Iraqi Hezbollah: Iraq’s PM sought to prove US loyalty by raiding our HQ

Iraqi Hezbollah: Iraq’s PM sought to prove US loyalty by raiding our HQ

From Middle East Observer

Description:

The military spokesman of the Iraqi Kataib Hezbollah (Hezbollah Brigades), Ja’far al-Husseini, said in a recent interview that Iraq’s prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi unmasked his real intentions by raiding one of the group’s logistical headquarters in Baghdad.

Al-Husseini said that the Iraqi prime minister’s real intention is to confront the Hezbollah Brigades and the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) as a whole, and to protect the presence of American forces in the country.

More than a dozen members of Kata’ib Hezbollah were reportedly detained during the raid in southern Baghdad in the early hours of Friday (June 26, 2020). Initial reports said several commanders of the anti-US group, which is integrated into Iraq’s security forces, were among those arrested.

Kataib Hezbollah is a key faction within the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).

Source: Al Mayadeen News (YouTube)

Read transcript: 
Ja’far al-Husseini, military spokesman for the Iraqi Hezbollah Brigades (Kataib Hezbollah):

First, we must start with the US that chose a specific target in Iraq. (The US) chose to directly target a specific faction (i.e Hezbollah Brigades), even though it knows that all Iraqi (resistance) factions work side by side with the (Iraqi) Islamic Resistance, the Hezbollah (Brigades). The Iraqi (resistance) factions say openly and publically that they work as a single bloc to confront the US. Their belief in these words was reinforced on the ground after the martyrdom (of Soleimani and al-Muhandis), through which the Americans wanted to break up our united country.

The US chose a target in Iraq (Hezbollah Brigades) and chose to attack us, which made us hold on more to our decision to expel the American forces (out of the Iraq) and fight them with all means. We announced from day one that we are open to all options and we acted accordingly.

Then the Americans tried to manipulate some political parties, and unfortunately, they succeeded in convincing the (Iraqi) prime minister (Mustafa al-Kadhimi) who obeyed their orders and stood against not only the Hezbollah Brigades but the entire Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). This was his (Kadhimi’s) choice. If we want to talk about the motive behind his decision, we believe that there are advisers around him who have deluded him that by doing this, he will win the support of the Iraqi people and give the Americans a clear concrete proof (of his loyalty), such that if he travels to the United States with a record that shows that he stood against and put pressure on the (Iraqi) Hezbollah Brigades. What happened in Bo’aitha (a district within Baghdad) was only (for Kadhimi) to give (Americans) a proof (of his loyalty). However, he chose the wrong path.

Instead of focusing on serving the Iraqi people and following up on essential files inside Iraq, he decided to confront the PMF that protected the Iraqi state – not only the government and officials, but (protected) the entire country when it collapsed in 2014. Security services didn’t have (the capacity)…I am talking (about an area beginning) from Baghdad to the western borders (of Iraq), and to the northern borders with Kurdistan. There were no clear borders for the Iraqi state, even inside Baghdad and the Green Zone. The country collapsed completely.

The factions of the resistance are the ones who stopped the expansion of ISIS and had fierce confrontations with it, way before the establishment of the PMF. Therefore, when the fatwa was issued, these factions joined the PMF and exercised their work with sincerity to protect the Iraqi state. We never cared if the people of a certain province belong to a different sect, or if this province is controlled by a different (political) bloc. We were defending the entire country. We left the matter to the government at that time to deal with problems in Iraqi society and the political process. Our focus was to carry on these (military) operations.

Therefore, he, and I mean the (Iraqi) prime minister, who decided to stand up against the PMF, will find himself in confrontation with the Iraqi people as a whole because the people fully believe that the PMF is the reason for this state’s existence and preservation. I am not only talking about a specific section (of people) that support the resistance, but about all the Iraqi people who still remember (our sacrifices).

The prime minister’s move to stand against the PMF was wrong. At the time, it revealed to us his intentions which we (had) talked about in the past when we said that the prime minister came up with a deal – even if it was temporary- that masks (his real) intentions of confronting the Hezbollah Brigades and protecting the American forces.

What does the prime minister want from the arrest of a young group at a PMF logistical support headquarter (that was targeted)? A headquarter that provides logistical support to (resistance) factions across the Iraqi borders and the provincial borders. He (Kadhimi) claims (that the PMF) are attacking the US forces – the same forces which every Iraqi wants out of the country.Important note: Please help Middle East Observer keep producing independent translations for you by contributing as little as $1/month here: https://www.patreon.com/MiddleEastObserver

Syrian Army Fights ISIS In Homs. SDF Rejects Deal With Damascus

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Clashes between government forces and ISIS terrorists have continued in central Syria since July 2, when ISIS cells stormed army positions in eastern Homs. In response, the Syrians supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces launched a security operation in the desert. Sporadic clashes and airstrikes were reported in the area over the next few days.

On July 4, ISIS terrorists even ambushed a unit of the Syrian Army in eastern Homs. The military reportedly lost contact with 25 soldiers in eastern Homs. As of July 6, their fate remains unclear. It’s likely that, members of the dispersed unit are now returning to their permanent positions in the province.

Pro-opposition sources claim that over the past week, at least 20 soldiers were killed in clashes with ISIS members. Pro-government sources do not provide details regarding army casualties, but say that government forces were able to destroy 3 ISIS vehicles and neutralize up to 10 ISIS members.

As the Syrian government fights ISIS on the western bank of the Euphrates, the US-led coalition conducted a raid against the terrorist group in the town of Husayn on the eastern bank of the Euphrates.

On July 5, US helicopters landed near the town and US forces assisted by members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) detained at least 4 suspects.

Meanwhile, the SDF leadership declared that it does not see a possibility to reach a comprehensive political agreement with Damascus because the government wants to restore full control over the provinces of Deir Ezozr and Raqqa in the framework of such a deal.

SDF Commander-in-Chief Abdi Şahin better known by his nom de guerre Mazlum Abdi declined such a possibility claiming that the Kurdish-led group wants to keep control of all the areas that it has seized. Abdi is a member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which seeks to create an independent Kurdish state in southern Turkey and, if it’s possible, include into it territories of northern Syria and northern Iraq. Therefore, such a position of the SDF leadership is not a big surprise.

In 2019, the Syrian Army came to northeastern Syria to rescue the SDF from the Turkish military advance when the group then abandoned by the US-led coalition needed it. However, after this, the Kurdish leadership once again turned back from the Syrian people selling its loyalty to Washington for weapons and a share of oil revenue from the US-controlled Syrian oilfields.

Infighting among Turkish-backed militant groups erupted in the provinces of al-Hasakah and Raqqa on July 3 and July 5. Tell Abyad, al-Yabisah and Ras al-Ain are the man hot points. At least 5 militants and several civilians were killed. The main source of tensions is the intra-militant competition for control of roads, agricultural lands and trade in a small chunk of area occupied by Turkey in northeastern Syria. The funding from Turkey decreased after the de-escalation of the conflict in this part of the country. So, Turkish-backed fighters are now looting the captured areas to obtain the needed financial resources.

Military Situation In Syria On July 6, 2020 (Map Update)

Military Situation In Syria On July 6, 2020 (Map Update)

A brief overview of the recent developments in Syria:

  • Israeli warplanes struck a truck convoy in Al-Dimas region in northwestern Damascus countryside. A weapon shipment reportedly headed towards the Lebanese border and was intended for Hezbollah;
  • Turkish forces targeted a civilian truck on the M4 highway to the west of the town of Ain Issa in northern Raqqa;
  • Syrian army artillery targeted the villages of Khirbet Al-Naqus, Mansourah in northern Hama and the town of al-Fatirah in Southern Idlib;
  • The US MQ-9 Reaper drone was spotted over the Idlib region;
  • Turkish artillery shelled the SDF positions near the town of Tell Abyad in northern Raqqa.

Related News

String Of ISIS Attacks Continues In Syrian Desert

South Front

Since the start of the week, the Syrian Army has repelled several ISIS attacks on its positions in the desert in central Syria.

The most recent attack took place in eastern Homs early on July 2 and became the largest one so far. Clashes lasted for several hours and Syrian troops even called for support from the Russian Aerospace Forces. Pro-opposition media claim that up to 10 soldiers were killed on injured in the encounter, but this is yet to be confirmed.

In response to this attack, the Syrian Air Force and the Russian Aerospace Forces carried out a series of raids against detected positions of the terrorist group on the western bank of the Euphrates and near the US-controlled al-Tanf zone on July 2 and July 3.

According to Syrian sources, hundreds of ISIS members still hide in the desert using underground tunnels and mobile groups of fighters equipped with all that is needed to operate independently. Over the past months, the Syrian military has made several attempts to track and eliminate these units. However, it has achieved only a partial success.

On July 2, forces of Turkey’s Syrian National Army shelled a positon of the Syrian Army west of the Turkish-occupied town of Tell Abyad triggering local clashes. The most intense fighting erupted near the village of Abdi. According to pro-government sources, at least one Syrian soldier was injured and a few Turkish proxies were killed.

Turkish-backed forces continue regular ceasefire violations despite the recent military buildup undertaken by the Syrian Army near the contact line in northeastern Syria. Most likely, Turkish proxies feel a kind of impunity thanks to the direct protection of the Turkish Armed Forces. This behavior instigates military tensions in the region.

Meanwhile, Syrian forces blocked a US military convoy at the al-Dardara bridge on the road between Tel Tamr and Abu Rasin in the northern countryside of Hasaka. After a short verbal confrontation, the US convoy withdrew from the area. Recently, such incidents between Syrian and US forces in Hasakah province became something common. Apparently, the Damascus government boosted its efforts to limit the freedom of operations of the US-led coalition there.

The situation stabilized in the militant-held part of Greater Idlib. After almost a week of clashes and competing accusations by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and the Fa Ithbatu coalition (both groups linked with al-Qaeda), the sides reached a ceasefire deal. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham once again demonstrated that it is the most influential and militarily capable group in the opposition-held area.

Military Situation In Syria On July 4, 2020 (Map Update)

Military Situation In Syria On July 4, 2020 (Map Update)

A brief overview of the recent developments in Syria:

  • A civilian was killed and another one was wound due to an explosion of explosive device planted in a car in Afrin;
  • The Russian Military Police conducted a patrol in the vicinity of Tal Tamr in northern Hasakah;
  • 3 explosions were heard in Tal Abyad after mortar shells landed in the town center;
  • A Turkish military convoy entered Syria via the Kafr Lusin border crossing and moved towards Idlib. The convoy consisted of at least 25 armored vehicles;
  • The Russian President declared that it’s needed to find wats to support Syrian people despite the US and EU sanction pressure on Syria.

Related News

Idlib Militants Use Battle Tanks To Kill Each Others Under Turkish Nose

Source

ISIS announced a new series of attacks against the Syrian Army in the Homs-Deir Ezzor desert. According to the terrorist group’s news agency Amaq, ISIS cells ambushed an army unit near the town of al-Sukhna killing 2 soldiers, injuring a third one and capturing a vehicle. This attack became the second successful ISIS raid in the desert area in less than a week. The previous one took place south of al-Mayadin and resulted in the killing of 8 Syrian troops.

On June 25 and June 26, the Syrian Air Force and the Russian Aerospace Forces conducted intense airstrikes on the detected ISIS hideouts south of the Palmyra-Deir Ezzor highway. According to pro-government sources, at least one weapon depot and 2 vehicles were eliminated. The precise number of ISIS casualties remains unclear.

The pro-Turkish coalition of militant groups, the National Front for Liberation, repelled an imaginary attack of Russian special forces in southern Idlib. According to militants, they killed 2 Russian personnel and 2 Syrian soldiers in intense fighting in the village of Benin on June 25. The only problem with this version is that neither the Syrian Army nor Russian forces conducted offensive operations in the area, according to local sources.

Clashes between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and militants from the Fa Ithbatu coalition continue in the countryside of Idlib. The sides briefly reached a tactical ceasefire on June 25 and even removed checkpoints between Idlib city mostly controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and the town of Jisr al-Shughur, which is the Fa Ithbatu rear base.

Nonetheless, as of June 26 the fighting once again resumed after Hayat Tahrir al-Sham attacked positions of Horas al-Din and Ansar al-Din near the villages of Yacubiyeh and al-Janoudiyah. Intense fighting was also ongoing near Arab Said. Local sources claim that both sides are now using battle tanks.

According to supporters of Fa Ithbatu, the al-Qaeda-linked coalition captured 2 battle tanks belonging to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and damaged another one. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham says it’s ready to accept a ceasefire only if Horas al-Din, Ansar al-Din and other members of Fa Ithbatu remove checkpoints that they have established near Idlib city over the past few days.

Control over the movement of goods and people in the Idlib countryside is one of the pillars of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham influence and allows it to collect various fees and fines there. So, the group sees any presence of other forces on key roads in Greater idlib as a threat to its interests. Currently, the main opposition to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham is located in Jisr al-Shughur.

The main point of contradiction between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other al-Qaeda-linked groups is that Fa Ithbatu wants its own share of the revenue, which can be collected by exploiting the militant-held part of Greater Idlib. This sets the conditions for further confrontation until a new balance of power within the militant-held area is found.

Related News

US Suspected of Role behind Raiding Hezbollah Brigades Headquarters in Baghdad

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By Staff, Agencies

US Suspected of Role behind Raiding Hezbollah Brigades Headquarters in Baghdad

The headquarters of Iraqi anti-terror group within the Popular Mobilization Units [PMU], better known as Hashd al-Sha’abi, came under attack in Baghdad, raising suspicions about the US role in Iraq.

More than a dozen members of the Hezbollah Brigades [Kata’ib Hezbollah] were reportedly detained during the raid in southern Baghdad in the early hours of Friday. Initial reports said several commanders of the anti-US group, which is integrated into Iraq’s security forces, were among those arrested.

Their fate remains unclear, with some unnamed officials saying they are in the custody of Iraqi security services, but according to PMU sources, all those detained have been handed over to US forces.

An Iraqi official initially told Reuters that at least three of the group’s detained commanders had been transferred over to the US military.

A number of local media outlets also reported that American forces were involved in the raid.

One tweet by a PMU member said that Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi had apologized to the anti-terror group’s head Hadi al-Ameri over the incident.

Back on April 6, a member of the Iraqi parliament’s security and defense committee warned against the ulterior motives behind the redeployment of US troops to various military sites across the Arab country, saying Washington was drawing up plans to target PMU commanders.

