"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


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tahrir al-Sham: Al-Qaeda's latest incarnation in Syria- BBC News

The Syrian jihadist group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), which was known as al-Nusra Front until it broke off formal ties with al-Qaeda last July, has rebranded itself again.
A statement issued on 28 January announced that it had agreed to merge with four smaller factions and form a new alliance, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (Liberation of the Levant Organisation).
Hashim al-Sheikh, also known as Abu Jabir, who had previously been the head of the now-rival Islamist rebel group Ahrar al-Sham, was named its new leader.
There was no mention in the statement of the long-standing al-Nusra and JFS leader, Abu Mohammed al-Julani. However, Tahrir al-Sham confirmed weeks later that he had been appointed the alliance's "general military commander".
On 9 February, Abu Jabir delivered a message in which he insisted Tahrir al-Sham was an "independent entity and not an extension of former organisations and factions".
It appeared to be an attempt to further distance the group from al-Qaeda.
But it is not clear how effective that will be, as the last name change failed to convince the international community and the US kept the group on its list of foreign terrorist organisations.
The statement announcing the creation of Tahrir al-Sham said JFS had joined forces with the Nour al-Din Zinki Movement, one of the most important opposition factions in Aleppo province; Ansar al-Din Front; the Homs-based Jaysh al-Sunnah; and Liwa al-Haqq, which operates in Idlib, Aleppo and Hama provinces.

Eastern Expectations: The Changing Dynamics in Syria’s Tribal Regions- Carnegie Middle East Center

With all eyes on western Syria, developments in eastern Syria, which is populated mainly by tribal communities, will be just as important for the country’s future. Numerous parties involved in Syria’s conflict—including the Assad regime, radical Islamists, Turkey, and the Kurds—have sought to integrate tribal leaders into their political agendas, believing their tribes would follow. However, these leaders no longer have the authority they once did. Syria’s conflict has forced tribal communities to turn inwards, and such localization has further undermined tribal solidarities.

Lebanon's electoral carve-up: Hariri and allies are blocking reform- MEE

With Lebanese elections set to take place in May, the customary tug-of-war has started over exactly how those elections are to take place. Democracy in Lebanon is all about foreplay.

For months on end, the country’s political elite engages in courtesy visits and tete-a-tetes behind closed doors to determine the rules of the electoral game. Once agreed, the “moment supreme” at the ballot box is but a formality, as 90 percent of the outcome can be predicted.
A Tom and Jerry cartoon doing the rounds on social media illustrates the current hustle and bustle in Lebanon’s political circles. It shows the famous cat and mouse accompanied by their bulky bulldog neighbour sitting around a juicy steak

ÖSO ve Suriye ordusunun El Bab yakınlarındaki çatışmasını Rusya durdurdu- Sputnik News

Rusya, Suriye ordusu ile ÖSO arasında yaşanan çatışmalarda bir kez daha arabuluculuk görevi üstlendi. Tadef'de yaşanan çatışma bu sayede durduruldu.

Suriye'nin kuzeyinde El Bab kasabası yakınlarında Türkiye'nin Fırat Kalkanı operasyonu kapsamında desteklediği Özgür Suriye Ordusu (ÖSO) ile Suriye ordusu arasında önceki gece yaşanan çatışmayı, Rusya'nın bir kez daha devreye girerek durdurduğu belirtildi.


Suriye hükümet güçlerinden bir kaynak Reuters'a verdiği demecinde, El Bab'ın dört kilometre güneyinde yer alan Tadef köyünde pazar gecesi yaşanan çatışmayı, Rusya'nın arabuluculuğunun sonlandırdığını söyledi.
Yine Reuters'e bilgi veren muhalif bir yetkili, muhaliflerin, El Bab'a ilerlemek istemeleri nedeniyle hükümet güçlerine ateş açtığını söyledi. Yetkili, Türk askerlerinin çatışmada yer almadığını belirtti.

Monday, February 27, 2017

U.N. to vote Tuesday on Syria sanctions despite Russia veto pledge- Reuters

The U.N. Security Council is set to vote on Tuesday on a bid by Western powers to ban the supply of helicopters to the Syrian government and to blacklist Syrian military commanders over accusations of toxic gas attacks, despite a pledge by Russia to veto the move.

The Security Council showdown - pitting Syrian ally Russia against the United States, France, Britain and others - comes amid U.N.-led peace talks between the warring Syrian parties in Geneva, which began last week.

A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the United States, France, Russia, Britain or China to be adopted.

