Thursday, 6 August 2015

This is a message to the world from the revolutionists in Zabadani

Zabadani News
This is a message to the world from the revolutionists in Zabadani, a lovely city in Syria. Assad Regime is killing us and destroying our city. You are all responsible for our death. Your silence is keeping him strong. Remember, we only wanted to live in a free Syria. Syria for all Syrians.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Barrel Bombs, Not ISIS, Are the Greatest Threat to Syrians

Syria Barrel Bombs

"From the start of the war, the Assad government has pursued a murderous policy toward Syrian citizens who happen to live in areas that have been seized by opposition armed groups. The apparent aim is to kill and terrorize civilians (and destroy civilian structures) so as to drive civilians from opposition-held areas and to send a warning of the misery that attends anyone whose neighborhood is taken by opposition groups. Mr. Assad is thus pursuing the “total war” strategy that the Geneva Conventions and the laws of war flatly prohibit and criminalize.
Beyond killing civilians, barrel bombs are playing a big part in forcing Syrians from their country. In most wars, civilians can find a modicum of safety by moving away from the front lines. But Mr. Assad’s indiscriminate use of barrel bombs deep in opposition-held territory means that for many there is no safe place to hide. That ugly reality has played a major part in persuading four million people to flee the country.
Yet the international community has made little effort to stop Mr. Assad’s barrel bombing of civilians. The two governments with the greatest potential to influence Mr. Assad — his principal backers, Russia and Iran — have refused to get him to stop. Western governments have been reluctant to exert strong public pressure on them because of other priorities — Ukraine, in the case of Russia, and the nuclear deal, in the case of Iran. The European Union is putting far more effort into stopping Syrian asylum seekers from reaching the Continent than addressing the root causes of their flight. The United States and Turkey recently announced a plan to make a 60-mile strip in northern Syria an “ISIS-free zone,” but the goal is to fight ISIS militants, not protect civilians.
Because of Western reticence, too few people understand the extraordinary slaughter that the Syrian military is committing with its barrel bombs. Mr. Assad’s chlorine gas attacks, terrifying as they are, kill a tiny fraction of the barrel-bomb toll, though they have recently attracted more attention than the barrel bombs.
One reason for soft-pedaling is a fear that ending the barrel-bomb attacks might undermine Mr. Assad’s ability to cling to power, and thus facilitate an Islamic State takeover. But barrel bombs are so imprecise that the Syrian military does not usually drop them near the front lines, for fear of hitting its own troops. They are useful mainly for pummeling civilian neighborhoods.
President Obama has reportedly been reluctant to act too decisively in Syria for fear that he might then “own” the country and the chaotic mess it has become. But firmer pressure on Syria, Russia and Iran to stop the barrel bombs wouldn’t make the United States responsible for anything other than fewer civilians dead, injured and displaced."

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

I Will Always Remember Where I Was When Cecil The Lion Was Killed

"I often wonder what is wrong with America. You do not hear stories like this in Syria, partly because we already killed all our lions but also because we killed all our dentists.
The hardest part was explaining to my eldest son why Cecil was killed. He asked if Cecil was a Kurd or a Christian, and I said no, sometimes people and animals are killed for totally unjustifiable reasons.
I must go now. The Shabiha have surrounded the building to either press gang us into the Army or execute us. No matter. If we die, we die knowing that the infidel dentist has been appropriately punished on Facebook.
Hopefully I will see Cecil in the afterlife, along with my grandparents who were murdered at the massacre in Hama.
Hail Cecil!"

