Posted tagged ‘Airstrikes’

Syrian-Hizballah massacre in Daraa: 140 dead

June 12, 2017

Syrian-Hizballah massacre in Daraa: 140 dead, DEBKAfile, June 12, 2017

According to DEBKAfile’s military sources, any Syrian rebels surviving the initial onslaught on the town had no choice but to fall back. They could only find sanctuary in two places – Jordan, to the south, or the Al-Tanf Syrian-Iraqi border crossing to the east, which is held by US and Jordanian special forces. Those forces did not intervene in the Daraa debacle.

After capturing Daraa, the next victim of a Syrian-Hizballah massacre is most probably Quneitra, which lies less than 9km from the Israeli border. Its capture would bring every last Syrian town bordering Jordan and Israel under their domination.

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Bashar Assad’s troops and his allies, the Iran-backed Lebanese Hizballah, are notorious for their barbaric cruelty to the populations they conquer. But even by their own appalling standards, the massacre they wreaked against the 100,000 citizens of the southern Syrian town of Daraa this week must stand out as a milestone from hell.

Posted in the town, just one kilometer from the Jordanian border, were 3,000 anti-Assad rebels, some of whom joined the Free Syrian Army to be trained and armed by the United States and Jordan. The offensive the Syrian government army and Hizballah launched against their positions on Sunday, June 11, left 140 dead and hundreds injured in its first hours.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that it started with dozens of Syrian air force helicopters dropping 150 explosive barrels on those positions, while Syrian bomber-fighter planes conducted at least 25 sorties against rebel rooftop positions atop the highest buildings, and Syrian artillery fired off some 120 ground-to-ground missiles against various key points in the town of Daraa.

Syrian and Hizballah forces advanced into the town under this hellish blitz.

Our sources report that the spearhead consisted entirely of Hizballah’s Al Qaim Brigade, followed by units of the Syrian army’s elite 4th armored Division, armed with advanced Russian-made T-90 tanks. The commander of the offensive was Col. Ghayath Galla.

(On June 6, DEBKAfile disclosed in an exclusive report that the 4th Division’s commander, Bashar Assad’s younger brother, Gen. Maher Assad, and his officers were sighted inspecting the terrain around Daraa in advance of the offensive.)

According to DEBKAfile’s military sources, any Syrian rebels surviving the initial onslaught on the town had no choice but to fall back. They could only find sanctuary in two places – Jordan, to the south, or the Al-Tanf Syrian-Iraqi border crossing to the east, which is held by US and Jordanian special forces. Those forces did not intervene in the Daraa debacle.

After capturing Daraa, the next victim of a Syrian-Hizballah massacre is most probably Quneitra, which lies less than 9km from the Israeli border. Its capture would bring every last Syrian town bordering Jordan and Israel under their domination.

Newsmax Prime | Raymond Ibrahim and Nonie Darwish discuss the latest US airstrike in Libya

February 22, 2016

Newsmax Prime | Raymond Ibrahim and Nonie Darwish discuss the latest US airstrike in Libya, Newsmax TV via You Tube, February 19, 2016

US praises role of Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Baiji operation

October 22, 2015

US praises role of Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Baiji operation, Long War Journal, October 22, 2015

Over the past several days, US officials have celebrated the capture of Baiji from the Islamic State. While doing so, they have praised the role that Iranian-supported Shiite militias have played in capturing the strategic central Iraqi city. These are the same militias that are responsible for killing hundreds of US soldiers just a few years ago, and many of these militia leaders are listed as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. Additionally, the US is continuing to provide air support to aid these groups.

Both the US military and the Obama administration’s Deputy Special Presidential Envoy to the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (the outdated acronym for the Islamic State) issued statements that praised the role the Shiite militias played in recapturing Baiji.

Brett McGurk, the Deputy Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL [another acronym for the Islamic State], tweeted that the “US commends progress by Iraqi Security Forces and popular mobilization forces [emphasis ours] against ISIL terrorists in Baiji.” He also confirmed that the US has launched around 130 airstrikes in support of these groups since August.

McGurk’s plaudits for the role that the “popular mobilization forces” have played in Baiji was echoed by the US military, which called these units “Shiia [sic] security forces.”

Army Major Mike Filanowski, an officer in the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), said that “The people who did the heavy lifting [in Baiji] were the Iraqi special forces.” He continued by saying, “they not only secured the [Baiji] oil refinery, but also the power plant to the north all the way up to the al-Fatah Bridge.” While the Iraqi special forces did help capture the refinery, they were not the only forces doing the “heavy lifting.”

The Department of Defense press release that quoted Filanowski admitted that the Popular Mobilization Committee (also called Popular Mobilization Units or Popular Mobilization Forces), was conducting operations.

“In the last three days, a special operations team from the elite Counterterrorism Service spearheaded the attack,” the DoD statement said. “The team worked with Iraqi army soldiers, Popular Mobilization Front forces — essentially Shiia security forces — and federal police” [emphasis ours].