On March 27, the New York Times newspaper reported that the Pentagon had ordered a secret directive, which called on US military commanders to prepare a campaign against the Hezbollah Brigades, which is part of the PMU.

But the top US commander in Iraq had warned that such a campaign could be bloody and counterproductive.

Lieutenant General Robert P. White wrote in a blunt memo that a new military campaign would also require that thousands more American troops be sent to Iraq.

PMU fighters have played a major role in the liberation of areas held by Daesh [the Arabic acronym for Takfiri ‘ISIS/ISIL’ group] terrorists ever since the group launched an offensive in the country, overrunning vast swathes in lightning attacks.

In November 2016, the Iraqi parliament voted to integrate the PMU, which was formed shortly after the emergence of Daesh in Iraq in 2014, into the country’s military.

The popular group, however, is a thorn in the side of the United States which is widely believed to be managing an array of terrorist groups, including Daesh, to advance its ‘Israel’-centric agenda in the region.  

SDF HEAD SPOTTED ALONGSIDE WITH ISIS-AFFILIATED TRIBE LEADER

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SDF Head Spotted Alongside With ISIS-Affiliated Tribe Leader

The Kuridsh-led Syrian Democratic Fores (SDF), with a direct support from the United States, continue their ‘fight for democracy’ in northeastern Syria. At least, they want others to think this way.

In fact, the SDF leadership, which sabotaged the negotiation process with Damascus by making overextended demands, is openly cooperating with ISIS-affilated persons. Just recently, the SDF head Ferhat Abdi Sahin (nom de guerre: Mazloum Kobani Abdi) was recently photographed alongside with an ISIS-affiliated tribe leader.

The SDF cooperation with tribes and local militias that once declared their allegiance is no secret. Nonetheless, the mainstream Western media narrative prefers to ignore these facts.

US President Donald Trump: “I don’t want to stay at all. I don’t like the Kurds. They ran from the Iraqis, they ran from the Turks, the only time they don’t run is when we’re bombing all around them with F-18s.”

Claimed by Bolton in his book: “The Room Where It Happened”
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TRUMP WANTED TO CONSTANTLY CALL ASSAD AND DEMAND RELEASE OF US HOSTAGES HELD BY “SYRIAN REGIME”

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23.06.2020 

Trump Wanted To Constantly Call Assad And Demand Release Of US Hostages Held By "Syrian Regime"

Former US National Security Adviser John Bolton’s book “The Room Where It Happened,” is stirring some controversy, regarding US President Donald Trump’s views and conduct in regard to Syria.

In the book, Bolton describes himself as a sort of “fireman” who puts out fires caused by an erratic and irrational president in the lead up to the withdrawal of US troops from northeast Syria in October 2019.

“It is difficult beyond description to pursue a complex policy in a contentious part of the world when the policy is subject to instant modification based on the boss’s perception of how inaccurate and often-already-outdated information is reported by writers who don’t have the Administration’s best interests at heart in the first place,” Bolton describes in chapter seven. “It was like making and executing policy inside a pinball machine, not the West Wing of the White House.”

In Bolton’s own story, he is the architect of a policy strategy that tried, and ultimately failed, to maintain the US as a key player in Syria.

Bolton, for his own part, also viewed the US alliance with the SDF as a “strategic partnership” and little more.

“Why we were affiliated with one terrorist group in order to destroy another stemmed from Obama’s failure to see Iran was a much more serious threat, now and in the future. Many parties to this conflict opposed ISIS […] Tehran, however, unlike Obama, was also focusing on the next way, the one after ISIS was defeated,” he wrote.

“It was complicated, but what was not complicated was the strong sense of loyalty to Kurds who had fought with us against ISIS, and fear that abandoning them was not only disloyal but would have severely adverse consequences for any future effort to recruit allies who might later be seen as expendable,” Bolton added.

Notably, Bolton explained that former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, a “warrior-scholar” was quite poor at debates, and in negotiations between Trump and his aides he had little success.

“All these negotiations about our role in Syria were complicated by Trump’s constant desire to call Assad on US hostages, which Pompeo and I thought undesirable. Fortunately, Syria saved Trump from himself, refusing even to talk to Pompeo about them.”

And when US President Donald Trump was told this by Pompeo, he angrily retorted:

“You tell [them] he will get hit hard if they don’t give us our hostages back, so fucking hard. You tell him that. We want them back within one week of today, or they will never forget how hard we’ll hit them.”

That, fortunately, according to Bolton took the Trump-Assad call off the table, but no actions on striking Syria regarding these hostages were ever carried out.

There’s very little information about US hostages in Syria, some of them were being held by ISIS, back around 2014.

The 2014 rescue mission in Syria was an American led effort to locate and rescue hostages being held by ISIS forces.

Plans to rescue the hostages were accelerated after the execution of journalist James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and Kayla Mueller by ISIS militants. A total of 14 hostages were held hostage by the ISIS at an undisclosed location. No soldiers were killed, and none of the hostages were found.

Currently, as of May 2020, the CIA pledged to ramp up efforts to learn where Austin Tice, a former Marine is located, allegedly somewhere in Syria.

Back in 2019, the Washington Post also reported that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must release all US hostages.

“There are “around half a dozen” American citizens missing in Syria and suspected to be held by the Assad regime, according to a senior administration official, who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. One is journalist Austin Tice, missing since 2012; the U.S. government has said publicly it believes the Assad regime is holding Tice. The other known cases are Syrian Americans, none of whom the regime has acknowledged detaining, the official said.”

“There are a number of Syrian American dual citizens that went missing in regime-held areas that the U.S. government is tracking and we are engaging with diplomatic partners in an effort to secure their safe return from Syria,” the official said.”

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THE CAESAR ACT: THE LATEST WESTERN ATTACK ON SYRIA DIDN’T DROP FROM A PLANE

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Eva Bartlett

As Syria struggles to recover from over a decade of US-imposed conflict, it faces a new deadly threat in the form of sweeping sanctions under the Caesar Act.

by Eva Bartlett, June 19th, 2020, Mint Press News

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Wounded Syrian soldiers, Talib Mu’alla (left) & Inad Ahmed (right)

Talib Mu’alla served as a soldier in the Syrian Arab Army before he was wounded in Aleppo in 2014. As he described the multiple shots he took to his body, I thought it remarkable that he survived.

“A shot (bullet) to my chest, a shot to my stomach, three shots in my spine. My chest, stomach, and intestines ruptured, and I lost a kidney. I was also shot in the right side of my face,” he recounted. “I fell into a coma for 25 days, then woke for a few days and fell back into a coma for another 16 or 17 days. It took two years for me to be able to walk again.”Talib was discharged from the army after his injuries and has since joined an auxiliary of the army. “From  2011 until now, I haven’t taken off my uniform. And I won’t take it off until the war is finished,” he said.

The media’s monsters

As a consequence of the war on Syria, there has been immeasurable loss: the destruction of historic places like Palmyra, Maaloula (the ancient Aramaic village northeast of Damascus), Aleppo’s souqs; and the destruction of city districts in the fight against terrorism. Aleppo’s souqs were being carefully restored when I traveled to Syria in March. Yet, there is still much rebuilding to do and thanks to the Caesar Act, that just got harder.

More appalling than the destruction of Syria’s historic places is the human loss, civilian and military alike. Regarding the latter, little concern is meted out by Western press over the deaths and maiming of members of Syria’s national army. On the contrary, the Syrian Arab Army is portrayed in Western media and by Western politicians as murderers and thugs personally belonging to President Assad and not to Syria.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and indeed countless videos and anecdotes of Syrian soldiers putting their lives on the line in order to protect and save civilians from terrorists are available for any who wish to see them. The army is a conscript army but also includes career soldiers and men and women who voluntarily joined in order to defend their country.

Last August, I interviewed the Syrian Arab Army’s Head of Political Administration, General Hassan Hassan. He noted that the Syrian army “includes in each of its formations, soldiers from all Syrian governorates, with no exception.” This defies Western media’s portrayal of the Syrian army as “Assad’s army” or their claims that those fighting “rebels” (terrorists) are only from the Alawi sect. These types of claims are put forth in an attempt to create the illusion that in Syria, it has been President Assad and “his forces” against disenchanted Sunnis, an utterly false claim.[Read: A Syrian Leader Tells His Country’s Story: An Interview with SAA General Hassan Hassan ]

This sectarianism exists largely in the minds of those backing terrorism in Syria, be they Saudi, Turkish, Qatari, or Western leaders.

When I asked General Hassan to speak more on the army, he replied:

The two greatest armies in modern history have failed to achieve what the Syrian Army has accomplished. In Afghanistan, fewer than 10 percent of the number of terrorists in Syria were able to defeat two armies: the Red Soviet Army and the U.S. Army.

But, the Syrian Army defeated such terrorism. The Syrian Army fought battles that can be classified as new in military science. The Syrian Army fought above ground and underground battles in addition to their battles against the media war, intelligence war, information war, economic war, gang and street-to-street wars. Despite all of that, the Syrian Army achieved victory. Therefore, can we imagine the magnitude of the sacrifices made in this respect by the Syrian Army?”

On various trips to and around Syria over the years I’ve encountered Syrian soldiers in hot zones where terrorists linger nearby and in liberated areas, at checkpoints and in hospitals. Many are young, and others are grey-haired, proud to be serving in the defense of their country and citizens.

Palmyra, July 2016
Aleppo, November 2016

Many drive taxis in their off-hours to compensate for the meagr salary they receive, a salary that doesn’t compare to the hefty salaries paid to members of Gulf and Turkish-backed armed militants.

Together, and with the help of Syria’s allies, they staved off some of the most heinous and powerfully-backed terrorists the modern world has known, but at a great price.

The numbers of wounded soldiers, particularly critically-wounded, are not published, so it is hard to gauge just how large their numbers are. However, given that the war on Syria has raged for nearly a decade, with soldiers fighting well-armed terrorists from around the world–terrorists with the backing of the U.S.-led coalition in Syria — the numbers of martyred and maimed can only be tragically-high.

Wounded veterans prepare for life after war

Given that the U.S. government frequently criticizes the government of Syria for not taking care of its citizens, it’s worth reflecting on the shameful manner in which the U.S. neglects its own veterans of war. But in Syria, a myriad of associations work with war-wounded soldiers to provide prosthetic limbs and rehabilitate them after their injuries, giving them life skills to work or start their own businesses.

Jerih al-Watan (The Wounded of the Homeland), is a veteran support program founded in 2014 by the Syrian Presidency with the support of the Syrian Trust For Development and medical experts. The aim of Jerih al-Watan, according to its Facebook page, is “providing adequate care and appropriate rehabilitation to secure a decent life for the wounded,” from the army, popular defense forces, and internal security forces.”

Jerih al-Watan focuses on physical rehabilitation, social and psychological support as well as vocational training for jobs ranging from construction to food production.

The latter is what I saw last week when I traveled to the Qardaha region in northwestern Syria. A region I had not previously visited, Qardaha is a paradise that the average person may not associate with Syria, as many mistakenly imagine the country to be all desert. It is not, of course.

Traveling a familiar route from Damascus to the coast, I passed rows of greenhouses and the citrus and banana trees that are prevalent in the Tartous and Latakia region and finally moved up along a road lined with pine trees and wildflowers, winding up through the mountainous hills of Qardaha. Photos of martyred soldiers appeared when passing through Qardaha itself, as they do all over Syria.

I reached the training point, where, in the evening, a gorgeous pink sunset descended over the layered hills, the sea in the distance.

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Soldiers were receiving training in the skills of cheese and yogurt making, staples of the Syrian diet. They were first shown how to make the products, then had a hand at making them themselves. The final results were the delicious spice-colored yogurt balls and black-sesame-laden cheeses that are ubiquitous in Syria’s restaurants.

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With these skills, the soldiers are able to start a small enterprise and support their families.

In between training sessions, wounded soldiers sat chatting in the shade. With their permission, I spoke with some of them about their injuries and feelings about having served in the army. With injuries ranging from vision and speech impairments to difficulties walking or loss of hands, I was struck by the graceful confidence of the injured soldiers.

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Instead of wallowing in their injuries, they looked to future prospects, improving their knowledge to improve their lives.

A reservist in the army, Ayet Yusef was wounded in 2013 while serving in Aleppo. “We were attacked at 2 am by armed terrorist gangs. A clash occurred, during which I was wounded by shrapnel in my left eye. I lost sight in that eye. But after treatment, it is now fine.” Yusef, like most wounded soldiers I’ve met, is proud of having served, and even prouder of his injury. “We raise our heads to the sky. We were in the Syrian Arab Army and that is an honor for us. And if they now asked me to serve again, no problem,” he said.

Another soldier, 30-year-old Du’a Ijna, had difficulty speaking as he explained how he was injured in 2011. “We were on patrol in Khan Sheikhoun (Idlib),” he recalled, “A terrorist group attacked and I was wounded by shrapnel to my brain. That affected my hands, legs, and speech. I was paralyzed for a month and a half, but after physiotherapy, it got a little better.”

Jaafar Badran was injured in 2016 while serving in Aleppo. His injury left him without his right hand or left leg. “We resisted the terrorism, and there will be martyrs and wounded among us, and that’s okay. What matters is the country returns to stability.”

Inad Ahmed was injured while serving in Tulul al-Himr, al-Qunaytra. “I was shot in my spinal column, and for three years I couldn’t walk.” Ahmed now walks with a severe limp but speaks with a smile. “I have to be optimistic about what I’m going through and keep looking ahead. What happened happened.”

Just beyond the training location, a beautiful sunset burst out and I thought about the many wounded soldiers, some whose lives were disrupted forever, others who overcame major injuries to the point they could walk, or at least hobble, again. They were all gracious. Some on the shy side, others — including men whose injuries were the worst — gregarious and humorous. Spending time with them was humbling, but also reaffirmed what I already knew about the army: they are some of the most courageous people I’ve met and those who write lies about them should hang their heads in shame for being so far from the truth.

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Post-training photo of the group of soldiers who received vocational training. Photo | Eva Bartlett

Initiatives like this, teaching and encouraging economic self-reliance, are more critically-important than ever these days in Syria. After over nine years of war and relentless sanctions on the country, Syria’s economy is as shattered as the cities formerly occupied by terrorist groups. Neither would be devastated had the U.S. and allies not launched its clandestine war against Syria, but they did, and the economic war on Syria will only worsen.

The Syrian Trust, a nonprofit national development organization headed by the first lady of Syria, has been quietly helping soldiers with rehabilitation and prosthetics as well as giving them training, even supplying machinery and other equipment needed for small businesses.

