Saudi/Bahraini FM’s dodge reporters after first-ever public meeting with Israeli PM – English subs

February 22, 2019

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Syrian War Report – Feb. 21-22, 2019: Iran Took Control Of Several US Drones Flying Over Syria, Iraq

South Front

22.02.2019

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the National Defense Forces (NDF) have finished their combing operation in the central Syrian desert, the NDF media center said in a statement.

According to the released statement, the SAA and the NDF eliminated several ISIS members and seized loads of weapons and equipment in the framework of the operation, which covered desert areas of Homs, Rif Dimashq, Deir Ezzor and Raqqa provinces. Despite this, ISIS cells still control a large chunk of the Homs-Deir Ezzor desert.

On February 21, a car bomb exploded near the Deir Rasm hospital in the center of the Turkish-occupied city of Afrin injuring up to 10 people. The attack took place a few hours after a military parade held  by Turkish-backed militants in the city. Opposition activists accused YPG-linked rebels of carrying out the attack. Since early 2018, YPG-linked cells had conducted multiple IED attacks and ambushes on positions of Turkey-led forces in the region.

A car bomb hit a bus currying workers returning from the Omar oil fields. At least 15 people were killed and multiple others were injured. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but local sources say that it was likely conducted by ISIS cells.

Multiple convoys carrying men, women and children, mostly ISIS members and their families, left the ISIS-held pocket in the Euphrates Valley in the last 2 days. These persons are being transferred to filtration camps controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). According to reports, about 250 ISIS fighters remained besieged in the area because they refuse to surrender.

It is interesting to note that pro-SDF sources pretend that the group allows civilians only to leave the pocket. However, evidence from the ground contradicts to these claims. On February 21, it appeared that the US-backed group had handed over 500 ISIS members to the Iraqi military.

On February 19, Russian forces opened two humanitarian corridors allowing refugees to leave the camp. Members of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent were stationed at the checkpoints to provide medical aid to refugees leaving the camp.

However, according to the Russian Reconciliation Centre, militants have blocked the exit from the camp by building an earth berm. They also threatened the refugees with “jail and death” on the territory under the control of the Damascus government.

Head of the Centre Sergei Solomatin added that at the same time, “the possibility of exit of foreign fighters from the 55-kilometer zone to Jordan and Iraq is not limited” and ISIS militants and their families are being moved to the camp from the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. From its side, US-backed militants continue to repeat that the Damascus government is persecuting and punishing refugees returning to their homes.

The Iranian Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) have got control of 7-8 US unnamed aerial vehicles operating in Syria and Iraq, IRGC Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said adding that the IRGC extorted intelligence data from the aircraft. The IRGC media also released videos confirming its claims.

While ISIS is de-facto defeated in Syria and Iraq, a possible escalation of the long-standing conflict between the US-Israeli-led bloc and Iran continues to pose a threat to regional security.

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القرار الأميركي ببقاء 200 جندي… لماذا؟

القرار الأميركي ببقاء 200 جندي… لماذا؟

فبراير 23, 2019

ناصر قنديل

– خلال سنة لم يعّد الأميركيون يتحدثون عن دور لقواتهم في سورية، ولم يعُد يسمع لهم حديث عن شروط وتهديدات وخطوط حمراء، ونجح الرئيس الأميركي دونالد ترامب بالتهرب من المحاسبة عن الفشل في رسم خطوط حمراء ادعى أن سلفه باراك أوباما كان عاجزاً عن فرضها، وبالتغطية على متابعته التلاعب بقضية وجود داعش التي كشف أن الرئيس أوباما هو مَن فبركها مع وزيرة خارجيته هيلاري كلينتون. وصارت القضية الموضوعة في التداول هي قرار ترامب بالانسحاب من سورية، وصار السؤال، هل ينسحب أم لا ينسحب؟ ومتى ينسحب؟ وماذا سيحدث بعد أن ينسحب؟

– يعرف صناع القرار الأميركي أن السذج وحدهم يفسرون قرار الانسحاب بالبروباغندا أو بالارتجال، وهو يأتي منسجماً مع مناخ تراجع عام في القدرة الأميركية على رسم السياسة في آسيا، ونيات بتخفيف الحضور العسكري والتورّط في المواجهات على مساحة ساحات الحرب، من سورية إلى أفغانستان واليمن، ويعرفون أن قرار الانسحاب من سورية كما الانسحاب من أفغانستان كما وقف الحرب في اليمن، رسمت كمسارات يجب توظيف تطبيقها بما يتيح إرباك الساحات والخصوم، واستدراج التفاوض.

