Authorities Confiscate Large Stash of Weapons and Munition Heading to Idlib

Authorities Confiscate Large Stash of Weapons and Munition Heading ...

July 31, 2020 Arabi Souri

The law enforcement authorities discovered and confiscated a large quantity of weapons and munition heading to the NATO-sponsored Al Qaeda terrorists in Idlib.

In its ongoing intensive work and thanks to the ever-vigilant Syrian security personnel and with the help of locals, the law enforcement units in Homs monitoring smuggling networks found one of the storing places used by the smugglers at the Homs – Hama administrative borderline packed with a large number of assorted weapons and their munition on its route to terrorists in the Idlib province further in the northwest.

This seizure included automatic rifles, medium machine guns, shoulder-fired missiles, RPGs, various-caliber mortars, a mortar, grenades, and a large amount of light and medium ammunition.

Authorities Confiscate Large Stash of Weapons and Munition Heading ...
Authorities Confiscate Large Stash of Weapons and Munition Heading ...
Authorities Confiscate Large Stash of Weapons and Munition Heading ...

Just a week earlier on the 22nd of July, Syrian law enforcement authorities confiscated a shipment of a large number of weapons and munition heading to the terrorists in northern Idlib countryside. That shipment included mainly medium and light ammunition, machine guns, ammunition, RPGs, medium machine guns, and propellers.

Due to the huge quantities confiscated by the Syrian law enforcement agencies all over the country, the Syrian Arab Army’s engineering unit has to destroy the found quantities as it ran out of storage places. Weapons and munition need to be stored in specially-designated high-security depots. Almost weekly, the engineering corps carry out such a procedure to destroy these weapons all over the country, they also have to notify the public beforehand and make sure the destruction site is as much far as possible from residential or farming areas.

See also:

SAA Units Discover a 20 Meters Depth Tunnel in Hama Countryside

https://www.syrianews.cc/saa-units-discover-20-meters-depth-tunnel-hama-countryside/embed/#?secret=OFr6CNGuWk

SAA Units Find Weapons, Caves & Tunnels in Cleanup; Erdogan’s Terrorists Breach CoH 19 Times

https://www.syrianews.cc/saa-units-find-weapons-caves-erdogans-terrorists-breach-coh-19-times/embed/#?secret=Y0zrHdTzeJ

NATO terrorists do not only rely on the direct supply route they have with NATO member state Turkey providing them with personnel, weapons, and logistics essentials, they have a number of supply networks established during the years when they were controlling much larger territories throughout the country. Routes from Lebanon, from the open Syrian desert connecting with Iraq and Jordan in the east and south, and naturally through the very long borders with Turkey in the north.

Our question to the citizens of the NATO member alliance, especially when a country like Germany, the locomotive of the European economy, fails to pay its dues to the NATO alliance which lead to Trump withdrawing a big number of his forces from there, wouldn’t investing in more useful things in your own countries, say healthcare, education, infrastructure, research and development…etc., be more beneficial to you and your children than investing in these terrorist groups killing and maiming Syrians? Just think about it, weapons and also its munition are not cheap, let alone the billions spent by the Pentagon and each of the NATO war ministries from your tax money as part of their contribution to the invading and destruction of other countries.

SAA Seizes 2 Shipments of NATO Weapons to Al-Qaeda Near Damascus

https://www.syrianews.cc/saa-seizes-2-shipments-nato-weapons-al-qaeda-near-damascus/embed/#?secret=Za0C2S9Z9s

Large Quantities of Weapons and Drugs Left behind by NATO Terrorists in Southern Syria

The ominous Jihadis war; From Tripoli to Tripoli:

The ominous Jihadis war; From Tripoli to Tripoli:

May 23, 2020

By Ghassan Kadi for the Saker Blog

The ‘War on Syria’ is far from being over, and it will continue until all foreign forces illegally present on Syrian soil retreat; either willingly, or defeated.

And even though the American presence in Syria has no clear and realistic political purpose other than wreaking havoc. https://transnational.live/2020/05/19/america-exists-today-to-make-war-how-else-do-we-interpret/ and making it hard for Russia to help reach a decisive victory, in a twist of fate, the focus of the Russo-American conflict in the region may soon move away from Syria.

In reality, the outcome of the ‘War on Syria’ was never expected by the initial assembly of adversaries when they launched the attack. Furthermore, they had many deep differences and nothing in common other than a shared hatred for Syria, but the unexpected turn of events has intensified their internal conflict and seemingly catapulted the strife between those former allies much further afield to a new hub in Libya.

Whilst the world and its media are busy with COVID-19, a new huge struggle is brewing, and this time, it is drawing new lines and objectives that are in reality going to be fueled, financed and executed by the former once-united enemies of Syria; but this time, it will be against each other.

An array of regional and international issues lies behind the impending conflict; and to call it impending is an under-statement. It is already underway, but hasn’t reached its peak yet, let alone making any significant news coverage.

It is a real mess in Libya now, and the short version of a long story goes like this:

Soon after NATO hijacked the UNSC mandate to enforce a no-fly-zone decision over Libya and manipulated it in a manner that ‘legalised’ bombing Libya culminating in toppling and killing Gadhafi, the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), based in the formal capital Tripoli on the Western side of the coast, was created.

But the ‘revolution’ against Gadhafi was launched in the eastern coastal city of Benghazi. After Gadhafi’s demise, another interim government was formed in Libya’s east under the name of National Transitional Council (NTC).

The NTC, whose flag is the flag of the ‘revolution’, did not recognize the GNA and regarded it as a Western lackey.

After a few years of squabbling, NTC strongman General Haftar decided to militarily disable the GNA.

With little concrete protection on the ground from the West, and under the guise of upholding UNSC mandates, Erdogan jumped into the existing void and the opportunity to grab Libya’s oil, and decided to send troops to support the GNA.  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-51003034

In return, Haftar is getting support from other regional players. Recently, representatives from Egypt, the UAE, Greece, Cyprus and France had a meeting and denounced Turkey’s involvement in Libya. https://greekcitytimes.com/2020/05/12/greece-egypt-cyprus-france-uae-denounce-turkey-in-joint-statement/. Erdogan perhaps borrowed a term from his American part-ally-part-adversary and referred to the meeting and its decree as an ‘alliance of evil’. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/turkey-accuses-five-nations-of-forming-alliance-of-evil/2020/05/12/a3c5c63a-9438-11ea-87a3-22d324235636_story.html Fancy this, a NATO member accusing other NATO members of being in an alliance of evil.

It must be noted that even though Saudi Arabia did not attend the meeting, it was there in spirit, and represented by its proxy-partner the UAE.

The USA took a step further and accused Russia and Syria of working behind the scenes and planning to send fighters to Libya to support Haftar. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-security-usa-syria-idUSKBN22J301

But this article is not about the geopolitical hoo-ha. It is about shedding a light on what score-settling is expected to eventuate in Libya, and who is likely to end up doing the fighting against who.

Even though the Afghani Mujahedeen were purportedly the first Jihadi fighters to engage in battle in the 20th Century, their fight was against foreign USSR troops. In terms of an internal force that aimed for fundamentalist Muslim rule, there is little doubt that the first event of such insurgency in the Middle East was the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) revolt that took place in Syria in the early 1980’s and which was quashed by the then President, Hafez Assad. After their smashing defeat, the fundamentalists kept their heads low until they lit the flame again in the Palestinian refugee Naher Al-Bared Camp at the northern outskirts of Tripoli Lebanon in 2007.

There are, for those who are unaware, two cities bearing the name Tripoli on the Mediterranean coast; one is in Northern Lebanon, and it is Lebanon’s second largest city, and the other Tripoli is located on the Western side of the Libyan Coast. They are sometimes called Tripoli of the East and Tripoli of the West, respectively.

Shaker Al-Absi, leader of Fateh Al Islam, a Salafist terror organization, declared jihad and engaged in a bitter fight against the Lebanese Army. He was defeated, remained at large, but any look at Lebanon’s Tripoli after his demise displayed a clear evidence of a huge build-up of Salafist presence in the city.

When the ‘War on Syria’ started only four years later, Tripoli became a major hub for the transport of fighters and munitions from Lebanon into Syria. Nearly a decade later, and with a few Jihadi pockets left in the Idlib province now, their defeat in Syria is imminent.

But who exactly are those murderous head-chopping radical elements that we talking about; past and present?

When the coalition that started the attack on Syria took form, it was comprised virtually of all of Syria’s enemies. Most of them were religious fundamentalists. In an early article, I called them ‘The Anti-Syrian Cocktail’.  https://intibahwakeup.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-anti-syrian-cocktail-by-ghassan-kadi.html

Back then, ISIS, did not exist in the form that it became known as. Furthermore, I have always advocated that there was no difference at all between Al-Nusra and ISIS and/or any other Takfiri organizations. They are all terror-based and founded on violent readings of Islam.

In time however, and this didn’t take long, it became apparent that even though the ideologies were identical, there were two major financiers and facilitators to those many different terror organizations. One was primarily funded by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and the other by Qatar and facilitated by Turkey.

The former group is affiliated with what is known as Saudi Wahhabi Islam. They are also known as the Salafists. The latter group are the MB’s.

As the war was shifting in favour of Syria, their agendas diverged, the schism grew deeper and strong rivalries emerged; especially as the Wahhabis and their sponsors were sent home defeated. Part of this fallout was the ongoing Saudi-Qatari conflict.

But the rivalry that is least spoken about is personal. It is the one between Erdogan and Al-Saud.

They are both fighting over the leadership of fundamentalist Sunni Islam. But Erdogan also has his nationalist anti-Kurdish agenda, and of course, he is desperate to put his hands on oil supplies that he can call his own. He cannot find oil on Turkish soil or in Turkish waters, but he is prepared to act as a regional pirate and a thug and steal another nation’s oil. If no one is to stop him, he feels that he can and will.

Upon realizing that Turkey could not get in Syria either victory or oil, Erdogan is now turning his face west towards Libya. He finds in Libya a few scores that he hopes to settle after his failure in Syria. He wants a face-saving military victory, he wants to assert his position as THE Sunni leader who can reclaim glory, and he wants free oil. Last but not least, In Libya, he will find himself close to Egypt’s Sisi; the political/religious enemy who toppled his MB friend and ally, President Mursi.

On the other side, defeated but not totally out, Saudi Arabia wants blood; Erdogan’s blood.

The Saudis blame Erdogan (and Qatar) for their loss in Syria because he was more focused on his own agenda and spoils rather than the combined ones of the former alliance they had with him. They blame him for abandoning them and making deals with Russia. They hold him responsible for the breakup of the unity of Muslim fundamentalism. They fear his aspirations for gaining the hearts and minds of Muslims who regard him as a de-facto Caliph. As a matter of fact, it was Saudi Crown Prince MBS who used the borrowed word ‘evil’ first when he stated more than two years ago that Erdogan was a part of a ‘Triangle of Evil’. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-turkey-idUSKCN1GJ1WW. And how can we forget the Khashoggi debacle and the ensuing standoff between Turkey and Saudi Arabia?

We must stop and remember once again that not long ago at all, Turkey and Saudi Arabia were allies, who together, plotted how to invade Syria and bring her down to her knees. These are the heads of the two major countries that facilitated the war machine with Saudi money injecting fighters and munitions into Syria from the south, and open Turkish borders and Qatari money injecting them from the north.

Back to Libyan General Haftar. In his westerly advance along Libya’s terrain, he cleaned up the ISIS elements who stood in his way and hindered his progress.  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/feb/02/libya-foreign-powers-khalifa-haftar-emirates-russia-us But ironically, he is now fighting their religious rival; the Turks, the protectors of the MB’s.

The USA may accuse Syria of sending troops into Libya, but where is the proof and why should Syria do this after all? And even though the Saudis and the Emiratis are warming up relationships with Syria, the Syrian Army is still engaged in battle and is not prepared to go and fight in Libya. There is nothing for it to gain. Once the war is over, Syria will be concerned with rebuilding a war-torn nation. Syria has no interests in Libya; none what-so-ever.

The role of Russia is not very clear on the ground even though there are clear indications that Russia supports Haftar ideologically. The support began when Haftar demonstrated to the Russians that he was adamant about fighting ISIS and exterminating its presence in Libya. He lived up to this promise thus far and gained Russian respect.

How will the situation in Libya eventually pan out is anyone’s guess. That said, apart from sending regular Turkish Army units, Erdogan is not short on rounding up fighters; and he has attained much experience in this infamous field of expertise from his vicious attack on Syria. With Qatari money in his pocket, he can recruit as many fighters as Qatar can afford.

Erdogan realizes that the West is not interested in backing him up militarily in Libya. The best deal he can get from America is a tacit support. And with France, a NATO member taking part in the above-mentioned five-nation conference, he will definitely have to stand alone so-to-speak.

He has Qatar behind him, but how powerful is Qatar? A ‘nation’ of 200,000 citizens? How can such a small state play such a big role and why?

Qatar is not really a nation or even a state in the true sense. Qatar is an entity, a ‘corporation’ owned by a ruling dynasty that serves the interests of the USA and Israel. https://thesaker.is/qatar-unplugged/. This family will outlay any sum of money to guarantee its own protection and continuity.

And Erdogan, the friend-and-foe of both of America and Israel, knows the vulnerabilities and strengths of Qatar, and he is using his deceptive talents to provide the Qatari ruling family with the securities that the shortfalls that America and Israel do not provide. For example, it was he who sent troops to Qatar after the Saudi threats. And even though Erdogan will never take any serious actions against his NATO masters except in rhetoric, the weak and fearful Qataris will dance to the tune of any protector and will sell their souls to the devil should they need to.

On the other hand in Libya, if Haftar finds himself facing a huge Turkish army, he will need assistance on the ground. Where will he seek it from?  His next-door neighbour Egypt? If so, will it be in the form of regular army units or hired guns?

Sisi is neither a religious nor a fundamentalist zealot, but this is not meant to be a complementary statement. He has not taken any serious black-and-white steps in regional politics. This does not mean he is a man of principles. He is probably waiting for dollar signs, and if he sees financial benefits in supporting Saudi Arabia in a proxy war against Turkey in Libya, he may opt to agree; if the price it right.

Whether or not Saudi Arabia can afford a new war, especially with current crude prices, is another story, but as the war on Yemen winds down, the gung-ho MBS is irrational enough to be persuaded. His regional enemy is no longer Assad. His current enemy is Erdogan.

To be fair to MBS, despite his vile, criminal and megalomaniac attributes, he never claims to be a religious leader, but Erdogan does, and many Sunni Muslims see in Erdogan THE leader they have been waiting for. This alone constitutes a huge challenge for MBS because neither he, nor anyone else in the whole of Saudi Arabia for that matter, is regarded anywhere in the Muslim World as a potential leader of the Sunni Muslims.

In reality, as far as Muslim leadership is concerned, the Saudis can only bank on the location of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Apart from this, they only have wealth that enables them to buy supporters, but their oil wealth is becoming increasingly vulnerable.

In the uphill fight against Erdogan within the Muslim World, both of the Saudis and the Turks realize that the fight between them in Syria is over. Actually, the Saudis have no loyal ‘troops’ on Syrian soil left to fight anyone with. This begs the question of whether or not the Turks and Saudis are moving the battle ground and the score settling from Syria to Libya.

This time around, such a potential battle between the two lines of Jihadis may have to morph from a fight between terror organizations to a war between regular armies; the Turkish Army against the Egyptian Army. Such a battle will rage over Libyan soil, with the Turks financed by Qatar and Egypt by Saudi Arabia.

Such a war will not necessarily bring in Iran into the fight. If it eventuates, it will be a fundamentalist Sunni-Sunni war, sponsored by fundamentalist Sunni states, each fighting for and against different versions of radical Muslim fundamentalism, under the watchful eyes of the USA and to the glee of Israel.

The jihadi war that was first ignited in Tripoli Lebanon between a rogue terror organization and the Lebanese Army did not end. It kept moving theatres and objectives and changing players. Is the final score going to be settled in Tripoli Libya?

Amb. Jaafari to UNSC COVID Meeting: Stop Terror Virus against Syria

May 16, 2020 Miri Wood

unsc meeting covid 19 - Syria

Syria’s Ambassador Bashar al Jaafari addressed the UNSC ‘humanitarian bastards‘ meeting, 29 April, calling on the NATO P3 al Qaeda supporters to end savage unilateral economic coercion and reminding them that their terror virus needed more attention than their cover story of COVID concern.

Given a lengthy bathetic title, the meeting was held via video conference, reputedly as a precaution against contagion, though anonymous sources have the UN building had been completely sanitized by the numerous time it was flooded with the crocodile tears wept by the countries which have armed the criminally insane terrorists in Syria.

Leading with their bathetically artificial concern for COVID in Syria, the tripartite aggressors added neocolonial demands for compelled reopening of the al Yarubiyah crossing, lamentations over hospitals that do not exist, and ceasefire to their collective howling.

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NATO stenography media pretend this is normal.
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UN unindicted war criminals lead in coronavirus statistics, 15 May. Syria’s death total remains at 3.
Physician, heal thyself should come to mind.

As every honest diplomat knows, there can be no ceasefire without a formal declaration of war. In the unique situation of Syria — in which the filthiest of the filth, those countries which have dumped their human garbage into Syria, which have armed their human garbage in Syria, and whose media have written odes to the human garbage dumped into Syria and armed — there can only be a cessation of hostilities. Translating their Newspeak into reality-based language, the mobster gang demands that Syria cease protecting its citizens against NATO supported al Qaeda factions and cease to think of liberating up to three million Syrians entrapped in al-Qaeda’s last strong haven in the Idlib province by the Turkish madman Erdogan’s army and terrorists.

Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN, His Excellency Vasily Nebenzya drolly explained to the NATO klan its collective error in use of “ceasefire.”
UNSC Video meeting on COVID 19 and sanctions against the Syrian people
A partial break from the P3’s Greek Chorus came via the Representative of Saint Vincent & the Grenadines [second from top, right] who called for the removal of unilateral coercive measures imposed on the SAR. She stopped short of reminding her colleagues that these are a breach of the UN Charter because a Security Council Resolution for sanctions is required to starve a member country.

One upon another, all of the P3 NATO klan and their tap-dancing House Servants functioned as hired mourners, in wailing, in gnashing of their teeth, and in rending their garments whilst suffering intractable grief for the Afrin carnage one day earlier, the spread of COVID — including the donning of the white man’s burden garb to rescue the Arab country, while their own are destroyed by the virus — and Syria’s “war-ravaged health care system.”

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Reported oil tanker detonation near Afrin market has killed & injured dozens in fire.

The NATO klansmen outed themselves as “the grandsons of Sykes-Picot who want to redo what their grandfathers did and divide further what was already divided and tear apart further what they can tear apart.

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Syria before the Roman occupiers began the carving. The last major imperial hacking was by the Sykes-Picot vermin, but their NATO grandsons want more.
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The proud, imperial, UN P3 grandsons want to further carve off more chunks of Syria, today. This time they use their fake concern for COVID.

Not one of the P3 klansmen, nor any of their underlings, mentioned that Afrin, Syria, has been under NATO Madman Erdogan’s troops and assorted al Qaeda mercenary occupation, which is a breach of International Law and of the UN Charter; the NATO tribesmen flout both during their every important anti-Syria Security Council event.

Syria News reminds our readers that when the P3 criminals against humanity mention hospitals and health care, they do not include actual hospitals and clinics, They have never held emergency Security Council meetings to condemn the terrorist destruction of al Kindi University Cancer Hospital, nor the FSA bombings of al Watan Hospital, nor the partial destruction of the Jisr al Shughur National Hospital.

US-sponsored terrorists bombed al-Kindi Hospital in Aleppo December 2013
US-sponsored terrorists bombed al-Kindi Hospital in Aleppo December 2013

When the world leaders in war crimes– France, US, UK — occupying the UNSC say “hospital,” they actually mean unhospitalUnhospitals are any places — stolen homes, tunnels, caves, abandoned buildings, ancient ruins, CGI’s — that al Qaeda savages, illegals (including Mengele-types bragging about practicing medicine without licensure, and surgeries without anesthesia) and assorted human detritus claim to be medical facilities, and it is about these that the UN fake humanitarians criminally identify as “health care” facilities.

Ancient ruin declared a bombed hospital by NATO media.

The US, UK, and French unindicted war criminals did not mention that Syria is war-ravaged because they have dumped their human pathogens into the Levantine republic, and armed them with NATO weapons, and fueled their depraved, joint, psychosis with Captagon. Nor did they mention that they, the humanitarian bastards have also created the humanitarian crisis in Syria, with their illicit, draconian, economic terrorism they call sanctions which actually require a UN Security Council Resolution, which means these criminals are in breach of the UN Charter to which they are signatories.

flags
These terrorists left their flags outside, not wanting to soil them with the blood of the Syrian women they slaughtered.

While flooding the building with crocodile tears under the white man’s burden of protecting Syrian Arabs from COVID, the Axis of Evil P3 Devil’s Ambassadors — and their tap-dancing, Greek Chorus House Servants — renewed their paraphilia-like obsessive demands for the imperialists’ forced opening of the Yarubiyeh crossing from Iraq, under the scam of providing humanitarian aid for Syrians whose country has been destroyed by these same imperial NATO thugs.

As memories have been intentionally shrunk by the onslaught of NATO stenography journalists who got perfect scores their Operation Mockingbird course, we must refresh the human mind with reality dating way back to July 2014, in order to expose the ongoing Goebbels Lie regarding the continuing paraphiliac obsession and fake COVID – related need to crush Syria’s sovereignty by opening its borders to the rat pack.

We offer two screengrabs from the same Reuters writer – the Reuters that was established before the births of most of the great-grandparents of our readership — flouting liarship impunity. On 22 February, Reuters pimped the P3 demand to reopen the al Yaarubiyah crossing from Iraq, and arrogantly lied that “Russia and China blocked the world body from using a crossing point on the Iraqi border to provide help.”

Reuters implementation of the Goebbels Big Lie, 22 February.

UNSCR 2504 was passed on 10 January, in what may be the largest Pontius Pilate abstention votes in the history of the United Nations: The US, UK, Russia, and China all withheld their votes. At the UN, abstentions are counted as “yes” votes.

This vote predated the COVID pandemic in NATO countries.

Reuters re-ran its lie to coincide with the 29 April NATO humanitarian bastards flooding the building with their crocodile tears and their colonial cross-bearing to fraudulently protect Syrians against COVID in the SAR, while their own people suffer under draconian lockdown, food shortages, criminally enforced isolation — which can quickly become desolation — shortages of PPE, destruction of health care infrastructure.

Reuters repeated its lie when reporting on the invisible WHO report that has not been made available to us mere mortals. This service, by the way, appears to occasionally put spies on its payroll.

The Pontius Pilate passage of UNSCR 2504 (2020) was a colonial compromise, both a watered-down version of UNSCR 2165 (2014) and a six-month extension given to NATO supported terrorists in Idlib.

Thought the UN Charter is clear on the inviolability of sovereign rights of member states, UNSCR 2165 (2014) and extensions UNSCR 2393 (2017), UNSCR 2449 (2018) all violated Syria’s territorial integrity.

Beginning with 2165, these resolutions permitting breach of Syrian sovereignty have provided terrorists with weapons — including of a chemical nature — finance, and the ability to smuggle out Syrian oil, artifacts, and property; Jabhat al Nusra terrorists occupying Idlib, have received their life line from Turkey, especially.

Not long after the passage of UNSCR 2165 (2014), Turkey celebrated the breach of Syria’s territorial rights by transporting poisoned measles vaccines to human garbage in Idlib — via the Bab al Hawa fake humanitarian corridor — which were used to murder approximately fifty Syrian children. Bab al Hawa is the Turkish route that Press TV journalist Serena Shim reported used for transporting weapons and terrorists in convoys covered by the World Food ProgrammeShim subsequently was killed in a convenient vehicular accident.

A conspicuous section of UNSCR 2165 (2014) shows the affinity to Yaarubiyah crossing pre-dates the phony COVID concerns by almost six years.

The author provides another four maps to explain that the spawns of Beelzebub paraphilia to Yarubiyah has nothing to do with COVID, but everything to do with Sykes-Picot idolatry.

From the still opened Bab al Hawa crossing, Madman Erdogan can continue to transport weapons and terrorists into Idlib, and into Aleppo countryside. The caliph-wannabe launched aerial and ground bombings of Hasakah governate in early October, all of which were either ignored or cheered by the NATO klan mob at the UN. Similarly, the phony Trump haters have been struck dumb over his ongoing military incursions into Qamishli since 7 August.

The illicit Erdogan regime troops have criminally occupied part of al Hasakah post-October bombings. The illicit Trump regime troops come and go as they please (except when chased by very tall Syrians who tear the criminal flags from the criminal tanks).

These maps are provided to show the malignant intention of the UN NATO club plot to hack off another chunk of the Levantine republic, so that Madman Erdogan might get his criminal annexation. The creative chaos of the phony Trump betrayal of traitor/separatist/Obama-created SDF Kurds and Erdogan’s hatred of the separatist Kurds is more readily grasped in the study of these maps which demonstrate how the two unindicted war criminal regimes are working for the same Sykes-Picot updated for the neo-imperialists.

In the early days of the foreign war of terror against Syria, the Obama State Department gave frequent press conferences in which the criminal attacks against the State by the YPG would be cheered. Given the YPG is ‘military arm’ of the PKK which is actually on the US terror list, United States Special Forces Commander Gen. Raymond A. Thomas declared the name change was required (the various flags of the many armed terrorists against Syria, here. They include photos of US-approved terrorists with US-unapproved terrorists.)

The re-marketed, YPG-cum-SDF Obama regime creation was such a hit with western colonial serfs that they missed the fact that Obama actually put together a NATO wetworker run SDF — advertised as a ‘minority’ fighting against the also the US – created ISIS terrorists.

