Saturday, 21 November 2015

Syrian rebels, and their clandestine war against IS

Syrian rebels, and their clandestine war against IS

 'Over the past three days, locals in Mu Hassan, al-Mayadeen, al-Bukamal have all protested on the streets against IS' brutality.

 They also pointed out that dozens of civilians had been killed by French and Russian bombs, while no IS fighters reportedly died - a thinly veiled attack on IS policies of moving military hardware and fighters into civilian areas.

 "The protesters raised the flag of the Syrian revolution in these three cities. This is a clear sign that the people are starting to rebel against IS, step-by-step, as they did before with the Assad regime," said the Deir az-Zour activist.

 "The people in the eastern region only show support to the FSA," said Tim. "And they clearly understand that they are the only ones who can retake al-Sharqiya from IS." '

Despite Russian airstrikes, FSA continues to confront regime

 'After the regime failed to advance toward the center of Hama’s countryside on Oct. 7 and after media outlets such as Al-Araby and All4Syria showed such abatement to the regime’s supporters, the regime opened several other fronts in the southern countryside of Aleppo, the northern countryside of Homsand the Latakia mountains as it desperately sought to advance and show its progress in the media as an achievement aimed at lifting the spirits of the regime supporters and forces.

 For this instance, a video published by pro-regime Russia Today news outlet on Oct. 12 depicts the battles led by the Syrian regime forces in some small villages in Hama’s countryside, which are, however, still under the opposition’s control.
 Hamoud enjoys wide popularity among Syrian dissidents who either know him personally or from social networking sites. He has chosen the nickname of “Abu TOW” (Arabic for "father of TOW"), given his passion for the missiles.
 “Our generation lived a peaceful life full of love and joy, but what is happening in our country has forced us to engage in battles and take up arms. Despite all the violence we live in, we are still human beings, and we have not changed. We are waiting for the war to end to throw away the arms and get back to our previous lives,” he said.'

Friday, 20 November 2015

Syria’s only hope of peace is if Assad is removed

Damaged buildings in the town of Douma, Syria, earlier this week.

 'Assad never has been, nor will ever be, an alternative to Isis. He will never bring peace to Syria, nor will he ever be capable of taking on extremists. There is no capacity on the regime’s side to regain control and restore stability to the country. Moderate forces of the opposition are the only forces that have proved capable of combating Isis and winning back territory, as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) did in 2013. But, thanks to the failure of our western partners, Syria’s moderates are deeply under-resourced. Despite our repeated appeals, we never received the support needed from our friends.

 The only way to effectively take on Isis is to create a ground force capable of fighting terror and stabilising the country. With proper support, such a force could eradicate the Isis terror nest in Raqqa. But this will only happen when we formulate a political plan that ensures a transition away from Syria’s current leadership and state clearly that the end game is Assad’s exit from power.

 Under the aforementioned conditions, the opposition would work with Syrian government organisations to restore basic services and the FSA would willingly concentrate its efforts on defeating Isis. De facto cooperation would occur with the units of the Syrian national army that are not tied directly to the Assad family. The FSA, together with these army units from which identified criminal officers have been removed, would form the two natural components of an indigenous force dedicated to fighting Isis and any combination of forces that aims to destabilise the country. Such a force would provide the international community’s best chance to defeat Isis.'

Syrian refugee, survivor of 2013 chemical attacks, speaks out after U.S. House vote

Image result for Syrian refugee, survivor of 2013 chemical attacks, speaks out after U.S. House vote

 ' "Everybody failed us," he said. "And now they're talking about bad about refugees, about people who are fleeing for their lives." Eid, who goes by the name Qusai Zakarya, came to the United States on a tourism visa more than a year and a half ago. Before that, he was in the town of Moadhamiyeh in Syria when the government of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad launched a chemical weapons attack using sarin gas. "I watched hundreds of people die, suffocate," Zakarya told ABC7. "My heart practically stopped. And I was placed with the dead bodies."

 Although Zakarya is disappointed by the House Republicans and the dozens of Democrats who joined them for Thursday's vote, he also blames President Obama for the mess Syria has become. He says the President never did anything despite the fact that the chemical weapons attacks crossed the "red line" he said he had drawn. For Zakarya, the President's threat to veto the Syrian refugee bill if it passes the Senate isn't enough. "President Obama should be the last person on earth who should talk about helping others, because if he acted since the beginning of the Syrian revolution, he could have saved four hundred thousand lives," he said.'

