Tag Archive | "Syria"

Medical Evacuations in Syria, Deal between Syrian Government and the Terrorists

Featured image: Jan Egeland, Special Advisor to the UN Special Envoy for Syria. (Source: Violaine Martin/ UN Geneva)

The Syrian Red Crescent, a branch of the International Committee of the Red Cross, has confirmed that 29 critically ill persons were evacuated from East Ghouta, near Damascus, Syria on Friday. The 29 evacuated included 17 children, 6 women and 6 men. A crucial part of this deal included the release of 29 civilians who had been kidnapped from Adra by The Army of Islam in December 2013.

The deal was between the Syrian government and the terrorists, with oversight by the Syrian Red Crescent.

The Army of Islam, also known as Jaish Islam, is a Radical terrorist group which professes the Salafist ideology. It is supported by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and was headed by the Syrian terrorist Zahran Alloush, who was killed in December 2015.  The Army of Islam is the main fighting group in East Ghouta. The Army of Islam shares the same ideology as ISIS, however, the western media often labels them as rebels.

The 29 civilians hostages released were part of a much larger group of hostages captured by The Army of Islam in a massacre at the industrial city of Adra, north of Damascus, in December 2013. The exact number of hostages being held for four years is unknown, but they include children, women, men, and some are family groups. These hostages were living in a workers compound, with families together in living facilities, while the adults worked in various industries, such as a cement factory. Some of the civilians were living and employed in the area in service jobs; such as shop keepers and bakers. Adra was a thriving community of workers and their families, not far from the Syrian capital.

The Army of Islam, along with other armed terrorists of similar ideology, swept into Adra and went house to house slaughtering people, in some cases entire families. The massacre continued for two days, while the terrorists were singing battle songs about cleansing Syria from all Christians and non-Sunni Muslims. The attack and massacre was carried out for sectarian reasons against minorities. A Christian physician named George was beheaded. The bakery workers resisted having their equipment vandalized and were baked alive in their own ovens. The terrorists had captured so many hostages that they could not handle the numbers, and they released 5,000 persons initially, who were later rescued by the Syrian military. However, the terrorists took hostages which they have held now for 4 years.

Zahran Alloush became famous for taking some of those hostages and parading them around in cages, reminiscent of circus cages, in December 2015, shortly before his death. He also ordered women hostages to be driven around the area on a cage on the back of a truck. He and his group have used civilians as human shields for years, which is a war crime.  According to Human Rights Watch, the practice constitutes hostage-taking and an outrage against their personal dignity, which are both war crimes.

Zahran Alloush’s brother Mohamed is the leader of the political arm of The Army of Islam and has participated in many of the UN sponsored Geneva meetings, as a formal representative of the Syrian opposition, in their negotiations for the purpose of bringing an end to the suffering in Syria.

The UN’s humanitarian co-coordinator, Jan Egeland has criticized the deal made for the swap of 29 civilian hostages from Adra, in exchange for 29 ill civilians from inside East Ghouta, which is under the control of the terrorists who originally massacred and kidnapped the civilians in Adra.   Mr. Egeland called the deal ‘bad’ when interviewed by the BBC. He said the ill patients deserved medical treatment without being part of a swap. The families of the 29 hostages released after 4 years of torture, deprivation and suffering might not agree with Mr. Egeland’s assessment. They might well ask, how could an international humanitarian official deem one child suffering an illness, but who belongs to the terrorist’s community, as more deserving than a child who has suffered capture for 4 years? Suffering on both sides of the Syrian conflict has been felt for 7 years.

Western leaders, western officials and the western media have come under criticism for consistently highlighting the plight of the terrorists and their supporters, who are under threat from attacks by the Syrian government forces. However, the plight of the millions of Syrian civilians living in Damascus, and facing at times a daily barrage of rockets and missiles into residential neighborhoods, which originate from East Ghouta, is rarely focused on. Syrian military airstrikes against terrorist positions and enclaves are reported by the western media in detail, including amateur videos uploaded by the terrorists themselves and considered as ‘news’. There has been an unbalanced story-line fed to the international audience: even though the terrorist groups in Syria would be hunted down and killed if they were in USA, UK, Europe, Canada or Australia, the media spins the story as if they are ‘rebels’ fighting for political change in Syria, with full support from the Syrian people. The UN’s humanitarian co-coordinator, Jan Egeland would seem to be reinforcing this unbalanced view in his comparison of the two sides in the swap.

The Russian government has tried to convince the UN Security Council to designate The Army of Islam as a terrorist group; however, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Ukraine have refused this designation. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said,

“We have called for this and submitted a relevant proposal to the sanctions committee, so that they [the groups] would be added to the list of terrorist organizations, but so far, our Western partners are not ready for this.”

The conflict in Syria has entered into its last stage. Western leaders demanded a political settlement to the war, all the while supporting the militants on the ground. It would appear that a military solution will be the end of the war in Syria. The armed men supported by the US-NATO and Arab countries of Persian Gulf alliance have lost the war, and are in their final days. All eyes are now on the next monumental meeting at Sochi, and the opposition will try to negotiate their defeat.

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Syria: Egregious Lies and Crimes Are The Foundation of Western Foreign Policy


This article was first published by GR on May 2017.

Syrians are just like you and me.

They seek to live happy, secure lives, in which they can thrive and prosper.

NATO terrorists are destroying Syria, and they have been destroying Syria for about six years.  Infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, water supplies, electric plants, roads and bridges have been and continue to be targeted and destroyed.

Video by Pierre Le Corf

Syrian resident and documentary film maker Tom Duggan bears witness to the terrorists’ willful destruction of schools and school infrastructure throughout Syria as well as the theft of factory equipment and the willful destruction of factories in Aleppo.

NATO terrorists deny Syrians safety, and the means to earn a living. They seek the complete destruction of Syria, its history, and its secular identity.

The real, evidence-based account of Syria’s plight is obliterated by the West’s criminal mainstream media complex, which serves as an appendage of the warmongering elites.

Humanitarian Pierre Le Corf demonstrates that the sources for the Western news stories are not only embedded with the terrorists, but that, in some instances, as is the case with the infamous White Helmets, the sources are the terrorists.

Evidence from the liberation of Aleppo reveals that the White Helmets are FSA, that they are al Qaeda/al Nusra, and that they are Daesh/ISIS.

Video by Pierre Le Corf

Prof. Tim Anderson compiles the evidence from the above video in the photo montage below.

Western governments have lost their legitimacy.  They do not represent the informed will of the people whom they claim to represent.  They conduct their criminal foreign policy based on a foundation of lies.

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Syria – Russia Accusing U.S. of Attacks, Abduction Attempts, Team-play with Al-Qaeda


The situation in Syria is reaching another critical point. There is an increased possibility of a large scale clash between U.S. and Russian forces. We had warned of such a clash over control of the rich fields east of Deir Ezzor. At least three incidents over the last days point to more significant escalations.

  • On the 17th the U.S. accused Russia of a light air attack on its proxy forces north of Deir Ezzor. Russia denied that it had attacked those forces.
  • On the 18th and 19th large contingents of Russian and Syrian troops crossed the Euphrates at Deir Ezzor in east-Syria. The U.S. Kurdish/Arab proxy force in the area actively tried to hinder that movement.
  • In parallel a large al-Qaeda attack was launched in west-Syria. The Russian forces accuse U.S. intelligence services of having initiated that campaign. (The Syrian-Russian forces defeated the attack.)
  • Today the Russian military accused the U.S. Kurdish proxies near Deir Ezzor of firing artillery on its forces. It threatened massive retaliation.

The most dramatic incident was the al-Qaeda attack in Idleb.

Al-Qaeda in Syria, renamed to Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, currently controls Idleb governate and Idleb city in north-west Syria. On September 19 it launched a large scale attack on Syrian government positions in north Hama, south of Idleb provinces. The al-Qaeda forces gained significant grounds before being stopped and forced to retreat. Nearly all the heavy weapons, tanks and artillery, that al-Qaeda had in the area were used and in the attack.

The spokesperson of the Russian military said (vid with English subtitles) that, according to Russian intelligence reports, al-Qaeda’s attack was made on behalf of the U.S. to slow down the Syrian-Russian campaign in the eastern province Deir Ezzor. A subtask for the terrorists was to capture a platoon of Russian soldiers. This is, to my knowledge, the first time that Russia made such a direct and extremely grave accusation against the U.S. forces and intelligence services in Syria.

From the Russian military statement:

For 24 hours, insurgents managed to dent the government troops’ defence line for up to 12 kilometers in depth and up to 20 kilometers in front.According to the received data, this offensive was initiated by the US special agencies in order to stop successful advance of the Syrian Arab Army to the east from Deir ez-Zor.

Seizing of a unit of the Russian Military Police was one of the main aims of insurgents. The Russian MP unit was operating in an observation post deployed as de-escalation observation forces.

As a result, the MP platoon (29 persons) was blocked by insurgents.

The encirclement has been breached. Units of the Russian Armed Forces have reached locations of SAA without losses.

After the al-Qaeda attack was launched the Russian air force in Syria initiated a massive counter campaign over Idleb province.

For the last 24 hours, aviation and artillery units have eliminated 187 objects, 850 terrorists, 11 tanks, 4 IFVs, 46 pickups, 5 mortars, 20 trucks, and 38 ammunition storages.Units of the 5th Airborne Assault Corpse launched a counter-attack and almost took [all] lost positions.

