On recent developments in North Syria: Afrin

 
Russia has seemingly acquiesced to an assault by Turkey and certain Turkish-backed rebel groups on the North Western province of Afrin. Afrin is held by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), dominated by the Kurdish YPG. Confusingly, the YPG/SDF has simultaneously been backed by Russia: indeed some areas around Afrin had previously been taken by the YPG/SDF under Russian aircover from the rebel groups. The YPG/SDF has since threatened to give up the area to the regime instead of allowing it to fall to the Turkish-backed FSA. Other areas had been taken by the YPG/SDF under US aircover, indirectly from the local rebel groups (who had been expelled by ISIS, only to be replaced by the YPG/SDF instead. Only those who agreed to give up the fight against Assad and were “vetted” by the YPG were allowed into the US-backed SDF).
 
This ironically may suit Turkey – whose priority is containing the Syrian Kurds, not taking on the Assad regime – but may not highly suit their rebel allies. It is unclear what the US response will be to the Turkish-Russian maneuvers. Previously, US Special Forces deployed to protect the YPG/SDF from the Turkish-backed rebels around the city of Mabij (areas which the YPG/SDF eventually gave up to the regime), and the US has also recently show down a regime airplane during a spike in clashes with the YPG/SDF.
 
On the other hand, whilst the Turkish-backed rebels are primarily concerned with the regime, they nonetheless have an axe to grind with the YPG/SDF – who they have accused of collaborating with the regime (as well as the US and Russia previously) at their expense. For instance, the YPG collaborated with the Syrian regime during the fall of Aleppo (http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/what-role-are-kurdish-ypg-forces-playing-aleppo-554547107), and even handed over the city of Manbij to the regime instead of letting it fall to the Turkish-backed FSA (http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-north-idUSKBN1684SB). The Turkish-backed rebel factions are of course not faultless, and some have been accused of violations against Kurdish civilians – including recently by a (pro-opposition) Kurdish council (http://aranews.net/2017/06/hundreds-of-yezidi-kurds-displaced-by-turkey-backed-rebels-northwest-syria-kurdish-council/). The increasing alliance with Turkey, which is far more concerned with anti-Kurdish sentiments than it is with the regime, can have troubling consequences if not restricted.
 
Meanwhile in North East Syria, the YPG/SDF continues to be backed by the US-led Coalition around Raqqa. Almost 300 civilians have been killed in one month, with Raqqa’s trapped civilians being terrorised – not “liberated” – by punitive US airstrikes and SDF shells. Under the six months of Trump’s administration, more than 2,000 civilians have been killed in ISIS-held areas. This is a form of collective punishment.
 
In South East Syria, there are reports that the US has airlifted an anti-ISIS Sunni Arab group from a garrison at-Tanf after they came into conflict with pro-regime Shia militias, including some the US has backed against ISIS (notably in Iraq). If true, the US would have in effect surrendered a further land-corridor between Iran, Iraq and Syria to Iran. The US had earlier during the week repeated its welcoming of the regime (i.e. foreign pro-regime militias) taking areas from ISIS. Of course, this has been effective US policy for years, and pro-regime (foreign) ground forces have even been backed by the US airforce under both the Obama and Trump Administrations.
 
In all cases, the regime is winning by US-Russian-Turkish agreement.

Vanessa Beeley gets destroyed on Assad’s “anti-imperialism” – Assadists come to her defence and are rebutted

 

Post comment by Assadist:

“I find your description of this exchange more than a little lacking. A member of the Syria Solidarity Campaign attends an event, and makes a speech full of sectarian talking points. The quote marks around “anti-imperialism” are a big clue here. As part of this rambling speech, he asks the question, “Aren’t you more pro-Assad than Assad himself? (When did you stop beating your wife?) He then continues talking. The people attending the meeting grow impatient with his monologue, and tell him to bloody ask a question. (Some of them appear to have missed the question, not surprisingly.) At one point, as people beseech him to shut up and sit down, he sits down.

When he does, Vanessa answers the only question he asked, with the obvious answer: she is NOT “pro-Assad,” she’s pro-Syrian-sovereignty. She gets a hand from the people at the meeting, who are clearly not pleased by the young man’s intervention. After the young man repeats some of his points, Vanessa was about to reply, but is stopped—by the people running the meeting.

So, when you say she was “unable to answer,” your nose is stretching. The organizers asked her to stop, so, politely, she did.

Quite a few of those following events in Syria have heard these arguments before, for example, somehow Assad is “cooperating” with the Americans, not being attacked by them. Sorry, it doesn’t wash, no matter what obscure quotes you can come up with. The Syria Solidarity Campaign, which out of one side of its mouth wants an end to foreign intervention, but out of the other wants a no-fly zone, doesn’t impress me as a group that can come up with a solution to the conflict.

So if we think all the foreign humanitarian regime changers should just piss off and let Syrians determine their government for themselves, that makes us “Assad propagandists”? Don’t think so. Myself, I don’t give a toss if Assad stays or goes, it’s not my decision. What “Western” leaders do in MY name certainly is.

In any case, I see from my FB wall that Vanessa Beeley was not “destroyed” by that intervention. She’s alive and well.”

Comment by guy in video:

“Hi, I’m the young man in question.
The sectarian talking point, was that the one where I said the regime supported the Shia Amal against the Shia Hezbollah in the late 80s? Yeah, real sectarian. You wouldn’t hear it in the video (and nor do I have to prove it to your likes) but I also made it clear that I supported the Bahraini uprising and opposed Saudi’s brutality in Yemen.
As for Beeley “responding”, are you on crack? When did she respond to my question of how Assad’s “anti-imperialist” allies include al-Sisi (Israel’s friend, o Palestine hero) and the US-installed regime in Iraq? As for her not getting a chance to respond (she actually did and came back to address me), this is why the full video link is attached, go check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3MmV43Zw1g
(Incidentally a few other “anti-imperialist” Western allies of Assad that I didn’t mention include the Palestinian Authority (Fatah) in the West Bank (other anti-Israeli heroes of course), the US-installed regime in Afghanistan and the likes of Pakistan, Oman, Algeria, Lebanon, etc.).
Besides sharing airspace (which involves basic coordination to prevent accidents, something both Assad and the US have admitted), the US and the regime have also carried out joint bombings of anti-Assad towns and cities (mostly held by ISIS):
 
But of course you undoubtedly know much better than the Syrians who’ve been getting bombed by the US and the regime in the same day:
“We are seeing coalition warplanes hit targets during the day in Raqqa province and then Syrian warplanes follow-up with more indiscriminate strikes at night,” a commander with the Free Syrian Army told The Daily Beast. “This is not a coincidence—to argue that it is stretches credulity”” – [http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/02/10/here-s-how-obama-and-assad-team-up-against-isis.html]
“The politics don’t matter to the people here, all we see is one type of death – it comes from the sky, whether the Americans are dropping the bombs or Assad, it makes no difference. They are both murdering us. What do you expect any sane person to think here? One day American airplanes and the next Bashar’s, how do they not crash or shoot each other? It is simple, they call each other and say today is my turn to kill the people of Raqqa, please don’t bother me, it will be yours tomorrow.” -[http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/sharing-skies-assad-america-s-predicament-syria-1105355734]
…“Syrian warplanes used to shell us two or three times a week but now they target us every day thanks to the coalition forces,” Faris Samir, from Harm in the northern Idlib region, complained on Thursday. “We are losing martyrs and many get injured but no one pays any attention. Now the Syrian [regime] army is taking areas bombed by the coalition forces after the Islamic factions withdraw. I have to say that the coalition military campaign is in the interest of the Syrian regime and against the Syrian people.”’ -[http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/09/syria-isis-bashar-al-assad-coalition-air-strikes]
As for the “obscure” quotes, oh definitely. “They attack us politically and then they send officials to deal with us under the table, especially the security, including your [the Australian] government”. That’s real obscure: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-assad-idUSKCN0ZG28G?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=Social
Assad’s regime welcomed the US intervention in 2014, and said they were going in the “right direction”: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4576118,00.html
Here’s some examples of regime media celebrating the US intervention in 2014:

