Category Archives: Syria

Britain seems now to have more invested in imperialism than the US

Just like NATO, fearful of losing US support for their desire to return to a Cold War-era, began beating the anti-war drums after the US election, Britain’s government is upset about Trump’s peaceful outlook on Russia in Syria.

In what seems like a significant foreign policy split, officials in Britain admitted that they will have some “very difficult” conversations with the President-elect in coming months over his approach to Russia.

This comes after Mr Trump used his first interviews since winning the US election to indicate that he will withdraw support for rebels in Syria and thank Vladimir Putin for sending him a “beautiful” letter.

Mr Trump said that he will instead join forces with Russia and focus on defeating DAESH/ISIL. He has previously said it would be “nice” if the US and Russia could work together to “knock the hell out of ISIL”.

His views are in stark contrast with those of Theresa May, who has accused President Assad’s regime of perpetrating “atrocious violence” and said that the long-term future of Syria must be “without Assad”.

Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, has accused Russia of perpetrating war crimes over the deaths of hundreds of civilians.

The dramatic shift in US policy has prompted significant concern in the Foreign Office, and Britain will use the next three months before Mr Trump enters the White House to try to convince him of the importance of removing President Assad.

The Telegraph tells us that Mr Johnson is expected to fly to the US within weeks to meet with senior figures in Mr Trump’s administration and make clear that Britain believes that Mr Assad must go.

The diplomatic tensions emerged as a flotilla of Russian warships which passed through the English Channel has now arrived off the coast of Syria ahead of a major offensive against ISIL.

In other developments:

  • Sir Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, warned that European members of NATO have become “too dependent” on the support of the US after Mr Trump accused them of failing to pull their weight.
  • Mrs May will on Monday highlight the importance of globalisation to international security in an ever-changing World. She will also compare the US election to Brexit and say that that the West must recognise the concerns of people who have “seen their communities changed” by migration.
  • Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, met with members of Donald Trump’s inner circle at Trump Tower in New York after saying Theresa May must “mend fences” with the President Elect.
  • Marie Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right Front National, praised President Putin for “defending the interests of his own country” as she criticised US and European aggression towards Russia.
  • Mr Johnson boycotted a “crisis” meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels to discuss how Europe will deal with the aftermath of the US election.
  • Mr Trump said on Twitter yesterday: “This will prove to be a great time in the lives of all Americans. We will unite and we will win, win, win!”

In his very first interview Mr Trump told the Wall Street Journal that his administration will prioritise defeating DAESH/ISIL in Syria rather than removing President Assad.

He told the Wall Street Journal: “I’ve had an opposite view of many people regarding Syria. My attitude was you’re fighting Syria, Syria is fighting ISIS, and you have to get rid of ISIS.

“Russia is now totally aligned with Syria, and now you have Iran, which is becoming powerful, because of us, is aligned with Syria. Now we’re backing rebels against Syria, and we have no idea who these people are.”

He added that if the US attacks President Assad’s regime “we end up fighting Russia”.

Arabs pull out of Syrian Democratic Forces: the deceit is now plain to see

Jason Ditz writes

There has been an attempt to brand the invasion of Raqqa as a broad-based coalition, as opposed to just a Kurdish invasion of the ISIS capital. This deceit appears to be crumbling as  Thuwar ar-Raqqa, the main Arab group involved in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) invasion, formally withdrawing from the group today.

The SDF is overwhelmingly just the Kurdish YPG with a handful of tiny affiliates, created mainly to allow them to argue invasions of ISIS territory don’t amount to an expansion of Syrian Kurdistan. The Thuwar ar-Raqqa would’ve been particularly useful to that effect, as a local force within Raqqa.

The group however, is arguing that the Kurdish forces had reneged on an agreement on the Raqqa invasion, in which the Kurdish YPG would let them “lead” the operation, and retain control of the city afterward. Instead, they say the US  and the YPG have moved to sideline them.

Now they say they aren’t going to participate in the invasion at all, and that the so-called “SDF” forces attacking Raqqa are exclusively the Kurdish YPG. This is likely to add to concern about Kurdish territory expansion, particularly by Turkey

Syria’s “Voice of Conscience” Has a Message for the West

Murtaza Husain and Marwan Hisham interview leftist opposition figure Yasin al-Haj Saleh now living in Turkey and ask the question:

What did you expect from the left in its response to the Syrian revolution?

Saleh: It came to me as a shock, actually, that most of them have sided with Bashar al-Assad. I don’t expect much out of the international left, but I thought they would understand our situation and see us as a people who were struggling against a very despotic, very corrupt, and very sectarian regime. I thought they would see us and side with us. What I found, unfortunately, is that most people on the left know absolutely nothing about Syria. They know nothing of its history, political economy, or contemporary circumstances, and they don’t see us.

