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Trump Promises Strike on Syria and Warns Russia Against …

That kind of damage, though, would require a sustained campaign likely over a number of days. It was unclear whether the United States, France and other allies involved have made a decision to extend a bombing campaign beyond one night.

But the presidents subsequent tweet struck a different tone. After he warned Russia what it would be up against in Syria, Mr. Trump lamented that relations between the two countries were worse than during the Cold War, a decades-long geopolitical and ideological rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union when both were armed for, and prepared for, nuclear war.

Russia has blamed the suspected chemical attacks on the Syrian opposition forces. On Wednesday, Maria Zakharova, the Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, said that if the American missiles were so smart then they should hit terrorists and not government targets. She also suggested in a posting on Facebook that the missile attack might destroy evidence of the use of chemical weapons.

Mr. Trump has been critical of Russia and its president, Vladimir V. Putin, for supporting the Syrian regime, led by Bashar al-Assad, believed to be behind the suspected chemical weapons attack on April 7 that has left dozens dead.

The attack on Saturday in the Damascus suburb of Douma has not been confirmed to be the result of a chemical weapon.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Wednesday that the United States is still assessing the intelligence on the suspected chemical attack, but that military planning was proceeding.

We stand ready to provide military options if theyre appropriate, as the president determined, he said.

The World Health Organization said on Wednesday that there were reports of about 500 people in the Damascus suburb of Douma who have symptoms similar to people exposed to toxic chemicals. It said about 70 people had died while taking shelter in basements and 43 of them had signs of being exposed to highly toxic chemicals.

Mr. Trumps comments about poor relations with Russia echoed what the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said recently in response to the wave of diplomatic expulsions of Russians from the United States and other countries, according to a Reuters report. The expulsions were a coordinated response to the poisoning in Britain of a former Russian spy and his daughter. Since then, analysts have said the Balkans could become a battleground for a new Cold War.

The tough talk on Russia, when it comes to Syria, is a strikingly different tone for Mr. Trump, who has long pushed for improved relations with the Kremlin. Recently, Mr. Trump praised Mr. Putin for his re-election and even invited him to the White House.

Later on Wednesday morning, Mr. Trump clarified his assessment of the poor relations with Russia in another tweet, blaming the decline in Washington-Moscow ties on the ongoing investigation into Russias meddling in the 2016 election.

Russia has been a dominant theme during Mr. Trumps entire presidency, particularly with the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russias election interference.

The president repeated his frustrations about the ongoing inquiry, which he said was led by Democrats or others who worked for former President Barack Obama.

Earlier this week, the F.B.I. raided the offices and hotel room of Mr. Trumps personal attorney, Michael D. Cohen, enraging the president, who called it an attack on our country in a true sense. Mr. Trump, however, has not used similarly strong language about Russias election activities which started as early as 2014.

When it comes to Syria, however, Mr. Trump has blamed Mr. Putin for supporting the Syrian regime. Mr. Trump called the suspected chemical attack a barbaric act and suggested Mr. Putin bears some responsibility. He may, and if he does, its going to be very tough, very tough, Mr. Trump said on Monday. Everybodys going to pay a price. He will, everybody will.

After Mr. Trumps series of tweets Wednesday morning, Mr. Putins spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said, We dont participate in Twitter diplomacy. We advocate serious approaches. Mr. Peskovs comments were reported by the Interfax news agency.

Mr. Trump canceled a planned trip to Latin America later this week in order to oversee an American response to Syria, the White House said. And the president met with his military commanders on Monday to discuss options.

But publicly discussing American military plans is in contrast to how he has said he would conduct himself as commander in chief.

During tensions with North Korea in April of 2017, he said in an interview on Fox & Friends that he would not say whether he would order a strike if the rogue nation continued conducting missile tests.

I dont want to telegraph what I am doing or what I am thinking, Mr. Trump said. I am not like other administrations, where they say, We are going to do this in four weeks. It doesnt work that way. Well see what happens.

That was the kind of message that Mr. Trump repeatedly delivered as a presidential candidate, mocking former President Barack Obama for giving adversaries too much information by setting timelines for withdrawal from combat zones.

And, indeed, while he has not set a public withdrawal deadline for American forces in Syria the way Mr. Obama did for other combat zones, just last week Mr. Trump set a private one that quickly became public when he told military commanders that ideally he wanted to pull troops out of Syria within a few months.

While Mr. Trumps tweet did not disclose the exact date and time of an American missile strike, Mr. Assads allies are lining up to back the Syrian regime.

The top adviser to Irans supreme leader said on Wednesday that Tehran would support Damascus against any foreign aggression, Irans state television reported.

Iran backs Syria in its fight against America and the Zionist regime, Ali Akbar Velayati, the supreme leaders adviser, told state television during a visit to eastern Ghouta in Syria. Iranian officials call Israel the Zionist regime. Mr. Velayati said of the United States, Their habit is to threaten constantly and the only thing they know how to do is bombing, havent Syria and Iran been bombed before?

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April 11, 2018  Tags:   Posted in: Syria  Comments Closed

Russia accuses Israel of attack on air base in Syria

Israeli jets carried out airstrikes on a major air base in central Syria early today, according to Russia’s defense ministry.

Two Israeli F-15 jets launched eight guided rockets from Lebanese airspace, targeting the T4 air base in Homs before Syrian air defenses shot down several of the rockets, Russia said.

Syrian state TV SANA reported that there had been casualties at the base, but Russia said no Russian military advisers were hurt in the attack. Five Iranian nationals were killed in the attack, the Iranian Tasnim News Agency reported.

The airstrikes come a day after a suspected chemical attack in Douma, a rebel-held area near Damascus, over the weekend.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said there was no evidence of a chemical weapons attack, adding that Russian specialists and humanitarian workers had visited the area after rebel fighters evacuated following a deal with the Syrian government.

Both the United States and France had threatened a response over the suspected use of chemical weapons, with President Donald Trump and President Emmanuel Macron issuing a statement Sunday vowing to “coordinate a strong, joint response.”

But both countries denied any involvement in todays airstrikes. The Israel Defense Forces has declined to comment.

At this time, the Department of Defense is not conducting air strikes inside Syria. However we continue to closely watch the situation and support the ongoing diplomatic efforts to hold those who use chemical weapons, in Syria and otherwise, accountable, the Pentagon said in a statement.

On Saturday night, activists and doctors in the town of Douma said dozens of Syrians had been killed after a suspected gas attack near an opposition hospital.

Images and videos, which cannot be independently verified, showed dozens of bodies, including children and women, many with foam streaming from the nose and mouth.

Footage shot inside a hospital where people exposed to the attack showed children and men shaking and having apparent seizures.

Doctors at the hospital told journalists via WhatsApp that in addition to spasms and secretions from the mouth and nose, they had also treated patients with miosis, or constriction of the pupil, all of which are symptoms consistent with exposure to nerve agents.

More than 500 cases had been brought to doctors in local medical centers after the incident in Douma, the Syrian American Medical Society said.

On Sunday, in response to the reports of the alleged chemical attack on Douma, saying Russia and Iran were responsible for backing Animal Assad and warning there would be a big price to pay.

He also called for the area to be immediately open to humanitarian and medical assistance to treat the wounded.

In February, Israel confirmed it had carried out a raid over Syria, in a rare admission of action.

The airstrikes targeted Syrian air defenses and resulted in an Israeli jets being downed during the mission, after an Iranian drone was launched into Israeli territory, according to Israeli Air Force Brig. Gen. Tomer Bar.

The pilots of the downed jet were able to parachute to safety before the craft crashed in northern Israel, Bar said.

The raid was the most significant attack since the 1982 Lebanon War, according to Bar.

Israel is said to have carried out around 200 airstrikes on Hezbollah and Syrian targets inside Syria since the start of the war, according to The New Yorkers Robin Wright. The vast majority arent officially claimed by the Israeli military.

On April 4, 2017, a suspected chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun, a rebel-held town in Idlib province, killed more than 100 Syrians and injured many more.

Two days later, Trump ordered an attack on the Syrian military base from which the chemical weapons were believed to have been launched. Fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles launched from U.S. Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea targeted the Shayrat Air Base in Homs.

Speaking after the Khan Sheikhoun attack, Trump condemned the use of chemical weapons and blamed his predecessor, President Obama:

These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administrations weakness and irresolution. President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing.

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Syria | History, People, & Maps | Britannica.com

Syria, country located on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea in southwestern Asia. Its area includes territory in the Golan Heights that has been occupied by Israel since 1967. The present area does not coincide with ancient Syria, which was the strip of fertile land lying between the eastern Mediterranean coast and the desert of northern Arabia. The capital is Damascus (Dimashq), on the Barad River, situated in an oasis at the foot of Mount Qsiyn.

After Syria gained its independence in 1946, political life in the country was highly unstable, owing in large measure to intense friction between the countrys social, religious, and political groups. In 1970 Syria came under the authoritarian rule of Pres. Hafiz al-Assad, whose foremost goals included achieving national security and domestic stability and recovering the Syrian territory lost to Israel in 1967. Assad committed his country to an enormous arms buildup, which put severe strains on the national budget, leaving little for development. After Assads death in 2000, his son Bashar al-Assad became president. Despite some early steps toward political reform, Bashar al-Assad ultimately continued his fathers authoritarian style of government, using Syrias powerful military and security services to quash political dissent. Long-suppressed internal tensions led to the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in 2011.

Syria is bounded by Turkey to the north, by Iraq to the east and southeast, by Jordan to the south, and by Lebanon and Israel to the southwest.

Syria has a relatively short coastline, which stretches for about 110 miles (180 km) along the Mediterranean Sea between the countries of Turkey and Lebanon. Sandy bays dent the shore, alternating with rocky headlands and low cliffs. North of ars, the narrow coastal strip is interrupted by spurs of the northwestern Al-Anariyyah Mountains immediately to the east. It then widens into the Akkr Plain, which continues south across the Lebanon border.

The Al-Anariyyah mountain range borders the coastal plain and runs from north to south. The mountains have an average width of 20 miles (32 km), and their average height declines from 3,000 feet (900 metres) in the north to 2,000 feet in the south. Their highest point, at 5,125 feet (1,562 metres), occurs east of Latakia. Directly to the east of the mountains is the Ghb Depression, a 40-mile (64-km) longitudinal trench that contains the valley of the Orontes River (Nahr Al-).

The Anti-Lebanon Mountains (Jabal Al-Sharq) mark Syrias border with Lebanon. The main ridge rises to a maximum height of 8,625 feet (2,629 metres) near Al-Nabk, while the mean height is between 6,000 and 7,000 feet (1,800 to 2,100 metres). Mount Hermon (Jabal Al-Shaykh), Syrias highest point, rises to 9,232 feet (2,814 metres).

Smaller mountains are scattered about the country. Among these are Mount Al-Durz, which rises to an elevation of some 5,900 feet (1,800 metres) in the extreme south, and the Ab Rujmayn and Bishr Mountains, which stretch northeastward across the central part of the country.

The undulating plains occupying the rest of the country are known as the Syrian Desert. In general their elevation lies between 980 and 1,640 feet (300 and 500 metres); they are seldom less than 820 feet (250 metres) above sea level. The area is not a sand desert but comprises rock and gravel steppe; a mountainous region in the south-central area is known as Al-amd.

The Euphrates River is the most important water source and the only navigable river in Syria. It originates in Turkey and flows southeastward across the eastern part of Syria (see Tigris-Euphrates river system). The Euphrates Dam, constructed on the river at abaqah, was completed in the 1970s. The reservoir behind the dam, Lake Al-Asad, began to fill in 1973.

The Orontes is the principal river of the mountainous region. It rises in Lebanon, flows northward through the mountains and the Ghb Depression, and enters the Mediterranean near Antioch, Turkey. The Yarmk River, a tributary of the Jordan River, drains the Jabal Al-Durz and awrn regions and forms part of the border with Jordan in the southwest.

Scattered lakes are found in Syria. The largest is Al-Jabbl, a seasonal saline lake that permanently covers a minimum area of about 60 square miles (155 square km) southeast of Aleppo. Other major salt lakes are Jayrd to the northeast of Damascus and Khtniyyah to the northeast of Al-asakah. Lake Muzayrb, a small body of fresh water, is located northwest of Dar; the larger Lake Qanah (Lake Homs), a reservoir, is west of Homs.

