"And I have found both freedom and safety in my madness, the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us. But let me not be too proud of my safety. Even a Thief in a jail is safe from another thief. "

Khalil Gibran (How I Became a Madman)

Lübnan Marunîleri / Yasin Atlıoğlu


Monday, February 29, 2016

Russia says federal model is possible for Syria in future- Reuters

Syria could become a federal state if that model works in the country, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told a news briefing on Monday.
A fragile cessation of hostilities, drawn up jointly by the United States and Russia, has led to a dramatic reduction of violence in Syria over the weekend, though rebels are accusing the government of numerous violations including air strikes.
The United Nations' Syria mediator, Staffan de Mistura, has said he intends to reconvene peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition on March 7, provided the halt in fighting largely holds and allows for greater delivery of humanitarian relief.

"If as a result of talks, consultations and discussions on Syria's future state order ... they come to an opinion that namely this (federal) model will work to serve the task of preserving Syria as a united, secular, independent and sovereign nation, then who will object to this?" Ryabkov said.

Kurds insist on their participation in Geneva talks on Syria- TASS

MOSCOW, February 29. /TASS/. It is impossible to achieve success at the intra-Syrian talks that are due to resume in Geneva on March 7 without Kurds’ participation, representative of the Kurdistan National Congress in Russia Selahattin Soro told TASS on Monday.

Syria regime reportedly mobilizing for west Aleppo campaign- NOW

Pro-Syrian regime forces have reportedly begun mobilizing on the outskirts of the de-facto autonomous Kurdish Afrin canton to prepare for an offensive aimed at striking rebel supply routes west of Aleppo.

“Regime forces and the militias supporting them continued to mobilize [in] large numbers… on a number of fronts in western Aleppo countryside on Monday in a bid to resume their assault on positions held by the armed opposition,” ARA News reported.

The Erbil-based outlet that closely covers northern Syrian field developments said the upcoming offensive will aim to sever rebel supply lines between the city of Aleppo and its western countryside.

The anticipated offensive would see the troops move southward from the Afrin canton, from where Kurdish-led troops have already staged a lightning eastward drive that seized a swathe of rebel-held territory above Aleppo.

Saleh al-Zain, an armed opposition field commander in northern Aleppo countryside told ARA News that “regime forces and groups of militants from the villages of Nubl and Zahraa are mobilizing large numbers of fighters on the outskirts of the villages of Bashemra, Fafertayn, Birad and Kiymar with the aim of storming western Aleppo countryside and cutting the Ma’aret al-Artiq-Babis road, as well as the Hawr-Yaqed al-Adas road in the direction of Qubtan al-Jabal.”

TSK, IŞİD'i vurdu- Al-Jazeera Turk

Anadolu Ajansı'nın geçtiği habere göre, TSK dün Halep'in kuzeyinde, aralarında karargâh, silah mevzileri ve araç üstü roketatarların bulunduğu bazı IŞİD hedeflerini 40 civarında atışla vurdu. 
Haberde vurulan IŞİD hedeflerinin tam yeri belirtilmedi. 

Suriye’de Kırılgan Ateşkes- VOA Türkçe

Rusya Dışişleri Bakan Yardımcısı Sergei Ryabkov, Türkiye’nin sınır ötesi top atışlarının ateşkesi tehdit ettiğini ve ateşkesin bozulmasına neden olacağını söyledi.

Sergey Ryabkov, Rusya’nın, Türkiye-Suriye sınırındaki ihlallerden derin endişe duyduğunu belirtti ve bunun kabul edilemeyeceğini kaydetti.

Ryabkov, bununla birlikte muhaliflerin, Şam’ın ateşkesi ihlal ettiği yönündeki iddialarını ise reddetti.

Kürtler'i barış görüşmelerine dahil etmenin önemine de vurgu yapan Rus yetkili, Amerika ile yeniden çalışmaya hazır olduklarını söyledi.

U.N. Eyes Syria Aid Deliveries as Truce Enters Day Three- Naharnet

The United Nations prepared to deliver aid to thousands of besieged civilians in Syria on Monday as a fragile ceasefire entered its third day largely intact despite accusations of violations.
U.N. humanitarian coordinator Yacoub El Hillo said the world body hoped to take advantage of the first major truce in five years of conflict to distribute supplies to an extra 154,000 people living in besieged areas over the next five days.
A successful truce would also create a more favorable backdrop for peace talks that collapsed in acrimony in early February as a Russia-backed regime offensive in northern Syria caused tens of thousands to flee.
U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura aims to relaunch the talks on March 7 if the ceasefire lasts and more aid is delivered.

