SYRIAN WAR REPORT – JANUARY 15-17, 2020: OFFENSIVE OPERATIONS IN SOUTHERN IDLIB RESUMED

South Front

Late on January 15, pro-government forces, led by the 25th Special Mission Forces Division, resumed their offensive operations in Greater Idlib. Since then, they have taken control of several villages including Barsah, Nouhiya, Tell Khatrah, and Khirbat Dawud, west of the Abu al-Duhur airbase. The airbase liberated in January 2018 became a useful foothold for army units operating in the area.

On January 16, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham launched a counter-offensive recapturing Abu Jurf. However, it was not able to deliver any notable blow to the advancing government troops.

The ground operation followed resumption of airstrikes on weapon depots and fortified positions of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and other radical groups. On January 15, the Syrian Air Force bombed the industrial zone and the al-Hal area of Idlib city destroying multiple vehicles and several buildings. Airstrikes were also reported near Ma`arat al-Nu`man, Ma’ar Shoreen, Tell Kersyan and other areas along the M5 highway. Over 20 airstrikes hit targets in southwest of Aleppo city that recently became the target of regular shelling from Turkish-backed militant groups. The especially intense shelling took place on January 16, with more than two dozens of rockets pounding the city.

Pro-government sources speculate that southwestern Aleppo will become the target of the large-scale army offensive. Meanwhile, the army is obliterating salient militant positions on the frontline east of the M5 highway. This is needed to ease future military efforts to retake the highway from the radicals and liberate Maarat al-Numan, Khan al-Sobol and Saraqib. The developments of the last two years demonstrated that despite any ceasefire and de-escalation agreements, the highway will remain closed as long as militants control these three towns.

Turkey and Russia also seem to be preparing for a new round of violence in Greater Idlib. Turkish Minister Hulusi Akar said on January 15 that Ankara and Moscow were in talks to establish a “security zone” to allow civilians to take shelter during the winter. He claimed that the reason is that civilians do not want to go to government-controlled areas. Pro-Damascus sources say that al-Qaeda-linked militants just sabotage the exit of civilians via humanitarian corridors, just under the nose of Turkish observation points.

On January 15, ISIS cells ambushed a group of Republican Guard troops in southern Deir Ezzor. The terrorists destroyed a BRDM-2 vehicle and a mini truck, and killed at least 9 soldiers. Earlier on the same day, the Israeli Air Force carried out a strike on the T4 airport in Homs province. The Syrian Air Defense reportedly intercepted several missiles, but at least 4 of them hit the target.

The T4 airport is the base for Iranian-backed operations against ISIS the central part of Syria as well as hosts Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles.

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Caesar Act, Oil and Gas, Chemical Weapons, and the Syrian Response

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is OPCW-fake-Chemical-Attack-Trump-Syria-Sanctions-678x381.jpg

December 31, 2019

Arabi Souri

Caesar Act is one of the main topics discussed by the Media and Political Advisor in the Syrian Presidency Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban in a thorough must watch and learn from interview with Kamal Khalaf of Al-Mayadeen News channel.

Dr. Shaaban discusses and addresses the pressuring issues and recent developments relating to Syria and the impact the Syrian sacrifices and steadfastness caused throughout the world. The shift from unipolar world to a multipolar world, the US sanctions including the passing of Caesar’s Act, the Turkish invasion and the Syrian Arab Army’s military operation to clean Idlib from NATO terrorists, the oil and gas, and many other topics. How will the Syrian government respond and what is underway, including two new revelations for the first time.

Preface:

The junta ruling the United States of America is taking advantage of its financial power it posses based on the petrodollar trade, its military power in uniforms and covert operations stretching worldwide, and worse its evil propagandists in the mainstream media whitewashing its bad doing and demonizing its enemies, promoting its evil nature allowing it to commit crimes against the rest of the world and against its own people with no remorse, just to amass more money, more wealth, and kill more people, of everybody else. It has resorted to all what it has in its arsenal and it’s capable of using against Syria, yet not able to break this small nation.

The interview took place in Damascus and was recorded by Al-Mayadeen on 25 December 2019. The following is the interview in Arabic with English subtitles, followed by the transcript of the English translation and the Arabic transcript of the interview.


Part 1 of 2, Part 2 on the second page – Full video is also available on BitChute: https://www.bitchute.com/video/7RIb2T3xHfWJ/

The transcript of the English translation:
Today when we came to Damascus, the streets of Damascus were decorated with celebrations and there was joy that we were afraid you will be late for this live episode, because of this congestion, happy holidays.
 
Dr. Buthaina Shaaban: Happy Holidays, truly, what you mentioned Mr. Kamal is very important, I have not seen Damascus decorated as I saw it tonight, and I think this is a beautiful and natural reaction from the Syrian people after all the attempts of sedition between Muslims and Christians, this year I felt that the Syrian people are telling the whole world that we are all Christians and we are all Muslims.
 