– يهتم الأميركيون بإثبات أن انسحابهم سيسبّب إرباكاً وفوضى، وأن لا بديل متفق عليه يخلفهم، وأن تنسيق الانسحاب بات ضرورة يطلبها الجميع منهم، ليفاوضوا على ثمن التنسيق، طالما أنهم فشلوا في استدراج التفاوض على ثمن الانسحاب، بعدما حددوا السعر بمقايضته بالانسحاب الإيراني. والأميركي عموماً كتاجر والرئيس الأميركي خصوصاً كتاجر، جاهزان للبيع والشراء، لكنهما يكتشفان أنهما جاهزان للبيع لكن ليس هناك مَن يشتري. فبعد الإعلان عن انسحاب سريع لم تأت دعوات التأجيل إلا من «إسرائيل» وداعميها في الكونغرس، لكن من يريدهم الأميركي للتفاوض رحبوا بالقرار وشككوا في صدقيته، وهذا ما قاله الروس والإيرانيون والسوريون، بينما تسابقت القيادات التركية والكردية على البحث عن صيغ ما بعد الانسحاب ودورها فيها، وليس هذا ما يهم الأميركي، بل استعداد روسيا وإيران وسورية للتفاوض، ولما لم يصل إليه الصدى بوجود أي استعداد، تحدث عن بقاء مئتي جندي أملاً بأن يسمع هذا الصدى.

– الأميركي جاهز ليقبض ثمن التنسيق في غير سورية، هذه المرّة وهو يتحدث عن أفغانستان ويضع ورقة البقاء المؤقت والجزئي على الطاولة، لكنه لا يسمع الصدى. وهو يدرك أن ما لم تنجح بفعله وحدات بالآلاف لن تنجح فيه بالتأكيد وحدة رمزية من المئات، بل ستكون كلفتها البحث سياسياً عن حماية عليه أن يسدد ثمنها لمن يملكون القدرة على تهديد أمنها، كما كان الحال في العراق، وكما سيعود، ولذلك سيبقى الأميركي يحدّث نفسه، فيقول مرة إنه منسحب كلياً وفوراً، ولا يسمع صدى، ممن ينتظر سماعهم، فيقول إنه غير مستعجل، فلا يسمع الصدى، فيقول إنه لن ينسحب لأن الحرب مع داعش لم تنته، فلا يسمع الصدى، فيغيّر ويقول إن الحرب انتهت فلا يسمع، فيقول إنه سينسحب بالتدريج فلا يسمع، فيقول إنه يطلق اليد التركية فلا يسمع، فيقول إنه يهدّد الأكراد إذا تعاونوا مع الدولة السورية فلا يسمع شيئاً، وها هو اليوم يقول إنه سيبقي مئتي جندي ويحتفظ بوجود عسكري في التنف كي يسمع.. ولن يسمع.

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OLD ALEPPO SHOP OWNER: JUST LEAVE US IN PEACE AND WE WILL RE-BUILD

Source

More from my January 2019 re-visit to Aleppo, Syria.
Again in the old city of Aleppo, and around the Citadel, I speak with civilians about life, take footage from a city ravaged by terrorism but rebuilding, and add a bit of footage from November 2016 where the person I was with told me terrorists burned the old souq before leaving.
Shop owner:
“This is not my work. My work, I have a factory for bottling olive oil, in Idlib.” [When was the last time you saw it?] “Before 8 years.”
See previous clips from Aleppo:
Memory Lane, Old Aleppo: November 2016 Terrorist Snipers Vs Today’s Peace