Russia has vetoed six Security Council resolutions on Syria since the conflict started in 2011. China joined Moscow in vetoing five resolutions. It was unclear how Beijing planned to vote on Tuesday

Britain and France first circulated the draft resolution to the 15-member council in late December in response to the results of an investigation by the U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Syrian opposition says to meet Russian officials at Geneva talks Monday- Zaman al-Wasl

The main opposition group at Syrian peace talks in Geneva plans to meet Russian envoys later Monday to discuss promises it says Moscow had not kept, a senior negotiator said.

Russia has sought to revive diplomacy since its air force helped the Syrian army and allied militias defeat rebels in Aleppo in December, President Bashar Assad's biggest victory in six years of war.

Despite a cease-fire, a weekend of bombings and airstrikes in Syria has rattled the talks that began in Geneva last week.

"The (opposition) High Negotiations Committee (HNC) will be meeting today with the delegation of the foreign ministry," negotiator Mohammed Alloush told Reuters when asked if he planned to meet Russian officials.

He said the opposition wanted to discuss "the promises they did not keep."


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Militants Attack With Mortars Area Close to Russian Embassy in Syria Amid Truce- Sputnik News

A group of jihadists has attacked with mortars Al-Mazraa district in Damascus, where the Russian embassy is located, a Sputnik correspondent reported Sunday.

DAMASCUS (Sputnik) — The two projectiles hit an area close to the Russian diplomatic mission leaving no casualties.
According to Syrian government army servicemen, the shelling was carried out from the Jobar neighborhood, which is under control of Ahrar ash-Sham and al-Nusra Front.
Previously, the Russian Embassy in Damascus came under mortar fire on February 2 and 3. The ministry said that the embassy was attacked from the area controlled by terrorists. These attacks were the first since the start of the latest ceasefire regime in Syria.

De Mistura says Homs terror attacks aimed at derailing Geneva talks- TASS

Earlier on Saturday terror attacks hit Ghouta and Mahatta areas in Syrian Homs killing 30 people, more than 30 were reported injured.

GENEVA, February 26. /TASS/. The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura considers it necessary to prevent terrorists from derailing the Geneva talks, which meets the interests of all sides involved, according to his statement obtained by TASS.

When commenting the terror attacks in the Syrian city of Homs, de Mistura said that he vigorously condemns the act of terrorism that took place in Homs on Saturday, and considers it to be "an attempt to derail the ongoing intra-Syrian talks."

According to UN Special Envoy, "there are always those willing to hinder the negotiations process." "It serves the interests of all Syrian sides opposing terrorism and adhering to a political process in Syria, to prevent those attempts to succeed," he said.

Prior to his meeting with the Syrian governmental delegation headed by Bashar Jaafari, Staffan de Mistura said he hoped the terrorist attack in Syria’s Homs would not affect the round of intra-Syrian peace talks in Geneva that started on February 23.

Cautious Calm after Fierce Fatah-Islamist Clashes in Ain el-Hilweh- Naharnet

Fierce clashes erupted Sunday afternoon between the secular Fatah Movement and a number of hardline Islamist groups in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh, state-run National News Agency reported.
The fighting was focused on the Sifsaf-Briksat frontier on al-Fawqani street and the sounds of machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades echoed across the city of Sidon, NNA said.
Cautious calm engulfed the camp in the evening after the national and Islamist Palestinian factions reached a tentative ceasefire agreement under which the gunmen were supposed to be withdrawn from the streets, media reports said.
The clashes had renewed earlier in the day, leaving several people injured. The agency identified one of the wounded as Alaa Hammoudeh.

Syrian Opposition Accuses Damascus of 'Stalling' Talks- Naharnet

The main Syrian opposition group at peace talks in Geneva accused Damascus on Sunday of "stalling", after its chief envoy demanded all sides condemn the deadly suicide assault in Homs this weekend.
The High Negotiations Committee (HNC) made the charge after the Syrian regime's chief negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari said any opposition delegates who refused to condemn the attack were "accomplices of terrorism."
"Jaafari is stalling, they don't want to start the political transition," HNC spokesman Salem al-Meslet told AFP in Geneva, where sputtering U.N.-sponsored peace talks are taking place.
He said that in previous Geneva meetings, and now this one, "the only word that the regime knows is terrorism. In fact he is stalling by only mentioning this word and the fight against terrorism.
"Just as he is insisting on condemning the incident that happened yesterday, we also demand the regime delegation to tell everyone that they are committed to political transition," he added.
U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura launched the fourth round of Geneva talks on Thursday, but as in previous meetings there appears little prospect of the two sides meeting face-to-face.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Genelkurmay: El Bab'ın tüm mahallelerinde kontrol sağlandı- BBC Türkçe