Q: The Algerian people today bid farewell to a great figure, Ahmed Qayed Saleh, chief of staff of the Algerian army, in a sensitive circumstance and he also saved Algeria, as many Algerians say, from a major crisis, I know the depth of the relationship between Syria and Algeria and how Algeria stood with Syria, the relationship with Syria has not changed during all the years of war.
 
 
Dr. Buthaina Shaaban: True, and I’d like through your honorable screen to condole the Algerian government and people of losing this great personality and today the Algerian people have given testimony to this leader, they gave testimony against all attempts at sedition when demonstrations were appearing in the streets and various talks about the Algerian army and its stand against the people or the people’s stand against the army, today the Algerian people put an end to all these sayings and proved that they all had nothing to do with reality, the people gathered around the army and God bless Qayed Saleh, who will remain a model for those who really saved their country and left.
 
Q: We begin our episode, our viewers Damascus is currently under the biggest campaign of American pressure and not only the signing of the American president a few days ago the Law of Caesar to punish Syria, but the law comes within a multifaceted campaign, these include expanding the tasks of the chemical attack investigation team for the first time in the organization’s history, assigning the team the task of identifying specific names, as well as the (U.S.) administration blatantly obstructing the returning of the Syrian refugees from neighbouring countries and returning Arab relations with Syria. What are the direct economic and political implications of Caesar’s law on Syria? What does Damascus think of the foundations of the law, and what are the ways and options to counter the U.S. pressure campaign? What does the heightened pressure on Syria have to do with the strategy of extreme pressure on Iran and what is happening in Both Lebanon and Iraq? During this episode, we also look at the most prominent developments on the ground and political in Syria.
 
These topics are presented directly to Dr. Buthaina Shaaban tonight. I welcome you again and start with the Caesar Act. Today, the Syrian people have anxiety, they have concerns, we listened through the people we meet on social media, fearing or worried of the passing of Caesar’s bill by the United States President on Syria. Is there really something to worry about this law that has direct implications for the lives of Syrian citizens?
 
Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban: The truth is that this law is an episode of the pressure campaigns on Syria that started from 2011 to today,and I remember when we went to Geneva in 2014 and met With Wolf Blitzer from CNN, the first question he asked me about this “Caesar” was that he collected photos and testimonials… Etc. But as you know, this law has been presented more than once before Congress and didn’t move in Congress, I think until it had the support of the Zionist lobby and the AIPAC, It doesn’t make sense to be anyone, whoever it is, and I think they didn’t intentionally reveal the character of this “Caesar” because they know that he is just a small tool, but the real work was done by the lobbies against Syria and the Republican and Democratic parties, because it was assigned to the United States defense budget for 2020, which accounts for more than one-third of the U.S. budget and no one can put this law in this budget unless it is from the military or the Zionist lobby, so for us as a Syrian government it is part of all the pressure attempts and all the attempts they tried to take over Syria, but they could not, and this law will not be able to get Syria.
There is no doubt that it is a criminal and unjust law that has nothing to do with international legitimacy or international law, nor respect for state sovereignty, but the Syrian people who have been going through these years know how to face all these challenges.
 
 
Q: Do you know who Caesar is? Is he a real character?
Page 1 of 11 – Continue on next page, link below

Syria, Washington and the Kurds. “The Rojava Dream is Dead”

By Prof. Tim Anderson

Global Research, December 31, 2019

American Herald Tribune

With the defeat of ISIS and Nusra, the exposure of the ‘White Helmets’ and the various Chemical Weapons stunts, and with the collapse of ‘Rojava’, Washington is fast running out of options in Syria. Syria is winning, but the big power has not yet given up. Knowing that it is losing, it still acts to prolong the endgame and punish the Syrian people.

***

We are sitting at a joint military command center in Arima (northern Syria, just west of Manbij) with three Syrian Arab Army (SAA) colonels and two uniformed Kurd SDF ‘koval’ (comrades). There are Russians here too, but they do not enter our conversation. Yet even in the friendly chat, as we wait for permission to travel on to Manbij and Ayn al Arab (Kobane), some tensions are apparent.

Sharing coffee and food, both the SAA officers and the SDF comrades acknowledge they are fighting and dying together against an invading Turkish army and its proxy militias. The frontline is just a few kilometers away.

When I ask what differences there are between DAESH, Nusra and the ‘Free Army’, they all respond derisively.  “There is no difference, it is a money game, the fighters go back and forwards depending on the pay rates”. “Any difference between groups in the numbers of foreigners?” I suggest. “No difference”, they repeat. SDF Comrade B passes me a recent video of ‘Free Army’ fighters at Tal Abiad, to the north-east, protesting conditions and demanding their return to HTS/Nusra controlled Idlib.

But we all know they fight for a different cause. The SAA officers are fighting for a liberated and united Syria, while the SDF comrades still dream of an independent ‘Kurdistan’ by cutting out parts of contemporary Turkey, Syria and Iraq.

Separatist Kurds collaborated with US occupation forces in pursuit of their ‘Rojava’ dream (western Kurdistan), even though Washington never really supported the project. Many Syrians see them as traitors. But the SAA is patient, dealing with one enemy at a time, and at the moment the enemy in north Syria is Erdogan.