Reconstruction in Aleppo

Signs of Reconstruction Among the Destruction in Old Aleppo

*Thanks to R&U Videos for compiling some of my clips into a video:

Shops Re-Opened in Old Aleppo

Aleppo Taxi Driver and Singer 🙂

From A Main Square in Aleppo That Was Sniped & Bombed By “Moderate” Terrorists

Ibrahim, an Aleppo Resident, Speaks About Experiences as Syrian Army Volunteer

Lively Clothes Market, Aleppo–The City That Did NOT Fall

عودة النازحين أم عودة العلاقات؟

فبراير 21, 2019

ناصر قنديل

– يحتلّ ملف عودة النازحين السوريين إلى بلادهم أولوية اهتمامات المسؤولين اللبنانيين، في ملف العلاقات اللبنانية السورية. وهو ملف يستحق الاهتمام، خصوصاً لجهة فصله عن الشروط الدولية الهادفة لاستعماله للضغط على كل من لبنان وسورية الضغط على لبنان لفرض شروط تبقي حمل النازحين على عاتق الدولة والاقتصاد والمجتمع في لبنان، ليتحوّل بلداً متسوّلاً للمساعدات ومرتهناً لشروط المانحين، فيسهل تطويعه في الملفات الصعبة كمستقبل سلاح المقاومة، وما سماه المانحون في مؤتمر سيدر بإدماج العمالة السورية بالمشاريع المموّلة أو ما أسموه بالاستقرار عبر تسريع استراتيجية الدفاع الوطني التي يقصد أصحابها هنا «نزع أو تحييد سلاح المقاومة»، والضغط على سورية عبر تحويل كتل النازحين إلى ورقة انتخابية يمكن توظيفها في أي انتخابات مقبلة، بربط عودتهم بما يسمّيه المانحون بالحل السياسي، والمقصود تلبية شروطهم حول الهوية السياسية للدولة السورية أو استخدام النازحين لاحقا في ترجيح كفة مرشحين بعينهم لإقامة توازن داخل الدولة السورية يملك المانحون تأثيراً عليه.

– السؤال الرئيسي هنا هو رغم أهمية ملف النازحين، هل يمكن اختزال العلاقات اللبنانية السورية بعودة النازحين؟ وهل يمكن النجاح بإعادة النازحين بلا عودة العافية إلى العلاقات اللبنانية السورية؟ والجواب يبدأ من نصوص اتفاق الطائف حول اعتبار العلاقات المميزة بسورية التجسيد الأهم لعروبة لبنان، وما ترجمته معاهدة الأخوة والتعاون والتنسيق السارية المفعول حتى تاريخه، والتي تشكل وحدها الإطار القانوني والدستوري لمعالجة قضية النازحين، حيث يتداخل الشأن الأمني بالشأن الإداري بالشؤون الاقتصادية، وكلها لها أطر محددة في بنود المعاهدة يسهل تفعيلها لبلورة المعالجات، بحيث يصير البحث عن هذه المعالجات من خارج منطق المعاهدة والعلاقات المميزة، سعياً هجيناً لبناء علاقة تشبه الحمل خارج الرحم، وهو حمل كاذب لا ينتهي بمولود ولا بولادة.

