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With respect, the New York Times report is wrong. How Trump’s executive order on antisemitism originated in Harry Reid’s office https://t.co/1mUOXrvhqN?amp=1 A first look at the language of Trump’s executive order on antisemitism https://t.co/5emgQEdH1h?amp=1 Trump's Redefinition of Jewish Identity That Wasn't https://t.co/vWnSBiDI2i?amp=1
As posted by .@EHSANI2 on twitter: Baghdadi‘s Brother-in-law reportedly offered Iraq ‘s intel and later the U.S the information that led to the compound in Idlib Interesting details in this interview (for those who speak Arabic) https://youtu.be/PZI3K7mqSD8 via @YouTube
No idea whether this information is true or not, but: Sources: the 8 helicopters that targeted “al-Baghdadi” took-off from “Sarin” airport, flew over the Syrian-Turkish border through Jarabulus and al-Rai to the operation area, and information about the participation of the counter-terrorism forces of SDF in the operation, and remains of the group’s leader transferred to Ain al-Assad in Iraq http://www.syriahr.com/en/?p=145505
After the signing of the US - Japan Trade Agreement and the US - Japan Digital Trade Agreement, the President answered questions from the media, during the course of which the topic of Syria came up. Worth reading his answers: Remarks by President Trump at Signing of the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement and U.S.-Japan Digital Trade Agreement https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-signing-u-s-japan-trade-agreement-u-s-japan-digital-trade-agreement/ Also, following his public briefing with the military leaders, the President answered a few questions. The topic of the Syria came up. Again worth reading his answers. Remarks by President Trump in Briefing with Military Leaders https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-briefing-military-leaders/
In case people have forgotten, the President made the decision to withdraw US forces from Syria last September. He reiterated that position last night by way of a press release, earlier today on twitter, then again during a Q & A after the signing of two trade agreements this afternoon and following brief remarks to the press while meeting with the Secretary of Defense, the Chair of Joint Chiefs and other senior military officials. The withdrawal has been taking place over a period of time. Since last night's announcement, 50 US special forces were withdrawn from the border area, but remain in Syria. At the same time, the Coalition supplied more military aid to the SDF. For additional details read the following thread by .@mutludc starting with this tweet: https://twitter.com/mutludc/status/1181377732103589888 Will Turkish forces actually invade northern Syria? Maybe, although State and Defense continue to reiterate to the Turks that such an invasion would be a mistake. As the President made clear, and reiterated by spokespeople for the Defense and State Departments, the US will not provide any support to Turkey should they invade; and if the Turkish forces do step out of line, the President has stated the US will impose sanctions which will destroy the Turkish economy.
Keeping in mind that culture is upstream of politics, whatever one may think about Tommy Lee of Motley Crue, how does this sort of rhetoric, which I would argue is reflective, in an extremely cynical way, of what is being said on the Democratic side, not reinforce the real likelihood of a civil war? If the Democrats take control of the White House and seek to enforce gun control through executive action; and the real possibility of a violent response if Mr. Trump wins the 2020 Presidential election? IMHO Americans are in for a very bumpy ride over the next 2 years. Tommy Lee Slams Trump in Twitter Rant: ‘We’re Going to Repaint Air Force One Pink’ https://variety.com/2019/music/news/tommy-lee-motley-crue-slams-donald-trump-republicans-1203296927/
Off topic, but arguably relevant: NBC’s Universal Pictures plans to release ‘The Hunt’ despite backlash https://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/nbc-universal-pictures-the-hunt-release-backlash NBC Universal still plans to release the controversial movie “The Hunt” as scheduled on September 27 despite significant backlash over the film that depicts privileged vacationers hunting “deplorables” for sport. “There are no plans to not release the movie. No plans to move the release,” a studio source told Fox News. NBC Universal executives are aware of the widespread objections to the movie's plot but have decided not to take significant action at this time. “The Hunt” is billed as a satirical take on wealthy thrill-seekers taking a private jet to a five-star resort where they embark on a “deeply rewarding” expedition that involves hunting down and killing designated humans. Keep in mind that: - Comcast owns NBC Universal, which also owns NBC News and MSNBC. As Tucker Carlson pointed out on his show on August 7, the pundits at MSNBC have gone completely off the wall in their criticism of the President; and anyone who follows the news knows that NBC News is supportive of the Democratic agenda. - The leading 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates are all taking about banning weapons, buy back programs and using the power of the state to seize weapons in one form or another. - While POTUS is supportive of universal background checks (the polling data apparently shows that by wide margins the American public favor this); and red flag laws, (various people have studied mass shootings, and all have recommended some form of a law which, as I understand it, allows the State to temporarily deprive an individual of his or her right to bear arms, if it can be shown the person is a danger to himself or society) how will dropping this sort of movie into today's environment go over? Will such a movie not add more fuel to the fire, while hardening the views of those who are supportive of the 2nd amendment? If NBC Universal does go ahead and release the film, is it easy to see that someone who is not all there might decide to go shoot up a movie theater in protest?
