Syrian Coalition to Pay Respects to King’s Abdullah Family

President Khoja will lead a delegation to Saudi Arabia tomorrow to pay respects to the Saudi royal family upon the death of King Abdullah. Khoja sent today a letter of condolences to the new king Salman Bin upon the death of King Abdullah earlier today. “King Abdullah passed away, after leaving behind an enduring legacy with great achievements that will outlive him for many years to come,” Khoja said. “The Arab and Islamic nation lost a great man and a symbol of pride in these difficult conditions. We are confident that Saudi Arabia will remain an irreplaceable cornerstone for the pride of Arabs and Muslims worldwide, and that it will continue under the leadership of King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz who is committed to support the rights of the Arab peoples to regain their freedom and dignity.”

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 23.01.2015)

KOBANE UPDATE 45: KURDS RECAPTURE MARKET AREA & ISLAMIC SCHOOL, WHILE FSA LEAD SOUTHERN ADVANCE

By Peter Clifford            ©                    (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-4/)

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

On Wednesday, the 129th day of the defence of Kobane, the YPG and its allies carried out several operations overnight into Thursday, regaining more territory in the east and north-east of the city.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

The Remains of the Municipal Area and Square in Kobane

The Islamic State were pushed out of areas in the market, Souk Al-Hal district, Dibistana Resh and the industrial area near Sinayi.

The IS Jihadists tried to prevent any further Kurdish advance by planting mines and booby traps in vacated buildings, but no YPG casualties were recorded.

Another street was retaken in the Dibistana Resh district and the Mislax and Gaziya Heci Mehmud areas of north-east Kobane have also been liberated. Around half of the Sinayi district is now under YPG control.

At least 9 IS Jihadists were killed in these operations and an AK-47, a RPG-7 rocket launcher and a PK machine gun captured.

On Wednesday evening, the Islamic State tried to regain lost territory on Mishenour Hill and attacked it from 3 directions, but were repulsed with the loss of 8 of their men.

YPG gains after these clashes were 7 x AK-47s, 32 AK-47 magazines, another RPG-7 rocket launcher and numerous bullets, hand grenades and home-made mines.

The advance previously reported on the southern front (scroll down – see below) around the national hospital still under construction, was a joint YPG and Free Syrian Army (FSA) operation. The FSA’s Al_Raqqah Brigade can be seen storming the unfinished hospital, here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgJ3npRyymw

Following IS’s forced withdrawal from the southern front, the Kurdish forces made gains of tanks, 106 mm cannon, mortars and heavy machine guns.

2 YPG were reported killed in the operations on Wednesday through Thursday, with a total of 26 x IS Jihadists killed.

Significantly, an Islamic State Emir, Sultan Safar Harbi was said to have been killed in eastern Kobane on Wednesday. Initially injured in the fighting, reports say he was then evacuated from the city in a vehicle, which was subsequently struck by a Coalition aircraft and all its occupants destroyed.

With the Kurdish Peshmerga now holding the higher ground around Kobane, it is easier for them to target specific IS areas, groups, positions and vehicles, as well as give more accurate co-ordinates to the Coalition aircraft.

Peshmerga forces have shelled IS-held Mukteli on the south-east edge of Kobane city limits and which sits on another key Islamic State supply road coming from the south.

Very latest news from Kobane this lunchtime, Friday, is that the Kurds have recaptured the Islamic School and 3 streets surrounding it in the centre of the eastern sector of the city.  More detail awaited.

US Central Command (Enctcom) reports 10 Coalition airstrikes near Kobane on Tuesday and another 9 on Wednesday. Altogether, a total of 30 x IS fighting positions were destroyed, 8 x IS fighter staging posts, and 3 x IS vehicles. In addition 13 x IS tactical units were hit and another large IS unit. (EDITOR: Things are getting very hot around there!)

Here is the latest Kobane situation map, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, (note new scale as field of operation widens) here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

Kobane Situation Map 23.01.15

DEFECTIONS OF ISLAMIC STATE FIGHTERS REPORTED FROM RAQQAH, WHILE COALITION STRIKES IN SYRIA KILL 1278 OF THEM IN 4 MONTHS:

More cracks may be appearing in the façade of Islamic State “domination”.

