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Saturday, June 30

"Syrian Army Cuts Off Terrorists' Supply Line from Dara'a to Jordan Border"


[See also these June 30 reports on SAA's Daraa operation:


June 30, 2018 - 5:25
FARS

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army continued to march in several directions in Dara'a province on Saturday, and seized control of one of the most important supply lines of the terrorists in the region.

Field sources reported on Saturday that the army forces strengthened their military positions in Western Dara'a after imposing full control over the strategic al-Zamitiyeh heights.

They said that the army forces could cut off the road used by the terrorists to transfer military equipment between Eastern and Western Dara'a to the borders with Jordan.

Reports also said that terrorists in the two towns of Tafas and al-Mazirib in Western Dara'a have laid down their arms and surrendered to the Syrian army forces.

Meantime, other army units operating in Eastern Dara'a liberated the town of al-Jizeh and the villages of al-Sahweh and Kahil after heavy clashes with the terrorists.

In a relevant development earlier today, the Syrian army won back control of 2 regions and a strategic hill from the terrorists in Dara'a, finding footprints of certain western and regional states in militants' strongholds.

The Syrian army forces engaged in heavy clashes with the terrorists in Northern Dara'a on Saturday, regaining control of the village of al-Ja'eilah West of Abta'a dam.

Meantime, reports from Eastern Dara'a said that the Syrian army forces have liberated the town of Karak after clashes with the terrorists.

Also, the Syrian army units captured the strategic heights of al-Zamitiyeh from the terrorists in Western Dara'a.

Al-Zamitiyeh heights overlook the military road which links East to the North-East, and West to the North-West of Dara'a.

The army troops also imposed control over two caches of mostly West-made arms during the mop-up operations in the town of Olama in Eastern Dara'a.

Other units of the army also discovered a large amount of medicine originated from certain regional states and international organizations at a field hospital in the town of Olama that had been smuggled to Syria.

[END REPORT]

*********

"Militants allegedly attack Russian airport in Syria with armed drones"

July 1, 2018
Update
Leith Aboufadel
AMN

BEIRUT, LEBANON (2:30 A.M. [an hour ago, U.S. Eastern Time) – Earlier tonight a source in Latakia informed Al-Masdar News that the Russian military activated their air defense alarms at the Hmaymim Airport near the port city of Jableh.

According to the source the Russian military allegedly shot down a number of armed drones that belonged to the militant forces.

The source stated that the militant attack was repelled by the Russian military; however, he could not confirm whether any of the drones hit their intended target at the airport.

This is believed to be the first attack by the militant forces on the Hmaymim Airport since early Spring 2018.

The first armed drone attack that was carried out by the militants on the Hmaymim Airport took place at the end of 2017.

[END REPORT]

**********

Friday, June 29

Under constant siege from regimes run by lunatics, how has Assad stayed sane all these years?

We know from Joan Juliet Buck's profile of her that Bashar al-Assad's wife Asma seems to think food is for weaklings. I believe this is why Bashar is always skinny as a rail. So my theory is that the secret to his sanity is that Asma keeps telling him if he goes crazy she'll reduce his caloric intake even more.

This is such a humorless era I suppose I'd better add that I am joking. Of course Asma wouldn't tell him any such thing. She wouldn't need to. [bursting into laughter] 

Is there anything more annoying than bloggers who laugh at their own jokes? I can think of a few things. Nations with lunatics at the helm, for one.

But speaking of food: Turkey starts importing potato from war-torn Syria. It's clearly more than one potato. As to why Turkey is having to import potatoes -- ah, the dark hands:
[...]
Turkey allowed potato imports in a limited amount from Syria to curb skyrocketing prices, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci announced on June 27.
“We have allowed potato imports from some parts of Syria where Turkey undertakes operations in a very limited amount. Our imports will only be 1 percent of Turkey’s potato demand, which is around 4,000 tons. We import potatoes from Syria in Turkish Liras. This factor has played a key role in pushing down the prices in the domestic market,” Zeybekci said during a press meeting in Ankara.
In Istanbul, the cost of one kilogram of onions rose 212 percent to 6.5 liras ($1.5) over the past month. One kilo of onions was sold for around 1.3 liras last June. Potato prices also rose to 6 liras ($1.4) in June, a 94 percent month-on-month increase. One kilo of potatoes was around 1.5 liras last June.
Officials predict that potato prices, which are around 3 liras as of June 27, will be between 1.5 and 2.5 liras in July as fresh supplies arrive.
Turkey’s Food, Agriculture and Livestock Minister Ahmet Eşref Fakıbaba had said on June 22 that there are “dark hands” behind the dramatic rise in basic food products, including potato, pointing to possible speculation before the June 24 elections.
As to my chances of surviving the Syrian War with my sanity intact, maybe I should start thinking about reducing my caloric intake.

********

Thursday, June 28

"Syrian refugees living in Lebanon start returning to Syria"

Two quotes from the following report:

"All I want is to return to Syria and not leave it again. Enough of being a refugee."

