ما بعد ما بعد النصرة وداعش

ما بعد ما بعد النصرة وداعش

ناصر قنديل

– كلما كان الأمين العام لحزب الله السيد حسن نصرالله متحدثاً عن معارك السلسلة الشرقية الحدودية بين لبنان وسورية كان خصومه اللبنانيون يستحضرون اسم عرسال كبلدة لبنانية أرادوا توظيف هوية سكانها لتظهيرها هدفاً لحزب الله والمقاومة بسحابات طائفية، وتحويلها بالتالي بيئة تحتضن المقاتلين الذين دخلوها ضمن خطة قديمة، ويعرف حزب الله كما يعرف خصومه أنهم منتمون لتنظيم القاعدة ولا علاقة لهم لا بالثورة ولا بالثوار، كما وصفهم وزير عدل تيار المستقبل يومها اللواء أشرف ريفي. وليس خافياً على حزب الله كما على خصومه أنّ هؤلاء «الثوار» هم أنفسهم الذين قال وزير حرب العدو موشي يعالون في الفترة ذاتها أنهم أصدقاء لـ«إسرائيل» وأنهم مؤتمنون على أمنها و«حدودها».

– لم تنفصل معركة من معارك حزب الله في سورية، وخصوصاً معركتي القصير والقلمون عن قيام جيش الاحتلال باستهداف حزب الله بضربات معلنة وواضحة تحمل رسائل التحذير من الإقدام على خيار الحسم، كما لم تنفصل مساعيه للحسم مرة عن ضجيج مرتفع داخلياً من معارضيه وخصومه الذين وقفوا يطالبونه بتسليم سلاحه في حرب تموز عام 2006، وكلّ مرة بذريعة، لكنهم دائماً كانوا يحاولون إعاقته عن الحسم ويمنعون قيام الجيش اللبناني والأجهزة الأمنية بعمل جدي يستهدف الجماعات التي أعلنت «إسرائيل» أنها عالجت خلال سنوات ثلاثة آلاف من جرحاها، ما يحسم أنّ الخلفية هي السعي لحماية هذه الجماعات رغم إدراك علاقتها بـ«إسرائيل» وتوفير التغطية لها تحت عناوين متعدّدة مرة تربطها بالنازحين السوريين والبعد الإنساني ومرة بالسلاح وهوية حامليه ومقابلهم هوية عرسال الطائفية والتحذير من الفتنة.

– تقترب الحرب على سورية من نهاياتها مع سقوط الرهانات الأميركية على إعاقة قوى محور المقاومة عن سقف أدنى هو حماية سورية من السقوط وسقف أعلى هو حماية سورية من التقسيم والفوضى، وصارت الخيارات الأميركية محدودة وعنوانها، إما التخلّي عن مشروع الفوضى وبلوغ لحظة خسارة كلّ شيء وبلوغ لحظة يصل فيها رجال المقاومة مع الجيش السوري إلى كلّ بقعة من الجغرافيا السورية، أو قبول العرض الروسي بتسليم الجيش السوري طوعاً مناطق سيطرة المسلحين، حيث يمكنهم ذلك تفادياً لتوسع رقعة انتشار حزب الله من جهة، وحفظاً لدور سياسي لممثلي هذه الجماعات من بوابتي أستانة وجنيف، لكن همّ واشنطن وحلفائها يبقى أمن «إسرائيل» سواء بالسعي لربط التسوية في سورية بضمانات وترتيبات تتصل بهذا الأمن، أو بفرض وقائع تتصل بحصار المقاومة.

– توقيت معركة السلسلة الشرقية الحدودية لبناني أولاً لحفظ أمن العاصمة من المفخّخات والانتحاريين. لكنها إقليمية دولية، واستراتيجية. فهي تسريع لروزنامة تستبق التفاوض وتنزع الأوراق من يد الخصوم، فلا تكون الحدود اللبنانية السورية موضوع تفاوض ولا الحدود السورية العراقية غداً، ولا يترك بعض المتربّصين والمتذاكين في لبنان يكسبون الوقت لتهيئة الظروف والتحدّث عن نشر وحدات دولية هناك، وربطها بإقامة مناطق لا مسلحين فيها تحت شعار إيواء النازحين. والأهمّ الاستعداد لما هو آتٍ في فلسطين والذي قد لا يتيح فرص التنعّم الأميركي بتسويات قد تنسفها التطورات الفلسطينية التي قد تفرض تصاعداً في التوتر يأخذ المنطقة ومعها المقاومة من بوابة القدس إلى مكان آخر.