Most of the countrys drainage flows underground. On the surface, impervious rocksconsisting of clay, marl (clay, sand, or silt), and greensandcover a relatively small area. Porous rocks cover about half of the country and are mainly sandstone or chalk. Highly porous rocks consist of basalt and limestone. Water penetrates the porous rocks, forming underground springs, rivers, or subterranean water sheets close to the surface. Although the springs are profuse, the water sheets are quickly exhausted and may turn saline in areas of low precipitation.

Because of aridity, vegetation plays only a secondary role in soil composition. With the exception of the black soil in the northeastern region of Al-Jazrah, soils are deficient in phosphorus and organic matter. The most common soils are various clays and loams (mixtures of clay, sand, and silt). Some are calcareous (chalky); others, especially in the area of the Euphrates valley, contain gypsum. Alluvial soils occur mainly in the valleys of the Euphrates and its tributaries and in the Ghb Depression.

The coast and the western mountains have a Mediterranean climate with a long dry season from May to October. In the extreme northwest there is some light summer rain. On the coast summers are hot, with mean daily maximum temperatures in the low to mid-80s F (upper 20s C), while the mild winters have daily mean minimum temperatures reaching the low 50s F (low 10s C). Only above about 5,000 feet (1,500 metres) are the summers relatively cool. Inland the climate becomes arid, with colder winters and hotter summers. Maximum temperatures in Damascus and Aleppo average in the 90s F (mid-30s C) in summer, while temperatures reach average lows in the mid-30s to low 40s F (1 to 4 C) in winter. In the desert, at Tadmur and Dayr al-Zawr, maximum temperatures in the summer reach averages in the upper 90s to low 100s F (upper 30s to low 40s C), with extremes in the 110s F (mid- to upper 40s C). Snow may occur in winter away from the coast, and frosts are common.

The coast and western mountains receive 30 to 40 inches (760 to 1000 mm) of precipitation annually. Annual precipitation decreases rapidly eastward: the steppe receives 10 to 20 inches (250 to 500 mm), Mount Al-Durz receives more than 8 inches (200 mm), and the desert area of Al-amd receives less than 5 inches (130 mm). Precipitation is variable from year to year, particularly in the spring and autumn months.

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Syria

The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against travel to Syria and strongly recommends that U.S. citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately, if they are able to depart safely, per the U.S. Department of States Syria Travel Advisory. The Syrian regime has used deadly force to quell anti-government protests and is engaged in a full-scale civil war with armed groups. Violent conflict between government and anti-government groups continues throughout the country.

Syrian regime military operations have involved the use of ballistic missiles, aerial attacks, heavy artillery, and chemical weapons targeting civilian centers. Attacks from the regime or other groups could happen with little or no warning, no part of Syria should be considered immune from violence, and the potential exists throughout the country for unpredictable and hostile acts, including kidnappings, sniper assaults, terrorist attacks, small arms fire, improvised explosives, artillery shelling, airstrikes, the use of chemical weapons, large- and small-scale bombings, as well as arbitrary arrest, detention, and torture.

Syrian Civil War: The Syrian Arab Republic is ruled by an authoritarian regime dominated by the Socialist Ba’ath Party currently engaged in a full-scale civil war with the armed Syrian opposition.

In light of violent, volatile conditions in Syria and the ongoing civil war, the Department of State has issued aTravel Advisory, toadvise U.S. citizens against travel to Syria and strongly recommends that U.S. citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately.

Sources estimate that the conflict has resulted in over 400,000 deaths with many thousands more wounded. The Syrian conflict has resulted in over 5.1 million registered Syrian refugees, and approximately 6.3 million people are displaced inside Syria, while 4.53 million remain in hard-to-reach and besieged areas. The Syrian government and its partners continue to prohibit the free flow of humanitarian aid into besieged areas, resulting in severe food shortages.

Since September 2014, the U.S. government and Defeat-ISIS Coalition have taken military strikes on Syrian territory.

Entities Operating in Syria: The Syrian government is no longer in control of vast swathes of the country, particularly in northern, southern and eastern Syria and Damascus suburbs. Some armed groups have utilized car bombs, improvised explosive device/indirect-fire attacks, sniper fire, and carried out kidnappings throughout the country. Foreign combatants including Iranian regime elements, Hezbollah fighters, Islamic extremists, and al Qaida elements are also participating in hostilities. Additionally, Turkey has become increasingly involved in military operations throughout northwestern Syria, seeking to counter Kurdish influence.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which is dominated by al-Nusrah Front al-Qaidas Syrian affiliate has consolidated power in the northwestern province of Idlib. HTS control over Idlib threatens the ability of NGOs and states to deliver humanitarian aid to Syrians living there. Russian and/or Syrian government forces conducted airstrikes in Idlib province in the fall of 2017, which resulted in dozens of civilian fatalities, including medical personnel, and significant damage to medical facilities. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has lost the majority of the territory it once controlled in Syria and now operates as an insurgency. ISIS, however, continues to pose a significant threat to civilians residing in Syria and has demonstrated the ability to conduct coordinated attacks against armed actors and civilians. Tactics of ISIS, HTS, and other violent extremist groups include the use of suicide bombers, kidnapping, small and heavy arms, improvised explosive devices, and chemical weapons. They have targeted major city centers, road checkpoints, border crossings, government buildings, shopping areas, and open spaces in Damascus, Aleppo, Hamah, Dara, Homs, Idlib, and Dayr al-Zawr provinces. These groups have murdered and kidnapped U.S. citizens, both for ransom and political purposes; in some instances, U.S. citizens have disappeared within Syria. Because of the security situation in Syria, the U.S. governments ability to help U.S. citizens kidnapped or taken hostage is very limited.

Chemical and Biological Weapons: The U.S. intelligence community assesses with high confidence that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin and chlorine gas against the Syrian people in multiple instances. ISIS is also likely responsible for several small-scale sulfur mustard attacks in Syria. The continuing violence, deteriorating security situation, and Syrias continuing chemical and biological weapons program creates a particularly volatile situation.

Kidnapping: There is an ongoing and increased risk of kidnapping of U.S. citizens and Westerners throughout the country. U.S. citizens remain a specific target, with several high profile abductions having occurred since mid-2012. U.S. citizen victims have had diverse professional backgrounds, including journalism and humanitarian work. U.S. citizens held captive by ISIS have been murdered by the group, which released videos of killings and publicly took responsibility for their deaths. U.S. citizens have been abducted by other individuals and groups in Syria, and from various locations, including Damascus and Aleppo. Other U.S. citizens have gone missing and are believed to have been kidnapped since the outbreak of hostilities. The risk for kidnapping in all areas of Syria is high and persists for U.S. citizens of all backgrounds.

Borders: A porous border with Iraq, and long-standing border issues with Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Israel, have contributed to a complex security environment in Syria, compounded by a protracted violent conflict and influx of foreign fighters. Since 2012, there have been multiple reports of Syrian shelling of neighboring countries near border areas, most significantly in Lebanon, Turkey, and the Golan Heights. Indirect fire has crossed into Lebanon on several occasions and Syria-based extremists associated with ISIS and al-Nusrah Front have conducted several incursions into Lebanon, illustrating the continued potential for spillover of Syrias conflict throughout the region.

U.S. citizens should increase their vigilance if they travel within Syria to border areas with Iraq or Israel, the Golan Heights, or the Al-Jazira (eastern Syria) region. The Government of Turkey severely restricts crossings of its border with Syria, limited exclusively to individuals working for organizations engaged in the authorized provision of humanitarian assistance. Individuals seeking emergency medical treatment or safety from immediate danger are assessed on a case-by-case basis.

U.S. citizens have reported facing dangers traveling within the country and when trying to leave Syria via land borders, given the diminishing availability of commercial air travel out of Syria. Opposition-held border checkpoints should not be considered safe, as they are targeted by regime attacks and some armed groups have sought funding through kidnappings for ransom. Border areas are frequent targets of shelling and other attacks and are crowded because of internally-displaced refugees. Errant attacks will occasionally hit border towns just outside the borders as well.

Engaging in Armed Conflict: The U.S. government particularly warns U.S. citizens against traveling to Syria to engage in armed conflict. U.S. citizens who undertake such activity face extreme personal risks, including kidnapping, injury, or death. The U.S. government does not support this activity, and our ability to provide consular assistance to individuals who are arrested, injured, or kidnapped, or to the families of individuals who die in the conflict, is extremely limited. Individuals who demonstrate an interest in groups opposing ISIS, including on social media, could open themselves to being targeted by ISIS itself, especially if those individuals travel to Syria.

Fighting on behalf of or providing other forms of financial and material support to designated terrorist organizations, including ISIS and al-Nusrah Front, is a crime under U.S. law that can result in penalties including prison time and large fines.

Syrian Government Information: Syria has been a State Sponsor of Terrorism since 1979 and has given support to a variety of terrorist groups, including Lebanese Hezbollah, affecting the stability of the region. Terrorists often do not distinguish between U.S. government personnel and private U.S. citizens. Terrorists may target areas frequented by Westerners, such as tourist sites, hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and other frequently visited areas. U.S. citizens still in Syria are strongly encouraged to depart Syria immediately. U.S. citizens who choose to remain despite this warning should maintain a high level of vigilance and be aware of their surroundings. It is especially important for travelers to be unpredictable in their movements by varying times and routes and maintaining a low profile.

While many Syrians appear genuinely friendly towards foreigners, underlying tensions can lead to a quick escalation in the potential for violence. Elements within both the regime, as well as non-state actor groups, maintain anti-U.S. or anti-Western sentiment, which may intensify following significant events in the region, particularly those related to U.S.-Syria relations, international intervention in the ongoing conflict, Israeli-Palestinian issues, the status of Jerusalem, and clashes in Lebanon.

The Syrian government conducts intense physical and electronic surveillance of both Syrian citizens and foreign visitors. Any encounter with a Syrian citizen could be subject to scrutiny by the General Intelligence Directorate (GID) or other security services. . Sustained interactions with average Syrians especially if deemed to be of a political nature may subject that Syrian to harassment and/or detention, and other forms of repressive actions by state security elements. Hotel rooms, internet connections, telephones, and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched. Loitering or taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in questioning, confiscation of the images, or detention by security services. Additionally, U.S. citizens should be aware that conversations on the topics of politics, religion, and other social issues could lead to arrest. It is also illegal in Syria to possess specific-use electronic devices including GPS, short-wave or handheld radio equipment, or similar devices.

The combination of terrorist organizations, a porous border with Iraq and long-standing border issues with all of its neighbors (Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Israel) have made Syria a destabilizing factor in the region and a potential target for reprisal. Read the Department of StatesHuman Rights Report,Trafficking in Persons Report, International Religious Freedom Report, Fact Sheet on U.S. Relations with Syria, and Department of State’s Syria page for additional information.

CRIME:The rate of crime in major Syrian cities is difficult to determine because of the ongoing civil war. The current unrest and significant deterioration of the Syrian economy have led to a perceived increase in criminal activity. Since the suspension of operations of the U.S. Embassy in Damascus in February of 2012, the U.S. government has not been able to provide accurate information about crime to U.S. citizens visiting or living in Syria. The Department of State strongly recommends that U.S. citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately.

See theDepartment of Stateand theFBIpages for information on scams.

VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The Czech Government, through the U.S. Interests Section of the Czech Embassy in Damascus, currently serves as the Protecting Power for U.S. interests in Syria; however, their ability to provide services is extremely limited

U.S. embassies and consulates can:

The local equivalents to the 911 emergency line in Syria are 110 for ambulance, 113 for fire, and 112 for the police. Syrian operators, however, do not usually speak English, and contact with security services has the potential to result in arbitrary arrest, detention, or disappearance.

See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.

Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the U.S. Interests Section or U.S. Embassy Amman for assistance.

If you decide to travel to Syria:

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As Trump Flounders in Syria, Putin Takes a Victory Lap

This article first appeared on the Atlantic Council site.

The quick visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Hmeimim airbase in Syria last week was all about Russian domestic politics.

The firstand Putin hopes lastround of Russian presidential elections is scheduled for March 18, 2018. In his pre-Christmas proclamation of victory over terrorists and in preserving Syria as a sovereign independent state, Putin reiterated his central, Syria-related message to his nationalist domestic audience: Russia is back as a great power.

