Syrian War Report – March 29, 2017: March 28, 2017

dvance On Jirah Military Airbase

Voiceover by Harold Hoover

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the National Defense Forces (NDF) have recaptured the villages of Jubb Madi, Zakia, and Rasm al-Khamis ash-Sharqi from ISIS terrorists in the Deir Hafer plain in the northern province of Aleppo.

The important crossroad town of al-Mahdum is the next target of the government operation. Then, government forces will likely attempt to outflank the ISIS-held Jirah Military Airbase from the southern direction and to encircle it.

Heavy clashes continued in northern Hama with the joint militant forces attempting to capture the government stronghold of Hama.

The Ahrar al-Sham militant group announced that it had joined Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and its allies in their military effort aimed at capturing the Syrian government-controlled city of Hama. Ahrar al-Sham is the most powerful “opposition” group which is involved in the Turkish Euphrates Shield Operation in northern Syria. This is yet another confirmation that Ankara has once again changed attitude towards the Syrian conflict.

Moderate forces have captured Tel Dakwa from ISIS units in northeastern Suweida. This is the most recent in a series of advances by ‘moderate’ militants against ISIS in the area. Earlier this week, ISIS defenses collapsed in northeastern Suweida. As a result, Syrian government forces and ‘opposition’ forces gained large areas from the terrorist group.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have recaptured the villages of Mazrat, Sahl al Khashab, and Ayed Kebir from ISIS terrorists in the province of Raqqah. SDF units also advanced on ISIS positions at Yemamah and the Ayd hill.

Meanwhile, fresh photos of armoured vehicles supplied by the United States to the SDF appeared online. This confirmed that the US continues massive deliveries of arms, munitions, and equipment to strengthen their proxy force on the ground. SDF units will likely use the vehicles during the upcoming advance on the ISIS self-proclaimed capital of Raqqah.

Syrian War Report – March 28, 2017: ISIS Retreats From Northeastern Sweida

Voiceover by Harold Hoover

On March 27th, Syrian government forces launched a military operation against the ISIS terrorist group in northeastern Sweida. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the National Defense Forces (NDF) captured Al Masiydah, Al Asfar, Al-Saqiyah, Al-Janinah, Shinwan, and other sites in the area.

Meanwhile, the Free Syrian Army and allied elements continued their own advance against ISIS terrorists in the same area, recapturing the villages of Shunwan, Beir Al Awra, Beir Al Qunyat, Rajm, Al Dawla. According to reports, a majority of ISIS militants had withdrawn from the Sweida province to Deir Ezzor and Raqqah.

In northern Hama, the SAA and the NDF took control of Maazraf and Kafr Amim from the joint militant forces led by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). The sites had been controlled by Jaysh al-Izza and Abnaa al-Sham fighters that, in general, were less motivated than their counterparts from HTS. However, Jaysh al-Izza actively uses US-supplied TOW anti-tank guided missiles against the government military equipment and manpower inflicting notable damage and casualties. Intense clashes continued along the whole frontline in the area.

Rumors have been circulating that the Russian Air Force had stricken fighters of the Syrian Arab Army’s Tiger Forces near the government-held town of Qamhana in northern Hama. Allegedly, the Russian airstrikes resulted in the killing of 33 Tiger Forces members and the wounding of about 40 others. However, no photos or videos were provided from the site of the alleged airstrikes and independent local sources were not able to confirm that the incident had even taken place.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continued their advance west of Raqqah, aiming to take control of the town of Tabqa. The advance on the Tabqa dam resulted in no gains because of a threat to damage this strategic facility.

Related Videos

Video: Syrian Army regains the lead in northern Hama, recaptures another hilltop

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Idlib — more than Raqqa — may be decisive Syria fault line

Idlib — more than Raqqa — may be decisive Syria fault line

EDITOR’S CHOICE | 28.03.2017

Idlib — more than Raqqa — may be decisive Syria fault line

Al-Monitor.com

“Turkey’s last-ditch efforts to harness Russian military and diplomatic heft to counter the Syrian Kurds and unravel their alliance with the United States are showing few signs of succeeding, like much else in the country’s ill-fated Syrian policy,” writes Amberin Zaman.

A Russian agreement with the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the Cindires district of Afrin may foreshadow a potential showdown in Idlib, where al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and Turkish-backed Salafi groups have taken hold after their defeat in Aleppo.

The introduction of Russian forces in Afrin is reminiscent of what happened in Manbij, where a threatened Turkish assault was deterred by US forces in the north and Russian and Syrian deployments in the south.

“If anything,” Zaman continues, “both the United States and Russia are steadily deepening their ties with the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its Arab allies who operate under the umbrella of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). And viewed from Ankara, they are doing so at Turkey’s expense.”

The negotiations between Russia and the Syrian Kurds over Afrin included discussion of possible coordination against Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate, formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra, now under the umbrella of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, whose members slipped out of Aleppo with other armed groups under Turkish cover, according to Fehim Tastekin.

Tastekin writes, “YPG sources told Al-Monitor the two sides [Russia and the YPG] met at Khmeimim air base near Latakia to discuss developing a joint operation against Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (previously Jabhat al-Nusra), which has made Idlib its central base. The Kurds initially insisted that the partnership should also oppose organizations such as Ahrar al-Sham, which Turkey supports. In the end, the sources said, both parties decided not to debate which organizations they will confront and agreed that Russia will set up a base in Afrin. The Kurds said they rejected Russia’s request to have Syrian regime troops at the base and to fly the Syrian flag there.”

He adds, “Zelal Ceger, an official with the Kurdish Movement for a Democratic Society in Afrin, said that the Kurds sought an arrangement with Russia because of persistent attacks on Afrin by Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and armed groups that Turkey supports,” which includes Salafi and Turkmen armed groups.

Ceger told Tastekin that “this war can escalate — hence our call on Russia for an alliance. There has to be coordination between Turkey and us. Russia will provide that coordination to prevent Turkish attacks against Afrin.”

Tastekin adds that YPG officials rejected a US proposal to include Syrian Kurdish forces backed by Iraqi Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani, calling it a “conspiracy” that could lead to war among the Kurds.

Zaman writes, “Turkey’s strongest card is its long border with Syria and continued influence over assorted Syrian rebel groups, which it has united under the Euphrates Shield command. Since August, Turkey and its rebel allies have cleared the Turkish border of IS forces and after a bloody and protracted offensive captured the IS-controlled town of al-Bab last month. But firmly hemmed in to the east by Russian, Syrian regime and US forces and now to the west by Russian forces in Afrin, Euphrates Shield appears to have reached the limits of its expansion.”

She adds, “The recent split in Ahrar al-Sham, one of the most powerful rebel factions in Syria, with its top leaders defecting to the Jabhat al-Nusra-dominated and al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, will have further weakened Turkey’s hand.”

While the United States is consumed with planning for unseating the Islamic State (IS) in Raqqa, Idlib may prove a comparable or perhaps even more explosive fault line because of the blurred lines among anti-Western Salafi groups such as Ahrar al-Sham, which is backed by Turkey, and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

Tamer Osman reports that Syrian “warplanes are increasingly hovering in the sky over Idlib in northern Syria and targeting several residential areas inside the city.”