Government forces strengthen supply route to Aleppo amid the ISIS retreat-Al-Masdar News

Over the last 24 hours, the Syrian Arab Army’s “Tiger Forces – in close coordination with Hezbollah, Liwaa Al-Quds (Jerusalem Brigade), the National Defense Forces (NDF), and the Republican Guard – have quietly advanced at the Aleppo-Hama border, capturing several hilltops and points from the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) near the village of Al-Hammam. 

On Saturday, ISIS attempted to capture the village of Al-Hammam from the Syrian Armed Forces and their allies; however, this powerful assault was repelled by the government forces after several hours of fighting that culminated in a high death toll for both sides. 

The following day, the Tiger Forces and their allies took the opportunity to conduct their own offensive in the Al-Hammam countryside; this counter-offensive would prove successful, as the government forces were able to secure Al-Hammam and also expand their buffer-zone around the Ithriyah-Khanasser Road.

Syria ceasefire brings respite to overworked medics- Al-Ahram

In Syria's second city Aleppo, rescue workers have been taking advantage of the quiet to play football outside. For the first time in years, they have no one to save.
Their ambulance parked nearby, the volunteers known as White Helmets have been relishing the calm of the second day of a landmark truce across parts of the country.

Doctors and emergency workers in war-ravaged Syria typically work around the clock in fraught conditions to provide life-saving care to the wounded.

Since the conflict erupted in 2011, volunteers have been pulling civilians from the rubble after air strikes and treating victims of shelling and sniper fire practically non-stop.

So when a ceasefire came into effect across large parts of Syria early on Saturday, many breathed a sigh of relief.

"There were days we would get 50 calls in each of our 114 emergency call centres across Syria," says Abdelrahman, a spokesman for the White Helmets.

Report: Salam Might Suspend Cabinet Sessions over Trash Hurdle- Naharnet

The agenda of the next cabinet session slated for Thursday has been distributed on Lebanon's ministers and includes 169 items for discussion, although Prime Minister Tammam Salam threatens to halt it over a delay in solutions for the garbage file, An Nahar daily reported on Monday.
Ministerial sources said that Salam has deplored the slow progress in the months long trash management file and that he is ready to “turn tables” if no progress is made before the session is held.
Sources following up closely on the file told the daily that Salam is willing to suspend the cabinet meetings if the controversial file is not solved.

Suriye'de ateşkes: 150 bin Suriyeliye yardım ulaştırılacak- BBC Türkçe

Suriye'de geçici ateşkes sürerken Birleşmiş Milletler (BM) gelecek beş gün içinde kuşatma altındaki bölgelerde bulunan yaklaşık 150 bin Suriyeliye yardım göndermeyi planlıyor.
BM, Mart ayı sonuna kadar ulaşması zor bölgelerde yaşayan 1.7 milyon kişiye yardım etmeye hazır olduğunu duyurdu.
BM'nin insani yardımdan sorumlu koordinatörü Yacoub el Hillo, Suriye'deki ateşkese dair "Suriye halkının barış ve istikrar için elde ettiği en iyi fırsat" diye konuştu.
Birleşmiş Milletler ateşkes süresince, açlıktan ölenlerin olduğu bildirilen Madaya dâhil birçok şehre gıda, su ve ilaç ulaştırmayı hedefliyor.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Syria ceasefire 'fragile' as both sides allege violations- ITV

Syria's ceasefire has led to "reduced violence", but both sides claim the other has violated the fragile truce.
ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers, reporting from Homs, said there have been airstrikes, but that it was impossible to know if the strikes were against so-called Islamic State and al-Nusra fighters, both of which remain "legitimate" targets under the ceasefire deal.

Syria ceasefire has many grey areas (Sami Moubayed- Gulf News)

Despite a pervading sense of scepticism, the Syria truce agreement has held for 24 hours after it was imposed on all players in the war by US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
No deaths were reported from February 27 to 28, which is a major breakthrough after five years of war and a daily death toll of anywhere between 30 to 100.
As it is, the truce remains shaky and legally non-binding, and it excludes powerful players like Jabhat Al Nusra, the Al Qaida branch in Syria, and Daesh.
The US-Russian-brokered “cessation of hostilities” in the Syrian battlefield has survived its first day rather impressively.

'Ateşkes'te ikinci gün- AL-Jazeera Turk

İngiltere merkezli Suriye İnsan Hakları Gözlemevi (SOHR) Halep’te savaş uçaklarının 6 kasabaya saldırdığını duyurdu. Suriyeli muhalifler hava saldırılarından dolayı Rus uçaklarını suçlasa da, Gözlemevi uçakların kime ait olduğunun net olmadığını belirtti.
Bombalanan kasabalardan bazılarının yönetiminde Nusra Cephesi'nin de olduğunu belirten Gözlemevi'nin Başkanı Rami Abdürrahman, “Bombalanan kasabaların ateşkes bölgesi içinde olup olmadığı da belli değil, saldırıların ateşkesi ihlâl edip etmediği de belli değil” dedi.
Esed rejimi saldırılara dair açıklama yapmadı. Rus Savunma Bakanlığı ise yorum yapmayı reddetti.

