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Saturday, July 20

Now the Spanish are accusing the Americans of tricking the British into impounding an Iranian tanker

Well, they're not outright accusing the U.S., just pointing the finger of blame, which is as much an accusation. See Simon Tisdall's How Trump’s arch-hawk lured Britain into a dangerous trap to punish Iran: "With the seizure of a supertanker off Gibraltar, distracted UK government was set up by John Bolton as collateral damage." 

His piece is based in part on a news report in Spain's El Pais newspaper, which cited official sources. 

The British are of course complete victims in the mess, poor dears. [flipping a pen into the air] 

I can't take much more of this. I'm going on vacation. Goodbye. 

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Friday, July 19

US Navy disables Iranian spy seagull. Iran impounds Leeds Castle.

Yes of course it survived being shot down
Iranian seagulls are tough.


Yes of course it survived being towed to Iran
Leeds Castle is used to water


Now how much longer will this crap continue? Until the propagandists run out of breath or the U.K. and its go-fers in the American government finally manage to gin up a shooting war against Iran at the behest of Gulf Arab governments. 

But the longer it continues, the larger the percentage of people who won't believe a damn thing said by the American and British governments about Iran, Russia, or anything else for that matter. This is the consequence of endless conflicts: They generate massive amounts of propaganda goo, and now a great many people are sick of being slimed.    

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Russian bombshell uses her boobs to complete bottle cap challenge

All the news that's fit to print, Sputnik-style. Yes of course there's video. 

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In the Middle East Trump is the proverbial boiling frog

Photo of very upset tribal elders


I think the Iranian military, which really does know what is going on Syria and Iraq, is smugly watching the Trump Administration progressively get more tangled up by conflicts in the Middle East.

If you had the patience to wend through the reports in my previous post, you came, at the end, to the story of Arab tribal leaders in al-Akidat and al-Bakareh tribes in eastern Deir Ezzur strongly opposing the dismissal of the head of the Deir Ezzur Civil Council by Kurdish militias in control of the region, who replaced him with one of their own. The leaders are so upset by this turn of events that now they're busy organizing a "popular resistance" to the U.S. forces in Syria because of said forces' support of said Kurdish militias.

But, as I noted at the very end, there's more to the situation than a cursory glance reveals. From a July 17 FARS report  (don't fidget):
[...]
Al-Watan newspaper reported that al-Jamel tribe in Eastern Deir Ezzur has issued a statement to emphasize its opposition to the appointment of SDF-affiliated Ahmed al-Khabil as the Sheikh of al-Bakir tribes in Eastern Deir Ezzur and the head of Syria's military democratic council.
Al-Jamel tribe has referred in the statement to the terrorist acts by the SDF in Eastern Euphrates region, and said that it does not recognize al-Khabil who has been appointed with the support of Saudi Minister for Persian Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan and the terrorist militias as the Emir of al-Bakir Sheikhs.
Other Syrian tribes had also earlier stressed their opposition to al-Khabil's appointment.
[...]
If you ask why in the Sam Hill the Saudis got involved in this tempest in a teapot, well, it has something to do with Saudi opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar, which backs the Brothers, and Erdogan's support for both. So naturally, the Saudis are backing the Kurds in this particular situation. But they are also realizing that they were short-sighted to make war on Assad, who is no friend of the Muslim Brotherhood or Erdogan for that matter.  

To cut a story, it's actually a pretty big teapot. In fact, it's a kettle. 

Donald Trump has unwittingly landed in the role of the frog in a kettle of slowly heating water. He has so many advisors focused on so many different agendas in the Middle East that he's only slowly become aware that his plans for extricating the United States from the region are being killed.

See also: "Turkey responds to Saudi Arabia's actions in E. Syria. Here we go;" July 13, 2019,  Pundita 

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US has a tiger by the tail with Syrian Democratic Forces

The making of a "popular resistance"


"Residents of Hasaka have accused the SDF of retaliatory measures against farmers who refrain from giving their wheat to them, saying that the SDF sets fire to their farms."

The following report is the latest among several similar ones I've seen during the past year which describe the SDF acting badly toward Arab civilians in Eastern Syria. But the U.S. still keeps supporting the SDF with military aid  -- a sore point with Turkey given that the majority of SDF fighters are Kurds that Anakara deems terrorists. 

Whether or not they're terrorists, they've certainly worn out whatever welcome they had among Arabs who supported their fight against Islamic State in Syria. The SDF has retaliated in several ways, creating a tit-for-tat conflict with the Syrian Arabs that keeps escalating.  

All this has fallen back on the United States; Arabs in the region have become vociferously anti-American just because of U.S. support for the SDF and many have turned to Syria's government for help.   
   
US-Backed SDF in Eastern Syria Prevent Civilians' Interactions with Damascus
July 18, 2019

FARS

General-Director of Syria's Grains Committee Yousef Qassem said on Thursday that the SDF in Hasaka does not permit the Syrian farmers in the region to sell their wheat to the government centers in Syria.

The Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper quoted local sources in Deir Ezzur province as saying that residents of Hasaka have accused the SDF of retaliatory measures against the farmers who refrain from giving their wheat to them, saying that the SDF sets fire to their farms.

A number of civilians were killed in Hasaka recently in an extensive fire in vast areas of the province's farmlands.

Sources noted in June that several civilians were killed and wounded in SDF and US attacks, and said that the entire regions under the SDF control in Hasaka and Deir Ezzur provinces were the scenes of popular protests against the presence of occupying forces there.

The Arabic-language Al-Khabour News Website reported that the SDF in Hasaka province prevented civilians from leaving the regions under their control for safe regions controlled by the Syrian Army.

The SDF fighters also asked for the payment of a sum of about 100,000 Syrian liras from any vehicle trying to leave the SDF-controlled region for Hasaka.