The ‘Rojava’ dream is effectively dead. As both Afrin (in March 2018) and Manbij (in October 2019) demonstrated, no Kurdish militia can defend itself from Ankara, which correctly sees any ‘Rojava’ statelet as a stepping stone for the bigger game, a large slice of Turkey. Protection by US occupation forces could not last forever. Moreover, Kurdish groups have no exclusive historical claims over any parts of northern Syria. Many others live there. In much of north Syria Kurds are a small minority.

Despite these tensions a close, even affectionate relationship remains in the room. The SAA colonels are all older men, in their 40s and 50s, while the SDF comrades are younger men, around 30 years old. Colonel H offers more coffee to Comrade A while Comrade B tells of Kurdish conquests. “We lost 850 martyrs liberating Manbij”, he says, and “2,000 in Kobane”. And what about all those in your prisons? one of the colonels asks. “They are reformatories”, Comrade B replies.

Aleppo and Manbij dcc6a

*(Between Aleppo and Manbij there is a switch from checkpoints controlled by the Syrian Arab Army to those controlled by the Kurdish SDF, even though the SAA and Russia now secure most of these ‘SDF controlled’ areas)

What Comrade B does not say about the “liberation” of Manbij is that (1) the 2016 battle was effectively a transfer of the city from one US proxy (ISIS/DAESH) to another (SDF), and (2) there were very few Kurds in that mostly Arab city. After the major battles, many from surrounding areas fled to the city, swelling its population. A recent estimate puts its population at 700,000, of which 80% are Arab (Najjar 2019). Of the rest there are other non-Arab minorities, including Assyrians, Circassians and Armenians. There is no real social base for a separatist Kurd regime in Manbij.

Yet even after the departure of US occupation forces from this part of northern Syria, and even though the Syrian and Russian presence constrains Turkish ambitions, the SDF has been allowed to maintain its former administration of both the city and the region.

The bizarre and unsustainable nature of this regime is made apparent when Nihad Roumieh, my Syrian journalist colleague, asks one of the colonels to show us where we are. Colonel A happily rolls out a military map, with friend and enemy troop placements. The first thing apparent is that six Syrian armored units protect Manbij, to the north. Second, although Syrian forces have resumed control of more than 200km of the northern border, it is depressing to see how much of northern Syria remains occupied by Erdogan and his proxies.

The picture seemed even more grim when we later spoke with a Manbij councilor and his lawyer friend. They complained of many held in prison and tortured, under the SDF regime. They said there were only two Kurd villages in Manbij.

Nevertheless, it seems that a transition is taking place. Over November-December both Syrian and Russian flags were raised over previous SDF positions in Hassakah, Ayn al Arab, Jarablus and Tal Jemaa (Syrian Observer 2019; Semenov 2019; SOHR 2019), with suggestions that the SDF was involved in negotiations with Damascus “to reach conclusive solutions”. However, SDF leader Mazloum Abadi said that the group wanted “Syrian unity … [with] decentralized self-administration” including maintenance of the separate SDF militia (Syrian Observer 2019). Damascus is unlikely to accept such terms.

*

The claim for a Kurdish homeland in Syria is no indigenous movement, claiming the return of ancestral lands. Nor does the debate over Kurds as historical migrants (in Yildiz 2005) or long-standing inhabitants (Hennerbichler 2012: 77-78) resolve the question. While Kurdish languages are of Iranian origin, and the longer history passes through Mesopotamia (Iraq) and the Ottoman Empire, Kurds are certainly part of the native Syrian population.  However at 1.5 million Syria hosts the smallest group in the region, with around 20 million in Turkey (Gürbüz 2016: 31) and another 6-8 million each in Iran and Iraq.

The idea of a ‘Rojava’ statelet in Syria has been compromised in three ways. First, the Kurdish groups in the north and north-east Syria are only one of several groups (amongst Assyrians, Circassians, Armenians and Arabs), and in some areas small minorities. Second, the Kurdish separatist movement in Syria has been over-determined by the politics of and migration from Turkey. ‘Rojava’ was seen as the stepping stone for a larger ‘Kurdistan’ project, driven from the north. Third, intervention by the imperial power raised separatist expectations and has damaged Kurdish relations with other Syrian groups.

In the longer history of Syria, a traditional refuge for minorities, there have been many Kurds, including famous personalities, who did not buy into the separatist dream.

Sheikh Mohammad al Bouti

Two of them are buried inside the grounds of the Ummayad Mosque in Damascus: the 12th-century ruler Sala’addin and the Quranic scholar Sheikh Mohammad al Bouti (murdered by Jabhat al Nusra in 2013). Many Syrians of Kurdish origin embraced the idea of a wider identity. Before the 2011 conflict Tejel (2009: 39-46) classified Syrian Kurdish identities as comprising Arab nationalist, communist and Kurdish nationalist, with Syrian Kurd leaders Husni Za’im and Adib al-Shishakli campaigning for a non-sectarian ‘Greater Syria’.

