FOUR WOMEN ICONS OF THE SYRIAN REVOLUTION
The student Lama Albasha. Photo shared by her friends on Twitter.
The student Lama Albasha is one of the thousands of names on the infamous ‘death list’, a catalog of those executed or who have died under torture in government prisons. Prisons such as Saydnaya, which Amnesty International described as a ‘human slaughterhouse’. Lama’s family learned, on accessing the general security register on July 31, 2018, that she had died years ago in prison, alleged of a heart attack.
Assad Can’t Put The Syrian-Kurdish Genie Back In The Bottle
September 1, 2018Guest
YPG fighters in Raqqa in 2016
by Paul Iddon
Kurds in Syria are currently negotiating their future with the Syrian regime in Damascus. They want the decentralisation and democratisation of Syria, which will ensure their own continued self-rule.
While it’s unlikely they will achieve such an ambitious goal it is equally unlikely that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad can expect to once again relegate them to their pre-war status.
The Syrian Kurds did not join the uprising against Assad, which is one reason it’s unclear if Assad will revert to brute force readily, as he has with other groups across the country. The Kurds briefly did mount an uprising against the regime in March 2004, after a football match in Qamishli degenerated into violence, and Assad sent in tanks and helicopters to suppress them.
The Syrian Kurds were long disenfranchised and marginalised, thousands weren’t able to attain Syrian citizenship. Damascus even went so far as to deny that they existed.
Following six years of de-facto self-rule – in which droves of Kurdish youth, both male and female, sacrificed themselves to defend their homeland against Islamic State – it’s clear that they are have established themselves in ways that impossible to reverse or undo.
Michael Gunter’s 2014 book on the Syrian Kurds is entitled ‘Out of Nowhere‘ in reference to the fact that the Syrian Kurds were in almost total obscurity before the Syrian conflict. In many ways the historical experience of their Iraqi Kurdish counterparts is an informative precedent.
Although the Iraqi Kurds fought a nine year war with Baghdad for self-rule throughout the 1960s they were barely known in the West. Even when the Nixon administration participated in a covert programme with the Shah’s Iran and Israel to support their struggle against Baghdad in the mid-1970s, the administration had little understanding about who the Kurds were.
“We did not know much about the Kurds – we thought they were some kind of hill tribe,” then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger later admitted.
In the 1980s, when Baghdad slaughtered over 180,000 Kurds in the ‘Anfal’ campaign, and infamously murdered 5,000 in a single day with poison gas in the town of Halabja, it was still difficult for the Kurds to garner international attention and support.
Najmaldin Karim, the former Kurdish governor of Kirkuk, once told me how difficult it was to get attention from the US Congress back then, since in “those years nobody knew the Kurds” in contrast to now, when Kurds “are known all over the world” for both their bravery and the atrocities committed against them.
After Iraq’s defeat in the 1991 Gulf War, it focused its efforts on subduing Shia Arab and Kurdish revolts. Images broadcast on CNN of the destitute Kurdish refugees fleeing in terror from Saddam Hussein’s helicopter gunships saw public pressure put on the US to protect them from more massacres. A no-fly zone was established and Iraqi Kurdish autonomy incubated in the process.
“You are good strugglers, brave men,” Saddam Hussein told Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani at the time. “We thought we defeated you, we thought you’d never come back, and now you are on the ground. I’m now recognising your rights.”
After the Hussein regime overthrow in 2003 Iraqi Kurdistan became a legal and recognised autonomous region within the new federal Iraq. In late 2017, after Iraqi Kurds voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence in a referendum, Baghdad sought to curtail the region’s autonomy by closing its airspace and seizing most of the disputed territories it had with the autonomous region, most notably Kirkuk.
Despite this, Kurdish autonomy endured and now relations are once again being normalised. When Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi campaigned across Kurdistan earlier this year – the first Iraqi premier to do so – he was largely ignored and his platform, which essentially advocated for the dissolution of Kurdish autonomy and the reversion to direct governance from Baghdad, dismissed.
It’s clear that after 15 years of autonomy, following the previous 13 years of post-1991 de-facto self-governance, the Iraqi Kurds were are not going to simply give up all that they achieved after generations of struggle without a fight.
None of this is of course completely analogous to the situation for Syrian Kurds who have no recognised entity in the country.
The Syrian Kurds are likely to make some compromises to salvage what they have achieved over the last six years but certainly will not give it all up, and become subjugated under the yoke of Damascus once more without putting up a serious fight.
