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Tag Archives: Syria

Why we should fear the ‘Washington establishment’ figures who are pulling the strings in the Trump administration

People sitting in cafes in Baghdad under the rule of Saddam Hussein used to be nervous of accidentally spilling their cup of coffee over the front page of the newspaper spread out before them. They had a good reason for their anxiety, because Iraqi newspapers at that time always carried a picture of Saddam on their front page. Defacing his features might be interpreted as an indication of disrespect or even of a critical or treasonous attitude towards the great leader.

Saddam Hussein invariably got star billing in the Iraqi press, but he would be impressed at the astonishing way in which it has become the norm in the US media for the words and doings of President Trump to monopolise the top of the news. Day after day, the three or four lead stories in The New York Times and CNN relate directly or indirectly to Trump. And, unlike Saddam, this blanket coverage is voluntary on the part of the news outlets and overwhelmingly critical.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/donald-trump-rex-tillerson-establishment-media-iraq-syria-iran-turkey-a8191626.html?amp

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Posted by on February 14, 2018 in Middle East

 

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On the front line in Syria, a confusing conversation with a doctor who may be an official of the YPG

Dr Karaman Heddo breezed into the office in surgical kit, a plastic covering for his hair, a big grin on his bearded face.

“Ask me anything about Afrin – ask me anything political,” he said.

It was an odd meeting. Dr Heddo – trained as a doctor at the Aleppo medical school, he confided –  wouldn’t exactly confirm he was an official of the YPG, the local Kurdish “protection units”, although he certainly sounded like it. He insisted we were in a medical facility. It had marble floors. It was spotless. It was guarded by two armed men. But it seemed to have no patients. It certainly had no ambulances or worried families at the door or busy nurses.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/syria-front-line-robert-fisk-war-ypg-kurdish-syrian-army-russia-putin-a8191381.html

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2018 in Middle East

 

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The Real Reason Behind Turkey’s Military Incursion Into Syria

On the ninth day of Turkey’s incursion into the Kurdish district of Afrin, an international movement is underway to try to stop the galloping Turkish assault into Syria.

Germany announced Thursday it would halt arms shipments and suspend the deal it signed to upgrade Turkey’s German-manufactured tanks. France convened a special meeting of the UN Security Council on Monday, and U.S. President Donald Trump warned Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday to “avoid any actions that might risk conflict between Turkish and American forces” in Syria.

https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/the-real-reason-behind-turkey-s-kurdish-skirmish-1.5766942

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2018 in Middle East

 

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As my recent trip to Syria proved, wars can be at their most dangerous when they’re coming to an end

It’s easy to think the war is over. Until mortars from Ghouta swish over Damascus and explode in the old Christian area of Bab el-Touma with its grocery shops and restaurants. Six dead. Or when an army officer comes and says quite casually to you: “Remember Captain Walid? He was martyred four days ago.” I’ve always felt uneasy about the word “martyred” – about any soldier, or civilian, anywhere.

But that’s the way the man referred to Captain Walid Jabbour Khalil. He was a combat correspondent with the Syrian army. He carried a notebook, not a rifle, and he had a dangerous job.

I knew him, though not well. Last year, he was covering the war on the mountains of Qalamun high above Lebanon, a short, cheerful, moustachioed man who, I thought, was happier as an official military reporter than an infantryman. He had been recording how the bodies of Jabhat al-Nusra fighters lay on the edge of an escarpment just captured by the army and its Hezbollah allies.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/syria-civil-war-deaths-danger-risk-assad-regime-rebels-russia-eastern-ghouta-damascus-aleppo-hama-a8188936.html

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2018 in Middle East

 

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On the ground in Afrin, it’s hard to know what Kurdish fighters really stand for

It’s a dirty old war. The city of Afrin, supposedly threatened with cataclysmic assault by the Turkish army, is open as usual, its shops doing apparently good business, its restaurants welcoming customers, its taxis lined up for customers, its Kurdish fighters manning the occasional checkpoint with weary obedience.

As for the Russians who, we have been told by news agencies and many others, have left – well, they are still here, at least during the day. I myself watched a Russian armoured personnel carrier – marked “military police” in Russian and Arabic but with the two-headed Russian eagle on the front – negotiate the checkpoint from the Syrian military line on the edge of Aleppo province into the Kurdish controlled Syrian province of Afrin.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/syria-kurds-turkey-afrin-erdogan-pkk-ypg-what-they-stand-for-a8184056.html?amp

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2018 in Middle East

 

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Inside Afrin, the true victims of Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria are revealed – refugees, babies, women and children

When Taha Mustafa al-Khatr, his wife Amina, his two daughters Zakia and Safa and son Sulieman went to bed in the tiny village of Maabatli, they placed their shoes outside the door. Most Middle Eastern families do the same.

