Tuesday, July 31

Sunday, July 29

"2018 global heat wave is so pervasive it's surprising scientists"

Here in the Greater Washington DC area we've had so much rain for so many days we're close to breaking at least one record. Is it climate change? Well that's what the scientists that Axios quotes in their July 27 report think. In any case the list that Axios put together of heat records being broken this summer around the world is a jaw-dropper:
Here are just a few of the records set so far:
  • In North America: Los Angeles set an all-time high temperature record of 111°F on July 6. Montreal, Canada also set its all-time high temperature record, during a deadly Quebec heat wave in early July. This week, Death Valley, California, has broken three straight daily records with a high of 127°F.
  • In Europe: Unprecedented heat led to a wildfire outbreak in Scandinavia, and record highs have been set all the way above the Arctic Circle this month. According to the U.N., Sodankyla, Finland hit 89.2°F, or 31.8°C, on July 17, which was an all-time record for that location.
  • Friday was the hottest temperature on record in Amsterdam, at 34.8°C, or 94.6°F.
  • Remarkably, in northern Norway, Makkaur, set a new record high overnight low temperature of 25.2°C, or 77°F, on July 18.
  • Heat records have also fallen in the U.K., Ireland and France. In London, high temperatures hit 35°C on Thursday, and were forecast to potentially eclipse that on Friday. The U.K. is suffering through one of its driest years on record.
  • In the Middle East: Quriyat, Oman, which likely set the world’s hottest low temperature ever recorded on June 28, when the temperature failed to drop below 109°F, or 42.8°C.
  • In Africa: Ouargla, Algeria, may have set Africa's all-time highest temperature on July 5, with a reading of 124.3°F, or 51.3°C.
  • In Asia: Japan set a national temperature record of 106°F, or 41.1°C, in a heat wave that followed deadly floods.
Meanwhile, the Carr fire in California rages on "in all directions" and is so big it's making its own weather.


"Breaking News: Syrian Army strikes several jihadist sites in southern Idlib"

[Pundita note: The SAA strikes were launched Saturday night, despite the wording of the first paragraph in the following report; the 11:45 PM timestamp has to refer to last night. Also, see this 7/28 report from FARS: "Arab Daily: Terrorist Commanders in Idlib Lose Trust in Turkey." ]

July 29, 2018
By Leith Aboufadel

Al Masdar News (AMN)

BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:45 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has launched a number of strikes against the jihadist rebels in southern Idlib, tonight, a military source told Al-Masdar News.

According to the source, the Syrian Arab Army’s 11th Tank Division struck the defenses of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham around the strategic town of Khan Sheikhoun.

The source added that the Syrian Arab Army also targeted Jaysh Al-Izza’s positions along the main road between the towns of Al-Tah and Al-Tamanah in southern Idlib.

The Syrian Arab Army had been reportedly monitoring the jihadist rebels in this area for several hours before targeting their positions with a plethora of missiles and artillery shells.



This grandma took out two IS fighters even though she was shot in the stomach

Not every Islamic State sneak attack on households in Suweida was successful. Is the meta-message that it pays to keep an AK-47 in the house? Well, I venture every Syrian household should have one until things settle down. Suweida was supposed to be terrorist free -- it was free; the attack was a complete surprise. So it was a good thing this one grandmother had a machine gun handy, knew how to use it, and was brave enough to keep fighting.    

Brave 72 year old Syrian woman fends off ISIS terrorists with AK-47, saves grandchildren (video)
By Leith Aboufadel
July 28, 2018
Al Masdar News (AMN)

BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:30 P.M.) – A 72 year old Syrian woman was recently hailed for her heroics during an Islamic State (ISIS) attack on her home in the Al-Sweida Governorate.

The 72 year old woman successfully repelled Islamic State terrorists with her AK-47 after they attempted to enter her home in rural Al-Sweida on Wednesday.

According to the woman, she resisted the Islamic State terrorists during a fierce gunfight, killing two of the militants before the Syrian military arrived on the scene.

The woman was badly wounded after she was shot in the stomach; however, she kept resisting the terrorists, as her four young grandchildren were also present in the house.

The grandchildren were between the ages of 7 months and 7 years old; they were saved from the ISIS terrorists that were kidnapping and murdering civilians in Al-Sweida.

In the video below, the woman recounts her long battle with the Islamic State terrorists:




"Kurds Agree to Give Control of Key Syrian Cities to Damascus"

July 28, 2018 - 4:16

TEHRAN (FNA)- A preliminary agreement has been made between the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Syrian government on transferring control of different parts of the country to Damascus and withdrawal of the US forces from Syria, media reports said.

