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Wednesday, June 20

ROFL: "UAE Likely to Improve Ties With Syria, Play Role in Reconstruction – Diplomat"

I knew this would happen. I knew it. By the time this is over, everyone will kissing each other on both cheeks and pretending none of them had any part in the war -- except for the U.S. of course. We're going to be left holding the back again. The entire war will be remembered in the Middle East as American blundering.

19:04 19.06.2018
Sputnik

Early on in the Syria crisis, the UAE adopted a somewhat neutral stance, calling for an end to the violence but opting not to actively throw its support behind either side.
Speaking to Sputnik reporter Suliman Mulhem on Tuesday, Emirati Second Secretary Khalid Al Ali suggested that the UAE is likely improve relations with Damascus as the Syrian Army continues to advance and recover territory from the coalition of militant groups.  
“The Syrian crisis is progressing year after year, and if the Syrian government will have a better chance of success, the role of the United Arab Emirates will be towards greater political and economic stability and cooperation to consolidate these principles,” the senior diplomat of the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said, stressing they would improve diplomatic and trade ties in the interest of stabilizing the war-torn country.
Earlier this year, Syria’s flagship airliner resumed flights to an airport in emirate of Sharjah in a move that potentially indicated improving trade relations between the two states.
The UAE’s second secretary went on to say that he thinks the UAE will play an “active role” in Syria’s post-war reconstruction effort, in line with their philanthropic and international development goals.
The UAE has an important role to play in the reconstruction of many countries. I think the UAE will play an active role in the reconstruction of Syria from the devastation of war. It is one of the priorities of the UAE to contribute to the development of other countries, the advancement of their people, and prosperity of the region,” he added.
When asked for his thoughts on the prospect of the UAE serving in a mediatory role between opposing sides in Syria and their foreign backers, the diplomat said it was unlikely as a concerted international effort is needed to achieve peace, especially from states with power on the ground.
He also said that all the allied powers representing the various warring parties – including Russia, which has strong ties with Damascus and is widely considered to be pivotal to reaching a longstanding political settlement in Syria – can end the crisis if they work together.  
The views and opinions expressed by Khalid Al Ali are his own and do not necessarily reflect Sputnik's position.
[END REPORT]
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And now a few words about the status of the Yemen War


TEHRAN (FNA - FARS 6/19)- Yemeni Army Spokesman Sharaf Luqman rejected the Saudi-led coalition's claims of victories in Yemen's Western coasts, describing them as illusions.

"The Yemeni army and Ansarullah deployed in Yemen's western coasts, first could prevent the militias' infiltration and then surrounded them," Luqman said in an interview with the Arabic-language al-Mayadeen news channel on Monday. [Pundita question Well are they surrounded or aren't they? Translator! Translator!]

He added that the Saudi-led coalition has merely advanced in non-residential areas on the Western coasts of Yemen, adding that al-Hudayah port is safe and there are no clashes in the city.

"The media affiliated to the Saudi-led coalition permanently speak of illusionary victories of militias in Western Yemen and the coalition commanders lie about their advances in al-Hudaydah," Luqman said.

He also said that Yemen cannot trust the UN plans to settle the crisis in the country, adding that the bodies which are after a solution should be impartial.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia's attempts to capture al-Hudaydah airport failed as Ansarullah forces have dug ditched [ditches?] at the entrance of the city to prevent their advance.

The Arabic-language al-Masireh news website reported on Monday that on the fifth day of the Saudi and UAE operations to capture of al-Hudaydah, Ansarullah forces could block the roads used by the aggressors to send aid to their comrades. [Have they blocked the roads or haven't they]

The Saudi and UAE mercenaries have failed to win control of al-Hudaydah airport despite receiving the Saudi air support.

Local sources in Hudaydah said that Ansarullah has closed all roads leading to the Southern direction of the airport and dug a number of ditches to prevent invaders' advance.

The Saudi-led forces have started the Hudaydah operation since Wednesday, while the UN has warned the attack could cause up to 250,000 deaths.

Prior to the start of the coalition’s siege, the UN stressed that an assault on the densely populated port city may cost up to 250,000 civilian lives, warning that the operation could leave millions of Yemenis without the “food and basic supplies needed to prevent famine and a recurrence of a cholera epidemic”.


[END REPORT]

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The Southern Offensive gets underway

"No relief for rebels tonight as Syrian troops hammer southwest Syria ahead of offensive" - 6/20, 12:45 AM Syria time - AMN

"Breaking: Syrian Army launches small offensive in northeast Daraa" - 6/20, 1:30 AM Syria time - AMN
"Tonight’s attack by the Syrian Army is a small offensive that is likely being conducted for reconnaissance purposes."

"The Battle of Daraa is happening: Al-Ridwan, Hezbollah's special forces, is participating" - 6/19, Elijah J. Magnier

 "Syria - Ready To Start The Daraa Campaign" - 6/19, Moon of Alabama

"Will the south be Syria’s next battlefield?" - 6/19, Middle East Eye
Included this one because the analyst is with Chatham House.

