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Violence and Death Sharply Decreased in Syria, Problems for ISIS in Raqqa

Next Cold War Roundup 3/7/16

There are widespread reports that the truce in Syria has produced a massive decrease in violence and death. Broader peace talks are scheduled for March 9 but the Syrian opposition are still undecided.  The battle for Mosul is starting and there are reports from Raqqa that indicate ISIS is falling apart there while the Syrian coalition advances from the west and the US coalition advances from the northeast. Turkey is drawing increasing international scorn.

The Battle for Mosul

_ US and other media are reporting from northern Iraq in greater numbers. CBS interviewed an Iraqi army commander who said “I think about 75 or 80 percent of the people in Mosul, they will support us” during the upcoming battle for Mosul.”

NATO Talks With Iraq

 The Race for Raqqa

_ There are reports of uprisings in ISIS Syrian “capital” of Raqqa where “some 200 militants are said to have switched sides and are fighting against their former comrades” and helped locals regain “at least five neighborhoods in the city” which are now under the Syrian national flag. Internal divisions among ISIS ranks are also reported resulting in “armed clashes and dozens of deaths.” Outside Raqqa, the Syrian army and allies are approaching from the west along the M45 highway (Hama to Raqqa) and US-backed Syrian Democratic forces are advancing from the northeast and “have taken firm control of the Northern region of the Raqqa province” in what some analysts call the “race for Raqqa”.

Turkey Draws Increasing International Scorn

_ International attention is focused more and more on Turkey, Erdogan’s takeover of a major media organization, their shelling of Kurds in Syria, attacks on Kurdish population in southeast Turkey, their management of the flow of migrants from their shores, their conflict with Russia, and other issues.

_ The Zaman is a “major, high-circulation daily newspaper in Turkey […] known to be strongly related to the Gulen movement.” Erdogan has accused the Gulen movement of “infiltrating the police and judiciary” and some of its journalists and executives of being part of an armed terrorist organization. The Zaman was raided by Turkish police then “court-appointed managers were escorted into the building.”

_ Turkey wants an additional 3 billion dollars  from the EU to deal with the refugee crisis.

Ban Ki-moon in Northern Africa at Western Sahara Refugee Camps

_ UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited refugee camps in a “forgotten humanitarian crisis” in the western Sahara. “The illegal occupation by Morocco over the Western Sahara has only been condemned internationally as a ‘flagrant violation to the international law.’ The condemnation, however, has done nothing to improve the conditions of those living in the refugee camps.”

Increased Warnings About ISIS Attacks

_ There is more chatter about ISIS attacks in the UK and Europe. DailyMail is reporting statements from Scotland Yard’s anti-terror officer, Mark Rowley, about bigger and more spectacular attacks.

Syria Analysis

_ “Key players reflect on US policy in Syria”

_ A 23 min. documentary, “Unraveling the Syria War Chessboard”, by Abby Martin, interviewing Prof. Vijay Prashad.


State Dept Email To Hillary “AQ is on our side in Syria”

_ Presidential primary candidate Hillary Clinton is reportedly upset that RT has reported that the US is on the same side as al Qaeda in the Syrian war.  An email made public via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)  process below shows her deputy chief of staff and Director of Policy Planning, Jake Sullivan, telling her the same thing.

NATO Mission in Aegean Expanded

_ The NATO mission in the Aegean “will now be expanded to take place also in territorial waters.”

_ In this Sputnik article, “What Role Will Russia Play in the US-Chinese South China Sea Drama”, much of which comes from an interview with Mikhail Alexandrov, the head expert at the Center for Military and Political Studies at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Alexandrov’s words are quite extensive and revealing about how Russia might assist China in any naval conflict with the US, based on a treaty “in which there is an article on consultations in the case of a threat to one country“.  He also makes a lot of statements about Russia’s and China’s goals relating to a rebalance of power in the world.

