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Syrian Opposition to Focus on Ceasefire at Astana Talks – Delegation Member

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The Syrian opposition will discuss the consolidation of a ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey late last year without delving into political matters at upcoming talks with the Syrian government, opposition delegation member Sayeed Nakrash told Sputnik on Monday.

ASTANA (Sputnik) — The armed opposition is holding final consultations before direct talks with the Syrian government delegation in the Kazakh capital.

“Today we will discuss only the strengthening of the ceasefire and the implementation of the 12, 13 and 14 articles of the UN Resolution 2254. The political aspect of the Syrian crisis will not be discussed today,” Nakrash said, adding that the delegation is ready for direct talks with the government.

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NEO – Truth or Consequences in Astana peace talks

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What Should One Expect from the Syrian Peace Talks in Astana?
by  Yuri Zinin,  … with New Eastern Outlook,  Moscow

Will the Turkish people have any say in the peace talks, or are they just along for the ride?

[ Editor’s Note: The sands are shifting in the Mideast, but no one has a crystal ball to see how the Syrian mess will shake out when the dust storm passes. We are all optimistic, but not overly so, as bitter enemies will not take defeat gracefully.

Yuri Zinin, one of NEO’s top analysts, keys in below on the “Turkish Pivot” as being the key to any breakthrough, as it would have physical control over some of the key opposition groups via their direct support out of Ankara. This includes weapons, ammo and all the needed supplies to keep them flowing over the Turkish border.

The coming IS defeat in Mosul has Turkey pulling its forces back from Iraq, and the Kurd’s Barzani signaling his retirement, which we did not see coming. Concern seems to have shifted as to where the surviving and very angry IS fighters from Mosul will be transferred to next, with indications already that this will be Deir-Ezzur, with the US’ hand clearly revealed as facilitating. Trump’s credibility on wiping out IS will sink or swim on whether he continues to pretend that the US has not been supporting them.

And let me make one point clear. It is not a deal killer in having to get all the opposition groups to join a political process, as just a good majority of them need to join. Those that refuse will shift themselves over to the bombing list with IS and al-Nusra, and that should include any of the Turkey-backed groups, or it would in itself be breaking its own deal.

This shakeout would allow the Syrian coalition to concentrate on the dual tasks of cleaning out the remaining opposition groups that refuse to join the political process, where Syria could then concentrate more forces into defeating the remaining groups on the battlefield.

Those choosing not to join the political process would be kissing away having any future influence, as those Syrian people under their control, for now, would have to gravitate to one of the other groups for political representation. The key is to get the various opposition groups competing among themselves for political powers.

Frankly, the Islamic State has crushed the Turkish offensive on al-Bab

To be successful at that will require their being instrumental in improving people’s lives, and the name of the game there is ending the fighting and start the rebuilding.

Anyone viewed as an obstructionist will find themselves left at the altar. If their funding is removed, then they will have zero to offer the people and will find themselves one step away from becoming refugees themselves.

Iran is already moving on some rehabilitation deals; the biggest so far is an agreement to help rebuild the cell phone system. This is Balkanization of a different sort. Iran is not lending Syria the money to do this. Iran will own it.

There is nothing really wrong with this, as Iran has lost 1000 of its fighters, totally ignored in the Western press, and also has funded Hezbollah’s participation, without which more Syrian soldiers would be dead and more of the country destroyed.

But with so much hanging on what Turkey does, meaning Erdogan, that makes him the weak link in the chain, as in his being removed. He has suffered a humiliating defeat at al-Bab, the huge Turkish military not being able to capture a medium-sized town from the IS, who basically has no armor or air defense.

This defeat has exposed the Turkish military as a palace guard one. Questions will be asked if Erdogan’s gutting the post-coup military went too far and rendered the country impotent, other than fighting lightly armed Kurdish guerrillas.

Despite his move to concentrate presidential authority, which is moving through the parliament now, that also is a double-edged sword as a rallying point for the non-Gulen opposition. War and Peace are still both in play, and either one may still win the dayJim W. Dean ]

Will Erdogan’s defeat in al-Bab (so far) take the wind out of his sails?

The international meeting on the Syrian settlement in Astana has been attracting the attention of numerous experts across the Middle East.

Most experts agree that the meeting will be a major international and regional step towards the shift of balance of forces on the ground, transforming a bitter military face-off into a political process. The meeting will clarify the positions and the influence enjoyed by the conflicting parties before a new round of negotiations in Geneva starts.

According to the newspaper “Al-Quds Al-Arabi” that is being published in London, the current balance of forces suggests that for the first time since the beginning of the crisis Turkey gravitates towards Russia’s position on the Syrian settlement, that dictates the need to put all the parties of conflict at the negotiating table.

Who is leading who by the nose now? Is the Saudi influence gone in Turkey?

This view is shared by a prominent Arab media figure and political analyst Abdel Bari Atwan. He stresses the fact that the Russian-Turkish alliance, which became the “dominant driving force” of the Syrian settlement. While Moscow supports the Syrian government, Turkey is in position to act on behalf of the armed opposition groups that has the capacity of applying pressure on them.

In these circumstances, there is a pushing of the political opposition. We’re speaking about the so-called Supreme Negotiations Committee (with headquarters in Riyadh) and the National Coalition of Opposition and the Revolutionary Forces (with headquarters in Istanbul).

According to the above mentioned analyst, the Supreme Committee is losing its “monopoly” to represent opposition groups, which it enjoyed at the previous stages of the negotiations in Geneva, since armed groups are turning their backs, both completely or partially, on the their foreign sponsors, including the Persian Gulf monarchies.

This Arab analyst is convinced that we can be talking about a veritable breakthrough. It is possible, he notes, that the conference in Astana will be the turning point in the Syrian conflict where the previous regional balance of powers will change.

Other Arab authors still warn the negotiators that there is a significant number of militant groups who have not accepted the ceasefire and who still control a pretty large chunk of the Syrian territory.