'Rejim ateşkesi 15 kez ihlâl etti'- A-Jazeera Turk

Suriyeli muhaliflerin oluşturduğu Yüksek Müzakere Konseyi, rejim ve müttefiklerinin daha ilk günde 15 kez ateşkesi ihlâl ettiğini duyurdu. BM Genel Sekreteri Ban'a mektup yollayan muhalifler, ateşkes ihlâllerinin siyasi süreci 'başarız' kılacağı uyarısı yaptı.

Syrian Army reopens vital supply route to Aleppo after routing ISIS- Al-Masdar News

The Syrian Arab Army’s “Tiger Forces” and their allies have officially routed the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) after a one week long battle that began with the aforementioned terrorist group cutting off the government’s only supply route to the Aleppo Governorate. 

With the government supply route cutoff at two different sections of two different roads, the Tiger Forces, the Republican Guard, and Hezbollah were deployed to the Khanasser Plains to recapture a dozen villages that were seized by ISIS in a 48 hour time span. 

The Syrian Armed Forces and their allies were able to recapture all the villages along the strategic Khanasser-Aleppo Road earlier this week; however, the final task required them to clear the checkpoints seized by ISIS along the Sheikh Hilal-Ithriyah Road, which had been cutoff on the first day of the terrorist group’s offensive.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Al-Nusra Front Chief Urges Rejection of Syria Ceasefire- Naharnet

The head of Syria's powerful Al-Qaida branch on Friday urged opponents of President Bashar Assad to reject a ceasefire due to begin at midnight and instead intensify attacks on the regime.
"Beware of this trick from the West and America because everyone is pushing you to go back under the thumb of the oppressive regime," Mohammad al-Jolani, the head of Al-Nusra Front, said in an audio message.
"Fighters in Syria, willingly arm yourselves, intensify your attacks and have no fear of their troops and their aircraft," Jolani added.
Describing the truce as "shameful", the jihadist chief said that "negotiations are the ones conducted on the battlefield".
The ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia and the United States marks the biggest diplomatic push yet to help end Syria's violence, but has been plagued by doubts after the failure of previous peace efforts.

Qassem Says 'Saudi Must Apologize': Lebanon Will Remain Country of Freedoms- Naharnet

Hizbullah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem hit back at Saudi Arabia on Friday, saying it must “apologize to Lebanon” over the events of last week.
“Some were surprised when Saudi Arabia decided to call off the several billions' (military) grant to Lebanon, but in fact it was a chance for them (Saudis) to attack Lebanon and Hizbullah,” said Qassem during a memorial service in Ghobeiri.
“Let it be known: for us Lebanon is the country of freedoms and it will remain so and it will never be subservient to any country on the face of Earth,” he stressed.
“As Lebanese citizens, we want Lebanon for all the Lebanese and we want them to remain free with their heads held up high, not followers of any state. Lebanon will never become a Saudi emirate or an emirate for any country,” Qassem underlined.
Earlier in the day, Saudi Arabia extended sanctions on Hizbullah, freezing the assets of three Lebanese nationals and four companies over alleged ties to the party.
Riyadh has taken a series of measures against in recent days in response to verbal attacks from Hizbullah over the wars in Syria and Yemen as well as recent diplomatic stances by Lebanon's foreign ministry.

'IŞİD Tel Abyad'da kontrolü sağladı'- Al-Jazeera Turk

Suriye'de çatışmaların sonlandırılması anlaşmasının gece yarısı yürürlüğe girmesinin ardından, PKK'nın Suriye kolu PYD'nin kontrolündeki Tel Abyad ilçesine sızmaya çalışan IŞİD ile PYD güçleri arasında şiddetli çatışmalar var. AA'ya göre, IŞİD Tel Abyad'ın büyük kısmını ele geçirdi. Tel Abyad'ın karşısındaki Akçakale'de Kaymakamlık, "Sokağa çıkmayın" anonsu yaptı.

Rusya: Suriye’nin 34 bölgesinde çatışmalar durdu- Sputnik News

Rusya Genelkurmay Başkanlığı yetkilisi Sergey Rudskoy, Suriye ordusu ile 17 silahlı oluşumun ateşkese uymayı taahhüt ettiğini açıkladı.

Rudskoy, “Rusya, yeşil bölgede, yani bize ateşkes için başvuran silahlı oluşumların bulunduğu bölgelerde hava saldırılarını tamamen durdurdu” diye konuştu.