The Turkish Kurd influence began early in the 20th century, as Kurdish culture was repressed by the post-Ottoman Turkish state. Turkish Kurds first took refuge in Syria, including in Damascus, after their failed rebellion in 1925. The very idea of a Syrian Kurdish party first came in 1956 from the Turkish refugee Osman Sabri; and another Turkish refugee Nûredîn Zaza, became president of that party (al Kati 2019: 45, 47).

There were multiple splits in subsequent years. The Democratic Union Party (PYD) emerged in the 1980s as a branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), loyal to its leader Abdallah Öcalan, who in 1996 acknowledged that “most of the Kurds of Syria were refugees and migrants from Turkey and they would benefit from returning there” (in Allsop 2014: 231). Many of the claims about ‘stateless’ Kurds in Syria have to be read in light of this Turkish influx. However, Öcalan departed in 1998, as part of Syria’s Adana agreement with Turkey (al Kati 2019: 49-52).

The big powers, conscious of the potentially divisive role of separatist Kurds, have used them for decades, to divide and weaken Arab governments. US regional allies Israel and Iran (pre-1979) joined in, with the Shah in 1962 ordering his SAVAK secret police to help finance the Kurdish insurgency in northern Iraq, so as to undermine Baghdad. The Israelis joined in two years later. The CIA offered further help to the Barzani-led Kurds in 1972. One result was that Iraq was unable to join the Arab resistance against Israeli expansion in 1967 and 1973 because a large part of its military was deployed in northern Iraq (Gibson 2019).

The US-led war on Syria in 2011 presented new separatist opportunities. Peoples Protection Units (YPG) were reactivated in 2012, at first with support from Damascus so that Syrians in the north could fight ISIS. However, the US occupation of parts of north and east Syria in late 2015 led to the reorganization of many YPG units into the US-sponsored ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) (Martin 2018: 96). These were sometimes referred to as a ‘Rojava’ force, while at other times the Kurdish component was played down.

According to one US military report in 2017 the SDF in Manbij was only 40% Kurd (Townsend in Humud, Blanchard and Nikitin 2017: 12), addressing the embarrassing reality that Manbij had a very small Kurdish population. In late 2016 US Col. John Dorrian, gave a higher overall Kurd estimate, saying that the SDF “consists of approximately 45,000 fighters, more than 13,000 of which are Arab” (USDOD 2016). Many of the latter came from the fragments of earlier US proxy militia in Syria.

Syrian Colonel Malek from Aleppo confirmed to me that the bulk of SDF members were always Kurdish, including many from Iraq and Turkey. The size of the non-Kurd and foreigner contingents varied according to the money on offer. A report from the London based International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) recognized that both the YPG and SDF ground forces remained largely arms of the Turkish PKK (Holland-McCowan 2017: 10).

The failure of the September 2017 separatist referendum in Iraq dealt a serious blow to the regional project. The KDP and PUK put aside their rivalry to hold an independence referendum (having already pushed for and gained federal status) even though it was not authorized by Baghdad. The proposal was said to have gained 92% approval, but was immediately rejected by the Iraqi Government and Army, which drove Peshmerga forces out of Kirkuk in just a few hours (Gabreldar 2018; ICG 2019). For the first time in decades the Iraqi Army took control of the NE region. Baghdad was showing a political will that had been lacking for many years.

In Syria, US forces did nothing to stop the YPG’s ethnic cleansing of non-Kurds in areas to which they laid claim. In October 2015, the western aligned group Amnesty International accused the YPG (just before the US rebranded them as the ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’) of forcibly evicting Arabs and Turkmens from areas they took after displacing ISIS. Amnesty produced evidence to show instances of forced displacement, and the demolition and confiscation of civilian property, which constituted war crimes (AI 2015). Similar accusations had come from Turkish government sources (Pamuk and Bektas 2015) but also from refugees who said that ‘YPG fighters evicted Arabs and Turkmens from their homes and burned their personal documents’ (Sehmer 2015; Al Masri 2015).

However, after the US forces became direct patrons of the SDF in late 2015, a UN commission, co-chaired by US diplomat Karen Koning AbuZayd, continued its quest to place most of the blame for abuses on Syrian Government forces. The Commission accused the YPG/SDF of forcibly displacing communities “[but only] in order to clear areas mined by ISIL”, and of forcible conscription, but “found no evidence to substantiate claims that YPG or SDF forces ever targeted Arab communities on the basis of ethnicity, nor that YPG cantonal authorities systematically sought to change the demographic composition of territories” (IICISAR 2017: 111 and 93).What Syria’s Kurds “Think” They are Fighting For Versus Reality

Nevertheless, in 2018 there were ongoing reports of the ethnic cleansing of Assyrian Christians from US-SDF held areas in NE Syria. Young men in the Qamishli area were reported to have been arrested and forcibly conscripted into Kurdish militia, alongside property theft by those same militias (Abed 2018). In 2019 the SDF were reported to have closed more than 2,000 Arabic-teaching schools in the Hasaka region (Syria Times 2019) and to have shot, killed, wounded and jailed displaced people who were trying to escape from al-Hawl Refugee Camp in South-Eastern Hasaka (FNA 2019). Nevertheless, once US forces created and adopted the Kurdish-led ‘SDF’, Amnesty International and the western media muted their earlier criticisms.