The majority of the representatives of the so-called Syrian political opposition are warily watching the preparations for the Astana meeting. They carry on their claims that Damascus is getting “increasingly dependent” on its partners, while a number of media sources are making all sorts of allegations about “new contradictions between Damascus and its allies,” etc.

According to the Jordanian journalist Muhammad Khatyn, Astana has become a real alternative to Geneva, opening the road for the creation of a Syrian federal state.

The freeing of Aleppo from the foreign backed jihadis is a symbol for the whole country now as to who the real enemy is

A number of regional media sources perceives the importance of the meeting in Astana in a broader context that goes far beyond the scope of the Syrian crisis. Thus, according to the Lebanese TV channel “Al-Mayadin,” the trilateral statement of the Iran-Russia-Turkey in Moscow opens the field for broader political talks between them to expand the vital economic and other ties enjoyed by these states.

The TV station is convinced that Russia and Iran are happy to get Turkey involved in the implementation of the major Eurasian project, as an alternative to the European Union. The fact that former Soviet republics will get involved in this project will make it easier for Ankara to make a choice, since it has a common linguistic, ethnic and historical background with a number of those.

On the other hand, those states have fully developed ties with Iran, while the latter is also interested in deepening them in the light of the new US administration planning to review the bilateral nuclear deal. However, the ongoing crisis in Syria, fueled from outside, prevents the three states from reaching a higher level of economic cooperation.

This is an important factor to consider when assessing the upcoming meeting in Astana and its results, concludes the Al-Mayadin television channel. It’s pretty symbolic that the name Astana is of Turko-Iranian origin.

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Audio Evidence: Kerry privately confirms supporting and arming Daesh

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On 30 September 2016, The New York Times published extracts of an audio recording of a conversation between the Secretary of State, John Kerry and members of the Syrian “opposition” [1]. The conversation took place on 22 September 2016, at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. We hear him berating the US Congress for refusing to send men to bring down the Syrian Arab Republic and advising the opposition to find another military power to take over from the US and to bring it to power.

The extracts chosen by the New York Times lead us to understand that the State Department could no longer support the National Coalition of Opposition and asked it to look to other sponsors.

The complete recording (36 minutes) was published on 1 January by The Last Refuge [2]. It completely alters the sense of the conversation and accordingly is evidence that the extracts which the New York Times initially sought to publish do not actually seek to inculpate the Obama Administration but to protect it.

In the complete recording, we hear the Secretary of State
- confirm that the strategic aim of the war that the Obama Administration led since 2011 against the Arab Syrian Republic is to topple the regime.
- confirm that the Obama administration was hoping that [a subrogation would take place] and Daesh would be able to step into its place it take down the Syrian Arab Republic.
- confirm that the Obama administration provided Daesh with arms to topple the Syrian Arab Republic.

This recording dispels the myth of a so-called Syrian revolution and equally the myth that the West is fighting Daesh. It gives us a more meaningful understanding of the tensions within the Obama administration and why General Michael Flynn resigned. Under international law, supporting Daesh is a crime against Humanity.

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The confession of the criminal John Kerry

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The war against Syria is the first to have been waged, for more than six years, in the digital era. A wealth of documents which should have remained secret for many years have already been published. Although they have been released in different countries, so that international public opinion is unaware of them, they already enable us to piece together the events concerned. The release of a recording of comments made in private by John Kerry last September reveals the policies of the Secretary of State and obliges all observers — including ourselves — to review our previous analyses.

The broadcast by The Last Refuge of the complete recording of the meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and the members of the National Coalition (22 September 2016, at the Dutch delegation to the United Nations) calls into question what we thought we knew about the US position on Syria.

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First of all, we believed that while Washington had launched the operation known as the «Arab Spring» in order to overthrow the secular Arab régimes for the benefit of the Muslim Brotherhood, it had left its allies to assume the second war against Syria on their own, as from July 2012. Since these states pursued their own objectives — recolonisation for France and the United Kingdom, theft of gas reserves for Qatar, expansion of Wahhabism and revenge for the Lebanese civil war for Saudi Arabia, annexation of the North of the country for Turkey on the Cypriot model, etc. — the original objective had been abandoned. However, John Kerry states in this recording that Washington has never stopped seeking to overthrow the Syrian Arab Republic, which implies that it supervised the work of its allies at every stage. It follows that, over the last four years, the jihadists have been commanded, armed and coordinated by NATO Allied LandCom (ground forces command) based in Izmir (Turkey).

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Second, John Kerry confirms here that Washington could go no further because of international Law and the position of Russia. Let’s be clear about this – the United States have never ceased exceeding their rights. They have destroyed most of Syria’s oil and gas infrastructures, on the pretence of fighting the jihadists (which is allowed under international Law), but without having been invited by President el-Assad (which violates intenational Law). However, they did not dare to deploy their troops on the ground and openly fight the Republic, as they did in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. For that job, they chose to put their allies in the front line — leadership from behind — and to support mercenary forces without discretion, as they did in Nicaragua, at the risk of being sanctioned by the International Court of Justice (UN internal tribunal). Washington does not want to engage in a war against Russia, which, although it had not opposed the destruction of Yugoslavia and Libya, stood up and drew a new line which must not be crossed. Moscow has the capacity to defend the Law by force if Washington were to openly engages in a new war of conquest.

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Third, John Kerry confirms here that Washington hoped for the victory of Daesh over the Republic. Until now — on the basis of the report by General Michael Flynn on 12 August 2012 and the article by Robin Wright in the New York Times on 28 Septembre 2013 — we had understood that the Pentagon intended to create a «Sunnistan» straddling Syria and Iraq, in order to cut the «Silk Road». However, he admits that the plan went much further than that. Probably, Daesh was to take Damascus, and then be chased out by Tel-Aviv (in other words, they would be pushed back to the «Sunnistan» which had been allotted to them). Syria would then be shared between Israel in the South, Daesh in the East, and Turkey in the North.

