Qalamoun Shield Forces: Capabilities And Role In Syrian War

27.06.2017

Voiceover by Oleg Maslov

The Qalamoun Shield Forces (QSF) appeared as a noticeable auxiliary force of the Syrian military in the first half of 2016, with the goal of protecting the Al-Qalamoun areas from terrorist threats and securing the Syrian-Lebanese border.

The group includes approximately 2800 fighters, most of whom are volunteers from the eastern towns of Al-Qalamoun, along with a few hundred former fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA). A number of FSA fighters had joined the QSF after a reconciliation agreement with the Syrian government.

The QSF is linked to the Third Armored Division of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), and works with both the Syrian Republican Guard and Lebanese Hezbollah.

The QSF has several bases in Yabroud and Al-Nabak. It’s led by Lieutenant Firas Khaza’a, and mainly funded by the Syrian Ministry of Defense. The QSF is one the groups supported by the Russian military, which armed and trained all of its fighters in the early 2017.

The QSF controls a number of important border points in eastern Qalamoun, especially the area of Flitah, near the Lebanese area of Jurod Arsal, the stronghold of ISIS militants. It has managed along with the Syrian Republican Guard and Hezbollah to repel several attacks of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in the vicinity of Flitah.

The QSF has also foiled several infiltration attempts between Lebanon and Syria, as well as prevented several drug smuggling operations, which are often considered means of financing terrorist groups in the Lebanese area of Jurod Arsal.

In 2017, the QSF participated in its first battle outside eastern Al-Qalamoun area. In the middle of March 2017, QSF units deployed to the Hama front, where QSF participated in repelling the second joint attack of HTS, Jaish al-Izza and other militant groups on the strategic town of Qomhana in the northern Hama countryside.

The QSF continued its operations alongside the SAA’s Tiger Forces, the National Defense Forces and other pro-government groups and took part in restoring control and security of Khattab village on March 31, Mahardeh village on April 11, Souran on April 16, the towns of Taibat al-Imam and Halfaya on April 22 and 23. Then the QSF took part in capturing the Al-Zalaqiat village and hill. In case of continuation of clashes in northern Hama, the QSF will likely participate in future government attacks aimed at capturing Morek and Lataminah.

In May 2017, a part of QSF fighters were redeployed from northern Hama to the province of Homs in order to participate in a widely-expected government advane on the city of Deir Ezzor besieged by ISIS.

In early April 2017, a new pro-government group appeared in the Syrian-Lebanese border area, “The Homeland Shield Forces – Special Tasks”. The force consists of 400 fighters from 14 Lebanese villages from the Al-Beka’a area on the Syrian-Lebanese border. It is led by al-Haj Muhammad Jaafar and was founded with the direct support of the Russian military to secure the Al-Beka’a area.

The force may work in the future with the QSF in an expected operation to secure the Syrian side of Jurod Arsal in order to prevent any terrorists infiltrating the Syrian territory in case the Lebanese Army launches an operation against ISIS and HTS militants in the region.

The QSF is armed with medium weapons, such as vehicles armed with 23/14.5 guns; it is also armed with Konkurs ATGM. The forces also use heavy Syrian Bourkan(Volcano)-type rockets.

The QSF is a successful example of a rapid reaction force protecting the Syrian border and has proven that it can support the SAA in any area when necessary. The forces have carried out offensive and defensive missions in the northern Hama countryside very successfully. It could be expected that its financing and fighter numbers will be expanded if the joint Syrian, Iranian, Russian and Turkish efforts aimed at imposing ‘de-escalation zones’ will not been able to launch a successful peace process in Syria.

The further expansion of the QSF and other QSF-style groups, that would include former “moderate rebels”, will be clearly linked to a possibility of the Syrian government and its allies to implement their reconciliation agreements strategy in the countryside of Damascus and across Syria.

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Macron, Al-Assad, and Bin Salman ماكرون والأسد وبن سلمان

Macron, Al-Assad, and Bin Salman

Written by Nasser Kandil,

When the French President Emanuel Macron talks that the Syrian President is the only available President for Syria away from the position of the parties which support him or oppose him as France, and that his staying is not a matter of discussion, but it is a need to preserve the unity of Syria and to restore the stability in it and preventing its turning into a failed country which will affect badly the entire world, and when this speech resembles the words of the former US Ambassador in Damascus Robert Ford who considered that the bets on overthrowing the Syrian President were a kind of the US-Arab stupidity and that the victory of the President Al-Assad has become closer then this means that the country which was the center of attraction of all the countries of the world and the region and which the war on it proved that it is the strategic center of the world, has resolved its leadership to a young leader who has shown rare courage, wisdom, and patriotism, he proved disdain and indifference towards money and governance, for each one of them there is one way known by those who want it starts from Tel Aviv and ends in Washington, where the Gulf stores of the black gold are opened  and the greetings are offered to the leader of democracy and the human rights.