The claim that Gina Haspel was in charge of a secret prison in Thailand that during the infamous interrogation of an al-Qaida suspect? Pro Publica has issued a major correction of an earlier report making that claim. Correction: Trump’s Pick to Head CIA Did Not Oversee Waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah ProPublica erred when it reported in 2017 that Gina Haspel was in charge of a secret prison in Thailand during the infamous interrogation of an al-Qaida suspect. ProPublica erred when it reported in 2017 that Gina Haspel was in charge of a secret prison in Thailand during the infamous interrogation of an al-Qaida suspect. https://www.propublica.org/article/cia-cables-detail-its-new-deputy-directors-role-in-torture?utm_campaign=sprout&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_content=1521153688
Update to my earlier post: On February 17, during a Press Gaggle by Secretary Mattis En Route to Washington, D.C. he was asked a series of questions concerning chlorine gas use: "Q: And then if I may just follow-up. SEC. MATTIS: Yes. Q: Secretary Tillerson also on Syria said that chlorine use by the regime could bring a U.S. military retaliatory response. SEC. MATTIS: What kind of use? Q: Chlorine gas use. Is that the policy right now. Would chlorine use... SEC. MATTIS: No. Q: ... risk a U.S. military retaliation. SEC. MATTIS: I would stand with the Secretary of State." https://www.defense.gov/News/Transcripts/Transcript-View/Article/1444921/press-gaggle-by-secretary-mattis-en-route-to-washington-dc/ Then during a Department of Defense Press Briefing by Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana W. White in the Pentagon Briefing Room on February 22 we had the following question and answer concerning chemical weapons use in Syria: "Joe? Q: (Inaudible) any evidence that the Syrian regime is using or has used chemical weapons in the -- in the attacks against the eastern Ghouta -- Ghouta in Damascus, some of -- some of -- in the suburbs of Damascus? MS. WHITE: We have seen the reports from various people on the ground, to include NGOs. We haven't concluded or seen the evidence of that ourselves. However, we are looking for it." https://www.defense.gov/News/Transcripts/Transcript-View/Article/1448350/department-of-defense-press-briefing-by-pentagon-chief-spokesperson-dana-w-whit/ Put it all together and what can we conclude? Following the sarin gas attack on Khan Shaykhun which resulted in a military response from the United States, the Defense Department believes the Syrian Arab Army has been using chemical weapons, but is seeking additional evidence from that being provided by people on the ground, including NGO's to verify usage. If the Defense Department does obtain that evidence, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State are prepared to make a recommendation to the President.
With respect, I am obliged to disagree with the claimed analysis of what Secretary Mattis said during the Press Availability on February 2. In making his comment about not having evidence of sarin gas use, the Secretary was not referencing the attack on Khan Shaykhun on 4 April, 2017 but rather reports from the battlefield of subsequent use. (Yes, there have been reports of subsequent use, but the claimed usage did not get a lot of media coverage. Why? Not sure, but I do know that no images emerged of dramatic scenes of death and injury.) Why do I make this point? Near the end of the transcript we find the following series of questions and answers: "Q: Can I ask a quick follow up, just a clarification on what you'd said earlier about Syria and sarin gas? SEC. MATTIS: Yeah. Q: Just make sure I heard you correctly, you're saying you think it's likely they have used it and you're looking for the evidence? Is that what you said? SEC. MATTIS: That's -- we think that they did not carry out what they said they would do back when -- in the previous administration, when they were caught using it. Obviously they didn't, cause they used it again during our administration. And that gives us a lot of reason to suspect them. And now we have other reports from the battlefield from people who claim it's been used. We do not have evidence of it. But we're not refuting them; we're looking for evidence of it. Since clearly we are using -- we are dealing with the Assad regime that has used denial and deceit to hide their outlaw actions, okay? Q: So the likelihood was not what your -- you're not characterizing it as a likelihood? I thought I used -- you used that word; I guess I misunderstood you. SEC. MATTIS: Well, there's certainly groups that say they've used it. And so they think there's a likelihood, so we're looking for the evidence. Q: Is there evidence of chlorine gas weapons used -- evidence of chlorine gas weapons? SEC. MATTIS: I think that's, yes -- Q: No, I know, I heard you. SEC. MATTIS: I think it's been used repeatedly. And that's, as you know, a somewhat separate category, which is why I broke out the sarin as another -- yeah. Q: So there's credible evidence out there that both sarin and chlorine -- SEC. MATTIS: No, I have not got the evidence, not specifically. I don't have the evidence. What I'm saying is that other -- that groups on the ground, NGOs, fighters on the ground have