In November 2016, after having visited Aleppo for the fourth time just weeks before the city was finally liberated from the array of terrorist gangs occupying its eastern and southern regions, freeing the people of the hell on earth they’d endured for years — I was back in Damascus and visited the Hamish Hospital in Barzeh, where Jarih al-Watan was manufacturing prosthetic limbs performing physiotherapy for wounded soldiers.

There, I saw many soldiers going through differing degrees of physiotherapy and rehabilitation after having been injured. Many were without one or both legs, others missing hands and arms.

I met Ali, a 30-year-old soldier who lost both his legs in a mine blast a year prior on the Khanasser road to Aleppo. The first time I went to Aleppo in July, the taxi driver told me that Da’esh (ISIS) routinely creeps onto the road at night to lay mines and the SAA in the morning has to clear them so the road is safe for civilians and transport trucks.

Ali was a slight young man, and emblematic of the stoic, strong nature of Syrians fighting this war against terror and for their country. Ten days after losing his lower legs, Ali was walking on artificial ones. When I met him, he was finishing physiotherapy and wants to go back to defending Syria.

I am discharged from the army but I want to go back. We want this war to be over.”

He isn’t the only gravely wounded soldier I’ve met who wanted to return to service. In May 2018, Syrian soldier and incredible photographer Wassim Issa was gravely injured in a terrorist landmine blast that blew off both his lower legs and left him in a coma for two days. When I visited him in the hospital three days after his injury, he was sitting up in bed wearing a huge smile at my visit. Although I already knew him to be a courageous and gentle man, I was surprised at how upbeat he was, having just escaped death and lost his ability to walk.

In subsequent visits over the years, Wassim maintained his positivity that he would walk again. Indeed, by October 2018 Wassim had been fitted with prosthetic limbs and done the needed physio in order to walk again.

On one of my visits, he told me: “I don’t need money, I don’t need a house, I just need peace for my country.”49115126_10161491800425651_446505113624772608_n

A screenshot from a news report shows Wassim Issa in January 2019 via the Facebook page, “Here Lattakia

I met Captain Ali, a Syrian pilot and soldier who was injured five times (more, actually, but he only counts the major injuries), several times in Latakia in July and August of 2016. He was shot by a sniper, the bullet going through his arm, sniped through his hip, shot in his head (requiring 26 stitches), received shrapnel in his chest, and finally lost his left leg to a Da’esh suicide bomber.

Captain Ali was awarded the Russian Medal of courage for his work in the Latakia countryside. He also had stories of the helicopter he was flying being hit on three different occasions but not being downed.

His personality was a mixture of humility, confidence, humour.

Captain Ali in Latakia hospital, 2016

*Meeting with Captain Ali in a Latakia hospital in 2016. Photo | Eva Bartlett

And in Aleppo this past March, I met Ahmed Abo Alkef, 29, in then recently-liberated al-Zahra’a, Aleppo. Alkef joined the army in June 2010 and was close to fulfilling his conscription service when he was shot in the head by a terrorist sniper, leaving him in a coma for several months.

He is now paralyzed on one side of his body, the bullet still in his skull. Like other soldiers I’ve spoken with, Alkef without hesitation to my question replied he is proud of serving in the army and proud of his injury, life-shattering as it is.

IMG_3271

Ahmed Abo Alkef, half-paralyzed by his injury after being sniped to his head.

In the Barzeh Center physiotherapy training hall, Ali walked with a young man who appeared to be around the same age, also missing his lower legs.

At the prosthetics factory, the Director, Dr. Yousef Sarraj, stressed that in his experience 25 percent of those patients they treat request artificial limbs specifically with the intent of returning to the battlefront to defend Syria, including the ten officers who are currently waiting for limbs so they return to the battlefront.

While there, the power briefly went out and roughly 20 seconds later, the generators kicked in. Dr. Sarraj noted: “We can overcome problems of power, but we can’t overcome the problem of getting raw materials for the prosthetics.”

Unsurprisingly, Western sanctions on Syria include prohibiting key materials needed in prosthetic limbs manufacturing, including (among many things) resin, the primary material used in the manufacture. According to Dr. Sarraj, to acquire 100 kg of resin would take around one year.

Meeting the needs of sanctions-ravaged Syrians

In addition to its work with injured soldiers, the Syrian Trust For Development also focuses on providing micro-credit, assisting disabled Syrians, supporting children with cancer, rural development, supporting families of missing persons, supporting victims of sexual violence, culture, and heritage, and children’s and women’s issues.

In October 2016, I visited a community center in Barzeh, Damascus, supported by the Syrian Trust. The community center manager, Ahmad al-Khodr told me the center had opened in 2015 and served a diverse community.

“There is a lot of political and religious diversity here in Barzeh, as many people from all over Syria left their homes, due to the war, and settled here in Barzeh. In this community center, you’ll see a small glimpse of Syrian communities around the country. Every day there are more than 400 beneficiaries here, between children, men, and women.

Barzeh and nearby Aysh al-Warwar had big battles. The FSA (Free Syrian Army) was there for a long time. In 2014, there was reconciliation here between the Syrian army and the FSA. This community center is very near the region under truce. So this place is more diverse than other regions of Damascus (in terms of political leanings).”

He explained the Trust’s approach to assisting those in need:

We study the cases to know what are the needs of the people here. We visit their houses. We don’t implement any plan without knowing what is needed and knowing that the plan will meet their needs.

We have a law department which, among other things, helps people who have lost their identity papers during the war.”

Vocational training is offered at the center, including teaching women to sew and men to paint homes.

Sewing training at Barzeh community centre

We also support them with courses on how they can start their own businesses, how to market their products and business. After the workshop we provide them money to start their own businesses, some are loans and others they don’t need to repay. After the courses, we connect the beneficiaries with factories or places of work. And others start their own small businesses.”

Khodr explained that psychological support is offered to women whose husbands were martyred or kidnapped by the FSA or other terrorist groups and to victims of domestic violence. “We teach them to know their rights,” he said.

Children also received psychological support, and for children who have left school because of the war, the Trust gives them special classes to get caught up enough to return to schools.

“This applies to children up to baccalaureate level. We also have classes for people who never studied, elderly who don’t know how to write or read. They receive a certificate from the Syrian government.”

I asked about the women whose husbands might have been members of the FSA or other terrorist groups. “Aren’t you worried that the women will earn money and give it to their husband, to the fighters?”

Khoder replied, “The people who live here are very poor, very in need. They want to live, eat, sleep in peace, they won’t be giving their money to fighters, they need it simply to live. Here we work with beneficiaries as people, not numbers. Other NGOs (UN etc) you’ll see them working in high-class clothing. Here we work with them as brothers and sisters. We work with them whatever their religious or political view. We work with them as humans. They are our brothers and sisters in Syria.”

This last point, about how the Trust deals with those it helps, I saw for myself when Trust employees were talking with the injured soldiers receiving vocational training. They indeed took an interest in the soldiers’ lives, engaging with them as fellow Syrians, to the point that when it was learned that it was the one year birthday of a soldier’s daughter, a cake was procured and we visited the family.

Over the tabbouleh and kibbeh the family offered, as the birthday girl wobbled around the room charming all, the grandfather, himself having served many years in the army, spoke with pride about his wounded son’s service. The personal insights gleaned from conversations and from seeing the state of homes helps the Trust to assess their needs, even needs not mentioned by recipients themselves.

More misery from the West: increased sanctions

In 2020, it’s no secret, and no longer debatable, that the misery Syria’s people have faced for almost a decade—the relentless, savage, terrorism of civilians and military alike—is a product of Western, particularly American, covert and overt meddling.

Western countries use forums like the United Nations as well as government-funded media to further their goals and distort the reality about events on the ground in Syria. The West supports terrorist gangs who have slaughtered and pillaged since the war on Syria started in 2011. In fact, the West and its Gulf allies instigated the non-revolution, flooding money and weapons into Syria before the first protests even emerged.

AsI wrote in 2015:


In 2002, then-Under Secretary of State John Bolton added Syria (and Libya, Cuba) to the “rogue states” of George W Bush’s “Axis of Evil,”…meaning Syria was on the list of countries to “bring democracy to” (aka destroy) even back then.

Anthony Cartalucci’s “U.S. Planned Syrian Civilian Catastrophe Since 2007” laid out a number of pivotal statements and events regarding not only the war on Syria but also the events which would be falsely-dubbed the “Arab Spring.” Points include:

  • General Wesley Clark’s revelation of U.S. plans to destroy the governments of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran.
  • Seymour Hersh’s 2007 “The Redirection” on NATO and allies’ arming and training of sectarian extremists to create sectarian divide in Lebanon, Syria and beyond.

The 2009 Brookings Institution report, “Which Path to Persia?,” on plans to weaken Syria and Lebanon, to later attack Iran.

Further, asreported:

  • U.S. funding to the Syrian opposition began flowing under the Bush administration in 2005.
  • Since its founding in October 2011, the Syrian National Council has received $20.4 million from Libya, $15 million from Qatar, $5 million from the UAE.

Former French Minister for Foreign Affairs, Roland Dumas, in aJune 2013 TV interview spoke of his meeting (two years prior) with British officials who confessed that:

Britain was organizing an invasion of rebels into Syria. This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned….”


The Caesar Act

The recent passage of the Caesar Act is the newest level of criminality targeting Syria, even the name of the act is based on a lie. An implementation of yet further brutal sanctions against the people of Syria, it will cause immense suffering, all under the premise of targeting Syria’s leadership and helping Syria’s people. The flawed and hypocritical logic is one which the U.S. has applied to tens of nations who have refused to cower to its hegemony.

Even U.S. envoy for Syria James Jeffrey has acknowledged America’s intentional destruction of Syria’s economy, allegedly stating recently that the sanctions, “contributed to the collapse of the value of the Syrian pound… the Syrian regime is no longer able to manage an effective economic policy… due to the economic crisis that is also affecting Lebanon. ”

In the same statement, Jeffrey claimed the sanctions will “protect” Syrians, a comment far from reality.

Recall that after the sanctions-induced murder of between one million-one and a half million civilians in Iraq, the Western narrative of sanctions as merely targeting leaders of nations has long been exposed for the malevolent lie that it is.

The website Sanctions Kill notes that “Sanctions are imposed by the United States and its junior partners against countries that resist their agendas. They are a weapon of Economic War, resulting in chronic shortages of basic necessities, economic dislocation, chaotic hyperinflation, artificial famines, disease, and poverty. In every country, the poorest and the weakest – infants, children, the chronically ill and the elderly – suffer the worst impact of sanctions.”

In Venezuela, sanctions led to the deaths of 40,000 Venezuelans in 2018 alone.

Heavily-sanctioned for years, Syria faces the same risks.

As Syrian-American activist, Johnny Achi, told me:

The sanctions on Syria have been imposed since I could remember. Firstly in 1979, when the U.S. first designated Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism for its roll in support of the PLO and the Palestinian cause.

‏In 2004, a new set of sanctions was imposed by Bush the son after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and after Syria refusing to kneel to the demands of the new world order.

Since the so-called “uprisings” began in March 2011, the Obama administration intensely pursued calibrated sanctions to deprive the Syrian government of the resources it needs to quell the terror and violence inflicted on the Syrian population by Obama’s supported Nusra and ISIS terror groups, and to pressure the Syrian president to give in and resign, “to allow for a democratic transition as the Syrian people demand.” Which could not be further away from the truth, since President Assad, by most Western reports, continued to enjoy no less than 70% popularity amongst all Syrians.

All these sanctions up to the new Caesar Act were bearable since Syria has always pride itself of being self-sufficient economically and never needed help from the international community, and refused to be in debt to the IMF or the World Bank.

The Caesar Act of 2019 came in direct response to the series of victories by the Syrian Army against terrorists across the whole country, setting the stage to the final battle of Idlib, the terrorists’ final hotbed.”

Under the sanctions levied by the Caesar Act, Syria cannot import vital medications or the materials to produce them, including for cancer, hypertension, and other critical ailments. Sanctioning Syria’s ability to import medicines, medical equipment, and among many other things, materials for rebuilding, is criminal and an act of terrorism.

As I wrote in a December 2019 editorial for RT:


When I was in Syria last October, a man told me his wife had been diagnosed with breast cancer, but because of the sanctions he couldn’t get her the conventional treatments most in the West would avail of.

In 2016, in Aleppo, before it was liberated of al-Qaeda and co, Dr. Nabil Antaki told me how –because of the sanctions– it had taken him well over a year to get a simple part for his gastroenterology practise.

In 2015, visiting Damascus’ University Hospital, where bed after bed was occupied by a child maimed by terrorists’ shelling (from Ghouta), a nurse told me:

“We have so many difficulties to ensure that we have antibiotics, specialized medicines, maintenance of the equipment… Because of the sanctions, many parts are not available, we have difficulties obtaining them.


In 2018, Syria’s Minister of Health told me that Syria had formerly been dubbed by the World Health Organization a “pioneer state” in providing health care.

“Syria had 60 pharmaceutical factories and was exporting medicine to 58 countries. Now, 16 of these factories are out of service. Terrorists partially or fully destroyed 46 hospitals and 620 medical centers,” he told me.

I asked the minister about the complex in Barzeh, targeted with missile strikes by the U.S. and its allies in April 2018. It turns out that it was part of the Ministry of Health and manufactured cancer treatment medications as well as antidotes for snake or scorpion bites and stings, the antidote also serving as a basic material in the manufacture of many other medicines.

Syrian-American doctor Hussam al-Samman told me about his efforts to send chemotherapy medications to Syria for cancer patients in remission. He jumped through the various hoops of America’s unforgiving bureaucracy to no avail. It was never possible in the first place.

We managed to get a meeting in the White House. We met Rob Malley, a top-notch assistant or adviser of Obama at that time. I asked them: ‘How in the world could your heart let you block chemotherapy from going to people with cancer in Syria?’

The U.S. and allied Western countries imposing the sanctions on Syria should be imprisoned for their crimes against humanity and their support of terrorism in Syria. Yet, there is never justice and the criminals run the show.

Fares Shehabi, a Syrian member of Parliament from Aleppo, highlighted the attack on his country’s economy in 2011:

…when EU backed “rebels” began a systematic campaign of burning & looting thousands of factories in Aleppo, including my own!” The EU, he continued, “sanctioned the Syrian economy to make things worse for our people!”

The latest round of sanctions against Syria, which came into effect on June 17, will target not only the people but also Syria’s ability to rebuild the country. This includes rebuilding the city of Raqqa, utterly destroyed by the U.S.-led coalition in Syria, whose presence is in violation of international law and of Syria’s sovereignty.