Genelkurmay Başkanlığı, 24 Şubat itibarıyla Halep'e bağlı El Bab kasabasının tüm mahallelerinde kontrolün sağlandığını duyurdu. TSK açıklamasında, patlayıcı arama faaliyetleri sırasında 2 askerin hayatını kaybettiği de bildirildi.
El yapımı bir patlayıcının infilak etmesi sonucunda gerçekleştiği açıklanan olayda üç askerin de yaralandığını bildirildi.
Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri'nin medya kuruluşlarına gönderdiği açıklamada, kontrol altına alınan bölgelerde bulunan engel, mayın ve el yapımı patlayıcıların temizlenmesi faaliyetlerinin sürdüğü belirtildi.
El Bab'ın ele geçirilmesi Türkiye'nin Suriyeli muhaliflerle birlikte 24 Ağustos'ta başlattığı Fırat Kalkanı Harekatı'nın hedeflerinden biriydi.

El Bab: 6 Kasım'dan 24 Şubat'a

6-14 Kasım tarihleri arasında El Bab'ın 2 km çevresindeki 36 köy Irak Şam İslam Devleti (IŞİD) örgütünden alınırken, operasyon, kent merkezine yaklaştıkça yavaşladı. TSK, El Bab'da kalan sivillere havadan bildiriler atarak güvenli bölgelere taşınmaları çağrısı yaptı.
El Bab - Halep arasındaki kritik otoyolun kontrolünün ele geçirildiği 21 Aralık'ın hemen ertesinde en büyük can kaybı yaşandı. IŞİD'in, askeri olarak stratejik konumda bulunan Hastane Tepesi'ne yönelik düzenlendiği intihar saldırılarında 16 Türk askeri hayatını kaybetti.
21 Şubat'ta Savunma Bakanı Fikri Işık, kasabanın kontrol altına alınmak üzere olduğunu söylese de yerel gruplardan bilgi toplayan Londra merkezli Suriye İnsan Hakları Gözlemevi, El Bab'ın yüzde 90'ının hâlâ IŞİD'in elinde olduğunu duyurdu.
Aynı gün Suriye Ordusu da güneydeki stratejik Rasim Hürmül İmam kasabasını ele geçirdi. Fırat Kalkanı Harekatı'na katılan TSK destekli muhalifler ise şehrin içine yeni bir saldırı başlattı.
23 Şubat günü de Fransız haber ajansı AFP'ye konuşan muhalif komutanlardan biri "El Bab özgürleştirildi. Mayınları temizliyoruz" açıklaması yapmıştı.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Russia Ready to Consider US Offers on Cooperation in Syria - Foreign Minister- Sputnik News

MOSCOW (Sputnik)  Moscow is ready to consider Washington's initiatives on cooperating to resolve the nearly six-year crisis in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday.
"We are ready to consider, by and large, other suggestions regarding our engagement in Syria. And in this regard we hope that, as US President Donald Trump and the White House spokesman have said, the US is interested in working with us to resolve the Syrian crisis," Lavrov told reporte

Aoun May Call National Dialogue or Consecutive Cabinet Sessions on Electoral Law- Naharnet

President Michel Aoun might call for a national dialogue among the leaders of the political parties in Baabda or he might agree with Prime Minister Saad Hariri on holding consecutive cabinet sessions, with the aim of reaching consensus over a new electoral law before the March 21 deadline, a media report said on Wednesday.
“The upcoming period could witness an important development in terms of changing the discussion mechanisms that are being implemented to reach a political understanding on a new law,” An Nahar newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying.
The new mechanisms “might speed up efforts to end the crisis, which can no longer withstand further delay caused by futile mechanisms, such as the experience of the four-party committee that has failed to reach the minimum level of agreement on numerous proposals,” the sources added.
The sources said that two scenarios seem to be likely to resolve the crisis.

U.S.-Backed Fighters Advance on IS in Syria's East- Naharnet

An alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters have seized more than a dozen villages in eastern Syria in their drive to encircle the Islamic State group bastion of Raqa. 
The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) made a major incursion into the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor as part of their push for Raqa, field commander Dejwar Khabat said. 
"Our aim is to cut the road to Raqa and besiege IS... We have liberated 15 villages," Khabat said Tuesday in the town of Makmaneh, which lies on a major highway approximately 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of Raqa city. 
He said the IS was dispatching suicide bombers but had not been able to slow the offensive. 
SDF fighters on Tuesday set up their base on a hilltop in Makmaneh, digging trenches around it to prevent suicide bombers or car bombs from reaching them.  
Backed by air strikes from the U.S.-led coalition, the SDF has seized swathes of territory in northern Syria from the jihadists. 
It launched its offensive for Raqa -- the de facto Syrian capital of IS' so-called caliphate -- in early November.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Everything you need to know about the latest Syria peace talks- IRIN