Paul Iddon is a freelance journalist based in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, who writes about Middle East affairs. Republished, with permission, from The New Arab.
https://lobelog.com/assad-cant-put-the- ... he-bottle/
Trump Gingerly, Politely begs Russia not to Do Syria Idlib Campaign, Pretty Please
Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – AFP reports that President Trump is cautioning the Syrian regime against launching an all-out assault on the last remaining rebel stronghold of Idlib Province. He also said that Russia and Iran would be making “a grave humanitarian mistake” to take part.
It is hard to take the humanitarian part too seriously. This is a man who in 2016 promised to carpet bomb ISIL, which is pretty much what Russia plans to do to the HTS (Committee to Liberate the Levant, formerly Nusra Front), with its links to al-Qaeda.
Obviously, Trump did not actually send out this tweet, given its articulate grammar and lack of misspellings plus the lack of phrasal emoticons (sad!). It is an expression of the public position of his national security team– NatSec Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and possibly Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. It isn’t Trump’s policy. For one thing, the tweet mildly criticizes Russia, which Trump almost never does. The foreign policy team also doesn’t really care about civilians in Idlib, but just doesn’t want to see another military victory for which Iran is partially responsible, which strengthens Tehran in the Levant (which detracts from unilateral Syrian power in the region).
Moreover, the tweet is toothless. Trump has already announced that he wants out of Syria. (“Why are we still there?!” he is alleged to have fumed earlier this summer). He initially seems to have wanted to pull out by the beginning of October so that Republican lawmakers could run on having defeated ISIL and gotten out of Syria. He appears to have been convinced to delay that withdrawal, though who knows?
Further, Trump has already said that he thinks Syria would be better off with a strongman like Bashar al-Assad in control.
In any case, the US is not actually in a position to stop an Idlib campaign. Its primary allies in Syria, the Kurds of the northeast, are as eager as the Assad regime to see an end put to the fundamentalist Arab Muslim militias of the northwest, who have made no secret of their hatred for the secular-minded leftist Kurds and who have closely cooperated with Turkey in ethnically cleansing Kurds from the western canton of Afrin. So the US cannot deploy its Kurdish proxies to stop an Idlib campaign. In fact, it may be that members of the YPG Kurdish militia will actually join in on the side of the regime, Iran and Russia.
The US only has a couple thousand special operations personnel in northeastern Syria, who are frankly irrelevant to any Idlib campaign in the northwest. The US Air Force is not going to interfere in an operation of the Russian Federation Aerospace Forces in northwest Syria, which is not an American sphere of influence.
Mind you, despite the cynical game of public relations being played by the Trump team, the prospect is horrifying, of a massive assault by Syrian armor and artillery, Shiite militias from Lebanon, Iraq and Iran, and Russian fighter jets on a rural province where 3 million people, the bulk of them refugees, are huddling. While a significant proportion of Idlib is held by extremist militias and Brett McGurk has admitted that it is the biggest concentration of al-Qaeda fighters since 9/11, the 3 million civilians are not extremists, and perhaps 40% of the militias aren’t either.
The looming Idlib campaign will likely replicate the vast destruction and loss of life of the Mosul campaign, where it was the US that gave air support to the Iraqi army.
This business of re-subduing national territory that went into rebel hands by a frontal assault and intensive bombardment, producing high civilian casualties and destruction of entire city districts, is a horrible recrudescence of total war tactics from World War II.
I very much doubt that the large orange man in the White House is relevant to any resolution of this looming catastrophe.
It would be better, as the Crisis Group argues, if a negotiated settlement could be reached.
It is pie in the sky, but political compromise would be a better outcome for Syria. It would be better for the country if Turkey could sideline the HTS and then the regime negotiated a decentralization of Syria with a federal constitution that accommodated the religious conservatism of Idlib and the Bukchenist Left Anarchism of the northeastern Kurds. Syria needs a framework for working out political disputes peacefully, through elections (the ruling Baath Party does not believe it would win, but I’d wager they’d get a majority, given the alternatives).
A heavy-handed Putinist attempt to restore a one-party state in Syria, as though it were a big Chechnya, is more likely in the medium and long term to produce either chronic instability or a generation of zombie-like and debilitating stagnation than a genuine social peace.
But, none of the sides in this seven-year-old conflict have demonstrated a taste for compromise, with the possible exception of the Kurds. The Syrian, Russian and Iranian foreign ministers have indicated that they think the rebels in Idlib are all terrorists and must be purged for the sake of the peace of the region.
I have a sinking feeling that Very Bad Things are about to happen in northwest Syria.
https://www.juancole.com/2018/09/ginger ... paign.html
Trump 'wanted Assad assassinated': key claims in Bob Woodward's book
Trump suggested assassinating Syria’s president
Donald Trump wanted to have the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, assassinated last year but his defense secretary ignored the request, according to the book, which depicts top Trump aides sometimes sidestepping instructions to limit what they see as his damaging and dangerous behavior.