[END REPORT]

Not only has the situation escalated, but it's also gotten increasingly tangled for Americans. From the July 18 Syrian War sitrep at FARS:
TEHRAN (FNA)- Syrian tribes are working to form a Popular Resistance against the occupying US Troops in Eastern Syria, the Arabic-language media outlets said on Wednesday.
Deir Ezzur
The Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper quoted local sources in Eastern Syria as saying that a meeting has recently been held between tribal leaders and the elderly as well as head of Deir Ezzur Military Security Committee and the province’s governor Abdelmajid al-Kawakebi and Syrian Army’s backup forces. [above photo]
The sources noted that participants in the meeting discussed issues such as forming popular resistance forces against occupying American forces in Deir Ezzur and al-Jazira region of Syria and ways to confront these forces.
Meantime, the Arabic-language Arabi al-Youm pointed to acute differences between Arab tribes in Eastern Deir Ezzur with the US-backed militants, and said that the tribal leaders of al-Akidat and al-Bakareh tribes in Eastern Deir Ezzur strongly opposed the Kurdish militias’ decision to dismiss head of Deir Ezzur Civil Council and replace him with their own forces.
[...]
But here the plot thickens because the Saudis are involved. If you ask how this happened, it's a long story. They're all long stories in the Middle East.  

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Thursday, July 18

Verified: Hourly massive Russia air attacks across N.W. Syria including Idlib

I don't think this is the first of Russian airstrikes across the region, but it's the latest of several signs that the SAA is nearing a long-planned major offensive in Idlib. I think the U.S. view of Turkey's activities in Syria has changed markedly in recent days, which is working in the Syrian government's favor with regard to Idlib. 

Ankara going ahead with the purchase of Russian S-400s has put Erdogan on thin ice with the Trump administration. Things are now at the point where yesterday the Pentagon issued a public warning to Turkey not to attack U.S. troops in N.E. Syria in retaliation for U.S. imposing sanctions for the S-400s. The Pentagon knows Erdogan would have to be mad to order any such action, so I think the warning is yet another sign of a shift in U.S. views of Turkey's actions in Syria.

Russian Air Force launches massive attack over northwestern Syria
Al-Masdar News
July 18, 2019

"These strikes by the Russian Air Force come at the same time that the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is preparing to storm the militant-held areas in the Al-Ghaab Plain area of both Hama and Idlib."

BEIRUT, LEBANON (8:20 P.M. local time) – The Russian Air Force has launched their biggest attack of the month in Syria this week, targeting several areas across the Latakia, Idlib, and Hama governorates.

According to a military source in the Hama Governorate, the Russian Air Force has been launching hourly strikes over the northwestern region of Syria, inflicting heavy damage on the jihadist defenses.

Among the targets for the Russian Air Force are the Idlib Governorate cities of Jisr Al-Shughour and Khan Sheikhoun.

These aforementioned cities have a large presence of jihadist rebels from factions like Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham and the Turkestan Islamic Party.

The Arabic-language version of the Sputnik News Agency reported this morning that the Russian Air Force had destroyed at least a half dozen militant bases and ammunition depots in the Idlib Governorate.

These airstrikes by the Russian Air Force come at the same time that the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is preparing to storm the militant-held areas in the Al-Ghaab Plain area of both Hama and Idlib.

[END REPORT]

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US resumes training terrorists at Al Tanf and sneaks more mercenaries into Syria

"Sneak" is a relative term here because the Russian military is watching their every move. But yes, the U.S. is still up to no good in Syria, although they can stand in line behind the Turks, the Euros, Brits, Saudis, and Qataris. What a collection of scoundrels. The only good news is that they're ratting each other out, all the time now. So guess where Iran's FARS got this shocking news from?

Washington Resumes Training of Terrorists in Syria's Al-Tanf Region
July 18, 2019 - 3:11
FARS
TEHRAN (FNA)- The US forces resumed training of Washington-backed terrorists in al-Tanf region in Homs province after a one-year halt.
Turkey's Anadolu news agency quoted informed sources as saying on Thursday that Jeish al-Maqawir terrorists affiliated to the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) are again being trained by the US forces.
They added that the trainings are underway in al-Tanf base in the bordering triangle between Syria, Jordan and Iraq and some bases in Jordan, noting that the FSA militants undergo special trainings, including heliborne and combat operations as well as battle in hard conditions.
The sources also said that a number of US army and intelligence officers along with a number of US-led coalition advisors supervise these trainings.
Meantime, the US forces in al-Tanf region have paved the ground for recruiting more militants for Jeish al-Maqawir terrorist group.
[...]
Meantime, SouthFront reported that the Russians have spied the U.S. sneaking yet more, uh, 'mercenaries' into Syria:
The U.S. has been increasing the number of private military contractors deployed in the northeastern region of Syria, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova revealed during a press briefing on July 17.
“It is reported that the number of private military contractors in Syria exceeds 4,000, and as many as 540 people arrived in the country in the second half of June, including 70 command personnel and instructors … These mercenaries are transported by car in groups of 12 to 16 people,” the spokesperson said.
The private military contractors are reportedly training US-backed forces, protecting oil and gas infrastructure and ensuring security. The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) is responsible for their deployment and activities. 
Zakharova noted that the U.S. had followed a similar tactic in Iraq before and warned that the deployment of private military contractors in Syria is a dangerous violation of international laws.
“These US mercenaries will be [are] present on Syrian soil illegally in violation of all international norms and rules, which is another outrageous fact,” Zakharova said.
 [...]
Everything the U.S. and its cohorts have done in Syria has been illegal and a blatant violation of all international norms, but in training terrorists -- al Qaeda linked terrorists, no less -- the U.S. has gone over the top. To return to the FARS report:  
A prominent Russian military analyst revealed last year that the US was training terrorists in 19 military bases in Syria in pursuit of its military and political objectives in the country.
Vladimir Kozin, a military expert at Moscow State Institute of International Relations, was quoted by the Arabic website of RT as saying that the US has 19 bases in Syria to train the terrorists.
He added that the weapons, ammunition, fuel and foodstuff needed in these centers are provided by 22 US military bases outside Syria.
Kozin said that the American forces trained the terrorists at al-Tanf base in Syria's Badiyeh [desert] region in the South, adding that the US army had closed the airspace of this region in a radius of 50km without any agreement with the Damascus government.
He described Washington's military and technical support for terrorist groups as a violation of the UN Charter and agreements to decrease tensions in Syria, and said the US supported the terrorists to maintain its influence on the political and military situation of the country.
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Wednesday, July 17