said that sarin has been used. So we are looking for evidence. I don't have evidence, credible or uncredible." [As an aside, it is not surprising that the Russians are pushing the position that when the Secretary said he had no evidence he was referencing the sarin gas attack on Khan Shaykhun and not the alleged subsequent attacks, despite what he said during the Press Conference. Why? The Russian Government wants the UN Security Council - OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism to redo their report on the attack on Khan Shaykhun, being unhappy with the original conclusion.] Fast forward to the White House Press Briefing on February 26: "Q And on the Syrian ceasefire, is the President concerned about the continuing violence, despite the fact that there’s been a ceasefire brokered for the region? MS. SANDERS: Look, Syria is terrorizing hundreds of thousands of civilians with airstrikes, artillery, rockets, and a looming ground attack. The regime’s use of chlorine gas is — as a weapon — only intensifies this. The United States calls for an immediate end to offensive operation, and urgent access for humanitarian workers and badly needed humanitarian aid." https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/press-briefing-press-secretary-sarah-sanders-022618/ Then, this morning State Dept Spokeswoman Heather Nauer during an interview with Bill Hemmer of America Newsroom reinforced what she has been saying recently from the State Dept Press Podium and on twitter. In my @AmericaNewsroom interview with @BillHemmer, I emphasized that #Russia and #Syria will be held responsible for its chemical weapons attacks on innocent civilians in Eastern Ghouta. https://twitter.com/AmericaNewsroom/status/968854704548704259 WATCH: @BillHemmer @statedeptspox talks chemical weapons in Syria and more https://twitter.com/statedeptspox/status/968924289541066752 Meanwhile, on Monday Foreign Minister Lavarov denied there had been a chemical weapons attack in Eastern Ghouta on Sunday. Then, yesterday a spokesperson for the Russian Military warned that jihadists in Eastern Ghouta were planning to launch a chemical weapons attack. My take away from all of this? The US believes that the Syrian Arab Army is using chlorine to carry out limited chemical weapons attacks, but is unclear as to whether the Syrian Arab Army has been using sarin gas in any fresh attacks since Khan Shaykhun, however they are looking for evidence to verify claims being made by people on the ground. It is unlikely that Pres. Trump will authorize a military strike on Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack, unless the number of people killed and injured is so severe that he is left with no choice due to the public hue and cry that he is compelled to act; and that would most likely happen if the attack involved the use of sarin gas. At the same time, between the Press Statements from the State Department and the White House, along with the recent leak of UN Security Council committee report stating that North Korea is helping Syria with its chemical weapons program, the public is being prepared for the possibility that the President does authorize another military strike on Syria if there is a chemical weapons attack that does result in a significant number of people being killed and injured. Both the White House and State Department are now publicly saying the Trump administration will hold the Russian Government and the Syrian Government responsible for any further chemical weapons attacks in Eastern Ghoutta while not stating what if anything the administration will do in response.
Unfortunately, no link is provided to support the quote. In any event, I already noted how HTS came into being. Yes, people can decry the name change as being mere propaganda, while saying that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham or Tahrir al-Sham is simply another name for Al Nusrah Front and Al Qaeda. However, the UN Security Council select committee that maintains the list of designated terror organizations and the sanctions list, have not added Hayat Tahrir al-Sham or Tahrir al-Sham to the list of groups affiliated with Al Nusrah Front or Al Qaeda and therefore a designated terrorist group subject to sanctions nor has the applicable select committee designated Hayat Tahrir al-Sham or Tahrir al-Sham as a terrorist group in its own right. Furthermore, there is no indication that the applicable UN Security Council select committee has concluded that Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam is affiliated with Al Nusrah Front and so designated terrorist organizations and therefore subject to sanctions. That is important given the very express wording found in paragraph 2 of the ceasefire resolution as referenced above. Keep in mind the resolution text was the subject of significant negotiations by the member states of the UN Security Council. So, until either the applicable select committees make the needed designations, or the UN Security Council instructs the committees to do so, as it stands, presuming that the Russians are claiming they are entitled to continue hostilities against Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam because of an alleged affiliation with Al Nusrah Front, they have a problem.