This point enables us to understand why Washington gave the impression of no longer being able to control events, of giving its allies «free rein» — indeed, it engaged France and the United Kingdom in the war by leading them to believe that they would be able to recolonise the Levant, while in fact it had planned to divide Syria without them.

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Fourth, by admitting that Washington «supported» Daesh, John Kerry recognises that it armed them, which destroys the rhetoric of the «war on terror».
- Since the attack against the al-Askari mosque in Samarra, on 22 February 2006, we knew that Daesh (originally known as the «Islamic Emirate of Iraq») had been created by the national director of US Intelligence, John Negroponte, and Colonel James Steele — on the model they had used in Honduras — in order to put an end to the Iraqi Resistance and to spark a civil war.
- We knew, since the publication by the PKK daily, Özgür Gündem, of the minutes of the planning meeting held in Amman on 1 June 2014, that the United States had organised the joint offensive of Daesh on Mosul and the Kurdistan Regional Government on Kirkuk.
- We now know with certainty that Washington has never stopped supporting Daesh.

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Fifth, we had interpreted the conflict between the Allen/Clinton/Feltman/Petraeus clan on one hand, and the Obama/Kerry administration on the other, as being concerned with the question of whether or not to support Daesh. This interpretation was wrong. Both sides had no qualms about organising and supporting the most fanatical of jihadists. Their disagreement concerned only the recourse to open warfare — and the risk of potential conflict with Russia — or the choice of secret action. Only Flynn — Donald Trump’s current security advisor — is opposed to jihadism.

If, in a few years, the United States should collapse as the USSR did, this recording of John Kerry could be used against him, and against Barack Obama, before an international court — but not before the International Criminal Court, which today is discredited. Having recognised the extracts of this conversation which have been published by the New York Times, he would no longer be able to contest the authenticity of the whole dossier. The support that Kerry offers to Daesh violates several UN resolutions and constitutes proof of his responsibility and that of Obama in the crimes against humanity committed by the terrorist organisation.

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The Syria Peace Talks in Astana. Will Trump Administration Participate?

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During six years of Obama’s war, three rounds of Geneva talks failed – because of US obstructionism.

Neocons infesting Obama’s administration wanted endless war for regime change, not peace; mass slaughter and destruction, not conflict resolution; chaos, not calm.

Will Trump go a different way? It’ll take a while to find out. Much depends on what he decides. Sunday is his third day in office.

Though active pre-inauguration, Friday and Saturday, he won’t hit the ground running until Monday – even though working days are every day for presidents.

Russia extended an invitation to his administration to participate in Astana, Kazakhstan Syria peace talks – specifically National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Delegations from Syria, Russia, Iran, Turkey, an umbrella group representing opposition terrorists (excluding ISIS and al-Nusra), and pro-Western UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura are attending.

According to acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner, “(g)iven our presidential inauguration and the immediate demands of the transition, a delegation from Washington” won’t be participating.

Trump’s secretary of state designee Rex Tillerson hasn’t yet been confirmed. On Monday, Senate Foreign Relations Committee members will vote on his nomination.

Republicans hold a one seat majority. Neocon senators Marco Rubio (FL) and John McCain (AZ) haven’t said if they’ll support or oppose him.

With or without majority Foreign Relations Committee approval, he’s likely to get the needed 50 or more full Senate votes to become Trump’s chief foreign policy official.

Until then, the office of secretary of state is being run by lower-level bureaucrats, including Obama holdover Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon, Jr.

US ambassador to Kazakhstan George Krol will attend Syria peace talks as an observer. On February 8, follow-up discussions will be held in Geneva, hopefully with full US participation, committed for conflict resolution – not rage for endless war like Obama.

Astana talks will focus on confirming ceasefire terms agreed to by Russia, Iran and Turkey, based on the provisions of Security Council Resolution 2254 – effective midnight December 29, ISIS and al-Nusra excluded.

According to an unnamed source close to the talks, no new initiatives are planned. “The key task is to confirm” ceasefire agreement terms.

From the opposition’s side at the talks will be exclusively representatives of armed groups, who can undertake straight obligations to observe truce.

For the first time, Syrian officials and opposition group representatives will hold face-to-face talks. Whether success is possible this time, unlike earlier, remains to be seen.

Astana was chosen as a neutral venue. Talks are scheduled for January 23 and 24, maybe longer if necessary – to be followed by a news conference when completed.

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US intervention in Syria? Not under Trump

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The Trump administration may recognise that the Syrian army is the only institution committed to resisting terrorism in its country

A new coalition of US-based organisations is pushing for a more aggressive US intervention against the Assad regime. But both the war in Syria and politics in the United States have shifted dramatically against this objective.

When it was formed last July, the coalition hoped that a Hillary Clinton administration would pick up its proposals for a more forward stance in support of the anti-Assad armed groups. But with Donald Trump in office instead, the supporters of a US war in Syria now have little or no chance of selling the idea.

One of the ways the group is adjusting to the new political reality is to package its proposal for deeper US military engagement on behalf of US-supported armed groups as part of a plan to counter al-Qaeda, now calling itself Jabhat Fateh al Sham.

But that rationale depends on a highly distorted presentation of the problematic relations between those supposedly “moderate” groups and al-Qaeda’s Syrian offshoot.

Plan for a Clinton White House…

The “Combating al-Qaeda in Syria Strategy Group” was formed last July by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), according to the policy paper distributed at an event at the Atlantic Council on 12 January.

The “Strategy Group” also includes Charles Lister of the Middle East Institute and Jennifer Cafarella of the Institute for the Study of War, both of whom have advocated direct US military force against the Syrian regime in support of the armed opposition.

