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Rebels Shell Civilians in Aleppo to Prevent Escape; UN Begins War Crimes Inquiry

Next Cold War Roundup 10/21/16

Civilians are used as human shields by jihadists in both Aleppo and Mosul. UN Human Rights Council voted for a war crimes inquiry in Syria. Russia produced evidence of a Belgian airstrike in Aleppo Kurdish village that killed civilians. ISIS claims a shootdown of a US A-10 warplane in eastern Syria. ISIS leaders are leaving Mosul and a corridor is open for ISIS fighters to flee to Syria. ISIS cells launched attacks in Kirkuk. US allies Turkey and Syrian Kurds are fighting each other in northern Syria.


_ Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports “tensions” between members of the coalition fighting in the battle for Mosul, with Peshmerga, on the “Kurdish front” 30 miles east of Mosul, complaining that the Iraqi army hadn’t taken some of the villages they were supposed to take, and the Iraqi forces saying they were waiting for the Peshmerga to finish their bit. Some major western media seem somewhat eager to report negatively on the Iraqi forces, as demonstrated in this NBC report from Richard Engel on Wednesday.

_ A Pentagon spokesman said the villages in the area are historically Kurdish and the “ethnic dynamic” changes as you get closer to Mosul, where the Iraqi forces will be “more of the frontline troops.” Pauses during advances are done for logistical reasons, according to the spokesman. Some of the WSJ quotes came from a Peshmerga general who is the brother of Iraqi Kurdistan’s president, Masoud Barzani.

_ 5,000 US troops are in the area supporting the Iraqi coalition. Some are American and Canadian special operations forces on the frontlines calling in airstrikes. There are 10,000 Kurdish fighters and 18,000 Iraqi security forces, according to the Pentagon. The Kurds approach from 2 angles in the east, Iraqi forces from 2 angles in the south and southeast.

_ ISIS set oil wells on fire in the town of Hamdaniya as an attempt to stop the Kurdish Peshmerga advance.

_ The UN warned that ISIS is using civilians as human shields in Mosul.

_ Turkey continues to insist that it will play a role in Mosul.  US Sec. Defense Carter said “he will emphasize the importance of respecting Iraq’s sovereignty on his visit to Turkey on Friday.” Carter also “reaffirmed his support for the US-Turkey strategic alliance.”


_ ISIS launched a “predawn surprise attack on multiple locations across the city” in Kirkuk on Friday.  On Friday afternoon, Peshmerga forces had about 30 ISIS militants trapped in a building. Kirkuk’s governor said it was expected that ISIS would make a move in Kirkuk at some point: “They were sleeper cells…many women and children fled to Kirkuk as refugees and it is possible that some militants had come with them.” Kirkuk took in 700,000 internally displaced people (IDPs).

_ ISIS fighters entered homes, mosques, a school, and took civilian hostages, hours after ISIS “sleeper cells” attacked a government building. Suicide bombers attacked a power plant.

_ Kirkuk is an oil-rich, disputed territory. Both the Kurds and the Iraqi government claim it. The Kurdish forces have controlled it since 2014.

ISIS Flow From Mosul to Syria

_ On Oct. 18 the Syrian army command accused the US coalition in Iraq of leaving corridors from Mosul to the Syrian border open. British columnist in the Middle East, Robert Fisk, said the Syrian coalition is trying to finish the battle for East Aleppo as soon as possible in order to be ready to deal with ISIS fighters from Mosul and Fisk says they have good reason to believe that the “much-trumpeted US-planned ‘liberation’” of Mosul will be like Fallujah, where they “opened a way for Isis to escape towards eastern Syria.” The remains of the ISIS caliphate army would then be “directed against the Assad government and its allies – a scenario which might cause some satisfaction in Washington.”

_ The UN humanitarian coordinator, Lise Grande, encouraged civilians fleeing Mosul not to move to the west because UN aid agencies are not prepared to receive people there, but they are positioned to screen and receive refugees who go east, north or south.

_ Pentagon spokesman Capt. Davis said: “What you’re not seeing is a mass exodus of civilians and that’s because they’re being forcibly held there.”

_ US Gen. Volesky, on the ground in Iraq, said: “We have seen movement out of Mosul. We’ve got indications that leaders have left.” He said many fighters have not been able to leave and most civilians seem to be staying, but “All I can tell you is there are fewer Daesh fighters today than there were yesterday and there will be fewer tomorrow than there are today.”

_ Save the Children charity reported that ” at least 5,000 people, mostly women and children, had fled the Mosul region and had arrived at the overcrowded al-Hol refugee camp across the border in Syria over the last 10 days, with 1,000 more waiting on the border.”

Al Bab: Fighting Between Turkish and Kurdish Forces

_ Turkey and the primarily Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces in northern Aleppo province battle as they both try to advance toward Al Bab, to capture it from ISIS. Another case of two US-backed forces fighting against each other in Syria.

East and West Aleppo Pause in Airstrikes; Rebel Shelling; UN Canceled Evacuation

_ The Guardian reports that the US and UK rejected a temporary pause of airstrikes on Aleppo and restart of talks because the “US State Department said the Russian offer was too little, too late.”