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In declaring to Russian pilots that you are going home to your families, parents, wives, children and friends, Putin sought to assure Russian voters that Syria would be no quagmire.

Yet Putins second announcement of military withdrawal from Syria may, like the first (in March 2016), be more rhetorical than real.

The timing of Putins victory lap in Syria may have been influenced by a gratuitous gift emanating from American domestic politics: President Trumps recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and his decision to move the American embassy accordingly.

GettyImages-890107312

Vladimir Putin, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad (left) and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu inspect a military parade during their visit to the Russian air base in Hmeimim in the northwestern Syrian province of Latakia on December 11. MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty

Putins move is like that of his American counterpart in the sense that it is driven domestically. But it differs in the positive regional impressionno matter the underlying objective truthit lends to Russian power and influence. Indeed, Putin departed Syria to take his Potemkin great power act to Egypt.

The Trump administrations characterization of Syrias condition is accurate. By waging war mainly against civilianswith the enthusiastic support of Russia and IranBashar al-Assad and his entourage have marginalized the state, destroyed those sectors of the economy not already criminalized, created the humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century, hollowed out the countrys armed forces, rendered themselves utterly dependent on outsidersand rendered themselves incapable of governing the ruins they have created.

All accurate. But relevant?

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The Obama administration tried to justify its calamitous decision to lift not a finger in response to Assad regime mass murder (or in support of its own moralistic rhetoric) by warning Mr. Putin in 2015 that he was wading into a Syrian quagmire: one that the United States had oh-so-judiciously avoided.

Assad, according to the previous administration, had lost all legitimacy and should yield to full political transition irrespective of the military situation: He should read the text of the June 2012 Final Communique of the P-5 Action Group on Syria and pack his bags.

No wonder an initially incredulous Vladimir Putin concluded that he could dance on the head of Washington, and not just in Syria.

The Trump administration has adopted much of its predecessors rhetoric about the inadmissibility of Assad regime atrocities against civilians, including calling on the international community to vigorously support the U.N.-led Geneva process for a political resolution to the conflict that respects the will of the Syrian people.

Does it imagine that this kind of verbiage has any more effect on Assad, Putinor Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei coming from the State Department podium now than it did under Obama administration auspices?

With Russian airpower supplementing the fire and maneuver of Iranian-led militiamen, a man strongly in the running for arch war criminal of the 21st centuryBashar al-Assadretains the honorific of President of the Syrian Arab Republic. That airpower and those militiamen are not likely to be withdrawn anytime soon.

Putins false claim of having played a role in the military defeat of ISIS is paired with recklessly aggressive Russian penetration of Syrian airspace east of the Euphrates River, where the American-led anti-ISIS coalition and its ground force partners have borne the burden of shutting down a false caliphate with which the Assad regime had enjoyedwith an occasional violent interruptiona live-and-let-live relationship.

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The foreign forces supporting Assad have concentrated nearly all their firepower on Syrian rebels opposing Assad: not a criminal pretending to be a caliph.

And the prime Russian and Iranian targets of choice have been units supported by the United States: not those affiliated with al Qaeda.

Now Moscow feels emboldened to threaten directly those (including American pilots) who have actually fought against terrorists.

The days of Trump administration officials assuring outsiders that Russia and Iran will surely split over Syria and that Syrias reconstruction needs will force Russia to move beyond Assad appear, mercifully, to be over.

The administrations appraisal of ground truth in Syria is sober and accurate. Indeed, this writer warned long ago that Russian actions east of the Euphrates and Russian attitudes toward the restoration of Assads ruinous governance in areas liberated from ISIS would tell Washington all it needs to know about the prospects for Russian cooperation in Syria.

The returns are in, and key administration officials have no illusions about what they say.

Russias aim is to restore Assad rule to all of Syria and then blackmail Europe into cleaning up the mess, lest there be another migrant crisis.

The Trump administration seeks to draw a line along the Euphrates River to block Iran and limit the extent of Tehrans suzerainty in Syria. And it rejects reconstruction under the auspices of an entourage that will steal what it can.

If aggressive Russian aerial penetration into eastern Syria is any indication, Vladimir Putin calculates the change of management in Washington has no impact on American actions in Syria.

And lessons he draws from Syria he applies elsewhere. Such is the legacy left to the Trump administration by its predecessor.

Frederic C. Hof is director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

This article was first written by Newsweek

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In Syria, Russia securing position as Assad presses war

By Tom Perry

BEIRUT (Reuters) – With the map of Syria’s conflict decisively redrawn in President Bashar al-Assad’s favor, his Russian allies want to convert military gains into a settlement that stabilizes the shattered nation and secures their interests in the region.

A year after the opposition’s defeat in Aleppo, government forces backed by Russia and Iran have recovered large swathes of territory as Islamic State’s “caliphate” collapses.

As U.N.-backed talks in Geneva fail to make any progress, Russia is preparing to launch its own political process in 2018. President Vladimir Putin declared mission accomplished for the military on a visit to Russia’s Syrian air base this week, and said conditions were ripe for a political solution.

Though Washington still insists Assad must go, a senior Syrian opposition figure told Reuters the United States and other governments that have backed the rebellion had finally “surrendered to the Russian vision” on ending the war.

The view in Damascus is that this will preserve Assad as president. A Syrian official in Damascus said “it is clear a track is underway, and the Russians are overseeing it”.

“There is a shift in the path of the crisis in Syria, a shift for the better,” the official said.

But analysts struggle to see how Russian diplomacy can bring lasting peace to Syria, encourage millions of refugees to return, or secure Western reconstruction aid.

There is no sign that Assad is ready to compromise with his opponents. The war has also allowed his other big ally, Iran and its Revolutionary Guard, to expand its regional influence, which Tehran will not want to see diluted by any settlement in Syria.

Having worked closely to secure Assad, Iran and Russia may now differ in ways that could complicate Russian policy.

Assad and his allies now command the single largest chunk of Syria, followed by U.S.-backed Kurdish militias who control much of northern and eastern Syria and are more concerned with shoring up their regional autonomy than fighting Damascus.

Anti-Assad rebels still cling to patches of territory: a corner of the northwest at the Turkish border, a corner of the southwest at the Israeli frontier, and the Eastern Ghouta near Damascus. Eastern Ghouta and the northwest are now in the firing line.

“The Revolutionary Guards clearly feel they have won this war and the hardliners in Iran are not too keen on anything but accommodation with Assad, so on that basis it is a little hard to see that there can be any real progress,” said Rolf Holmboe, a former Danish ambassador to Syria.

“Assad cannot live with a political solution that involves any real power sharing,” said Holmboe. “The solution he could potentially live with is to freeze the situation you have on the ground right now.”

THE WORLD IS “TIRED OF THE CRISIS”

The war has been going Assad’s way since 2015, when Russia sent its air force to help him.

The scales tipped even more his way this year: Russia struck deals with Turkey, the United States and Jordan that contained in the war in the west, indirectly helping Assad’s advances in the east, and Washington pulled military aid from the rebels.

Though Assad seems unbeatable, Western governments still hope to effect change by linking reconstruction aid to a credible political process leading to “a genuine transition”.

While paying lip service to the principle that any peace deal should be concluded under U.N. auspices, Russia aims to convene its own peace congress in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. The aim is to draw up a new constitution followed by elections.

The senior Syrian opposition figure said the United States and other states that had backed their cause – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Turkey – had all given way to Russia. Sochi, not Geneva, would be the focal point for talks.

“This is the way it has been understood from talking to the Americans, the French, the Saudis – all the states,” the opposition figure said. “It is clear that this is the plan, and there is no state that will oppose this … because the entire world is tired of this crisis.”

Proposals include forming a new government to hold elections that would include Syrian refugees.

But “the time frame: six months, two years, three years, all depends on the extent of understanding between the Russians and Americans”, the opposition figure said. “If the Russians and Americans differ greatly, the whole table could be overturned.”

IRAN, RUSSIA DIVERGE ON KURDS

Russia is serious about accomplishing something with the political process, but on its own terms and turf, said senior International Crisis Group analyst Noah Bonsey.

“I am not sure they have a good sense of how to accomplish that and to the extent that they seek to accomplish things politically, they may run into the divergence of interests between themselves and their allies,” he said.

The Syrian Kurdish question is one area where Russia and Iran have signaled different goals.

While a top Iranian official recently said the government would take areas held by the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led forces, Russia has struck deals with the Kurds and their U.S. sponsors.

“From the start of the crisis, there’s been a difference between the Russians and the Iranians and the regime,” said Fawza Youssef, a top Kurdish politician. The Russians believe the Kurds “have a cause that should be taken into account”.

Damascus, while issuing its own warnings to the Kurds, may continue to leave them to their own devices as it presses campaigns against the last rebel-held pockets of western Syria.

The situation in the southwest is shaped by different factors, namely Israel’s determination to keep Iran-backed forces away from its frontier, which could prompt an Israeli military response.

“There are still major questions and a lot of potential for escalating violence in various parts of Syria,” said Bonsey.

(Additional reporting by Laila Bassam and Ellen Francis; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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In Syria, Russia securing position as Assad presses war

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December 15, 2017   Posted in: Syria  Comments Closed

How the U.S. Lost the War in Syria to Russia and Iran

Whenthe U.S. and its alliesfinally began their offensive to defeat the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor in August 2017, the Syrian battlefield looked very different to when the conflict began in 2011.

Back then, President Barack Obama came out in support of rebels trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and, in 2012, began arming them. In the years since, America’s friends and foes have shifted, however, and its leading rival, Russia, stepped into help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad quell a nationwide rebellion and reclaim the lion’s share of his country.

Moscow’s entrance to the conflict, along with growing jihadist influence among rebel groups, forced the U.S. to realign its position and settle on anew, informal goal: stopping Iran. The U.S., now led by maverick President Donald Trump, suspects Iran is seeking to establish a long-term foothold to build an international corridor of influence stretching from Tehran to Beirut and Washington is struggling to stop it.

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Related:Russia says Syria war will end soon with help from Turkey

Taking advantage of eastern Syria’s tribal roots, however, one team of analysts say the U.S. may have a chance to retain a stake in Syria. But doing so may take a level of clarity and commitment not yet seen by the U.S. in its approach to the six-year conflict and it may already be too late to do so.

“This is a larger challenge in Deir Ezzor than any part of Syria for the coalition and for the Syrian Democratic Forces,” Nicholas Heras, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, tellsNewsweek.

A Syrian man holds the Iranian flag as a convoy carrying aid provided by Iran arrives in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, September 20, 2017. Two separate offensives are underway against the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in the area – one by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, the other by the Syrian military, backed by Iran and Russia. LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images

Beginnings of a Conflict in Tribal Deir Ezzor

Heras teamed up with Bassam Barabandi, co-founder of anti-Assadactivist group People Demand Change and a Deir Ezzor native, to research and map out the complex, yet vastly influential network of tribes that shape Deir Ezzor society.

Their report, which was published in full last week, details not only the current state of what’s become the most highly contested province of Syria, but how it became the latest focal point for violence in Syria.

Prior to the 2011 uprising against Assad’s government that precipitated the ongoing conflict in Syria, Deir Ezzor was in poor shape. The largely rural province was suffering the effects of years of urbanization, with younger Syrians choosing to live in larger cities like Damascus and Aleppo, and a crippling drought made worse by state mismanagement.

Residents were bitter, but when demonstrations condemning government corruption, unemployment and lack of social freedoms devolved into armed clashes between security forces and what would ultimately become the Syrian opposition, Deir Ezzor was one of the last areas to turn to revolution.

While tribesmen may have seen the growing rebellion as an opportunity to ditch the state, they were also very cautious not tobacka losing faction and risk further chaos in a part of the country very rooted in tradition. In 2012, when the anti-Assad insurgency reached “critical mass”as Heras says, armedopposition groups composed mainly of tribal militias gained momentum againstpro-government forces and ultimately expelled most of them from the city in 2013. The remainder would remain trapped for years to come.

As the opposition fended off Syrian military attempts to regain the city, locals’ fears of further bloodshed appeared validated as various rebel groups, including Al-Qaeda’sNusra Front, battled one another for control of the province’s lucrative oil fields. The situation only got worse when a new, more powerful entity took advantage of the infighting to gain a foothold in Deir Ezzor.