“Sanctions Kill” also notes, that, “Currencies are devalued and inflated when sanctions are levied. Countries are pressured to stop doing business with targeted countries. The first sectors affected are generally medicines, cost of food, power, water treatment and other essential human needs. Sanctions violate international law, the UN charter, Geneva and Nuremberg conventions because they target civilians by economic strangulation, creating famines, life threatening shortages, and economic chaos.”

According to the World Food Program, “7.9 million Syrians are food insecure – an increase of 22 percent in just one year. Syria is in the grip of a severe economic crisis, and this is driving levels of food insecurity. Rising food and fuel prices and a depreciating informal exchange rate are making it more difficult for families to access the food they need.”

This is precisely what is occurring in Syria, which, with the help of its allies, is attempting to rebuild. US sanctions will hinder the rebuilding process.

The other day I was chatting with a college student, Naji Kaskas, about how this new round of heightened sanctions affects him. He said:

I started working this year, my savings are in Syrian pounds. Now, they’ve lost half their value, or more. This Caesar Act, what it already has done to us is to contribute to the collapse of the Syrian currency.

We’re unable to buy food like chicken and meat, now, they’re way too expensive. Even milk. We’re not living a normal life, we have anxiety because our future is not stable.

Before, 500 Syrian pounds were equal to US$1 (Note: before 2011 it was around 50 Syrian pounds to the dollar). Now, it has reached 3,000 Syrian pounds, so our salaries are much less now.”

Jordanian political figures denounced the heightened sanctions appropriately as “economic terrorism”, calling them “one of the most dangerous types of crimes against humanity.”

Syrian-American activist Johnny Achi has been back to Syria countless times during the war, including since early 2011. He has seen the effects of the war and also the effects of the sanctions. He told me:

These final sanctions have broken the back of Syrians, whom after 10 years of war are exhausted, resources depleted, and simply put, were looking forward to the rebuilding process and the economic recovery. And that is precisely what these sanctions are meant to stop. Any country, or entity that attempts to help Syria gets back on its feet, will too become a target of the brutal US sanctions.

In a nutshell, what they could not take from us by force, they’re trying to take by punishing and starving an entire population.

But we will always remain resisting. After all that we’ve been through, and all the sacrifices we paid, we have no choice but to continue to live free or die free.”

Indeed, the people of Syria are fighting for their country, families and future, at great personal expense. Meanwhile, the US does everything in its power to destroy their future, country and livelihoods.

Who is really the terrorist state here?

Palestinian-led forces take the fight to ISIS in Syrian desert region: video

By News Desk -2020-06-10

BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:30 P.M.) – The Palestinian-led Jerusalem Brigade (Turkish occupation’s mercenaries set fire to large areas of wheat and barley fields in the RasAl-Ain countryside) has been conducting a wide-scale combing operation against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh) in the vast Syrian desert region recently.

Backed by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the Jerusalem Brigade has been eliminating Islamic State hideouts and dens, while also clearing areas believed to harbor Islamic State sleeper cells in the Badiya Al-Sham region between the governorates of Homs, Damascus, and Deir Ezzor.

Thus far, the operation has proven successful, as the Jerusalem Brigade has forced the Islamic State terrorists to either surrender themselves, fight, or flee further into this vast desert region.

In a video released by the Palestinian-led group this week, they can be seen blowing up ISIS bases and attacking the terrorist group throughout the Badiya Al-Sham region.

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ISRAEL STRIKES SENSITIVE TARGETS IN SYRIA. IEDS EXPLODE NEAR TURKISH-RUSSIAN PATROL

South Front

Early on June 5, the Israeli Air Force conducted strikes on a Syrian military facility near Masyaf. The strikes were conducted from Lebanese airspace. The Syrian Air Defense Forces intercepted several missiles, however the rest hit their targets. The bombed facility, which is run by the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, is reportedly involved in the development and manufacturing of missiles.

Two improvised explosive devices exploded near a joint Russian-Turkish patrol moving along the M4 highway in southern Idlib on June 4. The explosions happened when the patrol was passing the militant-held town of Arihah. However, they caused no damage to military vehicles or casualties among Turkish or Russian personnel. Despite the incident, the 15th joint patrol became even longer than all the previous ones. It started in the government-held town of Tronba bypassed Arihah and reached the village of Kafer Shalaya.

The slowly but steadily expanding length of Russian-Turkish patrols is a visual confirmation of the implementation of the de-escalation deal reached by Moscow and Ankara. At the same time, the full implementation of the deal still faces serious difficulties due to the presence of terrorist groups in the area. For example, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham militants are still in control of Arihah and recent developments show that they are not planning to sit there idly.

Ankara understands this and its forces continue expanding a network of observation posts along the M4 highway to secure the patrols. Recently, the Turkish Army set up positions near Bsanqul, Kafer Shalaya, Urum al-Jawz and Mareian. Nonetheless, without proactive measures to put an end to the terrorist threat, the situation cannot be changed strategically.

Just recently, a new wave of violence rolled across the militant-held part of Greater Idlib after Hayat Tahrir al-Sham detained a member of another radical militant group – Houras al-Din. The militant was detained when he was collecting taxes from locals for military purposes and kept in a Hayat Tahrir al-Sham-run prison in Jisr al-Shughur. Later, Houras al-Din fighters stormed the prison and freed their counterpart.

Earlier, Houras al-Din and the Turkistan Islamic Party criticized Hayat Tahrir al-Sham for having too soft a stance towards the Russian-Turkish de-escalation agreement in southern Idlib. Tensions, caused by the internal struggle for influence and resources, often grow among Idlib militant groups during the ceasefire phases of the conflict. Therefore, if some power wants to unite them and use them as at least a relatively homogenous force, a new escalation would be very useful.

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VIOLENCE AND CHAOS SPREAD IN TURKISH-OCCUPIED PART OF SYRIA

South Front

Turkish-backed militant groups continue fighting each other in northern Syria.

On June 2, clashes broke out among members of the Sultan Murad Division, the al-Hamza Division and Ahrar al-Sharqiya in the villages of Bab al-Khair and Um Ushba in the province of al-Hasakah. According to local sources, the tensions erupted when militants failed to settle their differences over the looting of the fields of crops, which they had seized from the locals.

A separate incident happened in the town of al-Bab in the province of Aleppo early on June 3. The so-called Free Syrian Police (FSP) confronted their counterparts from other Turkish-backed groups after the FSP had detained a woman supposedly linked to ISIS. Last weekend, several civilians had already been injured in a firefight between the FSP and other armed groups.

Another problem is the regular occurrence of assassinations and bombing attacks happening in the Turkish-occupied area. On June 3, an explosion of a booby-trapped motorcycle in the village of al-Beshar injured one person and caused a fire in local wheat and barley fields. A day earlier, a civilian was killed and at least 3 others injured in a supposed IED explosion in the border town of Jarabulus. A car bomb also exploded in the village of Jenderes.

The total death toll from infighting among Turkish-backed militants and from various security incidents is over a dozen civilians in the past week alone.

At the same time, Syrian government forces have been putting extensive effort into securing the civilian areas that they have liberated from militants. Late on June 2, government troops announced that they had found and dismantled over 700 landmines and explosive devices in the area east of the town of Salamiya in Hama province.

Units of the Syrian Army also conducted a new anti-ISIS raid in the countryside of Palmyra. This time they were able to detect and destroy an ISIS position southeast of the ancient city. An active search operation is ongoing near the village of Maadan in Raqqa province after a supposed ISIS cell staged an IED attack there.

The contact line between the Syrian Army and militants in southern Idlib remains in a stable instable situation. Recently, clashes between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and the army have been reported north of Hantutin and west of al-Jaradah.

Meanwhile, on June 2, the Turkish Army and the Russian Military Police held a 14th joint patrol along the M4 highway. The patrol started east of Saraqib and reached the western entrance to Ariha amid protests by supporters of Idlib radicals. Videos and photos from the Ariha entrance also showed lots of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham flags confirming that the town is currently in the hands of the terrorists. Further patrols to the area west of Ariha are not possible as long as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham maintains its positions there.

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RUSSIAN WARPLANES IN LIBYA

South Front

27.05.2020 

The US has finally discovered whom to blame for the ongoing escalation of the conflict in Libya.

On May 26, the US African Command (AFRICOM) claimed that Russia had deployed warplanes to Libya to support the Libyan National Army of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. It said that Russia is expanding its “military footprint in Africa using government-supported mercenary groups like Wagner”. According to the US military, “If Russia seizes basing on Libya’s coast, the next logical step is they deploy permanent long-range anti-access area denial (A2AD) capabilities.” This, AFRICOM warned, “will create very real security concerns on Europe’s southern flank”. On top of this, it declared, as might be expected, that it is the Russians who are destabilizing the situation in the country; like there was no 2011 NATO invasion that destroyed Libyan statehood and threw the country into a state of permanent chaos.

To make the fearmongering more successful, the Pentagon released shady undated photos of Russian MiG-29, Su-24, Su-34, and Su-35s flying at undisclosed locations and an image of the Al-Jufra air field in Libya with a single MiG-29.

Earlier in May, sources loyal to the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord reported that the Libyan National Army received 8 fighter jets restored thanks to Russian assistance: six MiG-29s and two Sukhoi 24s. Then, pro-Turkish sources also shared an image of the Al-Jufra air field with a single MiG-29 fighter jet to confirm their claims. Where the rest of the air fleet supposedly supplied by Moscow to Haftar forces might be remains unclear. Another interesting question is where are those hordes of Russian private military contractors that US and Turkish officials like to mention in their reports. While the presence of some Russian PMCs in the country is an open secret, photo and video evidence on the ground demonstrate that the scale of their presence is highly overestimated by mainstream media and Western diplomats. Additionally, Moscow’s actions demonstrate that it prefers to avoid a direct involvement in the conflict.

However, if Turkey and NATO member states continue sending their own military specialists, weapons and military equipment to radical, al-Qaeda-like militant groups operating under the brand of the Government of National Accord, Russia really could consider joining more directly the efforts of the UAE and Egypt, who back the Libyan National Army. Until now, Moscow has been mostly focused on providing a distant diplomatic support to them.

Meanwhile, the number of militants deployed by Turkey from Syria’s northwest to Libya to fight on the side of the Government of National Accord reportedly reached 8,000. A large part of them either sympathizes with al-Qaeda ideology or has been directly involved in cooperation with the former official branch of al-Qaeda in Syria, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Over the past years, the Libyan National Army has broken the backs of al-Qaeda-linked groups and cleared them from most of the country. The local branch of ISIS also lost its positions in northern Libya due to its inability to come to an understanding with pro-GNA forces and their foreign backers. But now, the growing terrorist threat is once again becoming an important factor of the conflict.

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RUSSIANS REOPEN CHUNK OF M4 HIGHWAY IN NORTHEASTERN SYRIA

South Front

 26.05.2020 

A part of the M4 highway between the towns of Ayn Issa and Tell Tamir in northeastern Syria has been reopened for civilian traffic. This chunk of the highway is located close to the contact line with the Turkish-occupied area. In previous months, the constant threat of attacks by Turkish-led forces disrupted the movement of civilian vehicles in the area. However, now, the highway is reopened under the supervision of the Russian Military Police. This step will contribute to the strengthening of commercial and social ties between the cities of Aleppo and Hasakah, and the stability in the region, in general.

The reopening of the M4 highway in northeastern Syria did not occur without incidents. Just a few days ago, on May 23, US forces briefly blocked a Russian Military Police convoy east of Tell Tamr. Pro-Damascus sources say that the US-led coalition may try to oppose the restoration of commercial and social links between the government-controlled part of Syria and the areas that remain in the hands of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

At the same time, the Syrian Army, the National Defense Forces and their allies continued operations against ISIS in southern Raqqah, western Deir Ezzor and southern Mayadin. The anti-ISIS efforts were coordinated with the combing operation led by Liwa al-Quds and the National Defense Forces in the countryside of Palmyra. Despite this, ISIS cells still remain active on the both banks of the Euphrates and in the desert area between Palmyra and al-Tanf.

The Turkish military reportedly deployed an MIM-23 Hawk medium-range air defense system in the vicinity of the town of Almastumah in southern Idlib. Earlier in 2020, Turkey sent several MIM-23 Hawk systems to Idlib to support its attack on the Syrian Army there. Now, Ankara is apparently working to strengthen the air defense and EW capabilities of its contingent deployed in the area. According to different sources, the number of Turkish troops in Greater idlib varies from 7,000 to 10,000.

Despite the large Turkish military presence, radical groups have a freedom of actions in their attempts to consolidate their efforts to oppose the implementation of the de-escalation agreement in southern Idlib. Houras al-Din and the Turkistan Islamic Party, both groups allied with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, united their propaganda efforts in the push against the implementation of the de-escalation deal and the expansion of the Russian-Turkish troops within the agreed to security zone on part of the M4 highway in southern Idlib. Right now, these groups are conducting no notable offensive operations or attack on the Syrian Army. Nonetheless, they are actively recruiting new members and training them in the camps created across the region. In these conditions, a new round of escalation is just a matter of time.

ISRAEL STRIKES SYRIA TO KEEP THE USA IN THE LEVANT. 20 YEARS AFTER THE UNCONDITIONAL ISRAELI WITHDRAWAL FROM LEBANON, WHAT HAS BEEN ACHIEVED? (2)

Posted on  by Elijah J Magnier

By Elijah J. Magnier: @ejmalrai

Following its defeat in the second war on Lebanon, Israel discovered that its only way to suppress Hezbollah would be to close the supply line between Lebanon and Syria. That could only be achieved by removing President Bashar al-Assad from power, disrupting the “Axis of the Resistance” that extends from Tehran to Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Gaza. But Israel and the US, supported by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the Emirates, Turkey, Europe and many other countries all failed to achieve their goal of making Syria a failed state. President Assad called upon his allies whose own national security was in jeopardy. If Syria were to fall, jihadists of al-Qaeda and the “Islamic State” would be fighting in the streets of Beirut, Baghdad and Tehran. The jihadists would also be powerful enough to remove Russia from its Syrian naval base and to export the war beyond the Levant’s borders. So, Israel and the US failed to destroy Syria and to corner Hezbollah. On the contrary, Hezbollah has become stronger than ever. The Resistance has reaped the harvest of its victory. It has become the decision-maker with key institutions in Lebanon.