Tastekin writes, “The Syrian army has been clearing out IS forces from their last Aleppo stronghold. Thanks to an agreement between Turkey and Russia, Turkish-supported armed groups — which oppose the Syrian regime but were also fighting IS in Aleppo — were allowed to leave there with their weapons and families. Most of them settled in Idlib and Azaz. … Russia and Turkey disagree on what to do with these anti-Syrian (and therefore, anti-Russian) groups. Russia wants them disbanded. Turkey would like them to hold onto that area and join the pro-Turkish Free Syrian Army factions to fight the Kurds and keep them from establishing a continuous autonomous region near Turkey’s border. If Russia and the Syrian army open a front against Idlib, clashes with the Turkish-backed groups could spill over to Afrin. Although the Kurds are focused on defending Afrin, they may be amenable to a joint operation with the Russians against threats from Idlib.”

“The biggest problem,” Osman continues, “is the lives of hundreds of thousands of Syrians living in Idlib, as these will not be able to find another shelter amid the ongoing airstrikes falling on the city and its suburbs. This same scenario occurred in areas now controlled by the Syrian regime forces such as the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo.”

Khaled al-Khateb reports from Aleppo, “Turkey has been training a police organization, the Free Syrian Police (FSP), to help out with secondary operations in Aleppo province so the Free Syrian Army (FSA) can focus on fighting and maintaining control of the areas it has captured.“

Khateb writes, “The FSA’s presence there makes residents targets for the Islamic State (IS).” He adds, “The first FSP group, stationed in Jarablus, was recruited in late 2016 from Syrian refugee camps scattered in Gaziantep and Kilis in southern Turkey, unlike the second group stationed in Azaz and nearby towns, which mostly came from Aleppo province. There has been no shortage of recruits.”

Semih Idiz explains that “there is also speculation, fueled by remarks made by Erdogan in the recent past, about a Turkish effort to turn the FSA into Syria’s new army. If this were to come about, it would mean a Sunni-dominated, anti-Kurdish and anti-Shiite army. Given the big picture as it stands today, though, such an army is highly unlikely to be formed, since it would be blocked by Russia and the United States. The bottom line in all of this is that the prospects for Ankara’s realizing its aims in Syria appear to be dimming by the day — a fact that is also being increasingly noted by Turkish analysts.”

al-monitor.com

Coverage of Aleppo: a new low in the mainstream media’s integrity

A general view taken with a drone shows the Old City of Aleppo and Aleppo's historic citadel, Syria October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail/File Photo - RTSV11Y

Old City of Aleppo and Aleppo’s historic citadel, Syria October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail/


By Bas Spliet, Submitted by Bas Spliet
Scrutinised Minds, 3/2/2017

Remember Aleppo? Close to two months have now passed since the eastern part of Syria’s largest pre-war city was retaken by the government. Peace has returned to the ancient city, the jihadis and their sympathisers have been evacuated to rebel-held parts of the country, and negotiations between the government and the armed opposition under the auspices of Russia, Iran and Turkey are ongoing. The mainstream media, however, is suddenly relatively silent. Perhaps they don’t want you to know what life under rebel occupation must have been like. In this article, I offer a comprehensive analysis of the mass media’s war-time coverage of Aleppo, with emphasis on what they described as its “fall” in December 2016.

Unreliable sources and undocumented allegations

When Cartman and Stan broke the world’s largest beaver dam in the ninth season of South Park, it caused the town of Beaverton to flood. Standing 10 miles outside of the destroyed city, unable to get in, reporter Mitch explained the situation inside the city to news anchor Tom:

Mitch: “We have not any reports of fatalities yet, but we believe that the death toll may be in the hundreds of millions; Beaverton only has a population of 8.000, Tom, so this would be quite devastating.”

Tom: “Any word on how the survivors in the town are doing, Mitch?”

Mitch: “We’re not sure what exactly is going on inside the town of Beaverton, Tom, but we’re reporting that there is looting, raping, and yes, even acts of cannibalism.”

Tom: “My god, you’ve actually seen people looting, raping and eating each other?”

Mitch: “No. No, we haven’t actually seen it, Tom, we’re just reporting it.”[1]

At first glance, it might seem odd and even perverse to link this South Park scene to the mass media’s coverage of the real-life war-torn city of Aleppo. The similarities, however, are striking. Just like in the above-mentioned clip, the mainstream media has almost no reporters on the ground in Aleppo, let alone in Syria, as its correspondents almost exclusively report from Lebanon or Turkey. The Western press therefore has to rely on their usual compromised sources, such as the White Helmets, an obscure Western-funded NGO infamous for being armed and partial contrary to their own claims, spokespeople from Nour al-Din al-Zinki – infamous for decapitating a 12-year-old Palestinian boy with a small knife – and other Western-backed “moderate rebel” groups, and a handful of other “journalists,” “activists” and “doctors” embedded with the insurgents (the primary sources of many documented fabrications)[2] who sent out their “final videos” when the Syrian army was closing in on east Aleppo, implying that they were awaiting an imminent genocide. The Daily Beast went as far as including allegations circulating in rebel chat forums in its reporting.[3]

Claims coming from these “reliable” sources that the Western press eagerly reported on without much scrutiny include the estimation of 100.000 trapped civilians in only “a few streets, a few blocks, maybe a neighbourhood,”[4] bombs falling at a ratio of 10 per minute,[5] more than 100 unattended children being trapped in a building amid attacks by the Syrian army,[6] the Syrian army and pro-government militias executing more than 180 people after taking over rebel-held neighbourhoods,[7] the streets lying “full of dead bodies,” government forces capturing the remaining food supplies, women and children being “cooked alive by barrel bombs,” and “the conquerors of Aleppo” raping in the course of their “Assadist blitzkrieg,” prompting numerous women to kill themselves in order to escape rape.[8] None of these claims were accompanied by evidence.[9]

The UN OHCHR High Commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, too, alleged from “reports” that pro-government forces might have killed 82 civilians. Again, it was the Western press that distorted Zeid’s words and presented the undocumented allegation as a fact, however. The BBC claimed that “Syrian pro-government forces in eastern Aleppo have been killing people, including women and children, on the spot in their homes and on the street, the United Nations says,”[10] while the UN never said such a thing. The only thing that Zeid (who, it should be noted, is a prince of the Jordanian monarchy, which is heavily involved in the war against Syria) said, was that he had “reports.” Furthermore, when Rupert Colville, the Commissioner’s spokesperson, was asked which forces would be involved in these executions, it became pretty clear how substantiated this claim is:

I can’t say who has done all of them, but we understand that at least one Iraqi militia was involved. We’ve heard of killings of civilians in this way in four different locations, so it may well be different forces involved.”[11] (emphasis added)

Compare this to the OHCHR-linked Commission of Inquiry on Syria, which also received “allegations” the next day of opposition groups, including Ahrar al-Sham, “preventing civilians from leaving as well as opposition fighters embedding themselves within the civilian population, thus heightening the risk to civilians of being killed or injured.”[12] While the Commissioner’s statement found its way to headlines across the world, these warnings have been swept under the rug by the mainstream media. The latter, however, follows an existing pattern,[13] while to date, no evidence or even a source of the former claim has been put forward.