1) “The Syrian Army and the United States in the same ditch against terrorism”

2) “Meanwhile, the pro-government news network Damascus Now hailed the strikes on Wednesday as a historic moment, in which “happiness was etched on the faces of the majority of Syrians, because they found international support towards eradicating a cancer which has been rooted in the diseased Syrian body,” referring to the rebels.”: http://syriadirect.org/news/syria-direct-news-update-9-24-14/
Most rebel groups by contrast rejected the US intervention, there were loads of protests across rebel-held Syria against it, and the FSA’s founder called the US intervention an “attack against the revolution”: https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2014/09/25/syrian-rebels-overwhelmingly-condemn-us-bombing-as-an-attack-on-revolution/
Here’s the US just a few days ago welcoming Assad taking territories from ISIS: https://www.voanews.com/a/united-states-would-welcome-effective-syrian-effort-defeat-islamic-state/3913697.html
The US has of course directly supported Assad on limited occasions in doing so, most recently earlier this year in Palmyra: linkis.com/washingtonpost.com/ov6qC
The US has also coordinated intelligence with Assad, as has the MI6:
Here’s a Syrian refugee fleeing Assad having her passport taken from her by the UK “on the Syrian government’s request”: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/24/syrian-journalist-zaina-erhaim-passport-held-assad-request
Here’s one revolutionary protest against the US bombing rebel-held areas of Aleppo *during the siege* a few months ago: https://www.facebook.com/SyriaSolidarityCampaign/posts/339374613072396
And for a bit of recent history:
Here’s Assad warning Europe about Syrian refugees, saying they’re going to have terrorists amongst them: https://twitter.com/presidency_sy/status/346700451087015937?lang=en
Here’s a video of your heroic regime representative side by side Arafat and Sadat-style with Israeli foreign minister Barak: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scPYA8p1FRs
And here’s anti-imperialist hero Tony Blair who wanted the queen to knight Assad, whose thinktank has (undoubtedly like you) called most of the Syrian revolutionaries “extremists”: https://www.pressreader.com/new-zealand/the-press/20120702/281805691024479
now let’s see some of the US statements. Contrary to the idiocies and foolishness your likes promote, the US did not sponsor or support the revolutions. As in Egypt and Yemen, where the US told its its former collaborators to step down in order to *better preserve the rest of the regime* with a different face, the US has throughout the war been against “regime-change” in Syria too. Its preference is a political solution where the figurehead of the regime steps down to calm popular anger and stabilise the rest of the regime, to be replaced by another regime member. Which is what happened with the military edging out Mubarak in Egypt and Saleh being pushed out in Yemen. Regime-rehabilitation with a different face, in other words. Syrians have long said this and its been admitted by US officials as well: uk.businessinsider.com/john-kerry-regime-change-syria-bashar-assad-2015-12?r=US&IR=T.
The US attempted to encourage an intra-regime coup during 2011 to bring this to fruition (https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-pursued-secret-contacts-with-assad-regime-for-years-1450917657), but it failed due to the regime’s internal cohesiveness. The US actually opposed the militarisation of the rebellion (initially saying that it would “escalate the violence which is what Assad wanted”) until after the regime chemical attack in 2013. And even then they always conditioned groups which received direct support (prime amongst them of course the leftist love-child, the YPG) to not fight Assad (http://www.thedailybeast.com/exclusive-syrian-rebels-backing-out-of-us-fight-vs-isis).
In the absence of the first preference of Assadism without Assad, the US second preference has actually been straight out accepting Assad to stay. It has never supported the option of a rebel military victory, an option Obama called a “fantasy” as they were a bunch of farmers and students, etc. (http://www.politico.com/story/2014/08/barack-obama-rebukes-syrian-fantasy-109890). The US for years told the rebels to stop fighting Assad and just focus on ISIS, even publicly declaring it in 2015: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-kerry-idUSKBN0TN1D120151204
And actually far from being “anti-Western”, your bullshit vacuous cliche about “if Assad falls terrorists will take over” was long the US position: http://www.timesofisrael.com/cia-us-does-not-want-to-see-syrian-regime-collapse/
and your bullshit vacuous cliche of “letting the Syrian people decide” (i.e. after they rebelled and hundreds of thousands died as a consequence you bellend) – code for letting Assad stand for elections – was advocated by none other than the anti-imperialist that is John Kerry: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/09/30/world/middleeast/john-kerry-syria-audio.html
The fact that you know little of this is because your anti-war movement’s leaders are racist tankies who’ve refused to listen to Syrians and ironically have ended up completely misrepresenting actual US policy in the country. Only idiots would think that four out of more than 9,000 airstrikes in Syria constitutes “regime change”and btw, the US has attacked mainstream “moderate” rebels far more than that, something that of course you wouldn’t have heard about as your “anti-war” leaders covered up because it was an inconvenient contradiction to their regime-change bullshit. This is one example: http://www.thedailybeast.com/did-the-us-just-kill-5-kids-in-syria).
The rest of the 9,000 fyi oh radical “anti-imperialist” have come exclusively in areas that revolted against the regime in 2011, regardless of whether they’re held now by ISIS or someone else (of course if you were nearly as bravely “anti-imperialist” as you portend you would be supporting ISIS, not a “beardless” Islamophobia-promoting regime with decades of Western-collaboration and indeed still doing so).
This is why Syrians have set up pages like this (https://www.facebook.com/%D8%A3%D9%85%D8%B1%D9%8A%D9%83%D8%A7-%D8%AA%D8%AF%D8%B9%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D8%B3%D8%AF-102929846719076/). And its why unlike your radical-chic fake anti-imperialist bubbles that only wake up to Syria when there’s a bit of talk about wrist-slapping Assad, the SSC has actually protested in front of the US embassy.. Go read up the event description, if its not too “complicated” in explaining how the US and its allies have hidden their support of Assad behind their vacuous statements that your “critical” types swallow up so easily. https://www.facebook.com/events/312534259134453/
So far from “foreign regime-change tossers” (am I the foreign one here lol, a guy who’s lived in the Middle East most of his life?), you’re the counter-revolutionary, scabbing, pro-regime tosser who stood against what the “masses” (to use the leftist terminology that is inevitably just a fashion statement to you) demanded in 2011: “The people want the downfall of the regime”. and if your priviliged shittly little posing types – who incidentally wouldn’t baulk twice at calling the “imperialist police” if your house got robbed and wouldn’t baulk twice at campaigning for your “imperialist government” to spend more on the NHS and welfare (ironically from the wealth they usurped from the regions whose people you now demonise) whilst acting radically chic by disparaging those asking for no planes to fly because they’ve been getting bombed 24/7 by them for five years on end – don’t like it, you could go fuck off.”

A guide to how the US supported the Assad regime

Informational statements written for the Syria Solidarity Campaign UK

  1. America: Stop Supporting the Assad Regime!
    Since its entry into the Syrian war in September 2014, the US government has served to prop up the Assad regime, rehabilitate it internationally, undermine the mainstream Syrian resistance and increase the suffering and killing of the Syrian people.

