Syrian Armed Forces Close-in on the Last Al-Qaeda Stronghold in the Al-Ghaab Plains

BY LEITH FADEL ON MAY 24, 2015

The Syrian Arab Army’s 106th Brigade of the Republican Guard – in conjunction with the National Defense Forces (NDF) and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) – carried out a fierce assault at Tal ‘Afayseh, storming the southeastern perimeter of this hill overlooking the town of Al-Sirmaniyah in the western part of the Al-Ghaab Plains.

After a morning of intense clashes at Tal ‘Afayseh, the Syrian Armed Forces were able to assert full control over the southeastern perimeter of the hill after killing over a dozen armed combatants from the Syrian Al-Qaeda group “Jabhat Al-Nusra” and their allies from Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham and Jund Al-Aqsa at this area in the Hama Governorate.

If the Syrian Armed Forces can take full control of Tal Afayseh, they will have effectively positioned themselves for the eventual counter-attack to retake the town of Al-Sirmaniyah in the Al-Ghaab Plains; this town is strategically located directly east of the Prophet Younis Mountains of eastern Latakia and it is the last remaining Al-Qaeda stronghold in this area.

In addition to their assault on Tal ‘Afayseh, the Syrian Armed Forces have attacked the Al-Qaeda militants at the outskirts of Qastoun, where they engaged a large contingent of these combatants in order to position themselves for the capture of this town located southeast of Jisr Al-Shughour.

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Ramadi and America’s Fracturing of Iraq

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While Washington waxes poetic about the need to more forcefully confront ISIS and destroy its military and terrorist infrastructure, the actual policies it has pursued are designed to achieve just the opposite.

 

May 23, 2015 (Eric Draitser – NEO) – The Western media has been consumed in recent days with the news that Islamic State militants have captured the strategically critical city of Ramadi in Iraq. The narrative is one of incompetence on the part of Iraqi military forces who, the corporate media tells us, are simply either ineffectual or hopelessly corrupt. Some analysts and pundits, especially those on the right who oppose Obama for various reasons, have used the fall of Ramadi to legitimize their claims that Obama’s “weakness” on the ISIS issue brought events to this point.

While there is truth to the assertion that Iraqi military forces are riddled with severe problems, from sectarianism in the command hierarchy, to poor training and, at times, organizational disarray, none of these issues is singularly responsible for the loss of Ramadi. Nor is it entirely accurate to say that Obama’s alleged weakness is really the cause.

Rather the primary reason, the one which the media carefully avoids including in their reportage, is the political and military sabotage of Iraq perpetrated by the United States in pursuit of its long-term agenda.

Indeed, while Washington waxes poetic about the need to more forcefully confront ISIS and destroy its military and terrorist infrastructure, the actual policies it has pursued are designed to achieve just the opposite. Instead of promoting unity of command and execution within the Iraqi armed forces, the Pentagon, Congress, and the White House have done everything to fracture Iraq’s political and military structures, fomenting rather than mollifying sectarian conflicts. Then the Washington Post can publisheditorials blasting Iraqi fecklessness, and calling for a more robust US military presence. In this way, the US policy of promoting division and weakness within Iraq has directly led to the dire situation in Ramadi and throughout the country.

How Washington is Destroying Iraq…Again!

The fall of Ramadi has provided ammunition to opponents of Obama whose central argument – if such insanity can be believed – remains that the US should wage further war in Iraq. Leading warmongers, Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, both claim that the failure is due to Obama’s “big mistake” in not leaving behind troops in 2011. Graham described US policy as “a failure of Obama’s military strategy,” while McCain referred to it as “one of the most disgraceful episodes in American history… [The] policy…is not enough of anything,” Aside from the obvious absurdity of their claims, McCain and Graham, and the media narrative surrounding the entire issue, are a perfect illustration of the utterly backwards narrative presented by the corporate media to the American public.

In reality, the US, with Congress very much playing a central role, has studiously worked to undermine any chances for national resistance and military victory inside Iraq by Iraqi security forces. Perhaps Graham and McCain forgot that the US has worked diligently to create divisions between Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish elements within the Iraqi military architecture.

