TIGER FORCES AND OTHER PRO-GOVERNMENT UNITS DEPLOY FOR ADVANCE IN EASTERN GHOUTA (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

17.02.2018

Units of the Tiger Forces and other pro-government units are deploying for an expected military operation against Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Ahrar al-Sham and other militant groups in the Eastern Ghouta region, near the Syrian capital Damascus.

Tiger Forces And Other Pro-Government Units Deploy For Advance In Eastern Ghouta (Photos, Videos)

Click to see the full-size image

Tiger Forces And Other Pro-Government Units Deploy For Advance In Eastern Ghouta (Photos, Videos)

Click to see the full-size image

Tiger Forces And Other Pro-Government Units Deploy For Advance In Eastern Ghouta (Photos, Videos)

Click to see the full-size image

Tiger Forces And Other Pro-Government Units Deploy For Advance In Eastern Ghouta (Photos, Videos)

Click to see the full-size image

Tiger Forces And Other Pro-Government Units Deploy For Advance In Eastern Ghouta (Photos, Videos)

Click to see the full-size image

Tiger Forces And Other Pro-Government Units Deploy For Advance In Eastern Ghouta (Photos, Videos)

Click to see the full-size image

 

BEIRUT, LEBANON (1:45 A.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is making their final preparations for what is expected to be their largest offensive of 2018.

According to a military source in Damascus, the Syrian Arab Army’s elite Tiger Forces have arrived in the eastern part of Damascus after making the long journey from the southeastern countryside of the Idlib Governorate.

 The Tiger Forces joined the Syrian Army’s elite 4th Division, which has already deployed to the East Ghouta’s Al-Nashabiyah and Harasta fronts.

While the Syrian Army’s Central Command has yet to announce which front the Tiger Forces will deploy to, it is expected that they will lead the charge to clear the Harasta suburb.

In particular, the Tiger Forces will likely deploy to the vehicle management base, where they will help reopen supply lines to the installation and push back the jihadist rebels of Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham and Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham.

This battle for east Damascus is expected to commence in the coming days, as the Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) concludes their aerial campaign over the East Ghouta region.

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Sayyed Nasrallah: US Biased, Ready to Stop ’Israeli’ Oil Extraction within Hours

Sayyed Nasrallah: US Biased, Ready to Stop ’Israeli’ Oil Extraction within Hours

Zeinab Essa

16-02-2018 | 22:24

Hezbollah Secretary General His Eminence Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah delivered on Friday a speech in which he tackled various regional and local topics.

Addressing a huge crowd commemorating the anniversary of “Resistance Martyr Leaders”,

Sayyed Nasrallah stated: “‘We Preserved the will’ is title of our commemoration as we are emerging from an international war on the Resistance axis.”

His Eminence further added: “We preserved the Resistance after we emerged victorious from the July 2006 aggression.”

To the Martyr Leaders, he said: “We tell the leader martyrs, Sayyed Abbas Moussawi, Sheikh Raghe Harb and Hajj Imad Mughnieh that your will has always been to preserve the Resistance through dignity and ability to score achievements, and we did this by sacrifices and blood.”

He also addressed them by saying: “Your party still carries the martyrs’ thoughts and aims [of the martyrs]. Today, we are much in need because the challenges are getting bigger.”

In this context, the Resistance Leader announced that it seems that the region has entered “the battle of oil and gas. No one should look at this as a separate dispute.”

According to His Eminence, “Who increases the conflict over oil and gas is the greedy US president [Donald Trump],” noting that “the crisis in the region today is on oil and its led by the US administration, whether in Iraq, the Gulf or elsewhere.”

“The crisis between Turkey and Cyprus is about oil and it is said that the Gulf crisis was also on the same matter,” he clarified.

“”Israel” wants under the Trump administration to obtain an international decision to annex the Golan,” he warned, pointing out that “there exists a huge amount of gas in the Syrian Occupied Golan Heights.”

Meanwhile, Sayyed Nasrallah clarified that “there are several reasons for the war on Syria in regards to oil resources.”

In this context, he underlined that “The US previously said that once Daesh [Arabic Acronym for the terrorist “ISIS”/ “ISIL” group] ends, they would eastern Syria. However, they didn’t. They are protecting the remains of Daesh, who are being trained there.”

His Eminence also warned that”$750 million from the Pentagon’s budget goes for the Kurds or others , who are being used by the Americans as part of their battle in Syria.”

“The Trump administration also looks at Iraq only as an oil country,” he said, advising the Iraqis to be very careful from Trump’s administration.”

Back to Lebanon, Sayyed Nasrallah viewed that Lebanon must speak today from a strong position and away from any weakness. “We are strong and we must negotiate from this strong position. We are able to threaten “Israel” as it threatens us. If the American warns that “Israel” will attack us, tell him to accept our demands or Hezbollah will respond,” he said.

“The Lebanese must not allow the devils to sow discord among them, and by devils I mean the Americans,” Sayyed Nasrallah warned.

His Eminence went on to say: “Today the oil resources that are present in the south and across Lebanon are for all Lebanese. The Lebanese people that are suffering from a debt that might reach $100 billion and their only hope might be in the oil and gas that is present in the coast and land.”

“Does Block 9 belong only to the South? No, it is that for all Lebanon,” he added.
In a sounding message to the apartheid “Israeli” entity, the Resistance Leader said: “Lebanon is strong and “let us try”. If the Lebanese Defense Council took a decides that the “Israeli” oil extraction positions must stop working, we [Hezbollah] are ready to stop it within couple of hours.”

“The Americans know that Lebanon’s only strength in this oil and gas battle is the Resistance,” he mentioned, urging the Lebanese to approach this battle in a different manner. “Since 2000, as a Resistance, we announced that we aren’t involved in land demarcation and this is the state’s responsibility.”

Clearly accusing the US of not being an honest broker in oil and border dispute with “Israel”, Sayyed Nasrallah reminded that in 2000, some Lebanese believed that the battle with “Israel” wasn’t theirs.”

“The Americans want to give us our rights in the disputed land which is a simple thing, but to take our rights in the maritime area which is more difficult. The Americans did not come to Lebanon to resolve the issue. They were here to defend “Israel’s” rights and issue threats to Lebanese politicians. The US gives the most strategic military jets to “Israel” and prevents any defense system from Lebanon,” he cautioned.

In another context, Sayyed Nasrallah wondered: “There is a continuous Zionist air invasion to the Lebanese skies. Are we giving up our air to the “Israel”?”

As His Eminence hailed the Syrian achievement of toppling an “Israeli” F16 aircraft, he unveiled that “the decision to confront the “Israeli” aircraft is a Syrian decision that had been taken by President Bashar al-Assad only. Syria is defending itself and after what happened last week, of course, the future won’t be like the past. And that will leave an impact on the aerial arms.”

“Who toppled the “Israeli” aircraft are the officers and soldiers of the brave Syrian Arab army,” he mentioned, assuring that the “Israelis” have their complex calculations to any war because they are uncertain of victory.”

