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Syrian civilians brace for humanitarian disaster in a final confrontation between Isis and Assad

SIX YEARS AFTER REVOLT first broke out in cities and villages across Syria, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has rolled back the fractious opposition to its rule and regained control of almost every major population center in the country — except one, the northwestern province of Idlib.

Once famous for its olive groves and archaeological ruins, Idlib is now the last redoubt of Islamist opposition to Assad. The capital, Idlib City, has been under Islamist control since 2015, and today the two million people living in the province — many of them refugees from other parts of the country – could be caught up in a disastrous final confrontation between jihadists and the Assad regime.

https://theintercept.com/2017/08/22/syrian-civilians-brace-for-humanitarian-disaster-of-a-final-confrontation-between-assad-and-jihadists/

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Posted by on September 18, 2017 in Middle East

 

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Isis is stepping up its attention-grabbing atrocities to counterbalance its defeat in Iraq and Syria, where the vast majority of terror victims are

Isis is the most likely inspiration for the bomb explosion on the tube train at Parsons Green station. The attempted mass killing is similar to the attacks in Barcelona, Manchester and London earlier this year in that it aimed to murder the maximum number of civilians in the most public way possible.

Isis is stepping up its attention-grabbing atrocities to counterbalance its defeats on the battlefields in Iraq and Syria. It aims to show strength, instil fear and dominate the news agenda at a time when it has lost the savage nine-month-long struggle for Mosul in Iraq and is being defeated in the battle for its last big urban centres in Deir Ezzor and Raqqa in Syria. The caliphate that Isis declared after its capture of Mosul in 2014, once the size of Great Britain, is today reduced to a few embattled enclaves in the deserts of eastern Syria and western Iraq.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/isis-parsons-green-bomb-iraq-syria-a7949336.html

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2017 in Europe, Middle East

 

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The West might hardly believe it, but it now seems the Syrian war is ending – and Assad is the victor

A message came through from Syria on my mobile phone last week. “General Khadour kept his promise,” it read. I knew what it meant.

Five years ago, I met Mohamed Khadour, who was commanding a few Syrian soldiers in a small suburb of Aleppo, under fire from Islamist fighters in the east of the city. At the time, he showed me his map. He’d recapture these streets in 11 days, he said.

And then in July this year, I met Khadour again, far out in the east of the Syrian desert. He was, he said, going to enter the besieged city of Deir ez-Zor before the end of August. I reminded him, a trifle cruelly, that the last time he told me he’d recapture part of Aleppo in 11 days, it took the Syrian army more than four years to retake. That was long ago, he said. In those days, the army had not learned to fight in a guerrilla war. The army were trained to retake Golan and defend Damascus. But they had learned now.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/syrian-war-ending-bashar-al-assad-won-robert-fisk-syria-middle-east-israel-british-troops-a7933966.html

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2017 in Middle East

 

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When did protest against the Assad government turn to war in Syria?

When Nikolaos van Dam was a young diplomat in Damascus, he knew Syria better than many Syrians. A fluent speaker of Arabic, this Dutch scholar’s first book on Syria’s modern history was so well researched that even members of the Baath party would reportedly turn to its pages to understand the history of their institution and the nature of the regime for which they worked.

Precise, polite, his analysis as cool and lethal as a sword, Van Dam also possesses a cynical – perhaps sarcastic – attitude towards the diplomatic elite that other officials might secretly admire. “It is better to do nothing than to do the wrong thing with terrible results,” he told me a few days ago. “But Western democracies feel they have to do something … If there had not been any Western influence, there would have been a tenth of the violence, the country would not be in rubble, so many would not have died, you would not have had so many refugees.”

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/syria-civil-war-rebellion-isis-assad-western-intervention-arms-a7921526.html

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2017 in Middle East

 

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While defeat of Isis dominates global attention, al-Qaeda strengthens in Syria

Al-Qaeda is creating its most powerful stronghold ever in north-west Syria at a time when world attention is almost entirely focused on the impending defeat of Isis in the east of the country. It has established full control of Idlib province and of a vital Syrian-Turkish border crossing since July. “Idlib Province is the largest al-Qaeda safe haven since 9/11,” says Brett McGurk, the senior US envoy to the international coalition fighting Isis.

The al-Qaeda-linked movement, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which used to be called Jabhat al-Nusra, has long been the most powerful rebel group in western Syria. After the capture of east Aleppo by the Syrian army last December, it moved to eliminate its rivals in Idlib, including its powerful former Turkish-backed ally Ahrar al-Sham. HTS is estimated to have 30,000 experienced fighters whose numbers will grow as it integrates brigades from other defeated rebel groups and recruits young men from the camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who have sought refuge in Idlib from President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-defeat-al-quaeda-syria-grow-global-attention-islamist-terrorists-jihadis-un-us-west-iraq-raqqa-a7932881.html

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2017 in Middle East

 