The new coalition of think tanks began meeting last summer when the politics in Washington seemed favorable toward a political campaign for decisive US intervention in Syria

But it was CNAS that had the political clout to bring the coalition together under what appeared to be very favourable circumstances. Michele Flournoy, the founder and CEO of CNAS and a former third-ranking Pentagon official, was reported to be Clinton’s likely choice for secretary of defence during the 2016 presidential primaries. And the June 2016 report of a CNAS “study group” co-chaired by Flournoy was in line with Clinton’s openly declared support for a more muscular US intervention in Syria.

That report had called for a US-declared “no bombing zone” to protect armed opposition groups, vetted by the CIA, from Syrian and Russian attacks. Flournoy had then described the policy in an interview as telling the Russian and Syrian governments: “If you bomb the folks we support, we will retaliate using standoff means to destroy [Russian] proxy forces, or, in this case, Syrian assets.”

The new coalition of think tanks began meeting last summer when the politics in the United States seemed favorable for a political campaign for US military intervention in Syria.

On 30 September, Lister published a lengthy essay calling on the United States to provide shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to ”moderate” opposition groups as well as to threaten attacks on the Syrian army if it violated the ceasefire. Lister was obviously hoping that President Clinton would adopt that policy option a few months later.

…repackaged for a Trump presidency

Now the new strategy group is trying to sell the same proposal to Trump, calling it “a holistic, preventative counter-terrorism policy that empowers moderate Syrians… to overcome extremists in Syria….” It argues that al-Qaeda is seeking to gain control over areas now controlled by “moderate” forces in order to establish “an enduring Sunni extremist order in Syria”.

But the argument that these armed groups, which the US has supported in the past, would be prepared to resist al-Qaeda’s long-term caliphate with more money and arms and US bombing of Assad’s air force, is too divorced from reality to have traction in Washington now. In fact, the so-called “moderate” armed groups have never been truly independent of al Qaeda in Syria. They have depended on the highly disciplined troops of al-Qaeda and its closest allies and the military strategy devised by al-Qaeda commanders to pressure the Assad regime.

The so-called “moderate” armed groups have never been truly independent of al Qaeda in Syria

Lister himself has been clear on this point. Under his proposed plan for the United States to use the threat of military force against the regime, the CIA-vetted “moderate” armed opposition groups were not expected to end their military cooperation with Fateh al-Sham or to separate themselves physically from its forces, as had been provided in both the February and September ceasefire agreements.

Lister stated explicitly his assumption that such cooperation was “unlikely to diminish significantly” – even if his proposal were to be carried out.

Rather, the idea of Lister’s plan was to force negotiations on the Assad regime. That aim would still obviously have required the continued military power of Fateh al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham to succeed.

Lister and his fellow coalition members are not likely to be able to sell the new administration on the idea that any of the Syrian armed groups the CIA has supported would even consider seriously resisting Fateh al-Sham under any remotely believable circumstances.

Syrian army: The only alternative?

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius recently recalled meeting with leaders of Harakat al-Hazm, considered the most promising “moderate” armed group in Syria, at a safehouse in Turkey in late 2014. He found them “despondent”, because the United States had just carried out a rare air strike on al -Qaeda operatives believed to be plotting a terrorist attack on the West.

They told Ignatius that, because of the US bombing what was then called the Nusra Front would no longer tolerate the group’s operations. Soon after the meeting, the Nusra Front did indeed eliminate Harakat al-Hazm and appropriate all the TOW missiles and other military equipment the CIA had given them.

It recognised that, despite the serious faults of the Assad regime, the Syrian army was the only Syrian institution committed to resisting the terrorist presence in Syria

The Ignatius account reflects a fundamental reality throughout northern Syria, from 2013 onwards, that was simply ignored in media coverage: all of the opposition groups have been absorbed into an al-Qaeda-controlled political-military order. The idea that the “moderate” groups could be a bulwark against al-Qaeda, which is now being peddled by Lister, Cafarella and CNAS, no longer has any credibility even in those quarters in Washington that were once open to it.

A tell-tale sign of the shift in attitude toward those groups’ mood in Washington is the fact that Ignatius used the past tense in referring to the CIA’s programme of arming the “moderate” groups in Syria in his article last month.

The US military leadership was never on board with the policy of relying on those armed groups to advance US interests in Syria in the first place.

It recognised that, despite the serious faults of the Assad regime, the Syrian army was the only Syrian institution committed to resisting both al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

It seems likely that the Trump administration will now return to that point as it tries to rebuild a policy from the ashes of the failed policy of the Obama administration.

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ISIS Repelled, Heavy Clashes between Ahrar Al-Sham and Al-Nusra in Idlib

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Syrian War Report: ISIS Repelled, Heavy Clashes between Ahrar Al-Sham and Al-Nusra in Idlib

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The Syrian army and the National Defense Forces (NDF), supported by attack helicopters, have advanced southwest of the Tiyas Airbase, recapturing from ISIS several hills overlooking Phosphate area near al-Qaryatayn. The village of Al-Baridah is the most likely target of the offensive.

Pro-government sources report that over 30 ISIS members were killed in the recent clashes. ISIS supporters say that the army lost 1 battle tank, 2 vehicles equipped with a machine gun and a Shilka anti-aircraft gun.

The ISIS offensive in Deir Ezzor bogged in the Syrian army’s defenses. Government troops, supported by the Russian-Syrian air power, have repelled at least 5 ISIS attacks in various parts of the city, killing and wounding some 15 militants. However, the army has not been able to successfully counter-attack to increase its chances to link-up the separated pockets.

ISIS is now deploying reinforcements to develop the tactical success gained in the city.

At least three YPG members were killed and five wounded in an ISIS attack on a YPG security center in the village of Suwaydiya in the province of Raqqah. The YPG, backed up by the US-led coalition, is now preparing for further military operations in the Raqqah countryside in order to isolate this major ISIS stronghold.

