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Report from Rojava: What the West Owes its Best Ally Against ISIS

As the de facto chief negotiator of the liberated region called the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, Ilham Ahmed, the Kurdish co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council, has much on her mind. In recent months, she has traveled in the US and Europe, negotiating the future of a domain that is home to an estimated 5 to 6 million people, including a substantial portion of Syria’s 6.2 million internally displaced persons, and, now in addition, thousands of families implicated in Islamic State terrorism who are today living in refugee camps. As Ahmed continues delicate talks with the world’s superpowers over the status of this territory, its future is, to a certain degree, in her hands.

With determination in her eyes and a furrowed brow, her face bears witness to this formidable responsibility. But riding in her black armored utility vehicle through plains lush with green spring grasses and grazing sheep, south toward Deir al-Zour province for the official announcement last month of the defeat of ISIS’ so-called caliphate, Ahmed allowed herself a moment to muse about a lesson from history. In the year 612 BCE, she told me, the Guti, ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia whom Kurds sometimes identify as forebears, banded together with the Medes and other tribes to throw off their oppressor, the Assyrian King Zuhak.

https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2019/04/04/report-from-rojava-what-the-west-owes-its-best-ally-against-isis/

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The evidence we were never meant to see about the Douma ‘gas’ attack

We like to take the Big Boys on trust. No longer do we believe in our meretricious little leaders with their easy lies and twitters: the Trumps and Mays and now all the nationalists of Europe. We certainly don’t put any credit in Arab dictators.

But when, despite all its bureaucracy and corruption, the UN tells us that the world faces climate change, we largely believe what it says. If the International Red Cross warns us of a humanitarian catastrophe in Africa, we tend to take their word for it. And when the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) – which represents 193 member states throughout the world – reports on chlorine attacks in Syria, we assume we are hearing the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Until now. For in the last few days, there has emerged disturbing evidence that in its final report on the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime in the city of Douma last year, the OPCW deliberately concealed from both the public and the press the existence of a dissenting 15-page assessment of two cylinders which had supposedly contained molecular chlorine – perhaps the most damning evidence against the Assad regime in the entire report.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/douma-syria-opcw-chemical-weapons-chlorine-gas-video-conspiracy-theory-russia-a8927116.html

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2019 in Middle East, Uncategorized

 

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Though Isis leader al-Baghdadi is alive, this poor strategist may not be a huge threat

The reappearance of the Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has the same shock effect as that of Osama bin Laden in the aftermath of 9/11. It has all the greater impact because of claims that, with the elimination of the last territory held by Isis in March this year, that group was close to being out of business as a serious threat.

The slaughter of some 250 civilians in Sri Lanka had already showed that Isis retains its ability to take control of the international news agenda with suicide bombing attacks directed at civilians. “As for our brothers in Sri Lanka, I was overjoyed when I heard about the suicide attack, which overthrew the cradles of the Crusaders, and avenged them for our brethren in Baghouz,” al-Baghdadi said.

Just before the bombings in and around Colombo, the leader of the Isis cell had pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/isis-leader-video-name-abu-bakr-al-baghdadi-syria-iraq-a8892081.html

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2019 in Middle East

 

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We can end Isis terrorism – but only if western countries wind down their proxy wars in the Middle East

Western governments have been swift to pledge action to strike at Isis, as it becomes clear that the organisation was behind the suicide bombings that killed 253 people in Sri Lanka.

A video released by Isis after the attacks shows Zahran Hashim, an Islamic preacher and alleged leader of the bombers, pledging allegiance together with six other men – also thought to be bombers – to the self-declared caliph and leader of Isis, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Western leaders, as is usual, are proposing easy or unattainable action that will do little to damage Isis capabilities – such as trying to limit its access to social media – while steering clear of potentially more effective but difficult to implement policies to eradicate Isis that might be contrary to their national interests.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/sri-lanka-bombings-blast-colombo-attack-isis-middle-east-west-proxy-wars-a8888246.html

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2019 in Middle East

 

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What can past civil wars tell us about Syria and its road to recovery?

When Syrian government soldiers first recaptured the small village of Deir Hafar from Isis in 2017, they found the black-painted but hurriedly abandoned Islamic “court” strewn with piles of documents. These hundreds of pages contained terrible proof of how the Syrian civilians there had behaved under at least three years of Isis occupation.

I arrived in the village along with the Syrian army after Russian aircraft had bombed Isis out of the streets – the Islamists were still firing shells as they retreated, killing a senior Syrian commander – and reached the local sharia court building, a concrete blockhouse beside three equally black-painted but iron crucifixion bars on a platform above the road.

But the papers on the floor of the court were the real story of Deir Hafar.

The judges had been Egyptian and their jurisdiction stretched all the way back to the then Isis “capital” of Syria in the town of Raqqa.

The documents revealed that the people of the village had used Islamist “justice” to betray their neighbours – in one case to name family cousins as potential spies, in another to accuse a young man of secretly meeting his girlfriend when he was supposed to attend evening prayers. Other neighbours accused each other of theft. A man supposedly collecting money for an electrical generator had pocketed the cash for himself. One potential agent – possibly for the Syrian government – was handed on for “justice” by the “Revolutionary Islamic Police Court”.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/syria-civil-war-isis-assad-islamic-state-history-ireland-lebanon-yugoslavia-a8835031.html

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2019 in Middle East

 

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Sick Children Bear the Brunt of Post-IS Chaos

A three-month old baby shouldn’t look like this. It shouldn’t be a tiny, motionless bundle with feeble, wrinkled skin stretched over its bones. It shouldn’t have to be kept alive with a feeding tube and intravenous fluids in an incubator.

