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ISIS Suicide Attacks in Baghdad, Syria Ceasefire Mostly Holds, Opposition Threatens Withdrawal

Next Cold War Roundup 2/29/16

Iraq

_ ISIS suicide attacks in Sadr City, a Shi’ite district of Baghdad killed at least 70 people on Sunday. 112 people remain in hospital. The attacks were deliberately aimed at civilians in markets. “The market bombings in Sadr City were the deadliest attack in a wave of explosions that targeted other commercial areas in and outside Baghdad on Sunday and brought the day’s overall death toll to 92.”

_ Al Rai’s war correspondent, Elijah Magnier, says ISIS is turning to hit-and-run attacks in Syria and Iraq, is not defeated but weakened and can still damage any force causing real danger to its existence.  He believes it now wants to keep enemies busy on various fronts.

_ US military generals reported recently that the battle for Mosul would probably not be happening this year. That may have been deliberate misinformation aimed at ISIS, or possibly the plans have changed. There is a lot of discussion about the timing of the battle for Raqqa and the battle for Mosul.

Libya

_ A massive twopart article on the Libyan “intervention” was published by the New York Times over the weekend. At Moon of Alabama they describe it as a “sorry whitewash of Clinton and her war on Libya” and provide many sourced references that explain why.  The NYT long-read comes just a few days before the “Super Tuesday” batch of primary elections in which Clinton is one of the two remaining candidates, and at a time when the US and other western allies are preparing to have another military go at Libya.

_ New York Times reports there are 6,500 ISIS fighters in Libya.

Yemen War and the Planned, US-Backed Saudi Pipeline

_ How US Helps Al Qaeda in Yemen “By contributing to Yemen’s failure as a state, Washington is creating fertile ground for the renewed growth of anti-American terrorism there.”

_ “Secret cable and Dutch government official confirm that Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen is partly motivated by an ambitious US-backed pipeline  fantasy.” From the cable, published by Wikileaks:

“A British diplomat based in Yemen told PolOff [US embassy political officer] that Saudi Arabia had an interest to build a pipeline, wholly owned, operated and protected by Saudi Arabia, through Hadramawt to a port on the Gulf of Aden, thereby bypassing the Arabian Gulf/Persian Gulf and the straits of Hormuz.

“Saleh has always opposed this. The diplomat contended that Saudi Arabia, through supporting Yemeni military leadership, paying for the loyalty of sheikhs and other means, was positioning itself to ensure it would, for the right price, obtain the rights for this pipeline from Saleh’s successor.”

New US Military Bases in Iraq?

_ Al Rai’s war correspondent, Magnier, says his sources in Baghdad claim the US is planning to build two new bases in Iraq, and in their view, this is because of the mistakes Iran made in Iraq, where they were not capable of defeating ISIS.  One base in Al-qaem, on the Syria/Iraq border and another base in al-Hamra, in western Iraq, close to oil and gas field.

_ US special forces advisors are on the ground, some miles away from SDF, and worked with them on the recapture of Shaddadi. “The American forces have been helping the SDF through planning, re-supplying and coordinating air strikes, Colonel Christopher Garver, a spokesman for the US-led military coalition against ISIL, said on Friday.”

Syria Ceasefire

_ On Saturday, Washington Post reported there was mostly calm in Syria. One of the concerns is the monitoring process.  as there is no independent monitoring on the ground.  The US and Russia “have established separate operations centers to investigate and adjudicate violation reports made to them by the parties on the ground or passed on by U.N. offices in Geneva and Damascus.” The US centers are in Washington and Amman. The Russian centers are in Moscow and Latakia.  “A hotline also has been established between the United States and Russia.” The UN also has contacts on the ground. On Friday, Washington and Moscow “exchanged maps Friday delineating where they think the excluded forces are located.”

_ France called for a task force meeting “without delay” on Monday as the Saudi-backed HNC opposition group claims that the Syrian government, Russia and Hezbollah violated the ceasefire and HNC’s head delegate Asaad al-Zoubi said  “We are not facing a violation of the truce … we are facing a complete nullification” which sounds like a threat to withdraw from the agreement.”  al-Zoubi also said I believe the international community has totally failed in all its experiments, and must take real, practical measures towards the regime.”

