In the early dawn of 5 July, a 200-strong force of anti-Isis fighters launched a surprise attack on the Old City of Raqqa, which is the last big urban centre held by Isis anywhere in Syria and Iraq. Recruited mostly from survivors of a tribe that Isis massacred three years ago, the five-man assault teams, into which the attackers were divided, at first made quick progress and reached a well-known local mosque in the Old City called Othman bin Affan. But Isis is still a formidable force, using expert snipers, suicide bombers and great numbers of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to inflict casualties. Abu Imad al-Sheity, the commander of the anti-Isis group, told The Independent in an interview by phone from the front line, that “the Daesh [Isis] militants learned that the local civilians were telling us the position of their snipers. They targeted them and killed dozens. It was a horrible massacre.” The UN says that there are between 50,000 and 100,000 civilians still left in Raqqa.
Tag Archives: Syria
Syrians living under Isis accepted the jurisdiction of Islamist courts – does that make them collaborators?
Almost exactly four years ago, a Syrian called Abu al-Zein, from the village of Katbiya in Aleppo province, appeared before the ‘General Court of the Revolutionary Police’ in the town of Deir Hafer to betray his cousins.Saeed and Ibrahim Abdul al-Ghafour, he testified, had been heard cursing the ‘Free Syrian Army’ – especially a unit of the opposition rebels run by Abu al-Zein himself. “So I presented a complaint [for] military investigation and was surprised that on the second day they were released with no charges,” Abu al-Zein told the revolutionary court. “They are always talking against and cursing the ‘Free Army’ and so I appeal to you for an investigation and accountability [sic] to hold them responsible for all the things they said.”
On April 6, United States President Donald Trump authorized an early morning Tomahawk missile strike on Shayrat Air Base in central Syria in retaliation for what he said was a deadly nerve agent attack carried out by the Syrian government two days earlier in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. Trump issued the order despite having been warned by the U.S. intelligence community that it had found no evidence that the Syrians had used a chemical weapon.The available intelligence made clear that the Syrians had targeted a jihadist meeting site on April 4 using a Russian-supplied guided bomb equipped with conventional explosives. Details of the attack, including information on its so-called high-value targets, had been provided by the Russians days in advance to American and allied military officials in Doha, whose mission is to coordinate all U.S., allied, Syrian and Russian Air Force operations in the region.
Source: Syria: Trump‘s Red Line – WELT
The declaration by the White House that Bashar al-Assad was preparing to carry out another chemical attack and that Syria’s President would “pay a heavy price” if this took place appears to have caught the US military and State Department somewhat by surprise.It was certainly a highly unusual move. Such statements are rarely made in public, with warnings normally passed on privately through diplomatic channels. Russia, President Assad’s ally, would have been the obvious conduit for this. But instead the Trump administration went on to raise the ante with Nikki Haley, the ambassador to the UN, charging that a chemical attack “will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia and Iran who support him in killing his own people”.
The blowing up by Isis of the al-Nuri mosque in Mosul marks a decisive defeat for the caliphate declared by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in the same mosque three years ago. Isis will continue fighting as a guerrilla force, but it will be the end of a state once the size of Great Britain and fielding a military force more powerful than many members of the United Nations. Presumably Isis decided to destroy the ancient mosque and its famous minaret, a symbol of Mosul, to prevent the Iraqi security forces triumphantly raising the Iraqi flag over a place so closely associated with Isis.The end of the short-lived caliphate will be underscored if the self-declared caliph is himself dead, killed by a Russian airstrike near Raqqa some three weeks ago. Oleg Syromolotov, the Russian deputy foreign minister, repeated today a claim made last week but with greater certainty, saying that fresh information showed that there was “a high degree of probability” that Baghdadi was dead, killed after a meeting he was attending was targeted by Russian aircraft.
The extraordinary destruction of a Syrian fighter jet by a US aircraft on Sunday has precious little to do with the Syrian plane’s target in the desert near Rasafa – but much to do with the advance of the Syrian army close to the American-backed Kurdish forces along the Euphrates. The Syrians have grown increasingly suspicious in recent months that most Kurdish forces in the north of Syria – many of them in alliance with the Assad government until recently – have thrown in their lot with the Americans.Indeed, the military in Damascus is making no secret of the fact that it has ended its regular arms and ammunition supplies to the Kurds – it has apparently given them 14,000 AK-47 rifles since 2012 – and the Syrian regime was outraged to learn that Kurdish forces recently received an envoy from the United Arab Emirates. There is unconfirmed information that a Saudi envoy also visited the Kurds. This, of course, follows the infamous Trump speech in Riyadh, in which the US president gave total American support to the Saudi monarchy in its anti-Iranian and anti-Syrian policies – and then later supported the Saudi-led isolation of Qatar.
Anti-Isis forces are advancing into eastern Raqqa, the de facto Isis capital in Syria, and Iraqi troops have penned surviving Isis fighters into one part of the Old City in Mosul, once the heart of the self-declared Caliphate.
“They are down to their last neighbourhoods in Mosul and they already lost part of Raqqa, and the Raqqa campaign from here on can only accelerate,” said Brett McGurk, the US envoy to the international coalition fighting Isis. “These are critical elements in the ultimate defeat of Daesh [Isis], but this will be a long-term effort.”
“I do not think the siege of Raqqa will be as long as Mosul,” says Awad, an Arab fighter in the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who belongs to a military unit attacking Raqqa, the de facto capital of Isis in Syria. In an exclusive interview with The Independent, he says that “we are advancing quickly and the geographical nature of Raqqa is different from Mosul”.
The SDF has launched the crucial battle for Raqqa, a city with a population of 300,000 on the north bank of the Euphrates, after a long delay imposed by threats of military intervention by Turkey, which denounces the 45,000-strong SDF as “terrorists” dominated by the Syrian Kurds. The Turkish priority is to prevent the consolidation of a quasi-independent Kurdish statelet in northern Syria. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim today hinted strongly at Turkish military intervention, saying that “we will immediately give the necessary response if we come across a situation in Raqqa … that threatens our security”.
The truth about US involvement in Syria is far more complicated than Donald Trump wants you to think
Somewhere over the Atlantic, I’ve always suspected, there’s a giant glass curtain through which Americans view the Middle East – through a glass darkly, perhaps – and which utterly distorts their vision.Even when they arrive in the region to chat to their “moderate” friends, the Sunni Muslim head-choppers, dictators and torturers who are now enlisting a mad American President in their alliance against Shia Muslims, the Western visitors do no more than mouth their propaganda and agree with Sunni Gulf plans to annihilate Iran.It’s not just the Washington crackpot himself. Take General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, who is beginning to earn his sobriquet in his grasp of contemporary history, as well as the obscene comments which earned him his nickname during the illegal 2003 US invasion of Iraq.
As Isis massacres families enjoying ice cream in Baghdad, this Ramadan could be even bloodier than previous years
Ice cream and blood mingle on the floor after a bomb exploded outside an ice cream shop in the Karada district of Baghdad as people broke their fast during the first day of Ramadan.A bewildered young girl wanders through the wreckage, past the smashed yellow tables and benches where at least 26 people have just been been killed and dozens injured by an Isis bomber.Bombings are usually worse in Baghdad in Ramadan, but they never stop during the rest of the year. Last year in Ramadan some 340 civilians were killed in the explosion of a single car in Baghdad.