Pictures from the area showed several destroyed tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. This was a very costly campaign for al-Qaeda with no significant gain. It seems that Syrian and Russian intelligence were aware that an attack was coming but not of the details. For a while the situation was extremely critical. Then the large aerial counter campaign caught al-Qaeda by surprise and destroyed the attacking forces.

At the same time as the al-Qaeda attack in Idleb started U.S. proxy forces in east-Syria (yellow) took measures to hinder the fight of Syrian forces (red) against the Islamic State (black).

Source: Weekend Warrior

The Syrian government forces are cleared nearly all of Deir Ezzor city of ISIS forces. At stake now is the control of the oil fields east of Deir Ezzor and north of the Euphrates river.

Soon after crossing the Euphrates Syrian troops came under fire from U.S. proxy positions:

“According to the reports that the Syrian commanders have been sending from the frontline, most serious counter-attacks and mass shelling on the Syrian troops come from the north,” he said. “It is the area where units of the Syrian Democratic Forces, as well as the US special operations units, are deployed, who, according to CNN, are providing medical aid to these militants instead of participating in the operation to liberate Raqqa,” [Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor] Konashenkov said.

The U.S. proxies also use their control of the Tabqa dam to hinder the river crossing:

Water discharges from the Euphrates dams controlled by the US-backed opposition hamper the advance of Syrian government troops near Deir ez-Zor, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Tuesday.”Thus, the water situation on the Euphrates has deteriorated dramatically in the past 24 hours. As soon as the Syrian government troops began to cross the river, water level in the Euphrates rose within hours and the current velocity nearly doubled to two meters per second,” he said.

Today the Russian Defense Ministry accused the U.S. proxy forces of directly shelling its Syrian allies and the Russian forces accompanying them:

Russia warned a representative of the US command in Al Udeid, Qatar, that “any attempts of shelling from the areas where the militants of the Syrian Democratic Forces are based will be immediately curbed.””Firing points in these areas will be immediately suppressed by all means of destruction,” the general said.

Fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces approaching Deir ez-Zor from the north are easily joining IS terrorists, and Russian drones and reconnaissance recorded no clash between the IS with a “third force,” namely the SDF over the past week, he explained.

However, massive fire from mortars and rocket artillery was opened twice on the Syrian troops from the areas on the eastern shore of Euphrates where the SDF fighters and servicemen of US special forces are based, Konashenkov said.

The U.S. paid “Syrian Democratic Forces” that pushed into northern Deir Ezzor without meeting any resistance are mostly local tribes who were aligned with the Islamic State until the U.S. diplomat Brett McGurk hired them to fight on the U.S. side. They are led by Kurdish commanders and “advised” by U.S. special forces.

The U.S. wants to keep Syrian government forces away from the oil fields north of the Euphrates. It has plans to build and control a Kurdish proto-state in north-east Syria and control over the eastern Deir Ezzor oil would give such a state the necessary economic base.

But the U.S. has too few proxy forces available to actually take the oil area away from the Islamic State. Only the Syrian army has enough resources in the area. The U.S. is now cheating, attacking Syrian-Russian forces, and rushing to get an advantage. According to the Russians the U.S. Kurdish proxies have even stopped the fight against ISIS in Raqqa and moved forces from that area to take the oil in the east. I doubt that Syria and Russia will allow that to happen without taking measures to counter it.

With the al-Qaeda diversion attack in north-west Syria defeated and more reserves available the Syrian alliance should think about a fast air-assault on the oil fields. As soon as the oil wells are under Syrian government control and the ISIS presence eliminated the U.S. has no more excuse to continue the current deadly game.

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U.S. killing more civilians in Iraq, Syria than it acknowledges


Corrections & Clarifications: An earlier version of this article misstated how many civilian deaths the coalition has acknowledged. The correct number it has admitted to is 21.

ISTANBUL — Al Gharra is a mud-brick village built on hard, flat Syrian desert and populated by the descendants of Bedouin. It is a desolate place. Everything is dun colored: the bare, single-story houses and the stony desert they stand on. There is not much farming — it is too dry — just a few patches of cotton and tobacco.

Before the war, villagers got a little money from the government to look after the national park on Mount Abdul-Aziz, a barren rock that rises 3,000 feet behind the village and stretches miles into the distance. Mount Abdul-Aziz is named after a lieutenant of the 12th-Century Muslim warrior Saladin, who built a fort to dominate the plain below. There is a military base there today too, which changes hands according to the fortunes of Syria’s civil war. In 2011, the regime of Bashar al-Assad held the base; next it was the rebels of the Free Syrian Army; then the so-called Islamic State (ISIL or ISIS); and finally the Kurds, who advanced and took the mountain last May under the cover of American warplanes.

Abdul-Aziz al Hassan is from al Gharra, his first name the same as the mountain’s. He left the village while the Islamic State was in charge, but it is because of a bomb from an American plane that he cannot go back. What happened to his family is the story of just one bomb of the 35,000 dropped so far during 10,000 missions flown in the US-led air war against the Islamic State.

Al Hassan is in his 20s, small, soft-spoken, with chestnut-brown skin. He said the war did not affect al Gharra much back when the regime or the Free Syrian Army occupied the mountain’s military base. But he remembers the day that the Islamic State came. “I was sitting in front of the house when a jeep passed by and stopped at the shrine to Saladin’s commander,” he said. “They gathered all of the people. One said: ‘We are the Islamic State. We are here to create an emirate based on Sharia (Islamic law).’” From that day, they decreed, men had to be in the mosque, the women at home. If a woman wanted to go to the market, she had to walk with a husband, brother or son. No one outside the family could see women uncovered, even at home. “It wasn’t as if we didn’t know what Islam was. But they didn’t even like the way we prayed. Everything we did was wrong in their eyes.”

Still, the presence of Islamic State fighters in the village was rare. They largely stayed within the base. “We managed to live normal lives most of the time. We had family and friends and loved ones around us. We entered each others’ houses for gatherings or parties. We shared the same happiness and sadness.” The U.S.-led coalition occasionally launched airstrikes in the distance. The ground shook “like an earthquake;” sometimes a house fell down. But it wasn’t the bombs or even the dictates of the Islamic State that made al Hassan first leave home. It was the grinding poverty, worsened by war.

“There was no bread and no work,” he said. He took his wife and daughter and drove to Turkey. “My father stayed there to keep the house. The moment you leave, ISIL takes it. All our belongings are there.”

While al Hassan was in Turkey, as spring turned into summer last year, the war took another turn. Kurdish fighters of the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, controlled territory that stopped just short of the mountain. Backed by American air power, they began an offensive to recapture it from the Islamic State. Al Gharra stood in the way. The road to the nearest town — Hasaka, held by the Kurds — was about a mile away from the village. The first bomb fell on that road between 10 and 11 in the morning on May 6 . Then a plane started circling over the village. People were afraid to stay in their homes. They ran into the open. Al Hassan’s father, Ismail, tried to run as well. But he was too late. The villagers remember seeing the plane point its nose down and dive, dropping a bomb. It then climbed away. Al Hassan’s father lay on the ground in a crumpled heap, dead, in front of the ruins of his house.

An uncle phoned to tell al Hassan what had happened. He rushed back to the village from Turkey. His father had died on the first day of the Kurdish offensive to take the mountain. It was still going on when al Hassan returned. “Most of the people had fled because a drone was still roaming around. The airstrikes didn’t stop … one every 15 to 30 minutes,” he said. There were more bombs as the Kurdish forces advanced. “Any village would be heavily bombed until the Kurds managed to get inside. Then they’d let it be. The airstrikes were unbelievable. It was complete destruction. They kept bombing until they got to the mountain.”

The Kurds told reporters covering the offensive that there were a thousand Islamic State fighters at the mountain base. But Al Hassan is adamant that no Islamic State fighters were in the village when his father died. “The Islamic State were not there at the time of the bombing,” he said. “Whenever they expected a strike, they would leave the villages.” And anyway, he went on, they had already sent their troops to try to block the Kurdish advance at the frontline close to Hasaka. “During the airstrikes there was no one. There is no need to lie about this. I don’t support any of the groups fighting this war. The only thing that matters to me is my family’s security.”

There were no independent witnesses in al Gharra to say whether or not Islamic State fighters were there. The YPG general commanding the assault on what the Kurds call Mount Kezwan thought so, or at least he was inclined to see villagers and Islamic State fighters as one and the same. He was quoted as saying that “many of the local villages are Arab and they often support ISIL.” And in the offensive against the jihadist group, the Kurds are often fighting for land they would claim as part of their own future state. They see the Arabs in some of the towns and villages they have captured as aliens with no right to be there.

Al Hassan left his village for the second time — again with his family — a day before the Kurdish forces took full control of the area. They fled over the mountain and drove through Raqqa, the place the Islamic State calls its capital, before crossing the Turkish border. “When the Kurds arrived, they kicked everybody out under the pretext that ISIL had littered the village with booby traps,” he said. “So the entire village left. Almost half of the village was destroyed — then it was completely empty.”