In parallel to the inevitable steadfastness of the leadership of the President Al-Assad in a worried Arab world, the Palestinian cause is still despite all the strife and the wars forming the only attractive cause that is capable to bring people down to streets. Easily his experience can be compared with the experience of Gamal Abdul Nasser who was a subject of doubts, and questioning before the year 1956.  The star of his leadership emerged after resisting the tripartite occupation and confronting its challenges. Therefore the victory of Syria and its President will not pass without consideration after years of loss and lapse which entitled the Arab Spring. Every observer of the shifts of the mood and the backgrounds of the honest Arab elites in the search for a future and a vision knows the status which the President Al-Assad will have in the Arab conscience in the coming years.

Among the repercussions of the war on Syria was the defeat of the Gulf and Turkey and the regression of Europe, each one of them is trying to cope with the defeat and to decrease ifs effects. While Turkey is trying to position against the dangers that may affect its national security with the change of the US position at its expense, it will find itself tomorrow obliged to be closer from Syria and its president and to seek to cooperate and to pay the costs in an attempt to purge for the bad things which it caused to Syria and to the Turkish –Syrian relations. Europe through its pivotal force which is concerned with the region affairs represented by France seeks to create a project capable to be coped with, represented by Emanuel Macron through confronting the dangers of the US absurdity in the Middle East and through drawing a French-European track led by Russia under the title of reconstruction and the return of the displaced, therefore a conference in Paris will be held for that purpose.

The Americans and the Israelis present their project which aims to confront an Arab coming stage entitled the stage of the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, so the man of Washington in Riyadh Mohammed Bin Nayef has abandoned the authority voluntarily to Mohammed Bin Salman. In the American-Israeli mind there is a recall of the experience of the King Faisal with Gamal Abdul Nasser, with the differences of history, the capacities, and the time of defeats and victories, but neither America nor Israel were the same as today, everything has changed. All the differences before talking about the new time of Iran, the renewed time of Russia, and the time of the resistance and its leader say that Mohammed Bin Salman will lead a political military and financial bankruptcy entitled Saudi Arabia, his recklessness will lead him to take his country to a civil war after two failed wars in the neighborhood one in Yemen and one with Qatar. So the ceiling of what Bin Salman can do is to compete a Gulf young man like him; the Prince of Qatar.

Translated by Lina Shehadeh,

 

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ماكرون والأسد وبن سلمان

يونيو 22, 2017

ناصر قنديل

– عندما يتحدّث الرئيس الفرنسي إيمانويل ماكرون عن أنّ الرئيس السوري هو الرئيس الوحيد المتاح لسورية بمعزل عن موقف الأطراف معه وضدّه ومنهم فرنسا، وأنّ بقاءه بات مسلّماً به، بل بات مطلباً للحفاظ على وحدة سورية وإعادة الاستقرار إليها ومنع تحوّلها دولة فاشلة ستتسبّب بالكوارث للعالم كله. وعندما يأتي هذا الكلام مشابهاً في الحصيلة لكلام السفير الأميركي السابق في دمشق روبرت فورد، معتبراً أنّ الرهانات على إسقاط الرئيس السوري كانت ضرباً من الغباء الأميركي والعربي، وأنّ نصر الرئيس الأسد بات قاب قوسين أو أدنى، فهذا يعني أنّ الدولة التي اجتذب الصراع عليها كلّ دول العالم والمنطقة، وقالت الحرب فيها وعليها إنها قلب العالم الاستراتيجي، قد حسمت رايتها لقائد شاب أظهر قدراً نادراً من الشجاعة والحكمة والوطنية، وأثبت ترفّعاً وزهداً بالمال والحكم، ولكلّ منهما طريق يعرفه الراغبون يبدأ بتل أبيب وينتهي بواشنطن، فتنفتح خزائن الذهب الأسود من الخليج، وتنهمر «رقيبات التحايا» لزعيم الديمقراطية وحقوق الإنسان.

– بالتوازي مع الصعود الحتمي لزعامة الرئيس الأسد في عالم عربي قلق، لا تزال القضية الفلسطينية رغم كلّ الفتن والحروب تشكّل القضية الوحيدة الجاذبة والقادرة على إنزال الناس إلى الشارع،

يمكن ببساطة مقارنة تجربته بتجربة جمال عبد الناصر، الذي كان موضع جدل وتشكيك وتساؤلات قبل العام 1956، حيث كان العدوان الثلاثي الذي سطع بمقاومته له ونصره في مواجهة تحدياته نجمُ زعامته. ولن يمرّ انتصار سورية ورئيسها عابراً في سماء العرب بعد سنوات التيه والضياع المسمّاة بالربيع العربي. ويعلم كلّ متابع للتحوّلات في مزاج ومناخات النخب العربية الصادقة في البحث عن مستقبل ورؤية، والتي تتجسّد في اكتشاف المكانة التي يمكن للرئيس الأسد احتلالها في الوجدان العربي للسنوات المقبلة.