Rus yetkili, “23 Şubat’ta Suriye ordusu, Rusya-ABD anlaşmasına uygun olarak silahlı eylemleri durdurmayı kabul ettiğini açıklamıştı. Hmeymim hava üssü komutanlığına başvuran 17 silahlı oluşum da ateşkese uymayı taahhüt etti” dedi.

IŞİD Tel Abyad’a saldırdı: Çok sayıda ölü ve yaralı var- Sputnik News

IŞİD, Suriye’de ateşkesin başlamasının ardından bu sabah PYD’nin elindeki Tel Abyad kentine bağlı 2 köye saldırdı. Sputnik’e konuşan PYD Tel Abyad sorumlusu Ömer Eluş, bazı IŞİD üyelerinin Türkiye’den Tel Abyad’a girip saldırı düzenlediğini söyledi.

Syrian Cease-Fire in Effect, Some Violence Reported- VOA

The cease-fire in Syria that began Saturday has mostly held, but there have been some incidents of violence.
State media report a car bomb explosion on the outskirts of the central city of Salamiyeh in Hama province killed two soldiers.  No one has claimed responsibility for the blast near the town's entrance.
Elsewhere, clashes between government forces and rebel groups were reported in Latakia province near the Turkish border.  
The truce, brokered by the United States and Russia, took effect at midnight Friday Damascus time (2200 UTC). The Syrian opposition’s umbrella group, the High Negotiations Committee, said in a statement that 97 groups have promised to take part in the cease-fire.

Geagea Slams Syria’s ‘Remnants,’ Says State has No Strategic Decision-Making- Naharnet

Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea said on Saturday that Lebanon’s decision-making on strategic affairs is “confiscated” by the “remnants” of the Syrian regime.
“There are still remnants of the (Syrian) hegemony era” in Lebanon, Geagea said in a speech.
“Strategic decision is confiscated and Constitutional deadlines are not respected,” he said in a indirect reference to Hizbullah.
The release on bail of former Information Minister Michel Samaha is a clear sign on the presence of such remnants in Lebanon, Geagea stated.
Samaha, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, was released on bail last month despite being convicted on terrorism charges.
The move angered the anti-Syrian March 14 camp in Lebanon.
Geagea spoke following a mass that was celebrated at his residence in Maarab on the 22nd anniversary of the Our Lady of Deliverance Church bombing.
Geagea was arrested in 1994 and served time in jail for allegedly masterminding the deadly bombing of the church in Zouk Mikael.

Suriye'de ateşkes yürürlükte- BBC Türkçe

Suriye'deki iç savaşla ilgili, ABD ve Rusya'nın öncülüğünde oluşturulan, Birleşmiş Milletler'in desteklediği geçici ateşkes anlaşması uygulanmaya başlandı.
Bu, iç savaşın başlamasından bu yana ki ilk büyük ateşkes.
Geçici çatışmasızlık anlaşması Suriye yönetimini ve birçok muhalif grubu kapsıyor.
IŞİD (Irak Şam İslam Devleti) ve El Kaide’ye bağlı Nusra Cephesi anlaşmanın dışında tutulmuş durumda.

Friday, February 26, 2016

International Military Review – Syria, Feb. 26, 2016 (Arab, Ger Subs)

The Dir’ al-Watan Brand: Liwa Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi- Syria Comment

The previous post profiled the emergence of Liwa Dir’ al-Watan (Homeland Shield Brigade) as a Damascus-based militia during the autumn of 2015, complete with its own media office and social media profile. As was also made clear, Liwa Dir’ al-Watan, despite its outward Syrian nationalist appearance, is actually led by the commander of the Iraqi Shi’a militia Liwa Dhu al-Fiqar: Hayder al-Juburi (aka Abu Shahed). A notable and lengthy clarification was later provided to this author by Liwa Dhu al-Fiqar’s spokesman regarding the rationale behind the whole initiative of Liwa Dir’ al-Watan:
“The brigade, by which I mean Liwa Dhu al-Fiqar, has been incorporated under the cover of the Syrian state which has meant that the Secretary General for Liwa Dhu al-Fiqar Abu Shahed al-Juburi is the military commander for the Dir’ al-Watan forces…in other words it is the case that Abu Shahed al-Juburi has assumed two roles in that at the same time, he is the Secretary General for Liwa Dhu al-Fiqar and the military commander for Liwa Dir’ al-Watan…and the important issue is legal cover for Liwa Dhu al-Fiqar, having taken into account media criticism from those who fish in troubled waters, international criticism and the European Union that have asserted that there are Iraqi Shi’a militias fighting alongside Assad…Indeed both Quwat Dir’ al-Watan and Liwa Dhu al-Fiqar are under the cover of the al-Bustan Association [owned by Rami Makhlouf].”