Before they left, they buried his father in a simple grave in the village’s small cemetery. Ismail was 55 and left behind 10 children. Al Hassan was the eldest. “Death comes for all of us. But he wasn’t old and he was the entire family’s provider.” His father’s house — now a pile of rubble — had been home for the whole extended family. “Even if we went back, where would we live? In our destroyed house?” Al Hassan asked bitterly. “Does the American government think we have money? Do they think I can just go back and rebuild our house?” He and the rest of the family are now stuck in Turkey … refugees.

The U.S. military could not confirm whether or not bombs were dropped on al Gharra (also known as al Gharba). A spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the name of the U.S.-led military campaign against the Islamic State, offered a vague response to our questions. He simply said the coalition had “conducted a number of airstrikes near al Hasaka” on May 6 and 7. When pressed about whether the mountain or the village was hit on those days, the spokesman replied: “We can confirm that Abdul-Aziz mountain is geographically close enough to be considered ‘near al Hasaka.’ However, we do not have a record of striking that particular mountain.”

As a result of al Hassan’s testimony provided by GlobalPost, U.S. Central Command — CENTCOM — said it would look again at whether it did bomb the village. For now, the United States has no record of killing any civilian in al Gharra. GlobalPost found other instances of U.S. airstrikes — detailed below — that probably killed civilians but which were not officially investigated, or which were investigated and dismissed. In almost a-year-and-a-half of bombing Iraq and Syria, the United States admits to killing just 21 innocent people. An independent monitoring group says the real figure could be more than a thousand.

The explanation for the U.S. military’s impossibly low number can be found in the very way it investigates its own airstrikes. A CENTCOM spokesman told us that all civilian casualties were investigated — even if something as insubstantial as an anonymous post to Twitter was the only source. But some U.S. investigations were cursory at best, amounting to what appears to be willful blindness. In an airstrike on one Syrian village — also detailed below — it seems that simple confusion over place names meant that civilian casualties were never investigated and were left uncounted. A coalition spokesman eventually said that CENTCOM would review that case too, after GlobalPost pointed out the village on a map.

Standing orders — the Rules of Engagement — give every mission in Operation Inherent Resolve the goal of causing zero civilian casualties. But given the immense firepower deployed in Iraq and Syria, killing civilians is frighteningly easy, especially from the air. American pilots and their commanding officers are heavily dependent on information from Kurdish troops. In several cases we have looked at, witnesses say civilians were at the scene but the pilots — or the Kurds calling in the strike — thought they were Islamic State fighters. In the few cases where the United States admits killing civilians, the explanation is often the same: the civilians ran into the target area just after the pilots pulled the trigger.

It is difficult — almost impossible — to visit territory controlled by the so-called Islamic State. But we know about airstrikes from witnesses, survivors, human rights activists, video uploaded to YouTube and even lists of the dead published on Facebook. If you believe that evidence, many more civilians are dying in American airstrikes than the U.S. government acknowledges. People in Iraq and Syria can see what is happening. And so can the enemy. The Islamic State portrays the conflict as a war on Sunnis and a war on Muslims. When the coalition kills civilians — and does not investigate and apologize — the Islamic State fills the void with propaganda. The war against the Islamic State is ultimately a war for Sunni public opinion. Things look very different from the ground.

War will always result in civilian casualties — and some in the U.S. military want the strategy to recognize that. Those in uniform cannot state their views openly but a former U.S. Air Force general, David Deptula, argues that the current policy is imposing restrictions on the fighting men and women in the field well beyond the laws of war. “The laws of armed conflict do not require, nor do they expect, a target of zero unintentional civilian casualties,” he told me. “There is no such thing as immaculate warfare, it’s a horrible thing, an ugly thing, and … we need to finish it as rapidly as possible…What is the logic of a policy that restricts the use of air power to avoid the possibility of collateral damage, while allowing the certainty of the Islamic State’s crimes against humanity?”

The Pentagon press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby, has said: “No other military on Earth takes the concerns over collateral damage and civilian casualties more seriously than we do.” Yet as the examples below show there has been no honest official estimate of how many civilians the United States has killed in Iraq and Syria. Even if civilian casualties are an inevitable part of a “just” war, the Western public is being fed the comforting illusion that war can be fought without shedding innocent blood.

And that is simply not the case.


What may be one of the worst tragedies of the campaign against the Islamic State is said to have taken place on another part of Syria’s Hasaka front in December. Al Khan is a tiny village. Most of the people have fled to Lebanon or Turkey. Perhaps a hundred stayed behind. They say the village was hit by rockets and strafed in the early hours of Dec. 7, killing some 47 civilians, half of them children. We spoke to one of the residents by phone, an Arab man in his 30s who, fearing reprisals from the Kurds, wants to be known only by his nickname, Abu Khalil. The war against the Islamic State here is, again, being waged by American aircraft above and Kurdish militia forces on the ground. Abu Khalil accepts that there was an Islamic State presence in al Khan. But he said: “There were fewer than 10 fighters in the village, including two locals. And they all stayed together at one place.”

Abu Khalil does not support the Islamic State. He is a former civil servant in the Syrian education ministry and once served in the regime army (he deserted). “People in al Khan didn’t like ISIL and always avoided talking to them,” he said. The villagers even tried to expel them. According to one report, there was an altercation that escalated into an exchange of fire. The Islamic State apparently responded by sending reinforcements to the village. This convoy, it seems, was spotted by the Kurds, who no doubt thought they were seeing a big movement of troops to the frontline — and called in air support. If this version of events is true, it is a bitter irony for the villagers. It would mean their brave opposition to the Islamic State resulted in a brutal attack by American aircraft.

Abu Khalil is haunted by that night of carnage and destruction.

“It was past midnight. We were sleeping. We were suddenly wakened by a huge explosion. The house shook. The windows shattered. There was shrapnel in the walls. I ran out and saw my neighbor’s house completely destroyed. He told me, ‘Abu Khalil, I managed to rescue my wife and son but I can’t find my six-month-old baby. Help me!’ I could hear people calling from underneath the rubble. My neighbor’s mother was crying out. She’s 70. I pulled her out, along with a boy and his mother. They were all OK.

“My mother and my aunt both came running to help dig through the rubble. But while we did this, a helicopter — an Apache — came overhead. It fired. They had machineguns with explosive bullets. I was hit. I still have the shrapnel in my body. I fell into the hole made by the airstrike. That was what saved me. The helicopter circled round again and fired a second time. My mother and aunt were killed. The woman and her son I’d rescued were killed. Everyone but me was killed.

“Three powerful rockets were used in the first airstrike. They left a two-meter deep hole in the ground. Anyone could see the hole until the Kurdish militia filled it. They don’t let anyone go near the place or take pictures. Nineteen people died in that one house.

“It was the Americans. For the past year-and-a-half, the only aircraft that fly over our area have been American.”

The U.S. military emphatically denied that they bombed al Khan on Dec. 7, though a spokesman said there were airstrikes in the area of al Hawl, a small town a few miles away. But when the spokesman showed us a map marking the location of the airstrike, it was in the same area where a group of local activists had told us al Khan was located. This was where the locals said the rocket attack had taken place. Confusion over place names happens often enough for the U.S. military to plausibly deny responsibility for civilian casualties and to avoid launching a full investigation.

There was confirmation of an airstrike on al Khan from another important source — the Kurdish forces on the ground — though they denied there had been any civilian casualties at all. Abu Khalil’s account of the attack is consistent with interviews given elsewhere, though there are still many things that are unclear about the events in al Khan. Exactly how many Islamic State fighters were there? How many of them were killed? Were they close to the house that was hit? As in al Gharra, the village in the shadow of the mountain, there are no independent witnesses. In both cases, the airstrikes were almost certainly called in by Kurdish spotters. Information from the Kurds is passed on to a coalition “targeting cell.” Though the coalition’s aircraft are capable of striking with great precision, what they hit — who they hit — depends on the quality of that information. The coalition rarely has eyes and ears on ground. It is left to the pilots to confirm the target, from thousands of feet up.


The limitations of the pilot’s view are clear in the very first report the U.S. published about civilian deaths caused by Operation Inherent Resolve. A family died because two pilots could not see they were there. The report says the pilots simply did not know they were firing on civilians. It was published in November 2015. Until then, the U.S. military had not admitted to causing a single civilian casualty despite 15 months of bombing.

The report described an attack on March 13 of last year against an Islamic State checkpoint outside al Hatra in northern Iraq. Al Hatra is the site of one of the world’s oldest cities, dating back to the 3rd Century BC. Saddam Hussein restored the ruins, laying bricks stamped with his name into the ancient walls. When the Islamic State arrived, they used sledgehammers, Kalashnikovs and a bulldozer to demolish what they believe are the city’s “idolatrous” statues. Then they turned the site into a training camp, installing a checkpoint on the road nearby.

Two U.S. aircraft were given permission to fire on that checkpoint because it seemed — to the pilots and to everyone involved in the so-called “kill chain” — that no civilians were in the strike area. But a Kia sedan and a Chevy Suburban had been stopped at the checkpoint. They were there long enough for the pilots to think that the vehicles were helping the fighters there. Evidence emerged later that members of a family were in the car: two women and three children. The Suburban is thought to have had at least one other civilian and perhaps too, a family group. Through the dense thicket of military acronyms and jargon in the report, the horror of what happened emerges. The planes were A-10 “Warthogs,” snub-nosed aircraft used against tanks. The A-10s are built around a huge seven-barrel machine gun, like a Gatling gun, the “GAU Avenger,” which fires 50 to 70 rounds a second. Each shell is the size of a bottle of beer and the nose is weighted with a third of a kilogram of depleted uranium. One bullet can cut a human being in half; a stream of them can punch through armor or turn a person into red mist.