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Bab al Hawi humanitarian bastards corridor.
Note the colonial appropriation of the map-maker: Ain al Arab is the Syrian town in which the German “Kobane” company built a station.
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Al Walid crossing used by Trump regime troops to illegally enter the Syrian Arab Republic, in military convoys.
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Al Yaarubiyah crossing that every rabid dog of war in the UN has screamed to reopen, since it was closed by UNSCR 2504 (2020). How many foreign PMC’s are in Erbil?
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Trump regime illegal American troops have used al Walid crossing for entry into Qamishli since 7 August 2019.
Turkish madman and caliph wannabe Erdogan
Erdogan holding his annexation map at the recent UNGA meeting. There were no complaints from the west on this plan to breach international law.

The audio for the video conference on the phony concern for COVID in Syria was inconsistent in volume, a problem exacerbated by the struggle to understand enough of the non-native English speakers to have wished that French were still the lingua franca of diplomacy.

The involvement of the draconian Treaty of Versailles in diplomatic language was a painfully ironic coincidence, given that Germany has become one of those House Servants against Syria. For those needing a reminder in Germany’s unindicted war crimes against Syria, see here, & here.

There is an expression about being able to trust a thief, but not a liar, which is an appropriate introduction for Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, and first to address the most recent cover story of the NATO gang for humanitarian excuses, COVID. As he has been previously exposed before the Council as a liar, there is no need to discuss the liar’s COVID concerns.

Syria UN Jaafari Humanitarian Aid Delivered by SARC Syrian Arab Red Crescent - السفير بشار الجعفري حول المساعدات الإنسانية المقدمة من الهلال الأحمر العربي السوري - مجلس الأمن الدولي
Addressing Mark Lowcock’s “falsified” stats at UNSC, Ambassador Jaafari shows documentation for SARC convoys in 2018. [Archive]

The UN Spec Envoy, Norwegian Geir O. Pedersen, affixed to Syria via some preposition (on? above? around? at?) remained stoic whilst claiming that COVID 19 and its ramifications will become a multiplier of humanitarian needs in Syria. Essentially his speech was the same as the one he gave in March, when the UN held a tutorial on applying the philosophy of Goebbels to re-colonizing Syria. Norway continues its draconian lockdown of its citizenry and of its borders while audaciously declaring its self-appointed right to enter the Syrian Arab Republic.

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Syria’s COVID statistics 28 April.

The 29 April anti-Syria Sykes-Picot Award should go to Estonia’s deputy diplomat, Gert Auväärt. Perhaps he should also receive the Aesop’s Fable The Young Crab & His Mother Award for smarmy hypocrisy. Despite Auväärt’s Estonia — population a tiny 1.328 million — not doing too well in the COVID battle, sealing off its borders, and imposing a draconian lockdown on its people, this gentleman did not choke on his demands that Syria opens its borders, and its jails, on account of COVID.

Estonia, by the way, is in the bottom rungs of the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development, which should not come as a shock, given the income disparity in his little forest, where the top 20% of the most affluent make five times more than the bottom 20% of the least affluent. It is not, therefore, a surprise that this deputy diplomat stated his satisfaction with the illicit economic terrorism against Syria.

Those countries that break out from the former eastern block become more radical in their enmity to their former allies in order to submit their papers of acceptance to the new club: NATO, EU, the U.S.F.S.: United States Faithful Servants, and the International Monetary Funds slaves.

estonia-map

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has officially (and wrongfully) called for a ceasefire in Syria, and has officially complained that the al Yaarubiya crossing was closed. He has not condemned the war crimes against Syria by NATO countries. This photographs show his moral character.

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Guterres with Tony Blair at the 1999 Socialist International conference.

Syria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, H.E. Bashar al Jaafari addressed the NATO clan’s “pretentious care and lethal affection” regarding the artificial concern for COVID in the SAR, while engaged in a “sinful war against my country.”

— Miri Wood

NUSRA FRONT INTERCEPT, ASSAULT THEIR TURKISH ALLIES ON M4 HIGHWAY (VIDEOS)

SYRIAN SUPPORTERS INTERCEPT, ASSAULT THEIR TURKISH ALLIES ON M4 HIGHWAY

South Front

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On March 15, Syrian opposition supporters and activists intercepted a convoy of the Turkish military that attempted to open the M4 highway in Greater Idlib.

The Turkish convoy, which consisted of several battle tanks, armored vehicles and bulldozers, was tasked with opening the M4 to facilitate a joint Russian-Turkish patrol that was supposed to take place on the highway later.

Opposition protesters blocked the highway by deploying obstacles and even climbing Turkish vehicles. This forced the convoy to withdraw. However, the protesters went on to stone the vehicles of their allies.

Turkey’s failure to open the highway led to the cancellation of the pre-planned joint patrol. Russian and Turkish troops conducted a very limited patrol west of Saraqib city in southeast Idlib instead.

The reopening of the M4 highway, which links the coastal city of Lattakia with Aleppo city, is the keystone of the recent Russian Turkish agreement on Greater Idlib.

In the last few days, opposition activists and militants vowed to keep the highway blocked, threatening Russian forces and placing a bounty for killing Russian journalists.

Turkey don’t appear to have any real influence over Greater Idlib militants, which have been receiving support from it for years now. The chances that the M4 will be reopened by peaceful measures are very low. Ankara’s failure to open the M4 will likely push Damascus and its allies towards another military operation in the region.

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أبعاد اعتراف مايك بومبيو بالهزيمة الاستراتيجيّة الأميركيّة في سورية!

محمد صادق الحسينيّ

لم يكد يمرّ إلا القليل من الوقت، على توقيع البروتوكول، الروسي التركي الملحق باتفاق سوتشي، حتى سارع وزير الخارجيه الأميركي للاعتراف بهزيمة مؤامرته، هو وبقية جوقة المحافظين الإنجيليين الجدد التي تحتلّ البيت الأبيض وربيبهم نتن ياهو الى جانبهم، وذلك عندما صرّح صباح يوم الخميس 5/3/2020، للصحافيين “بأنّ طلب انسحاب القوات السورية الى خطوط وقف إطلاق النار لسنة 2018 كان طلباً أميركياً”.

وهذا يعني أنّ مطالبة أردوغان الجيش السوريّ بالانسحاب الى ما بعد نقاط المراقبة التركية، في ريفي حلب وإدلب، كان طلباً أميركياً “إسرائيلياً” بلسان تركي أردوغاني.

ولكن فشل هجوم أردوغان، البري والجوي، الواسع النطاق، والذي شاركت فيه فرقة كاملةً، من القوات الخاصة التركية، تساندها ثلاث كتائب مدفعية ميدان ذاتية الحركة، من عيار 155 ملم، إضافة الى كتيبة دفاع جوي تركية، مزوّدة بصواريخ أرض جو محمولة، تمّ نشرها في محيط القواعد العسكرية التركية في محافظتي إدلب وحلب، إلى جانب ثلاثة آلاف دبابة ومدرعة قتالية، كانت تنتشر في نقاط عدة من محافظتي حلب إدلب، وفي وضع انفتاح قتاليّ (الانفتاح القتالي يعني في العسكرية وجود القوات خارج قواعدها أو ثكناتها وفي نقاط الانطلاق لتنفيذ الهجوم على مواقع العدو)، استعداداً لتنفيذ المؤامرة التي تمّ الاتفاق عليها بين أردوغان ونتن ياهو (والدليل على مشاركة نتن ياهو بشكل مباشر في إعداد المؤامرة والتخطيط لتنفيذها هي تصريحاته يوم الانتخابات الإسرائيلية بأنّ نجاحه سيؤدّي الى خروج إيران من سورية). وبومبيو، نقول إنه وبعد فشل الهجوم وصمود القوات المشتركة في مواقعها ونجاحها في الحفاظ على كلّ مكتسباتها، رغم هذا الحشد الهائل قد قلب السحر على الساحر وجعل أردوغان يذهب صاغراً إلى موسكو بحثاً عن طوق نجاة.

ولا بدّ، عند الحديث عن فشل الهجوم التركي، أن يُصار إلى تسليط ما يكفي من الضوء على عملية الانسحاب التكتيكي للقوات المشتركة من سراقب والعملية العسكرية الليلية الخاطفة لاستعادتها، والتي نفذها لواء الرضوان للقوات الخاصه التابعة لحزب الله. إذ إنّ هذه العملية، التي كان من بين أهدافها، علاوة على استعادة المدينة، تنفيذ عملية هجومية واسعة النطاق والسيطرة على رقعة الهجوم والتثبّت وبناء خطوط دفاعية ليلاً والدخول في عملية الدفاع عنها صباحاً، وبدون غطاء جويّ. أيّ بالاعتماد على كفاءة القوات المقاتلة وعلى الصواريخ المضادة للدروع والصواريخ القصيرة والمتوسطة المدى، التي ستكون مهمتها ضرب نقاط تحشّد العدو ورؤوس جسوره قبل أن يبدأ هجومه المضاد.

لذا فإنّ معركة استعادة سراقب توازي، في قيمتها الاستراتيجية، معركة بنت جبيل او مجزرة الميركافا في وادي الحجير، خلال الحرب “الإسرائيلية” على لبنان عام 2006، ذلك لأنها أسفرت عن تثبيت انتصارات القوات المشتركة ورسمت خريطة الهزيمة الأميركية الإسرائيلية التركية في محافظات حلب وإدلب. وهي بالتالي شكلت الأساس الذي بُنيَ عليه الاتفاق الذي عُقد بين الرئيس بوتين وأردوغان، في موسكو، والذي قيّمه خبراء عسكريون أميركيون، لا زالوا في الخدمة، أيّ من جنرالات البنتاغون الحاليين، على النحو التالي:

1

ـ إنّ الاتفاق قد كرَّس الانتصارات العسكرية، التي حققتها القوات المشتركة بعد 2018، أيّ بعد سوتشي.

2

ـ إنّ توقيع اتفاق موسكو، بين الرئيس بوتين وأردوغان، قد أنهى محاولات بومبيو لإقامة حلف تركيّ أميركيّ لإسقاط الرئيس بشار الأسد، خاصة منذ إعلان مستشار الأمن القومي الأميركي السابق، جون بولتون، لهذا الهدف في شهر أيلول 2018، وتزايد الضغوط العسكرية والديبلوماسية، التي تمارس بضغط من الخارجية الأميركية، والتي كانت تهدف الى إسقاط الرئيس السوري وإخراج القوات الإيرانية من سورية. وهذا دليل جديد على التنسيق الوثيق بين الإدارة الأميركية ونتن ياهو في ما يتعلّق بتواجد المستشارين العسكريين الإيرانيين في سورية.

إذن… فإنّ القوات المشتركة، وعبر سلسلة انتصاراتها التي توّجتها بعملية استعادة السيطرة على مدينة سراقب، قد وضعت حداً، أولاً وقبل كلّ شيء، لأحلام أردوغان العثمانية، وأوهام بومبيو وممثله للأزمة السورية، جيمس جيفري، وممثلة واشنطن في الأمم المتحدة كيللي كرافت، الذين كان قد حملهم وزير دفاع أردوغان الى إدلب للاحتفال معه “بالنصر”، عندما ينجح هجوم الجيش التركي، في السيطرة على كامل محافظة إدلب وريفي حلب الغربي والجنوبي الغربي، مما يعني السيطرة على الطرق الاستراتيجيّة، المسماة M 5 و M4، وبالتالي حسم معركة الشمال السوري بأكمله، من كسب غرباً حتى القامشلي شرقاً لصالح الحلف الصهيوأميركي التركي “الإسرائيلي”. وهو الأمر الذي حصل عكسه تماماً، إذ كرّس الاتفاق ليس فقط السيطرة الحكومية على كلّ المناطق التي حرّرتها القوات المشتركة، منذ عام 2018 وحتى الآن، بل وكذلك كلّ ما يسيطر عليه أتباع أردوغان من المسلحين الإرهابيين، جنوب الطريق السريع حلب – اللاذقية. وذلك لأنّ إقامة المنطقة الآمنة، شمال وجنوب هذا الطريق، بعمق ستة كيلومترات من كلّ جهة، يعني فعلياً سقوط كلّ مواقع المسلحين الإرهابيين الواقعة جنوب هذا الخط بسبب قطع خطوط إمدادهم من تركيا.

ومن بين الأحلام المريضة، التي أسقطتها موازين قوى الميدان السوري العسكرية الجديدة، أحلام ممثلة واشنطن في الأمم المتحدة والمطلّقة من زوجين سابقاً والمتزوّجة من الملياردير جو كرافت عام 2016، والذي يعتبر ثالث أكبر منتج للفحم الحجري في الولايات المتحدة، ويملك ثروة تبلغ أربعة مليارات دولار، يستثمرها في شركات عدة في قطاع الطاقة. ايّ انها كانت تصبو الى الاحتفال بسيطرة أردوغان على محافظة إدلب لفتح المجال أمام زوجها الثالث للسيطرة على قطاع الطاقة في إدلب وغيرها.

كذلك الأمر تبخرت أحلام جيمس جفري، المعروف بارتباطاته بالمجمع الصناعي العسكري، والذي كان يحلم بنجاح هجوم الجيش التركي في أرياف حلب وإدلب ما يمهّد الطريق الى تزويد تركيا ببطاريات صواريخ باتريوت. وهو المعروف، في دوائر الإدارة الأميركية، بمطالباته المستمرة بتزويد تركيا بهذه المنظومات، الأمر الذي أحبطه جنرالات البنتاغون بشكل مستمرّ، وخاصة بعد أن طلب أردوغان من الإدارة الأميركية إرسال بطاريات باتريوت لـ “الدفاع عن تركيا”، منتصف الشهر الماضي وفي ذروة استعداداته لتنفيذ مؤامرته مع نتن ياهو وبومبيو في الشمال السوري.

وبكلام أوضح فإنّ جنرالات البنتاغون، الذين يعتبرون “حليفهم” الكردي أكثر كفاءة وأقلّ تكلفة من ثاني أكبر جيش في حلف الناتو، ايّ الجيش التركي، نقول إنّ هؤلاء الجنرالات قد دفنوا أحلام جيمس جيفري، في إطلاق حملة تسويق جديدة لمنظومات الباتريوت. فهم، ايّ الجنرالات، أعلم من غيرهم بعدم فعاليتها، تلك الفعالية التي تهمّهم أكثر من مسألة تسويقها.

وفي ضوء كلّ المعطيات المذكورة أعلاه يتبيّن انّ فرقة الرضوان، وغيرها من التشكيلات العسكرية لحلف المقاومة، ومن ضمنها آلاف المقاتلين اليمنيين، الذين أعربوا عن رغبتهم بالالتحاق بالمقاومة، على الجبهة الشمالية، قد أصبحت جاهزة لتنفيذ المرحلة الأخيرة من الهجوم الاستراتيجي، الذي سينتهي بتحرير القدس وفلسطين كاملة وإنهاء وجود الكيان المحتلّ بشكل كامل. فكلّ ما هو مطلوب لذلك أصبح جاهزاً، من انتشار للقوات الى اكتمال التدريب على تنفيذ الهجوم وانتهاء برفع العلم الفلسطيني على أسوار القدس.

هذا التحرير الذي سيطلق عودة الشعب الفلسطيني، كاملاً الى كامل فلسطين، وهو الأمر الذي يجري وضع اللمسات الأخيرة، على خطط تنفيذه من قبل مجموع محور المقاومة. ايّ انّ محور المقاومة قد انتقل من مرحلة التخطيط لتحرير فلسطين إلى مرحلة ما بعد التحرير والعودة.

أتى أمر الله، فلا تستعجلوه.

بعدنا طيبين، قولوا الله…

سقوط السلطان

شوقي عواضة

منذ ولادة خلافة السلطان سليم الأول تحت عنوان (الفتح) بدأت حكاية الغدر العثماني لفلسطين وشعبها، بل ولكلّ من كان يقف في وجه الكيان الصهيوني منذ بدايات بيع فلسطين واستقدام اليهود إليها، عملت الخلافة العثمانية من خلال كلّ سلاطينها على تسهيل هجرة اليهود إلى فلسطين وتوفير كلّ الدعم لهم في حين كان خلفاؤها يشنّون الحروب والغزوات على المنطقة بأسرها من بلاد الشام إلى مصر واليمن، كانوا يخوضون حروبهم العدوانية تحت عنوان حماية الإسلام والخلافة، وهم أشدّ الناس عداوة للإسلام .

350 عاما والعثمانيون يمعنون في استنزاف مقدرات الأمة وسرقة خيراتها وثرواتها وسفك دماء أهلها، وكان اليهود المستقدمون من العالم شركاءهم في جريمة العصر. إذ من منتصف القرن التاسع عشر بدأ العثمانيون باستقدام اليهود إلى فلسطين تنفيذا لأوامر رئيس الوزراء البريطاني بالمرستون (1840).

وبعد استقدام قطعان المستوطنين إلى فلسطين بدأت الشراكة الحقيقية بين اليهود والخلافة وسلاطينها، طلب هرتزل من السلطان عبد الحميد الثاني أن يصدر فرماناً يقضي بالحصول على حكم ذاتي لليهود في فلسطين، وكان له ذلك.

في تلك الفترة أرسل السلطان العثماني جيوشه لتغزو الشام التي كانت تحت حكم محمد علي الذي كان إسقاط حكمه أولوية لدى السلطان العثماني، ولم يكن منع التوطين في فلسطين من أولويات الخلافة.

اليوم وعلى خطى أجداده يمضي أردوغان إمعاناً في التآمر على فلسطين التي لم تحضر في خطاب أردوغان ولا وجدانه إلا لاستقطاب الناخبين والمؤمنين بخلافته، واسم فلسطين لا يعني لأردوغان سوى المزيد من الاستثمار الفعلي لامبراطوريته المنخورة من الداخل. أما على المستوى العملي فإذا ما أجرينا مقارنة بسيطة حول فلسطين في خطاب وأفعال أردوغان لوجدناها حاضرة في خطاباته للاستثمار السياسي بينما عملياً تغيب كلياً من أجندته ويتضح ذلك من خلال مواقفه الكثيرة وهو يعمل جاهداً على إظهار نفسه بأنه المقاتل الأوحد من أجل فلسطين بينما هو في الحقيقة يعمل على طمس حقيقة دامغة تقول إنه الرئيس الأكثر تطبيعاً مع الكيان الصهيوني، وهو الإسلامي الذي أضرّ أكثر بالقضية الفلسطينية. وما محاولاته اليوم لاستعادة أمجاد الخلافة العثمانية من خلال اعتدائه على سورية حصن المقاومة ودرعها إلا استمرار لذاك النهج الذي يستهدف قوة الأمة وإسقاط كلّ معاني العزة فيها، دون أن يضع في حساباته أنّ مجد خلافته مات بموْت سلاطينها ودفن مشروعهم معهم، وأننا أصبحنا في زمن الانتصارات والمقاومين، زمن السيد حسن نصر الله والرئيس بشار الأسد. هذا الزمن الذي تتهاوى فيه قوى الشر ـ وهو جزء منها ـ والهزيمة التي تلقاها أردوغان في إدلب مقدّمة لسقوطه المدوي الذي لن يكون سقوطاً عادياً يمجده التاريخ كما أسلافه بل سيكون سقوطاً ممهوراً بالهزيمة التي ستسقطه في الداخل والخارج معا وسنشهد ذلك عما قريب…

Terrorist groups were trained inside a textile factory in Aleppo

Tuesday, 25 February 2020 


ALEPPO, (ST)_Terrorist groups had turned one of the textile factories in the town of Kafer Joum in the southwestern countryside of Aleppo into a headquarters for training  and making shells.

Basma Qaddour 

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هل يرتكب أردوغان الحماقة؟

ناصر قنديل

خلال السنوات التي أعقبت إسقاط الطائرة الروسيّة بنيران الجيش التركيّ لا يبدو أن الرئيس التركي رجب أردوغان قد استوعب القواعد التي تحكم مناورته في سورية، فهو مقيّد بحدّين لا يمكن التلاعب بهما ولا تغييرهما سواء بالعناد والتبجح والتهديد أو بالإنبطاح والتزلف، وهما: أن واشنطن غير مستعدّة هي وحلفائها في الناتو لمشاركته حرباً تكون روسيا طرفها الثاني، والثاني أن روسيا مستعدة لخوض غمار المواجهة إذا قرّر أردوغان شنّ هجمات على الجيش السوري. وهذا الحدّان دفعا بأردوغان في معركة حلب الأولى قبل أعوام، للتموضع سياسياً وأمنياً ضمن مسار أستانة، تجنباً لمواجهة يدرك عواقبها ويدرك أنه لا يستطيع الفوز بنتائجها، كما يدرك قبل كل شيء أن الشعب والجيش في تركيا لا يملكان أسباباً لمجاراته في التورّط فيها إن أراد.

حاول أردوغان استنفاد سنوات ما بعد أستانة، بالرهان على استئخار القرار الحاسم، والاحتفاظ بإدلب وأرياف حلب واللاذقية، مرة عبر فرضية صمود داعش طويلاً، ومرة بفرضية تجنب روسيا مساندة الجيش السوري في تحرير الجنوب ومخاطر التصادم مع الأميركي والإسرائيلي. ولما باءت رهاناته بالفشل وبدأت معركة إدلب وتوّجت بالانتصار الكبير الذي تعيشه سورية، كان يدرك سقوط رهان ثالث وهو صمود الجماعات الإرهابيّة التي زوّدها بالسلاح والعتاد، ودفع بجيشه إلى جانبها ليمنحها المعنويات، أملاً بصمود لم يتحقق.

مع تساقط مواقع جماعاته وتحقيق الانتصارات السوريّة، صار وجه أردوغان إلى الجدار، فراهن على ثنائية العناد والانبطاح. العناد بوجه روسيا والانبطاح لواشنطن، أملاً بتغيير الحدّين الثابتين اللذين حكما معركة حلب الأولى، آملاً بأن يردع عناده روسيا عن تقديم الإسناد اللازم للجيش السوري إذا تعرّض لهجوم تركي، وبأن يُغري الانبطاح واشنطن فتعلن استعدادها لمشاركته المعركة، تفادياً لخوضها دفاعاً عن قواتها التي سيأتي موعد مطالبتها بالانسحاب إذا فرض مثله على القوات التركيّة، فذهب يرفع سقوف التهديد والتحدي بوجه روسيا من جهة، ويقدّم التنازلات والإغراءات لواشنطن من جهة موازية. وجاءت الحصيلة واضحة، مزيداً من الثبات الروسي على خيار المواجهة، ومزيداً من التحفظ الأميركي تجاه أي تورط بمغامرة عسكرية.

المعادلة اليوم شديدة الوضوح وعلى أردوغان أن يقرّر، فترجمة التهديد بعملية عسكرية تستهدف الجيش السوري تهدّد بإشعال حرب سيكون الجيش السوري خلالها مستعداً لتقديم التضحيات الجسام دفاعاً عن سيادته الوطنية، وأظهرت التظاهرات العفوية ورشق الجنود الأتراك بالحجارة في مناطق السيطرة التركية حجم التعبئة النفسية التي يعيشها السوريون وصولاً للاستعداد للتضحية لمنع الاحتلال التركي من البقاء فوق أراضيهم، وسيكون حلفاء سورية بصور متنوّعة معها في هذه المواجهة، بين شراكة قوى المقاومة في الميدان، والدعم الإيراني من جهة، والدعم الروسي الناري من جهة مقابلة، وسيكون على أردوغان أن يتحمّل أمام جيشه وشعبه مسؤولية خراب كبير، قد يصل إلى تساقط الصواريخ في العمق التركي إذا تجاوز أردوغان الخطوط الحمراء لموضعيّة الاشتباك المفترض، والتزامه موضعيّة الاشتباك سيعني خسارته المحتّمة، حيث الجو سيكون روسياً، والأرض ستكون سوريّة.

أردوغان يرفع السقوف، ويفتح الباب موارباً للتفاهم آملاً الحصول على بعض المكاسب التي يستطيع تصويرها نصراً، خصوصاً لجهة ربط مصير مدينة إدلب بالحل السياسي، فيتحدث وزير دفاعه عن مناشدة الروس الحياد من المعركة التي يريد خوضها مع الجيش السوري لأنه لا يريد مواجهة معهم، ووزير خارجيّته يتحدّث عن الاتصالات المستمرّة بحثاً عن حل سياسي، والرئاسة تقول إنها لا تزال تدرس مشروع القمة الثلاثيّة التي دعت إليها طهران مع تركيا وروسيا.

أردوغان بين خيارين الآن، أن يرتضي تحوّل كلماته فقاعات، فيتراجع، أو أن يصير هو فقاعة تنفجر في تركيا بحماقة تنتهي بهزيمة محققة، وإن تحوّلت حرباً ستنهي حياته السياسية، وتاريخ أردوغان يقول إنه مراوغ، لكنه جبان.

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ALEPPO CITY’S COUNTRYSIDE FULLY SECURED, SYRIANS IN ALEPPO CELEBRATE THE END OF TERRORISM

Ibrahim Mohammadon Sunday

For the first time since 19-07-2012
#Aleppo city is free of terrorism

#Syriab_Arab_Army 🇸🇾✌🏻💪🏻❤️

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In December 2016, the Syrian Arab Army, Russia & allies liberated the northern Syrian city of Aleppo of the al-Qaeda and equally-heinous terrorists who had occupied and terrorized civilians in the city since 2012.

In the years subsequent, Aleppo to a large degree returned to peace, with rebuilding occurring in the hard-hit Old City, with displaced Syrians returning (contrary to the lies of UK Channel 4, among other war propagandizing media).

Yet, civilians since that Aleppo’s liberation continued to be terrorized by the presence of terrorists in the countryside of Aleppo.

Last year (January 2019), visiting Aleppo, I returned to the Lairamoun industrial district in the city’s west. I had been there in November 2016, had seen the nightmarish underground prison of the Free Syrian Army, used to hold Syrian soldiers and civilians alike, a true dungeon replete with suffocating solitary confinement cells.