Moving to the regional front, Sayyed Nasrallah underscored that “the US siege continues on Palestinian people and that the Americans are greatly pressuring this people.”

“There are ideal examples among Palestinians. There are Ahmed Jarrar, Ahad Tamimi and Omar al-Abd, who was sentenced to 3 life times in prison, and he irritated Lieberman with his smile,” His Eminence said.

On the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, Sayyed Nasrallah expressed Hezbollah’s pride with the Islamic regime in Iran, which supports Arab causes and rights. “Iran is a country that no other country can meddle in its positions and strategies. The Islamic Republic has stood by all Arab nations, and defended their rights.”

Regarding the situation in Bahrain, His Eminence confirmed that “the Bahrainis have continued their protests despite seven years of heavy-handed crackdown.”

In parallel, His Eminence slammed the fact that “Bahrain is the only country in the world whose government strips citizens of their nationality.”

Sayyed Nasrallah further confirmed that “there is a great international silence regarding the aggression on Yemen, which must end immediately.”


Back to the internal Lebanese arena, Sayyed Nasrallah tackled the upcoming parliamentary elections. “The electoral law isn’t that of Hezbollah. Hezbollah was a partner in forming it. It is a point of political pride and it is one of the most important political achievements [in recent years]. It has opened the way for those without public representation to be represented in the parliament.”

“The elections this year won’t be bone breaking, this law should take us to calm elections and won’t create strife,” he said, pointing out that “Hezbollah and Amal are together in all districts. We had never thought of allying with the Future Movement and our electoral battle is not targeted against anyone.”

Source: Al-Ahed news 

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De Mistura’s attempt to promote the document of five محاولة دي ميستورا لتعويم وثيقة الخمسة

 

فبراير 15, 2018

Written by Nasser Kandil,

The difference between the UN resolution 2254 about the political solution in Syria and the document of five drawn up by Washington and signed by France, Britain, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan and in which Israel seems a secret partner, and Turkey a half partner is that the US resolution based on a bilateral; the unity and the sovereignty of Syria and it is interpreted in two ways. The first entrance to the political settlement is a unified government that sets new constitution and holds elections. While the second aspect is Syria is unified through its constitutional and central security institutions that ensure the privacies of its components under the constitution and security, and where there are no separated security and constitutional bodies in the demography in Syria. While the document of five calls for a reference under the UN supervision to administer the constitutional and the electoral file, which means to disrupt the working according to the Syrian constitution and ending the Syrian sovereignty, but this cannot be applied without putting Syria under the Chapter VII .because the document calls for a constitutional and security non-centralization of the areas and the components and thus to make Syria under targeting.

Sochi Conference was the start of the political path, it is based on the decisive victory over ISIS which Washington and its allies through a coalition claiming the fighting of ISIS disrupted and tried to sabotage it to prevent the victory of a Syrian-Russian-Iranian alliance with the resistance forces. Knowing that the two pillars of the political path were the unity of Syria and its sovereignty and paving the way for those involved in the war on Syria to participate in the political solution according to the equation of ending the occupation and the separation, as Astana which paved for a similar way under the title of the war on terrorism. It seems clear that the compliance was missing and even negative from the targeted parties; Washington, Paris, Riyadh, and Ankara. On the contrary the alternatives expressed by those are represented in wars and raids launched by Washington for the sharing of Syria as an interpretation of its announced document under the name of the document of the five.

Moscow was keen on its position as a superpower to ensure the participation of the United Nations in Sochi and to get its legitimate cover, moreover, to ensure that there is no contradiction between the paths of Sochi and Geneva, but integration between them, and an attempt to present Sochi results as a reviving of Geneva path. The coming of De Mistura was astonishing despite the American-Saudi escalation with the participation of the parties of the document of five against the path and the conference, and the decision of their associated oppositions to boycott its work. But later it was revealed that the presence of De Mistura was not but an attempt to disable Sochi and to turn it into a platform to launch fire against the Syrian country and to show it as an obstacle in front of the political solution, through making Sochi results close to the document of five.

The formula of the constitutional affairs committee which was approved in Sochi to be in conformity with the UN resolution and the agreed path between Syria and Russia is supposed to be far from two things; the claim that it is an alternative party of the constitutional institutions of the country to draft a new constitution or to make adjustments on the ongoing constitution. The second thing is to make it a body under UN leadership and presidency, and the getting out of Syrian-Syrian equation which the UN contributes in encouraging it , because this means one thing, to proceed in the document of five by making Syria under the UN mandate and to consider it the Syrian constitutional institutions which the results of Sochi and Geneva debates must bypass by in order to be legal and then to be proposed for referendum. These are the two main differences between the UN resolution and Sochi on one hand, and the document of five on the other hand.

De Mistura tries to say that the confrontation between him and the Syrian position on what is called the constitutional committee, its formation, powers, and its presidency is an expression of a Syrian-Russian disrupt in order to ensure the Russian sponsorship of the trap he settled up, but he ignores that what was anticipated by Russia from Sochi has been achieved with the support of Syria, and what is presented now is allocated to Syria and its sovereign responsibility. If necessary, De Mistura will hear the appropriate Russian speech.

Translated by Lina Shehadeh,

محاولة دي ميستورا لتعويم وثيقة الخمسة

ناصر قنديل

– المسافة بين القرار الأممي 2254 الخاص بالحلّ السياسي في سورية وبين وثيقة الخمسة التي وضعتها واشنطن ووقعت عليها فرنسا وبريطانيا والسعودية والأردن، وتبدو «إسرائيل» شريكاً سرياً فيها، وتركيا نصف شريك فيها، أنّ القرار الأممي يقوم على ثنائية وحدة وسيادة سورية، ويترجم ذلك بآليتين، الأولى مدخل التسوية السياسية هو حكومة موحّدة تضع الدستور الجديد وتجري الانتخابات، والثانية أن لا أجسام دستورية وأمنية منفصلة لمكوّنات الجغرافيا والسكان في سورية، بل سورية موحّدة بمؤسسات دستورية وأمنية مركزية، تضمن الخصوصيات لمكوّناتها بما هو دون الدستور والأمن، أما وثيقة الخمسة فتدعو لمرجعية تحت الإشراف الأممي لإدارة الملف الدستوري والانتخابي، وما يعنيه من تعطيل العمل بالدستور السوري وإنهاء السيادة السورية، ولا يمكن تطبيقه من دون وضع سورية تحت الفصل السابع. وبالمقابل تدعو الوثيقة إلى لامركزية دستورية وأمنية للمناطق والمكوّنات، ما يجعل وحدة سورية في عين الاستهداف.