Washington in 2012 had looked favorably on the ISIS plan for a “Salafist principality”, so as to weaken Damascus (DIA 2012). In September 2016 US air power was used to attack and kill more than 120 Syrian soldiers at Mount Tharda behind Deir Ezzor airport, to help the terrorist group’s (failed) efforts to take over and threaten the city (Anderson 2017). But when Russia, Syria and Iraq began wiping out these Saudi clones, USA forces simply rescued their best commanders and replaced ISIS with a Kurdish-led ‘SDF’ (Anderson 2019: Chapters 5 and 7), once again to undermine and weaken Damascus.

But US occupation forces did not wait around to sponsor the ill-fated Rojava project. In October 2019 President Trump gave the order for a partial withdrawal from northern Syria. Former US diplomat Robert Ford had warned in 2017 that the US would abandon the SDF (O’Connor 2017). So, stripped of US military protection and their main source of arms and finance, the SDF was forced to rapidly put together a new alliance with Damascus and Russia, to prevent annihilation by Erdogan’s forces. The Turkish leader saw the Öcalan-led YPG/SDF as a stepping stone to its larger project in Turkey (Demircan 2019).

Western liberals complained the US was ‘betraying’ its Kurdish allies; but they placed too much faith in romantic myths. Ünver (2016), for example, presented separatist Kurds as recipients of unplanned opportunities in Syria’s “civil war” in an “age of shifting borders”, as though the big power were not once again using the ‘Kurdish card’ to divide and weaken both Iraq and Syria. Schmidinger (2018: 13, 16-17) tried to twist Syria’s historic diversity into an argument for the ‘Rojava’ sectarian division – instead of an inclusive unitary state. But, as has been said many times before, imperial powers never have real allies, only interests. Lebanese Resistance leader Hassan Nasrallah told Kurdish separatists in February 2018: “In the end they will work according to their interests, they will abandon you and they will sell you in a slave market.”

Meanwhile, with Washington’s blessing, Erdogan persists with his plan to control large parts of northern Syria, with the aim of settling many of the refugees in Turkey under a Muslim Brotherhood style regime, controlled by sectarian Islamist militia. Retired Syrian Major General Mohammad Abbas Mohammad told me that Turkey’s leader has not given up his ambition of becoming a modern-day ‘Caliph’ of Muslim nations, and is working to colonise Syrian minds with his constant Islamist slogans.

*

Nevertheless, with the help of its allies, Syria is winning the war. ISIS/DAESH and Nusra are virtually defeated, the ‘White Helmets’ and the Chemical Weapons stunts have been exposed and the Rojava myth has collapsed. But a Washington-driven economic war now targets all the independent countries of the region, aggravating the occupation and the terrorism.

Director of the Syrian Arab Army’s Political Department Major General Hassan Hassan, tells us that the US “has the power to destroy the world, many times over, but it has not been able to turn that power into capabilities.” That is why US wars are failing across the region.

While we are indeed heading for a multi-polar world, he says, we are not there yet. “Syria still faces the unipolar regime”. Erdogan, ISIS, Israel and the SDF are all “puppets” of this dying world order. Authorized by the US, Erdogan still wants to set up a Muslim Brotherhood region in north and east Syria. This is a dying and a “most dangerous” order, General Hassan says. “The US deep state knows that its unipolarity is failing, but that has not yet been announced. The new world system is born, but is not yet recognized. The US wants to prolong this conflict as long as possible, and to punish the Syrian people”.

Euphrates f77f4

(Crossing the huge Furat (Euphrates) river, from rural Manbij to rural Raqqa, north Syria)

In that transitional phase we see collaboration between the SAA and the SDF, the extraordinary anomaly of an SDF-run Manbij and the ongoing experiment of ‘Kobane’, the SDF controlled border town which Syrians call Ayn al Arab.

Traveling from rural Aleppo to rural Raqqa on the M4 highway we cross the Furat (Euphrates) river, a huge, semi-dammed expanse of fresh water which appears particularly sweet between two deserts. Turning north we arrive in Ayn al Arab, at the Turkish border, in less than an hour. Although Erdogan’s gangs are attacking Ayn al Issa, deeper inside Syria on the M4, there is no sign of fighting near Ayn al Arab itself. Major General Abbas says that Erdogan is aiming at narrow incursions, which can later be widened.

This small city of perhaps 45,000 people was evacuated during earlier fighting and still shows signs of great destruction, especially on the eastern and northern sides. Less than a tenth of the size of Manbij it is now said to have a majority of Kurds and the SDF comrades seem well organized. We are taken to their small headquarters, a three-story building, to await further security checks and an escort to one of their schools and one of their hospitals.