Reports from their Syrian “capital”, Raqqah, say that some IS fighters defected on Wednesday and when leaving the city they freed a number of prisoners from the city jail.

The “Raqqah is Being Slaughtered Silently” campaign has reported that between 10 and 15 men, thought to be mainly Saudi Arabian nationals, went to Raqqah jail and released 6 members of the Al-Nusra Front held there, also believed to be Saudis, as well as some local people, before making their escape.

The defectors are thought to be friends of the 2 x IS fighters, again both Saudis, who were executed by the Islamic State last week for “treason”.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

Islamic State Members Stoning a Woman to Death in Raqqah

In response to these events, the Islamic State authorities imposed a curfew on Wednesday night and set up several additional checkpoints around the city.

EDITOR: How anyone can willingly live under the rules of the Islamic State is beyond me.

According to their “penal code” published recently, anyone who blasphemes against Allah, the prophet Mohammed or Islam will be killed.

“Adulterers” will be stoned to death and both parties in a homosexual relationship will also be killed.

The list continues with penalties for other crimes including losing limbs, lashes and crucifixion. You can read more in the Independent Syria news.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) says that Coalition airstrikes have killed 1,278 x IS Jihadists in Syria in the last 4 months with hundreds more wounded.

The airstrikes are also reported to have killed 73 fighters from the Al-Nusra Front (ANF) as well, plus 56 civilians, including 8 children and 5 women, either living with or near ANF fighters or working for IS in the oil-fields.

43 Syrian civilians killed by Assad barrel-bomb raid

‘Some of the bodies were so mutilated by the strikes that people couldn’t tell the human from the animal remains': rights monitor

Syrian refugees, who fled their homes due to the attacks of Assad’s forces, try to hold on to life under harsh living conditions at the Atmeh refugee camp in Idlib, Syria on 12 January, 2015

At least 43 civilians were killed and 150 wounded in a Syrian government air raid targeting the Islamic State (IS) group in the northeast, a monitoring group said on Wednesday, updating an earlier toll.

“The strikes hit a cattle market in the Tal Hamis area, which is controlled by IS,” said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a wide network of activists and doctors for its reports.

Previously it had said 27 people were killed in the Tuesday raid.

Tal Hamis lies in Hasakeh province which is mainly controlled by Kurdish militia or forces backing president Bashar al-Assad, but where IS militants hold some areas.

The Syrian Revolution General Commission, which represents a unified coalition of opposition groups that aim to establish a democratic government, said at least 65 people were killed in the attack.

“The barrel bomb attack turned the market into a lake of blood. The bodies of the victims could not be identified due to the severe bomb explosion. The victims included women and children,” the commission said in a statement.

The pro-government newspaper Al-Watan said dozens of IS members were killed in the operation south of Tal Hamis.

IS militants “have been using the cattle market as a base for trafficking illegally pumped oil,” it said.

Assad’s government is reportedly among those buying oil from IS.

IS controls a number of oil fields in eastern Syria and Washington says they provide the group with significant revenue.

The militants’ black market oil infrastructure has been repeatedly targeted by US-led air strikes.

“There are daily regime and (US-led) coalition airstrikes against IS positions in Hasakeh,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

Tuesday’s bombing was especially deadly because it struck a cattle market.

“Some of the bodies were so mutilated by the strikes that people couldn’t tell the human from the animal remains,” said Abdel Rahman.

Earlier Tuesday, the Observatory reported a string of airstrikes against the town of Saraqeb and the village of Sheikh Mustafa in the northwestern province of Idlib.

Eleven civilians were killed in Saraqeb, and another man died in Sheikh Mustafa, according to the group.

Most of Idlib’s countryside is out of government control, but its capital remains in government hands.

Syria’s civil war began in March 2011 as a peaceful protest movement inspired by the pro-democracy Arab Spring and demanding the overthrow of Assad, but morphed into a brutal war after pro-Assad forces unleashed a massive crackdown against dissent.

The war has resulted in the deaths of an estimated 200,000 people, and displaced roughly half of the country’s population, according to the UN.

The majority of fatalities are reportedly of civilians, primarily killed by pro-Assad forces, although other groups are also implicated.

