hint of the knowledge in the Kremlin that someone in the US administration was holding out against the implementation in full of the cooperation deal agreed upon and was therefore responsible for its breakdown.

The United States is left with two options:

Either stand idly by in the face of the Russian-Syrian-Iranian onslaught on Aleppo, or shelve the coordination arrangements for US and Russian air operations in Syria, with the inevitable risk of a clash in the air space of Syria or over the eastern Mediterranean.

Column One: The New Middle East

September 29, 2016

Column One: The New Middle East, Jerusalem PostCaroline B. Glick, September 29, 2016

aleppo-messA RED CRESCENT aid worker inspects scattered medical supplies after an air strike on a medical depot in Aleppo on Saturday.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

So Obama let Syria burn. He let Iran and Hezbollah transform the country into their colony. And he let Putin transform the Mediterranean into a Russian lake.

A new Syria is emerging. And with it, a new Middle East and world are presenting themselves. Our new world is not a peaceful or stable one. It is a harsh place.

The new Syria is being born in the rubble of Aleppo.

The eastern side of the city, which has been under the control of US-supported rebel groups since 2012, is being bombed into the Stone Age by Russian and Syrian aircraft.

All avenues of escape have been blocked. A UN aid convoy was bombed in violation of a fantasy cease-fire.

Medical facilities and personnel are being targeted by Russia and Syrian missiles and barrel bombs to make survival impossible.

It is hard to assess how long the siege of eastern Aleppo by Russia, its Iranian and Hezbollah partners and its Syrian regime puppet will last. But what is an all but foregone conclusion now is that eastern Aleppo will fall. And with its fall, the Russian-Iranian-Hezbollah-Assad axis will consolidate its control over all of western Syria.

For four years, the Iranians, Hezbollah and Bashar Assad played a cat and mouse game with the rebel militias.

Fighting a guerrilla war with the help of the Sunni population, the anti-regime militias were able to fight from and hide from within the civilian population. Consequently, they were all but impossible to defeat.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to join the fight, he and his generals soon recognized that this manner of fighting ensured perpetual war. So they changed tactics. The new strategy involves speeding up the depopulation and ethnic cleansing of rebel-held areas. The massive refugee flows from Syria over the past year are a testament to the success of the barbaric war plan. The idea is to defeat the rebel forces by to destroying the sheltering civilian populations.

Since the Syrian war began some five years ago, half of the pre-war population of 23 million has been displaced.

Sunnis, who before the war comprised 75% of the population, are being targeted for death and exile. More than 4 million predominantly Sunni Syrians are living in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. More than a million have entered Europe. Millions more have been internally displaced. Assad has made clear that they will never be coming home.

At the same time, the regime and its Iranian and Hezbollah masters have been importing Shi’ites from Iran, Iraq and beyond. The process actually began before the war started. In the lead-up to the war some half million Shi’ites reportedly relocated to Syria from surrounding countries.

This means that at least as far as western Syria is concerned, once Aleppo is destroyed, and the 250,000 civilians trapped in the eastern part of what was once Syria’s commercial capital are forced from their homes and property, the Russians, Iranians, Hezbollah and their Syrian fig leaf Assad will enjoy relative peace in their areas of control.

By adopting a strategy of total war, Putin has ensured that far from becoming the quagmire that President Barack Obama warned him Syria would become, the war in Syria has instead become a means to transform Russia into the dominant superpower in the Mediterranean, at the US’s expense.

In exchange for saving Assad’s neck and enabling Iran and Hezbollah to control Syria, Russia has received the capacity to successfully challenge US power. Last month Putin brought an agreement with Assad before the Duma for ratification. The agreement permits – indeed invites – Russia to set up a permanent air base in Khmeimim, outside the civilian airport in Latakia.

Russian politicians, media and security experts have boasted that the base will be able to check the power of the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet and challenge NATO’s southern flank in the Mediterranean basin for the first time. The Russians have also decided to turn their naval station at Tartus into something approaching a fullscale naval base.

With Russia’s recent rapprochement with Turkish President Recip Erdogan, NATO’s future ability to check Russian power through the Incirlik air base is in question.