Members of Liwa (brigade) Hamzah, an Islamist brigade from the Syrian eastern city of Deir Ezzor take part in a rally in the center of the city to announce their formation on February 25, 2013. As support for Deir Ezzor’s opposition grew, so did the influence of jihadists and, ultimately, the Islamic State militant group (ISIS). ZAC BAILLIE/AFP/Getty Images

The Rise and Fall of ISIS

After breaking off from Al-Qaeda in 2013the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) spread across half of Iraq and into neighboring Syria. ISIS swarmed Deir Ezzor in summer 2014 and enlisted the support of the province’s disillusioned tribal leaders by force and by presenting itself as the most stable, wealthy guarantor for locals. Most acquiesced and helped fuel what would become an economic and political hub for the jihadists’ self-proclaimed caliphate.

In the three years since, ISISlost most of its groundacross the border in Iraq and separate campaigns by the Russia-backed Syrian military and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a mostly Kurdish alliance of Arabs and ethnic minorities that’s taken the place of rebels as the U.S.’s main ally in Syria, have begun closing in on what is now the jihadists’ last major city. Both the Syrian government and Kurdish leaders are looking to oust ISIS, but they have different visions for Deir Ezzor once the militants are defeated. Once the competition to annihilate ISIS ends, they’ll have to face off once again to appeal to locals to support their post-war plans. So far, Assad may have the upper hand.

The Syrian leader, who once appeared poised to fall after withdrawing his military from most of the country early on in the war, has since been able to retake nearly every major population center. With the help of Russia and Iran, Assad hasretaken up to half the city and pushed the jihadists back across the Euphrates.

Assad’s staying power leaves him a serious option for tribes, who may be reluctant to reconcile with the government, but also remain skeptical of the U.S.’s longevity in the conflict once ISIS is defeated. Many locals of Deir Ezzor have direct relations in Iraq’s Anbar province, where the U.S. made a number of deals to secure local support against ISIS’s previous incarnation, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, back in 2006. When ISIS ultimately took control of the region years later in 2014, Washington’s promises did little to defend Iraqi tribesmen from the jihadist wrath.

“In Deir Ezzor, Assad would have to play the long-term game rooted in the assumption that the Americans and their allies will eventually leave,” Heras tellsNewsweek. “[Local tribes] still trust that Assad will return and stay, assuming that the Americans won’t stay for decades to come.”

Pro-government Military Security Shield Forces General Abu Ali Salhab (C-R) talks with civilians in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor on September 10, 2017, as the Syrian military and its allies continue to press forward with Russian air cover in the offensive against Islamic State militant group (ISIS) across the province. Despite Assad’s recent military successes, he faces the challenge of winning over local tribes in the region. GEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images

Suspicious of U.S. and Iran’s Intentions

Heras describes the area as “much more anti-Iran than pro-America,” which may actually present itself as an opportunity for the U.S. As little support the U.S., and much less the Kurds, has among residents of Deir Ezzor, localdistrust of Iran may be greater.

Tehran’s campaign to expand its influence across the Middle East has proved an effective force against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria, but it’s also drawn the scorn of Sunni Muslims, who enjoy a solid majority in Deir Ezzor and many other parts of the region.

Broken promises in Iraq may mar potential alliances between the U.S. and tribes in Syria, but Assad’s proximity to Iran and its allies may have even greater consequences in the current scheme of things. With ISIS largely defeated in western Iraq, the largely Sunni Muslim Iraqi relatives of Deir Ezzor’s tribes now fear retribution from the majority-Shiite Muslim Popular Mobilization Forces, known as Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi, backed by both Tehran and Baghdad.

These militias and their fellow Iran-backed allies across the border in Syria have nearly completed a land route allowing pro-Iran elements to move freely between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.Heras says the U.S.’s best chance oflimiting Assad and Iran’s influence in Deir Ezzor would be to back a powerful, representative military council whose structure mimics the Syrian Democratic Forces in the north, but remains independent enough as not to appear as a Kurdish takeover in a region still very much attached to Arab nationalism.

Genevieve Casagrande,Syria research analyst at the Institute for the Study of Warcautioned that any perceived connection to Kurdish groups would doom any plans to recruit these tribes for a self-ruling council. Such tensions plague similar councils in the Syrian cities of Manbij and Raqqa.

“Even if you have this sort of Arab component to the Syrian Democratic Forces, there’s a fear that a local government will be dependent and subordinate to the Kurdish governance project, which the population of Deir Ezzor will reject,” Casagrande tellsNewsweek.

A map presented by the Center for a New American Security displays the location of Deir Ezzor’s major tribal confederations in eastern Syria, published October 2, 2017. Sasha Ghosh-Siminoff/People Demand Change, Inc./Melody Cook/Center for a New American Security

A map showing a land supply route that would link Tehran and Damascus through Iraq, published September 22, 2017. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s control over most of western Syria would also allow Iran to better supply its Hezbollah allies in Lebanon. Current and former security officials/Popular Mobilization Forces/CIA Factbook/Embassy of Jordan/Globalsecurity (Sunni and Shiite majorities)/Maps4News

A Race for Oil

With Syria and its Russian and Iranian allies steadily gaining in Deir Ezzor city, however,the U.S. and its Kurdish allies may have already abandoned efforts to take the regional capital. In fact, their southwestern advance against ISIS appears to indicate another target altogether, Syria’s main oil fields located in rural Deir Ezzor.

Syrian militaryaffairs analystWael al-Hussaini saysboth the U.S. and Russia are vying for control over these lucrative oil and gas fields and that, although he believed U.S.-backed Kurds would succeed in securing a number of these strategic sites, they would ultimately be willing to return them to Assad as part of post-war agreement, potentially in return for greater autonomy in the north.

Hussainisays that, after aKurdish independence referendum drew condemnation from nearly every regional actor and was even rejected by the U.S.,Syrian Kurds would try to avoid pushing for full statehood. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said last month that Damascus may be willing to negotiate “some sort of self-management” for Kurds in the north once ISIS was defeated and the Kurds may see Deir Ezzor’soil fields as bargaining chips in future talks.

“If you dont have access to waterand your neighbor can shut down its borders and your airspace can be closed also, then you wont be able to establish an independent state. So eventually they will have to talk to the Syrian government,” Hussaini tellsNewsweek.

A map shows areas of control in Syria between August 30, 2017, and September 14, 2017. Once the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) is defeated entirely in Raqqa and Deir Ezzor, the country faces tough questions of negotiation and reconciliation between the Syrian government and Kurds, while Syrian rebels may struggle to find a role. Institute for the Study of War/Reuters Ahmed Abu Kholeh, head of the Deir Ezzor Military Council, which fights under the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, speaks during a press conference in the village of Abu Fas, Hasaka province, Syria, September 9, 2017. The mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces have successfully fought the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), but their Kurdish nationalist aspirations have been met with hostility in many parts of the majority-Arab country. Rodi Said/Reuters

“Dramatically Outpaced”

Reconciliation between the Syrian government and Kurds could provide Trumpa defensible exit strategy from the conflict, but it still leaves the door open for Iran’s eventual expansion. Only capitalizing on the remaining revolutionary and sectarian fervor of Deir Ezzor’s Sunni Muslim tribal confederations ensures support in keeping Iran out, at least until a pro-U.S. autonomous leadership was formed in the city. Revitalizing these tensions, however, could ignite further bloodshed for years to come.

Even if the U.S. did try to capitalize on local tensions to recruit tribal fighters, it appears that Assad and his allies have beaten Washington to it. Neil Hauer, lead analyst at the SecDev Group, says the U.S. has been “dramatically outpacedby Iran and the regime in terms of outreach to tribes.” He explains that the Syrian government and Iran, having long planned the Deir Ezzor offensive, have already established pro-government networks.

“Syrian and Iranian officials have been working hard to establish links with the tribes of Deir Ezzor for nearly a year now, with the knowledge that eventually they would be moving towards this area as clashes with rebels were largely frozen and efforts from all sides focused more on IS territory,” Hauer tellsNewsweek.”U.S. and Syrian Democratic Forces efforts pale in comparison, especially as the latter is increasingly viewed as a Kurdish nationalist project.”

Chinese and Syrian businessmen shake hands behind their national flags during a meeting to discuss reconstruction projects in Syria, Beijing, China May 8, 2017. International powers such as China, Russia, Indian and Iran have all secured lucrative contracts to participate in Syria’s costly recovery effort. Jason Lee/Reuters

“A Game of Great Powers”

With the U.S. having essentially lost its foothold in eastern Syria, Iran may still encounter major obstacles to its long-term plans for the region. Aram Nerguizian, asenior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says that, as the U.S. concludes its anti-ISIS campaign and Assad reasserts control, observers would be most interested in examining how the strategic relationship between Iran and Russia plays out.

The two powers formed an alliance of convenience in response to the conflict, but Russia’s willingness toengage amicably with Iran’s two greatest foes, Israel and Saudi Arabia, may erode Moscow and Tehran’s tolerance of one another. China too, has a stake in the region as part of its greater “One Belt One Road” initiative, meaning post-war Syria will likely continue to be a theater for a number of major international powers.

“How will the great powers agree to disagree on spheres of influence?” Nerguizian tells Newsweek.”It’s still very much a game of great powers.”

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How the U.S. Lost the War in Syria to Russia and Iran

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Map of Syrian Civil war/ Global conflict in Syria – Syria …

Syrian opposition sources: Iran-linked Shia militia personnel, including commanders, where present at Qiswa military base south of Damascus, when it was allegedly attacked by Israel

East Damascus: 18th straight day of SyAF airstrikes on Harasta front.

Talal Silo says the day-to-day commander in the PKK areas is Sahin Cilo, with Nurettin Halef al-Muhammed (Nurettin Sofi) above him [previously Fehman Husayn (Bahoz Erdal), who is now back in Qandil], all answering ultimately to Sabri Ok, a Kurd from Turkey and PKK executive.

US Sec.Defense Mattis: Astana has not been productive. A lot of effort went into it. Nothing much has come out of it”

Talal Silo notes that during the Minbij operation, weapons formally went through Adnan Abu Amjad, an Arab at the head of the “Minbij Military Council”, while in fact weapons, salaries, and airstrikes were controlled by foreign PKK commanders inside Syria.

A crane has been set up at Aleppo’s Great Mosque. Seems that Chechen-funded reconstruction effort is underway.

Mattis on US troops in Syria: “We’re changing the composition of our forces to something that supports the diplomats and the Geneva process”

Many civilians injured after 9 air raids targeting Harasta city so far, and Civil Defense teams are working to evacuate the injured to medical centers

Syria: Many Hts and Ansaar members ask Jolani to release AQ leaders.

SE. Aleppo: video showing Jaish Nasr destroying with a TOW a Shilka 2 days ago on Abisan front.

Warplanes carried out airstrikes on Harasta, resulting in casualties among civilians and injuring Syria Civil Defense Branch 90 rescuers in doubletap airstrikes while rescuing victims from previous one. In addition to ambulance destroyed Eastern Damascus countryside

Former SDF spokesman tells of US arming terror groups: “The basic reason for SDF’s establishment is the US. The US authorities wanted to give arms to Kurds. Announcement of SDF’s establishment was only a drama”

Russian Air Force 223rd Flight Unit Ilyushin Il-76MD plane flew from Latakia Bassel Al-Assad International Airport Syria to Russian Air Force base in Mozdok Ossetia near Vladikavkaz through Turkish airspace

Very violent battles are ongoing in southern Aleppo

Raids of the Syrian airforce on the eastern Ghouta in the countryside Damascus

Deir-ez-Zur: SDF captured villages Al-Uwaydiyah ,Al-Kishkiyah,and cleen Suwaydan Jazirah

Russian flagged RORO Alexandr Tkachenko, chartered by the Russian government, returns from Syria with at least 8 military trucks, that appear to be new, or unused, or well maintained.

Lebanese sources report Syrian military jets overflights in the Wadi Khaled area, near the border with Lebanon

Israeli missiles strike military position near Damascus, according to Syrian state television.