As recently as late April 2015, Congressional Republicans were pushing for a defense authorization billthat would directly arm and fund Sunni and Kurdish militias inside Iraq, treating them as “independent countries.” An obvious means of fomenting further sectarian conflicts and fracturing the fragile and precarious unity of the government in Baghdad and its military forces, this bill is indicative of a broader policy, one aimed at de facto partition of Iraq along ethno-religious lines. Moreover, those who follow US politics and military adventurism should understand that legislation follows rather than precedes the policy. The US has likely been arming Sunni and Kurdish factions for a long time already, thereby further degrading the continuity of the military.

But aside from the political attempts to fragment the country, US military actions belie the real agenda which, rather than combating ISIS, is geared towards degradation of military capability of all sides, which is, in effect, support for ISIS.

Since the US campaign against the group in Iraq began, there have been countless media reports of US weapons and supplies falling directly into the clutches of ISIS, succoring it at precisely the time that it has suffered heavy losses at the hands of Shiite militias in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Army and Hezbollah across the border in Syria. As Naeem al-Uboudi, the spokesman for one of the main groups fighting ISIS in Tikrit told the NY Times, “We don’t trust the American-led coalition in combating ISIS… In the past, they have targeted our security forces and dropped aid to ISIS by mistake.”

This fact is critical to understanding the true motivation of Washington in this campaign, namely inflicting maximum damage on both ISIS and Shiite militias fighting it. In effect, this ‘controlled chaos’ strategy promotes and extends, rather than concludes the war. Additionally, the allegation of US-ISIS collusion is further supported by dozens of accounts of airdropped US weapons being seized by ISIS. As Iraqi MP Majid al-Ghraoui noted in January, “The information that has reached us in the security and defense committee indicates that an American aircraft dropped a load of weapons and equipment to the ISIS group militants at the area of al-Dour in the province of Salahuddin… This incident is continuously happening and has also occurred in some other regions.”

Looking at a map, one begins to see then that ISIS has received US support in each of the strategically significant areas where it has made important gains. When reports of US airdrops going to ISIS in the province of Salahuddin first emerged, it coincided with the group’s military success in Tikrit. Now we see Ramadi in the easternmost part of Anbar province has fallen within weeks of more reports emerging of US-supplied arms being destined for ISIS in the al-Baqdadi region of Anbar.

Taken in total then, it seems that US strategy has been to overtly attack ISIS while covertly supporting it. Similarly, the US has claimed to be supporting, or at least collaborating indirectly, with Shiite militias connected to Iran. At the very same time, those militias have repeatedly claimed that US has bombed them deliberately. Such seemingly contradictory military objectives lead to the inescapable conclusion that US policy has been, and continues to be, chaos and fomenting war. So for Washington to now claim that the fall of Ramadi is somehow a major tragedy, that it represents a failure of strategy, is utter disinformation. In effect, the fall of Ramadi is an orchestrated outgrowth of the “managed chaos” strategy.

The History and Politics of America’s Chaos Theory in Iraq

From a purely geopolitical perspective, the aim of the US is to foment sectarian conflict and prolong the war in Iraq as a means of checking Iranian influence in Iraq and throughout the region. The US is mostly incapable of achieving such an objective in Syria due to the continued success and cohesion of the Syrian Arab Army; in Iraq this is very much achievable. But this fragmentation and de facto partition of the country has been a long-standing policy, one that the US has pursued in myriad ways for more than a decade.

Keen political observers will recall that even before, and during the early stages, of the Iraq War in 2003, there was serious talk of dividing Iraq into religiously and ethnically homogenous territories. As influential neocon and President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations Leslie Gelb wrote in an op-ed in theNY Times in November 2003, “The only viable strategy…may be to correct the historical defect and move in stages toward a three-state solution: Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shiites in the south.” While this policy was not enacted immediately, the United States has always pursued this long-term strategy to varying degrees.