Even Israel’s ability to permit the US access to its air bases is no longer assured. Russia has deployed air assets to Syria that have canceled Israel’s regional air superiority.

Under these circumstances, in a hypothetical Russian-US confrontation, Israel may be unwilling to risk Russian retaliation for a decision to permit the US to use its air bases against Russia.

America’s loss of control over the eastern Mediterranean is a self-induced disaster.

For four years, as Putin stood on the sidelines and hedged his bets, Obama did nothing. As Iran and Hezbollah devoted massive financial and military assets to maintaining their puppet Assad in power, the Obama administration squandered chance after chance to bring down the regime and stem Iran’s regional imperial advance.

For his refusal to take action when such action could have easily been taken, Obama shares the responsibility for what Syria has become. This state of affairs is all the more infuriating because the hard truth is that it wouldn’t have been hard for the US to defeat the Iranian- Hezbollah axis. The fact that even without US help the anti-regime forces managed to hold on for four years shows how weak the challenge posed by Iran and Hezbollah actually was.

Russia only went into Syria when Putin was absolutely convinced that Obama would do nothing to stop him from dislodging America as the premier global power in the region.

As Michael Ledeen recalled earlier this week, Obama chose to stand on the sidelines in Syria because he wanted to make friends with Iran. Obama began his secret courtship of the mullahs even before he officially took office eight years ago.

After the war broke out in Syria, midway through his first term and in the following years, the Russians and the Iranians told the obsessed American president that if he took action against Assad, as strategic rationality dictated, he would get no nuclear deal, and no rapprochement with Tehran.

So Obama let Syria burn. He let Iran and Hezbollah transform the country into their colony. And he let Putin transform the Mediterranean into a Russian lake. Obama enabled the ethnic cleansing of Syria’s Sunni majority, and in turn facilitated the refugee crisis that is changing the face not only of the Middle East but of Europe as well.

And as it turns out, the deal with Iran that Obama willingly sacrificed US control of the Mediterranean to achieve has not ushered in a new era of regional moderation and stability through appeasement as Obama foresaw. It has weakened US credibility with its spurned Sunni allies. It has undermined the strategic position of Israel, the US’s only stable and reliable regional ally. It has financially and strategically fueled Iran’s hegemonic rise throughout the region. And it has facilitated Iran’s development of a nuclear arsenal.

Far from causing the Iranian to become more moderate, the nuclear deal has radicalized the regime still further.

On Wednesday Ray Takeyh wrote in The Washington Post that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is now grooming Ibrahim Raisi, a fanatic who makes Khamenei look moderate, to succeed him in power.

On Monday night, for the first time, Israel Air Force jets flying over Syria were shot at by Syrian anti-aircraft ordnance.

Air force sources told the media that the aircraft were never in danger and the munitions were only shot off after the aircraft had returned to Israel and were in the process off landing.

The fact that no one was hurt is of course reassuring.

But the fact that Russia targeted the planes makes clear that Putin has decided to send Israel a very clear and menacing message.

He is now the protector of the Iranian-Hezbollah colony on our northern border. If Israel decides to preemptively attack targets belong to that colony, Russia will not stand by and watch. And with the US no longer well-positioned to challenge Russian power in the region, Israel will have to deal with Russia on its own.

To face this challenge, Israel needs to look beyond its traditional reliance on air power.

There are two parts of the challenge. The first part is Iran.

As far as Israel is concerned, the problem with the Russian- Iranian takeover of Syria is not Putin.

Putin is not inherently hostile to Israel, as his Soviet predecessors were. He is an opportunist. Obama gave him the opportunity to partner with Iran in asserting Russian dominance in the Middle East and he took it. Israel is threatened by the alliance because it is threatened by Iran, not by Putin. To neutralize the alliance’s threat to its own security, Israel then needs to degrade Iran’s power, and it needs to emphasize its own.

To accomplish these goals, Israel needs to operate in two completely separate arenas. To weaken Iran, Israel should take its cue from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, and from its own past successful military ties to the Kurds of Iraq in the 1960s and 1970s.