The last word goes to Colonel Lang (6/19, Syria and Turkey Notes):
... Heather Nauert and Pompeo el-Magnifico have now warned Syria and Russia against an offensive in the SW of SYRIA.  They cite the de-escalation agreement that the Russians negotiated as though it was a cease-fire protecting the jihadis and FSA rebels who the Israelis treasure so much as a buffer to the east of the forts on the Occupied Syrian Golan Heights (Hauran).  The threats posed by Nauert and Pompeus Maximus are clear.  They are saying that if the SAA attacks to recover its territory the US will attack them in defense of Israel. ...
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Assad's quaint notion of national sovereignty

What year does Assad think this is? 1648? The Westphalian System of sovereign states, to the extent it was honored, is deader than a doornail. Of course it's not dead for me because I'm an American. But for everyone else the idea of a sovereign nation belongs in the dustbin of history. 

Those thoughts occurred to me while I read Derek Davison's conversation with Joshua Landis for Lobe Log ("What happens now in Syria?" - 6/19). There was a completely amoral tone to the discussion. This is nothing against Davison or Landis, who was replying to Davison's very specific questions; it's the situation they're studying that's amoral. But I felt queasy after I finished reading. Landis might as well have been talking about packs of jackals squabbling over a kill.  

As illustration, here are snippets from the interview, which I think is worthwhile reading in its entirety. Emphasis throughout is mine:  

[...]

JL: The U.S. has closed off all of the major highways out of Syria to the east. International trade for Syria has been blocked off and sanctions tightened. The U.S. is dead set against international organizations playing any role in Syrian redevelopment so the U.S. can continue to strangle Syria and keep it extremely poor. You might argue that this is bad from a counterterrorism perspective because it will create more instability, but I think the U.S. is willing to pay that price because it won’t hurt the U.S. directly.

[...]

The U.S. now holds about 30 percent of Syria through its proxies, the group that is called the Syrian Democratic Forces but is really led by the Kurds, with some Arab assistance. That’s a big mess too, because the region is majority Kurdish but has a large Arab minority, and the Arabs and Kurds do not like each other. They have diametrically opposed political and national ambitions. The Kurds want a state, Rojava, and they’re on their way to becoming like the Kurds in northern Iraq. The Arabs feel like they’re going to be displaced. They’ve been long-time rivals.


[...]

The U.S. has gotten itself sunk into a real trouble spot. It’s the most underdeveloped and ignored region of Syria, yet it has great riches—it has oil, it has a good agricultural foundation, and it has water. All of those things give it some potential, but the United States doesn’t know what it wants to do with the region. On the one hand, it says it wants to stay there for the long haul, meaning make a state out of it—and they’re building an army to undergird that. On the other hand, President Trump says he wants to get out of there soon, and he’s refusing to spend money to rebuild the place. So Raqqa lies in ruins, there are many unhappy people because their homes have been destroyed and nobody is going to reconstruct them. There is no legal basis for a separate state, so it can’t bring in foreign investment.  [Pundita note: What legal basis is needed? There's no more international law to the extent it existed; there's the law of the jungle. If the United States says it's okay to invest in a state carved out of Syria, so be it.]

[...]

So the Kurds have a place in Syria—in theory. The problem is that nobody trusts the Assad government, and nobody trusts that any deal it hammers out will be respected. Assad is a centralizer. He sees any form of federalism as an externally organized plot against the Syrian nation—and to a certain degree he’s correct, because there are a lot of people in Washington who want to use federalism as the sharp end of a spear that will ultimately dislodge the Assad government.

[...]

The big question is whether Turkey can impose its vision on Idlib, which would be to turn much of the province into a satrap and ultimately Turkify it. They’ve done this previously, with Turkey’s Hatay province, which used to be the Syrian province of Alexandretta under the post-World War I French Mandate but was ceded to Turkey in 1938. ...

[...]

And some people are arguing, on that basis, that perhaps the best future for Idlib province is to become part of Turkey—though of course that would create a lot of new difficulties, and Assad is determined not to see it happen.

This creates problems for the United States, because the Salafist groups that survive in Idlib will continue to have a life. They’ll be able to plot against the West if that’s what they want to do—there’s plenty of indication that some of them do want to do that—and to continue to preach an extremely anti-Western ideology. HTS and some other groups glorify Osama bin Laden and promote a Salafi-jihadist ideology that is very threatening to the West.

The question is the degree to which Turkey is willing to clamp down on those groups and arrest the leadership. That could be negotiated between Turkey and the United States, though the United States doesn’t trust Turkey very much these days to do that kind of thing. The alternative is to have Assad’s military sweep through the province after bombing the living daylights out of it, as it’s done in other regions, and create a massive refugee flow into Turkey—which the West doesn’t want, because some percentage of those refugees will end up in Europe. So, the Europeans may go along with allowing Turkey to rule this region even though it violates international law.

[...]

********


Tuesday, June 19

It's Israeli policy to commit a massacre in Syria and let Americans take the blame?