Toggle Commented Feb 27, 2018 on Syria's probable future at Sic Semper Tyrannis
Second Update to my earlier post: It is being reported by Syria Online @SyriaOnline based on a retweet of a claim by Kevork Almassian @KevorkAlmassian (Syria Online and Kevork Almassian are both supportive of the Syrian Government led by Bashir al-Assad) that Russian Foreign Minister Lavarov is saying that as Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam are cooperating with the Al-Nusra Front in Eastern Ghouta, therefore the cessation of hostilities does not apply to them. https://twitter.com/KevorkAlmassian/status/968088632627167232 Presuming this claim of what the Russian Foreign Minister is saying as justification for the continuation of hostilities in Eastern Ghoutta is correct, a number of questions: Has not Al-Nusra Front ceased to exist in Syria? Did not Al-Nusra Front, after renaming itself Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, claim to have broken all ties with Al Qaeda in July, 2016? Is not Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, sometimes called HTS the successor organization, being a merger of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham with three other smaller groups? How do you co-operate with Al Nusra Front, when that group no longer exists? Here is the entry for Al-Nusra Front on the consolidated UN Security Council sanctions list - https://scsanctions.un.org/fop/fop?xml=htdocs/resources/xml/en/consolidated.xml&xslt=htdocs/resources/xsl/en/consolidated.xsl "QDe.137 Name: AL-NUSRAH FRONT FOR THE PEOPLE OF THE LEVANT جبهة النصرة لأهل الشام :(script original (Name A.k.a.: a) النصرة جبهة) the Victory Front; Jabhat al-Nusrah; Jabhet al-Nusra; Al-Nusrah Front; Al-Nusra Front) b) جبهة الشام فتح) Jabhat Fath al Sham; Jabhat Fath al-Sham; Jabhat Fatah al-Sham; Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham; Fatah al-Sham Front; Fateh al-Sham Front) c) Conquest of the Levant Front d) The Front for the Liberation of al Sham e) Front for the Conquest of Syria/the Levant f) Front for the Liberation of the Levant g) Front for the Conquest of Syria h) المجاهدين أنصار شبكة) Ansar al-Mujahideen Network - sub-unit name) i) الجهاد ساحات في الشام مجاهدو) Levantine Mujahideen on the Battlefields of Jihad - sub-unit name) F.k.a.: na Address: a) Syrian Arab Republic (Operates in) b) Iraq (Support network) Listed on: 14 May 2014 ( amended on 7 Jun. 2017 ) Other information: Associated with Al-Qaida (QDe.004). Brought Syrian and foreign Al-Qaida in Iraq (QDe.115) and Asbat al-Ansar (QDe.007) fighters, along with other foreign Al-Qaida operatives, to join local elements in Syrian Arab Republic to carry out terrorist and guerrilla operations there. Previously associated with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), listed as Al-Qaida in Iraq (QDe.115), and its leader Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai (QDi.299) but separated from that group in 2013. In Jul. 2016, Abu Mohammed Al-Jawlani (QDi.317), the leader of Al-Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, announced the group had changed its name to Jabhat Fath al-Sham and was no longer affiliated with any external entity. Despite the announcement and attempts to distinguish itself from Al-Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, the group remains aligned with Al-Qaida and continues to carry out terrorist operations under this new name. Previously listed between 30 May 2013 and 13 May 2014 as an aka of Al-Qaida in Iraq (QDe.115) INTERPOL-UN Security Council Special Notice web link: https://www.interpol.int/en/notice/search/une/5790822 click here" Does the UN Security Council designation and sanctions committee need to update its listing, given that Al Nusrah Front first rebranded itself as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, after claiming to have broken with Al Qaeda, and then merged with 3 other smaller groups, emerging under the name Hayat Tahrir al-Sham? The language in paragraph 2 of the body of the ceasefire resolution is important: "2. Affirms that the cessation of hostilities shall not apply to military operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), Al Qaeda and Al Nusra Front (ANF), and all other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with Al Qaeda or ISIL, and other terrorist groups, as designated by the Security Council;" So the question becomes are Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam either designated as associated with Al Qaeda or ISIL, or designated as a terrorist group in their own right by the Security Council? If not, the cessation of hostilities would apply to those two groups, irrespective of claims by the Russians that they are co-operating with a designated terrorist entity, especially as that entity no longer exists, being supplanted by a successor organization that has yet to be listed. A search of the consolidated UN Security Council sanctions list does not show either of these two groups being designated as associated with Al Qaeda or ISIL, or designated as terrorist groups. As such, IMHO, based on the existing list of UN SC designated and sanctioned entities, the obligation to cease hostilities does apply to Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam. Could be wrong, but that is my reading of the matter. Needless to say the people fighting on the ground do not care much for these niceties, it having been made clear by the spokesperson for the SAA Tiger Force that they are proceeding with their operation in Ghoutta, irrespective of what the UN Security Council may or may not have to say. Meanwhile, earlier this morning, the following tweet was posted to the account of the UN Secretary General: @antonioguterres Security Council resolutions are only meaningful if implemented. Eastern Ghouta cannot wait. High time to end this hell on earth. https://twitter.com/antonioguterres/status/968073942345961477 pic.twitter.com/KzXJtjtNcm So, the Secretary General's view is straight forward. The Syrian Arab Army and allied forces, including the Russian Air Force must cease hostilities in Eastern Ghouta.