Last night, the US Air Force bombed a military camp belonging to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) near Daret Izza in western Aleppo, according to pro-militant media outlets. Up to 110 members of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and Nour al-Din al-Zenki were killed as result of the air raid. Members the so-called “White Helmets” were first to arrive the scene to help terrorists.

On January 19, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham attacked a number of Ahrar al-Sham checkpoints and local headquarters in the militant-held province of Idlib.

After a series of clashes, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham units seized from Ahrar al-Sham the Khirbet al-Jawz crossing on Turkish border, few checkpoints and a local headquarters in Khirbet al-Jawz. Some Ahrar al-Sham members were taken captive. An infighting between the militant groups were also reported near Darkoush, Jisr ash-Shugur and Bdama.

The groups blame each other in the social media for undermining the “values of Syrian revolution”.

Local sources say that the clashes are result of the ongoing “political” standoff among militant groups for the power in the province of Idlib which became the main militant stronghold in Syria after the liberation of the Aleppo city. Earlier this week, Ahrar al-Sham announced that the group will not participate in the Astana talks and preferred to play in local games in Idlib.

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Riyadh Continues to Supports ISIS-Daesh

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Riyadh Continues to Supports ISIS-Daesh, Contradictory Saudi Stance on Syria Peace Talks

 
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Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir currently stated that the Syrian talks in Astana would lead to ceasefire in the country.

However, in this context, the minister’s statement sounds a little bit strange as throughout the Syrian conflict, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have been providing comprehensive assistance to Islamic State terrorists, supplying weapons, equipment and mercenaries to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. There are undeniable proofs of these “acts of good will” on behalf of Saudi Arabia.

Large chemical reserves seized by the Syrian army last week in eastern Aleppo destined for the manufacture of explosives can be characterized as striking example of “act of a good will”. The bags with chemical materials had the name of the Saudi chemical plant Sachlo printed on them. Besides, the previous month, Saudi Interior Ministry stated that more than 1,500 Saudi Arabia subjects fought in the ranks of ISIS in Syria.

Moreover, along with the strong evidence of the Saudi presence in Syria, there are also witnesses and even participants of Riyadh’s intervention. At the very beginning of conflict, Daily Telegraph journalists stated that Syrian Army arrested several opposition militants who confessed in being paid from the representatives of Saudi Arabia directly through their commanders. They also admitted that they got about $25 per day without including $400 for their participation in military operations against the Syrian government.

It should be mentioned that Saudi Arabia’s Defense budget is still one of the biggest in the world and equals to $18.7 billion while the manpower of Saudi Arabia estimates some 200,000 servicemen. In comparison, China spends $17 billion on defense with the strength of 2,4 million servicemen. Consequently, it is believed that the military budget is spent on financing terrorist and radical organizations, due to which the KSA government tends to overthrow the legitimate government of Syria.

After beginning of the conflict Syrian citizens in order to save their lives flooded different European countries and other parts of the world, instead of going to the Gulf States. At the same time a lot of terrorists under the guise of refuges entered Europe in order to commit terrorists act and spread Islamist propaganda. Consequently Gulf States are exporting terrorism all around the world but trying not to be blamed for these actions.

To be mentioned is that Al-Jubeir’s statement drastically differs for the earlier stated goal as Saudi Arabia is unlikely interested in peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis. Saudi Arabia also fears that if the Syrian government gets an upper hand over terrorists, they will have to return home. Thus, the major part of the militants is the Persian Gulf citizens and it is a direct threat to the Saudi Arabia regime.

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Syria: Consign “Barrel Bombs” to the Propaganda Graveyard

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Every time one of these barrels strikes, it is the seismological equivalent of a 7.6 magnitude earthquake, and it happens around 50 times a day.  (In Syria)You can’t dial 911. You can’t dial the fire service. You can’t call the local police department. They don’t exist.” ~ James Le Mesurier, British ex-military trainer of the NATO-state, multi-million-dollar-funded White Helmets, based in Gaziantep, Turkey.

In an interview with CNN in May 2015, this is the claim made by British mercenary trainer of the White Helmets to Dr Sanjay Gupta. Again, in June 2015, Le Mesurier made a similar claim to an audience during a speech at The Performance Theatre, Lisbon  entitled very grandly, “Act 1: Witnesses to history in the making”.

On the front page of the fraudulently named Syria Civil Defence aka the NATO state sponsored, White Helmets, there is the same claim made by the extensively discredited, Ammar Al Salmo“leader” of the Syria Civil Defence in Aleppo:

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Al Salmo’s “evidence” was pivotal to the US alliance claims that, on 21st September 2016, Russian jets had targeted a humanitarian convoy to the west of Aleppo – Urum al Kubra, causing international outcry and almost precipitating a terrifying escalation of the conflict between Russia and the US on Syrian soil. Claims that were universally debunked, as were so many before them. Syricide on Twitter produced a video that demonstrates the grave anomalies in the Al Salmo report, that was used to trigger international outrage against Russia and the Syrian government.

In November 2016, Raed Saleh, president of the White Helmets and “humanitarian” poster boy for the international community supporting the terrorist support group, gave an acceptance speech for the Right Livelihood Award. During this speech, Saleh reinforced the barrel bomb/earthquake imagery and increased the magnitude to a whopping 8:0

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Here is the segment of the speech in which Saleh presents the barrel bomb case. Watch ~

Just after the liberation of East Aleppo by the Syrian Arab Army and allies, BBC Radio 4 interviewed James Le Mesurier who trotted out the usual platitudes regarding his band of “selfless humanitarians”, described, universally as “Nusra Front civil defence” by Syrian civilians freed from almost five years of Nusra Front-led terrorist and extremist imprisonment, supported by the interventionist alliance of the US, UK, EU, Gulf States, Turkey, Israel, Canada, Jordan & Australia & Co.This time the BBC, themselves, announce that one barrel bomb is equivalent to an earthquake of an 8:0 magnitude, so parroting the White Helmet and NATO-state-aligned NGO narrative without hesitation. Listen to the interview here. 

