"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, May 30, 2016

Jumblat Says Major Powers Did not Unite in Tripoli's Municipal Polls- Naharnet

Democratic Gathering bloc MP Walid Jumblat commented on the initial victory of resigned Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi in the municipal elections in the northern city of Tripoli and said that the lists that faced him in the polls were unsuccessful.
“It seems that the Titanic (in reference to a list backed by the Mustaqbal Movement chief MP Saad Hariri, former Prime Minister Najib Miqati, and former ministers Faisal Karami and Mohammed al-Safadi) that carried strongmen from Baysour and Kfar Matta has arrived in Tripoli to drown there,” said Jumblat via Twitter.
The last round of the municipal elections concluded on Sunday in the North and Akkar.
In the city of Tripoli, a list backed by Rifi competed against one backed by Hariri, Miqati, Karami and al-Safadi.

Chief opposition negotiator resigns- BBC News

The chief negotiator of Syria's main opposition umbrella group, Mohammed Alloush, has resigned over what he called the failure of peace talks.
Mr Alloush, from the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), said the talks had not brought a political deal or eased the plight of Syrians in besieged areas.
The HNC suspended its involvement in the UN-brokered "proximity" negotiations with a Syrian government delegation in Geneva in April.
No date has been set for a resumption.

Suriyeli muhaliflerin başmüzakerecisi istifa etti- Al-Jazeera Türk

Suriyeli muhalif gruplardan Ceyşul İslam'ın (İslam Ordusu) siyasi lideri de olan Başmüzakereci Alluş, sosyal paylaşım sitesi Twitter hesabından yaptığı açıklamada, "Uluslararası toplumun Suriye'de akan kanı durdurmaya gücü yeter, ancak Suriye halkının dramına son vermek için ciddi bir istek söz konusu değil" ifadesini kullandı. 

Chief negotiator of Syrian opposition resigns over Geneva talks failure- TASS

BEIRUT, May 30. /TASS/. Chief negotiator of Syrian opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) Mohammed Alloush has said he was resigning over the failure of the latest round of inter-Syrian talks in Geneva to bring results, Reuters reported on Monday.

Alluosh represents the Jaysh al-Islam group in HNC.

The third round of inter-Syrian talks in Geneva finished on April 28. HNC suspended participation in talks from April 17 and proposed their own conditions to UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and Syrian governmental delegation. A diplomatic source told TASS that inter-Syrian talks may resume in late June.

Thousands of Syrians Trapped as Islamic State Pushes to Border- VOA

Concern mounted Monday for the fate of tens of thousands of displaced Syrian civilians caught in the middle of a desperate fight in the countryside north of Aleppo.
Days of clashes between moderate and Islamist rebel factions and the Islamic State group, which has mounted a fierce offensive on two key border towns, imperils rebel resupplies from Turkey.
The battles have drawn in Turkish and U.S.-coalition warplanes and Kurdish militiamen from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in a multisided fight in an area measuring only 25 by 55 kilometers.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Lavrov, Kerry discuss situation in Syria, Moscow’s initiatives on joint operations- TASS

MOSCOW, May 29. /TASS/. Russian and U.S. top diplomats, Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry, had a telephone conversation on Sunday to discuss the situation in Syria and Russia’s initiatives on joint operation against terrorist organizations and other armed groups that violate the ceasefire in Syria, the Russian foreign ministry said.

"Sergei Lavrov once again stressed the necessity of the soonest closure of Syria’s border with Turkey from where infiltration of militants continue and of Washington’s keeping its promise to dissociate Syrian opposition groups it has contacts with from Jabha al-Nusra terrorists who are not covered by the ceasefire," the ministry said.

