Saturday, 31 October 2015
'This week it was revealed that another mass slaughter by the extremist group had taken place, involving the summary execution of 224 of the group's fighters. They were suspected of attempting to defect to al-Nusra Front, and follows rumours that al-Qaeda's franchise in Syria is growing in popularity due to Russian air raids being aimed at them and other rebel groups - but not IS.
A month of heavy Russian bombing in Syria, falling almost exclusively on rebel-held towns and cities, has left IS militants in the north and east largely unscathed. It has allowed the extremists to direct their forces to defeating their rebel adversaries in Aleppo province, and cutting off the regime's lifeline to the southern Aleppo city. But the focus on fighting rebels rather than the regime has led many fighters to question the reasons for fighting "other Muslims". The IS leadership still refers to opposition groups - including al-Nusra Front - as "apostates", while most of its fighters are well aware that it is Bashar al-Assad's forces who are doing most of the killing in Syria. "There's senseless violence which a lot of fighters consider un-Islamic… people didn't join to spend half of their time fighting other opposition groups, they went to Syria to fight Assad and Shia domination of the region," the defence analyst said.
The economy is in tatters, and recent efforts to introduce a gold currency suggest amateur and impulsive responses to their economic woes. Meanwhile, the health system - which was once referred to by IS idealists as being a mirror of the UK's National Health Service - has collapsed. Ironically, Russia and the regime are also appear to be targeting hospitals in rebel-held territories - making the overall situation for Syrians grim. But the fact that in IS territories public hospitals lie in waste while the group's leadership is treated with relatively high-standards highlights a discrepancy in its claims of moral leadership. It also underlines a very apparent gulf in wealth between the leadership and subjects in their territory, and most Syrians understand clearly that the projection of IS' utopia to the outside world is shrouded with lies. If we imagine the near future, IS will no longer be able to rely on popular support - and without an inexhaustible supply of manpower and money, its project is doomed.
Even its capable and die-hard supporters have proven unable to defeat experienced opposition groups such as the Kurds and Free Syrian Army that offer more representative leadership and goals. In the end, the fate of IS might be decided by the fact that its population and ranks are voting with their feet and fleeing the territory.'
Friday, 30 October 2015
The most pro-Assad part of Andrew Murray, Chairman of the Stop the War Coaltion's diatribe, is,
"It is now pretty obvious that bombing by western powers is not going to roll back Islamic State. That could only be done by the forces of strong and sovereign states in Iraq and Syria, able to mobilise support from all sections of the people."
He rolls back from that a little in this,
"Such preconditions only serve to prolong the conflict and to give either government or opposition hope that foreign military and diplomatic support could somehow lead to all-out victory."
There is a clear difference between the estimation of the Russian and US interventions. Although he says,
"All foreign military intervention in Syria should end immediately,"
"the Anglo-American war front in the Middle East,"
while the other is,
"Our bipartisan armchair strategists are obviously riled by Russia’s escalating military involvement in Syria. But it is a fact."
A couple of lies in series in response to the Cox/Mitchell letter, that Britain has been arming Syrian rebels, and that has escalated the refugee flow. "Of course, if humanitarianism was really a consideration, Britain would have stopped funding and arming the Syrian civil war some time ago. It would be welcoming far more refugees from the conflict zone it has fuelled."
A lie about those wanting to stop Assad and Russia's war on Syria. That they wanted Britain to go to war with Assad in 2013,
"In 2013 they were urging war against the Syrian government over its alleged use of chemical weapons."
Two untruths, that Western funding caused the uprising against Assad to militarise, and that the uprising caused the rise of ISIS,
"The rise of Islamic State to control much of Syria’s territory – a consequence of the civil war fostered by the western powers, amongst others – seemed to offer another excuse for intervention."
The argument against a no fly zone is asinine. Assad is doing the bombing, a no fly zone would stop him.
"The reality of “no fly zones” and “safe havens”, benign as they sound, is regime change. That is the clear aim of the proposal. Assad government forces – or those supporting it – would be the target."
Of course the areas already cleared of régime forces by the moderate opposition would be the major beneficiaries, but that's not even on the radar of someone who knows so little about Syria.
"In Syria today, the winners from a war to set up safe-havens – an operation which would also require the deployment of grounds troops into Syria – would most likely be IS. It would be best placed to expand into many of the areas cleared of regime forces."
People who supported revolutions used to be called socialists, not neo-conservatives. Shame on Andrew Murray for this slander, and that on the Free Syrian Army he claims is only a figment of Washington imagination.