We have compiled statements by James Le Mesurier into a short video. They include the bare-faced lie, presented to CNN, that in Syria there is no emergency number to call for rescue or fire services, an attempt by this UK regime intelligence operative & OBE recipient, to disappear the REAL Syria Civil Defence, established in 1953: Watch ~

Do they have us over a Barrel?Just a casual check on scientific charts correlating Richter scale magnitude with corresponding amounts of explosives will show that anything above a 7.0 magnitude would require as much as 20 billion kilograms of TNT, or according to other charts as much as 10 megatons, something approaching the output of an atom bomb, greater than the one used against Hiroshima by the US.

21st Century Wire had previously debunked CNN claims, in October 2016, that a White Helmet centre in Damascus had been targeted by a barrel bomb:

A NOBEL LIE: CNN’s Claim That ‘White Helmets Center in Damascus’ Was Hit by a Barrel Bomb

In August 2015, Ken Roth, director of Human Rights Watchtweeted that “Assad’s barrel bombs” were equivalent to the US nuclear bomb that had destroyed Hiroshima.

YallaLaBarra’s blog addressed Ken Roth’s unhealthy obsession with barrel bombs:

“This was the first of a whopping 200 Syria tweets that he has posted about “barrel bombs”. These don’t include at least an equal number of other anti-government tweets that range from Assad’s “use of chemical weapons against his people” to fawning praise of militants in Syria. Between 12 November 2013 and December 2014, Ken Roth tweeted about “barrel bombs” (BB) a total of 65 times. This is no small number, but it pales in comparison to the 135 barrel bomb tweets he posted in 2015 – thus far. During the first 8 months of 2015, the frequency of barrel bomb tweets varied from month to month. For example, after having posted 27 BB tweets in February of 2015, he surprisingly controlled his urges and kept it at under 15 for each of the following 4 months (March -June). In July his obsession got the best of him and he graced us with 28 BB tweets.Things got worse in August with a staggering 40 BB tweets. One of the reasons the BB tweeting became so trigger happy in the last two months is because he is now frantically inserting “barrel bombs” into tweets that are unrelated to the topic.”

Now lets consider the earthquake magnitude claim, bearing in mind that, at various stages, members of the NATO-aligned White Helmets and associated NGOs, & corporate media outlets have stated that as many as 50 of these earthquakes are hitting Syria per day for possibly the last six years.

Here’s a look at the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which struck January 12, 2010. The earthquakemeasured a “mere” (by White Helmet standards) 7.0 magnitude:

earthquake-haiti

Figures taken from Dec.org reports.

Corporate Media Plays Along

On the 10th January 2017, the Independent’s headline was – “Assad ‘dropped 13,000 barrel bombs on Syria in 2016’, watchdog claims” .

So according to this headline, Syrian president, Bashar Al Assad, personally dropped 13, 000 (equivalent to) atom bombs on his own country and people in 12 months. Even the war-hungry US administration, with its penchant for obliterating entire nations would struggle to match that accolade!

snhr

The “watchdog” that has been cited by The Independent is none other than the Syrian Network for Human Rights, a long term purveyor of the barrel bomb myth and one of the multitude of NGOs affiliated with the anti-Syria-war-propaganda-impresario, George Sorosalong with the Ford Foundation & the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Helicopters Carry Two Bombs

James Le Mesurier confirms what independent warfare analysts had previously told me, that a helicopter will carry two barrel bombs at at time.SNHR report:

“The report documents that Syrian regime helicopters dropped 12,958 barrel bombs in 2016. Most of these barrel bombs were dropped in Damascus suburbs governorate, followed by Aleppo and then Hama, Idlib, Daraa, and Homs. Furthermore, November 2016 saw the most of these barrel bombs with 1946 dropped followed by June, and then January and August.”

In order to achieve this, the Syrian Airforce would have to fly 19 helicopter missions per day every day for the whole year. That is with limited airports available to them, the effect of sanctions,resulting in fuel shortages, and taking into consideration daylight hours and distances to and from alleged targets. Not to mention, downtime, maintenance etc.

Also, if there had been 19 helicopter flights per day over this time period, is it not strange that we dont see footage of these helicopters other than the oft recycled images & video that are used to depict these attacks? The NATO state funded, Turkish based and trained “citizen journalists” cameramen and women, “activists” have the equipment to record such flights, surely?

In this video which is a 9 minute alleged compilation of barrel bomb attacks, we actually see what looks suspiciously like reused shots of barrel bombs, or rudimentary finned Mortar-type bombs, being dropped by helicopters. The majority of the footage is actually of airforce, air to ground missile attacks on various terrorist and extremist held positions in Syria. There is the clear sound of Combat jets prior to the bombing.

James Longman of the BBC, embedded with such “activists & citizen journalists” in Homs & Damascus in 2011, during the early days of the NATO state-fomented armed uprising against the Syrian state, told the Frontline Club that they had impressive technological/media capabilities. So why is there not better coverage of the 19 helicopter missions per day?

danny-longman

Taken from James Longman’s Facebook post. I was blocked for 7 days on Facebook for violating “community standards” when I reposted a screenshot of our debate and Longman has now blocked me on Twitter.

The Nusra Front-led factions, with whom these so called “activists” and “citizen journalists” are embedded, certainly have the “equipment” to shoot helicopters down..as with the Russian helicopter flying in humanitarian aid in August 2016.

The Numbers Game

In their report, SNHR claim:

“According to the report, the barrel bombs that were dropped by Syrian regime warplanes in 2016 resulted in the killing of 653 civilians including 166 children and 86 women.”

How reliable these figures are, is hard to analyse. The majority of the statistics reported by these weaponized NGOs come from the SOHR (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights) that is notorious for mingling “civilian” deaths with those of the NATO-state funded and armed terrorist & extremist factions. The SOHR is in reality, Rami Abdulrahman, an EU funded one-man-band operating out of Coventry in the UK and communicating with “activists” via Skype.