The Warthog’s cannon makes a distinctive, terrifying noise during an attack. The gun fires so rapidly it sounds like fabric tearing, or a piece of heavy furniture being dragged across a wooden floor (as one journalist described it while watching A-10s over Baghdad in 2003). The two Warthogs in al Hatra came in on their strafing run. They would have fired in two-second bursts, hitting the vehicles and checkpoint with at the very least 200 rounds, probably more. According to the report, four people got out of one of the vehicles just after the cannon was fired. The bullets hit the vehicles, which exploded in a ball of fire, incinerating everyone close by. “Post strike, both vehicles are on fire and it appears like there is one person still moving at the rear of the sedan,” the report said.

As in al Gharra and al Khan, the victims may well have been people who opposed the Islamic State. The women and children were killed as they were trying to leave territory held by the militant group, according to an email sent to the U.S. military by an Iraqi woman. (The email was sent to claim compensation for the destroyed vehicles.) Prompted by the email to investigate further, the U.S. military found its own evidence that non-combatants had been at the scene. Analysis of video from the Warthog’s camera in the “targeting pod” on the wing showed people getting out of the car and: “One of the persons observed … presents a signature smaller than the other persons. This was assessed as a possible child.” Officials determined this by measuring the height of the shadow when the image was blown up on a large screen.

The pilots could not have done such analysis in flight and the report says: “There is no evidence the aircrew had any opportunity to detect civilians prior to their strike.” The spokesman for U.S. Central Command, Col. Patrick Ryder, told reporters by video-link from Baghdad: “It’s safe to say … that if we knew there were civilians we would not have conducted a strike.” The report into al Hatra concludes, in its strangulated military language: “The NCV [Non-Combat Victims] = 0 objective was not met.”

U.S. forces, then, have orders to try not to kill civilians — it is a mission objective. But that is not the same as an absolute prohibition. And the National Security Council spokeswoman, Caitlin Hayden, has said that bombing in Iraq and Syria would not be held to the same safeguards used in Afghanistan, which only allow strikes when there is “near certainty” of no civilian casualties.

While the standard for strikes may be rigorous — a goal of zero civilian casualties — a target can be ruled free of non-combatants based on little more than an educated guess by the pilots. The pilots’ methods are reminiscent of the CIA’s controversial “signature” strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Those strikes are called in based not on certain intelligence but because targets have suspicious patterns of behavior, “signatures” of terrorists. Being present in a militant area could be enough.

This is exactly the kind of judgment the Warthog pilots used when targeting the two vehicles held at the Islamic State checkpoint. The report into al Hatra also said that one of the planes dropped a 500-pound bomb on a shack at the checkpoint. “Prior to weapon impact but after weapon release a single adult sized PAX (person) is seen slowly moving to the north,” the report said. “This person is knocked down by the weapon impact and not seen moving again.” Was that a fighter, or a farmer? It is impossible to say.
One other revealing finding of the report is that the people getting out of the car were glimpsed only after the pilot had fired. It would have taken three or four seconds for the cannon rounds to hit the checkpoint. Even if the pilot had realized in that time that they were civilians, he could not have done anything about it. This is the theme of several other U.S. government reports into civilian casualties published in January 2016. Here are three excerpts from a Pentagon press release (Italics added by GlobalPost):

On June 19, 2015, near Tall al Adwaniyah, Syria, during a strike against two ISIL vehicles, it is assessed that one civilian was injured when appearing in the target area after the U.S. aircraft released its weapon.

On June 29, 2015, near Haditha, Iraq, during strikes against one ISIL tactical unit and two ISIL vehicles, it is assessed that two civilians were injured. After the U.S. aircraft engaged the target and two seconds prior to impact, a car slowed in front of the ISIL vehicles while a motorcycle simultaneously passed by.

On July 4, 2015, near Ar Raqqah, Syria, during a strike against an ISIL High Value Individual, a car and a motorcycle entered the target area after the weapon was released. It is assessed that three unidentified civilians were likely killed.

In all these cases, the Pentagon’s reporting says that people wandered into the firing line after the pilot had squeezed the trigger. That is a consequence of fighting in built up areas.

Taking all the published investigations so far, the U.S. military acknowledges causing the sum total of 21 civilian deaths in the campaign against the Islamic State. Such a low number is wildly implausible. Airwars, an independent monitoring group that tracks allegations of civilians casualties, says that at least 862 and as many as 1,190 non-combatants have died in coalition strikes in Iraq and Syria. The Airwars count is made by collating reports from several sources for each strike: human rights activists and the media, Facebook posts, and testimony from survivors and relatives of the dead. Each casualty report is judged credible based on the amount of detail and whether it is consistent with other evidence.

The head of Airwars, Chris Woods, says the “smart bombs” used by Western air forces have clearly reduced the risk to civilians on the battlefield. Nevertheless, he says that in Afghanistan, for example, more civilians died in airstrikes than were killed by foreign ground troops. Airpower was the single greatest cause of civilian death by international forces, killing one civilian for every 11 airstrikes. In Iraq and Syria, the ratio could be even worse, he says, because there are more attacks on “targets of opportunity” than those based on intelligence. And the campaign is being fought mainly in built-up areas where it is hard to distinguish the enemy.

“In the end, the generals who ran Afghanistan, David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal, managed to start getting civilian casualties down by admitting they were killing civilians,” he said. War fighters were only forced to change tactics when confronted with the effects of what they were doing. “Right now, we are in the denial phase with the coalition. They don’t admit to killing civilians and we think that’s wrong. … The military is starting to believe their own myth of absolute precision … this fantasy lulls Western audiences into feeling more comfortable with our countries being at war because we think we don’t kill civilians anymore. I’m afraid the reality is far from that.” He went on: “It is probably fair to say that the coalition is taking more care than we have ever seen in any air war in recent history, but that’s relative precision and civilians are still dying … hundreds of them.”


In September 2014, doctors at a hospital in the southern Turkish city of Iskenderun were presented with a mystery. An injured Syrian boy, four or five years old, was brought there in a coma. He had no identifying documents and no parents, or anyone else, claimed him. Doctors wrote a Turkish name on his chart and kept him in intensive care. They would learn later that the child came from a village called Kfar Derian, just over the border. He was a victim of the very first U.S. airstrikes in Syria. How the coalition responded to what happened in Kfar Derian at least partly reveals why official figures fail to show the true extent of civilian casualties.

U.S. airstrikes in Syria began in the pre-dawn hours of Sept. 22, 2014. Two warships, one in the Red Sea and one in the Arabian Gulf, launched waves of cruise missiles, 47 in all. Some of them were aimed at Islamic State targets in Iraq; some at the Islamic State in Syria. But eight of those missiles were for the Khorasan group, which is part of Al Qaeda. One of them — it seems — hit the village of Kfar Derian. “The attack happened at night,” said Abu Mohammed, a 30-year-old from a neighboring village. He remembered seven or eight impacts spread across the mountainous terrain, coming 30 seconds apart, one after the other. “When the Syrian regime attacked, it was always in the day. The explosions were very big. When the people saw this they said the missiles came from the sea.”

Khorasan was unheard of until it was identified as a threat by the U.S. government. The U.S. said its members were experienced Al Qaeda operatives preparing bomb attacks on Western airlines. They were embedded with Al Qaeda’s Syrian ally, the Nusra Front (which is engaged in its own war with the Islamic State). The day after the attack, the Syrian Network for Human Rights reported that a missile hit a Nusra building, killing many fighters. But they said the explosion was so big that the blast wave also demolished a house 100 yards away — a Tomahawk cruise missile packs a 1,000 pound bomb and flies in at 550 mph. It can cause devastation over a wide area. The activists counted the bodies of 13 civilians in the house, including five women and five children. Abu Mohammed, speaking long after these events, put the number of dead much higher — “six families” — and denies there were armed men in the village: “The people were shepherds, nothing else.”

After the attacks he was asked by local people to go to Turkey to look for a mother and son whose bodies could not be found in the rubble. Three days later, he found the mother in a mortuary. After a week, he still couldn’t find the little boy. “We searched everywhere for him.” Then, having almost given up hope, he showed a picture of the boy at a hospital. Doctors recognized him.

The 5-year-old was not registered under his own name, Humam Darwish. “When I first saw him he was in intensive care, no movements, just breathing, inhaling and exhaling, nothing more. They told us they couldn’t do anything for him.”

Humam did not wake up for months. He is now an orphan — his mother, Fatima, and his father, Mohammed, are both gone — living in a children’s home, and very far from the alert, inquisitive little boy he used to be. Abu Mohammed calls him the sole survivor of a massacre. “Houses were bombed,” he said. “Families died. There were no survivors. The only one who lived was that child.” His testimony has differences with the activists’ account, most importantly his claim that no fighters were in the village. But both agree there were civilian casualties in Kfar Derian. The U.S. military says the eight missiles did not even succeed in wiping out Khorasan. The militants slipped away, tipped off by reconnaissance flights before the strike. Abu Mohammed said: “A day before, there was many scout planes over the area that was bombed.”

