Political Committee met today with the US envoy Michael Ratney the British Envoy Gareth Bayley to discuss the Vienna Communique which was released on November 17. They also discussed the latest political developments on Syria.
While Ratnet and Bailey explained their countries’ attitude the communique, they emphasize the Geneva Communique as point of reference\basis for any political solution and that there is no role for Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s future. The meeting also tabled discussions about the political committee’s questions regarding some of the points contained in the Vienna Communique.
Vice-President Hisham Marwa said that “we emphasize, to the participants in the Vienna meeting, that the Syrian people will not accept giving Bashar al-Assad any role in the transitional process after all the massacres he committed. We also stress the need for a full political transition in accordance with the Geneva Communique and the UN Security Council resolution 2118. In addition to the need for confidence-building measures, measures must be taken and ensure the Assad regime’s commitment to the Geneva Communique, such stopping the killing and indiscriminate bombing, and the release of all detainees.
President Khoja express his strongest condemnation of the horrific terrorist attacks of Paris and hostage taking in Bataclan concert hall.
In a statement released today, President Khoja said that “we confirm our solidarity with our friends; the French nation. The Syrian people who are daily experiencing Assad and ISIS terrorism stand in solidarity with the French nation against all kinds of terrorism.”
He express deepest condolences for the families of the victims.
“I stress again the responsibility of the International Community to eliminate all terrorism from its root including all regimes which finance it; the first being the regime of Bashar Assad.”
Khoja sent a letter of condolences to the French President Francois Hollande, stressing “we are determined to fight all types of extremism. The Syrian people are well aware of the horror of murder, kidnapping and terrorism, particularly those targeting security and stability.”
Vice-President Hisham Marwa urges the countries fighting terrorism to speed up political transition in Syria, adding that establishing a new ruling system, beginning with forming a transitional governing body with full powers, is the only way to restore security and stability and to root out terrorism.
Member of the General Assembly Khalid Nasser said that Russia seeks to achieve what it failed to achieve by military force through diplomacy. “Russia’s latest peace plan is part of its continuous attempts to circumvent the Geneva Communique, the basis of a political, and the UN Security Council resolution 2118, which calls for establishing transitional governing body with full powers.”
“Russia seeks to repudiate the Geneva Communique and rehabilitate Assad by engaging him in the settlement, undermining any political solution because Bashar al-Assad and his repressive regime is the root cause of the problem and must not have any role to play in the Syria’s future,” Nasser stresses.
He points out that Bashar al-Assad killed over 350,000 civilians and displaced half of Syrian people, stressing that his true place is before the International Criminal Court.
“For Russia to be a neutral intermediary in the political process, it must withdraw its troops from Syria and stop supporting the regime. This applies to a greater degree to Iran.
With regards to the Russian initiative, calling for adopting a new constitution and holding early elections, Nasser explained that these proposals are unworkable under the current conditions in Syria. He cites the diaspora of Syrian people and their unspeakable suffering either in refugee camps or under the rule of the Assad regime and ISIS.
He also stresses that the Assad regime has created an enabling environment for the emergence of extremism, thus any transitional process or elections including Assad will produce the same regime and therefore the problem will persist.
As for the upcoming Vienna meeting, held tomorrow, Nasser expresses doubts about the ability of the meeting to achieve a breakthrough and bring about a political solution that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people. He said that the previous Vienna meeting, held in the absence of Syrian people, was an attempt to bypass the Geneva Communique though participants referred to it.
Moreover, engaging Iran even though it has not yet recognized the Geneva Communique nor has shown willingness to withdraw its troops from Syria cast more doubts over the success of any such meetings.
The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) achieved its greatest victory in the four year-long war on Tuesday when it recaptured the strategic Kuweires military airbase in North Syria. Hundreds of ISIS terrorists were killed in intense fighting while hundreds more were sent fleeing eastward towards Raqqa. The victory was announced just hours after Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that Turkey would be willing to invade Syria as long as Washington agreed to provide air support, create a safe zone along the Syrian-Turkish border, and remove Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
Now that Kuweires has been liberated, Davutoğlu will have to reconsider his offer taking into consideration the fact that Russian warplanes will now be within striking distance of the border while troops and artillery will be positioned in a way that makes crossing into Syria as difficult as possible. The window for Turkish troops to enter Syria unopposed has closed. Any attempt to invade the country now will result in stiff resistance and heavy casualties.
To fully understand the significance of Kuweires, we need take a look at Amanpour’s interview with Davutoglu and see what was being planned. Here’s an excerpt:
Christiane Amanpour: Would Turkey, under the right conditions, agree to be a ground force?