So while the US commends the Iraqi Security Forces and the Popular Mobilization Committee, it is also lauding designated terrorists and a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The Popular Mobilization Committee is led by Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, a former commander in the Badr Organization who was listed by the US government as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in July 2009. The US government described Muhandis, whose real name is Jamal Jaafar Mohammed, as “an advisor to Qassem Soleimani,” the commander of the Qods Force, the external operations wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

The Iranian-backed Shiite militias that played a prominent role in the assault on Baiji include: Asa’ib al Haq (League of the Righteous), whose leader Qais al Khazali is thought to be involved in the murder of five US soldiers in Karbala in 2007; Hezbollah Brigades, which is listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US government; Harakat al Nujaba, which recently called for the expulsion of US troops from Iraq; Harakat al Nujaba, which is led by Akram Abbas al Kaabi, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist; Kata’ib Imam Ali, led by Shebl al Zaydi, who is close to Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani; Kata’ib Sayyid al Shuhada, which is commanded by Mustafa al Sheibani, who is also a Specially Designated Global Terrorist; and Badr Corps, another large militia supported by Iran. For more information the role these militias played in the retaking of Baiji, including photographs and video of Iraqi forces operating alongside these militias, see LWJ report, Iraqi Army, Shiite militias report success in Baiji.

Sadly, this behavior by US officials is nothing new. Earlier this year, General (retired) John Allen, the former Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, claimed that the US is only supporting so-called moderate Shiite militas, and not the “extremist elements.” Allen’s statement is below:

With regard to militias, it’s really important to understand that the militias are not just a single monolithic entity. There are the militias that you and I are used to hearing that have close alignments with Iran. Those are the extremist elements, and we don’t have anything to do with that. But there are elements of the Shia militias that volunteered last year to try to defend Iraq from the onslaught of Daesh [Islamic State] who were called to arms by Grand Ayatollah Sistani, and those elements, or the Popular Mobilization Force, as they are known, have been subordinated to the Iraqi higher military campaign or command. And they will provide maneuver capacity and additional firepower to the Iraqi Security Forces as we continue to build them out, as we continue to build the professionalization of the Iraqi forces.

So the fact that militias are involved and tribes are involved in this part of the campaign, this part of the implementation of supporting Iraq ultimately to recover the country, should not alarm us. We just need to ensure that we manage the outcome of this. Prime Minister Abadi’s been clear that these organizations within the Popular Mobilization Force, the Shia volunteers, will eventually either transition into the security forces themselves or go home. That’s the solution that he intends and I think that that’s a supportable outcome. So for now – this goes back to the point that you made about urgency – urgency is an important factor here in helping us to focus on supporting the Iraqis, the tribes, and the Popular Mobilization Force to take those actions necessary to defeat Daesh locally.

Allen said that the fact that the US is supporting the Popular Mobilization Committee “should not alarm us.” Except it should alarm us. Because as we detailed, the organization’s operational leader is a Specially Designated Terrorist, and its most effective militias are Iranian pawns that are responsible for killing hundreds of US soldiers and remain openly hostile to the US.

Russia ready to consider Iraqi request for airstrikes

October 8, 2015

Russia ready to consider Iraqi request for airstrikes – Upper House speaker

Published time: 6 Oct, 2015 12:25

Edited time: 6 Oct, 2015 14:10

Source: Russia ready to consider Iraqi request for airstrikes – Upper House speaker — RT Russian politics

The crew of a Russian Su-30 fighter prepare to take off at Hmeimim aerodrome in Syria. © Dmitriy Vinogradov
Russia would consider an Air Force operation against ISIS in Iraq if that country’s authorities make such a request, Federation Council speaker Valentina Matviyenko told reporters, adding that Russia’s only interest was in defeating ISIS.

In case of an official address from Iraq to the Russian Federation, the leaders of our country would study the political and military expediency of our Air Force’s participation in an air operation. Presently we have not received such an address,” Matviyenko told reporters on Tuesday during an official visit to Jordan. She also asked the press “to stop reading tea leaves” before actual events take place.

I want to emphasize that Russia has no other political objectives and no interests other than the defeat of ISIS [formerly ISIS/ISIL] and that differs us from other nations that participate in another coalition,” Interfax news agency quoted Matviyenko as saying at a meeting with the head of the Jordanian Senate, President Abdur-Ra’uf Rawabdeh. She also said that Russian authorities understood the necessity of political reforms in Syria, but the final decision on the nature of these reforms and future head of the Syrian state must be made by Syrian people without any external pressure or direct interference of foreign nations.

READ MORE: Federal Security Service calls for broader international anti-ISIS coalition

During the meeting with her Jordanian colleague, Matviyenko stated that Russia was calling upon all states that see the Islamic State as a threat to join the information center in Baghdad used by Russian, Iraqi, Syrian and Iranian security specialists and military. She added that Russia was ready for other forms of cooperation with all nations that share the common goal of fighting international terrorism.

Last week, Russia started to carry out surgical airstrikes on terrorist positions in Syria after a request for such military aid was made by President Bashar Assad. The head of Russia’s presidential administration, Sergey Ivanov, emphasized that Moscow would not be involved in any ground operation – aid would only be in the form of airstrikes.