"Such plans fuel the fantasises of neo-conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic who dream of creating a “third force” capable to taking over Syria in opposition both to Assad and to Islamic State."
"The Russian air strikes that have been taking place since the end of September are strengthening and raising the morale of the Syrian army."
That would be the Syrian army that has been retreating across Hama despite the Russian airstrikes. The pro-Assad lies are strong in this one.
"Literally from the front line."* No, a liar who has embedded himself with Assad's minders in hotels in Damascus, who never sees the destruction Assad does, never talks to the people he's doing it to, and who is quite capable of making up his presence at an incident Brian Williams style.[http://notris.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=patrick+cockburn]
"It needs partners on the ground who are fighting IS, but its choice is limited because those actually engaged in combat with the Sunni jihadis are largely Shia."
This is another lie. It is the Free Syrian Army that has been fighting against ISIS in Northern Syria for the last two years.
"Shia leaders dismiss the idea, much favoured in Washington, that a sizeable moderate, non-sectarian Sunni opposition exists that would be willing to share power in Damascus and Baghdad."
A series of untruths. The opposition is not just Sunni, but Christian, Alawite and atheistic too. None of them are willing to share power with the torturers and rapists of the Assad régime, but want a democratic pluralist state. The Shia leaders, Iran and its proxies, don't want to share power, they've been pursuing a genocide in Syria precisely against the Sunnis above all.
"In the swathe of countries most directly involved in the conflict – Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon – there are more than a hundred million Shia, who believe their own existence is threatened if Assad goes down, compared to thirty million Sunnis, who are in a majority only in Syria."
The figures show what a nonsense the excuse for supporting Assad in his genocide against Sunnis is. Very reminiscent of the Israeli claim that if they stop oppressing the Palestinians the Israelis will all be killed.
"A few miles further on, in the town of Tal Abyad, which the YPG had captured from IS in June, a woman ran out of her house to wave down the police car I was following to say that she had just seen an IS fighter in black clothes and a beard run through her courtyard. The police said there were still IS men hiding in abandoned Arab houses in the town."
The allegation that Arab residents are member of ISIS is the justification for ethnic cleansing by the Kurdish forces, as Amnesty has noted. As with Assad, or the Russian bombing that Cockburn laments "has taken attention away" from the failure of the US campaign against ISIS, these war crimes just aren't part of his narrative.
"Between 2011 and 2013 it was conventional wisdom in the West and much of the Middle East that Assad was going to be overthrown just as Gaddafi has been."
And it was only massive military assistance from Russia, which had to be bolstered by thousands of troops from Hezbollah, and thousands more from Iran's other proxy militias, that saved it from rebels who couldn't get their hands on anti-aircraft missiles, let alone the tanks and aeroplanes Assad has.
"In late 2013 and throughout 2014, it was clear that Assad still controlled most populated areas, but then the jihadi advances in northern and eastern Syria in May revived talk of the regime’s crumbling."
If you read Cockburn through 2013 and 2014, you'll see repeated assertions of the strength of Assad, that he controls all the provincial capitals, that the army is strong, that all communities still supported him. As the régime has continued to hollow out, it is his assessment that has proved to have nothing in it, not that that Assad is a dictator who has relied almost entirely on force rather than consent since 2011, and now is a dead man walking with only a skeleton apparatus of power, who would be gone in five minutes if Iran and Russia left him to it, and will only last five minutes when the more united than ever Syrian rebel forces kick Iran and Russia out of their country.
"Russian air support won’t be enough to defeat IS and the other al-Qaida-type groups."
Russian air support isn't going to do anything to defeat ISIS when it is used overwhelmingly against the Free Syrian Army. In fact the Russian bombing of the FSA has enabled ISIS to cut the régime's access to Aleppo, leading to the bizarre situation where the opposition has been asked to open a supply route by aid agencies to the area controlled by the people barrel bombing them. Russia's intervention is a disaster all round, but you'll never discover why from a study of Cockburn on its own.
Wednesday, 28 October 2015
"The West let the best strategy be the enemy of the good in Syria – and now we have seen the enormous price of not intervening, as it fell to Tony Blair to argue this week, in his partial mea culpa for the invasion of Iraq. The UK’s efforts in Syria have only tinkered at the edges of a humanitarian catastrophe. When Assad crossed Barack Obama’s stated red line in his use of chemical weapons in August 2013, the US president stood back and did nothing. All the time, Syria’s people faced slaughter – and now Vladimir Putin has stepped into the vacuum to shore up the faltering regime of the murderous Bashar al-Assad.