The Pentagon has never accepted that it killed civilians in the Khorasan strikes. Two days afterwards, the Pentagon press secretary, Admiral Kirby, was asked about civilian casualties in Kfar Derian. He replied: “We don’t have any credible operational reporting … that would sustain those allegations.” A year later, a declassified internal military document concluded, “no further inquiry required.” This was because: “A review of BDA (battle damage assessment) imagery did not credibly determine that civilians were present at the site. Open source images presented as casualties from the strikes actually came from previous GoS (government of Syria) strikes.”

The monitoring group Airwars say that coverage of Kfar Derian on one English language website did, wrongly, use a picture of a child killed in a regime bombing. But this is the only case they can find of such false reporting, while there were many other genuine images of the strike that Central Command could have used as the basis for an investigation. Woods, the head of Airwars, said such images were ignored for “pure propaganda” reasons — propaganda aimed at Americans, since Iraqis and Syrians already knew people were dying in coalition airstrikes. But Woods says it’s a mistake to think the information can be controlled, when anyone with a camera phone can post video of an airstrike online in minutes. “We know more about the civilian victims of this war, by all parties, than we’ve ever known in any conflict in history. That’s war today.”

He went on: “The Pentagon operates in this weird bubble where it pretends social media hasn’t been invented. It just ignores all these allegations of civilian casualties … If the coalition are not engaging in that territory (responding to claims of civilian casualties on social media), they are effectively ceding it to the Islamic State. The coalition needs to be more honest with Iraqis and Syrians.”

The conventional wisdom is that bombing must increase support for the Islamic State. The conventional wisdom may be wrong, although it is hard to be sure as there is no way to measure public opinion in the “Caliphate.” In the early days of the campaign in Syria, there were some anti-coalition demonstrations with placards declaring: “This is a war on all Sunnis.” But they may have been orchestrated, with people press-ganged to attend. There have been few, if any, large and spontaneous popular protests against the bombing. That maybe because the coalition has killed relatively few noncombatants in Syria compared to the Islamic State and the regime. In January 2015, a group of Syrian doctors said that indiscriminate air attacks by the regime caused 80% of civilian casualties, while the Islamic State caused 15%, and the coalition 5%.

But those who are directly affected by U.S. bombs are, as you would expect, bitter.

“You build in your countries and destroy in ours?” asked Abdul-Aziz al Hassan, who lost his father in the bombing at al Gharra. “Is this how you bring democracy? Stop it. Really, stop it. People are tired.” Abu Khalil, survivor of the devastating attack in al Khan, said he wanted compensation from the United States for the death of his mother. Abu Mohammed, who spoke to us about Kfar Derian simply condemned the United States as “Zionists,” echoing both jihadi and regime propaganda. He wanted nothing to do with America.

All of them sounded more weary than angry.

Posted in Middle East, USA, Iraq, SyriaComments Off on U.S. killing more civilians in Iraq, Syria than it acknowledges

Hell Valley: Are Iran, Russia and N Korea Making Long-Range Missiles in Syria?


Speculations about a secret Syrian factory in the Hell Valley producing long-range ballistic missiles with the assistance from Iran, Russia and North Korea is yet another “horror story” which bears no relationship to reality, experts told Sputnik, explaining what is behind the new anti-Assad propaganda attack.

The story of a secret Syrian research factory developing long-range ballistic missiles under the auspices of Iran, Russia and North Korea is nothing but a fantasy aimed at justifying Washington’s interference in Syrian affairs, experts told Sputnik Iran.On Wednesday Adam Kredo of the Washington Free Beacon reported citing the Syrian opposition news website Zamanalwsl.net that Iran is allegedly building new long-range ballistic missiles at a Syrian secret weapons factory located in Wadi Jehanam, also known as the Hell Valley, with Russia and North Korea “aiding in the endeavor.”

Kredo also quoted Middle East Media Research Institute’s (MEMRI) report that claimed that “the facility is producing long-range missiles as well as M600 ballistic missiles, which is a Syrian version of the Iranian Fateh 110 missile.”

“This facility has a branch in western Hama province for producing chemicals, and that that there is a Russian military base in the region, where North Korean officers once served,” the report added.

While the media outlet suggests that the Hell Valley has become a new “resident evil,” experts told Sputnik that this information bears no relation to reality and is aimed at driving a wedge between Russia, Iran and Syria and justifying new US attacks against Damascus.

Russia's Su-25 aircraft take off from Hmeimim airbase escorted by Syria's MiG-29 fighter jets. (File)
Russia’s Su-25 aircraft take off from Hmeimim airbase escorted by Syria’s MiG-29 fighter jets. (File)

Boris Dolgov, senior research fellow at the Institute for Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, called attention to the fact that it is not the first propaganda attack on the part of the Syrian opposition.

“Let us remember the ludicrous staged footage that depicted the so-called White Helmets representatives which carried the people [allegedly] affected by a chemical attack [in Khan Shaykhun], while [the White Helmets] themselves did not use any protection gear or gas masks,” Dolgov told Sputnik, stressing that the videos prompted the Pentagon to strike the Syrian Arab Army’s Shayrat airfield on April 7.

“Similar allegations [against the Syrian government] are being put forward constantly, even now. All self-respecting military experts and political scientists confirm that these accusations are absurd… from any point of view — political, military, and humanitarian,” the Russian academic said.Dolgov recalled that previously the opposition accused the Syrian leadership of running a secret prison where the Syrian government allegedly hung 50 per day. However, no credible evidence has yet been presented to confirm this claim.

According to the expert, the recent information attack of the opposition has fallen into the same pattern.

“The materials published on the Syrian opposition Zamanalwsl.net site there only pictures — probably taken from some satellite — of some structures in a certain area, and nothing more,” Dolgov highlighted, adding that there is no evidence that what is depicted in the pictures is a secret weapons factory producing ballistic weapons, let alone that Iranian, Russian and North Korean specialists are surreptitiously working there.

What is the aim of this propaganda attack?

“In fact, this is a clear attempt to create conditions for a new military strike against Syria, its military positions and Bashar al-Assad. This is the first goal,” Dolgov believes.

“The second goal of these absurd statements is to pit the United States against Russia,”  he said, adding that therefore the opposition and the US media are trying to depict Russia, Damascus, Iran and North Korea as some sort of “Axis of Evil.”

Russian soldiers stand near their vehicles in Aleppo, Syria December 4, 2016
Russian soldiers stand near their vehicles in Aleppo, Syria December 4, 2016

Emad Abshenas, a managing editor of the newspaper Iran Press and a longstanding Sputnik expert, shares Dolgov’s stance.

According to Abshenas, these information tricks are being used by the US and Israel to justify their interference in Syrian affairs, however, they neither present any evidence to back their allegations nor name their sources.

“The allegations that [the production of ballistic missiles] are controlled by Iran in Syria with the participation of Russia and North Korea are absolutely illogical and absurd,” Abshenas emphasized.

“We all know that ballistic missiles, as a rule, are designed for a long range strike. If Iran, Russia or North Korea needed such weapons, they would build them at home, and not in the territory of a third state,”  he noted.“And besides, why would Syria produce long-range ballistic missiles, when it has no possibility to use them? Syria simply does not need such weapons,”  the Iranian expert pointed out.

According to Abshenas, the US and its allies in the Middle East are painting their geopolitical canvas with a broad brush to convince the Americans that Russia, Iran, North Korea and Damascus are mulling over some evil plan involving ballistic missiles.

Syria doesn’t have targets which would require the use of long-range ballistic missiles, Abshenas reiterated.

He stressed that the goal of those who are spreading the false narrative about the Syrian secret weapons factory is to exert considerable pressure on Russia, Iran and Damascus, especially in the light of their recent military successes on the ground in Syria.

“Every day the Syrian [Arab] Army, together with its allies, is moving forward, winning brilliant victories in the fight against terror. Therefore, [the US-led coalition and the Syrian opposition] want to prevent these military successes through information and political pressure,”  the Iranian expert concluded.


US-Led Coalition Destroys Multiple Daesh Oil Assets in Syria – Joint Task Force
Issue of Direct Talks With Syria Opposition Not Raised With Damascus Delegation
‘White Helmets’ Participate in Smear Campaign Against Syria Gov’t – Moscow
Russia Reports 12 Ceasefire Violations in Syria Over Past 24 Hours
French-US Offer on Syria ‘Should Not Undermine Astana, Geneva Talks’

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Syria – These Maps Show a Year of Progress in the Government’s Campaign against Al Qaeda and ISIS


Featured image: Pro-government forces hold the Syrian flag as they pose for a photo in the village of al-Sahel, near the rebel held town of Yabrud, nearly 80 kilometres north of Damascus, on March 4, 2014.

Three maps of Syria show the immense progress the Syrian government forces and their allies have made over the last few month.

During the last half year the Syrian Arab Army not only liberated al-Qaeda held parts of east-Aleppo city, but also the Islamic State held eastern part of Aleppo governate. The closing move happened yesterday when the last ISIS held area in the governate was cut off and the enemy retreated. The area north of the arrows is now free of ISIS fighters. Mines, IEDs and sleeper agents still need to be searched for.

via IslamicWorldUpdate – See bigger picture here

In a next step the Syrian Army will move simultaneously from north and south to connect the red areas between (roughly) south of Al-Thawrah and Palmyra. This will enclose and clean the ISIS bulge in the west and secure Homs governate as well as the supply line to Aleppo city.