Liwa Dir’ al-Watan: A New Pro-Assad Militia in Damascus- Syria Comment

The brand of “Dir’ al-Watan” (“Homeland Shield”)- and more broadly the concept of a “shield” force- gained increasing currency among pro-Assad militias last year. In part, this branding reflected a regime strategy of consolidating and defending areas deemed more vital in the wake of the loss of more peripheral areas like Idlib and Palmyra, while also dealing with manpower problems related to conscription avoidance by allowing locals to focus on defending their home turfs rather than fight in distant battles. Examples of this trend include Dir’ al-Watan in the predominantly Druze province of Suwayda that competes with the more third-way/reformist Rijal al-Karama for influence, the rise of “Quwat Dir’ al-Watan- Liwa Suqur al-Quneitra” in Quneitra province, and the formation of Liwa Dir’ al-Sahelaffiliated with the Republican Guard in Latakia province. Of these formations, Liwa Dir’ al-Sahel seems to have been the least successful, having largely becomedefunct in operation by September 2015.
The emergence of Liwa Dir’ al-Watan (Homeland Shield Brigade) around the time of mid to late autumn of 2015 points to a wider regime effort to consolidate control of the Damascus area. Similar to other pro-Assad militias, Liwa Dir’ al-Watan portrays itself as one of a number of “auxiliary forces” for the Syrian army. Some notable advertised engagements since its inception include the fighting in Jobar in December 2015, in which the group claimed to be engaging in artillery fire clearing work in preparation to retake the area, the December 2015 operations in the vicinity of Marj al-Sultan airbase and the Masraba farmlands in East Ghouta, fighting in the Zabadani mountains the following month, and more recently operations in Harasta as well as the sieges of Douma and Darayya (though participation in the siege of Darayya also goes back to at least November 2015). In this context, note the participation of another pro-Assad militia- Liwa Usud al-Hussein– in the Marj al-Sultan airbase operations in December 2015.

Syrian rebel factions say they will respect two-week truce- The Guardian

The main umbrella organisation for Syrian opposition groups backed by the west and Saudi Arabia has said armed groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad will respect a two-week truce beginning at midnight local time (10pm GMT).
The high negotiations committee (HNC) said nearly 100 rebel factions had agreed to the ceasefire, adding that the Syrian government and its allies must not launch attacks on the pretext of fighting terrorism.
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, welcomed the announcement, saying that though the planned ceasefire was complex, there was no alternative. 
Under the terms of the deal, armed groups had to confirm their commitment to the US or Russia no later than midday Damascus time. It was not immediately clear how many factions had refused to join the ceasefire or their military significance.
Fighting was continuing across much of western Syria on Friday morning, with heavy airstrikes reported on rebel-held areas to the east of Damascus.

The road to Aleppo: how the West misread Putin over Syria- Reuters

Last July, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seemed to be losing his battle against rebel forces. Speaking to supporters in Damascus, he acknowledged his army's heavy losses.
Western officials said the Syrian leader’s days were numbered and predicted he would soon be forced to the negotiating table.

It did not turn out that way. Secret preparations were already underway for a major deployment of Russian and Iranian forces in support of Assad.

Russia committed not to attack moderate Syrian groups: U.S. official- Reuters

Russia has committed not to launch strikes against Syrian groups the United States considers to be part of the moderate opposition, the U.S. State Department said on Friday, hours before a cessation of hostilities in Syria was due to start.

It is "put-up or shut-up time" for Russia, which supports the Syrian government, to show whether it is serious about halting the fighting, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a news briefing.

Why the most dangerous group in Syria isn't ISIS- CNN

Hardly a day goes by without news of the progress being made in the war on ISIS in Iraq and Syria. In recent months, American-backed forces have secured much of the Syrian-Turkish border, recaptured Ramadi, and stemmed the flow of fighters and supplies to the terror group's capital cities of Raqqa and Mosul.

Why did Riyadh cancel $4 billion in aid to Lebanon?- Al-Monitor

It was only a matter of time before the latent tensions brewing between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon boiled over, given the current rivalry between Riyadh and Tehran and the rising influence of the Shiite Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Lavrov: Suriye için B planı olmayacak- Al-Jazeera Turk

ABD Dışişleri Bakanı John Kerry'nin Suriye için B planından bahsederek, "Zaman geçtikçe Suriye’yi bütün olarak tutmanın zorlaşacağını" söylemesine Moskova'dan tepki geldi. Dışişleri Bakanı Sergey Lavrov, "Bir B planı yok ve de olmayacak' dedi.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Lavrov: Those questioning viability of Russian-US agreements on Syria are calling for war- TASS

MOSCOW, February 24. /TASS/. Those who cast doubt on the Russian-US agreements on Syria are in fact calling for war, not for peace, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday at a meeting with Co-Chairman of the Initiative to Reduce Nuclear Threat and member of the Supervisory Board of the International Luxembourg Forum on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe Sam Nunn.