(Source / 23.01.2015)

Khoja and FSA General Staff Meet Establish Nucleus for a National Army

President Khoja discussed the political and military situation in Syria during a meeting with the FSA’s Supreme Military Council (SMC) held today in the Turkish city of Gaziantep. The meeting discussed mechanisms of establishing safe havens in northern and southern of Syria and ways to integrate the revolutionary and military forces into the SMC to create a central force that represents the nucleus of a national army. Conferees stressed that any negotiations with the Assad regime or the rest of the opposition spectra must be kept under fundamental principles of the Syrian revolution and take into account the international resolutions on Syria which calls for the formation of a transitional governing body and with full executive powers. Khoja points to the need to restructure the SMC to include professional senior and NCOs and also the rebels who take up arms and push regime forces out of the many areas across Syria.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 22.01.2015)

Syrian Coalition Questions Assad’s Declaration of his Entire Chemical Weapons Cache

The Organization of Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said on Monday that the Assad regime began destroying the remaining chemical weapons facilities in the country this weekend, although the bad weather has slowed down the process.” Political committee member Badr Jamous raises doubts about Assad’s claims that he has declared all of his stockpiles of chemical weapons as it has been proven that his troops continue to use toxic chlorine gas in many places across Syria, mostly in the Jobar neighborhood of Damascus. Jamous points out the international community’s lukewarm response to Assad’s gassing of civilians in Eastern Ghouta on August 21, 2013 shocked us deeply as this is the most horrific crime of the twenty-first century. The United States withdrew the threat of the use of force against the Assad regime and shirked its humanitarian and international obligations when Obama’s administration agreed to deal with the Assad regime to give up his chemical weapons cache. The Assad regime saw this a green light to commit more crimes against the Syrian people. “Rather than reaching settlements with Assad at the expense of the Syrian people, the international community should have punished him for gassing hundreds of civilians in the Ghouta chemical attack. It important to note that the UN Security Council’s resolution whereby Assad’s stockpiles of chemical weapons will be destroyed remains largely unimplemented. Residents in Damascus and leaders in the Free Syrian Army said that the Assad regime removed stockpiles of weapons from his declared facilities and hid them underground in at least five different locations near the capital.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 21.01.2015)

Syrian Coalition Drafts a Document for a Political Settlement

The Syrian Coalition’s political committee has approved a draft document containing “the basic principles for a political settlement in Syria.” The 13-item document lays out a road map for a political solution in Syria and the parameters to resume the negotiation process that stalled in the Geneva II conference. The document was written to restart negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations from the point at which they stopped during the Geneva II Conference in February 2014 and in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions. The document also states that the goal of the negotiations is to implement the Geneva I communique, starting from the formation of a transitional governing body with full executive powers. This will allow the President of the Republic to bring about radical and comprehensive change to the political system including removing the head of the regime and its symbols and his security forces, and the establishing a pluralistic civil system.

Moreover, the document details the functions and responsibilities of the transitional governing body down to the drafting of the constitution, the holding of elections and reforming state institutions. The document states that halting the bombing of civilians is a prerequisite for the resumption of the negotiation process.

Related to this, President Khaled Khoja and Political Committee Member Khatib Badla, met with Mona Ghanem, Building the Syrian State Movement Envoy today in Istanbul and laid out a specific framework for conducting comprehensive intra-opposition dialogue.

The Syrian Coalition delegation will be headed by Hisham Marwa – VP, Salah Darwish – Political Committee Member, Qasim al-Khatib – General Assembly Member, for the meeting with the National Coordination Commission in Cairo. The meeting comes as part of the Syria/Syrian dialogue initiated by the Syrian Coalition with other opposition blocs and figures. The draft document of “the basic principles for a political settlement in Syria” will be the focus of discussions between the two sides during the upcoming meetings. The meetings will also discuss the memorandum of understanding drawn out in the past few days.

Vice President Hisham Marwa said that the Syrian Coalition’s delegation may meet with officials at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to discuss the efforts to hold a consultative meeting between the Syrian opposition blocs to unite their positions in a way that serves the revolution.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 20.01.2015)

Iraq: ISIS leader Baghdadi injured, stays in Syria

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has been wounded in Al-Qa’im

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has been wounded in an airstrike in Iraq’s northwestern town of al-Qa’im along the border with Syria, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi told the pan-ArabAl-Hayat newspaper on Tuesday.