– القضية ليست فقط وجود النصرة وداعش، بل هي قضية ما بعد ما بعد النصرة وداعش.

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EXPLOSION HITS IDLIB AS HAY’AT TAHRIR AL-SHAM TAKES CONTROL OF CITY

South Front

23.07.2017

According to opposition sources, fighters of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) deployed in Idlib city and catpured the Executive Force building, the electricity company as well as all checkpoints and Ahrar al-Sham HQs in the city. Thus, HTS set a full control over Idlib.

According to sources, there were few clashes between Ahrar al-Sham and HTS fighters in the city before the withdrawal of Ahrar al-Sham fighters. The source confirmed that handing over Idlib City to HTS is a part of the agreement between Ahrar al-Sham and HTS.

Hours after the deployment of HTS fighters a unknown side targeted a gathering of HTS fighters at the Al-Zira’a Roundabout with a VBIED, killing 13 HTS fighters and injuring dozens. However, it’s not yet known whether elements of ISIS or Ahrar al-Sham were behind the attack.

During the last battle in Idlib province, HTS managed captured Idlib city and the entire Syrian-Turkish border line in the Idlib province.

More than 15 armed groups defected from Ahrar al-Sham and joined HTS. The influence of Ahrar al-Sham has receded and become limited to Sahl al-Ghab areas and Qalat Al-Madiq in the southern and southwestern countryside of Idlib.

 

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US Ends CIA Program in Syria but Continues Preparations for Big War

US Ends CIA Program in Syria but Continues Preparations for Big War

ALEX GORKA | 23.07.2017 | WORLD

US Ends CIA Program in Syria but Continues Preparations for Big War

The news hits headlines. The Washington Post (WP) reports that President Trump has decided to discontinue the CIA’s covert program to arm and train «moderate» Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, according to US officials. The program was authorized by  Trump’s predecessor in 2013. The move is described by media as a major concession to Russia. «This is a momentous decision,» the WP cites an unnamed official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the secret program, «Putin won in Syria». Ned Price, a former CIA officer who served as senior director of the National Security Council under President Barack Obama, thinks «The White House appears content to kowtow to Moscow on any number of fronts — including in Syria». Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted that «if true – and I hope it’s not – it would be a complete capitulation to Assad, Russia, and Iran». But is it really a concession or a big policy change?

At first glance, the plans to oust the Assad government in Syria are shelved and there is nothing left but airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) militants and the Defense Department run train-and-equip program to support the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) dominated by Kurds. With the de-escalation zones coming into effect, the US is gradually reducing its involvement in the Syrian cauldron. But a deeper look into the matter leads to quite different conclusions.

The suspension of the CIA program is much ado about nothing, it was inefficient anyway. In fact, it does not change anything because the Pentagon program is in place. The US is not curtailing its involvement. To the contrary, it is increasing its military presence in Syria, and also in Iraq, by leaps and bounds.

The Turkish Anadolu Agency published a report on July 17 detailing the military facilities’ whereabouts and, in some instances, the number of special operations forces working there. It said two airfields and eight military outposts in Kobani, Manbij and Rumeilan, among others, are being used to support the Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). One post in Ayn Issah town in northern Raqqa governorate housed around 200 US soldiers and 75 French special forces troops.

US-made armored vehicles, including MRAP, M-ATVs, and up-armored bulldozers have recently reinforced the forces in the area of Qamishli – a city in northeastern Syria on the border with Turkey. Guardian armored trucks and US up-armored Humvees are included in the coalition aid to the SDF, and according to the Defense Department’s fiscal year 2018 request for funds for train-and-equip program for Syrian partner forces, armored bulldozers are also included in aid to «vetted» Syrian groups, Military Times reports.

The source notes that M-ATVs and MRAPs are not part of the package that is divested to the Syrian Democratic Forces. Neither is the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station, or CROWs system, which appears mounted on the M-ATVs featured in the photographs spread around by media. The images of heavily armored American combat vehicles entering Syria seem to illustrate that the US is increasing the military presence in the region in general and in Syria in particular.