In January 2019, I went to a factory 500 metres from al-Qaeda snipers. Aleppo MP Fares Shehabi explained to me how the factory owner and workers defied the existence of terrorists at close proximity and re-opened the textile factory.  As he spoke, he took me to a door which, when opening, exposed us to potential sniper fire–the sniper fire the courageous factory workers were exposed to.

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Al-Qaeda stronghold near Lairamoun, Aleppo, 400 to 500 metres from textile factory

Shehabi’s powerful words include:

“This factory is on a front line in the war against terror. 400 to 500 metres away, the Tajik Brigades of the Islamic Turkistan Army, a branch of al-Qaeda in Syria.

This factory was rubble two years ago. We rehabilitated it. We are doing this as a message of defiance against all who conspired against the people of Aleppo, against the economy of Syria. The enemy was sniping at us , launching mortars, when we were fixing this factory to work again.

Show me one place in the world with a production situation like this, a factory being rehabilitated under these circumstances.

This is why they out us under sanctions, this is why they consider us enemies.

How can I be an enemy of freedom and democracy if I want our people to work, to make money, my country to have a production economy, and I don’t yield to al-Qaeda gangs in close proximity to me.

…imagine the difficult situation in which these heroes, the factory workers and owners, had to go through in order to defy al-Nusra and defy Turkey, and rise up again from the ashes. This is a real example of how you rise up, undefeated.”

Eva Karene Bartlettabout 12 months ago

After filming Fares Shehabi / Faris Shihabi speaking powerfully about the courage and resilience of a Lairamoun factory owner and its workers 100s metres from al Qaeda snipers,
[see: https://www.facebook.com/EvaBoBeeva/posts/2344877145522266 ]

Firas Darwish explained some terrorist graffiti left on the outside of the factory: a terrorist sniper nicknamed Abu Mohammed, proud of head shots. …See More

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Fares Shehabion Sunday

هكذا كانت #حلب في أسوأ ايامها عام ٢٠١٣..!

عشنا في حصار كامل في كل شيء و فقدنا اكثر من ١١ الف شهيد مدني و ٦٠ الف جريح و لم نستسلم و لم نتخاذل و لم نفقد الامل للحظة لا في أنفسنا و لا في جيشنا و لا في قائدنا..!

اليوم نعيش حلم اصبح حقيقة..نعيش معجزة صنعها هذا الجيش الجبار و الذي لولاه لكنا جميعاً في خبر كان.. …See More

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In November 2016 I wrote of the terrorism Aleppo civilians experienced that month and in prior months:

My article on the November 3 terrorist attacks noted:

On the afternoon of Nov. 3, after meeting with Dr. Mohammed Batikh, director of Al-Razi Hospital, the victims of terror attacks which had begun a few hours prior began to arrive one after another, maimed and critically injured. The vehicle bombings and bombardment of Grad missiles, among other attacks, left 18 people dead and more than 200 injured, according to Dr. Zaher Hajo, the head of forensic medicine at Al-Razi Hospital.

The body of a civilian who was killed in the Nov. 3 attacks in Aleppo. Nov. 3, 2016. (Photo: Eva Bartlett)

The corridors and emergency ward at Al-Razi Hospital, one of two state-run hospitals in Aleppo, quickly became clogged with the injured and grieving family members. In one crowded interior corridor, one of the wounded screamed out in pain: “Ya, Allah! Ya, Allah!”

In another corridor, a 15-year-old boy with a cast on one leg and bandages on his head, said the mortar attack which injured him had killed his 4-year-old cousin and left his 6-year-old cousin with critical injuries.

In a front room, a mother wailed for her son who had suffered severe injuries. She screamed and pleaded for someone to save him, her only son. Not long after, though, the news came in: the 26-year-old had died. Her son, a doctor, was not the first medical professional to die in terrorists’ routine bombings of Aleppo neighborhoods.

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Dr. Nabil Antaki, a gastroenterologist from Aleppo, with whom I met on my trips to Aleppo in July and August, messaged me in October about his friend and colleague, Dr. Omar, who was injured on Oct. 6 when terrorist factions unleashed an attack on Jamiliye Street, killing 10 people. Just a few days after the attack, Dr. Omar, too, died.

At the morgue behind Al-Razi Hospital on Nov. 3, inconsolable family members leaned against the wall or sat on the pavement, coming to grips with the deaths of loved ones.

One 14-year-old boy had been there on Nov. 2, when his father was killed. On Nov. 3, he returned when his mother was killed. Both of this boy’s parents are dead, both killed in terrorist attacks on the city’s New Aleppo district.

A man spoke of a 10-year-old nephew who was shot in the head by a terrorist sniper while the boy was on his roof.

A woman and her children leaned against an iron rail next to the door to the morgue, weeping over the death of her husband, their father, who was killed while parking a car. When the man’s mother arrived, she collapsed, shrieking in grief.

The body of a civilian who was killed in the Nov. 3 attacks in Aleppo.

And in the midst of all of this, all these women and children, a car arrived at the morgue with the body of yet another victim of the day’s terror attacks, Mohammed Majd Darwish, 74. His upper body was so bloody that it was unclear whether he had been decapitated.

Near the morgue, Bashir Shehadeh, a man in his forties, said his family had been displaced already from Jisr al-Shughour, a city in Idlib. His mother, some of his friends, and his cousin have been killed by terrorist factions’ shellings. He said enough was enough, and called on the SAA to eliminate the terrorist threat.

Al-Razi’s Dr. Batikh said a private hospital, Al-Rajaa, was hit by a mortar attack. “They cannot do operations now, the operating room is out of service.”

One of the most notable attacks on hospitals was the December 2013 double truck bombing of Al-Kindi Hospital, the largest and best cancer treatment hospital in the Middle East. I have previously reported on other attacks on hospitals in Aleppo, including the May 3 rocket attack which gutted Al-Dabeet, a maternity hospital, killing three women. On Sept. 10, Dr. Antaki messaged me:

Yesterday, a rocket, sent by the terrorists, hit a maternity hospital in Aleppo in Muhafazat Street. Two persons working in the hospital were injured. No death. But the point is that it is a hospital and it was hit by a rocket.”

Dr. Batikh and Dr. Mazen Rahmoun, deputy director of Al-Razi, said the hospital once had 68 ambulances, but now there are only six. The rest, they said, were either stolen by terrorist factions or destroyed.

Aleppo’s doctors continue to treat the daily influx of injured and ill patients in spite of the dearth of ambulances and effects of Western sanctions which mean a lack of medical equipment, replacement parts, and medicine for critical illnesses like cancer.

According to the hospital’s head forensic medicine, Dr. Hajo, in the last five years, 10,750 civilians have been killed in Aleppo, 40 percent of whom were women and children. In the past year alone, 328 children have been killed by terrorist shelling in Aleppo, and 45 children were killed by terrorist snipers.

Humanitarian Crossings: Shelling of Castello Road

Less than 100 metres away, the second of two mortars fired by terrorist factions less than 1 km from Castello Road on Nov. 4. The road and humanitarian corridor were targeted at least six times that day by terrorist factions. Nov. 4, 2016. (Photo: Eva Bartlett)

On Nov. 4, prior to our 9:30 a.m. arrival at the Bustan al-Qasr crossing and until our departure an hour later, no one had been able to cross from the area just beyond crossing, which is occupied by Jaysh al-Fatah militants.

Two weeks prior to our arrival, journalists had reported that terrorist factions heavily shelled the crossing and areas around it starting in the early morning.

A Syrian general at the crossing confirmed that shelling had taken place on Oct. 20, adding that three police officers had been wounded. A journalist in the delegation asked the general what he would say to Syrian civilians like Bashir Shehadeh, who demanded that the SAA eliminate the terrorist factions.

“We need to be patient, because the civilians there are not able to leave, they are not guilty,” the general replied. “We don’t work the way that the terrorists work.”

Regarding the amnesty decree issued by President Bashar Assad in late July, the general explained that terrorists who want to be granted amnesty could lay down their arms. Those who choose to go on to Idlib would be granted safe passage by the Syrian government and army, in coordination with the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

According to the general, when two militants arrived at the Bustan al-Qasr crossing about two months ago, they surrendered their arms and proceeded under amnesty.

Five months ago, he said, 12 civilians crossed there, were treated in Aleppo’s hospitals, and returned to their homes in terrorist-held eastern Aleppo.  

At the Castello Road humanitarian crossing, the large green buses which were said to be evacuating militants from areas of eastern Aleppo in recent weeks were there again, waiting to ferry away more. Ten ambulances, three buses, and 14 minivans were lined up in anticipation of any civilians or militants trying to leave terrorist-occupied areas, whether for safe passage elsewhere or to settle in government-secured areas of Aleppo.

Ten ambulances wait at the Castello Road crossing to treat anyone exiting via the humanitarian corridors established by the Syrian government and Russia, including militants who lay down their arms. Nov. 4, 2016. (Photo: Eva Bartlett)

George Sire, 25, an anesthesiologist at Salloum Hospital in Aleppo, was one of the volunteers who arrived at the crossing with five of the private hospital’s ambulances, at the request of the Syrian government.

When speaking with a Syrian commander about permitting men who had used arms against Syrian civilians and soldiers to lay down their arms and reconcile, he said they are sons of the country and urged them to reconcile.

At around 1:30 p.m. the first shell struck, hitting near Castello Road. About 10 minutes later, while I was being interviewed, a second hit, this time considerably closer, within 100 meters — close enough, in fact, to create a cloud of dark smoke over the road. It prompted security to usher me away from the road and move our delegation away from the crossing.

I later learned that another five shells targeted the crossing, injuring a Syrian journalist and two Russian soldiers.

No one passed through this or any of the other seven humanitarian corridors that day.

And:

“Last Friday, I visited one of Aleppo’s main public parks, a once-beautiful park where fountains danced to the songs of Arab greats like Oum Kalthoum, and simple cafes were full.

Now the fountains are dry, the main one littered with rubble from one of many terrorist shellings of the park, and one of the main cafes out of commission after being hit by a terrorist shell roughly a year and a half ago.

While people do continue to frequent the park, the risk of being killed by a mortar or rocket remains, as pretty much everywhere in greater Aleppo.

I had read about the July 22, 2016, terrorist rocket on the park which killed civilians while they were in the park on a summer Friday.

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Photo via Pierre Le Corf

SANA news reported on that day that: “Eleven civilians were killed, among them a child and two women, while 44 others were injured in terrorist attacks with rocket shells and sniper bullets on neighborhoods and the public facilities in Aleppo city on Friday.

…eight civilians were killed and 34 others injured in a rocket shell fired by terrorist groups on the public park.”

In November, a local took me to the area where the murdered woman was sitting when the rocket’s shrapnel killed she, another woman, a child, and injured nearby civilians.

The park was busy this Friday, not as busy as a hot summer day would have seen it, but still had people sitting on such benches or on the plastic chairs of the cafe behind where the murdered women had been sitting.

Walking around the large park, we saw evidence of shelling…on the pavement and in the small plots of grass. Some were like the small holes in the pavement that I’m used to seeing in the Old City of Damascus, ravaged by terrorists’ mortars. Others were mini-craters in the grass, including one near a cafe which was hit apparently about a year and a half ago.

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Speaking with local security there, they estimated that between 40-50 shells have hit the park in the past few years. The number could be greater, or less, but the fact is the park has been targeted, as have public places around the city of over 1.5 million people, who on a daily basis facethis mortar/rocket/Grad missile/explosive bullet/gas canister terrorism.

This park in summer would have not only been a spot to try to briefly escape the hell of 6 years of foreign war on Syria, but would also have had many displaced Syrians who have fled terrorist-occupied areas to government-secured areas, many of whom during the day sought refuge in the shade from blistering heat.

Without electricity for years, thanks to the terrorist factions who control the area where the power plant is, Aleppo residents who can afford it buy power by the ampere. Many can only afford the basics–some light bulbs and power for their fridge.

From a photo essay I published in mid-2016, after my second Aleppo visit:

The power plant lies in areas controlled by terrorist factions. For years, Aleppo residents have suffered from a lack of power, and compensate by purchasing generator-supplied electricity. Not cheap, some opt to buy just 1 ampere worth, which according to Aleppo resident Nabil Antaki costs around 4000 Syrian pounds a month (roughly US$8) . Two amperes will run a small television. Four amperes, a fridge, small television and a few bulbs.

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Many others can’t afford that, period. I remember the suffocating heat even on an August visit to Aleppo, staying in a friend’s place without electricity or water…the desire to be out in an open place where one could breathe, sweat less, was strong…

In the canal running through the park, a boy around 14 years old stripped to his underwear and dove in, swept down river by the quick current, scrambling out and up the wall to dive in anew. When we passed the river a little later, a girl had joined in. I asked whether this would be frowned upon and my friend laughed at me, “We are not al-Qaeda here.” (I remembered the words of a man who I’d spoken with the night before, who spoke of al-Nusra in occupied eastern areas forcing women and girls to cover even their wrists and hands. This girl would have no freedom in areas occupied by the West’s “rebels”.)

Scenes like these, of seeming normalcy, can be shattered in an instant, with the fall of a mortar or shell fired by terrorists which the West deems as “moderates” and whose crimes Western leaders continue to ignore.

Eva Karene Bartlettabout 3 years ago

Last Friday, I visited one of Aleppo’s main public parks, a once-beautiful park where fountains danced to the songs of Arab greats like Oum Kalthoum, and simple cafes were full.

Now the fountains are dry, the main one littered with rubble from one of many terrorist shellings of the park, and one of the main cafes out of commission after being hit by a terrorist shell roughly a year and a half ago.

While people do continue to frequent the park, the risk of being killed by a …See More

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Small public park in Aziziya. People who are displaced frequent such parks, to get out of the small apartments or government-supplied shelters they live in.12

From Aziziya district, on July 4, half a kilometer away, the explosion of a terrorist-fired bomb. Around 5 pm, this is a busy time when streets are packed with cars and pedestrians; terrorists know they can kill and maim more civilians when attacking at these busy hours. Minutes later, an anti-aircraft explosive bullet landed roughly 15 metres away from my Aziziya venue. Had it landed on one of the parked cars, there would have been many casualties. A day later, such an explosive bullet killed the mother of an Aleppo friend, at her home. Photo: Eva Bartlett

In that 2016 photo essay, I wrote also about the villages of Nubl and Zahra’a, north of Aleppo:

Hell Cannon-fired gas canister bombs litter the countryside around Aleppo and on the route to Nubl and Zahra’a. These, and larger variations, are what Western-backed terrorists have rained down on the city of Aleppo, as well as besieged Foua and Kafarya in Idlib governorate. Manufactured locally, fired upon civilians daily, gas canister bombs get virtually no mention in corporate media, although their impact is deadly.

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The roughly 65,000 people of Nubl and Zahra’a villages, under siege from terrorist factions of the so-called FSA, al-Nusra, and affiliated factions for three and a half years, were on February 3, 2016, liberated from the choke-hold which strangled them. Zeinab Sharbo, 25, and Mounthaher Khatib, 26, each have young children who suffered for want of food and basic elements of life, and who were traumatized by the terrorists’ bombing of the villages. Although corporate media, when deigning to mention the villages, usually focused on their predominately Shia composition, Sunnis also live in the villages. According to Zeinab, “Sectarianism wasn’t a problem before, we were brothers and sisters, we intermarried with neighbouring villages.”

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Abdul Karim Assad, 7, has painful face disfiguration from a terrorist-fired mortar which burned his face. Under siege at the time, the boy was only treated with basic medical care in a barebones hospital in Zahra’a. The boy is not originally from Nubl, but from Idlib, from which his grandfather fled when terrorists invaded. He is another poster child for the terrorism inflicted upon Syria.

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Aleppo’s over 1.5 million residents are depending on trucks from outside of the city to bring in the basics of life. Unable to use the main highway, and now unable to use the paved Ramouseh road, trucks travel an extended distance over many rough dirt roads to enter Aleppo from its north.

Dabbit

The Dabeet maternity hospital, the inside destroyed and outside badly damaged on May 3, 2016, by terrorist rocket fire, is one of numerous hospitals targeted by terrorists in Syria. The May 3 attack killed three women. A week later, the hospital was hit by terrorist mortar fire. Aleppo’s Kindi hospital, destroyed by terrorists, was one of the largest cancer hospitals in the region.

*

Back to the present.

The Press Office of President Assad on February 17, 2020 published his latest speech, addressing this restoration of peace to Aleppo and the need to do so in Idlib. Syriana Analysis has subtitled this speech:

Partial transcript of recent speech by President Assad:

“When Aleppo city was liberated at the end of 2016, I said that what was before the liberation of Aleppo city will not be the same as what will be after that, and I based that on my knowledge of where the members of our Armed Forces are aiming with their hearts and minds. I based that on my conviction that the patriotism of the people of Aleppo and their fealty to their homeland and the homeland’s army will overturn the calculations of the enemies.

“This is what happened, but Aleppo had to pay a great price equal to the greatness of its people and the patriotism of its position; years of violent and barbaric shelling that affected most neighborhoods, tens of thousands of martyrs, injured people, orphans, people who lost children, and widows. Years of siege without water or electricity or other life necessities, all for Aleppo to kneel and for her people to surrender.

“With every treacherous shell that had fallen, the enemies’ hopes would grow that Aleppo would become another Aleppo, one that never existed throughout history, an Aleppo that does not constitute with its twin Damascus the wings by which the homeland soars; rather an Aleppo whose people would stand with traitors in front of masters, kneeling and prostrating themselves before them, beginning for a few dollars and much disgrace.

“That was in their dreams; but in our real world, with every shell that fell, fear fell and the will to challenge grew. With every martyr, nationalist spirit grew and faith in the homeland became stronger. In our real world, it remained the real Aleppo, the Aleppo of history, nobility, and authenticity. And because it is so, its people did not settle for steadfastness just in the sense of bearing of pain and suffering and acceptance of the status quo; but rather in the sense of work and production that persisted throughout the years of the siege despite the conditions that contradict any economic sense.

“Despite that, this city kept contributing – even if at a bare minimum – to national economy, and I am confident that this type of steadfastness which reflects a concrete will and a deep-rooted sense of belonging is what will raise Aleppo from the ashes of war and restore its natural and leading position in Syria’s economy,” President al-Assad said.

President al-Assad added “It is true that liberating the city in 2016 did not achieve the desired safety for the city at the time, and it remained under the threat of treacherous and cowardly shells, and it is also true today that victory in one battle does not mean victory in the war, but that is by the abstract military logic which is based on endings and results; however, by national logic, victory begins with the beginning of steadfastness even if it was at day one, and by that logic, Aleppo is victorious, and Syria is victorious. We are all victorious over the fear they had tried to instill in our hearts, victorious over the delusions they tried to instill in our minds, victorious over fragmentation, hatred, betrayal, and all those who represent or bear or practice these qualities.

“However, we are fully aware that this liberation does not mean the end of the war, or the failure of schemes, or the disappearance of terrorism, or the surrender of enemies, but it certainly means rubbing their noses in the dirt as a prelude for complete defeat, sooner or later,” the President affirmed.

“It also means that we must not relax; rather we must prepare for the coming battles. Therefore, the battle to liberate the countryside of Aleppo and Idleb will continue regardless of some empty sound bubbles coming from the north, and the battle for liberating all Syrian soil, crushing terrorism, and achieving stability will also continue.”

His Excellency went on to say “Our Syrian Arab Army will never hesitate to carry out its national duties, and it will be as it always has been: an army from the people and for the people. Throughout history, no army has emerged victorious unless the people are united with it in its battle, and when it is united with the people in their vision and cause, and this is what we have witnessed in Aleppo and other Syrian cities, where you embraced the army it protected you, defended you, and made sacrifices for you.

“While we are experiencing times of joy, we must remember that these moments have been made possible by years of pain, heartache, and sadness, for the loss of a dear one that gave their life for the lives and happiness of others. As we bow in honor of the greatness of our martyrs and injured people, it is also our duty to stand in honor of the greatness of their mighty families. If victory is to be dedicated, then it is dedicated to them, and if anyone should receive credit for it, then they deserve the credit. I salute them for the children their raised, and salute their children for their sacrifices. I salute every one of the heroes of our great army and the allied forces begin them. I salute the strength of their bodies in the cold and frost as we bask in warmth and safety.”

President al-Assad went on to salute “our brothers, friends, and allies who stood shoulder to shoulder with the army on the ground and were guardian eagles in the sky, their blood intermingling with the blood of our army that was spilled in Aleppo, Aleppo the faithful to its homeland and history, which will never forget the blood of those who made sacrifices for it, and which will return as it was and stronger.

“Our beloved people in Aleppo, I congratulate you on the victory of your will, the will by which we will wage the greater battle: the battle to build Aleppo. By the will of all the Syrian people we will build Syria, and we will continue liberation, God willing.”

If you haven’t already read it, consider reading my January 2019 compilation:

Turns Out President Assad Was Right About Terrorism in Syria; Turns Out He Has Massive Popular Support in Syria

Eva Karene Bartlett about a year agoTurns Out President Assad Was Right About Terrorism in Syria; Turns Out He Has Massive Popular Support in SyriaIn the workshop of a Sunni Syrian, with his Christmas tree, Imam Ali photo, Quranic calligraphy, and photo of President Bashar al-Assad .See More

because corporate media has been lying to you, not Syria’s president, not Russia.

-Related: US to grant $35 million to promote its fake news bubble in Syria & control local media

SYRIAN ARMY CAPTURES THREE TOWNS ALONG M5 HIGHWAY FROM HTS

On February 9, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) captured three towns located along the M5 highway from al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and its allies.

Army units stormed the towns, Barqum, al-Zarbah and al-Salehiyah, in the early morning. The towns were fully secured within a few hours.

Click to see full-size map

The SAA began advancing along the M5 highway a day earlier after liberating the town of al-Eis. The army captured many towns north and south of the highway in a matter of hours.

HTS and its Turkish-backed allies are reportedly withdrawing their militants from the remaining part of the M5. This reflects the terrorist groups desperation.

The army is now 14 km away from securing the entire highway, which links the capital, Damascus, with the northern city of Aleppo.

MILITARY SITUATION IN IDLIB PROVINCE ON FEBRUARY 9, 2020 (MAP UPDATE)

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الدور التركيّ في مهب الريح الروسيّة

د. وفيق إبراهيم

تشتد الخلافات التركية – الروسية لتأخذ تدريجياً شكل صراع متدحرج يستخدم فيه طرفاه إمكاناتهما انطلاقاً من الميدان السوريّ ونحو أكثر من منطقة في العالم.

سبب هذا التدهور في العلاقات هو الهجوم الذي يشنه الجيش العربي السوري على منطقة إدلب السورية وتحتلها منظمات من هيئة تحرير الشام والاخوان المسلمين والتركمان والايغور واجناد القوقاز ونفر قليل من معارضات سورية بإشراف مباشر من قوات عسكرية تركية وبتخطيط من السياسات العثمانية لرئاسة أردوغان.

لماذا تتدهور هذه العلاقات بعد سنتين ورديتين كانتا تؤشران لمرحلة قريبة من التحالف بين انقرة وموسكو؟

منذ 2019 وحتى هذا التاريخ يواصل أردوغان التشبث بسياسات مماطلة يمتنع فيها عن سحب الارهاب من منطقة إدلب السورية، كما وعد في مؤتمرات سوتشي وآستانا.

فكان يعلن عكس ما يفعله، مستفيداً من الصراعات الروسية الأميركية السورية ومتذرعاً بخطر كردي مزعوم، حتى أن آخر وعوده كانت منذ شهرين فقط، إلا انه استمر في المماطلة حتى من دون تقديم أعذار مقبولة.

للإشارة فإن تركيا هي جزء من اتفاقات آستانا وسوتشي مع إيران وروسيا.

لذلك فإن الدولة السورية الملتزمة ببرنامج تدريجي لتحرير أراضيها المحتلة، تعرقلت عند خط محافظة إدلب بسبب الاحتيال التركي.

وكانت روسيا تضغط على السوريين لإرجاء تحركهم العسكري في محاولات تكررت اكثر من مرة لإعطاء تركيا مهلاً جديدة لسحب إرهابييها وآخرها في 2019 وسط تمسك تركي بالإخلال بالاتفاقات.

هذا جزء من الاسباب التي أملت على التحالف السوري الروسي الايراني تغطية هجوم ضخم للجيش السوري نجح فيه في السيطرة على نصف محافظة إدلب ومعظم ارياف حلب محرراً طريق أم 5 الذي يربط بين الشهباء ومعرة النعمان في إدلب الى حماة وحمص ودمشق والحدود الاردنية.

ويحتاج هذا الجيش للسيطرة على كيلومتر واحد قرب مدينة سراقب الإدلبية حتى يربط بين حلب وادلب واللاذقية في خط أم 4.

هذا اذاً نصر كبير واستراتيجي يضرب معظم الدور التركي في سورية الذي كان يمسك بمعظم خطوط الربط بين الشمال والشرق والشمال الغربي السوري.

ولأن هذا الهجوم متواصل يريد الوصول الى حدود إدلب مع تركيا وحدود اللاذقية مع ادلب وتركيا، فقد أصيب أردوغان بجنون مباغت لأنه استوعب عمق العلاقة بين هذه الهجمات والتراجع المرتقب للسياسات العثمانية في الإقليم انطلاقاً من خسارة ادلب باعتبار ان اللعب في الشرق السوري منهك لارتباطه بالصراعات الروسية الأميركية السورية والإيرانية والكردية والأوروبية.

كما ان الاحتلال التركي لأراض عراقية في شمال العراق ليس وازناً على المستوى الإقليمي.