Toggle Commented Feb 26, 2018 on Syria's probable future at Sic Semper Tyrannis
First Update to my earlier post: President Macron had a telephone call with President Erdogan this morning. After, the call, according to a statement released by Élysée Palace as reported by Reuters: France's Macron tells Erdogan Syria truce also applies to Afrin https://news.trust.org/item/20180226113820-4xa8v "PARIS, Feb 26 (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday told his Turkish counterpart that a U.N. call at the weekend for a ceasefire across Syria also applied to Syria's Afrin region. Turkey deployed police special forces to the northwestern Syrian region of Afrin on Monday for a "new battle" in its five-week campaign against the Kurdish YPG militia. Macron also told Tayyip Erdogan in a phone call that it was imperative that the cease-fire be fully respected and added that France's monitoring of humanitarian access and chemical weapons is "total and permanent," Macron's office said in a statement." (Reporting by Ingrid Melander Editing by Richard Lough) How will the Turks respond? Will the Turks ignore the French, or will they forthwith cease hostilities and honor the call for a ceasefire? My bet? Unless and until the Russians inform the Turks that the gig is up, the Turks will thumb their nose at the French and continue on with "Operation Olive Branch." In response, will the French, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council raise Turkey's non-compliance and if so, will anything happen, or will Russia protect Turkey? Time will tell.
Toggle Commented Feb 26, 2018 on Syria's probable future at Sic Semper Tyrannis
As widely reported in the media, on Saturday, the UN Security Council, by a vote of 15 - 0, passed a resolution calling for an immediate 30 day ceasefire in Syria between the various warring parties. ReliefWeb.int has posted a good read out on what transpired at the meeting, along with the text of the resolution as passed. Security Council Demands 30-day Cessation of Hostilities in Syria to Enable Humanitarian Aid Delivery, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2401 (2018) https://reliefweb.int/report/syrian-arab-republic/security-council-demands-30-day-cessation-hostilities-syria-enable People can also watch a video of the meeting as posted on the UN website: Security Council: The situation in the Middle East (Syria) (8188th meeting) http://webtv.un.org/watch/security-council-the-situation-in-the-middle-east-syria-8188th-meeting/5739916881001/ However, the resolution is arguably already a dead letter, as Turkey has said it will not cease with "Operation Olive Branch." As best as I understand it, Turkey claims that as the forces it is fighting in Afrin canton are terrorists, it can ignore the call for a cease fire. However, the language in the resolution is very specific. The first two paragraphs of the body of the resolution reads: "1. Demands that all parties cease hostilities without delay, and engage immediately to ensure full and comprehensive implementation of this demand by all parties, for a durable humanitarian pause for at least 30 consecutive days throughout Syria, to enable the safe, unimpeded and sustained delivery of humanitarian aid and services and medical evacuations of the critically sick and wounded, in accordance with applicable international law; 2. Affirms that the cessation of hostilities shall not apply to military operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), Al Qaeda and Al Nusra Front (ANF), and all other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with Al Qaeda or ISIL, and other terrorist groups, as designated by the Security Council;" The resolution applies to all of Syria. Afrin Canton is in Syria. Despite claims by the Turkish Government, ISIS forces are not fighting in Afrin Canton on the side of the People's Protection Units (YPG); and the Popular Mobilization Unites (or the Syrian National Defense Forces - SNDF) which have recently joined the fighting on the side of the YPG. (There is some evidence to suggest fighters aligned with either ISIS, Al Qaeda, Al Nusrah Front or other groups designated as terrorist organizations by the UN Security Council are fighting on the side of the Turkish Government under the Free Syrian Army banner, but that is the subject of a separate discussion.) Furthermore, while Turkey claims the YPG is a terrorist organization, due to an association with the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), that is irrelevant, as neither the YPG nor the PKK have not been designated as a terrorist group by the UN Security Council. For a complete list of all individuals, entities and groups on the UN SC sanctions list, including those designated as terrorists: Consolidated United Nations Security Council Sanctions List https://scsanctions.un.org/fop/fop?xml=htdocs/resources/xml/en/consolidated.xml&xslt=htdocs/resources/xsl/en/consolidated.xsl As such, how can Turkey avail itself of the exception found in paragraph 2 of the resolution? So, the question becomes, what if anything will the UN Security Council do about Turkey's failure to comply? Even if Turkey could establish on balance that it has the right to continue with its invasion, called Operation Olive Branch under the exception created in paragraph 2, or on some other justifiable basis, serious questions have been raised about how it is conducting the military operation. In that regard, after passage of the SC resolution, the spokesman for the Secretary General issued the following statement: Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on Syria https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/statement/2018-02-24/statement-attributable-spokesman-secretary-general-syria "The Secretary-General welcomes the Security Council’s adoption of a resolution demanding a cessation of hostilities throughout Syria for at least 30 days. The Secretary-General stresses his expectation that the resolution will be immediately implemented and sustained, particularly to ensure the immediate, safe, unimpeded and sustained