"Wildfires Rage through Israel as Country Faces Extreme Heatwave"

The Media Line
July 17, 2019
Several wildfires broke out across Israel on Wednesday as the country faces an extreme heatwave. Temperatures across the nation have ranged from 39 Celsius (102 Fahrenheit) in Tel Aviv to 42 Celsius (108 Fahrenheit) in the southern city of Beersheba.
[...]
The fires have been described variously as brush fires (The Times of Israel)  and forest fires (Media Line) but all the press blame the fires on the heatwave, which is near record-breaking in some areas. So far no casualties according to Debkafile's one-paragraph report, although the Times reports some minor injuries due to smoke inhalation. 

All the Israeli English-language major press, e.g., Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, the Times, etc., have reported about the fires; see those outlets for details.

As to whether the heatwave has affected regions near Israel, I'm just learning about the Israeli heatwave. We have our own heatwave right here in Washington, DC, along with two-thirds of the rest of the nation; the heatwave could break records across the Northeast. Washington is expected to be as hot as Death Valley this Saturday. 

Give me a moment. [taptaptaptaptap. tap] I'm not seeing anything on Google News about a heatwave in the Middle East, beyond the Israeli one. Wait. On page 2 of the headlines, there's a report from The National about a heatwave that struck the Middle East in June, with Bahrain registering its highest temperature since 1902. 
[...]
The Middle East’s heatwave has intensified in the past few weeks, and the death of an outdoor worker in Kuwait was linked to the high temperatures.
Among the countries hardest hit was Iraq, where electricity production in the summer only meets half of the demand.
Countries across the region sought to lessen the impact on their populations. 
[...]
And I see Accuweather reported on May 23, "Dangerous heat wave to stretch from Egypt to Turkey, Syria into Friday."

So while the world press was focused on the extreme heatwave in Western Europe in late June, the Middle East has been hit by a series of extreme heatwaves since late May, including one in June.  

By the way, next week Europe might be hit again. From Euronews, today:
After a brief spell of respite from a scorching heatwave that gripped Europe last month, projections show that temperatures are likely to soar once again next week in areas including France, Germany, Austria, the UK, Norway, the Netherlands Spain, and Portugal.
Météo France, the country's national weather agency, said on Wednesday that we could be heading towards a second heatwave, but that forecasts were not yet definitive.
[...]
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UAE's major move against forces of darkness by promoting Sufism

(Any excuse to play a qawwali.)


A divide has opened between the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It seems this divide, while not terribly large at this point if one doesn't count the UAE signaling that it is pulling out of the Yemen War, is very deep because it has to do with religion. 

In late December the UAE reopened its embassy in Syria but the Emirates didn't stop with high-level diplomatic overtures. It backed these with humanitarian aid projects in the war-torn country and an extraordinary media effort done in cooperation with Syria's government. From a May 31 report in Asia Times headlined UAE using soft power in Syria after 7-year frost:
[...]
The UAE is also looking to influence minds — in Syria and beyond — bankrolling two Syrian soap operas this Ramadan airing exclusively on Abu Dhabi TV.
The first, Maqamat al-Asheq, tells the story of a renowned Sufi mystic Ibn A,rabi, who lived in Damascus centuries ago and is buried on the slopes of Mount Qassioun overlooking the city.
The second, Al-Asheq (The Impassioned), is the tale of the Abbasid-era Sufi philosopher al-Hallaj.
Both preach a version of Islam that the UAE and Syria are trying to promote, and which radical groups like the Islamic State tried to eradicate over the course of the war in Syria and other territories it seized.
Sufism is an order of peaceful mystics that once prevailed in Damascus under Ottoman rule. Sufi scholars have wide authority to interpret religious issues and take action based on judgement unless otherwise mentioned in the Quran. Connectivity with God takes different forms, in addition to prayer, and can be achieved through spiritual dancing or religious hymns — two acts that radical groups like ISIS consider un-Islamic.
When ISIS overran the city of Mayadeen in eastern Syria, its militants raided the homes of Sufis, arresting, flogging and often killing members of their order. 
Because Sufism appeals to [so many] Muslims, ISIS saw this brand of the religion as a threat to its power base, more than Christianity, for example.
Sufi clerics like Ibn Arabic and al-Hallaj, portrayed in the new Emirati-funded dramas, in contrast strictly banned the killing of any member of the monotheistic religions.
Like all Muslims, Sufis too believe in a caliphate. But any caliph, they say, needs to come “through brotherly love and fluttering hearts” — in the words of Ibn Arabi — rather than by the sword.
[...]
Of course, there are all sorts of politics and business dealings involved in the defrost. The lede for the AT report reads, "Emirati authorities keen to get a foothold in Syria, despite US sanctions against full investment." And given that the UAE is a hub for entertainment productions, even the financial backing for the Sufi dramas, which have an appeal across many regions in the world, has a big financial angle. 

