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Syria

Terms of the #IdlibDeal: Copies of the official document released by the governments of Russia and Turkey

Terms of the #IdlibDeal: Copies of the official document released by the governments of Russia and Turkey

Leaders of Russia and Turkey have agreed to create a demilitarized Idlib buffer zone in Syria’s northwestern province to separate government forces from rebel fighters based there.

The Russian president said that under the deal, all heavy weaponry, including tanks, rocket launch systems and mortar launchers operated by rebel groups would need to be pulled out of the buffer zone by 10 October.

Copies of the document the

two leaders signed was forwarded to the UNSC are displayed below.

Cover letter
Terms of the Idlib Deal

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Has the Syrian government used chemical weapons in ISIS -held territories?

Has the Syrian government used chemical weapons in ISIS -held territories?

With every military operation in areas held by the so-called moderate opposition fighters, Western governments accuse the Syrian government of having planned to use chemical weapons or of having used chemical weapons. In the latter case, they responded by bombing sites and assets that allegedly enabled the government to use such weapons. So has the Syrian government used chemical weapons and if so, why?

Western governments explain the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons this way. The chemical attacks occurred in areas where the Syrian government encountered stiff resistance. The Syrian government uses weapons of mass destruction to speed up military operations or to force armed groups to surrender. However, based on this reasoning, one would expect the Syrian government to use chemical weapons against the most hardened fighters, again, for speedy victory or to force surrender. 

The Depravity of Racism is Rooted in its Selective Outrage

The Depravity of Racism is Rooted in its Selective Outrage

Reacting to news reports that an attack with chemical weapons took place in the city of Douma (Syria), president Trump tweeted the following:

Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!

 

 

Evidently, Trump’s statement was intended to express outrage: how could someone kill his own people! The outrage, then, justifies attacking Syria. This selective outrage is present in the minds and attitudes of all individuals who suffer from the pathology of supremacism, be it race-, ethnicity-,  religion-based supremacy.
They would like us to believe that not all human lives are equal and they would jump on every opportunity to qualify the loss of life, the cause of the loss of life, the method of taking away life, and the kind of person losing her life.

In this particular case, Trump thinks that when the head of a state kills his own people, that is worse than when the head of another state kills people of another state. It explains the joy he feels as he brags about unleashing a salvo of “nice, new, “smart!” weapons.” It does not matter if these “beautiful” weapons kill people, as long as they are killing people of other nations. It explains the lack of remorse of launching an illegal war on Iraq under false pretext in 2003, killing nearly a million people. It explains the peace of mind European leaders felt when they colonized African nations and killed millions of people.

What ought to make Americans of diverse backgrounds uneasy is this: when supremacists say “own people”, they don’t mean “own citizen.” They mean “own kind.” That means, killing Black people would not qualify as “killing one’s own people” therefore it should not elicit outrage. That means, killing Native American people would not qualify as “killing one’s own people”, therefore it should not provoke outrage. That means, killing Hispanic people would not qualify as “killing one’s own people”, therefore it should not prompt outrage. That means, killing Muslim-Americans would not qualify as “killing one’s own people”, therefore it should not educe outrage. That means, killing any non-White people would not qualify as “killing one’s own people”, therefore it should not cause outrage.

The Syrian people, who endured seven years of brutal war, lost hundreds of thousands of their family members, sustained mental and physical injury may not be so eager to live through another barrage of “nice, new, “smart!” weapons” that can only increase their suffering.

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Turkey is now alone, thanks to its erratic alliances

Turkey is now alone, thanks to its erratic alliances

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

This map, produced by pro-gov. Syrian group, hints
to Syria’s claim over most of Hatay province, could explain
the strategy for dealing with Idlib.
There are historical and political reasons for Turkey’s determination to prevent the formation of an autonomous Kurdish region in Northern Syria. However, Turkey’s government might be nervous not just because of the Kurdish separatist aspirations, but also because of its long territorial dispute with the Syrian government, which considers most of Hatay province (Iskenderun) Syrian territory. Looking at the military strategy the Syria government has put in place since the start of its military campaign to regain lost territory, it would appear that the Syrian government wants to address its sovereignty claim over Iskenderun in the context of this armed conflict, in which Turkey has been deeply involved politically and militarily. Turkey, on the other hand, given its erratic decisions related to the Syrian crisis and given its fickle alliances, finds itself alone, abandoned by old allies, Saudi Arabia and the US, and untrusted by its new one, Russia and Iran.

 
First, Turkey’s government knows that a sovereign and united Kurdistan with access to international waters is a formidable one. A landlocked Kurdistan will depend on the goodwill of its neighbors to have access to international markets and to the global community in general. But a Kurdistan stretching from the Iraqi-Iranian border in the east to the Mediterranean in the west is viable, strong, and rich. Turkey, more than all its neighbors is threatened by this prospect for many obvious reasons. That is why Turkey feels the need to act now before a political solution for the Syrian crisis, which might result in the creation of a semi-autonomous region in northern Syria, is reached. 
 
Second, it must be noted that Hatay province is inhabited by diverse ethnic and religious groups, but Arabs and Alevis are a majority in its population of nearly 1.5 million people. The region, therefore, despite being under Turkish control, is strongly pro-Syrian government and throughout the Syrian crisis period, many of its people demonstrated in support of the Syrian government.
 
Third, nearly 500,000 Syrians were displaced by the violence in Aleppo and Idlib provinces and these displaced people settled in Hatay province. Moreover, the province borders the very volatile Idlib province that has been a relocation destination for all armed groups who chose not to enter into “reconciliation” agreements with the Syrian government. Idlib is controlled primarily by the powerful Islamist factions supported by Turkey and Qatar, mainly Ahrar al-Sham and al-Qaeda linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS; formerly Jabhat al-Nusra). 
 