Israel needs to deploy military trainers beyond its borders to work with other anti-Iranian forces. The goal of that cooperation must be to destabilize the regime, with the goal of overthrowing it. This may take time. But it must be done. The only way to neutralize the threat emanating from the new Syria is to change the nature of the Iranian regime that controls it.

As for Russia, Israel needs to demonstrate that it is a power that Putin can respect in its own right, and not a downgraded Washington’s sock puppet.

To this end, Israel should embark on a rapid expansion of its civilian presence along its eastern border with Syria and with Jordan. As Russia’s air base in Syria undermines Israel’s air superiority and reliance on air power, Israel needs to show that it will not be dislodged or allow its own territory to be threatened in any way. By doubling the Israeli population on the Golan Heights within five years, and vastly expanding its population in the Jordan Valley, Israel will accomplish two goals at once. It will demonstrate its independence from the US without harming US strategic interests. And it will reinforce its eastern border against expanded strategic threats from both the Golan Heights and the new Jordan with its bursting population of Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

It is ironic that the new Middle East is coming into focus as Shimon Peres, the failed visionary of a fantasy- based new Middle East, is being laid to rest. But to survive in the real new Middle East, Israel must bury Peres’s belief that peace is built by appeasing enemies along with him. The world in which we live has a place for dreamers.

But dreams, unhinged from reality, lead to Aleppo, not to peace.

Putin-Erdogan deal deadlocks Aleppo, Manjib frays

August 13, 2016

Putin-Erdogan deal deadlocks Aleppo, Manjib frays. DEBKAfile, August 13, 2016

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This hopeless standoff is the result of Moscow’s refusal to provide the Syrian army and its allies with enough air support to pull ahead, in the wake of President Vladimir Putin talks with Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan in St. Petersburg Tuesday, Aug. 9.

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All day Friday and Saturday, Aug.11-12, fighters of Hizballah’s elite Radwan Force – 3,000 in all – streamed to the pivotal Aleppo battlefield from all parts of Lebanon and Syria. DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources disclose that they were following the orders of their leader Hassan Nasrallah, who was warned by Tehran that the pro-Assad army fighting for Syria’s second city was flagging in the face of rebel assaults.

The Radwan Force was called in as the only military capable of saving the day for Assad and his allies. This step had been carefully avoided by Nasrallah was required in view of the heavy losses his organization had already suffered for backing the Syrian army – some 1,500 dead in three years – and intense fallout at home.

He has now been forced to sacrifice his last remaining military asset to fight in one of the bloodiest battles ever fought in recent times in the Middle East, even though it promises a swelling procession of Hizballah coffins returning to Lebanon.

According to our military sources, the battle to wrest Aleppo from rebel control, now in its second month, has claimed some 2,000 war dead and 4,000 injured on both sides – not counting the masses of civilians.

Some units have lost more than a quarter of their combatants and dropped out.

Nasrallah knows exactly what is happening in this critical arena. He also understands that a unit which loses 30 percent of its combatants is deemed in military terms unfit to continue fighting and that the battle for Aleppo will be drawn out and bloody. Yet he is willing to commit his entire deck of military resources to keep Bashar Assad’s fighting in Aleppo.

There is no hope of an early resolution in Aleppo, because stalemate between the combatants is exceptionally complicated and thankless. Whenever one side captures terrain, it quickly discovers it was drawn into a trap and under siege.

This hopeless standoff is the result of Moscow’s refusal to provide the Syrian army and its allies with enough air support to pull ahead, in the wake of President Vladimir Putin talks with Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan in St. Petersburg Tuesday, Aug. 9.

Aleppo_Rebels_ATGM-firings

Erdogan explained that if Assad’s army, along with Hizballah and Iran, defeated the Turkish-backed rebel forces holding Aleppo, he would suffer a serious knock to his prestige and setback for Syrian policy. This was more than he could sustain in the troubled atmosphere in Turkey in the wake of the failed coup against him.

He therefore asked the Russian president to abandon his Bashar Assad, Iran and Hizballah to their fate in Aleppo.

Erdogan was backed up in his request to Putin by a large Turkish military and intelligence delegation which arrived in St. Petersburg the next day to work with their Russian counterparts on setting up a joint military control center in Turkey.

