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Syrian War Reaches Critical Point For All Parties

Next Cold War Roundup 8/5/16

The war in Syria is at a very critical point, and not just for Syria but also for the region and the world. Opposition forces assembled an army of rebel fighters from different fronts and launched an offensive they call the “Great Battle of Aleppo.” Chemical weapons attacks were reported in 3 locations. Al Qaeda is attempting to rebrand itself. There are reports of ISIS leaders fleeing Mosul. Iran, Turkey and Russia are holding meetings about working together to stabilize the Middle East. US former officials and politicians are painting one presidential candidate as an agent of Russia and another candidate is pledging to escalate US military intervention in Syria.

The Battle For Aleppo

Battle Map of Aleppo, August, 2016 (By Kami888 via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Battle Map of Aleppo, August, 2016 (By Kami888 via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0)

_ The latest battle for Aleppo began in June when the Syrian coalition forces encircled the rebel-held part of Aleppo City and opposition forces outside and inside the city launched counterattacks trying to break through the siege. On July 31, the opposition launched a major multi-front, multi-phased counteroffensive, which they called “The Great Battle Of Aleppo” with up to 10,000 fighters.

_ Magnier notes that ISIS is the weakest force in Syria now and “Nusra, foreign fighters & Jihadists, enjoying ‘western blessing’ r much stronger.”

Long Planned Operation For Rebels to Retake Aleppo

_ In his analysis, military expert Moon of Alabama (MoA) said that the fighters in this video are 5,000-10,000 al Qaeda fighters, fighting with equipment purchased by American taxpayers. MoA explains that this is part of a large scale effort to “create a new corridor between the Idleb/Aleppo rural areas they occupy and the besieged al-Qaeda controlled areas in east-Aleppo.” An al Qaeda commander (aka al Nusra aka Fateh al Sham) explained to his jihadis on video that the long-planned operation they were about to begin would aim to: 1) break the siege of rebel-held Aleppo; 2) retake Aleppo in 6-8 months.

The Make Up of the Rebel and Government Forces

_ On the latest offensive as the opposition tries to break the siege of rebel-held Aleppo, Elijah Magnier explains that there are 11 jihadist groups and 11 non-jihadist groups fighting together on the Aleppo front. The opposition leaders gathered a “very large number” of fighters from different fronts and they coordinate with the rebels inside Aleppo. On the Syrian coalition side, 4000 Iraqi paramilitary (Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba) and 4000 Afghani paramilitary (Fatimiyoun Brigade) are on the ground with Hezbollah under Iranian command, using mainly artillery and Russian and Syrian airstrikes against the opposition.

US Weapons Found During Aleppo Battle

_ A “conflict analyst” on social media took still photos from a video of FSA Northern Division fighting in South Aleppo and identified uniforms, vehicles, guns and equipment likely to be from the Pentagon train & equip program, and other US and CIA sources. (Thread begins here).

_ One rebel warehouse filled with gas canisters and American weapons was found by the Syrian army in Bani Zeid. A rebel weapons depot near the Turkish border in Bab al-Hawa was blown up by an airstrike or cruise missile. (Video 1, Video 2).

Offensive Halted, Regroup

_ A Nusra member announced on social media on Aug. 3 that reconnaisance was finished, forces were gathering, more MVBIED’s (armored truck bombs) and that they are doing a media blackout for the latest offensive..

_ On August 3, rebel forces reportedly abandoned their 6-phase offensive and halted to redraw plans. The Russian Defense Ministry reported on Aug.1 that 800 opposition fighters were killed and numerous vehicles destroyed.

Fourth Phase of Offensive

_ On Aug. 4, rebels are now announcing a third and fourth phase of their offensive, though the previous phases were not successful. The third phase launched on Aug. 5  involved VBIEDs aimed at an artillery base and Ramousah. Later reports said the Syrian coalition with support from the Syrian and Russian air force repelled the attack. “Should the Syrian Army fully succeed in securing the base and re-establishing its defensive lines, what remains of the rebel offensive would be in shambles.”

A Broader Look at “Great Battle of Aleppo”

_ Moon of Alabama (MoA) again, connecting the dots on different aspect of the major offensive launched this week by the opposition on August 1, the same day that John Kerry had set as a deadline some months ago, for removing Syrian president Assad. Kerry noted that “a very different track” would be taken if the political transition had not occurred by the deadline. MoA cites evidence that during the months of negotiations in Geneva, the “U.S. had long prepared for an escalation and extension of the war on Syria,” including large shipments of arms to the rebels who were intermingled with al Qaeda. The Russian Defense Ministry have been warning since April that al Nusra (al Qaeda) was planning a major offensive in Aleppo and that large amounts of weapons and fighters were coming into Syria via Turkey. Moa then gives a detailed account of the multi-phased offensive so far, which seems to be failing.

_ Kerry had also warned of a “Plan B” if the Geneva talks failed which would involve stepped up support for rebels and maybe intervention of the US and other sponsor countries.

Chemical Weapons Attacks on Civilians in Western Aleppo

_ The Russian Ministry of Defense reported that the US-backed al-Zenki group (same group that beheaded a Palestinian boy on video) on the rebel-held side of Aleppo fired artillery shells filled with chlorine gas on two different neighborhoods of the government-held side of Aleppo this week. The attacks killed 7 and injured 23 people.

_ State dept transcript.

War in Iraq

_ Iraqi forces have captured another Iraq/Syria border crossing (Waleed, near the intersection of Iraq, Syria, and Jordan) from ISIS.