Hopes are low for the Syrian peace talks set to begin on Thursday in Geneva, but that may not matter much. As the war in Syria moves towards a strategic endgame, the faltering peace process has begun to drift away from its past focus on a political transition, a shift that will ultimately have major ramifications for the country’s future.
The results of the two preceding rounds of talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana have been somewhat underwhelming. Conceived of as a political track to complement the ceasefire declared by Russia, Turkey, and Iran on 30 December, last week’s round failed to even adopt a closing statement. While Moscow trumpets the signing of a trilateral truce-monitoring agreement, it appears to be another hollow statement of intent without a credible enforcement mechanism.
Astana’s role in the peace process is separate, but not unimportant. American diplomats (who attended as observers along with Jordan and UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura) seem content with letting Russia lead the way. Like other Western and Arab nations, they remain unwilling to give their full blessing to the Astana track, fearing it will be used by Russia and Iran to displace de Mistura’s UN-led process in Geneva.
Turkey, too, has signalled that the two tracks should be kept apart. “Astana has never been an alternative to Geneva,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Sunday, adding that although Astana has been “a good confidence-building measure and helpful to maintain a ceasefire”, the UN-led talks in Geneva remain “the main basis for the political solution and transition”.
Indeed, Geneva has been at the centre of international peace efforts since the Syrian conflict began in 2011.

CIA-backed aid for Syrian rebels frozen after Islamist attack- sources- Reuters

CIA-coordinated military aid for rebels in northwest Syria has been frozen since they came under major Islamist attack last month, rebel sources said, raising doubts about foreign support key to their war against President Bashar al-Assad.

Rebel officials said that no official explanation had been given for the move this month following the jihadist assault, though several said they believed the main objective was to prevent arms and cash falling into Islamist militant hands. But they said they expected the aid freeze to be temporary.

The halt in assistance, which has included salaries, training, ammunition and in some cases guided anti-tank missiles, is a response to jihadist attacks and has nothing to do with U.S. President Donald Trump replacing Barack Obama in January, two U.S. officials familiar with the CIA-led program said.

The freeze reflects the troubles facing Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels in the almost six-year-old revolt against Assad, who now appears militarily unassailable in his core western region largely thanks to direct intervention on his side by Russia and Iran.

Syrian opposition’s Moscow Group to take part in Geneva talks- TASS

GENEVA, February 21. /TASS/. The Syrian opposition’s Moscow Group will participate in intra-Syrian talks in Geneva and it has already formed its delegation, the chief of the Popular Front for Change and Liberation, Moscow Group leader Qadri Jamil has told TASS.

"We have formed a delegation at the request of the UN Secretary General’s special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura. There are three negotiators and two advisers," he said.

"He [de Mistura - TASS] sent a letter to us yesterday saying that he will receive us as a delegation and not representatives of some platform," Jamil said.

"Despite our own remarks regarding the number of delegation members we made a decision to meet de Mistura halfway. We formed a delegation and sent the names to the special UN envoy," Jamil said.

The Moscow platform’s leader said technical issues were being addressed related with the arrival of delegations from Syria to Geneva, but the Moscow group is determined to be in Geneva by the time the talks begin.

"I am not a member of the delegation, but I would like to be present in Geneva as the leader of the Moscow platform, independently from the delegation," he said.

Intra-Syrian talks are scheduled to begin in Geneva on February 23.

Rusya’dan Mistura’ya tepki- Al-Jazeera Turk

Suriye’deki krize bir siyasi çözüm bulmak amacıyla 23 Şubat’ta Cenevre’de başlayacak görüşmelerde muhalifleri temsil edecek isimler, Rusya ile BM arasında gerginliğe neden oldu. Rusya, Moskova Platformu adıyla bilinen Suriyeli muhaliflerin ve PYD'nin BM tarafından Cenevre görüşmelerine davet edilmemesini eleştirdi.

Rusya Dışişleri Bakan Yardımcısı Gennadi Gatilov, Moskova Platformu adıyla bilinene Suriyeli muhalif grubun Cenevre’ye davet edilmemesini eleştirdi. Rus İnterfax haber ajansına konuşan yetkili, “Maalesef, de Mistura BM’nin 2254 sayılı kararın maddelerini yerine getiremedi. 23 Şubat’ta Cenevre’de gerçekleştirilecek Suriye görüşmelerinde muhaliflerin tüm kesimlerine eşit temsilcilik hakkı verilmedi. Bu da dünkü açıklamalarda söylendiği gibi Moskova Platformu gibi bazı muhalefet kesimlerinin Cenevre’ye katılmamasına yol açtı" dedi. Gatilov, 'Suriye Kürtleri' olarak ifade ettiği PYD'nin de davet edilmemesine itirazları olduğunu söyledi.