The major stumbling block has been the stubborn desire of various members of Iraq’s political elite to be independent and sovereign actors, not US puppets. The primary offender from Washington’s perspective was former Prime Minister, and current Vice President, Nouri al-Maliki, who refused to bow to the diktats of Washington, and was instead portrayed as a corrupt, autocratic Iranian stooge. But what were Maliki’s real transgressions from Washington’s perspective?

First and foremost were Maliki’s attitudes and policies towards the US occupation and the presence of military and non-military personnel. In fact, it was Maliki’s refusal to grant the US request to maintain military bases in the country after the withdrawal – against Obama’s wishes – which prompted the first round of attacks on him and his government. And it was then that the image of Maliki as Iranian puppet truly became popularized, at least in Western media. Indeed, as The Guardian noted at the time, “The Pentagon had wanted the bases to help counter growing Iranian influence in the Middle East. Just a few years ago, the US had plans for leaving behind four large bases but, in the face of Iraqi resistance, this plan had to be scaled down this year to a force of 10,000. But even this proved too much for the Iraqis.”

Maliki also took the absolutely monumental step of closing down Camp Ashraf and killing or expelling its inhabitants. Far from being a camp for “Iranian political exiles” as Western media have attempted to portray, Ashraf was the base of the Iranian terrorist organization Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), an organization supported wholeheartedly by neocons (as well as most “liberals”) in its continued terror war against Iran. Of course, because Maliki dared to cleanse Iraq of these US-sponsored terrorist thugs, he was immediately convicted in the court of US public opinion which described the operation as an assault on Iranian “freedom fighters.” We know all too well what the US means when it describes terrorists as freedom fighters.

And so, by refusing basing rights, refusing to extend immunity and legal protections to US contractors operating in Iraq, and wiping out Camp Ashraf and MEK members, Maliki became a villain. More to the point, it was his refusal to allow Iraq to be used by the US and its allies as a military and political bulwark against Iran that earned him the West’s ire. Far from wanting a “sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Iraq” as Obama eloquently proclaimed, Washington needed the country to remain a client state to be used as a weapon of US foreign policy in the region. By rejecting this, Maliki, almost overnight, became “a dictator.”

By ousting Maliki, the US once again pursued a policy of fragmentation, deliberately installing current Prime Minister Abadi who they knew would be weak, incapable of maintaining the unity of Iraq, and most importantly, amenable to US demands. As the NY Times wrote in the wake of the fall of Ramadi last week:

At the urging of American officials who sought to sideline the [Shiite] militias, Mr. Abadi… gambled that the combination of United States airstrikes and local Sunni tribal fighters would be able to drive Islamic State fighters out of [Ramadi]…But as the setback brought the Shiite militias, and their Iranian backers, back into the picture in Anbar, intensified Shiite infighting appeared to leave the prime minister more vulnerable than ever… He became prime minister last year with strong backing from the United States on the belief that he would be a more inclusive leader than his predecessor, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, and would reach out to the country’s minority Sunni Arabs and Kurds. Mr. Abadi has done so, by pushing for the arming of local Sunni tribesmen and reaching a deal with the Kurds to share oil revenue.

As the Times correctly notes, Abadi has, quite predictably, followed orders from Washington and pursued a strategy which, from the western perspective is “inclusive,” but is in reality very much sectarian. This is the inverted reality that the US and the Western media portrays; the arming and support for Sunni and Kurdish factions is “inclusive” rather than divisive, which is what it is in the real world. By forcing the Shiites, the dominant group demographically and politically in Iraq, into a secondary role, the US once again foments, rather than bridges sectarian divides. What is this called if not “divide and conquer”?

It should not be lost on anyone that this policy which, as noted above, dates back more than a decade, is all designed to curb Iranian influence in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. By forcing Shiites into the back seat politically, economically, and militarily, the US has hoped to stifle Iran’s development from isolated nation into a regional power. By doing so, the US once again acts in its own interests, as well as those, of course, of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey. Perhaps that grouping of countries rings a bell for people following the development of the war on Syria these past four years? Indeed, it is the same actors.

Seen in this way then, the US agenda and strategy in Iraq is precisely the same as that for the entire region: block Iran (and, on a grander scale, Russia and China) with regime change when and where possible. When regime change is impossible or undesirable, inflict chaos and foment conflict.