Shiite Combat Casualties Show the Depth of Iran's Involvement in Syria

'According to open-source data collected from Persian-language accounts of funerals in Iran, 113 Iranian nationals, 121 Afghan nationals, and 20 Pakistani nationals -- all Shiites -- have been killed in combat in Syria since January 2013. (The formidable number of Iraqi and Lebanese Shiite casualties are not included in this survey; for more on that subject, see "Hezbollah's Victory in Qalamoun: Winning the Battle, Losing the War"*  and "Iraqi Shiite Foreign Fighters on the Rise Again in Syria.")
 To further complicate matters, the place of death for most of them is listed as "Syria" or "the shrine in Damascus," which is meant to back up the fiction that they were martyred while defending Shiite pilgrimage sites rather than, for example, fighting in Aleppo far to the north.
 The Qods Force and its Afghan/Pakistani recruits are spread thin and suffering significant casualties, spurring the deployment of the IRGC Ground Forces to Syria. Even so, Iran is unlikely to abandon its commitment to its proxy regime in Damascus in the short term. The Islamic Republic in general, and the IRGC in particular, have invested so much blood and treasure in the war that they no longer believe they can withdraw their support.'

 * "Given what is at stake in Syria -- the fall of Assad would dramatically complicate Hezbollah's supply lines from its Iranian patrons -- the militia is all in. If the past four years are any indication, the group will continue to hold its own against Sunni rebels along the border and serve as Assad's crack force in strategically important areas. As the war drags on, however, Hezbollah's operational stresses and limitations will become ever more apparent. Bolstered by Tehran and Nasrallah, Assad could hang on for some time, but even his most reliable Shiite allies may not be able to sustain him as the war's attrition increasingly highlights his demographic disadvantage. For better or worse, the only factor that may forestall his seemingly inevitable fall is the estimated $60 billion in sanctions relief that Iran stands to gain after a nuclear deal is inked."

Nowhere to go, but never at home

A Syrian refugee woman carries her belongings as she crosses into Turkey at Akcakale border gate in Sanliurfa province, Turkey

'Turkey has most readily provided Syrians, from all strata of society, with an opportunity to resume a sense of normalcy in their lives. Syrian engineers, agronomists and medical professionals are able to use their expertise to give back to their host country by working in one of the several non-governmental and international organizations that are based in Turkey and provide humanitarian assistance across the border. Others, with considerably lower levels of education, are hired in restaurants or as day laborers where employers can get away with paying lower wages. Even so, compared to the policies of most Gulf countries — Kuwait has banned entry for Syrians altogether –  Syrians in Turkey are able to find work and send their children to schools. Refugee camps along the Turkey-Syria border, where more than 217,000 Syrians in Turkey reside, are considered to provide “better living conditions compared to those in other countries.”
Syrians often report being treated with disdain — at best, as guests who must eventually depart or, worse, as intruders who should be expelled immediately. Below the surface of the daily live-and-let-live miracles of Turkey’s support for Syrians as they attempt to restart their lives, one can sense the growing hostility from host communities toward the large Syrian populations living among them. Earlier this year, Turkish parents protested a school’s decision to provide afternoon classes to Syrian children; “Different culture, Different language, Different faith,” they chanted.
Many yet are hopeful they will be able to return to their homes in Aleppo, Idlib, Hama and Homs. While only a few are optimistic about the future, if and when the dust settles, they retain pride in and patriotism for their country and remain resistant. When I asked a Syrian friend of mine if he would like to move to the United States or Europe, his response was emphatic: “We were born in Syria, we started the revolution in Syria and we will die in Syria.” '