Geagea to Le Pen: Assad a Terrorist No Different than Islamic State- Naharnet

Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea received on Tuesday visiting France's far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen in Maarab, where he stressed that Syrian President Bashar Assad is a terrorist no different than the Islamic State terror group.
“I took my time to explain to Le Pen the unclear images that reach the West and that we are all against terrorism which has no religion. Based on the aforesaid, Bashar Assad is one of the biggest terrorists in Syria and the region,” said Geagea after the meeting.
“One can’t forget the military operations he conducted over tens of years. One can't forget the terror acts he carried out. He can't stay in Syria, so (we say) no to the Islamists and no to Bashar,” he stressed, adding that the issue was discussed at length with Le Pen.
On the first day of her two-day visit, Le Pen, head of the anti-immigration National Front, called Assad “the most reassuring solution for France" and said the best way to protect minority Christians is to "eradicate" the Islamic State group preying on them — not turn them into refugees.

Ahmad Ibrahim Ibn Saleh named as MP for Aleppo vacant seat- SANA

Damascus, SANA – President Bashar al-Assad issued on Tuesday Decree no. 60 for 2017 naming Ahmad Ibrahim Ibn Saleh as member of the People’s Assembly for the second legislative term to fill a vacant seat for the Aleppo areas district.
Elections to fill the vacant seat were held on Sunday February 19th, 2017.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Rus uzman: Kürt kantonların meşrulaştırılması planlarına sadece Ankara değil, Şam da karşı- Sputnik News

BM Suriye Özel Temsilcisi Danışmanı ve Rusya Bilimler Akademisi Şarkiyat Enstitüsü Direktörü Vitaliy Naumkin, Suriye’nin kuzeyindeki Kürt kantonlarının meşrulaştırılması planlarına sadece Ankara’nın değil, aynı zamanda Şam’ın da karşı olduğuna dikkat çekti.

Rus basınına konuşan Naumkin, El Bab ile gelişmeleri değerlendirerek şunları söyledi: “Bu gerçekten de zor bir konu. Çünkü El Bab ve kuzeydeki diğer dev yerleşim yerleri Türkiye ve Kürtler arasında rekabet bölgesi. Bugün bu iki tarafın tutumları birçok konuda farklı. Birbirine karşı aşırı çelişkili. Çünkü Türkiye PYD ve PYG’yi terör örgütleri olarak görüyor. Ankara bu tutumundan geri adım atmayı da düşünmüyor. Bu arada Kürtlerin yaşadığı her yerde de Kürt sorununun arttığı görülüyor. Çeşitli Kürt grup ve örgütleri arasında da aşırı çelişkiler var. Geniş özerkliğe sahip olan Irak Kürdistanı'nda bile.”

Russia Willing to Help Lebanon with Electoral Law- Naharnet

Russia is likely to give Lebanon a helping hand in finding a new parliamentary electoral law format acceptable by all political parties, to save the country from “sliding into a political crisis,” al-Akhbar daily reported on Monday.
“Moscow will possibility make a move to help (Lebanon) find a format for a new electoral law acceptable by all forces, to avoid potentials of a political crisis that could open the door on an exposed security situation in Lebanon,” sources told the daily on condition of anonymity.
Moscow is one of many other countries that call for staging the elections in Lebanon based on a new law, said the daily.
However, the sources stressed that the Russian Embassy in Beirut is weighing “the best vision for an electoral law that suits a diverse country like Lebanon.”
“Theoretically, adopting proportionality based on a single electoral district is the most appropriate, because groups who do not have the opportunity to be represented in the parliament will eventually become radicals,” they noted.
The country has not organized parliamentary elections since 2009 and the legislature has instead twice extended its own mandate.

Hariri Meets Le Pen: Amalgam between Islam and Terrorism Worst Mistake- Naharnet

Prime Minister Saad Hariri received on Monday France's far-right leader and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, accompanied by MP Gilbert Collard, her chief of staff Nicolas Lesage in the presence of Hariri's chief of staff, Nader Hariri.
During the meeting, Hariri cautioned against associating his religion with the terrorist attacks of the jihadists who have repeatedly targeted France.
"The worst mistake would be the amalgam between Islam and Muslims on one hand and terrorism on the other hand,” Hariri said, in a statement issued by his office.
"The Lebanese and Arabs, like the majority of the world, consider France to be the homeland of human rights and of the republican state that makes no ethnic, religious or class distinction between its citizens,” he said.

Four Russian servicemen killed in car blast in Syria- TASS

MOSCOW, February 20. /TASS/. Four Russian military advisers were killed and another two were wounded in a vehicle blast in Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry reported on Monday.