But from the Asia Times report, clearly, this isn't just about entertainment profits. This is about the United Arab Emirates working to create a sea change with epochal ramifications for Islam and thus, all societies across the world. 

I don't want to fall prey to irrational exuberance, but this really is a very big story, a hopeful one. However comma as you will see if you read the entire Asia Times report, right now many Muslims, including Syrian Muslims, are caught between Wahhabism on one side and the Muslim Brotherhood on the other. It's like being asked if one prefers death by poisoning or hanging. And the governments pushing these two versions of Islam -- notably Turkey and Qatar on one side and Saudi Arabia on the other, are in turn backed by various Western governments including, I am ashamed to say, my own government.

But the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step and the United Arab Emirates has taken that step. If they keep it up, if they act from the heart, then the journey could be much shorter than supposed at this time. Here I am reminded of the children's rhyme:

How many miles to Babylon?
Three score miles and ten.
Can I get there by candle-light?
Yes, and back again ... 

When a journey is lit by the heart's candle, distance and time make no matter. 

See also U.A.E. Pulls Most Forces From Yemen in Blow to Saudi War Effort; July 11, 2019, The New York Times

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Oil price plunges on hopes for start of U.S.-Iran negotiations

Iran was in the midst of planning major airplane purchases from Boeing before the Trump administration scrapped the [Iran] deal.

Oil Plunges As Iran Conflict Cools
July 16, 2019, 6:00 PM CDT
Oil Price
[...]
The lengthy interview and rather accommodating tone from Zarif appeared to succeed in softening up the Trump administration. President Trump said at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday that the U.S. was “not looking for regime change,” although he added that he did “want them out of Yemen.”
“They’d like to talk, and we’ll see what happens,” Trump said.
Following those comments, Sec. Pompeo said that “for the first time” Iran was “ready to negotiate on their missile program.”
Oil prices plunged by 4 percent on Tuesday after Trump and Pompeo seemed to lay the groundwork for de-escalation. There are no formal next steps that the two countries might take, but the positive back-and-forth is a long way from where they were a few weeks ago, on the eve of a U.S. military strike.
[...]

I suspect Javad Zarif, Iran's Foreign Minister, struck a somewhat conciliatory tone in his interviews with major American news outlets because Trump's A-Team was sending conciliatory signals; I think that's why Zarif got the interviews. (Zarif considers Bolton part of the B-Team)

And as Nick mentions:
The nascent thaw in U.S.-Iran relations comes after the U.S. Gulf of Mexico avoided serious damage from Hurricane Barry, and 1.3 million barrels per day of disrupted oil production is in the process of coming back online.
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EU sanctions Turkey over its drilling in Cyprus exclusive economic zone

Some of the sanctions look pretty to serious to me. It's a lengthy report, which includes the reaction from Greece, but here are the opening passages:

July 16, 2019
SouthFront

On July 15 the European Union’s foreign ministers decided to impose sanctions on Turkey over its drilling activities within the territorial waters of member state Cyprus.
The EU maintains that those activities are illegal.
The sanctions include freezing most high-level contacts with Turkey and cutting the flow of funds to the country. No sanctions that target specific Turkish companies involved in the offshore drilling in the eastern Mediterranean were introduced.
[Pundita note: The individual sanctions are being prepared. See the entire report.]
The decision includes a freeze of pre-accession assistance to the tune of 146 million euros, the suspension of negotiations on the Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement and a halting of high-level dialogues in the fields of economy, energy, transport, and agriculture – as well as the suspension of lending activities of the European Investment Bank.
[...]

SouthFront Syrian War sitrep map update

Readers may recall my trials with reading SouthFront maps but this one is reasonably clear, although you'll have to scroll right to read the color-coded keys, etc. because I couldn't stuff the entire enlarged size into the margins of this blog. 

Thank you, SouthFront!


"Russia Sends Heavy Military Equipment to Syrian Army Positions in Hama"

July 16, 2019 - 1:41
FARS
According to a military source in Aleppo city, the Syrian Air Force specifically targeted the Regiment 46 Base that is located just North of the provincial borderline of Idlib.

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Russian Army has sent heavy military equipment to the Syrian Army’s military positions in Northern Hama as Damascus government forces launched ground and air raids on the terrorists’ military positions and movements in Northern Hama and Western Aleppo, media reports said Tuesday.

The pro-militants Smart News website quoted special sources as saying that the Russian Army has sent large amount of weapons and military equipment comprising artillery units and missile launchers as well as many military tanks for the Syrian Army in contact lines with terrorists in Northern Hama.

It noted that the Russian military equipment had arrived in Syria’s Tartus port on two ships.

The Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper also reported that the Syrian Army units pounded the terrorists’ movements in Tal Sakik and Atshan regions in Northern Hama, killing and injuring a large number of terrorists.

The Syrian Air Force also pounded the terrorists’ military positons and movements in Northern and Northwestern Hama, destroying the terrorists’ military equipment and killing a number of them.

In Northern Aleppo, the Syrian Army’s artillery units destroyed several military positions of the terrorists in response to attacks by the terrorists stationed in Rashedeen region in Western Aleppo on residential areas of Aleppo City as well as civilian casualties.

In a relevant development in late May, the Syrian Army launched air and ground strikes on Ankara-backed militants across Aleppo province.

The Syria Army had engaged in fierce clashes with Faylaq al-Sales terrorists as artillery units pounded the Ankara-backed militants' military positions near the town of al-Bab in Northern Aleppo, the Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper reported.

Field sources, meantime, reported that several military vehicles of the Turkey-backed terrorists were destroyed in clashes with the Syrian army, adding that several militants were killed in exchange of fire.

The sources further said that the Syrian Army's artillery units also pounded the terrorists' military positions in the town of Khalseh in Southern Aleppo.