"The repatriations come amid a row between the Lebanese government and the U.N.'s refugee agency, which Beirut accuses of trying to discourage refugees from returning home. UNHCR has rejected the charges."

Pundita comment: So the United Nations relief agency is worried that Syria isn't safe enough for the return of Syrian refugees, eh? Maybe if UNHCR hadn't pandered all these years to the Saudi, Qatari, American, French, and British regimes, Syria would be safe enough today for all Syrian refugees to return. 

Syrian refugees living in Lebanon start returning to Syria
June 28, 2018
The Associated Press via An-Nahar

Most of those returning are farmers and their families, some on pickup trucks and tractors.

[see An-Nahar website for photo of Lebanese troops organizing the border crossing for hundreds of refugees returning to Syria today]

ARSAL, Lebanon: Women and children crammed in the back of pick-up trucks piled high with mattresses and blankets, as dozens of Syrian refugees in Lebanon began crossing the border on Thursday, heading back home to an uncertain future in war-torn Syria.

The small exodus is part of a repatriation program that the government says is voluntary — the first batch of refugees to return to Syria from the Lebanese border town of Arsal this year. About 470 Syrians are expected to make the crossing on Thursday, after having requested permission from the Lebanese and Syrian governments.

Syrian pro-government Al-Ikhbariya TV broadcast from the border crossing, showing vehicles and civilians crossing over, and some of who were interviewed praised the Syrian army.

Khaled Abdul-Aziz, a Syrian who heads the returnees committee, said a total of 472 were scheduled to go back by Thursday afternoon. He said a total of 3,194 refugees have registered to return, adding that after this week's crossings, the rest will head back in batches in the coming weeks.

The repatriations come amid a row between the Lebanese government and the U.N.'s refugee agency, which Beirut accuses of trying to discourage refugees from returning home. UNHCR has rejected the charges.

Lebanon hosts around 1 million registered Syrian refugees, or roughly a quarter of the population, and officials have warned the country can no longer afford the strain on the fragile economy.

U.N. officials and rights groups have expressed concern over the organized repatriations, calling them premature as violence and a government crackdown continue in Syria. Syrians are often driven to leave by "oppressive" living conditions in Lebanon, including a lack of residency, restriction on movement and inability to enroll children in school, said Lama Fakih, deputy director of the Middle East region in Human Rights Watch.

In Arsal, the refugees gathered in the town's Wadi Hmeid area where a Lebanese security officer first checked their IDs against a list before allowing them to cross into Syria.

Most of those returning are farmers and their families, some on pickup trucks and tractors.

"I cannot describe my happiness, I'm returning to my country after five years and will see my parents for the first time in five years," said Hanadi Massoud, who was going back with her husband, three daughters and mother in law.

The family had been in Lebanon since 2013. They are now returning to their hometown of Jarajeer in the Qalamoun region, which returned to government control gradually in 2014 and 2015.

As the Syrian army, backed by its allies Russia and Iran, has regained more territory from rebels in Syria, the Lebanese government has argued that many areas in Syria have stabilized enough for refugees to return.

For its part, the United Nations is cautious and says the country is not yet safe.

Lebanese general security chief Abbas Ibrahim on Wednesday said UNHCR has been notified about Syrians returning on Thursday in a letter, "so they can bear their responsibility."

Lisa Abou Khaled, a spokeswoman for UNHCR in Beirut, said the agency is not organizing these returns. Abou Khaled said representatives of the agency however are present at the crossings to answer questions. She confirmed authorities informed them of the planned repatriation.

"UNHCR, as in previous movements ... will be present at the departure point to attend to any query or any needs the refugees may have as they prepare to leave to Syria," she said.

Fakih, of HRW, said research on Syrians in Arsal before revealed "oppressive conditions" that led many to return. A similar convoy last year left Arsal to areas held by insurgents in Syria. It was not immediately clear what happened to those who returned.

"Chief among (their) concerns was concerns about not having residency in Lebanon which restricts their ability to move or to send children to school" or obtain necessary assistance, she said.

Basil al-Hujeiry, Arsal mayor, said more than 3,000 Syrians have been registered to return home from the border town. He said Syrian authorities have asked that the repatriations take place in phases.

Once home to some 120,000 Syrian refugees, the number in Arsal dwindled over the past two years to 50,000 after thousands returned home or moved elsewhere in Lebanon, said al-Hujeiry.

On the edge of the town's rugged mountains, refugee settlements seen from a distance were made up of tents.

The U.N. refugee agency "is fully respectful of the decision of the Lebanese government and we fully respect the decision of the families to return. We don't interfere," said Josep Zapater, head of the agency's office in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley.

Some young men have said they prefer not to return to Syria for fear of being drafted into the military but those going back on Thursday said they were promised they will not be drafted earlier than six months after their return.

"I am really scared about being drafted to the army but the situation in Syria now is more safe," said Salah-Eddine Abdul-Aziz, 26, who is returning to his hometown of Fleeta along with his wife and son. "All I want is to return to Syria and not leave it again. Enough of being a refugee."