“Abdulrahman of the SOHR admitted in 2012: “I have thousands of rebels in the civilian list. I put all the non-defectors in the civilian list…It isn’t easy to count rebels because nobody on the ground says ‘this is a rebel.’ Everybody hides it.” In another interview he confirmed the view that “most of Syria’s dead were combatants, not civilians.” ~ The Death Toll in Syria, What do the Numbers Really Say?

According to a former US diplomat who had served in Syria:

“I have serious problems with all the talk about military intervention in Syria. Everyone, especially the media, seems to be relying solely on anti-regime activists for their information. How do we know 260 people were killed by the regime in Homs yesterday? That number seems based solely on claims by anti-regime figures and I seriously doubt its accuracy.” ~ Veteran US Diplomat Questions Syria Storyline by Sharmine Narwani.

barrel-bombs-syria-e1459968742827

According to their previous meme, for the period between March 2011 and March 2016, over 35, 956 barrel bombs have been dropped by the Syrian airforce, killing 14, 652 civilians. Now this is a fascinating piece of analysis by SNHR, as even, NATO intervention sympathiser, Elliot Higginsaka Brown Moses of Bellingcat states that the first recorded barrel bomb attack in Syria, was in August 2012. A fact, corroborated by Wikipediain their list of barrel bomb attacks.

So if we rely upon Soros-allied SNHR, the barrel bomb attacks started 17 months before they were first recorded. Impressive. This immediately skews the numbers they are presenting.

In “The Barrel Bomb Conundrum”, Craig Murray states, (emphasis added):

“It is a fascinating example of a propaganda meme. Barrel bombs are being used by Syrian government forces, though on a pretty small scale. They are an improvised weapon made by packing conventional explosive into a beer barrel. They are simply an amateur version of a conventional weapon, and they are far less “effective” – meaning devastating – than the professionally made munitions the UK and US are dropping on Syria, or supplying to the Saudis to kill tens of thousands of civilians in Yemen, or to Israel to drop on children in Gaza.”

East Aleppo Liberation Opens Pandora’s Box?

If an earthquake has occurred anywhere in Syria, it is the tectonic plates of corporate media obscurantism and deceit being torn assunder by the truth that has emerged from the liberated districts of East Aleppo.  Civilians escaping their almost five year ordeal of life under Nusra Front-led occuption and brutal imprisonment, exposed the truth behind the corporate media pre-fabricated narratives that had in effect prolonged the suffering of these people, while amplifying the voices of their captors, described euphemistically as “rebels” by the majority of the predatory NATO-aligned “mockingbird” media and NGOs

img_1295

Nusra Front Hell Cannon, captured in Sheikh Saeed, East Aleppo. 12/12/2016. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

img_1813

Nusra Front Hell Cannon, captured in Sukare, East Aleppo. 24/12/2016. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

No mention is made by this media-propaganda juggernaut of the 11,000 recorded and documented dead civilians, among them thousands of children, murdered by the “hell cannon” mortar fire, sniper fire and explosive bullets from Nusra Front-led terrorists in East Aleppo fired deep into Syrian state protected West Aleppo. These figures were given to me by Head of Forensics in Aleppo, Dr Zahar Hajjo and confirmed by Eva Bartlett during her debate with Dilly Hussain on RT.

Nor is there any mention of the recent discoveries of what look suspiciously like barrel bombs, previously stored by Nusra Front and assorted extremist factions in ammunuition depots in the liberated areas of East Aleppo:

There has also been a recent discovery of a vast quantity of gas canisters in the liberated Kalaseh district of East Aleppo. Lets have a look at the technical specification of the barrel bomb. According to an animated depiction of the composition of the barrel bomb, they are filled with “twisted shards of metal shrapnel. When detonated the metal explodes in every direction causing tremendous damage to the immediate area”.

bb

Barrel bomb as depicted in video. Screenshot.

Compare this to a description of the Nusra Front Hell Cannon mortars, from an Aleppo resident:

“The terrorists are using mortars, explosive bullets, cooking-gas cylinders bombs and water-warming long cylinders bombs, filled up with explosives and shrapnel and nails, in what they call “Hell Cannon”. (google these weapons or see their YouTube clips. The cooking-gas cylinder is made of steel, and it weighs around 25 kg. Imagine it thrown by a canon to hit civilians? And imagine knowing that it’s full with explosives?… Yet, the media is busy with the legendary weapon of “barrel bombs”! They came to spread “freedom” among Syrians! How dare they say that Syrian army shouldn’t fight them back?”

Can you tell them apart? 

Many civilians that I interviewed as they were streaming out of the liberated areas of East Aleppo told me that the Nusra Front-led terrorist and militant gangs had often attacked civilian homes, schools and hospitals in the same areas and then blamed it on the Syrian national army.Is it so far fetched to suggest that the barrel bomb myth is just that, a myth propagated by those who are claiming to be under attack while attacking civilians in the areas occupied or besieged by these terrorist factions?

Here is one such testimony from one of the first civilians I spoke to, on the 10th December 2016, in Hanano which had been fully liberated two days previously. Watch: 

ConclusionIt is surely time to put the barrel bomb to bed? It is now an outdated and debunked, mass produced myth. 50 earthquakes per day of an 8.0 magnitude would have obliterated the entire region. Enough of these theatrics designed to obfuscate the very real bloodshed that is being witnessed daily in Syria as a result of the dirty war being waged against it by the US neocons and war hawks, hell-bent on regime change and the weakening of the sovereign nation to please their Israeli allies in the region.

I leave you with a timeless classic, “The Barrel Bomb Song” featuring Ken Roth, a fitting epitaph for one of the most flagrant media fabrications and distortions of the almost six year war of aggression against Syria led by a multitude of NATO & Gulf state funded and armed atrocity committing extremists.