لذلك ابتدأ الاتراك بتنفيذ ثلاث سياسات متزامنة: الاولى عسكرية وهي محاولة إيقاف تقدم الجيش السوري عند سراقب الإدلبية والاشتباك معه في أكثر من نقطة في الشرق الأوسط وأرياف حلب مع دفع الإرهاب لمهاجمة مواقع سورية بين حلب وادلب.

اما السياسة الثانية فهي تأليب الجماعات السورية الداخلية من إرهاب وفتن مذهبية وهجمات اعلامية تتحدث عن مجازر مفبركة ارتكبها النظام السوري في المراحل المنصرمة.

لكن السياسة الثالثة هي التي تكشف عن بدايات التصدع في العلاقة الروسية التركية لأن انقرة متأكدة من وجود قرار روسي يغطي الجيش السوري في هجماته الإدلبية وربما على مستوى أوسع من ادلب.

ونتيجة لهذا اليقين الأردوغاني الذي كان يأمل ايضاً وجود تسهيلات روسية لدور تركي في ليبيا ووجود تأييد سياسي وعسكري روسي للمشير حفتر المعادي للسراج حليف تركيا، حتى ان الإعلام الغربي كشف عن شركات قتال روسية موجودة في بنغازي مقابل كتائب الغرب، بما يؤكد أن هناك حرباً ليبية – ليبية تخفي بشكل شديد الشفافية حرباً تركية روسية واضحة.

هناك إذاً قتال بينهما في ليبيا وسورية على الرغم من العلاقات الاقتصادية العميقة بينهما، لأنهما مرتبطتان بخطين من الغاز الروسي ينتقل من البحر الأسود نحو تركيا الأول للاستهلاك الداخلي والتركي، فيما ينقل الثاني الغاز الى اوروبا. بالاضافة الى علاقات تبادل اقتصادي بعشرات مليارات الدولارات ونحو خمسة ملايين سائح روسي يجولون في الربوع التركية سنوياً.

هذه اذاً لعبة خطرة، فمقابل التقدم الاقتصادي هناك حرب في ليبيا وسورية قد تمتد الى أنحاء أخرى. فهل تنفجر العلاقات الاقتصادية ايضاً؟

الجنون الأردوغاني لا حدود له كما يبدو.

بدليل أنه استعمل حتى الآن وسائل سياسية معادية لروسيا تكاد تستنفد معظم الإمكانات التركية بدءاً من دعوته حلف الناتو لمنع السيطرة الروسية على سورية وحضه الاتحاد الأوروبي على أداء دور اكبر فيها.

ها هو يحث مسلمي روسيا على التمرّد على السلطة المركزية للكرملين مطالباً بإخراج الروس من جورجيا، فيبدو كالذاهب الى مرحلة اللاعودة مع الروس عندما يعلن أيضاً رفضه لضم روسيا جزيرة القرم الاوكرانية التي ضمتها روسيا منذ 2914.

فكيف استفاق اردوغان الآن واستغل زيارته الى عاصمتها كييف ليلتقي أيضاً بأحد قادة التركمان من سكان القرم ليشجعه على رفض ما أسماه «الاحتلال الروسي» ولم ينس اردوغان الداخل السوري. مسارعاً الى الجمع بين «الاخوان» والتركمان ومعارضات سورية متهالكة في جبهات موحّدة للتصدي للجيش السوري الى جانب القوات التركية.

انما ما يثير دهشة العثمانيين الجدد فهي أسباب تفضيل روسيا لسورية على تقاربها معهم.

فيتبين لهم أن الحلف الروسي السوري تاريخي لديه ابواب مفتوحة مع العراق واليمن وايران، وآسيا الوسطى، فيما ابواب تركيا مقفلة مع كل جيرانها العرب والأوروبيين والآسيويين.

كما يتضح لهم ان حرب الغاز المندلعة بين روسيا وتحالفاتها وأميركا وتحالفاتها لا تحتمل وجود مضارب تركي ثالث ينقب عن الغاز على متن الاخوان المسلمين في اليمن وليبيا وسورية وعقدته القومية الطورانية عند أتراك قبرص.

لذلك فإن الصراع الروسي التركي لن ينتهي إلا بتخلّي أردوغان عن جشعه العثماني واستيعابه بأن العثمانيين أصبحوا حقبة تاريخية ومنقرضة تستحيل إعادة بعثها من بين الأموات ومتاحف التاريخ؟

Assad Is Destroying Last Seedlings Of Idlib Democracy

South Front

February 04, 2020

The bloody Assad regime is threatening the last seedlings of democracy planted by Mr. al-Julani and his foreign backers in the Syrian province of Idlib.

On February 3, regime forces attacked peaceful al-Qaeda activists in the villages of Nay-rab, Tor-naba, and cut off the M4 highway west Saraqib. Idlib and Saraqib are well-known strongholds of tolerance and diversity, where vetted members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Turkistan Islamic Party, Horas Ad-Din and similar non-governmental humanitarian organizations operate.

Assad forces, backed up by the Russians, deployed approximately 7km from Idib city and continued developing an advance in order to outflank Saraqib from the northwestern direction. They likely seek to capture Saramin and cut off the last direct road linking Idlib with Saraqib. According to some pro-Assad sources, the army even attacked Saraqib itself.

Earlier on the same day, regime forces conducted a ‘treacherous attack’ on Turkish troops deployed near Saraqib in order to protect their local partners. In response, the Turkish Armed Forces reportedly struck over 50 regime targets ‘neutralizing’ at least 76 pro-government fighters.

Nonetheless, the young Idlib democracy remained in grave danger.

Turkish forces are now establishing additional positions near Saraqib in order to protect the town and local humanitarian activists from political repressions.

All these come amid an indiscriminate bombing campaign by the Syrian Air Force and the Russian Aerospace Forces that intentionally target armoured ambulances, weapon hospitals, underground sewing clubs and storytelling spaces recently established across Greater Idlib with assistance from Ankara.

Another point of the Assad expansionism is southwestern Aleppo. Forces of democracy are fiercely resisting the advancing Syrian Army. Nonetheless, they are slowly losing ground because of the numerical superiority of the pro-government forces.

On February 4, the Russian Defense Ministry reported that the White Helmets were preparing a chemical provocation involving 200 people and 400 liters of chemical agents. The military said that the preparations were ongoing in the village of Maaret al-Artik.

Fortunately, mainstream media already denounced this as ordinary propaganda. For any real journalist it is obvious that there can be no staged chemical provocations in Syria, even if OPCW leaks scream about this. This tyrant Assad just likes using chemical weapons on video every time when his forces make important gains or are about to achieve a large victory.

Thankfully, Turkish state media and their western counterparts are always on the alert. They will be here in time to sniff Sarin or other chemical weapons from backpacks belonging to victims of the bombing. They already reported hundreds of thousands people displaced by the Assad offensive. So, there are a lot of backpacks to sniff.

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MILITARY AND POLITICAL TRENDS OF 2019 THAT WILL SHAPE 2020

South Front

In the year 2019 the world was marked with a number of emerging and developing crises. The threat of terrorism, conflicts in the Middle East, expanding instability in South America, never-ending military, political and humanitarian crises in Africa and Asia, expansion of NATO, insecurity inside the European Union, sanction wars and sharpening conflicts between key international players. One more factor that shaped the international situation throughout the year was the further collapse of the existing system of international treaties. The most widely known examples of this tendency are the collapse of the INF and the US announcement of plans to withdraw from the New START. Meanwhile, the deterioration of diplomatic mechanisms between key regional and global actors is much wider than these two particular cases. It includes such fields as NATO-Russia relations, the US posture towards Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights, unsuccessful attempts to rescue vestiges of the Iran nuclear deal, as well as recent setbacks in the diplomatic formats created to de-escalate the Korean conflict.

One of the regions of greatest concern in the world, is the Middle East. The main destabilizing factors are the remaining terrorist threat from al-Qaeda and ISIS, the crises in Libya, Syria and Iraq, the ongoing Saudi invasion of Yemen, the deepening Israeli-Arab conflict, and a threat of open military confrontation involving the US and Iran in the Persian Gulf. These factors are further complicated by social and economic instability in several regional countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and even Iran.

After the defeat of ISIS, the war in Syria entered a low intensity phase. However, it appears that the conflict is nowhere near its end and the country remains a point of instability in the region.

ISIS cells are still active in the country. The announced US troop withdrawal appeared to be only an ordinary PR stunt as US forces only changed their main areas of presence to the oil-rich areas in northeastern Syria. Washington exploits its control over Syrian resources and influence on the leadership of the Syrian Kurds in order to effect the course of the conflict. The Trump administration sees Syria as one of the battlegrounds in the fight against the so-called Iranian threat.

The province of Idlib and its surrounding areas remain the key stronghold of radical militant groups in Syria. Over the past years, anti-government armed groups suffered a series of defeats across the country and withdrew towards northwestern Syria. The decision of the Syrian Army to allow encircled militants to withdraw towards Idlib enabled the rescue of thousands of civilians, who were being used by them as human shields in such areas as Aleppo city and Eastern Ghouta. At the same time, this increased significantly the already high concentration of militants in Greater Idlib turning it into a hotbed of radicalism and terrorism. The ensuing attempts to separate the radicals from the so-called moderate opposition and then to neutralize them, which took place within the framework of the Astana format involving Turkey, Syria, Iran and Russia, made no progress.

The Summer-Fall advance of the Syrian Army in northern Hama and southern Idlib led to the liberation of a large area from the militants. Nevertheless, strategically, the situation is still the same. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly the official branch of al-Qaeda in Syria, controls most of the area. Turkish-backed ‘moderate militants’ act shoulder to shoulder with terrorist groups.

Turkey is keen to prevent any possible advances of the government forces in Idlib. Therefore it supports further diplomatic cooperation with Russia and Iran to promote a ‘non-military’ solution of the issue. However it does not seem to have enough influence with the Idlib militant groups, in particular HTS, to impose a ceasefire on them at the present time. Ankara could take control of the situation, but it would need a year or two that it does not have. Therefore, a new round of military escalation in the Idlib zone seems to be only a matter of time.

Syria’s northeast is also a source of tensions. Turkey seized a chunk of territory between Ras al-Ayn and Tell Abyad in the framework of its Operation Peace Spring. The large-scale Turkish advance on Kurdish armed groups was halted by the Turkish-Russian ‘safe zone’ agreement and now the Syrian Army and the Russian Military Police are working to separate Kurdish rebels from Turkish proxies and to stabilize Syria’s northeast. If this is successfully done and the Assad government reaches a political deal with Kurdish leaders, conditions for further peaceful settlement of the conflict in this part of the country will be created. It should be noted that Damascus has been contributing extraordinary efforts to restore the infrastructure in areas liberated from terrorists by force or returned under its control by diplomatic means. In the eyes of the local population, these actions have an obvious advantage over approaches of other actors controlling various parts of Syria.

Israel is another actor pursuing an active policy in the region. It seeks to influence processes which could affect, what the leadership sees as, interests of the state. Israel justifies aggressive actions in Syria by claiming to be surrounded by irreconcilable enemies, foremost Iran and Hezbollah, who try to destroy Israel or at least diminish its security. Tel Aviv makes all efforts to ensure that, in the immediate vicinity of its borders, there would be no force, non-state actors, or states whose international and informational activities or military actions might damage Israeli interests. This, according to the Israeli vision, should ensure the physical security of the entire territory currently under the control of Israel and its population.

The start of the Syrian war became a gift for Israel. It was strong enough to repel direct military aggression by any terrorist organization, but got a chance to use the chaos to propel its own interests. Nonetheless, the rigid stance of the Israeli leadership which became used to employing chaos and civil conflicts in the surrounding countries as the most effective strategy for ensuring the interests of the state, was delivered a blow. Israel missed the moment when it had a chance to intervene in the conflict as a kind of peacemaker, at least on the level of formal rhetoric, and, with US help, settle the conflict to protect its own interests. Instead, leaders of Israel and the Obama administration sabotaged all Russian peace efforts in the first years of the Russian military operation and by 2019, Tel Aviv had found itself excluded from the list of power brokers in the Syrian settlement. Hezbollah and Iran, on the other hand, strengthened their position in the country after they, in alliance with Damascus and Russia, won the war on the major part of Syrian territory, and Iran through the Astana format forged a tactical alliance with Turkey.

Iran and Hezbollah used the preliminary outcome of the conflict in Syria, and the war on ISIS in general, to defend their own security and to expand their influence across the region.  The so-called Shia crescent turned from being a myth exploited by Western diplomats and mainstream media into a reality. Iran and Hezbollah appeared to be reliable partners for their regional allies even in the most complicated situations.

Russia’s strategic goal is the prevention of radical Islamists from coming to power. Russia showed itself ready to enter dialogue with the moderate part of the Syrian opposition. Its leadership even demonstrated that it is ready to accept the interests of other actors, the US, Israel, Kurdish groups, Turkey, Iran, and Hezbollah, if this would help in reaching a final deal to settle the conflict.

Summing up the developments of 2019, one might expect that the current low-intensity state of the Syrian conflict would continue for years. However, several factors and developments could instigate the renewal of full-fledged hostilities:

  • A sudden demise or forceful removal of President Bashar al-Assad could create a situation of uncertainty within the patriotic component of the Syrian leadership;
  • Changes within the Russian political system or issues inside Russia which could lead to full or partial withdrawal of support to the Syrian government and withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria;
  • A major war in the Middle East which would turn the entire region into a battlefield. In the current situation, such a war could only start by escalation between the US-Israeli-led bloc and Iran.

The Persian Gulf and the Saudi-Yemen battleground are also sources of regional instability. In the second half of 2019, the situation there was marked by increased chances of open military confrontation between the US-Israeli-Saudi bloc and Iran. Drone shoot-downs, oil tanker detentions, open military buildups, and wartime-like rhetoric became something common or at least not very surprising. The US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel point to Iran as the main instigator of tensions.

Iran and its allies deny responsibility for the escalation reasonably noting that their actions were a response to aggressive moves by the US-Israeli-Saudi axis. From this point of view, Iran’s decision to limit its commitments to the already collapsed Nuclear Deal, high level of military activity in the Persian Gulf, shoot down of the US Global Hawk spy drone, and increased support to regional Shia groups are logical steps to deter US—led aggression and to solidify its own position in the region. Iran’s main goal is to demonstrate that an open military conflict with it will have a devastating impact to the states which decide to attack it, as well as to the global economy.

The US sanctions war, public diplomatic support of rioters, and the Trump administration’s commitment to flexing military muscle only strengthen Tehran’s confidence that this approach is right.

As to Yemen’s Houthis, who demonstrated an unexpected success in delivering retaliatory strikes to Saudi Arabia, they would continue to pursue their main goal – achieving a victory in the conflict with Saudi Arabia or forcing the Kingdom to accept the peace deal on favorable terms. To achieve this, they need to deliver maximum damage to Saudi Arabia’s economy through strikes on its key military and infrastructure objects. In this case, surprising missile and drone strikes on different targets across Saudi Arabia have already demonstrated their effectiveness.

The September 14 strike on Saudi oil infrastructure that put out of commission half of the Saudi oil output became only the first sign of future challenges that Riyadh may face in case of further military confrontation.

The unsuccessful invasion of Yemen and the confrontation with Iran are not the only problems for Saudi Arabia. The interests and vision of the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East have been in conflict for a long time. Nonetheless, this tendency became especially obvious in 2019. The decline of influence of the House of Saud in the region and inside Saudi Arabia itself led to logical attempts of other regional players to gain a leading position in the Arabian Peninsula. The main challenger is the UAE and the House of Maktoum.

Contradictions between Saudi Arabia and the UAE turned into an open military confrontation between their proxies in Yemen. Since August 29th, Saudi Arabia has provided no symmetric answer to the UAE military action against its proxies. It seems that the Saudi leadership has no will or distinct political vision of how it should react in this situation. Additionally, the Saudi military is bogged down in a bloody conflict in Yemen and struggles to defend its own borders from Houthi attacks.

The UAE already gained an upper hand in the standoff with Saudi Arabia in the economic field. This provided motivation for further actions towards expanding its influence in the region.

During the year, Turkey, under the leadership of President Recep Erdogan, continued strengthening its regional positions. It expanded its own influence in Libya and Syria, strengthened its ties with Iran, Qatar, and Russia, obtained the S-400, entered a final phase in the TurkStream project, and even increased controversial drilling activity in the Eastern Mediterranean. Simultaneously, Ankara defended its national interests -repelling pressure from the United States and getting off with removal from the F-35 program only. Meanwhile, Turkish actions should not be seen as a some tectonic shift in its foreign policy or a signal of ‘great friendship’ with Russia or Iran.

Turkish foreign policy demonstrates that Ankara is not seeking to make ‘friends’ with other regional and global powers. Turkey’s foreign policy is mobile and variable, and always designed to defend the interests of Turkey as a regional leader and the key state of the Turkic world.

Developments in Libya were marked by the strengthening of the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and backed by the UAE, Egypt, and to some extent Russia. The LNA consolidated control of most of the country and launched an advance on its capital of Tripoli, controlled by the Government of National Accord. The LNA describes its main goal as the creation of the unified government and the defeat of terrorism. In its own turn, the Government of National Accord is backed by Turkey, Qatar, the USA and some European states. It controls a small part of the country, and, in terms of military force, relies on various militias and even radical armed groups linked with al-Qaeda. Ankara signed with the Tripoli government a memorandum on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean Sea. Thus, it sees the GNA survival as a factor which would allow it to justify its further economic and security expansion in the region. This clash of interests sets conditions for an escalation of the Libyan conflict in 2020.

Egypt was mostly stable. The country’s army and security forces contained the terrorism threat on the Sinai Peninsula and successfully prevented attempts of radical groups to destabilize the country.

By the end of the year, the Greater Middle East had appeared in a twilight zone lying before a new loop of the seemingly never-ending Great Game. The next round of the geopolitical standoff will likely take place in a larger region including the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Consistently, the stakes will grow involving more resources of states and nations in geopolitical roulette.

The threat that faces Central Asia is particularly severe since the two sets of actors have asymmetrical objectives. Russia and China are rather interested in the political stability and economic success of the region which they view as essential to their own political and security objectives. It is not in the interest of either country to have half a dozen failed states in their immediate political neighborhood, riven by political, economic, and religious conflicts threatening to spread to their own territories. In addition to being a massive security burden to Russia and China, it would threaten the development of their joint Eurasian integration projects and, moreover, attract so much political attention that the foreign policy objectives of both countries would be hamstrung. The effect would be comparable to that of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on the US political and military establishment. The monetary price of these wars, the sheer political distraction, wear and demoralization of the armed forces, and the unfortunately frequent killings of civilians amount to a non-tenable cost to the warring party, not to mention damage to US international “soft power” wrought by scandals associated with Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and “black sites”. Even now, shock-waves in the US military hierarchy continue to be felt regarding the court-martialed senior-ranking US Navy “SEAL” commando charged for the wanton killing of civilians in Northern Iraq during the US military’s anti-ISIS operations.

By contrast, this dismal scenario would be enough to satisfy the US foreign policy establishment which, at the moment, is wholly dominated by “hawks” determined to assure the continuation of US hegemony.  Preventing the emergence of a multi-polar international system by weakening China and Russia is their desire.  This sets the stage for another round of great power rivalry in Central Asia. While the pattern is roughly the same as during the 19th and late 20th centuries—one or more Anglo-Saxon powers seeking to diminish the power of Russia and/or China—the geography of the battlefield is considerably larger for it encompasses the entirety of post-Soviet Central Asian republics.  Also included is China’s province of Xinjiang which has suddenly attracted considerable Western attention, manifested, as usual, by concern for “human rights” in the region.  Historically, such “concern” usually precedes some form of aggressive action. Therefore the two sets of great power actors—the US and other interested Western powers on the one hand, with Russia and China on the other—are locked in a standoff in the region.

The key security problem is militancy and the spread of terrorism. The US and its NATO partners remain unable to achieve a military victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Taliban reached a level of influence in the region, turning it into a rightful party to any negotiations involving the United States. Nonetheless, it is unlikely that a fully-fledged peace deal can be reached between the sides. The Taliban’s main demand is the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country. For Washington, conceding to this would amount to public humiliation and a forceful need to admit that the superpower lost a war to the Taliban. Washington can achieve a military victory in Afghanistan only by drastically increasing its forces in the country. This will go contrary to Trump’s publicly declared goal – to limit US participation in conflicts all around the world. Therefore, the stalemate will continue with the Taliban and the US sitting at the negotiating table in Qatar, while Taliban forces slowly take control of more and more territory in Afghanistan.

Besides fighting the US-backed government, in some parts of the country, the Taliban even conducts operations against ISIS in order to prevent this group from spreading further. Despite this, around 5,000 ISIS militants operate in Afghanistan’s north, near the border with Tajikistan. Member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization are concerned that ISIS militants are preparing to shift their focus to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, and Russia. The terrorists are infiltrating CIS states, incorporating with organized crime, creating clandestine cells, brainwashing and recruiting new supporters, chiefly the socially handicapped youth and migrants, [and] training them to carry out terrorist activities. The worsening situation in Central Asia contributes to the spread of radical ideas. Now the main threat of destabilization of the entire Central Asian region comes from Tajikistan. This state is the main target of militants deployed in northern Afghanistan.

Destabilization of Central Asia and the rise of ISIS both contribute to achievement of US geopolitical goals. The scenario could devastate Russia’s influence in the region, undermine security of key Russian regional ally, Kazakhstan, and damage the interests of China. The Chinese, Kazakh, and Russian political leadership understand these risks and engage in joint efforts to prevent this scenario.

In the event of further destabilization of Central Asia, ISIS sleeper cells across the region could be activated and a new ISIS self-proclaimed Caliphate could appear on the territory of northern Afghanistan and southern Tajikistan. Russia and China would not benefit from such a development. In the case of China, such instability could expand to its Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, while in Russia the main targets could be the Northern Caucasus and large cities with high numbers of migrant laborers from Central Asian states.

Armenia now together with Georgia became the center of a US soft power campaign to instigate anti-Russian hysteria in the Caucasus. Ethnic groups in this region are traditionally addicted to US mainstream propaganda. On the other hand, the importance of the South Caucasus for Russia decreased notably because of the strong foothold it gained in the Middle East. 2020 is looking to be another economically complicated year for Georgia and Armenia.

Throughout 2019, China consolidated its position as a global power and the main challenger of the United States. From the military point of view, China successfully turned the South China Sea into an anti-access and area-denial zone controlled by its own military and moved forward with its ambitious modernization program which includes the expansion of China’s maritime, airlift, and amphibious capabilities. The balance of power in the Asia-Pacific has in fact shifted and the Chinese Armed Forces are now the main power-broker in the region. China appeared strong enough to fight back against US economic and diplomatic pressure and to repel the Trump Administration’s attempts to impose Washington’s will upon Beijing. Despite economic war with the United States, China’s GDP growth in 2019 is expected to be about 6%, while the yuan exchange rate and the SSE Composite Index demonstrate stability. The United States also tried to pressure China through supporting instability in Hong Kong and by boosting defense aid to Taiwan. However, in both cases, the situation appears to still be within Beijing’s comfort zone.

An interesting consequence of US-led pressure on China is that Washington’s actions provided an impetus for development of Chinese-Russian cooperation. In 2019, Moscow and Beijing further strengthened their ties and cooperation in the economic and military spheres and demonstrated notable unity in their actions on the international scene as in Africa and in the Arctic for example.

As to Russia itself, during the year, it achieved several foreign policy victories.

  • The de-facto diplomatic victory in Syria;
  • Resumption of dialogue with the new Ukrainian regime and the reanimation of the Normandy format negotiations;
  • Improvement of relations with some large European players, like France, Italy, and even Germany;
  • Implementation of the Nord Stream 2 project despite opposition from the US-led bloc;
  • Implementation of the Turkish Stream project with Turkey;
  • Strengthening of the Russian economy in comparison with previous years and the rubble’s stability despite pressure from sanctions. Growth of the Russian GDP for 2019 is expected to be 1.2%, while the Russia Trading System Index demonstrated notable growth from around 1,100 points at the start of the year to around 1,500 by year’s end.

The salient accomplishment of the Russian authorities is that no large terrorist attack took place in the country. At the same time, the internal situation was marked by some negative tendencies. There was an apparent political, media, and social campaign to undermine Chinese-Russian cooperation. This campaign, run by pro-Western and liberal media, became an indicator of the progress in Chinese-Russian relations. Additionally, Russia was rocked by a series of emergencies, corruption scandals linked with law enforcement, the plundering of government funding allocated to the settlement of emergency situations, the space industry, and other similar cases. A number of Russian mid-level officials made statements revealing their real, rent-seeking stance towards the Russian population. Another problem was the deepening social stratification of the population. Most of the citizens experienced a decrease in their real disposable income, while elites continued concentrating margin funds gained through Russia’s successful actions in the economy and on the international level. These factors, as well as fatigue with the stubborn resistance of entrenched elites to being dislodged, caused conditions for political instability in big cities. Liberal and pro-Western media and pro-Western organizations exploited this in an attempt to destabilize the country.

Militarization of Japan has given the US a foothold in its campaign against China, Russia, and North Korea. The Japan Self-Defense Forces were turned into a fully-fledged military a long time ago. Japanese diplomatic rhetoric demonstrates that official Tokyo is preparing for a possible new conflict in the region and that it will fight to further expand its zone of influence. The Japanese stance on the Kuril Islands territorial dispute with Russia is an example of this approach. Tokyo rejected a Russian proposal for joint economic management of four islands and nearby waters, while formally the islands will remain within Russian jurisdiction -at least for the coming years. Japan demands the full transfer of islands a term which is unacceptable to Russia from a military and political point of view. The social and economic situation in Japan was in a relatively stable, but guarded state.