“His survival was a miracle,” said Abadi, adding that Baghdadi has since “moved to another location.”

The ISIS leader is “sometimes present in Mosul, but most of the time he’s in Syria, not Iraq,” the prime minster said.

The threat posed by ISIS has led to some countries, particularly in the West, muting their demands to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Abadi said.

While ISIS is no longer a threat to Baghdad, a regular army will not be able to confront it if it manages to recruit thousands of youths, he said.

ISIS has turned its sights on Kurdistan after realizing that it could not reach southern Iraq, the prime minister added.

Relations with Turkey are strained because Ankara considers the Kurdistan Workers’ Party as much a threat as ISIS, if not more, Abadi said.

Relations with the Kurdistan region “are good, and there’s coordination on the security, military and economic levels. There’s also a relation of mutual trust,” he said.

“However, I’m very frank with the brother Kurds. I’ve told them that if they continue to adopt that previous approach… of taking what they can from Iraqi lands until they achieve separation, then they must be clear. And if they’re willing to stay in Iraq, we’re willing to share bread.”

On Izzat al-Douri’s whereabouts, Abadi said he did not think the former assistant of late President Saddam Hussein was present in Iraq.

“If he had been in Iraq, he would’ve been caught a long time ago. I think he’s in another country,” the prime minister said.

(Source / 20.01.2015)

Iranian general, son of ex-Hezbollah leader, killed in Israeli airstrike in Syria

Reuters / Ronen Zvulun

Iran has confirmed the death of a general with the Revolutionary Guard in an Israeli helicopter strike, carried out in Syria.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Gen. Allahdadi martyred in tonight’s Israeli attack in along w/ commanders

The confirmation came in a statement published Monday on the website of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

READ MORE: Israel strikes Hezbollah convoy in Syria

At the time of the attack, General Allahdadi was on an assignment, giving “crucial advice” to the Syrian armed forces, battling extremists.

Iranain Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told local media that the helicopter attack was “an act of terror,” and issued a strong condemnation, Press TV reported.

View image on Twitter

This is commander Col. Muhammad Allah Dadi, killed yesterday in strike

According to the media report, the attack on Sunday, near the city of El Quneitra, killed six Iranian Revolutionary Guard officials.

Among them was a son of an ex-Hezbollah commander.

Local media say that their car was en route from Lebanon to Syria when it was targeted by an Israeli helicopter.

“Following the Zionist aggressions against the resistance in Syria, General Mohammad Allahdadi, a former commander of the Sarollah Brigade of the Revolutionary Guard, was martyred along with Jihad Moughniyah and three others in the same car,” the Dana news website said, referring to the son of Hezbollah’s late military leader, Imad Moughniyah.

Hezbollah officials on Monday vowed retaliation after the attack, various media in the region are reporting.

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Google Maps

READ MORE: Hezbollah reserves right to retaliate against Israeli attacks on Syria

A source close to Hezbollah told Lebanese daily Al-Safir that they “will not rush to decide what steps should be taken” in response to the assassination of Jihad Moughniyah.

Newspaper Al-Akhbar wrote Monday that the group “will launch between 4,000-5,000 rockets at Israel and will destroy hundreds of targets per day.”

“The enemy’s leadership made a decision to carry out a crime,” the paper continued, adding that “this is more proof that Israel is involved in the fighting in Syria. This is work that is not based on emotion or petty score-settling.”

Hezbollah has been allied with Iran in Syria, where it helped President Bashar Assad fight an Islamist insurgency.

READ MORE: ‘Heinous crime’: Syria urges UN to sanction Israel over Damascus airstrikes

Mughniyeh, 25, was the commander of a Hezbollah unit fighting Islamic State and other jihadist groups.

Mughniyeh’s father was killed in a 2008 car bombing in Lebanon, which was widely suspected to be the work of Israel.