US-Backed Rebels Struggle to Fend Off Islamic State Offensive in Northern Syria- VICE News

For the past two days, rebels backed by Turkey and the US in northern Syria have been fighting for their survival against the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
With support from Turkey and the US-led coalition, including cross-border shelling and air cover, rebels in the northern province of Aleppo have been fighting for months to clear the Islamic State (IS) from the Aleppo countryside, the jihadist organization's last connection to the Turkish border.
On Friday, IS punched through rebel territory north of Aleppo, cutting off a key rebel supply route from Turkey to rebel territory. Rebels in one town along the supply route, in Marea, have now been cut off from their connection resupply and reinforcements further north in the border town of Azaz, which is near the Bab al-Salamah border crossing with Turkey.Since Friday, IS has launched wave after wave of attacks against stranded rebels in Marea and areas to the north.
Yet even before IS launched its latest attack, the battle with IS was obviously faltering. In interviews in Turkey and speaking remotely over social media from inside Aleppo, Western officials and Aleppo rebels and civilians blamed the Islamic State's battlefield successes on everything from rebel dysfunction to insufficient foreign backing, and even on an international anti-rebel conspiracy.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

IS-rebel Clashes Rock Northeast Syria Town- Naharnet

Heavy fighting between the Islamic State group and rebels gripped a town in northeastern Syria Saturday, a monitor and an activist said, after a lightning assault by the jihadists cut a main supply route.
"Heavy clashes took place overnight between IS fighters and rebels inside the walls of Marea town," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
IS swept through rebel-held territory early Friday in a shock offensive in Aleppo province, cutting off the main road between Marea and Azaz, 20 kilometres (12 miles) to the northeast near the Turkish border.
The surprise advance came as the jihadist group faced an offensive by a US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance in its own heartland of Raqa province further east.
Maamoun Khateeb, a journalist and activist from Azaz, told Agence France Presse that IS attacked Marea early Saturday mainly from the east and north using tanks and two car bombs.

IS 'attacks rebel-held Syria town of Marea'- BBC News

Heavy fighting has been reported in northern Syria as so-called Islamic State tries to capture the rebel-held town of Marea, near the Turkish border.
IS fighters began a surprise offensive in the area on Thursday and attacked Marea early on Saturday with tanks and car bombs, monitors said.
The UN fears for tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the fighting.
The area between the city of Aleppo and the Turkish border is split between IS, rebel and government-controlled zones.
A nationwide, but often violated ceasefire, between rebel and government forces, brokered by the US and Russia in February, does not include jihadist groups such as the self-styled Islamic State.

53 TÜRKİYE Gaziantep'e Suriye'den roket saldırısı- Al-Jazeera Turk

Suriye'nin IŞİD denetimindeki Bab bölgesinden Gaziantep'in merkez Oğuzeli İlçesine 2 Katyuşa roketatar mermisi atıldı. Roketlerden biri boş araziye düşerken, diğeri lojmanın bahçesine düştü, ancak patlamadı. Tedirginliğe yol açan saldırı sonrası sınır birlikleri roketlerin ateşlendiği Suriye tarafındaki 4 Katyuşa mevzisini imha etti.

ISIS captures large batch of weaponry from rebels in northern Aleppo- Al-Masdar News

As the Islamic State seized a handful of villages from rebels in northern Aleppo yesterday, their forces also took control of a weapons depot in the village Kaljibrin. 

Effectively, dozens of guns are now in the hands of ISIS – the weaponry and ammunition were likely supplied by Gulf states which back the Syrian Opposition.

New Syrian Army virtually wiped out by ISIS suicide bomber attack- Al-Masdar News

The U.S. trained New Syrian Army – not to be confused with the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) – has virtually been wiped out, according to the Washington Post.

It now transpires the small rebel group was hit by a major ISIS suicide attack on May 7, killing most of its members, according to its leader Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Tallaa.

The New Syrian Army otherwise seized the al-Tanf border crossing on the Iraqi-Syrian border on March 5th, earlier this year.

Turkish rockets, U.S.-led coalition hit Islamic State in Syria: media- Reuters

Turkish and US-led coalition airstrikes killed 104 Islamic State militants in retaliation for the latest attack on a Turkish border province, Turkish media reported on Saturday, citing military sources.
Pro-government Sabah Daily news reported five people were injured on Friday when rockets fired from Islamic State controlled territory in northern Syria hit Turkey’s border province of Kilis.

Kilis has been hit by rockets from Islamic State-controlled territory more than 70 times since January, killing 21 people including children, in what security officials say has gone from accidental spillover to deliberate targeting.