Reminding us of the Iraqi and Libyan opposition’s numerous undocumented and later disproven allegations that the Western press uncritically reported on in concert at the time, the Independent’s Patrick Cockburn stated:

“Experience shows that foreign reporters are quite right not to trust their lives even to the most moderate of the armed opposition inside Syria. But, strangely enough, the same media organisations continue to put their trust in the veracity of information coming out of areas under the control of these same potential kidnappers and hostage takers. They would probably defend themselves by saying they rely on non-partisan activists, but all the evidence is that these can only operate in east Aleppo under license from the al-Qaeda-type groups. It is inevitable that an opposition movement fighting for its life in wartime will only produce, or allow to be produced by others, information that is essentially propaganda for its own side.”[14]

In another article, Cockburn reiterates:

“By kidnapping and killing [foreign journalists], it is easy to create a vacuum of information that is great in demand and will, in future, be supplied by informants sympathetic to or at the mercy of the very same people (in this case the jihadi rulers of east Aleppo) who have kept out the foreign journalists. Killing or abducting the latter turns out to have been a smart move by the jihadis because it enabled them to establish substantial control of news reaching the outside world.”[15]

Then again, as this situation plays right into the hands of the US-NATO interventionists, we have to ask ourselves to what extent this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. As the imperialists and their regional proxies (Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey in particular) continue to supply both Syrian and foreign jihadis with weapons, finances and training while knowing full well the nature of these insurgents, it would be naive to think that the jihadi media monopoly was not the intended outcome. Moreover, NATO has been able to exert considerable influence in the propaganda that is exported to the West, not only through funding but also by providing special “media training” to the very same “rebel activists” that are the primordial disinformation agents in sustaining the false narrative.[16] Most notably, the French government and the EU funded the notorious Aleppo Media Center,[17] and, in addition to George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, the US, the UK and some other countries have made large contributions to the White Helmets, an opposition-linked NGO established by a former British intelligence officer.[18] Not surprisingly, both organisations continuously blame the Syrian government for everything, just like NATO, and tirelessly call for a Libya-style no-fly zone, just like NATO.

The suppressed voices: Aleppo’s citizenry

Reaffirming its methodology of reporting on the war in Syria, the mass media is relying almost exclusively on the unverified accounts of a handful of obscure sources representing only a tiny minority of Aleppo’s population, implying that their view of seeing the Syrian government not just as the primary, but as the sole culprit of all the dead and devastation surrounding them is shared by most of Aleppo’s citizens. Yet, the two other parts of the Aleppo citizenry, both much greater in number, are ignored by the mainstream media.

First of all, we have to take into account that Aleppo has been artificially divided for the last four and a half years as a result of the war. The historical order of the city was restored by the reunification of its eastern and western parts. The population of the west – estimated at 1.5 million, several times higher than that of the east – is therefore significant to the story. Yet, while the Western press constantly quoted “activists” in east Aleppo, it failed to listen to what west Aleppans had to say about the situation in their city. Certainly the well-oiled propaganda machine would have brought demonstrations mourning the “fall” of east Aleppo to our attention, if there were any. Not only had opposition-linked social media none of the sort to offer their imperialist funders, but the absolute opposite happened when it became clear that the army’s seizure of east Aleppo was imminent. Indeed, many west Aleppo citizens took to the streets to celebrate, not decry, the government’s retaking of east Aleppo while waving not rebel-backed Free Syrian Army flags, but official ones.[19]

Second, and even more important, are the civilians that fled to government-controlled areas. According to UN[20] and Red Cross[21] estimates, 34.000 to 35.000 people have been evacuated to rebel-held Idlib. Take in mind that although these undoubtedly include some unarmed civilians, they are mostly made up of thousands of fighters and their families, as hinted by UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura.[22] As the media consistently claimed (and probably exaggerated to some extent) that there were at least 250.000 civilians trapped in east Aleppo for the last few months, this means that a much larger amount of east Aleppans have flocked to government-controlled areas. Indeed, according to the Russian Reconciliation Center,[23] more than 100.000 civilians (including over 40.000 children) had left the eastern part of the city by 12 December, when fighting was still ongoing. When we listen to the stories of these refugees, it becomes clear why the mass media chose to ignore what they had to say.

First and foremost, long-time Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk interviewed one of the very first Muslim families that fled eastern Aleppo during a ceasefire a couple of weeks before the final advance of the Syrian army:

“The father had just been told that his brother was to be executed by the rebels because he crossed the frontline with his wife and son. He condemned the rebels for closing the schools and putting weapons close to hospitals. And he was no pro-regime stooge; he even admired Isis for their good behaviour in the early days of the siege.”[24]

Andrew Ashdown, a British Anglican priest, visited east Aleppo and the centre for internally displaced persons at Jibreen on 14 December, emphasising that the Syrian authorities did not receive prior notice of his visit. I could not but cite a large chunk of his account:

“The sense of relief amongst the thousands of refugees is palpable. All were keen to talk [and] all said the same thing. They said that they had been living in fear. They reported that the fighters have been telling everyone that the Syrian Army would kill anyone who fled to the West, but had killed many themselves who tried to leave – men, women and children. One woman broke down in tears as she told how one of her sons was killed by the rebels a few days ago, and another kidnapped. They also killed anyone who showed signs of supporting the Government. The refugees said that the ‘rebels’ told them that only those who support them are ‘true Muslims’, and that everyone else are ‘infidels’ and deserve to die.

They told us they had been given very little food: that any aid that reached the area was mostly refused to them or sold at exorbitant prices. Likewise, most had been given no medical treatment. […] Most of the refugees said they had had members of their families killed by the rebels and consistently spoke of widespread murder, torture, rape and kidnap by the rebels. […] They all said they were glad to be out and to be free. All the refugees without exception were visibly without exception clearly profoundly relieved and happy to be free.”[25]

This may sound absurd if you consistently relied on the mainstream media for the last few months. None of the stories of other journalists and travellers that have visited Aleppo, including US congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, contradict Ashdown’s account, however.[26] All recorded testimonies of east Aleppo residents speak of the unimaginably barbaric behaviour of the insurgents, and no one relinquishes “moderates” from this inhumane activity. As a matter of fact, the residents themselves don’t seem to make a distinction between “extremist” terrorists and “moderate” rebels. The discrepancy between the narrative of the Western press and that of the people who are actually living through this is just mind-boggling. Vanessa Beeley, for instance, visited east Aleppo on 11 December and interviewed a woman from Hanano, who said, among other things, that one woman told the insurgents she wanted to leave, after which they shot her in the mouth.[27] Most tellingly, though, Bolivian-American actress and filmmaker Carla Ortiz, who spent eight months in Syria working on a documentary called Voice of Syria, somehow found her way to a CNN studio to share what east Aleppo residents told her:

“[They told me] how they were starved, how they were deprived from education, how, if they would dare to cross to the other side the terrorists would kill them, how little girls are […] sexually abused. […] They say for them it’s just Daesh [ISIS]; they don’t care if it’s a rebel or Free Syrian Army [fighter].”[28]

It should be noted that, contrary to the situation in rebel-held areas, the Syrian government does not have a full-scale monopoly on news in areas under its control. In a rare instance for the Western press, the BBC even had a correspondent on the ground during the final stages of fighting in Aleppo. As the BBC has been trying to demonise the Syrian government at every turn for the last five years (including manipulating, and most likely even fabricating, video evidence of alleged chemical warfare by the Syrian army),[29] you would expect its correspondent, Lyse Doucet, to find as many civilian accounts as possible to corroborate the undocumented allegations of government atrocities. Surely she could have easily countered all the above-mentioned stories if they would tell only half of the story, as she talked to many refugees from east Aleppo. When going through her reporting, however, none of the sort is to be found. Moreover, although she clearly tries to bend the issue as much as possible to the “both sides are equally bad” narrative, it looks like she only managed to find seemingly pro-government families to talk to. Indeed, in two separate videos, a woman and children are filmed praising Assad, the army and the government.[30]

In context: coverage of Aleppo during the war on Syria

By now, it has become quite clear that most media coverage of the reunification of Aleppo is the absolute antithesis of the reality on the ground. But what about the last four and a half years, was there ever any objectivity in the major news outlets’ reports?