Assad: Syria Ready to Help Implement Cease-fire Plan- VOA

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Wednesday he is ready to support a cease-fire in his war-torn country that is set to start Saturday.
Syria's state-run news agency, SANA, reports Assad told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a telephone call that he endorses the truce Russia and the United States agreed to earlier this week that calls for a halt in the fighting, except for continuing attacks against Islamic State, Syria's al-Qaida affiliate al-Nusra Front and any other militias designated as a terrorist group by the United Nations Security Council.
The effectiveness of the would-be cease-fire remains in doubt, however, with Syria's main opposition group, the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee (HNC) yet to commit to the U.S.-Russian plan. Combatants are required to agree to the "cessation of hostilities" by noon Friday local time, 12 hours before the truce is set to take effect.

Moscow seeks Syria elections based on agreements between Damascus, opposition — diplomat- TASS

MOSCOW, February 24. /TASS/. The elections in Syria should be based on the agreements reached by the Syrian government and the opposition, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday in comments on the intention of Damascus to hold parliamentary elections on April 13.

"In this regard, I would like to emphasize that Russia is fully committed to the agreements on the content and stages of the political process of resolving the Syrian crisis in accordance with the decisions of the International Syrian Support Group (ISSG) and Resolution 2254 of the UN Security Council."

International Military Review - Syria, Feb. 24, 2016 (Arab, Ger Subs)

U.N. Officials Sound Alarm Bells after Gulf States up Pressure on Lebanon- Naharnet

United Nations officials in Beirut have sent a memo to U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon to sound the alarm on the economic, social and security repercussions of alleged measures taken by several Gulf states against Lebanese nationals residing in those countries, An Nahar daily reported on Wednesday.
The officials issued a warning that such measures, such as the forcible return of the Lebanese to their country, would have a severe impact on Lebanon's already deteriorating economic situation, said An Nahar.
They said the moves could lead to chaos and reflect on the security and social situation in the country, hindering the humanitarian work of the U.N. and its role in the South.
The officials also warned that a fifth column could take advantage of the possible chaos and carry out terrorist attacks, said the report.

Tiger Forces enter strategic city of Khanasser- Al-Masdar News

Minutes ago in the Hama Governorate’s Northeastern countryside, the Syrian Arab Army’s “Tiger Forces” – backed by Liwaa Al-Quds (Jerusalem Brigade), the National Defense Forces (NDF), and the Cheetah Forces “Team 3” – entered the important city of Khanasser after losing it to the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) during clashes yesterday morning.

According to a military source from Liwaa Al-Quds, the Tiger Forces and their allies broke-through ISIS’ defenses at the southern flank of Khanasser this morning and secured the perimeter before they entered this imperative city in northeastern Hama. 

In addition to their advance at Khanasser, the Tiger Forces and their allies also reentered the village of Shillalah Al-Kabeera after a violent battle with the ISIS terrorists that captured this site during their powerful assault yesterday; this village is located to the south of the recently captured town of Rasm Al-Nafal.

Jumblat Says 'Irresponsible Statements' Putting Lebanese Expats in Danger- Naharnet

Progressive Socialist Party chief MP Walid Jumblat warned on Wednesday that Lebanese expatriates were in danger over what he termed as “irresponsible” remarks made by some officials.
“By irresponsible statements, (we are) endangering Lebanese abroad,” Jumblat said on Twitter.
In a series of tweets in English, he called for changing such attitude “through local consensus or understanding … for the sake of the silent majority that has nothing to do with the regional conflicts.”
Jumblat hailed the attitude of Prime Minister Tammam Salam “through this terrible havoc.”
On Monday, Salam said he will head a ministerial delegation to visit Gulf states in the near future after Saudi Arabia halted security assistance deals worth $4 billion.
The Saudi move came after Lebanon failed to back the Sunni kingdom in its spat with Shiite powerhouse Iran, the leading backer of Hizbullah.
In a statement Monday, Salam insisted Beirut stands by Arab countries.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Putin says ceasefire in Syria presents real chance to stop bloodshed- TASS

MOSCOW, February 23. /TASS/. Presidents of the United States and Russia - Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama - have reached an agreement on the cessation of hostilities in Syria, which is due to come into force at midnight on February 27 after all the parties to the conflict will sign up to it, Putin said in a statement placed on the Kremlin website.

Putin and Obama

"I have just had a telephone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama," Putin said. "The Russian side initiated the talk but the interest was mutual without doubt. During the talk we approved the joint statements of Russia and the United States, as (the co-chairs of) the International Syria Support Group, on the cessation of hostilities in that country."