READ MORE: 39% of Russians approve Putin policies on Syria

In comments on the Upper House’s license on use of Russian military forces abroad, Valentina Matviyenko said that fighting against the Islamic State was in Russia’s national interests because terrorists posed a threat to Europe, Russia and the whole world. She also expressed confidence that the operation would be supported by an absolute majority of the world’s nations.

The Moscow-Washington-Tehran Axis of Evil

October 3, 2015

The Moscow-Washington-Tehran Axis of Evil, Canada Free PressCliff Kincaid, October 3, 2015

(I am not posting this because I currently accept its conclusions or some of their bases. However, it’s frightening, interesting and has at least some food for thought. — DM)

KINCAID100315

The conventional wisdom is that Vladimir Putin has blindsided Barack Obama in the Middle East, catching the U.S. off-guard. It’s another Obama “failure,” we’re told. “Obama administration scrambles as Russia attempts to seize initiative in Syria,” is how a Washington Post headline described it. A popular cartoon shows Putin kicking sand in the faces of Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry on a beach.

The conventional wisdom is driven by the notion that Obama has the best of intentions but that he’s been outmaneuvered. What if his intention all along has been to remake the Middle East to the advantage of Moscow and its client state Iran? What if he knows exactly what he’s doing? Too many commentators refuse to consider that Obama is deliberately working against U.S. interests and in favor of the enemies of the U.S. and Israel.

In his U.N. address, Obama said, “As President of the United States, I am mindful of the dangers that we face; they cross my desk every morning. I lead the strongest military that the world has ever known, and I will never hesitate to protect my country or our allies, unilaterally and by force where necessary.”

This is laughable. We still have a strong military, but the inevitable conclusion from what’s recently transpired is that he doesn’t want to protect the interests of the U.S. or its allies in the Middle East. This is not a “failure,” but a deliberate policy.

The trouble with conventional wisdom is the assumption that Obama sees things the way most Americans do. In order to understand Obama’s Middle East policy, it is necessary to consult alternative sources of news and information and analysis. That includes communist news sources.

A fascinating analysis appears in the newspaper of the Socialist Workers Party, The Militant, one of the oldest and most influential publications among the left. You may remember the old photos which surfaced of Lee Harvey Oswald selling copies of The Militant before he killed the American president.

The headline over The Militant story by Maggie Trowe caught my eye: “‘Reset’ with US allows Moscow to send arms, troops to Syria.” It was not about Hillary Clinton’s reset with Moscow years ago, but a more recent one.

Here’s how her story began: “Moscow’s rapid military buildup in Syria is a result of the ‘reset’ in relations forged with the Russian and Iranian governments by the Barack Obama administration. The deal—reshaping alliances and conditions from Syria, Iran and the rest of the Middle East to Ukraine and surrounding region—is the cornerstone of U.S. imperialism’s efforts to establish a new order in the Mideast, but from a much weaker position than when the now-disintegrating order was imposed after World Wars I and II.”

Of course, the idea that “U.S. imperialism” is served by giving the advantage to Russia and Iran is ludicrous. Nevertheless, it does appear that a “reset” of the kind described in this article has in fact taken place. The author writes about Washington’s “strategic shift to Iran and Russia” and the “downgrading” of relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia. She notes that Moscow “seeks more influence and control of the country [Syria] and its Mediterranean ports and a stronger political hand in Mideast politics.” Iran “has sent Revolutionary Guard Quds forces to help prop up Assad, and collaborates with Moscow on operations in Syria,” she notes.

It is sometimes necessary to reject the conventional wisdom and instead analyze developments from the point of view of the Marxists, who understand Obama’s way of thinking. They pretend that Obama is a pawn of the “imperialists” but their analysis also makes sense from a traditional pro-American perspective. Those who accept the evidence that Obama has a Marxist perspective on the world have to consider that his policy is designed to help Moscow and Tehran achieve hegemony in the region.

At the same time, the paper reported, “Since Secretary of State John Kerry’s congenial visit with Putin in May, it has become clear that Washington would accept Moscow’s influence over its ‘near abroad’ in Ukraine and the Baltics, in exchange for help to nail down the nuclear deal with Tehran.” Hence, Obama has put his stamp of approval on Russian aggression in Europe and the Middle East. This analysis, though coming from a Marxist newspaper, fits the facts on the ground. It means that more Russian aggression can be expected in Europe.

The wildcard is Israel and it looks like the Israeli government is being increasingly isolated, not only by Obama but by Putin. The story notes that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Putin in Moscow on September 21, saying his concern was to “prevent misunderstandings” between Israeli and Russian troops, since Israel has carried out airstrikes in Syrian territory targeting weapons being transported to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon.

Some reports indicated that Israel had set up a joint mechanism with the Russian military to coordinate their operations in Syria.

However, the Russian leader reportedly told Obama during their U.N. meeting that he opposes Israeli attacks in Syria. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz ran a story that Russia intends to “Clip Israel’s Wings Over [the] Syrian Skies.” The paper added that Putin’s remarks to Obama showed that despite Netanyahu’s meeting with Putin in Moscow, “Russia intends to create new facts on the ground in Syria that will include restricting Israel’s freedom of movement in Syrian skies.”