(Source / 19.01.2015)

Yemen and Syria: Making the Same Mistakes Twice

Retired U.S. General John Allen, special envoy for building the coalition against Islamic State, speaks to the media during a news conference at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad January 14, 2015

The recent statement from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen claiming responsibility for directing the brutal Paris attack should refocus some attention on the shortsighted approach of current US counterterrorism efforts across the region. AQAP is gaining steam in Yemen, illustrated by Wednesday’s suicide bombing in the heart of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, killing at least thirty-three and wounding more than seventy. While the group has not yet claimed responsibility, it bears the hallmark of its increasingly frequent attacks and offers a painful reminder of the persistent jihadist terrorist threat. Lest Washington forget, this threat is not confined to Iraq and Syria, where US attention is currently focused, but also in the dusty, distant lands of Yemen, where the United States has been engaged in a decade-long fight against AQAP. Yet both the Yemen and Syria campaigns exhibit similar, fatal flaws of the current US approach.

In both Yemen and Syria, the United States has single-mindedly focused on killing suspected militants. Yet it is far from clear that this approach has meaningfully weakened the jihadist threat. In fact, reports from the ground indicate the opposite is true. This trend will not change unless US policy begins to account for local realities and the broader political contexts in which AQAP and the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) emerged. The jihadists thrive, not merely because US air strikes have not killed enough of them, but because they are embedded in toxic political environments and complex civil conflicts. Without policies that help address these underlying issues, the continued reliance on air strikes alone make US policy part of the problem rather than the solution.

When President Barack Obama referred to Yemen as a ‘model’ in a September 10, 2014 speech outlining the campaign against ISIS, Yemen-watchers from Washington to Sana’a groaned in unison. Yemen is barely surviving renewed political upheaval amid a Houthi incursion into the capital of Sana’a, a reinvigorated Southern secessionist movement, and fighting between competing tribal groups—all of which are exacerbated by US drone strikes. Even while a US-backed political transition was underway in Yemen since 2011, AQAP has continued to grow, key leaders remain at large, and jihadists continue to kidnap Yemeni military officials and foreigners. The US-Yemeni campaign against AQAP in Abyan in 2012 managed to push jihadists out of local strongholds, but did not deal them a fatal blow. After licking their wounds, AQAP affiliates have reemerged strengthened in other governorates and specific threats over the summerprompted closure of the US Embassy and evacuation of staff. The US whack-a-mole approach may produce the appearance of short-term wins, but these gains are not sustained.

US air strikes also generate widespread hostility toward the United States, and erode the credibility of President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi and his government among Yemeni citizens, who see such cooperation as an infringement on their sovereignty. Yemenis deeply resent drone strikes that inevitably kill civilians without addressing the very real security threats that citizens experience daily. With little transparency about who is being targeted and why, a generation of Yemenis now see the United States as responsible for killing innocent community members, adding fuel to the fire of extremist ideology. This policy builds a powerful anti-American narrative that both AQAP and the Houthi movement have seized upon. US efforts create new enemies each day and do little to build the credibility and trust in government institutions that ultimately need to provide the basic security and economic opportunity that would undercut the appeal of jihadist rhetoric.

US air strikes in Yemen also fail to account for local conflict dynamics that contribute to basic security failures and undermine state legitimacy. Consumed by the fight against AQAP, the United States has pursued a narrow agenda and have insufficiently considered the impact of other security problems, including the aggressive behavior of both the Houthi and Salafist movements in the north and militants rising in the south. Given the growing sectarian narrative in Yemen between the Iranian-backed Shia Houthi movement and Saudi-backed Salafis and Sunni tribal groups, it easy for Yemenis to see the United States as taking sides, with US drone strikes against AQAP viewed as benefiting the Houthis and, therefore, Iranian interests. This inevitably fuels perceptions that the United States is working with Shia forces to undermine Sunni interests.

Yemen is a tough environment, and there are few good policy options, but we should not gloss over the real costs of the current US approach, reminiscent of another problematic anti-jihadist strategy in the region. While drawing parallels between complex policy issues is always risky, there are indeed striking similarities between the US approach in Yemen and now against ISIS in Syria and Iraq—and depressingly similar flaws and consequences.

The US air campaign against ISIS in Syria is arguably even more destabilizing. Rather than working with Syrian partners with demonstrated military capability against jihadists, the United States ignores local actors and strikes ISIS alone. In doing so, it dismisses opportunities to gather valuable local intelligence, establish credible allies, and help build alternatives to ISIS other than a tyrannical regime or complete security vacuum—thereby all but guaranteeing that jihadists will reemerge.