"I am convinced that joint efforts agreed with the U.S. (to ensure the cessation of hostilities - eds. TASS) are capable of turning the tide most radically in settlement of the Syria crisis," Putin said.

ISIS attack shuts Syrian govt supply route for 2nd day- Al-Arabiya

An important Syrian government supply route to Aleppo was shut for a second day on Tuesday because of an ISIS attack, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

A rebel fighter told Reuters that the ISIS assault on the road linking Aleppo to government-held cities further south had relieved pressure on insurgents confronting Syrian government forces backed by Russian air strikes in Aleppo.

A Syrian military source told Reuters army operations were continuing in order to repel the ISIS assault on the road linking government-held cities of western Syria with Aleppo.

Syria backs US & Russia-brokered ceasefire 'if fight against terrorists continues' - media- RT

The Syrian government has accepted the terms of a ceasefire deal announced by the US and Russia, a foreign ministry source said, as cited by Sana news agency. But Damascus wants the fight against terrorists such as Islamic State to continue.
The source added that Syrian authorities would coordinate with Russia to decide which groups and areas would be included in the "cessation of hostilities" plan.
Syria said that it was important to seal the borders and halt foreign support for armed groups, as well as to prevent "these organizations from strengthening their capabilities or changing their positions, in order to avoid… wrecking this agreement,"according to the source.

Ateşkes tarihinde uzlaşma- Al-Jazeera Turk

ABD Dışişleri Bakanı John Kerry, ve Rus mevkidaşı Lavrov ile Suriye'de 'ateşkes' şartları için anlaşmaya vardıklarını açıklamalarının ardından, iki ülke ateşkesin tarihinde de uzlaştı. Buna göre, aslında 'hasmâne tutumların sonlandırılması' olarak adlandırılan karar, 27 Şubat gece yarısından itibaren geçerli olacak.
Suriye'de savaşan gruplardan anlaşmaya katılmak isteyenler de 26 Şubat öğlenine kadar niyetlerini bildirecekler. Karar, IŞİD veya Nusra Cephesi'ni ya da Birleşmiş Milletler tarafından 'terörist' olarak nitelenen diğer örgütleri kapsamayacak.

Why the Arabs don’t want us in Syria (Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.- Politico)

In part because my father was murdered by an Arab, I’ve made an effort to understand the impact of U.S. policy in the Mideast and particularly the factors that sometimes motivate bloodthirsty responses from the Islamic world against our country. As we focus on the rise of the Islamic State and search for the source of the savagery that took so many innocent lives in Paris and San Bernardino, we might want to look beyond the convenient explanations of religion and ideology. Instead we should examine the more complex rationales of history and oil — and how they often point the finger of blame back at our own shores.

America’s unsavory record of violent interventions in Syria — little-known to the American people yet well-known to Syrians — sowed fertile ground for the violent Islamic jihadism that now complicates any effective response by our government to address the challenge of ISIL. So long as the American public and policymakers are unaware of this past, further interventions are likely only to compound the crisis. Secretary of State John Kerry this week announced a “provisional” ceasefire in Syria. But since U.S. leverage and prestige within Syria is minimal — and the ceasefire doesn’t include key combatants such as Islamic State and al Nusra — it’s bound to be a shaky truce at best. Similarly President Obama’s stepped-up military intervention in Libya — U.S. airstrikes targeted an Islamic State training camp last week — is likely to strengthen rather than weaken the radicals. As the New York Times reported in a December 8, 2015, front-page story, Islamic State political leaders and strategic planners are working to provoke an American military intervention. They know from experience this will flood their ranks with volunteer fighters, drown the voices of moderation and unify the Islamic world against America.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Syria opposition meets as ceasefire efforts intensify- Al-Arabiya

Syria’s main opposition umbrella group was meeting in the Saudi capital on Monday as Washington and Moscow worked to secure a ceasefire.
“There is a meeting,” Monzer Makhous, a spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), told AFP in Riyadh.
The meeting is expected to continue for two or three days to discuss developments since the group decided to attend peace talks in Geneva last month, Makhous said.
He did not give further details.
World powers, which have been pushing for a halt to Syria’s nearly five-year war, had hoped to see a truce take effect last Friday but have struggled to agree on the terms.

US, Russia Agree on Syria Ceasefire Starting February 27- Sputnik News

The deadline for the ceasefire has been outlined in a draft US-Russia deal.

"The United States and Russia, as co-chairs of the ISSG [International Syria Support Group] and ISSG Ceasefire Task Force, announce the adoption on February 22, 2016, of the Terms for a Cessation of Hostilities in Syria attached as an Annex to this statement, and propose that the cessation of hostilities commence at 00:00 (Damascus time) on February 27, 2016," the statement reads.