– عند الحديث عن عودة العلاقات بين لبنان وسورية سيكون مفيداً الاطلاع على ما نشرته صحيفة الشرق الأوسط السعودية، من دراسة استطلاع رأي أجراها مركز غلوبال فيزيون لحساب مؤسسة بوليتيكا التي يرأسها النائب السابق فارس سعيد، حول عودة العلاقات اللبنانية السورية، والجهة الناشرة كما الجهة الواقفة وراء الاستطلاع وخلفياتهما السياسية في النظر لسورية والعلاقة معها، تكفيان للقول إن الأرقام التي حملتها الدراسة يجب أخذها من كل مسؤولي الدولة اللبنانية بعين الاعتبار، حيث 70 من المستطلعين أعلنوا تأييدهم لعودة العلاقات بين البلدين، ووقف 30 ضد هذه العودة. وفي تفاصيل توزّع أسباب المستطلعين يتضح أن نسبة تأثير الموقف السياسي والعقائدي تحضر في الرافضين للعلاقة بين البلدين، بينما أغلب المتحمّسين لعودة العلاقات ينطلقون من اعتبارات تتّصل بالمصلحة اللبنانية الصرفة، فيظهر المعارضون مجرد دعاة لمعاقبة بلدهم لأنهم يحملون أحقاداً أو خلفيات عدائية تخص موقفهم السياسي وهؤلاء أكثر من 90 من الرافضين، بينما لم تظهر الخلفية السياسية في صف دعاة عودة العلاقات إلا بنسبة ضئيلة لا تذكر، لكن من بين المؤيدين لعودة العلاقات الذين شكلوا 70 من اللبنانيين وفقاً للعينة المختارة لتنفيذ الاستفتاء، لم يحتل ملف عودة النازحين نسبة 10 من المستطلعين، بينما احتلت عناوين مثل عودة الترانزيت نسبة نصف المؤيدين أي ثلث المستطلعين.

– التعافي اللبناني بقوة الجغرافيا السياسية والاقتصادية له معبر واحد هو تعافي العلاقات اللبنانية السورية، والتذاكي في التعاطي مع هذا العنوان، أو التهاون بربطه بأطراف ثالثة، سيعقد التعافي اللبناني وضمناً سيجعل ملف عودة النازحين مربوطاً بأطراف ثالثة، فجعل ملف تجارة الترانزيت لبنانياً سورياً، لا لبنانياً سورياً خليجياً، يتوقف على جعل العلاقة اللبنانية السورية شأناً لبنانياً سورياً لا شأناً ينتظر ضوء الخليج الأخضر، وجعل قضية النازحين شأناً لبنانياً سورياً، لا لبنانياً سورياً أوروبياً، يتوقف على جعل العلاقة اللبنانية السورية شأناً يخصّ اللبنانيين والسوريين وحدهم ولا ينتظر إذناً أوروبياً.

– من المهم أن يلتفت اهتمام الحكومة إلى أن ما فعله وزير شؤون النازحين يستحقّ التقدير، لأنه نابع من خلفية إيمان بالعلاقة اللبنانية السورية، وما يستحق الاهتمام هو التفات الحكومة إلى حاجتها لهذه الخلفية بدلاً من وقوع البعض في أحقادهم أو حساباتهم التي قالت استطلاعات الرأي إنها لا تهمّ اللبنانيين.

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Former French diplomat to ST: ‘ME Stability’ from U.S. viewpoint includes the neutralization of Syria as long as it is not possible to destroy it

Source

The former French diplomat Prof. Michel Raimbaud has argued that it is very difficult to envisage a fighting alliance between the Gulf States with Israel and US against Iran, making clear that ‘Middle East’ stability from U.S viewpoint means the safety for Israel, the eradication of Iran and Hezbollah and the neutralization of Syria as long as it was not possible to destroy the country.

The professor’s remarks were made during an interview with the Syria Times e-newspaper about Warsaw Conference, Israeli-Gulf relations and France’s clash with U.S. over Iran nuclear deal.

Following is the full text of the interview:

ST-Why the US Administration has failed to get the world on board with Washington’s tough-on-Iran policy?

Prof. Raimbaud : Let’s note at first that this Warsaw Conference was competing with two important international meetings liable to attract the attention of observers and public opinions: the Munich Security Conference 2019, that is the annual meeting of the Western World enlarged to other Powers as China and Russia…and the tripartite Summit gathering in Sotchi around Vladimir Poutine the Presidents of Iran and Turkey about the Syrian conflict.

Anyway, the so-called spectacular performance that was shown on TV screens or delivered to the public or the World at large was remarkable indeed as it brought to the fore several discordant points:

The relative weakness of the reply to US invitation to the Warsaw Conference: about sixty States had been called, but much fewer came (it is very difficult to know exactly how many ones attended).

