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Syrian Army Enters Raqqah Province, Kurdish Forces Cross Erdogan’s Red Line

Next Cold War Roundup 6/4/16

The Syrian army coalition advanced into the province of Raqqah while the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces crossed the Euphrates toward Manbij. Intense fighting continues in northwest Syria’s Idlib and Aleppo provinces. Middle East peace talks commence in Paris but neither Israeli nor Palestinian leaders attend.


_ On Tuesday night “an unprecedented number of airstrikes have pummeled the Idlib governorate with most of them striking the provincial capital itself.” It appears that the deadline the Russians set for Syrian rebels detaching from al Qaeda has expired. An Iraqi oligarch, backed by Gulf states, lays out plans for a federated Iraq with an autonomous Sunni region.

Race for Raqqa, Manbij

_ Al Masdar reports that commanders of the Syrian army gave orders to “liberate Raqqa City […] The entire force is comprised of approximately 4,800-5,000 soldiers from the Syrian Marines, Desert Hawks Brigade, Golani Regiment, 550th Regiment of the 4th Mechanized Division, and Al-Ba’ath Battalions.” The offensive is expected in the “coming weeks.”

_ On Friday. Masdar reports the Syrian army and allies crossed into al Raqqah governate, freeing up the “Zakiyah Crossroad at the Hama-Raqqa border” and are currently “47 km away from the Tabaqa Military Airport.”

_ Reuters also reports the advance on Raqqa by the Syrian forces backed by Russian airstrikes.  They also report SDF advancing on Manbij “aiming to seize the last 80 km stretch of Turkish-Syrian frontier in Islamic State control and cut off the group’s main link to the outside world for manpower and supplies.

_ At Sic Semper Tyrannis they discuss how the Kurds, with US special forces, have crossed Erdogan’s red line, the Euphrates.

“In addition to expanding the Tishrin bridgehead, the YPG/SDF has crossed the Euphrates River some 25 miles north of Tishrin. This was done by ferrying men and equipment across the river and by repairing the damaged bridge at Qarah Qawzaq with a military pontoon bridge […] So much for Erdogan’s red line.”

 Kurds and Arabs in Syria

Iraqi Oligarch Fronts Plan for Autonomous Sunni Region

_ Iraqi oligarch, Khamis Khanjar, based in Dubai, wants to “use his multi-million dollar fortune to create an autonomous region for Iraq’s Sunnis.” Seems unlikely this is just the work of just one oligarch. His proposal: ” a federation in which Sunnis, Shi’ites and Kurds could all run their own parts of the country without formally breaking it up. A Sunni federal region would win billions in investments from Gulf Arab states and Turkey, Khanjar and partners in his alliance said.”
_ Sheikh Khanjar is a tall man who is guarded by British private security contractors and he is paying $65,000/month to a Washington lobbying firm “run by former Clinton White House officials to promote his cause in the United States.” Sunni sources in the article say that Khanjar “backed the 2006 pro-American Sunni tribal uprising” and three years later the Sunni protests.

Middle East Peace Talks in Paris

_ Peace talks in Paris begin on Friday “on advancing a two-state solution in the Middle East, but neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority will send envoys.” France’s foreign ministry calls it a first step. John Kerry says the talks can’t succeed until the leaders in the region “make some tough decisions.”

Concerns About the Objectivity of MSF/Doctors Without Borders in Syria

_ MSF is a highly regarded NGO but there are problems with their press releases in Syria. A radio interview with Rick Sterling  and his open letter to MSF questions their partiality and the accuracy of their reporting. MSF has no staff people in Syria. They are supplying medicines and fuel to clinics. Sterling says there have been a lot of half truths and outright lies.  He has received no response from MSF to his letter yet. MSF is only providing relief to the opposition side. A Canadian physician has been working on the ground in Syria on the government side and he has called out the hypocrisy and faulty reporting. The interviewer recalls the propaganda done by MSF in Serbia during the NATO intervention. Sterling also talks about the “White Helmets” which was created by a marketing firm and is a fraudulent outfit.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr
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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.