– مؤتمر سوتشي كان بداية مسار سياسي يرتكز على الانتصار الحاسم على داعش الذي لعبت واشنطن وحلفاؤها المجتمعون بتحالف يدّعي قتال داعش، دور الإعاقة والتخريب لمنع تحقيق النصر الذي يعود الفضل فيه لتحالف سوري روسي إيراني مع قوى المقاومة، وركيزتي هذا المسار السياسي، وحدة سورية وسيادتها، وفتح الباب للمتورطين في الحرب على سورية للشراكة في الحل السياسي وفق معادلة إنهاء الاحتلال والانفصال، بمثل ما فتحت أستانة باباً مشابهاً تحت عنوان الحرب على الإرهاب، وحيث يبدو واضحاً أن التجاوب كان معدوماً بل سلبياً من الأطراف المستهدفة، أي واشنطن وباريس والرياض وحتى أنقرة، والبدائل التي يسير بها هؤلاء تظهرها حروب وغارات تشنها وتغذيها واشنطن، لتكريس تقاسم سورية ترجمة لوثيقتها المعلنة باسم وثيقة الخمسة.

– كانت موسكو حريصة من موقعها كدولة عظمى لضمان مشاركة الأمم المتحدة في سوتشي ونيل غطائها الشرعي، وتأكيد أن لا تضارب بين مساري سوتشي وجنيف بل تكامل بينهما، والسعي لتقديم نتائج سوتشي كوجبة منشطة لمسار جنيف توضع بين أيدي دي ميستورا، وكان لافتاً أن يأتي دي ميستورا، رغم التصعيد الأميركي السعودي بالتشارك مع أطراف وثيقة الخمسة على المسار والمؤتمر، وقرار المعارضات المرتبطة بهم مقاطعة أعماله، ليظهر لاحقاً أن حضور دي ميستورا ليس إلا محاولة لتفخيخ سوتشي وتحويله منصة لإطلاق النار على الدولة السورية وتصويرها معرقلاً للحل السياسي، عبر تحويل نتائج سوتشي إلى عكس أهدافه، وجعلها أقرب لوثيقة الخمسة.

– صيغة عمل لجنة مناقشة الشؤون الدستورية التي أقرّت في سوتشي، كي تنسجم مع القرار الأممي والمسار المتفق عليه بين سورية وروسيا، يفترض أن تكون بعيدة عن أمرين بوضوح، الأول ادعاء أنها جهة بديلة عن مؤسسات الدولة الدستورية لطرح وصياغة دستور جديد، أو إدخال تعديلات على الدستور النافذ والثاني جعلها هيئة بقيادة ورئاسة أمميتين، والخروج من معادلة حوار سوري سوري تسهم الأمم المتحدة بتشجيعه، لأن الادعاءين المذكورين يعنيان شيئاً واحداً، هو السير بوثيقة الخمسة، بجعل سورية تحت الانتداب الأممي، واعتبار المؤسسات الدستورية السورية التي يفترض لنتائج مشاورات سوتشي وجنيف أن تمر عبرها ليصير لها القوة القانونية، وتتم عبر طرحها على الاستفتاء، وهذان هما الفارقان العميقان بين القرار الأممي وسوتشي في سياقه، من جهة ووثيقة الخمسة من جهة مقابلة.

– يحاول دي ميستورا أن يقول إن المواجهة بينه وبين الموقف السوري حول ماهية اللجنة المسمّاة دستورية وطريقة تشكيلها وصلاحياتها ورئاستها، هي تعبير عن خلاف روسي سوري، ليؤمن تغطية روسية للمصيدة التي أعدّها، لكنه يتجاهل أن ما تريده روسيا من سوتشي قد تحقّق لها، بدعم من سورية وتأييدها، وأن ما هو مطروح الآن يخص سورية ومسؤوليتها السيادية، وعند الضرورة سيسمع دي ميستورا الكلام الروسي المناسب.

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Who is doing what in Syria and why

February 10, 2018

by Ghassan Kadi for The Saker Blog

It seems that every time a chapter in the war on Syria comes to an end, a new factor surfaces. Just like the 1975-1989 civil war in Lebanon before it, and which started off with a clash between the PLO and the Lebanese rightwing Phalangist militia and then ended up with an Israeli invasion and its aftermath, the war on Syria is now a totally different war from the one that started seven years ago.

With other players gone or having their roles changed, the only persisting player is the Syrian Army of course, fighting here for the integrity and sovereignty of Syria. We cannot include its allies, because even its allies have changed.

There is much speculation about recent events, a lot of war and fear-mongering, but if all elements of the current powers on the ground are dissected and analyzed, it becomes very easy to see what is going on and who is doing what.

Before we try to understand who is doing what and why, let us first identify who are the main players on the ground and behind the scenes; past and present. This is a short list:

  1. Syria of course
  2. Saudi Arabia
  3. Qatar
  4. Kurds
  5. Turkey
  6. Iran
  7. Hezbollah
  8. Israel
  9. the USA
  10.  Russia

Notwithstanding the inevitable continuing role and presence of Syria and popular national Syrian allied forces in the war against her, we must acknowledge that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have already played their role and walked away as losers. For the sake of historic documentation, this had to be mentioned even though they do not have much of an influence and clout at all at present.

Kurds are playing a role that cannot be discussed without acknowledging the role they played between 2011 and 2015/16. Kurdish fighters, separatists or otherwise, have upheld Syrian border integrity in Syria’s north from as early as 2011 when the Syrian Army had no allies on the ground. And even though the Syrian Army and Kurdish fighters did not fight physically within the same trench, the Kurds fought fiercely in the north, holding their ground, against Turkish-facilitated incursions and against ISIS later on.

However, as Kurdish separatist movements were established and as they were not preemptively contained under the roof of Damascus, something had to give.

Kurds who are separatists will do anything and make deals with anyone to make their dream come true. History has shown that they are prepared to join hands with America and even Israel.

It must be acknowledged however that Kurds who are not separatists, and there is no way of telling their percentage any more than there is a way of telling the percentage of those who are, do not seem to have much of a voice in their community. Furthermore, seemingly there isn’t an all-inclusive nationally-endorsed rationale where they can address their concerns against those who are separatists and in a manner that can allay their fears and apprehensions as a minority group in such a way that would quell their desire for independence.

Turkey’s role has been changing with the tides in the last seven years. From wanting to topple the Syrian Government and Erdogan praying at the Omayyad Mosque as the conqueror of Damascus, Erdogan is now in a much more humble damage-control mode hoping to at least be able to prevent the formation of a Kurdish state south of his borders. The turn of events in the war, and the bargain plea reconciliation he has had with Russia after Turkey downed a Russian Su-24 in Nov 2015 has put Erdogan in that position. But Erdogan, the compulsive Islamist and nationalist, will always try to look for opportunities to turn and stab anyone in the back because his dreams of a great Turkey-based Muslim sultanate are bigger than any deal and treaty he signs with anyone.

That said, Erdogan will not settle for any outcome that will mean the establishment of a Kurdish state. Unless the tides change in his favour, it is highly unlikely that he will change course and demand more.

In effect, the war in northern Syria is more or less totally separate from the one heating up in the south with Israel.

Iran: The Syrian theatre has brought Iran physically closer to Israel in a manner that opened up a new border line that is bigger than the one Hezbollah has in Southern Lebanon. Israel does not have the reciprocal privilege. That said, whilst Israeli presence is not officially recognized in states like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, there is little doubt that the Eastern coast of the Persian/Arabian Gulf is under Israeli direct or indirect control in more ways than one.