Last month, US High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems – HIMARS – were moved to al-Tanf base in the southeastern part of the country – one of three official border crossings between Syria and Iraq. HIMARS had already been deployed in northern Syria.

US, British, and Jordanian troops, equipped with tanks and helicopters, have been reportedly positioned in a long strip region across the border zones of Syria’s southern provinces of Dara’a and Suwayda, from Tel Shahab rural area, just a few hundred meters from the Jordanian border, to al-Nasib Border Crossing and Khirbet Awad village. Their presence has also been reported near Ramtha, a Jordanian city, located in the far northwest of the Arab country close to the Syrian border. There are no IS militants in that area, so the forces’ mission is to keep away the Syrian government and pro-Iranian forces.

According to an AP report made public in March, the United States had spent to date more than $11.5 billion on its intervention in Syria. Several hundreds of US special operation forces have been sent to Syria under the pretext of training Kurdish militia fighters.

Actually, American military personnel are not supposed to be present on Syrian soil at all. The War Powers Resolution of 1973 enables the president to act unilaterally in the event of «a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces». Syria has not attacked the United States. The US 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) gives no authority to enter Syria, which had no relation to the 9/11 terrorist act. The Syrian government may be painted as a batch of bad guys doing wrong things in their own country, but the UN charter prohibits the use of military force for retaliation or for reprisal or, punishment.

The administration is pushing Congress for the authority to build new «temporary» facilities in Iraq and Syria. That’s what its recent policy statement says. The president wants Congress to extend existing authorities that only cover the «repair and renovation» of facilities to also encompass «temporary intermediate staging facilities, ammunition supply points, and assembly areas that have adequate force protection».

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of who currently commands Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve and the XVIII Airborne Corps, said the campaign is now expected to expand into the Euphrates River Valley after Iraqi forces retook Mosul. The general acknowledged that a continued US military force presence in the region could include the use of temporary facilities set up on an ad hoc basis, such as those proposed by the administration, but would mostly draw upon existing bases. Little by little, the bird is making a nest in Syria.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is in talks with the Trump administration to keep American troops in Iraq after the fight against the IS in the country is concluded. The parties appear to agree that a longer-term presence of American troops is needed. The US military has about 7,000 troops in Iraq.

As one can see, there are multiple signs that the United States is increasing war preparations in the region. One of the missions is to prepare for a possible conflict with Iran. Another is strengthening the bargaining position at the talks on de-escalation zones in Syria and the talks on crisis management in Geneva. Any scenario can ignite a spark to light a fire.

Russia and the US could put aside all the differences and launch bilateral confidential talks on Syria. An open, honest conversation protected from any leaks to media could help to prevent the worst form happening. Moscow could act as a mediator between the Astana group and the US-led coalition. The mutually agreed proposals could then be submitted to other pertinent actors for discussion and approval. But the refusal to return Russian diplomatic compounds shows the US is not ready for a dialogue. Looks like Washington prefers to balance on the brink of war in the region in an effort to boost its influence and make the situation unfold the way it wants.

Erdogan condemns al-Aqsa violence before flying to Gulf states

BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:30 P.M.) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the violence in East Jerusalem and called on the governments concerned to resolve the situation at al-Aqsa, during a press conference in Istanbul on Sunday.

He said he and French President Emmanuel Macron do not “approve the violations against the rights of life, the rights of property and the right to worship no matter who does it.” He went on to invite the Israeli administration to behave “according to the rules of a settled society, [of] justice and of basic humanitarian values.”

Disputes regarding the holy site of al-Aqsa Mosque have sparked violent clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian demonstrators in recent days.

Erdogan also mentioned his upcoming trip to the Gulf region, where he will be visiting Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in a bid to resolve the diplomatic crisis between Qatar and its neighbouring countries. Gulf States have cut ties with Qatar after accusing the country of supporting terrorism.

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When Will America’s Crime Spree in Afghanistan End?

When Will America’s Crime Spree in Afghanistan End?

Afghanistan

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A report that a school in the town of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan was subjected to indiscriminate bombing by the so-called Western coalition came as no surprise to analysts who closely following events unraveling in this Central Asian state. As it was announced by the Education Department Director of the Kunduz province, Janat Gul Nasiri, this latest air raid against Afghan civil infrastructure resulted in human victims.