I saw the humanitarian and security situation decline throughout three six-week visits to Syria in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Later, I told of what I saw in interviews: the children blown apart by barrel bombs; the snipers targeting pregnant women.
An oft-repeated line was that all the anti-government protagonists are equally extreme, equally impossible Western allies. I can say that from my experience that they are not. Towards the end of my time there in 2014, I went to visit a Catholic Church in Aleppo. There, having tea with the priest, were a group of Free Syrian Army fighters, their rifles slung across their chests as they chatted amicably. The Church had been protected by the Free Syrian fighters and the priest respected for the kindness he showed to many sick and dying people. In March this year, I was shocked to hear that this kindly priest had been killed. Not by supposed Islamist rebels intent on destroying all those of other religions; but by a barrel bomb dropped by one of Assad’s helicopters.
The West has so far abrogated its moral responsibility to the Syrian people and has paid a price not only in the hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees flocking to Europe’s shores but also in Putin’s audacious power play, so that we find ourselves in a situation where Russia, Iran and Hizbollah are leading this brutal dance.
All the major powers involved are now to meet at a peace conference in Austria. Here’s what they must secure: a safe haven in Syria, probably from Aleppo northwards, which is free from air attacks and allows humanitarian access via corridors which can be policed by the UN or by a western coalition with the Gulf states and Turkey."
"Please help us! The régime of Bashar al-Assad is killing us. Please! Every day there is blood..."
Abu Salah was a blacksmith, who fled after his home town in Homs province, one of the first in Syria to rise up in revolution, was destroyed by the Assad régime.
Monday, 26 October 2015
"Vladimir Putin is assisting a regime that indiscriminately kills their own people," Issam al-Reis said. "How could we trust the Russians' help?"
“The Russians are burning and flattening everything,” explains Abdul Rahman, a commander with the Ahfad Omer battalion, arguing the scorched-earth tactics are reminiscent of what the Russians did to the Chechen capital Grozny in 1994, reducing it to rubble. “There are 50 or 60 airstrikes a day,” he said. The difference is the Russians are not bombing a built-up city, but spread-out villages, some the poorest in northern Syria.
“The solution is simple. It is not complicated. Assad, his inner circle, the security apparatus and all the intelligence agencies, all have to go,” said 35-year-old Zakaria Malahefji, a former higher education teacher and political officer of the 3,000-strong Fastaqim Kama Umirt.
Having withstood more than three weeks of Russian bombing and Assad ground assaults, the rebels say they are relieved they have lost little territory, just five villages in the southern Aleppo countryside. “Our fighters are skilled fighting in the towns and all we need are Kalashnikovs,” said Col. Mo-hamed al-Ahmed, spokesman of militia alliance Al-Jabha al-Shamiyya (Shamiya Front). “The Assad regime knows it can’t fight in the city — so it is choosing to fight in the countryside,” added al-Ahmed, a Syrian Air Force pilot defector.
Months before the Russian intervention, commanders lamented the difficulty in finding new recruits. That has changed, at least in rural areas. Now locals are eager to fight, so too are youngsters among the refugee population in neighboring Turkey. “Since the Russians came many people want to fight,” said al-Ahmed, sitting in a bare, dismal office in a ramshackle building adjacent to the wasteland in the Turkish border town of Kilis. “Before they said they didn’t want to kill fellow Syrians, but now they want to confront the Russians.”
'The FSA was mainly born as part of the Syrian opposition project, which comes under the umbrella of the political coalition council that includes all of Syria’s religious and racial components. Sunnis, Kurds and Christians have served as its chiefs and its leaders include Alawites, Druze, Turkmen and others. However, Assad whom the Russians and the Iranians defend, no longer represents anyone, not even his small Alawite sect upon which he inflicted the biggest massacre against its sons as he forced them to engage in battles during the past four horrific years.
There are in fact Syrian traffic police in Damascus; however there’s nothing called “the Syrian army” in the sense which the Russians keep mentioning. Even their Iranian allies avoid using the term “Syrian army” as they consider themselves Syria’s armed forces.
It’s not only the Syrian army which has evaporated. During the past four years of the war, the structure of the security forces’ institutions and intelligence apparatuses, which were once described as among the strongest in the world, have been destroyed. Therefore, the Russians and Iranians must not try and paint a false picture regarding what’s happening in Syria. The truth is no longer a secret due to the several parties fighting there. There is currently no state, no system, no legitimate president, no security forces and no army in Syria.