An airstrike close to the Iraq-Syria border Sunday was carried out by Israel, and not by the US or the coalition fighting ISIS, a US official tells CNN.
Syrian state TV blamed the strike that targeted pro-regime forces and caused multiple casualties on the US-led coalition combating the terrorist group, but a spokesman for the coalition said there were no coalition strikes in the area near Abu Kamal.
The Israel Defense Forces declined to comment on the strike, per its normal policy. ...
The 'normal' Israeli policy to refuse to take responsibility for airstrikes in another nation has worn thin as Israel has increased its strikes on Syria. PM Netanyahu is now openly stating that Israel will carry out attacks anywhere in Syria  (see the CNN report) and obviously without providing a rationale for any attack beyond taking preemptive measures against Israel's enemies.

But Netanyahu showed contempt for Americans when he was willing to see the U.S. military take the blame for a massacre of pro-government fighters in Syria. 

This forced CENTCOM to issue a denial on Sunday and, when Jerusalem still hadn't spoken up by Monday, prompted an unnamed U.S. official to identify Israel as the attacker.

I would like to believe that the contempt is unlike Netanyahu, but he and the Israeli defense establishment have been acting strangely as they've gotten more involved with the Saudi and Emirati regimes. A 6/16 article by James Dorsey, published at AMN, is an indication of just how strange things have gotten:

Israel adopts abandoned Saudi sectarian logic




Amid ever closer cooperation with Saudi Arabia, Israel’s military appears to be adopting the kind of sectarian anti-Shiite rhetoric that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is abandoning as part of a bid to develop a national rather than a religious ethos and promote his yet to be defined form of moderate Islam.
The Israeli rhetoric in Arabic-language video clips that target a broad audience across the Middle East and North Africa emerged against the backdrop of a growing influence of conservative religious conscripts and officers in all branches of the Israeli armed forces.
The clips featuring army spokesman Major Avichay Adraee were also designed to undermine support for Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip and backed recent mass anti-Israeli protests along the border with Israel, in advance of a visit to the Middle East by US peace negotiators Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt.
[...]
Citing a saying of the Prophet Mohammed, Major Adraee, painting Hamas as an Iranian stooge, asserted that “whoever acts like a people is one of them… You (Hamas) have officially become Shiites in line with the Prophet’s saying… Have you not read the works of the classical jurists, scholars…who have clearly warned you about the threat Iranian Shiism poses to you and your peoples?”
In a twist of irony, Major Adraee quoted the very scholars Prince Mohammed appears to be downplaying. They include 18th century preacher Mohammed ibn Abdul Wahhab, whose ultra-conservative anti-Shiite interpretation of Islam shaped Saudi Arabia for much of its history; Taqi ad-Din Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah, a 14th century theologian and jurist whose worldview, like that of Wahhabism, inspires militant Islam; and Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Egyptian-born, Qatar-based scholar who was designated a terrorist by Saudi Arabia and the UAE because he is believed to be the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.
“The enlightened Salafi scholar Imam Mohammed ibn Abdul Wahhab warned you about the threat posed by these people to the Islamic faith with the heresies that they adhere to. He says: ‘Look at this atheist’s words. You will see that he employs rafidah (rejectionist) terms. They (the rafidah) are more harmful to the faith than Jews or Christians….’ You follow the Iranians who pose a greater danger to you than any other force,” Major Adraee said referring to Shiites in derogatory language employed by ultra-conservative Sunni Muslims.
Major Adraee went on to quote Ibn Tamiyyah as saying: “I know that the best of them are hypocrites. They fabricate lies and produce corrupt ideas to undermine the Islamic faith.” Hypocrites is a term often used by ultra-conservatives to describe Shiites.
Major Adraee cited Sheikh Qaradawi as asserting that “the threat of the Shiites is their attempt to penetrate Sunni society. They are able to do so with their excessive wealth.” [Pundita note: And the Sunni oil kingdoms don't have excessive wealth?]
Addressing supporters of Hamas, Major Adraee asked: “Do you still want to be allies with these corrupt people while you claim to follow Islam…and respect Islamic scholars whose teachings you proudly disregard? Don’t be hypocrites.” Major Adraee concluded his remarks by warning that those who guided by Iran caused disruption would “be punished in the hereafter."
[...]
There's more -- much more -- to Dorsey's article. But that's as much as I can take of an Israeli military officer promoting ideas adopted by the kind of people who want to wipe Israel off the map. That's taking agitprop into the looney bin. 

However, I think the method informing the madness is to curry favor in Sunni oil kingdoms. President Trump is also busy currying favor with them. But from Dorsey's article, a difference is that these new-fangled Israeli hardliners are clearly making common cause with Saudi clerical hardliners. If true this is very bad news.   

To return to Israel's actions toward Syria -- if the Netanyahu regime keeps playing the Victim card and the Predator card at the same time, this is going to backfire.

********

"Israel behind airstrike in Syria, US official says"

"We will take action - and are already taking action - against efforts to establish a military presence by Iran and its proxies in Syria both close to the border and deep inside Syria. We will act against these efforts anywhere in Syria," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at a cabinet meeting.