The Syrian Air Force carried out several airstrikes over territories South-West of Aleppo province, AMN reported.

According to a military source in Aleppo city, the Syrian Air Force specifically targeted the Regiment 46 Base that is located just North of the provincial borderline of Idlib.

The heavy bombardment by the Syrian Air Force came just days after the Syrian Army sent a large number of reinforcements to the Southern Aleppo town of Al-Hadher.

[END REPORT]

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Monday, July 15

Trump says what a lot of people think but won't say


The photo montage, posted above the headline, "You can't leave fast enough!" is courtesy of the Drudge Report. The quote is from one of President Trump's Twitter rants. Mediaite has the story, headlined, Trump Says Ilhan Omar Should Go Back to Africa: ‘You Can’t Leave Fast Enough.

I took one look at the photos and burst into laughter. The look on Omar's face is priceless.

Makes no matter that three of the four women Trump told to return to their own countries are American-born and that they all serve in the U.S. Congress. They know what he was saying and so does everyone else.
“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly ... and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run ...
"Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how ... it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. ..."
Tut. Tut. Trump broke the code.

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Sunday, July 14

"Over 100 Terrorists Killed in Syrian-Russian Airstrikes in Idlib, Hama"


Associated Press, please take note of this report! And for crying out loud, start reading FARS; if they're good enough for Reuters, and U.S. News & World Report, and Jerusalem Post, and Pundita, they should be good enough for you. However, my worry is that the FARS editors will start getting a big head with all this recent attention from the international press.  (I, however, have been a loyal FARS reader since the Russians entered the fray in Syria.) 

Where was I? Oh yes -- and notice they quote Sputnik Arabic as one of the sources for the report. Note, too, mention of a contingent of Chechen fighters. I think foreign fighters are still a big presence in Syria; if so, the situation won't change until the governments still trying to overthrow Assad call off their dogs.    

FARS
July 13, 2019 - 1:47

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian and Russian air forces conducted several joint military operations against the terrorists’ military positions and command centers in Northern Hama and Southern Idlib, inflicting heavy losses on the militants.

The Arabic-language website of Russian Sputnik news agency quoted a military source as saying that the Russian and Syrian fighter jets attacked the military positions of Tarir al-Sham al-Hay’at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) and Islamic Turkistani Party terrorist groups several times in Khan Sheikhoun, Ariha, Ma’aret al-Numan and Jisr al-Shoghour in Western Idlib and their centers inside the city of Idlib.

The source reiterated that several command centers of Tahrir al-Sham and Turkistani Party terrorists were destroyed during the attack and over 100 foreign terrorists were killed and tens more were wounded.

He also noted that the joint airstrikes on the military positions of Tahrir al-Sham and Jeish al-Izzaeh in Kafar Zita and al-Latamineh in Northern Hama left several command centers, operation room, gatherings and military operations destroyed.

Meantime, the Arabic-language al-Morasseloun News Website quoted battlefield sources as saying that at least 71 terrorists were killed in a recent foiled attack on al-Hamamiat town in Northern Hama and over 115 of them were also wounded.

In a relevant development on Friday, the Syrian Army backed by the country’s and Russian air forces thwarted a heavy attack by elite militants of Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay’at terrorists aimed at regaining the strategic al-Hamamiat region in Northern Hama, killing at least 40 of them.

The Arabic-language website of the Russian Sputnik news agency quoted a military source as saying that over 1,000 of elite Tahrir al-Sham terrorists also known as Asaeb al-Hamra, most of them from Chechnya, together with hundreds of Turkistani Party terrorists as well as several suicide bombers have attacked the Syrian Army’s military positions in the town of al-Hamamiat in Northern Hama.

The source pointed to the tactical withdrawal of the Syrian Army troops to their military positions in al-Hamamiat region, and said that the Syrian Army fully cleansed al-Hamamiat town and its outskirts after dispatching troops and massive military equipment to the region and starting a heavy attack on the terrorists which left over 40 militants dead and at least 13 vehicles destroyed.

Meantime, the Russian and Syrian fighter jets and the Syrian Army’s artillery units pounded the military positions and movements of the terrorists in the towns of al-Latamineh, Kafar Zita, al-Zuka, al-Arbaeen and Khan Sheikhoun in Northern Hama and Southern Idlib, he added.

The source noted that the terrorist groups intend to cut Mahradeh-Saqilbieh Road by taking full control over al-Hamamiat strategic town.

Meantime, after sustaining heavy defeats in al-Hamamiat, the terrorists launched rocket attacks on residential areas in the town of Karnaz, Sheikh Hadid and Mahradeh in Northern Hama which resulted in the injury of a number of civilians.

The Syrian Army’s air defense systems also repelled two consecutive waves of drone attacks by terrorists on their military positions, and destroyed all the militants’ drones before they could hit their targets.


[END REPORT]

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The latest in U.S. attempts to put Damascus under full siege

Heaven forbid, we're not trying to starve the Syrians into overthrowing Assad. No no we're doing this for humanitarian reasons. All right, Pundita, calm down. I won't let you return to the Syrian War if you get hysterical every time you read FARS.  Breathe into a paper bag.

And no, this following FARS report isn't Iranian or Lebanese propaganda; the situation has been reported on by various press outlets ever since the Nassib Crossing was first reopened. It's just that the sources FARS quotes now report that it's escalating. 

There were some technical aspects to be worked out between Jordan and Syria about the reopening of Nassib Crossing and this might have also been the case for Lebanon and Syria; I can't recall for certain. But at least between Jordan and Syria, the difficulties have been worked out so now everyone is raring to go with the cross-border trade.  