– من تداعيات الحرب على سورية وفيها، كانت هزيمة الخليج وتركيا، وتراجع أوروبا، وكلّ منها تحاول التأقلم مع الهزيمة وتخفيف آثارها، وفيما تركيا تتلمّس طريقها للتموضع بوجه مخاطر على أمنها القومي مع انقلاب في الموقف الأميركي على حسابها، لتجد نفسها غداً أمام قدر التقرّب من سورية ورئيسها والسعي للتعاون ودفع الأثمان التي تترتّب على التكفير عن الصفحة السوداء التي تسبّبت بها لسورية وللعلاقات التركية السورية، تسعى أوروبا بقوّتها المحورية المعنية بشؤون المنطقة التي تمثلها فرنسا لإنتاج مشروع قادر على التأقلم يمثله إيمانويل ماكرون، بالتصدّي لمخاطر العبثية الأميركية في الشرق الأوسط، عبر رسم مسار فرنسي أوروبي تتلقفه روسيا تحت عنوان منصة الإعمار وعودة النازحين التي ستتشكل تحت عنوان مؤتمر في باريس لهذا الغرض.

– يخرج الأميركيون و«الإسرائيليون» بمشروعهم الشاب الهادف لمواجهة مرحلة عربية مقبلة اسمها مرحلة الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد، فيتنازل طوعاً رجل واشنطن في الرياض ، وفي الذهن الأميركي «الإسرائيلي» استعادة تجربة الملك فيصل مع جمال عبد الناصر، بينما فوارق التاريخ والمقدرات وزمن الهزائم والانتصارات، حيث لا أميركا هي تلك التي كانت يومها ولا «إسرائيل» هي التي كانت يومها، وكلّ شيء مختلف، وكلّ الاختلافات قبل التحدث عن زمن إيران الجديد وزمن روسيا المتجدّد وزمن المقاومة وسيّدها المتوقد، تقول إنّ محمد بن سلمان سيقود تفليسة سياسية ومالية وعسكرية، اسمها السعودية، وسيقوده تهوّره المسمّى بحيوية الشباب لأخذ بلده نحو الحرب الأهلية بعد حربين فاشلتين تسبّب بهما في الجوار، واحدة في اليمن وثانية مع قطر، وسقف ما سيستطيعه بن سلمان هو منافسة شاب خليجي مثله هو أمير قطر.

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Washington’s confusion: it needs the escalation with Iran, but it is afraid of it with Moscow ارتباك واشنطن: تحتاج التصعيد مع إيران وتخشاه مع موسكو

Washington’s confusion: it needs the escalation with Iran, but it is afraid of it with Moscow

Written by Nasser Kandil,

ارتباك واشنطن: تحتاج التصعيد مع إيران وتخشاه مع موسكو

Washington is aware that it no longer has the ability to control the course of the development of the situations in Syria, and that the diagram of the developments draws a path that makes the Syrian country the only player which emerges. This includes all the Syrian opponent forces which lost their role and status and will lose more, as well as the regional and the international forces that supported the war against the Syrian country and tried to overthrow it, it includes also the terrorist formations especially ISIS and Al Nusra. This means that it will include later the forces which their role was related with the war on terrorism led by America, even the presence of Syria’s allies will be bound by the end of this war with the agreements which organize their presence in Syria. This conclusion is accepted by the allies and they work accordingly to make it closer, because it achieves the real goals which they want; the victory of Syria and their regional and international status after getting rid of the burdens of war.

Washington is at the forefront of those who fear this result. It is aware that it cannot change it as long as it is an inevitable fate, making the war on terrorism a lasting plea is out of the control of America, so finding a Kurdish coverage for the US presence will become a burden on America as an accused of dividing Syria after the end of ISIS. So neither America nor the Kurds will be far from an international regional political confrontation under the title of the unity of Syria, and calling everyone for a political dialogue that paves the way for a unified government, new constitution and elections. So soon there will be assumptions of the exposure of the US and the Kurdish forces to a military confrontation too. Thus the Kurdish groups will become subject to fight under the title of no for the division of Syria, while the American forces will be targeted as an occupying force. This is known by the Americans and they know that its prevention before was more possible than today or tomorrow, but its cost is the acceptance of an entry into a full confrontation with Russia and Iran and which is above the capacity of Washington.

The war on ISIS and its destination will be resolved in Deir Al Zour and under the banner of the Syrian army whatever Washington said that it is exclusive battle and that its entrusted party is the Kurdish groups and that the battle is in Raqqa, after the securing corridors to Badia become closed, and after the Euphrates course has become under the control of the Syrian army from the southern of Tabka till Rasafeh towards Sokhna and then Deir Al Zour, and after the Syrian-Iraqi borders line has become under the control of the Syrian army and the Popular Crowd ,and it sees also that the Southern borders are close to be under the control of the army. So the fate of the assumptive operations against the Syrian country across these borders has been fallen totally.