The vehicle was blown up as a vehicular column of the Syrian troops was moving from the Tiyas military airbase towards Homs, the ministry said.

"On February 16, 2017, four Russian servicemen were killed in the Syrian Arab Republic as their vehicle hit a remote controlled bomb. The Syrian troops’ vehicular column that included a vehicle with Russian military advisers was moving from the area of the Tiyas aerodrome towards the city of Homs," the ministry said in a statement.

Rebels warn truce may collapse after attacks- BBC News

Rebel factions in Syria that backed recent peace moves say an intensification of government attacks has put the current truce in jeopardy.
They warn that they reserve the right to respond to recent bombings of areas around Damascus, Homs and the south.
The rebels describe the attacks as a "bloody message" from President Bashar al-Assad's government.
This comes just days before UN-sponsored talks are due to start in Geneva, Switzerland.
The UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has played down hopes for the talks on 23 February.
He said the talks were aimed at seeing if there was any possibility of starting to discuss a political process.
A nationwide ceasefire brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran took effect on 30 December after peace talks in Kazakhstan.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

President al-Assad issues law on state’s right to protect mineral resources- SANA

Damascus, SANA – President Bashar al-Assad issued on Sunday law no.7 for 2017 on the state’s right to protect locations of mineral resources and prevent illegal extraction, transfer and distribution of these resources.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

PYD’yi böl Rakka’ya in’- Hürriyet

İncirlik’te dün ABD Genelkurmay Başkanı Orgeneral Dunford ile görüşen Genelkurmay Başkanı Orgeneral Akar, Türkiye’nin olası operasyonla ilgili hazırladığı iki planı mevkidaşına anlattı. İlk plan ÖSO güçlerinin Akçakale’nin karşısındaki Tel Abyad’dan girip PYD kontrolündeki bölgeden Rakka’ya yönelmesi. İkinci plan ise El Bab’dan Menbiç üzerinden Rakka’ya uzanmak.

ABD Genelkurmay Başkanı Orgeneral Joseph Dunford, Genelkurmay Başkanı Orgeneral Hulusi Akar’la Suriye’de DEAŞ’ın merkezi konumundaki Rakka’ya yönelik olası operasyonunun askeri teknik boyutunu, Ankara’nın değişik senaryo ve planlarını görüşmek üzere dün Türkiye’ye geldi. İki komutan, Ankara’da Genelkurmay Karargâhı’nda değil, Adana-İncirlik’teki üste görüştü. Rakka’nın yanısıra Türkiye’nin El Bab’da yürüttüğü operasyon ve PKK ile mücadelesinin de ele alındığı görüşmenin İncirlik’te yapılması, “Rakka operasyonunun harekât merkezinin İncirlik olabileceği” yorumlarına neden oldu. ABD liderliğindeki koalisyon gücüne ait ülkelerin savaş uçakları ile ABD’nin silahlı insansız hava araçları (İHA) çok önceden İncirlik’te konuşlanmış durumda.

MASADAKİ İKİ PLAN: Görüşmenin ana gündemini daha önce Cumhurbaşkanı Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ile ABD Başkanı Donald Trump’ın telefon görüşmesinde olduğu gibi Rakka’nın DEAŞ’tan temizlenmesi oluşturdu. Güvenlik kaynaklarından alınan bilgiye göre Orgeneral Akar, görüşmede Türkiye’nin olası operasyonla ilgili hazırladığı iki planı Dunford’a anlattı.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Going South in East Ghouta (Aron Lund- Carnegie Middle East)

Infighting and regime gains suggest the rebels are heading for defeat around Damascus.

Despite the ceasefire declared by Russia, Turkey, and Iran on December 30, war rumbles on in Syria. Some battles are taking place inside rebel territories or against the self-declared Islamic State, but there is also fighting between President Bashar al-Assad’s army and opposition groups supposedly covered by the ceasefire. The most important of those conflicts is playing out in the East Ghouta region near Damascus, long one of Syria’s best-fortified rebel strongholds and considerably larger than the former East Aleppo enclave.

The area is now coming under pressure to surrender. That would represent a major victory for Assad, removing the only serious threat to his capital and freeing up large numbers of troops for use elsewhere. It could also impact the peace talks in Astana and Geneva, since no opposition delegation would be of much value without the largest faction willing to participate in negotiations: the East Ghouta-based Islam Army.

Though the East Ghouta may hold out for many months more, especially if Assad is bogged down in his war with the Islamic State in eastern Syria, local rebels seem to have no way of breaking their downward spiral.