    The US government has coordinated intelligence and airstrikes with the Syrian regime [1], whilst blockading the supply of heavy weaponry by pro-rebel regional states such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, notably including the complete ban on the supply of anti-aircraft missiles [2]. The Syrian regime’s use of an airforce within its own borders between 2012-2016 (5 years) has been unprecedented in the Middle East history, with the regime airforce’s daily blitzkriegs eclipsing that of Spain’s infamous General Franco during the Spanish war. Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, has become the modern-day Guernica and now holds the “record” of being the most aerially bombarded city in the world since the Second World War.

    The United States is directly complicit in this “record-breaking”. The US government continues to blockade measures by regional countries to end this unprecedented reality. Not only this, in 2014 the US airforce entered Syrian airspace on the same side of the fascist genocidal Syrian regime, coordinating intelligence with it and even supporting its ground forces in certain offensives [3]. Syrian residents have routinely sardonically remarked that they were be bombed by the regime airforce during the day and the US airforce at night [4]. As a symbol of the extent of the US government’s complicity with Assad’s unparalleled blitzkriegs, the US has even refused to grant early radar warnings of incoming regime airstrikes to rescue workers of the Syrian Civil Defence (“White Helmets”), which would simply allow them to try and evacuate civilian areas before destruction hits [5]. Up to (and potentially more than) 1,500 civilians have been killed by the US-led “International Coalition” campaign in Syria and Iraq [6], to add to the thousands killed every month by the fascist regime and its allies.

    Furthermore, the US has repeatedly launched airstrikes on mainstream rebel factions [7], whilst simultaneously not only completely ignoring the forces of the “sovereign” Syrian government (zero airstrikes to date), but also various non-governmental foreign militias present illegally on Syrian territory. All of these militias have come to Syria through Western-backed allies, such as Iraq and Lebanon. The declaredly pro-Assad Iraqi government sponsors tens of thousands of sectarian militiamen travelling to Syria to fight for Assad, whilst the Lebanese government is effectively controlled by Hezbollah and could not or would not stop Hezbollah’s invasion of Syria launched from its “sovereign” territory, or even demand its withdrawal.

    Indeed, many sectarian Iraqi militias which have entered into Syria (not recently but since 2013) have been armed by the US [8]. The sectarian Iraqi militias (estimated to number 30,000 men distributed over 30+ militias) are estimated now to constitute the single biggest fighting component of Assadist loyalist forces, outnumbering Hezbollah and the remaining fighting elements of the so-called “Syrian Arab Army” [9].

    Yet despite the free entry of Iraqi and Lebanese militias into Syria, militias which have changed the balance of forces in the conflict (with the manpower depletion of the minority-based so-called “Syrian Arab Army”) and helped to reinstate the “stalemate equilibrium” which has been US policy of the Syrian war, the United States has not only refused to decrease (or sanction) aid for the Iraqi and Lebanese governments but has actually increased it [10]. It has, furthermore, concealed from public knowledge the reality of these pro-Assad militias which is barely reported in coverage of the conflict.

    The US, furthermore, also arms the Egyptian regime of Abdul Fatah al-Sisi which has also provided military support to the Assad regime [11]. The US also directly arms the pro-Assad tribal militia, the Jaish al-Sanadeed, as part of the “Syrian Democratic Forces” [12].

    Finally, US statements (not just actions) since 2012 have also served to rehabilitate the Syrian regime’s “legitimacy” on the international stage, far more than the Russian government. Since 2012 the US has consistently argued against the military defeat of the fascist Syrian regime forces [see our full statement for further details and references] and the preservation of regime apparatuses including state security forces, indeed even going further to state that Syrian rebels should cooperate with the Syrian Army even before any Assad resignation [13]. The US has also made it clear that is only seeking a negotiated “safe exit” for Assad [14] (the same attempted pacification of the Arab Spring as in Egypt and Yemen) and is against the revolution’s fundamental demand to “bring the downfall of the regime” in its entirety and and its accountability [15]. This is why the US has directly prevented the regime falling at various points and routinely sabotaged various rebel military campaigns throughout the conflict [see our full statement for further details and references].

    In “ruling out” (long before the rise of ISIS) rebels bringing down the regime with military force [16], US policy since 2012 has been effectively to “convince” Assad to resign out of his own good will (as precedented in Egypt and Yemen) whilst in the meantime ensuring a “level playing field” which sustains a weakened rebellion, a weakened regime and a “balance” of destruction [17]. The obvious failure of this and the obvious refusal of Assad to take the step of resigning, and yet the nonetheless continued adoption of this pretense policy by the US government has not enamoured it with or fooled the revolutionary Syrian people, who now know beyond doubt that both the US and Russia have prevented the collapse of the Assad regime. The US government has long proven through both word and deed that beyond its compulsory “Assad must resign” statements (as it did with Egypt’s Mubarak and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh) it would rather the Syrian regime stay in power, even with Assad at its head, than stop interfering to prevent the downfall (or as it calls it, “collapse” [18]) of the regime in its entirety.

    Join us to say no to US duplicity in Syria, no to its policy of double-dealing with different sides of the conflict, and no to its policy of “mutual destruction”, genocide appeasement, regime preservation and endless war.

    ————–
    Our Demands:

    1. Regarding Proxy Support for the Assad regime:

    – The United States must stop arming sectarian Iraqi militias which fight in Syria for the Assad regime.
    – The United States must stop arming/sanction the Iraqi government if it does not force the withdrawal of Iraqi militias fighting for Assad. These are extremely crucial to the regime’s survival and are numbered in the tens of thousands.

    – The United States must stop arming/sanction the Egyptian regime if it does not stop its military provisions for the Assad regime.

    – The United States must stop arming/sanction the Lebanese state if it fails to enforce the withdrawal of Hezbollah from Syria, an invasion launched from its sovereign territory. The United States currently supports the Lebanese army which is effectively under the control of Hezbollah and whose abuses against Syrian refugees have been well-reported.

    – The United States must stop arming the tribal militia Jaish al-Sanadeed, the main Arab component of the so-called “Syrian Democratic Forces” and who are declared Assad loyalists.

    – The United States must investigate any complicity of their allied Afghani and Pakistani governments, both declaredly pro-Assad, in the recruitment of their citizens in pro-Assad militias (including Fatemeyoon and Zaynebeyoon) [19].

    2. Direct Military Involvement: The United States must withdraw its military forces from Syria, an involvement which has only served to prolong the Assad regime’s survival and repeatedly stave off its collapse at various points at its most vulnerable moments (see our statement for more details/references). To that end:

    – The United States must stop targeting any sides in the conflict, including the targeting of civilians.

    – The United States must stop the sharing of intelligence with the Syrian regime.

    – The United States must end its interference and “vetoeing”/blockade of serious military provisions to the Syrian rebels by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which could otherwise in short time tip the balance against the Assad regime. Notably the United States must end the blockade on the arming of local Syrian resistance forces with anti-aircraft missiles. Qatar and Saudi Arabia must be allowed to provide anti-aircraft and anti-tank weaponry to mainstream rebel brigades as necessary and without restriction.

    – The United States must withdraw all of its foreign ground forces present on Syrian land, including the so-called “special advisors” currently embedded with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) [20], which Barack Obama had stated would not be deployed [21]. Syrian revolutionaries are more than sufficient in fighting ISIS and fought ISIS long before the US coalition [22].

    – The United States must dismantle any military bases it is reported to be building and plans to occupy in Northern Syria [23].