[END REPORT]

**********

Police responded to Capitol Gazette shooting in about 60 seconds, went straight after the shooter UPDATED 8:20 PM, 11:37 PM ET

UPDATE 11:37 PM


Jarrod Ramos, 38, identified as suspect in Annapolis shooting; CBS News, 8:57 PM

Ramos nursed a grudge against the Capitol Gazette for years according to the CBS report.   
 
UPDATE 8:30 PM

From Washington, DC WTOP radio broadcast of the 8 PM presser conducted by acting chief of Anne Arundel police department:
  • 5 confirmed dead and only 2 injured, slightly -- injuries might have been from glass shards 
  • Detectives still interviewing the perp, who has given his name, or the police have identified him by some means, and have obtained his address
  • He is a Maryland resident -- possibly lives in Annapolis
  • Police are in the process of getting a search warrant for his residence
  • The suspected IED police found at the scene turned out to be a bag full of smoke canisters
  • Motive for the shooting still not known 

END UPDATE 

The Anne Arundel county police were so well trained to deal with an 'active' mass shooting they were ready to take on a small army inside the Capitol Gazette building. The shooting is of course a tragedy but the police response was a model for what all police forces have to aim for in this era of surprise attacks on large numbers of civilians. No reccointoring, no waiting for backup; just charge in there and stop the shooters(s) by any means necessary. That's what the police did in the case of the Capitol Gazette shooting and boy did it pay off!  

And it wasn't only the one police department that was superlatively trained, according to a spokesman during the second press conference on the incident, at around 5:30 PM ET -- it was also police and fire forces and other first responders in nearby regions, and were coordinated.  Everyone knew what to do without waiting around, no confusion.  Bravo all concerned!  

A few minutes after the presser a reporter for WMAL radio here in Washington, who was at the scene by that time, said in awe that as far as the eye could see, there were vehicles for all the various first responders.

That's what it takes in this era -- preparation and drill, drill, drill because mass murderers don't give anyone the time to figure things out after the shooting starts. 

The next presser is scheduled for 8 PM ET -- oh, right now.

**********


Ah. I see Leith Fadel is muttering to himself on his Twitter page

I wish he'd mutter to himself more often. Usually he's just re-Tweeting stuff or announcing the latest report at AMN. But his remarks this morning about various aspects of the Syrian War are interesting; e.g.:
[Unlike] In the northern part of the country, many of the rebel groups in southern Syria do not have a specific foreign entity to negotiate on their behalf and enforce any agreement. Most of the Syrian Army’s success in the East Ghouta battle was due to a Russian-Turkish agreement
I'm too tired at this moment to string together his mutterings but seek and ye shall find:

https://twitter.com/leithfadel?lang=en

********


"Syrian Air Force Strikes Islamic State Along Occupied Golan Heights Border"

June 27, 2018
FARS

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Air Force launched air raids over ISIL terrorists' positions in Southwest Dara'a and Southern Quneitra on Wednesday, a military source reported a few minutes ago.

The source said that the warplanes struck ISIL’s positions near the border of the Israeli occupied Golan Heights, the AMN reported.

The source added that the Israeli military did not interfere during the Syrian Air Force’s attack along the border.

The airstrike marks the first time in four years that the Syrian Air Force has conducted airstrikes in this part of Quneitra and Dara'a provinces.

[END REPORT]

From AMN chief Leith Fadel on his Twitter page today:
Syrian jets are flying close to the Israeli border this morning. Yesterday, they bombed Jaysh Khaled bin Walid (ISIS) along the Quneitra-Daraa axis. This is the closest they have flown to the Israeli border since the IDF downed their jet near Tal Al-Harrah a few years ago.
 ********

US to rest of the world: Nobody does business with Iran, nobody gets hurt

You can see the drawback to this threat by watching U.S. relations with India. The geniuses who run American defense policy can't figure out whether to fawn over New Delhi because they want it as a pawn against Beijing or whether to slap economic sanctions on Indian businesses for continuing to do business with Iran. So they're trying to do both at the same time. Thus, the American Bully-Fawn defense policy.   

All right Pundita that's enough of a break; back to the Syrian War. No no I don't wanna go. I can't take any more Syrian war sitreps. I'll get sick if I have to study one more SouthFront war map. 

Remember, Syria is a window on many other things happening in the world. 

How is it a window on the world when the Tiger Forces recapture the T-2 pumping station in some hole in the wall town the name of which I can't pronounce? I wanna go out and play.

Not at 2:25 in the morning, you don't want to go out and play. Now shaddup. Life is a forced march.      