Trilateral mechanism on Syria finalized-Kremlin source- TASS

Participants in the Astana meeting on Syria have approved the statement concerning the Joint Group for monitoring the ceasefire.

MOSCOW, February 17. /TASS/. As participants in the Astana meeting on Syria approved the statement concerning the Joint Group for monitoring the ceasefire, drawn up by Russia, Iran and Turkey, the trilateral mechanism has been finalized, a source in the Russian Presidential Administration told reporters.

"All the participants approved the statement concerning the Joint Group for monitoring the ceasefire, drawn up by Russia, Iran and Turkey, which is the main result of the Astana meeting," the source said. "It means that the trilateral mechanism has been finalized. The trilateral joint group will be responsible for ensuring conducive conditions for maintaining the ceasefire as well as separating the armed opposition units from terror groups, such as the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, and building confidence in order to facilitate the intra-Syrian dialogue under the United Nations auspices," the source added.

Mustaqbal: Nasrallah's Stances Deal Strong Blow to Aoun's Initiatives towards Gulf States- Naharnet

Al-Mustaqbal Movement on Friday called on President Michel Aoun to address Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's latest verbal attacks against some Gulf countries, describing them as a “strong blow” to Aoun's efforts to mend ties with the Gulf.
“Through his attacks on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Bahrain, Hizbullah's secretary-general has dealt a strong blow to President Michel Aoun's efforts and to the visits that he intends to make to Kuwait and the UAE after he had visited Riyadh, Doha, Cairo and Amman,” Mustaqbal said in a statement.
“It is clear that Hizbullah is extremely annoyed by KSA and its role in defending Arab rights, and it is much clearer that it is annoyed by the kingdom and its wise leadership's embracement of the new presidential tenure and its recurrent attempts to reconcile between the Lebanese,” the movement added.

US Under Pressure on Syria Stance ahead of Geneva Talks- Naharnet

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday faced a grilling by global peers seeking clarity on Washington's position on the Syria conflict ahead of UN peace talks in Geneva.
On the sidelines of a G20 gathering in Germany, Tillerson joined a group of countries supporting the Syrian opposition for talks pushing a political solution to the nearly six-year war.
It is the first meeting of the so-called "like-minded" nations -- made up of around a dozen Western and Arab countries as well as Turkey -- since US President Donald Trump took office.
Tillerson, on his first diplomatic trip abroad, will face pressure to spell out where Trump stands on the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"It will be an opportunity to gauge the American position on the political aspect of the Syrian issue," a French diplomatic source told AFP.
The meeting came ahead of a new round of United Nations-led talks in Geneva on February 23 involving Syrian regime and rebel representatives.
Under Trump's predecessor Barack Obama, Washington insisted Assad had to go, putting it at odds with Moscow which backs the Syrian leader.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Russia says U.N. Syria envoy to visit Moscow on Thursday: agency- Reuters

The United Nations special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, will visit Moscow for talks on Feb. 16, RIA news agency quoted Russia's foreign ministry as saying on Tuesday.

"During de Mistura's Moscow visit, discussion will focus on forming a unified delegation of the Syrian opposition for the talks in Geneva," the ministry said.

A new round of U.N.-backed peace talks on the Syrian conflict are due to begin in Geneva next week.

Aoun Visits Arab League, Agrees with Jordan King on Boosting Cooperation- Naharnet

President Michel Aoun stated in front of Arab League delegates in Cairo on Tuesday that Lebanon has regained its strength and is ready to carry on with its role within the Arab family.
“Today, Lebanon has recovered its well-being and is ready to carry out its role within the big Arab family. It is ready to contribute to each project that raises our people to stability and progress,” stated Aoun.
“The world is once again living a World War III, but a fragmented one,” added the President.
“The Zionist ideology has succeeded in transforming the Zionist-Arab war into a sectarian inter-Arab war which justifies Israel's Judaization. This alone is enough to make us unite our efforts to preserve the holy Christian and Muslim landmarks. Lebanon has restored its wellbeing and ready to carry out its role,” concluded Aoun.
Aoun's comments came after a meeting he held with Ahmed Abul Gheit, secretary general of the Cairo-based Arab League.
The president later arrived in Jordan for talks with King Abdullah II.
“President Aoun focused during his talks with Jordan's king on the need to coordinate efforts to find solutions to the Syrian refugee crisis and end the refugees' plight,” LBCI TV reported.

Monday, February 13, 2017

America’s Favorite Syrian Militia Rules With an Iron Fist- The Nation

The Kurdish YPG recruits fighters at gunpoint, assassinates political opponents, and suppresses the media.

Erbil, IraqThe raid began at 3 am in a Syrian village close to the Iraqi border. Kurdish-led military police, many masked, piled out of their pickup trucks, set up roadblocks, drew their weapons, and launched a house-to-house search.