The baby’s name is Saifullah, or “Sword of God,” and that is almost all the nurse knows about it. At least it survived the first three days, says the doctor. Statistically speaking, that is cause for optimism. For the 20 to 30 children and infants that arrive each day at this hospital in the Kurdish-controlled city of Al-Hasakah, Syria, the biggest danger is that they’ll be “dead on arrival.” The name of the hospital cannot be disclosed due to safety concerns. The same goes for the name of the doctor.

This is where the weakest and most innocent members of Islamic State are taken — the sick children of the caliphate. The adults who remain loyal to the group were locked for months in a game of cat-and-mouse with Kurdish-commanded militias around their last remaining refuge in the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz. The vast territory once under control of IS — which at one point covered roughly the same area as Jordan — is now gone, the last of the extremist fighters having been dislodged over the weekend.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/children-of-the-islamic-state-suffer-as-caliphate-ends-a-1259225.html

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2019 in Middle East

 

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Isis caliphate defeated: How the Islamic State’s brutal project was finally overthrown, and what might come next

Up to its dying days the self-declared Islamic State has retained the ability to top the news agenda, even as its fighters were losing their last battle for bomb-shattered villages in the deserts of eastern Syria. When their spokesman promised retaliation for the massacre of Muslims in the Christchurch mosques his threat was taken seriously.

Given the record of Isis atrocities it is not surprising that nobody can discount its ability to exact revenge through existing adherents, new converts or those using its name to spread terror. This is not just western paranoia: in Syria and Iraq people speak continually of Isis sleeper cells waiting to emerge and exact revenge.

There is a largely sterile debate about whether or not Isis – whose territory once stretched from the outskirts of Baghdad to the hills overlooking the Mediterranean – is dead and buried, as Donald Trump claims. Could it be reborn if the pressure against it is relaxed? The answer is simple enough: Isis is defeated as a state apparatus that once ruled eight million people, but it can persist as a terrorist and guerrilla organisation.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-defeat-caliphate-isamic-state-territory-syria-iraq-victory-terror-a8781626.html

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2019 in Middle East

 

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Assad can still be brought to justice – and Europe’s role is crucial

The hope must be that criminal justice will one day close in on Syria’s murderous dictator Bashar al-Assad, his henchmen and his enablers. And on that front, there’s been some good news recently: the arrests in Germany and France of three Syrian intelligence officials suspected of torture were groundbreaking. This came on top of the issuance of warrants and the filing of dozens of criminal complaints in a number of European countries, including Sweden and Austria.

It may take time, and the odds may currently look slim, but criminal investigators will eventually work their way up the chain of responsibility to incriminate Syria’s tyrant for the slaughter of his own people for almost eight straight years. Some very motivated lawyers and activists are preparing for the day when those who have perpetrated crimes against humanity in Syria will be held accountable. And it’s in Europe that those efforts are starting to yield the most notable results.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/01/assad-europe-lawyers-syrian-war-criminals

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2019 in Middle East

 

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Stand with Rojava, oppose Turkey’s war

The threat of yet another war looms over northern Syria once again. Turkish troops and their Islamist mercenaries are massing on the borders of the self-governed Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, the predominantly Kurdish regions also known as Rojava. They are gearing up for an invasion that unavoidably will cause many deaths and the displacement of tens or hundreds of thousands of civilians.

The situation on the ground is extremely tense. The populations of Manbij and Kobane have formed human shields in protest against the Turkish invasion and have been readying themselves for war. The People’s and Women’s Defense Units (YPG and YPJ) as well as local militias are not just defending their lands, but they are also defending hope. Hope for a better life that extends far beyond northern Syria. A hope that has inspired many internationalists from all over the world to come to Rojava and join the revolutionary struggle.

This coming weekend they are calling for global days of action to speak up and protest against the threat of a Turkish invasion.

https://roarmag.org/essays/stand-rojava-oppose-turkeys-war/
 
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Posted by on February 22, 2019 in Middle East, Revolution

 

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Trump says Isis has been defeated, but he is ignoring the bigger and much more worrying picture

President Trump says that in the coming week the US and its allies will announce that they have captured all of the land previously controlled by Isis. He claims that US-led forces “have liberated virtually all of the territory previously held by Isis in Syria and Iraq … we will have 100 per cent of the caliphate.“ 

The prediction has sparked a sterile and misleading debate about whether or not Isis is finally defeated, something which will remain unproven since the movement is unlikely to run up a white flag and sign terms of surrender. The discussion has – like all debates about foreign policy in the US – very little to do with the real situation on the ground in Syria and Iraq and everything to do with the forces at play in Washington politics. 

In discussing the demise or survival of Isis, pundits make the same glaring omission. They ignore the fact that by far the largest stronghold in Syria held by an al-Qaeda type group is not the few shattered villages for which Isis has been battling in the east of the country. Much more important is the jihadi enclave in and around Idlib province in north-west Syria which is held by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (Liberation of Levant Organisation), a powerful breakaway faction from Isis which founded the group under the name of Jabhat al-Nusra in 2011 and with whom it shares the same fanatical beliefs and military tactics. Its leaders wear suicide vests studded with metal balls just like their Isis equivalents. 

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/trump-isis-syria-iraq-iran-terror-islamic-state-washington-a8769936.html

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2019 in Middle East, North America

 

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