At the secondary school, as in the headquarters, they seem wary of a foreigner accompanied by an SAA Colonel and a Syrian journalist. That breaks down a little as I ask about their curriculum and the children, who have clearly gone through substantial trauma. The headmaster says they are developing programs to help students deal with their war experiences. The threat is not over, as Erdogan’s troops, including sectarian Islamist gangs, are only a few kilometers to the north.

The Kurdish nationalist curriculum has made a break with the centralized Arabic-based system set in Damascus. The headmaster explains that their syllabus is carried out 60% in the Kurdish language, 20% in Arabic and 20% in English. For children from Arab families the syllabus is 60% Arabic, 20% Kurdish and 20% English. They speak of four ‘nationalities’ in Kobane: Kurd, Arab, Yazidi and Christian. That is how they see it.

The management of the small hospital is also strongly Kurd nationalist. I ask where they get their support and they mention the Americans and some international NGOs. Of course, there is nothing from Ankara. “What about Damascus?” I ask. “Nothing and we want nothing”, says one of the managers.

That may be true for this hospital. However Syrian colleagues tell that most of the health centers in SDF controlled areas still get finance and supplies from Damascus. So not only is their security guaranteed by the Syrian state, so are most of their social services.

It remains to be seen how much Kurdish autonomy will remain, under a final political settlement. Federation is not part of the discussion, it is clear that Damascus sees that as a path which would dismember and weaken the country. While the SAA and the SDF jointly fight Erdogan’s gangs, Damascus has been calling on Arab leaders in the north and north east, who had collaborated with the US occupation force and the SDF, to return to the Syrian Arab Army. On the other side, SDF Commander General Mazloum Abdi opposes incorporation of the SDF into the SAA (Van Wilgenburg 2019) and wants to hold onto as much local administration as possible (Syrian Observer 2019). The continued US presence and sponsorship of SDF units in Hasaka, Qamishli and Deir Ezzor (Ahval 2019), serves to maintain the illusions of autonomy.

In the Russian media there is some pessimism about an SDF-Damascus reconciliation. One observer suggests that “Russia will eventually force most (if not all) of Turkey’s forces to leave Syria … [but Damascus] and the Syrian Kurds have opposing political and military goals that will not be easily reconciled” (Stein 2019).

However, Damascus has some other cards. The YPG/PKK/SDF grew its influence through US sponsorship and, as that declines, other voices in the north, including Kurdish voices, are likely to re-emerge, especially through the constitutional process in Geneva. Major General Abbas points out that there are now dozens of Kurdish parties in the north east (Syria Times 2018). Given the intransigence of the US-dependent SDF, Russia is said to be recruiting Syrian Kurd youth to a rival group (Duvar 2019), which is likely to be incorporated into the SAA.

In my view, there will likely be some accommodation of Kurdish nationalist demands at the cultural and local administrative levels, but alongside efforts to ensure this does not privilege Kurds above other Syrian groups. That should appear in the amended constitution. The old world order is dying and the new one is still being born. In this transitional world, Washington persists with its losing war, to divide and punish the Syrian people.

*

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Dr. Tim Anderson is Director of the Sydney-based Centre for Counter Hegemonic Studies. He has worked at Australian universities for more than 30 years, teaching, researching and publishing on development, human rights and self-determination in the Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East. In 2014 he was awarded Cuba’s medal of friendship. He is Australia and Pacific representative for the Latin America based Network in Defence of Humanity. His most recent books are: Land and Livelihoods in Papua New Guinea (2015), The Dirty War on Syria (2016), Global Research, 2015, now published in ten languages; Countering War Propaganda of the Dirty War on Syria (2017) and Axis of Resistance: towards an independent Middle East (2019).

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Duvar (2019) ‘Russia ‘seeks to build local force from ethnic Kurds to replace SDF’, 24 december, online: https://www.duvarenglish.com/world/2019/12/24/russia-seeks-to-build-local-force-from-ethnic-kurds-in-syrias-northeast-report/

FNA (2019) ‘US-Backed SDF Kills Civilians Trying to Escape Hasaka Refugee Camp’, Fars News Agency, 24 May, online: https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980303000377

Gabreldar, Bushra (2018) ‘Kurdish independence in Iraq’, Harvard International Review , Vol. 39, No. 1, Athletic Diplomacy: the intersection of sports and culture (Winter 2018), pp. 7-9

Galbraith, Peter (2019) ‘The Betrayal of the Kurds’, New York Review of Books, 21 November, online: https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2019/11/21/betrayal-of-the-kurds/

Gibson, Bryan (2019) ‘The Secret Origins of the U.S.-Kurdish Relationship Explain Today’s Disaster’, Foreign Policy, 14 October, online: https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/10/14/us-kurdish-relationship-history-syria-turkey-betrayal-kissinger/

Gunter, Michael (1996) ‘The KDP-PUK Conflict in Northern Iraq’, Middle East Journal, Vol. 50, No. 2 (Spring, 1996), pp. 224-241

Gürbüz, Mustafa (2016) Rival Kurdish Movements in Turkey, Amsterdam University Press

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Hoffman, Sophia (2016) The Politics of Iraqi Migration to Syria, Syracuse University Press, New York