delivery of humanitarian aid and services, the evacuation of the critically sick and wounded and the alleviation of the suffering of the Syrian people. The UN stands ready to do its part. The Secretary-General reminds all parties of their absolute obligation under international humanitarian and human rights law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure at all times. Similarly, efforts to combat terrorism do not supersede these obligations." Presuming that the Secretary-General is correct, the Turkish military and their allied militia forces have been studiously and deliberately ignoring the obligation to "protect civilians and civilian infrastructure at all times" in the conduct of the misnamed "Operation Olive Branch." All that written, is the UN Security Council prepared to hold Turkey to account? Alternatively, is the Russian military prepared to act and shut down Turkish access to the air space over Afrin Canton, while sending in military observers to monitor compliance with a cease fire? Yes, in theory, the Syrian Government could use Syrian Arab Army anti-aircraft defenses to deny the Turkish Air Force access to the air space over Afrin Canton, while sending in ground units of the Syrian Arab Army to bolster the YPG defenses, so causing the Turkish Army to cease hostilities, but I am of the view that the Syrian Government and more importantly the Syrian Arab Army does not do anything without the consent and approval of the Russians or the Iranians as applicable. So, the real question is why is Russia willing to allow Turkey to continue on with "Operation Olive Branch?" Attempt to weaken US influence among the groups making up the Syrian Democratic Forces? Facilitate the sale of two s-400 anti-aircraft missile systems to Turkey, despite the State Department pointing out the potential ramifications under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act? Avoid any 'delays' with the completion of the TurkStream project (http://turkstream.info/project), which will allow Turkey to become a hub for the supply of Russian natural gas to south and south-east Europe? Whatever the reason, as long as the Russians are prepared to allow the Turks to continue on with their invasion, it is likely the Turkish military, aided by the militias aligned with Turkey, will ultimately, after a very bloody and brutal fight, achieve the objective of taking control of Afrin Canton and moving 500,000 Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey into the conquered territory. P.S. While events in Ghoutta were the raison d'être for the action taken by the UN Security Council, I reserve comment as to whether Syria, Iran and Russia, in continuing on with hostilities against the forces they are forcing in that Damascus suburb, are violating the cease fire resolution. I note in passing the following tweet posted Sunday afternoon by Liz Sly, Washington Post Post Beirut bureau chief covering Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and beyond, with a link to her report. The tweet reads "The new Syria ceasefire voted on by the U.N. on Saturday is a bust already. New air strikes, a ground incursion and a chlorine attack in Ghouta today. So much for international diplomacy." https://twitter.com/LizSly/status/967921740256088064 The headline to her linked report is Violence rages unabated in Ghouta as Syria defies U.N. cease-fire resolution https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/violence-rages-unabated-in-ghouta-as-syria-defies-un-ceasefire-resolution/2018/02/25/9a4fc244-1a51-11e8-98f5-ceecfa8741b6_story.html?utm_term=.4ab2e4806b3a The Syrian Arab Army would not be continuing with the effort to retake Ghouta without the backing of Russian and Iran. Being unfamiliar with the actual makeup of the forces that the Syrian Arab Army is seeking to defeat, and whether they do or do not fall within the scope of paragraph 2 of the cease fire resolution, I can not assess whether Ms. Sly is wrong. I can anticipate what the Russians will say, based on the remarks of the Russian Ambassador to the UN after the vote on the ceasefire resolution, but I do not know whether his stated assessment of the makeup of the forces being faced is accurate or not. Suffice it to say, the Syrian Arab Army would not be proceeding with hostilities in Ghouta, without the full backing and support of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation. So expect more wrangling at the UN Security Council while the fighting continues. P.P.S. Why have I spent so much time on this point? While the Russians have a certain level of control over the Syrian Government, they have been unable to bring Bashar al-Assad and his retinue to the negotiating table at Geneva. So, the hostilities will continue and unless the situation changes, out of the ashes of what was once the Syrian Arab Republic, at least two new States will likely emerge in its place. On this whole matter, people may find the following talk given by Dr. Jonathan Spyer at an event held on February 7 in London, UK at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in conjunction with Fathom, the Journal of the Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre (BICOM), of interest. The blurb for the event as posted on the RUSI website: Days of the Fall: A Reporter's Journey in the Syria and Iraq Wars https://rusi.org/event/days-fall-reporters-journey-syria-and-iraq-wars The transcript of Dr. Spyer's remarks, along with the Q & A, as posted on the Fathom website: The space between the Iraq-Iran border and the Mediterranean Sea today constitutes a single arena of conflict, by Jonathan Spyer http://fathomjournal.org/the-space-between-the-iraq-iran-border-and-the-mediterranean-sea-today-constitutes-a-single-arena-of-conflict-by-jonathan-spyer/ P.P.P.S. It is very unfortunate that Congress passed the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act as this law has, as President Trump predicted at the time, driven North Korea, Iran and Russia closer together, while making co-operation between Russia and the United States even more difficult.