********

Wednesday, June 27

SouthFront tries to resolve claims that US aids Islamic State in Syria

From Elijah J. Magnier's June 27 report, The most complicated battle of Southern Syria: US forces under threat due to Israeli interference:
It is not a question of "conspiracy theory" here: the US is protecting ISIS in the north-east and Israel protects ISIS and other jihadists in the south. Both countries are preventing the eradication of terrorist jihadists and are stopping the Syrian army from liberating its own territory. In the meantime, Russia is walking in the middle of a minefield, as if the “war on terror” was the concern of Moscow, Tehran, Damascus and its allies only, and means nothing to Israel and the US.
Such accusations have been snowballing in recent weeks.  SouthFront takes a stab at untangling the mess in their June 27 Syrian War report, MILITANTS’ DEFENSE COLLAPSING IN SOUTHERN SYRIA (emphasis mine):
[...]
Two helicopters of the US-led coalition have evacuated two ISIS commanders from the area of Twaimin in the Syrian province of al-Hasakah, the Syrian state-run news agency SANA reported on June 25 adding that the goal of the move is “prolonging terrorist war on Syria”. The terrorists were allegedly transported to a US military facility in al-Shaddadi.
The Syrian government, Iran and Russia have repeatedly accused the US-led coalition of providing at least indirect assistance to ISIS [Islamic State] terrorists. The SANA has released a number of reports saying that aircraft of the coalition evacuate ISIS members from the combat zones in Syria to the coalition-occupied areas.
The US-led coalition officially rejects all the accusations claiming they're just propaganda. At the same time the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have released a number of statements accusing the SAA [Syrian Arab Army] and Russia of cooperating with ISIS and supporting the terrorism.
A weak media response of the coalition and SDF to the SANA accusations is linked with the fact that almost all the remaining strong points of ISIS in eastern Syria are located on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, declared by the [US] coalition as its zone of responsibility.
Thus, on one hand, the coalition is not hurrying up to fight ISIS because this move will undermine its already weak justification of the military presence in Syria. On the other hand, it has to show that it is fighting ISIS in an attempt to hide its current goals – to prevent the restoration of the Syrian territorial integrity under control of the Damascus government, to limit the Russian influence in the region and to assist Israel in opposing Iran.
The sentence I highlighted might not be checkmate but it means the Trump regime has a lot of explaining to do. 

Meanwhile claims of U.S. cooperation with Islamic State and other terrorist/hardline Islamist groups in Syria are helping fuel protests by the growing number of Syrians who've switched their allegiance from rebel groups to Syria's government. Magnier's report includes photographs of yet another of those protests with the caption:
In Ibta’ (rural Daraa, in Syria's south), “citizens raise the Syrian flag inviting the Syrian Army in their city and hoping it will liberate them from terrorists”.
The report also includes a photograph of Saudi Arabia's foreign minister with his arm around Ahmad al-Awda, commander of the Shabaa al Sunnah militant group in rural Daraa -- although al-Awda seems to have been kicked out in  2016 if Wikipedia's article on the group is correct. In any case it's a good guess the Saudis don't care who's commanding the group provided he does what they tell him to do.

********

Residents stage pro-SAA protest against rebels holding their town. Uprising, Cont'd:

Some pretty brave unarmed residents of Ghariyah Al-Sharqiyah


By Leith Aboufadel
June 27, 2018
AMN (Al-Masdar News)

BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:00 P.M.) – Residents inside a rebel-held town in the Daraa Governorate reportedly obviously held a demonstration in support of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) this afternoon.

According to Damascus Now, residents in the town of Ghariyah Al-Sharqiyah took to the streets in support of the Syrian Army today.

Ghariyah Al-Sharqiyah is located just south of the recently captured town of Maliha Al-Sharqiyah.

[photo above from AMN website; see AMN for another photo of the protestors]

[END REPORT]

*********

US-backed SDF tears down Syrian flags hoisted in Raqqa, arrests villagers loyal to Syrian government: Uprising, Cont'd

[shaking her head] This situation is getting worse by the day. It seems the Kurdish mercenaries really believed the U.S. was going to support their attempts to carve a country for themselves out of Syria.  
  
US-Backed SDF Keeps Fighters on Alert after Distribution of Syrian Flags across Raqqa
Wed Jun 27, 2018 - 4:51
FARS

TEHRAN (FNA)- The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) put its militias on alert after unknown men embarked on distributing Syrian government flags across Raqqa city in Northeastern Syria, local sources reported on Wednesday.

The sources in the village of Ya'arab in Western Raqqa reported that SDF stormed the village to take down and tear apart a large number of Syrian government flags and images of President Bashar al-Assad at power towers.

The SDF leadership in the region put fighters on alert and ordered to clean the streets from flags and the president's images.

In the meantime, the wives of a number of gunmen of Liwa al-Thowar Raqqa who have been captured by the SDF demonstrated in al-Romeileh neighborhood in Raqqa city, and called on the SDF to release the detainees.

In a relevant development on Tuesday, the SDF stormed bases and positions of Liwa al-Thowar al-Raqqa in the Raqqa city and its outskirts and captured a sum of 200 gunmen.

In the meantime, the SDF arrested tens of villagers in the villages of al-Adnaniyeh, al-Rafeqa and al-Ansar, accusing them of supporting the Damascus government.

Local sources said that unprecedented tensions have swept the region due to the SDF measures.