Bob Woodward's book details Trump's chaotic and dysfunctional White House
According to the book, Trump told the defense secretary, Jim Mattis, that he wanted to have Assad assassinated after the Syrian president launched a chemical attack on civilians in April 2017. “Let’s fucking kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the fucking lot of them,” Trump said, according to Woodward.
Mattis told Trump he would “get right on it” but instead developed a plan for a limited air strike that did not threaten Assad personally
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/201 ... sad-claims
Just In: Pompeo called Turkey FM to discuss Syria ... Agreed “Any Assad regime offensive in Idlib would be unacceptable”
This is important as US delegation concluded talks in Turkey, all eyes on what is next from Washington and Ankara if Assad, Russia and Iran launch assault.
Turkey holds immense leverage in Idlib.
Elvis » Thu Jul 12, 2018 2:05 pm wrote:Iamwhomiam » Tue Jul 10, 2018 2:55 pm wrote:The NY Times has an interesting video showing more about the chlorine bombs they claim Assad was responsible for.
One Building; Dozens Killed in Syria: How Bashar al-Assad Gassed His Own People
"Won't be fooled again!"
https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/vi ... dccc55e93d
Va. state senator who met with Assad says British are planning fake chemical attack
RICHMOND — Fresh off a sit-down with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Virginia state Sen. Richard H. Black turned up on an Arab TV channel last week making an extraordinary claim about one of the United States’ closest allies.
Black said Britain’s MI6 intelligence service was planning a chemical weapons attack on the Syrian people, which it would then blame on Assad.
“Around four weeks ago, we knew that British intelligence was working toward a chemical attack in order to blame the Syrian government, to hold Syria responsible,” Black said on Al Mayadeen, an Arab news channel based in Beirut.
Black (R-Loudoun) said later that he meant the British were planning not to carry out an attack themselves, but to either direct rebels to do so or stage a phony attack, with actors posing as victims.
Black also said some chemical attacks previously reported to have occurred in Syria were British fakes, pulled off with help from volunteer first responders known as White Helmets.
[Meet the Virginia state senator who sat down with Assad]
“From what I can tell, they have been planning a fake attack, not a genuine one, but one where they actually move people out of a town and they have trained people to portray victims of a gas attack,” Black said Friday in an interview with The Washington Post. “And the plan is to use the White Helmets who have always been involved in these notorious deceptions, to portray an attack.”
The State Department flatly rejected Black’s allegations, which echoed what it called “outrageous” Russian and Assad-regime claims that Britain and the United States have carried out chemical attacks with help from the White Helmets.
“The Syrian regime has repeatedly used chemical weapons,” a State Department official, who discussed the matter on the condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to do so publicly, said in an email. “Russian and regime denials have no credibility, nor does the increasingly offensive and outrageous Russian propaganda accusing the US and the UK of planning and executing CW attacks in order to justify retaliation in Syria. . . . The White Helmets are a humanitarian organization that has saved thousands of lives and continues to respond to bombardments by Russian and regime military forces.”
The British Embassy issued a statement Sunday calling Black’s allegations “nonsense.”
“Before Russia vetoed their UN Security Council mandate, international investigators found the Asad regime responsible for using chemical weapons four times,” the statement said. “The Asad regime’s use of these barbaric weapons against the Syrian people is beyond doubt. To suggest otherwise is nothing but propaganda by Russia and the Asad regime.”
His claims also drew condemnation from some Middle East experts.
“Wrap your head around this: an elected American official is parroting Russian/Assad Regime/Hezbollah propaganda on a TV channel closely affiliated with (if not under the direction of) a designated foreign terror org, Hezbollah,” tweeted David Daoud, a Washington-based research analyst at the think tank United Against Nuclear Iran.
Critics said Black was being used, perhaps unwittingly, as a tool for Syrian propaganda as government forces massed for an assault on Idlib province, the country’s last rebel-held stronghold. It is home to almost 3 million people, including hardened fighters who refused to surrender elsewhere. A least half of the population are civilians.
Black’s comments about Britain promised to draw more controversy to the 74-year-old legislator, who was interviewed Friday by the Russian state-owned RT TV network. Five Democrats are competing to take him on next year in elections that will determine whether Republicans hold on to their two-seat majority in the Senate.