Read full interview here

RIP US Hegemony

The last post below projects the end of US dominance over the Middle-East. Now even part of the Syrian opposition is being converted to the concept of aiding the Russian aim of re-establishing a multi-polar world.

As the US rushes towards an attack on Mosul pushing from behind the Iraqi government, Obama and the Democratic establishment hope for a quick victory to ensure Clinton’s success at the polls. However, like all of the short-sighted measures of US foreign policy, the wide licence given to the Iraqi government, including the chiding of the Turks in their wish to be part of the Mosul settlement, is simply reinforcing Iran in Iraq, as well as in Syria through the deployment of Iraqi Shia militias.

False talk of peace: the US turning a blind eye to the activities of Iraq’s Shi’a militias

Recently, Qasim Suleimani, head of the Iranian Quds Force, personally supervised the transfer to Damascus of one of the plethora of Iraqi Shiite militias which report directly to Khamenei’s personal office in Tehran. This helped taxidermists to stuff yet more straw into Assad’s corpse, and Russia to continue its Middle-Eastern expansion based on the ‘legitimate invitation’ of a régime which not only continues to enjoy the official ‘Syrian’ UN seat unchallenged, but seems to enjoy also a complicity of UN bodies without which it couldn’t have survived.  The permanence of the strategically vital Russian airbase at Khmeimim depends on this official sanction. 

The 1000 fighters from Akram al-Qa’bi’s Harakat Al Nujaba al Shi’iyya al Iraqiyya landing at Damascus airport in troop transport planes, joined other Iraqi militias operating in Syria since 2012: Asa’ib Ahlulhaq, Liwa’a Thulfiqar, Liwa’a Abul Fadl Al Abbas, and Kata’eb Hezbullah. Kata’eb Hezbullah isn’t to be confused with the Lebanese Hezbullah which is also helping to prop up Assad régime.

The Syrian army having more or less been decimated over the past 5 years, these are now the effective core of Assad’s ground troops. The loss of 60,000 soldiers by the Syrian Army has been interpreted by many as a sign of the ferocity of the onslaught by Sunni fighters on the Assad régime. However, it is more accurate to say that the death of some 400,000 civilians and the displacement of 15 million people (4.8m of them refugees) is a testament of the ferocity of the attack by the régime on its own people. It is this aggression which elicited the creation of a veritable multitude of local opposition groups, only some of which have been drawn into alliance with nationwide groups, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, funded by Sunni regional powers.

If, therefore, Shi’a militias organised by Iran represent the ‘boots on the ground’ that are keeping the régime in place, the blood they have shed in Syria is considerable, and these losses included Qasim Suleimani’s own second in commend in the Quds Force, Hossein Hamadani. This in turn has led Iran to recruit new militias his personnel from Shi’a outside Iraq, as far afield as Afghanistan, to form separate militias such as Liwa al-Fatimiyyun to fight alongside the Iraqis and Lebanese in Syria.

Peace conferences on Syria have come and gone. The latest in Lausanne, Switzerland, involving all parties involved in the conflict aside from Syrians themselves, ended with a whimper. There are many problems with achieving any political solution in Syria.

Firstly, the Higher Negotiating Committee (HNC) set up by Saudi Arabia this year to represent the opposition in negotiations with the régime  fails to include the most powerful Sunni forces on the ground in Syria; namely Jabhat al-Nusra, now known as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, and its allies Ahrar al-Sham. The US has failed to create a replacement ‘moderate’ force for these elements, ever since 2012 Hillary Clinton dismissed the Syrian National Council as a waste of time and a ‘talking-shop‘, which non-plussed its participants at the time, given that they were actually supposed to provide a political solution to the Syrian problem.

Secondly, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) representing the Syrian Kurds refuses to join the HNC, just as they earlier refused to join the Syrian National Council (SNC) in 2012, when initial negotiations with the régime in Damascus were being envisaged. The PYD is angling for its own state. The People’s Protection Units (YPG), the military arm of the PYD went, like Jabhat al-Nusra, gone through a process of rebranding to  the ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF), to make their nation-building project more palatable. However, this fig leaf quickly fell apart, as a leader of the Sunni Arab contingent of the SDF, Abdel-Karim el-Obeid, explained in a recent interview. El-Obeid, who has now left the SDF, explains how decision-making was concentrated in the hands a small clique of Kurdish YPG elements in collaboration with US special forces. 

Thirdly, Iran is now so deeply ensconced in Damascus that any UN or international negotiations on Syria, which aimed as a serious political resolution would uncover the extraordinary fragility of the Assad régime, and would bring into question the continuance of Shia militias and Quds force personnel located in Syria. This is situation which both Russia and Iran want to avoid. 