PM Ahmet Davutoğlu: “A ground force is something which we have to talk [about] together. There’s a need of an integrated strategy including air campaign and ground troops. But Turkey alone cannot take all this burden. If there is a coalition and a very well designed integrated strategy, Turkey is ready to take part in all senses.”
C.A.: Including on the ground?
Davutoğlu: Yes, of course….We have to solve the Syrian crisis in a comprehensive manner.
C.A.: So I understand what you’re saying is that the condition for Turkey to be more involved would be an agreement by a coalition to also go after Assad?
Davutoğlu: Yes, and against all groups and regimes that are creating this vacuum and this problem. On many days we are assisting the coalition in (the fight) against ISIS, but it is not enough. Now we are suggesting to our allies for many months–and now we are suggesting again–to create a safe haven and to push ISIS far away from our borders.
C.A.: So what do you make of the US, Europe and especially Russia saying Assad must and can stay for a period of time?
Davutoğlu: …..The question is not how long can Assad stay, the question is when and how Assad will go. …What is the solution. The solution is very clear. It is when millions of Syrian refugees are able to return home, assuming there is peace in Syria, then this is the solution. And if Assad stays in power in Damascus, I don’t think any refugee will go back. There is a need of a step by step strategy, but what is the endgame? What is the light at the end of the tunnel, that is what is important to the refugees.
C.A.: Why is the Turkish government making it hard for the US government to arm and train and use Kurdish fighters as their ground troops?
Davutoğlu: (we are not making it hard for the US government to use the) “Kurds”, but the PYD as a wing of the PKK…
There is another Kurdish group, the Peshmerga. We allowed the Peshmerga to go through Turkey to go to Kobani in order to help Kobani to be free. If the US wants to arm Kurdish fighters on the ground against ISIS, we are ready. But not Kurdish terrorists like PKK. If they want to arm and help Barzani, or Peshmerga and help them go to Syria, we are ready to help. But everybody must understand, that today PKK is attacking our cities, our soldiers and our civilians. We will not tolerate any help to any PKK-related groups inside Syria or Iraq. If that happens, Turkey will take all measures to stop it.” (“For refugees to return, Assad must go, says Turkish PM“, CNN)
Let’s recap: Even though the Russian-led coalition is conducting major military operations in Syria, Turkey is willing to invade provided that Washington meet its demands, demands that have never changed and which (we have said in earlier columns) were part of a secret deal for the use of the Incirlik airbase so the USAF could conduct sorties over Syria.
What are Turkey’s demands:
1 A safe zone on the Syrian side of the Turkish-Syrian border
2 A no-fly zone over areas where Turkish troops are conducting operations
3 A commitment to remove Assad.
For a while it looked like the Obama administration might abandon their alliance with Turkey and join with the PYD (The Kurds) in their effort to create a buffer zone where they could harbor, arm and train Sunni militants to continue hostilities in Syria. In fact, Obama went so far as to air-drop pallet-loads of weapons and ammo to the Democratic Union Party (PYD) militia just 10 days ago. (Note: The US has already stopped all weapons shipments to the PYD) Whether Obama did this to force Turkey into playing a more active role in Syria, we don’t know. But what we do know is that a Turkish-US alliance is more formidable than a PYD-US alliance, which is why Washington is planning to sell out the Kurds to join-forces with Turkey.
Another sign that US-Turkish relations have begun to thaw, is the fact that Obama phoned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to congratulate him on his party’s victory eight days after the election. The delay suggests that they were working out their differences before expressions of support. Erdogan needed the landslide victory to consolidate his power in Parliament and to persuade the military brass that he has a mandate to carry out his foreign policy. Obama’s phone call was intended to pave the way for backroom negotiations which would take place during next week’s G-20 meetings in Ankara. But now that the Russian-led coalition has retaken Kuweires, it is impossible to know how the US and Turkey will proceed. If Putin’s warplanes and artillery are able to seal the border, then Washington will have to scrap its plan for seizing the 60-miles stretch of northern Syria that’s needed to keep vital supplylines to US-backed jihadis open or to provide sanctuary for mercenaries returning from the frontlines. The changing battlescape will make a safe zone impossible to defend.
The fact is, Kuweires changes everything. ISIS is on the run, the myriad other terrorist organizations are progressively losing ground, Assad is safe in Damascus, the borders will soon be protected, and the US-Turkey plan to invade has effectively been derailed. Barring some extraordinary, unforeseeable catastrophe that could reverse the course of events; it looks like the Russian-led coalition will eventually achieve its objectives and win the war. Washington will have no choice but to return to the bargaining table and make the concessions necessary to end the hostilities.