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Syria's Assad could benefit most from renewed global push against ISIL

Image result for Syria's Assad would benefit most from renewed global push against ISIL

 'Friday’s massacre in Paris has amplified calls among French politicians for coordination with Russia — and Assad — against ISIL. “Most right-wing politicians are in favor of getting closer to Putin to solve the Syrian crisis,” Bitar said. “The lesser evil narrative ... is triumphing because of these [Paris] attacks, so Assad and Putin are among the victors.”

 Syrian opposition figures believe the French and others are taking the bait set by ISIL. “The main goal is to force France to change its stances, to escalate its campaign in Syria,” said Fahd Al-Masri, a Syrian opposition figure based in Paris. “Any terror attack carries a political message. Everyone’s priority now is to fight terrorism, not topple Bashar al-Assad, who is the reason for the birth and development of terrorism in Syria.” '

Mapped: Where Airstrikes in Syria Are Targeting Medical Workers

Mapped: Where Airstrikes in Syria Are Targeting Medical Workers

 'On Wednesday Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) released a new report documenting how the Syrian regime has systematically targeted the only people left who can save Syria’s most desperately sick and injured: medical workers.

 According to PHR, Russia, which joined the fight in Syria to bolster embattled President Bashar al-Assad, has also routinely targeted hospitals and clinics. Since Moscow launched its airstrike campaign at the end of September, Russian bombs have hit at least 10 medical facilities, resulting in injuries, collateral damage, and even the death of at least one medical staffer.

 Since 2011, there have been at least 329 attacks on medical facilities and 687 medical personnel have been killed, according to the report. Roughly 90 percent of those attacks were carried out by the Syrian regime, which the aid group alleges constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity. At least four of the facilities targeted by Russian strikes last month had already been barrel bombed or otherwise attacked by Syrian forces. According to PHR, “the Syrian government’s ongoing assault on health care is one of the most egregious the world has ever seen.” '

A daily hustle to survive: This is the life of a Syrian refugee

 'Mariam had come from Tal Kalakh, a Syrian farming town of 20,000 people. Everything began to change one day in May after Friday prayers. More than 3,000 people marched through the town, chanting: “The people! Want! The fall of the regime!” Men in uniform blocked their way. The mukhabarat, the plain-clothed secret police, stood behind the uniformed men, giving orders. Ahmed stopped his truck at a gas station across the road. “Go home!” a loudspeaker ordered. “Disperse! We will shoot.” The men in uniform raised their Kalashnikovs. The two sides were barely 10 yards apart. No one in the crowd moved. No one believed the security would fire. It was still the beginning of the uprising.
 Everyone waited.
 There was a sound like firecrackers. Rifle shots. Thousands of people ran in blind, disbelieving panic. A neighbor’s son lay on the ground, hit by a bullet. Others fell, dead or wounded. That is how Ahmed remembers it. “It was a peaceful demonstration, no weapons, nothing,” he said. He drove home as fast as he could to tell everyone what had happened. But they already knew. Women were in the street, ululating. People shouted: “They fired. They fired.”