Two Israeli missiles destroyed by Syrian air defense system nearby Damascus- State TV

Redeployed to Mediterranean after 60 days and armed with Kalibr SS-N-27 missiles, Admiral Grigorovich class frigate Russian Navy Admiral Grigorovich departs BlackSea 23 hours after leaving Sevastopol and transits Bosphorus Marmara-bound. Turkish CoastGuard TCSG303 monitored the transit

Syria DeirEzZor: New 5 Minute Video showing Scenes from Tiger Forces Military Operations against ISIS at the Mayadin – Salihiyah Axis

Israeli air strikes allegedly hit near Al-Kiswa, 13 km south of Damascus. Iranian military forces were suspected of building a permanent base at the site.

Video allegedly showing Syrian Anti Air Defense intercepting one of the Israeli Missiles launched towards the countryside of Damascus

SDF/DMC controlled Dranj town East DeirEzzor and clashes against Daesh around Abu Hamam, Keshkiya and Abu Swedan. D24

SW. Damascus: Mount Hermon Forces were able to prevent government advances in East foothills of Marzat BeitJin after whole day of battle.

British YPG volunteer Oliver Hall, known as Canser Zargros killed clearing mine in Raqqa

Deir ez-Zur Eastern countryside: Video shows the tragic situation of the displaced people of Deir al-Zour at the river crossings in the countryside of Albukaml escape the aerial bombardment and continuous artillery around the clock

Report: Syrian rebels repelled today another attack by pro-Assad forces around the vehicle management complex in Harasta, Damascus, Syria. 10 reported to be injured or killed during the clashes.

A source in Jabal al-Sheikh Forces Union told Syrian News Panorama that government helicopter was shot today in Beit Jin in west Damascus with 9K38 Igla MANPADS

DeirEzZor: SRG Soldier on the situation in the Euphrates river front (Suheil is not fighting alone there are also SRG and 17th Division – 250 dead unfortunately

Damascus denounces local elections of “Rojava” as ‘unilateral action’

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PM Netanyahu to meet Putin over Iranian presence in Syria – The Jerusalem Post

THE TIES between Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been characterized as straightforward, open and built on personal trust. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Wednesday, the Prime Ministers Office announced on Saturday, amid increasing concerns that Iran is establishing a permanent military presence in Syria.

This will be Netanyahus fourth visit to Russia in some 16 months, a testament to Moscows influence in the region as a result of its intense engagement in Syria. In addition to the visits, Netanyahu and Putin speak regularly on the phone.

The PMO statement said that the purpose of the regular meetings with Putin is to discuss regional and bilateral issues as well as to prevent any accidental confrontation in Syrias skies between the Israeli and Russian air forces.

Soon after Russia sent its forces to Syria in September 2015 to bolster President Bashar Assad, Netanyahu went to Moscow and set up a deconfliction mechanism to ensure that there are not accidents between the two air forces.

One senior Russian diplomatic official said recently that while Israel and Russia do not share the same interests in Syria, they do both have an interest in avoiding any accidental military confrontation, and that the cooperation between the two sides on this matter is excellent.

Israel has expressed its opposition to a cease-fire in Syria brokered between Russia and the US, because it leaves Iranian positions in place.

Netanyahu last met with Putin in March in Moscow, and already warned at that meeting that a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria would be unacceptable to Israel.

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Trump Promises Strike on Syria and Warns Russia Against …

That kind of damage, though, would require a sustained campaign likely over a number of days. It was unclear whether the United States, France and other allies involved have made a decision to extend a bombing campaign beyond one night. But the presidents subsequent tweet struck a different tone. After he warned Russia what it would be up against in Syria, Mr. Trump lamented that relations between the two countries were worse than during the Cold War, a decades-long geopolitical and ideological rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union when both were armed for, and prepared for, nuclear war. Russia has blamed the suspected chemical attacks on the Syrian opposition forces. On Wednesday, Maria Zakharova, the Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, said that if the American missiles were so smart then they should hit terrorists and not government targets. She also suggested in a posting on Facebook that the missile attack might destroy evidence of the use of chemical weapons. Mr. Trump has been critical of Russia and its president, Vladimir V. Putin, for supporting the Syrian regime, led by Bashar al-Assad, believed to be behind the suspected chemical weapons attack on April 7 that has left dozens dead. The attack on Saturday in the Damascus suburb of Douma has not been confirmed to be the result of a chemical weapon. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Wednesday that the United States is still assessing the intelligence on the suspected chemical attack, but that military planning was proceeding. We stand ready to provide military options if theyre appropriate, as the president determined, he said. The World Health Organization said on Wednesday that there were reports of about 500 people in the Damascus suburb of Douma who have symptoms similar to people exposed to toxic chemicals. It said about 70 people had died while taking shelter in basements and 43 of them had signs of being exposed to highly toxic chemicals. Mr. Trumps comments about poor relations with Russia echoed what the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said recently in response to the wave of diplomatic expulsions of Russians from the United States and other countries, according to a Reuters report. The expulsions were a coordinated response to the poisoning in Britain of a former Russian spy and his daughter. Since then, analysts have said the Balkans could become a battleground for a new Cold War. The tough talk on Russia, when it comes to Syria, is a strikingly different tone for Mr. Trump, who has long pushed for improved relations with the Kremlin. Recently, Mr. Trump praised Mr. Putin for his re-election and even invited him to the White House. Later on Wednesday morning, Mr. Trump clarified his assessment of the poor relations with Russia in another tweet, blaming the decline in Washington-Moscow ties on the ongoing investigation into Russias meddling in the 2016 election. Russia has been a dominant theme during Mr. Trumps entire presidency, particularly with the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russias election interference. The president repeated his frustrations about the ongoing inquiry, which he said was led by Democrats or others who worked for former President Barack Obama. Earlier this week, the F.B.I. raided the offices and hotel room of Mr. Trumps personal attorney, Michael D. Cohen, enraging the president, who called it an attack on our country in a true sense. Mr. Trump, however, has not used similarly strong language about Russias election activities which started as early as 2014. When it comes to Syria, however, Mr. Trump has blamed Mr. Putin for supporting the Syrian regime. Mr. Trump called the suspected chemical attack a barbaric act and suggested Mr. Putin bears some responsibility. He may, and if he does, its going to be very tough, very tough, Mr. Trump said on Monday. Everybodys going to pay a price. He will, everybody will. After Mr. Trumps series of tweets Wednesday morning, Mr. Putins spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said, We dont participate in Twitter diplomacy. We advocate serious approaches. Mr. Peskovs comments were reported by the Interfax news agency. Mr. Trump canceled a planned trip to Latin America later this week in order to oversee an American response to Syria, the White House said. And the president met with his military commanders on Monday to discuss options. But publicly discussing American military plans is in contrast to how he has said he would conduct himself as commander in chief. During tensions with North Korea in April of 2017, he said in an interview on Fox & Friends that he would not say whether he would order a strike if the rogue nation continued conducting missile tests. I dont want to telegraph what I am doing or what I am thinking, Mr. Trump said. I am not like other administrations, where they say, We are going to do this in four weeks. It doesnt work that way. Well see what happens. That was the kind of message that Mr. Trump repeatedly delivered as a presidential candidate, mocking former President Barack Obama for giving adversaries too much information by setting timelines for withdrawal from combat zones. And, indeed, while he has not set a public withdrawal deadline for American forces in Syria the way Mr. Obama did for other combat zones, just last week Mr. Trump set a private one that quickly became public when he told military commanders that ideally he wanted to pull troops out of Syria within a few months. While Mr. Trumps tweet did not disclose the exact date and time of an American missile strike, Mr. Assads allies are lining up to back the Syrian regime. The top adviser to Irans supreme leader said on Wednesday that Tehran would support Damascus against any foreign aggression, Irans state television reported. Iran backs Syria in its fight against America and the Zionist regime, Ali Akbar Velayati, the supreme leaders adviser, told state television during a visit to eastern Ghouta in Syria. Iranian officials call Israel the Zionist regime. Mr. Velayati said of the United States, Their habit is to threaten constantly and the only thing they know how to do is bombing, havent Syria and Iran been bombed before?

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April 11, 2018  Tags:   Posted in: Syria  Comments Closed

Russia accuses Israel of attack on air base in Syria

Israeli jets carried out airstrikes on a major air base in central Syria early today, according to Russia’s defense ministry. Two Israeli F-15 jets launched eight guided rockets from Lebanese airspace, targeting the T4 air base in Homs before Syrian air defenses shot down several of the rockets, Russia said. Syrian state TV SANA reported that there had been casualties at the base, but Russia said no Russian military advisers were hurt in the attack. Five Iranian nationals were killed in the attack, the Iranian Tasnim News Agency reported. The airstrikes come a day after a suspected chemical attack in Douma, a rebel-held area near Damascus, over the weekend. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said there was no evidence of a chemical weapons attack, adding that Russian specialists and humanitarian workers had visited the area after rebel fighters evacuated following a deal with the Syrian government. Both the United States and France had threatened a response over the suspected use of chemical weapons, with President Donald Trump and President Emmanuel Macron issuing a statement Sunday vowing to “coordinate a strong, joint response.” But both countries denied any involvement in todays airstrikes. The Israel Defense Forces has declined to comment. At this time, the Department of Defense is not conducting air strikes inside Syria. However we continue to closely watch the situation and support the ongoing diplomatic efforts to hold those who use chemical weapons, in Syria and otherwise, accountable, the Pentagon said in a statement. On Saturday night, activists and doctors in the town of Douma said dozens of Syrians had been killed after a suspected gas attack near an opposition hospital. Images and videos, which cannot be independently verified, showed dozens of bodies, including children and women, many with foam streaming from the nose and mouth. Footage shot inside a hospital where people exposed to the attack showed children and men shaking and having apparent seizures. Doctors at the hospital told journalists via WhatsApp that in addition to spasms and secretions from the mouth and nose, they had also treated patients with miosis, or constriction of the pupil, all of which are symptoms consistent with exposure to nerve agents. More than 500 cases had been brought to doctors in local medical centers after the incident in Douma, the Syrian American Medical Society said. On Sunday, in response to the reports of the alleged chemical attack on Douma, saying Russia and Iran were responsible for backing Animal Assad and warning there would be a big price to pay. He also called for the area to be immediately open to humanitarian and medical assistance to treat the wounded. In February, Israel confirmed it had carried out a raid over Syria, in a rare admission of action. The airstrikes targeted Syrian air defenses and resulted in an Israeli jets being downed during the mission, after an Iranian drone was launched into Israeli territory, according to Israeli Air Force Brig. Gen. Tomer Bar. The pilots of the downed jet were able to parachute to safety before the craft crashed in northern Israel, Bar said. The raid was the most significant attack since the 1982 Lebanon War, according to Bar. Israel is said to have carried out around 200 airstrikes on Hezbollah and Syrian targets inside Syria since the start of the war, according to The New Yorkers Robin Wright. The vast majority arent officially claimed by the Israeli military. On April 4, 2017, a suspected chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun, a rebel-held town in Idlib province, killed more than 100 Syrians and injured many more. Two days later, Trump ordered an attack on the Syrian military base from which the chemical weapons were believed to have been launched. Fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles launched from U.S. Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea targeted the Shayrat Air Base in Homs. Speaking after the Khan Sheikhoun attack, Trump condemned the use of chemical weapons and blamed his predecessor, President Obama: These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administrations weakness and irresolution. President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing.