Member of the political committee Ahmed Tinawi states that the Syrian people, who are the most affected by terrorism, are the only side eligible to designate groups whether they are extremist or not. He stresses that participants in the upcoming Vienna meeting must consult Syrians if they want to know who the arch-terrorists are in Syria.
Tinawi said that the Syrian people have been afflicted by the scourge of terrorism since their protests against the regime in 2011, met with brutal crackdown and then fought by Hezbollah militias and others from Iran and Afghanistan.
Member of the Syrian Coalition Youssef Mahalli said that the most notorious terrorist militant groups in Syria are the National Defense Forces (NDF) aka shabiha, the Hezbollah militia, Fatimiyoun Brigade, Abu Fadl al Abbas Brigade and the rest of sectarian militias trained and funded by the Iranian regime.
Mahalli calls on participants in the upcoming Vienna meeting to place these groups on the terrorism list along with ISIS and Al-Qaeda if they are serious about rooting out extremism from the region.
Human rights groups have issued several reports documenting massacres and crimes committed by the militias fighting alongside the Assad regime that claimed the lives of about 2,000 Syrian citizens.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights confirmed it has documented over 10 major massacres committed by these militias and by regime forces in which at least 1,005 people were killed, including 172 children and 142 women.
The biggest of these massacres occurred in the district of Deir Baalbah in Homs in April 2012, the village of Malkiya in rural Aleppo in February, 2013 the village of Tal Shughayb east of Aleppo in March 2013, the village of Adnaniyah in Aleppo province in March 2013, the village of Um Amoud in Aleppo province in April 2013, the village of Rasm al-Nafl in Aleppo province in June 2013, and the village of Al-Mazra’a in Aleppo province in June 2013, the village of Thiabiya in rural Damascus in October 2013, the town of Al-Nabek in rural Damascus in December 2013, and the village of Khanasser in Aleppo province in February 2014.
With a stockpile of Western arms, the Saudi siege of Yemen has hit nearly 100 healthcare facilities in war-torn country since March.
Afghan MSF medical personnel treat civilians injured following an offensive against Taliban militants by Afghan and coalition forces at the MSF hospital in Kunduz
The Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen has repeatedly targeted and attacked hospitals and clinics, an appalling trend that “disrespects the neutrality of health facilities” in war, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Tuesday.
The U.S.-backed coalition has bombed nearly 100 hospitals throughout Yemen since March, with the most recent airstrike hitting a clinic on Sunday in the southern city of Taiz—one the country’s most populous regions, which has been under heavy fire for months. The shelling of Al-Thawra hospital in the south came just weeks after a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) clinic was hit in Haydan, in the north.
“Al-Thawra hospital, one of the main health care facilities in Taiz which is providing treatment for about 50 injured people every day was reportedly shelled several times on Sunday. The shelling endangered the lives of patients and staff on site,” Kedir Awol Omar, the deputy head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen, said on Tuesday. “The neutrality of healthcare facilities and staff is not being respected. Health facilities are deliberately attacked and surgical and medical supplies are also being blocked from reaching hospitals in areas under siege.”
Airstrikes on medical clinics are “a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law,” ICRC said.
MSF also said on Tuesday that it has been unable to deliver essential medical aid to two hospitals stationed in a particular volatile corner of Taiz, where almost half of health facilities face an influx of wounded patients along with a scarcity in supplies.
“A large part of the population of Taiz is displaced within the city,” said Karline Kleijer, MSF’s emergency manager for Yemen. “They are battling for their survival on a daily basis, and fighting to get hold of sufficient food and water, due to the steep cost of basic necessities and the prevailing insecurity.”
“The situation in Taiz is dramatic and will only get worse in the coming weeks if no efforts are made to spare civilians from the violence and allow them to access basic services, including health facilities,” Kleijer said.
Saudi officials have not responded to the most recent bombing, but they denied being aware that the October airstrikes in Haydan had targeted a clinic.
“Saudi authorities are denying the evident truth of having destroyed a hospital,” said Laurent Sury, head of MSF emergency operations. “This is an alarming sign for the Yemeni people and for those trying to assist them. How are we to draw lessons from what happened when all we face are denials? How can we continue to work without any form of commitment that civilian structures will be spared?”
“The USA and other states exporting weapons to any of the parties to the Yemen conflict have a responsibility to ensure that the arms transfers they authorize are not facilitating serious violations of international humanitarian law,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty’s senior crisis response adviser. “Lack of accountability has contributed to the worsening crisis and unless perpetrators believe they will be brought to justice for their crimes, civilians will continue to suffer the consequences.”