One might call such a policy cynicism of the highest order. While true, there are still other words that perhaps better reflect the true insidiousness of it all: colonialism and imperialism.

Eric Draitser is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City, he is the founder of StopImperialism.org and OP-ed columnist for RT, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

 

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Yemeni Army, Popular Committees Employ Russian Rockets to Strike Saudi Sites

Yemen

 The Yemeni army and the popular committees started employing Yerevan Russian  rockets, that can target a range of 60 kilometers, to strike the Saudi military sites in the bordering towns.

In this context, the Yemeni army and the popular committees continued controlling the various bordering sites in KSA, including al-Meizab, after the Saudi soldiers fled them.

 Politically, an Ansarullah delegation headed to Oman to conduct consultations with the authorities before moving to Geneva to participate in the Yemeni-Yemeni conference held by the United Nations.

Source: AFP

24-05-2015 – 11:19 Last updated 24-05-2015 – 11:26

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U.S. Britain & Canada reject nuclear disarmament so israel can keep its nukes

US rejects nuclear disarmament document over Israel concerns

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/us-rejects-nuclear-disarmament-document-over-israel-concerns/2015/05/22/18172276-00ec-11e5-8c77-bf274685e1df_story.html

May 22
UNITED NATIONS — The United States on Friday blocked a global document aimed at ridding the world of nuclear weapons, saying Egypt and other states tried to “cynically manipulate” the process by setting a deadline for Israel and its neighbors to meet within months on a Middle East zone free of such weapons.

The now-failed final document of a landmark treaty review conference had called on the U.N. secretary-general to convene the Middle East conference no later than March 2016, regardless of whether Israel and its neighbors agree on an agenda.

Israel is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has never publicly declared what is widely considered to be an extensive nuclear weapons program. A conference might force Israel to acknowledge it.

Since adopting a final document requires consensus, the rejection by the United States, backed by Britain and Canada, means the entire blueprint for global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation for the next five years has been blocked after four weeks of negotiations. The next treaty review conference is in 2020.

That has alarmed countries without nuclear weapons, who are increasingly frustrated by what they see as the slow pace of nuclear-armed countries to disarm. The United States and Russia hold more than 90 percent of the estimated 16,000 nuclear weapons in the world today.

Amid a growing movement that stresses the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, Austria announced that 107 states have now signed a pledge calling for legal measures to ban and eliminate them.

The U.S. comments Friday came after a top State Department official was dispatched to Israel this week for intense talks, as Israel protested the idea of being forced into a conference with its Arab neighbors without prior agreement on an agenda.

Israel had been furious when the U.S. at the treaty review conference five years ago signed off on a document that called for talks on a Middle East nuclear-free zone by 2012. Those talks never took place.

The language on the final document rejected Friday was “incompatible with our long-standing policies,” said Rose Gottemoeller, the U.S. under secretary of state for arms control and international security.

BRICS countries renew firm support for Syria’s sovereignty and call for peaceful solution

BRICS countries renew firm support for Syria’s sovereignty and call for peaceful solution

Moscow, SANA – BRICS countries stressed their firm support for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and renewed their call for a peaceful solution to its crisis by the Syrian people.

This expression of support came during a meeting in Moscow on Friday of the deputy foreign ministers of the BRICS member countries, which include Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Saturday that BRICS deputy foreign ministers expressed “deep concern” about the continuation of the crisis in Syria and the deteriorating humanitarian situation and the growing terror threat there.

The BRICS officials, the statement added, affirmed that they firmly support maintaining Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

They also highlighted the need of reaching a peaceful solution to the crisis by the Syrians themselves and called on all the parties in the crisis to abide by the Security Council’s relevant resolutions, according to the statement.

In this context, the deputy ministers called for resuming the political diplomatic settlement efforts for Syria through launching a broad dialogue based on the Geneva Communiqué of June 3, 2012 without preconditions, giving a positive assessment of the January and April rounds of inter-Syrian consultative talks in Moscow and the efforts of UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.