The Arabic-language al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper quoted informed Syrian sources as saying that the SDF has agreed to give control of Raqqa city and a large number of districts in Hasaka city, including those near the government and security centers, to the Syrian government.

Based on the report, the meetings were held in the presence of the Kurds close to the Syrian government, adding that they have told the SDF officials that regaining control of the occupied areas is possible but Damascus prefers to retake them through political ways and negotiations.

It added that the executive council of the SDF has also informed Damascus that the US intends to withdraw its forces and evacuate its military bases from the Syrian territories.

The SDF announced in a statement earlier on Saturday that it has agreed with the Syrian government on formation of committees at different levels to continue talks with the aim of ending the war and violence.

A delegation of the SDF was sent to Damascus to hold talks on the future of regions occupied by the Kurds in Northern Syria.

Relevant reports said on Friday that an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militants in Syria sent a delegation to the Syrian capital for talks with Syrian government officials.

The so-called Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), which is linked to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — a US-backed coalition of mainly Kurdish militants holding a grip on northeastern Syria — sent the delegation to Damascus, according to SDC co-chair Riad Darar.

The delegation, led by executive head of SDC Ilham Ahmed, was expected to discuss matters of service provision in the areas controlled by the Kurdish group, but “the talks might widen to political and security matters," Darar said on Friday.

"This is certainly the first visit that happened," he added.

The militants are allied with the United States and French troops deployed to Syria under the pretext of fighting ISIL.

Chief among their demands is having an autonomous region within the Syrian borders. Darar, however, said that the outcome of the meetings is not yet clear, and that he did not know which Syrian officials will be meeting with the Kurdish delegation.

He also did not clarify how long the delegation will stay in Damascus.



"Pakistan's Likely PM Underlines Expansion of Ties with Iran, Review of Relations with US"

July 28, 2018 - 3:15

TEHRAN (FNA)- Pakistan’s likely next prime minister, Imran Khan, underlined that the country's future government will further broaden ties with Iran and will review relations with Washington.
"Improvement of relations with neighbors, specially Iran, will be a priority in Pakistan's foreign policy," Imran Khan told FNA on Saturday.

He stressed that development of all-out ties with Iran will benefit Pakistan, and said, "Expansion of trade with Iran will also be on our agenda."

Imran Khan, meantime, said that Islamabad will revise its relations with the US, adding that ties with Washington should be based on mutual interests and respect.

He also emphasized his country's need to import energy from Iran, and said even if Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India pipeline, also known as Trans-Afghanistan (TAPI) pipeline, project is implemented, Pakistan will need supplying energy from Iran.

The election was seen as a contest between Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party and Shahbaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

With most votes counted, Khan's party is leading with 115 seats in the 272 National Assembly constituencies being contested, far ahead of the PML-N on 64.

In third place with 43 seats is the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of assassinated two-time prime minister Benazir Bhutto. The PPP did not attend the meeting of rival parties on Friday.

A total of 137 seats is required for a majority and while Khan is on course to become prime minister, he will have to form a coalition government.


See also: Imran still striving to get required numbers to form govt; Dawn (Pakistan), July 29 updated about three hours ago.


Previously undisclosed part of US strategy on A'stan leaked to NYT

The six reporters who worked on the report provide valuable review and background information, which is the only reason I'm posting it. Any comment I could make at this time about the alleged "newest" strategy would be unprintable. But technically the disclosure is not a leak in that no document was revealed; it's just three unnamed officials -- we're to assume U.S. officials -- talking to the Times. From the Times report, Afghanistan's ambassador to the US  disputes the key point in the disclosure but FWIW:

By Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Helene Cooper
With additional reporting by C.J. Chivers; Eric Schmitt (Washington), Taimoor Shah (Kandahar) and Najim Rahim in Mazar-i-Sharif
July 28, 2018
The New  York Times

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is urging American-backed Afghan troops to retreat from sparsely populated areas of the country, officials said, all but ensuring the Taliban will remain in control of vast stretches of the country.

The approach is outlined in a previously undisclosed part of the war strategy that President Trump announced last year, according to three officials who described the documents to The New York Times on the condition of anonymity. It is meant to protect military forces from attacks at isolated and vulnerable outposts, and focuses on protecting cities such as Kabul, the capital, and other population centers.

The withdrawal resembles strategies embraced by both the Bush and Obama administrations that have started and stuttered over the nearly 17-year war. It will effectively ensure that the Taliban and other insurgent groups will hold on to territory that they have already seized, leaving the government in Kabul to safeguard the capital and cities such as Kandahar, Kunduz, Mazar-i-Sharif and Jalalabad.