Israel sought to destroy Hezbollah because it is an obstacle to Israel’s expansionist plans in Lebanon, namely to steal Lebanon’s water and some of its territories, to force a peace deal of unconditional surrender, to break Lebanon’s alliance with Iran and deprive Tehran of its strongest ally in the Middle East. For the last forty years, since the victory of the “Islamic Republic” in 1979 led by Imam Ruhollah Khomeini which unseated the US proxy ruler, the Shah of Iran, Washington has imposed sanctions, because Iran has refused to submit to US power and because it supports its allies in the Middle East, mainly Palestine, Lebanon and Syria, to stand against Israel. 

In 2006, the US was involved in the planning of Israel’s war on Lebanon. At the 2006 G8 Summit, President George W. Bush described the relationship between Hezbollah, Iran and Syria as one of the root causes of “instability”: “The World must deal with Hezbollah, with Syria, and continue to work to isolate Iran.” (Roshandel J. & Lean C.N. (2011) Iran, Israel and the United States, ABC-CLIO, CA, p. 109). 

US Secretary Condoleezza Rice refused to mediate a ceasefire unless “the conditions are conducive”, thinking Israel would win the war. Hezbollah was not only left on its own to face the US and Israel, but Lebanese US-Saudi proxies (Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Druse leader Walid Jumblat) supported the position of the US and Israel, and argued that there was “no point in a ceasefire.” (Wilkins H. (2013). The Making Of Lebanese Foreign Policy: understanding the 2006 Hezbollah-Israeli War, Routledge, Introduction). 

When Israel failed to achieve its objectives, the US agreed to mediate an end to the war. Negotiations concentrated on ceasing all hostilities (not a ceasefire) between the two countries. Tel Aviv and Washington failed to obtain the deployment of United Nations Forces in Lebanon, UNIFIL, on the borders with Syria. The US sought to accommodate Israel in its attempt to gain by negotiation what it failed to achieve using its huge war machine in 33 days of the war in 2006. “Israel’s objective was never realistic”, said Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

When its attempt to control the Lebanese-Syrian borders failed after its defeat in the 2006 war, Israel had one remaining option with which to counter Hezbollah: close the road via Damascus and find a way to curb Hezbollah’s supply line. This required war on Syria.

Since confronting Hezbollah face-face was no longer an option, Syria became the next target in the campaign to isolate Iran, as President Bush declared. The motives behind the war in Syria have been erroneously described by many researchers and analysts around the globe, who have depicted the war as the outcome of an “Arab Spring” against a dictatorial regime. Yet Saudi Arabia, Bahrein and other Gulf countries have been ruled by dictatorships and the same family members for decades and indeed are considered by the west as its closest- oil-rich- partners!

Actually, the war on Syria started just after the al-Qaeda 9/11 attack on the US. Four-star US general Wesley Clark disclosed Washington’s plan as he learned of it in the days after 9/11: “occupy Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and finish with Iran.” Just a few months after the US invasion of Iraq, US Secretary of State Colin Powell visited President Bashar al-Assad and warned him that the US would invade Syria if he refused to interrupt his support for the anti-Israel organisations, Hezbollah and the Palestinian groups: the Syrian president would share the same fate as the Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq was far from being a piece of cake. The US occupation generated new resistance among both Sunni and the Shia. This encouraged President Assad to rebuff the US threat, unaware of what the future held for Syria. Dozens of states, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Turkey, the Emirates, Europe and the US all supported a regime change operation via Takfiri proxies. But the consequences of destabilising Syria gave a unique opportunity for al-Qaeda to blossom in Syria and a more lethal group emerged, the “Islamic State” ISIS. President Assad called upon his few allies, Iran, Russia and Hezbollah, to stand against the massive coalition gathered to create this failed state in Syria. The Syrian war which ensued offered unprecedented experience to the Syrian army, gave birth to a new Syrian resistance and offered unique warfare knowledge to Hezbollah, with a base for Iran that Tehran could never before have dreamed of having in the Levant.

Hezbollah had forced unconditional Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in the year 2000 and challenged all those Israeli-US plans for a “new Middle East” after the second Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006. And the long nine years of war in Syria Hezbollah forced Hezbollah to refine its tactics and armaments and provided Hezbollah with an unprecedented victory. Just as Israel had boosted the creation of Hezbollah, it taught this quasi-state actor all manner of skills and forced it to acquire more training and weapons to repel wars and dismantle the enemy’s objectives. Israel’s former Chief of Staff and Prime Ministerial candidate Benny Gantz believed that Hezbollah had become one of the strongest irregular-organised armies in the Middle East, capable of imposing its rules of engagement and its “balance of deterrence” on the strongest classical army in the Middle East. 

“Show me four or five states with more firepower than Hezbollah: they are the US, China, Russia, Israel, France, & the UK,” Gantz said when speaking at the 2014 Herzliya Conference.

That was Israel’s assessment in 2014. Six years later, last February, Israel’s minister of defence Naftali Bennet said: “For every convoy you hit, you miss five convoys and slowly Hezbollah accumulates the critical mass of rockets [missiles] that threaten us.”

Hezbollah has become stronger than many armies in the Middle East. Hezbollah is no longer the organisation that clashes with the Israelis on a hill or site or ambushes a patrol behind an alley. Rather, in Syria and Iraq, it has successfully experienced different warfare scenarios. It has acquired many advanced weapons and became a strategic threat to Israel if it ever contemplated waging outright war on Lebanon and Syria.

Israel set as its goal bringing down Assad in Syria and separating Syria from the “Axis of Resistance.” Israeli defence minister Moshe Ya’alon said that “Israel prefers ISIS on its borders over Assad.” But Israel, America, Europe, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Emirates have lost the war. Israel has now chosen to maintain the conflict because it fears that America would let go. This is why Israel is hitting hundreds of targets in Syria, -most of the time without no strategic value whatsoever.

Sources in the “Axis of Resistance” in Syria say that “Israel targeted the Iranian HQ at Damascus airport (a building with green glass where Israel destroyed two floors). The following day, Iran restored it and it is back in operation.  Israel has repeatedly targeted warehouses with Iranian weapons but also an abandoned training centre in the Kiswa area that has been empty for years. Their aim is to signal to the US that Israel is threatened and that the departure of the US forces would constitute a threat to Israel’s national security. It is indeed too late for Israeli jets to make any difference to Syria’s capabilities. Iran is not exporting weapons but manufacturing them. If it took Israel 9 years and 300 bombing raids to destroy Iranian warehouses in Syria, it took Iran only one year to refill and equip the Syrian army with much more sophisticated precision missiles- and all strategic missiles are in underground warehouses.”

Iran has only a few hundred advisers and officers in Syria, but it leads some tens of thousands of allies from Lebanon, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and auxiliary Syrian forces that resemble irregular-organised military formations. 

In Syria, Hezbollah was able to operate in an area ten times the size of Lebanon, which gave it a unique experience any army in the world would have wished to have. It was also subjected to attacks by a NATO member, Turkey, which used armed drones on the battlefield. That provided Hezbollah with a wealth of experience and taught them lessons that have become integrated into curricula at military schools and colleges in Iran with Hezbollah and their allies.

President Assad does not say that it is time for his allies (especially Hezbollah) to leave Syria. Rather, he says – according to this source – that “Syria has a debt to Hezbollah. Wherever Hezbollah wants to be, it will be also Syria’s wishes.” America and Israel created an unbreakable alliance between Syria, Iran and Hezbollah.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah has started to harvest its gains. Hezbollah was able to impose the name of the President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, despite repeated opposition from Saudi Arabia and the US, the losers in the Syrian war. Lebanon remained without a president for several months until General Aoun assumed the presidency.

Hezbollah rejected multiple offers from different countries by giving the Presidency of the Parliament to anyone other than President Nabih Berri, leader of the Amal movement, who has been on this throne for decades. Hezbollah holds the real power – though not all of it – in Lebanon to call for the appointment of the President of the Republic and the Speaker of the Parliament.

As for the premiership, it cannot be assumed without Hezbollah’s approval of the candidate. Hezbollah has sufficient political weight within the House of Representatives and the Presidency of the Republic to nominate or accept the nomination or direct the appointing of a prime minister. Former prime minister Saad Hariri is making sure his daily friendly contacts with Hezbollah are maintained because he would very much like to return to power. Hariri knows that the door to the premiership goes through one gate: Hezbollah.

This does not mean that Hezbollah wants to take control of Lebanon as a whole. Hezbollah leaders are aware that the Druse leader Kamal Jumblatt, Sunni leader Rafic Hariri, the Maronite Christian leader Bashir Gemayel and the Palestinians have all failed in controlling Lebanon and seizing the country. Hezbollah does not want to succumb to the same mistakes and doesn’t wish to control all of Lebanon. This means that the counter influence of other countries exists and is well-rooted in Lebanon. For example, the US ambassador in Beirut is threatening the Lebanese government with a warning not to remove the Central Bank Governor Riad Salama. Also, the US removed a Lebanese-Israeli agent, Amer Al-Fakhouri, via a plane which landed him at the US embassy without taking into consideration Lebanese sovereignty. The US supports the Lebanese army and internal security forces to maintain its dominance over certain key figures.

Syria has given the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, powers in Lebanon that he would not have obtained without the intervention of Israel and the allies in Syria. Hezbollah has managed to preserve its military pipeline via Syria by defeating the Takfiris (al-Qaeda and ISIS) and has prevented them from establishing an “Islamic emirate” in Lebanon and Syria.

Hezbollah’s victory comes at a price: thousands of martyrs and thousands of wounded. However, the resulting harvest is so abundant and strategic that the Lebanese Shiites now enjoy more power in Lebanon and Bilad al-Sham than they have since the year 661 when the fourth caliphate’s Imam Ali bin Abi Talib was killed.

Proofread by:  C.G.B. and Maurice Brasher

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Imam Khamenei: There Is No Crime Equivalent to the Theft of Palestine, ’Israel’ to Be Uprooted

Imam Khamenei: There Is No Crime Equivalent to the Theft of Palestine, ’Israel’ to Be Uprooted

By Staff

Leader of the Islamic Revolution His Eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei marked International al-Quds Day this year by referring to it as a smart announcement from late Imam Khomeini with smart innovation, which came to link Muslims with Palestine.

Imam Khamenei delivered the Quds Day Sermon with a plate behind him that read “We Will Pray in al-Quds”.

His Eminence urged the confrontation of the absenteeism of the Palestinian issue, which is woven by the agents of political and cultural enemies of the Islamic countries.

“In the recent ages, there is no crime that is equivalent to the theft of Palestine and the cultivation of the cancerous Zionist gland in it,” Imam Khamenei pointed out, adding that the main criminal in the tragedy of Palestine is the policy of western countries and the division of lands under the Ottoman government.

After World War II, Western countries took advantage of the regional countries’ negligence to declare the Zionist ‘state’, Imam Khamenei said, noting that “the main goal of Westerners and Jewish cartels in creating the Zionist entity was to build a base for their presence and influence.”

“Unfortunately, most Arab countries, that had shown resistance to the Zionist entity, began to gradually surrender. After their jihadist operations, the Palestinian fighting factions have followed a disappointing approach of negotiating with the occupier,” His Eminence underscored.

With the emergence of the resistance front, Imam Khamenei highlighted that the obstacles facing the Zionist entity became harder and harder, stressing that the Zionists and the global Arrogance are seeking to marginalize the Palestinian cause.

He noted, however, that the struggle for Palestine is a jihad for the sake of God and an Islamic obligation, then slammed that action of occupying a country and committing such crimes against its people for decades as being, in fact, a new record of barbarism in human history.

Imam Khamenei further said that negotiations with America and other western governments, and also negotiations with useless international groups, were bitter and unsuccessful experiences for Palestine.

Yasser Arafat's Speech at the UN General Assembly Olive Branch ...

Holding out an olive branch at the United Nations General Assembly had no result other than the injurious Oslo Accords, and it led to the eye-opening fate of Yasser Arafat, Imam Khamenei said.

His Eminence also noted that the Zionist regime will encounter even more problems in the future, God willing.

He further lashed out at human rights defenders, considering that “The slogan for defending the rights of women and children in international forums does not include defending the rights of women and children in Yemen and Palestine.”

His Eminence then asked: Who is responsible for all this blood that has been unlawfully shed in Afghanistan, Palestine, Yemen, Libya, Syria and other countries?

Praising the Islamic Resistance movements, Imam Khamenei said:

“The emergence of the faithful, young, self-sacrificing force of Hezbollah in Lebanon and the formation of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine unsettled and alarmed the Zionist ringleaders and the US.”

“The resistance front is moving with increasing power and hope, and it marches on towards attracting increasing elements of power,” he stressed.

On the other side, Imam Khamenei labelled the opposing front of oppression, unbelief and arrogance as being more hollow, hopeless and powerless.

Imam Khamenei also touched upon the struggle to liberate Palestine, saying it is Jihad in the way of God, and it is an obligation and an Islamic goal.

Imam Khamenei then warned those who consider the concessions made by a few Palestinian elements or rulers of a few Arab countries as a license to sidestep this Islamic and human issue, telling them that they are making a grave mistake.

“The aim of this struggle is the liberation of all the Palestinian lands – from the river to the sea – and the return of all Palestinians to their homeland,” Imam Khamenei emphasized.

His Eminence also lashed out at the world, which is today counting every victim of the coronavirus across the globe, but nobody of them has asked who is responsible for the hundreds of thousands of martyrdoms where America and Europe have waged wars.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon have been a proof for everyone, Imam Khamenei stated, stressing that the world has not forgotten and will not forget the day when the Zionist army broke through the Lebanese borders and marched till Beirut or the day when a criminal murderer named Ariel Sharon caused a bloodbath in Sabra and Shatila.

The “Israeli” army, which was pounded by Hezbollah, had no choice but to retreat from the borders of Lebanon and beg for a truce after sustaining heavy casualties and admitting defeat, Imam Khamenei said.

Meanwhile, “the European government, which should be eternally ashamed for selling chemical agents to the regime of Saddam Hussein, designate the devoted Hezbollah as illegal.”

“Illegal is a regime like the US that creates Daesh and a regime like the European governments whose chemical agents caused the death of thousands in Iran and Iraq,” Imam Khamenei stressed.

“My final word is that Palestine belongs to the Palestinians; therefore, it should be run as they wish,” Imam Khamenei concluded.