Aleppo was Syria’s largest city before the war and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. According to the dominant narrative, Aleppo rose up against the dictatorial Syrian government in July-August 2012, paving the way for pro-democracy fighters to liberate the ancient city. Yet, by the end of August, when the “revolutionaries” had taken control of much of the city, a rebel commander admitted to the Guardian that the overwhelming majority of the Aleppo citizenry was pro-government:

“Around 70% of Aleppo city is with the regime. It has always been that way. The countryside is with us and the city is with them. We are saying that we will only be here as long as it takes to get the job done, to get rid of the Assads. After that, we will leave and they can build the city that they want.”[31]

Taking this into account, the word “uprising” seems inapplicable. Indeed, as acknowledged by India’s then ambassador to Syria, it was pretty clear that the people in Aleppo did not want to take part in the armed rebellion’s so-called revolution:

“Aleppo remained calm and this troubled the [armed] opposition greatly. The opposition couldn’t get the people in Aleppo to rise up against the regime so they sent bus loads of people to Aleppo. These people would burn something on the streets and leave. Journalists would then broadcast this saying Aleppo had risen.”[32]

Rather than an internal revolt, the armed opposition invaded the city in convoy trucks coming from the north.[33] The BBC’s Ian Pannell even rode in with the militants into Aleppo, admitting in his otherwise twisted report (the scenes of which look an awful lot like what the Indian diplomat described above) that “many fear what they are really seeing is an Islamic takeover.”[34]

And so the eastern part of Syria’s financial and industrial centre fell to the Islamist insurgents. In the next few years, media attention mainly moved to other parts of Syria, and Aleppo remained divided. Media hysteria stirred up again in 2016, conveniently around the time it became clear that the Syrian army was slowly gaining the upperhand. Opposition-linked social media often went into overdrive, making up countless false stories and producing a myriad of undocumented allegations of government atrocities, which were then eagerly adopted by the Western press.[35] In July temporarily, and in September permanently, the army finally managed to encircle rebel-held east Aleppo, thus imposing a siege. This provoked unilateral outrage among Western officials, totally neglecting the fact that they have either been directly responsible for or supportive of numerous other inhumane siege-like situations in the region – from the years-long devastating sieges of the al-Qaeda-affiliated militants on the villages of Foua, Kafraya, Nubl and Zahraa in Syria, to the vast humanitarian crises and hundreds of civilian deaths resulting from the US military campaigns to drive Daesh (ISIS) out of Mosul, Manbij, Fallujah and many other Iraqi and Syrian cities, to similar past and present sieges in the Middle East such as the US siege on Iraq that left 500.000 children dead according to UN estimates or the US Navy-backed blockade on Yemen’s ports, not to mention the crippling Israeli blockade on the Gaza strip, and last but not least, to the catastrophic economic sanctions imposed by the US and the EU on the whole of the Syrian people, some of which were installed well ahead of the eruption of violence in 2011.[36]

Now that they are driven out of Aleppo, the true face of the insurgents is emerging, and the fake narrative propagated by the mainstream media is falling apart. Reports of Syrian and Russian troops finding mass graves with bodies showing signs of torture and mutilation confirms the accounts of civilians who have lived under the jihadi occupation.[37] This does not mean that the West’s leading news producers could not have known the real story of Aleppo prior to its seizure by the army, however. They downplayed as much as they could the fact that these Western- and Gulf-equipped so-called revolutionaries killed hundreds of civilians by indiscriminately shelling urban parts of west Aleppo on an almost daily basis during the whole of 2016, leaving UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura “appalled and shocked” of the rebels’ usage of disproportionate weapons.[38]

While the Western press seized every opportunity to smear pro-government forces by persistently giving a platform to undocumented claims of the same “rebel activists” known for their numerous lies, it remained silent when the jihadis shot at civilians trying to leave.[39] While the picture of Omran Daqneesh, the (supposedly) wounded toddler in the ambulance, made it to almost all front pages across the globe, the story of 12-year-old Abdullah Issa, who was beheaded by the US-backed “moderate rebels” of Nour al-Din al-Zinki, remains largely untold. While the mainstream media cried crocodile tears every time the jihadis claimed that Russian or Syrian air strikes leveled the “last hospital” in east Aleppo, it ignored refugee accounts that denounced the rebels for depriving them of education and medical treatment. While the press decried the alleged death of the “last pediatrician” in an attack on the makeshift al-Quds hospital (which did almost certainly not even happen), it ignored accounts of real doctors in Aleppo refuting the mainstream media lies.[40] Instead of listening to the few civilians that managed to flee east Aleppo prior to the final advance of the army in December,[41] the mainstream media kept relying solely on “activists” embedded with the Islamists, thereby prolonging the suffering of the Syrian people by convincing Western policy makers, and much of the world by extension, that rebel successes must be cheered upon. And thus, when the outside world mourned the fall of Aleppo, Syrians celebrated its liberation.

Conclusion

While the corporate press is now labelling everything not in accordance with its own coverage as “fake news,” this article has made it pretty clear who the chiefs of deception really are. One must not underestimate the power of the fourth branch of the government. If it serves not as a critical examinator of government policies but instead as its purveyor and mouthpiece and at the same time is still regarded as “pluralistic and free,” a very dangerous cocktail of propaganda emerges. The masses could then be convinced into supporting wars of aggression, which is exactly what happened in the lead up to the military campaigns against Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam. What makes you think this is any different?


RELATED BY THE SAME AUTHOR:

THE PROXY WAR ON SYRIA

the-proxy-war-on-syria

https://scrutinisedminds.com/category/the-proxy-war-on-syria/


Notes

[1] “Southpark – we are just reporting it,” Youtube channel of PeanutButterFingers, 26.05.2014, consulted on 15.12.2016, http://youtube.com/watch?v=Zd0p96miSK8.

[2] Many documented examples are mentioned in part 3 and 4 of my The proxy war on Syria series: Bas Spliet, “The proxy war on Syria – part 3: Does Assad ‘kill his own people?’ Deconstructing the ‘Assad must go’ narrative,” Scrutinised Minds, 13.12.2016, https://scrutinisedminds.com/2016/12/13/the-proxy-war-on-syria-part-3-does-assad-kill-his-own-people-deconstructing-the-assad-must-go-narrative/; Bas Spliet, “The proxy war on Syria – part 4: The export of disinformation,” Scrutinised Minds, 20.12.2016, https://scrutinisedminds.com/2016/12/20/the-proxy-war-on-syria-part-4-the-export-of-disinformation/.