It’s a tradition and a sign of cleanliness in the home. The cheap plastic slippers were still there, of course, when the Turkish shell hit their house at one in the morning – and when I arrived a few hours later, I found the same shoes, a few blown down the stairs but most still neatly lined up next to each other. Did one of the daughters choose the slippers with the plastic bows? Even the rescue workers – such as they are in the Kurdish province of Afrin – didn’t touch the shoes. They left one of the blood-soaked bedspreads where it was in the rain under the collapsed roof of the cheap breeze-block house. The bodies, of course, had gone.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/afrin-turkey-invasion-syria-enclave-kurds-ypg-airstrike-war-civil-a8182266.html?amp

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2018 in Middle East

 

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How did food from the West Midlands end up in Isis-controlled territory in Syria?

It’s below zero degrees on the vast dirt hillside above Totah but through the mist and freezing rain, I can see the Syrian general’s target, a small Isis-held village across a valley of mud. There’s a crash of artillery fire from his Shilka guns, and you wait several seconds before the shells fall behind a clump of hillside trees. The smoke billows into the cold air and it takes another few seconds before the sound of the explosions reaches back to us. Then another few seconds before Isis shoots back at the Syrians. Heavy machine gun fire that echoes and thumps up the wadis. Isis is not beaten yet. It still has food. From the UK, no less. Of which, more later.

The general, I should add, is nicknamed “Caesar”. Military headquarters in Damascus have now forbidden officers to give their real names – because, they say, several have been assassinated after appearing by name in the Syrian media.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/syria-isis-frontline-robert-fisk-food-supplies-free-syrian-army-a8179216.html?amp

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2018 in Middle East

 

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By reversing its policy in Syria the US is fuelling more wars in the Middle East

Seldom has an important new US foreign policy crashed in flames so quickly and so spectacularly, achieving the very opposite results to those intended.

It was only ten days ago that the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson unexpectedly announced that American military forces would remain in Syria after the defeat of Isis. Their agenda was nothing if not ambitious: it included the stabilisation of the country, getting rid of Bashar al-Assad, rolling back Iranian influence, preventing the resurgence of Isis and bringing an end to the seven-year Syrian war. Tillerson did not seem to care that this new departure was sure to offend a lot of powerful players in and around Syria and was quite contrary to past US pledges that it was only fighting in Syria to defeat Isis and had no other aims.

In effect, the US was reversing its old policy of trying to keep its distance from the Syrian quagmire and was blithely plunging into one of the messiest civil wars in history.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/syria-us-kurdish-state-turkey-war-us-is-creatign-trouble-in-the-middle-east-a8179941.html?amp

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2018 in Middle East

 

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Showdown in Afrin: Turkey’s Attack on Syria’s Kurds Threatens That Country’s Most Democratic, Pluralist Force

Last week Turkey opened a new front in the Syrian war by using its air force against the Syrian Kurdish canton of Afrin—which had done absolutely nothing to provoke this attack—even while the battle against ISIS continues in Deir Ezzor, where the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), led by the Kurdish YPG-YPJ, are fighting with US support. Turkey’s attack on the Syrian Kurds has opened up a new front in the war, jeopardized its already fragile relationship with the United States, and given a green light to jihadis to attack the Kurds.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who announced that his “Operation Olive Branch” would “destroy all terror nests” within days, launched a ground offensive on Sunday, January 21, that included tanks, special operations troops, and militias of the Free Syrian Army. Though the ground offensive was stalled, Turkey is still heavily bombing; so far at least 24 civilians have been killed and an estimated 5,000 have lost their homes. The displaced have nowhere to run, since Turkey has built a wall along the border and those who reach Aleppo are turned back at Syrian government checkpoints. Meanwhile, at home Erdogan is arresting any journalist or politician who dares criticize the offensive on social media—91 and counting.

https://www.thenation.com/article/showdown-in-afrin-turkeys-attack-on-syrias-kurds-threatens-that-countrys-most-democratic-pluralist-force/

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2018 in Middle East

 

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What Comes after War in Syria?

At 11:47 a.m. on a clear day in November, the air in the Bab Sharqi neighborhood doesn’t smell of victory but of dust and smoke, as a mortar shell strikes behind Jenney Loutfi’s office. “The terrorists are in Jobar,” says Loutfi, referring to a neighborhood only about a kilometer away from her desk in the welfare agency of the Syrian Catholic Church. “As the crow flies,” the 27-year-old says, stressing that this is what matters when it comes to mortar shells.

The shell slammed into the roof of the mosque behind the “Eastern Gate,” or Bab Sharqi, one of the seven entrances to the old city. “Why are they firing at us? There are only civilians left here,” asks Loutfi. What she doesn’t know is that the government is waging a campaign of heavy airstrikes on the rebels here in southeastern Syria, and that the attack on the old city represents the trapped rebels’ last gasp before their inevitable defeat.

In military terms, the war has already been decided — for Assad and the Syrian regime. Nevertheless, the country is still far from peace.

Jenney Loutfi is an Orthodox Christian, which makes her part of a minority in Syria most likely to find protection in areas controlled by the government. But that hasn’t stopped the bombing deaths in recent days in the narrow alleys of the Christian neighborhood.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/assad-s-victory-what-comes-after-war-in-syria-a-1188244.html

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2018 in Middle East

 

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