Worse, this single-minded air campaign against jihadists, divorced from the wider context of the Syrian conflict that gave rise to them, has perverse effects on our ostensible allies in Syria—the moderate opposition that alone is able to offer a viable alternative to jihadist rule in Syria. Firstly, these air strikes kill innocents, implicating by association US-aligned rebel groups in the death of Syrian civilians.

Additionally, even as US aircraft fly sorties over Syria, regime aircraft continue to bomb Syrian civilians from the same air space. At the same time, the United States has gone to great lengths to clarify that ending these atrocities by an Alawite-dominated regime is not a priority; killing Sunni jihadists is. Ironically, the regime benefiting from the airstrikes is not even a US partner as in Yemen, but one that the United States has declared as illegitimate and demanded step aside.

Similar to Yemen, these air strikes and their targets are shrouded in ambiguity, leaving Syrians to guess as to who is bombing them at any one point: the United States or the regime. Understandably, a growing number of Syrians believe the United States is working with the Syrian regime to destroy the opposition. For its part, the regime is increasingly confident that the US focus on ISIS—and ISIS alone—will compel the United States to make terms with Assad. As in Yemen, locals whom the United States needs as partners against jihadists believe that US policy favors their enemies.

Worst of all is the impact the narrow ISIS campaign has had on inter-rebel dynamics on the ground. In its single-minded focus on killing jihadists, the United States has ignored its local allies’ pleas for serious military support against these same jihadists, while simultaneously (and publicly) calling on them to fight ISIS. Additionally, the US appears to be bombing jihadists with whom its opposition allies have opportunistically aligned to fight the regime, in the absence of meaningful US military support for their struggle. The result is that the ‘ISIS only’ campaign has provoked attacks by powerful jihadist groups on our only potential partners against them.

In addition to undermining our allies and the long-term political stability of their countries, US policy continues to show disregard for the impact of civilian deaths on popular perceptions toward the United States. In Yemen, compensation for families of non-combatants killed by US airstrikes has been opaque and inconsistent. In Syria, where US airstrikes have killed at least one hundred civilians in a few weeks, the United States has declared it will not compensate victims’ families at all. In Syria, the refusal to coordinate with forces on the ground further compromises any US ability to correctly identify targets and help avoid civilian deaths. In both places, the United States lacks reliable, consistent, high-quality intelligence assets on the ground, which contributes to the likelihood of targeting mistakes and civilian casualties. This approach is morally and strategically bankrupt.

It is not that US air strikes and kinetic counterterrorism operations cannot be useful against jihadists in Yemen and Syria, of course. Nor are air strikes unequivocally and universally opposed even by Yemenis and Syrians. Syrian opposition members say they would welcome air strikes against their jihadist enemies, and even accept inevitable civilian casualties, provided that they are incurred to free Syria from both the regime and ISIS as part of an effort in which Syrians are partners.

Nor is it the case that the United States faces a choice between ‘easy’ counterterrorism consistent with a ‘realist’ foreign policy, and quixotic efforts to strengthen anti-jihadist forces. There is nothing realistic or economical about an endless, clumsy campaign of killings that undermine the political circumstances essential to fighting extremists. Anti-jihadist strategy urgently needs to account for local dynamics and the long-term political and economic health of the countries in which groups like AQAP and ISIS thrive. Otherwise, the United States will find itself with few if any allies—and plenty of enemies—in both Yemen and Syria.

(Source / 18.01.2015)

President Khoja Addresses the Syrian People

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Speech
Khaled Khoja
President of the Syrian National Coalition
January 18, 2015

Dear Syrian brothers:

I extend my greetings to you over every nation and under every star.
I extend my greetings to Syria, its men, women, homes, the elderly and children.
I extend my greetings to the fighters in the trenches of heroism and honor on all fronts.
I extend my greetings to our people and brothers who are remaining steadfast in the besieged areas, who are suffering from the regime’s brutality, harsh conditions and the inaction of friends and allies.

I extend my greetings to our people in the liberated areas, who are reeling under aerial bombardment and barrel bombing. In Daraa, Quneitra, Ghout, Qalamoun, Homs, Hama, Aleppo and Idlib, they have created a new life out of nothing, and have proven the genius of Syrians and their ability to create and their determination to win.