DEBKAfile’s sources disclose the first two tasks assigned the new war room:

1. Russian aerial bombardments over Aleppo would not go beyond keeping the rebels from defeating Syrian and allied forces in Aleppo, but would refrain from supporting offensive action by the latter for routing the former.

2. Turkish air and ground forces would remain in a state of preparedness to ensure that rebel Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Kurdish YPG militia never moved out of the town of Manjib, from most parts of which they ousted ISIS, to the town of Jarabulus on the Turkish border.I

ISIS had used Manjib as its primary way station for supplies from Turkey 30km to the north. (See attached map). But to drive the jihadists completely out of the Syrian-Turkish border region, the combined rebel forcesmust advance on Jarabulus and expel ISIS from there too.

However, Turkish officers in the joint command center with Russia made it clear that any Kurdish forces allowed to reach that border would come under Turkish army attack.

The Russian president complied with Erdogan’s wishes on the Manjib-Jarabulus front as well as Alepp

Aleppo battle seesaws: pro-Assad siege in place

August 8, 2016

Aleppo battle seesaws: pro-Assad siege in place, DEBKAfile, August 8, 2016

(Please see also, Jihadists and other rebels claim to have broken through siege of Aleppo. — DM)

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The battle for Aleppo was locked in a draw Monday, Aug. 8 – contrary to the claims of Syrian rebel forces to have broken through the weeks-long government siege on the city and seized key positions from Assad’s army and its allies, Hizballah and pro-Iranian Shiite militias.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the rebels had not yet secured control of the roads linking western and eastern Aleppo. Neither was there any sign of the heavy Russian air strikes claimed by the rebels Sunday afternoon to have been launched in an effort to halt their advance.

According to our sources, intensive air strikes are indeed being conducted in the Aleppo theater – but only by the Syrian air force. There is no Russian presence in the skies over city. Their air force is active in the last few days in only one arena, Idlib in northern Syria. Its absence accounts for the Syrian rebel militias’ partial gains in the battle for Aleppo, and the Pro-Assad forces’ difficulties in holding them back.

Had the Russians provided solid air support for the Syrian army and its allies, our military analysts assert that the rebels would have been pushed back.

It is being withheld, according to our intelligence sources, because Moscow wishes to keep the door ajar for dialogue to continue with the Obama administration. The Russians are interested in particular in setting up with the Americans a joint military and intelligence coordination mechanism in Syria for fighting Islamist forces.

the division of tasks is conceived in Moscow, the Americans would provide intelligence for the Russian air force to undertake the bombardment of targets to be marked by US intelligence.

An agreement in principle on this deal would necessitate direct communication lines to operate between their two active war rooms for Syria: the US-Jordanian and Russian-Jordanian joint command centers operating in Amman.

Kremlin fears that Russian aerial intervention in the Aleppo fighting would put paid to the talks with Washington on this broad collaboration.

So long as those talks are underway,, neither the Russians nor the Americans are likely to step in to determine the military situation in the battle for Aleppo – which was once Syria’s commercial center. The fighting will  continue to seesaw inconclusively between the warning sides.

Jihadists and other rebels claim to have broken through siege of Aleppo

August 8, 2016

Jihadists and other rebels claim to have broken through siege of Aleppo, Long War Journal, August 7, 2016

Shortly after Al Nusrah Front announced on July 28 that it was relaunching its operations under the name Jabhat Fath Al Sham (“Conquest of the Levant Front”), jihadists, Islamists and other Sunni rebel groups began an offensive to break the siege of Aleppo.

Bashar al Assad’s forces and their Iranian allies, backed by Russia, had been squeezing the rebel held part of the city since earlier this year. The Syrian regime and its partners cut off a key supply road in the north during fighting in June and July, thereby encircling their opponents.

The insurgents orchestrated an offensive to break the blockade focusing on areas in the southern part of Aleppo, including the Ramousa district, which houses key military installations. The insurgents’ offensive is one of their largest undertakings since the beginning of the Syrian war, drawing together the resources of more than 20 factions and organizations. It obviously required extensive planning to coordinate the actions of so many groups.