While condemning all forms of terrorism against the Syrians, the BRICS officials called for strict implementation by the international community of the Security Council resolutions 2170, 2178 and 2199 on combating terrorism.

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement also said the BRICS countries renewed their condemnation of the use of chemical weapons by any party at whatever circumstances, calling on the international community to maintain unity when investigating accusations about using chlorine as a chemical weapon in Syria.

Further evidence of israel’s hostility to Christianity

Israeli MP publicly tears Christian New Testament to pieces

by FalastinNews Staff

Michael Ben Ari ripped up a copy of the New Testament and threw it in the garbage.

Ben Ari, of the National Union Party, had his legislative aide, Itamar Ben Gvir, photograph his destruction and released the photo Tuesday to the daily Maariv.

Lawmakers had received in their Knesset mailboxes copies of the new edition of the New Testament released by the Bible Society, which distributes Christian books, Ynet reported. Some returned it to the society and others quietly disposed of it.

“Sending the book to lawmakers is a provocation. There is no doubt that this book and all it represents belongs in the garbage can of history,”

Ben Ari said, adding that it “galvanized the murder of millions of Jews” throughout history, including during the Spanish Inquisition.

Michael Ben-Ari a religious conservative was photographed tearing up a copy of the New Testament which was given to him by Israeli Evangelicals

He did not commit this act in just any old place; he did it in the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament. Ben-Ari is a member of HaIhud HaLeumim (National Union) a religious Jewish right wing party close to the Occupy Movement.

The gesture – which brings to mind the action of U.S. pastor Terry Jones who set fire to a copy of the Koran – was in response to an “unacceptable provocation” by the Israeli Bible Society, an Evangelical entity which in recent days sent a copy of the New Testament in Jewish to all 120 Israeli MPs. ““We are pleased to send you this book which we hope will help you and illuminate your way,” the accompanying letter written by Victor Kalisher read. “We hope and pray that this book may help you in your important position in service of the people.”

But yesterday, Michael Ben-Ari decided to go even further and got a photographer to capture the moment when he publicly ripped the pages out of the book in question and then threw them in the bin. As he did so he said: “This abominable book [the New Testament] brought about the murder of millions of Jews in the Inquisition and autos da fé.” “This is a provocation by church missionaries and there is no doubt that this book and those who sent it belong in the garbage can of history.”

Venezuela to Boost Palestine to Full Embassy Status

Venezuela to Boost Palestine to Full Embassy Status

The announcement comes after raft of new agreements between Caracas and Ramallah.

delcyrodriguez_webjpg20150522215444_340_220.jpg

Venezuela will boost its diplomatic representation in Palestine to full embassy status, according to the Venezuelan minister for foreign affairs.

“Following instructions from President Nicolás Maduro, we will raise our representation in the heroic Palestinian states to embassy level,” Delcy Rodríguez announced on social media Thursday evening.

Venezuela is currently represented by a first secretary in the city of Ramallah – headquarters of the Palestinian National Authority.

The news comes after a visit by Palestinian foreign affairs minister Riyad al-Maliki to Venezuela this week, during which 18 agreements of cooperation and a contract were signed covering a wide range of strategic areas.

According to broadcaster TeleSUR, the new deals include agreements in education, trade, energy, agriculture, health, defense and security.

Formal diplomatic ties between the two nations were established in 2009 under late President Hugo Chávez as a result of the Palestinian conflict with Israel that year. Venezuela went on to expel Israeli representatives as a sign of support for the Palestinian cause.

Maduro, who was Venezuela’s foreign minister at the time, was vocal in his desire for a lasting cease-fire between the two sides through peace negotiations, and repeatedly urged Israel to withdraw its troops from the Gaza Strip.

Venezuela has since provided extensive support to Palestine, including shipments of humanitarian aid, as well as lobbying for all countries to recognize the country’s independence and sovereignty.

Al-Maliki has made numerous trips to Venezuela during his time in office, and this week was officially awarded the Key to the City by the mayor of the Liberator municipality of the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, in a “sign of fraternity between Venezuela and Palestine”, the Noticias24 news website reported.

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