The retreat to the cities is a searing acknowledgment that the American-installed government in Afghanistan remains unable to lead and protect the country’s sprawling rural population. Over the years, as waves of American and NATO troops have come and left in repeated cycles, the government has slowly retrenched and ceded chunks of territory to the Taliban, cleaving Afghanistan into disparate parts and ensuring a conflict with no end in sight.

When he announced his new war strategy last year, Mr. Trump declared that Taliban and Islamic State insurgents in Afghanistan “need to know they have nowhere to hide, that no place is beyond the reach of American might and American arms.”

After the declared end of combat operations in 2014, most American troops withdrew to major population areas in the country, leaving Afghan forces to defend remote outposts. Many of those bases fell in the following months.

During a news conference last month in Brussels, Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., the commander of the American-led coalition in Afghanistan, said remote outposts were being overrun by the Taliban, which was seizing local forces’ vehicles and equipment.

“There is a tension there between what is the best tactic militarily and what are the needs of the society,” General Nicholson said.

The strategy depends on the Afghan government’s willingness to pull back its own forces. A Defense Department official said some Afghan commanders have resisted the American effort to do so, fearing local populations would feel betrayed.

“Abandoning people into a situation where there is no respect for them is a violation of human rights,” said Mohammad Karim Attal, a member of the Helmand Provincial Council. “This might be the weakest point of the government that does not provide security and access to their people’s problems.”

Just over one-quarter of Afghanistan’s population lives in urban areas, according to C.I.A. estimates; Kabul is the largest city, with more than four million residents. Most Afghans live and farm across vast rural hinterlands.

Of Afghanistan’s 407 districts, the government either controls or heavily influences 229 to the Taliban’s 59. The remaining 119 districts are considered contested, according to the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

Hamdullah Mohib, the Afghan ambassador to the United States, disputed that American and Afghan forces were leaving rural areas and essentially surrendering them to the Taliban.

The intent was not to withdraw, Mr. Mohib said in an email, but to first secure the urban areas to allow security forces to later focus on rural areas.

Hundreds of Afghan troops are being killed and wounded nearly every week — many in Taliban attacks on isolated checkpoints. Over the last year alone, the number of Afghan soldiers, police, pilots and other security forces dropped by about 5 percent, or 18,000 fewer people, according to the inspector general’s office.

“This brings a very serious tension — when you’ve had significant loss of life, and blood and treasure,” said Paul Eaton, a retired two-star Army general who helped train Iraqi forces in the year after the 2003 invasion of Baghdad. “But it is time to say that we need a political outcome.”

Mr. Eaton said the plan to prod the Afghan military to abandon the unpopulated areas and retrench to cities is “a rational approach to secure the cities, and provide the Afghanistan government the political opportunity to work with the Taliban.”

The strategy for retreat borrows heavily from Mr. Obama’s military blueprint in Afghanistan after he began withdrawing troops from front lines in 2014.

Under President George W. Bush, and during Mr. Obama’s first term, the Pentagon established a constellation of outposts across Afghanistan, affirming that the American-led military coalition would fight the war in far-flung villages and farmlands.

n 2006, the United States Army set up a string of small bases in the Korengal Valley — an effort that was planned in part by General Nicholson, who was a colonel at the time.

But by 2009, an Army document outlined a shift from “attacking the enemy in remote areas” to “protecting and developing the major population centers” in eastern Afghanistan.

That approach began to take hold months later, in 2010, when American forces withdrew from the Korengal Valley after suffering bloody losses in isolated northeastern outposts. At the same time, however, United States Marines were surging into the rural areas of Helmand Province and the Army was pushing into the Taliban heartland in Kandahar.

In 2015, the Obama administration encouraged Afghan commanders to give up defending some of the most remote checkpoints and outposts that were seen as difficult to reclaim and hold. General Nicholson supported the idea after he took command in 2016, the official said.

Should Afghan troops pull back now, defending remote pockets of the country would mostly be left to the local police, which are more poorly trained than the military and far more vulnerable to Taliban violence. In some areas, police officers have cut deals with the Taliban to protect themselves from attacks.

Ghulam Sarwar Haidari, the former deputy police chief of northwestern Badghis Province, said his forces withdrew from the small town of Dara-e-bom after the Afghan National Army abandoned their outposts in past months. “We should lose 100 lives to retake that area,” he said.