[END REPORT]

*********

Do SouthFront and AMN use the same mapmaker? Plus, Al-Lijaat now rat-free

AMN's Complete map update of southwest Syria battle


Got all that? Oh look! No map:
Syrian military claims victory over ISIS along Iraqi border (video)
June 27, 2018
AMN
BEIRUT, LEBANON (1:00 A.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) have liberated an area along the south-western border with Iraq, close to the city of Al Bukamal, from Islamic State (IS; formerly known as ISIS, ISIL) militants on Monday.
Footage shows troops, artillery and tanks on manoeuvres. One army unit planted a Syrian flag in the ground as a symbol of their victory.
[...]
What other war news before I hit the sack ..... Say, let's go visit Leith's dad; he always has such a lovely way with words:

NUSRA TAKES HUGE LOSSES IN SOUTH AND NORTH AS SAA LIBERATES NEW AREAS
By Ziad Fadel

15 hours ago
Syrian Perspective
DER’AH [DARAA]:

In the latest news from the Southern Front, which now includes Qunaytra, Der’ah and Suwaydaa`, the Syrian Army and its allies have been rolling over huge swathes of territory once controlled by Obama’s murdering psychopaths.
Today, we can confirm the total liberation of Basr Al-Hareer and Mulayhaat Al-‘Atash which effectively surrounds all terrorists in the Al-Lijaat area and connects the SAA’s forces in both Suwaydaa` and Der’ah.
Yesterday, June 25, 2018, the SAA was active in Western Suwaydaa` and Der’ah’s Al-Lijaat region.
That region is known for its difficult terrain and caves where terrorists could hide. No more. 
After pounding the area with rockets from the air, the Syrian Army and (believe it or not) elements of the FSA, which agreed to amnesty and to fight with the government, killed over 70 rodents belonging to Nusra/Alqaeda at Hawsh Hammaad, Al-Mujaddida, Haamaan, Al-Mudawwara and Jadal. 
Also, the SAA and its allies destroyed 3 armored cars, 14 4-wheel-drive flatbeds with 23mm cannons and 11 trucks without losing a single soldier. It can now be said with confidence that the Al-Lijaat Area is completely rat-free.
[...]
He's just getting warmed up. 

G'night. 


**********

Uh oh. "SDF Storms Bases of Other US-Backed Militants in N.E. Syria"

June 26, 2018
FARS

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) cracked down on bases of Liwa al-Thowar al-Raqqa, another US-backed militant group, in Raqqa on Tuesday and arrested 200 gunmen following intensified tensions between Washington-backed militia groups in Northeastern Syria.

The SDF stormed bases and positions of Liwa al-Thowar al-Raqqa in the Raqqa city and its outskirts and captured a sum of 200 gunmen.

In the meantime, the SDF arrested tens of villagers in the villages of al-Adnaniyeh, al-Rafeqa and al-Ansar, accusing them of supporting the Damascus government.

Local sources said that unprecedented tensions have covered the region due to the SDF measures.

In a relevant development on Monday, almost 5,000 SDF gunmen arrived in Raqqa city and deployed across the city neighborhoods, streets, squares and roads, declaring a two-day curfew in the city and its outskirts.

Yet, the Kurdish-majority SDF sought to justify its increased deployment by mentioning an unspecified threat of ISIL infiltration.

The newly-arrived SDF militias were kept on alert, local sources said.

The sources said that deployment of SDF militias in the city came after intensifying clashes between the SDF and Liwa Thowar al-Raqqa that led to the capture of over 90 members of the latter by the SDF.

The SDF further embarked on arresting Commander of Liwa al-Thowar Abu Issa in the town of Ein Issa in Northern Raqqa after laying siege on the bases of the rival group.

In addition to infighting between US-backed militants, Raqqa has been witnessing several cases of popular uprising so far.

[END REPORT]

*********

Yet another "popular" Syrian group prepares to resist foreign occupiers

I had to read almost to the end of SouthFront's sitrep for news on this latest of resistance groups, which are popping up in Syria like mushrooms after a rainstorm. 

SYRIAN WAR REPORT – JUNE 26, 2018: SYRIAN ARMY LIBERATES LAJAT DISTRICT IN DARAA PROVINCE

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the Tiger Forces and their allies have reportedly established full control of the district of Lajat in the province of Daraa. According to pro-government sources, militants in the area have mostly surrendered to government troops.
Additionally, the SAA and its allies liberated the village of Mleha al-‘Atsh and captured the center of Busr al-Harir.
If all these reports are confirmed, government forces have liberated about 400km2 since the start of clashes in northeastern Daraa last week.
[...]
An alleged pro-government partisan group, the Popular Resistance in Manbij, has announced the start of preparations for an uprising against foreign occupiers – i.e. forces of the US, France and Turkey – aiming to divide Syria.
In April, a similar group, called the "Popular Resistance in al-Hasakah”, appeared in eastern Syria. This group also threatened the US-led coalition and its proxies with attacks. However, no notable attacks have been carried out so far.
In any case the appearance of such groups shows that far from everyone in northeastern Syria likes the US-led coalition. [Pundita note: Ya think?]
[END REPORT]
********

Idlib battle? We're not finished with the Southern Offensive.