On Aug. 6, just over one week after the battle began, the opposition to Assad claimed to have broken through the defensive positions manned by the Syrian regime and allied paramilitary forces. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), however, the fighting continues and Russia is bombing the area in an attempt to prevent the insurgents from consolidating their gains.

The effort to break the siege has been led by two coalitions: Jaysh al Fath (“Army of Conquest”) and Fatah Halab (“Aleppo Conquest”). Many of the constituent groups in each alliance streamed videos and released photos from the fighting on their social media pages.

Jaysh al Fath (“Army of Conquest”) and allied jihadist groups

Jaysh-al-Fath-Logo-300x300

Jaysh al Fath was formed by Al Nusrah, Ahrar al Sham, and other organizations in early 2015. The coalition quickly swept through the city of Idlib and the surrounding areas in a matter of weeks. Jaysh al Fath has led multiple other battlesthroughout Syria, with Al Nusrah (now Jabhat Fath Al Sham, or “JFS”) and Ahrar al Sham always leading the charge. Ahrar al Sham models itself after the Taliban and has its own links to al Qaeda.

Suicide bombers dispatched by JFS played a key role in the fight for southern Aleppo. Early on in the battle, JFS launched two “martyrdom” operations using vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) at a location identified as Al Hikmah school. The official Twitter feed for JFS reported on July 31 that the VBIEDs targeted Assad’s loyalists. The jihadists quickly swarmed the area, claiming to have captured it.

JFS continued to launch suicide operations in the days that followed. On Aug. 5, a “martyr” identified as Abu al Baraa struck another location. JFS released a short of video of Abu al Baraa discussing his dedication to the cause, followed by footage of him driving his vehicle to the scene of the attack. On Aug. 6, JFS Twitter feeds advertised still another “martyr,” Abu Yaqub al Shami, who drove his VBIED into a Shiite-held location in Ramousa.

Jaysh al Fath’s member organizations, including JFS and Ahrar al Sham, celebrated their capture of a series of Syrian military colleges that were used as fortified bases in Ramousa. Jaysh al Fath’s battle plan was divided into several phases, with the phase focusing on the military academies known as the “Battle of Ibrahim al Youssef.” On June 16, 1979, Youssef massacred Alawite cadets at the artillery school in Ramousa. The slayings were blamed on the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, or an offshoot of the Islamist organization.

Other groups belonging to Jaysh al Fath include Jaysh al Sunna, Ajnad al Sham and Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad (KTJ), all of which participated in the offensive. Jaysh al Sunna and Ajnad al Sham announced the end of the strike on Aug. 6, with Ajnad al Sham thanking Allah for freeing “our brothers trapped in Aleppo.” The KTJ is a predominately Uzbek group that formally pledged allegiance to Al Nusrah last September.

Jihadists closely allied with Jaysh al Fath took part in the fighting. The Syrian arm of the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), which is comprised mainly of Uighurs and is part of al Qaeda’s international network, produced a video trumpeting the beginning of campaign. It is not clear if the TIP is a named member of Jaysh al Fath, but in practice it does not matter. The TIP’s men have been integrated into Jaysh al Fath’s battle plans for more than one year.

Other jihadist organizations tied to the al Qaeda network, such as Ansar al Din and Ansar al Islam, sent fighters to the battlefields in the southern part of Aleppo city as well.

Fatah Halab (“Aleppo Conquest”)

Fatah-Halab

The Fatah Halab coalition in Aleppo was formed in 2015. It was established by more than two dozen rebel organizations, including the Nur al-Din al-Zanki Movement, the Levant Front, other Islamist groups and Free Syrian Army (FSA) brigades. Faylaq al Sham (“Sham Legion”), which is an Islamist organization, fought alongside Fatah Halab, but also joined Jaysh al Fath’s operations in both Idlib and Aleppo.

At its founding, Fatah Halab explicitly excluded Al Nusrah. But some of Fatah Halab’s constituent groups, including Nur al-Din al-Zanki Movement, have long workedwith Nusrah.

Many of Fatah Halab’s constituent groups have posted propaganda from the fighting in Aleppo.