_ Russia and Syria then implemented a unilateral “humanitarian pause” two days earlier than planned, halting Syrian and Russian airstrikes on East Aleppo. The pause was scheduled to end on Friday but the Russian defense ministry announced that the pause would be extended again, until Saturday evening. The jihadist rebels continue to shell West Aleppo and humanitarian corridors in East Aleppo, according to reports from journalists on the ground.

_ RT journalist on the ground in Aleppo, Murad Gazdiev, reports heavier than ever rebel shelling from East Aleppo to West Aleppo, aimed at preventing civilians from using humanitarian corridors and crossings as they try to escape the rebel-held territory.

_ Ehsani2, who has sources inside Aleppo, reported on social media:

Ehsani2: “First direct lengthy phone call with E Aleppo civilian. Stated that 90% of all residents ready 2 leave immediately if armed groups allow […] Armed groups mostly Syrian. Jabha Al Shamiye, Zanki & Nusra dominate. Won’t allow a single civilian anywhere near a checkpoint. […] He tried to bribe a fighter with Syp 100k. He was told it was impossible. Many fighters themselves ready to leave but for their leaders […] What is the solution i ask: ‘The UN buses should come inside and force the armed groups to evacuate us.’ If UN does not evacaute them, he & others see no other choice but for Syrian Army to move in.”

_ On Friday, Gazdiev reported that the UN has cancelled its Aleppo evacuation plan, due to rebel shelling.

_ War correspondent Elijah Magnier reports that 1200 additional jihadists arrived in East Aleppo during the past 24 hours.

War Crimes Inquiry Opened by UN Human Rights Council

_ A resolution to open a war crimes inquiry into the situation in Aleppo was “introduced by Britain and its Western and Arab allies.”  The resolution was adopted by the council. Russia and China voted against it and Russia’s amendments were voted down. It calls for a “comprehensive independent special inquiry” and “urges the body to identify and bring to justice those responsible for the alleged abuses.”

_ Prince Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein of Jordan, former ambassador to the United States and current head of the Human Rights council, called for the major powers to refer the case to the International Criminal Court at The Hague, and said:

Hussein: “Armed opposition groups continue to fire mortars and other projectiles into civilian neighborhoods of western Aleppo, but indiscriminate air strikes across the eastern part of the city by government forces and their allies are responsible for the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties.” (Full statement)

_ Syria’s ambassador to the UN, Hussam Aala, said:

Aala: “The hysterical hype by these countries about the eastern part of Aleppo, its timing, and the statements of the Saudi (Foreign Minister) Adel al-Jubeir about sending more lethal weapons to the terrorists there, make it clear that the goal is to protect the terrorists encircled in that part of the city.”

_ The Syrian representative believes that “the group of States behind the resolution were not concerned about the well-being of the Syrian people, but were instead supporting terrorist organizations in Syria.”

_ Saudi Arabia, who is currently blockading and bombing civilians in Yemen with the assistance of the US and UK, said:

“[…] the level of destruction and suffering in Aleppo was unprecedented and represented crimes against humanity.  Saudi Arabia insisted that humanitarian access be provided to those in need […] Civilians were directly targeted, and the siege was used as a form of collective punishment.  The regime was applying a scorched earthy policy.  Those responsible should be identified and brought to justice before the International Criminal Court.”

_ Qatar, who is supplying al Qaeda and ISIS jihadists in Syria, said:

“[…] the continued shelling of Aleppo would turn it into a mass grave. […] the regime was targeting moderate opposition […] The Council should send the message that the international community would not abandon the Syrian people.  Those responsible for massacres would one day be held accountable.”

_ Catalina Devandas Aguilar of Costa Rica, made a statement on behalf of a procedures committee explaining that they believe the “situation in Syria ought to be referred to the International Criminal Court” but this can only be done by “restraining the use of” the Security Council veto power. US ambassador the the UN, Samantha Power, has long been seeking a way to prevent rival countries like Russia and China from vetoing Security Council resolutions. But the veto power is crucial to the US itself and has been used to protect allies like Israel. Proposals have been made for not allowing vetoes for situations that involve extreme humanitarian crises.

Belgian Fighter Jets Attacked Village in North Aleppo

_ The Russian defense ministry claims that 2 Belgian F-16 fighter jets bombed the Kurdish village of Hassadjek in Aleppo province on Oct. 18, killing 6 civilians and injuring 6. The Russian MoD says that “every aircraft type has a unique identifiable signature” and the Russian and Syrian radar confirmed that the planes took off from  the Muwaffaq Salti Airbase in Jordan and attacked the village at 03:35 local time and were  refueled by an American plane twice during the mission. The MoD provided details:

“The planes entered Syrian airspace at 2:37 a.m. approximately 115 kilometers (70 miles) northeast of Deir ez-Zor. […] While remaining in Syrian airspace the Belgian planes started refueling at 2:52 a.m. in the area of Deir ez-Zor from a U.S. KC-135 tanker plane and then flew northwest… At 3:35 a.m. the planes attacked the Kurdish village of Hassadjek, Aleppo province, killing six and injuring four others. At 4:19 a.m. both Belgian planes carried out refueling from the KC-135 tanker plane and then performed an air patrol mission in the area of Azaz, north of Aleppo.”

