Saturday, 9 May 2015

A refugee's call to the West: ‘We will not forget: no-one helped Syrians; they’ve only helped Assad’

The Zaatari refugee camp near Mafraq, 8km from the Jordanian-Syrian border, is home to more than 80,000 Syrians

 “When Isis was created Europe and America directly got together with Nato and entered into Syria. But for three years Assad has massacred his people. And no one moved. Why?”
 I've just seen Kevin Ovenden, a former assistant to the Assad supporting George Galloway, write this:

 "The people fleeing to Europe are overwhelmingly from Syria, where Western policy has helped ensure social collapse in large parts of the country."

 It's very much the lie that Western support for the opposition rather than the lack of it has destroyed Syria and created the refugee crisis that makes Syrians so bitter about the West.

ISIS mostly skipping Qalamoun battles, focused on Arsal attack

" “ISIS’ main objective is to end the existence of the FSA, and attack Arsal,” the source said. “It might not have won the battle of Arsal, but ISIS worked and is succeeding in weakening the FSA in some areas.”
After suffering major losses in Iraq’s Tikrit, the bulk of ISIS fighters in Qalamoun have withdrawn to Syrian territories following instructions from senior command. What was originally a fighting force of approximately 2,000 militants has been reduced to 400-450, the source said.
“That is why remnants of this battalion are putting the fight on the FSA, to force them to push allegiance, corner them or make them settle with casualties to reduce pressure on their forces on the eastern side of Qalamoun,” explained Mario Abou Zeid of the Carnegie Middle East Center.
ISIS’ focus on the FSA during the current battle is also “an indicator of how much the Syrian regime is deeply connected to and interacting with ISIS,” he added.
According to sources in Qalamoun, this relationship is also reflected in how ISIS receives its supplies, which must cross regime checkpoints on its way from Raqqa."

Idlib, the Regime, and Militia Politics

Darth Nader inserts a note of caution into the discussion about rebel advances.
"The fall of the Syrian regime is not imminent. Assad’s forces are stretched thin and he is probably weaker than ever before in relative terms. Yet, his “core” provinces of (central) Damascus, Homs, and Latakia are, at this point, not under threat.  If any of these places were under threat, that would be cause for the regime to sound the alarm. The capture of Idlib city and Jisr ash-Shughur can possibly be read as a step towards that, yet, we need not overstate it as a leap. It is a small step. Defeating the regime in one of the areas it considers peripheral is very different than defeating it in one of its core provinces."
Certainly the most loyal troops and the most military equipment are reserved for the core areas. But I don't believe morale as opposed to fear of Assad is much higher in the areas. Unlike in 2013, ther is no prospect that the shoring up of the régime gives it long-term prospects of survival. The recent scare about top officials and their families being relocated to Lattakia will return the next time that Damascus is threatened, who is going to fight for a dictator who abandons you to continue his fight? I am also reminded of Bill Hicks' routine about Saddam's élite Republican guard.*
Darth Nader has something else important to say.
While it may not be the greatest threat to the regime, opposition control of Idlib—particularly the city—can have great strategic value if the opposition makes use of the opportunity to show that they can effectively and inclusively govern.A civilian and locally governed Idlib would indeed be a strategic blow to the regime in terms of what the alternatives to its rule are. While it may be naive to think that civilian residents can wrestle political power away from battle-hardened militias, the embeddedness of some of the militants in local society suggests that it may not be as unlikely as it has been in other areas, as fighters may be more responsive to local concerns and demands.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015


This is a little out of date, coming before the recent rebel victories.
"These manpower limitations have led Assad to adopt a military strategy of an ‘army in all corners’ which involves the establishment and defense of remote regime outposts throughout Syria in order to pin the outer bounds of a contiguous post-war Syrian state. Assad likely hopes that this strategy will enable him to avoid decisive defeat while still outwardly claiming to control all of Syria, eventually translating into international political legitimacy."
And how his legitimacy has been prolonged by those like Patrick Cockburn, who claimed that he still has substantial report because he still held most of each of the provincial capitals. And this is why the idea that Assad could retreat to an Alawite sectarian state consisting of Damascus, what's left of Homs and Lattakia, are a fantasy, once the opposition can present itself as an alternative national leadership, they will get the recognition and the weaponry to finish off Assad in short order.