Not all of the roughly 14,000 United States troops currently in Afghanistan have pulled back to cities. Some who are training and advising Afghan troops as part of Mr. Trump’s war strategy are stationed in bases in remote areas and smaller towns.

Mr. Trump has long called for ending the war in Afghanistan and only reluctantly accepted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s advice to send an additional 4,000 troops in an attempt to claim victory.

The Trump administration is also instructing top American diplomats to seek direct talks with the Taliban to refuel negotiations to end the war, and two senior Taliban officials said on Saturday that such talks had been held in Qatar a week ago. If they happen, the negotiations would be a major shift in American policy and would serve as a bridge to an eventual withdrawal of United States forces from Afghanistan.

Evan McAllister, a former reconnaissance Marine staff sergeant and sniper, fought in parts of Helmand Province in 2008 and 2011 — areas that are now almost entirely under Taliban control. He said trying to maintain an Afghan government-friendly presence in rural areas was, and still is, a “fool’s errand.”

“Attempting to control rural areas in Afghanistan always eventually ends up boiling down to simple personal survival,” Mr. McAllister said. “No strategic gains are accomplished, no populace is influenced, but the death or dismemberment of American and Afghan troops is permanent and guaranteed.”

A version of this article appears in print on July 29, 2018, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: "New U.S. Tactic In Afghanistan Urges Retreat"  Order Reprints

[END REPORT]**********

Saturday, July 28

Yuppers, soon Syria's military will be the best armed in the world. For free.

"Meantime, the terrorists in Nawa in Northwestern Dara'a surrendered their weapons and military equipment including several military vehicles, artilleries, shoulder-launch missiles, mortars, RPGs and other arms and ammunition to the Syrian army in line with the peace agreement."

Well at least American tax dollars are being put to some good use abroad although U.S. arms shipments to Syria were never intended to equip Syria's military. 

See also: Syrian forces uncover large weapons cache in Darayya; AMN, July 28.
Syria in Last 24 Hours: Army Retakes Control of More Regions in Quneitra
July 27, 2018

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Damascus Army won back control of a new region at the borders with occupied Golan as terrorists in the town of Nawa in Northwestern Dara'a surrendered their military equipment to the army in line with the peace agreement.

"The Syrian army regained control of the village of al-Hamidiyeh in Quneitra at the borders with occupied Golan," field sources reported on Thursday.

They added that the occupied areas in Quneitra were divided into three regions after the army's control over the village.

Meantime, the Syrian army continued its military advances in other parts of Syria over past 24 hours.

Tens of terrorists were killed and dozens more were injured during the Syrian army's operations in provinces across Syria.


The Syrian army forces won back control of a new region at the borders with occupied Golan as terrorists in the town of Nawa in Northwestern Dara'a surrendered their military equipment to the army in line with the peace agreement.

Field sources reported on Thursday that the Syrian army regained control of the village of al-Hamidiyeh in Quneitra at the borders with occupied Golan.

They added that the occupied areas in Quneitra were divided into three regions after the army's control over the village.

Meantime, the terrorists in Nawa in Northwestern Dara'a surrendered their weapons and military equipment, including several military vehicles, artilleries, shoulder-launch missiles, mortars, RPGs and other arms and ammunition, to the Syrian army in line with the peace agreement.

Over 140 terrorists were killed in the past week as the Syrian army won back control of vital regions in Dara'a during anti-ISIL military operations.

The Syrian army continued clashes against the ISIL terrorists in Hawz al-Yarmouk in Northwestern Dara'a on Thursday, retaking control of the village of al-Mazire'ah and Sad Awan North of the town of Jalin.

Meantime, the Syrian artillery and missile units as well as the air force pounded the terrorists' positions and moves in the region with repeated attacks.

Also, a military source said that the Syrian army has taken back control of over 18 towns and villages, including the strategic regions, from the ISIL in the past two days, adding that the militants' defense lines have collapsed.


Local sources in Jandaris region of Afrin in Northern Aleppo reported on Thursday that heavy infighting has erupted among al-Jibhat al-Shamiyeh, Ahrar al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sharqiyeh terrorist groups which are all supported by the Turkish army.

The sources said that the infighting in the village of Deir Balout is one of the most fierce clashes among the terrorists since occupation of Afrin, and added that all militant groups engaged in the clashes have sustained several casualties.

According to the sources, Turkish ambulances rushed to the scene to transfer the wounded to hospital after clashes intensified among the terrorists.

Infighting and plundering of civilians' properties by the Ankara-backed militants have deeply enraged people and made Afrin insecure in the past few months.


A huge explosion was reported in a large arms and ammunition cache of Turkistani terrorists near regions that the Turkish forces conduct patrolling missions in Western Idlib.