Denuclearization talks between the United States and North Korea reached a stalemate after the North Korean leadership claimed that Washington was in no hurry to provide Pyongyang with acceptable terms and conditions of a possible nuclear deal. The example of the US unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran also played a role. The positive point is that tensions on the Korean Peninsula de-escalated anyway because the sides sat down at the negotiation table. Chances of the open military conflict involving North Korea and the United States remain low.

In February 2019, the Indian-Pakistani conflict over the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir put the greater region on the brink of a large war with potential for the use of nuclear weapons. However, both India and Pakistan demonstrated reasonable restraint and prevented further escalation despite an open confrontation between their militaries which took place at the same moment. Meanwhile, the February escalation demonstrated the growing power of Pakistan. In the coming years, look to Jammu and Kashmir as a point of constant instability and military tensions, with very little chance that the sides will find a comprehensive political solution to their differences.

The threat of terrorism is another destabilizing factor in the region. In 2019, ISIS cells made several attempts to strengthen and expand their presence in such countries as Malaysia and Indonesia. Law enforcement agencies of both countries are well aware of this threat and contribute constant and active efforts to combat this terrorism and radicalism. It should be noted that Malaysia is in conflict with the Euro-Atlantic elites because of its independent foreign policy course. For example, its government repeatedly questioned the mainstream MH17 narrative and officially slammed the JIT investigation as politicized and nontransparent. So, the leadership of the country is forced to be in a state of permanent readiness to repel clandestine and public attempts to bring it into line with the mainstream agenda.

While the European Union is, theoretically, the world’s biggest economy using the world’s second most popular currency in international transactions, it remains to be seen whether, in the future, it will evolve into a genuine component of a multi-polar international system or become a satellite in someone else’s—most likely US—orbit. There still remain many obstacles toward achieving a certain “critical mass” of power and unity. While individual EU member states, most notably Germany and France, are capable of independent action in the international system, individually they are too weak to influence the actions of the United States, China, or even Russia. In the past, individual European powers relied on overseas colonial empires to achieve great power status. In the 21st century, European greatness can only be achieved through eliminating not just economic but also political barriers on the continent. At present, European leaders are presented with both incentives and obstacles to such integration, though one may readily discern a number of potential future paths toward future integration.

Continued European integration would demand an agreement on how to transfer national sovereignty to some as yet undefined and untested set of European political institutions which would not only guarantee individual rights but, more importantly from the point of view of national elites, preserve the relative influence of individual EU member states even after they forfeited their sovereignty. Even if the Euro-skeptics were not such a powerful presence in EU’s politics, it would still be an insurmountable task for even the most visionary and driven group of political leaders. Such a leap is only possible if the number of EU states making it is small, and their level of mutual integration is already high.

The post-2008 Euro zone crisis does appear to have communicated the non-sustainability of the current EU integration approach, hence the recent appearance of “two-speeds Europe” concept which actually originated as a warning against the threat of EU bifurcation into well integrated “core“ and a less integrated “periphery”. In practical terms it would mean “core” countries, definitely including Germany, France, and possibly the Benelux Union, would abandon the current policy of throwing money at the less well developed EU member states and, instead, focus on forging “a more perfect Union” consisting of this far more homogeneous and smaller set of countries occupying territories that, over a thousand years ago, formed what used to be known as the Carolingian Empire. Like US territories of the 19th century, EU states outside of the core would have to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” to earn membership in the core, which would require them to adopt, wholesale, the core’s political institutions.

The deepening disproportion of EU member state economies, and therefore sharpening economic disputes, are the main factor of instability in Europe. The long-delayed withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the union, which is finally expected to take place in 2020, might trigger an escalation of internal tensions over economic issues which might blow up the EU from the inside. Other cornerstones of European instability are the extraordinary growth of organized crime, street crime, radicalism, and terrorism, most of which were caused by uncontrolled illegal migration and the inability of the European bureaucracy to cut off the flows of illegal migrants, integrate non-radicalized people into European society, and detect all radicals and terrorists that infiltrate Europe with migrants.

The situation is further complicated by the conflict in Ukraine and the destruction of international security treaties, such as the US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and its planned withdrawal from the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty). These developments go amid constant military and political hysteria of micro-states and Poland instigated by the Euro-Atlantic elites. The EU bureaucracy is using this state of hysteria and ramping up speculations about a supposed military threat from Russia and an economic and political threat from China to distract the public and draw attention away from the real problems.

The return of Russia as the diplomatic and military great power to Africa marked a new round of the geo-economic standoff in the region. The apparent Russian-Chinese cooperation is steadily pushing French and British out of what they describe as their traditional sphere of influence. While, in terms of economic strength, Russia cannot compete with China, it does have a wide range of military and diplomatic means and measures with which to influence the region. So, Beijing and Moscow seem to have reached a non-public deal on a “division of labor”. China focuses on implementation of its economic projects, while Russia contributes military and diplomatic efforts to stabilize the security situation, obtaining revenue for its military and security assistance. Moscow plays a second violin role in getting these guaranteed zones of influence. Terrorism is one of the main threats to the region. The Chinese-Russian cooperation did not go without a response from their Western counterparts that justified their propaganda and diplomatic opposition to Beijing-Moscow cooperation by describing Chinese investments as “debt-traps” and the Russian military presence as “destabilizing”. In 2019, Africa entered into a new round of great powers rivalry.

The intensification of US “soft power” and meddling efforts, social, economic tensions, activities of non-state actors, and organized criminal networks became the main factors of instability in South America. Venezuela and Bolivia were targeted by US-backed coups. While the Venezuelan government, with help from China and Russia, succeeded in repelling the coup attempt, Bolivia was plunged into a violent civil conflict after the pro-US government seized power. Chile remained in a state of social economic crisis which repeatedly triggered wide-scale anti-government riots. Its pro-US government remained in power, mainly, because there was no foreign ‘democratic superpower’ to instigate the regime change campaign. Actions of the government of Colombia, one of the key US regional allies, undermined the existing peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and forced at least a part of the former FARC members to take up arms once again. If repressions, killings, and clandestine operations aimed at the FARC members committed to the peace continue, they may lead to a resumption of FARC-led guerrilla warfare against the central government. The crisis developing in Mexico is a result of the growth of the drug cartels-related violence and economic tensions with the United States. The right-wing Bolsonaro government put Brazil on track with the US foreign policy course to the extent that, the country worked with Washington against Venezuela, claiming that it should not turn into ‘another Cuba’. A deep economic crisis in Argentina opened the road to power for a new left-centric president, Alberto Fernandez. Washington considers South America as its own geopolitical backyard and sees any non pro-US, or just national-oriented government, as a threat to its vital interests. In 2020, the US meddling campaign will likely escalate and expand, throwing the region into a new round of instability and triggering an expected resistance from South American states. An example of this is the situation in Bolivia. Regardless of the actions of ousted President Evo Morales, the situation in the country will continue escalating. The inability of the pro-US government to deliver positive changes and its simultaneous actions to destroy all the economic achievements of the Morales period might cause Bolivia to descend into poverty and chaos causing unrest and possibly, a civil war.

During 2019, the world superpower, led by the administration of President Donald Trump, provided a consistent policy designed to defend the interests of US domestic industry and the United States as a national state by any means possible. This included economic and diplomatic pressure campaigns against both US geopolitical competitors and allies. The most widely known Trump administration move of this kind was the tariff war with China. However, at the same time, Washington contributed notable efforts in almost all regions around the globe. For example, the United States opposed Chinese economic projects in Africa, Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in Europe, tried to limit exports of the Russian defense industry, pressured NATO member states who did not want to spend enough on defense, and proposed that US allies pay more for the honor and privilege of provided “protection”. Additionally, Trump pressured the Federal Reserve Board of Governors into lowering interest rates and announced plans to lower interest rates even further to weaken the dollar in order to boost national industry and increase its product availability on the global market. These plans caused strong resistance from international corporations and global capitalists because this move may undermine the current global financial system based upon a strong US dollar. This straightforward approach demonstrated that Trump and his team were ready to do everything needed to protect US security and economic interests as they see them. Meanwhile, it alienated some “traditional allies”, as in the case of Turkey which decided to acquire Russian S-400s, and escalated the conflict between the Trump Administration and the globalists. The expected US GDP growth in 2019 is 2.2%. The expected production growth of 3.9% reflects the policy aimed at supporting the real sector. In terms of foreign policy, the White House attempted to rationalize US military presence in conflict zones around the world. Despite this, the unprecedented level of support to Israel, confrontation with Iran, China, and Russia, militarization of Europe, coups and meddling into the internal affairs of sovereign states remain as the main markers of US foreign policy. Nevertheless, the main threat to United States stability originates not from Iranians, Russians, or Chinese, but rather from internal issues. The constant hysteria in mainstream media, the attempt to impeach Donald Trump, and the radicalization of different social and political groups contributes to destabilization of the country ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

The year 2019 was marked by a number of dangerous developments. In spite of this, it could have been much more dangerous and violent. Political leadership by key actors demonstrated their conditional wisdom by avoiding a number of open military conflicts, all of which had chances to erupt in the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, South America, and even Europe. A new war in the Persian Gulf, US military conflict with North Korea, an India-Pakistan war -none of these were started.  A peaceful transfer of power from Petro Poroshenko to Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine allowed for the avoidance of a military escalation in eastern Europe. China and the United States showed their restraint despite tensions in the Asia-Pacific, including the Hong Kong issue. A new global economic crisis, expected for some time by many experts, did not happen. The lack of global economic shocks or new regional wars in 2019 does not mean that knots straining relations among leading world powers were loosened or solved. These knots will remain a constant source of tension on the international level until they are removed within the framework of diplomatic mechanisms or cut as a result of a large military conflict or a series of smaller military conflicts.

Chances seem high that 2020 will become the year when a match will be set to the wick of the international powder keg, or that it will be the last relatively calm year in the first quarter of the 21st century. The collapse of international defense treaties and de-escalation mechanisms, as well as accumulating contradictions and conflicts among world nations give rise to an especial concern.

Trump Threatens Syria for al-Qaeda Occupiers of Idlib

December 27, 2019

Miri Wood

Syrians celebrate Christmas in Damascus Abbasid Square

Trump wished the Syrian Arab Republic a belated Merry Christmas by tweeting yet another threat, warning the SAR not to liberate Idlib from the approximately 10,000 al Qaeda savages who have occupied this area of the country, since the beginning of the crisis.

Surely the 45th President of the USA knows these stats, supported even by the same UN that also wails for al Qaeda on a regular basis. Surely Trump heard Special Presidential Envoy to the alleged anti-Daesh Global Coalition, Brett McGurk when he emphatically stated that  Idlib province is the largest al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11.

The Trump threat comes on the heels of his signing the new NDAA law, which includes the Qatar-funded Caesar Hoax legislation, unprecedented peak colonialism which attempts to forbid Syria from protecting its citizenship from terrorists armed by NATO, within its own borders. The nasty Trump threat comes as Syria militarily enforces the Astana Agreement, already liberating more than 30 villages from the criminally insane al Qaeda savages. 

Perhaps Trump is seeking a bump in his approval ratings; the only time that he was revered, cheered, practically fellated, was when he bombed Syria for al Qaeda, based on the criminal lies of the British illegal whose medical license was permanently revoked due to his terrorism ties, via fake news!CNN, on 7 April 2017.

British undoctor illegal, Shajul Islam was the source of the Khan Sheikhoun chemical hoax, 4 April 2017.

isis-recruit-trump
British illegal, British terrorist in Syria was source for the GB hoax in Khan Sheikhoun

In the tweet where the POTUS threatens to again use the US military as al Qaeda’s second air force, Trump again gave his support to the caliph wannabe, rabid Erdogan, lying that the leader of Turkey — the country through which most of the 350,000 foreign killers entered, and without stepping on any of the almost 200,000 land mines still not cleared — was working to stop the carnage (“carnage” is a word he likes, having used it in his inaugural speech, when he promised that ”American carnage” would stop, though soon after, he flexed those “American carnage” muscles, bombing two bridges in Syria).

Though Trump has been consistent in supporting Erdogan’s war crimes against Syria — in late January 2017 he announced his support for Turkey’s invasion and occupation ofJarabulus — it is possible that the kissy faces in the tweet were meant as a request for Turkey to stop recycling its al Qaeda militias from Syria into Libya.

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump · Dec 26, 2019

Russia, Syria, and Iran are killing, or on their way to killing, thousands of innocent civilians in Idlib Province. Don’t do it! Turkey is working hard to stop this carnage.

Fares Shehabi@ShehabiFares

Sure..

View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter

1758:17 PM – Dec 26, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy47 people are talking about this

Though Trump has been consistent in supporting Erdogan’s war crimes against Syria — in late January 2017 he announced his support for Turkey’s invasion and occupation ofJarabulus — it is possible that the kissy faces in the tweet were meant as a request for Turkey to stop recycling its al Qaeda militias from Syria into Libya.

H.E. al Jaafari quoting Egyptian Nobel Laureate Najib Mahfouz to the rabid & deaf UN hyenas [Archive].

The above quote from Laureate Najib Mahfouz is appropriate for the tripartite aggressors running the UN; it is also applicable to Trump’s menacing tweet, given that two prominent members of al Qaeda are on the US Treasury Department’s SDN list. Terrorist al Jolani has been designated since 2013 and also has a ten million dollar bounty on his head (again, the US taxpayer pays and pays: Pays for the weapons to arm takfiri in Syria, pays for the bombing of Syria, pays for the 501(c) ‘charities’ and think tanks that function as press liaisons for al Qaeda in Syria.).

Jolani donned Trump wig 7 April 2017.

Nusra Front Commander Jolani Meets Commanders of FSA Moderate Rebels in Idlib with help of Erdogan. [Trump does not know this?]

Saudi Muhaysini is also on the SDN list.

afp
al Muhaysini is on the US Specially Designated Nationals list. Here he is with child soldiers he has trained.

Despite the ongoing economic terrorism inflicted on Syria, by the Trump regime, terrorists continue to have exceptional telecommunications access, courtesy of Trump’s pal, Erdogan. Saudi illegal and designee Muhaysini has recently condemned Christmas celebrations, enjoyed throughout the Syrian Arab Republic, except in al Qaeda occupied areas of Idlib.

Here is one of the icons of the Syrian “revolution”, the Idlib based Saudi Sheikh Abdallah Muhaysni, blasting Christmas day and admonishing Syrians who celebrate it. And we wonder why Christians support the legitimate government in #Syria5534:00 PM – Dec 26, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy443 people are talking about this

How very odd that the great Christian President Donald J. Trump wishes to protect these violent criminals of al Qaeda.

— Miri Wood


TURKISH-BASED ‘SYRIAN GOVERNMENT’ THREATENS DAMASCUS WITH MILITARY ACTION, WAR REPORT

South Front

Late on December 23, the Turkish-based “Syrian Interim Government” (an entity funded by Turkey in an attempt to legalize its actions in Syria) threatened the real Syrian government with a military action.

In a released statement, it claimed that forces that participated in Turkey’s Olive Branch and Euphrates Shield operations are now moving to Greater Idlib in order to support their counterparts in repelling an attack by “regime forces, Russia and Iranian militias”.

It remains unclear what “forces” the barely existing “defense ministry” is planning to send to Idlib because Turkish-backed militant groups are already supporting al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in the battle against the Syrian Army. The Turkish-backed coalition of militant groups, the National Front for Liberation, has always been a useful partner for al-Qaeda in Idlib.

On December 24, united forces of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the National Front for Liberation and several other militant groups launched a counter-attack in an attempt to retake the town of Jarjnaz from the Syrian Army and its allies.

Clashes between militants and government forces erupted near Jarjnaz itself and the villages of Ghadfa and Abud Dawha. Militants used at least one suicide vehicle borne improvised explosive device.

Pro-militant sources that “rebels” destroyed several pieces of military equipment belonging to the army and captured an armoured vehicle and a battle tank. The fighting in the area continued on December 25.

On December 24, a Turkish delegation visited Moscow to discuss the situation in Syria and Libya, as well as the existing bilateral cooperation. Taking into account that Turkey’s soft reaction to the encirclement of its observation post in Surman and the lack of Turkish Army attempts to establish more observation posts to stop the Syrian Army advance, it seems that Ankara once again sold its Idlib proxies to Russia.

GOVERNMENT FORCES REPEL ANOTHER MILITANT ATTACK ON JARJNAZ, CAPTURE ARMOURED VEHICLE (PHOTOS)

Click to see the full-size image

On December 25, the Syrian Army repelled another attack by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham on the town of Jarjnaz in southern Idlib. According to photos released online, government forces captured at least one armoured vehicle belonging to militants.

The situation on the frontline near Jarjnaz remains tense with the Syrian Army is preparing to develop its operation and storm the militant stronghold of Maarat al-Numan.

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Click to see the full-size image

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“The Good Terrorists”: How U.S. Airstrikes Helped Prop Al-Qaeda in Syria’s Idlib?

Global Research, December 14, 2019
Marines

Al-Qaeda in Syria has two noteworthy apologists. One is the jihadist propagandist Bilal Abdul Kareem, a former correspondent for CNN, often seen in videos sporting a long beard and reporting from the ground in the al-Nusra Front strongholds in northwestern Syria, and the other is Syria analyst and the fellow of the Middle East Institute Charles Lister.

Recently, Lister has written a research paper for the Hudson Institute, titled “The Syria Effect: Al-Qaeda Fractures,” [1] in which he has tried to prove that militants of al-Qaeda in Syria are not “bad guys” per se, rather they are “good terrorists” whose ambitions are restricted to fighting the Syrian government, and they don’t intend to mount terror attacks in the Western countries.

In conclusion of the lengthy screed, he has craftily proposed “Gaza-fication” of Syria’s northwestern Idlib, where like the Hamas in Gaza, the so-called “Salvation Government” of the al-Nusra Front, the Syrian affiliate of al-Qaeda, can be recognized as a legitimate government administering the northwestern enclave under the tutelage of Ankara.

Unwittingly, however, Charles Lister has spilled the beans in the article about a July 30 American airstrike in rural Aleppo that killed several high-profile jihadist dissidents, who had challenged the unity of the Washington-backed insurgency against the Syrian government offensive in northern Hamah and Idlib in late April.

Before getting into details, it’s worth noting that Hurras al-Din is a small radical outfit in Syria’s northwestern Idlib that split in 2018 from al-Qaeda in Syria, which was formerly known as al-Nusra Front until 2016, and now as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

An excerpt from Charles Lister’s research paper reads:

“When the Syrian regime and Russia launched their all-out military offensive on northwestern Syria in late-April 2019, a debate ensued within Hurras al-Din – a breakaway faction of Tahrir al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra Front – should they assist Tahrir al-Sham and other opposition groups by reinforcing their frontlines in northern Hama?

“Given al-Qaeda Central chief Ayman al-Zawahiri’s public directives indicating the importance of Islamist unity and sustaining the armed struggle against the regime, the leader of Hurras al-Din Abu Hammam al-Suri and his deputy Sami al-Oraydi emerged as tacitly supportive of helping other jihadist groups, including Tahrir al-Sham, wherever necessary.

“The debate over Hurras al-Din’s role on Tahrir al-Sham’s opposition frontlines spilled out into the open in late June of 2019, when Hurras al-Din leader Abu Hammam al-Suri expelled two prominent Hurras al-Din clerics, Abu Dhar al-Masri and Abu Yahya al-Jazairi, for having issued non-sanctioned rulings forbidding fighting in northern Hama. Some alleged Abu Yahya had gone as far as pronouncing takfir on Tahrir al-Sham, thereby excommunicating them from Islam and labeling them apostates and legitimate targets for attack.

“Abu Hammam’s dismissal of Abu Dhar and Abu Yahya sparked an uproar within Hurras al-Din. The group’s internal judicial court, led by Abu Amr al-Tunisi, issued a petition signed by more than 300 members on June 23 demanding an arbitration involving Abu Hammam and his deputy, Sami al-Oraydi.

“However, neither Abu Hammam nor Oraydi turned up at the planned arbitration on June 25, leading the court’s chief, Abu Amr, to issue a furious five-minute audio statement accusing HaD’s leaders of nepotism. Abu Amr was swiftly expelled from Hurras al-Din, and this led another senior leader, Abu Yaman al-Wazzani, to declare in exasperation ‘the jihadist project over.’ Later that day, a statement confirmed that Wazzani and another fellow critic, Abu Musab al-Libi, had also been expelled from Hurras al-Din.

“Tensions persisted through the summer of 2019, albeit less intensely. But in a mysterious twist on June 30, 2019—just days after the above-mentioned crisis—Abu Amr al-Tunisi, Abu Yahya al-Jazairi and Abu Dhar al-Masri were all killed, along with three other allied hardliners (Abu al-Fid’a al-Tunisi, Abu Dujana al-Tunisi and Abu Ibrahim al-Shami) in an American airstrike that targeted a meeting of Hurras al-Din detractors in rural Aleppo.

“That was the first American strike in northwestern Syria in more than two years and it was followed up two months later by another on August 31, 2019, targeting Hurras al-Din ally Ansar al-Tawhid. Al-Qaeda veteran Abu Khallad al-Mohandis was also killed in an improvised explosive device attack that targeted his personal vehicle in Idlib city on August 22, 2019.”

It becomes abundantly clear after reading the excerpts from Charles Lister’s article that not only has Washington provided weapons and training to militant factions battling Damascus but it has also conducted airstrikes eliminating jihadist dissidents who dared to threaten the unity of large militant outfits in northwestern Idlib, such as Tahrir al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra Front.

During the eight-year proxy war in Syria, Abu Mohammad al-Jolani, the leader of al-Nusra Front, has emerged as the second most influential militant leader after the Islamic State’s slain chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In fact, since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in August 2011 to April 2013, the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front were a single organization that chose the banner of Jabhat al-Nusra.

Although the current al-Nusra Front has been led by Abu Mohammad al-Jolani, he was appointed[2] as the emir of al-Nusra Front by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the late leader of Islamic State, in January 2012. Thus, al-Jolani’s Nusra Front is only a splinter group of the Islamic State, which split from its parent organization in April 2013 over a leadership dispute between the two organizations.

In August 2011, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was based in Iraq, began sending Syrian and Iraqi jihadists experienced in guerrilla warfare across the border into Syria to establish an organization inside the country. Led by a Syrian known as Abu Mohammad al-Jolani, the group began to recruit fighters and establish cells throughout the country. On 23 January 2012, the group announced its formation as Jabhat al-Nusra.

In April 2013, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released an audio statement in which he announced that al-Nusra Front had been established, financed and supported by the Islamic State of Iraq. Al-Baghdadi declared that the two groups were merging under the name “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.” The leader of al-Nusra Front, Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, issued a statement denying the merger and complaining that neither he nor anyone else in al-Nusra’s leadership had been consulted about it.

Al-Qaeda Central’s leader, Ayman al Zawahiri, tried to mediate the dispute between al-Baghdadi and al-Jolani but eventually, in October 2013, he endorsed al-Nusra Front as the official franchise of al-Qaeda Central in Syria. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, however, defied the nominal authority of al-Qaeda Central and declared himself the caliph of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Keeping this background in mind, it becomes abundantly clear that a single militant organization operated in Syria and Iraq under the leadership of al-Baghdadi until April 2013, which chose the banner of al-Nusra Front, and that the current emir of the subsequent breakaway faction of al-Nusra Front, al-Jolani, was actually al-Baghdadi’s deputy in Syria.

Thus, the Islamic State operated in Syria since August 2011 under the designation of al-Nusra Front and it subsequently changed its name to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in April 2013after which it overran Raqqa and parts of Deir al-Zor in the summer of 2013. And in January 2014, it overran Fallujah and parts of Ramadi in Iraq and reached the zenith of its power when it captured Mosul in June 2014.

Excluding al-Baghdadi and a handful of his hardline Islamist aides, the rest of Islamic State’s top leadership is comprised of Saddam-era military and intelligence officials. According to a Washington Post report [3], hundreds of ex-Baathists constitute the top- and mid-tier command structure of the Islamic State who plan all the operations and direct its military strategy.

It is an indisputable fact that morale and ideology play an important role in battlefield, and well-informed readers must also be aware that the Takfiri brand of most jihadists these days has directly been inspired by the puritanical Wahhabi-Salafi ideology of Saudi Arabia, but ideology alone is not sufficient to succeed in battle.

Looking at the Islamic State’s astounding gains in Syria and Iraq in 2013-14, a question naturally arises that where did its recruits get all the training and state-of-the-art weapons that were imperative not only for hit-and-run guerrilla warfare but also for capturing and holding large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq.

According to a revelatory December 2013 news report [4] from a newspaper affiliated with the UAE government which supports the Syrian opposition, it is clearly mentioned that along with AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and other military gear, the Saudi regime also provided machine gun-mounted Toyota pick-up trucks to every batch of five jihadists who had completed their training in the training camps located in Jordan’s border regions along southern Syria.

Once those militants crossed over to Daraa and Quneitra in southern Syria from the Jordan-Syria border, then those Toyota pickup trucks could easily have traveled all the way to Raqqa and Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria, and thence to Mosul and Anbar in Iraq – the former strongholds of the Islamic State.

It is clearly spelled out in the report that Syrian militants got arms and training through a secret command center known as the Military Operations Center (MOC) based in the intelligence headquarters’ building in Amman, Jordan, that was staffed by high-ranking military officials from 14 countries, including the US, European nations, Israel and the Gulf states to wage a covert war against the Syrian government.

*

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Nauman Sadiq is an Islamabad-based attorney, columnist and geopolitical analyst focused on the politics of Af-Pak and Middle East regions, neocolonialism and petro-imperialism. He is a regular contributor to Global Research.