That said, it must be remembered that Iran’s issue with Israel is doctrinal and not territorial.

In brief, Iran’s military presence in Syria is in adherence to the common defense treaty it has with Syria, but it is also aimed at protecting Iran’s own interests and establishing military presence and rocket-launching capabilities that are only a few kilometers from major Israeli cities in comparison to the one thousand or so kilometers that separate Israel from Iran, or at best a couple of hundred that separate the east coast of the Persian/Arab Gulf from Iran’s southern cities.

Given that Iran is not a nuclear power and Israel is, based on the above, any conventional military confrontation with Israel will put Iran in a position of advantage.

Iran’s status in Syria can be either seen as offensive or defensive vis-à-vis Israel. Most likely, it is defensive, and Iran is unlikely to use its Syrian-based positions to initiate an unprovoked attack on Israel given Israel’s nuclear deterrence.

Hezbollah: In more ways than one, ideologically-speaking, Hezbollah is an extension of Iran. But strategically-speaking, Hezbollah is a part of the Lebanese political process. Moreover, Hezbollah’s issue with Israel is both doctrinal, and territorial.

Hezbollah went into Syria to defend Syria of course, but in defending Syria, Hezbollah was defending itself and Lebanon.

The supply lines for Hezbollah came from Syria, and this is no secret. But even if Hezbollah had to establish alternative routes after seven years of war, Hezbollah remains dependent on Syria for ensuring the depth of its survival and ability to fight. Even if Hezbollah went further and managed to establish its own military manufacturing base, and this is not unlikely, it remains entwined with Syria at levels that are essential for its survival and continuity.

Ideologically, Hezbollah is perhaps closer to Iran than any other ally, but strategically, it cannot be closer to any other ally more than Syria. To expect Hezbollah to yield to pressure and withdraw from Syria prematurely is tantamount to expecting North Korea to surrender its nuclear arsenal.

Israel: It wouldn’t be surprising to say that the post-Kissinger USA has left Israel feeling secure and privileged to the extent that it was able to coerce the world’s single superpower to rubber-stamp what suited it; even if it was against the interests of that superpower.

However, with all the support America gave Israel, Israel was not able to find peace, real lasting peace. Military superiority and peace are two different things, and America was able to provide Israel with the former, but not the latter.

But even that military superiority that meant once upon a time that Israel was untouchable has been eroded. The rise of Hezbollah to power in a manner that enabled it to bomb “Haifa and beyond” in July 2006 has sent shivers down the spines of Israeli military strategists.

Israel now has no idea what to expect if and when another military escalation ensues with Hezbollah and it is bracing for the worst.

Given the latest confrontations with the Syrian air defenses, Israel seems to be in a similar position in not knowing what to expect from Syria either.

The USA: In all what the USA has done in supporting the initial Saudi/Qatari/Turkish attack in the war on Syria, it achieved nothing more than defeat after defeat.

If there was ever a time during the last seven years for America to launch a major attack on Syria, it would have been done on the pretext of a chemical weapon attack allegedly perpetrated by the Syrian Army on Eastern Ghouta, but Obama did not take the Saudi-orchestrated bait. If Obama took a single and somber decision for which he will be positively remembered once all the dust has settled, it will have to be his decision not to attack Syria in early September 2013.

But Trump’s America inherited a Syria in which America has no presence or influence. The ailing nation cannot be seen to be standing still doing nothing about this.

Russia: Discussing the role of Russia was left till the end because to emphasize once again, as per previous articles, that the role of Russian diplomacy is becoming increasingly important in Syria and the Levant in general.

To put all of the above into a realistic perspective, there is a potential war brewing in southern Syria, a war that has little to do with the one raging in the north, and only Russia has the potential of dealing with the conflict.

There is no speck of doubt in my mind that Russia has a Middle East peace plan.

There is no doubt in my mind that Russia wants to catapult America out of its role as the Middle East peace talk negotiator; a role that it played for more than four decades now without any scores on the board.

It must be remembered that despite all the concessions PLO leaders gave Israel, America was unable to provide any peace to Palestine, and not even to Israel for that matter. It is highly likely that even Israel is growing tired of America’s elusive promises of peace; and the peace Israel was promised was based on quashing the axis of resistance and establishing toothless puppet Arab regimes that dance to America’s tune, and who would normalize relationships with Israel and not pose any threat at all, not now, not in the future.

So Russia is strengthening her position in the Middle East in preparation for the opportune moment to elevate herself to be accepted by all parties concerned as the single arbitrator who is capable of negotiating an all-inclusive deal.

The rest is simply posturing.

The recent escalation between Syria and Israel is not a prelude for a bigger war. Nobody wants a war; not right now, as they are all aware of the damage that can be inflicted upon them.

Israel keeps testing the waters, testing Syria’s air defense capabilities, and above all, testing Russia’s resolve and determination to create a true balance of power in the Middle East.

Some Arabs would be disappointed that Russia would not allow the total destruction of Israel, but Russia has never promised this. On the other hand however, Russia is pushing Israel to be realistic, and has never promised Israel total and unconditional support like the USA did since the days of Kissinger.

Unless Israel can safeguard itself against Hezbollah rockets, and which it can’t, it will never initiate an all-out war with either Syria, Hezbollah, or both; not forgetting the Iranian presence on the ground in Syria, just outside Israel’s borders.

Israel has to either accept that the rules of the game have changed, or risk an escalation that will inflict huge damage on its infrastructure and civilians. The recent downing of an Israeli F-16 by Syrian air defenses and the subsequent call Netanyahu made to Russian President Putin is a clear indication that Israel is not happy with the fact that Russian arm supplies to Syria are changing the balance of power.

An astute look at recent events can only propose that Russia is trying to drag Israel into peace talks that are based on a regional balance of power, but Israel is not convinced yet that it has to do this anymore than it is convinced that it has lost its military upper hand. On the other hand, Russia will find it very difficult to convince Syria, Hezbollah and Iran that they should have any peace at all with Israel. All the while, America realizes that it has no presence in the war in the south, and is using the Kurdish pretext to have “a” presence in the north in order not to miss out on being party to any settlement. Erdogan is doing his bit to prevent the creation of a Kurdish state in Syria. Other than that he has no role to play in the potential brewing conflict in the south. At the end, America will stab the Kurds in the back like it did many times earlier, the Kurdish aspirations for independence will be pushed back for many decades, and the real focus will be on the south, on Russia’s yet undeclared role and plan for a Middle East peace plan.

The Coming War on Lebanon: Israel, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Prepare “Long-Planned Middle East War”

Global Research, February 13, 2018

This previously published article (December 2017) on Global Research reveals the well-calculated plan of the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia on inciting a “civil war” in Lebanon to defeat Hezbollah. 

Israel – seemingly leading the squad with the green signal from Washington – has just fabricated yet another grounds for war. 