It hardly seems to be the case that Obama has been outsmarted in the Middle East, or that Putin and Obama don’t like each other. Instead, it appears that Obama is working hand-in-glove with Putin to isolate Israel and that Obama is perfectly content to let the former KGB colonel take the lead.

Israel has always been seen by most U.N. members as the real problem in the region. Obama is the first U.S. President to see Israel in that same manner and to act accordingly. This is why Putin has not caught Obama off-guard in the least. They clearly see eye-to-eye on Israel and Iran.

Don’t forget that Obama actually telephoned Putin to thank him for his part in the nuclear deal with Iran. The White House issued a statement saying, “The President thanked President Putin for Russia’s important role in achieving this milestone, the culmination of nearly 20 months of intense negotiations.”

Building off the Iran nuclear deal, it looks like the plan is for Russia and the United States to force Israel to embrace a U.N. plan for a nuclear-free Middle East. That would mean Israel giving up control of its defensive nuclear weapons to the world body. Iran will be able to claim it has already made a deal to prohibit its own nuclear weapons development.

Such a scheme was outlined back in 2005 in an article by Mohamed Elbaradei, the director-general at the time of the U.N.‘s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). That’s the same body that is now supposed to guarantee Iranian compliance with the terms of the nuclear deal signed by Russia and the U.S.

Elbaradei argued there would have to be “a dialogue on regional security as part of the peace process,” to be followed by an agreement “to make the Middle East a nuclear-weapons-free zone.”

The “dialogue” appears to be taking place now, mostly under the authority and auspices of the Russian government, with President Obama playing a secondary role.

The obvious danger is that Israel would be forced to comply with the plan for a “nuclear-weapons-free-zone,” while Iran would cheat and develop nuclear weapons anyway.

Netanyahu told the U.N. that “Israel deeply appreciates President Obama’s willingness to bolster our security, help Israel maintain its qualitative military edge and help Israel confront the enormous challenges we face.”

This must be his hope. But he must know that Israel’s security is slipping and that the survival of his country is in grave danger in the face of this Moscow-Washington-Tehran axis.

Before Putin further consolidates his military position in the Middle East and Iran makes more progress in nuclear weapons development, Netanyahu will have to launch a preemptive strike on the Islamic state. “Israel will not allow Iran to break in, to sneak in or to walk in to the nuclear weapons club,” the Israeli Prime Minister said.

In launching such a strike before the end of Obama’s second presidential term, Israel would bring down the wrath of the world, led by Russia and the U.S., on the Jewish state.

First US-Russian air clash builds up as Moscow orders US planes to exit Syrian air space

September 30, 2015

First US-Russian air clash builds up as Moscow orders US planes to exit Syrian air space, DEBKAfile, September 30, 2015

SU-25-30.9.15Russian warplanes head to Syria

A day after the White House said that “clarity” on Russian intentions in Syria had been achieved at the Obama-Putin summit in New York, the Russian President Vladimir Putin notched up the military tensions around Syria Wednesday, Sept. 30. A senior US official said that Russian diplomats had sent an official demarche ordering US planes to quit Syria, adding that Russian fighter jets were now flying over Syrian territory. US military sources told Fox News that US planes would not comply with the Russian demand. “There is nothing to indicate that we are changing operations over Syria,” a senior defense official said.

Earlier, Putin sought from the Russian upper house, the Federation Council, authorization for the use of military force abroad. He did not specify the country or region, but the only part of the world where Russia is currently building up its ground, air and naval forces outside the country is Syria.

A short time after the request, the Federation Council announced that it had unanimously authorized the use of Russian military force in Syria. The last time Putin sought this authorization was in early 2014 when he decided to annex the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. His action now contradicts his assertion to CBS on Sept. 28: “Russia will not participate in any troop operations in the territory of Syria or in any other states. Well, at least we don’t plan on it right now.”

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Russian preparations for military action in Syria are clearly not limited to that country. They are being run by a joint coordination forward command and war room established a few days ago by Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria in Baghdad. It is designed as the counterpart of the US Central Command-Forward-Jordan war room established north of Amman for joint US-Saudi-Qatari-Israeli-Jordanian and UAE operations in support of Syrian rebel operations against the Assad regime.

Two rival power war rooms are therefore poised at opposite ends of the Syrian arena – one representing a US-led alliance for operations against Assad, and the other a Russian-led group which is revving up to fight on his behalf.

Conspicuous in the swiftly evolving Syrian situation is the detailed advance planning which went into the Russian military buildup and partnerships, and the slow perception of what was going on, on the part of the United States and Israel.

Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter instructed his staff to establish a communication channel with the Kremlin to ensure the safety of US and Russian military operations and “avoid conflict in the air” between the two militaries. The Russian defense ministry shot back with a provocative stipulation that coordination with the US must go through Baghdad, an attempt to force Washington to accept that the two war rooms would henceforth communicate on equal terms.

Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon denied Tuesday night that Israel was coordinating its operations with the Russian army, stressing that Israel reserves the IDF’s right to freedom of action over Syria and would continue to prevent arms supplies reaching terrorist organizations such as Hizballah.

Meanwhile, six advanced Russian SU-34 strike fighter jets landed at Latakia’s Al-Assad international airport, after flying to their destination through Iraqi airspace.

The Russian military buildup is assuming far greater proportions than either imagined, far outpacing US or Israeli efforts at coordination.

Like it or not, Putin’s is the ‘only game in town’

September 26, 2015

Like it or not, Putin’s is the ‘only game in town’ Gulf News, Mustapha Karkouti, September 26, 2015

(Nature abhors a vacuum and Obama created one in the Middle East. Please see also, A Chinese aircraft carrier docks at Tartus to support Russian-Iranian military buildup. — DM)

With a nearly total absence of any significant US-led coalition presence in Syria, apart from slow-effective air strikes, Moscow seems to be the only dominant player in that region. As the Kremlin clearly stated, Putin’s intention is to prevent a repetition of Libya’s 2011 scenario and avoid the total collapse of Bashar Al Assad’s authority, similar to what happened following Muammar Gaddafi’s overthrow after the badly-planned intervention by Nato. Putin is simply, but clearly, saying to the West: Where you failed in Libya, I’ll do better in Syria.

[W]hatever Putin’s plans are in the long run, his mission in the country is largely seen by the majority of Syrians as a sinister effort to save Al Assad and help him consolidate his authority in Syria.

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It is very rare that a Russian head of state holds top strategic talks with an Israeli prime minister in the Russian capital. This happened just recently when Vladimir Putin met Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss Syria’s latest developments. The two chiefs are not known to have had close and friendly personal relations, but they displayed those sitting side by side in the Kremlin last week. The arrival in Moscow last Monday of Netanyahu accompanied by his chief of staff and head of military intelligence, is by all means unprecedented.

The visit is significant as it is a part of tripartite diplomatic activities that involve discussions with the US as well. The American Defence Secretary Ashton Carter has recently had a long and “useful” discussion with his Russian counterpart over Syria. With the current congestion of military activities in the sky above the region by the Israelis and Americans and the rapidly increasing presence of Russian forces and hardware, there is obviously a need to liaise to avoid any unpredicted conflict, i.e. shooting down one another’s planes by mistake. But both the US and Israel’s main concern goes far beyond the technicalities. They aim mostly at finding out what exactly the Kremlin’s long term purpose in Syria is and how far Moscow is capable of effectively controlling the direction of the tragic game currently being played in this sad country.

Sitting next to Netanyahu, Putin reassuringly explained what he was trying to achieve by stating that Moscow’s main goal was “to protect the Syrian state”, or more accurately, what’s left of it. The Russian president seemed fully aware of Netanyahu’s main concern of the Iran-supported potential attacks by Hezbollah and the Syrian army across the occupied Golan Heights, when he told his visitor that neither Damascus nor the Iranian-financed Lebanese militia was “in any state to open a second front”. In others words, Putin reassured Netanyahu that Moscow was fully engaged with Tehran and Damascus on that front.

Saving Al Assad

With a nearly total absence of any significant US-led coalition presence in Syria, apart from slow-effective air strikes, Moscow seems to be the only dominant player in that region. As the Kremlin clearly stated, Putin’s intention is to prevent a repetition of Libya’s 2011 scenario and avoid the total collapse of Bashar Al Assad’s authority, similar to what happened following Muammar Gaddafi’s overthrow after the badly-planned intervention by Nato. Putin is simply, but clearly, saying to the West: Where you failed in Libya, I’ll do better in Syria.

The timing of Moscow’s build-up along the Syrian coastal area couldn’t be more perfect, particularly with western policy on the country in a state of limbo. Surely, moving dozens of combat aircraft and hundreds of troops to the aid of the encircled Syrian president must have been given the green light a while ago. This is precisely how Putin sees the situation. Under the nose of the Americans and the world community, Russian personnel and Special Forces have re-emerged in large numbers at an old air base of theirs near Al Assad’s stronghold of Latakia. Russia has always had, through the former Soviet Union, significant military presence in Syria during the long years of the Cold War and beyond.

However, whatever Putin’s plans are in the long run, his mission in the country is largely seen by the majority of Syrians as a sinister effort to save Al Assad and help him consolidate his authority in Syria.

After all, Al Assad is the man largely accused of killing thousands of Syrians during the almost five-year war in the country. It has become absolutely clear that all players in the region, including US, Israel, Turkey and Iran are adjusting to the new reality as a result of the speed and scale of Russian’s deployment. It is commonly known now that Israel was made aware of Moscow’s deployment before it began, while Iran had been informed of the move as early as the first week of August. In fact, shipments from Black Sea ports to the Syrian port of Tartous began to pass through the Bosphorus as from August 20.

The Russians had moved by last Tuesday into the coastal stretch between Latakia and Tartous 28 combat jets (12 Su24 bombers, 12 Su25 ground attack aircraft and 4 Su-30 multi-role fighters), two types of drones and 20 multi-purpose helicopters. Almost the equivalent of Al Assad’s entire air power. Pentagon officials have confirmed these deployments and said Russian drones are now fully operating where offensive air attacks could be expected very soon.