I extend my greetings to our people remaining steadfast in the areas ruled by the terrorist gang ISIS, in Raqqa and Deir Ezzor, and who have shown unshakeable faith in freedom and dignity, and are waiting for the day of salvation.

I extend my greetings to the refugees in camps, who are suffering harsh life conditions, rigors of nature, and the inaction of sister nations and the betrayal of the international community, and also to Syrian expatriates and asylum seekers who have not forgotten their people and their homeland and will never forget.

I extend my greetings to the souls of the fallen heroes who sacrificed their lives for freedom, and we pray for a speedy recovery to the wounded and injured.

Dear Syrians, we in the Syrian Coalition are embarking on new phase, fully aware of the weight of the burden placed on us and of the size of the expectations held by the revolutionary and opposition forces who are waiting to see a big leap forward.

We promise to do our best and not to shirk the responsibility assigned to us, and we are determined to do so, provided that you give us your support and trust. We are also aware of the need for greater integration between you and the Syrian Coalition to make it an all-inclusive national institution around which all of us must rally and support.

I promise that the next stage will be new in every sense, set by you, guided by your vision, designed to achieve your aspirations, one that accepts what you accept, and refuses what you refuse to accomplish the revolutions’ first slogan “The People Want.”

O Syrians:
I testify to you and tell the whole world on your behalf:
The oppression and criminality that has long perched on the chest of Damascus, choking its jasmines, will come to an end just like how despotic regimes were toppled before it. Assad’s importing of foreign sectarian gangs and hiring mercenaries from everywhere in the world to kill our people is an unmistakable sign that he is gasping for breath.

We will not allow the regime’s life be prolonged or it be reproduced under any slogan or pretext, otherwise it will go on with the killing of our people.

Our homeland will be spared destruction only through ridding Assad’s oppressive regime, and no political solution will materialize if it does not lead to the departure of the head of the regime and his thuggish cronies.

We will not allow the goals of the revolution to be circumvented by any initiative for negations, which we see as a means to an end, namely to bring about real and full transition of power in Syria.

Our revolutionary and national project aimed at building a modern civil state, based on equity, justice and pluralism, under constitutional life and the rule of law, and for which heroic sacrifices have been made, will only materialize by our own efforts.

Therefore, I call on all revolutionary factions to unify and close ranks, and coordinate with the interim Ministry of Defense as a first step towards establishing a Syrian national army. I also call upon all rebel fighters to stay away from extremism and to adhere to moderation which has always characterized the Syrian national identity. I also appeal to every Syrian for the support we need to regain the initiative and face the upcoming relief, political and military challenges and needs. We assure you that the Syrian Coalition will remain open to constructive criticism that aims to correct the mistakes and encourage consultation.

Dear brothers in the Jabal al-Arab, Mount al-Sheikh, Salamiya Masyaf, Tartus and Latakia:
Dear Christians and Muslims of all sects and creeds,
Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen and Assyrians,
Assyrians, Circassians, Armenians,
All Syrians:

Change Syria is well underway, and you, the ancestors of the fallen heroes who gave their lives for Syria’s independence, are the only ones capable of bringing about this change. Today your sons are giving their lives to regain their freedom. The homeland is calling on you in order to rebuild it and make it prosperous. We are determined not to let the murderous regime sow fear and hatred among the components of the people. No bearer of burdens shall bear another’s burden, and no one should be apprehensive of the future of Syria except the criminals themselves.

I say to those whose will was robbed by the Assad regime which deluded them into believing that it is their savior and recruited some of them to fight alongside it, but found themselves dying for murderers: Isn’t it time to wake up?! We assure you the Assad’s murderous regime will not have any future in Syria, and your future lies only with the revolution and among us.

Dear Syrians,
Our religion has taught us that he who does not thank people does not thank God. On your behalf, I would like to gratefully thank whoever gave us a helping hand or with a favor, whether they are organizations, individuals, governments or leaders.

I extend special thanks to the people and governments of Syria’s neighboring countries for bearing the burden of hosting millions of Syrians who were forced to flee their homes.

My brothers in Syria: Victory is but one more hour of patient perseverance.
Victory will be on the side of a revolution that has proved it is unbeatable.
Peace, mercy and blessings of God.

Click here to Watch Youtube Video of Mr. Khaled Khoja’s speech to the Syrian people.

(Source / 18.01.2015)