    For more details and our full statement, please visit:
    – The US government must end support, both proxy and direct, for the genocidal Assad regime –

    We hope to see you there

    Omar Sabbor (2016)

    References:
    [1]
    Sharing of intelligence:
    http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/us-gives-intelligence-assad-targetting-isis-commanders-1462375
    http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/.premium-1.615892
    http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/syria-given-information-about-u-s-led-airstrikes-against-isis-n303381
    – “West cooperating secretly with Damascus against militants: Assad” –http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-assad-idUSKCN0ZG28G
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/west-poised-to-join-forces-with-president-assad-in-face-of-islamic-state-9686666.html
    http://www.rferl.org/content/islamic-state-russia-united-states-syria/26638582.html
    Launching of joint airstrikes:
    http://aranews.net/2015/05/u-s-and-syrian-warplanes-launch-simultaneous-strikes-against-isis-in-raqqa/
    http://aranews.net/2014/11/u-s-warplanes-pro-assad-forces-target-isis-locations-hasakah/?utm_source=twitter
    https://en.zamanalwsl.net/news/16357.html
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/02/10/here-s-how-obama-and-assad-team-up-against-isis.html
    http://uk.businessinsider.com/us-sharing-skies-with-syria-and-iran-2014-12
    http://leftfootforward.org/2014/12/raqqa-to-appease-iran-obama-gives-assads-air-force-a-free-pass-for-slaughter/
    https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2014/12/12/as-assad-and-us-play-two-step-bombing-raqqa-assad-demands-us-bomb-more-efficiently/
    Syrian regime statements welcoming US intervention:
    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4576118,00.html
    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-crisis-minister-idUSKCN0HJ19S20140924
    http://syriadirect.org/news/syria-direct-news-update-9-24-14/ : “Meanwhile, the pro-government news network Damascus Now hailed the strikes on Wednesday as a historic moment, in which “happiness was etched on the faces of the majority of Syrians, because they found international support towards eradicating a cancer which has been rooted in the diseased Syrian body,” referring to the rebels.”
    http://rudaw.net/english/middleeast/syria/28092014
    [2] – http://sputniknews.com/middleeast/20160415/1038088490/us-syria-opposition-manpads.html
    http://uk.businessinsider.com/us-official-describes-nightmare-manpad-scenario-in-syria-2015-10
    http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/saudi-arabian-fm-says-syrian-rebels-should-be-provided-surface-air-missiles-1544958
    http://www.umayya.org/en/publications-en-en/policyanalysis-en/6327
    http://english.aawsat.com/2016/04/article55350042/u-s-veto-arming-syrian-opposition
    http://www.menewsline.com/article-27134-U-S-Jordan-Block-MANPADS-To-Reb.aspx
    http://eldorar.com/node/75179
    http://alasr.me/articles/view/17292
    [3]
    https://twitter.com/CENTCOMArabic/status/745624962506100736
    https://twitter.com/hxhassan/status/541138358106193920
    https://twitter.com/usembassysyria/status/540972704741220352
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10205119461334378&set=a.1574479010108.2070542.1479552245&type=3&theater
    https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/who-has-the-us-bombed-for-in-syria/
    http://syriadirect.org/news/syria-direct-news-update-9-24-14/
    http://www.almasdarnews.com/article/nowhere-retreat-isis-militants-deir-ezzor-syrian-army-intensifies-attacks-west
    https://yallasouriya.wordpress.com/2014/11/09/syria-homs-rif-intl-coalition-target-the-rif/
    https://twitter.com/HASAKH_NEWS/status/565828914472177664
    [4] – http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/09/syria-isis-bashar-al-assad-coalition-air-strikes :
    ‘…“Syrian warplanes used to shell us two or three times a week but now they target us every day thanks to the coalition forces,” Faris Samir, from Harm in the northern Idlib region, complained on Thursday. “We are losing martyrs and many get injured but no one pays any attention. Now the Syrian [regime] army is taking areas bombed by the coalition forces after the Islamic factions withdraw. I have to say that the coalition military campaign is in the interest of the Syrian regime and against the Syrian people.”’
    http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/sharing-skies-assad-america-s-predicament-syria-1105355734 : “The politics don’t matter to the people here, all we see is one type of death – it comes from the sky, whether the Americans are dropping the bombs or Assad, it makes no difference. They are both murdering us. What do you expect any sane person to think here? One day American airplanes and the next Bashar’s, how do they not crash or shoot each other? It is simple, they call each other and say today is my turn to kill the people of Raqqa, please don’t bother me, it will be yours tomorrow”
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/02/10/here-s-how-obama-and-assad-team-up-against-isis.html : “We are seeing coalition warplanes hit targets during the day in Raqqa province and then Syrian warplanes follow-up with more indiscriminate strikes at night,” a commander with the Free Syrian Army told The Daily Beast. “This is not a coincidence—to argue that it is stretches credulity””
    http://www.worldcrunch.com/54d9089fd29b53f0e879ecc81cd99d34/world-affairs/no-the-progressive-syrian-opposition-is-not-dead/protests-raed-fares-activism-assad/c1s17292/#.VEzWuxYxg1J ; “[The U.S.] bombed Raqqa, Deir Ezzor, parts of Homs and Aleppo. But [their] airplanes fly over our city along with the regime air force, which means that they and the regime are coordinating. They say they don’t want to coordinate with the Assad regime, but [U.S.] planes are flying with the regimes in the same air space”
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/10/03/why-does-the-free-syrian-army-hate-us.html : “The American and Syrian warplanes are flying in the same airspace,” he expounds incredulously. “There has to be some communication for them to avoid each other!”
    [5] – https://act.thesyriacampaign.org/sign/warn_civilians_of_attacks/
    https://news.vice.com/article/activists-want-the-us-to-warn-syrian-first-responders-about-incoming-barrel-bombs
    [6] – https://airwars.org/news/international-airstrikes-and-civilian-casualties-in-iraq-and-syria-december-2015-to-may-2016/
    https://www.buzzfeed.com/mikegiglio/the-us-led-coalition-bombing-syria-has-killed-more-civilians :
    “A witness to the attack in Bir Mahli, a 67-year-old man who goes by the nickname Abu Khaled, described family after family killed in a series of strikes, giving names that match reports from monitoring groups. “They killed whole families,” he said, speaking by phone from southern Turkey. “The Americans will never apologize, and they will keep killing civilians. They could have stopped Assad at the beginning if they cared about human rights.””
    [7] – http://eaworldview.com/2014/11/syria-daily-insurgent-leader-us-bombed-us-abort-revolution/
    http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2014/Nov-06/276728-syrias-ahrar-al-sham-says-coalition-strikes-on-it-killed-civilians-statement.ashx
    http://eaworldview.com/2015/08/syria-daily-why-did-us-led-coalition-bomb-rebels-near-turkish-border/
    http://eaworldview.com/2015/08/syria-feature-residents-grieve-as-us-finally-admits-airstrike-on-rebels-near-turkish-border/
    https://twitter.com/joshua_landis/status/516696525049573376
    http://www.aksalser.com/index.php?page=view_articles&id=0c9a0c60f2a055595be113ce9f70ec5e : “After the International Coalition’s bombing of the Justice Brigade, the Free Army’s Joint Staff request a clarification of the concept of “moderate opposition”!”
    https://www.zamanalwsl.net/en/news/6704.html
    http://permalink.gmane.org/gmane.politics.marxism.marxmail/190733
    https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/who-has-the-us-bombed-for-in-syria/
    http://sn4hr.org/wp-content/pdf/english/civilian_killed_by_the_international_coalition_forces_en.pdf
    https://www.buzzfeed.com/mikegiglio/us-goes-to-war-with-jabhat-al-nusra
    [8] – http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/iran-backed-militias-using-american-tanks-battle-809449820
    https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2015-01-08/iranbacked-militias-are-getting-us-weapons-in-iraq
    http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/03/iraqi-shia-militias-show-us-made-equipment-on-road-to-samarra.php
    http://sputniknews.com/military/20160215/1034757495/us-iraqi-shia-turn-assad.html
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/07/10/us-weapons-syria-shiites/2503953/
    [9] – http://russia-insider.com/en/syrias-army-now-almost-fiction/ri12624
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/09/where-are-the-syrians-in-assads-syrian-arab-army/
    https://warisboring.com/whats-left-of-the-syrian-arab-army-eec39485df43#.63k09ekqd
    http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/syrias-embattled-president-admits-manpower-shortage-n398651
    https://informnapalm.org/en/feb21-syria-general-rahal/
    http://uk.businessinsider.com/iran-backed-iraqi-militias-are-pouring-into-syria-2015-10?r=US&IR=T
    http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/shia-jihad-and-death-syria-s-army-1508759016
    http://www.mei.edu/content/at/return-iraqi-shi‘i-militias-syria
    http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/e1243662-2c67-11e5-acfb-cbd2e1c81cca.html#axzz3geTA9xPT
    http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/the-shiite-jihad-in-syria-and-its-regional-effects
    https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/PF138Appendices/PF138_Appendix_2.pdf
    [10] Iraq: – https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/19/iraq-crisis-us-urging-maliki-to-resign-live-updates
    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-security-usa-idUSKBN0GF21V20140815
    http://www.wsj.com/articles/with-maliki-out-of-the-picture-u-s-prepares-to-boost-iraq-aid-1408143896
    Lebanon: – http://yalibnan.com/2015/10/02/u-s-doubles-its-military-assistance-to-lebanese-army-envoy-says/
    http://yalibnan.com/2016/02/05/us-pledges-an-additional-400-million-to-lebanon-army-in-military-aid/
    http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/saudis-cut-military-aid-lebanon-over-iranhezbollah-support-us
    [11] – http://syrianobserver.com/EN/News/29728/Cairo_Strengthens_Ties_With_Assad_Regime_Through_Military_Support
    https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/NewsReports/565813-retired-general-egypt-arming-syria-regime
    http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Amid-Aleppo-bloodshed-former-Iranian-politician-praises-Egypts-support-for-Assad-452867
    http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-mideast-crisis-syria-egypt-idUKKCN0RX0VZ20151003
    https://eternispring.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/sisis-missiles-are-raining-over-aleppo/
    [12] – https://www.alaraby.co.uk/politics/2015/7/2/سورية-النظام-يسترضي-القوات-الكردية-في-الحسكة
    http://all4syria.info/Archive/248959
    http://www.aljazeera.net/news/reportsandinterviews/2015/10/17/المعارضة-السورية-تشكك-بمليشيات-تدعمها-واشنطن : ‘Syrian opposition suspicious about militias supported by Washington’. Article quotes FSA official who states “Based on its foundation statement, we cannot say that the SDF coalesces with the FSA and achieves the goals of the revolution”
    http://al-akhbar.com/node/209385 : Jaish al-Sanadeed leader, “Sheikh” Hameedi al-Jarba “does not see the Syrian Army as an enemy, and does not look to confront it”, also stating “The one who rules Damascus rules Hassakah, for it is an inseperable part of Syria, and the Syrian Government is strong and standing but it is not present in his area, and this difficult circumstance has forced upon us the taking of arms to fill the security vacuum and face dangers”
    http://anbaaonline.com/?p=381206 : ‘Al-Modon [Newspaper] reveals alliance between Washington-Moscow and Syrian Democratic Forces’
    http://syriadirect.org/news/ahead-of-battle-against-islamic-state-in-syria’s-northeast-one-faction-hesitates-to-join-sdf/
    http://www.newroz-syria.com/portal/node/3603 : Claims that Jaish al-Sanadeed trained as part of Syrian Army 154 Corps by Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guards
    [13] http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/2015/12/04/Kerry-Syria-government-rebels-could-cooperate-vs-ISIS-before-Assad-goes.html
    [14] http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/255245-kerry-syrias-assad-needs-to-go-off-into-the-sunset
    [15] uk.businessinsider.com/john-kerry-regime-change-syria-bashar-assad-2015-12?r=US&IR=T