In other words the Netanyahu regime can invade Syria anytime it wants and get away with it. But the regime stayed silent when Syria blamed the U.S. for the air strike on Sunday, which reportedly killed several Syrian troops. It seems this prompted an American official to speak out:   
Israel behind airstrike in Syria, US official says
By Barbara Starr, Ryan Browne and Oren Liebermann, CNN
Updated 1:58 PM ET, Mon June 18, 2018

Washington (CNN) An airstrike close to the Iraq-Syria border Sunday was carried out by Israel, and not by the US or the coalition fighting ISIS, a US official tells CNN.
Syrian state TV blamed the strike that targeted pro-regime forces and caused multiple casualties on the US-led coalition combating the terrorist group, but a spokesman for the coalition said there were no coalition strikes in the area near Abu Kamal.
The Israel Defense Forces declined to comment on the strike, per its normal policy.
US officials have said that many pro-regime militias that are also aligned with Iran operate in the border area between Syria and Iraq.
The area is some distance from Israel and Israeli jets would have had to overcome significant logistical hurdles to strike that area. [Pundita translation: They would've had to violate Lebanese airspace]
Israel has repeatedly warned that it would target Iranian-linked groups in Syria.
"We will take action - and are already taking action - against efforts to establish a militarily presence by Iran and its proxies in Syria both close to the border and deep inside Syria. We will act against these efforts anywhere in Syria," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at a cabinet meeting.
Netanyahu spoke with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russian President Vladimir Putin over the weekend, two of the key players in influencing Israel's policy and actions over Syria.
Sunday's strike was very different from those normally attributed to Israel. Generally, strikes by Israel occur in the western region of Syria, principally in the area around Damascus and Homs. Recently, these strikes have targeted Iran's infrastructure and military presence in Syria, which Israel has staunchly opposed. Israel also has struck shipments of advanced weapons from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon in the past.
This attack in Eastern Syria is hundreds of miles away from that area, and the target -- pro-regime forces -- differs from what would be Israel's usual mark, namely Iranian military positions.
[END REPORT]
*********

Monday, June 18

Syrian Sitrep, Pundita style

Right now the situation is a bunch of people from a score of  foreign and local governments playing with firecrackers while standing next to an open keg of gunpowder.

********

 

Looks like Houthis didn't get the memo that they're defeated

Why, one wonders, are they burning the captured Saudi military vehicles instead of using them? 


"Saudi Army offensive near Yemen border ends in disaster as Houthi forces swarm area (video)" - Al-Masdar News today.

But I'm afraid I haven't been able to watch the Houthi-Saudi war, and for the same reason I couldn't watch a raccoon scale a 27 story office tower last week. I wasn't going to spend hours biting my nails to the quick when the racoon was gonna fall anyhow. 



********

Sunday, June 17

"BREAKING: World War 3 fears ESCALATE as US BOMBS Syrian military site killing forces"


The above headline and photos of the strike are from a (U.K.) Express report. Reuters reported about two hours ago that the U.S. has denied carrying out the strike:

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian state media, citing a military source, reported on Monday that U.S.-led coalition aircraft had bombed “one of our military positions” in eastern Syria, leading to deaths and injuries, but the U.S. military denied carrying out strikes in the area.

The strike took place in al-Harra, southeast of Albu Kamal, Syrian state media said. There were no immediate details on casualties.

A commander in the military alliance backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad also told Reuters that drones, “probably American,” had bombed positions of Iraqi factions between Albu Kamal and Tanf and Syrian military positions.

“No member of the U.S.-led coalition carried out strikes near Albu Kamal,” Major Josh Jacques, a U.S. Central Command spokesman, told Reuters.

The U.S.-led coalition is supporting an alliance of Syrian Arab and Kurdish militia fighting Islamic State northeast of Albu Kamal.

The Syrian army, alongside allied Iran-backed militias including Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iraqi groups, drove Islamic State from Albu Kamal and its environs last year, but the jihadists have since staged attacks in the area.

U.S. forces are also based in Tanf, southwest of Albu Kamal in the Syrian desert near the borders of Iraq and Jordan.

Last week, Assad said he regarded the United States as an occupying power in Syria and that the position of his state was to “support any act of resistance, whether against terrorists or against occupying forces, regardless of their nationality.”

Reporting By Laila Bassam and Angus McDowall, additonal reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington

[END REPORT]

Here are two breaking news reports on the alleged strike, one from RT the other from Al Masdar News.

********

Only when American cities are reduced to rubble

Only when foreign regimes can force Americans to choose between "bad"or "not so bad" Islamist terrorist rulers, as happened to Syrians until Russia, Iran and Lebanon came to their rescue -- 

Only then will Americans confront the evil of a democratic republic helping Wahhabist oil kingdoms around the world.  

After 9/11 I was overcome with guilt because I hadn't paid enough attention to my own country in the years running up to the attack. I vowed to pay close attention from then on. What I have seen since has taught me that no matter how well a democracy might work within a nation, it can be fully as deadly as tyranny when acting abroad.

God forgive us. God save us all.