Reports about the mounting civilian death toll in Afghanistan due to the careless and outright criminal actions of the US and their allies appear in the media quite often. However, much less often do we hear the Pentagon admitting its responsibility for these attacks, and when it does it is belated. The US military command in Afghanistan waited for more than two months to come to the conclusion that a total of 33 civilians were killed by US warplanes in Kunduz province last November.

At the same time, according to the representatives of the Pentagon, those responsible for the incident will not be held responsible for their actions. As a result, yet another war crime has been written off as self-defense or collateral damage.

Among the string of similarly brutal incidents, the most well-known was the US strike on a hospital run by the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Kunduz province, which occurred in October 2015. Despite apologies from Washington presented to the Afghan side, its military brass still believes that a half-hour bombing raid was an “unintentional event” that doesn’t qualify as a war crime.

At the beginning of the year The Intercept published a lengthy article straightforwardly titled “The Crimes of the SEAL Team 6.” The article tells little about the heroism or professionalism of the servicemen of the American special forces unit SEAL Team 6, which Hollywood and bestselling authors are so fond of. The Intercept took the courage to investigate the darker side of war – crimes that are being routinely committed by US servicemen. The investigation into SEAL Team 6 was conducted for two years and included 18 interviews with former and current soldiers and officers of the unit. The Intercept article is somewhat reminiscent of The New York Times piece on the same topic published back in 2015.

Under the pretext of taking DNA samples, according to the Intercept, the soldiers of SEAL Team 6 practically removed scalps of Afghans fighters during their first deployments in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The foreign fighters who suffered these V-shaped wounds were either killed in battle and later shot at close range or finished off while dying. Among members of SEAL Team 6, this practice of desecrating enemy casualties was called “canoeing.”

No investigation of those barbaric practices of the SEAL Team 6 has ever been conducted, so no serviceman has ever received any form of official punishment for these offenses. The worst that has ever happened to soldiers engaged in such inhumane practices was a transfer to another unit without any measure preventing them from returning to SEAL Team 6.

However, US servicemen are not the only ones to commit war crimes in Afghanistan as numerous journalistic investigations show. More recently, the Australian media corporation ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), due to leakage of classified documents from the Ministry of Defense, has begun releasing scandalous facts about how operations of the Australian special forces in Afghanistan were conducted. A series of articles published under the title of “The Afghan Files” has triggered a massive scandal both in Australia and the UK.

Judging by the documents, from 2009 to 2013, at least ten cases were reported when Australian special forces opened fire on unarmed Afghans, including children when they and their actions were verbally opposed.

In April 2013, Australian special forces would cut off the hands of dead Taliban fighters for no practical reason, except as “trophies” to take back home. The scandal unfolded in 2013, but only now has become public due only to the leak of the above mentioned documents.

The press and the Australian public seem to agree that these latest leaks shed light on the culture of impunity, recklessness, and outright disrespect to the lives of Afghans that are now common among Western special forces operatives.

Moreover, according to a number of commentators, the environment of unpunished crimes, no matter how brutal they are, and the logic of “shoot first, ask questions later” that has been adopted by Western coalition forces, results only in ordinary Afghans supporting the Taliban and its cause more, solely due to the hatred provoked in them by the conduct of  Western military forces.

As allegations about the war crimes committed by American, British and Australian special forces begin to pile up, one starts questioning the overall effectiveness of punitive raids that have become a common practice for Western special forces units.

After sixteen years of war in Afghanistan and hundreds, if not thousands, of such raids carried out by special forces, there is still no end in sight for Taliban activity. These raids fail to reduce the support this movement has been enjoying among the population, in fact, they’ve made the Taliban even more powerful. In 2002, the Taliban forces were believed to amount to seven thousand fighters, in 2016 the estimated number of militants fighting for its cause has surpassed twenty five thousand people. The continuous raids committed by Western special forces, in spite of the mounting death toll of the Afghan population, have not changed the course of the war.

As the number of war crimes committed by the US and its allies across the Middle East and Central Asia continue to grow, one can only wonder if the criminals will ever be brought to justice?

Jean Périer is an independent researcher and analyst and a renowned expert on the Near and Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“.

‘We’re bad day away from Russians asking, ‘Why are you still (illegally) in Syria?’ – top US commander

‘We’re bad day away from Russians asking, ‘Why are you still in Syria?’ – top US commander

A US special operations commander has admitted that an extended US stay in Syria runs contrary to international law and that Russia would be entirely justified in questioning its presence there.