Most recently, a number of factions defected from Ahrar al-Sham to join HTS making it the largest Islamist armed group in northern Syria. Parts of Idlib has been designated by the agreement (sponsored by Turkey, Russia, and Iran) as reduced violence zone. However, Russia has insisted all along that all de-escalation zones must exclude terrorist organization and, in the case of Idlib, given its proximity and connection to Turkey, Russia asked Turkey to dissolve or liquidate HTS. Turkey failed to do so, choosing instead to prioritize fighting Kurdish armed groups over fighting HTS and its affiliates. That development initiated a series of other events leading to the current situation. 
 
First, the Syrian government and its allies determined that Turkey has failed to deal with terrorist organizations in Idlib. The government, aided with Russian air force and allied troops, launched a multi-front offensive from the eastern regions under its control and appears to be moving westward. Today, the Syrian government announced full control of Abu Duhu airbase, a large strategic military facility, nearly 16 km2 at the intersection of three key provinces—Hama, Idlib, and Aleppo, that can be used to launch future operations deeper into all three provinces. 
 
Turkey moved troops to some points in Syria and began a military campaign against the Kurds in Afrin. Meanwhile, the US shifted its support to Kurds from assistance to defeat ISIS to training and equipping a permanent military force that it called border control units, which angered the Turkish government and raised some questions about the legality of US presence in Syria without clear UNSC or government authorization. 
 
The Syrian government’s long term strategy is now revealed by its actions on the ground. It appears to involve military campaign to clear internal regions and relocate the diehard armed groups to Idlib with the intent to ultimately force them into Hatay province. Once there, they will be Turkey’s problem to deal with them on its own or enter into an agreement with the Syrian government to settle the border dispute and accommodate the people living therein. That is an impressive long-term strategy, unlike Turkey’s, involving trusted, reliable regional and international allies. 
 
Turkey on the other hand, did not seem to have had a long-term strategy. That fact can be deduced from its erratic alliances. First it joined the anti-Assad coalition led by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and several EU states. Then it joined the anti-ISIS coalition led by the US. Finally, it turned to Russia and Iran. But in the end, and with its Afrin operation, Turkey finds itself alone. Turkey, now, must deal with the ramifications of a crisis that it helped create but failed to control its outcome. Syria, on the other hand, may end up regaining control over disputed border territory or use it to settle its undesirables and all foreign fighters who came to support them. A Hatay province under Turkish control but full of diehard zealots will continue to be a threat to Turkish security and stability–in fact, more so than the imagined or real Kurdish threat.

 
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* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. His most recent book, Anatomy of Dissent in Islamic Societies, provides a historical and theoretical treatment of rebellious movements and ideas since the rise of Islam. Opinions are the author’s, speaking on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated. For more information, please visit: http://www.ahmedsouaiaia.com

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Terrorists for hire: US-trained and supported SDF is now recruiting ISIS fighters

Terrorists for hire: US-trained and supported SDF is now recruiting ISIS fighters

Since the start of the civil war, fighters from within Syria and from outside Syria were recruited for the more important (so important that even terrorist elements were enlisted for this) cause: overthrow the Syrian government headed by Bashar al-Assad. Some world and regional governments were so determined to achieve this goal even if that meant fighting side by side with genocidal Wahhabi Salafist terrorists. And they did and some still do.

Since 2011, these actors worked methodically to achieve that singular goal. First, they created the umbrella organization, which they called the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to lead the campaign (July 2011) and provide the public face for all armed groups. 
Since outside actors were many and with many agendas, the FSA quickly splintered into separate factions depending on their “funders” and ideological supporters. Saudi Arabia funded Wahhabi Salafists–and some secular armed groups for cover. Qatar and Turkey threw their weight behind members of the Muslim Brotherhood fighters–and some secular fighters, for cover as well. The United Stated government and its EU allies sponsored secular fighters but also tolerated the factions associated with Qatar, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. 
That uneasy arrangement lasted until the Wahhabi Salafists grew strongest to become the most powerful armed group that would wrestle way territory not only from other Syrian armed groups and from the Syrian government, but also from the Iraqi government. ISIL’s fast rise to power stunned and threatened its supporters and those who tolerated it. When ISIL carried out waves of cruel crimes and acts in Syria and abroad, the anti-Assad coalition cracked. They agreed that ISIL must be downsized and contained and its offshoot—Nusra—be rehabilitated. By that time, Russia decided to step up its involvement (September 2015) and support the Syrian government. They found the Iranians there already doing just that.
 Since then, all territory previously controlled by ISIL was reclaimed by the Syrian government (30%) and its allies. Meanwhile the US-sponsored armed groups fighting under a new umbrella organization called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) retook nearly 15% of ISIL’s territory mainly east of the river (Euphrates) and annexed it to their Kurdish controlled areas. As of now, the Syrian government controls about 55% of Syria, the SDF controls about 30%, and all other armed groups control pockets amounting to about 15%. 
To preserve their gains and have some leverage going into the political talks, SDF fighters are building an alternative military force to control north and northeast Syria. Given that the territories they recently took were inhabited by Sunni Arabs, not Kurds, the SDF leaders and their backers are now recruiting Sunni Arab fighters, including former ISIL members. 
These activities and the level of foreign interference will delay peace in a country that lost too many of its people and too much of its wealth and resources. These foreign actors ought to realize that the longer instability lasts in Syria the less stable their own countries will be. It is in the interest of everyone that this crisis is solved and solved quickly.

 

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