********

Kitchen scene in "Gremlins" the story of Bashar al-Assad's life

The number of foreign leaders (8 at last count) and their mercenaries (from 100+ countries) trying to overthrow him are just like Gremlins -- everywhere he looks they're popping out at him. Unfortunately, however, they're too big to stuff in a microwave oven.



Meanwhile: US-Backed SDF in Eastern Syria Threatens Families of Army Forces
... In a relevant development on Wednesday, a group of Italian forces and military advisors arrived in one of the largest oilfields in the Eastern province of Deir Ezzur to provide backup for the SDF, a media source reported.
The Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency quoted local sources as saying that a number of Italian soldiers arrived in al-Omar oilfield that is under SDF's control and is one of the US forces' bases in Deir Ezzur.
Anadolu further said that the Italian group, including 20 soldiers and several military advisors, entered Hasaka from Iraq last week and later moved toward Southern Deir Ezzur.
The Italian forces' arrival in Syria came after French forces entered and deployed in regions' under SDF's control in Northern Syria almost three months ago. ...
Meanwhile: US Attempts to Coax Tribes in Eastern Syria into Facilitating Terrorists' Transfer
... The Arabic website of Sputnik news agency quoted tribal sources in Eastern Syria as saying that the US forces transfer the ISIL terrorists from the desert region bordering Iraq to al-Tanf through al-Sukhneh in Homs.
Meantime, one of the prominent tribal leaders in Eastern Syria revealed that Mohannad al-Tala, a US proxy and commander of the so-called New Syrian Forces group in the US base in al-Tanf, has contacted the Syrian tribes, calling on them to open a passage for the terrorists to leave al-Tanf for Deir Ezzur to reach al-Omar oil field.
He added that the US forces fear uprisings by the people in Eastern Syria, noting that one of their goals to approach the tribes is to keep deployment in the region as Washington attempts to win the cooperation of the tribes in Manbij, Hasaka and Deir Ezzur have all failed.
Meantime, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has freed its militant inmates and sent them to the battlefield to attack al-Tanf-Sukhneh road in Homs and open a passageway and the Jordan road to al-Tanf.
The US forces had in the past 10 days been busy with transferring the ISIL terrorists with at least 10 armored trucks and heavy artillery to attack Albu Kamal from Abu Hameseh in Hasaka. ...
Meanwhile: Infighting Erupts among US-Backed Terrorists after Looting Arms Depot in Northeastern Syria



Meanwhile Infighting Intensified among Ankara-Backed Militants in Northern Aleppo



********


Americans have so much, Mr Trump! Why steal from a poor nation?

I can see how your Saudi bosses would want control of as many Syrian oilfields as you can procure for them, but think of the little babies, Mr Trump! I thought you loved little Syrian babies, from what you said about why you ordered the bombing of a Syrian military base last year.

Just think -- revenue from Syria's oilfields would help the Syrian government rebuild the devastated country, feed and clothe babies, send Syrian children back to school and house them!

From the "Raqqa" section of the FARS report today on SAA operations across Syria during the past 24 hours:
Raqqa  
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has set up 2 bases in Eastern Syria to recruit forces with Washington and Riyadh's support and pressure the Syrian army forces' family members.
The Arabic website of Sputnik news agency quoted local sources in Eastern Syria as saying on Saturday that the SDF has established two recruitment centers with the US and Saudi support, trying to coax the young people into joining the SDF by paying a monthly salary of 115,000 Syrian liras.

They also revealed that the SDF has taken hostage a number of Syrian army soldiers who had visited the Kurdish-occupied lands in Raqqa to see their family members.

The SDF also threatened the families with detention if their sons join the army.

The sources also said that the US forces have signed a deal with the Kurds to protect their 11 bases in the oil-rich regions, including 7 bases in Deir Ezzur, 4 in Raqqa, al-Shadadi, Tal Borak and Hasaka.

Meantime, new advanced French missile-launchers and artilleries have been transferred to the US bases in oilfields in Eastern Deir Ezzur.
********

Syrian War during past 24 hours, region by region

June 17, 2018 - 1:36
FARS

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army started the second phase of its massive assault against terrorists in Sweida desert after sending a new military convoy to the Eastern regions of the province.
Sweida
Field sources reported on Saturday that the army has sent a large convoy of military equipment to the Eastern desert of Sweida.

They added that the convoy which included several tanks, missile-launchers and vehicles equipped with heavy weapons was sent to Tal Sa'ad, the frontline of battle against the ISIL, through the village of al-Janineh in Northeastern Sweida.

Meantime, the Syrian army units engaged in fierce clashes with the ISIL terrorists in Badiyeh region of Sweida province, including al-Harmieh region.

Also, the army's air force and artillery units pounded the ISIL positions in al-Kara'a, al-Habirieh, Kharbat al-Ambashi and 
al-Tamthouneh regions, inflicting tolls and damage on them.

Idlib
Tensions, clashes and assassination attempts continue among the terrorist groups in Idlib as reports said that at least 160 people were killed in the past few weeks.

Local sources in Northern Idlib reported on Saturday that a number of terrorists were killed and wounded after a bomb exploded in the town of al-Dana.