Holland-McCowan, John (2017) ‘War of Shadows: How Turkey’s Conflict with the PKK Shapes the Syrian Civil War and Iraqi Kurdistan’, International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR), online: https://icsr.info/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/ICSR-Report-War-of-Shadows-How-Turkey’s-Conflict-with-the-PKK-Shapes-the-Syrian-Civil-War-and-Iraqi-Kurdistan.pdf

Humud, Carla E.; Christopher M. Blanchard and Mary Beth D. Nikitin (2017) ‘Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response’, Congressional Research Service, April 26, online: https://www.refworld.org/pdfid/591c08bc4.pdf

Ibrahim, Shivan (2019) ‘Syria’s Kurdish parties do not see eye to eye’, Al Monitor, December 9, online : https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/12/kurds-syria-pyd-national-council-russia-syrian-regime.html

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All images in this article are from the AHTThe original source of this article is American Herald TribuneCopyright © Prof. Tim AndersonAmerican Herald Tribune, 2019

SYRIAN ARMY PREPARES FOR OPERATION IN ALEPPO, TURKISH PROXIES MOVE TO LIBYA: WAR REPORT

South Front

The Syrian Army is preparing for a ground operation against radical militants in western Aleppo, sources close to the Damascus government claim. According to reports, the Syrian military was preparing for this operation during the past two months.

The operation in western Aleppo will complement the recent advance in southeast Idlib. Both of them are aimed at reopening the M5 highway that passes though western Syria.

Earlier in December, government forces liberated over 40 towns and villages in southeast Aleppo deploying in a striking distance from the militant-held city of Maarat al-Numan. The Syrian Army halted the advance in late December once again giving so-called moderate rebels a chance to separate from al-Qaeda-linked terrorists. Nonetheless, this move found no understanding among Idlib armed groups.

On December 28, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its Turkish-backed allies launched a large attack on Syrian Army positions in the recently-liberated towns of Al-Teh and Jarjanaz. However, they failed to break the army defense. At least two suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices launched by militants were destroyed before they were able to reach army positions.

Turkey is redeploying large groups of members of its proxy groups in Syria to Libya in order to support the pro-Turkish Government of National Accord (GNA) that is involved in the battle for Tripoli against the Libyan National Army (LNA). Videos from the ground show that Turkish-backed Syrian militants are already involved in the fighting on the ground. One of the groups involved in this operation is the al-Mu’tasim Division based in Syria’s northern Aleppo.

The deployment of Turkish-backed Syrian groups in Libya is another confirmation that the so-called Syrian opposition is just a batch of mercenaries and radicals that do not link their future with the territory of Syria and the Syrian state.

Syria 2019: A Year of Major Transformations

Mohammad Eid

Damascus – The year 2019 can be described as one of unimaginable transformations in Syria.

The last twelve months have been characterized by several major events in that country, including the collapse of Daesh as an integrated terrorist body. In the months that followed, US President Donald Trump backtracked on his promised withdrawal from Syria and deployed American troops to occupy Syrian oil wells. Meanwhile, Turkey expanded its invasion of northern Syria before the Syrian army deployed in the northeast of the country for the first time in seven years following an agreement with al-Qasd militias. The Syrian army was busy in other areas, recording significant advances in Hama’s northern countryside as well as southern Idlib where it regained several important towns and villages.

Away from the battlefield, the country also saw significant developments on the political front with the launch of the long-awaited Constitutional Committee. The committee is designed to put the country on the path towards a political settlement.

Daesh collapses but remains a pretext for occupation

The beginning of the year 2019 witnessed the fall of the last stronghold of the terrorist organization Daesh. The stronghold in the town of Al-Baghouz in Deir Ezzor’s countryside was overrun by Kurdish forces with the support of American warplanes. Prior to the Al-Baghouz news event, the Syrian army that spearheaded the fight against the Takfiri organization for years pushed Daesh out of large areas in the Syrian Badia.

As the year drew to a close, Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was assassinated in Idlib following a US operation. The assassination was shrouded in mystery as the US monopolized the narrative surrounding the killing. Meanwhile, the supposed threat of Daesh returning continues to be used by the Americans as a pretext to remain in Syria even though Trump announced on several occasions that he wanted to withdraw US troops.

The army makes advances in Idlib and Hama

In mid 2019, the Syrian army launched a massive military campaign against armed terrorist organizations in the northern countryside of Hama and southern Idlib. As the terrorist groups collapsed, the army was able to recapture the city of Kafr Nabudah in the Hama countryside, surrounding the Turkish observation post in Murak. The army’s advances in Idlib province culminated with the recapture of the town of Khan Shaykhun – a terrorist stronghold. Terrorists were plagued by infighting that saw the Nusra Front [Jabhat al-Nusra] eliminate the Army of Glory faction [Jaysh al-Izza] and Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement.