Military action, including airstrikes conducted by Syria, Russia and the US-led coalition will continue against Daesh, al-Nusra Front, as well as other UN-designated terrorist groups.

Assad Sets April 13 Parliamentary Elections- Naharnet

Syrian President Bashar Assad announced Monday that parliamentary elections are to be held on April 13, state news agency SANA reported, shortly after Washington and Moscow announced a ceasefire plan.
Assad issued a decree which included seat allocations for each of the provinces in Syria, which last held parliamentary elections in May 2012.
That was the first time that multiple parties -- not just the ruling Baath party -- were allowed to stand. 
Still, most of the 250 members of parliament that were elected for four-year terms were Baath members.  

Syrian Groups Consider US-Russian Cease-fire Plan- VOA

The many parties involved in Syria's five-year war are weighing whether to sign on to a cease-fire proposed by the United States and Russia that would begin Saturday.

IŞİD rejimin ikmâl yollarına saldırıyor- Al-Jazeera Turk

IŞİD, Suriye rejiminin Şam’dan Halep’e giden ikmâl yollarına saldırdı. Şam ve Humus’ta düzenlediği şiddetli bombalı araç saldırılarından bir gün sonra, rejimin destek yollarına saldıran IŞİD, Halep’in rejim kontrolündeki yerleşim birimleriyle ülkenin rejim kontrolündeki güneyini birleştiren yol üzerindeki bazı köyleri de ele geçirdi.
Reuters’ın rejim kaynaklarına dayandırdığı haberine göre, rejim güçleri saldırıları doğruladı ancak büyük kayıplar veren IŞİD’in püskürtüldüğünü söyledi.

Syria’s President Assad announces April parliamentary elections- PRESS TV

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has called for parliamentary elections to be held on April 13.
The announcement was made via an official statement released by Syria’s presidential office on Monday and came directly after the US and Russia announced a ceasefire in the war-torn Arab country.     
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the conditions for the truce, which is set to take place on February 27 midnight Damascus time, on a Russian television broadcast.
"All warring sides in Syria must confirm, to us or to our US partners, their commitment to the ceasefire before noon on February 26," he said.
Putin went on to note that his country and the US would jointly map out the locations where the warring sides were active.

Lebanon PM to visit Gulf after Saudi aid cutoff- Al-Arabiya

Lebanon's Prime Minister says he will head a ministerial delegation to visit Gulf states in the near future after Saudi Arabia halted security assistance deals worth $4 billion.
The Saudi move came after Lebanon failed to back the Sunni kingdom in its spat with Shiite powerhouse Iran, the leading backer of Hezbollah.
In a statement Monday, Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam insisted Beirut stands by Arab countries.

Syria civil war: The untold story of the siege of two small Shia villages - and how the world turned a blind eye (Robert Fisk- The Independent)

This is the untold story of the three-and-a-half-year siege of two small Shia Muslim villages in northern Syria. Although their recapture by the Syrian army – and by Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Iraqi Shia militias – caught headlines for a few hours three weeks ago, the world paid no heed to the suffering of these people, their 1,000 “martyrs”, at least half of them civilians, and the 100 children who died of shellfire and starvation. 
For these were villages that remained loyal to the Syrian regime and paid the price – and were thus unworthy of our attention, which remained largely fixed on those civilians suffering under siege by government forces elsewhere. 
Nubl and Zahra should be an 18-minute drive off the motorway north-east of Aleppo but the war’s front lines in the sharp-winded north of Syria have cut so deeply into the landscape that to avoid the men of the Jabhat al-Nusra and Isis, you have to drive for two hours along fields and broken country roads and through villages smashed and groined by the Syrian offensive. 

International Military Review - Syria, Feb. 22, 2016 (Arab Subs)

Hariri Urges Saudi King 'Not to Abandon Lebanon': Rogue Voices Attacking Kingdom Don't Represent Lebanese- Naharnet

Al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri on Monday urged Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz not to “abandon Lebanon,” a few days after the kingdom decided to halt $4 billion in military aid to Lebanon over what it called "hostile Lebanese positions resulting from the stranglehold of Hizbullah on the State."
“Loyalty to the kingdom means loyalty to Lebanon and any insult against the kingdom represents an insult against Lebanon,” said Hariri at a press conference.
“Diplomacy is the policy of ironing out the differences but some are using it to destroy Lebanon's ties with its Arab brothers,” Hariri added, hitting out at Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil.
Accusing Bassil and the foreign ministry of “breaching Arab consensus,” the ex-PM described recent Lebanese diplomatic stances as “a sin that has made Lebanon, the Lebanese people and the military and security institutions pay the price.”