Field sources reported that a huge explosion occurred in Turkistani terrorists' arms cache on Wednesday, 200 meters away from a Turkish base in the town of Eshtabraq West of Jisr al-Shaqour in Western Idlib.

They added that after the blast, the Turkish forces and Turkistani militants were on alert and the Turkish planes flew over the region.

Meantime, media activists said that a Russian warship stationed near the Syrian coasts has fired a Caliber missile at one of the terrorist's targets near the Turkish forces' base in Idlib, smashing the huge arms cache of Turkistani terrorists.

Jisr al-Shaqour is one of the most important bases of the Chinese members of Turkistani terrorist group who were granted the Turkish nationality and are affiliated to the Turkish army's intelligence organization.

The explosion of the weapons cache in Jisr al-Shaqour happened as the Syrian army is preparing for massive military operations to purge the terrorists from the region.



But how were weapons getting from US Coalition HQ in Jordan to terrorists in Syria?

FSA Deputy Commander Col. Malik al-Kurdi, who one day saw more than he could stomach 

The fact of Bulgarian weapons deliveries to terrorists is confirmed by the FSA deputy commander Col. Malik al-Kurdi. In an interview to the [Bulgarian] Trud newspaper, he claimed that “an HQ has been set up in Turkey and Jordan to ensure cooperation between the special services of 15 states. We warned the U.S. and the EU that the weapons delivered in this HQ gets directly in the hands of the terror organizations.  It looks like a double game. I can say with certainty that these countries’ special services arm and finance al-Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra; this is happening in Syria. ..." 
The above is from an Inside Syria Media Center report, "INVESTIGATION: Route of Bulgarian Weapon Deliveries to Syrian Islamists Exposed," published more than a year ago, on May 2, 2017. 

The link to the report was forwarded to Joshua Landis when he retweeted a link to one of Robert Fisk's recent investigative reports for the Independent on the weapons ratline from two Eastern European countries to terrorist groups in E. Aleppo ("I traced missile casings in Syria back to their original sellers, so it’s time for the west to reveal who they sell arms to.")

The ISMC report opens with these passages:     
Inside Syria Media Center has conducted an investigation to expose U.S.-backed weapon supplies to the al-Qaeda group in Syria.

The suppliers list starts with U.S. company Chemring and its affiliate Chemring Ordinance, which the previous year had signed a contract with the American government and received $47 million in accordance with the Non-Standard Equipment and Weapons Procurement Program.
Orbital ATK, another U.S. company, was granted $50 million within the program.

The Bulgarian newspaper Trud, which initiated a journalistic investigation, sent a request to both companies to clarify what the received money was spent on.

Orbital ATK ignored the request. Chemring responded that some ammunition for the U.S. and its allies’ armies was purchased from Vazovski Mashinostroitelni Zavodi (VMZ-Sopot). It included 122mm rockets for the Grad MLRS, 73mm anti-tank shells and 40mm ammo for rocket launchers.

Ammo of these types are not in service in the U.S. army. The company refused to disclose which U.S. allies it was intended for, referring to the confidentiality of the supply contract.

The ISMC was able to establish, through tracing the route of the contracted ship carrier, that the weapons were shipped to the port in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. 

(Another of Robert Fisk's reports -- "A Bosnian signs off weapons he says are going to Saudi Arabia – but how did his signature turn up in Aleppo?" -- also points to the Saudis as recipients of weapons shipments from eastern Europe that ended up with terrorist groups in E. Aleppo.)

However, ISMC doesn't explain how the weapons got from Jeddah into Syria. The brief quote from Col. Kurdi only indicates that U.S. Coalition headquarters in Jordan and Turkey were part of the ratline into Syria. Now I can imagine how materiel got from Turkey into Syria, at least before the Kurds might have shut down the smuggling route: easily. But from Jordan?

Ah well. People get paid to do this kind of research; eventually the whole story will come out. What I'd really like to know, and I think everyone who doesn't like terrorist groups would like to know, is whether this ratline(s) is now shut down. 


Friday, July 27

Blood Moon post

Any questions? There's a larger version of the photograph at Sputnik if you want a better look. 

Now I have a question for you:  How much of the desert is actually sand?  