    – Source: Statement on a Syria Solidarity Campaign protest in front of the US Embassy – dated July 17th 2016
  2. Foreign militias out of Syria!


    As Russia burns Aleppo from the sky, 5,000 foreign invaders prepare to invade it on Assad’s behalf on the ground.

    BRIEF

    It is constantly proclaimed in Western policy circles that seeing that the Assad regime is armed mainly by Russia (as opposed to Western governments) there is not much Western countries can do to stop Assad, short of direct military intervention. In reality, this is not the case. Western policy since 2012 has helped maintain a lopsided playing field that has favoured the survival of the Assad regime and prevented its conclusive defeat – both in terms of weapons and manpower. In terms of weapons, Western policy – as ultimately determined by the Obama Administration in the United States – has ensured over five years that the Syrian opposition has received nothing near the military aid that the Assad regime has had (despite the presence of willing pro-opposition backers in the region) and it has more crucially and detrimentally ensured that the Assad regime’s daily bombings of civilians continued for 5 years in a row, a civil war record, via the US administration’s veto on the supply of anti-aircraft weaponry by regional allies to Syrian revolutionary forces. This unprecedented domestic use of an airforce is the overwhelming reason for the high civilian casualty count and refugee crisis.

    Simultaneously, since the first signs of the depletion of manpower in the Assad regime’s “Syrian Arab Army” (SAA) appeared in 2013, Western governments have turned a blind eye to the unrestricted entry of tens of thousands of foreign sectarian militiamen filling the manpower shortages within the Syrian Army. The active fighting core of the Syrian Army had always been heavily drawn from minority communities and with the death of tens of thousands of minority soldiers as the civil war lengthened, the strain was heavily felt within these communities (the Alawite community in particular lost a third of its male youth to defend the Assad regime). Serious manpower shortages ensued, notably through conscription dodging in regime-loyalist areas. The manpower shortages became apparent from 2014.

    Today foreign sectarian militiamen, coming from Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, are no longer just a useful accessory to the “Syrian Army” – they have long surpassed it in importance and now constitute the overwhelming fighting force of pro-regime forces. The role of Iraqi militias – which are official substate actors under the Iraqi government – in particular is crucial. It has not escaped the attention of Syrians that the 2003 Iraq invasion which came to support democracy in the region put in place a sectarian regime which today is the largest provider of manpower to the Assad regime that is crushing the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people and levelling the cities where these aspirations were voiced. It should be noted that Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan are all strong allies of both the United Kingdom and the Assad regime, as is the effectively Hezbollah-controlled Lebanese state.