Yet from everything I've seen over the months, it looks to me as if Jordan could be the primary target in this latest escalation. The Saudis and maybe some other Gulf Arab governments under Saudi prodding want Jordan to remain an economic basket case because that's how they maintain control over the country. That's been the problem for Jordan with the lengthy closure of the crossing; it's hurt them very badly financially. I think it's the same to a lesser degree with Lebanon, which will also profit from a full restoration of the cross-border trade. 

In any case, the country hurting the most from the U.S. attempts to box in Damascus is Syria.    
   
US Pressuring Jordan to Block Vital Border Crossing with Syria
July 13, 2019 - 1:47
FARS

TEHRAN (FNA)- A leading Lebanese newspaper reported that the US has increased pressures on Jordan to close the key border crossing of al-Nassib with Syria in line with Washington's attempts to put Damascus under full siege.

The Arabic-language al-Akhbar newspaper wrote that Washington seeks to reduce trade exchanges between Syria and Jordan at al-Nassib passageway in Southern Syria which is one of the two crossings for export of Syrian products to the Persian Gulf littoral states.

It also revealed the US attempts to close all important economic lifelines to Syria, adding that Washington has also sanctioned all countries and companies which sent oil to Banias refinery in Syria and is attempting to pave the ground for the US-backed Kurds to take control of Eastern Euphrates, which is rich in oil and gas resources.

Meantime, the US forces which have occupied al-Tanf border crossing which links Jordan to Iraq are attempting to gain control of Albu Kamal-al-Qaem border passageway too.

Also, al-Akhbar reported that reopening of al-Nassib passageway and trade exchanges and ties between the Syrian and Jordanian nations has displeased the West and certain Arab states, adding that many believe that the US intensified economic sanctions against Syria after al-Nassib passageway reopened.

Official reports said that nearly 800 trucks crossed al-Nassib on a daily basis before the crisis in Syria, but the number decreased to 47 trucks in the first 5 months of the current year after the US pressures to prevent trade through the passageway.

Al-Nassib border-crossing in Southern Syria, connecting Dara'a province to Jordan, was reopened officially last October after three years of closure due to the terrorists' presence in the region.

Differences between Damascus and Amman were reported [months ago] over reopening of the border-crossing. After a new agreement between Damascus and Amman, the Nassib border-crossing has now kicked off operation. Several vehicles crossed the border and have entered Syria from Jordan via the Nassib passageway.
[END REPORT]
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Saturday, July 13

Turkey responds to Saudi Arabia's actions in E. Syria. Here we go.

Here's the latest on the twists and turns. The second part of in the following report repeats various passages from the earlier report today at FARS (Paper: Riyadh, Abu Dhabi on Threshold of Confrontation with Turkey in Syria). 

Ankara Sends Heavy Military Equipment, Tanks to Borders with Aleppo to Respond to Riyadh’s Movements in Eastern Syria
July 13, 2019 - 3:10
FARS




TEHRAN (FNA)- The Turkish Army has dispatched heavy military equipment to the borders with Syria in response to the recent movements made by Saudi Arabia and the US in support of the Kurdish forces in Eastern Syria, media reports said Saturday.

The Arabic-language al-Quds al-Arabi reported that the Turkish Army has sent massive military equipment comprising hundreds of tanks and military vehicles to the border with Syria.

The daily said that dispatch of this volume of Turkish military equipment to the borders with Syria is unprecedented ever since Ankara threatened to launch a military operation in Eastern Euphrates.

Al-Quds al-Arabi wrote that most of the military equipment have been sent to regions bordering Kurdish forces in Syria, including Ain al-Arab in Aleppo province and Tal Abyaz in Raqqa.

The newspaper also noted that the measure by the Turkish Army has taken place after a high-ranking Saudi delegation accompanied with Emirati officials held meetings with Kurdish commanders in Eastern Syria.

Al-Quds al-Arabi also said that Washington has called for replacement of the US troops with European soldiers in the region.

It also quoted Turkish soldiers as saying that the Turkish Army has also called on the military commanders of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Syria’s National Army to meet in Ankara.

The terrorist groups in Ankara-controlled al-Bab and Jarablus regions are now on a state of alert in regions West of the Euphrates.

In a relevant development earlier this week, media reports said that Saudi Arabia had offered Hefty Cash to tribal leaders in Eastern Syria to support the US-backed militants in order to threaten Turkey.

The Arabic-language Al-Watan newspaper quoted special sources in Eastern Syria as saying that Saudi Minister for Persian Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan in his meeting with Syrian tribal leaders asked for helping Kurdish fighters.

Several US officials were accompanying al-Sahban during his meeting with tribal leaders of Eastern Syria, it added.

They have offered to give a hefty sum of $50 million to them indirectly through local councils and also direct financial aid, the paper further said.

Al-Watan newspaper noted that the efforts by Saudi Arabia are in line with support for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the presence of al-Sahban in the region is in line with Riyadh's confrontation with Turkey on the issue of Kurds.

The daily noted that Turkey-Saudi Arabia relations are currently very strained.

Al-Watan also quoted special sources as saying that Saudi Arabia threatens Turkey and tries to include itself in the Syrian power balance through the Kurds, specially the SDF.

Meantime, Secretary General of Popular Party Sheikh Navaf Tarad al-Molhem, who is a tribal leader of al-Hasaneh tribe pointed to al-Sahban's cash offer to tribal leaders of Eastern Syria, and said that Eastern Syria tribal leaders will confront any effort by Saudi Arabia, the US and Turkey to disintegrate Syria.

In a relevant development last week, the tribal leaders in Deir Ezzur voiced strong opposition to the Saudi plots to support the SDF's separatist measures in the Eastern parts of the province.

Al-Watan newspaper reported that al-Jamel tribe in Eastern Deir Ezzur had issued a statement to emphasize its opposition to the appointment of SDF-affiliated Ahmed al-Khabil as the Sheikh of al-Bakir tribes in Eastern Deir Ezzur and the head of Syria's military democratic council.