Monday, 3 August 2015

Inching towards the end

"Until early this year two of Syria’s players, the regime of Bashar Assad and Islamic State (IS), were in the ascendant. The tide against both has since turned. Recent analysis by Jane’s, a defence analyst, suggests that after a series of losses to both IS and other, rival rebel groups, the area fully controlled by government forces has shrunk since January by some 16%, to a mere 30,000 square kilometres (11,600 square miles), or barely a sixth of Syria’s territory.
 And this was before a recent offensive by a coalition of mostly Islamist militias calling itself Jaish al-Fatah, which on July 28th captured the government’s last salient on the route linking Syria’s second city, Aleppo, to the coast. The advance, which follows the fall in March of a provincial capital, Idlib, and of another big town, Jisr al-Shughour, in April, further consolidates rebel control of Idlib province. Jaish al-Fatah now threatens both the surrounding rich agricultural region and the coastal mountain range that is the heartland of Mr Assad’s own Alawite sect.
 Despite the fact that Turkey has long argued for a stronger international effort against Mr Assad, its formal entry into the fray is unlikely to tip the equation decisively against Syria’s regime. Iran, soon to be flush with funds unblocked by the lifting of sanctions, is for now at least still committed to propping up the Syrian leader. Even with better weapons and stronger momentum, Sunni rebels lack both the manpower and unity of command needed for a push towards Damascus, the Syrian capital. Some of their component groups, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, which declares allegiance to al-Qaeda, remain anathema to Western powers who might otherwise be keener to accelerate Mr Assad’s fall.
 Despite its success at Palmyra, IS’s “caliphate” is an unhappy place, bludgeoned from the air by coalition strikes and shrinking in size. Kurdish forces have relentlessly expanded since breaking the jihadists’ siege of Kobane last winter, most recently seizing the town of Sarrin on the Euphrates River. While few expect any sudden collapse, many analysts believe that, barring some error by its enemies that would win it a flood of new allies, IS may have already peaked in size and strength."
 It might be said they can't push towards Damascus because the Americans won't allow them to.

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

Image result for Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

There have been no barrel bomb attacks by Assad in Aleppo for two days, for the first time since 2013*, probably because of the threat of Turkish intervention in the area. Syrian refugees in Lebanon support** the Turkish proposal to create a safe zone in Northern Syria, in the hope they will be able to return home. If you read Patrick Cockburn you will hear none of this, as his project to make the horrors in Syria not about Assad once again requires blaming Turkey.
"Ankara’s objective is the precise opposite of Washington’s and little different from that of Isis."
Get some proportion. ISIS want to set up a brutal caliphate, Turkey wants an end to the genocide in Syria, and the return of the refugees it has generously provided for. There is a bit of a difference.
"The Turks and their allies in Saudi Arabia and Qatar would like to rebrand the Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, movements, whose beliefs and actions differ little from Isis, as born-again moderates."
We've been through this lie before. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have provided support for the FSA Cockburn has spent a lot of time pretending don't exist, but are prepared to acknowledge that groups like Ahrar al-Sham are part of the insurgency and can't be seen as a greater threat than Assad as the Americans do. They were greeted as liberators when they freed Idlib, they didn't chop one head off,  they differ quite a lot from ISIS.
"Al-Nusra abducted Nadeem Hassan, the leader of a small faction trained by the US after careful vetting. And last year, al-Nusra wiped out two groups, the Syrian Revolutionary Front and Harakat Hazm, who were being trained and supplied by the CIA as “a third force” opposed to both Assad and the extreme jihadis."
When these groups existed, Cockburn would pretend they didn't. When it was proposed that the US vet rebels, we were told that would be impossible. They weren't being trained as a force opposed to Assad at all, that is why the US cvould only get 54 of them.
"If US aircraft based at Incirlik are forbidden to attack Isis fighters when they are battling either the Syrian Kurds or the Syrian army, the militants’ two main opponents on the ground..."
Ignoring the FSA groups who have been fighting ISIS since the start of last year. I can't think of anything more likely to increase support for ISIS than the US acting as Assad's airforce.
"Close observers of the Syrian armed opposition in northern Syria say that it welcomes the Turkish attack on the PKK."
I think we can assume that these close observers are enemies of the Syrian opposition, and no evidence for this lie will be found.
Richard Spencer has a rather better piece*** suggesting Prseident Obama doesn't want to defeat ISIS until moderate Sunni forces are built up in Iraq and Syria. Joseph Daher has a poor one****, taking all the bad things about Turkey's relationship with the Kurds to pretend that Turkey is encouraging ISIS.