"Fascinating insight into US role in Turkish dominated areas of Syria"

U.S. begins to cut Stabilization Aid to Turkish controlled parts of Aleppo Province and Afrin, throwing 100s of employees out of jobs & into arms of militias. Fascinating insight into US role in Turkish dominated areas -
The above is from Joshua Landis' Twitter page; it's his take yesterday on a July 25 report Facing cuts in U.S. aid, Aleppo Stabilisation Committee tightens links with Turkey by Lars Hauch for Ahval News (I never heard of either before). His report begins:
In March 2018, US President Donald Trump announced a decision to freeze $200 million allocated for recovery efforts in Syria. The State Department said it would continue to work with partners on the ground to provide support for vulnerable areas, but that does not necessarily apply to areas under Turkish control, the head of Aleppo’s Stabilization Committee (SC) told Ahval.
“The American decision to stop support for humanitarian projects in northwestern Syria hit us hard. Especially because countries like the United Kingdom and EU member states have already halted their support as well.
The funding for ongoing projects will end in late August and will inflict the financial situation of the SC, meaning that we have to wind down our activities,“ Munzer Al Sallal said.
Recent reports point to the danger the abrupt financial vacuum by the U.S. cut in aid has left. In the province of Idlib, hundreds of employees of civil society organisations have already lost their jobs. Finding themselves in a precarious war economy, many joined armed groups to earn a living.
But what idiot in the Obama regime decided to start with those funds? Anyhow it was just yesterday I posted a report from FARS on the epidemic of infighting and K&R that's broken out in Afrin. Now we need not wonder why Turkish backed militias in Afrin are turning to holding so many people for ransom; this in addition to plunder and squabbling with each other over the spoils. 


"Trump’s got mother of all migraines coming on: ISIS is back in Iraq" Well, time to ring up Iranian militias.

By Martin Jay *
July 26. 2018


In recent weeks, a number of respected journalists and commentators in Iraq are talking about how ISIS is anything but destroyed – but in fact, regrouping and on the rise.

ISIS is hitting back again

After about three years of ISIS controlling almost a third of the country, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadideclared victory in December 2017 against the terrorist group, as well as declaring that the war was over. Analysts though, at the time, warned that many extremists had merely gone underground or had scattered, and would return. These warnings were not taken seriously, but in recent weeks, Western journalists in Iraq are reporting an alarming return to the battlefield, which is going to give Trump a number of sleepless nights, wrangling over a conundrum he alone is unlikely to resolve.

According to the Washington Post, the battle has shifted into a central zone of Iraq with ISIS now adopting more nefarious, if not theatrical, tactics, leaving many civilians saying that the declaration of victory was premature.

“Over the past two months, dozens of people, including local government officials, tribal elders, and village chiefs, have been abducted and killed or ransomed by fighters claiming affiliation with the Islamic State,” the paper claimed recently.

“Electricity infrastructure and oil pipelines have been blown up. Armed men dressed as security forces and manning fake checkpoints have hijacked trucks and robbed travellers, rendering the main Baghdad-Kirkuk highway unsafe for a period of weeks.”

It’s a horrendous account of Iraq today, with ISIS adapting to new surroundings and, according to the Post, using more and more local people to help with their heinous work. The speed also is worrying some.

“It was inevitable that the Islamic State would attempt a comeback after its crushing defeat,” said Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi counterterrorism expert who advises the government. “They are returning faster than I anticipated. That they have returned this fast is very dangerous.”


* "Martin Jay is an award winning British journalist now based in Beirut who works on a freelance basis for a number of respected British newspapers as well as previously Al Jazeera and Deutsche Welle TV. Before Lebanon, he has worked in Africa and Europe for CNN, Euronews, CNBC, BBC, Sunday Times and Reuters. Follow him on Twitter @MartinRJay "


Has anyone told Trump the Middle East believes US supports Islamic State and al Qaeda in Syria?

Mass funeral for victims of Islamic State's sneak attack in Suweida, Syria, which killed at last count 240 civilians 

The rumors have been circulating in the Middle East for many months and continue no matter how many IS positions the U.S. claims to bomb in Syria. Islamic State's surprise attack on civilians in Sweida Governorate is adding more fuel to the rumors, the locus of which is the American base in al-Tanf. 

Thus we have this July 26 headline from Iran's FARS:     

Syrian Military Expert: US Gathering ISIL in Al-Tanf for Training
The Arabic website of Sputnik news agency quoted retired [Syrian] General Ali Maqsoud as saying that the US has turned al-Tanf region in Syria into a center to recruit and train thousands of ISIL terrorists. He blamed the US for ISIL's recent attacks against Suweida, and said Washington wants to prolong its military presence in Syria [by claiming] ISIL still holds some power in the country.
From Wikipedia's article on Al- Tanf base
At the end of December 2017, the chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov said that the US garrison at al-Tanf was fully blocked by Syrian government forces; he also said that the US was using the base as a training facility for ex-ISIL militants.(15)(16) [Russian-language sources]
However, that is not the same as saying that the U.S. is training Islamic State fighters.