The 1st Regiment, which is a FSA unit, seemingly played a important role. On Aug. 2, the group’s fighters detonated a massive bomb in a tunnel underneath a facility controlled by Assad’s forces. The tunnel bomb paved the way for allied forces to rush into the district. Other photos show the 1st Regiment using guided missiles to destroy a vehiclebelonging to Hezbollah and attack positions held by the Syrian regime.

On its official Twitter feed, the Fastaqem Union (FKO Union) describes itself as “one of the most effective factions in Syria,” aiming “to topple Al-Assad Regime and build free and democratic state for all Syrians.” A FKO Union video tweeted on Aug. 3 purportedly shows a “whole group of Hezbollah” members being killed in a TOW missile strike. Two days later, on Aug. 5, the FKO Union claimed to repel an attack by Iranian troops and allied militias that were trying to relieve the front lines.

The FKO Union isn’t the only group to fire TOW missiles during the battle. On Aug. 2, Jaysh al Nasr (“Army of Victory”) released a video of one of its fighters launching a TOWat enemies perched atop a building in Aleppo.

Other units, such as the Central Division, the Authenticity and Development Front, theNorthern Division, Division 13, Sokoor al Jabal Brigade and the “101st Infantry” all posted images from the battle. The 101st Infantry tweeted a photo of its menmanufacturing mortars and grenades to be used in the offensive.

Still another powerful rebel group, Jaysh al Islam, sent forces into the battle for Aleppo as well.

The coming days will prove whether the offensive was as successful as the parties responsible claim.

Saudi Columnist Following Pulverizing Of Aleppo: Assad Is The No. 1 Terrorist; Is Putin Any Different From Al-Baghdadi? Is Khamenei More Humane Than Al-Zawahiri?

May 5, 2016

Saudi Columnist Following Pulverizing Of Aleppo: Assad Is The No. 1 Terrorist; Is Putin Any Different From Al-Baghdadi? Is Khamenei More Humane Than Al-Zawahiri? MEMRI, May 5, 2016

Following the massive attack on the city of Aleppo by the Syrian regime and its Russian ally, which included the destruction of a hospital, Saudi columnist Khalaf Al-Harbi penned an article in which he harshly attacked the Syrian regime as well as the leaders of Russia, Iran and Hizbullah. Writing in the government Saudi daily ‘Okaz, he accused these leaders of committing a “genocide” of the Syrian people, and the international community of silent complicity in this crime. He added that this crime was comparable to, if not worse than, the crimes of terrorist organizations such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda.

The following are excerpts from the article:[1]

27877Khalaf Al-Harbi (image: All4syria.info)

“In disaster-ridden Aleppo, a [Syrian air force] jet dropped barrel bombs on a hospital that was treating victims of previous airstrikes. The wounded [victims], the doctors and [other] patients were killed, and at the same time another jet bombed the rescue teams and civil defense [forces]. All this, of course, under the pretext of combatting terrorists!

“What action can terrorists carry out that is worse than the destruction of a hospital[?]

“Look at all the terrifying ISIS videos and the barbaric Al-Qaeda statements, and you will see the same [acts], possibly even less severe ones. If ISIS sends a suicide [bomber] to blow up a vegetable market, Bashar [Al-Assad] and Putin’s jets, together with Iran and Hizbullah, have already erased an entire city, and strove with all their might to exterminate its peaceful residents.

“What’s the difference between Putin and [ISIS leader] Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi? Is it possible that [Iranian Supreme Leader] Khamenei any more humane than [Al-Qaeda Leader] Al-Zawahiri? Did [Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader] Al-Zarqawi commit any crimes that [Hizbullah leader] Hassan Nasrallah has refused to commit? And as for Bashar Al-Assad – he cannot even be compared to the most satanic among people and demons, since he is the number one terrorist butcher, who receives the blessings of the international community, and in most cases has even conspired with it.

“Moreover, one could say that the case of Al-Baghdadi, Al-Zawahiri, and other terrorist leaders is simpler than that of Putin, Khamenei, Nasrallah, and Bashar, since these terrorist leaders are wanted all over the world, whereas the leaders of the barrel bombs are presidents of UN member-states. The silence regarding the crimes [of these leaders] provides certain legitimacy to the methodical extermination [they carry out in Syria], while we thought that such matters have long ago disappeared from the world.