Toggle Commented Feb 26, 2018 on Syria's probable future at Sic Semper Tyrannis
On Sunday morning the Afrin Health Council held a press conference to discuss the alleged chemical weapons' attack on Friday (Video - English subbed). https://youtu.be/zdzgCo8z9TI In the meantime, an official with the White House reportedly said that he thinks it is extremely unlikely the Turks used chemical weapons. At the same the Turks are denying they carried out such an attack, claiming the Afrin Health Council is guilty of being involved in what they call "black propaganda." Turkey has been accused of using chemcial weapons against the Kurds in the past: 'Turks hit PKK with chemical weapons' http://www.jpost.com/International/Turks-hit-PKK-with-chemical-weapons The best way to sort this out? Have the OPCW conduct a fact finding mission, presumably at the request of the Syrian Arab Republic; and if it is determined a chemical weapon was used, for an independent body to then investigate the matter to assess responsibility. Unfortunately, as to the later, because of the Russian 'uproar' over the results of the OPCW - UNSC joint investigative mission report into the Sarin gas attack on April 4, 2017 it may be difficult to put together such an independent body under the auspices of the UNSC. Will the French do anything under their own effort to hold people accountable for the use of chemical weapons in Syria? Also, for their own reasons, as the Russians need the Turks onside to keep the Astana process alive. So, unless people kick up a huge fuss, it is quite possible this incident is swept under the rug.
According to reports: #SAA's Tiger Forces are moving towards Eastern Ghouta: a 4 Km long military convoy is on the way. https://twitter.com/MrKyruer/status/964805446962991104 @IvanSidorenko1, who has close ties with the Syrian Arab Army is confirming that the SAA Tiger Forces are moving towards Eastern Ghouta, posting numerous pictures on his time line. Links to a number of his posts follows for the reader's benefit: https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/964808660131155973 https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/964805933632229376 https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/964802828429676544 https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/964801967137705984 https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/964800526691991553 https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/964799431081168896 https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/964798515414257669 https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/964798015402840069 https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/964796743408869377 https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/964795792136589312 https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/964794879615361024 (Yes, I am aware of the composition of the forces in Eastern Ghouta, and the claimed ties to various Islamist factions.) There are reported 270,000 civilians in Eastern Ghouta. It is supposed to be a de-escalation zone, although the Syrian Arab Republic reserved the right to go after forces they deemed to be terrorists. Hence the ongoing fighting. There is an existing humanitarian crisis with reports of many people suffering from severe malnutrition. With even more air attacks, along with heavy artillery, followed by a ground offensive, we will see even more civilian casualties. How will the UN and the international community respond to this new offensive? In that regard, follows is the press release from the latest UN SC meeting on Syria held on February 14: Civilians in Syria Killed on ‘Horrific Scale’, Conflict Spilling across Borders, Threatening Regional Stability, Special Envoy Warns Security Council http://www.un.org/press/en/2018/sc13208.doc.htm Follows is a link to the full meeting record: http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/PV.8181 Will we see claims of chemical weapons attacks? How will the US and France, who has also threatened to strike, respond?
In other news concerning Syria, SOHR has posted a report (in Arabic) suggesting that the Chinese may be prepared to contribute troops as part of an agreement to help resolve the situation in eastern Ghouta https://t.co/fHwIyFqcw2 (Personally I find it hard to believe that the Chinese Government would want to station troops in Syria, but with reports of Russian mercenaries fighting in eastern Syria and the North Koreans having supplied men and equipment to help the Syrian Arab Army, who knows.)