Moving along we have this item from the Syrian military's analysis of the IS raid in Suweida, as reported by Elijah J. Magnier on July 26:
5. ISIS benefitted from the US safety parameter [55 km] around its military base at al-Tanaf, preventing Syrian and Iraqi armies from breaking into this parameter to pursue ISIS when needed. ISIS took advantage of the US measures and used the area to cross [to] the north where there is the bulk of its forces. Moreover, ISIS knew the US is not willing to eliminate its strength and presence in Syria (northeast in al-Hasaka province) and used this decision to its advantage.
Magnier goes on to note:
There is no doubt that many circumstances helped ISIS cross unnoticed by the continuous US presence in the air over al-Badiya, which monitors every single movement on the ground (US twice hit a Syrian force breaking the safety perimeter minutes after the raid.)
That last is damning because the Syrian force in the area was trying to reach the location of the massacre as fast as possible. At the least it evidences that the U.S. command at Al Tanf put its agenda before the welfare of the Syrian people.

And so the rumor mill in the Middle East grinds on.


Thursday, July 26

Rampant Turkey-backed K&R in Afrin; heavy infighting among groups supported by Turkey's army

"Infighting and plundering of civilians' properties by the Ankara-backed militants have deeply enraged people and made Afrin insecure in the past few months."

"In the meantime tens of residents of al-Harah al-Tahtaniyeh in Jandaris were arrested and moved to an unknown destination by the Ankara-backed militants, Hawar news said, adding that the militants have called on the families of those captured to pay a hefty amount of money for their freedom."

July 26, 2018

TEHRAN (FNA)- Local sources in the Jandaris region of Afrin in Northern Aleppo reported on Thursday that heavy infighting has erupted among al-Jibhat al-Shamiyeh, Ahrar al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sharqiyeh terrorist groups, which are all supported by the Turkish army.

The sources said that the infighting in the village of Deir Balout is one of the fiercest clashes among the terrorists since their occupation of Afrin, and added that all militant groups engaged in the clashes have sustained several casualties.

According to the sources Turkish ambulances rushed to the scene to transfer the wounded to hospital after clashes intensified among the terrorists.

Infighting and plundering of civilians' properties by the Ankara-backed militants have deeply enraged people and made Afrin insecure in the past few months.

A media outlet reported on Saturday that Ankara-backed militants engaged in a fresh round of clashes over distribution of people's assets in Afrin region in Northwestern Aleppo.

The Kurdish-language Hawar news reported that Ahrar al-Sharqiyeh and Katibeh al-Farouq affiliated to the Turkish troops exchanged heavy fire in Jandaris region over their share of properties and assets looted from residential areas in the village of Kouran.

A number of gunmen from both sides were killed or wounded in the clashes, Hawar news reported.

In the meantime tens of residents of al-Harah al-Tahtaniyeh in Jandaris were arrested and moved to an unknown destination by the Ankara-backed militants, Hawar news said, adding that the militants have called on the families of those captured to pay a hefty amount of money for their freedom.



Attn democracies: If you treat your military like the maid, BE SURE to provide great pensions

Headline from yesterday's Washington Post: Pakistan’s military has its fingerprints all over the elections. Really? We would never have guessed. 

I can't even remember how many years ago I mentioned on this blog that Pakistan was going the way of Egypt, Iran, and several other countries in that the military had gotten tired of peeling grapes for the country's ruling families while having to scramble to look after itself in retirement. In country after country, one day the military says, 'Peel it yourself.'

Got that, Washington Post? 


Imran's promises at a glance. Plus his foreign policy views in a nutshell.

"Additionally, he said he and his party wanted stronger ties with Iran."

As it stands now PTI 98, PML-N 49. See Dawn for more stats.

July 26, 2018 updated

PTI Chairman Imran Khan addresses a press conference  (DawnNewsTV)

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Thursday, in his first public address since his party grabbed a lead in the preliminary General Election results, shared his vision for the country and pledged to safeguard the interests of ordinary citizens.