The Russian rearming, retraining and reorganizing of the Syrian Army has really helped. Russian air support delivers the necessary protection and interdiction capabilities for large movements. De-conflicting zones in the western part of the country as well as the cleanup of several pockets of “rebels” near the big cities freed up ten-thousands of Syrian soldiers. The reinforcements provided through Iran created the additional temporary manpower needed to regain and clean the liberated areas. A total of 40,000 men are engaged in the eastern campaign. When the local Syrian government structures are re-established in the liberated areas the additional forces will no longer be needed.

On a larger scale the immense progress of the Syrian government during the last six month becomes even more obvious. The (red) government held areas were enlarged considerably:

January 1, 2017

via Chelsea4Life – See bigger picture here

July 1, 2017

via Chelsea4Life – See bigger picture here

Note that most of the (grey) ISIS area in the east is uninhabited steppe or desert. ISIS is concentrated in a few villages and cities along the Euphrates river. The south-eastern green area, currently held by U.S. supported “rebels”, is also mostly empty space. To liberate these areas still requires some diligence and time to prevent ambushes and to remove the few enemy strongholds along the way.

The above maps put to rest the often repeated propaganda about a presumed “unwillingness” of the SAA to fight ISIS. According to IHS Janes the forces of the Syrian government coalition, not the U.S. supported “rebels”, are the most engaged in defeating ISIS in Syria:

Between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017, 43 percent of all Islamic State fighting in Syria was directed against President Assad’s forces, 17 against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the remaining 40 percent involved fighting rival Sunni opposition groups — in particular, those who formed part of the Turkey-backed Euphrates Shield coalition.

Without external hostile interference the legitimate Syrian government will be back in control of all significant parts of its country by the end of this year.

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Assad, allies to prevail in Syria, drive US out: Ex-US envoy


Image result for Robert Ford CARTOON

A former American ambassador to Syria says the Syrian government and its allies, including Iran, will ultimately frustrate attempts by the United States to influence Syrian matters and will drive the US out of the Arab country.

Robert Ford, who served as the US’s envoy to Syria under former US president Barack Obama, made the remarks in an interview with the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday.

He said the US was, first of all, mistaken in giving support to the opposition in Syria back in 2011 and demanding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster. Ford said he knew that that expression of support would encourage certain elements of the opposition to take up arms and expect a US invasion against Damascus, which he said would not be forthcoming.

Ford also said that the US would not defend the Kurdish forces it has been supporting so far in case the Kurds engaged in clashes with the Syrian forces.

“[The US] will not defend the Kurds against Assad’s forces,” the former US envoy said. “What we’re doing with the Kurds is not only politically stupid, but immoral.”

“Syrian Kurds are making their biggest mistake in trusting the Americans,” he added.

The US has been backing a mainly Kurdish alliance known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Ford also said that, given the strong support being offered by Iran and Russia to the Syrian government, the “game was finished” for US plans to overthrow Assad or compete with what he said would be Iran’s success in the country.

“The Iranian position will advance,” Ford said.

“Assad won, I mean he’s the victor, or he thinks so,” he added. “Maybe in 10 years, he will retake the entire country.”

Syria has been gripped by unrest since 2011, when militancy first began in the country. Foreign states opposed to President Assad have since then been funding and providing weapons to anti-Assad militants, among them thousands of paid foreign terrorists dispatched to help force Assad out of power.

The Syrian government, however, has been fighting that militancy back, aided in that battle by advisory military support from Iran and Russia. Moscow has also been conducting an aerial campaign against terrorist positions in the Arab country on a request by Damascus.

Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on Assad, allies to prevail in Syria, drive US out: Ex-US envoy

How Western Sanctions Not War Almost Entirely Destroyed Syria’s Medical Industry


Syria has been living under Western sanctions for many years now. These sanctions concern even such an important sphere of the country as its medicine and medical supplies. Western medicines and spare parts for expensive European medical devices are not available in the country and that has a devastating effect on its civilians.

A pharmaceutical plant in the suburbs of Aleppo has started its production after Sheikh Najar district was liberated from militants. The workers at the plant are seen packing tablets, along the conveyor belt medicines in bottles are seen being transported. Although production has started once again after years of being shut down, the plant is not enough to help everyone.

Despite the popular belief of war affecting the production in the country, it was not the terrorists that caused the greatest harm to this industry, it was the western sanctions.

“The sanctions of the Western countries almost killed the entire pharmaceutical industry in the country, as we cannot buy medications or ingredients for their production. Now imports only come from Russia, China, Iran and some other countries,” production director Mahmoud Abu Abed told Sputnik.

Sanctions against Syria first of all hit the ordinary people and soldiers fighting against terrorist organizations such as Daesh and al-Nusra Front.

Civilians cannot buy medications to fight cancer, diabetes and other diseases. There are not enough vaccines against poliomyelitis, anti-inflammatory and other vital pills.

“There is no insulin, you know what happens when there is no insulin: an increase in diabetes mellitus, that’s what, happens to people,” pharmacist Mahmoud Makteri told Sputnik.

He, like many Syrian doctors, had studied in Russia before returning to serve his country.

Before the war, Syrian pharmaceutical plants supplied 95% of the country’s medicines. Now production has fallen to less than half. Many production facilities have been destroyed or captured by militants.

Another reason for falling production was the fact that many specialists fled the country due to the war.

Image result for university of aleppo

Medical students at the University of Aleppo

However, despite all the recent hardships, Syria is trying to develop its pharmacological industry. The development of new vaccines, medications and vitamins is taking place at the University of Aleppo.

“We are conducting research in the laboratory of molecular biology and are developing a cure for cancer, with practically all its components being of plant origin. They are extracted from plants growing in Syria,” post-graduate student of the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Aleppo, Muhammad Abu Rashid, said.

He further said that the process of training medical specialists, including pharmacists, has not stopped in Aleppo. On the contrary, the competition for admission to the local medical university has become higher now.

The university continued teaching students even during the war, despite the constant shelling. Now, that the city has been liberated from militants, a memorial to the dead students was erected on the university campus.

“I lost many friends, many of them were disabled because of their injuries,” student Omar al-Qasem said.

According to him, this makes students take their education and future more seriously.

“After completing our training, we will devote our life to assisting those who had suffered from the war,” Qasem said.

However, the university greatly lacks medical supplies. Due to the sanctions, it has no opportunity to purchase modern laboratory materials.

Just recently, a device that was used in analyzing the properties of medicines did not work at full capacity — a sensor that is only manufactured in the European Union had failed.

The price of this sensor is about $ 600 but it cannot be delivered because the country is under sanctions and that is despite the fact that this expensive device is still under the warranty.

“Our statements that these spare parts are needed exclusively for peaceful purposes are not accepted, as we are trying to find a way out of this situation. We are asking for help from friendly countries, primarily Russia, India and China. This equipment however, we will have to throw out,” Dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Aleppo, Mahar Harman, told Sputnik.

Such hurdles are occurring despite the fact that it is Syria and its army that are at the forefront of the fight against terrorism.  It is not only the soldiers but also the civilians who are greatly being affected by bullets and mines.

But it looks like Syria, building on its own strength, is going to save its citizens without waiting for help from the other European countries.

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SYRIA ANALYSIS: The Collapse of ISIS & the Standoff in Syria

By Dr Leon Tressell

standoff in syria

I was asked by Dr Leon Tressell to re-post this very lengthy article he recently published at SouthFront. In it, he provides a very thorough analysis of the situation now in Syria; and of the actions and motivations of the various players and power-blocs involved in the conflict and how the situation in Syria is likely to play out.

‘Do any these power blocs, that have carved out spheres of influence in northern Syria, offer a solution to the Syrian people’s desperate desire for peace and the reconstruction of their country?’ he asks. 

Below is the full article, reproduced here with his permission, including the original images and maps. 


The apparent collapse of Isis in northern and eastern Syria, as well as its impending eviction from Mosul in Iraq are celebrated by some commentators as the beginning of the end of the Syrian conflict.

However, it could be argued that the impending demise of Isis in Syria and Iraq represents merely the end of one phase of the Syrian conflict.  One only has to look at the situation in northern Syria to realise that the eviction of Isis from that region in no way represents a victory for peace.  Now that the Frankenstein monster, that was born out of the disastrous American led intervention in Iraq, has been routed in northern Syria, it becomes clear that the people of Syria now have to contend with a three way geopolitical conflict that is unlikely to bring peace, reconstruction and prosperity to the people of the region.

In northern Syria there are three power blocs that that are currently jockeying for position.  They are driven by a variety of conflicting interests that will be difficult to reconcile in the next period.

On the one hand, there is the Syrian Arab Army supported by its Iranians sponsor, a variety of Shiite militias and propped up by the political/military clout of the Russian Federation.  In the next corner are the Rojava Kurds, better known as the Syrian Democratic Forces who are being energetically sponsored by American imperialism.  The third contender in this frightful conflict is Erdogan’s Turkey with its neo-Ottoman ambitions, which sponsors a whole host of Sunni terrorist groups that are mistakenly referred to as elements of the ”moderate opposition” in Syria.  There is nothing remotely moderate about these groups that comprise the Free Syrian Army, Ahar Al-Sham amongst many others.