[3] Michael Weiss, Roy Gutman and Alex Powell, “Women in Aleppo choose suicide over rape, rebels report,” The Daily Beast, 13.12.2016, http://.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/12/12/last-rebels-in-aleppo-say-assad-forces-are-burning-people-alive.html.

[4] “Estimated 100,000 civilians still trapped in  Aleppo,” CNN, 13.12.2016, http://edition.cnn.com/videos/world/2016/12/13/crisis-as-syrian-troops-advance-pleitgen-lkl.cnn.

[5] “Aleppo resident: ‘nowhere to go’ as bombs interrupt interview,” BBC, 14.12.2016, http://bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-38315465.

[6] May Bulman, “Aleppo: more than 100 children in building under heavy attack, says Unicef,” The Independent, 13.12.2016, http://independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/aleppo-children-trapped-syria-civil-war-unaccompanied-unicef-eastern-a7472506.html.

[7] Jack Khoury, “Aleppo: massacre reported as Syrian army presses assault on last rebel holdout,” Haaretz, 13.12.2016, http://haaretz.com/middle-east-news/syria/1.758513.

[8] Weis, Gutman and Powell, “Women in Aleppo choose suicide over rape.”

[9] Following a long pattern throughout this war, fake images and images falsely attributed to Aleppo have also circulated widely on social media. For the most part, however, the mainstream media was wise enough not to jump on that bandwagon. For some examples, see “Fake ‘Aleppo genocide’ pics spread online amid new calls for ‘humanitarian’ war on Syria,” Mintpress News, 20.12.2016, http://.mintpressnews.com/fake-aleppo-genocide-pics-spread-amid-new-calls-for-war-on-syria/223306/; “Fake images about Aleppo circulate on social media, France 24, 15.12.2016, http://observers.france24.com/en/20161215-fake-images-aleppo-social-media.

[10] “Aleppo battle: UN says civilians shot on the spot,” BBC, 13.12.2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-38301629.

[11] “‘Assad tue des civils’: un responsable de l’ONU accuse, mais, penaud, ne peut rien prouver,” Youtube-channel of RT France, 16.12.2016, consulted on 21.12.2016, http://youtube.com/watch?v=Up3ZPoautDo.

[12] “Statement by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic on the situation of civilians affected by the capture of Aleppo,” UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 14.12.2016, http://ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21031&LangID=E.

[13] Bas Spliet, “The proxy war on Syria – part 2: The two myths about the armed opposition,” Scrutinised Minds, 06.12.2016, https://scrutinisedminds.com/2016/12/06/the-proxy-war-on-syria-part-2-the-two-myths-about-the-armed-opposition/; also acknowledged in the past by the pro-rebel Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: “Calls grow for Syrian government to end Aleppo siege,” The Daily Star, 29.07.2016, http://dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2016/Jul-29/364570-calls-grow-for-syria-government-to-end-aleppo-siege.ashx.

[14] Patrick Cockburn, “This is why everything you’ve read about the wars in Syria and Iraq could be wrong,” The Independent, 02.12.2016, http://.independent.co.uk/voices/syria-aleppo-iraq-mosul-isis-middle-east-conflict-assad-war-everything-youve-read-could-be-wrong-a7451656.html.

[15] Patrick Cockburn, “There’s more propaganda than news coming out of Aleppo this week,” The Independent, 17.12.2016, http://independent.co.uk/voices/aleppo-crisis-syrian-war-bashar-al-assad-isis-more-propaganda-than-news-a7479901.html.

[16] “Syria – killing journos enabled ‘media activist’ domination – intended effect?”, Moon of Alabama, 19.12.2016, http://moonofalabama.org/2016/12/unconventional-warfare-killing-journalists-creates-media-activist-domination.html#more.

[17] Vanessa Beeley, “‘Aleppo Media Center’ funded by French Foreign Office, EU and US,” 21st Century Wire, 20.09.2016, http://21stcenturywire.com/2016/09/20/exclusive-aleppo-media-centre-funded-by-french-foreign-office-eu-and-us/.

[18] Brandon Turbeville, “White Helmets NGO: a ‘rescue and assist’ operation under the guise of human rights,” Mintpress News, 11.05.2016, http://mintpressnews.com/white-helmets-ngo-rescue-assist-operation-guise-human-rights/216324/.

[19] Clearly visible in video’s presented by RT, Press TV and Reuters: “Street celebrations in Aleppo on news of Syrian  army retaking east of city – RT reporter,” RT, 12.12.2016, http://rt.com/news/370084-aleppo-liberation-reports-celebrations/; “Celebrations in Aleppo after its full liberation,” Youtube-channel of Press TV News Videos, 22.12.2016, consulted on 24.12.2016, http://youtube.com/watch?v=Cgh6wcqQamM; “Celebrating victory in Aleppo,” Reuters, 22.12.2016, http://reuters.com/video/2016/12/22/celebrating-victory-in-aleppo?videoId=370787914. Also acknowledged by the pro-rebel Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (according to which, celebrations erupted in several cities), al-Jazeera, the Daily Mail and International Business Times: “Celebrations of ‘Aleppo victory’ in cities and areas controlled by the regime forces,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 23.12.2016, http://syriahr.com/en/?p=57657; “Rebel-held east Aleppo nears collapse,” Al-Jazeera, 13.12.2016, http://aljazeera.com/news/2016/12/rebel-held-east-aleppo-nears-collapse-161212195346604.html; “Merry Christmas in Aleppo (if you’re on the winning side): dozens of Assad loyalists dress up as Santa and ‘celebrate’ in shattered city square,” The Daily Mail, 21.12.2016, http://dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4055526/Merry-Christmas-Aleppo-winning-Dozens-locals-dress-Santa-celebrate-square-enjoy-taste-normality.html; Tom O’Conner, “Christmas in Aleppo: photos, video show Christians celebrate Assad victory in Syria,” International Business Times, 22.12.2016, http://ibtimes.com/christmas-aleppo-photos-video-show-christians-celebrate-assad-victory-syria-2464372.

[20] Ellen Francis, “Syrian army announces victory in Aleppo in boost for Assad,” Reuters, 22.12.2016, http://reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-idUSKBN14B1NQ.

[21] “Syria: Aleppo evacuation completed,” Red Cross UK, 23.12.2016, http://redcross.org.uk/About-us/News/2016/December/Syria-Aleppo-evacuation-completed.

[22] John Irish and Alison Williams, “U.N. Syria envoy says rebel city Idlib risks Aleppo fate if no peace talks,” Reuters, 15.12.2016, http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-mideast-crisis-syria-demistura-idUKKBN1442N4.

[23] “Over 100,000 civilians left eastern Aleppo since operation against militants began,” Russian News Agency TASS, 12.12.2016, http://tass.com/world/918621. Note that no other world body or more neutral organisation bothered to estimated the amount of civilians that fled to government-controlled areas. Therefore, I had to resort to the estimation of the Russian Reconciliation Center.

[24] Robert Fisk, “There is more than one truth to tell in the terrible story of Aleppo,” Counterpunch, 14.12.2016, http://counterpunch.org/2016/12/14/there-is-more-than-one-truth-to-tell-in-the-terrible-story-of-aleppo/.

[25] Andrew Ashdown, “Aleppo: the truth that the Western media refuses to report,” Talfanzine, 15.12.2016, http://talfanzine.info/blog/2016/12/15/aleppo-the-truth-that-the-western-media-refuses-to-report/.