Al-Jamel tribe has referred in the statement to the terrorist acts by the SDF in Eastern Euphrates region, and said that it does not recognize al-Khabil who has been appointed with the support of al-Sabhan and the terrorist militias as the Emir of al-Bakir Sheikhs.

Other Syrian tribes had also earlier stressed their opposition to al-Khabil's appointment.

Meantime, the Arabic-language al-Baladi news website affiliated to the militants reported that one of the leaders of Syria's Arab tribes namely Obaid Khalaf al-Hissan was assassinated in the town of al-Ali Bajeliyeh in Tal Abyadh region in Northern Raqqa after stopping cooperation with the Kurdish forces in Eastern Euphrates.

It added that the SDF commanders had earlier attempted to return him.

Relevant reports also said in June that the Syrian tribes in Deir Ezzur province had stood against a Saudi-US plot to support the Kurds to decompose Eastern Euphrates from Syria.

The Arabic-language al-Ahd news website quoted the leader of al-Moshahedah in al-Jazeerah region in Eastern Euphrates Sheikh Heidar al-Hamadi as saying that all Syrian tribes, except a little number of them, had opposed the recent meeting by al-Sahban to Kurdish-occupied regions to study plots to separate Eastern Syria from the country's territory.

He underlined al-Sahban's attempts to coax the tribes in Eastern Syria into implementation of separatist plots, and said most of them want Damascus to retake control of the region.

Meantime, al-Watan newspaper reported that a Swedish delegation, including the country's representative for Syria affairs, the Swedish foreign ministry official for Syria affairs and the official for the agency on international aid, have entered the Kurdish-occupied regions in Eastern Syria and held meetings with a number of commanders in line with the western states' accelerated attempts to interfere in Syria's internal affairs and assist the SDF in their separatist dreams.

Mohammad al-Akam, a senior Syrian legislator, said that a tripartite coalition has been formed among Saudi Arabia, the Kurdish forces and Israel under the US supervision which pursues pressures on Damascus after gaining victory over terrorist groups, by separating the Northeastern parts of the country.

Head of the politburo of Turkey-backed Lawa al-Mo'etasam-Free Syrian Army terrorists Mostafa Sejari wrote on his twitter page on Monday that Riyadh had stopped financial support for the terrorist groups in Northern Syria in line with a fresh scheme to help Kurds cut off Eastern Syria from the mainland after a Saudi-US delegation met in Deir Ezzur.

He added that Saudi Arabia had decided to cut financial support for the regions occupied by the terrorist groups in Northern Syria.

He added that the measure was adopted after Riyadh started support for the separatist Kurdish groups in Northeastern Syria following a visit by al-Sahban to Kurdish-occupied regions.

Sejari underlined that Saudi Arabia wants to pressure Turkey, warning, "All of us will be harmed by this measure."

Associated Press takes a stab at explaining what's happening in Idlib

"In a relevant development earlier this week, media reports said that Saudi Arabia had offered Hefty Cash to tribal leaders in Eastern Syria to support the US-backed militants in order to threaten Turkey."
-- see FARS report below the AP one.
Stalled Idlib campaign shows limits of Syrian, Russian power

By BASSEM MROUE
July 13, 2019 - approx. 6:45 AM ET
The Associated Press
BEIRUT (AP) — Two months of intensive airstrikes by Syrian government forces and their Russian allies, coupled with a fierce ground assault on rebel-controlled Idlib province, have killed hundreds of people and caused massive displacement while achieving little to no gain for President Bashar Assad.
Despite the heavy bombardment, Assad’s troops have been unable to make any significant advances against al-Qaida-linked militants and other jihadi groups who dominate Idlib province, the last significant area held by opposition forces. Militant attacks have killed an average of more than a dozen soldiers and allied militiamen a day in recent weeks.
The struggling campaign underscores the limits of Syria’s and Russia’s airpower and inability to achieve a definitive victory in the country’s long-running civil war, now in its eighth year.
With crucial military assistance from Russia and Iran, Syrian troops have in the past few years recovered most other opposition-held parts of the country with crushing offensives and long-running sieges.
In each of those places, rebels either surrendered or were forcibly exiled to Idlib, where they are now cornered with nowhere left to go. Bitter and desperate, they can only fight to the end.
Abu Mohammed al-Golani, the leader of the main al-Qaida-linked group in the region, has called on every able person to “perform his religious duty” and join the fight.
Sam Heller, a Syria expert with the International Crisis Group who closely follows the situation in the rebel-controlled area, said, “Idlib’s armed opposition may not be able to win an open battle for the northwest, but they can make a Syrian military victory terribly costly, maybe intolerably so.”
Politically, Idlib reflects the tug of war among international players supporting opposing sides of Syria’s conflict.
[...]
The report continues on at considerable length and with several interesting details but ends with this punchline:
“The Syrian military’s inability so far to make more headway in Idlib does not mean it cannot ultimately achieve victory nationwide,” Heller, of Crisis Group, said. “It does show, however, that its military victory is contingent on politics that are bigger than just Syria.”
It's nonsense that the Russian and Syrian forces can't pulverize the resistance in Idlib right now. So what's really happening? Let's see -- watch carefully don't blink:

Paper: Riyadh, Abu Dhabi on Threshold of Confrontation with Turkey in Syria
July 13, 5:50 AM
FARS

TEHRAN (FNA)- Syria might soon be the scene of new rivalries between Turkey and a coalition of Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Kurdish separatists after a recent meeting between the Saudi and UAE officials and the anti-Ankara Kurdish militia and accelerated dispatch of military equipment by Turkey to its occupied territories in Syria, a leading Arab newspaper wrote on Saturday.