***

Washington’s plan to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has ultimately failed. Now Lebanon seems to be in the cross-hairs with tensions between Israel and Hezbollah on the same level that led to the 2006 Lebanon war. There is also the possibility that a new offensive against Syria that might take place as Washington maintains its troop levels in the devastated country caused by ISIS and other terrorists groups they supported. Various reports suggests that the Pentagon may reveal that there are close to 2,000 U.S. troops stationed in Syria even though ISIS has been defeated. So why is Washington staying in Syria? Will there be another attempt to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the near future? Most likely, yes. Adding the Trump administration’s continued hostilities towards Iran, the drumbeats of a new war in the Middle East is loud and clear.

Israel, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have one main objective at the moment and that is to destabilize Lebanon and attempt to defeat Hezbollah before they prepare for another offensive in Syria to remove Assad from power. Before they declare an all-out war on Iran, they must neutralize their allies, Hezbollah and Syria which is by far an extremely difficult task to accomplish.

The Israeli government knows that it cannot defeat Hezbollah without sacrificing both its military and civilian populations. Israel needs the U.S. military for added support if their objective is to somewhat succeed. Israel and the U.S. can continue its support of ISIS and other terrorist groups to create a new civil war in Lebanon through false-flag terror operations which in a strategic sense, can lead to an internal civil war. Can Hezbollah and the Lebanese military prevent terrorist groups from entering its territory? So far they have been successful in defeating ISIS on the Lebanon-Syria border, and will most likely be successful in preventing a new U.S.-supported terrorist haven in Lebanon. Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri who originally resigned from his post while visiting the Saudi Kingdom, then suspending his resignation is a sign that a political crisis has been set in motion. So what happens next?

The Curse: Lebanon’s Natural Resources and the Greater Israel Project

In the case of a devastating war on Lebanon, with a civil war intact, Israel would surely attempt to take control over Lebanon’s natural resources. Since Trump got in the White House, Israel has expanded its Jewish settlements through land seizures throughout Palestine at unprecedented levels and with the occupation of the Golan Heights (a Syrian territory), they already control a portion of oil, gas and vital water supplies. Lebanon would be a huge bonus. In 2013, Lebanese Energy Minister Gebran Bassilestimated that Lebanon has around 96 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves and 865 million barrels of oil offshore. With Lebanon’s political chaos and Israel preparing for a long-term war with Hezbollah, all leads to Israel Shahak’s ‘The Zionist Plan for the Middle East’ which states the intended goal for the fragmentation of Lebanon and other adversaries in the Middle East:

3) This is not a new idea, nor does it surface for the first time in Zionist strategic thinking. Indeed, fragmenting all Arab states into smaller units has been a recurrent theme. This theme has been documented on a very modest scale in the AAUG publication, Israel’s Sacred Terrorism (1980), by Livia Rokach. Based on the memoirs of Moshe Sharett, former Prime Minister of Israel, Rokach’s study documents, in convincing detail, the Zionist plan as it applies to Lebanon and as it was prepared in the mid-fifties.

4) The first massive Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1978 bore this plan out to the minutest detail. The second and more barbaric and encompassing Israeli invasion of Lebanon on June 6, 1982, aims to effect certain parts of this plan which hopes to see not only Lebanon, but Syria and Jordan as well, in fragments. This ought to make mockery of Israeli public claims regarding their desire for a strong and independent Lebanese central government. More accurately, they want a Lebanese central government that sanctions their regional imperialist designs by signing a peace treaty with them. They also seek acquiescence in their designs by the Syrian, Iraqi, Jordanian and other Arab governments as well as by the Palestinian people. What they want and what they are planning for is not an Arab world, but a world of Arab fragments that is ready to succumb to Israeli hegemony. Hence, Oded Yinon in his essay, “A Strategy for Israel in the 1980’s,” talks about “far-reaching opportunities for the first time since 1967” that are created by the “very stormy situation [that] surrounds Israel” 

Israel is gearing up for a long and devastating war against Hezbollah, an Iranian-ally who is . based in Lebanon’s southern region to deter Israel’s expansionist ideas. As Saudi Arabia (Israel’s closest ally in the region) continues its immoral and devastating war on Yemen, it is raising tensions with Iran. According to Thomas L. Freidman’s article ‘Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring, At Last’ praising who he calls “M.B.S.” or Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman for his reformist policies. According to Friedman 

“Iran’s “supreme leader is the new Hitler of the Middle East,” said M.B.S. “But we learned from Europe that appeasement doesn’t work. We don’t want the new Hitler in Iran to repeat what happened in Europe in the Middle East.”

The Trump administration’s continued support of the Saudi Monarchy which negotiated an arms deal worth billions to take place has only emboldened the Saudi government to take an aggressive stand towards its adversaries in the Middle East namely, Iran.

Lebanon Prepares for Another War

On November 21st, Reuters’ published an article titled ‘Lebanon army chief warns of Israel threat amid political crisis’based on Lebanon’s Army Chief warning his troops to be on high alert concerning Israel’s aggressive behavior along the Southern border. It was reported that 

“Lebanon’s army chief told his soldiers on Tuesday to be extra vigilant to prevent unrest during political turmoil after the prime minister quit, and accused Israel of “aggressive” intentions across the southern frontier” despite Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s return to Lebanon and decided to put his resignation on hold.

Commander-General-Joseph-Aoun (Source: The National)

The army’s Twitter account quoted the Lebanese Army’s Commander General Joseph Aoun who said that

“Troops should be ready to “thwart any attempt to exploit the current circumstances for stirring strife” and that “the exceptional political situation that Lebanon is going through requires you to exercise the highest levels of awareness.”

Israel understands that a defeat against Hezbollah and the Lebanese military will be absolutely difficult to accomplish, therefore preparations to engage the Hezbollah this time will be an effort to create as much damage as possible and reduce their military capabilities, maybe in time for U.S. troops to enter the war through Syria and coordinate targets with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). As I mentioned earlier, and may I add, with an interesting choice of words, a report published by Reuters on November 24th suggests that the Pentagon might announce how many troops they have in Syria:

Two U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Pentagon could, as early as Monday, publicly announce that there are slightly more than 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria. They said there was always a possibility that last minute changes in schedules could delay an announcement. That is not an increase in troop numbers, just a more accurate count, as the numbers often fluctuate

A War That No One Will Win 

The Council of Foreign Relations (CFR), an establishment think-tank based in New York City published an article on July 30th of this year by Neocon warmonger Eliot Abrams who was a deputy assistant and deputy national security adviser for President George W. Bush titled ‘The Next Israel-Hezbollah Conflict’ admits that “the next war is a war that will not be “won” by Israel or Hezbollah.” Abrams said that “Israel’s realistic war aims will not match the damage it will suffer—and the damage it will necessarily inflict” in reference to a strategic assessment ‘by Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies titled ‘Political and Military Contours of the Next Conflict with Hezbollah’ by Gideon Sa’ar, an Israeli politician and a former Likud member of the Knesset and Ron Tira, a strategist, Israeli Air Force officer and a pilot highlights what Israel’s realistic goals should be:

Israel’s objectives in a future conflict will be derived first and foremost from what it wants to achieve in the distinct context (such as, for example, preventing Hezbollah’s buildup of certain qualitative edge capabilities or preventing deployment of high quality Iranian weapon systems in Syria), but a review of the fundamental data reveals a few “generic” objectives that could be applicable in many contexts: postponing the following conflict, shaping the rules for the routine times that will follow the conflict, increasing deterrence with respect to Hezbollah and third parties, undermining the attractiveness of Hezbollah’s war paradigm (use of rockets and missiles hidden among the civilian population), preserving Israel’s relations with its allies, and creating the conditions to reduce Iranian involvement in the post-war reconstruction of Lebanon, as well as imposing new and enforceable restrictions on the freedom of access of the Iran-Alawite-Hezbollah axis

The strategic assessment mentioned what realistic goals Israel can achieve when the conflict takes place according to the assessment:

There is only a limited range of “positive” and achievable objectives that Israel can hope to attain from Hezbollah and from Lebanon. While the purpose of an armed conflict is always political, in many contexts it is hard to find a political objective that is both meaningful and achievable at a reasonable cost, and that is the reason for the basic lack of value that can be found in an Israel- Hezbollah military conflict 

The reason according to Mr. Abrams’s conclusion that an Israeli defeat over Hezbollah is impossible is because of Russia’s presence in the region:

That’s because Russia cannot be expelled, Lebanon will remain roughly half-Shia, and Hezbollah will survive—as will its relationship with Iran. After the war, the best assumption would be that Hezbollah will rebuild, as it did after 2006. But Hezbollah would achieve nothing positive in such a conflict, suffering immense damage and bringing immense destruction upon Lebanon. Its only possible “gain” is the damage it would inflict on Israel. In a way this is the only “good news”

Israel’s Economy During Wartime

David Rosenberg’s opinion piece ‘Israel’s Next War: We Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet’ on the 2014 Israel-Gaza Conflict in the Israel-based news source Haaretz explains the consequences of war and how it effects Israel’s economy. Rosenberg said that

 “In 2014, the missile war wasn’t a threat so much as a spectacle, as Israelis watched Iron Dome missiles bring down Qassam rockets, to applause. Score one for the home team.”

However, Rosenberg claims that the next war with Hezbollah will be different, in fact it will effect Israel’s economy in several ways:

The next war isn’t going to look like that. The round figure everyone uses for Hezbollah’s missile arsenal is 100,000. That is a suspiciously round figure and is probably wrong, but no one disputes that the Shiite militia is well-armed, and more importantly, many of its missiles carry much more powerful warheads and are much more accurate than they were in 2006. Hezbollah’s arsenal includes attack drones and coast-to-sea missiles, too. For its part, Israel is also better prepared. Iron Dome, which is designed to bring down short-range rockets, has been complemented by the introduction of the David’s Sling and Arrow systems, designed to intercept long-range rockets and ballistic missiles, respectively. 

But against an onslaught of thousands of missiles, no Domes, Slings or Arrows will be able to provide the kind of defense Israelis have grown used to. Israel’s infrastructure and economic activity are vulnerable to even a limited missile attack from Hezbollah. Geographically, Israel is a small country with no hinterland, which means facilities for electric power and water are concentrated in small areas. More than a quarter of electric power is generated at just two sites. Natural gas is produced at a single offshore field and delivered via a single pipeline. A large portion of our exports derive from a single industrial plant. A prolonged missile war will almost certainly bring business to a halt

Israel’s economy will shrink within a short-time period according to Rosenberg:

In the worst-case scenario, a post-war Israel would no longer be seen by global investors and businesses as a safe place to put their money and do deals. Imagine Startup Nation without the constant flow of cross-border capital and mergers and acquisitions. The fantasyland of the last 11 years would disappear in a matter of days or weeks

Rosenberg is correct. For example, during the 2014 Israel-Gaza Conflict, Israel was faced with economic uncertainties. The Times of Israel published an article during the conflict with an appropriate title ‘War depresses people, economy; strong shekel harmful’ clarified what experts said on how the economy would be effected during a “drawn-out” conflict:

Experts temper the pessimism by noting that in the past, the Israeli economy has been resilient. If the current conflict is resolved quickly, there may be little cause for concern. On the other hand, a drawn out conflict in Gaza may cause investors to worry about the country’s stability and could cause long term damage to Israel’s reputation and position as a key player in the global economy. 

“Our key concerns are the openness of the Israeli economy and our ability to be a key player in the global markets,” Zvi Eckstein, former deputy governor of the Bank of Israel and dean of the School of Economics at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, noted in an interview with The Times of Israel. “It’s really still a key uncertainty how the conflict will end up,” said Eckstein. “Most people predict we will get back to the same relatively stable geopolitical situation as we were in early July, and if so, I would say the economy would rebound back later next year. But if not, the threat to Israel’s economy would be quite devastating”

That conflict was against a weaker adversary, Hamas. For starters, a war with Hezbollah, Lebanon and Syria however would have a negative impact on Israel’s tourism industry where it receives more than 3 million tourists (mainly from the U.S. and Europe) per year. Israel’s level of production will also take a hit. The Street published an interesting article ‘How Is Israel’s Economy Affected by the Current War?’ explains what happened to Israel’s economy during the 2014 Israel-Gaza Conflict:

The Israeli economy suffers directly from reductions in productivity every time missile alert sirens send the country’s residents into bomb shelters. The economic costs of the war are estimated upwards of $2.9 billion, and already the war has soaked up 1.2% of the GDP. In the event that quiet prevails after a ceasefire is reached, the Israeli economy is resilient enough to withstand the costs of this operation.

History reflects that the Israeli economy surged at a rate of 6% prior to the 2006 Lebanon war and then slowed down to 2.9% prior to this current conflict. The tourism sector is going to be particularly hard hit, and if a third intifada ensues the economic costs for Israel could be crippling. Since a big chunk of Israel’s workforce is enlisted in the IDF, productivity declines are widespread and costs are mounting. The IMA (Israel Manufacturers Association) has already listed a figure of $240 million in losses as a result of the war effort

Another War, Another Tragedy

Related image

Israel, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. want to permanently eliminate the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah alliance and to achieve that goal, Lebanon will have to become another Libya causing more chaos in an already volatile situation. The only beneficiaries in this coming war is Israel and the U.S. if of course, they are victorious. The U.S. and their allies would re-establish themselves as the hegemonic power in the Middle East with absolute control over the natural resources including oil, gas and water. Israel would also expand and conquer more territory for Greater Israel. Saudi Arabia would remain a vassal state with more political leverage over its neighbors.