If Washington took considerations of going to war against Iran and Syria it would do that without hesitation and it would not create justifications for its strikes, and it would translate its red lines with the fiery operations not through scattered firecrackers. Washington’s last opportunities were when Tehran sent its ballistic missiles, knowing that Washington chases Tehran for their manufacture and possession. Washington had to prove first that it was capable of dropping these missiles before reaching their goals, not leaving the impression of the inability and the superiority of Iran as long as the US criterion is to prevent the Syrian army from progress towards ISIS in its military operations areas, under the plea that the matter is not to defense ISIS, however to draw the limits of roles. So why it did not prevent the Iranian missiles, it had the plea of claiming that the missiles were targeting allied groups to Washington or the US forces and it would take this as a plea for confrontation, even in the confrontation with the Syrian army it is clear that Washington escapes from the serious confrontation with the progress of the Syrian army towards the Iraqi borders and its expansion along them, it just provokes the situations so what does it want?

With the approaching of the end of the war in Syria, the end of the American presence is approaching, whatever Washington contends stubbornly or denies. So Washington has to be ready for beyond Syria not beyond the end of the war in it. The end of the slogan of the war on ISIS remains the only slogan that justifies the expansion of the US role in the region; so it tries to make the slogan “the Iranian danger”. It is the axis of the new US –Israeli- Saudi tripartite alliance. This explains the Russian response to the US movement in its hidden dimensions. Because Moscow does not allow involving the region into an open tension entitled making an open confrontation with Iran, Europe does not share the need and the interest with Washington in this goal as it finds itself that it is closer to Moscow in the calling for a Saudi Iranian settlement. This is clear from the European deal with the results of the summits of the US President in Riyadh, and then the European deal with the first outcomes of these summits through the seeking to overthrow Qatar in the Saudi auspices.

The confusion of Washington in its next project is because it is waging it from the Syrian gate in the seeking to escalate the situation with Iran, it needs that escalation, but it is afraid of it with Russia which forms the front in which Iran positions in Syria. Washington is unable to deceive Moscow and to pass its escalation against Iran as a separated matter from the rules of the US-Russian relationship, because Moscow is confident that the US success will mean the continuation of the destructive chaos conducted by Washington, but this time it moves to the Gulf which its rulers are not aware of what will await them other than selling more weapons and going to the financial bankruptcy as close disasters.

Translated by Lina Shehadeh,

ارتباك واشنطن: تحتاج التصعيد مع إيران وتخشاه مع موسكو

يونيو 21, 2017

ارتباك واشنطن: تحتاج التصعيد مع إيران وتخشاه مع موسكوناصر قنديل

– تدرك واشنطن أنها لم تعد تملك القدرة على التحكم بمسار تطوّر الأوضاع في سورية، وأنّ الخط البياني للتطورات يرسم مساراً يجعل الدولة السورية اللاعب الوحيد الذي تصعد أسهمه. وهذا يشمل الجميع من قوى سورية مناوئة للدولة خسرت دورها ومكانتها وستخسر أكثر، وقوى إقليمية ودولية دعمت الحرب على الدولة السورية وسعت لإسقاطها، لكنه يشمل أيضاً التشكيلات الإرهابية، خصوصاً داعش والنصرة. وهذا يعني أنه سيشمل لاحقاً القوى التي ارتبط دورها بمظلة الحرب على الإرهاب، وعلى رأسهم أميركا، وحتى حلفاء سورية فسيصير حضورهم مقيّداً بنهاية هذه الحرب بالاتفاقيات التي تنظم وجودهم في سورية، والخلاصة هذه يتقبّلها الحلفاء ويعملون لجعلها أقرب، لأنه يحقق الأهداف الحقيقية التي يريدونها، وهي نصر سورية ومكانتهم الإقليمية والدولية، بعد التخفف من أعباء الحرب.

– تقف واشنطن في مقدّمة صفوف الذين يخشون هذه النتيجة، وهي تدرك أنها لا تستطيع تغييرها كمصير حتمي. فجعل الحرب على الإرهاب ذريعة مديدة خرج من يد أميركا، وإيجاد غطاء كردي للوجود الأميركي سيصبح عبئاً على أميركا كمتهم بتقسيم سورية بعد نهاية داعش، ولن تكون أميركا ومَن معها من الأكراد بمنأى عن مواجهة سياسية دولية وإقليمية تحت عنوان وحدة سورية، ودعوة الجميع لحوار سياسي يمهّد  لحكومة موحدة، ودستور جديد وانتخابات، لكنه سيضع سريعاً فرضيات تعرّض القوات الأميركية والكردية لمخاطر مواجهة عسكرية أيضاً، وتصير الجماعات الكردية عرضة للقتال تحت عنوان لا لتقسيم سورية، بينما تصير القوات الأميركية مستهدفة كقوة احتلال. وهذا ايضاً يعلمه الأميركيون، ويعلمون أن منعه كان ممكناً مراراً أفضل مما هو اليوم، أو غدا، لكن كلفته ارتضاء الدخول في مواجهة شاملة مع روسيا وإيران، وهو فوق طاقة واشنطن.