Do any these power blocs, that have carved out spheres of influence in northern Syria, offer a solution to the Syrian people’s desperate desire for peace and the reconstruction of their country?

Let us look at each one of the power blocs in turn to evaluate their motives and how their moves on the geopolitical chess board might play out over the next period.


Click to see the full-size map

First of all, let  us look at the Assad regime and its sponsors in Moscow and Tehran.  Assad is no democrat, and to pretend otherwise is Orwellian double speak.  He was quite happy to participate in the CIA’s rendition programme during the Bush presidency.  Once the protests of the Arab Spring in Syria escalated into an open civil war, that was fermented by the CIA and the Gulf monarchies, Assad did not hesitate to use military force to maintain his grip on power.  Assad’s refusal of an offer from Qatar for a gas pipeline that would run across Syria, in favour of loyalty to Moscow and Tehran, marked a point of no return and guaranteed that a civil conflict in Syria would escalate into a proxy war between regional and global super powers.

Assad’s regime is totally dependent upon the financial, military and economic support of both Tehran and Moscow. Without the support of Moscow and Tehran the Assad regime would have collapsed long ago.  Assad and his sponsors want to cement his government’s grip on power in the major cities and recover water and energy resources from the hands of Isis and the ”moderate” terrorist groups.  The Syrian Arab Army’s advance in the eastern Aleppo countryside seeks to prevent the Turks from extending their influence further south into central Syria. Over the medium-longer term Damascus will want to bring all of Syria under its control. Tehran, a Shiite ally, undoubtedly shares this objective. However, will Putin be willing to pursue this goal at all costs like Damascus and Tehran?

Assad’s sponsors have a variety of objectives in supporting his existential struggle against Sunni terrorism.  Iran is locked into a bitter struggle with the military dictatorship that rules over Saudi Arabia.  This struggle for regional hegemony is motivated by religious, economic and military factors.  The rulers of Iran and Saudi Arabia, whilst using Syria as an arena for their regional proxy war, are very conscious of the potential for political upheaval by their own people’s due to the desperate social and economic conditions facing their impoverished masses.  Both regimes are able to use the conflict in Syria as a means of both projecting their power and for turning the masses attention away from their own problems.  This is a tried and tested tactic used by dictatorships throughout the ages.

Iran’s struggle against Saudi Arabia is tacitly supported by Moscow.  This is shown by Moscow’s sale of military hardware to the theocracy in Tehran.  Moscow like Iran is also locked in a struggle for oil and gas markets against Saudi Arabia.  Moscow and Iran also have geopolitical reasons for propping up the Assad regime in Syria.  The collapse of the Assad regime would bring an open intervention by Western imperialism, to overthrow the Shiite theocracy in Tehran, that much closer.  Whereas, for Moscow, it’s support for Assad is shaped by objectives such as keeping its naval and air bases in Syria and the desire to prevent the spread of Sunni extremism into the Northern Caucasus area of the Russian Federation.  On top of this of course, is the geopolitical struggle, call it the Cold War 2.0, between Moscow and Washington for influence in the Middle East.

Moscow is alarmed by the expansion of NATO throughout Eastern Europe and the dispatch of American/NATO troops up to Russia’s western border.  It has seen how the CIA and the American State Department have used so called colour revolutions in Georgia and the Ukraine to install pro-Western far right regimes. Moscow is aware that these are mere stepping stones to the ultimate prize: namely, the fermenting of uprisings in the Russian Federation that would ultimately lead to its dissolution into various statelets that would be easy prey to domination and exploitation by Western imperialism.

British tanks and military vehicles are unloaded at the port Estonian of Paldiski on March 22, 2017. © Raul Mee / AFP

British tanks and military vehicles are unloaded at the port Estonian of Paldiski on March 22, 2017. © Raul Mee / AFP

Moscow also sees the Syrian conflict is an opportunity to re-emerge as a major player in the Middle East.  This of course will bring with it both strategic and economic benefits to Russia, particularly in the fields of energy exports and weapon sales.  Forming new alliances in Middle East will also help Moscow protect its southern flank.

This brings us onto the Kurds in Northern Syria who have formed the so called Rojava Cantons to further their political revolution. The Rojava Cantons are seen as a means of enabling the Kurds, for the first time ever, to achieve self-determination for their people. Confronted with a genocidal enemy the People’s Protection Units (YPG) of the Rojava Kurds have put up heroic resistance to Isis and pushed their enemy back thereby ensuring the survival of the cantons.

The Kurds objective of linking up the different Canton’s in northern Syria has been thwarted by Turkey’s military intervention, better known as operation Euphrates shield.  The alleged purpose of this military intervention was to drive Isis out of Syria’s shared border with Turkey.  The capture of the town of Al Bab can be seen as the successful culmination of Operation Euphrates Shield.  It could be argued that Turkey no longer needs to have a military presence in northern Syria as Isis has been forced to retreat.  However, it has been clear all along that Turkey’s military intervention had a double-edged purpose: driving Isis from along its border with Syria and to prevent the Rojava Canton’s linking up along the same border.

This poses a major dilemma for the leadership of the Rojava Canton’s.  How should they respond to  the clear threat posed by Turkey’s military forces and their terrorist proxies?  During Operation Euphrates Shield Turkish forces shelled YPG forces on numerous occasions. The Kurds can be under no illusion that Turkey is going to meekly accept the existence of a semi-autonomous Kurdish region along its border. Turkey is fighting the Kurdish PKK insurgency in the south-east of its country. Erdogan regards the Rojava Kurds as natural allies of the PKK and as such cannot be negotiated with and must be defeated by military force.

PKK members southern Turkey

PKK members are in southern Turkey

The  Kurds turned to American imperialism for the military support they needed in their life-and-death struggle against Isis.  This military assistance from the United States has undoubtedly been of great help.  However, it puts the Kurds ability to be an autonomous actor in the conflict into question. We should not forget the old adage: ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’.

How will the Kurds react if their American ally suddenly abandons them so as to avoid US troops being dragged into conflict with a NATO ally?

The YPG are being greatly assisted by their American allies towards the taking of the caliphate’s capital at Raqqa.  However, they have to keep a nervous eye looking over their shoulder at the next move of Turkey’s military in the north of Syria.  One thing you can be certain of is that the YPG will fight to defend the two Kurdish Canton’s in northern Syria.  Therefore, any future military action by Turkey to crush the Rojava Canton’s will be resisted.  This would put President Trump in an awkward dilemma: how would he reconcile being an ally with Turkey while supporting the YPG?

YPG elite fighters are in the province of Raqqa

YPG elite fighters are in the province of Raqqa

Many commentators in the alternative media see the Trump presidency as heralding a decisive new turn in American foreign policy.  However, while Trump’s presidency may use different tactics to the Obama Administration, their overall objectives remain the same: the defence of the economic and political interests of American imperialism.  Trump may well seek a certain improvement in relations with Moscow, reminiscent of the Nixon era of détente with the Soviet Union in the early 1970s.  Any improvement in relations between Washington and Moscow, will be mainly confined to the struggle against Isis in Syria and Iraq.

It is very unlikely that Trump will reach any kind of serious accommodation with Putin over Russia’s absorption of the Crimean peninsula.  Yet Trump appears reluctant to pour further money and military resources into supporting the Kiev Junta.  Having said this, the centrifugal forces that threaten to tear the Ukraine apart could well force an American led NATO intervention into Ukraine to prevent its complete disintegration.  The neocons in the CIA will no doubt seek to continue letting the low-level war in the Donbass rumble on, seeking to stir up hostilities at different times to inconvenience Putin and help distract his attention away from more important matters.

Trump’s populist rhetoric regarding NATO and his apparent cosying up to Putin are seen by some as a return to American isolationism that has not been seen since the interwar period. However, it is very unlikely that American imperialism will shy away from its longer term objectives, as outlined by Brzezinski’s geostrategic Bible, ‘The Grand Chessboard’, of obtaining dominance over the economies and resources of Eurasia.  In the short time that he has been commander in chief, Trump has authorised an increase in American troops in Syria and considering a troop surge in Afghanistan.  Trump will not shy away from the use of America’s military power to enforce its strategic and economic interests in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

US troops are near Manbij

US troops are near Manbij

In Syria, Trump has increased the number of American troops supporting the SDF as it advances towards the caliphate’s capital in Raqqa.  The capture of Raqqa by predominantly Kurdish forces heavily supported by American troops will give Trump a major PR opportunity to show off how his leadership is successful in combating terrorism.  Besides this playing to a domestic audience Trump has other objectives in mind.  American imperialism will seek to use the SDF as a proxy force to prevent the emergence of a sovereign united Syria and effectively partition the country. The so called Rojava Cantons will be used by American imperialism as a lever in negotiations with Moscow over its interests in the region. There is no way that Washington would allow a sovereign united Syria under the leadership of  Assad to emerge from the current quagmire.