We must note the absence of some important countries. Iran was not invited, as being the target against which the Summit had been convened, Turkey was apparently represented by its ambassador to Poland, Russia and China having refused to participate. Iraq and Lebanon abstained, according to some reports.

It is obvious that many States were represented at a fairly low diplomatic level, for example the Ambassadors posted in Warsaw. This was the case with most of the European “partners” or guests that were underrepresented, as a mark of opposition or blame to the main purpose of the conference: to promote a holy alliance against Iran, for instance through America making pressure to bear on the European countries in order to incite them to withdraw from the Nuclear Treaty.

On the other hand, and by contrast, this discretion brought out the strong presence and overzealousness of the Gulf countries, including the envoy of Yemen. But we can take note of the low profile of countries such as Morocco, Jordan and Egypt, nevertheless anxious not to clash head-on with their US “partner”.

Israel, the great feeder of the obsession about Iran, was represented at the top level, one of the most prominent figures starring in the show being indisputably the Prime Minister Netanyahou who behaved as the Host, to the great satisfaction of the two Mikes, Pence and Pompeo.

But finally, the US administration has failed to reach the main goal of the conference: to mobilize the World around their tough-on policy. No common position against Iran, no reference to the fight or a War against the Islamic Republic and no final official statement.

ST-What does the open meeting between Israel and Gulf States reflect? Why has Israel unmasked its covert relations with Gulf States at this time??

Prof. Raimbaud: The meeting that took place in Warsaw was not a real innovation. But the fact of being an open meeting was doubtlessly something new. In fact, if there was somewhere a real success inside the whole Summit, it is to be attributed to Netanyahou, the Israeli Prime Minister. After all, two Arab States of the region have diplomatic relations with Israel, and it is common knowledge that the Gulf countries have been maintaining for some time semi-secret but well-known contacts and relations with the former “Zionist enemy”.

But it is sure that the show will strongly help Netanyahou to be re-elected in the forthcoming poll.

Having in mind the very special relationship between Washington and Israel that is the real “Beating Heart of America”, it is not far-fetched to imagine that this point was enough for Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo to consider the Summit as a big achievement: for the first time, the Israeli Head of Government was openly sitting in company of a team of Arab foreign ministers around the same table, in the same room, under the coverage of medias, and they apparently were very proud of their boldness and performance, laying it on thick, rivaling each other in kindness and thoughtfulness towards their new friend. For instance the Bahraini Minister affirmed that of course Iran was the threat number one for Arabs, and this was more important than the Palestinian cause…The Yemeni minister was also fairly effusive…

The whole operation looks like a trap for the Arabs, aiming at compromising them with Israel and making a routine out of this new relation.

ST- What can Gulf States do with Israel and US against Iran?

Prof. Raimbaud: In my opinion, it seems very difficult to envisage a fighting alliance between the Gulf States with Israel and US against Iran for various reasons related to geographical situation, religion, immigration. Let’s not forget at first that Gulf countries and Iran are very close neighbors, facing each other from both shores of the Oman Gulf and Persian Gulf.

Regardless of its conflict with the “Gulf Cooperation Council” Member-States, Qatar is duly condemned to maintain good and active relations with Iran, as far as it shares with this powerful neighbor a common huge gas-field that is the main source of its providential wealth. As to Oman, it was a tradition to nurse a wise and peaceful relationship with Iran, to make a distance with Saudi Arabia and to keep a specific go-between role in what regards the relationship of the Gulf countries and Iran. The Emirates, specially Dubai, welcomes hundreds of thousands of active Iranians… It is well known that most of the Bahraini population is Shiite as well as a strong minority in Kuwait. As a result, and even though the GCC was created in order to counter Iran, we might hardly imagine those countries waging a serious war against Iran. As far as Saudi Arabia is concerned, I strongly doubt that the Saudi Kingdom could think of starting a War against Iran, given that the Saudi leadership must surely have drawn the harsh lessons of the still ongoing conflict and the military disaster in Yemen.