– الحرب على داعش وجهتها ستحسم في دير الزور، وتحت راية الجيش العربي السوري، مهما قالت واشنطن أنها معركتها الحصرية وأنّ وكيلها هو الجماعات الكردية وأنّ المعركة في الرقة، وهي ترى مسارب تهريب داعش نحو البادية مقفلة، ومجرى الفرات صار بيد الجيش السوري من جنوب الطبقة حتى الرصافة وصولاً للسخنة، وانتهاء بدير الزور، كما ترى أنّ خط الحدود السورية العراقية صار بيد الجيش السوري والجيش العراقي والحشد الشعبي، وسيصير أكثر وأكثر، وترى أنّ الحدود الجنوبية لسورية بدأت تصبح بيد الجيش السوري، وأنّ مصير العمليات الافتراضية ضدّ الدولة السورية عبر هذه الحدود قد سقط إلى غير رجعة.

– لو كانت واشنطن تقيم حسابات توصلها لتحمّل حرب مع إيران والدولة السورية لفعلت بلا مواربة، ولما اختارت لضرباتها أعذاراً، وترجمت كلامها عن خطوطها الحمراء بالنار العملياتية، وليس بالرسائل النارية المتباعدة والمتفرّقة، وآخر فرص واشنطن كان يوم أرسلت طهران صواريخها الباليستية التي تلاحق واشنطن طهران على تصنيعها وامتلاكها، وكان على واشنطن أولاً إثبات أنها قادرة على إسقاط هذه الصواريخ قبل بلوغ أهدافها، إنْ كانت تستطيع، فلا تترك انطباع العجز عنها والتفوّق لحساب إيران، ما دام المعيار الأميركي، أنها تمنع الجيش السوري من التقدّم نحو داعش في مناطق علمياتها وتسوّق حجة أنّ الأمر ليس دفاعاً عن داعش، لكنه رسم لحدود الأدوار، فلماذا لم تمنع صواريخ إيران، وكان لها حجة الادّعاء عندها بأن الصواريخ كانت تستهدف جماعات حليفة لواشنطن أو للقوات الأميركية، وتتخذ ذلك ذريعة للمواجهة. وحتى في المواجهة مع الجيش السوري واضح أنّ واشنطن تهرب من المواجهة الجدية مع تقدّم الجيش السوري نحو الحدود العراقية وتمدّده على طولها، وتكتفي بتوتير الأجواء، فماذا تريد؟

– مع مسار الاقتراب من نهاية واضحة للحرب في سورية، تقترب نهاية الوجود الأميركي، مهما كابرت واشنطن او أنكرت، ولذلك على واشنطن الاستعداد لما بعد سورية، وليس لما بعد نهاية الحرب فيها  وحسب، فنهاية شعار الحرب على الإرهاب تبقي شعاراً وحيداً يبرّر التوسع في الدور الأميركي في المنطقة، وهو تصنيع شعار الخطر الإيراني، وهذا هو محور التحالف الثلاثي الجديد الأميركي الإسرائيلي السعودي. وهذا ما يفسّر التصدي الروسي للحركة الأميركية بأبعادها الخفية، لأنّ موسكو لا توافق على إدخال المنطقة في توتر مفتوح عنوانه تصنيع مواجهة مفتوحة مع إيران، بل إنّ أوروبا لا تشترك في الحاجة والمصلحة مع واشنطن في هذا الهدف بقدر ما تجد أنها أقرب لموسكو في الدعوة لتسوية إيرانية سعودية. وهذا واضح من التعامل الأوروبي مع نتائج قمم الرئيس الأميركي في الرياض، ولاحقاً التعامل  الأوروبي مع أولى ثمار هذه القمم بالسعي لإسقاط قطر في الحضن السعودي.

– ارتباك واشنطن في مشروعها المقبل هو أنها تخوضه من بوابة سورية، في السعي للتصعيد مع إيران. وهي تحتاج هذا التصعيد، لكنها تخشاه مع روسيا، التي تشكل مظلة الجبهة التي تتموضع فيها إيران  وسورية، وتعجز واشنطن عن خداع موسكو وتمرير تصعيدها بوجه إيران بصفته شأناً منفصلاً عن قواعد العلاقة الأميركية الروسية، لأنّ موسكو واثقة بأنّ النجاح الأميركي سيعني مواصلة الفوضى الهدامة التي تنتهجها واشنطن، لكن بانتقالها هذه المرة إلى الخليج الذي لا يدرك حكامه ماذا

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Military Situation In Southeastern Syria. Government Forces In Striking Distance From T2 Pumping Station

27.06.2017

Military Situation In Southeastern Syria. Government Forces In Striking Distance From T2 Pumping Station

Click to see the full-size map

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the National Defense Forces (NDF), Hezbollah, Liwa al-Quds and other pro-government groups are pressuring ISIS terrorists in southeastern Syria.