Nevermind. Just give me a moment to switch gears. And by the way, why are RT and Sputnik saving the best reports on the Syrian War for their Arabic-language websites? Nevermind.   

Syrian Army Receives Advanced Russia-Made Missile System amid Preparation for Idlib Battle
June  26, 2018
FARS

TEHRAN (FNA)- Modern Russian man-portable anti-tank guided missiles on Kornet-D have  been deployed in Northern Latakia to be used in the Syrian Army's upcoming anti-terrorism operation in Idlib province, a media outlet reported on Tuesday.

The Arabic-language website of Sputnik quoted military sources as reporting that the Syrian Army, deployed in Northern and Northeastern Latakia, has received modern Russia-made Kornet weapons.

The army will use the new system to trace and track military vehicles and militants' gatherings, Sputnik said, adding that the new system is capable of penetrating 1,300 mm into armored vehicles.

The missile system can track the target up to 10km, Sputnik said, adding that the system will be deployed in the entire battlefields in Lattakia and Hama, so military vehicles of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) will come within the range of the system's laser missiles.

The sources further told the agency that the newly-received Russia-made weapon is compatible with anti-tank missile units of the army, adding that the army, deployed in Eastern Lattakia, has been capable of intercepting a vehicle of Turkistani groups on a road from Bdama to Idlib.

The Arabic-language website of RT reported in January that the army was vastly using the Mirage-2 Electronic Defense System to deactivate the US-manufactured TOW anti-tank missiles.

The Arabic RT further said that the system that was mounted on the army tanks, armored and light vehicles was capable of deactivating TOW missiles. [emphasis mine]

The Mirage-2 System was equipped with more noise breaks in comparison with the older version of Mirage-1.

[END REPORT]

**********



Tuesday, June 26

Seymour Hersh talks about Syria, Assad, and Obama's failure to separate facts from assumptions

Seymour M. Hersh has written another book, Reporter: A Memoir, (Alfred A. Knopf, 2018), which outlines Hersh’s early life, his rise in journalism, "and sketches an illustration for the state of journalism in a changing world." Daniel Falcone's interview of Hersh ranged across several topics but squeezed in some time about Syria.

My only quibble with Hersh's observations on Syria is that I think it's too early to determine whether Bashar al-Assad, who was installed by his father as a figurehead for the Syrian Baathist Party, is a great leader. Assad had no power to make significant reforms in Syria until the Russians intervened in the Syrian war at his request. He now has great power; it remains to be seen what he does with it. 

With that said, I'll turn the floor over to Falcone and Hersh:

A reporter's reporter ... 
By Daniel Falcone
June 25, 2018
Counterpunch

[...]

I closed my discussion with Hersh by bringing up the topic of Syria. I wanted to discuss the article, “Whose sarin?” from the December 2013 edition of the London Review of Books, where he challenged the widespread perception that Bashar Al Assad had used nerve gas against his own people.

Hersh wrote the piece to explain his evidence that the United States had “omitted important intelligence and that [Obama] presented assumptions as facts.” 

Hersh emphasized that the White House pretended there was only one suspect, Assad, when they were two, the Turks and the Saudis, both believed to be possibly responsible. 

Hersh commented on how the Saudis were likely working through Lebanon, while the Turks were working through the border of the Idlib province. In effect, large quantities of precursor chemicals were smuggled into Syria and the US government had knowledge of it. The overall point was, after the gas attack, how was anyone sure?

Everyone in the US media was ready to blame the Syrians, when in fact the American government knew for two months that there was a second group that could have been responsible. Hersh indicated that, “it was a grave disservice of the Obama Whitehouse to not tell the world that we had evidence.”

Hersh has never stated that Assad is a great leader but he does find the hatred for Assad in the US to be irrational and acute. He also finds it borderline hypocritical while he alluded to Vietnam:

“I know a country that used barrel bombs. They dropped them all by helicopters. And they were considered to be very pernicious and a violation of the Geneva Accord. I know a country that used barrel bombs for seven years, (particularly in the provinces between Saigon and reaching to the west of Cambodia) in a war in which the President of the country was never in danger. If Assad loses this war to ISIS or whomever, he’s going to end up like Mussolini, executed and strung up by his neck with his wife and children next to him on a pole somewhere in downtown Damascus.”

Hersh basically asserted that the US corporate media coverage of Syria is not independent of state pressure; it overcompensates, and it’s shocking that Assad is seen as such a horrible person without a comparison to Saudi [rulers].

Hersh also explained what it was like to first interview Assad and recalled when in 2003 Assad asked him, “do you mind if I give a long answer?” 

In other words, he was shy about it, or anxious in Hersh’s estimation. 

Hersh, and others, do see a problem with Assad – “he isn’t doing enough on human rights.” But he’s somebody who will protect the Sunnis in his country. That doesn’t mean he’s a peacenik, “but it’s a war for survival,” remarked Hersh, “it’s a brutal civil war.”

“And is he a great leader? No.”