Notes

[1] The Syria Effect: Al-Qaeda Fractures

[2] Al-Jolani was appointed as the emir of al-Nusra Front by al-Baghdadi

[3] Islamic State’s top command dominated by ex-officers in Saddam’s army

[4] Syrian rebels get arms and advice through secret command center in Amman

For Sama: A Beautiful Yet Deceptive Documentary That Betrays Reality in Syria

For Sama Feature photo

On the surface, “For Sama” is about romance and childbirth, but underneath, it is very political.

by Rick Sterling

he documentary movie “For Sama” has won a host of awards in Europe and North America. Its producers and protagonists, Syrians Waad Kateab and her husband Dr. Hamza Kateab plus English film-maker Edward Watts, have received gushing praise. And the awards will probably keep coming.

Unfortunately, behind the human interest story, the film “For Sama” is little more than propaganda: biased, misleading, and politically partisan.

 

Hiding Basic Facts about Aleppo

“For Sama” is a full-length documentary with a moving personal story. It combines the story of young love and the birth of a child – Sama –  in the midst of war. That makes it compelling and personal. But the movie fundamentally distorts reality in east Aleppo between the years 2012 and  2016. While the personal narrative may be true, the context and environment are distorted and hidden, leaving the viewer an altered idea of reality. For example:

Most East Aleppo residents did not favor militants taking over their neighborhoods. In the short video, “Nine Days from my Window” the grim reality of a militant takeover in one East Aleppo neighborhood is shown. Many civilians fled the east side of Aleppo after the “rebels” took over. Those who stayed were mostly militants and their families, plus those who had nowhere else to go or thought they could wait it out.

The militants who took over east Aleppo became increasingly unpopular. As American journalist James Foley wrote:

 Aleppo, a city of about 3 million people, was once the financial heart of Syria. As it continues to deteriorate, many civilians here are losing patience with the increasingly violent and unrecognizable opposition — one that is hampered by infighting and a lack of structure, and deeply infiltrated by both foreign fighters and terrorist groups.”

Foley’s honest reporting may have ultimately contributed to his death.

The opposition group which ultimately came to dominate East Aleppo was al Qaeda’s Syrian offshoot, Jabhat al Nusra. “For Sama” ignores their domination, extremism and sectarian policies. There is only one fleeting reference to the group and the film fails to show exactly who was ruling East Aleppo.

In fact, the militants, a term used interchangeably with rebels, were incredibly violent and vicious. They threw postal workers off of a building’s roof, they sent a suicide truck bomb into Al Kindi Hospital and slaughtered Syrian soldiers defending the hospital and they, amongst other atrocities, recorded themselves beheading a young boy.

85 percent of the civilians in Aleppo were living in government-controlled West Aleppo. Thousands were killed by “rebel” snipers, mortars and hell cannon missiles launched from east Aleppo. The reality of life in West Aleppo, as even the BBC’s Jeremey Brown was able to capture, is completely overlooked in “For Sama.”

 

Al Quds Hospital was never destroyed

The Al Quds Hospital, where “For Sama” protagonists Hamza worked and Sama was born, is featured heavily in the film. In the movie, the hospital was destroyed in February of 2016, at a time when enormous publicity swirled around allegations that Russia intentionally bombed the hospital. Doctors without Borders (Medecins sans Frontieres) tweeted at the time that, “We are outraged at the destruction of Al Quds hospital in #Aleppo.”

Al Quds Hospital Aleppo

The Al Quds Hospital, the ground floor of the apartment building on the corner is shown. Photo | Nabil Antaki

After questions were raised challenging Medecins sans Frontieres’ version of the events surrounding the destruction of Al Quds, It was revealed that the hospital did not exist before the conflict and was one or two floors of an apartment building. It turned out Doctors Without Borders did not have any staff on-site and simply parroted allegations told to them. After Wast Aleppo was liberated, Dr. Nabil Antaki, a prominent doctor from West Aleppo, visited the location to find the truth. Antaki was a long-time doctor but had never heard of Al Quds. He reported:

I went Sunday, February 12, 2017, visiting the Ansari-Sukari neighborhood in order to see Zarzour and Al Quds Hospitals. My guide was a young man who lived there and knows very well the area.

My first stop was Zarzour hospital (mentioned in MSF report) and I found out that it was burned. My guide told me that the rebels burned it the day before the evacuation (information confirmed by a high position responsible in the Syrian Red Crescent). On the sidewalk, I found hundreds of burned new blood bags (for collection of blood donation). A man I met there invited me to visit his building just next to the hospital. His building was also burned and on the floors, I found hundreds of IV solution bags.

Then, we moved to Ain Jalout school. In fact, there are 3 contiguous schools. Two are completely destroyed; one is partially. Behind the schools, there is a mosque called Abbas mosque with its minaret. Answering my surprise to see schools destroyed by airstrikes, my guide told me that the mosque was a headquarters of the rebels and one school was an ammunition depot and the other one was a food depot. I noticed the flag of Al Nosra (sic) painted on the external wall of the school, and dozens of buildings in the surrounding partially destroyed.

Then, we moved to see Al Quds Hospital. Obviously, it is the most preserved building of the street. Obviously, it was not hit directly by bombs and probably received some fragments from bombs fallen on other buildings. I asked my guide if any restoration or repair was done. He said no.

My feeling is the following: Ain Jalout school was the target of the strikes, the surrounding destroyed buildings were collateral damages and Al Quds hospital was not directly hit by strikes.”

Ain Jalout School Aleppo

The bombed out Ain Jalout School, used as a Nusra ammunition and supply depot. Photo | Nabil Antaki

An eye witness account. Photographs. Video. All paint a reality starkly different from that portrayed in “For Sama.” The claims in the film about the death of a doctor at Al Quds Hospital, supposedly captured by closed caption cameras, are also untrue.

The armed opposition and their western supporters have been faking events to demonize the Syrian government from the start. Just as they did with the very public Richard Engels Kidnapping Hoax, where militants staged the kidnapping and “rescue” of Engels and his team.

 

Paid and Promoted by the West

Waad Kateab, the film’s main protagonist, had an expensive video camera and endless hard drives. She even had a drone to take video from the air. As confirmed by Hillary Clinton in her book “Hard Choices,” the U.S. provided “satellite-linked computers, telephones, cameras, and training for more than a thousand activists, students, and independent journalists.”

Waad claims she is a citizen journalist but has been paid and supplied by governments that have long sought the overthrow of the Syrian government. Even in 2005, CNN host Christiane Amanpour warned Bashar al Assad that “the rhetoric of regime change is headed towards you from the United States. They are actively looking for a new Syrian leader … They’re talking about isolating you diplomatically and, perhaps, a coup d’etat or your regime crumbling.”

Since 2011, the West, Turkey, Israel, and the Gulf monarchies have spent many billions trying to overthrow the Syrian government. The CIA budget for Syria was near a billion per year. These “soft power” components include video equipment and training for people like Waad to support the armed insurrection, demonize the Syrian government and persuade the public to continue the war.

We all suffered… The difference is that some wanted the war.”

The medical doctor from west Aleppo, Dr. Antaki, does not deny there was suffering in east Aleppo. But he points out the discrepancy in media coverage where all the attention goes to the “rebels.” He also points out that all suffered, but not all were responsible. Some, especially supporters of the “revolution,” initiated and continued the conflict. Dr. Antaki said on the subject:

There were a lot of stories like ‘For Sama’ in West Aleppo. Unfortunately, nobody had the idea to document them because we were busy trying to protect ourselves from the rockets, to find water to drink, to find bread and essential products which were not available because of the blockade of Aleppo by the armed groups. They cut off electrical power, heating etc.. Yes, people who were in the East neighborhoods suffered from the war as well as those who lived in the West neighborhoods. We, all, suffered. The difference is that some people wanted the war, initiated or supported it and they suffer. The others didn’t support it and suffered.”

 

The Aftermath

Waad Al Kateab and her husband Hamza are now living in the UK. He is working for a money transfer company and involved with the “Al Quds Hospital” in Idlib. As indicated in the movie, Waad was never proud to be Syrian and she wanted to emigrate to the West. From afar, she claims to be proud of the “revolution” that has led to the destruction of Syria and the human tragedy that accompanied it.

Meanwhile, people are returning to Aleppo and rebuilding the city. There are even a few tourists. Although pockets of snipers still exist in Aleppo, the al Qaeda extremism which once plagued the city is now mostly confined to Idlib.

 

Save Idlib?

The 2019 documentary “Of Fathers and Sons” is based on a film-maker who lived with militants in Idlib. Some of the reality hidden from the audience in “For Sama” is revealed in this documentary. “Of Fathers and Sons” shows life in Idlib province dominated by Nusra. Women are restricted to the house and must be veiled. Boys as young as ten are sent to sharia school and military training preparing them to join Nusra. They believe in the Taliban, glorify 9-11 and expel or punish anyone who does not subscribe to their fundamentalism. Youth are indoctrinated with extremist ideology and a belief in violence. This is the regime that those who want to “Save Idlib” are protecting.

For decades the West has supported fanatic extremist organizations to overthrow or undermine independent secular socialist states. Most people in the West are unaware of this, though it is well documented in “Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam” and “The Management of Savagery: How America’s National Security State Fueled the Rise of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Donald Trump.”

 

The Future

Unbeknownst in the West, the majority of Syrians support their government, admire their president, and feel that the Syrian Army is protecting them. Even those who are critical of the government prefer it to chaos or Salafi fundamentalism. Waad and Hamza Al Kateab represent a tiny minority of Syrians. Their voices and the perspective of Edward Watts, the filmmaker (who has never been to Syria) are being widely projected and disseminated through “For Sama.” Other voices are being ignored.

When Waad and Hamza departed Aleppo with Nusra militants, the vast majority of Aleppans celebrated. On the surface, “For Sama” is about romance and childbirth. Underneath it is very political, as interviews with the producers confirmed. For this, it will likely be widely promoted precisely because it gives a distorted picture. To continue the dirty war on Syria, public misunderstanding is required.

Feature photo | A screenshot from a trailer for the documentary film, “For Sana.”

Rick Sterling is an investigative journalist based in the SF Bay Area of California. He can be reached at rsterling1@gmail.com

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.

Iran Overcomes the US-led Plot to Destabilize the Country

Iran riots

Iran riots

 

Iran has overcome the US plot to destabilize the country using ‘Peaceful Protests’ as a pretext, these peaceful protests have become a synonym to riots in our region, what was known in the early days as 5th column useful cannon fodders also known now as the 4th generation wars, it only targets countries independent of the US hegemony, and it becomes immediately bloody and violent.

What makes it very obvious in the latest developments in Lebanon, Iraq, and Iran at the same time is the timing of it upon two major steps by the Iraqi government to defy the US policies by

  • 1) Opening the Bu Kamal border crossing with Syria which would connect Iran to the Mediterranean through Iraq and Syria, and also connect to Lebanon which would help the economies of all these countries, this would also stretch the Chinese reach to the Mediterranean as well. Remarkably, the oldest civilizations in the world blocked by the newest countries and satellite regimes: the USA, Saudi, and Israel!
  • 2) The Iraqi Prime Minister visited China and signed a number of economic contracts worth over 200 billion US dollars. Suddenly, the US and Saudi moved their agents on the ground to protest against the same corruption that was sponsored by the US and Saudi in Iraq, Lebanon, and Iran.

This also comes as the Syrian Arab Army started its military operation on a small scale to clean the last al-Qaeda stronghold in Idlib province and liberate 3 million Syrians from the control of this human garbage.

The Iranian protests immediately turned violent leaving dozens killed and massive losses in public and private properties destroyed in a number of cities ignited by a government decision to help the poor segments of the society by increasing the fuel price and using the increase in direct payments to these segments, but the plot was already in place.

The following report by Melhem Rayya, Iran’s office manager for the Lebanese Al Mayadeen news channel gives a balanced outlook on the events and the Iranian government’s response to the riots:

The video is also available on BitChute: https://www.bitchute.com/video/hNdIAISN1HxH/

Transcript of the English translation of the above report:

Let everyone know, friends and enemies that we have forced our enemies to retreat in the military war and in the political and security wars, we have forced enemies to retreat in all areas, and, with God’s blessing, we will make them retreat unequivocally in the arena of economic warfare as well.

It was not a popular act but a wish, this is how the Iranian leader points to the riots that accompanied the protests over the price of gasoline in Iran days ago.

A position that bears responsibility for what happened to external hands is clearly reflected in President Rouhani’s words, he declared victory over what some here call sedition in Iranian society and seeks to destabilize Iran.

The numbers of rioters are small and they are organized, armed and programmed on plans prepared by retard states in the region, the Zionist entity (Israel), and America. The people have triumphed over enemy schemes aimed at striking the country’s security.

Calm returns to areas and cities where protests and riots have occurred started after the supreme leader stressed the importance of the decision to raise the price of gasoline economically, and when the president clarified that this decision was the only possible option to support the middle and poor segments, and after the distribution of the proceeds of the increase in gasoline to citizens.

Iran riots a US plot to destabilize the country

Attacks on public and private property also provoked opposition in many areas of Iran, denouncing the riots and supporting the authorities.

The rioters are few who were fooled and are not ordinary citizens because the objection has its legal methods until the voice arrives, but what happened is planned in advance.

Their riots were not right, the real objection must be legal and everyone must cooperate to build the nation.

Iranian newspapers pointed to the role of citizens in putting out the flames of sedition that the US administration tried to ignite, taking advantage of the difficult economic conditions experienced by the citizen here because of the US sanctions imposed on him, which officials here assert that they are able to overcome successfully despite the difficulties and obstacles.

From protests against the hike on gasoline price turned into riots turned into plans to target security in multiple areas, thus, the crisis in Iran rolled within days in the midst of a volatile regional atmosphere that many see as an American attempt to pressure Iran after the failure of the options of war and sanctions.

End of the transcript.

The Iranian government has revealed today it foiled a sabotage attempt against the largest gas facility in the country. The plot is ongoing and targeting the countries that continue to resist the US hegemonic policies in our region.

Within the same context, we see the insisting of the protests in both Lebanon and Iraq to disturb and harm the economic cycle in their countries, and the Israeli – Turkish – US alliance in increasing the military and terror efforts against Syria trying to disperse the Syrian Arab Army’s efforts among large fronts in the 3 corners of the country.

Israel bombing Syria

Israel Bombs Damascus Vicinity Killing 2 Civilians Injuring Others

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Syrian War Report – November 4, 2019: ‘Withdrawing’ US Troops Setting Up New Military Bases

South Front

The Syrian Army and Turkish-led forces are strengthening their positions on a contact line in northeastern Syria. A large convoy of Syrian Army reinforcements deployed in the towns of Abu Rasin and Umm Harmalah south of Ras al-Ayn. The convoy included T-72 battle tanks, BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles, Gvozdika self-propelled 122 mm howitzer and BM-21 Grad 122 mm rocket launchers. At the same time, the Turkish Army sent additional troops and equipment to the countryside of Ras al-Ayn.

On November 1, 2 and 3, clashes between the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Turkish-backed militants were ongoing in a number of gray area villages, including Azizah, al-Jamilyah and Faysaliyah, in northwestern al-Hasakah. Pro-SDF sources claim that Kurdish fighters re-captured over 10 villages from Turkish-led forces. Pro-Turkish sources claim that SDF members are on retreat. In fact, a large part of the territory south of Ras al-Ayn remains a no-man land.

On November 3, the Russian military and the SDF reportedly established a coordination center the town of Ain Issa. The center will be tasked with coordination of efforts to implement the northeastern Syria ‘safe zone’ agreement and improving coordination between the Syrian-Russian-Iranian alliance and the SDF, in general.

The Russian Aerospace Forces have carried out airstrikes on positions of al-Qaeda-linked groups near the towns of Kafar Sijnah, Jbala, Rakaya Sijneh, Hass, Ma`arat al-Nu`man and Kbani in the southern part of the Idlib de-escalation zone.

The strikes were conducted in response to recent attempts by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its Turkish-backed allies to advance on Syrian Army positions south of Kbani. At least 7 Syrian Army troops were killed and several pieces of military equipment were destroyed in that clashes, according to pro-militant sources.

The US military is consolidating its control over oil areas on the eastern bank of the Euphrates. According to pro-militant sources, additional US troops were deployed at the Heemo military garrison near Qamishly and a former base of the Syrian Air Defense Forces’ 113th Brigade in Deir Ezzor may soon be turned into a US military base.

On October 31, it became known that members of the North Carolina-based 4th Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment and the South Carolina-based 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade started deployment in oil-rich areas in eastern Syria. They are accompanied with M2A2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles.

President al-Assad’s interview with the Syrian TV and the Syrian Alikhbaria TV

 

Thursday, 31 October 2019

DAMASCUS-President Bashar al-Assad stressed that the scenario broadcast by the US about the killing operation of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of Daesh organization, is part of the US tricks and we should not believe what they say unless they give the proof.

The President added in an interview given to the Syrian TV and the Syrian Alikhbaria TV on Thursday, that the Russian-Turkish agreement on northern Syria is temporal, and it curbs the Turkish excess to achieve more damage through occupying more Syrian territories and cut the road in front of the US.

President Al-Assad affirmed that the entrance of the Syrian Arab Army into regions of northern Syria is an expression of the entrance of the Syrian State with all services it offers, adding that the army has reached the majority of the regions, but not completely.

The President underlined that Syria hasn’t offered any concessions regarding the formation of the committee of discussing the constitution.

Following is the full text of the interview as published by the Syrian Arab news Agency (SANA).

Journalist: Hello and welcome to this special interview with the President of the Syrian Arab Republic, His Excellency Dr. Bashar al-Assad.  Thank you for receiving us Mr. President.  Your last interview with Syrian media was several years ago and therefore we have a lot of questions.  We will begin with political questions and then move into internal issues.

President Assad: You are welcome, and as always let us speak with full openness.

Journalist:Mr. President, thank you very much for receiving us.  Since the political issues are pressing at the moment we will start with politics, Mr President. The United States announced a few days ago that the leader of the terrorist organization ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed. And it thanked Russia, Syria, Iraq, the Turks and the Kurds for helping kill Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Trump thanked Syria, but we have not heard any comment from Damascus. What is your take on Trump thanking Syria? Did Syria really take part in this operation?

President Assad:  Absolutely not, we heard about this only through the media.  Maybe, the reason behind including a number of countries as participants in this operation is to give it credibility so these countries will feel not embarrassed, but have the desire to be that they are part of a “great” operation, as the Americans have tried to portray it. And in this way, they are credited with fighting terrorism.  We do not need such credit.  We are the ones fighting terrorism.  We have no relations and have had no contact with any American institutions.

More importantly, we do not really know whether the operation did actually take place or not.  No aircraft were detected on radar screens.  Why were the remains of Baghdadi not shown?  This is the same scenario that was followed with Bin Laden.  If there are going to use different pretexts in order not to show the remains, let us recall how President Saddam Husain was captured and how the whole operation was shown from A to Z; they showed pictures and video clips after they captured him.  The same happened when they killed his sons several months later; they showed the bodies.  So, why did they hide everything about the Bin Laden operation and now also the Baghdadi operation?  This is part of the tricks played by the Americans.  That is why we should not believe everything they say unless they come up with evidence.  American politicians are actually guilty until proven innocent, not the other way around.

Journalist: Mr President, if Baghdadi has actually been killed, does it mean the end of his organization, or is it as usual that there will be new leaders and new organizations which are being prepared for the moment when the cards of their predecessors have been burned out?

President Assad:  First, Baghdadi represents ISIS, and ISIS represents a type of doctrine, which is the extremist Wahhabi doctrine.  This type of thought is more than two centuries old.  As long as this thought is alive and has not receded, this means that the death of Baghdadi, or even the death of ISIS as a whole, will have no effect on this extremist thought.

Regarding Baghdadi as an individual, it is well-known that he was in American prisons in Iraq, and that they let him out in order to play this role.  So, he is someone who could be replaced at any moment.  Was he really killed? Was he killed but through a different method, in a very ordinary way?  Was he kidnapped?  Was he hidden?  Or was he removed and given a facelift?  God only knows.  American politics are no different from Hollywood; it relies on the imagination.  Not even science fiction, just mere imagination.  So, you can take American politics and see it in Hollywood or else you can bring Hollywood and see it through American politics.  I believe the whole thing regarding this operation is a trick.  Baghdadi will be recreated under a different name, a different individual, or ISIS in its entirety might be reproduced as needed under a different name but with the same thought and the same purpose.  The director of the whole scenario is the same, the Americans.

Journalist: Questions have been raised about the Russian-Turkish agreement, particularly the item related to maintaining the status quo in the region which was subject to the Turkish aggression, Tal Abyadh and Ras al-Ain with a depth of thirty-two kilometers.  What some people understood from this was that it legitimized the Turkish occupation, particularly that the agreement did not include any Syrian role within these areas which were discussed in the agreement.  What is your response to that?

President Assad:  First, the Russian principles have been clear throughout this war and even before the Russian base that started supporting the Syrian army in 2015.  These principles are based on international law, Syrian sovereignty and Syria’s territorial integrity.  This has not changed, neither before, nor after, nor with changing circumstances.  However, Russian policy deals with the realities on the ground.  These realities on the ground have achieved two things; the withdrawal of armed groups from the north to the south in coordination with the Syrian Army, and as such the advance of the Syrian Army to the north, to the area not occupied by the Turks. These two elements are positive, but they do not cancel out the negative aspects of the Turkish presence until they are driven out one way or another.  This agreement is a temporary one, not permanent.  If we take for example the de-escalation areas at a certain period of time, some people believed that they were permanent and that they will give terrorists the right to remain in their areas indefinitely.  The fact was that it was an opportunity to protect civilians, and also to talk to the terrorists with the objective of driving them out later.  So, we have to distinguish between ultimate or strategic goals on the one hand, and tactical approaches on the other.

In the short term, it is a good agreement – and let me explain why; the Turkish incursion, not only reflects Turkey’s territorial greed but also expresses American desire.  The Russian relationship with Turkey is positive because it reigns in Turkish aspirations. On the other hand, it outmaneuvers the American game in the north.  Let me explain this. The recent German proposal which was immediately supported by NATO – and the Germans would not make this except on behalf of the Americans, NATO is the same thing as America.  The proposal talked about restoring security to this region under international auspices. This means that the area would be outside the control of the Syrian state and thus making separation a reality on the ground.  Through this agreement, the Russians reigned in the Turks, outmaneuvered the Americans and aborted the call for internationalization which was proposed by the Germans.  That is why this agreement is a positive step.  It does not achieve everything, in the sense that it will not pressure the Turks to leave immediately. However, it limits the damage and paves the way for the liberation of this region in the future, or the immediate future, as we hope.

Intervention: God willing

Journalist:  Since you described the agreement as temporary, but Turkey, as we have known it, does not abide by agreements.  Consequently, the question is what if Turkey continued to occupy the areas which it has controlled as a result of its recent aggression?  You said repeatedly that the Syrian state will use every possible means to defend itself.  But practically, did not the Russian-Turkish agreement prevent the ability to try and use such means?

 President Assad:  Let us take another example, which is Idlib.  There is an agreement through the Astana Process that the Turks will leave.  The Turks did not abide by this agreement, but we are liberating Idlib.  There was a delay for a year; the political process, the political dialogue, and various attempts were given an opportunity to drive the terrorists out.  All possibilities were exhausted.  In the end, we liberated areas gradually through military operations.  The same will apply in the northern region after exhausting all political options.

We must remember that Erdogan aimed, from the beginning of the war, to create a problem between the Syrian people and the Turkish people, to make it an enemy, which will happen through a military clash. At the beginning of the war, the Turkish Army supported the Syrian Army and cooperated with us to the greatest possible extent, until Erdogan’s coup against the Army.  Therefore, we must continue in this direction, and ensure that Turkey does not become an enemy state.  Erdogan and his group are enemies, because he leads these policies, but until now most of the political forces in Turkey are against Erdogan’s policies.  So, we must ensure not to turn Turkey into an enemy, and here comes the role of friends – the Russian role and the Iranian role.

Journalist: Picking up on this idea, Mr President, the actions taken by the Turks recently, and by Erdogan, in particular, like Turkishization, building universities, imposing the use of certain languages. These are actions taken by someone who is not thinking of leaving – just a follow up on your idea, since you said that they will leave sooner or later.  What about these actions?

President Assad:  If he was thinking of getting out, he would have left Idlib.  You might say that there is no Turkish army, in the technical sense in Idlib.  But we are in one arena, the whole Syrian arena is one – a single theatre of operations.  From the furthest point in the south to the furthest point in the north Turkey is the American proxy in this war, and everywhere we have fought we have been fighting this proxy.  So, when he does not leave after we exhaust every possible means, there won’t be any other choice but war, this is self-evident.  I am saying that in the near future we must give room to the political process in its various forms.  If it does not yield results then this is an enemy and you go to war against it; there is no other choice.

Journalist: Nevertheless, some people said that the American withdrawal from northern Syria, after which came the Turkish aggression, and then the Russian-Turkish agreement.  All of that came within an American-Russian-Turkish agreement.  What do you say to that?

President Assad:  This was meant to show that Russia accepted the Turkish incursion, or that Russia wanted to turn a blind eye in the fact that. In fact, it is not true. For over a year, the Russians were concerned about the seriousness of such a proposition.  We all knew that the Turkish proposition was serious, but it was shackled by American orders or desires.  Some people might criticize the Russians for this outcome, due to their position at the United Nations.  As I said a short while ago, the Russians deal with realities on the ground, consequently, they try to ensure that all political conditions are in place in order to pave the way for their departure from Syria and limit the damage by the Turks or reign in the Turkish recalcitrance aimed at inflicting more damage and occupying more land.  But the Russians were certainly not part of this agreement – Russian agreements are always public.  The Russian-Turkish agreement was announced immediately, with all its items; the agreement between us and the Kurds, with Russian mediation

n and support was also made public right from the very beginning.  There is no hidden agenda in Russian policies, which gives us assurances.

Journalist: But the American-Turkish meetings are not announced. You said repeatedly that Erdogan’s objective, or creating the buffer zone, was Erdogan’s main objective from day one of the war on Syria. President Obama refused to accept this buffer zone, while today we are seeing certain actions on the ground. Does this mean that Obama was better than Trump?