 Ahmed told me the story of what happened next. At this point, it has entered Tal Kalakh folklore. The Daher family lived near the army barracks. The troops were not allowed cell phones, or TV. They were not allowed out. Officers had suspended all leave because soldiers who went home rarely returned. One night a soldier found a way to slip away to visit a nearby grocery store. A television was on: Al Jazeera. The soldier saw refugees lifting razor wire and streaming into Turkey. A woman in a headscarf was being interviewed. He watched. He couldn’t believe it.
 “That’s my mother. What’s happening?”
 “The regime is killing people,” the shopkeeper said.
 “What in the name of God is going on out here?”
 “The whole country’s been turned upside down and you have no idea?”
 “I swear, no. It’s like a prison inside the barracks. They told us: ‘It’s Israel. It’s militant gangs.’ But that’s my mother.”
 The soldier went back to the barracks and gathered his friends. They decided to escape. He shot the officer who had said they were fighting Israel. There was a gun battle inside the barracks: loyalists against defectors. The violence spilled into the streets as the defectors fled. The whole of Tal Kalakh watched green tracer fire arc back and forth across the town. There was nothing on state TV about it, of course, but by lunchtime the next day everyone knew what had happened. The Dahers’ street buzzed with the story of the soldier and the soldier’s mother. The shopkeeper swore it was true.
 The defecting soldiers joined a new organization called the Free Syrian Army. The armed rebellion had begun.
 The FSA began to appear everywhere there were people who supported the uprising. The war arrived in Tal Kalakh one evening in May 2011, when the regime decided to make an example of the town. Tanks and armored vehicles drew up along the main road outside. In the early hours of the morning, the shelling began. Mariam, Ahmed and three of their children hid in a bathroom in the center of the house. Their daughter Ala’a, their oldest child, was away taking exams in the capital, Damascus. No one slept during the bombardment. “God is our protector,” they said to each other as the ground shook and windows shattered inward. It continued until just after 6 a.m. The family emerged slowly and carefully. They found nothing left of the house next door but a pile of rubble. Ahmed and Mariam didn’t even have to discuss it: They knew they had to leave.'

Syrian female doctor who escaped Isis: 'Our lives in Raqqa turned to black'

Raqqa woman Syria

 'In 2013, Raqqa became the first city to fall to rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. Syrians called it the "Bride of the Revolution". A variety of rebel groups, from religious moderates to hard-line Islamists, held power. Within a year, IS had eliminated rival insurgents and controlled nearly every aspect of daily life.
"At the first stage of the city being occupied by IS, people tried to resist their rules and even tried to protest, but then they realised it was a matter of life or death. So it was impossible," Raheb says.

 At the end of September, Russian jets joined the crowded skies above northern Syria. Although President Vladimir Putin has said they are attacking IS, air strikes have mostly targeted other rebel groups fighting against Bashar al-Assad. "I need to say that Russian attacks, even when they target Raqqa city, have never approached IS centres – never," Raheb says. "They sent them randomly and without any caution. They are targeting all the other militants, even the moderate ones, just because of their interests in protecting Assad." '

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The Shia jihad and the death of Syria’s army

 'It was a hot July day in Ramadan when Khaled al-Shami saw an opportunity to flee Division 9 in Daraa, southern Syria, the place which had been his army barracks for the past four years. One month before, two soldiers like him had taken the same route, but had been spotted; one was gunned down and killed, the other was wounded and died as he was run over by the pursuing forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He walked five kilometres before he met soldiers from Saif Al Sham, a group in the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front with whom he had been coordinating his defection.
 “I was living in a nightmare,” he said. “I need a software change after everything I saw and experienced. Most people like me want to leave, but it’s the overwhelming fear that stops you”. He described what life was like inside Assad’s army. “One important thing to realise is that there is no Syrian Army anymore, it is just militias, mostly Iranians and Lebanese.”
 “Without the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Lebanese Hezbollah the army could not stand up. Seventy percent of the troops in Division 9 are Iranian troops or Lebanese Hezbollah, the rest are shabiha. Only two to three percent are regular Syrian soldiers,” Khaled said.“Ten high-ranking Iranian officers control the division, they plan the operations. Only Iranian or Hezbollah forces can access operations rooms, no Syrian soldiers are allowed in." For battles, groups of 50 fighters are deployed: 15 IRGC, 15 Hezbollah, 20 Syrians, the majority of which are shabiha. Within battles the hierarchy is clear: the commander is an Iranian IRGC officer and his deputy will be a Hezbollah officer, according to Khaled.
 Major Abu Osama al-Jolani, a Free Syrian Army (FSA) commander and defected officer, told me how the war has changed over the past 12 months. “The Shia militias are leading military action to support the regime in all battles for the last year … Everyone we are fighting now are foreigners.” '

Inside ISIS’s Torture Brigades

 ' “They have a cage in this square,” Abu Khaled said, describing the place where ISIS justice is meted out in al-Bab. Abu Khaled was describing a place I’d been. I was in al-Bab during Ramadan 2012, in the relatively early days of the revolt against the Assad regime, when the town was still controlled by local rebel forces, and I saw how that same square came alive at night when activists, rebels, or local civilians transformed themselves into ad hoc cleanup crews—the Free Syrian Street Sweepers—picking up detritus and rubble left over from regime shelling, or manning field hospitals in the basement of the local mosque, because the real hospital in al-Bab had been targeted and badly damaged by the Syrian military.