US backed rebels capture village from Turkish backed rebels in northern Aleppo: map- Al-Masdar News

The U.S. backed “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF) reportedly captured the village of Sheikh ‘Issa in the northern Aleppo countryside on Saturday after launching an attack against the Turkish backed “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) near the strategic town of Mar’e. 

With Sheikh ‘Issa under their control, the Syrian Democratic Forces are in prime position to strike the town of Mar’e from the western flank. 

This latest advance by the U.S. backed rebels is likely due to the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham’s (ISIS) push to take Mar’e from the Free Syrian Army.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Hundreds from eastern countryside of Damascus join “Qalamoun Shield” forces- SANA

Damascus Countryside, SANA – Hundreds of people from the eastern countryside of Damascus who fled military conscription and service have joined “Qalamoun Shield” forces so that they can have their legal status settled.
Those will take part in military operations conducted by the Syrian Arab army against the Takfiri terrorist organizations.

Cabinet Postpones Debate on Controversial Dam as Ministers Voice Conflicting Stances- Naharnet

The cabinet on Thursday avoided debate on controversial plans to construct a dam in the Janna Valley in Nahr Ibrahim, postponing the topic to its next session, as environmental activists staged a rally outside the Grand Serail.
Several ministers had voiced conflicting stances before entering the cabinet session.
“We are against the Janna dam project,” State Minister for Administrative Development Nabil de Freij said.
De Freij is close to al-Mustaqbal movement of which several officials have said that they are opposed to the project over environmental concerns. The Free Patriotic Movement has meanwhile rejected the environmental arguments, accusing Mustaqbal of obstructing the project due to political motives.
“Our behavior has been purely environmental in the issue of the Janna dam and we will abide by what the experts say. We are not against the project as a project but we must take its environmental impact into consideration,” Environment Minister Mohammed al-Mashnouq, who is close to Mustaqbal, said.

Hbeish, Geagea in Heated Dispute over Qoubaiyat Municipal Polls- Naharnet

Tensions were high on Friday between Mustaqbal Movement MP Hadi Hbeish and Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea over Sunday's municipal elections in the northern town of Qoubaiyat.
Geagea had stated earlier during the day that it would be inevitable that the elections take on a political turn if it seeks to advance its developmental ambitions to which Hbeish later said that the residents of the town themselves will further its aspirations.
Geagea had vowed that the elections will transform the town from an “isolated island,” which prompted Hbeish to respond: “Qoubaiyat was never an isolated island.
“It has produced several statesmen and members of the army. So how could it ever be labeled as an isolated island?
“Qoubaiyat and its residents have themselves placed themselves on the map in Lebanon and we are not waiting a municipal list to place it on the map.

Franjieh Clings to His Nomination, Denies Confronting Aoun in Jounieh- Naharnet

Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh stressed Thursday that he has “the right to be alternative candidate” if Free Patriotic Movement founder MP Michel Aoun does not secure consensus on being elected as president.
“When ex-PM (Saad) Hariri endorses General Aoun, I will go to parliament to elect him, but if General Aoun does not have chances, then I have the right to be the alternative candidate,” said Franjieh in an interview on LBCI television.
“The problem over the presidency is not about me and I won't let General Aoun down should ex-PM Hariri endorse him, although ex-PM Hariri is still supporting my presidential run,” he added.
In response to a question, the Marada leader noted that he would “understand” Hariri's decision should the latter decide to back Aoun.
“Our problem with General Michel Aoun is not about him being the top Christian leader. He is the top leader but he is not the only leader,” Franjieh explained.
“Hizbullah's support for me is equal to its support for General Aoun,” he pointed out.

ISIS pierces rebel lines north of Aleppo- NOW

BEIRUT - ISIS has launched a wide-scale offensive in northern Aleppo, splitting rebel lines in the pocket of opposition-held territory south of the Turkish border.

Heavy clashes erupted after midnight Thursday in the vicinity of the strategic town of Marea, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.  

The monitoring NGO tracking developments in war-torn Syria reported that ISIS seized "large areas of Kaljbrin," which lies along the road from Marea to the border town of Azaz that serves as a vital supply line for rebel groups in the area that are sandwiched between Kurdish and ISIS forces.