_ There are reports of ISIS commanders fleeing Mosul ahead of massive Iraqi offensive.

Relations Between Russia, Iran, and Turkey

_ Russia and Iran plan to do joint military exercises  The Turkish Ambassador to Iran, Reza Hakan Takin, reportedly said that Erdogan is proposing a three-way partnership between Turkey, Russia, and Iran to “stabilize the Mideast.”.

US Relations With Iran

_ Both the Ayatollah Khamenei and Iran’s president Rouhani have now made public statements that they have no confidence in the United States after “obstruction and slowdowns” in the implementation of the JCPOA Iran deal. Rouhani said that further negotiations on other issues in the region that are in the best interest of both parties will not be possible. The Ayatollah made a statement the day before “statement indicating that the window of opportunity for further negotiations between the United States and Iran appears to be over.” He said that “the Americans continued their destructive policies and referred to negotiating with them as a ‘lethal poison.’”

Turkish Commander of Special Forces in Syria was an Alleged Coup Leader

_ “Former Chief of Staff says coupist General Terzi killed during coup attempt was head of Turkish special forces’ ops in Syria.” (Hurriyet via Alamet0)

_ Guardian, July 18: “The top counter-terrorism official responsible for Turkey’s campaign against Islamic State did go to a ‘meeting’ at the presidential palace in Ankara. He was later found with his hands tied behind his back, shot in the neck, according to a senior official.”

_ Wikipedia entry on 2016 Turkish coup d’etat attempt lists Brig. Gen. Semih Terzi as one of the coup leaders.

Al Qaeda Rebranding = Al Qaeda Merger

_ Al Rai war correspondent, Elijah Magnier, reports that Jabhat al Nusra (al Qaeda in Syria newly rebranded and renamed Jabhat Fath al-Sham) did not really, as reported in western media, split from al Qaeda Central group in Khorasan. Instead, they maintain all the same beliefs, practices and ideology of al Qaeda, and the blessing of al Qaeda Central, but prepare for a merger of Nusra

with as many Syrian jihadi and non-jihadi opposition groups as possible, to become a larger, stronger organization when this US president, Obama, leaves office and a new president comes in and more support and/or intervention may be implemented (depending on who is elected). Magnier believes this unification will be a near impossible task, though some groups, like Ahrar al-Sham, have verbally agreed to it.

_ The aim of pretending to split from al Qaeda and changing their name, al Nusra hopes to be removed from the UN designated terrorist list, which, if successful, could make public support from the United States and other western countries possible.

_ CNN gave al Qaeda leader Muhammad Al Joulani an interview https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8QoRok9d_k&app=desktop

United States of Hypocrisy

_ After reading an article by “CIA go-to guy” David Ignatius, William Greider writes about the hypocrisy of American interventionists, with decades of history meddling in the internal affairs of other governments, having conniption fits (particularly the “sputtering righteous indignation” of the Hillary Clinton gang) over the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election. 75% (and growing) of the US president’s daily briefing comes from our cyberspies, according to a former director of national intelligence. Greider christens America as the “United States of Hypocrisy” and though adversaries might be even worse, the “so-called ‘American exceptionalism’ celebrated by warrior scholars and chicken-hawk politicians is exceptionally bogus.”

_ The fearmongering about election meddling is really about the fact that “ is that the United States and its neocon war hawks are flirting dangerously with the possibility of real war with Russia” and the constant urging of the military-intelligence-industrial complex and the second-hand weapons profiteers for the expansion of NATO. The expansion is driven by greed not national security. Notably, this often comes at the expense of the American taxpayers because the new NATO countries are poor.

_ The latest target is Ukraine and war profiteers want American taxpayers to pay for the rearming of their military and the fabricated threat from Russia is used to sell that Brooklyn Bridge to the public.   “The true winners were Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and other major arms makers.” The level of risk required for this satiation of the massive weapons industry greed this time is war with a nuclear power or world war. The people involved seem to think that’s a risk worth taking.

Films, Videos, Radio, and Podcasts

_ “Dugma: The Button” is a recent documentary film (now available on demand) by a Norwegian journalist, Paul Refsdal, who went to Syria in late 2014 and interviewed al Nusra (aka al Qaeda aka Fatah al-Sham) jihadis “as they wait to be deployed as suicide bombers.”  Refsdal believes in going “to the other side” and portraying our enemies as human beings.

_ UK’s Channel 4 News did a video report on the horrific starvation in the forgotten war in Yemen: “Yemen’s forgotten war: the horror of hunger.”

Analysis and Opinion

_ Broad analysis of the current situation in Syria by Moon of Alabama. An important read. The war in Syria is at a very, very critical point, and not just for Syria.

_ Joe Gill, a journalist who has lived in Oman, London, Venezuela and the US says: “The war on terror has come home – and here’s why.”

Who is to blame for Syria’s nightmare?” By Ehsani at Joshua Landis’ blog, Syria Comment.

Michael Morell, acting director of the CIA for four months after the Petraeus fiasco, says Donald Trump is an unwitting agent of Vladimir Putin and uses other extreme and inciteful statements to endorse Hillary Clinton. Journalist Mark Ames of Pando Daily and Radio War Nerd says: “I read this as a CIA threat to stage a coup if voters choose Trump.“

Demonstrators at the Bernie Sanders rally in Philadelphia during the DNC Convention. Photo by Victoria Pickering 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.