Also, unknown assailants' attacks in the town of Ma'arat Mesrin in Northern Idlib killed a number of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) and so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) terrorists.
Meantime, unknown assailants fired at Tahrir al-Sham militants in Idlib, killing at least three of them.

Also, reports said that unknown people attacked and killed one of the police officers of the so-called 'Salvation Government' group, affiliated to Tahrir al-Sham, named Abu al-Kheir at the entrance of the village of Ein Shib in Western Idlib.

Field sources also said that tensions and insecurities have intensified in regions occupied by the terrorists in Idlib, adding that during the clashes and assassination attempts in the past few weeks at least 160 people have been killed.

Hama
The Syrian army pounded the terrorists' bases and positions in response to their offensives against the army points in Northern Hama.

Field sources reported on Saturday that the terrorists stationed in Northern Hama have attacked the army points near Moharedah power plant, the village of al-Safafeh, the town of Souran and Zalin and al-Mayadan checkpoints with missiles.

The army units responded the offensives with precise missile and artillery attacks against the terrorists' positions and moves in the town of al-Latamineh and the village of al-Zakat in Northern Hama.

The terrorists' positions in the town of Kafr Zita and Tal al-Sakhar were also attacked by missile strikes.

Meantime, field sources said that during the operations, several terrorist positions were smashed and a number of militants were killed.

Raqqa
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has set up 2 bases in Eastern Syria to recruit forces with Washington and Riyadh's support and pressure the Syrian army forces' family members.

The Arabic website of Sputnik news agency quoted local sources in Eastern Syria as saying on Saturday that the SDF has established two recruitment centers with the US and Saudi support, trying to coax the young people into joining the SDF by paying a monthly salary of 115,000 Syrian liras.

They also revealed that the SDF has taken hostage a number of Syrian army soldiers who had visited the Kurdish-occupied lands in Raqqa to see their family members.

The SDF also threatened the families with detention if their sons join the army.

The sources also said that the US forces have signed a deal with the Kurds to protect their 11 bases in the oil-rich regions, including 7 bases in Deir Ezzur, 4 in Raqqa, al-Shadadi, Tal Borak and Hasaka.

Meantime, new advanced French missile-launchers and artilleries have been transferred to the US bases in oil fields in Eastern Deir Ezzur.

Homs
The US occupying forces are attempting to open different ways to transfer terrorists between al-Tanf, Deir Ezzur and Homs by contacting the tribes in Eastern Syria for cooperation, media sources reported on Saturday.

The Arabic website of Sputnik news agency quoted tribal sources in Eastern Syria as saying that the US forces transfer the ISIL terrorists from the desert region bordering Iraq to al-Tanf through al-Sukhneh in Homs.

Meantime, one of the prominent tribal leaders in Eastern Syria revealed that Mohannad al-Tala, a US proxy and commander of the so-called New Syrian Forces group in the US base in al-Tanf, has contacted the Syrian tribes, calling on them to open a passage for the terrorists to leave al-Tanf for Deir Ezzur to reach al-Omar oil field.

He added that the US forces fear uprisings by the people in Eastern Syria, noting that one of their goals to approach the tribes is to keep deployment in the region as Washington attempts to win the cooperation of the tribes in Manbij, Hasaka and Deir Ezzur have all failed.

Meantime, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has freed its militant inmates and sent them to the battlefield to attack al-Tanf-Sukhneh road in Homs and open a passageway and the Jordan road to al-Tanf.

The US forces had in the past 10 days been busy with transferring the ISIL terrorists with at least 10 armored trucks and heavy artillery to attack Albu Kamal from Abu Hameseh in Hasaka.

Aleppo
A number of terrorists were killed during heavy infighting among the militants backed by the Turkish army in the town of A'azaz in Northern Aleppo.

Local sources in A'azaz at the borders with Turkey reported on Saturday that a number of terrorists were killed and wounded during fierce clashes between the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) militants and other terrorists called the 'Free Police'.

They added that the clashes have imposed panic and horror among the civilians in the region.

Meantime, the FSA-affiliated Asefeh al-Shamal Brigade detained a number of militants who had engaged in clashes.
Also in the past 24 hours, at least 15 Turkish army soldiers and Ankara-backed militants were killed in the Kurdish fighters' operations in Afrin in Northern Aleppo.

The Kurdish-language Hawar news reported on Saturday that during the Kurds' operations, a vehicle belonging to the Turkish army was exploded on Kimara-Baradeh road in Shirava region in Afrin in Northern Aleppo, killing 3 Turkish forces.

The Kurdish forces also detonated an armored vehicle of Ankara-backed militants near the village of Khaletah in the Center of Afrin.

Also, a military vehicle carrying the Turkish army forces and their affiliated militants to help the injured in Khaletah explosion was destroyed by the Kurds. At least 12 Turkish soldiers and militants of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) were killed in the blast.

Clashes between the Turkish army and Kurdish forces still continue in Afrin 2 months after Ankara occupied the strategic town.

Dara'a
The Syrian army forces will soon start their military operations in the South after the terrorists opposed the government-proposed peace plan to leave the region.
Field sources reported on Saturday that the army has sent a large number of soldiers and military equipment to the areas near al-Lajah region in Northeastern Dara'a.