[26] Some other examples of testimonies and interviews: Jan Oberg, “The destruction of eastern Aleppo, Syria: December 2016,” Jan Oberg Exposure, 25.12.2016, http://janoberg.exposure.co/the-destruction-of-eastern-aleppo-syria; Jan Oberg, “Humans in liberated Aleppo: December 11-12, 2016,” Jan Oberg Exposure, 29.12.2016, http://janoberg.exposure.co/humans-in-liberated-aleppo; Charlotte d’Ornellas, “Alep Liberée: un reportage de Charlotte d’Ornellas,” Youtube channel of Boulevard Voltaire, 29.12.2016, consulted on 30.12.2016, http://youtube.com/watch?v=w8DJJDCGQ9g&app=desktop; Robert Fisk, “‘We were living a real tragedy in east Aleppo’: one family’s journey across the city amid the bloodshed,” The Independent, 01.11.2016, http://independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/thousands-of-civilian-families-forced-by-militias-to-remain-in-eastern-aleppo-a7389346.html.

[27] Vanessa Beeley, “East Aleppo video diaries: Hanano testimonies that shatter corporate media propaganda myths,” 21st Century Wire, 22.12.2016, http://21stcenturywire.com/2016/12/20/aleppo-diaries-bearing-witness-to-the-liberation-of-hanano-east-aleppo-a-personal-view-by-vanessa-beeley/. Other testimonies of east Aleppo residents can be found at the video section of her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/vanessa.beeley/videos?lst=100001241535936%3A667683867%3A1483038887.

[28] “Surprise: Carla Ortiz tells truth about Syria on CNN – fake news network,” Youtube-channel of Daily News TV, 22.12.2016, consulted on 25.12.2016, http://youtube.com/watch?v=uoL_Vu5Oqy0.

[29] Spliet, “The proxy war on Syria – part 4.”

[30] Lyse Doucet, “Aleppo siege: ‘we are crying and afraid’,” BBC, 03.12.2016, http://bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-38194962; “Syria: celebrations as families return to homes in Aleppo,” BBC, 06.12.2016, http://bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-38218086; Lyse Doucet, “Aleppo’s terrified residents flee rebel districts, dead and hunger,” Guardian, 10.12.2016, http://theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/10/aleppos-terrified-residents-tell-of-death-and-hunger-as-flee-rebel-districts.

[31] Martin Chulov, “Syrian rebels fight on for Aleppo despite local wariness,” Guardian, 21.08.2012, http://theguardian.com/world/2012/aug/21/syrian-rebels-aleppo-local-hostility.

[32] Alia Allana, “Gulf countries played a role in the Syrian uprising,” Fountain Ink, http://series.fountainink.in/gulf-countries-role-uprising/.

[33] Tony Cartalucci, “In Syria – how to ‘liberate’ a pro-army city? NATO terrorists come to overrun, not ‘liberate,’ Aleppo,” Land Destroyer, 25.06.2012, http://landdestroyer.blogspot.be/2012/07/in-syria-how-to-liberate-pro-army-city.html.

[34] Ian Pannell, “Aleppo: BBC journalist on Syria warplanes bombing city,” BBC, 24.07.2012, http://bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-18976690. For a critical review of Ian Pannell’s coverage, see Tony Cartalucci, “BBC rides with al Qaeda in Aleppo, Syria,” Land Destroyer, 25.06.2012, http://landdestroyer.blogspot.be/2012/07/bbc-rides-with-al-qaeda-in-aleppo-syria.html.

[35] The case of the alleged destruction of a Doctors Without Borders-supported hospital by a Syrian or Russian airstrike and the case of Omran Daqneesh, the boy in the ambulance, are discussed in part 3 and 4 of my The proxy war on Syria series, respectively. The amount of exposed false allegations, however, are too numerous to recount here.

[36] This unimaginable hypocrisy is explained perfectly in Stephen Gowans, “Our sieges and theirs,” What’s Left, 20.10.2016, http://gowans.wordpress.com/2016/10/20/our-sieges-and-theirs/.

[37] “Mass graves discovered in Aleppo, bodies showed signs of torture,” CBC News, 26.12.2016, http://cbc.ca/news/world/mass-graves-discovered-in-aleppo-bodies-showed-signs-of-torture-1.3912716.

[38] “Syrian rebels’ Aleppo offensive could amount to war crimes, UN envoy warns,” Guardian, 31.10.2016, http://theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/31/syrian-rebels-aleppo-offensive-could-amount-to-war-crimes-un-envoy-warns.

[39] “Gunfire intensifies in Aleppo despite ceasefire,” ITV News, 20.10.2016, http://itv.com/news/2016-10-20/itv-news-witnesses-fierce-gunfight-in-aleppo-despite-ceasefire/.

[40] Eva Bartlett, “Western corporate media ‘disappears’ over 1.5 million Syrians and 4,000 doctors,” Signs of the Times, 14.08.2016, http://sott.net/article/325238-Western-corporate-media-disappears-over-1-5-million-Syrians-and-4000-doctors; Patrik Paulov, “‘Aleppo has been under fire by terrorists for four years.’ Interview with Aleppo doctor about life in Syria’s largest city.” Protetarën, 25.05.2016, http://proletaren.se/utrikes-mellanostern/aleppo-has-been-under-fire-terrorists-four-years; “A Syrian physician demolishes the propaganda put out by politicians and the media,” Ora Pro Siria, 26.07.2016, http://oraprosiria.blogspot.be/2016/07/a-syrian-physician-demolishes.html?m=1.

[41] Christoph Germann, “The world’s biggest hostage crisis is coming to an end,” Newsbud, 08.12.2016, http://newsbud.com/2016/12/08/newsbud-exclusive-the-worlds-biggest-hostage-crisis-comes-to-an-end/.


SOURCES:
By Bas Spliet, Scrutinised Minds
Submitted by Bas Spliet
War Press Info Network at :
https://syrianfreepress.wordpress.com/2017/02/04/coverage-of-aleppo/
~

The End Of Mingling – “Moderate Rebels” Join Al-Qaeda In Syria

The End Of Mingling -

EDITOR’S CHOICE | 30.01.2017

The End Of Mingling – “Moderate Rebels” Join Al-Qaeda In Syria

Moon of Alabama

Lots of confusion about the infighting in the “rebel” held Idleb governate in Syria, the situation is now clearing up. After other tricks, like renaming the group, did not work to deceive al-Qaeda finally pulled back the veil. It is no longer hiding between the “moderate rebels” but is now (again) a clearly identifiable groups. Groups near to al-Qaeda integrated with it, other groups split with significant parts joining the al-Qaeda organization.

Qalaat Al Mudiq @QalaatAlMudiq
N. #Syria: Tahrir Al-Sham Corps is born. Zinki, #JFS, Jaish Al-Sunna, Ansar Al-Din & Liwa Al-Haq merged under unified leadership (Abu Jaber)

The Zinki (Zengi) group had CIA support and received anti-tank weapons from the U.S. and its Gulf proxies. JFS is the short form of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the official al-Qaeda group in Syria. It is the strongest “rebel” group on the ground. Abu Jabar is a former Ahrar al-Sham leader who had long argued for integrating both groups. The Turkish and U.S. supported Ahrar al Sham has now officially split. The probably larger part under Abu Jabar is now joining al-Qaeda.