    TO THIS END – The UK government must place immediate and serious pressure for an end of the participation of foreign pro-Assad militias in the current regime ground offensive in Aleppo and the war in general, notably such as those from allied states, especially Iraq. Out of 6,000 fighters preparing to advance on Aleppo under Russian air-cover, 5,000 are estimated to be foreign militiamen, notably from Iraq.
    OUR DEMANDS

    – The UK government must immediately pressure the Iraqi government to withdraw its paramilitary groups from Syria – numbering between 20-30+ – most of which form the “Popular Mobilisation Units” (PMU) and all of which operate with official sanction from the central government in Baghdad. Prominent names include:

    – Liwa Abul Fadl al-Abbas
    – Asai’b Ahl al-Haq
    – Harakat al-Nujaba’
    – Kata’ib Hezbollah
    – Kata’ib al-Imam Ali
    – Kata’ib Sayid Al-Shuahada’
    – Badr Organisation – Military Wing

    Iraqi militias played a crucial role in the capture of Daraya in August and today are the core force of the Assad regime’s ground operation in Aleppo. One of the Iraqi militias currently on the Aleppo frontlines, Harakat Al-Nujaba’a, have called for a Sectarian Cleansing of rebel-held Aleppo’s population as has occurred elsewhere in areas recaptured by the Assad regime, such as Homs and Daraya.

    The UK government must stop all weapon supplies, military and economic aid and coordination with the Iraqi government until the withdrawal of all Iraqi militias from Syria is achieved.

    – The UK government must immediately pressure the Lebanese government to close its borders to the further entry of Hezbollah troops into Syria in aid of the Assad regime, and must stop all financial and military aid to Lebanon until Hezbollah fully withdraws to the boundaries of the Lebanese state.

    – The UK government must immediately pressure the Afghani and Pakistani government to stop turning a blind eye and take steps to stop the rendition of its citizens by Iran and their transfer to Syria to fight for the Assad regime.

    – The UK government must immediately pressure the Iranian government – with which it has now normalised diplomatic ties (including the reopening of embassies in London and Tehran) – to withdraw its forces stationed on Syrian territory, including Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and regular army troops, and to stop the sponsoring of Iraqi, Lebanese, Afghani and Pakistani militias fighting overseas in Syria. The UK government must immediately cease all trade contracts being agreed/negotiated between UK companies and firms with Iran until the full withdrawal of Iranian and Iranian-sponsored forces from Syria – in particular contracts pertaining to Iran’s military and aerospace industry.

    – Source: Statement for a Syria Solidarity Campaign protest – dated October 4th 2016

  3.  Save Wadi Barada!

    UK responsibility

    The UK has for years proclaimed that it stands against the Assad regime. Yet despite these proclamations we find that the UK continues to provide major military aid to regional states which have proven crucial in the survival of the Assad regime – prime amongst them the Iraqi state.

    It should be noted that no government in history has deployed as much aerial bombardment inside its own borders as the Assad regime (this has taken place on an almost daily basis since mid-2012 until today). Syria’s once largest city of Aleppo became the most bombarded city in the world since the Second World War. The US-led Coalition (in which the UK plays a key part) has not only stopped regional allies from providing the defensive weaponry needed for Syrians to have defended themselves during these World War levels of aerial bombardment, refused to allow civil defence forces on the ground to have radar warnings of incoming airstrikes, but have actually shared the same skies as this genocidal mass-murdering regime (intrinsically involving the sharing of intelligence with the regime) to jointly bombard Syrian territories continuously since 2014 (with joint US-regime bombardments continuing even after the 2015 intervention of Russia).

    The UK like the US has much leverage it could use to halt the current offensives. The bulk of the pro-regime forces which in the last year have taken Aleppo, Daraya and are now attempting to take Wadi Barada are overwhelmingly foreign paramilitary brigades arriving from states backed by Western governments, such as Iraq and Lebanon. Whilst these brigades are also backed by Iran, they are simultaneously backed by their respective national states. In Iraq, these sectarian paramilitary brigades are directly supported – both by airstrikes and arms – by the US-led “anti-ISIS” coalition and have recently been officially integrated into the Iraqi armed forces. Some of the brigades have even been documented fighting for Assad in Syria with US tanks obtained in Iraq. The members of the Iraqi brigades in Syria are part of the Iraqi government, paid salaries by the Western-backed Iraqi government and are legally subject to the Iraqi Prime Minister’s authority. Was the invasion of Iraq – presumably in the name of bringing democracy to the region – intended instead to help Assad later crush the genuine demands for democracy which broke out in Syria in 2011?

    Meanwhile whilst Hezbollah is not part of the Lebanese Army, the major support by the US-led Coalition to the Lebanese Army has reportedly allowed it to cover Hezbollah’s rear and flank against domestic rivals, allowing the latter to focus on supporting Assad in Syria.The Lebanese Army has been described as an effective “auxillary” of Hezbollah and part of a “joint LAF-Hezbollah counter-insurgency targeting the Syrian opposition”. The Lebanese Army has been “actively aiding Hezbollah in its war effort in Syria. This assistance has ranged from participation in shelling positions across the border in the Qalamoun region in Syria, to securing Hezbollah’s homefront. This includes patrolling and securing logistical routes and the transfer of Hezbollah materiel and personnel into Syria, monitoring and raiding Syrian refugee camps, and closing off Lebanese areas and towns on the border with Syria”.

    Over the past few years the Lebanese Army has been closing the border in only one direction – from and not into Syria – and not to totally close the border, allowing Hezbollah to continue its invasion of Syria. Western arms to Lebanon have thus been “deployed in a manner that relieves Hezbollah and assists its war effort”. It has coordinated major military operations with Hezbollah and allows it through its checkpoints to fight in Syria. It has also been accused of coordination with the Syrian Army itself, including abusing and unlawfully deporting back to the hands of the regime Syrian refugees for almost certain torture and/or death. Hezbollah itself has been part of the UK-recognised Lebanese government since 2014, forming more than third of its members, whilst the recently-elected Lebanese President Michel Auon is a declared Hezbollah supporter.

    – The UK must stop all military aid and support to the Iraqi army until the full withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Syria. The UK must stop all military aid and support to Lebanon until the full withdrawal of Hezbollah.

    – The UK must stop all military aid and support to the Egyptian regime until it ends its military support to the Assad regime.

    – The UK, along with the US, should withdraw from the Military Operations Centre (known as the “MOC”) in Amman, which controls the entry of supplies into South Syria and which has effectively enforced a freeze on anti-regime rebel operations in South Syria since 2015; leading to the fall of cities such as Daraya and allowing pro-regime forces to focus single-handedly on Aleppo. The UK and US must stop any interference and blockading of defensive weaponry – including anti-aircraft systems – by allies of the Free Syrian Army.

    Similarly the UK must also stop all support to Jordan until it lifts its blockade on the entry of weaponry needed for the people of Southern Syria to defend themselves. As well as blocking weaponry the Jordanian government has long been accused of stealing arms meant for the Free Syrian Army.

    – The UK must stop military support to the YPG-led “Syrian Democratic Forces”, which includes a pro-Assad tribal force (Jaish al-Sanadeed) and which has played a crucial role in the recent fall of Aleppo.

    – The UK must freeze all arms export licenses to Iran, including military electronic technology, reportedly valued at more than £800 million in 2013 and £316 million in 2015 (making it the fourth largest recipient in terms of value of contracts after Israel, Saudi Arabia and China). The UK government is currently encouraging investment in Iran, showing that political and economic rapprochement with Iran has come at the same time as its crucial role in supporting Assad’s genocide.

    – The UK must freeze any outstanding arms export licenses to Russia, which were reported to still exist in the last Committee on Arms Exports parliamentary report in 2015 (despite Ukraine-related sanctions), if any. These were valued at £86 million in 2013 and £168 million in 2015, including “components for military helicopters, cryptographic software, equipment employing cryptography, equipment for the use of military helicopters, small arms ammunition and software for equipment employing cryptography”.

    The UK is one of Russia’s biggest trade partners, relying on it for a large section of its energy requirements and exporting billions of pounds worth of exports. The UK government website extols the opportunities for investment in Russia, at the same time as it commits crimes in Syria.