"Bashar al-Assad is neither a viable partner against the Islamic State (ISIS) nor the “least worst option” for U.S. national interests in Syria for three reasons. First, the Assad regime cannot control the territory that was Syria or win the Syrian war decisively. Second, the Assad regime is Iran’s strategic asset in Syria and Assad is beholden to Iran for keeping his military viable. Third, Assad’s brutal tactics and humanitarian abuses have accelerated the growth of jihadist groups regionally and globally."
That's true.

"Allowing the Syrian regime to conduct its military campaign with impunity sows the seeds for generations of regional disorder to come and empowers the expansionist designs of the Iranian regime. The U.S. does possess additional cards that it could place on the table for resolving the Syrian conflict, including the imposition of a No Fly Zone over opposition-held areas or an expedited effort to train-and-equip Syrian opposition fighters alongside regional allies. If U.S. policymakers do not adopt a more forceful and focused approach to Syria, the only foreseeable outcome is a fragmented and failed Syrian state which menaces its neighbors and brutalizes its people."
Or that the Syrians might win their freedom without outside help, which is another reason for the US to change course, so they aren't as despised in post-war Syria as the Iranians and Russians will be.

Rebels liberate Quneitra town from Daesh

"Rebel forces have completely liberated the town of Qahtaniya in Quneitra province from Daesh (ISIS), killing dozens of the foreign mercenaries and extremists in fighting.
Daesh had adopted its customary practice of waiting until rebel forces liberated Qahtaniya from the Assad regime before arriving to brutally occupy it and impose its usual rule by terror.
Even if this repeated pattern does not prove direct coordination between the regime and Daesh, it is clear that both wish simply to impose dictatorship and to kill rebel forces and anyone else demanding freedom. Rebels continue to fight both for long-awaited Syrian freedom."

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Rebel fighters celebrate with their weapons as they pose in Jisr al-Shughour town, after they took control of the area April 25, 2015.  Islamist insurgents including al-Qaeda's wing in Syria Nusra Front seized the strategic northwestern Syrian town of Jisr al-Shughour on Saturday, for the first time in the four year conflict. Syrian state media said the army had redeployed to the town's surroundings "to avoid civilian casualties". Opposition fighters and the Syrian Observatory for Human rights said that the town was now totally controlled by the insurgents.   REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX1A87H

Syria’s Rebels on Winning Streak—In Alliance With Al Qaeda

You can see from the second half of this, that the second half of the headline is a little sensationalised.

"Western-backed militias saw their arms supplies and cash from Washington reduced significantly or in some cases cut altogether. U.S. officials argued this was performance-related or punishment for their fighting alongside hardcore Islamist brigades and al Nusra. Rebel commanders suspected the cuts were designed to force rebels to leave their brigades and enlist in the U.S.-planned train-and-equip program for the raising of a Syrian rebel proxy force to take on the Islamic State, still widely known as ISIS.
Anger at the West and the Gulf states hasn’t subsided. Rather, it has turned to disdain.
Inspiring this new-found coordination among the rebel militias that have made such gains is the realization that they can’t rely on anyone but themselves. Their attitude, emphasized to me by several rebel commanders and fighters I have spoken with over the past week, is that the World has let them down and so it is up to them now.
Western analysts have given credit for the capture of Idlib and Jisr al-Shughour to ramped-up support from Riyadh, Doha and Ankara. But the commanders here insist their recent gains, including the capture of Idlib, which is only the second provincial capital lost by Assad in this war, are not the result of outside assistance.
“What did we get from them?” sneers a rebel commander with Jaish al Fata, or the Army of Conquest, which is what the new rebel alliance began calling itself on March 28. “The Turks speak a thousand lies. Most of our weapons are those we seized from government forces or arms that were supplied by the Gulf a year and half ago. We got nothing from the Gulf or Turkey ahead of this offensive. These are our victories, no one else’s.”
Is it possible, likely or credible that Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al Nusra will split with its parent organization? The success of the offensive in Idlib is adding impetus to the debate within Jabhat al Nusra about precisely that subject. Several rebel commanders and Syrian opposition figures say it is highly likely that al Nusra will soon break apart formally, roughly along the lines of local vs. foreign fighters, with the former opting out of the infamous terrorist affiliation.
“I think it will happen soon,” says Muhamed Nabih Osman, who oversees a charitable association for former Assad prisoners. “You have to understand that al Nusra consists of two very different parts and that one part, mostly local fighters, are not interested in global jihad.”