This was Black’s second trip to visit Assad, whom the Trump and Obama administrations have blamed for chemical weapons attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians in rebel-held areas during Syria’s civil war. Black, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and retired Pentagon lawyer, regards Assad as a protector of Syrian Christians and a buffer against Islamist extremism.
“I’m just an individual who is deeply concerned about achieving peace and stopping the slaughter in the Middle East,” Black said. “Americans go all over the place all the time, and the only reason that they focus on me is because I tell the truth about what I’m seeing and what’s going on.”
Jake Rubenstein, spokesman for the Democratic Party of Virginia, called Black’s comments “a disturbing new low.”
“He is clearly more interested in being Bashar Al-Assad’s Propaganda Minister than a Virginia State Senator,” he said in an email.
Some Republicans expressed concern that Black’s controversial comments could hurt his chances for reelection and threaten the GOP’s efforts to hold Richmond’s upper chamber.
“He’s practically handing the majority to Democrats in the state Senate,” said former Republican delegate David Ramadan.
Others said Middle East politics are so complicated that voters may pay little attention. “People are never concerned about Dick Black going to Syria. People are more concerned about him coming back,” said Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax).
The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency identified Black as an “America senator” in reports on his visit. As a state legislator, Black plays no role in setting U.S. foreign policy. But he pushes back against the notion that the Syrian conflict does not affect Virginians, citing the U.S. troop presence in the Middle East, including troops from Virginia.
Black, who flew from Paris to Beirut and then traveled five hours by car to Damascus, said his flight and lodging outside of Syria were covered by Nasser Ani, a prominent surgeon from New Jersey who chairs the Syrian American Forum. The group has featured Black as a speaker.
Black said the Syrian government provided his lodging in Damascus, as well as an interpreter and ground transportation between Beirut and Damascus.
Virginia’s public officials cannot accept gifts worth more than $100 from lobbyists or government contractors. But Ani and the Syrian government do not fall into either category, so Black said their gifts are allowed.
State ethics officials signed off on Black’s 2016 trip to Syria, which carried a $10,000 tab that was paid by a Tampa-area gasoline wholesaler Paul Jallo. Black said last week’s trip cost far less because it was shorter.
Black said he and Assad spent three hours in the president’s office, in a mostly upbeat discussion about how the country has fared since the senator’s last visit.
“There was sort of a spring in his step and a sense of joy and optimism, and looking out to the future and bringing the nation together,” Black said.
Azhar AlFadl Miranda contributed to this report.
Tulsi Gabbard calls out Trump’s troubling double standard on Al-Qaeda
Published time: 12 Sep, 2018
Members of al Qaeda's Nusra Front in Idlib province May 28, 2015. © Ammar Abdullah / Reuters
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard marked 9/11 by pointing out that Donald Trump paid tribute to the victims of Al-Qaeda even while protecting the terrorist group's last stronghold in Syria – sparking a range of responses online.
In a tweet written on the seventeenth anniversary of the tragic terrorist attacks, Gabbard noted that “while President Trump & VP Pence give 9/11 speeches about how much they care about the victims of al-Qaeda’s attack on our country, they are simultaneously acting as protectors of AQ in Syria/Idlib, threatening Russia and Syria that if they attack al-Qaeda, we will punish them.”
The tweet sparked a dizzying range of responses, with some praising the Democratic congresswoman and others resorting to all-caps-lock condemnations.
“At least one person in Congress gets it. I am a libertarian and wouldn't mind seeing @TulsiGabbard run for the White House in 2020. A refreshing breath of fresh air,” one Twitter user wrote. “Thank you Tulsi. You are a genuine beacon of hope and change in Washington,” said another.
READ MORE: 17 years after 9/11, Al-Qaeda rebranded by US government & media as besieged rebels
“Hello Americans, hello, did you understand this? Reread it and think on it. Get it yet?” one seemingly impatient Twitter user asked.
But the congresswoman was also peppered with accusations of whitewashing the “real” bad guys in Syria.
Gabbard may have been the only lawmaker to draw attention to the troubling contradiction, but similar observations found fertile ground across social media.
“I’ll never reconcile how the biggest post-9/11 hawks turned into the biggest boosters of the jihad in Syria,” professor Max Abrahms noted in his own tweet marking the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.
Others highlighted how western media outlets, following the example of the US government, had rebranded Al-Qaeda as “rebels” under siege in Syria. The New York Times went so far as to praise the terrorist group as "a de facto governmental authority, facilitating trade across the long border with Turkey and organizing aid deliveries."
https://www.rt.com/news/438319-tulsi-ga ... eda-trump/
White Helmets making films of ‘chemical attacks’ with orphans in Idlib – Russian military
Published time: 12 Sep, 2018
The White Helmets have shot at least nine videos intended to serve as proof in accusations that the Syrian government conducted a chemical weapon attack using chlorine against civilians in Idlib, the Russian military claims.