The Arabic-language al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper reported that a high-ranking delegation of Saudi and UAE officials had recently held a series of crucial meetings with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commanders who oppose Turkey.

It added that Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have also promised increased financial aid to the Kurdish-majority SDF during the meetings.

Meantime, Turkey has invited a number of leaders and commanders of affiliated militant groups, including the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Syria's National Army to Ankara to hold a meeting.

It has also sent a large amount of weapons and military equipment to the terrorist groups in al-Bab and Jarabulus in Syria's Aleppo province in the Western parts of the Euphrates river to increase their preparedness and has held a series of meetings with the tribal leaders in Syria to organize a front against the Kurdish militias.

Al-Quds al-Arabi said given the recent events and incidents, a confrontation between the Saudi- and UAE-backed Kurdish militias and Turkey-backed militants is now highly possible, an event that marks the start of a completely new proxy war in Syria.

In a relevant development earlier this week, media reports said that Saudi Arabia had offered Hefty Cash to tribal leaders in Eastern Syria to support the US-backed militants in order to threaten Turkey.

The Arabic-language Al-Watan newspaper quoted special sources in Eastern Syria as saying that Saudi Minister for Persian Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan in his meeting with Syrian tribal leaders asked for helping Kurdish fighters.

Several US officials were accompanying al-Sahban during his meeting with tribal leaders of Eastern Syria, it added.

They have offered to give a hefty sum of $50 million to them indirectly through local councils and also direct financial aid, the paper further said.

Al-Watan newspaper noted that the efforts by Saudi Arabia are in line with support for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the presence of al-Sahban in the region is in line with Riyadh's confrontation with Turkey on the issue of Kurds.

The daily noted that Turkey-Saudi Arabia relations are currently very strained.

Al-Watan also quoted special sources as saying that Saudi Arabia threatens Turkey and tries to include itself in the Syrian power balance through the Kurds, specially the SDF.

Meantime, Secretary General of Popular Party Sheikh Navaf Tarad al-Molhem, who is a tribal leader of al-Hasaneh tribe pointed to al-Sahban's cash offer to tribal leaders of Eastern Syria, and said that Eastern Syria tribal leaders will confront any effort by Saudi Arabia, the US and Turkey to disintegrate Syria.

In a relevant development last week, the tribal leaders in Deir Ezzur voiced strong opposition to the Saudi plots to support the SDF's separatist measures in the Eastern parts of the province.

Al-Watan newspaper reported that al-Jamel tribe in Eastern Deir Ezzur had issued a statement to emphasize its opposition to the appointment of SDF-affiliated Ahmed al-Khabil as the Sheikh of al-Bakir tribes in Eastern Deir Ezzur and the head of Syria's military democratic council.

Al-Jamel tribe has referred in the statement to the terrorist acts by the SDF in Eastern Euphrates region, and said that it does not recognize al-Khabil who has been appointed with the support of al-Sabhan and the terrorist militias as the Emir of al-Bakir Sheikhs.

Other Syrian tribes had also earlier stressed their opposition to al-Khabil's appointment.

Meantime, the Arabic-language al-Baladi news website affiliated to the militants reported that one of the leaders of Syria's Arab tribes namely Obaid Khalaf al-Hissan was assassinated in the town of al-Ali Bajeliyeh in Tal Abyadh region in Northern Raqqa after stopping cooperation with the Kurdish forces in Eastern Euphrates.

It added that the SDF commanders had earlier attempted to return him.

Relevant reports also said in June that the Syrian tribes in Deir Ezzur province had stood against a Saudi-US plot to support the Kurds to decompose [decouple] Eastern Euphrates from Syria.

The Arabic-language al-Ahd news website quoted the leader of al-Moshahedah in al-Jazeerah region in Eastern Euphrates Sheikh Heidar al-Hamadi as saying that all Syrian tribes, except a little number of them, had opposed the recent meeting by al-Sahban to Kurdish-occupied regions to study plots to separate Eastern Syria from the country's territory.

He underlined al-Sahban's attempts to coax the tribes in Eastern Syria into implementation of separatist plots, and said most of them want Damascus to retake control of the region.

Meantime, al-Watan newspaper reported that a Swedish delegation, including the country's representative for Syria affairs, the Swedish foreign ministry official for Syria affairs and the official for the agency on international aid, have entered the Kurdish-occupied regions in Eastern Syria and held meetings with a number of commanders in line with the western states' accelerated attempts to interfere in Syria's internal affairs and assist the SDF in their separatist dreams.

Mohammad al-Akam, a senior Syrian legislator, said that a tripartite coalition has been formed among Saudi Arabia, the Kurdish forces and Israel under the US supervision which pursues pressures on Damascus after gaining victory over terrorist groups, by separating the Northeastern parts of the country.

Head of the politburo of Turkey-backed Lawa al-Mo'etasam-Free Syrian Army terrorists Mostafa Sejari wrote on his twitter page on Monday that Riyadh had stopped financial support for the terrorist groups in Northern Syria in line with a fresh scheme to help Kurds cut off Eastern Syria from the mainland after a Saudi-US delegation met in Deir Ezzur.

He added that Saudi Arabia had decided to cut financial support for the regions occupied by the terrorist groups in Northern Syria.

He added that the measure was adopted after Riyadh started support for the separatist Kurdish groups in Northeastern Syria following a visit by al-Sahban to Kurdish-occupied regions.

Sejari underlined that Saudi Arabia wants to pressure Turkey, warning, "All of us will be harmed by this measure."


[END REPORT]

So what does it all mean?  I think it means AP needs to get up earlier in the morning to cover events in Syria. I think it could also mean Assad has been waiting for the jackals to turn on each other. 

By the way, I love FARS capitalizing "hefty cash." Does this mean Hefty Cash is a new term of art for an old tactic in the Middle East? 

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