It was America’s favorite Syrian militia, the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, at work. Top figures in the Obama administration and even the professional military praised the YPG as the most effective Syrian force against the Islamic State, or ISIS. (The Trump administration hasn’t yet indicated how it plans to work with the YPG.)

But its mission last September 10 was nothing to brag about. The northeast Syrian village being stormed, Bani Shkawe, is Kurdish, and the Asayish, or military police, were not scouring for radical Islamists but for Kurdish draft-dodgers. They arrested seven young men, but many others got away, local residents said.

Two weeks later, the Asayish returned with a force of 700. When a group of young men took flight, the Asayish opened fire, killing Hani Khanjar, an 18-year-old Kurd. They captured three young men, but set them free, since they were under 18.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Syrian opposition picks delegation to Geneva talks- Reuters

Syria's main opposition body on Sunday approved a new delegation to take part in Geneva peace talks later this month, which include Russian-backed blocs that have been critical of the armed insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad.

The High Negotiation Committee, (HNC) the main umbrella group, said in a statement after two-days of meetings in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, that the new 21-member negotiating team included members of two dissident alliances with which it has previously been at odds.

Those two alliances -- the so-called Moscow and Cairo groups -- have long disavowed the armed rebellion and insisted that political change can only come through peaceful activism. Their members include a former Syrian government minister with close ties to Moscow.

Mohammad Sabra, who was appointed as chief negotiator, told Saudi-owned Al-Hadath news channel that the delegation brought together various groups. He also accused unnamed foreign powers of trying to impose their views on the composition of the delegation, an apparent reference to Russia.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Rusya: Suriye ordusu Türkiye ile anlaştığımız geçici sınıra ulaştı- Hürriyet

Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri ve Suriyeli muhalif unsurların El Bab'a girdiği saatlerde Rusya'dan son dakika haberi geldi. Rusya Savunma Bakanlığı, "Suriye ordusu, Türkiye ile daha önce kararlaştırılan geçici sınır çizgisine ulaştı" ifadesini kullandı.

Suriye'de terör örgütü DEAŞ'ın kontrolünde olan stratejik öneme sahip El Bab bugün Türkiye'nin desteklediği unsurlar batıdan girerken, Suriye rejimine bağlı güçler de kasabanın 1 km. güneyindeki Tadif'i ele geçirdi.

Akşamüstü Rusya Savunma Bakanlığı'ndan yapılan açıklamada, Suriye ordusunun Tadif'te 650 DEAŞ'lı teröristi, iki tankı, dört zırhlı personel taşıyıcıyı, 18 ağırlı silahlı arazi aracını etkisiz hale getirdiğini duyurdu.

Açıklamanın şu cümlesi de dikkat çekti: "Başarılı Tadif operasyonuyla Suriye hükümet kuvvetleri, Türkiye ile daha önce anlaşmaya varılan ve ÖSO ile geçici sınırı belirleyen çizgiye ulaşmış oldu" dedi.

Rusya, çatışmadaki tarafların nerede duracağını belirleyen ve "demarkasyon çizgisi" olarak da bilinen geçici sınır hattı konusunda Ankara ile varılan anlaşmanın detaylarına değinmedi.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Exclusive: Yahoo News interview with President Bashar Assad of Syria- Yahoo News

Yahoo News chief investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff traveled to Syria for an exclusive sitdown with President Bashar Assad, his first interview since the inauguration of Donald Trump. During the 35-minute interview, Assad tells Isikoff that some of the 4.8 million refugees from Syria’s civil war are “definitely” aligned with terrorists, adding “you don't need significant number to commit atrocities.” Speaking at a presidential office in Damascus, Assad also says President Trump’s controversial executive order barring refugees from entering the United States is “an American issue.”
As with all interviews granted by President Bashar Assad, this interview was filmed by his presidential press office. No editorial changes were made to the content

Syria’s Assad Sends Signals to Trump in Interview- The New York Times

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria suggested in an interview published Friday that he could foresee cooperation with the Trump administration and might even countenance the deployment of American soldiers in the country one day.

The remarks by Mr. Assad appeared to signal that he might be more amenable to dealing with Mr. Trump than he was with President Barack Obama, whose administration repeatedly called on the Syrian leader to step down, accused his government of repeated atrocities and supported rebels seeking to topple him.

“We don’t have any contact with the Americans,” Mr. Assad said. “We’re not in that position.”

Mr. Assad not only held himself blameless for the conflict but expressed confidence that the millions of refugees who had fled would eventually come home. He also asserted that some had already returned and that life in Damascus, the capital, was safe and “nearly normal.”