READ MORE: Filming of staged chemical attack in Idlib, Syria begins – Russian MoD
False flags and Russia's failed predictions in Syria
Article by: Brian Whitaker
Date: 12th September 2018
Video footage of a faked chemical attack in Syria, which the Russian military claimed would be "handed to global news outlets by the end of Tuesday", has so far failed to materialise.
According to a briefing note issued by the Russian Centre for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in Syria and posted on the Russian defence ministry's website, "some Middle East TV-channels and a regional branch of a leading US news channel" (none of them named) had been filming in Jisr al-Shughur, a town in Idlib province currently held by anti-Assad fighters.
The briefing note said:According to the scenario of the staged scene, civilians of Jisr al-Shughur "were provided with help" by "activists" of "civil defence" (the White Helmets) after an alleged chemical attack carried out by Syrian army using barrel bombs armed with chemical agents.
To make shooting more natural and to ensure rapid collection of soil samples by the White Helmets, early in the morning the[y] delivered two containers with chemical substances based on chlorine from Khirbat al-Jawziyah to Jisr al-Shughur.
The Russian propaganda channel, RT, said the film would be delivered to TV newsrooms for broadcasting after first being posted on social media. The film, it said, was "meant to serve as proof that the Syrian government has conducted a chemical weapons attack in Idlib".
Russia has long claimed that chemical attacks reported in Syria (and in some cases confirmed by OPCW investigators) either didn't happen or were false flag operations by rebels. More recently, however, it has adopted a new tactic of claiming to know about fake attacks that are supposedly in preparation. Up to now, all these predictions have proved wrong, though that doesn't seem to deter the Russians and other supporters of the Assad regime from making them:
February 13: Russian Centre for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in Syria says it received a phone call from a resident of Saraqeb in Idlib province about plans for a staged attack: "According to the source, on the afternoon of February 12, rebels from the Jabhat Al-Nusra (Al-Nusra Front) terrorist organisation brought three cars packed with more than 20 cylinders of chlorine along with personal protective equipment to Serakab. Additionally, according to the caller, representatives of the local branch of the White Helmets, wearing individual means of protection, conducted rehearsals of 'giving first aid' to 'local residents' who were supposedly suffering from poisoning."
June 23: Sputnik News says Syrian field sources are "monitoring the movement of White Helmets members in the town of Basr al-Harir and other regions in eastern Deraa". The sources said this might signify preparations for a false flag chemical attack but "the tightness of the frontlines in the area may hinder the White Helmets from going ahead with their plans".
August 8: Citing Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem, Sputnik News says the White Helmets organisation has "kidnapped 44 children in Idlib to use in a staged chemical attack".
August 27: Russian embassy in South Africa tweets: "English-speaking 'foreign specialists' have arrived in Syria to attempt staging chlorine chemical attack early this week. Latest intel indicates the hoax is planned to take place in the village of Kafr Zita (Hama province)." The tweet is accompanied by a photo which appears to show filming of a staged attack, though it was actually taken on the set of "Revolution Man" – a fictional film made by the Syrian government.
August 28: Russian defense ministry says the chemicals intended for use in a fake attack in Idlib "have been already delivered to terrorists in the area with the assistance of the infamous White Helmets group."
August 31: Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov says there is "no doubt" that militants are plotting a false-flag chemical-weapons attack in Idlib province, and Russia has "presented concrete facts" about this to both the UN and OPCW.
August 31: Vanessa Beeley, a prominent defender of the Assad regime on social media, tweets: "White Helmets transported drums carrying toxic materials to Saint Nicholas church & National Hospital – Jisr al-Shughour. Location of chemical hoax changed by foreign orders after 1st area exposed. Now Maarrat Al Nu'man is new location." Beeley adds: "Sources on the ground told @khalediskef that the plan is to use 'female' White Helmets for maximum propganda impact."
September 5: Fares Shehabi, a Syrian member of parliament, tweets: "Expect a new WhiteHelmets chemical hoax ahead of the upcoming [UN security council] meeting on Friday to put pressure on Syria. More likely it will take place in Jisr Al-Shugur town as local sources told us."
September 6: Following a meeting with President Assad during a visit to Syria, Republican US state senator Richard Black claims Britain is involved in planning fake attacks: "We knew about four weeks ago that British intelligence was planning to work to stage a false flag chemical attack to pretend that it was the fault of Syria and to blame it on Syria and then to come to the rescue of al-Qaeda."
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