_ The Belgian government denied the claim, lashed out at the Russian government and summoned the Russian ambassador in Brussels.

_ From a joint statement of the Belgian foreign minister and defense minister:

Reynders and Vandeput: “No Belgian Air Force aircraft have been operating over the Aleppo province over the last few days. These accusations are therefore totally groundless and unsubstantiated. […] Belgium deeply regrets that no prior consultation has taken place with a view to establishing the facts, before accusations were made in public.”

_  After the Belgian government denied the attack, the spokesman for the Russian MoD took the opportunity to report that this isn’t the first time that the US-led anti-ISIS coalition hit civilian targets and denied it:

Konashenkov : “I’d like to stress that this was not the first time when the international coalition conducted airstrikes against civilian targets and later denied responsibility for them […] Coalition warplanes have hit weddings, funerals, hospitals, police stations, humanitarian convoys and even Syrian troops fighting Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] terrorists.”

ISIS Claims Shootdown of US Planes

_ ISIS media Aamaq claims to have shot down a US A-10 Thunderbolt jet “in Markadah town, located nearly 100 km to the south of Al-Hasakah.” Via their social media account they also claim that “US fighter jets pounded the wreckage of the plane where it was downed.”


_ Ukraine has censored a “Polish film about massacre of 100,000 ethnic Poles by Ukrainian UPA fascists.” The US-backed Maidan revolution/coup government has made it a crime “to criticize Ukraine’s WW2 Nazi collaborators/genocidaires.” They are in the process of making revisionism a national policy.

_ An estimated 30,000 people turned out for the funeral of Donetsk People’s Republic military commander, “Motorola”, assassinated this week.  Some were chanting: “We won’t forgive this.” Pro-Donbass writers in London and in the US call for Russia to investigate the murder of “Motorola” and other political and militia leaders, and to take steps to help with the security situation in the Donbass, the region of Ukraine comprised of Donetsk and Luhansk, where autonomous republics have been declared by rebels, post-Maidan coup.


_ Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi was killed 5 years ago on Oct. 20, 2011. Mint Press News cites a leading Zimbabwe newspaper that published accounts of Libyans who fought against Gaddafi now expressing regret about his overthrow by the US, UK, France and NATO coalition in 2011.

_ CNN ran a report about “Gadhafi’s final hours on the run.” The CNN journalist, Nic Robertson, was in Libya during the regime change operation in a luxury hotel:

Robertson: “I clearly remember being in the luxurious Rixos hotel in Tripoli, as NATO bombs were falling outside, when one of Gadhafi’s trusted lieutenants told me ‘you will see,’ no one but Gadhafi can keep this country together. ‘You in the West think this is easy but when he is gone you will understand.'”

_ Mattia Toaldo, Libya expert for the European Council on Foreign Relations, describes the chaos that is Libya today, in an interview with German news organization, Deutsche Welle. Toaldo also talks about some of the lesser known drivers of the 2011 regime change operation:

Toaldo: “Even the operation that removed Gadhafi from power […] also an Arab League operation in which the United Arab Emirates and Qatar each played important roles. And each of those countries had allies in Libya to whom they delivered weapons. Today’s main coalitions are the ones that were created back in 2011: Those that were supported by the UAE are now mostly loyal to general Haftar in the east, and those who were supported by Qatar and Turkey are now mostly located in the west.”


_ Prof. Stephen Cohen on the John Batchelor radio show discussing the new Cold War, the cyberwar threat against Russia, possible escalation of war in Ukraine. (Podcast 10/18/16)

_ Scott Horton interviews Rajan Menon, a scholar in political science and international relations. Menon “holds the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Chair in Political Science at the City College of New York/City University of New York and is a Senior Research Scholar at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, Columbia University and a Global Ethics Fellow at the Carnegie Council on Ethics in International Affairs.” They discuss Syria, humanitarian intervention, Russia, Turkey and Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy. Menon has a recent article at LobeLog: “American Military Intervention Can’t Save Syria;” and has written a book: “The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention.”

War and Elections

_ Dennis Kucinich: “War or Peace?” Kucinich discusses Hillary’s “most consequential statement” in Wednesday’s debate about how she will use US military force to impose a no-fly zone in Syria. Kucinich says Hillary is basing her policy on ” lies to promote regime changes,” and ” the fantasy of a unipolar world ruled by America” and her Syria policy is preparation “to plunge head-long into the abyss of a world war.” Kucinich calls for building a new peace movement now. It cannot wait until the inauguration.

_ There wasn’t as much reporting on the 5-year anniversary of the killing of Libya’s Gaddafi in American media as there almost certainly would have been if it was not considered to be damaging to presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.  If Libya wasn’t a complete disaster, with  ties to arms smuggling to another disaster of a regime change operation in Syria, there would be triumphant reporting all over the American news.

 Analysis and Opinion

_ From the Middle East Media Research Institute: “Article On Syrian Opposition Website: The Political Solution Is Unfeasible; We Should Ignite All-Out War.”

Joanne Leon

Joanne Leon

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