One of the opposition factions active in the area, the Turkish-backed Sultan Murad Division, called the fighting "the most violent of its kind" to rock northern Aleppo. The group made no mention of any territorial losses, saying only that it was targeting ISIS armored vehicles.  

US airstrikes propel the FSA to recapture Tatiyah in northern Aleppo- Al-Masdar News

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) – backed by the Levantine Front (Jabhat Al-Shamiyah) – launched a counter-offensive in the northern Aleppo countryside on Friday in order to forestall the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham’s (ISIS) offensive near the strategic border-town of ‘Azaz. 

With the help of the U.S. Air Force, the Free Syrian Army and their allies were able to recapture Tatiyah after losing this village to the Islamic State terrorists just 16 hours prior to their counter-assault in northern Aleppo. 

Currently, the Free Syrian Army and Jabhat Al-Shamiyah are pushing east towards the small town of Barisha, which was also captured by the Islamic State terrorists on Thursday.

The last remaining Pentagon-trained rebel group in Syria is now in jeopardy- The Washington Post

 Throughout the fiasco of the Pentagon’s $500 million effort to train and equip a force of Syrian rebels to take on the Islamic State, one small group endured.
The New Syrian Army completed the U.S. training course in Jordan, infiltrated into Syria and then, in March, without fanfare or publicity, seized a pinprick of territory from the militants at the remote Tanaf border crossing with Iraq in the far southeast corner of the Syrian province of Homs.
There they have remained, holding their ground without deserting, defecting or getting kidnapped, unlike many of the other similarly trained rebels whose mishaps prompted the temporary suspension of the program last year.
Even this modest success is now in jeopardy, however, following an Islamic State suicide attack this month. An armored vehicle barreled into the rebels’ base shortly before dawn on May 7, killing a number of them, said Lt. Col. Mohammed Tallaa, a Syrian officer who defected and is the group’s commander.

Syria Situation Report: May 21 - 27, 2016- ISW

SIS conducted an unprecedented series of complex suicide attacks in regime-held Tartus City and Jableh on the Syrian Coast on 23 MAY, killing at least 150 civilians and wounding over 200 others. ISIS issued a statement claiming the attacks under the name of the newly-reestablished Wilayat al-Sahel. ISIS will likely escalate its attacks against Alawites on the Syrian Coast in order to exacerbate the sectarian nature of the Syrian Civil War during the upcoming holy month of Ramadan. Meanwhile, ISIS seized at least six villages from opposition forces in Northern Aleppo Province, besieging the key town of Mare'a and advancing into the outskirts of Azaz on the Syrian-Turkish Border. These gains mark a major setback for efforts by the U.S. and Turkey to bolster opposition groups along the Mare'a Line and deny ISIS access to the Syrian-Turkish Border. 

ISIS Forecast: Ramadan 2016- ISW

The next forty-five days constitute a high-risk period for a surge of attacks by ISIS during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. ISIS traditionally uses Ramadan – which begins on June 6 and ends on July 5, 2016 - as a justification for its attacks and as an occasion to reorient its strategy. This year, ISIS will likely take action to reverse serious losses in Iraq and Syria while expanding its attacks against the non-Muslim world in an attempt to spark an apocalyptic total war. ISIS is still operationally capable in its core terrain and stands poised to expand its operations over the next six weeks, particularly in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. This forecast will outline the most likely and most dangerous targets that ISIS may seek to operate against during Ramadan.

International Military Review – Syria, May 27, 2016 (Arab, Ger Subs)

ISIS captures several villages in northern Aleppo- Al-Masdar News

The Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) launched another counter-attack in the northern Aleppo countryside on Thursday that targeted several villages that were under the control of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Levantine Front (Jabhat Al-Shamiyah). 

According to ISIS’ official media wing “Al-Amaq”, the terrorist group captured 4 villages from the rebel factions in northern Aleppo, forcing them to retreat to the outskirts of ‘Azaz.