They added that the army is strengthening its military power in Dara'a, noting that the operations against the terrorists are imminent as their commanders have rejected the peace plan.
The army has prepared nearly 35,000 of its forces along with the most modern and heavy weapons and artillery to launch a massive assault to free Southern Syria.

According to the sources, the army's military operations will be conducted in several stages and will spread from Dara'a al-Balad region in Dara'a city to the West, North and East of Dara'a as well as Northern Sweida.

Meantime, a military source said that the Syrian army will start its military operations with the aim of surrounding and isolating the terrorists and then liberating al-Lajah region and the areas between the two towns of Rakham and Northern al-Karak in Eastern Dara'a which is considered as one of the largest regions occupied by the terrorists in Southern Syria.

Deir Ezzur
A number of civilians were killed and wounded again in the US-led coalition's airstrikes in Deir Ezzur, Eastern Syria.
Field sources in Eastern Deir Ezzur reported on Saturday that the US fighter jets pounded the residential areas in the town of al-Souseh on Friday, killing at least 3 civilians and wounding a number of others.

They added that a number of the wounded people are in critical conditions, adding that the attacks have also inflicted huge damage on civilian properties.

[END REPORT]


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"US-Backed SDF Planning to Drive Turkish Troops out of Northern Syria"

"Meanwhile, a US delegation recently declared the American forces' support for the SDF ..."

June 17, 2018 - 12:47
FARS


TEHRAN (FNA)- The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are planning to launch a large-scale military operation in Northwestern Aleppo to push back the Turkish troops and their allied militants from Afrin region, a media source reported on Sunday.

The Kurdish-language Rudaw news website reported that the SDF intends to kick off a large-scale operation to push back the Ankara forces from Afrin.

Rudaw pointed to several meetings between the SDF commanders and foreign powers in the region, adding that the SDF is preparing to carry out a massive operation in Afrin, Jarabulus and Azaz.

The website further said that al-Bab region is among those regions likely to come under attack by the SDF.

Rudaw went on to say that the Northern Syria operation will be launched after the SDF ends battle with ISIL-affiliated Asefat al-Jazeera gunmen in Deir Ezzur province.

The SDF has intensified forced recruitment in Raqqa, Manbij, Hasaka and Eastern Deir Ezzur since May.

The SDF arrested a number of demonstrators who protested the US-backed militias' forced recruiting in Raqqa, Manbij and Hasaka.

In the meantime, analysts believe that the SDF prefers to recruit Arab youths and train them to use them later in battle with the Ankara forces.

Meanwhile, a US delegation recently declared the American forces' support for the SDF in a meeting with the allied militias in the town of Manbij.

Local sources and analysts said that they believe the SDF was almost through with the plan and its preparing to launch a major assault against the Turkish army in Northern Syria.

[END REPORT]

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Deadly hit-and-run strikes by Islamic State against Syrian army

"The Islamic State has been carrying out surprise attacks like this for several months now, forcing the Syrian military to have to conduct daily missions to clear the caves ISIS terrorists are believed to be hiding in."

ISIS carries out powerful attack against Syrian troops in east Homs
By Leith Aboufadel
June 17, 2018
Al-Masdar News

BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:40 A.M.) – The Islamic State (ISIS) carried out a deadly attack against a group of Syrian Arab Army (SAA) soldiers in the Badiya Al-Sham region of eastern Homs this weekend.

ISIS reportedly carried out the attack east of the T-3 Pumping Station; this resulted in the death of a few soldiers that were positioned in this vast desert region.

According to the Islamic State’s official media wing, Al-‘Amaq, their terrorists managed to destroy at least one tank during this surprise attack on the Syrian Army’s positions.

The Islamic State has been carrying out surprise attacks like this for several months now, forcing the Syrian military to have to conduct daily missions to clear the caves ISIS terrorists are believed to be hiding in.

This latest attack also comes just days after the Syrian Arab Army and their allies managed to liberate more than 2000 square kilometers of territory in the western countryside of Al-Mayadeen City

[END REPORT]


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Reportedly US-backed forces seize ISIL’s last major stronghold in N.E. Syria

By Leith Aboufadel
June 17, 2018
AMN (AL-Masdar News)
BREAKING NEWS
BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:15 A.M.) – The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) scored a major advance in northeastern Syria, today, when their troops seized the Islamic State’s last major stronghold.
According to pro-SDF activists, their troops managed to take full control of Al-Dashishah after a short battle this morning with the Islamic State terrorists in the area.

If these reports prove true, this loss could be devastating for the Islamic State, as Al-Dashishah was the terrorist group’s headquarters in northeast Syria since they conceded Al-Shaddadi to the US-backed forces in 2016.

The Syrian Democratic Forces launched their second phase of Operation Jazeera Storm earlier this month, following a semi-successful campaign in the southeastern part of the Deir Ezzor Governorate.

Since launching the second phase of Operation Jazeera Storm, the Syrian Democratic Forces managed to seize over 15 localities from the Islamic State terrorists in a span of two weeks.
[END REPORT] 

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Is U.K. regime negotiating with Russia, U.S. about SAA operations in S. Syria?