[end of discussion about Syria]

*******

Poetic Justice

Today I saw out of the corner of my eye a headline, maybe at Sputnik, that the U.S. was threatening to slap sanctions on NATO ally Turkey if Erdogan went ahead with the purchase of an S-400 missile interceptor from the Kremlin.  And NATO chiefs have had to suffer the indignity of Erdogan ascending to president for life in a farce that was called a democratic election.   

In short the NATO bosses are now having no choice but to notice they have a viper in their midst. Poor dears! Where is my Kleenex box?

If only they'd noticed when Erdogan sent goons to dismantle Aleppo's industrial sector and truck its factories piecemeal to Turkey. They also failed to notice the Erdogan regime's crude oil business with Islamic State in Syria. Oil tanker convoys on the highway every day from Raqqa to Turkey, right under the all-seeing eyes of NATO satellites until Vladimir Putin put a stop to the outrage.    

But I have other things on my mind today. I am ticked off at RT because of a report headlined New American Civil War? Some people think it’s already begun. The reporter fails to mention what the editorial staff at RT should know, which is that it was Michael Vlahos and John Batchelor who coined the term 'New American Civil War' and have been discussing it from many angles on John's show almost every Friday since -- at least since the beginning of the year and maybe earlier. 

Indeed Michael will be teaching a college course this fall which explores the possibility of a new civil war in the United States. While I don't agree with everything he and John say on the topic these are thought-provoking discussions, which I've been meaning to link to at my blog for months if only the Trump regime would leave Syria so I can turn my attention to other matters.  

Is there actually real intercernine warfare brewing in the USA that could tear the union apart? Well, that's the big question but what is happening right now -- something the early Batchelor-Vlahos discussions on the question foretold -- is a deepening entrenchment of opposing sides. The sides are the politically Liberal 'elites' and the rest of Americans, who've been stuffed by the elites into the category of populists.

Michael and John haven't asked for my opinion on the matter, but if they did I would refer them to my warning a year or two ago. I'd noticed the odd fact that the more that foreign governments worked to tear Syria apart, the more their own societies were tearing apart from the inside.    

So in my view if Americans would like to see a civil war break out in their country, just keep supporting the official U.S. policy of sowing dissension in other countries on the excuse it's for a noble end.

Just a reminder that some mills of justice grind outside the legal systems of humans.

*******

Syrians increasingly angered at other countries trampling on their sovereignty

It might be dead in Europe but Syrians are appreciating the beauties of the Westphalian System, which never really took hold in the Middle East. Yes indeed, there's nothing like foreign regimes unleashing carnage and chaos in one's country for years on end to give one an appreciation for national sovereignty. 

The 'popular uprisings' and 'resistance' movements against foreigner occupiers in Syria are not large at this point but they're continuing to grow. This could turn out to be the real Syrian Spring. Better late than never.      
 
Popular Uprisings against Turkish Army Continue in Northern Syria
FARS
June 26, 2018

TEHRAN (FNA)- Hundreds of people poured into the street in the town of al-Bab on Tuesday and protesting against the deployment of the Turkish army and its allied militants in the region.

Hundreds of people took to the streets in al-Bab again and chanted slogans against the Turkish army and its militant allies, calling for their expulsion.

Local sources said that the Ankara forces' brutalities, including burning farms and houses, looting their assets and infighting among the militants have angered people.

Al-Bab civilians' demonstration was the second in the current week.

In a similar development on Sunday, people in al-Bab took to the streets and called for the exit from their region of Syria's Tahrir Front affiliated with the Ankara-backed forces and called for release of civilians captured by the occupiers. 

[END REPORT]

*********


Obama and Trump committed treason by supporting al Qaeda in Syria UPDATED 4:30 AM ET

So why haven't those two American presidents been investigated for treason? That's just one of the vexing questions to emerge from the Syrian War. A bigger question, or at least one with bigger implications, is why American taxpayers have funded their government's support for terrorist and terrorist-affiliated groups in Syria over a period of years.

And they're still at it. 