Al-Amaq identified the villages that were captured by their terrorist forces as Tal Hussein, Tatiyah, Baryshah, and Janhat; these are all located to the east of ‘Azaz and only a few kilometers south of the Turkish border-crossing.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Death Toll in Syria: What Do the Numbers Really Say? (Alex Ray-Counter Punch)

What is the Syrian death toll now? 400,000? Less? More? While the aphorism “One death is a tragedy, one million deaths is a statistic”, has been attributed to many, it is likely none foresaw the inverse utility of this concept for shaping narratives in an age of humanitarian intervention. Statistics are now weapons in themselves. Raw numbers are ambiguous; as journalist Sharmine Narwani writes, “It doesn’t tell us who is killing and who is dying. And that information matters – the global political response to a genuine civil conflict would be different than to a genocide committed by a ruthless authority.”
When the United States’ Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) released its eighth summary of the Syrian death toll in mid-2015 it painted this confused picture: 230,000 total deaths, between 150,000 and 160,000 ‘opposition deaths’ (civilian and military), a further 98,000 ‘other’ civilian deaths, and a very precise 18,476 ‘regime’ deaths – an actual minimum total of 266,476.
As this example shows, there are serious problems with the Syrian statistics. As the Washington Post reported earlier in 2016 “In some ways, the details matter more than the big picture in the death toll, but again, the details are divisive.”
While death toll reporting in conflicts is never accurate, CFR’s sources are hardly reliable. It cites three pro-opposition outlets – the Syrian Observatory For Human Rights (SOHR), the Violation Documentation Center in Syria (VDC), and the Syrian Revolution Martyr Database (SRMD) – which report significantly different figures in all casualty categories. Difference could be attributable to the difficulties of gathering information and providing ‘best estimates’ – yet the VDC and SRMD, who are most often quoted by CFR provide seemingly precise detail as to date, location and even ‘death method’. You can search the VDC database choosing between ‘Field Execution’, ‘Kidnapping execution’ and ‘Kidnapping-Torture-Execution’ among many others. So which is it, fine detail or lack of it?

Hariri to Nasrallah: 'Silent Shiite Majority' Refuses Interventions in Syria- Naharnet

Al-Mustaqbal movement chief ex-PM Saad Hariri stressed on Thursday that his party has never sought to monopolize power as claimed by Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in his latest speech, and urged him to give ear to the “silent Shiite majority” that opposes his interventions in Syria and Yemen.
“If the Mustaqbal movement was seeking monopolization to dominate authority, it wouldn't have approved a hybrid proportional draft law with the Lebanese Forces and the Democratic Gathering bloc at the parliament,” said Hariri via Twitter.
During his speech on Wednesday, Nasrallah accused Mustaqbal and the Progressive Socialist Party without naming them of “rejecting proportional representation because you are insisting on monopolization and unilateralism in your sects and regions,” he said.
Hariri added: “We have heard Sayyed Hassan say that he adheres to the opinion of people representing around 20 per cent or a little bit more of any (political) group. How about that he listens to the majority of the Lebanese, including the silent majority of the Shiite sect, before he involves our country in his Janissary wars from Syria to Yemen.”

Jumblat Blames Iran for Hampering Election of President- Naharnet

Democratic Gathering bloc leader MP Walid Jumblat stated on Thursday that Iran is obstructing the election of a Lebanese president, blaming it for the two-year vacuum at the post, An Nahar daily reported.
“Obstructions hampering the elections of a head of state are Iranian,” said Jumblat in an interview to the daily.
The PSP leader urged the two candidates running for the post, founder of the Free Patriotic Movement MP Michel Aoun and Marada chief MP Suleiman Franjieh, to “review” their positions “even if they had to withdraw” from the race paving way for the election of another candidate.
On the suggestion of Speaker Nabih Berri that called for shortening the term of the current parliament, Jumblat said: “I agree to stage early elections but it must be held based on the 1960 electoral law.”
Berri's proposal, made last week, calls for shortening the term of the current parliament and staging the parliamentary polls and later the presidential ones.
The parliamentary elections would be held based on the proportionality electoral law.
Should the political powers fail to agree on this law, then the 1960 one would be used. This law was adopted in the 2009 elections.