Government forces have made large gains north of al-Bawdah, capturing a number of points and deploying in a striking distance from the strategic T2 pumping station. At the same time, an intense fighting is ongoing between government troops and ISIS terrorists near the Arak gas field northeast of Palmyra.

Government forces are advancing in the desert:

An ISIS video shows clashes between the Syrian army and terrorists near the Arak gas fiield:

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Qatar Crisis And The War in Libya

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Qatar Crisis And The War in Libya

Conflict Origins

The war in Libya was caused not so much by any internal dissent but rather by the West’s need for continued economic expansion, which Western elites view as part and parcel of the post-Cold War “end of history”, a still-potent messianic ideology which gives the West the license to attack anyone, anywhere, to achieve its mercantilist objectives, and which gives contains the necessary humanitarian “fig leaf” for the benefit of the politically correct faction of Western societies.

Naturally, politically correct Westerners have been unbothered by the  “humanitarian interventions” invariably making the situation far worse, and Libya has not been an exception. Since the fall of the regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi, Libya has not experienced any political, financial or even social stability, as the country is witnessing a state of constant fighting between all parties despite the absence of any religious or sectarian differences between the population, where Libya turned from one of the richest countries in the world to a failed state.

Two Libyas

The current war in Libya began in 2014, with most of the fighting being between the internationally-recognized Tobruk-based Libyan Interim Government centered on the House of Representatives that was elected democratically in 2014 , an Islamist National Salvation Government government founded by the General National Congress based in Tripoli city, and the UN-backed Government of National Accord also based in Tripoli.

The Libyan Interim Government has the allegiance of the Libyan National Army under the leadership of General “Khalifa Haftar”  and enjoys the support of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates directly, with indirect support from both the United States and Britain and Russia, with the latter country’s affinity to Haftar clearly demonstrated when the Libyan general boarded the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier in January 2017, as the ship was returning home from its combat mission at the coast of Syria. It is a secular entity and has the sole legitimate power in Libya. Since 2014, Egypt has supplied many light and heavy weapons to the Libyan National Army led by Khalifa Haftar, which included several MiG-21 fighters. The United Arab Emirates also provides financial support to Haftar and has a small airbase in eastern Libya, including AT-802 turboprop light attack aircraft and WingLoong UAVs which appear to be operated by Erik Prince’s Academi (formerly Blackwater) Private Military Company.

The emergence of the Libyan Interim Government was made possible by the withdrawal of House of Representatives support for the Government of National Accord, whose power has since greatly decreased.

Instead, the chief opponent of the LIG is the Islamic government of the General National Congress, also called the “Salvation Government”,  which is led by the Muslim Brotherhood with support from a coalition of Islamic groups known as “Dawn of Libya”. It is believed that one of the combat groups of the General National Congress was involved in the assassination of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens in 2012. The Muslim Brotherhood are also accused of providing political cover to ISIS during its expansion in Libya before 2014, which is a plausible accusation considering Qatar’s tangible support to both ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood.

It too enjoys international support by Qatar, Turkey, and Sudan, with the former two countries playing roles identical to they played in the Syrian conflict.  Qatar’s considerable contribution included  financial support to the General National Congress and smuggling arms using C-130 military cargo planes in cooperation with Sudan, while Turkey has smuggled arms to the  “Dawn of Libya”  using ships. Turkey also benefits from illegal oil trade with the militia, according to unconfirmed reports.

Since 2014, ISIS has had strong influence in much of Libya, especially in Darnah east of Banghazi, but this influence of the terrorist organization has shrunk over time. However, Libya is one of the bases of recruitment and money laundering for ISIS, where ISIS is believed to has received indirect support from Turkey, Qatar and the General National Congress. Moreover, ISIS views Libya as an operating base from which to stage expansion into countries of the Sahel and to aid ISIS cells operating in Tunisia and Egypt.

Completing the list of warring parties, Tuareg forces control southwestern Libya, including Amazigh and Ghat area, and are considered indirect allies of the General National Congress.

The Qatar-Turkey “Axis”

Given the balance of forces outlined above, the conflict in Libya would have come to a close years ago had it not been for the direct involvement of the Qatar-Turkey alliance, whose aggressive acts against Syria had likewise escalated that conflict. To be sure, the Qatar-Turkey alliance was one of convenience, with the two parties pursuing different objectives which simply happened to be not mutually exclusive.

For Turkey, the aim of the game at the time was neo-Ottomanism. Both Syria and Libya are, after all, parts of the former Ottoman Empire, with the former being wrested from its grasp by the French and the British at the end of World War I, and the former falling to Italy in Italo-Turkish War of 1911-1912. For Qatar, the objective was establishing oneself as a regional power player not only independent of Saudi Arabia but also equivalent to it, a task that would have been greatly facilitated by establishing Qatar-friendly regimes in Libya and Syria, extending Qatar’s control over the region’s hydrocarbons, and gaining access to new markets in Europe. That final point of the Turkey-Qatar strategy was welcome by European factions favoring continued eastward expansion because the Qatari gas pipeline could be used as a political weapon against Russia.