From Sharmine Narwani's June 25 report for The American Conservative Are al-Qaeda Affiliates Fighting Alongside U.S. Rebels in Syria’s South?:
[...]
Despite its U.S. and UN designation as a terrorist organization, [Nusra Front aka al Qaeda in Syria] has been openly fighting alongside the “Southern Front,” a group of 54 opposition militias funded and commanded by a U.S.-led war room based in Amman, Jordan called the Military Operations Center (MOC).
Specifics about the MOC aren’t easy to come by, but sources inside Syria — both opposition fighters and Syrian military brass (past and present) — suggest the command center consists of the US, UK, France, Jordan, Israel, and some Persian Gulf states. [Pundita note: Those last are probably Saudi Arabia and UAE].
They say the MOC supplies funds, weapons, salaries, intel, and training to the 54 militias, many of which consist of a mere 200 or so fighters that are further broken down into smaller groups, some only a few dozen strong.
SAA [Syrian Arab Army] General Ahmad al-Issa, a commander for the frontline in Daraa, says the MOC is a U.S.-led operation that controls the movements of Southern Front “terrorists” and is highly influenced by Israel’s strategic goals in the south of Syria — one of which is to seize control of [Syria's  bordering areas to create a 'buffer' inside Syrian territories.
How does he know this? Issa says his information comes from a cross-section of sources, including reconciled/ captured militants and intel from the MOC itself.
[...]
 The armed opposition groups supported by the MOC are mostly affiliated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), itself an ill-defined, highly fungible group of militants who have changed names and affiliations with frequency during the Syrian conflict. Over the course of the war, the FSA has fought alongside the Nusra Front and ISIS — some have even joined them.
Today, despite efforts to whitewash the FSA and Southern Front as “non-sectarian” and non-extremist, factions like the Yarmouk Army, Mu’tazz Billah Brigade, Salah al-Din Division, Fajr al-Islam Brigade, Fallujah al-Houran Brigade, the Bunyan al-Marsous grouping, Saifollah al-Masloul Brigade and others are currently occupying keys areas in Daraa in cooperation with the Nusra Front.
[...]
I've omitted from the above passages General Issa's claim that the MOC is "Israel-centric" because it's beside the point, although I would hope the IDF grows a brain someday and realizes its dear friend 'Washington' will not hesitate to throw Israel under the bus when expedient -- as it did a few days ago by implying that Israel, not the U.S., was responsible for a massacre of Iraqi fighters in Syria.

The point is that two American presidents and a long list of American military commanders who've served them have committed treason and gotten away with it. To blame this on Israel or Al Saud or any other foreign entity is to play ostrich. 

Why, then, did two successive American regimes betray their country? I think Sharmine herself inadvertently provided the best answer in the closing words of her August 4, 2017 report for The American Conservative, Is the Expanding U.S. Military Presence in Syria Legal?  She wrote:
As ISIS and Al Qaeda are beaten back in Syria, the American conversation about what comes next is missing a most critical point. In terms of international law, Washington has gone rogue in Syria. Will the world take notice?
The longer the Syrian War has dragged on, the more people around the world have been noticing that international law tends to follow the principle articulated by Mao Tse Tung; it's what the nation with the biggest guns says it is and how it's enforced.

But the issue before me isn't international law, it's American law. That flagrantly treasonous acts by presidents Obama and Trump and ther top military commanders have been brushed aside with the broom of verbal hairsplitting suggests America's government has gone rogue right here in the USA.

UPDATE

As to whether treason is too strong a term to apply to the actions of presidents Obama and Trump in assisting al Qaeda -- Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution specifies,“Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”

By that definition I'd say it doesn't get more treasonous than a U.S. president giving aid and comfort to al Qaeda.

See also:

Ben Rhodes Admits Obama Armed Jihadists In Syria In Bombshell Interview; 6/24, Zerohedge

Actually the bombshell is the evidence of long-running U.S. government complicity with al Qaeda and other terror groups, some of which Zerohedge outlines following their discussion of the recent Rhodes interview:
[...]  

Meanwhile, mainstream media have been content to float the falsehood that President Obama's legacy is that he "stayed out" of Syria, instead merely approving some negligible level of aid to so-called "moderate" rebels who were fighting both Assad and (supposedly) the Islamic State.
Rhodes has himself in prior interviews attempted to portray Obama as wisely staying "on the sidelines" in Syria. But as we've pointed out many times over the years, this narrative ignores and seeks to whitewash possibly the largest CIA covert program in history, started by Obama, which armed and funded a jihadist insurgency bent of overthrowing Assad to the tune of $1 billion a year (one-fifteenth of the CIA’s publicly known budget according to leaked Edward Snowden documents revealed by the Washington Post).
It also ignores the well established fact, documented in both US intelligence reports and authenticated battlefield footage, that ISIS and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) jointly fought under a single US-backed command structure during the early years of the war in Syria, [and] even as late as throughout 2013 — something confirmed by University of Oklahoma professor Joshua Landis, widely considered to be the world's foremost expert on Syria.
Syria experts, as well as a New York Times report which largely passed without notice, verified the below footage from 2013 showing then US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford working closely with a "rebel" leader who exercised operational command over known ISIS terrorists (Ambassador Ford has since acknowledged the relationship to McClatchy News):
[video, also posted at YouTube, of Ford with terrorists]
This latest Ben Rhodes non-denial-cum-sheepish-affirmation on the Obama White House's arming jihadists in Syria follows previous bombshell reporting by Mehdi Hasan from 2015.
As host of Al Jazeera's Head to Head, Hasan asked the former head of Pentagon intelligence under Obama, General Michael Flynn, who is to blame for the rise of ISIS? (the August 2015 interview was significantly prior to Flynn joining Trump's campaign).
Hasan presented Flynn with the 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) declassified memo revealing Washington support to al-Qaeda and ISIS terrorists in Syria in order to counter both Assad and Iran. Flynn affirmed Hasan's charge that it was "a willful decision to support an insurgency that had Salafists, Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood...".
 [Al Jazeera video of Flynn's discussion with Hasan]
[...]
*********

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