His Eminence, on this day, said he would like to remember the martyrs of Quds Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, Fathi Shaqaqi, Sayyed Abbas al-Moussawi, Martyr Soleimani, and also the great Iraqi Mujahid Martyr Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Shamkhani’s Message Marking Lebanon’s “May Glory” via Al-Ahed: Iran Steadfast in Supporting the Resistance Front

Shamkhani’s Message Marking Lebanon’s “May Glory” via Al-Ahed: Iran Steadfast in Supporting the Resistance Front

By Mokhtar Haddad – Al-Ahed News Website

Tehran – On the twentieth anniversary of South Lebanon’s liberation from the Zionist entity’s profanity, which marks the twenty years on the Resistance and Liberation Day, Advisor to Leader of the Islamic Revolution His Eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei, and the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani addressed, in a special message via al-Ahed News website, the Lebanese government, people and resistance with the following text:

In the Name of Allah the Beneficent the Merciful

{Indeed, the party of Allah – they will be the predominant} – Holy Quran, al-Ma’idah 56

I congratulate the people, government and Islamic Resistance in Lebanon on the Resistance Day and the anniversary of South Lebanon’s liberation from the profanity of the Zionist occupation thanks to the efforts of the resistance men.

This occasion, which coincided with the anniversary of the major conquests during the Sacred Defense era in which the city of Khorramshahr was liberated, has revealed that the power of belief and faith is the upper power that is capable of burying the arrogant satanic conspiracies.

Today, the Lebanese Islamic Resistance’s capabilities have emerged while achieving a balance of powers against the Zionist entity in the region. It was crystal-clear after the liberation of South Lebanon in 2000, expelling the Zionists during the 2006 33-day war, as well as in confronting the Zio-Takfiri plots, that the resistance’s might is growing bigger every day.

There is no minimum doubt that Hezbollah is the strongest defender of security in Lebanon, and the shield that is confronting the Zionist entity’s greed in this country. Hezbollah’s support of the resistance front at the frontlines has expelled the ghost of ‘Takfiri-Hebrew-American’ terrorism from the region and the world.

It is self-evident that without such sacrifices, the terrorist virus of “Daesh” [the Arabic acronym for ‘ISIS/ISIL’] and the Takfiri salafi movement has reached Europe and turned the green continent into ruins, just like the case in Aleppo, Palmyra, Mosul and Fallujah.

On this thorny humanitarian path, we mustn’t forget the role of the noble and great leaders such as Lieutenant General Martyr Hajj Qassem Soleimani, Martyr Hajj Imad Mughinyeh, Martyr Hajj Mustafa Badreddin (Sayyed Zolfiqar) in leading the resistance front. Those have spent their lives in raising the importance of the name of resistance, as well as guaranteeing the security of the peoples in the region and the world, in addition to cutting the hand of the proxy killers who are tools of the Western civilization.

Indeed, the Islamic Republic and the Iranian people will remain steadfast in supporting the resistance front and the Palestinian cause. We won’t submit to the pressures of the terrorist American regime, the first supporter of the child killer Zionist entity.

ISIS TERRORISTS ATTACK SYRIAN ARMY NEAR AL-SUKHNA

South Front

Video here

About 2 dozen Turkish-backed militants have been killed or wounded in a recent series of clashes in northern Syria. 14 of them were reportedly killed in a failed attack on positions of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) near Kubrlik overnight on May 17 and up to 10 were killed or injured in clashes near Hazwan on May 15. Reacting to its own failures, Turkish-backed forces carried out a series of mortar and artillery strikes on SDF positions near Ayn Issa, Tall Tamr and Tall Unayb on May 16, May 17 and early on May 18.

Firefights and artillery duels between Turkish-backed forces and the SDF regularly erupt in this part of Syria. However, both sides do not conduct large-scale offensive operations against each other and despite the violations the ceasefire regime formally remains in force.

On May 17, seven former ISIS members fled the SDF-controlled camp of al-Hawl in the province of al-Hasakah, which holds a large number of the former ISIS fighters and their families. Following the incident, SDF security forces in the area were placed on a high alert. The search operation has been ongoing. Some pro-Kurdish sources claim that the fleeing terrorists have been already detained, but these calms remain unconfirmed. This is the second security incident in al-Hawl in less than 10 days. On May 13, SDF security forces foiled a plot of ISIS wives to set the camp on fire and flee to Turkey.

Early on May 18 reports appeared that a drone strike allegedly struck the area near a convoy of the Syrian Army in the district of Maadan in Raqqa province. Several Syrian Army soldiers were reportedly wounded. It remains unclear who was behind the attack, but the two main suspects are Turkey and the US-led coalition.

On May 17, US armoured vehicles chased in the province of al-Hasakah a Russian military convoy with 150 tones of humanitarian aid being sent to civilians in northeastern Syria, but were unable to stop it.

A firefight between the Syrian Army and ISIS members erupted near the town of al-Sukhna, on the Homs-Deir Ezzor highway. According to reports, ISIS cells tried to cut off the road, but were forced to retreat. Regular attacks by ISIS cells operating in the desert area remain a notable security threat for government forces.

At the same time, the situation in Greater Idlib once again de-escalated. After failing to capture Tanjarah in northwestern Hama last week, al-Qaeda-linked groups reduced their activity on the frontline. Despite this, it’s highly likely that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its allies will conduct more limited attempts to expand their zone of control in southern Idlib and western Hama in the coming weeks.

Related

ISIS terrorists confess that they have carried out many operations in coordination with US occupation forces in al-Tanf base

ST

Thursday, 14 May 2020

During a security operation carried out with the help of the Syrian Badia’s residents, an ambush was set up against an ISIS terrorist group composed of 6 members where 3 of them were killed and the remaining ones were arrested.

The three arrested ISIS terrorists confessed that they perpetrated many terrorist operations, including murder, execution, kidnapping and acts of destruction .

Many of these terror operations were carried out upon coordination between ISIS ringleaders and US occupation forces that exist in al-Tanf area on the Syrian-Jordanian border.

The terrorist Salah Jaber al-Daher – AKA Abo Abdul Rahman al-Salafi, born in Idleb in 1998, said that he joined ISIS organization through one of his relatives [ called Abo Salam Omareyeh] who was among the members of this Takfiri organization and he exploited his need for money and introduced him to another person called Samer al-Bori, who transported him to Jabal al-Bashari area in the Syrian Badia where he was welcomed by ISIS terrorists , including Abo Islam. This took place in 2018.

On his part, the second terrorist Abo al-Baraa al-Homsi, born in Homs in 1999, said that he met a person called Firas al-Khalid in Homs city in 2017. This person had a clothes shop and proposed to give him USD 100-200 and to transport him to Raqqa to join ISIS. He accepted the proposal because he was in need of money.

The third terrorist, Amer Abdul Ghaffar Neameh- AKA Abo Swan- born in Hasaka in 2001, said that he communicated via Whatsapp with his cousin Wahid Meameh, who was in the Badia and he told him that he will get money and a car if he joins the organization.

The 3 terrorists confessed that they were trained for several weeks by ISIS judges, who told them that they are Jihadist and any person fighting against ISIS is an infidel. They were also trained on how to use guns and rockets, including US rockets.

The terrorists were introduced to the so-called ISIS emirs of several nationalities besides fighters of French, British and Indonesian nationalities.

As for some of the crimes in which those terrorists were involved, the first terrorist [ Abo Abdul Rahman al-Salafi] said that he killed 21 people while they were searching for truffles and he carried out operations against Syrian army’s convoys.

“We were setting up ambushes against the Syrian army and civilian cars in several areas in aal-Badia'” he added.

The terrorists stressed that they were receiving orders from US occupation forces in al-Tanf area. These occupation forces were ordering ISIS ringleader Hasan Alqam al-Jazrawi of Saudi nationality, to target Syrian army’ units, Palmyra, T4 airbase, oil fields in Palmyra region.

One of the terrorists said: ” A person closed to al-Jezrawi, his name was Hasan al-Wali, told me that he met Americans in al-Tanf base and they told him that we must attack Palmyra region and the T4 airbase and they will provide us with rocket launchers, guns, money, cars and drones. They downlaoded Tag program on their mobiles to observe the movements of the Syrian army. Al-Jazrawi said that he will do that but he needs time to bring fighters from Euphrates region because the current number is not enough”.
The terrorists asserted that there is coordination between ISIS ringleaders and the ringleaders of ” Maghawer al-Thawra” which is affiliated to the so-called the “Free army” in the vicinity of al-Tanf base.

The terrorists were ordered to keep in touch with their ringleaders in order to go in and out the base.
The terrorists cited that the ISIS terrorists were holding the kidnapped people in holes under the ground, in trenches and cars.

The Terrorist pointed out that there were negotiations between ISIS ringleaders in Raqqa and the ringleaders of the US-backed “Syrian Democratic Forces”.

One of the terrorists admitted that the US and SDF forces covered their move from Raqqa towards Der Ezzour.

The terrorists affirmed that three ISIS members : Abo Sofyan al-Jazrawi, Abo Jnid al-Halabi and Abo Brahim al-Demashqi, who were in charge of financial managent in Badia, were going every month to al-Tanf base to bring 3 trucks loaded with food, weapons and money ro be distributed among ISIS members in Badia region.

Every terrorist gets $100, while ringleaders gets $500 and the military Wali gets $1000.                              
Al-Tanf base was a safe place for terrorists to receive medical treatment when they were injured.

 Basma Qaddour

SECURITY FORCES FOIL PLOT BY TURKISH ISIS WIVES TO BURN AL-HAWL CAMP

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) security forces have foiled a plot by Turkish ISIS wives to burn the notorious al-Hawl camp in northeast Syria, the Hawar News Agency (ANHA) reported on May 13.

A security official in the al-Hawl camp told the news agency that the women wanted to use the fire as a cover to escape from the camp.

“We received information that ISIS women, bearing the Turkish citizenship, are stocking large quantities of gasoline and alcohol in their tents in the al-Muhajireen [the foreigners] section and preparing to set the camp on fire in order to provoke chaos and use it as a cover to escape,” the official told the ANHA.

The three Turkish women were apprehended by the camp’s security forces. Text messages with ISIS cells in Turkey and other parts of Syria were found on the women’s mobile phones.

Click to see full-size image. Source: hawarnews.com

More than 67,000 people, including 40,000 family members of ISIS fighters, are being held in the camp, that’s located in the eastern al-Hasakah countryside. The camp is controlled by the SDF, which is supported by the U.S.-led coalition.

This was not the first attempt by ISIS wives to set fire to the al-Hawl camp. On April 20, a similar plot was foiled when a hideout filled with fuel was uncovered in the camp. Another hideout was found on May 7.

ISIS wives in al-Hawl regularly try to escape. They are also adopting the role of the group’s “Hosbah” [religious police], attacking and even murdering anyone who disagrees with their ideology in the camp.

Related

History And Role Of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (Jabhat al-Nusra) In Syrian War

See Video here


Source

14.05.2020 

The analysis below was originally released by SouthFront in January 2018. Nonetheless, it remains useful to understand the situation in the militant-held part of Syria’s Greater Idlib region as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (Jabhat al-Nusra) is still the most powerful armed group there.


History
Jabhat al-Nusra, originally Jabhat an-Nuṣrah li-ahli ash-Sham min Mujahideen ash-Shām fi Sahat al-Jihad or “Victory Front for the People of the Levant by the Mujahideen of the Levant on the Fields of Jihad”, was founded in January 2012, when military operations between the government forces and groups of armed Syrian opposition were in full force. Jabhat al-Nusra arose with the direct support of the Iraqi cell of al-Qaeda, the “Islamic State in Iraq”, which was at that time led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. At the outset, the leaders of al-Qaeda tried, with the help of their Iraqi ally, to strengthen friendly Jihadist groups in Syria and to unite them into one militant organization.
Abu Muhammad al-Julani, a member of the al-Qaeda branch in Iraq – “the Islamic State in Iraq”, was chosen by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to establish an al-Qaeda branch in Syria under the name of the “Al-Nusra Front for the People of Al-Sham.” Abu Muhammed al-Julani entered Syria from Iraq and began a series of meetings in Homs, Ghouta of Damascus, and Deir-ez-Zor. The first cells of Jabhat al-Nusra were established in the northern Homs countryside, western Ghouta of Damascus, and in al-Bukamal on the Iraqi-Syrian border.
On January 23, 2012, Abu Muhammad al-Julani officially announced the establishment of the “Al-Nusra Front for the People of Al-Sham” and small groups began to carry out terrorist acts against civilians, attacked the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and later began conducting clashes along with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and ISIS.
In a short time, Jabhat al-Nusra under the leadership of Abu Muhammad al-Julani achieved a number of military successes and gained fame as one of the most efficient units in the north, north-west and northeast of Syria. A pivotal moment occurred at the end of 2012, when Jabhat al-Nusra seized many military facilities, arms and military equipment in western part of Aleppo. After the movement’s detachments were thus strengthened in the western and eastern parts of the province, the main routes of communication between the economic capital of Syria and the Syrian-Turkish border fell under Jabhat al-Nusra’s control, which forced other detachments fighting in opposition to Bashar Assad to establish relations and coordinate their actions with the organization.

Main operations and spheres of influence
In the Homs province, Jabhat al-Nusra, along with the al-Qaeda branch in Lebanon, Fatah al-Islam, was one of the most powerful fighting factions alongside the Al-Farouq battalion of the FSA, most of whose militants publicly or secretly joined al-Nusra or Fatah al-Islam.
Jabhat al-Nusra led many attacks in the old Homs area, Khalidiya and Baba Amro between 2011 and 2012, and led a large-scale attack on January 29, 2012 to capture the towns of Rastan and Talbisah in the northern Homs and succeeded in that operation.
In the south of Syria, especially in the Daraa province, Al-Nusra managed to form large forces rapidly, and led the attack on Daraa city on March 14, 2012. Within months, it managed to capture most areas within the city of Daraa.
On July 15, 2012, Jabhat al-Nusra participated in their first attack on the capital city of Damascus along with the FSA and Jaish al-Islam. Within days, they managed to capture most areas of eastern and Western Ghouta along with several districts close to the center of the capital Damascus, such as the districts of Jubar and Al-Maydan. Later the SAA managed to recapture most of these areas.
On July 19, 2012, Jabhat al-Nusra participated in the attack on Aleppo city along with groups of the FSA, the most important of which was the “Northern Storm Regiment”. Within days they managed to capture the eastern area of Aleppo. Later, Jabhat Al-Nusra’s influence expanded. At one point al-Nusra became the sole ruler of opposition-controlled Aleppo, especially after large numbers of the FSA jointed its ranks by the end of 2012 and after it took ISIS out of the city in 2014.
Since 2013, Idlib has become the main center of Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria, and the headquarters of its leadership. Jabhat al-Nusra managed to strengthen its influence further in the beginning of 2014 after the departure of ISIS from the province as a result of a number of disagreements between the groups.
Jabhat al-Nusra participated alongside Ahrar al-Sham in the attack on Raqqa city and managed to capture it on March 6, 2013, 3 days after the attack began. Later, in July 2014, ISIS took over control of Raqqa city. Some members of Jabhat al-Nusra decided to join ISIS while the rest refused to fight it. As a result, al-Nusra withdrew from the city.
From the beginning, Jabhat al-Nusra lead battles against the SAA in the Deir-ez-Zor countryside and in Deir-ez-Zor city. By 2013 al-Nusra seized most of the oil fields in the city’s countryside and along with the FSA, started an illegal oil trade with Turkey.