“The West is living in detached world of philosophical ideas,” the former engineer says, speaking slowly and methodically. “They want us to conform to their ideas but we can disagree with them without being extremists. Thousands of people are getting killed and they are worried about what happens after Assad and they want to teach us about democracy and women’s rights. They don’t provide safe havens or no-fly zones for the civilians who are being slaughtered in droves. All they worry about is who controls Syria after. Syrians will.” "

Syria war: 'unthinkable atrocities' documented in report on Aleppo

"Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity by systematically using barrel bombs to kill civilians and destroy infrastructure in Aleppo, says 
Amnesty International.
“Both sides are violating international humanitarian law and must be held to account. However, throughout the more than four years since the crisis began, government forces have been responsible for the large majority of violations and crimes.
Their responsibility for creating one of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent history cannot be overstated. This crisis started with the state’s brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters. Its response seemed tailored to send the message that they would stop at nothing to quash dissent.” "

Syria conflict: Fresh UN-backed talks to begin in Geneva

Syria rebel fighters in the area of Medaa town in the Eastern Ghouta of Damascus. 4 May 2015

 ' "By relentlessly and deliberately targeting civilians the Syrian government appears to have adopted a callous policy of collective punishment against the civilian population of Aleppo." '
That's why there is no negotiating to be done with such barbarians, just ways to be found to bring their reign of terror to an end.

 'In its new report, "Death everywhere: War crimes and human rights abuses in Aleppo", Amnesty says there are "horrendous war crimes and other abuses in the city by government forces and armed opposition groups on a daily basis". The report also documented "widespread torture, arbitrary detention and abduction" by both sides.'
What Amnesty* actually say is this:

Civilians in the city of Aleppo, Syria are being subjected to appalling human rights violations committed by the Syrian government and many armed opposition groups. According to Amnesty International’s research these violations amount to war crimes and in the case of those committed by the Syrian government, are so systematic and widespread that they constitute crimes against humanity.'
Can you spot the difference? Crimes against humanity committed systematically by the Syrian government, versus some war crimes committed by some rebel groups.


Monday, 4 May 2015

A civil defence worker rescues a schoolgirl after what activists said was a barrel-bomb attack by forces loyal to Syria's president Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo.

Syrian children killed in government

"Rebel authorities accused the regime of “barbaric” targeting of schools and kindergartens in the city as a protracted conflict for Syria’s largest metropolis intensifies.
“They call these the terrorists,” one volunteer says in a video as he wraps one of the children in a burial shroud."
McClatchy DC

Rebel worry: How to control Islamists
" “The Americans didn’t support the battle of Idlib,” said Mohamad al Ghabi, who claims to command a moderate force of 3,600 that includes 100 officers and 2,000 military defectors. “But they supported the battle of Jisr al Shughour and the Ghab valley.”
That support came in the form of TOW anti-tank missiles and other military and logistical support. Ghabi, whose Sham Front is not among U.S. aid recipients, said other organizations that fought at Jisr al Shughour had U.S. supplies.
“After four years of disunity, we came to the conclusion that if we are not united, we will not be able to defeat the regime,” said Ghabi. “So even if we don’t agree in our thoughts or our ideology, we must agree on the military task. We all share the same goal: toppling the Assad regime.”
They worry the Islamists and Nusra will attack Christians and Alawites who’ve backed Assad. “We are expecting trouble after Ariha,” he said. “Where will the Fateh group go after Ariha falls? They will go to our areas, mixed areas.”
One hope, Ghabi said, is more help from the United States. “If you give me support for 10,000 fighters, I will change the dialectic of the whole area,” he said. “We have professional officers. If we have support, we can rebuild the Free Syrian Army. In this case, people will come to the conclusion that there is an alternative to the regime of Bashar al Assad.” "

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“The Americans didn’t support the battle of Idlib,” said Mohamad al Ghabi, who claims to command a moderate force of 3,600 that includes 100 officers and 2,000 military defectors. “But they supported the battle of Jisr al Shughour and the Ghab valley.”
That support came in the form of TOW anti-tank missiles and other military and logistical support. Ghabi, whose Sham Front is not among U.S. aid recipients, said other organizations that fought at Jisr al Shughour had U.S. supplies.

Read more here:

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