Khan, in a speech made in Bani Gala that was broadcast via video link, claimed victory, saying that he was thankful to have finally been given the chance to implement the manifesto he had envisioned 22 years ago.
"Thanks to God, we won," he said. "We were successful and we were given a mandate," the 65-year-old cricketer-turned-politician said during a live broadcast, adding that there was "no politician victimisation" in the acrimonious contest.
Addressing outcry by opposition political parties that the elections had been rigged or manipulated, Khan promised to provide them the assistance required to investigate such allegations. In the same breath he dismissed such allegations, terming yesterday's polls "the fairest in Pakistan's history".
"If you think there has been rigging, we will assist you in the investigation if you have any doubts. We will stand by you. I feel that this election has been the fairest in Pakistan's history. If any party has any doubts, we will open up the results of those constituencies for investigation."
He commended the people of Balochistan who voted on election day, despite a suicide attack that left 31 people dead, and the armed forces who provided security for the polls.

Imran's promises

"I want to clarify why I entered politics. Politics could not have given me anything. I wanted Pakistan to become the country that my leader Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had dreamed of."
"I want to share the kind of Pakistan I envision ─ the type of state that was established in Madina, where widows and the poor were taken care of," he explained. "Today our state is in shambles. [But] all our policies aim to help the less fortunate prosper," he said.
"Farmers are not paid for their hard work, 25 million children are out of school, our women continue to die in childbirth because we can't give them basic healthcare, we can't give the people clean drinking water. A country is not recognised by the lifestyle of the rich, but by the lifestyle of the poor. No country that has an island of rich people and a sea of poor people can prosper," he said.
Although he claimed to have "suffered the worst kind of personal attacks" that any political leader has had to sustain over the last three years, he said "this is all behind me now".

Imran's promises at a glance
  • All policies for ordinary citizens
  • Safeguard tax revenue
  • Decrease govt expenses
  • Strengthen institutions
  • Across-the-board accountability for all
  • Increase youth employment
  • Help farmers, business community
  • Spend money on development
  • Repurpose PM House
  • Address ties with China, Afghanistan, Iran, US, India

"I pledge to safeguard the nation's taxes. We will decrease all of our expenses," he promised.
"Our institutions will be stronger, everyone will be held accountable. First I will be subjected to accountability, then my ministers and so on. Today we are behind [other countries] because there is a separate system for those in power and a separate one for ordinary citizens," he said.
"We are facing governance and economic challenges. Our economy has never been so abysmal. It’s because institutions have not been doing their jobs," he explained.
"People are not investing in Pakistan. Another problem is unemployment, our youth does not have jobs. We will introduce a system that has never been implemented before ─ a kind of governance system that has not been seen before in this country," he promised.
A country that has the highest number of people giving charity, but the lowest amount of tax revenue, he claimed.
"Our government will decide what we will do with PM House. I would be ashamed to live in such a large house. That house will be converted into an educational institution or something of the sort," he said.
"The point is, we have to improve our condition, we have to formulate policies with the business community to increase wealth," he said.
"We will improve tax culture. People will pay taxes because they will see that their taxes are being spent on them. We will help farmers, the business community and help the youth to find jobs and develop their skills. Our money will be spent on human development," he added.

Foreign policy challenges

"Another challenge is foreign policy. No other country needs peace like we do. We will strengthen our relations with China, they have given us a chance by investing in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and we also want to learn how to improve people's lives, drag them out of poverty. Will also learn how to deal with corruption," he said.
"Next is Afghanistan. They have suffered most in the ‘war on terror’, and before that in the Afghan jihad. Peace in Afghanistan means peace in Pakistan," he said, adding that he envisions open borders with Afghanistan reminiscent to those within the European Union.
He said he wished relations with the US to be mutually beneficial, not one sided. Additionally, he said he and his party wanted stronger ties with Iran.
"Saudi Arabia has stood by us in our toughest times. We would like to be a reconciliatory state and help them resolve their inner tensions," he said.
He added that he was very disappointed with how Indian media had, in the days leading up to the election, portrayed him as a "Bollywood villain".
"I am a person who arguably knows the most people in India because of my days in cricket. We can resolve the poverty crisis in South East Asia. The biggest problem is Kashmir, every international organisation has said that there are human rights violations taking place in Kashmir," he said.
"We want to improve our relations with India, if their leadership also wants it. This blame game that whatever goes wrong in Pakistan is because of India and vice versa brings us back to square one," he said.
"This is not how we will grow, and it is detrimental to the sub-continent," he said.
"If they take one step towards us, we will take two, but we at least need a start."
"I pledge to our people that I will introduce a system that is for the masses, all policies will be for the people and not for the elite," he vowed.
"I will live humbly," he promised. "So far we have seen that everyone who comes to power changes. That will not happen with me."
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Dawn's live blogging of Pakistan election results

Imran promises wide-ranging reforms: 'All policies for the people'