And if Saudi Arabia foolishly decided to go to war with Iran, the House of Saud will inevitably collapse since Iran is much more stronger, militarily speaking. Washington plans to keep its military presence in Syria is a signal that removing Assad from power is still on the agenda. Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Trump administration (decertifying the Iran Nuclear Deal with the intention to eventually kill the deal) is a recipe for a planned long-term conflict. Israel’s economy would suffer a major setback if they were to launch an attack against Hezbollah. Besides the fact that a war against Hezbollah would mean that missiles would constantly strike within Israel, creating a massive amount of stress on Israeli citizens and a downturn of the economy would only add another dimension to the wide-reaching full-scale war. Israel hopes that Hezbollah will be temporally neutralized until the U.S. congress and the Trump Administration jointly approve another military and economic aid package worth billions in time to continue its wars. Then there is the possibility of a joint U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israeli orchestrated attack on Syria to remove Assad from power to ultimately isolate Iran, but with Russia and China backing Iran, it would be a no-win situation.  The biggest loser in all of its foreign policy blunders is the U.S. Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Israel’s plan to launch more aggressive wars against its neighbors to further an expansionist objective would come at a great cost to Israeli citizens as their economy sinks into the rabbit hole and with the threat of incoming missiles from southern Lebanon makes it that much more worst. Lebanon and to an extent Israel will be once again devastated by a new war. For both sides of the border, it is a formula for disastrous consequences.

This article was originally published by Silent Crow News.

Featured image is from the author.

TALKING SYRIA & MEDIA LIES, ON SPUTNIK ORBITING THE WORLD

In Gaza

With hosts George & Gayatri Galloway. Photo via Sputnik on RT Twitter account.

While in the UK giving talks on Syria (and the DPRK/North Korea) last week, I was invited to speak on Sputnik Orbiting the World, the program hosted by George & Gayatri Galloway.

The program description:

Speaking truth to power ought to be the duty of journalism but it is not. Speaking the power’s “truth” is the way to get and keep the gig in today’s media – and if you do so, you’ll be richly rewarded with money and flattery. One of our frequent guests, Patrick Cockburn, had a great journalist father, Claud Cockburn, who said that the relationship of the journalist to power should be that of the dog to the lamp-post. Nothing is true, he’d say, until it has been officially denied. Fortunately, every now and then a journalist emerges who goes where few dare, who speaks what few will speak, without fear or favor. One such journalist is Eva Bartlett, so we invited her into the Sputnik studio to speak truth to power.

Clip:

Extended Interview:

Related Links:

How I startedAbout Me

Writings and videos from/on SyriaIn Gaza

A Personal Reply to the Fact-Challenged Smears of Terrorist-Whitewashing Channel 4, Snopes and La Presse, Jan 20, 2018, In Gaza, *republished at: The Indicter, (in Spanish)

Exploitation of Bana al-Abed: Parents use child to whitewash terrorists in Aleppo, Jul 24, 2017, RT.com

Absurdities of Syrian war propaganda, Nov 2, 2017, RT.com

The REAL Syria Civil Defence, Saving Real Syrians, Not Oscar Winning White Helmets, Saving Al Qaeda, Vanessa Beeley, Apr 2, 2017, 21st Century Wire

Aleppo: How US & Saudi-Backed Rebels Target ‘Every Syrian’, Nov 29, 2016, MintPress News[Excerpt: On the afternoon of Nov. 3, after meeting with Dr. Mohammed Batikh, director of Al-Razi Hospital, the victims of terror attacks which had begun a few hours prior began to arrive one after another, maimed and critically injured. The vehicle bombings and bombardment of Grad missiles, among other attacks, left 18 people dead and more than 200 injured, according to Dr. Zaher Hajo, the head of forensic medicine at Al-Razi Hospital. …According to the hospital’s head forensic medicine, Dr. Hajo, in the last five years, 10,750 civilians have been killed in Aleppo, 40 percent of whom were women and children. In the past year alone, 328 children have been killed by terrorist shelling in Aleppo, and 45 children were killed by terrorist snipers.]

US-Backed Terrorism in Syria: A First-Hand Account of the Use of Mortars Against Civilians, Sep 12, 2014, Global Research

Western corporate media ‘disappears’ over 1.5 million Syrians and 4,000 doctors (Aleppo), Aug 14, 2016, SOTT.net

Syria Dispatch: Most Syrians Support Assad, Reject Phony Foreign ‘Revolution’, Mar 7, 2016, SOTT.net

Syrians Flock to Vote in Lebanon… But Not in The West, May 30, 2014, Inter Press Services

Liberated Homs Residents Challenge Notion of “Revolution”, Jul 8, 2014, Inter Press Services

“Freedom”: Homs resident speaks of the early days of the “crisis”(with video), Jun 24, 2014, In Gaza

Homs: “We wanted to protect our house”, Jun 13, 2014, In Gaza

Morning conversation with a Sunni Damascene woman, Apr 19, 2014, In Gaza [Excerpt: One of my relatives lived in Hama. The “rebels” would knock on the doors of homes there and force them to participate in demonstrations against the “regime.” My relative is an old woman, she said “I don’t want to participate. My legs are weak, I’m an old woman” but the “rebels” said she had to join the demonstration. They would threaten her, “we’ll kill your son, your husband.” They fled Hama soon after, to Lebanon.

Our former housekeeper was from Zamalka, near Jobar (one area where the “rebels” are, and from where they fire mortar shells towards Damascus). Just before the “rebels” took over Zamalka, she fled, but her husband and 30 year old son stayed, to protect their home. Two months after fleeing, she saw on the news that the “rebels” had killed her husband and son by cutting their heads off.

My cousin had a car accident, two of his children died. This was on a Friday. One child died immediately, the second the following day. While they were praying in the mosque, “rebels” came and filmed the caskets and produced a video with the title, “Damascus prayer on the field of freedom of the child martyr Abdul Salam Musa”. My aunt in Germany saw the video and commented “This is a lie, these kids are my relatives and they died in a car accident.”  Here is the video she referred to. As we sit and watch it, she points out her relatives.]

Syrians from Hassaka Speak of the Peaceful Life They Knew, Nov 9, 2014, In Gaza [Excerpt: “We never thought we’d leave Syria, life was good. Everything was cheap, we had security. But we eventually had to…. not because of the government or the Syrian Army, because of the terrorists, mostly al-Nusra then. Now Daesh are there too, but they’re the same anyway.

Before we left, it had gotten to the point where we scarcely had access to water, had little electricity… The terrorists destroyed the power lines. The municipality would repair things and the terrorists would return and destroy them.

Two weeks before we left, they blew up a car belonging to an important person in the government in our area. He lived down the street, between our house and the school. My daughter was at school, I was so afraid that she had been hurt.

When we left, we thought it would would only be temporarily, but every day since it has gotten worse.

We went back six months ago, to see if it was possible to return for good. Everything different, many shops were closed down and the water and electricity were even worse. Everything was worse than ever. As soon as it got dark, the streets were empty. Those of our neighbours who had remained were different too, gaunt, faces drawn.”

He spoke of the faux-revolution. “’We want freedom,’ they said. What freedom do they want? We had education, health care, security. This is the ‘freedom’ they want, these terrorists destroying our towns, our culture?”