If the British were indeed involved I'd have to assume they were negotiating on behalf of the Saudi regime, which is now trying to keep as low a profile as possible regarding their actions in Syria.   

June 16, SouthFront:
On June 16, leader of the US-backed Alwiya al-Furqan Free Syrian Army (FSA) group Mohammed Majid al-Khatib said on his Telegram channel that the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies may launch their long awaited military operation in southern Syria in the upcoming hours.
Al-Khatib claimed that Russia, the UK and the U.S. ailed to reach an agreement on southern Syria during a recent meeting. The commander didn’t reveal his sources, but the U.S. Military Operations Center (MOC) in Jordan usually provides the FSA with such important information.
Two days earlier, the U.S. Department of State warned that the U.S will take “firm and appropriate measures” in response to any attack of the SAA on the “de-escalation zone” in southwestern Syria.
Hours after U.S. threats, Syria’s Defense Minister Ali Abdullah Ayyoub visited SAA troops in the southern governorates of Daraa and al-Quneitra and inspected their readiness, according to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA). [Pundita note: See official SAA photo at SouthFront of Ayyoub speaking with troops]
Despite this high tension the SAA and its allies will not likely launch their attack in southern Syria during the Eid al-Fitr holiday [it ends on June 17] in order to avoid criticism in the society.
[END REPORT]
Here's Colonel Pat Lang's June 16 analysis for Sic Semper Tyrannis of what's ahead for the southern offensive:
It seems evident that the SAA will clean up the rebel held area in Sweida east of the M-5 highway. When that is done they will line up north of Daraa City facing the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights. The deployment should be 20 miles or so wide.
They will then attack toward the Heights to clear rebels from SW Syria. This will be "all in," an attack with "horse, foot and guns" as they said in olden times. IMO they will make good progress since most of the really hard asses in the SAA have been assembled for the task.

DJT [President Trump] will then hear the siren song of his family, the Zionist lobby, Bibi's government and various cats and dogs insisting that US Air be committed against this "threat against Israel."
The nuttier people in Israel have been trying to claim that the attacking force will have in it a lot of Iranians and Hizbullahis in SAA uniform. That suggestion fell apart when the IDF G-2 himself stated that it was untrue. Even Liberman the Mad [Israel's defense minister] has admitted it is not true. How inconvenient. Well, the White Helmets will probably come forward to say that the IDF was mistaken.
DJT is making peacemaker noises. By his actions we will judge him. pl
[END]
I think Trump will go along with what the Saudis tell him to do in Syria. If they're deciding to fold their cards, SAA operations should proceed in the manner the Colonel outlined.

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Saturday, June 16

Another claim that U.S. is planning chem weapon provocation in Syria

US Preparing Chemical False Flag Attack at al-Tanf – Damascus Source
14:38 - 16.06.2018
Sputnik

Syrian Human Rights Network head Ahmad Kazem has told Sputnik that US intelligence was preparing a provocation involving chemical weapons near al-Tanf, Syria, and that its purpose will be to drive a wedge between Damascus and Syria's Kurds.
"Right now [at At Tanf] preparations are being made by US special services in coordination with Daesh (ISIS) in the region to stage a provocation identical to the kind that took place in Douma," Kazem said. "Kurds, including women and children, are being prepared for the false flag operation," he added.
Kazem thinks there is an 'extremely strong' probability for the provocation to be carried out. "It is being prepared with the goal of causing a collision between the Kurds and the Syrian army," he said.
On Monday, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that the ministry has received information from numerous sources that Free Syrian Army militants and US special operations forces were preparing a false flag attack involving the use of poisonous substances in the eastern Syrian region of Deir ez-Zor.
The US, the UK and France launched a missile strike against Syria in April after what they claimed was a chemical attack in Douma, Eastern Ghouta. Damascus and Moscow condemned the attack, and pointed out that the tripartite had offered no substantive evidence that a chemical attack actually took place.
The United States occupies a 54 km zone around its military base at At-Tanf, where it trains and equips Syrian armed opposition forces. The situation at the nearby US-controlled Rukban refugee camp has been called a "humanitarian disaster," and is estimated to contain upwards of 60,000 refugees. The Russian defense ministry has accused al-Tanf of "spewing ISIS mobile groups who make inroads to launch subversive terrorist operations against Syrian troops and civilians."
[END REPORT]
For an earlier claim see Russian Defense Ministry warns of new fabricated chemical provocation in Deir Ezzor; June 11, SANA
The tide is turning in Syria. For background on anti-American uprisings there, see my posts on June 3June 10 and June 11. 

So it's coming to the point where it doesn't matter whether claims about a chem weapon provocation are true or false. What matters is that many Syrians would now believe the United States is behind a chemical attack. That opens the door for people who'd stage a chemical weapon attack on civilians, and instead of blaming the Syrian government they'd blame the American one.

Yet the American command seems unaware that by keeping U.S. troops in Syria and using a proxy fighting force there, it's playing with fireworks next to an open powder keg.

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