Posted in Syria0 Comments

Joint Russian, Turkish Bombing Campaign in Syria Deepens NATO Crisis

Israel Claims Airstrikes on Damascus

The launching of coordinated air strikes by Russian and Turkish warplanes against Islamic State (ISIS) targets in northern Syria Wednesday has further exposed the crisis gripping Washington’s intervention in the war-ravaged Middle Eastern country, as well as the deepening contradictions plaguing the NATO alliance on the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration as US president.

The bombing campaign struck targets around the Syrian town of al-Bab, the scene of bloody fighting between Turkish troops and ISIS militants over the past several weeks.

From a political standpoint, the joint action by Russia and Turkey, a member of the NATO alliance for the past 65 years, is unprecedented. It stands in stark contradiction to the anti-Moscow campaign being waged by Washington and its principal NATO allies, which has seen the cutting off of military-to-military ties, the imposition of sanctions, and the increasingly provocative deployment of thousands of US and other NATO troops on Russia’s western borders. Just last week, the US sent 3,000 soldiers into Poland, backed by tanks and artillery, while hundreds more US Marines have been dispatched to Norway.

Turkey’s collaboration with Russia represents a further challenge to the US-led alliance under conditions in which Trump has severely rattled its European members with recent statements describing NATO as “obsolete” and charging its members with not “taking care of terror” and not “paying what they’re supposed to pay.”

The joint air attack was carried out under the terms of a memorandum reached between the Russian and Turkish militaries the previous week, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

The document, signed on January 12, was designed to prevent “incidents” between Turkish and Russian warplanes, as well as to prepare “joint operations … in Syria to destroy international terrorist groups,” Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudoskoy said in a statement.

Russian-Turkish relations reached their nadir in November 2015 when Turkish fighter jets ambushed and shot down a Russian warplane carrying out airstrikes against Islamist fighters near the border between Turkey and Syria. The incident brought Turkey, and with it NATO, to the brink of war with nuclear-armed Russia. At that point, Turkey was serving as the main conduit for foreign fighters, weapons and other resources being poured into Syria to wage the US-orchestrated war for regime change, while Russia was intervening to prop up its principal Middle East ally, the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In June of last year, Ankara sought to mend it relations with Moscow, which had retaliated for the shoot-down with economic sanctions. Relations grew closer in the wake of the abortive July 2016 military coup, which the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed on the US and its allies.

The turning point in bilateral relations between Turkey and Russia came at the end of last year, with the Russian-backed Syrian army’s routing of the Western-backed, Al Qaeda-linked militias in their last urban stronghold of eastern Aleppo. Turkey joined with Russia in brokering a withdrawal of the last “rebels” from the area and a nationwide ceasefire, which continues to prevail in much of the country.

Washington was pointedly excluded from the negotiations surrounding both Aleppo and the ceasefire. Only at the last moment has Moscow invited the incoming Trump administration—over the objection of Syria’s other major ally, Iran—to participate in talks aimed at reaching a political settlement over the six-year-old war that are to convene in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, next week.

The joint Russian-Turkish airstrikes around al-Bab came in the wake of bitter protests by the Turkish government over the refusal of the US military to provide similar air support for Ankara’s troops in the area. The Pentagon’s reluctance stemmed from the conflicting aims pursued by Turkey, which sent its troops into Syria last August in what the Erdogan government dubbed “Operation Euphrates Shield.”

Ostensibly directed against ISIS, Ankara’s primary target was really the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing, the People’s Protection Unit (YPG). The Turkish government views these groups as affiliates of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), against which it has waged a protracted counterinsurgency campaign within Turkey itself. The offensive against ISIS-controlled al-Bab is aimed principally at preventing it from falling to the YPG and at blocking the linking up of eastern and western Kurdish enclaves along Turkey’s border.

For its part, Washington has utilized the YPG as its principal proxy ground force in the US attack on ISIS, sending in US special forces troops to arm, train and direct these Kurdish fighters.

The US refusal to back Turkish forces around al-Bab with airstrikes led to angry denunciations of Washington by the Turkish president, who charged that the US was supporting “terrorists” instead of its NATO ally. Ankara also began delaying approval for US flights out of the strategic Incirlik air base in southern Turkey and threatened to deny Washington and its allies access to the base altogether.

It was likely these threats, combined with the Turkish-Russian agreement to conduct joint strikes, that led the Pentagon to reverse its previous refusal to support Turkish forces and launch limited bombing runs around al-Bab as well this week.

This crowded and geostrategically tense battlefield is likely to grow even more dangerous following Trump’s ascension to the White House.

Trump has reportedly called for the Pentagon to come up with proposals to deal a decisive defeat to ISIS in Syria and Iraq within 90 days. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Wednesday that he would “present options to accelerate the campaign” against ISIS to retired general James Mattis, Trump’s incoming defense secretary.

Citing unnamed Pentagon officials, CNN reports that “The Defense Department is prepared to provide the new administration with military options to accelerate the war against ISIS in Syria that could send additional US troops into direct combat.”

“One option would put hundreds, if not thousands, of additional US troops into a combat role as part of the fight to take Raqqa,” the Islamic State’s Syrian “capital,” according to the television news network. “… in the coming months, the Pentagon could put several US brigade-sized combat teams on the ground, each team perhaps as many as 4,000 troops.”

Plans are also reportedly being drawn up to escalate military provocations against Iran, which Mattis, in testimony before the Senate, described as the “biggest destabilizing force in the Middle East,” adding that the Trump administration must “checkmate Iran’s goal for regional hegemony.”

There is every indication, Trump’s rhetoric about improving relations with Moscow notwithstanding, that US imperialism is preparing for another eruption of militarism in the Middle East that will pose an ever greater threat of spilling over into a new world war.

Posted in Russia, Syria, Turkey0 Comments

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