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Syria: The Road to Nowhere

When I lived in rural Ireland years ago, a favorite joke started with an American tourist stopping a local farmer and asking for directions to Cork. The farmer pondered a moment before answering, “Well, if I was you, I wouldn’t be going there from here.” Anyone advising Washington on where to go in Syria has little choice but to admit that he’s as bewildered as that tourist in the Emerald Isle.One place to start, though, is Lebanon. For the past week, Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah has been fighting to remove jihadists belonging to the Islamic State and the former Jabhat al-Nusra from the Syrian side of the border. Within Lebanon, the army, with British assistance, has sealed the border against incursions of the kind witnessed in 2014 when the Islamic State captured the largely Sunni village of Arsal and kidnapped more than 20 Lebanese soldiers and policemen. This month, the Lebanese army and, over the border, the allied forces of Hezbollah and the Syrian military have caught the jihadists in a pincer. Whether or not the Lebanese and Syrian armies colluded in the venture, it appears to be removing the jihadists from the region.Hezbollah, which for years controlled Lebanon’s border with Syria, has in the past year ceded one base after another to the Lebanese army. The army, in turn, has built fortresses and watchtowers to prevent jihadist infiltration from Syria while permitting Hezbollah free access back and forth to assist Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s troops. The strategy has been working for Lebanon, which has not, as many feared, become a second theater of the Syrian civil war. Now, however, the United States has declared its intention to slash the Foreign Military Financing budget for Lebanon from last year’s $85.9 million to nothing at all.

Source: Syria: The Road to Nowhere – Charles Glass

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2017 in Middle East

 

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On the Syrian frontline, the battle is reaching its crescendo

Syrian troops are now set up in positions on the Lebanese side of the border between the two countries in their battle to destroy al-Qaeda in the towering mountains of Qalamoun. Corpses rot on the mountainsides here as the Lebanese Hezbollah – fighting now inside Syria – prepare for a final struggle against the Islamists, who are today surrounded on a towering black stone peak to the north. From the heights of the Karra mountain, 7,000 feet above the Syrian-Lebanese border, I could see Syrian troops encamped on top of the two mountains – inside Lebanon.The Syrian commander in Qalamoun, General Median Abad, tells the truth without hesitation. “Yes, we have our soldiers at two points inside Lebanon – above the frontier road which Nusrah [al-Qaeda] used to enter the Lebanese town of Ersal. Our men are on the Lebanese mountains of al-Sharqia and al-Valilal. You can see their tents.” And sure enough, across the narrow wadi (ravine) which separates us from Lebanon, I can make out the cluster of grey Syrian military tents spread across the top of the two Lebanese hills. The general confirms that he communicates with the Lebanese army – whose tank fire against Nusrah he distantly hears across the valleys – through the Hezbollah, whose forces joined him in attacking al-Karra.

Source: On the Syrian frontline, the battle is reaching its crescendo | The Independent

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2017 in Middle East

 

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Woe betide the Kurds of northern Syria when the war is over

It was a tree-lined street – the white acacias are blooming in Aleppo at this time of year – and the apartment block was, as we journalists used to say, unassuming. But on an upper floor, the Syrian men sitting round the air-conditioned room were deadly serious until a voice shouted on the recording which was being played to them from a desk opposite the door. Then they laughed very loudly indeed.“Al-Nusrah has brought dishonour on the head of my son and children,” the voice wailed, angry and frightened. “Just tell Nusrah to stop fighting – they must obey the teaching of God and not harm people. The have attacked my family, bullets have destroyed my home and my car.” The voice belonged to an official of Ahrar al-Sham, a Salafist militia once allied to al-Nusrah-al-Qaeda, the fiercest armed opponent of Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the same organisation which, in its original form, perpetrated the 9/11 crimes against humanity. But for the past four days, Ahrar al-Sham and Nusrah are fighting and killing each other. That is why the Syrians in the Aleppo room are laughing.

Source: Woe betide the Kurds of northern Syria when the war is over | The Independent

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2017 in Middle East

 

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The Syrian army were standing up to Isis long before the Americans ever fired a missile

I don’t like armies. They are dangerous institutions. Soldiers are not heroes just because they fight. And I’ve grown tired of saying that those who live by the sword sometimes die by the sword. But in an age when the Americans and the Iraqis and Isis can account for 40,000 civilian deaths in Mosul in the past twelve months, compared to 50,000 civilians slaughtered by the Mongols in 13th-century Aleppo – a human rights improvement of US aircrews, Iraqi brutality and Isis sadism over the Mongol hordes by a mere 10,000 souls – death sometimes seems to have lost its meaning.

Unless you know the victims or their families. I have a friend whose mother was murdered in the Damascus suburb of Harasta near the start of the Syrian war, another whose brother-in-law was kidnapped east of the city and never seen again. I met a little girl whose mother and small brother were shot down by al-Nusrah killers in the town of Jisr al-Shughour, and a Lebanese who believes his nephew was hanged in a Syrian jail. And then, this month, in the eastern Syrian desert, near the dust-swept shack village of al-Arak, a Syrian soldier I’d come to know was killed by Isis.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/syrian-army-war-palmyra-homs-general-fouad-death-isis-front-line-a7862636.html?amp

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2017 in Middle East

 

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As Syria’s army – with Russia’s help – advances through the desert, Isis propaganda comes across the radio waves

For 60 miles across the vast desert of eastern Syria, far beyond the trashed Roman ruins of Palmyra, the army of Syria is moving through the hot grey sands towards the besieged garrison city of Deir ez-Zour. For 60 miles, tanks and heavy artillery – and brand new Russian Army multiple missile launchers – line the narrow, melting highway through the oilfields, pale tents flourishing in the dry wadis of distant hills which belonged to Isis only a month ago, gun batteries thumping amid the sand dunes.
http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/syria-army-isis-fighters-russia-bashar-al-assad-propaganda-radio-deir-ez-zour-a7860586.html

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2017 in Middle East

 

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