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April 9, 2018  Tags:   Posted in: Syria  Comments Closed

Syria | History, People, & Maps | Britannica.com

Syria, country located on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea in southwestern Asia. Its area includes territory in the Golan Heights that has been occupied by Israel since 1967. The present area does not coincide with ancient Syria, which was the strip of fertile land lying between the eastern Mediterranean coast and the desert of northern Arabia. The capital is Damascus (Dimashq), on the Barad River, situated in an oasis at the foot of Mount Qsiyn. After Syria gained its independence in 1946, political life in the country was highly unstable, owing in large measure to intense friction between the countrys social, religious, and political groups. In 1970 Syria came under the authoritarian rule of Pres. Hafiz al-Assad, whose foremost goals included achieving national security and domestic stability and recovering the Syrian territory lost to Israel in 1967. Assad committed his country to an enormous arms buildup, which put severe strains on the national budget, leaving little for development. After Assads death in 2000, his son Bashar al-Assad became president. Despite some early steps toward political reform, Bashar al-Assad ultimately continued his fathers authoritarian style of government, using Syrias powerful military and security services to quash political dissent. Long-suppressed internal tensions led to the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in 2011. Syria is bounded by Turkey to the north, by Iraq to the east and southeast, by Jordan to the south, and by Lebanon and Israel to the southwest. Syria has a relatively short coastline, which stretches for about 110 miles (180 km) along the Mediterranean Sea between the countries of Turkey and Lebanon. Sandy bays dent the shore, alternating with rocky headlands and low cliffs. North of ars, the narrow coastal strip is interrupted by spurs of the northwestern Al-Anariyyah Mountains immediately to the east. It then widens into the Akkr Plain, which continues south across the Lebanon border. The Al-Anariyyah mountain range borders the coastal plain and runs from north to south. The mountains have an average width of 20 miles (32 km), and their average height declines from 3,000 feet (900 metres) in the north to 2,000 feet in the south. Their highest point, at 5,125 feet (1,562 metres), occurs east of Latakia. Directly to the east of the mountains is the Ghb Depression, a 40-mile (64-km) longitudinal trench that contains the valley of the Orontes River (Nahr Al-). The Anti-Lebanon Mountains (Jabal Al-Sharq) mark Syrias border with Lebanon. The main ridge rises to a maximum height of 8,625 feet (2,629 metres) near Al-Nabk, while the mean height is between 6,000 and 7,000 feet (1,800 to 2,100 metres). Mount Hermon (Jabal Al-Shaykh), Syrias highest point, rises to 9,232 feet (2,814 metres). Smaller mountains are scattered about the country. Among these are Mount Al-Durz, which rises to an elevation of some 5,900 feet (1,800 metres) in the extreme south, and the Ab Rujmayn and Bishr Mountains, which stretch northeastward across the central part of the country. The undulating plains occupying the rest of the country are known as the Syrian Desert. In general their elevation lies between 980 and 1,640 feet (300 and 500 metres); they are seldom less than 820 feet (250 metres) above sea level. The area is not a sand desert but comprises rock and gravel steppe; a mountainous region in the south-central area is known as Al-amd. The Euphrates River is the most important water source and the only navigable river in Syria. It originates in Turkey and flows southeastward across the eastern part of Syria (see Tigris-Euphrates river system). The Euphrates Dam, constructed on the river at abaqah, was completed in the 1970s. The reservoir behind the dam, Lake Al-Asad, began to fill in 1973. The Orontes is the principal river of the mountainous region. It rises in Lebanon, flows northward through the mountains and the Ghb Depression, and enters the Mediterranean near Antioch, Turkey. The Yarmk River, a tributary of the Jordan River, drains the Jabal Al-Durz and awrn regions and forms part of the border with Jordan in the southwest. Scattered lakes are found in Syria. The largest is Al-Jabbl, a seasonal saline lake that permanently covers a minimum area of about 60 square miles (155 square km) southeast of Aleppo. Other major salt lakes are Jayrd to the northeast of Damascus and Khtniyyah to the northeast of Al-asakah. Lake Muzayrb, a small body of fresh water, is located northwest of Dar; the larger Lake Qanah (Lake Homs), a reservoir, is west of Homs. Most of the countrys drainage flows underground. On the surface, impervious rocksconsisting of clay, marl (clay, sand, or silt), and greensandcover a relatively small area. Porous rocks cover about half of the country and are mainly sandstone or chalk. Highly porous rocks consist of basalt and limestone. Water penetrates the porous rocks, forming underground springs, rivers, or subterranean water sheets close to the surface. Although the springs are profuse, the water sheets are quickly exhausted and may turn saline in areas of low precipitation. Because of aridity, vegetation plays only a secondary role in soil composition. With the exception of the black soil in the northeastern region of Al-Jazrah, soils are deficient in phosphorus and organic matter. The most common soils are various clays and loams (mixtures of clay, sand, and silt). Some are calcareous (chalky); others, especially in the area of the Euphrates valley, contain gypsum. Alluvial soils occur mainly in the valleys of the Euphrates and its tributaries and in the Ghb Depression. The coast and the western mountains have a Mediterranean climate with a long dry season from May to October. In the extreme northwest there is some light summer rain. On the coast summers are hot, with mean daily maximum temperatures in the low to mid-80s F (upper 20s C), while the mild winters have daily mean minimum temperatures reaching the low 50s F (low 10s C). Only above about 5,000 feet (1,500 metres) are the summers relatively cool. Inland the climate becomes arid, with colder winters and hotter summers. Maximum temperatures in Damascus and Aleppo average in the 90s F (mid-30s C) in summer, while temperatures reach average lows in the mid-30s to low 40s F (1 to 4 C) in winter. In the desert, at Tadmur and Dayr al-Zawr, maximum temperatures in the summer reach averages in the upper 90s to low 100s F (upper 30s to low 40s C), with extremes in the 110s F (mid- to upper 40s C). Snow may occur in winter away from the coast, and frosts are common. The coast and western mountains receive 30 to 40 inches (760 to 1000 mm) of precipitation annually. Annual precipitation decreases rapidly eastward: the steppe receives 10 to 20 inches (250 to 500 mm), Mount Al-Durz receives more than 8 inches (200 mm), and the desert area of Al-amd receives less than 5 inches (130 mm). Precipitation is variable from year to year, particularly in the spring and autumn months.

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March 8, 2018  Tags:   Posted in: Syria  Comments Closed

Syria

The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against travel to Syria and strongly recommends that U.S. citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately, if they are able to depart safely, per the U.S. Department of States Syria Travel Advisory. The Syrian regime has used deadly force to quell anti-government protests and is engaged in a full-scale civil war with armed groups. Violent conflict between government and anti-government groups continues throughout the country. Syrian regime military operations have involved the use of ballistic missiles, aerial attacks, heavy artillery, and chemical weapons targeting civilian centers. Attacks from the regime or other groups could happen with little or no warning, no part of Syria should be considered immune from violence, and the potential exists throughout the country for unpredictable and hostile acts, including kidnappings, sniper assaults, terrorist attacks, small arms fire, improvised explosives, artillery shelling, airstrikes, the use of chemical weapons, large- and small-scale bombings, as well as arbitrary arrest, detention, and torture. Syrian Civil War: The Syrian Arab Republic is ruled by an authoritarian regime dominated by the Socialist Ba’ath Party currently engaged in a full-scale civil war with the armed Syrian opposition. In light of violent, volatile conditions in Syria and the ongoing civil war, the Department of State has issued aTravel Advisory, toadvise U.S. citizens against travel to Syria and strongly recommends that U.S. citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately. Sources estimate that the conflict has resulted in over 400,000 deaths with many thousands more wounded. The Syrian conflict has resulted in over 5.1 million registered Syrian refugees, and approximately 6.3 million people are displaced inside Syria, while 4.53 million remain in hard-to-reach and besieged areas. The Syrian government and its partners continue to prohibit the free flow of humanitarian aid into besieged areas, resulting in severe food shortages. Since September 2014, the U.S. government and Defeat-ISIS Coalition have taken military strikes on Syrian territory. Entities Operating in Syria: The Syrian government is no longer in control of vast swathes of the country, particularly in northern, southern and eastern Syria and Damascus suburbs. Some armed groups have utilized car bombs, improvised explosive device/indirect-fire attacks, sniper fire, and carried out kidnappings throughout the country. Foreign combatants including Iranian regime elements, Hezbollah fighters, Islamic extremists, and al Qaida elements are also participating in hostilities. Additionally, Turkey has become increasingly involved in military operations throughout northwestern Syria, seeking to counter Kurdish influence. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which is dominated by al-Nusrah Front al-Qaidas Syrian affiliate has consolidated power in the northwestern province of Idlib. HTS control over Idlib threatens the ability of NGOs and states to deliver humanitarian aid to Syrians living there. Russian and/or Syrian government forces conducted airstrikes in Idlib province in the fall of 2017, which resulted in dozens of civilian fatalities, including medical personnel, and significant damage to medical facilities. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has lost the majority of the territory it once controlled in Syria and now operates as an insurgency. ISIS, however, continues to pose a significant threat to civilians residing in Syria and has demonstrated the ability to conduct coordinated attacks against armed actors and civilians. Tactics of ISIS, HTS, and other violent extremist groups include the use of suicide bombers, kidnapping, small and heavy arms, improvised explosive devices, and chemical weapons. They have targeted major city centers, road checkpoints, border crossings, government buildings, shopping areas, and open spaces in Damascus, Aleppo, Hamah, Dara, Homs, Idlib, and Dayr al-Zawr provinces. These groups have murdered and kidnapped U.S. citizens, both for ransom and political purposes; in some instances, U.S. citizens have disappeared within Syria. Because of the security situation in Syria, the U.S. governments ability to help U.S. citizens kidnapped or taken hostage is very limited. Chemical and Biological Weapons: The U.S. intelligence community assesses with high confidence that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin and chlorine gas against the Syrian people in multiple instances. ISIS is also likely responsible for several small-scale sulfur mustard attacks in Syria. The continuing violence, deteriorating security situation, and Syrias continuing chemical and biological weapons program creates a particularly volatile situation. Kidnapping: There is an ongoing and increased risk of kidnapping of U.S. citizens and Westerners throughout the country. U.S. citizens remain a specific target, with several high profile abductions having occurred since mid-2012. U.S. citizen victims have had diverse professional backgrounds, including journalism and humanitarian work. U.S. citizens held captive by ISIS have been murdered by the group, which released videos of killings and publicly took responsibility for their deaths. U.S. citizens have been abducted by other individuals and groups in Syria, and from various locations, including Damascus and Aleppo. Other U.S. citizens have gone missing and are believed to have been kidnapped since the outbreak of hostilities. The risk for kidnapping in all areas of Syria is high and persists for U.S. citizens of all backgrounds. Borders: A porous border with Iraq, and long-standing border issues with Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Israel, have contributed to a complex security environment in Syria, compounded by a protracted violent conflict and influx of foreign fighters. Since 2012, there have been multiple reports of Syrian shelling of neighboring countries near border areas, most significantly in Lebanon, Turkey, and the Golan Heights. Indirect fire has crossed into Lebanon on several occasions and Syria-based extremists associated with ISIS and al-Nusrah Front have conducted several incursions into Lebanon, illustrating the continued potential for spillover of Syrias conflict throughout the region. U.S. citizens should increase their vigilance if they travel within Syria to border areas with Iraq or Israel, the Golan Heights, or the Al-Jazira (eastern Syria) region. The Government of Turkey severely restricts crossings of its border with Syria, limited exclusively to individuals working for organizations engaged in the authorized provision of humanitarian assistance. Individuals seeking emergency medical treatment or safety from immediate danger are assessed on a case-by-case basis. U.S. citizens have reported facing dangers traveling within the country and when trying to leave Syria via land borders, given the diminishing availability of commercial air travel out of Syria. Opposition-held border checkpoints should not be considered safe, as they are targeted by regime attacks and some armed groups have sought funding through kidnappings for ransom. Border areas are frequent targets of shelling and other attacks and are crowded because of internally-displaced refugees. Errant attacks will occasionally hit border towns just outside the borders as well. Engaging in Armed Conflict: The U.S. government particularly warns U.S. citizens against traveling to Syria to engage in armed conflict. U.S. citizens who undertake such activity face extreme personal risks, including kidnapping, injury, or death. The U.S. government does not support this activity, and our ability to provide consular assistance to individuals who are arrested, injured, or kidnapped, or to the families of individuals who die in the conflict, is extremely limited. Individuals who demonstrate an interest in groups opposing ISIS, including on social media, could open themselves to being targeted by ISIS itself, especially if those individuals travel to Syria. Fighting on behalf of or providing other forms of financial and material support to designated terrorist organizations, including ISIS and al-Nusrah Front, is a crime under U.S. law that can result in penalties including prison time and large fines. Syrian Government Information: Syria has been a State Sponsor of Terrorism since 1979 and has given support to a variety of terrorist groups, including Lebanese Hezbollah, affecting the stability of the region. Terrorists often do not distinguish between U.S. government personnel and private U.S. citizens. Terrorists may target areas frequented by Westerners, such as tourist sites, hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and other frequently visited areas. U.S. citizens still in Syria are strongly encouraged to depart Syria immediately. U.S. citizens who choose to remain despite this warning should maintain a high level of vigilance and be aware of their surroundings. It is especially important for travelers to be unpredictable in their movements by varying times and routes and maintaining a low profile. While many Syrians appear genuinely friendly towards foreigners, underlying tensions can lead to a quick escalation in the potential for violence. Elements within both the regime, as well as non-state actor groups, maintain anti-U.S. or anti-Western sentiment, which may intensify following significant events in the region, particularly those related to U.S.-Syria relations, international intervention in the ongoing conflict, Israeli-Palestinian issues, the status of Jerusalem, and clashes in Lebanon. The Syrian government conducts intense physical and electronic surveillance of both Syrian citizens and foreign visitors. Any encounter with a Syrian citizen could be subject to scrutiny by the General Intelligence Directorate (GID) or other security services. . Sustained interactions with average Syrians especially if deemed to be of a political nature may subject that Syrian to harassment and/or detention, and other forms of repressive actions by state security elements. Hotel rooms, internet connections, telephones, and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched. Loitering or taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in questioning, confiscation of the images, or detention by security services. Additionally, U.S. citizens should be aware that conversations on the topics of politics, religion, and other social issues could lead to arrest. It is also illegal in Syria to possess specific-use electronic devices including GPS, short-wave or handheld radio equipment, or similar devices. The combination of terrorist organizations, a porous border with Iraq and long-standing border issues with all of its neighbors (Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Israel) have made Syria a destabilizing factor in the region and a potential target for reprisal. Read the Department of StatesHuman Rights Report,Trafficking in Persons Report, International Religious Freedom Report, Fact Sheet on U.S. Relations with Syria, and Department of State’s Syria page for additional information. CRIME:The rate of crime in major Syrian cities is difficult to determine because of the ongoing civil war. The current unrest and significant deterioration of the Syrian economy have led to a perceived increase in criminal activity. Since the suspension of operations of the U.S. Embassy in Damascus in February of 2012, the U.S. government has not been able to provide accurate information about crime to U.S. citizens visiting or living in Syria. The Department of State strongly recommends that U.S. citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately. See theDepartment of Stateand theFBIpages for information on scams. VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The Czech Government, through the U.S. Interests Section of the Czech Embassy in Damascus, currently serves as the Protecting Power for U.S. interests in Syria; however, their ability to provide services is extremely limited U.S. embassies and consulates can: The local equivalents to the 911 emergency line in Syria are 110 for ambulance, 113 for fire, and 112 for the police. Syrian operators, however, do not usually speak English, and contact with security services has the potential to result in arbitrary arrest, detention, or disappearance. See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas. Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the U.S. Interests Section or U.S. Embassy Amman for assistance. If you decide to travel to Syria:

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March 7, 2018  Tags:   Posted in: Syria  Comments Closed

As Trump Flounders in Syria, Putin Takes a Victory Lap

This article first appeared on the Atlantic Council site. The quick visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Hmeimim airbase in Syria last week was all about Russian domestic politics. The firstand Putin hopes lastround of Russian presidential elections is scheduled for March 18, 2018. In his pre-Christmas proclamation of victory over terrorists and in preserving Syria as a sovereign independent state, Putin reiterated his central, Syria-related message to his nationalist domestic audience: Russia is back as a great power. Trending: Who is Tamara Holder? Former Fox News Analyst Slams Rupert Murdoch as a ‘Liar or Delusional’ In declaring to Russian pilots that you are going home to your families, parents, wives, children and friends, Putin sought to assure Russian voters that Syria would be no quagmire. Yet Putins second announcement of military withdrawal from Syria may, like the first (in March 2016), be more rhetorical than real. The timing of Putins victory lap in Syria may have been influenced by a gratuitous gift emanating from American domestic politics: President Trumps recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and his decision to move the American embassy accordingly. GettyImages-890107312 Vladimir Putin, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad (left) and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu inspect a military parade during their visit to the Russian air base in Hmeimim in the northwestern Syrian province of Latakia on December 11. MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Putins move is like that of his American counterpart in the sense that it is driven domestically. But it differs in the positive regional impressionno matter the underlying objective truthit lends to Russian power and influence. Indeed, Putin departed Syria to take his Potemkin great power act to Egypt. The Trump administrations characterization of Syrias condition is accurate. By waging war mainly against civilianswith the enthusiastic support of Russia and IranBashar al-Assad and his entourage have marginalized the state, destroyed those sectors of the economy not already criminalized, created the humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century, hollowed out the countrys armed forces, rendered themselves utterly dependent on outsidersand rendered themselves incapable of governing the ruins they have created. All accurate. But relevant? Don’t miss: SpaceX Dragon Lands Tons of New Supplies at the International Space StationIncluding Ingredients for Beer The Obama administration tried to justify its calamitous decision to lift not a finger in response to Assad regime mass murder (or in support of its own moralistic rhetoric) by warning Mr. Putin in 2015 that he was wading into a Syrian quagmire: one that the United States had oh-so-judiciously avoided. Assad, according to the previous administration, had lost all legitimacy and should yield to full political transition irrespective of the military situation: He should read the text of the June 2012 Final Communique of the P-5 Action Group on Syria and pack his bags. No wonder an initially incredulous Vladimir Putin concluded that he could dance on the head of Washington, and not just in Syria. The Trump administration has adopted much of its predecessors rhetoric about the inadmissibility of Assad regime atrocities against civilians, including calling on the international community to vigorously support the U.N.-led Geneva process for a political resolution to the conflict that respects the will of the Syrian people. Does it imagine that this kind of verbiage has any more effect on Assad, Putinor Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei coming from the State Department podium now than it did under Obama administration auspices? With Russian airpower supplementing the fire and maneuver of Iranian-led militiamen, a man strongly in the running for arch war criminal of the 21st centuryBashar al-Assadretains the honorific of President of the Syrian Arab Republic. That airpower and those militiamen are not likely to be withdrawn anytime soon. Putins false claim of having played a role in the military defeat of ISIS is paired with recklessly aggressive Russian penetration of Syrian airspace east of the Euphrates River, where the American-led anti-ISIS coalition and its ground force partners have borne the burden of shutting down a false caliphate with which the Assad regime had enjoyedwith an occasional violent interruptiona live-and-let-live relationship. Most popular: Men Without Beards Are Just Like Women and Provoke ‘Indecent’ Thoughts, Islamic Preacher Says The foreign forces supporting Assad have concentrated nearly all their firepower on Syrian rebels opposing Assad: not a criminal pretending to be a caliph. And the prime Russian and Iranian targets of choice have been units supported by the United States: not those affiliated with al Qaeda. Now Moscow feels emboldened to threaten directly those (including American pilots) who have actually fought against terrorists. The days of Trump administration officials assuring outsiders that Russia and Iran will surely split over Syria and that Syrias reconstruction needs will force Russia to move beyond Assad appear, mercifully, to be over. The administrations appraisal of ground truth in Syria is sober and accurate. Indeed, this writer warned long ago that Russian actions east of the Euphrates and Russian attitudes toward the restoration of Assads ruinous governance in areas liberated from ISIS would tell Washington all it needs to know about the prospects for Russian cooperation in Syria. The returns are in, and key administration officials have no illusions about what they say. Russias aim is to restore Assad rule to all of Syria and then blackmail Europe into cleaning up the mess, lest there be another migrant crisis. The Trump administration seeks to draw a line along the Euphrates River to block Iran and limit the extent of Tehrans suzerainty in Syria. And it rejects reconstruction under the auspices of an entourage that will steal what it can. If aggressive Russian aerial penetration into eastern Syria is any indication, Vladimir Putin calculates the change of management in Washington has no impact on American actions in Syria. And lessons he draws from Syria he applies elsewhere. Such is the legacy left to the Trump administration by its predecessor. Frederic C. Hof is director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. This article was first written by Newsweek More from Newsweek

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December 18, 2017   Posted in: Syria  Comments Closed

In Syria, Russia securing position as Assad presses war

By Tom Perry BEIRUT (Reuters) – With the map of Syria’s conflict decisively redrawn in President Bashar al-Assad’s favor, his Russian allies want to convert military gains into a settlement that stabilizes the shattered nation and secures their interests in the region. A year after the opposition’s defeat in Aleppo, government forces backed by Russia and Iran have recovered large swathes of territory as Islamic State’s “caliphate” collapses. As U.N.-backed talks in Geneva fail to make any progress, Russia is preparing to launch its own political process in 2018. President Vladimir Putin declared mission accomplished for the military on a visit to Russia’s Syrian air base this week, and said conditions were ripe for a political solution. Though Washington still insists Assad must go, a senior Syrian opposition figure told Reuters the United States and other governments that have backed the rebellion had finally “surrendered to the Russian vision” on ending the war. The view in Damascus is that this will preserve Assad as president. A Syrian official in Damascus said “it is clear a track is underway, and the Russians are overseeing it”. “There is a shift in the path of the crisis in Syria, a shift for the better,” the official said. But analysts struggle to see how Russian diplomacy can bring lasting peace to Syria, encourage millions of refugees to return, or secure Western reconstruction aid. There is no sign that Assad is ready to compromise with his opponents. The war has also allowed his other big ally, Iran and its Revolutionary Guard, to expand its regional influence, which Tehran will not want to see diluted by any settlement in Syria. Having worked closely to secure Assad, Iran and Russia may now differ in ways that could complicate Russian policy. Assad and his allies now command the single largest chunk of Syria, followed by U.S.-backed Kurdish militias who control much of northern and eastern Syria and are more concerned with shoring up their regional autonomy than fighting Damascus. Anti-Assad rebels still cling to patches of territory: a corner of the northwest at the Turkish border, a corner of the southwest at the Israeli frontier, and the Eastern Ghouta near Damascus. Eastern Ghouta and the northwest are now in the firing line. “The Revolutionary Guards clearly feel they have won this war and the hardliners in Iran are not too keen on anything but accommodation with Assad, so on that basis it is a little hard to see that there can be any real progress,” said Rolf Holmboe, a former Danish ambassador to Syria. “Assad cannot live with a political solution that involves any real power sharing,” said Holmboe. “The solution he could potentially live with is to freeze the situation you have on the ground right now.” THE WORLD IS “TIRED OF THE CRISIS” The war has been going Assad’s way since 2015, when Russia sent its air force to help him. The scales tipped even more his way this year: Russia struck deals with Turkey, the United States and Jordan that contained in the war in the west, indirectly helping Assad’s advances in the east, and Washington pulled military aid from the rebels. Though Assad seems unbeatable, Western governments still hope to effect change by linking reconstruction aid to a credible political process leading to “a genuine transition”. While paying lip service to the principle that any peace deal should be concluded under U.N. auspices, Russia aims to convene its own peace congress in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. The aim is to draw up a new constitution followed by elections. The senior Syrian opposition figure said the United States and other states that had backed their cause – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Turkey – had all given way to Russia. Sochi, not Geneva, would be the focal point for talks. “This is the way it has been understood from talking to the Americans, the French, the Saudis – all the states,” the opposition figure said. “It is clear that this is the plan, and there is no state that will oppose this … because the entire world is tired of this crisis.” Proposals include forming a new government to hold elections that would include Syrian refugees. But “the time frame: six months, two years, three years, all depends on the extent of understanding between the Russians and Americans”, the opposition figure said. “If the Russians and Americans differ greatly, the whole table could be overturned.” IRAN, RUSSIA DIVERGE ON KURDS Russia is serious about accomplishing something with the political process, but on its own terms and turf, said senior International Crisis Group analyst Noah Bonsey. “I am not sure they have a good sense of how to accomplish that and to the extent that they seek to accomplish things politically, they may run into the divergence of interests between themselves and their allies,” he said. The Syrian Kurdish question is one area where Russia and Iran have signaled different goals. While a top Iranian official recently said the government would take areas held by the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led forces, Russia has struck deals with the Kurds and their U.S. sponsors. “From the start of the crisis, there’s been a difference between the Russians and the Iranians and the regime,” said Fawza Youssef, a top Kurdish politician. The Russians believe the Kurds “have a cause that should be taken into account”. Damascus, while issuing its own warnings to the Kurds, may continue to leave them to their own devices as it presses campaigns against the last rebel-held pockets of western Syria. The situation in the southwest is shaped by different factors, namely Israel’s determination to keep Iran-backed forces away from its frontier, which could prompt an Israeli military response. “There are still major questions and a lot of potential for escalating violence in various parts of Syria,” said Bonsey. (Additional reporting by Laila Bassam and Ellen Francis; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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December 15, 2017   Posted in: Syria  Comments Closed