Thank you for this post. In other news concerning Syria: Turkish army hit village in Syria's Afrin with suspected gas: Kurdish YPG, Observatory http://reut.rs/2o7cIjh pic.twitter.com/1DU1QAUkRi There is local reporting and video: Suspected Turkish use of internationally prohibited chemical weapons against civilians in Erende, Shiye, Afrin. https://t.co/rCUbU3gT9b A doctor at Afrin's Avrin Hospital says that the clothes of the victims will be tested to determine which weapons were used, after the victims are treated. https://t.co/LOan7UKbcL In addition this video in which The director of Afrin Hospital Dr. Khalil Sabri confirmed the arrival of six casualties suffering suffocation due to the use of poisonous gases by the Turkish army, but the type of the gases has not been determined as of now. According to the doctor, the injured are suffering a serious itching on their skin, shedding tears in eyes, and throwing up and struggling with breathing https://youtu.be/nrV4F0SmqWw How will the State Department and Ambassador Haley respond to this alleged chemical weapons attack? Will the OPCW investigate?
With respect, the $250 million for border security requirements is not going to be spent in support of a non-existent Kurdish border security force, but to help with border security in Lebanon and Jordan.
Update: Following yesterday's 3 hour meeting between Secretary Tillerson and President Erdogan, with the Turkish Foreign Minister acting as translator, and lengthy follow on meetings between the staff for the two sides, earlier this morning Turkey and the United States issued a joint statement: The United States and #Turkey reaffirm their mutual & unequivocal commitment to each other’s security & defense, to resolving outstanding issues in the bilateral relationship, and to the preservation of the territorial integrity & national unity of #Syria. https://twitter.com/StateDept/status/964490678037352448 https://go.usa.gov/xnFWa Joint Statement On Turkey - US Strategic Partnership https://t.co/yZ7oHZlE3m Also the State Department posted video from the joint Press Conference held by the Secretary and the Foreign Minister. https://twitter.com/StateDept/status/964458932465840130 https://twitter.com/StateDept/status/964477318008782848 https://twitter.com/StateDept/status/964484766933254144 It will be interesting to see how events unfold as the two sides work through their differences. One immediate concern of mine is the reference to Islamaphobia in the joint press statement, which is a term used by fundamentalist Imams to quash dissent by fellow Muslims to their harsh religious agenda.
Statement for the record - World Wide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community - Daniel R Coats, Director of National Intelligence - February 13, 2018 https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/sites/default/files/documents/os-dcoats-021318.PDF
Earlier Ibn Nabih @IbnNabih1 posted FSA operation room "repelling the Invaders" say they've successfully eliminated the ISIS pocket in Idlib after recapturing al-Khuwain town and arresting hundreds (some say 370 fighters + family) of ISIS members. The ISIS members will be prosecuted and sentenced accordingly. https://twitter.com/IbnNabih1/status/963329326610632704 with a link to the original statement in Arabic pic.twitter.com/I7tLndHZIH
Ibn Nabih @IbnNabih1 The FSA statement in English regarding ISIS defeat in Idlib. https://twitter.com/IbnNabih1/status/963402733658271749 pic.twitter.com/KesaJ70x4e
U.S. Strikes Killed Scores of Russia Fighters in Syria, Sources Say https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-13/u-s-strikes-said-to-kill-scores-of-russian-fighters-in-syria
According to @smmsyria 1. #SAA has begun mobilizing its forces in the western countryside of the #DeirEzzor province as they prepare for battle against #ISIS near the #Homs province border https://twitter.com/smmsyria/status/963373698148372480 2. #Tiger Forces units will be redeployed to #EasternGhouta region of #Damascus after a successful campaign in the #Idlib province. https://twitter.com/smmsyria/status/963380462658969600 3. According to the source #TigerForces will be aiding in clearing #Harasta suburb https://twitter.com/smmsyria/status/963380602836803584 About half an hour before @smmsyria posted their tweets, @Muraselon reported: Exclusive | Syrian Elite forces to Damascus In new Mission - https://twitter.com/Muraselon/status/963368969099993088 https://muraselon.com/en/2018/02/exclusive-syrian-elite-forces-damascus-new-mission/ "On Tuesday , Military source Exclusively told Muraselon website that the elite Syrian Army Tiger forces prepare to start new mission in Damascus . The aim of the new objective is to liberate Eastern Gouta neighborhoods , the source added. According the the sources, The new mission to begin in the upcoming next days." No way of verifying whether the report that the Tiger Forces will be used to clear Eastern Ghouta is accurate, but since February 5 the fighting in that area has become extremely intense. In other news, Sputnik International reports the Russian Military is warning of a potential 'provocation' involving the use of chemical weapons in a village in Idlib. If one was going to carry out a 'provocation,' as the Russians call it, not sure using a village in Idlib makes sense at this time, given the Syrian Army has stopped military operations in that area. Maybe the idea, presuming the reporting is correct, is to have the material ready for use if and when attacks start again? Russian MoD: Al-Nusra, White Helmets Preparing Provocation With Chemical Weapons: https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201802131061612872-al-nusra-front-white-helmets-chemical-weapons-russia-syria/ via @SputnikInt