The Turning Point?

However, that coalition proved too weak to overcome the resistance of legitimate government forces in Libya and Syria, particularly after the direct Russian military involvement in Syria spelled the end of the “Assad must go” campaign, and it never managed to secure the support of the United States for either of its objectives. The US, for its part, attempted to sponsor its own jihadists in Syria or favored the Saudi-led efforts. Therefore it was only a matter of time before either Turkey or Qatar realized its strategy was doomed and sought to pursue a different course of action. Turkey proved the weaker link in that coalition thanks to, ironically, US enlistment of the Kurds as its proxy army in Syria. Faced with an impossible to dislodge Russian presence in Syria, Turkey opted to change its aims to become an “energy gateway” to Europe by joining forces with Russia in the form of the Turkish Stream pipeline.

Worse, while initially the West was generally in favor of any and all forms of “Arab Spring”, including the Turkish-Qatari efforts in both Syria and Libya, by 2016 it was becoming clear the downsides were outweighing the positives. The refugee crisis, in particular, that became a potent political issue threatening the unchallenged liberal status quo had forced a re-evaluation of the policy, lest the likes of Front National or AfD come to power in Europe. Even the US, which did not receive a flood of Middle East refugees, was affected.  On April 11, 2016, Obama was forced to admit that Libya was the “worst mistake” he had committed during his presidency as the mistake was that the United States did not plan for the post-Gaddafi era. He was not doing it because of any sorrow for the citizens of countries he despoiled, but rather because the resulting chaos was now negatively affecting Hillary Clinton’s chances to win.

But it was Donald Trump who delivered what surely will be a fatal blow to Qatar’s international ambitions, first by giving a green light to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states to pounce on Qatar, and then directly accusing it of sponsoring terrorists. The ensuing blockade of Qatar meant that the country’s leaders would have little time or money to continue financing militants in Libya or Syria. Indeed, shortly after the Qatar blockade was imposed, the Russian military stated the war in Syria, other than the fighting against ISIS, had practically ground to a standstill.

Considering that Turkey and Qatar have been the main obstacles to ending the war in Libya, Turkey’s defection followed by the US-authorized Saudi political and economic assault on Qatar have implications not only for Syria but also for Libya. Indeed, there are already many signs the political situation in Libya is evolving. Arguably the biggest development in recent months was the release of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Muammar Gaddafi’s son, by a Tobruk-based militia upon a request from the House of Representatives. With Saif al-Islam Gaddafi being wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged atrocities committed by the Libyan government during the 2011 war, the fact of his release indicates the political fortunes are now favoring the House of Representatives and Marshal Haftar, a shift also suggested by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s statements in support of Haftar playing  an important role in Libyan politics and the new French President Macron’s admission the war in Libya was a major mistake.

But here the Western officials seem to be following the trends rather than making them, as the root cause of the shift appears to be the sudden weakening of Qatar’s positions in the region. Egypt is a clear beneficiary of that weakening and is intent on pressing its advantage, to the point of pro-Sisi Egyptian media actually advocating bombing of Qatar. The Qatari disarray is also made apparent by LNA’s recent announcement that the Qatari opposition has provided the LNA with a list of Libyan citizens who worked for Qatar’s intelligence services.

Honorable Peace or Humiliating Defeat?

Qatar’s situation is not an enviable one. For the time being Turkey’s military support and the US unwillingness to allow Saudi Arabia to utterly devastate Qatar are enough to allow it to maintain a brave face. But in the longer term it needs to find an accommodation with at least one of the key power players in the region, such as Saudi Arabia, US, or…Russia. The fact of growing Turkey-Russia cooperation on a variety of issues and Qatar’s outreach to Russia in the form of a foreign minister visit and the simplification of visa rules for Russian citizens, suggests that Qatar is at least contemplating realigning its alliance membership. However, considering that all of the three above-named powers are on the opposite side of the barricades as far as Libya is concerned, it seems unlikely Qatar can maintain its proxy war there even with Turkey’s support. Therefore, almost no matter what Qatar decides to do next, it will have no choice but to write off Libya as a total loss, an act that will hasten the end of this tragic six-year war.

Syrian War Report – June 26, 2017: Israel Supports Militant Advance In Quneitra

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Last weekend, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and allied groups from the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) launched a large-scale advance against the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the province of Quneitra. The militants had formed an operation room named Jaysh Muhammad for the purpose and said that their aim was to capture al-Baath town and to reach the countryside of Damascus.

On Saturday, the joint militant forces made some gains against the SAA and even claimed that they seized over a half of al-Baath. However, further clashes showed that HTS and their allies were not able to break the government defenses.