    – The UK government should sanction trade with Russian government-linked firms.

    – The UK should sanction trade with Iranian government-linked firms, including a freeze on new contracts currently being negotiated.

    – The UK government must work to ensure that humanitarian aid and access are allowed in to the besieged towns of Wadi Barada.

    Anything less than taking these measures represents effectively siding with the Assad regime, no matter what the rhetoric of “condemnation” offered, rhetoric which we have long been accustomed to for six years whilst Assad’s genocidal policies and unprecedented aerial bombardments have continued unabated and international forces have occupied our country.

    – Source: Report on Wadi Barada (full can be found here) – January 2017

Iraqi Army is occupying Syria

The Western-backed Iraqi Army is occupying Syria in support of Assad.

This is footage of Iraqi government militias – known collectively as the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU) – fighting for the Assad regime in Syria. The PMU militias constitute the single biggest component of the coalition of pro-Assad ground forces in Syria today, outnumbering the Syrian Army, Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. They are legally part of the Iraqi Army (thus in fact technically constituting “Iraqi Army brigades”, not “non-state militias”) and are salaried by the Iraqi government (http://www.aljazeera.com/…/iraq-parliament-passes-law-legal…).

The militias are ideologically loyal to Iran and receive simultaneous Western (including UK) and Iranian military backing. They are fighting a sectarian “holy war” inside Syria, and in both Syria and Iraq they have been accused of carrying out sectarian cleansing in Sunni areas, emptying villages from their inhabitants and razing their homes to the ground. Inside Iraq the militias receive direct military support (including aerial cover) from the US and its allies, as well as salaries and arms via the Western-backed Iraqi government

Western governments and politicians know that these sectarian Iraqi units they support inside Iraq also fight across the border for Assad in Syria, yet they have for years kept this quiet and relied on the lack of coverage of the issue in Western media. Interestingly and counter-intuitively, despite Western governments rarely declaring their extensive military support for the sectarian Iraqi militias/army brigades, they have provided them with far greater practical support than anything received by the Syrian revolutionary forces – who by contrast have for years been the beneficiary of rhetorical backing. This is one of the many reasons why people interested in Syria and Western policy there should study quiet and often-undeclared Western actions inside Syria – as reported by sources on the ground – and not formulate their understandings on the basis of loud yet vacuous statements of “Assad condemnation” expectedly made by Western politicians.

What this Western support for the Assad regime via the Iraqi Army means is that the 2003 invasion of Iraq, ostensibly committed in the name of “democracy”, has in fact brought to power forces that are today crucial in helping the Assad regime bury the genuine, grassroots demand for democracy of 2011. To add insult to injury this reality is not merely retrospective, for Western governments continue to support these Iraqi forces despite their invasion of Syria, making a mockery of the “official” condemnations of the Assad regime.

Share, and expose.

Footage provided by FSA Platform

Syria Solidarity Campaign Report – Save Wadi Barada [Draft]

 

The Damascus suburbs of Wadi (Valley) Barada, home to the biblical river of Barada, has been under a brutal regime offensive led by Hezbollah ground forces and backed by regime firepower since the 22nd of December 2016. According to local activists and the Wadi Barada Media Centre, more than 100 civilians have been killed since the start of the regime campaign and [       ] wounded.

UPDATE (12th January): At the time of writing this piece, we have been informed that a large scale massacre has occurred in Wadi Barada, killing 6 residents, including a 12 year old girl. 60 barrel bombs have been dropped on the villages of Bassema and Ein el-Feijah, which combined have an area of only five square kilometres. It has also been reported today (12th January) that the Russian airforce as well has joined the bombing of Wadi Barada, further violating the ceasefire it had agreed with Turkey.

The water spring in the village of Ein el-Feija in the Barada valley – which continues to be damaged by regime shells, missiles, airstrikes and heavy machine gun fire as part of the regime’s attempts to capture the village – provides the city of Damascus with 70% of its clean water supply. Since the launching of the regime offensive on December 22 the UN OCHA agency estimates that at least 4 million residents have been cut off from clean drinking water.

Syria Solidarity Campaign’s sources in Wadi Barada have also confirmed to us today that the Media Centre in Wadi Barada itself was bombed by the regime’s warplanes yesterday morning, leading to the death of many of the media activists working there.

[Contrary to regime-propagated reports, there has been no truce agreed with the locals in Wadi Barada. The Ein el-Feija spring continues to be in the hands of the locals, who had previously made a call for UN repair workshops to enter the Spring to fix the damaged pumps.]

The local and civil society organisations issued a call to the UN, offering them safe access for repair workships to enter the spring to fix the damaged pumps. Syria Solidarity Campain sources on the ground have told us that the call went “ignored” and “not responded to” by the UN.

Since then, negotiations have occurred between the locals and a regime delegation. A truce was agreed on the 12th January. The terms of the truce were:

On the 13th of January

Friday 6th JanuaryFootage of regime aerial bombardment (using unguided barrel bombs) of the town of Ein el-Feija, which hosts the spring facility. Ein el-Feija only has an area of three square kilometers:

Wednesday 11th January – Bombardment taking place “tens of metres” away from the spring, according to the narrator:

Sunday 9th January: “More than 30 airstrikes, 40 “Elephant” surface-to-surface missiles, 60 mortar shells by the regime and Hezbollah on the villages of Ein al-Feija and Basima in the Wadi Barada area of the countryside of Damascus in the past two days, in a continuous violation of the ceasefire”

Tuesday 11th January: “5 raids by military warplanes (MIG) with tens of missiles.
Approximately 130 “Elephant” rockets from the Republican Guard
More than 40 barrel bombs from the military helicopters
More than 300 missiles including mortars and Katyusha and Grad from Hezbollah
Some of the missiles carried poison chlorine gas.
In addition to heavy and medium machine guns and snipers and others

All this was only on the village of Basima, the smallest village in Wady Barda with a size of two square kilometres

And it was only today.”

Moment of dropping Barrel bombs on the village of Basima, in Wadi Barada:


Destruction to houses in Ein el-Feija from regime airstrikes. Activists have told SSC that more than 90% of the village has been destroyed:

Many villages within the valley have been emptied as a result of the regime assault. The village of Basima, once home to 15,000 residents, and the town of Ein al-Fijah – 30,000 residents – have now been emptied from residents and become “ghost towns”. This may again be part of a sectarian cleansing strategy, with the forced displacement (or “evacuation”) of civilians aimed at long-term demographic change, a policy which the regime has employed elsewhere in Syria, notoriously in Homs (whereby residents of 14 districts of the city “evacuated” have still not been allowed to return since 2014 – with others from Assad’s sect “settling” in their place) and Daraya (where again Iraqi Shias have been invited to take the place of “evacuated” Sunni locals).

We have also been informed that in its most recent offensive on Wednesday, the regime has used chlorine gas, injuring two residents, though they have recovered after treatment. The regime was also reported by media activists to Al-Jazeera Arabic to have dropped Napalm (as has occurred elsewhere in Syria).

The medical situation in Wadi Barada is also dire, with a high rise in severe diarrhea and fever especially amongst children. The drinking of unsterilised contaminated water and overcrowding of the displaced into mosques and houses has helped to spread disease. The lack of clean water (as well as the high price of that which is available) has also led to the rise of food poisoning as many families at home are not “washing their fruit and vegetables properly”, whilst those who have preferred to feed their children in local restaurants thinking that it is safer have in fact contributed to the highest proportion of food poisoning cases, with local restaurants turning out to have “too little water to wash plates and cleaning utensils”. The local medical committee and pharmacies have used up their reserve of medications for diabetes, heart, blood pressure and arterial disease.