The Question of Israel’s Change of Attitude

The one important thing to try to explain is why the Israelis might want to support this new Russian/Iranian status quo. Netanhayu has been remarkably quiet over the occupation of Damascus by what are, presumably, Israel’s deadliest enemies: Iran and the Lebanese Hezbullah.

Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCOPA) had been the subject of considerable friction between Netanyahu and Obama. Perhaps the fact that Netanyahu’s visit to the US Congress to appeal against Obama’s policy on Iran backfired, or perhaps the fact that the bitter Iranian pill was sweetened with a record-breaking military package, made all the difference. Nevertheless, JCOPA does mean that serious confrontation with Iran on the part of the US, unless a flagrant breach of the terms of the agreement occurs, is inconceivable. Furthermore, the outcome of this whole process has also put Israel in the novel position of being pushed by the UN to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

Obama’s Syrian policy on the other hand, left a void which gave Russia the opening to establish what is now the unshakeable and unmistakable presence of the Khmeimim airbase, which changed the balance of power in the Middle East as soon as Russia deployed the S-400 anti aircraft system there. As one peace conference after another over Syria between the US and Russia fails, Russia digs its heels in, transferring yet more advanced weaponry to the naval base at Tartus, while Russian-Israeli relations in the region develop in new directions.

While a joint mechanism of “de-confliction” was set up to prevent mistaken air and ground clashes, this has not prevented Russian warplanes and drones infiltrating Israel at least 10 times in the past year testing and reporting on Israeli defences. When the Russians did the same in Turkey, after 11 warnings, the Turks shot a Russian fighter plane down. The Israelis, by contrast, held their fire. The arming of Khmeimim with the S-400, and Tartus with the S-300 solicited little comment from the Israel government, although Israeli media was quick to point out the consequent significant change in regional security architecture.

But that wasn’t all. When Russia finally agreed to deliver on its long-standing promise to supply the S-300 to the Iranians to deploy around the Fordow nuclear base, which has been a major bone of contention between Israel, the US and Russia since 2005, the Israeli government said nothing, although the US said ‘it was concerned’.

Since August 2015, Netanyahu has visited and phoned Putin more than any other world leader. Clearly, Russia’s arrival in Syria on the tail of Obama’s abdication required a new pragmatic attitude, especially when it came to Israel’s plans to export gas from the Leviathan field through Turkey to Europe. These Netanyahu declared were crucial to Israel’s future, and required that Israel acquiesce to the new Russian suzerainty over the region.

The matter of the Shi’a militias 

Reflecting the plethora of rebel groups in Syria, the creation of the innumerable militias in Iraq reporting directly to the Quds Force and thus to Iranian leader Khamenei’s office are an important tool of asymmetric warfare for Iran. Other than Ali al-Sistani’s Al-Housa al-Diniyya Fil Najaf al-Ashraf , and Muqdata al-Sadr’s Saraya al-Salam, which espouse Iraqi nationalism, and are not present in Syria, the over 50 other Shi‘a militias in Iraq report directly to Iran. But where the multitude of Syrian rebel groups represent a groundswell of popular rebellion in different localities against oppression, the large number of Iranian militias represent a mobilisation of competing groups to ensure enduring the direct Iranian control of the battlefield. 

While the US is clearly antagonistic towards the Assad régime, little criticism of Iranian policy in Syria and of the Shi’a militias, either in Syria or Iraq is forthcoming at present. Particularly striking, in the context of Iraq, has been the Iraqi government’s aggressive denunciation in regard to the 600 Turkish troops stationed at Camp Ba’ashiqah, with which it had previously been in agreement. In fact, the camp has been invested by the Turks at Iraq’s invitation. It is pretty clear that this is in response to Iranian pressure as the potential Iraqi seizure of Mosul opens up new strategic considerations in northern Iraq.

WhileTurkey has been giving military training to Kurdish peshmerga forces loyal to Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani and certain Sunni Arab tribes, called Hashd al-Nineveh, Iran has been backing Jalal Talabani, Barzani’s main opponent, and explicitly supporting Hashd al-Shaabi or Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which is currently headed for Tal A’far to try to create a bridge for Iranian forces with its Syrian contingents.

The inclusion by the US of Turkey in the air campaign whilst trying to media between Turkey and Iraq demonstrates the difficult predicament the US finds itself in, as a result of its contradictory foreign policies.

The battle has been called at short notice by the US, as a response to its abject defeat in northern Syria by the Russians, in an attempt to re-establish itself in the Middle East ‘game’. But the battle for Mosul is merely a precursor, although an important one, for a further battle, this time in Syria, for Raqqa. While the US still plays a role in Iraqi politics, its position in Syria is non-existent as a result of Russian intervention. This last battle for the Syrian stronghold of DEASH/ISIL, therefore, will be last opportunity for the US to re-establish a position in Syria, and in this effort, the help of the Turkish army will be essential. Hence US ambivalence about the Turkish position in Iraq.