_  Russia reported several incidents including “a large fighting force crossed the Turkish border and attacked a Kurdish town with artillery support from the Turkish side, the report said. The rebels and the Turks denied the report.”

_ The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and UN’s Ban Ki-moon said the ceasefire was largely holding.  Pro-government sourcs claim that the opposition also violated the ceasefire when “local sources inside the provincial capital of the Aleppo Governorate reported that multiple rockets and mortar shells struck the western neighborhoods of the Al-Zahraa Association Quarter.”

_ Russian deputy foreign minister reports that the US and Russia have a monitoring information exchange up and running.

Syrian Army Reclaims Territory in East Ghouta Region, Damascus

_ The Syrian army and allies took control of a key village, “Al-Fadiyaya near the Marj Al-Sultan Military Airport after a violent battle with Jaysh Al-Islam (Army of Islam) and Jabhat Al-Nusra (Syrian Al-Qaeda group).” The East Ghouta “has the highest concentration of Al-Nusra militants in Greater Damascus.”

Syria Analysis

_ By Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., “Why the Arabs Don’t Want Us in Syria — They don’t hate ‘our freedoms.’ They hate that we’ve betrayed our ideals in their own countries—for oil.”  RFK Jr., in this must read article, described as a “tour de force“, explores “at great length the history of nefarious conduct by the US CIA and allies in a number of coups in the Middle East, including Syria, Iraq and Iran, going back to the immediate post WW2 western intervention in Syria.”

_ Dr. Marcus Papadopoulos in an interview on Syria says it’s important to keep reminding how this whole thing got started:

“We are in this situation today in Syria because of outside interference, because the West, led by the US, to its regional allies, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, saw an opportunity in Syria to overthrow the Syrian government, Pres. Assad, to destroy the Syrian state, in order to end Russian power and influence in the Middle East, in order to end Iranian power, and to take away Israel’s archenemy in the Middle East.”

_ Pepe Escobar offers some analysis on the mess in Syria and the likelihood of a ceasefire holding.

_ On Friday’s “Crosstalk” show, Ammar Waqqaf describes what he believes to be Israel’s goal in Syria and the Middle East, based on Israel defense minister Moshe Ya’alon’s talk at the Saban Forum.  Waqqaf said the Israelis strongly want a Sunni corridor that separates Iraq from Syria and a shift in regional politics & regional struggle from Arab-Israeli to Sunni-Shiite which would get this problem off Israel’s back.

Syria Peace Talks to Resume

_ The Geneva task force (International Syria Support Group, ISSG)  did finally meet to work out some details on monitoring the cessation of hostilities just hours before it went into effect.

_ UN envoy says peace talks will resume on March 7 if ceasefire “largely holds.”

_ Less than one hour before the ceasefire took effect, the UN Security Council voted to endorse it.

Partitioning Syria

_ Al Rai Media’s war correspondent, who has sources inside the Syria/Russia + allies intelligence room,  opines: “Russia and allies won’t allow the partition of Syria. However, the possibility is not yet excluded.”

Saudi Fighter Jets Arrive in Turkey

Israeli – Saudi Meeting

_ An Israeli delegation went to Riyadh.  “Israeli channel 10 quoted Saudi officials as saying during the meetings that they are not interested in solving the Palestinian cause because they want Israel to stand by Saudi Arabia against Iran.”  Usually, Saudi Arabia prefers to keep such meetings private and Israel censors news of them.

Saudi Wikileaks Cable: “Overthrow the Syrian Regime, but Play Nice with Russia”

_ Brad Hoff, at the Levant Report, has published a scholar translation of another Wikileaks Saudi cable from the summer 2015 cache. This cable reveals that the Saudis feared Russian military intervention in Syria and they ordered their media “not to oppose Russian figures and to avoid insulting them”.  The Saudis misjudged “Russia’s red lines” and believed the Russians would not use force to prevent the overthrow of the Assad government which they planned to pursue “by all means available”.  The memo also revealed “Saudi officials saying President Bashar al-Assad must be taken down before he exacts revenge on Saudi Arabia.”  The cable has no date, but Hoff estimates that it was produced in early 2012.

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Joanne Leon

Joanne Leon

Joanne is a blogger with focus on issues of war and peace, a mom, engineer, software developer and amateur photographer.