President Assad:  We should not bet on any American President.  First, when Erdogan says that he decided to make an incursion or that they told the Americans, he is trying to project Turkey as a super power or to pretend that he makes his own decisions; all these are theatrics shared between him and the Americans.  In the beginning, nobody was allowed to interfere, because the Americans and the West believed that demonstrations will spread out and decide the outcome. The demonstrations did not spread as they wanted, so they shifted towards using weapons. When weapons did not decide the outcome, they moved towards the terrorist extremist organizations with their crazy ideology in order to decide the outcome militarily.  They were not able to.  Here came the role of ISIS in the summer of 2014 in order to disperse the efforts of the Syrian Arab Army, which it was able to do, at which point came the Russian intervention.  When all bets on the field failed, it was necessary for Turkey to interfere and turn the tables; this is their role.

As for Trump, you might ask me a question and I give you an answer that might sound strange.  I say that he is the best American President, not because his policies are good, but because he is the most transparent president.  All American presidents perpetrate all kinds of political atrocities and all crimes and yet still win the Nobel Prize and project themselves as defenders of human rights and noble and unique American values, or Western values in general.  The reality is that they are a group of criminals who represent the interests of American lobbies, i.e. the large oil and arms companies, and others.  Trump talks transparently, saying that what we want is oil. This is the reality of American policy, at least since WWII.  We want to get rid of such and such a person or we want to offer a service in return for money.  This is the reality of American policy. What more do we need than a transparent opponent?  That is why the difference is in form only, while the reality is the same.

Journalist: the leader of the dissolved Syrian Democratic Forces, Mazloum Abdi, made statements to the media in which he said that Trump promised them that before withdrawal he will contact the Russians to find a solution to the Kurdish question by making an agreement with the Russians and the Syrian state to give the Kurds an opportunity to defend themselves. Was there really such an agreement, and what is the fate of non-border regions in the Syrian Jazeera, the regions which were under the control of the armed militias called SDF? Have these regions been handed over to the Syrian state, and if so in what way? Is it only in the military sense; or ultimately has the return of the Syrian institutions to these regions taken place?

President Assad: Do you mean an American-Kurdish agreement?

Journalist: The Americans promised the Kurds to find a solution to their cause by influencing the Russians to reach an understanding with the Syrian state to give them an opportunity to defend themselves.

President Assad:  Regardless of whether contact has been made or not, as I said before whatever the Americans say has no credibility, whether they say that to an enemy or a friend, the result is the same – it is unreliable.  That is why we do not waste our time on things like this.  The only Russian agreement with the Kurds was what we talked about in terms of a Russian role in reaching an agreement with Kurdish groups – we should not say with the Kurds, because this is inaccurate and we cannot talk about one segment – the groups which call themselves SDF with the Syrian Army to be deployed.  Of course, the Syrian Army cannot be deployed only to carry out purely security or military acts. The deployment of the Syrian Army is an expression of the presence of the Syrian state, which means the presence of all the services which should be provided by the state.  This agreement was concluded, and we reached most regions but not completely.  There are still obstacles.  We intervene because we have direct and old relations – before the Turkish incursion – with these groups.  Sometimes they respond, in other places they don’t. But certainly, the Syrian Arab Army will reach these areas simultaneously with full public services, which means the return of full state authority.  I want to reiterate, that this should take place gradually.  Second, the situation will not return as before.  There are facts on the ground which need to be addressed, and this will take time. There are new facts related to people on the ground which took place when the state was absent. There are armed groups; we do not expect them to hand over their weapons immediately.  Our policy should be gradual and rational, and should take the facts into account.  But the ultimate goal is to return to the situation as it used to be previously which is the full control of the state.

Journalist:After everything that happened: they targeted the Syrian state, Syrian citizens, the Syrian Arab Army. Throughout the war years, they played a bad role and were American proxies, after all this, are we as Syrians able to live with the Kurds once again?

President Assad: To be accurate, this issue is raised repeatedly, and sometimes in private gatherings.  And I know that part of your role is to repeat what you hear, regardless of personal conviction.  What happened during this war is a distortion of concepts; to say that this group has a certain characteristic, negative or positive, is neither objective nor rational.  It is also unpatriotic.  Among the Kurds there were people who were American agents or proxies.  This is true, but among the Arabs there were similar cases in the Jazeera area and in other areas in Syria.  This applies to most segments of Syrian society.  The mistake which was made was that this action was made by a group of Kurds who made themselves representatives, not only of the Kurds, but of the Arabs and others segments of society in al-Jazeera region.  The Americans, through their support with weapons and money – of course the money is not American, it comes from some gulf Arab states – helped establish the authority of these groups over all segments of the society, leading us to believe that those in the area were all Kurds.  So, we are actually dealing with the various Kurdish parties.  As for the Kurds themselves, most of them had good relations with the Syrian state, and they were always in contact with us and proposed genuine patriotic ideas. In some of the areas we entered, the reaction of the Kurds was no less positive, or less joyful and happy than the reaction of other people there. So, this evaluation is not accurate. Yes, very simply, we can live once again with each other. If the answer were no, it means that Syria will never be stable again.

Journalist: But what is the problem with the Kurds, even before the war? Where does the problem with them lie?

President Assad: Although we stood with these groups for decades, and we could have paid the price in 1998 through a military clash with Turkey because of them, we stood with them based on the cultural rights of these groups or of this segment of Syrian society. What do they accuse the Syrian state of?  They accuse it of being Chauvinistic, and sometimes they accuse the Ba’th Party of being a Chauvinistic party although the census conducted in 1962 was not under the Ba’th Party, because it was not in power at the time.  They accuse us of depriving this group of their cultural rights.  Let us presume that what they say is correct.  Can I, as an individual, be open and close-minded at the same time?  I cannot.  Can the state be open or tolerant and intolerant and close-minded at the same time?  It cannot.  If we take an example of the latest group which joined the Syrian fabric, the Armenians. The Armenians have been a patriotic group par excellence.  This was proven without a shadow of doubt during the war.  At the same time, this group has its own societies, its own churches and more sensitively, it has its own schools.  And if you attend any Armenian celebration, a wedding, or any other event – and I used to attend such events because I used to have friends among them previously – they sing their traditional songs but afterwards they sing national, politically-inclined songs.  Is there any form of freedom that exceeds this?  The Syrian Armenians are the least, among other Armenians of the world, dissolved in society.  They have integrated, but not dissolved into Syrian society.  They have maintained all their characteristics.  Why should we be open here and unopen with others?  The reason is that there are separatist propositions.  There are maps showing a Syrian Kurdistan as part of a larger Kurdistan.  Now, it is our right to defend our territorial integrity and to be wary of separatist propositions.  But we do not have a problem with Syrian diversity.  On the contrary, Syrian diversity is rich and beautiful which translates into strength.  We do not have an adverse view of this; but richness and diversity are one thing and separating and fragmenting the country is something else, something contrary. That is the problem.

Journalist: Just to pick up on this idea, Mr. President, living with each other. In your answer, you said that we must ultimately live with each other. The problem here is not only with the Kurdish component. There were groups of the population who lived in different areas outside the control of the Syrian state for years. What about those? What is the state’s plan to reintegrate them under the idea of living together, particularly the children among them, because with children we are talking about Syria’s future generation? What is the plan for these people?

President Assad:  Actually, the problem is primarily with children and then with young people in the second instance.  There are several issues, one of which is that this generation does not know the meaning of the state and the rule of law.  They have not lived under the state, they have lived under armed groups.  But the worst and most dangerous impact is on the children, who in some areas have not learned the Arabic language, and others who have learned wrong concepts – extremist concepts or concepts against the state or the homeland and other concepts which were proposed from outside Syria and taught to them in formal school curricula.  This was the subject of discussion during the past few weeks, particularly during the past few days, because the deployment of the Syrian Army in large areas in the northern regions highlighted this problem on a large scale.  Currently ministries, particularly the Ministry of Education and also the Ministries of Defence and the Interior are studying this issue.  I believe there will be a statement and a solution proposed shortly, albeit general in the first phase which will be followed by administrative measures in order to assimilate these people within the system of the Syrian state.  For instance, who will enroll in the Syrian Army, who will enroll in the police, who will enroll in schools?  Somebody who is twelve years old: how will they integrate into the Syrian school system if they know nothing of the curriculum?  The same applies to those who are in primary schools. I believe the solution is to assimilate all within the national system, but there should be special measures in order to reintegrate them into this system, and I believe in the next few days we will have a final picture of this.

Journalist: returning to politics, and to the United States, in particular, President Donald Trump announced his intention to keep a limited number of his troops in Syria while redeploying some of them on the Jordanian borders and on the borders of the Israeli enemy, while some of them will protect the oil fields. What is your position in this regard, and how will the Syrian state respond to this illegitimate presence?

President Assad: Regardless of these statements, the reality is that the Americans are occupiers, whether they are in the east, the north or the south, the result is the same.  Once again, we should not be concerned with his statements, but rather deal with the reality.  When we are finished with the areas according to our military priorities and we reach an area in which the Americans are present, I am not going to indulge in heroics and say that we will send the army to face the Americans.  We are talking about a super power.  Do we have the capabilities to do that?  I believe that this is clear for us as Syrians.  Do we choose resistance?  If there is resistance, the fate of the Americans will be similar to their fate in Iraq.  But the concept of resistance needs a popular state of mind that is the opposite of being agents and proxies, a patriotic popular state which carries out acts of resistance.  The natural role of the state in this case is to provide all the necessary conditions and necessary support to any popular resistance against the occupier. If we put to one side the colonial and commercial American mentality which promotes the colonization of certain areas for money, oil and other resources, we must not forget that the main agents which brought the Americans, the Turks and others to this region are Syrians acting as agents of foreigners – Syrian traitors.  Dealing with all the other cases is just dealing with the symptoms, while we should be addressing the causes.  We should be dealing with those Syrians and try to reformulate the patriotic state of the Syrian society – to restore patriotism, restore the unity of opinion and ensure that there are no Syrian traitors.  To ensure that all Syrians are patriots, and that treason is no longer a matter of opinion, a mere difference over a political issue.  We should all be united against occupation.  When we reach this state, I assure you that the Americans will leave on their own accord because they will have no opportunity to remain in Syria; although America is a superpower, it will not be able to remain in Syria.  This is something we saw in Lebanon at a certain point and in Iraq at a later stage.  I think this is the right solution.

Journalist: Last week, you made a tour of the front lines in Idlib with which you surprised the Syrians and the world. Addressing the soldiers of the Syrian Arab Army, you said that the battle is in the east, but Idlib is an advanced outpost of the enemy in the west which aims at dispersing the forces of the Syrian Army. Some saw the visit as the go-ahead sign, or the zero hour for the coming battle of Idlib. Is it so?

President Assad: No, there was no link between my visit and the zero hour.  First, I conduct tours every so often to the areas which are considered hot spots and dangerous, because these heroes are carrying out the most difficult of tasks, and it is natural for me to think of visiting them.  This has been common practice for me; the visit to Idlib in particular was because the world perhaps believed that the whole Syria question is summed up in what is happening in the north, and the issue has now become a Turkish Army incursion into Syrian territory, and forgetting that all those fighting in Idlib are actually part of the Turkish Army, even though they are called al-Qaeda, Ahrar al-Sham and other names. I assure you that those fighters are closer to Erdogan’s heart than the Turkish Army itself.  We should not forget this, because politically and in relation to Turkey in particular, the main battle is Idlib because it is linked to the battle in the north-eastern region or the Jazeera region.  This is the reason – I wanted to stress that what is happening in the Jazeera region, despite its importance and despite the wide area of operations does not distract us from the significance of Idlib in the overall battle.

Journalist: You say, Mr President, that there is no link between your visit to Idlib and the zero hour but is there a link between your visit to Idlib and the meeting which took place on the same day between Turkey and Russia?

President Assad:  Actually, when I was there, I had forgotten completely that a summit was being held on the same day.  I did not remember that.  I knew that a summit would be taking place and that it would be on Tuesday but…

Journalist: But your statements gave the impression that it was a preemptive rejection or something against the meeting.

President Assad:  That is true.

Journalist: Or against this meeting.

President Assad: Some articles and comments even said that there was a feeling of anger against the summit, and that the summit was against us.  The fact is that I was not angry, and my statements against Erdogan are continuous.  I said that he was a thief, and from the first days he started stealing everything related to Syria. So, he is a thief.  I was not calling him names; I was describing him.  This is an adjective and this description is true.  What do you call somebody who steals factories, crops and finally land?  A benefactor?  He is a thief, there is no other name.  Previously in my speech before the People’s Assembly, I said that he is a political thug.  He exercises this political thuggery on the largest scale.  He lies to everyone, blackmails everyone. He is a hypocrite and publicly so.  We are not inventing an epithet; he declares himself through his true attributes. So, I only described him

As to the agreement, as I said a while ago, we believe that Russian involvement anywhere is in our interest, because our principles are the same and our battle is one.  So, Russian involvement will certainly have positive results and we started to see a part of that.  Contrary to what you said, we were happy with this summit, and we are happy with the Russian-Turkish relationship in general, contrary to what some people believe, that the Russians are appeasing the Turks.  It does not matter whether the Russians are appeasing the Turks or not or whether they are playing a tactical game with them.  What is important is the strategy.  That is why I can say that there is no link at all between my statements and the summit.

Journalist:  Remaining with Idlib, but from a different perspective, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, and in an interview with a newspaper about the situation in Idlib, described it as complicated, and I’ll mention the points he made: he called for a solution which guarantees the security of civilians.  He also talked about the presence of terrorist organizations and the importance of avoiding an all-out military campaign which, in his opinion, will, far from solving the problem, have a serious humanitarian consequence.  What do you think of what he said, and will the operation be postponed or stopped because of international pressure or based on Pedersen’s remarks?

President Assad: If Pedersen has the means or the capacity to solve the problem without an all-out military operation, it will be good.  Why does he not solve the problem? If he has a clear plan, we have no objection.  It is very simple. He can visit Turkey and tell the Turks to convince the terrorists, or ask Turkey to separate the civilians from the militants.  Let the civilians stay in one area and the militants in another.  It would be even easier if he could identify who is a militant and who is not.  Fighting terrorism is not achieved by theorizing, making rhetorical statements or by preaching.  As for postponing, had we waited for an international decision – and by international decision I mean American, British, French and those who stand with them – we would not have liberated any region in Syria since the first days of the war.  These pressures have no impact. Sometimes we factor in certain political circumstances; as I said, we give political action an opportunity so that there is no pretext, but when all these opportunities are exhausted, military action becomes necessary in order to save civilians, because I cannot save civilians when they are under the control of the militants.  Western logic is an intentionally and maliciously up-side-down logic.  It says that the military operation should be stopped in order to protect civilians, whilst for them the presence of civilians under the authority of terrorists constitutes a form of protection for the civilians.  The opposite is actually true.  The military intervention aims at protecting the civilians, by leaving civilians under the authority of terrorists you extend a service to terrorists and take part in killing civilians.

Journalist: You are not waiting for an international decision but are you waiting for a Russian one? Can the Russians delay the beginning of the military operation? We saw earlier that military operations were stopped in Idlib, to the extent that some people said that the Russians put pressure every time to stop the operations as a result of special understandings with the Turks. Is that true?

President Assad:  “Pressure” is not the right word.  We, the Russians and the Iranians are involved in the same military battle and the same political battle.  We are always in talks with each other to determine the circumstances which allow for an operation to go ahead.  On several occasions, we agreed on a specific timing for a certain operation, which was later postponed because of military or political developments.  This dialogue is normal.  There are issues we see on the internal arena, and there are issues seen by Iran on the regional arena and there are those issues seen by the Russians on the international arena.  We have an integrated approach based on dialogue.  In the past month, I have held five meetings with Russian and Iranian officials, so less than a week apart.  Between each two meetings there were military and political developments such that what had been agreed in the first meeting was then changed or modified in the second, third and fourth meetings and the last of which was yesterday.  The fast pace of developments makes it necessary sometimes to postpone operations.  On the other hand, we have contacts with civilians in those areas.  We really try hard to make it possible for civilians to move from those areas into our areas in order to save lives; moreover, if a political solution was possible, and sometimes we succeeded in finding such a solution, it would save the lives of Syrian soldiers, which is a priority that we should not ignore.  So, there are many elements, which are difficult to go into now, which affect this decision and postpone it; it is not a matter of pressure. The Russians are as enthusiastic about fighting terrorism as we are, otherwise why would they send their fighter jets?  The timing depends on dialogue.

Journalist: But President Putin announced the end of major military operations in Syria.  Would Russia be with us in Idlib? Would it take part in the military operation?

President Assad:  Russia was with us in liberating Khan Skeikhoon and its environs; announcing an end to military operations does not mean an end to fighting terrorism.  Indeed, the major battles have almost finished, because most areas either surrender voluntarily or are subject to limited operations.  The Khan Sheikhoon operation might look on the map as a major battle, but there was in fact a collapse on the part of the militants. So, maybe this is what was meant by the end of the major operations.  Their statements that Idlib should return under the control of the Syrian state and their determination to strike at terrorism have not changed.

Journalist: Remaining in Idlib and on the same point, because there is a lot being said about this. Concerning the terrorists in Idlib, and they are the same terrorists Pedersen talked about, how are they going to be handled? Are they going to be deported?  There have been cases like this before: terrorists being deported from different regions in Syria to Idlib.  Now, terrorists are in Idlib. Would the Turks accept the terrorists to be deported to Turkey, or how are they going to be dealt with?

President Assad:  If Turkey does not accept that, it is Turkey’s problem and it does not concern us.  We are going to deal with them in the same way we have in the past. Some might ask: in the past there were areas to which terrorists were permitted to retreat to, but now there is no other place to which terrorists might be sent from Idlib.  So, where should they go?  If they do not go to Turkey, they have two options: either return to the Syrian state and resolve their issues or face war.  There is no other choice, neither for us nor for them. These are the two only options.

Journalist: Some media outlets have circulated leaks about meetings with the Turks.  Is that true, on what level, and what was the outcome of those meetings, if they had taken place?

President Assad: All those meetings were held between security officers but at different levels.  Few meetings, probably two or three, were held in Kasab inside the Syrian borders or close to the joint borders, and one or more meetings were held in Russia.  I do not recall the number exactly, because they took place in the space of the past two years.  But there have been no real results.  At least we had expected to reach a solution concerning the withdrawal agreed upon in Astana for fifteen kilometers west and north in the de-escalation zone in Idlib.  It did not happen.

Journalist: So, you confirm that there have been meetings with the Turkish side, but that was before the agreement…

President Assad: Of course, there were tripartite meetings with Russian mediation and Russian presence.  We insisted on the Russian presence because we do not trust the Turks, so that there are witnesses.

Journalist: not bilateral meetings?

President Assad: No, trilateral meetings.

Journalist: Trilateral, with the Russians present? Was that before the last Russian-Turkish meeting?

President Assad: Of course.

Journalist: Are you prepared today to sit with the Turks after the aggression and after the agreement?

President Assad:  If you are asking me how would I feel if I, personally, had to shake hands with a person from the Erdogan group, or someone of similar leanings or who represents his ideology – I would not be honoured by such a meeting and I would feel disgusted.  But we have to put our personal feelings aside when there is a national interest at stake.  If a meeting would achieve results, I would say that everything done in the national interest should be done.  This is the responsibility of the state.  I do not expect a meeting to produce any results unless circumstances change for the Turks.  And because the Erdogan-type Turks are opportunists and belong to an opportunist organization and an opportunist ideology, they will produce results according to changing circumstances, when they are under pressure, depending on their internal or external circumstances or maybe their failure in Syria. Then, they might produce results.

Journalist: The sensitive question in this regard is: the Turks are occupiers, so if I am willing, or if I have the chance, or if I believe that I might meet the Turks, the Turks are occupiers, exactly like Israelis, so it would be possible to meet the Israelis. This is a sensitive issue, but it is being raised.

President Assad: It was actually raised when we started these meetings: how can we meet occupiers in Afrin or other areas, even if there are not occupiers, they support terrorism; they are enemies in the national sense.  The difference between them and Israel is that we do not recognize the legitimacy of its existence as a state. We don’t recognize the existence of the Israeli people. There is no Israeli people except the one that existed for several centuries BC, now they are a diaspora who came and occupied land and evicted its people.  While the Turkish people exist, and they are a neighboring people, and we have a common history, regardless of whether this history is good or bad or in between; that is irrelevant.  Turkey exists as a state and it is a neighboring state.  The Alexandretta issue is different from the situation in which a people without land replace a land and a people; the comparison is not valid.  Even when we negotiated with Israel in the 1990s, we did not recognize it.  We negotiated in order to achieve peace.  If this was achieved and the rights were returned, we would recognize it; as I said, the comparison is invalid.  Turkey will continue to exist and the Turks should remain a brotherly people.  Erdogan was betting at the beginning to mobilize the Turkish people behind him in order to create hostility with the Syrian people, and consequently be given a free hand.  We have to be careful not to look at things in the same way.  I stress again that some people, not the political forces, but within the Turkish Army and security institutions are against Erdogan.  This was the reason behind our drive to meet them.

 

Furthermore, and this was the subject of discussion with our Russian and Iranian friends – who said that yes, we are defending you, but in the end, you are the owners of the cause.  This is true, the land is ours, and the cause is ours and so we have a duty to carry out by meeting them directly, even if we do not expect results.  Maybe there will come a day when we can achieve results, particularly with changing circumstances inside Turkey, in the world and within Syria.

Journalist: Concerning Israel, some people describe it as the absent present in the events in Syria, the greatest beneficiary of what happened in Syria. Indeed, it is more comfortable now than in any other time before in comparison with weakening Syria, Hizbollah and Iran, as analysts say.

President Assad:  It is the always-present.  It has never been absent.  It might be absent in terms of language, because we fight its proxies, agents, flunkies or tools, in different ways, some military some political.  They are all tools serving Israel directly or through the Americans.  Since the battle on the ground is with these forces, it is normal that the terminology describes these forces and not Israel.  Israel is in fact a main partner in what is happening, and as an enemy state, that is expected.  Will it stand by and watch?  No. it will be proactive, and more effective in order to strike at Syria, the Syrian people, the Syrian homeland and everything related to Syria.

 Journalist: Benefiting practically from what happened?

President Assad:  This is self-evident.  Even if we do not discuss it, it is one of our national givens in Syria.

Journalist: After all the aggressions carried out by the Israeli enemy on Syria, we have never seen an Arab position, and the Arab League has never moved. When the Turkish aggression started, the Arab League met at the level of Foreign Ministers. The first impressions were good, and the final communique was described as positive. In return, we have not heard a statement from the Syrian state.

 

President Assad:  Do you recall when Syria’s membership in the Arab League was frozen?  Did we issue a statement? We did not.  So, if we did not issue a statement as a result of Syria’s departure from the Arab League, why would we issue one when they started discussing Syria’s return to the Arab League? I think the implications of my answer are clear for all those who want to understand.  I do not think that your viewers believe that raising this issue merits more than the few sentences I have just said.

Journalist:  True. If we move to pure politics concerning the constitutional committee.  What is your explanation of the criticism made by the other side to this committee, although it has been one of their demands for years?

President Assad:  Very simply, they believed that we would reject the formation of this committee, and maybe they were shocked that we were able to form it, because they used to raise obstacles and blame the Syrian government.  We dealt with these obstacles in a specific diplomatic manner, not making concession on fundamental issues, but on some issues which we consider related to form.  They were shocked in the end, and that is why they launched a severe attack on it.  That is what happened, in brief.

Journalist: The Syrian state made no concessions under Russian or Iranian pressure?

President Assad:  No. Had we made real concessions, they would not have attacked it.  They would have praised the formation of the committee.  Their attack shows that we have not made any concessions and no concessions can be made.  The constitutional committee and the outcomes it might produce later would be used as a launching pad to attack and strike at the structure of the Syrian state.  This is what the West has been planning for years, and we know this. That is why it was not an option to concede on fundamentals and particular stances related to Syria’s interest.  There were other details which were insignificant, like the fact that they camouflaged themselves under the umbrella of the so-called moderate opposition.  In many instances, they proposed names affiliated to al-Nusra Front, which we rejected because of this affiliation.

Journalist: Terrorists?

President Assad: They are terrorists.  In the end we agreed to a number of those, which might have come as a surprise.  We determined that the result would be the same regardless: the same background, the same affiliation, the same master.

Journalist: True

President Assad:  And decision maker, and so the signal for the decision would be from the same source.  So, what difference does it make?

Journalist: Puppets, no more.

President Assad:  Exactly.  We agreed.  This is only an example.  There are many other details, but this is what surprised them.  We have not made any concession on fundamental issues.

Journalist:  Pedersen talked about meetings of the constitutional committee in Geneva saying that it would open the door to reaching a comprehensive solution to the Syrian crisis, and in his view, that solution includes holding parliamentary and presidential elections under the supervision of the United Nations and in accordance with Security Council Resolution 2254.  He also talked about ensuring the participation of Syrian expatriates. Would you accept international supervision on parliamentary and presidential elections?  And is this issue within the preview of this committee?  And who has the right to vote, practically?

President Assad: For him to say that this committee prepares the ground for a comprehensive solution, this is not true.  It provides part of the solution, maybe.  We do not know where the committee will end-up, but by saying this he ignores the presence of the terrorists.  A constitutional committee while the terrorists are still there will solve the problem – how? This is impossible; it is rejected.  The solution starts by striking at terrorism in Syria.  It starts by stopping external interference in Syria.  Any Syrian-Syrian dialogue complements, contributes and plays a certain role, but it does not replace the first and second elements. I am saying this in order not to leave part of the statement as if we have agreed to it.