“The world’s indifference to the suffering of Yemeni civilians in this conflict is shocking,” Rovera said.
Meanwhile, MSF’s Kleijer on Sunday published testimony from her most recent visit to Taiz, describing the devastating impacts of the siege by warring factions and the unrelenting intervention of military forces.
“A lot of airstrikes happen at night,” Kleijer wrote. “Lying in your bed, you hear the planes circling above the city, then you hear the whistle of a bomb falling, and then you brace yourself for the impact. You hope it’s not your building that going to be hit. And then it hits another building, not your house, so as well as being frightened, you’re also relieved.”
“The noise of the airstrikes is so loud and intense that you can actually feel it in your bones,” Kleijer wrote. “This is what people have been going through every night, for months on end…everything is touched by the war: the children have a game called ‘One two three airstrike’ in which they all fling themselves to the ground.”
The combined Kurdish/Arabic Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) is continuing its advance against the Islamic State (IS) north of Al-Hawl in Hasakah province, yesterday capturing the town of Khatuniyah.
SDF on Their Way to Take Al-Hawl
The SDF have also taken the village of Al-Behera and secured the whole perimeter of nearby Lake Khatuniyah.
As many as 45 x IS Jihadists are reported killed in the latest operations and 2 x IS vehicle bombs destroyed. 2 x IS vehicles with mounted machine guns were also seized.
The immediate target remains Al-Hawl, followed by the IS-held town of Shaddadi on the road to Raqqah.
500 new recruits have just completed training with Liwa Thuwar, an FSA unit in Tall Abyad and are now on their way to join the SDF.
An analysis of the “importance of the Hasakah battle” is, HERE:
Meanwhile, IS bombed the village of Skahrat al-Abed Sheikh yesterday, Tuesday, 25 kilometres south of Tel Abyad on the Turkish border. The mortar shells killed 3 men and a 6 year old boy and wounded 2 others.
At about the same time on Tuesday, Turkish forces shelled the village of Charikli in western Kobani Canton not far from the Syrian/Turkish frontier. No casualties are so far reported.
Over in Iraq, the Peshmerga are reporting that according to their estimates 700 x IS Jihadists have been killed in fighting in the Sinjar area since January, with a loss to the Peshmerga of 40 men. The majority of Sinjar city however, still remains under IS control.
Interesting article on western fighters prepared to fight for the YPG and the Peshmerga both in Syria and Iraq,HERE:
Yesterday the Coalition carried out 11 airstrikes in Syria and and 17 in Iraq. 5 of the Syrian airstrikes struck IS targets around Al-Hawl hitting 4 separate IS tactical units and destroying 8 x IS fighting positions, an IS building, and an IS vehicle bomb.
2 more strikes struck IS positions near Hasakah, with others targeted at Palmyra, Deir Ez-Zour and Mar’a. French aircraft are reported to have taken part in the Deir Ez-Zour attack, hitting an oil distribution station and a gas separation plant.
6 of the 17 airstrikes in Iraq were near Sinjar city, hitting 3 separate IS tactical units and destroying 8 x IS fighting positions, 2 x IS command and control nodes, 3 x IS vehicles, and 18 x IS staging areas.
The main news yesterday, Tuesday, from the rest of Aleppo province was that Assad’s troops strongly aided by waves of Russian bombing, managed to break their way through to Kweires Airbase which has been surrounded by IS Jihadists and under siege for 2 years.
1,000 of Assad’s troops had been trapped in the defunct airbase all that time, holding out against repeated IS attacks. According to Russian sources, the Opposition helped them with co-ordinates for finding IS positions – though there is no knowing how true this is or whether it’s just Russian mischief making.
Hezbollah, who were involved in the battle to take the airbase reported the death of 8 of their fighters, and according to a military source in Aleppo, the Iranians have lost 46 men to fighting in the province since October 1st.
South of Aleppo city the battles between the Opposition and Assad’s forces and allies continues, with Opposition fighters taking control of Khirbet Al-Mahal and the village of Makhalah.
The Opposition also recaptured the villages of Aziziyah, Tel Tlalin and Mamo on Monday, using a field gun against Government forces, HERE:
Kweires Airbase situation map courtesy of @PetoLucem on Twitter, here:
The Syrian Coalition calls on the UN Security Council to include the militant groups trained and funded by Iran, most notably Hezbollah, Abu al Fadl al Abbas Brigade, Fatimiyoun Brigade and Zainabiyon Brigade on the lists terrorist organizations. It also calls for prosecuting its members who have been committing heinous crimes as those committed by other terrorist organizations in Syria.