Turkey on its part, is willing to dip its hands in ‘Syria’s Cake’ as a highly Turkish informed source told me few days ago, and send troops into the country, provided it gets the green light to set up its ‘no-fly zone’ along Syria’s northern borders. In fact, discussion between Ankara and several European capitals, including Berlin, over the issue has been going on for sometimes as many European leaders consider the no-fly zone option is urgently needed method to help controlling the flow of refugees into European Union countries.

However, with Iran well entrenched behind Al Assad at an annual cost of $6-$10 billion (Dh22-36.7 billion), it is also a decisive regional power of huge influence in shaping events in shrinking Syria and beyond. Additionally, there is newcomer into the killing fields of Syria as China has just officially revealed that it is sending personnel and advisers to assess the situation. And with almost total US absence in the Levant, Russia would militarily and politically remain the most significant power to shore up Al Assad’s regime as long as it is possible.

 

Netanyahu: ‘You Rush to Embrace Iran, They Fire Rockets at Us’

August 21, 2015

Netanyahu: ‘You Rush to Embrace Iran, They Fire Rockets at Us’, Israel National News, August 21, 2015

The attack ordered by Iran comes after a report in April, when  Iranian officials reportedly told the Syrian regime to strike Israel and open a war front on the Golan Heights.

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PM warns ‘we’ll harm those who try to harm us,’ slams world powers for nuclear deal after ‘Iranian commander ordered rocket strike.’

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu released a statement on Friday, shortly after the IDF airstrike that took out the Islamic Jihad terror cell backed by Iran that launched four rockets into Israel from Syria the day before.

“I said this week that those who try to harm us – we will harm them. And that’s what we did,” said the prime minister.

“The IDF struck the cell that conducted the (rocket) fire, and the Syrian forces that enabled it. We don’t intend to escalate the incidents, but our policy remains as it was,” he said. At least 14 targets were hit by the IDF overnight, including a strike on an army post which Syria said killed one soldier.

Turning his attention to the IDF reports that Iranian military sources funded and directed the Islamic Jihad cell, Netanyahu condemned the world powers that sealed a nuclear deal with Iran just last month and are now advancing economic trade and diplomatic ties.

“The countries that rush to embrace Iran need to know that an Iranian commander is the one who gave the cover and direction to the cell that fired on Israel,” he said.

As noted by Netanyahu, the one who gave the order for the rocket strike was said to be the head of the Palestinian department in Iran’s Al-Quds force, the covert foreign operations unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Netanyahu on Friday ordered the Foreign Ministry to send an official letter to Western governments, saying Israel has “reliable information that this attack was carried out by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, ordered directly by the Iranian terrorist Said Izadhi of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.”

“This is further clear indication of Iran’s increasing involvement in attacks against Israel in particular and against regional targets in general. The ink on the nuclear agreement has not yet dried, and this attack shows clearly how Iran plans to act the moment after the international sanctions are removed.”

The attack ordered by Iran comes after a report in April, when  Iranian officials reportedly told the Syrian regime to strike Israel and open a war front on the Golan Heights.

Turkey Uses ISIS as Excuse to Attack Kurds

July 26, 2015

Turkey Uses ISIS as Excuse to Attack Kurds, Gatestone Institute, Uzay Bulut, July 26, 2015

(Please see also, Will Anyone Help the Kurds? — DM)

  • It appears as if the Turkish government is using ISIS as a pretext to attack the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party).
  • Turkey just announced that its air base at Incirlik will soon be open to coalition forces, presumably to fight ISIS. But the moment Turkey started bombing, it targeted Kurdish positions in Iraq, in addition to targeting ISIS positions in Syria.
  • In Turkey, millions of indigenous Kurds are continually terrorized and murdered, but ISIS terrorists can freely travel and use official border crossings to go to Syria and return to Turkey; they are even treated at Turkish hospitals.
  • If this is how the states that rule over Kurds treat them, why is there even any question as to whether the Kurds should have their own self-government?

Turkey’s government seems to be waging a new war against the Kurds, now struggling to get an internationally recognized political status in Syrian Kurdistan.

On July 24, Turkish media sources reported that Turkish jet fighters bombed Kurdish PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) bases in Qandil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria.

Turkey is evidently unsettled by the rapprochement the PKK seems to be establishing with the U.S. and Europe. Possibly alarmed by the PKK’s victories against ISIS, as well as its strengthening international standing, Ankara, in addition to targeting ISIS positions in Syria, has been bombing the PKK positions in the Qandil mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan, where the PKK headquarters are located.

There is no ISIS in Qandil.

As expected, many Turkish media outlets were more enthusiastic about the Turkish air force’s bombing the Kurdish militia than about bombing ISIS. “The camps of the PKK,” they excitedly reported, “have been covered with fire.”