Following a fail of the militant advance, the Israeli Air Force conducted airstrikes on government positions in the province claiming that some projectiles landed in the Israeli-occupied part of the Golan Heights. The airstrikes targeted undefined number of artillery pieces and two battle tanks of the SAA.

On Sunday, the Israeli Air Force carried out airstrikes on the SAA in Al-Baath in Quneitra province for the second day in a row under the same pretext. According to the Israeli military, the airstrikes hit artillery positions and an ammunitions truck.

Following the Israeli strikes, militants launched the second large-scale attempt to break government defense lines in al-Baath but failed to achieve any gains.

On Monday, the Israeli media reported that more projectiles landed in the Israeli-held area and that the Israeli Air Force responded with more airstrikes on SAA positions in the province. If confirmed, this was the third time in a row when the Israeli Air Force delivered airstrikes against Syrian government forces in the area.

At the same time, reports appeared HTS and its allies once again launched an attack against the SAA in al-Baath.

Syrian experts describe the Israeli actions as a clear assistance to the terrorist group fighting the legitimate Syrian government in the border area. According to them, Tel Aviv is deeply concerned over successful SAA operations against ISIS and other militants across Syria. Thus, it takes measures to undermine the Syrian war on terror.

Meanwhile, the SAA Tiger Forces have successfully advanced against ISIS at the Ithriyah-Resafa road. They liberated Bir Abu Alaj, the Syriatel checkpoint and some nearby points, becoming close to a full liberation of the road. This advance is an important step aimed at securing the whole area east of Khanasir.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have continued storming the ISIS-held city of Raqqah. They encircled the city from the southern flank and clashing with ISIS inside it, including the southern part of the 17th Army Base.

ISIS terrorists used at least 3 VBIEDs against SDF units in Al-Jazra and Al-Idikhar districts of the city. Clashes are also ongoing in Al-Qadisiya and Al-Yarmouk districts.

Map Update: Military Situation In Aleppo And Raqqah Provinces After Syrian Army Advances At Ithriyah-Resafa Roads

This map shows the military situation in the provinces of Aleppo and Raqqah after a successfull government advance against ISIS at the Ithriyah-Resafa road. The Syrian Army Tiger Forces have liberated Bir Abu Alaj, the Syriatel checkpoint and nearby points.

 

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (5:25 A.M.) – On Monday, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) kicked off a new offensive on the perimeter of the East Ghouta opposition mainland, targeting Islamist insurgents in the large Damascus suburb of Ayn Tarma.

Probing rebel-held turf just east of the M5-highway, the SAA’s Republican Guard swept through numerous buildings and reached the Ayn Tarma conjunction area that is located next to the Al-Kheir market place.

Amid the advances, the SAA blew up two buildings which were used by Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) as long-standing frontline bases. At least 10 HTS fighters were killed, a military source debriefing Al-Masdar News said.

 

Pictures of the Ayn Tarma offensive:

The Ayn Tarma suburb is highly important as it safeguards the supply line that leads to Jobar, a neighboring district where heavy clashes are also taking place as we speak.

Should Ayn Tarma and Jobar fall into government hands, the SAA will move one step closer to securing its capital.

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Injured Terrorists Taken to Israeli Hospitals: Syria

Originally appeared at AhlulBayt News Agency

Local sources disclosed on Sunday that several terrorists, who had been wounded in the battle with the Syrian government forces in Quneitra province, have been taken to an Israeli hospital.

The sources reported that a number of injured members of Al-Nusra Front (also known as Fatah al-Sham Front or the Levant Liberation Board) have been transferred to the Israeli hospitals via al-Hamidiyeh region in Quneitra countryside.

Injured Terrorists Taken to Israeli Hospitals: Syria

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The army troops repelled Al-Nusra Front’s offensives in the Southwestern province of Quneitra, leaving tens of terrorists dead and many more wounded. Later, the Israeli aircraft attacked the Syrian government forces’ tanks and artillery positions South-West of the war-hit country.

This is not the first time that Al-Nusra terrorists have been transferred to Israeli hospital after sustaining injuries in clashes with the army soldiers.

In September and November 2016, tens of wounded fighters of Fatah al-Sham (formerly know as the Al-Nusra) Front were transferred from Quneitra battlefields to Israeli hospitals in the occupied Golan Heights, as several Israeli ambulances entered Syria’s Southern province of Quneitra and transferred those terrorists injured in clashes with Syrian Army troops to their hospitals in the occupied part of the Golan Heights.

Also, scores of fighters of Fatah al-Sham succumbed to their injuries in Israeli hospitals and their bodies were handed over to the Takfiri terrorists in Syria’s Quneitra.

Fatah al-Sham received these bodies and transferred them to its own field-hospital in the village of Jabata al-Khashab near Quneitra city.

In October, sources disclosed that Fatah al-Sham Front dispatched its wounded members to Israeli and Jordanian Hospitals via Syria’s Southern borders.

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