The regime has also cut off telephone communications, mobile communications, internet communications and electricity, and even target satellite communications, further adding to the difficulties of those besieged.

The regime’s bombardment of Wadi Barada and its exclusion from the Turkish-Russian agreed ceasefire justified by citing the presence of “Jabhat al-Nusra” (an area known for years not to have any Nusra presence) shows the substantively flawed nature of any ceasefire which takes as a “partner” and excludes the main terrorist in the conflict, the Assad regime, whereby the regime will target any revolutionary-held area under the pretext of “attacking Nusra”. The pro-Assad bias of both the US-led Coalition and Russia was fully represented in its selective excluding of Jabhat Fath al-Sham (al-Nusra previously) from the ceasefire; any objective analysis of the Syrian conflict (including from UN and Western Human Rights reports) will show that when it comes to “terrorism” towards innocents, no faction in Syria (including Jabhat Fath al-Sham/al-Nusra) comes close to the regime in any way, shape or form. This is before mentioning that the regime has in the past in fact targeted towns in which protests against Nusra took place, released extremists from its prisons who would become high commanders in extremist groups including ISIS and has long been buying oil from both ISIS and Al-Nusra.

Kill Civilians in Syria

It should be noted that no government in history has deployed as much aerial bombardment inside its own borders as the Assad regime (this has taken place on an almost daily basis since mid-2012 until today). Syria’s once largest city of Aleppo became the most bombarded city in the world since the Second World War. The US-led Coalition (in which the UK plays a key part) has not only stopped regional allies from providing the defensive weaponry needed for Syrians to have defended themselves during these World War levels of aerial bombardment, refused to allow civil defence forces on the ground to have radar warnings of incoming airstrikes, but have actually shared the same skies as this genocidal mass-murdering regime (intrinsically involving the sharing of intelligence with the regime) to jointly bombard Syrian territories continuously since 2014 (with joint US-regime bombardments continuing even after the 2015 intervention of Russia).

UK responsibility

The UK has for years proclaimed that it stands against the Assad regime. Yet despite these proclamations we find that the UK continues to provide major military aid to regional states which have proven crucial in the survival of the Assad regime – prime amongst them the Iraqi state.

The UK like the US has much leverage it could use to halt the current offensives. The bulk of the pro-regime forces which in the last year have taken Aleppo, Daraya and are now attempting to take Wadi Barada are overwhelmingly foreign paramilitary brigades arriving from states backed by Western governments, such as Iraq and Lebanon. Whilst these brigades are also backed by Iran, they are simultaneously backed by their respective national states. In Iraq, these sectarian paramilitary brigades are directly supported – both by airstrikes and arms – by the US-led “anti-ISIS” coalition and have recently been officially integrated into the Iraqi armed forces. Some of the brigades have even been documented fighting for Assad in Syria with US tanks obtained in Iraq. The members of the Iraqi brigades in Syria are part of the Iraqi government, paid salaries by the Western-backed Iraqi government and are legally subject to the Iraqi Prime Minister’s authority. Was the invasion of Iraq – presumably in the name of bringing democracy to the region – intended instead to help Assad later crush the genuine demands for democracy which broke out in Syria in 2011?

Meanwhile whilst Hezbollah is not part of the Lebanese Army, the major support by the US-led Coalition to the Lebanese Army has reportedly allowed it to cover Hezbollah’s rear and flank against domestic rivals, allowing the latter to focus on supporting Assad in Syria.The Lebanese Army has been described as an effective “auxillary” of Hezbollah and part of a “joint LAF-Hezbollah counter-insurgency targeting the Syrian opposition”. The Lebanese Army has been “actively aiding Hezbollah in its war effort in Syria. This assistance has ranged from participation in shelling positions across the border in the Qalamoun region in Syria, to securing Hezbollah’s homefront. This includes patrolling and securing logistical routes and the transfer of Hezbollah materiel and personnel into Syria, monitoring and raiding Syrian refugee camps, and closing off Lebanese areas and towns on the border with Syria”.

Over the past few years the Lebanese Army has been closing the border in only one direction – from and not into Syria – and not to totally close the border, allowing Hezbollah to continue its invasion of Syria. Western arms to Lebanon have thus been “deployed in a manner that relieves Hezbollah and assists its war effort”. It has coordinated major military operations with Hezbollah and allows it through its checkpoints to fight in Syria. It has also been accused of coordination with the Syrian Army itself, including abusing and unlawfully deporting back to the hands of the regime Syrian refugees for almost certain torture and/or death. Hezbollah itself has been part of the UK-recognised Lebanese government since 2014, forming more than third of its members, whilst the recently-elected Lebanese President Michel Auon is a declared Hezbollah supporter.

– The UK must stop all military aid and support to the Iraqi army until the full withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Syria. The UK must stop all military aid and support to Lebanon until the full withdrawal of Hezbollah.

– The UK must stop all military aid and support to the Egyptian regime until it ends its military support to the Assad regime.

– The UK, along with the US, should withdraw from the Military Operations Centre (known as the “MOC”) in Amman, which controls the entry of supplies into South Syria and which has effectively enforced a freeze on anti-regime rebel operations in South Syria since 2015; leading to the fall of cities such as Daraya and allowing pro-regime forces to focus single-handedly on Aleppo. The UK and US must stop any interference and blockading of defensive weaponry – including anti-aircraft systems – by allies of the Free Syrian Army.

Similarly the UK must also stop all support to Jordan until it lifts its blockade on the entry of weaponry needed for the people of Southern Syria to defend themselves. As well as blocking weaponry the Jordanian government has long been accused of stealing arms meant for the Free Syrian Army.

– The UK must stop military support to the YPG-led “Syrian Democratic Forces”, which includes a pro-Assad tribal force (Jaish al-Sanadeed) and which has played a crucial role in the recent fall of Aleppo.

– The UK must freeze all arms export licenses to Iran, including military electronic technology, reportedly valued at more than £800 million in 2013 and £316 million in 2015 (making it the fourth largest recipient in terms of value of contracts after Israel, Saudi Arabia and China). The UK government is currently encouraging investment in Iran, showing that political and economic rapprochement with Iran has come at the same time as its crucial role in supporting Assad’s genocide.

FOR REVIEW: [The UK should sanction trade with Iranian government-linked firms, including a freeze on new contracts currently being negotiated.]

– The UK must freeze any outstanding arms export licenses to Russia, which were reported to still exist in the last Committee on Arms Exports parliamentary report in 2015 (despite Ukraine-related sanctions), if any. These were valued at £86 million in 2013 and £168 million in 2015, including “components for military helicopters, cryptographic software, equipment employing cryptography, equipment for the use of military helicopters, small arms ammunition and software for equipment employing cryptography”.

The UK is one of Russia’s biggest trade partners, relying on it for a large section of its energy requirements and exporting billions of pounds worth of exports. The UK government website extols the opportunities for investment in Russia, at the same time as it commits crimes in Syria.

FOR REVIEW: [The UK government should sanction trade with Russian government-linked firms.]

FOR REVIEW: [The UK government must work to ensure that humanitarian aid and access are allowed in to the besieged towns of Wadi Barada.]

Anything less than taking these measures represents effectively siding with the Assad regime, no matter what the rhetoric of “condemnation” offered, rhetoric which we have long been accustomed to for six years whilst Assad’s genocidal policies and unprecedented aerial bombardments have continued unabated and international forces have occupied our country.