At the Aspen Security Forum on Friday, Special Operations Command chief Army General, Raymond Thomas was asked whether American forces will remain in Syria, after Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) is defeated, possibly, to support the Kurdish forces in the north of the country.

Thomas acknowledged that American forces are fighting in a sovereign Syria, where they will likely “have no ability to stay” if that presence is questioned “in terms of international law,” Thomas said, replying to the Washington Post journalist’s question.

Here’s the conundrum,” Thomas continued. “We are operating in the sovereign country of Syria. The Russians, their stalwarts, their back-stoppers, have already uninvited the Turks from Syria. We’re a bad day away from the Russians saying, ‘Why are you still in Syria, US?’

It has come up in the form of some close calls there, but it will be hard – I defer to the lawyers in the crowd and others in terms of international law on the basis for us staying there other than our CT [counterterrorism] writ. We went there for all the righteous reasons, but if the Russians play that card, we may want to stay and have no ability to do it.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has said that any uninvited foreign troops, including those from the US, are “invaders” who only prolonged the conflict.

Assad has meanwhile invited Russian forces in Syria to join the anti-terrorist operation.

On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said America’s presence in the war-torn country was illegitimate and accused CIA Director Mike Pompeo – who had criticized Russia’s presence in Syria – of practicing “double standards.”

READ MORE: ‘Russians find any place they can make our lives more difficult’ – CIA chief

Lavrov cited Turkish media reports of “ten US bases already having been set up in Syria” and pointed to the “hundreds of military bases of the United States all over the world.”

US still supports Syrian rebels (terrorists) : Lavrov

US still supports Syrian rebels: Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a meeting with his Egyptian counterpart in Moscow, on March 16, 2016. ©AFP

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday he thinks the United States continues to support opposition groups in Syria.“I understand that the US supports much more groups than just the ones, which were announced as being left without the American weapons,” he said in an interview with NBC News.

Lavrov says US policy of dealing with ‘moderate opposition’ in Syria doomed from start
The Russian foreign minister disagreed with the host who said the United States’ decision to stop supporting Syrian opposition groups could be seen as a concession to Russia

“This decision was made a few weeks before the meeting of G20 [when the two countries’ leaders had their first personal meeting, which among other things focused on the situation in Syria],” he argued.

The Russian top diplomat refrained from commenting Washington’s statements on its cessation of support to a number of groups in Syria, saying only that what matters most is to develop a common approach to the resolution of the Syrian crisis.

“We certainly concentrate on the de-escalation zones, which are designed to stop the fighting between the government and the armed opposition. For them not to attack each other, and hopefully for them to concentrate entirely on fighting ISIL (terror organization Islamic State, which is outlawed in Russia). Therefore, the logic of the opposition and the government to sign a ceasefire, to enter into cessation of hostilities arrangement is very much our logic,” Lavrov stressed.

Presence of any foreign troops or bases in Syria after the conflict resolution will be legitimate with the Syrians’ consent, Lavrov said.

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“After the country has been liberated, after the settlement has been reached to the satisfaction of all the Syrian ethnic, confessional and political groups, the presence of the foreign troops, of foreign bases on the soil of Syria would be only legitimate with the consent of the Syrians themselves,” Lavrov said when asked about Russia’s stance on deployment of US bases and checkpoints in north Syria.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s concern about deployment of two Russian bases in Syria whereas the United States are reported to have deployed about a dozen shows double standards, Lavrov said.

Moscow has no plans to deploy new military base in Syria — Russian Defense Ministry
“So if a gentleman, who represents a country (that) illegitimately have created ten bases in Syria, is concerned very much about two bases which have been established on the basis of our intergovernmental agreement with a government that is a member of the United Nations, than something is wrong with double standards,” he added.

“Not to mention that hundreds and hundreds of military bases of the United States all over the world and all around Russia seemingly do not cause any concern to Mr. Pompeo or anybody else,” Lavrov said.

Syria’s government did not ask the US’s help in the fight against terrorists, so the presence of US troops in that country is illegitimate, he said. Russia assumes that this presence is justified by a sole goal, which is the fight against so-called Islamic State and other terrorists.

On Tuesday, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency published a map of Syria with locations of US bases and outposts. The agency said that the US had deployed troops and hardware at two bases and eight outposts in northern Syria held by Kurdish Democratic Union party

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