ISIS vehicle convoys hit in Homs and Sweida, terrorist positions targeted in other areas- SANA

Provinces, SANA – More terrorists are getting killed as the army units, backed by the Air Force, continue striking their positions in various areas, with their equipment and vehicles destroyed in several areas around the country.
The army’s air force launched airstrikes against movements and fortified positions of ISIS terrorists in the area surrounding the oil fields of Jazal and al-Shaer in the eastern countryside of Homs province, according to a military source.
Convoys of vehicles, some of which equipped with machine guns, were destroyed in the airstrikes and gatherings of terrorists were eliminated, the source confirmed.
In the northern countryside of Homs, the air force targeted Jabhat al-Nusra fortified positions and gatherings in al-Ghajar village, destroying a number of vehicles, fortified sites and mortar launchers, in addition to killing numbers of terrorists.

Intervention exchange price decreased to SYP 565 per 1 USD- SANA

Damascus, SANA – The Central Bank of Syria (CBS) announced decreasing, once again, the intervention exchange price to SYP 565 per 1 USD at the foreign currency market.
In its statement on Thursday, the CBS explained that each exchange company is committed to purchase USD 1 million, while each exchange office is committed to purchase USD 100,000.
Companies and offices have to sell the purchased foreign currency immediately to citizens without commissions under the penalty of closing the company or the office if the purchase process is not completed, according to the statement.
The CBS also set the exchange rate for transfers at SYP 575 per 1 USD and for financing imports at SYP 565 per 1 USD.
Earlier on Wednesday, the CBS announced that the latest intervention plan which it started on May 10th has achieved a tangible decrease in the exchange price which reached SYP 70 per 1 USD, indicating that this should be reflected absolutely on the prices of the goods in the market.

Syria civil war tops Russia-Arab Gulf meeting agenda- Al-Jazeera

Arab Gulf leaders have held talks with Russia's foreign minister in Moscow as part of renewed efforts to stop the war in Syria.
Thursday's meeting between Sergey Lavrov and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) foreign ministers comes as rebels in northern Syria continue to make slow progress in their campaign to evict the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS) armed group from its stronghold in the city of Raqqa.
Al Jazeera's Rory Challands, reporting from Moscow, said Syria is expected to dominate the meeting.
However, there are "still very big differences" between the two sides - which are meeting for the fourth time - on the issue of Syria, he said.

Water Issues Are Crucial to Stability in Syria's Euphrates Valley (Fabrice Balanche- The Washington Institute)

Regardless of who drives the Islamic State out of the Euphrates Valley agricultural zone, they will need to address the legacy of failed regime irrigation policies that are once again creating tension among local tribes.
Military movements in eastern Syria suggest that a major offensive will take place this year to eradicate the Islamic State (IS) presence in the area. The Syrian army is advancing toward Deir al-Zour and Tabqa with the help of Russian aviation, while U.S.-supported Kurdish and Arab fighters under the flag of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are closing in from the north (see PolicyWatch 2614, "The Battle for Deir al-Zour: A U.S.-Russian Bridge Against the Islamic State?"). Meanwhile, the Arab tribes living under IS rule in the Euphrates Valley have pledged allegiance to the group for now, but they would likely abandon it if outside forces posed a serious threat.
Accordingly, the time has come to prepare for "the day after IS" in the Euphrates area, particularly regarding the various economic issues that will be key to local political stabilization. Regardless of who controls the area next -- whether the Assad regime, the SDF, or other players -- they will face the problem of water scarcity, which has long driven the area's political and economic dynamics.

Lavrov: Riyadh formed representational delegation of Syrian opposition- TASS

The Russian foreign minister has called on the West to push the Syrian opposition toward talks instead of setting deadlines for establishing the administrative mechanism in Syria

Lavrov: Gulf states favor coordinated action of Russia, US-led coalition on Syria- TASS

MOSCOW, May 26./TASS/. The Gulf Arab states have come out in favor of coordinated action of Russia and the US-led coalition on Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday after a session of the Russia-Gulf Cooperation Council strategic dialog.

Syrian widows chart course out of poverty at Aleppo training center- Al-Monitor

ALEPPO, Syria — More than five years into a raging war in Syria, Syrian women are shouldering a very heavy burden. Some see their rights violated when they are detained and others are displaced in refugee camps. Many of them have lost a husband or son.