A new Turkish invasion as the Syrian army returns to the borders and “Israel” runs wild

The collapse of the terrorist groups in Idlib clarified a failed investment for Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It prompted him to compensate by announcing another incursion into Syrian territory under the pretext of removing what he called the Kurdish terrorist threat. He had an agreement with the Americans as they announced their withdrawal from Syria, abandoning their assets including al-Qasd militias. However, the US backtracked from its announcement to withdraw due to its ambitions to seize Syrian oil, so it deployed its forces around the wells.

Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin signed an understanding in Sochi where the Russians mapped their role as a policeman for the region to curb the Turkish incursion into Syria and to assure that it implements the Adna agreement signed in 1998 and stresses on respecting Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Immediately, the Syrian army moved to the Turkish-Syrian border, entering for the first time in seven years following an agreement with Syrian Kurds that have been abandoned by the US and threatened by Turkey.

Meanwhile, the Zionist enemy continued its policy aimed at raising the morale of its terrorist agents, so it carried out several raids on Syrian territory. However, the Syrian air defenses were able to thwart these attacks by intercepting a large number of “Israeli” missiles.

The Constitutional Committee sees the light of day

Moscow’s strategic patience in its relationship with Ankara bore fruit after the latter was left with few options. Hence, it reluctantly proceeded to implement part of its commitments, both in Sochi with the Russians and in Astana. The move showed Ankara as more of a guarantor and prevented it from investing in terrorist groups after the Syrian army tightened its noose around the militants.

Thus, the work of the Constitutional Committee between the national delegation supported by the Syrian government and delegations of civil society and the opposition began. But the latter adopted suggestions that were based on the Turkish and American desires that the national delegation strongly rejected.

The fourteenth and final round of the Astana agreement renewed the recognition of the legitimate right of Damascus to combat terrorism. But what is new was Russia formally firing at the autonomous administration project after confirming that the country would be centrally managed from Damascus.

Despite allowing the Syrian army to deploy in their areas, the separatists appeared to be under the mercy of President Trump’s mood swings and a limited US military presence to exploit Syrian oil wells.

Difficult economic circumstances did not prevent an increase in wages

Syrians experienced further economic hardship in 2019. This was made more difficult by Washington’s Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act that it slapped on Syrian companies dealing with the government. Nevertheless, at the end of the year, Syria saw a balanced increase in salaries and wages, the largest in its history. Damascus was more open to neighboring countries and its allies in terms of addressing the economic situation. Tehran was at the forefront of those activating joint agreements between the two countries. Despite US sanctions, Iran provided support for Damascus in all fields including reconstruction and housing, supplying oil, setting up joint projects and infrastructure.

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SYRIAN WAR REPORT – DECEMBER 27, 2019: ARMY LIBERATES MORE TERRITORY FROM IDLIB MILITANTS

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On December 26, units of the Syrian Army liberated the villages of Khuwayn al-Sha’r, Judaydat Nawaf, Samkeh and Delim, as well as several nearby points in southern Idlib.

During the past few days, the speed of the Syrian Army advance in the region decreased in comparison of the first days of the operation launched on December 19. This is linked to the ongoing behind-the-scenes negotiations on the fate of Maarat al-Numan and bad weather. Taking into account reports that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its allies rejected a surrender proposal from Damascus, a new round of full-scale hostilities will likely take place soon.

According to pro-militant media outlets, up to 200 members of militant groups were killed or injured since December 19. At the same time, they claim even a bigger number of casualties among Syrian Army troops. Both these numbers seem to be overestimated.

Early on December 26, at least 85 Turkish military vehicles and trucks entered the Greater Idlib region in northwestern Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

The SOHR claimed that a part of the vehicles headed towards a Turkish observation post near the town of al-Eis in southwestern Aleppo, while the rest moved to a second observation post in the district of al-Rashidin west of Aleppo’s city center.

Earlier, on December 2, about 100 Turkish military vehicles entered Greater Idlib. They were intended for observation posts in southern Idlib and northwest Hama.

Ankara is once again intensifying its diplomatic, propaganda and even military efforts in order to rescue radical groups operating in northwestern Syria.

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Syria Repels Militant Drone Attack on Army Air Base in Hama

December 28, 2019

Source

Syrian air defense forces have reportedly managed to foil an attack by foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants against an air base in the country’s west-central province of Hama.

Sham FM radio station reported that the country’s anti-aircraft defense systems intercepted unmanned aerial vehicles attacking Hama Military Airport, located more than 210 km (130 miles) north of the capital Damascus, late on Friday.

The development took place less than a week after Syrian government forces captured and dismantled an unmanned aerial vehicle rigged with explosives in the same Syrian province.

Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that air defense units managed to intercept and shoot down the drone as it was flying in the skies over the city of al-Skailabiyeh on Tuesday morning.

The report added that the aircraft had been launched by foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants operating in the area, and was armed with six missiles.

The projectiles were recovered by Syrian government forces and later defused.

Meanwhile, an unidentified unmanned aerial aircraft on Saturday bombarded a prison run by Turkish-backed Takfiri militants in northwestern Syria.

Local sources said the unknown aircraft conducted an airstrike against the jail in the village of Sajou, which lies near the city of A’zaz and 43 kilometers (26 miles) north of Aleppo.

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