 Abu Khaled listed the crimes of high treason: “Working with the FSA [the “Free Syrian Army,” an allegedly moderate collection of rebel groups], that’s capital punishment. Working with the mukhabarat, CIA, or foreigners—capital punishment.”

 “In Aleppo, people have electricity for maybe three or four hours per day. The electricity station is in Asfireh, ISIS-controlled territory, near Kweris airport. So the regime pays for the fuel to run the station. It pays the salaries for the workers because they’re specialized and can’t be replaced. And ISIS takes 52 percent of the electricity and the regime takes 48 percent. That’s the deal they have with Assad.” '

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

And the Darwin Award goes to...

insufficient respect


"In Syria, day after day after day, on average about 120 people die.  Some would envy the deaths of the Parisians.  A 13 year old boy is beaten and burned until he is hardly more than a blackened lump.  He is castrated and dies.  Women have rats inserted into their vaginas.  Babies have their throats slit.

 The West tut-tuts, does nothing.  The UN tut-tuts, does nothing.  Human rights organizations call for nice, orderly, legal measures against Assad.  They know with absolute certainty these measures won't be taken, except perhaps years later, after many thousands more die.

 Obama does nothing, seeks approval of Congress which he knows will reject any action.  The UK makes noises, does nothing.  France makes bigger noises, sees America will do nothing, does nothing.

 These governments are ahead of the opposition, who think the West should be nicer to Assad.  Overwhelmingly, the people of Europe want nothing done.  They aren't interested in protecting the Syrian people.  Some just want to indulge themselves with charity projects for the ever-growing number of victims.

 The US gives a trickle of aid to the resistance against Assad.  It won't provide anything like enough arms to overthrow him, much less the air support it provided in Libya.  It fears that some fighter's third cousin threatened the West.  It does nothing against Hezbollah, which actually does attack the West, but which fights for Assad.

 The only countries that help the rebels are Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.  They are condemned because they're Islamist and not democratic enough for those who condone or support Syria's dictatorship.

 Betrayed by Obama, abandoned by Europe, the Syrian people see that the secularist West is content to watch them die.  They are in agony.  They grow more and more religious, as often happens when people are abandoned by the secular powers and aided by religious ones.

 The Syrian rebels find that their strongest allies are radical Islamists.  One such group, ISIS, goes crazy, starts attacking them, insists on restoring a Caliphate to bring justice and destroy the secular enemies.

 After hundreds of thousands of deaths, tens of thousands murdered by torture, millions homeless, starvation, gas, barrel bombs daily, some radical Syrian Islamists inflict on Paris, for one day, less than Syria suffers every day.  They say this is because of Syria.

 The West is shocked.  Hollande takes a moment out from his bombing campaign to call it an act of war."

5 Obstacles That We Must Overcome in Syria -- Starting with Assad


 "It is naïve to expect that after four and a half years of fighting for political survival, Assad and the leaders of his security agencies will negotiate their way out of Syria. They will leave only if pressured militarily and if their patrons abandon them. We need to exponentially ramp up military and financial support for the Syrian rebels and thereby send a strong message to Russia and Iran that despite their military interventions, they will not able to dictate the terms of a solution in Syria. Negotiations alone will not achieve peace in Syria."

Can You Tell The Difference? Bashar al-Assad/Jeremy Corbyn

 Jeremy Corbyn¹ isn't consciously a supporter of Bashar al-Assad², the Syrian president committing genocide. In the interview his quote comes from, he doesn't mention Assad once, even when he talks about what Syrian refugees are fleeing from, he says it is, "from the civil war, from ISIL, from other groups." He wants to ignore Assad's crimes in favour of blaming the Turks, the Saudis, and Western intervention, praises President Obama and hopes that a deal can be arranged with Assad's Russian partners in crime (as one activist puts it, "After Russian intervention, Syrians move from counting daily victims to counting daily massacres."³). But the almost identical language points to a closer association, the pro-Assad milieu that his press secretary Seumas Milne moves in explains why the phrasing is so similar, and bodes badly for how any Corbyn administration would deal with Assad should he last that long, and how much more disrespect a Corbyn-led Labour Party will show to those suffering the twin evils of Assad and ISIS.