The “new” Tahrir Al-Sham is not a coalition of the various groups but THE new al-Qaeda group on the ground with a unified command and ideological structure. The operative military leader is Abu Jabar while the founder of al-Qaeda in Syria, Abu Mohammad al-Julani, will stay in the background as the overall emir of the group. Tahrir Al-Sham has a military alliance in Idleb with the smaller local ISIS group Jund al-Aqsa. Joining with them is not (yet) convenient.

The now further enlarged al-Qaeda formation under the new name Tahrir Al-Sham is by far the biggest “rebel” dog in the Idleb-region town with now many more than its previous 10,000 active fighters. Of all other groups the “moderate” side of the split Ahrar al-Sham is the biggest one. Left beside it are just splinters of those groups (like Zinki) that mainly crossed over to al-Qaeda. Some local warlords and their small gangs are also still around. These groups will probably continue to receive Turkish and U.S. support. But they will have no chance against the much more powerful al-Qaeda collective.

The leader of al-Qaeda in Syria al-Julani made a huge mistake by initiating this open split from the “moderates”. The group can now no longer hide by “mingling” with the CIA supported “moderates”. When it is attacked by the Syrian government it can no longer claim to be a victim. As it is a UN designated terrorist group it will receive no significant outside support. It can not even go into guerrilla mode because the “fish” (the guerrilla) will have no “water” (a sympathetic local population) to swim in.

This plays well into the Russian hands which initiated the Astana peace conference exactly for this purpose. The U.S. under Obama and Kerry had declared it impossible to separate al-Qaeda in Syria from the “moderate rebels” it supported. The Astana conference and in its consequence the now open al-Qaeda conflict with the “moderates” achieved the separation. The “moderates” left now can only join al-Qaeda, make peace with the Syrian government and its allies or flee the country to survive.

* * *

In other news the Syrian government forces have finally recaptured the Ayn al-Feejah in Wadi Barada that supplies Damascus with drinking water. 5.5 million people were cut off from tap water when the Takfiris captured, poisoned and blocked the spring 44 days ago. After three earlier deals had failed the now defeated Takfirs agreed to being transported to Idleb.

moonofalabama.org

Al-Qaeda Consolidates Its Front Groups In Syria

Note; Ahrar al Sham is a Mix of Brotherhood (Loyal to Turkey and funded by Qatar) and Salafis (Close to Al-Qaeda).  That explains why they declined to join Astana meeting. Turkey has the final say, and once Turkey complete its U-turn Salafis in Ahrar al Sham will join Al-Qaeda -Fateh al-Sham. The fight is mainly about the control of the Syrian – Turkish borders to cut the supply routes of Ahrar al Sham .
 
 
Global Research, January 26, 2017
fsa-alqaeda

A few days ago Al-Qaeda in Syria and the Salafist Takfiri group Ahrar al Sham produced a show claiming they were fighting each other. I fell for it and wrote:

The Turkish, Russian and Iranian governments had agreed on talks in Astana in Kazakhstan between delegations from “moderate” militant groups in Syria and the Syrian government. Ahrar al Sham, which ideologically borders between al-Qaeda and the “moderates”, was also invited. It declined to take part in solidarity with the not invited designated terrorist group Jaish Fateh al-Sham (the former Nusra Front aka al-Qaeda in Syria).Russia had suggested the talks with the intent of separating the “moderate” Takfiris under Turkish control from the designated “terrorist” Takfiris. The talks had no immediate results but still achieved their purpose. Shortly after the talks began al-Qaeda attacked Ahrar al Sham. After some on and off fighting al-Qaeda started yesterday to attack all “moderate” Takfiri groups in Idleb and Aleppo governate.

I was wrong. Ahrar did not fight with al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda did not attack it. As far as one can tell they coordinated their actions for the purpose of eliminating smaller “rebel” groups under the disguise of Takfiri infighting. Those smaller groups are led by local war lords and supported by Turkey and the CIA. They all had earlier cooperated with al-Qaeda which provided the “storm troopers” for their attacks on Syrian government forces. They recently took part in the Astana talks while Ahrar declined in solidarity with al-Qaeda.

The ruse came to light when the “reports” of Ahrar and al-Qaeda infighting were not followed up with any reports of casualties, neither from the sides of those groups nor from any other account. How can there have been fighting when no one was killed or wounded?

Ehsani explains the situation:

Thread on Battles in #Idlib: All battles that took place in Naaman & Jabal Al Zawiye are imaginary battles that were essentially prearranged
2-The main purpose of these prearranged battles is to swap checkpoints of #Ahrar with #Nusra and vice versa
3-Even the v public battle in village of Dana is also imaginary as shooting that took place involved firing in the air around Dana crossing
4-Even news of arrest of the two Nusra security officers is untrue as both spent the time at residence of Amr al jeldi, Emir of #Ahrar
5-This #Ahrar Emir’s residence in M’araa acted as joint operations center for both #Ahrar & #Nusra to coordinate this entire scenario
6-Importantly, it appears that there has not been a single casualty yet during these entire so-called battles

That report has since been confirmed by several other accounts and sources on the ground.

Al-Qaeda in Syria (aka Jaish Fateh al-Sham aka Nusra Front) did attack several local groups, raided their headquarters and confiscated their CIA supplied weapon and ammunition caches. One major alliance of local groups, the Army of Mujaheddin, was eliminated. Other local groups took refuge by joining Ahrar al-Sham:

SOHR was informed that the factions of Soqor al-Sham, alMOjahdin Army, Eqtasim Kama Amart grouping, al-Islam Army in Idlib and the Shamia front in western Aleppo, joined Ahrar al-Sham Islamic faction against Fateh al_Sham front

It seem that the plan for now is to keep Ahrar al-Sham as a “moderate” front group for al-Qaeda while eliminating all other “moderate” forces on the ground. Parts of Ahrar al-Sham take part in the Turkish “Euphrates Shield” operation against the Islamic State while al-Qaeda in Syria is no longer openly supported by the Turkish state.

The ruse of the claimed fight between Ahrar and al-Qaeda is used to uphold a distinction between these groups even when hardly any exists. Ahrar al-Sham was, like al-Qaeda in Syria, founded by a senior member of al-Qaeda central under command of the al-Qaeda’s central leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

There once were components within Ahrar that argued for a less radical course. But other significant parts had argued for officially joining al-Qaeda. The middle ground found now is to cooperated with al-Qaeda as a means for absorbing all other “rebel” groups on the ground while keeping up good relations with Turkey.

Some (minor) ideological differences between Ahrar and al-Qaeda in Syria still exist. It is expected that a fight for primacy will indeed start between (parts of) these two groups in the not so distant future. But that will only happen after all weaker groups on the ground are eliminated and after Ahrar is exposed and can no longer act as a Turkish supported intermediary for weapons and other supplies.

The Associated Press still reports fighting between Ahrar and Al-Qaeda based on quotes of the Gulf propagandist Charles Lister. Like us it fell for the ruse. Unlike us it will probably stick to the fake version. The ruse will thus have worked in deceiving the “western” public and decision makers.