The fact of fighting alongside with US and Israel wouldn’t help, the populations feeding a very lukewarm sympathy for those two countries irrespective of their kings and princes feelings.

ST-What is the meaning of Middle East stability’ from the viewpoint of U.S. and its allies?

Prof. Raimbaud: At first, we must take into account the real meaning of the words being used today in the political and diplomatic language of US and, to some extent, US proxies. As an example, if we take for granted that the expression “Friends of the Syrian People” refers exactly to the whole group of the enemies of Syria, that the so-called “Rogue States” are those resisting the American and western “Rogue Rule”, that democratization and Human Rights are a mere pretext for destabilizing the countries where the regimes are considered as unsuitable to Washington and Israel views, it is quite clear that “Middle East Stability” means to say instability and disorder.

From this view point,” stability “means the safety and quietness for Israel, the eradication of Iran presence in the region, the eradication of Hezbollah and the neutralization of Syria as long as it was not possible to destroy the country or change the “regime”. Last but not least, the Middle East stability includes the leadership of the Gulf countries and Co, and their alliance along with Israel, under the supervision of America.

The creation of Israel is commonly considered by many analysts, historians and thinkers as a destabilizing event that occurred in the Middle East in the twentieth century. Many experts and commentators agree about the fact that this State, created by the “international community” but violating endlessly and restlessly all the rules of the international law, all the Security Council resolutions, became and remains the major destabilization stronghold in the Middle East at large and beyond. In those conditions, how to consider Israel as a stabilizing pole?

At the same time, many observers and analysts do think that America has become and remains – more and more – one of the main sources of instability in the World, including of course in the Middle East. Having in mind the exhibition of some high-ranking western representatives or ministers, speaking at the Security Council, we must say that the allies of US can hardly be accounted for their sense of responsibility in what regards the stability in any part of the World.

To sum up the question, to call a meeting on “stability” in this context and with such actors, sounds like a flash of humor.

ST-Why does France reject to withdraw from Iran nuclear deal??

Prof. Raimbaud : France is not the only party rejecting the idea to withdraw from the Nuclear Treaty. In fact four (out of six) of the Iran partners in the aforesaid Treaty do refuse (China, Russia, Germany, France). In 2015, the French authorities “inspired” by Fabius (the previous Foreign Minister) had been fairly reluctant to sign for various reasons I won’t elaborate here, but they found no other way out…There are strong economic reasons linked to US former pressures and sanctions that exasperated the French government, and the deep misunderstanding prevailing between Trump’s administration and many European governments. Some people will refer to the respect of international law and treaties, but there is no doubt that European governments, usually very tolerant to the abuses of power from the US, have finally come to the conclusion that “too much is too much”.

Interviewed by: Basma Qaddour

Russia to Press for Putting “White Helmets” on Trial for Crimes in Syria

Source

yria

By South Front,

Statement of Russian Foreign Ministry

Russia will press for putting the White Helmets on trial for crimes committed in Syria, including faked videos of chemical attacks, the director of the Foreign Ministry’s department of new challenges and threats, Ilya Rogachyov, told TASS in an interview on February 20.

“The leading Western countries have failed to place the struggle against terrorism above their own time-serving political interests. In the sphere of international counter-terrorist cooperation various selective approaches thrive. Terrorists are rated as ‘bad’ and ‘not very bad’. Countries are being forced to agree with the concept of ‘resistance to violent extremism’ and its dangerous elements that create situations for ousting ‘disfavored’ governments,” Rogachyov said. “The Western sponsors are keen to present the contractors on their payroll in a favorable light as ‘envoys of peace’ in order to use this as a cover to push ahead with political destabilization scenarios.”

“We are determined to push ahead with and safeguard Russia’s foreign policy positions in order to ensure the White Helmets’ crimes in Syria and their attempts to mislead the international community by means of fake chemical weapons attacks attributed to the Syrian government forces, just as any other terrorist activity, should be thoroughly investigated and put on trial,” Rogachyov said.

Featured image is from PravdaReport

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