Monday, 16 November 2015

Review: Syria’s Rebellious Women

 'She dresses casually in Turkey with hair uncovered, but on the job in Aleppo she is carefully dressed so as not to offend the strict dress code for women that is now enforced there. She chafes at that, but accepts its necessity, and states that “freedom from Assad is only the first step in the revolution.”

When asked about her vision for the future, she said: “working to topple the regime, or be killed. We hoped that the international community would protect us, but the they let us down so we are on our own. The FSA protect us, I hope they can just hold on, and we can keep providing the basic services.” When asked what she wanted people to understand from the film she said: “We rose for our human rights, we are not monsters or extremists, we want to live with dignity.”

She said that although ISIS is a huge threat to women, the main threat to civilians, including women, is Assad. She is disappointed that the world does not seem to understand that.'

Confessions of an ISIS Spy

Confessions of an ISIS Spy

 'Abu Khaled felt compelled to sign up because he believed America was an accomplice to global conspiracy, led by Iran and Russia, to keep the tyrant Bashar al-Assad in power. How else could it be explained that the U.S. was waging war only against Sunnis, and leaving an Alawite-run regime guilty of mass murder by almost every means and its Iranian Shia armies untouched?

 The clerics responsible for this indoctrination were know-nothing striplings from foreign countries. “There was one guy I remember from Libya, maybe he was in his mid-20s.” What kind of Islamic authority could someone so young have, Abu Khaled wondered. And where were all the Syrians?

 ISIS—at least as far as Abu Khaled characterizes it—needlessly sent thousands to their slaughter, without any tactical, much less strategic, forethought. The jihadist army had lost between 4,000 and 5,000 fighters, most of them non-Syrians.
“Double this number are wounded and can’t fight anymore,” Abu Khaled told me. “They lost a leg or a hand.” Immigrants, then, are requisitioned as cannon fodder? He nodded. In September of last year, at the apogee of ISIS’s foreign recruitment surge, he says the influx of foreigners amazed even those welcoming them in. “We had like 3,000 foreign fighters who arrived every day to join ISIS. I mean, every day. And now we don’t have even like 50 or 60.” '

Sunday, 15 November 2015

ISIL’s French infiltration


"France was also targeted because it is the only Western country that considers the Assad regime as criminally culpable as ISIL. (Memories are still fresh and vivid at the Elysée of America’s abandonment of France in August 2013 when President Obama reneged on his initial plan to strike the Syrian dictatorship after the poison gas attacks on rebel-held Damascus suburbs.) The jihadis would like nothing more than for the entire world to follow Vladimir Putin’s example in pledging his government’s absolute and unconditional support to Assad. ISIL has little to fear from the Syrian despot, and has to date been largely spared by the Russian offensive."

The Syrian women fighting to save their city

Zaina Erhaim

 ' “It’s not just men fighting the war in Syria; it is women, too, and they feel forgotten,” she told the Observer. “The women activists are working harder, against more problems, but are forgotten as the west obsesses on Islamic State. It is just Assad against Isis, but we are still here in this ruined place and now we are facing two enemies, Isis and Assad.”
 In Erhaim’s film, entitled Syria’s Rebellious Women and made over the past 18 months, she profiles some of her friends who have helped to document the war, deliver supplies to civilians and provide medical services in ways that some within their country now regard as unacceptable behaviour for women. 
 Zein spent 14 months in a government prison for taking part in demonstrations. “The detention centre is a cemetery for the living,” she says. At one point government soldiers raped a male prisoner in front of her. When she was released she found her home had been destroyed and her family had gone. “I only wanted the Free Syrian Army. I got FSA, the al-Nusra Front and Isis. We said Syria is for all. Everybody joined in.”
 Zein has given up hope of getting married, or having a family. Erhaim, too, says that her husband gave up “nagging her” to have a baby after they both witnessed the aftermath of an airstrike on a nursery school near their flat. So many schools have been targeted that parents fear sending their children to school.
 “I met one woman who sits outside the school all day while her five children are inside,” said Erhaim. “I said to her, you cannot protect them by sitting there. And she said ‘no, but if the classroom is hit then at least I will die with them’.” '