Success in Astana Backfires in Idlib

Terrorist’s Civil War Blazing In Syria’s Idlib

January 25, 2017

Voiceover by Harold Hoover

The so-called “rebel civil war” is blazing in the Syrian province of Idlib where Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, a branch of al-Qaeda) backed up by Jund al-Aqsa and Nour al-Din al-Zenki continues attacks against Ahrar al-Sham and its allied militant groups.

The main reason for the local civil war is competition for power in the province and control over flows of military and humanitarian supplies.

Jabhat Fatah al-Sham fighters, supported by tanks and artillery, seized Jaish al-Mujahideen’s local HQ in Sarmada. Clashes were also reported in Kafranabl, Marat al-Numan, Marshurin, Hurbnish, Al-Dana, Ehsem, Hreitan, Al-Halzoum, Batabo, Saraqeb, Ariha, and Deir Sunbul.

Reports say that up to 100 militants from both sides have been killed in the fighting so far.

A number of groups, for example Liwa al-Haqq, refused to help Ahrar al-Sham and its allies in the battle against Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, claiming that they remain neutral.

Both sides of the rebel civil war push a hardcore Islamist agenda far away from any kind of democracy.

So, in general, the only difference between them is that Jabhat Fatah al-Sham is described as a terrorist group on the international level for its links with al-Qaeda.

Syrian War Report – January 25, 2017: ISIS Defenses Are Collapsing In Northern Aleppo

January 25, 2017

Kurdish YPG forces, backed up by the US air power and Special Forces, have repelled a large-scale ISIS counter-offensive in the northern countryside of the Tabqa dam. Pro-Kurdish sources claimed that dozens of ISIS terrorists were killed in clashes.

Joint forces of the Turkish Armed Forces and pro-Turkish militant groups, led by the Turkish Special Forces and Ahrar al-Sham captured the village of al-Seflaniyah after days of clashes against ISIS. As a result they besieged the important ISIS-held town of Qabasin. If Qabasin falls to Turkish forces, they will be finally able to flank al-Bab from the eastern direction after weeks of sterile efforts to do this.

Meanwhile, pro-government forces, led by the Syrian army’s Tiger Forces, have liberated 18 villages since the start of the operation in the eastern countryside of Aleppo. Kharabasha and Tell Rahal were the latest gains in the area. However, there are no indications that the army and pro-Turkish forces are going engage each other, showing that there is a non-public agreement between Damascus, Ankara and Moscow.

Government troops, backed up by the Russian Aerospace Forces, have been advancing against ISIS units to lift the siege from the Deir Ezzor airport. While the army and the NDF were able to ease the tactical crisis, the military situation in general still remains complicated.

On January 24, Six Russian Tu-22M3 strategic bombers have delivered airstrikes on ISIS positions in the area of Deir Ezzor for the 3rd time in a row, destroying plant producing ammunition and explosives in Tel al-Salhiya as well as ammunition depots and hardware in the province.

Government forces also continued pressure on ISIS west of Palmyra, targeting ISIS units along the Palmyra-Homs highway, southeast of the Tiyas crossroads and east of al-Qaryatayn, but no notable gains were made.

 

Syrian War Report – January 24, 2017: Russian Strategic Bombers In Action Against ISIS

Voiceover by Harold Hoover

Russian and Turkish warplanes conducted joint strikes against ISIS terrorists near al-Bab in the Aleppo province on January 21, the Russian Defense Ministry said. 3 Russian attack aircraft [two Su-24M and one Su-34] and 4 Turkish warplanes were involved in hitting 22 targets. It’s important to note that the operation was coordinated with the Syrian military.

On January 22, Russian warplanes also bombed ISIS targets in the area, using info provided by the US-led coalition headquarters. Airstrikes reportedly destroyed several ammunition depots, military hardware, and fuel products. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, two coalition jets participated in the operation. US Air Force Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesman for the US-led coalition, denied the reports about the joint operation but confirmed providing the info to Moscow.

The Syrian army and the National Defense Forces (NDF) have liberated 3 more villages from ISIS terrorists in northern Aleppo: Diriya, Khan Hufrah, and Diriya Umm Adas. Pro-government and pro-Turkish forces are now very close to each other.

On January 23, six long-range Tu-22M3 bombers that took off from a Russian airfield carried out airstrikes on ISIS command post, arms, and ammunition depots near the city of Deir Ezzor, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. This was the second time in 3 days when Russia used its strategic bombers against the terrorist group.

On January 21, six Tu-22M3 bombers also made airstrikes against ISIS, destroying camps, weapon depots, and military equipment in the area.

Meanwhile, the Russian Aerospace Forces air-dropped another batch of supplies to government forces and civilians in Deir Ezzor and Syrian helictopers dropped reinforcements from the Syrian Army’s Republican Guard to the 137th Military Base.

These efforts allowed the army and the NDF to reinforce its attacks aiming to link up the Deir Ezzor Airport with the rest of the government-held area.

ISIS hit a Russian-made T-90 main battle tank with an anti-tank guided missile near the village of Drehym in the area east of the town of Khanasser on January 23. The crew was reportedly killed. Pro-ISIS sources claim that it was totally “destroyed” and the released video shows a burning T-90 tank. Further developments regarding the tank are unknown. This could be the first T-90 battle tank destroyed by terrorists during the conflict.

The flag in the picture suggests that the battle tank had been operated by a crew from Hezbollah, Fatimyoun Brigade or Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba – pro-government paramilitary groups backed by Iran.

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Syrian-Iraqi War Report – January 18, 2017: War Against ISIS

18.01.2017

Clashes continued in the city of Deir Ezzor where government forces were repelling ISIS attacks on the Deir Ezzor Airport and nearby areas. Cemetry, Al Fourat University, Al-Maqabis Production and Jiraiya were the main areas of the confrontation. ISIS also attempted to capture the al-Assad Hospital but failed to do this.

Pro-ISIS sources report that over 50 government troops were killed and about 10 units of military equipment destroyed on January 16 and January 17. Pro-government outlets claim that about 70 ISIS members have been killed since January 16.

Over 100 Syrian soldiers trained by Russian military advisors near Damascus were deployed in the Tyas Airbase in the province of Homs, according to pro-government sources. The deployment of fresh troops was aimed to improve the Syrian army’s combat capabilities and to contribute to offensive efforts in the area.

Two Syrian generals – Rafat Ibrahim Nasif and Bilal Bilal – and at least six troops were killed in a militant bombing attack in the town of Harasta near Damascus on January 18, according to the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. A number of government fighters were also reported to be in a critical condition.

Following previous gains in the Wadi Barada area northwest of Damascus, the Syrian army and its allies entered the militant-held town of Ayn al-Fijah and seized over a half of it. Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, Ahrar al-Sham and other militant groups operating in Ayn al-Fijah, Dayr Miqrin and Kafr Az Zayt are in a very bad military situation because government forces control strategic heights north of these villages. Experts believe that soon Ayn al-Fijah and nearby areas will fall into the hands of the Syrian army.

Iraqi security forces (ISF) have cleared from ISIS militants the Mosul Park and the areas of Al-Muhandisin, Nurqal, Taqafah and the Ancient Nineveh, de-facto setting up control over the whole eastern part of Mosul. ISF units have also gained control over 5 Mosul bridges from the eastern side of the city.

As soon as eastern Mosul is secure, ISF will start preparation to retake the rest of the city. Iraqi forces will need to reach Mosul from the southern and western directions before launching this advance.

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