In a report issued on March 20, 2013 — the latest available on Syrian mothers, issued on the eve of Mother’s Day in Syria — the Syrian Network for Human Rights indicated that at least 54,000 women had lost their husbands, including 40,000 mothers. The rest are widows with no children. The report counted 35,000 married men who have died for certain, while 19,000 have disappeared, leaving their wives unknowing whether their husbands will return.

The US is dropping calls for Assad to go because the Syrian regime is a better bet than Isis (Robert Fisk- The Independent)

I’m getting a bit tired of reading about the “US-backed alliance of Syrian militias” and their advance against Isis. The ‘alliance’ is largely Kurdish – which is why, I suppose, the Americans talked about northern Syria when they announced the visit of General Joseph Votel, the head of US Central Command, to the little Kurdish enclave. 
General Votel could only set foot in the tiny strip of territory along the Turkish border partly held by Kurdish and a sprinkling of Turkmen groups. A visit to northern Syria by an American general is thus a lot less impressive than it sounds.
It’s interesting to see a US commander crossing the border to cheer on participants in a civil war. That’s also what the American military has been doing in Iraq, where forces have been encouraging Shia militias fighting on the outskirts of Fallujah, and even providing air support to the forces of the perilously weak government in Baghdad.  

Water returns to Deir Ezzor city after ten-day cutoff- SANA

Deir Ezzor, SANA – Water has been pumped back to the city of Deir Ezzor after a ten-day cutoff due to shortage of fuel needed to operate the pumping engines, Director of the General Establishment of Drinking Water in Deir Ezzor said Thursday.
In a statement to SANA reporter, Eng. Muaaz Alloush pointed out that the Establishment has been supplied with 2000 liter of fuel enough to operate the pumping engines for 12 hours.
He noted that the Establishment needs 2800 liter of fuel to operate the engines for 16 hours, which will allow pumping water to cover 60-70% of the city’s needs through the two water purification facilities.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

U.S.-backed group launches offensive north of ISIS capital in Syria- CNN

A U.S.-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab forces announced Tuesday it will push into territory north of ISIS' de facto capital in Raqqa, Syria.
The battle Tuesday is meant to retake that area, Kurdish officials said, but is likely to stop short of attempting to retake the beleaguered city.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of armed militants backed by the U.S., and Kurdish groups announced the offensive on social media and through various announcements.
The activist group "Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently" tweeted late Tuesday that a clash was taking place in the northern outskirts of the ISIS stronghold.

Political Leaders Weigh in on Presidency after Two Full Years of Vacuum- Naharnet

Lebanon has officially completed two years of vacuum in the presidency with no end in sight to the dispute that has crippled the country's top post since May 2014.
An Nahar daily on Wednesday marked the occasion by surveying the opinion of major Lebanese political leaders, with Free Patriotic Movement founder MP Michel Aoun, Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, and head of Hizbullah's Loyalty to the Resistance bloc MP Mohammed Raad abstaining from the interview.
Speaker Nabih Berri lamented the ongoing vacuum, saying that the “sooner we elect a president, the sooner we escape the threat of division or federalism that is lurking around us.”
Former president and former head of the Kataeb Party Amin Gemayel described the situation as a “moment of abandonment by some Lebanese leaders, who have not yet grasped the severity of the vacuum.”
“Neighboring countries are passing through a severe situation, which is being dragged to Lebanon through our own free will,” he remarked.
He hailed foreign efforts to resolve the deadlock, but noted that “ultimately this is a Lebanese issue that should be resolved through 128 lawmakers electing a president.”
“We cannot rely on foreign efforts as long as the Lebanese people have not yet realized the danger of what is happening in our country,” warned Gemayel.

Russia postpones airstrikes in Syria to allow armed groups to separate from al-Nusra- TASS

MOSCOW, May 25. /TASS/. Russia’s Defense Ministry has postponed delivering strikes at the positions of gunmen in Syria until a number of armed groups have completed the separation of from the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist group (outlawed in Russia), official spokesman for the ministry Igor Konashenkov said on Wednesday.