Even though they have left and feel that they cannot go back, they are patriots, are proud of their country and culture, and its voices like theirs we need to be hearing: the people who know what’s happening on the ground, who are not being fed soundbites by corporate media or funded by the various thinktank incarnations of Soros’ foundations but who live/lived in Syria and suffered the draconian takeover of foreign terrorists; the people who support the Syrian army and President Assad because they choose to, who enacted the democracy they choose, not that which the death squads of the west attempt to deliver.”]

Meeting Syrians in Lebanon, May 27, 2014, In Gaza [Excerpts: “At breakfast one morning, still waiting for my visa application to be processed, I sit working on my laptop.  A man keeps glancing my way, and finally comes over to say he likes the Syrian bracelet I wear. We get talking. He’s Syrian, from Aleppo. At the end of our talk, he says again how happy it made him to see me wearing this bracelet… and adds, “I can’t wear my Syrian flag here because there are so many stupid people, they might kidnap me or worse. I’m not afraid of my government, but I am afraid of these thugs.” (Listen to his testimony on witnessing video being staged in Syria, and more.)

*

I visit Jeita Grotto, Jbeil (Byblos), and the cable-car leading up to the hilltop where –in the Middle East–the largest statue of Mary resides. I’m more interested in the scenery, and lovely scenery it is. Coming down from the hill, a thin older man with a pleasant face stops my car and opens the door. We chat a bit. He is also from Haleb (Aleppo), has been working here for years, not because of the manufactured war. But because of the situation, he’s recently brought his wife and kids here. I ask my usual simple questions: “What’s the problem? What do you think of the President?”

He replies–noting that he is speaking his mind, isn’t afraid to do so–that he will vote for President Assad . “I’m with him. Before all of this we were safe and had few problems.”  I ask the taboo question again, for the sake of clarity, and he replies “I’m Sunni Muslim, but in Syria it’s not important what religion you are.”

He’s Sunni. Bashar al-Assad is Alawi. The Western media has made MUCH of the so-called Alawi devotees to President Assad. But in my experience, in Syria and out, Syrians across the board support Assad.  It just depends if they’ve been corrupted by NED/Soros or other funds or whether they’ve been seduced by the Wahabi, Takfiri notion of raping, desecrating, destroying Syria for greater pleasures in a promised hereafter.

*

In a village near the Chouf Cedar Reserve, I come across another Syrian who has left because of the armed gangs in Aleppo. He’s a talented woodworker, and one evening stops by the hotel to have a cup of warm milk. I’ve already had a coffee (he saw me in the street earlier and invited me to his employer’s house for coffee), and a instant-coffee-milk mixture (everyone calls it Nescafe, whether its Nestle or not) with the guesthouse manager while talking Syria, but “Ibrahim” keeps insisting he buy me a coffee, something.

He shows me photos of his handiwork–lovely wood furniture, cupboards, intricate ceiling decor. I ask if this is what he did for work in Syria. “I had my own shop, but its been destroyed. Our house was destroyed, too.”  I ask when he’ll go back. “I can’t go back, the ‘rebels’ are there, I can’t get back.”

Haleb helua, ahlan mekkan. Aleppo is beautiful, the most beautiful place,” he says.

We look at online photos of Aleppo.

“See how beautiful it is!” He points out the landmarks, repeating himself, Haleb helua.

The Umayyad mosque, a castle, a hotel which he says is one of the oldest in the world…

Bas kharaboo.  But they’ve destroyed it all. Here, our house is here…. but it’s destroyed. The most beautiful place n the world.”

All this is said in the same soft voice, not a trace of anger or bitterness, just sadness, longing.”]

*

 

[Graphic 18+] Saudi Coalition suffers heavy losses after seizing strategic Yemeni city

 

BEIRUT, LEBANON (1:40 P.M.) – The Saudi Coalition attempted to advance past the strategic city of Hays on Tuesday, targeting the mountains overlooking this important area of western Yemen.

Led by the UAE-backed Southern Resistance forces, the Coalition troops attempted to capture the Hays Mountain from the Houthi fighters protecting this imperative area.

However, the assault would be short-lived, as the Houthi troops proved too strong at the Hays Mountain.

According to the official media wing of the Houthi forces, their fighters killed several Coalition fighters, while also seizing the latter’s weapons before they retreated to Hays city.

Below are the photos that the Houthi forces released from the battle:

Military Media
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YEMENI WAR REPORT – FEBRUARY 7, 2018: INTERNAL CONFLICT IN SAUDI-LED COALITION

South Front

Ground forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition operating in Yemen have faced a major internal crisis over the control for the strategic coastal city of Aden. In January, the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) and Shabwan Elite Forces (SEF) launched a series of operations against forces loyal to Saudi-backed President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.

Since then, the SEF and the STC have captured a major part of Aden, including the nearby military facilities, as well as the city of Ataq, the capital of the province of Shabwah. Pro-Hadi forces were not able to put up a significant resistance to their opponents even with air support from the Saudi Arabia’s air force.

Thus, the UAE and its allies on the ground further expanded its influence in southern Yemen while the Saudi-backed Yemen government was put on the verge of the collapse. The Yemeni capital, Sanaa, is controlled by the Houthis. So, President Hadi and the Saudi-backed government used Aden as own capital.

In early February, the sides formally reached the ceasefire in Aden. Nonetheless, sporadic clashes continued in the city and across the southern part of the country.

Some source say that the main reason of tensions is an ill-advised policy of Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr and his cabinet. However, it is clear that the real reason behind the tensions is ongoing competition for the spheres of the influence between various factions of the so-called Saudi-led coalition.

Furthermore, Aden lies at the cross-section of multiple trade routes and has a high economic importance serving as a key logistical hub in the area.

The STC was formed by the Southern Movement, a political movement and paramilitary organization active in the former territory of the state known as South Yemen. The political goal of the movement is to secede from the Republic of Yemen and to establish an independent state.

On February 5, the London-based newspaper al-Araby al-Jadeed reported that STC Head, Aidarus al-Zubaidi, departed Aden to visit the UAE capital Abu Dhabi and the Saudi capital Riyadh. The visits show the growing influence of the STC amid the developing conflict in Yemen.

On the same day, the Saudi military claimed that it had intercepted a ballistic missile fired by the Houthis from the Yemen province of Sa’adah at the Saudi city of Khamis Mushait. The Houthis continue using ballistic missiles to pound facilities of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen as well as targets inside Saudi Arabia. This shows that efforts of the Saudi-led coalition to destroy stockpiles and arms depots of the Houthis across the country resulted in little effect, most likely because of a lack of the reconnaissance on the ground.

Another important threat is cross-borders attacks by the Houthis. For example, on February 3, seven Saudi military service members were killed in cross-border attacks in the Saudi province of Jizan and Najran. On February 2, the Houthis attacks Saudi-led forces in the village of al-Khadra in the province of Jizan and destroyed at least three vehicles. Such attacks reveal a poor security situation at the Saudi-Yemeni border.

On the other hand, the Saudi-led coalition and its local allies were able to develop momentum against the Houthis in the area of Taiz and south of the port city of Hudaydah. Right now, the most intense fighting is ongoing west of Taiz.

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