“If the horrible crimes taking place in Aleppo today are classified as ‘combatting terrorism,’ then we say to the supporters of the barrel bombs – you will surely lose [this] campaign. This, because the child whose good family was destroyed in front of him will not become a peace activist or a human rights activist, but will seek an organization even more barbaric than ISIS to [join, in order to] avenge his family that was wiped off the face of the earth. Shame will continue to hound all those who, for political or sectarian reasons, supported [the dropping of] barrel bombs…”

 

Endnotes:

[1] ‘Okaz (Saudi Arabia), May 2, 2016.

Shi’ite Lebanese Journalist: I Renounce The Shi’ite Sect; Hizbullah Is ‘Immoral, Murderous’

May 2, 2016

Shi’ite Lebanese Journalist: I Renounce The Shi’ite Sect; Hizbullah Is ‘Immoral, Murderous’ MEMRI, May 2, 2016

(Please see also, Iran’s army chief takes command in Syria. — DM)

In response to the massive attack of the Syrian regime and its allies on the city of Aleppo in the last few days, in which over 200 people have already been killed, Shi’ite Lebanese journalist Hannan Al-Sabbar penned a scathing article in which she renounced Hizbullah as well as the Shi’ite sect that follows it blindly. Al-Sabbar, who is known for her criticism of Hizbullah, especially since it joined the war in Syria, wrote on the news website newlebanon.info that Hizbullah was an “immoral and murderous” organization that was deviating from God’s path and from the path of the fathers of the Shi’a. She compared the events in Aleppo to the battle of Karbala in 680 CE, between the supporters of the Prophet’s grandson, Hussein bin ‘Ali, and the supporters of the first Umayyad caliph, Yazid I, which is a seminal event in the history of Shi’ite Islam.

The following are excerpts from her article: 

27840Aftermath of airstrike in Aleppo (image: al-Arabiya.net, April 26, 2016)

“I am a Shi’ite from South [Lebanon, the stronghold] of the resistance [i.e., Hizbullah], and I used to be proud of this. [In the past] I never thought that the resistance was wrong or would ever be wrong, and I staunchly defended the beliefs of my society and my surroundings. I did not know that a day [would come] when I would renounce [my] society, my blind sect and the party [Hizbullah,] which I have condemned since it became involved in the Syrian crisis.

“Today I asked myself: where is the conscience of the ‘resistance’ when it comes to the children [of Aleppo]? How can we be the party of God [Hizbullah] when we do not obey God’s directives? Every morning, I went over the reports [from Aleppo], trying to find even one piece of proof that Assad has the right to do what he is doing – but I found only words filled with sadness and grief over loved ones killed in the airstrikes. I found only the tears of an old man calling on Muhammad’s nation to help him, and a young man who insists on his honor and declares, ‘we stay here. This is our land, not the Russians’ or the Americans.’

“This loyalty to the land, despite the crisis these residents of Aleppo are experiencing, filled me with embarrassment and caused me to wonder what was the source of this loyalty to a city that is nearly in ruins… [At that point] I finally decided to revolt and take off the false mantle of Shi’ism, for my Zainab[1] would not allow the women of Aleppo to become the Zainabs of this age, and my Imams, ‘Ali and Hussein,[2] would not want the children of Aleppo to become the ‘Abdallah al-Radhi’ of this age.[3]

“If [the battle of] Karbala is being waged all over again by those who hide behind a mantle of piety, then [Hizbullah] is immoral and murderous and I cannot but say: Aleppo, I feel shame towards you and I hereby renounce the Shi’a and the party [Hizbullah] that supports the one who is destroying you.'”

Endnotes:

[1] The granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad and daughter of ‘Ali, who was taken hostage in the battle of Karbala.

[2] ‘Ali bin abi Talib, the fourth caliph, and his son Hussein, who was killed in the battle of Karbala.

[3] ‘Abdallah, the son of Hussein and the grandson of ‘Ali, was killed in the battle of Karbala when he was only six months old.