The Syrian Coalition stated that it will prosecute perpetrators of these crimes before international courts so that they receive the punishment they deserve.
A video published recently on the internet shows elements from Hezbollah al-Nujabaa, an Iraqi Shiite militia linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, setting a Syrian citizen on fire in rural Aleppo. The perpetrators appear to brag the act and hurling sectarian insults at the Syrian people.
Another video shows members of the same militia dragging the body of one of the prisoners behind a truck, his hands tied.
The Syrian Coalition stresses that Hezbollah al-Nujabaa’s lynching, burning and torture of Syrian citizens are acts of terrorism and crimes against humanity and must not go unpunished.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the combined Arabic, Assyrian and Kurdish brigade, announced at the weekend that they had regained around 350 square kilometres of territory from the Islamic State (IS) in just over a week.
Members of the Syrian Democratic Force
The re-captured area is mainly south of Hasakah city and included 36 villages, 10 farms, 2 gas distribution stations and 6 border posts on the Syria/Iraq frontier.
In a statement the SDF said that 178 x IS Jihadists had been killed in the first phase of fighting, 99 of them on the battlefield and 79 by Coalition airstrikes. 13 SDF fighters had died during the same period.
IS were recorded as detonating 17 vehicle bombs, 2 of them exploding on IS territory and the rest hitting SDF positions, although one bomb blast hit a gathering of civilians in Atshan village.
The SDF also seized 2 Dushka heavy machine guns, 5 rocket propelled grenade launchers, 5 other machine guns, 11 rifles, 2 motorbikes, a car bomb, 6 military vehicles and a mortar shell.
Last Saturday, the SDF took control of the Tishreen gas field near Al-hawl, the Chinese company building, the village of Shalala, some grain silos and the road from Tishreen gas field to the Jibisa Oil Field in Hasakah province.
Earlier on Thursday the SDF had liberated the villages of Hanaj and Nasrat south of Hasakah and the farm and its surrounding fields at Ogla Naim.
IS tried to hit the SDF at Ogla Naim with 2 more vehicle bombs on the Shaddadi-Al-Hawl road but they were exploded before reaching their target. You can see one recent SDF strike on a vehicle bomb, HERE:
Also on Thursday the SDF captured the village of Soefaat north-east of Al-Hawl after violent clashes near Lake Khatuniyah and freed the village of Ali Hassan on the road between Hasakah and Al-Hawl, which IS had been using as a strategic base to fire rockets at the SDF. They also destroyed an IS Kornet anti-tank missile launcher and a vehicle bomb at Hinish near Lake Khabur.
The village of Al-Hasbawi was also liberated on Saturday evening. SDF units are now no more than 3 kilometres from the outskirts of Al-Hawl.
A video of the SDF in action, with English sub-titles, is here:
Between the 6th and 8th November, the Coalition are reporting 14 airstrikes on the Al-Hawl area in support of the SDF, destroying 21 x IS fighting positions and 3 vehicles, as well as hitting 12 separate IS tactical units.
There were 9 airstrikes around Hasakah as well during the same time period and many others at Abu Kamal, Deir Ez-Zour, Mar’a and near Washiya in Syria.
Members of the Rojava Peshmerga near Barzan in Iraq Kurdistan
Over in Iraq, the Kurdish Peshmerga continue their attempts to gain control of Sinjar city supported by by 21 Coalition airstrikes from the 6th to the 8th November.
The 4,000 men of the “Rojava Peshmerga”, who were trained and equipped by the Kurdistan Regional Government and Peshmerga in Iraq, are still being prevented from entering Syria to fight the Islamic State by a political dispute with the Syrian Kurdish YPG.
The YPG does not recognise the “Rojava Peshmerga”, which consists mainly of Kurds who defected from Assad’s Army at the beginning of the conflict and is intent on not allowing them back into Rojava, which it considers to be it’s “own territory”, not controlled by any other force.
(EDITOR: Sadly, the Kurds, like every other group in Syria, seem unable to work together to defeat their common enemy – the Islamic State. This just plays into the Jihadists’ hands.
Lastly, 37 Christian Assyrians were released by the Islamic State on Saturday. Those freed were part of a much larger group kidnapped by IS back when they overran the Assyrian villages in the Khabor area south of Hassakah last February.
The released captives were mainly women and the elderly. Another group of 22 had been released in August.
This is not an “act of kindness” by IS. All the captives were only released after long and strenuous negotiations by tribal leaders in Iraq and Syria and the Assyrian Church – plus the payment of a large ransom fee. 140 others are still in IS captivity.