Next Cold War Roundup 5/3/16
Massive fighting, shelling, bombs and airstrikes in Aleppo have escalated sharply in the past few days. Western media reporting on it has been severely skewed. Geneva peace talks are stalled but US and Russian diplomats and military are rushing to get another ceasefire in place for Aleppo and an emergency UN Security Council meeting called. A “regime of silence” truce has been achieved and extended for areas around Damascus and Latakia. Fighting continues near Palmyra, Deir Ezzour and airstrikes in Raqqa. A third US soldier was killed in combat in Iraq. The “28 pages” from a joint inquiry on the 9/11 attacks may be declassified and released this summer but CIA director Brennan publicly announced that he opposes the release.
No Respite From Violence in Aleppo
_ France and the UK called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting Tuesday on Aleppo. “French Ambassador Francois Delattre described Aleppo as the ‘martyred center of the resistance’ to Syrian leader Bashar Assad.”
_ Sec. State Kerry accused the Syrian coalition of “deliberately targeting three clinics and an attack on a major hospital last week.”
_ A massive attack was carried out today by rebels in government-held areas of Aleppo province in Buhouz Il’miya and Al-Zahraa and “tunnels were blown up and VIEDs attacks in three locations on Aleppo front line. The city is under fire now.”
_ The fighting in and around Aleppo has escalated sharply. Russian media reports that al Nusra launched 60 missiles on the Christian area of government-held part Aleppo city (western) “in the past hour” on Tuesday, killing and severely injuring civilians. The Syrian coalition and Syrian air force are “repelling the attacks” by shelling and bombing the rebel-held part of Aleppo city in heavy fighting today.
_ Natives of Aleppo are enraged about the rebel attacks on West Aleppo and the lopsided reporting on the fighting, claiming that rebel shelling on the civilians in the government-held part of Aleppo is not reported by US and western media reporting which is skewed, reporting only on Syrian coalition attacks on the rebel-held part of Aleppo, including schools and hospitals. Edward Dark in Aleppo: “West Aleppo is being annihilated, its being butchered. The rebel rockets and shells are falling like rain. Dozens are dead.” Dark also said, via Twitter, “Degree of 1 sided reporting by media on Aleppo is truly staggering. symbolic of entire
— Edward Dark (@edwardedark) May 3, 2016
_ The London-based Syrian Observatory said said “279 civilians have been killed in Aleppo by bombardments since April 22, with 155 of them killed in opposition-held areas, and 124 killed in government-held districts.”
Geneva Peace Talks and “Regime of Silence”
_ US and Russia made a “regime of silence” agreement that began at midnight on Friday for a ceasefire in “areas in Latakia and in the suburbs of capital Damascus.” The ceasefire was extended twice and remains in effect “in the Eastern Ghouta countryside of Damascus.” Moscow and Washington are negotiating on the inclusion of Aleppo in the “regime of silence.” The Free Syrian Army rebels claim they were not informed about the “regime of silence” agreement.
_ Sec. State Kerry met with UN envoy Steffan de Mistura in Geneva. De Mistura and Russian FM Lavrov are meeting in Moscow on Tuesday. The most recent round of talks in Geneva ended with no progress and a new round hasn’t been scheduled.
_ After talks with de Mistura on Tuesday, Lavrov said that a cessation of hostilities in Aleppo would be announced in the coming hours and that that the US and Russian militaries are currently holding talks and will create “a new Russian-US monitoring center in Geneva, Switzerland, which will oversee ceasefire violations in Syria.” De Mistura said he is optimistic that the Geneva talks can be relaunched.
_ Lavrov said there are separate groups who want to undermine the ceasefire and escalate hostilities and expressed concern about Turkey’s shelling into Syrian territory, “continued creation of certain security zones in Syria, not to mention the increasing calls for a ground operation.”
_ Kerry said the US “would press moderate rebels to separate themselves from the Al-Nusra Front’s jihadists in Aleppo — in a nod to Moscow’s demands.” Al Nusra is not included in the ceasefire, is “intermingled” with rebel groups, and continues attacks on the government-held side of Aleppo, though this is underreported by western media whose full focus recently has been only on the actions of the Syrian coalition.
_ In Geneva, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Adel al-Jubeir says the escalation of fighting in Aleppo is a “violation of all humanitarian laws” and says Assad must go, repeating, nearly word for word, the threat he has made several times before.
Saudi Foreign Minister: “He can leave through a political process, which we hope he will do, or he will be removed by force.“
World Humanitarian Summit in Turkey
_ A World Humanitarian Summit will be held on May 23-24 in Istanbul, Turkey. The International Red Cross has launched a campaign bolstering the relevance of the Geneva Conventions at at time when the violations abound and threaten to be abandoned. ICRC chief Peter Maurer said “What the hell is happening to the world when those who were at the origin of… international humanitarian law start questioning in public debates whether it has any relevance or should be respected?”
Airstrikes in Raqqa
_ The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported airstrikes in the ISIS de facto capital of Raqqa Monday night but could not determine if the strikes were from the US coalition or the Syrian coalition. “Raqa has not been targeted by air raids of this intensity for several weeks.”
Palmyra and Deir Ezzour
_ The Syrian army and allies, including Hashd Al-Sha’abi from Iraq, continue to engage ISIS in the Deir Ezzour area, retaking an industrial district and al-Sina’ah district which was captured by ISIS two weeks ago as they attempt to control the western side of the Euphrates in Deir Ezzour. The Syrian “Tiger Forces” are advancing from Palmyra toward this front.
Third US Soldier Killed in Iraq
_ A “U.S. serviceman in northern Iraq on Tuesday when they overran Kurdish defenses in the biggest attack in the area in recent months, officials said.” This is the third American killed in direct combat in the fight against ISIS. From Germany, Sec. Defense Carter said “It is a combat death, of course, and a very sad loss.”
John Brennan Opposes Declassification of 28 Pages, Defends Saudi Arabia
_ CIA director John Brennan went on NBC’s Sunday news show, Meet the Press, to defend Saudi Arabia against claims that the classified 28 pages of the Joint Inquiry report issued by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees after they conducted an investigation about 9/11 in 2002, implicated Saudi Arabia and possibly another country, in financing the 9/11 attacks. Brennan said “I think there’s a combination of things that are accurate and inaccurate [in the report].”
_ Brennan said he was “puzzled” by Sen. Graham and others who are demanding that the Joint Inquriy 28 pages be declassified and released and that the information on the 28 pages “was not corroborated, not vetted, and not deemed to be accurate.” He said the reason the pages were withheld from the public was because of sensitive sources used in the investigation.
_ Brennan said the 9/11 Commission (a different investigation from the Joint Inquiry, established in late 2002 and began work in mid 2003) looked at the Joint Inquiry report and the 9/11 Commission “came out with a very clear judgment that there was no evidence that indicated that the Saudi government as an institution, or Saudi officials individually, had provided financial support to al-Qaeda.”