Nevertheless, the US turning a blind eye to the heavy involvement of Iran in Iraq and Syria through its militias is problematic. It is a policy not at all dissimilar to its covert support for Sunni jihadi fighting groups ever the covert campaign against the Russians in the 1980s, and can only lead to further chaos.

Wikileaks proves Syria about Israel and Iran: emails part 1

David Haggith writes

Wikileaks’ exposure of Hillary Clinton’s emails reveals that US intrusion in the Syrian Civil War is really all about Iran and Israel and is part of a masterplan that started with Hillary’s advice to enter the Libyan Civil War. Hillary’s War is another expensive American adventure in nation building as the US inserts itself into another civil war, ostensibly to restrain ISIS (or “ISIL” as the Obama Admin. prefers); but Obama’s manner of fighting this war supports Wikileaks‘ revelation that US involvement is all about regime change.

read full article

HILLARY’S WARS (Pt. 2): Wikileaks Proves Syria about Iran & Israel

 

Syria is someone’s home and they aren’t going to give up

Bilal Abdul Kareem writes

The horror of Aleppo, words such as “unbelievable” and “shocking” fill news broadcasts. But in besieged Aleppo, the events of the day were normal.

I am a person that believes strongly in dialogue and trying to see multiple viewpoints. However, there are some conflicts that cannot be solved by dialogue and compromise.

Paralysis of the world community

There is a well known saying: “All evil needs in order to spread is for good men to do nothing.” The reality is that Bashar Assad has been able to kill a half million people live on television with the world watching using chemical weapons, and barrel bombs, targeting hospitals and rescue personnel, starving prisoners to death on a daily basis: all of this documented .

Nothing was done to stop the dictator. The numbers are staggering: more than a half million dead and nearly tens of millions displaced. Somehow the focus of this crisis has turned to fighting the Islamic State (IS) group and Jabhat Fateh al-Shams (Nusra) and no one is talking about militarily taking on Bashar Assad.

Syrians receive treatment at a make-shift hospital following air strikes on rebel-held eastern areas of Aleppo on September 24, 2016. Heavy Syrian and Russian air strikes on rebel-held eastern areas of Aleppo city killed at least 25 civilians on Saturday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, overwhelming doctors and rescue workers. / AFP PHOTO / KARAM AL-MASRI

Syrians receive treatment at a make-shift hospital following air strikes on rebel-held eastern areas of Aleppo on September 24, 2016. Heavy Syrian and Russian air strikes on rebel-held eastern areas of Aleppo city killed at least 25 civilians on Saturday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, overwhelming doctors and rescue workers / AFP PHOTO / KARAM AL-MASRI

Protecting the Arab Syrian people means fighting the Russians

Oil and natural gas has a way of helping Western powers understand their “responsibilities” very well. The Libyan rebels did not have to beg NATO to come to their assistance. NATO was prepared to intervene and all that was needed was for the hapless Arab League to “request” their help and Voila! Instant help. Is it possible that the huge oil reserves within Libya’s borders had anything to do with it?

The Syrians, however, have very little oil. To be honest, Syria is really only valuable to the Russians and not so much to the West. Syria is home to the only military base the Russians have in the entire Middle East. So to be real, the Russians need Syria in a big way and they have demonstrated that they are willing to fight any and everyone for it.

The West would like to contain Russia’s influence but not so much that they have to commit troops to it. Thus instead of hearing phrases like “coalition of the willing” and “global responsibility”, we are forced to hear slogans like “there is no military solution to this conflict” and “let’s have a ceasefire and negotiate”.

Exactly how do you negotiate with a government which has killed more than a half million of its own citizens? The answer is: You don’t.

Islamic rebel fighters will not call off the fight and share power

Western powers would like to window dress. In the past, Bashar Assad was rarely in opposition to Western interests.

So the idea of an Islamically oriented government in Syria is frightening for the West. It is well-known that the driving force behind this revolution (IS excluded) are Islamic brigades. Free Syrian Army groups militarily play a distant secondary role on the battlefields.

Western powers want another strongman, but they have not been successful, although not from a lack of trying. Western powers have tried to support the FSA, Jamal Marouf, and the Hazim movement. That doesn’t include all of the soldiers they tried to train to fight their enemies (al-Qaeda/IS) under the condition that they would use their new skills only for targets that Washington chose and not against Bashar Assad.

All this has been a huge failure.

The West must understand that the Syrian people are no longer willing to simply march and beg for their rights as they did in March 2011. This is now 2016 and they are a battle-hardened people willing to fight even a superpower in Russia to safeguard their right to self-determination.

This leads to one conclusion: either the West will genuinely recognise the Syrians’ right to self-determination (and not subjugation) or there will be fighting in this part of the world for a long time…..