It appears as if Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is using ISIS as a pretext to attack the PKK. Ankara just announced that its air base at Incirlik will soon be open to coalition forces, presumably to fight ISIS, but the moment Turkey started bombing, it targeted Kurdish positions. Those attacks not only open a new era of death and destruction, but also bring an end to all possibilities of resolving Turkey’s Kurdish issue non-violently.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced that

“a second wave operation against Daesh [ISIS] in Syria was started. Just after that, a very comprehensive operation was carried out against the camps of the terrorist organization PKK in northern Iraq. I am glad that the targets were hit with great success. We have given instructions to start a third wave operation in Syria and a second wave operation in Iraq.”

The “great success” of the Turkish military has brought much damage and injury to even Kurdish civilians — including children. The Kurdish newspaper Rudaw reported that two Kurdish villagers in Duhok’s Berwari region were carried to hospital in the aftermath of a Turkish artillery bombardment in the Amediye region. One of the victims was 12 years old. The second victim lost a leg in an airstrike. Four members of the PKK were killed and several others were injured.

Shortly after military operations against the PKK started, access to the websites of pro-Kurdish newspapers and news agencies was denied “by decree of court.” These websites — including Fırat News Agency (ANF), Dicle News Agency (DIHA), Hawar News Agency (ANHA), Ozgur Gundem newspaper, Yuksekova News, Rudaw and BasNews — are still blocked in Turkey.

ISIS, meanwhile, has not so far made any statement regarding Turkey’s so-called bombings of ISIS in any of its media outlets.

Had Turkish military attacked the PKK alone, and not in addition to attacking ISIS, it would probably have received widespread international condemnation. So to add “legitimacy” to its attacks against the Kurdish PKK — whose affiliate Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria and its armed wing, the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) have been resisting ISIS and other Islamist terrorist groups since 2013 — Turkey declared that it will also attack ISIS. This would give it cover for its attacks against Kurdish fighters.

In 2014, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the plan he wanted to carry out in Syria and Iraq: “The problem in Syria should be taken into account. Iraq too should be considered similarly. Moreover, there needs to be a solution that will also deal with the Syrian wing [PYD] of the separatist terrorist organization [PKK].”

The AKP government, dissatisfied with the results of last month’s parliamentary elections, also seems to want to hold new elections, to push the mainly Kurdish HDP Party below the required 10% threshold, and thus force them out of parliament. Perhaps the government thinks that bombing the PKK will generate Turkish nationalist enthusiasm that will work in the AKP’s favor to help it regain a majority in early elections.

Apparently, Turkey does not need Kurdish deputies in its parliament. Apparently, the state prefers to slaughter or arrest the Kurds — as it has done for decades. Why hold talks and reach a democratic resolution when you have the power to murder people wholesale?[1]

Sadly, Turkey has preferred not to form a “Turkish-Kurdish alliance” to destroy ISIS. First, Turkey has opened its borders to ISIS, enabling the growth of the terrorist group. And now, at the first opportunity, it is bombing the Kurds again. According to this strategy, “peace” will be possible only when Kurds submit to Turkish supremacism and abandon their goal of being an equal nation.

In the meantime, Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkish minister of foreign affairs, said that the Incirlik air base in Turkey has not yet been opened for use by the U.S. and other coalition forces, but that it will be opened in the upcoming period.

Kurdish forces, therefore, are the only forces that are truly resisting the Islamic State.

They have been repressed by Baghdad and murdered by Turkey and Iran.

If this is how the states that rule over Kurds treat them, why is there even any question as to whether the Kurds should have their own self-government?

As a result of the ISIS attacks in the region, the Kurdish PKK — as well as its Syrian Kurdish affiliate, Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) — have emerged as the America’s most effective battlefield partners against ISIS. Ever since ISIS became a major force in Syria, the U.S. has apparently relied heavily on YPG to stop ISIS from advancing. According to Henri Barkey, a former State Department specialist on Turkey, “The U.S. has become the YPG’s air force and the YPG has become the U.S.’s ground force in Syria.”

* * *

Attacks on the Kurds were already under way last week. On July 20, a bomb attack in the Kurdish town of Suruc (Pirsus) in Turkey killed 32 people during a meeting of young humanitarian activists, who were discussing the reconstruction of the neighboring Kurdish town of Kobane.

1171The scene of the suicide bombing in Suruc, Turkey. An ISIS suicide bomber murdered 32 people and wounded more than 100 others in a July 20 attack on Kurdish humanitarian activists. (Image source: VOA video screenshot)

The blast took place while the activists were making a statement to the press in the garden of a cultural center. At least 100 others, mostly university students, were wounded. (Graphic video of the explosion)

The suicide bomber was identified through DNA testing, according to reports in the Turkish news media. Seyh Abdurrahman Alagoz was reportedly a 20-year-old Turkish university student, recently returned from Syria, and believed to have had ties to ISIS.

Alagoz targeted a meeting 300 secular activists, members of the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations (SGDF), who gathered at a cultural center in the province of Urfa, opposite the Kurdish town of Kobane in Syrian Kurdistan. As part of an effort to rebuild Kobane, they were preparing to provide aid, give toys to the children there and build a hospital, school, nursery, children’s park, library and a memorial forest for those who had lost their lives in Kobane.