As to the other part of the question, if he believes that Resolution 2254 gives the authority to any party, international or otherwise, to supervise the elections, this means that they are returning to the era of the mandate.  I would like to recall that the first part of the resolution refers to Syria’s sovereignty, which is expressed by the Syrian state alone and no one else.  The elections that will be held will be under the supervision of the Syrian state from A to Z.  If we want to invite any other party – an international body, certain states, organizations, societies, individuals or personalities, it will still be under the supervision of the Syrian state and under the sovereignty of the Syrian state.  The constitutional committee has nothing to do with the elections it is only tasked with the constitution.  If they believe that they will return to the days of the mandate, then that would only be in their dreams.

Journalist: Again, on Pedersen’s statements, he said that the mere acceptance to form the constitutional committee is an implied acceptance of the other side and constitutes a joined commitment before the Syrian people to try and agree, under the auspices of the United Nations, on the constitutional arrangements for Syria. Some people objected to this implied acceptance of the other side by the committee, since it does not represent the Syrian people and is not elected by the Syrian people. What is your response to that?

President Assad:  All your questions are valid, at least from a legal perspective.  First, let us identify the first party and the second; some people believe the first party is the Syrian state or the Syrian government.  No, this is not the case, the first party represents the viewpoint of the Syrian government, however the Syrian government is not part of these negotiations nor of these discussions.

Journalist: The first party is supported by the Syrian government.

President Assad:  Exactly.  The government supports this party because we believe that we share the same viewpoint.  They are people who belong to the same political climate of the Syrian government.  This does not imply that the government is part of the negotiations.  Legally, we are not a part of the constitutional committee and this does not imply the government’s recognition of any party; this issue is should be clear.  So, he is referring to a side which represents the viewpoint of the Syrian government.  Here we have to question: what does he mean by “implied acceptance,” what is it we are accepting?

The first party initially accepted to be part of Sochi and to sit down with the second party in Sochi; it later accepted to set up a constitutional committee and discuss ideas regarding the constitution.  Accepting to sit down with them, does not imply that we accept their nature.  The first party exists in Syria, lives in Syria, belongs to all segments of the Syrian people; similarly, there is a state which has the same viewpoint, is elected by the Syrian people and enjoys the support of the majority of people.  The second party is appointed by whom?  It is appointed by Turkey.  Why was the formation of the constitutional committee delayed? For a whole year, we have been negotiating with Turkey via the state-guarantors, Russia and Iran.  The second party was not appointed by any Syrian side; a few represent the terrorists and the majority represent the states which imposed them; it is exclusively Turkey, and of course those standing in the background, the Americans and others.  And there is the other party, which, as I said, represents the terrorists. So, what is it I am accepting?  I accept the terrorist to be a patriot, or I accept those appointed by others, or I accept agents to be patriots. Let us speak frankly.  Why should we lie and speak diplomatically?  The reality is that there is a patriotic party dealing with a party which is an agent and a terrorist, its as simple as that. But in order to be diplomatic and to not anger everyone, I will call it a Syrian-Syrian dialogue, but only in terms of an identity card, passport and nationality.  But as for belonging, that is a different discussion, to which we all know the answer too aside from the diplomatic discourse.

Journalist: Pedersen considered that the launch of the work of the committee is actually a return to Geneva. Have we returned to Geneva after four years? And what about Sochi and Astana?

President Assad:  No, we have returned to Geneva only geographically, whereas politically, we are part of Sochi, and everything that is happening has its frame of reference as Sochi and is a continuation of it.  There is no Geneva, it is not part of this process.  The fact that the UN is represented and participates in Sochi gives it an international dimension, which is necessary; but it does not mean that Geneva undercuts Sochi.  There is no Geneva.

Journalist: Could Pedersen’s statements, all the statements we have reviewed here, aim at preempting the work of the committee, or are they completely outside the context of its work? And concerning the constitution, in particular, is what is happening a complete change of the constitution, a discussion on the constitution, or the amendment of some provisions of the constitution?

President Assad:  There will be an attempt to direct the work of the committee in a certain direction.  This is for sure, and we are fully aware of this and won’t allow it.  That is why everything announced outside the committee has no value; it is absolute zero, as simple as that.  Therefore, we should not waste our time on such statements or give it any importance. What is the second point?

Journalist:  About the nature of the committee’s work: is it discussing the provisions of the constitution, amending some provisions or a complete change of the constitution?

President Assad:  This constitutes a large part of the discussion on setting up the constitutional committee: shall we amend the constitution or have a new constitution?  Our position was that when we amend a provision of the constitution and put it to a referendum, it becomes a new constitution.  So, there is no real difference between amending the constitution or having a new one, because there is nothing to define the new constitution, a completely new constitution.  This is all theoretical and has no real meaning.  What concerns us is that everything produced by the meetings of this committee and is in line with national interest – even if it is a new constitution from A to Z, we shall approve.  And if there is an amendment of a single provision in the constitution, which is against national interest, we would oppose it.  So, in order not to waste our time in such sophistry, we should focus on the implications.  We are fully aware of the game they are going to play. They aim to weaken the state and transform it into a state which cannot be controlled from within and, consequently is controlled from the outside.  The game is clear, as is happening in neighboring countries which we don’t need to mention.  This is not going to happen; but they will try and we will not accept.  This is the summary of months of future dialogue, and maybe longer, I don’t know. Of course, I mean future dialogue.

Journalist:  We discussed at length the constitutional committee and all the statements made about it. I will move to the issue which people are waiting for: talking about the internal situation in Syria, since we are talking about attempts to influence, what matters is the internal situation.  During the war years, the Syrian’s suffered from high prices, lack of production, shortage of job opportunities, many consequences of terrorism, the sanctions, and the difficult military situation over large parts of the Syrian territory.  The natural outcome was a deterioration in the living conditions of Syrian families.  But now, conditions on the ground militarily have improved, most of the land has returned to the control of the Syrian state.  What about the living conditions? Are there signs of an improvement of this situation, or will the situation remain as it is until all Syrian territory is liberated?

President Assad:  If the cause was only due to the situation on the ground, terrorism, etc., then yes, it is better to wait.  But this does not make sense.  As you know, some people tend to blame everything on the security situation and whilst there is no doubt that it has a great impact, but it is not absolute.  This answers the last part of the question.  Do we wait?  No, because if we were to wait, even if the situation on the ground changed, living conditions would not improve.  Living conditions will not improve unless we move, very simply, as a state and as a society on all levels.  Liberating some areas might have an impact on the economic situation if these areas were employed and integrated into the development and economic cycle in Syria.

Journalist:  Areas in which there are resources in particular.

President Assad:  There might be resources, or it might be a tourist area.  Currently there is no tourism, so this area will not have an impact on the economic situation, but an agricultural area like the northern regions, this is essential; today we import some of the things which we used to export and because they are imported in a round-about way in order to circumvent the sanctions, we are paying more for them.  If we take Aleppo for instance, it is the heart of Syrian industry, and with Damascus they are the center of the Syrian economy.  So, areas are different but if we liberate areas without taking the necessary measures to invigorate the economy, things will not improve.  So, as a state, we need to accelerate the rebuilding of infrastructure – like restoring electricity and other utilities, and the role of state institutions, in order to facilitate the return of the productivity cycle.  Here I am not referring to major industries and large projects.  Even before the war, we had the view that large projects are important but they are not the solution.  For a country like Syria, the strength of its economy lies in small and medium-sized enterprises.  It is these enterprises, the grocery store or the barber’s shop, that will help invigorate the economy.  The problem is that some people wait; they say that let us wait to see what happens.  If we are to wait, then we should not expect to see the signs that you referred to.  Are there signs? Yes, of course, there are improvements, there are industries which have emerged, workshops that have returned to work.  The number of people who have returned to the country is higher than the development of the economy, and consequently some might say these improvements are intangible, this is correct.  The challenge now is to integrate these people into the economic cycle.  The answer to the question: (can we do it?) of course, we can.  We should not say that circumstances prevent us, no; we have some laziness, we have some dependencies and sometimes we do not have the vision of how to move.  And by we, I mean all of us as a society, as a state and as citizens.  The state is responsible to provide the necessary conditions and the infrastructure, but it cannot open all the shops, workshops, and industries.

Journalist:  If we can, why do we not see a real response by the government to your continued directives to the ministers to deal transparently with the citizens.  Why is this indifference and improvisation in the work of government institutions and the absence of any planning or a preemptive alternative, as some people say, some people who hold the government responsible directly for squandering the blood of the martyrs and the wounded and the sacrifices of the Syrians?

President Assad:  First, if we want to address government institutions, and in order to be objective, I cannot talk about them collectively; there are those ministries that are working, while there is laziness and inefficiency in others.  Within ministries, there are institutions which are functioning properly and others which are not fulfilling their duties.  So, if we want to talk objectively, we need to identify specific sectors in order to distinguish between them; any generalities do not properly reflect reality.  In our own private discussions, we can talk in general terms – the state is not functioning, the government is not functioning etc., but I am an official and I cannot but speak in a scientific, objective and tangible manner.  In reality, there are cases of negligence and there is the opposite.  If I look at the positive aspects, if all the institutions are not working, where are we getting salaries from?  How do students go to school?  There are martyrs in the education and electricity sectors.  Electricity plants were targeted and then problems solved and solutions found.  Despite the difficulties due to the sanctions, we are able to provide basic commodities like oil, wheat and others.  So, there is work being done.  Of course, you will tell me that it is only normal for talk about pain.  This is natural and I do not expect people to refer to the positives.  It is human nature to talk about pain. When I am healthy, I do not talk about being in good health every day, but when I’m sick, I will talk about my illness; again, this is only natural.   But in order to evaluate properly the situation we should consider all angles.  As to the negatives, the challenge lies in distinguishing between causes related to the crisis and the war and causes related to our dereliction? When people criticize the state, they speak as if there is no war.   Similarly, when an official speaks, they often blame everything on the war; the challenge is how to separate the two.  This is what we are doing now. When we had the gasoline and diesel crisis, the problem was indeed caused by the sanctions and our ability to provide these resources.  The problem is that the state itself is under sanction, so it cannot import.  It imports using other channels, which I won’t divulge, to source these resources.  Most of the time we succeed, but other times we do not; these latter cases are beyond our control.  As for electricity, the plants and infrastructure are continuously targeted, do we hold the officials responsible for the terrorist rockets?  We need to be objective about certain issues, for example we were able to reclaim some gas wells, which improved the electricity situation, but the needs of the returnees and the workshops which have reopened are much larger than the electricity we were able to restore.  We need to see all these issues.  So, we are able to produce, but we go back to the same question: how do we distinguish between dereliction and valid causes.  This is what we should be considering, but we are not discussing the situation from this perspective.  At the level of the state, we are trying to reach these results, and we have been able to reach them in relation to dereliction.  Officials who do not fulfill their duties should be removed; dereliction should not be given an opportunity to continue.  There is also the issue of corruption.  Dereliction of duty is one thing and corruption is something else. The outcome may be the same sometimes, but here I am referring to an official who is not corrupt but is either unable to carry out their duty or does not have a clear vision.  When it becomes apparent that they do not have either of these qualities, then they should leave immediately.

Journalist:  On this subject of having a clear vision, if we talk about the rate of exchange for the dollar, it is logical that during the war the exchange rate increases if not as a result of the war itself, as a result of the embargo and the economic sanctions on our country, but recently rises are incomprehensible and affect the details of the daily life.  What is your explanation of this incomprehensible rise?

President Assad:  As I said some issues are self-evident, first, sanctions have an impact on state revenues in dollars or hard currency in general.  This affects the exchange rate, which in turn affects prices.  State revenues have also receded as a result of fewer exports and the lack of tourism; no tourists will visit a country during a war.  Countries that we depend on for exports are contributing to the sanctions in one way or another.  Nonetheless, we have managed to identify unofficial channels for exports, which has contributed to the inflow some hard currency. There is also the speculation game, some of which happens inside Syria and some of which happens outside; additionally, there is speculation on social media, which we get dragged into.

The most dangerous of these factors is the psychological.  When we hear that the Syrian pound has dropped, we rush to buy dollars.  We believe in this way that we have saved money by turning our pounds into dollars, but as a consequence, the exchange rate drops in a severe and accelerated manner and consequently prices rise significantly; what citizens have saved by converting pounds to dollars they have lost due to higher prices.  There are many aspects to this issue. Now, can the state intervene?  Yes it can, but with limited revenues and tremendous demand – due to higher prices of basic commodities like wheat, oil, fuel and others, there is a trade off between exhausting dollars on speculation or spending on basic needs.  If dollars are exhausted, this will mean we will have no wheat and oil; this is our reality.  Our revenues are not what they used to be and as such our priorities have been on focused on arms and ammunition and squeezing what we can in order to provide the necessary weapons.

Journalist:  Are there no measures that the state can take to control the rate of the exchange?

President Assad:  Of course, there are.  If you compare our situation with other countries in our region, when the dollar exchange rate is affected, you find that it increases multiple times in a matter of days.  So, it is a miracle that the exchange rate, which was in the upper forties or fifties before the war, is still around six hundred nine years on.  This does not make sense; the pound was expected to collapse at the end of 2012. Had it not been for particular methods, which unfortunately I cannot divulge due to their covert nature, the pound would have collapsed.  Let me give you an example: one factor which people are not aware of, is that the liberation of an area does not necessarily serve the Syrian Pound, because by liberating an area, we are removing its access to dollars which were paid to the terrorists to cover their needs and expenses.  This is one of the tools we benefited from. I mean that things are not absolute, and we cannot say that terrorists were serving us in this regard.  Not every positive step has a positive impact.  That is why I am saying that the issue is complicated.  Some experts say that there is a process of drying the region up of dollars and the whole region is paying the price of the dollar.  But notice the difference between us and neighbouring countries.  The Turkish Lira, for instance, lost about two percent of its value in the last few days; yesterday I believe, due to a decision taken by the American Congress.  Countries are totally subject to these fluctuations.  Despite our circumstances, we do not succumb entirely – we suffer, we defend, we fight all the whilst having a war waged against us.  Whereas these other countries do not have a war waged against them, yet they can barely support their currency, and moreover, the currency is supported by external financial and political measures.  So, there are challenges but once again the solution is not difficult.  The solution is not the dollar game, but an economic game.  If we go back to your first question and start to look at the economic cycle as being the foundation, we realise that getting involved in speculation does not play to our favour.  If we are able to get the economic cycle moving, then we can create more tools for the monetary authorities and for society to improve the economic conditions and reduce dependency on the dollar.  Small or medium-sized industries help us reduce our dependency on importing materials and hence reduce the pressure on the Syrian Pound.  We have many tools which we can use, but the speculation game is not the solution. This is what I believe.

Journalist: So, I understand from what your excellency said that these policies or measures might take a longer time to produce results, but they are more effective and successful?

President Assad: What I want to say in answer to all economic questions is that the solution is there. There are those who say that when I present all these factors, it is because we do not have a solution.  No, solutions do exist and are not impossible and what we have done proves that they are not impossible; but this does not mean that we have done our best.  This is the starting point and this requires an economic dialogue, I am presenting the larger headlines that we are capable of achieving.  Actually, the dollar, the economy and the living conditions are all part of one cycle.  They are not separate parts.  The solution lies in accelerating state services and facilities to push projects forward and this is what we are doing; we are waiting for a response, because there is a lot of pressure on foreign investors not to invest in Syria.

Journalist: And the solution also lies in fighting corruption. There is a lot of talk about that now. There is talk about a wide-ranging campaign which included a number of business men and officials who are suspected of corruption. Is that true, Mr President? Is this campaign part of the measures taken to combat corruption, and would it include other individuals?

President Assad:  That is true, but it is not a campaign, because the word “campaign” gives the impression that we have just started, because a campaign has a beginning and an end, and is temporary.  This is not true, for either we used to accept corruption and suddenly we don’t accept it any longer, or we did not acknowledge it.  No, it is visible, and the beginning is now over three years old. Why?  Because at the start of the war the internal situation was not a priority at all.  We used to think of providing our basic needs, just to live, but there was process of tearing up the state and the homeland by terrorists and, on a larger scale, by the corrupt.  That was the problem. The country cannot stand it and the state cannot stand it.

Journalist: We just wanted to stay alive.

President Assad:  In the first years.  Afterwards when the tearing up increased, we returned to fighting corruption which we had started before, but the circumstances were different before the war, and priorities were different.  Now fighting corruption was given priority because of the economic conditions we are living and because this reservoir, which is the state, is punctured in many places, so any revenues going into it were syphoned out and so we were not able to benefit from them.  Where did we start? We started with the military establishment. No state starts accountability at the heart of the military establishment during a war; this institution is sacred.  However, because it is sacred especially during the war, and because it stands for discipline, this establishment doe not allow itself to be, at the same time, be a symbol of corruption.  So, accountability started in the military establishment and many high-ranking officers were put in jail with other officers at different levels.  Those who were proven innocent were released and there are those who are still being tried up till now and after many years; so, there was no favouritism.  The question was raised: is it possible while the military establishment is involved in a war.  We said that the military establishment is fighting terrorism and fighting corruption. It fights everything, and because it is the military establishment it should be at the forefront in everything.  The same process was also followed in the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Telecommunications. Many institutions were involved.  But, the issue was raised because there are aspects of society, personalities and institutions which are the subject of people’s attentions, in the spotlight of society, the issue was given prominence, while in actual fact, there is nothing new.  As to accountability, it is an ongoing process.  In answer to your question, yes, it is ongoing.

Journalist:  Are we going to see other individuals brought to account?

President Assad:  As long as there is corruption, fighting it we will continue. That’s for sure. In these circumstances and in other circumstance.  This is part of developing the state. We cannot talk about developing the state in terms of administration and other aspects without fighting corruption. This is self-evident.

Journalist: there are those who floated the idea that the state needed money, or that our allies asked the state to pay for debts, so the state appropriated money from merchants, in a vengeful way, to the extent that some people described it as Ritz Carlton Syria.  How do you comment on this?

President Assad:  They always describe Syria as a regime.  They do not say a state. Their objective by saying so is to make us appear as a gang, a junta, etc.  Whereas the state has basic principles, a constitution, regulations, clear controls.  We are a state, not a sheikhdom as is the case in some countries.  The state has a constitution and a law.  The first thing in the constitution, or one of its most important provisions, is the protection of private property.  We cannot tell somebody, under any title, we take this property.  There are many appropriations of properties belonging to terrorists, which have been appropriated temporarily, but they have not become state property, because there is no court decision, although these individuals are terrorists, there is still a need for a court decision. It doesn’t mean that this property goes automatically to the state. It needs a court decision.  In this framework, the state cannot say, under any title, “you are corrupt, so give me your money.”  This is at odds with the basic principles of the state.

Journalist: These are measures taken on legal grounds.

President Assad:  Of course.  There are many cases which people confuse.  There was a meeting between a group of business men and state officials in order to support the Syrian Pound when it started to drop quickly because of the state of fear and anxiety. Otherwise, there was no economic cause for the collapse of the Syrian pound.  They were asked to help state institutions, particularly the Central Bank, and they did it.  This does not mean that they made donations to the state, they contributed hard currencies and took Syrian Pounds in return. Nobody offers the state anything for free.

Journalist: Just moving the economy.

President Assad:  Yes, in a certain way and according to a certain agreed plan. They did it and it gave quick results. There is also corruption fighting which you asked about a short while ago.  There are officials and individuals in the private sector, because corruption is done in partnership.  In the private sector, all those who squandered state money were asked to return it because the objective is to get the money without necessarily being vindictive, before we prosecute and go the courts for years. And we don’t know if the courts would be able to return all the money or not.  There are documents. Are you prepared to return state money? Many of them expressed a willingness to do so.  So, there are aspects to the issue included in your question.

Journalist: But why was the issue promoted, or people understood sometimes the reasons you mentioned to mean that prosecution or accountability targeted business men only, but we have not heard about officials. We heard only about merchants or businessmen?

President Assad:  And that is why I said that accountability started in the army, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Transport and other institutions and it is still ongoing, all of this targeted officials in the firs place.  And all those in prison are state officials at different levels.  You cannot prosecute one party when they have another partner. There is always a partnership, but sometimes the name of official is not mentioned because people are not interested or the name of the person from the private sector is not mentioned because people don’t know this individual. The question is that of media marketing, and we have never relied, and will never rely, on media marketing or propaganda to say that we are fighting corruption.  We are more interested in actually fighting corruption rather than making a big fuss about it.

Journalist:  That is why there is talk of a law on disclosure of financial assets of all those working in the public sector.

President Assad:  Discussions started a few months ago, and there was a workshop last week under the auspices of the Ministry of Administrative Development.  It is an important law. In fact, this is not new. It was raised a year before the war but at that time it was not formulated as a law. It was rather in the form of a decision for any individual employed by the state to disclose their financial assets so that this declaration becomes a frame of reference for the assets he gains during his employment.  Many people were asking why state officials were not being asked about their assets and how they were acquired.  To do so, would require a legal framework and that is what we are doing at the moment.  The essence in fighting corruption lies in the laws. By disclosing financial assets means this law which will constitute an important reference for any person employed by the state; after one year or twenty years you can ask them how they acquired their assets.

Journalist: What are the measures that will be taken in this regard?

President Assad: The law for the disclosure of financial assets is part of it, prosecuting corrupt individuals for certain wrongdoings is another.  However, if you go back to the discussion about corruption, particularly on social media, people talk about everything except the source of corruption.  In our case, the source lies in the laws and the related executive decrees and measures etc.  The legal structure of corruption is the problem, most of the cases referred to the courts are found to be an implementation of the law, which is very vague and has many loopholes.  As long as this is the case, even if you are fully-convinced that they are corrupt, they are legally innocent, because they have ‘implemented the law.’  Our laws give far reaching authorities, and allow for many exemptions.  This is why in my previous meeting with government, after the reshuffle, I talked about setting up a committee to amend the laws and in particular cancelling exceptions.  Exceptions are not necessarily in the form of allowing for officials to issue them but also in the form that they may implement in various manner at their own discretion.  I might implement it in good faith and create discrepancies between people, and I might implement it in bad faith and receive money and consequently become corrupt in the financial sense of the word.  That is why we started by focusing on the exceptions given to the President of the Republic.  By allowing for exceptions, if I wanted to implement the law fairly, I cannot because I will give you the opportunity to implement the provision in a certain way while somebody else is deprived of this possibility, because I did not encounter him or he did not have access to me.  As I said we started by canceling the exceptions of the President of the Republic.  Furthermore, any exceptions that are required in particular areas, for example the Customs Law; in these instances, there should be clear boundaries and controls over these exceptions. They should not be left to the discretion of any official regardless of their seniority.  So, we used to have so many exceptions without any controls, including in employment and other areas.  Again, our laws are full of loopholes which need to be fixed by passing new laws.  This has already begun, particularly with local administration laws because the violations we see everywhere are partly legal.  This is what we need to do. We are focusing on the anti-corruption law because what we are doing now in terms of fighting corruption is merely addresses the symptoms but does not solve the problem.

Journalist: So, it is about fighting the corrupt environment and not the corrupt individuals.

President Assad: Exactly.

Journalist: And here I ask about our role in the media, finally, and thank you for your patience with us, Mr. President, and for answering all these questions.

 President Assad: Not at all, you are welcome.

Journalist:  As the media, within the framework of fighting the corrupt environment, do we have a role and how do you see it?

President Assad:  You have a crucial role in two areas.  By the way, my last meeting with the government was dedicated solely to the role of the media.  First because I know that the media will have many enemies from within the state, especially when it addresses the question of corruption.  This is for many reasons, not only because of interests but also because it is our nature and our culture that we do not like criticism.  Even when it is general, we turn it into something personalized, and reactions start to appear, which create a great number of problems – either through fighting the media in principle or fighting the information which you need in order to do your job in this case.

So, the meeting was dedicated to advancing the state media; first because it constitutes the most important tool in fighting corruption.  Corruption is wide-ranging and includes many sectors, the relationship between people and the state, the relationship of different sectors within the state is not only a daily relationship, it is manifested on an hourly basis.  Consequently, we cannot, using any mechanism, follow up on all these cases. Here comes the role of the media, since the media are supposed to be in all corners of society.  So, it constitutes a major auxiliary instrument to expose cases of corruption.  The more important point which I touched on earlier when I referred to the laws, is the environment which needs radical reform.  The media should lead the dialogue around this reform.  The state has brought in legal experts to study the flaws, but legal experts do not necessarily have the vision.

Lawyers can formulate the laws, which is only part of the process.  The other part is the vision.  Who has this vision?  The officials alone – no.  There are details that officials, in their experience and position do not see.  And every individual in society, by virtue of their presence in a certain domain cannot see the whole solution, they can see part of the solution.  The media can bring us together to discuss this solution. From another perspective, we are seeing the chaos of discussion on social media.  Here is the role of the national media to shift this discussion from superficiality, personalization, gloating, revenge and manipulation from the outside, even unknowingly.  The media can create a real methodology for a serious dialogue, a mature dialogue, a national and consequently productive dialogue.  In fact, there are great hopes pinned on you, although you are still at the beginning through the programmes which you have started recently.  The opportunity to upgrade this dialogue, to fight corruption, address the laws, and the corrupt – the horizons for you are broad and open for you to play an important role. I personally pin great hopes on you and support the official media in this regard.

Journalist:  Thank you for your support, Mr President, which is practically empowering but also entrusts us with a great responsibility.

President Assad:  Thank you. I am happy to have this dialogue with two important and major national media institutions.  No doubt people have high hopes on the role of officials and the state in the future of Syria, whether in fighting corruption, fighting terrorism or the many other issues which you have tried to pass through the views of the Syrian citizens;  In turn we pin our hopes on you in the media to be – as you have been – part of the battle against terrorism, against corruption and against any flaw which might take the country backward instead of moving it forward.

You are welcome.

Journalist: Thank you, Mr President.

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