At the beginning of 2014 with the escalation of ISIS influence in Iraq, al-Nusra began to reduce its presence in Deir-ez-Zor city. After some minor clashes, most of al-Nusra’s fighters withdrew from Deir-Ez-Zour to Aleppo and Idlib, while large numbers of al-Nusra foreign militants joined ISIS.
It is believed that on April 6, 2014, the remnants of the FSA detonated a VBIED in the old Homs area with the aim of killing the commanders of Jabhat al-Nusra. The suicide attack was a success, and after the death of the commanders of Jabhat al-Nusra, an evacuation agreement was reached on 2 May 2014.
On March 24, 2015, Jabhat al-Nusra led an attack alongside the US-backed Free Syrian Army factions to capture Idlib city and were able to do so within 4 days. This operation was successful largely due to US support through intelligence and advanced weapons such as the TOW missiles, which reached the hands of al-Nusra militants.
By 14 June 2015, Jabhat al-Nusra and its allies from the FSA had managed to capture the entire western Idlib countryside, including the strategic town of Jisr al-Shughour, and carried out a series of massacres against the pro-government population, expelled even the pro-opposition population from the city, and blew up and demolished most of its buildings.
With Russian military intervention in Syria and the bombing of the positions of Jabhat al-Nusra in Aleppo, Idlib and the northern Homs countryside, both the “moderate” and radical Islamist opposition began to lose strategic initiative in the civil war in Syria. There was a lot of pressure from supporters of Jabhat al-Nusra, Turkey and Qatar, on the leadership of the movement, to disengage from and disavow Al-Qaeda.
After the great advance of the SAA in Aleppo and its success in besieging the eastern districts, Abu Muhammad al-Julani announced on July 28, 2016, the official disengagement of al-Nusra from al-Qaeda and announced the formation of the Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. He stressed that the objectives of the al-Sham Front are the same as those of Jabhat al-Nusra, which is the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate in Syria. In an ironic twist, al-Qaeda leader “Ayman al-Zawahiri” praised al-Julani’s decision and declared his support for the Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, prompting everyone, including the United States, to consider the move as a formality. The Jabhat Fatah al-Sham maintained its terrorist classification in all countries, including the United States, Saudi Arabia and Russia.
On October 28, 2016, Jabhat al-Nusra with its allies from the Free Syrian Army launched a large counterattack south and west of Aleppo city to break the siege of the SAA in the eastern districts; however, the attack failed two weeks later when Jabhat Fatah al-Sham could not hold the points it had taken over.
On 28 January 2017, Jabhat al-Nusra changed its name once again, this time to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). On March 21, 2017, it launched the offensive of the northern Hama countryside along with the FSA factions supported by the CIA, most notably are Jaish al-Izza, Jaish al-Nasr and the Idlib Free Army. These were considered the most important allies of Jabhat al-Nusra in Idlib and a major source of its weapons. The aim of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s advance was to recapture the settlements it lost in 2016. The active phase of fighting continued until the end of April 2017. For more than a month, neither side had a decisive advantage, and in fact, prolonged fights began, during which a number of settlements repeatedly changed hands.
Having accumulated enough reserves in the area and with the support of the Russian Aerospace Forces, the SAA launched a counter-offensive against the positions of the Islamists in mid-April and recaptured the territories it had lost at the beginning of the month.
On September 19, 2017 HTS, along with the units of the Turkestan Islamic Party and the FSA, once again made an attempt to advance on the position of the SAA in the northern part of the province of Hama.. The aim of HTS was to take revenge for their defeat in the April 2017 offensive. While fighting went back and forth, with settlements being occupied by both sides several times, the struggle continued until the end of September and ended in a stalemate, with neither side able of winning a convincing victory, with each side remaining in their original positions. As time went on, the situation in the province was further complicated by the appearance of the IS militants in early October 2017, as a result of which armed conflict erupted between all opposition groups in the region, which continues at varying degrees of intensity to this day.
In late November and early December, the SAA carried out a number of operations against HTS in northern Hama and southern Aleppo and achieved some success creating the prerequisites for a push towards the Abu al-Duhur air base. Taking the air base under control will allow government troops to expand the buffer zone adjacent to the road going to Aleppo and cut the front line to the west of Khanaser.
The intensification of the activities of the Russian Air Force in the region in the first half of December 2017 gives grounds to conclude that the preparation of the SAA for an attack on the position of radical Islamists is underway. This offensive is likely to have the goal of delivering a decisive blow to HTS, since it currently presents a greater threat than the IS.
In January 2018, the SAA liberated a large area from HTS in southern Idlib advancing towards the Abu al-Duhur air base.
At the present time (January 2018) the main area of ​​deployment of the armed units of HTS is in the province of Idlib. In addition, the units of Jabhat al-Nusra partially occupy the north-eastern part of the province of Hama, and the western and south-western part of the province of Aleppo. After al-Nusra finally broke off relations with Ahrar al-Sham, one of the most battle-worthy movements in Syria, they gained control of practically the entirety of the province of Idlib.
Structure
The movement avoids publications concerning the structure of the organization, the real names of commanders of its large units and the work of its main bodies. It is known that the advisory body Majlis al-Shura, consisting of 12 people, is at the head of the movement. Based on information surveyed and interviews, HTS operates through eight divisions, namely military, security, services, religious law, courts, media, finances, and politics. For each of these divisions, there is an office for the Shura Council.
In fact, since its inception, Jabhat al-Nusra / HTS was a coalition of armed formations.As a result of the rebranding conducted in January 2017, HTS includes such groups as “Jabhat Ansar al-Din”, “Nur al-Din al-Zenki”, “Liwa al-Haqq”, and “Jaysh al-Sunna” . According to information from the organization’s website, the new formation also includes groups: Tawhid Wal-Jihad, Ar-Rashid, Ibn Taimiyya, Liva Abbas, Sukur al-Izz, Al-Sahabat, Kuwafal Shuhada, Usud al-Harb, Liva Ahrar al-Jabal and others. Several large groups withdrew from the Ahrar al-Sham and swore allegiance to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham : Surya al-Aqsa, Liva Ahrar al-Jabal, Ansar Homs, and Kurdish paramilitary groups which together comprised of more than five thousand soldiers. The process of breaking and mending relations is constant and there is an alternate structure of the movement as of April 2017.
The auxiliary functions are performed by Qism al-Ighatha (Department of Relief), Idarat al-Khidarat al-Ammah (Public Services Administration), Idarat al-Manateq and al-Muharara (Liberated Districts Administration). In the so-called “liberated areas” where Jabhat al-Nusra has filled the power vacuum, it has created, along with other jihadist organizations, a system of justice and law enforcement called the Shari’ah Authority (Al-Hay’ah al-Shar’iyyah). The Shari’ah Authority operates its own police force called the Shari’ah Authority Police (Shurtat al-Hay’ah al-Shar’iyyah).
The military structure of the groups varies depending on the geographical location of the fighters in Syria. In Damascus, where the partisan tactics of fighting were employed, the divisions were divided into separate detachments, while in Aleppo, military operations were conducted by full-fledged military formations, consolidated into brigades, regiments and battalions.
The movement actively recruits groups of militants, formed on the basis of national and religious grounds.  There are units of militants from Ajnadal-Kavkaz, Caucasus Emirate (natives of Chechnya), and the Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria (Uyghurs and natives of the Central Asian countries of the former USSR). From a military point of view, this is convenient for management and interaction, since there is no language barrier between the fighters and the commanders. Upon returning to their host country, such a detachment is practically a ready-made cell with combat experience, in which each member knows one another, trusts his commander and is ready to act in the interests of the parent organization. Western experts estimate that in less than 2 years of its existence, there were almost 5,000 people from 60 countries who fought for the movement.
The core military formations varied in their numbers and at times amounted to up to 30,000 people. Together with the added paramilitary groups of like-minded people, the total number reached 70,000. At present, the number of formations is smaller and the core of the grouping, according to the estimates of the General Staff of the RF Armed Forces as of August 2017, consists of up to 15,000 men. Together with units of radical Islamists from other groups, it amounts to a total of 25,000.
The armament of the movement consists of small arms, artillery and tanks seized from the SAA, from various anti-Assad forces, and equipment received from foreign sponsors from the Gulf countries through the jihadist movements with direct or indirect US assistance. In addition, according to reports, the movement has chemical weapon reserves. In December 2012, at the SYSACCO chemical production plant (30 km east of Aleppo), the al-Nusra units captured about 200 tons of chlorine. In May 2013, Turkish special services arrested insurgents of al-Nusra on the border with Syria for attempting to acquire sarin components.
An indicative example of direct or indirect U.S. support is the use of the American ATGM BGM-71 TOW by the al-Nusra forces. These units were transferred to the armed formations by the “moderate” opposition, for example, FSA units (Harakat Hazzm). Subsequently, the ATGM systems were either voluntarily supplied, or forcibly taken from other groups by HTS. At the end of September 2015, the “30th division” of the opposition, supported by the US government, surrendered to the units of al-Nusra and handed over a large number of ammunition, small arms and artillery weapons and a number of light vehicles. The same happened with the FSA’s “13 Division” in March 2016, which directly received American weapons.
Rebranding
At the end of June 2016, the leaders of the Syrian opposition (primarily from Ahrar al-Sham) conducted negotiations and consultations in light of Russia’s actions against al-Nusra, which also threatened other groups. As a result of such meetings in the western part of the province of Aleppo and in Idlib, it proposed to either dissolve al-Nusra into a new association, which would be headed by Ahram al-Sham or to tear it away from al-Qaeda. The situation was such that a third of al-Nusra, first of all the ethnic Syrians, were ready to break with al-Qaeda and join a new group.
Then the leadership of al-Nusra undertook a rebranding, which, on the one hand, was to save it from a split, and on the other, in the eyes of the Syrians, to root it in the Syrian revolutionary movement. As a result, al-Nusra became known as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (Front of the Conquest of Syria) and proclaimed its formal departure from al-Qaeda. After this, the leadership of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham attempted to unite with Ahrar al- Sham and other factions; however, this would have led to the inclusion of all participants of this union on the list of internationally recognized terrorist groups. As a result, the attempt to create a “Syrian Islamic Commission” at the end of 2016, in which A. Giulani wanted to play a key role, failed.