Over the past several days, Russia’s center for reconciliation in Syria has received around a dozen of appeals from the leadership of armed groups in various provinces, first of all in Aleppo and Damascus, asking not to deliver strikes until the separation is over.

Rusya'dan Nusra’ya bombardımana ara- Al-Jazeera Turk

Rusya Savunma Bakanlığı, Suriye’de ateşkes kapsamında olmayan Nusra Cephesi’ne yönelik saldırılarına ara vereceklerini açıkladı. Bakanlık, buna gerekçe olarak, başta Şam ve Halep’tekiler olmak üzere diğer silahlı grupların, Nusra'ya ait mevzilerden uzaklaşmak için zaman istemesini gösterdi.

Kurds launch campaign north of IS-held Raqqa- BBC News

A US-backed alliance of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters has begun a campaign to expel Islamic State (IS) militants from land north of Raqqa.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is believed to have deployed about 30,000 fighters.
US-led coalition warplanes will support the offensive and Russia has also given its backing.
The SDF did not mention any plan to take Raqqa, the de facto capital of the "caliphate" proclaimed by IS in 2014.
The alliance, which is dominated by the Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG) militia, has emerged as a key ally of the US-led coalition over the past two years, leading the fight against IS on the ground in northern Syria.
With the help of US airpower, it has taken control of about 26,000 sq km (10,000 sq miles) of territory, including a 400km (250 mile) stretch along the Turkish border.

Raqqa Civilians Flee Airstrikes as Kurds, Jihadists Clash- VOA

U.S.-led coalition warplanes carried out intense airstrikes Tuesday on Raqqa, the de facto Syrian capital of the Islamic State group, a monitoring group said, continuing days of air-raids that appear to be aimed at demoralizing jihadist fighters before an offensive by Kurdish-led forces on villages to the north of the city.
The airstrikes appear targeted mostly on IS defensive positions on the outskirts of the city. This may be to try to avoid civilian casualties, although civilian deaths have been reported.

Raqqa political activists have been warning that IS is using civilians as human shields, spreading fighters and their weaponry around civilian areas and housing militants in residential blocks

Negotiating Jihad in Ain al-Hilweh (Erling Sogge- Carnegie)

In Ain al-Hilweh, Islamist militants are working alongside the PLO and pro-Syrian factions to prevent allies of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra from dragging the camp into war.

International Military Review – Syria & Iraq, May 25, 2016

Daesh uses civilians as ‘human shields’ in Raqqa- Al-Bawaba

The UAE news website 24 reports that sources from the Syrian resistance discovered Daesh using civilians in Raqqa as human shields to deter airstrikes and slow military operations to expel Daesh from the city.
Abdelaziz al-Hamza, one of the founders of the Facebook group “Raqqa is being slaughtered silently” elaborated on how Daesh has manipulated their locations inside Raqqa to maximize civilian casualties. 
“The militants of the radical group live in the same building as civilians, and in a building housing civilians it’s possible that there are two or three apartments supporting [housing] fighters for the organization,” Hamza said. 
Hamza continued, “civilians are between a rock and a hard place because it isn’t possible for them to leave after Daesh forbid them to do so”, mentioning that Daesh militants are constantly posting misleading information about the severity of the situation, saying “their cities consist of paradise and that everything is going ok, but the reality is different and you see long lines of thousands of people waiting to get food from a restaurant that is not supported by the organization.”

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

U.S.-backed fighters begin offensive to expel ISIS from Syria’s Raqqa- Al-Masdar News

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by US airstrikes, launched today a wide-scale military operation to capture large swaths from ISIS to the north of its de facto capital of Al-Raqqa. 

“We’re launching this campaign with the help of [U.S.-led] coalition forces in northern Raqqa,” said Rojda Felat, a female Kurdish commander. 

“We intend to bring an end to attacks perpetrated by Daesh (IS) against our people.” The attacking forces have massed thousands of fighters at Ain Issa, located nearly 50 km to the north of Al-Raqqa, and marched on three directions with the aim to capture a 4 kilometers long and 15 kilometers wide area.