Ultimately, Alexandrov emphasized, “our goal is to create a polycentric system – that is, to push the US out of its position as global hegemon. Today, the US can dictate its terms and impose its decisions on others. In a multipolar world, it is possible to form tactical alliances in order to counter other players. That is, we are talking about a system promoting the balance of power –one that allows countries to maneuver, and does not allow any one power to hold a ‘controlling stake’ in world affairs.”

Smuggling Military Supplies to ISIS and al Qaeda

_ “Police Seize 20,000 Uniforms Bound For Jihadists“. Uniforms “bound for IS and al Nusra fighters under the guise of humanitarian aid” found in shipping containers in the ports of Valencia and Alicante in February. The shipment was part of a very active business network used to “provide a steady flow of military supplies to the terrorist organizations ISIS and al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra.” They were being shipped to areas controlled by ISIS and al Nusra. It’s interesting that both groups have the same supplier.

_ One of the people arrested was in the business of importing second hand clothes and would use that business for smuggling “military material, money, electronic and transmission material, firearms and precursors for making explosives.” None of the articles on the subject says what country the uniforms came from.

Syrian Ceasefire

_ “Syria truce offers glimpses of normality“. Overall the reporting is widespread that there is a massive decrease in violence and deaths in Syria.

_ Syrian opposition claims that Syrian government forces are “mobilizing forces on many fronts” and doubt that the peace talks scheduled for March 9 will take place. The opposition has not confirmed that they will attend. Saudi-backed HNC umbrella group spokesman Riad Hijab said conditions were “not favorable” and claimed the government had attacked “more than 50 opposition-held areas.” The areas mentioned regarding attacks or mobilization were Homs, the coast, Jisr al-Shughour, Douma, near the border with Jordan. The Syrian opposition, on Monday, was still undecided about attending peace talks but they might extend what they considered a temporary, two-week truce.

_  “European leaders told Russian President Vladimir Putin they welcomed the fact the fragile truce appeared to be holding, and it should be used to try to secure peace without Assad.” Reuters does not specify which European leaders. [Emphasis added]

_ The Russian Ministry of Defense said al Nusra fired artillery shells into Turkey, which provoked a response from the Turkish military and send troops across the border.

_ State Dept. improved their hotline.

Ukraine Power Grid Hack

_ Wired magazine describes how Ukraine’s power grid was hacked and who might have done it.

Russia Using Israeli Drones Over Syria

_ Russia and Israel’s arms deals have become politically complicated. Some of the drones that Russia purchased from Israel have been brought down in Syria and reported.  Russia intervened and pressured Israel not to sell their drones to the Kiev government. The Kiev government is angry that Israeli-made Russian drones were used in eastern Ukraine either by Russia or the separatists they back.  Israeli media is agitated because both Israeli an Iranian drones are being used on the Assad regime side in Syria.

EU – “We cannot have free movement internally if we cannot manage our external borders effectively”

_ EU Summit – timetable to restore Schengen open borders by end of year, “failure to do so would cost the European economy up to 18 billion euros,” deploy a “common European Border and Coast Guard before August.” Emergency EU summit with Turkey on Monday. Greece will get support for emergency efforts. 48% of those arriving in Greece are from Syria.

Iranian Oligarch Convicted of “Corruption on Earth”,  Fined and Sentenced to Death

_ A 41-year old Iranian billionaire, Babak Zanjani, had a “web of companies in various countries including the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Malaysia, selling millions of barrels of Iranian oil.”  He was prosecuted soon after “President Hassan Rouhani took office, having pledged to crack down on corruption.”  Zanjani was convicted of Iran’s most serious crime, “corruption on earth” and must repay the state and then faces a death sentence. Two others were also convicted and are required to pay a quarter of the “money that was laundered”. Zanjani claims he had to operate this way to circumvent sanctions and get the oil money back into the Iranian economy. Public opinion is split on whether his machinations had helped or hurt the country.  He was one of the individuals blacklisted by the US and EU sanctions.  Now that the sanctions are lifted, Rouhani says “a small, fringe group is very angry about it because they will suffer losses”.

Joanne Leon

Joanne Leon

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