“Work on the building of hospitals and schools needs to be done,” Oguz Yuzgec, the co-president of the federation, said before the explosion. “One of the things we will do is to build a children’s park in Kobane. We will name it after Emre Aslan, who died fighting in Kobane. We are collecting toys. We will participate in the construction of the nursery that the canton of Kobane is planning to build. We have the responsibility of helping the nursery function. We need everybody who knows how to draw and can teach children.”

Mazlum Demirtas, a survivor of the attack, said: “The main one responsible for this incident is the state of Turkey, the AKP fascism, the AKP dictatorship. … It attacked us with its gunmen and gangs. Since yesterday, parents have been collecting the dismembered body parts of their children. They are trying to identify the dismembered bodies. This is called fascism, inhumanity and barbarity.”

Pinar Gayip, another survivor of the attack, said in a telephone interview on the pro-government Haberturk TV that, “Instead of helping the wounded, the murderer-police of the murderer-AKP threw tear gas at the vehicles with which we carried the wounded.” She was taken off the air.

All across Turkish Kurdistan, there were protests condemning the massacre and the government’s alleged involvement in it. Police in Istanbul used plastic bullets and water cannonsagainst people who gathered to remember those murdered in Suruc.

The Turkish authorities briefly blocked access to Twitter last Wednesday to prevent the people from viewing photos of the bombing in Suruc. Officials admitted that Turkey had asked Twitter to remove 107 URLs (web addresses) with images related to the bombing; before the ban, Twitter had already removed 50.

Selahattin Demirtas, the co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Party (HDP), said that state surveillance activities were intensive in Suruc, and that the intelligence service was recording the identity of everyone traveling to and from Suruc.

As Demirtas’s own convoy had recently not been permitted to enter Suruc, he emphasized the extent of state surveillance in the town, and said that nobody could argue that someone could have managed to infiltrate the crowd and carry out the suicide attack without state support.

“Today, we have witnessed in Suruc yet again what an army of barbarity and rape, an army that has lost human dignity, can do,” Demirtas said. “Those who have been silent in the face of ISIS, who have not dared even raise their voice to it, as well as the officials in Ankara who threaten even the HDP every day but caress the head of ISIS, are the accomplices of this barbarity.”

In the meantime, Mehmet Gormez, the head of the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), announced on its Twitter account that the perpetrators of the Suruc attack do not have religion.

However, three days before the massacre in Suruc, about 100 Islamists — alleged to be ISIS sympathizers — had performed mass Islamic Eid prayers in Istanbul. They demanded Islamic sharia law instead of democracy. ISIS sympathizers had performed the same Eid prayers at the same place the year before, as well.

Over the border in Syrian Kurdistan, shortly after the blast in Suruc, a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb at a checkpoint in Kobane. Two Kurdish fighters were killed in the explosion, according to Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Last month, a deadly blast hit the Kurdish province of Diyarbakir in Turkey, during an election rally of the pro-Kurdish HDP that was attended by tens of thousands of people. Just before the HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas was going to speak, two bombs exploded at different places. Four people were killed, and more than 100 people are estimated to have been wounded. One of the wounded, Lisa Calan, 28, a Kurdish art director from Diyarbakir, lost both legs in the explosion.

As the wounded were being carried to hospitals, police used tear gas against people trying to run from the area in panic

The bomber was reported to be a member of ISIS.

* * *

In Turkey, millions of indigenous Kurds are continually terrorized and murdered, while ISIS terrorists can freely travel and use official border crossings to go to Syria and return to Turkey; they are even treated at Turkish hospitals. Emrah Cakan, for instance, a Turkish-born ISIS commander wounded in Syria, got medical treatment at the university hospital in Turkey’s Denizli province in March.

The Denizli governor’s office issued a written statement on 5 March:

“The treatment of Emrah C. at the Denizli hospital was started upon his own application. The procedural acts concerning his injury were conducted by our border city during his entry to our country and they still continue. And his treatment procedures continue as a part of his right to benefit from health services just like all our other citizens have.”

The “compassion” and hospitality that many Turkish institutions have for ISIS members is not even hidden. The silence of the West is mystifying and disappointing.

The U.S. government cooperates with oppressive regimes — including the terrorist regime of Iran, under which Kurds are forced to live — to the detriment of the Kurds, to the detriment other persecuted peoples, and to the detriment of the future of the West.

Many Middle Eastern regimes are ruled by Islamist, often genocidal governments — so there is not much to expect from them in terms of human rights and liberties.

The Kurds need real support, real arms and real recognition. Otherwise, there does not seem to be much difference between the dictatorial, genocidal Middle Eastern regimes and the West, which used to represent democracy and freedom.
_____________________________

[1] The so-called “peace process” was reportedly started in 2012 and through it, Kurds and the Turkish government were to resolve the Kurdish issue through negotiations.)

Bombers Return To Base Without Conducting Air Strikes Against ISI.S – Peters

June 1, 2015

Bombers Return To Base Without Conducting Air Strikes Against ISI.S – Peters, America’s News Room, June 1, 2015