This of course, is a dangerous game to play as its NATO ally Turkey is no mood to allow the Rojava Cantons to have any kind of medium-long term existence. Turkey has been fighting a 40 year war against a very determined PKK led insurgency. It sees the Rojava Cantons in Syria and the Kurdish autonomous region in Northern Iraq as dangerous allies of the PKK. Turkey’s Bonapartist leader Erdogan also sees the current situation as an opportunity to put into place his neo-Ottoman dreams and expand the territory and economic/political clout of Turkey in the region. Having taken over a huge chunk of Northern Syria from Isis control Erdogan is not going to meekly hand it back to the Syrian government once the caliphate has been defeated. Far from it. Turkey has seen what Israel has achieved in successfully annexing bits of land from various countries in defiance of international law.

Erdogan of course, is also playing to a domestic audience and seeks to show how his leadership has produced results for his country, skilfully playing upon nationalist sentiment in Turkish society. Turkey has dire economic problems and using the war card is also a means of distracting an unsettled populace behind his dictatorial rule.

Turkish troops and their proxies such as the FSA have fired upon the Syrian Arab Army and taken several of its soldiers captive.  The Turkish army is very unlikely to relinquish the territory it has taken in  Northern Syria, and will more than likely seek to take offensive action against the Kurdish Canton’s in northern Syria.  Of course, the situation is complicated by the presence of Syrian and Russian troops in the area west of Manbij.  It will be interesting to see how far Turkey will press considering the tenuous relationship that exists between Putin and Erdogan.  On the one hand, Erdogan has to balance the carrots of a Russian energy pipeline and the Russian construction of a nuclear power station in Turkey, with his opportunistic instincts to grab territory and  play the nationalist card by crushing the threat posed by the Rojava Kurds.

FSA militants are in the area of al-Bab

FSA militants are in the area of al-Bab

The failed military coup in Turkey last year greatly strengthened Erdogan’s hand in the realm of foreign policy.  Turkish society, and particularly the military have endured a massive purge with over a hundred thousand people being dismissed from their posts.  So the political and military constraints that previously existed are no longer there. Erdogan will continue to play-off the Russians against the Americans.  He will continue the Astana ‘peace’ talks with Putin while continuing with Turkey’s membership of NATO.  Erdogan is opportunistically riding the nationalist tiger and cannot be trusted.  It remains to be seen how Washington and Moscow seek to contain his neo-Ottoman ambitions while remaining on good terms with this Bonapartist figure.

Of course, in the highly unstable situation that is unfolding in Syria, it is important not to have two rigid or mechanistic view of how things may unfold. It should be pointed out that the weakening global economy which is sliding towards another recession will undoubtedly put all parties concerned under considerable strain and force many twists and changes in policy.

Over the next period Isis will undoubtedly be swept from Mosul and its self-declared capital in Raqqa.  Far from bringing peace to the region this will merely pave the way for further conflict between the three power blocs involved in the Syrian conflict.  Nature abhors a vacuum and of course all three power blocs will seek to fill the vacuum left by Isis in Syria and northern Iraq.  Turkey and its ally Saudi Arabia will continue to use the ‘moderate’ terrorist groups to further their agenda of of partitioning Syria into several statelets.  Erdogan will continue to use his army and its proxies to attack the Kurds in Northern Syria.  This of course raises the possibility of Americans or Russians getting killed or wounded by such military action.

Click to see the full-size map

Click to see the full-size map

The Rojava Kurds who have thrown in their lot with American imperialism, are heavily dependent their sponsor.  They have the best opportunity ever to pursue the creation of an autonomous Kurdish homeland in northern Syria.  They will not give this up without a fight.  It remains to be seen how far their American sponsor will continue to support them when they come into a major military confrontation with the Turkish army and its proxies.

The Russian Federation will will also have some difficult choices to make if  Turkey refuses to give up the huge chunk of territory that is captured in northern Syria.  Turkey’s conflict with the Kurds will also serve to complicate matters further for Moscow.

Once Isis has been defeated and removed from the political/military picture all three power blocs will face a new and unprecedented situation.  Who will govern northern and eastern Syria?  Moscow, Tehran and Assad will of course argue Syria should be a unified sovereign state under the Baathist government.  Turkey will insist that it has to deal with the existential threat posed by the Kurds in northern Syria, and therefore is unlikely to relinquish its grip on the territory conquered so far.  The Rojava Kurds, meanwhile, will insist that their national aspirations be recognised and are unlikely to give up territory that has been so hard fought for and won with so much blood.

If Turkey pursues its neo-Ottoman ambitions by seeking to crush the Rojava Canton’s will  Moscow and Washington stand in its way?  How will Moscow remove Turkish troops from northern Syria?  Will the United States remove its troops from the Rojava Canton’s if they come under full-scale attack from Turkey? How will the Damascus-Tehran-Moscow axis respond to the continuation of  Kurdish home rule in northern and eastern Syria?

Only time will provide us with an answer to these questions. The next round of the conflict in Syria is unlikely to bring peace, reconstruction and prosperity to its long-suffering citizens.  Sadly, they are likely to be mere bystanders in the military and diplomatic machinations that will unfold.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on SYRIA ANALYSIS: The Collapse of ISIS & the Standoff in Syria




AIRBASE:  The area of the airbase is so well-studied by the Republican Guards under the command of Maj. Gen. ‘Issaam Zhahreddeen that you could say they knew it as well as their own hands.  The day before yesterday, a unit of crack rangers using night-vision equipment spotted 2 armored trucks just standing with over 14 ISIS rodents milling about in the darkness.  The rangers fired off 5 Kornet rockets at the 2 stationary trucks turning them both into bright candles.  The rodents around the trucks were reportedly severely injured.  If an of the vermin were inside the trucks, they were incinerated.

Heavy fighting continues around the cemeteries where the SAA is making slow progress in an area not viewed as crucial.  The SAAF also struck hard at Sariyyat Junayd, the Electric Company, Block Factory, Al-Jafra, Old Batalion 137 Base hitting ISIS nests, warehouses and grouping areas.  No statistics on how many rats killed.

image: http://sana.sy/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/1-810-660×330.jpg

QUNAYTRA:  At Mas-hara, the SAA engaged Nusra/Alqaeda supported by the Zionist Ghetto State and with a volley of rockets struck a weapons warehouse directly causing a large explosion which could be seen in Western Der’ah Province.  Weapons and ammunition were destroyed along with a convoy of 5 vehicles 2 of which were Toyota pickups with 23mm cannons.  A 107mm rockets launcher was also destroyed.  Monzer reports a visual assessment of 8 certain dead rodents.


ALEPPO AND HOMS:   Received excellent reports that 338 factories have reopened in Aleppo.  Also, the Sugar Factory in Homs has also been put back on line afer a 10 week hiatus brought about by the presence of terrorist rodents.

image: http://jpnews-sy.com/ar/images/news/big/117943.jpg

سلاح الجو يكثف غاراته على مقرات HAMA:

‘Uqayrabaat Town:  In the Salamiyya area, the day before yesterday the Syrian Air Force brought down death and fire to ISIS destroying a large convoy of weapons and ammunition purchased by the Saudi Arabian child molesters.

Other convoys of trucks carrying weapons were annihilated at the following locations:

Teebat Al-Imaam



North Sooraan

Tal ‘Uthmaan

South Tal Hawwaash


The number of dead and wounded cockroaches can only be estimated from the air and noted from terrorist communications. However, the number of vehicles destroyed can be counted.  According to my source in Latakia, pilots counted 68 vehicles going up in flames thanks to the air force.

On the 27th of March, 2017,  the SAA  liberated Ma’aarzaaf and Tallat Sheeha in a sudden raid on Nusra/Alqaeda positions there killing 11 rodents most of whom were foreign mercenaries.

Qamhaanaa Town:  This town boasts a population of about 20,000.  It is under the protection of the Syrian Army.  The terrorists of Nusra/Alqaeda have tried 3 times to overrun its defenses using a potpourri of suicide vehicles.  They have failed each time miserably.
The Syrian Army took control over Al-Bukhaariyya Axis giving it fire control over Khattaab Village.

Khirbat Al-Hijaama:  The Syria Air Force killed 17 rodents 6 of whom were members of the Turkistaan Party supported totally by Erdoghan’s zombies.  According to my reports, the 17 were the total number of rodents targeted making this a thorough wipeout.

West of Kawkab Village:  This hamlet was recently deloused by the SAA.  Yesterday, SAA rangers caught terrorists planting landmines.  They called in for assistance and it came swiftly in the form of a complete armored brigade.  All 7 rats were killed, and a tank was destroyed at Tal Sakhr.

Al-Zaaraa Village:  1 pickup with a 23mm cannon was destroyed.  No reports on casualties.

image: http://jpnews-sy.com/ar/images/news/big/118007.jpg

للمرة الثالثة.. الميليشيات المسلحة تفشل في كسر تحصينات قمحانة بريف حماه

A view of Qamhaana City which boasts a population over 20,000.


Patrick Henningsen sends this one about the vocabulary of bias in the MSM.  A good article for students of propaganda:


From Sharmine, Part II of the documentary on the real character of the murderous terroristic gangs supported by NATO and KSA. A must see:


Pat forwarded this article and tape on a conversation with a commando fighting terrorism in Aleppo:







Read more at https://syrianperspective.com/2017/03/wipeout-in-dayr-el-zor-as-syrian-army-targets-isis-rodents-hama-under-massive-counterattack-by-syrian-army-rodents-heading-back-to-idlib-terrorists-flop-3-times-at-qamhaana.html#CRrJfPKQuDo582bm.99


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