There are other reasons why al-Nusra began to act under a new name.
First, it allows sponsors and leaders of the movement to avoid sanctions, since al-Nusra periodically gets on the “Consolidated List of Legal Entities Affiliated with or Associated with al-Qaeda Organization”, compiled by the UN Security Council. Updating the list, in light of objective reasons, is not keeping up with the evolution and expansion of al-Qaeda and its subsidiaries.
Second, it is more convenient for Western special services to deal with groups not listed on the list of the UN Security Council and/or on the American or European list of terrorist organizations. Instead, they prefer to deal with “rebels” who declared their secession from al-Qaeda.
On January 28, 2017, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham conducted another rebranding and was named Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (Organization for the Liberation of the Levant). This coincided with increased pressure on opposition groups in Syria and with a turning point in the Syrian war – the liberation of Aleppo. The military defeat near Aleppo, where Jabhat al-Nusra lost the bulk of its most trained fighters and much of its technology, was a turning point in reducing its influence.
Relations and relationships with other groups
Military successes in the first years of the civil war declined to the point where, starting from 2014, the movement started to systematically weaken and accept “moderate” groups, which represented secular and national opposition.
In November 2014, Jabhat al-Nusra attacked the “Syrian Revolutionary Front”, a large association that fought under the banner of the FSA and the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces and received assistance from the United States and its allies. Its leader, Jamal Ma’ruf, was forced to flee to Turkey. Then the jihadists attacked the camps of the movement “Harakat Hazzm”, which the US planned to thoroughly train and supply with weapons and which many American analysts viewed as the most acceptable variant of the moderate opposition.
As a result, Jabhat al-Nusra at the end of October 2014, seized the base of the Hazzm Movement in Idlib, and in January 2015 displaced it from Aleppo, effectively forcing it to dissolve and merge with other militant groups. At the end of September 2015, al-Nusra attacked the 30th division of the FSA, forcing some of the fighters along with their arms to cross over to their side. The jihadists particularly intensified the fighting against the “moderate opposition” after the US and its allies began to conduct air strikes at the end of September 2014, not only directed against the positions of the IS, but also targeting “Jabhat al-Nusra.” Thus, the movement played an important role in the failure of the US project to create a “secular military opposition” in Syria.
Since 2012, the FSA’s relations with Jabhat al-Nusra have been excellent. The FSA and the US-backed factions supported Jabhat al-Nusra financially and most importantly with the weapons supplied to them by the CIA and Turkey. However, al-Nusra did not hesitate to turn its weapons against the FSA or hesitate to eliminate any group that opposed its will, especially in the province of Idlib and in Aleppo countryside.
As for the relationship of Jabhat al-Nusra with Ahrar al-Sham, one of the largest groups in the north of Syria, while Ahrar al-Sham obey the orders of Jabhat al-Nusra and treat its leadership with respect, Jabhat al-Nusra takes firm action with Ahrar al-Sham and has not hesitated to use its weapons against it in 2017. It has even issued a statement calling the militants of the Ahrar al-Sham “infidels” after clashes with the 46th regiment in the northwest Aleppo countryside. However, the militants of Ahrar al-Sham, despite a number of them being killed or wounded by al-Nusra tanks, refused to return fire on the al-Nusra militants.
It is also believed that Jabhat al-Nusra pushed Ahrar al-Sham into a losing battle in Aleppo in order to weaken it. The final gulf between the two-armed movements formed in July 2017. The reason for the conflict, in addition to purely ideological differences, was the fact that the Ahrar al-Sham group controlled the Bab al-Hawa border crossing on the Syrian-Turkish border, which was an important transport corridor, as well as a source of finance and the replenishment of the military formations of the “moderate” opposition. Perhaps the most important reason for the conflict was the issue of control over the “civil administration” of the province of Idlib.
The disagreement of Jabhat al-Nusra with ISIS began at the end of 2013, when al-Nusra separated its link to the Islamic State in Iraq – now ISIS – and the controversy increased in 2014 when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the formation of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the separation from al-Qaeda and the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate. Al-Julani rejected Abu Bakr’s allegiance to the Caliphate. The basis of the controversy is that Jabhat al-Nusra believes that the Caliphate should be established after capturing the whole of Syria and Iraq, while ISIS believes that the Caliphate should be established in any area under its control. Although there was a great deal of talk about clashes between the two parties, clashes were rare, short-lived. Jabhat al-Nusra withdrew from Deir-Ez-zour and Raqqa, while ISIS withdrew from Aleppo and Idlib, with large numbers of militants from Al-Nusra changing their allegiance to ISIS.
Al-Nusra developed a difficult relationship with the movement of Nour al-Din al-Zenki (numbering 7,000 militants in 2017). In 2015 and 2016, both sides participated in clashes against each other; however, in January 2017, the Nour al-Din al-Zenki group in Idlib joined with al-Nusra. In the second half of July 2017, there was a conflict between the leadership of Nour al-Din al-Zenki and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham  because of a statement, made by an authority figure from Nour al-Din al-Zenki, saying that there is no Sharia rule in the territory controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.
Since HTS strategy is aimed at cooperating with local Islamist organizations that recognize the main goal of establishing an Islamic state and Sharia in Syria, such an approach does not allow Syrian Islamist groups, including Jaysh al-Islam, to oppose Al Qaeda in Syria in the face of Jabhat al-Nusrah / HTS. Both groups profess Salafi Islam and both groups raise the issue of overthrowing the existing power.
According to a former leader of Jaysh al-Islam, Muhammad Zahran Allush, there was a fraternal relationship between his organization and Jabhat al-Nusra, and the existing insignificant ideological differences could be resolved through the discussion and application of Shariah norms. In his interview, Zahran Allush said that he personally met with one of the leaders of “Jabhat al-Nusra” Abu al-Qahtani, and found no difference between the Shari’ah of Jabhat al-Nusra and the Shari’ah of “Jash al-Islam”.
In 2013, Jaysh al-Islam, together with Jabhat al- Nusra, organized a bloody massacre in the city of Adra, directed mainly against minorities, most notably the Alawites. After the death of Muhammad Zahran Allush as the result of an airstrike conducted on December 25, 2015, the new leadership of Jaysh al-Islam soon began to disagree with the leadership of Jabhat al-Nusra. This took place in light of the fact that the Islam Army has taken a strong stance in favor of negotiations, with Zahran Alloush’s cousin and close companion, Mohammed Alloush, heading the opposition diplomats in Geneva.
Participation of various groups of “moderate opposition” in the Syrian settlement under the patronage of Turkey, Iran and Russia led to a “split” in the ranks of these groups, which significantly weakened their position in the country.  In this respect, the case of the Jaysh al-Islam movement can serve as a prime example. Since the movement formally participates as a group and represents the “moderate opposition”, it had to sever its ties with HTS. In practice, the situation is quite different.
Jaysh al-Islam has several regional branches: Eastern Ghouta, Eastern Qalamoun, Daraa, and Idlib.
Eastern Ghouta – Jaysh al-Islam, HTS, Ahrar al-Sham and al-Rahman Corps are the most influential groups in this area near Damascus. All of them, in spite of some tensions, actively cooperate against the SAA. The peak of Jaysh al-Islam’s participation in the fight against HTS was when the group allegedly did not come to the aid of HTS during the battles in the area of ​​Jobar (Guta district). However, the truce in the region is very controversial. Not long ago, Ahrar al-Sham conducted a series of major attacks against the army in the area south of the Duma – the area of the Army Armored Vehicles Base.
Eastern Qalamoun – the militants did not show much activity here and before negotiations in Astana, there was a truce.  In fact, Jaysh al-Islam is forced to share resources and interact with HTS in this region.
As a result, it turns out that the leaders of this “moderate” opposition did not actually do anything of substance in constructively participating in the Astana process and limited themselves exclusively to vague formal gestures (such as sending delegations and making loud statements in the media).
Therefore, one can make the disappointing conclusion that the real influence of the Astana format on the situation in Syria is of much significance than originally thought, and the format is not very effective. Statements of the high-ranking officials of the Russian Foreign Ministry about successful negotiations are not accurate. To date, the moderate opposition does not want peace. It continues fighting, repeatedly delays negotiations, and awaits the intervention of other countries.
The Idlib de-escalation zone
Separately, it is necessary to focus on 4 zones of de-escalation in Syria, the boundaries of which were determined by the agreements in Astana on September 16, 2017. The agreement established the boundaries of de-escalation zones, where, as agreed, military operations between government forces and forces of the armed opposition groups which have already joined the truce or will join it in the future, are to be halted. To prevent incidents and clashes between various sides along the borders of zones, security bands were created. They include observation posts and checkpoints for the movement of unarmed civilians, delivery of humanitarian aid and facilitation of economic activities. The work of the checkpoints and observation posts, as well as the management of the security zones, is carried out by personnel from Russia, Turkey and Iran. This begs many questions, chief among them: Why is there is no mention of withdrawal of heavy weaponry nor the surrender of weapons inside the zones?
The most extensive zone of de-escalation is located in northern Syria. It contains the province of Idlib, as well as the bordering northeastern parts of the province of Latakia, the western provinces of Aleppo and the northern regions of the province of Hama. It is worth noting that the province of Idlib is one of the most problematic. It is here that the main forces of the terrorist organization Jabhat al-Nusra / HTS are based, and it was here that the Syrian authorities brought militants and members of their families from Aleppo.
According to Turkish President Recep Erdogan, Russia will provide security outside of Idlib while Turkey will ensure security inside of Idlib. Turkey had the right to deploy in Idlib, via a small group of troops, whose task is to organize observation posts, but they are not to form a full-fledged army group. However, by October 13, 2017, about 50 units of armored vehicles and 200 servicemen crossed the Turkish-Syrian border. The pro-government Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak claimed that 25,000 Turkish soldiers were mobilized to carry out military operations in Syria.
Thus, in the northern part of the Idlib province, the so-called free zone from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham  is created under the auspices of Turkish forces. The area will host the forces of the “moderate” opposition and Turkish troops. In the south, the province of Hama will host Russian observers. The forces of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham will be moved to a zone located in the middle. This way HTS will be deprived of any possibility of reaching the border.
Meanwhile, in the zones controlled by radical Islamists, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham  blames the “moderate” opposition, for abandoning the war against the Assad government and entering into peace agreements. At the same time, the movement, aside from fighting battles against the SAA, is actively engaged in attacks against factions of the “moderate” opposition.
Financing and communication with external sponsors
“Jabhat al-Nusra” is considered to be one of the most well-equipped and well-armed formations fighting against government troops. According to some estimates, before the conflict with the Islamic State (January 2012-April 2013), half of ISIS’ budget was sent to Jabhat al-Nusra. At the same time, the group received significant funds from Syrians with sympathies for radical Islam. From April, 2013 to the end of 2014, the budget of the movement was largely replenished by the illegal trade of oil acquired from the east and northeast of Syria. When the oil prices dropped, IS exerted control over these oil fields, and the movement lost this source of financing.
From the end of 2014 until the present, al-Nusra’s main source of financing comes from external sources. Most of the funding comes from the charitable Salafi foundations in Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and from high-ranking clerics and wealthy businessmen who sympathize with the ideas of Salafi Islam of Jordan and Turkey. Hamid bin Abdallah al-Ali is an example of a person who sympathizes with the ideas of the movement. He is an influential Salafi cleric in Kuwait. He has facilitated the transfer of funds, weapons, supplies and fighters to and from Syria for Jabhat al-Nusra,
Shafi Sultan Mohammed al-Ajmi is a native of Kuwait. He is included by the UN Security Council in the list of persons sponsoring al-Qaeda and related organizations. Together with his assistants, he raised funds and gathered weapons under the pretext of charity. He personally delivered the collected funds to various groups, including Jabhat al-Nusra.
Abd al-Rahman al-Nuaimi is a Qatar-based terrorist financier and a facilitator who has provided money, material support and conveyed communications to al-Qaeda and its affiliates in Syria. In 2013, Naimi ordered the transfer of nearly $600,000 to al-Qaeda via al-Qaeda’s representative in Syria, Abu-Khalid al-Suri.
Ali bin Abdallah al-Suwaidi is the general manager of Mu’assasat ‘Eid bin Muhammad Aal Thani al-Khayriyya (the Eid bin Muhammad al Thani Charitable Society). In this role, Ali al-Suwaidi manages the budget and directs the activities of the charity, including its work with organizations that have been tied to al-Qaeda. According to media reports, Ali al-Suwaidi worked with US sanctioned al-Qaeda financier Abd al-Rahman al-Nuaimi to transfer funds to jihadist militants in Syria, including al-Nusra.
Social networks are another important source of financing. Recruiters in social networks are urging a transfer of money for the aid of militants fighting in Syria. Given that financing terrorism is prosecuted in many countries, the fee is made in disguise to a bank account of an intermediary. The sponsors transfer sums not large enough to attract the attention of bank employees and law enforcement officials. The intermediary then sends money to a foreign bank – to the owner of a money transfer office in Turkey or Jordan for example. He informs his colleague in Syria that the money has come, provides the name of the recipient and gives a password. Money is given from a cash register. Such transactions leave no traces and are hidden from those who are fighting to interdict and disrupt the funding of terrorism.
In addition, the group continues to actively engage in kidnapping, extortion, and collection of taxes from citizens and businesses in controlled areas.
The group also developed a scheme to collect funds from small and medium-sized businesses in territories which are not directly controlled by HTS, but territories that host enough HTS emissaries and combat groups to the extent that those groups can facilitate racketeering.
Al-Qaeda, as the lead organization which promotes the idea of ​​ultra-radical Islam, is in financial crisis. It receives less and less financing from sympathetic individuals and from so called charitable foundations, to carry out its terrorist activities. This necessitated some optimization of costs. The movement had to change its tactics and constructed a new model, aimed at interacting with self-sufficient extremist organizations which do not require support from the lead organization. In this format, al-Qaeda plays a dual rule. First, it acts as a military adviser and mediator for radical Islamist groups. Secondly, it sends authoritative clergymen to various war zones. Al-Qaeda also provides local groups with their own schemes for the transfer of funds, facilitates the creation of enterprises, and provides information to support local organizations.
Loss of influence after the battle for Aleppo and the role in Syria after ISIS
When Aleppo was captured by government troops in late 2016, the appearance of HTS signaled a new phase of restructuring of the radical opposition in Syria. Yet another attempt to rebrand was nothing more than a formal effort by al-Qaeda to dissociate itself from its supporters in Syria, as well as its desire to withdraw moderate Islamists from the negotiation process on the future of Syria in Astana. The leadership of HST wanted to overpower and if that failed, to destroy the entities that are part of Ahrar al-Sham. They sought to become the single center of Sunni militarism in Syria. This caused a split among the opposition, and the most radical of its representatives moved to the newly created Hayat Tahrir al Sham, which marked the beginning of a conflict between the two largest groups in Idlib.
To support its strategy, HTS operates through four main bureaus: General Administration of Services; Military and security operations wing; Dawah and Guidance Office; and Sharia courts.
There are 156 Local Councils operating in the Idlib province with the following administrative divisions: 9% City Councils, 30% Town Councils, and 61% Municipal Councils. Of these Local Councils, 86 operate in HTS-controlled areas—14% City Councils, 39% Town Councils, and 47% Municipal Councils.
In August 2017 a conflict arose between the local city council of Idlib and the General Administration for Services, which is connected with HTS. The latter began the process of making unilateral decisions. The General Administration for Services issued circulars for local councils, informing them that it was the only body with the authority to monitor their work and required the transfer of the relevant council departments to the specialized agencies of the movement. In particular, this affected services which supply water and bread as well as transport. The city council rejected the request and on August 28, 2017, HTS units stormed the city council building of Idlib and ordered all those who disagreed with the policy to leave the building. In this way radical Islamists gained control over administrative services of the city.
The process where smaller formations join or leave the grouping is not static. On November 14, 2017, representatives of the group “Ajnad al-Sham” announced through twitter that they are joining Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Ajnad al-Sham militants participated in earlier clashes with the Syrian Arab Army in western Aleppo, in the north part of the province of Ham and in the province of Idlib. In late October, there was information that the central division of the FSA, Faylaq al-Sham, and Jaysh al-Izza also joined Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.
Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham also conducted operations against smaller militant groups, who then sought support from Ahrar al-Sham. For instance, the group “Jash Mujahideen” was attacked by terrorists of Hayat Tahrir al- Sham in January 2017. At this time the radical Islamists seized warehouses with weapons. After that, part of Jash Mujahideen’s forces were forced to join Ahrar al-Sham, while the other part joined HTS.
Be that as it may, year after year HTS leadership adamantly follows its goal – the unification of all jihadist organizations in Syria under its leadership and the construction of the emirate. Radical Islamists are strongly established in the province of Idlib, and will do all they can to prevent the creation of a de-escalation zone.
Conclusion
The following conclusions and analysis can be drawn from all the information presented thus far. After the defeat of the IS in Iraq and Syria, the most effective group that stands to oppose Assad’s regime remains Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. This movement has the necessary number of trained militants in its ranks to confront the government army, it has a rather positive image when compared with the IS, and advocates the idea of opposing “the betrayal of the interests of the people of Syria.” Meanwhile, the conflict between the factions within the movement itself, the conflicts with other armed groups, the reduction of logistical support, and problems with financing, all lead to a gradual degradation of HTS. We can conclude that to overcome these problems, the leadership of the movement may hold another re-branding. This conclusion is based on the fact that, at a turning point in its existence, al-Nusra / HTS is able, in words, to abandon the ideas of radical Islam in order to preserve their ability for an armed struggle, and to establish itself as a legitimate and independent force in the ongoing war . It seems that there is a desire on the part of HTS to become a Sunni version of Hezbollah. In this effort, the group could receive support from some concerned foreign parties.
The clashes and reluctance to compromise with the moderate opposition, continued conflict with the increasingly capable government army, and the never ending struggle for resources – have all reaped poor results for the group, and highlight the poor choice of strategies adopted by HTS thus far. Without external help, HTS will not be able to confront, for any extended periods of time, the SAA and the Russian Aerospace Forces.
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