How the U.S. Lost the War in Syria to Russia and Iran

Whenthe U.S. and its alliesfinally began their offensive to defeat the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor in August 2017, the Syrian battlefield looked very different to when the conflict began in 2011. Back then, President Barack Obama came out in support of rebels trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and, in 2012, began arming them. In the years since, America’s friends and foes have shifted, however, and its leading rival, Russia, stepped into help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad quell a nationwide rebellion and reclaim the lion’s share of his country. Moscow’s entrance to the conflict, along with growing jihadist influence among rebel groups, forced the U.S. to realign its position and settle on anew, informal goal: stopping Iran. The U.S., now led by maverick President Donald Trump, suspects Iran is seeking to establish a long-term foothold to build an international corridor of influence stretching from Tehran to Beirut and Washington is struggling to stop it. Keep up with this story and more by subscribing now Related:Russia says Syria war will end soon with help from Turkey Taking advantage of eastern Syria’s tribal roots, however, one team of analysts say the U.S. may have a chance to retain a stake in Syria. But doing so may take a level of clarity and commitment not yet seen by the U.S. in its approach to the six-year conflict and it may already be too late to do so. “This is a larger challenge in Deir Ezzor than any part of Syria for the coalition and for the Syrian Democratic Forces,” Nicholas Heras, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, tellsNewsweek. A Syrian man holds the Iranian flag as a convoy carrying aid provided by Iran arrives in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, September 20, 2017. Two separate offensives are underway against the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in the area – one by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, the other by the Syrian military, backed by Iran and Russia. LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images Beginnings of a Conflict in Tribal Deir Ezzor Heras teamed up with Bassam Barabandi, co-founder of anti-Assadactivist group People Demand Change and a Deir Ezzor native, to research and map out the complex, yet vastly influential network of tribes that shape Deir Ezzor society. Their report, which was published in full last week, details not only the current state of what’s become the most highly contested province of Syria, but how it became the latest focal point for violence in Syria. Prior to the 2011 uprising against Assad’s government that precipitated the ongoing conflict in Syria, Deir Ezzor was in poor shape. The largely rural province was suffering the effects of years of urbanization, with younger Syrians choosing to live in larger cities like Damascus and Aleppo, and a crippling drought made worse by state mismanagement. Residents were bitter, but when demonstrations condemning government corruption, unemployment and lack of social freedoms devolved into armed clashes between security forces and what would ultimately become the Syrian opposition, Deir Ezzor was one of the last areas to turn to revolution. While tribesmen may have seen the growing rebellion as an opportunity to ditch the state, they were also very cautious not tobacka losing faction and risk further chaos in a part of the country very rooted in tradition. In 2012, when the anti-Assad insurgency reached “critical mass”as Heras says, armedopposition groups composed mainly of tribal militias gained momentum againstpro-government forces and ultimately expelled most of them from the city in 2013. The remainder would remain trapped for years to come. As the opposition fended off Syrian military attempts to regain the city, locals’ fears of further bloodshed appeared validated as various rebel groups, including Al-Qaeda’sNusra Front, battled one another for control of the province’s lucrative oil fields. The situation only got worse when a new, more powerful entity took advantage of the infighting to gain a foothold in Deir Ezzor. Members of Liwa (brigade) Hamzah, an Islamist brigade from the Syrian eastern city of Deir Ezzor take part in a rally in the center of the city to announce their formation on February 25, 2013. As support for Deir Ezzor’s opposition grew, so did the influence of jihadists and, ultimately, the Islamic State militant group (ISIS). ZAC BAILLIE/AFP/Getty Images The Rise and Fall of ISIS After breaking off from Al-Qaeda in 2013the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) spread across half of Iraq and into neighboring Syria. ISIS swarmed Deir Ezzor in summer 2014 and enlisted the support of the province’s disillusioned tribal leaders by force and by presenting itself as the most stable, wealthy guarantor for locals. Most acquiesced and helped fuel what would become an economic and political hub for the jihadists’ self-proclaimed caliphate. In the three years since, ISISlost most of its groundacross the border in Iraq and separate campaigns by the Russia-backed Syrian military and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a mostly Kurdish alliance of Arabs and ethnic minorities that’s taken the place of rebels as the U.S.’s main ally in Syria, have begun closing in on what is now the jihadists’ last major city. Both the Syrian government and Kurdish leaders are looking to oust ISIS, but they have different visions for Deir Ezzor once the militants are defeated. Once the competition to annihilate ISIS ends, they’ll have to face off once again to appeal to locals to support their post-war plans. So far, Assad may have the upper hand. The Syrian leader, who once appeared poised to fall after withdrawing his military from most of the country early on in the war, has since been able to retake nearly every major population center. With the help of Russia and Iran, Assad hasretaken up to half the city and pushed the jihadists back across the Euphrates. Assad’s staying power leaves him a serious option for tribes, who may be reluctant to reconcile with the government, but also remain skeptical of the U.S.’s longevity in the conflict once ISIS is defeated. Many locals of Deir Ezzor have direct relations in Iraq’s Anbar province, where the U.S. made a number of deals to secure local support against ISIS’s previous incarnation, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, back in 2006. When ISIS ultimately took control of the region years later in 2014, Washington’s promises did little to defend Iraqi tribesmen from the jihadist wrath. “In Deir Ezzor, Assad would have to play the long-term game rooted in the assumption that the Americans and their allies will eventually leave,” Heras tellsNewsweek. “[Local tribes] still trust that Assad will return and stay, assuming that the Americans won’t stay for decades to come.” Pro-government Military Security Shield Forces General Abu Ali Salhab (C-R) talks with civilians in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor on September 10, 2017, as the Syrian military and its allies continue to press forward with Russian air cover in the offensive against Islamic State militant group (ISIS) across the province. Despite Assad’s recent military successes, he faces the challenge of winning over local tribes in the region. GEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images Suspicious of U.S. and Iran’s Intentions Heras describes the area as “much more anti-Iran than pro-America,” which may actually present itself as an opportunity for the U.S. As little support the U.S., and much less the Kurds, has among residents of Deir Ezzor, localdistrust of Iran may be greater. Tehran’s campaign to expand its influence across the Middle East has proved an effective force against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria, but it’s also drawn the scorn of Sunni Muslims, who enjoy a solid majority in Deir Ezzor and many other parts of the region. Broken promises in Iraq may mar potential alliances between the U.S. and tribes in Syria, but Assad’s proximity to Iran and its allies may have even greater consequences in the current scheme of things. With ISIS largely defeated in western Iraq, the largely Sunni Muslim Iraqi relatives of Deir Ezzor’s tribes now fear retribution from the majority-Shiite Muslim Popular Mobilization Forces, known as Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi, backed by both Tehran and Baghdad. These militias and their fellow Iran-backed allies across the border in Syria have nearly completed a land route allowing pro-Iran elements to move freely between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.Heras says the U.S.’s best chance oflimiting Assad and Iran’s influence in Deir Ezzor would be to back a powerful, representative military council whose structure mimics the Syrian Democratic Forces in the north, but remains independent enough as not to appear as a Kurdish takeover in a region still very much attached to Arab nationalism. Genevieve Casagrande,Syria research analyst at the Institute for the Study of Warcautioned that any perceived connection to Kurdish groups would doom any plans to recruit these tribes for a self-ruling council. Such tensions plague similar councils in the Syrian cities of Manbij and Raqqa. “Even if you have this sort of Arab component to the Syrian Democratic Forces, there’s a fear that a local government will be dependent and subordinate to the Kurdish governance project, which the population of Deir Ezzor will reject,” Casagrande tellsNewsweek. A map presented by the Center for a New American Security displays the location of Deir Ezzor’s major tribal confederations in eastern Syria, published October 2, 2017. Sasha Ghosh-Siminoff/People Demand Change, Inc./Melody Cook/Center for a New American Security A map showing a land supply route that would link Tehran and Damascus through Iraq, published September 22, 2017. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s control over most of western Syria would also allow Iran to better supply its Hezbollah allies in Lebanon. Current and former security officials/Popular Mobilization Forces/CIA Factbook/Embassy of Jordan/Globalsecurity (Sunni and Shiite majorities)/Maps4News A Race for Oil With Syria and its Russian and Iranian allies steadily gaining in Deir Ezzor city, however,the U.S. and its Kurdish allies may have already abandoned efforts to take the regional capital. In fact, their southwestern advance against ISIS appears to indicate another target altogether, Syria’s main oil fields located in rural Deir Ezzor. Syrian militaryaffairs analystWael al-Hussaini saysboth the U.S. and Russia are vying for control over these lucrative oil and gas fields and that, although he believed U.S.-backed Kurds would succeed in securing a number of these strategic sites, they would ultimately be willing to return them to Assad as part of post-war agreement, potentially in return for greater autonomy in the north. Hussainisays that, after aKurdish independence referendum drew condemnation from nearly every regional actor and was even rejected by the U.S.,Syrian Kurds would try to avoid pushing for full statehood. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said last month that Damascus may be willing to negotiate “some sort of self-management” for Kurds in the north once ISIS was defeated and the Kurds may see Deir Ezzor’soil fields as bargaining chips in future talks. “If you dont have access to waterand your neighbor can shut down its borders and your airspace can be closed also, then you wont be able to establish an independent state. So eventually they will have to talk to the Syrian government,” Hussaini tellsNewsweek. A map shows areas of control in Syria between August 30, 2017, and September 14, 2017. Once the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) is defeated entirely in Raqqa and Deir Ezzor, the country faces tough questions of negotiation and reconciliation between the Syrian government and Kurds, while Syrian rebels may struggle to find a role. Institute for the Study of War/Reuters Ahmed Abu Kholeh, head of the Deir Ezzor Military Council, which fights under the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, speaks during a press conference in the village of Abu Fas, Hasaka province, Syria, September 9, 2017. The mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces have successfully fought the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), but their Kurdish nationalist aspirations have been met with hostility in many parts of the majority-Arab country. Rodi Said/Reuters “Dramatically Outpaced” Reconciliation between the Syrian government and Kurds could provide Trumpa defensible exit strategy from the conflict, but it still leaves the door open for Iran’s eventual expansion. Only capitalizing on the remaining revolutionary and sectarian fervor of Deir Ezzor’s Sunni Muslim tribal confederations ensures support in keeping Iran out, at least until a pro-U.S. autonomous leadership was formed in the city. Revitalizing these tensions, however, could ignite further bloodshed for years to come. Even if the U.S. did try to capitalize on local tensions to recruit tribal fighters, it appears that Assad and his allies have beaten Washington to it. Neil Hauer, lead analyst at the SecDev Group, says the U.S. has been “dramatically outpacedby Iran and the regime in terms of outreach to tribes.” He explains that the Syrian government and Iran, having long planned the Deir Ezzor offensive, have already established pro-government networks. “Syrian and Iranian officials have been working hard to establish links with the tribes of Deir Ezzor for nearly a year now, with the knowledge that eventually they would be moving towards this area as clashes with rebels were largely frozen and efforts from all sides focused more on IS territory,” Hauer tellsNewsweek.”U.S. and Syrian Democratic Forces efforts pale in comparison, especially as the latter is increasingly viewed as a Kurdish nationalist project.” Chinese and Syrian businessmen shake hands behind their national flags during a meeting to discuss reconstruction projects in Syria, Beijing, China May 8, 2017. International powers such as China, Russia, Indian and Iran have all secured lucrative contracts to participate in Syria’s costly recovery effort. Jason Lee/Reuters “A Game of Great Powers” With the U.S. having essentially lost its foothold in eastern Syria, Iran may still encounter major obstacles to its long-term plans for the region. Aram Nerguizian, asenior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says that, as the U.S. concludes its anti-ISIS campaign and Assad reasserts control, observers would be most interested in examining how the strategic relationship between Iran and Russia plays out. The two powers formed an alliance of convenience in response to the conflict, but Russia’s willingness toengage amicably with Iran’s two greatest foes, Israel and Saudi Arabia, may erode Moscow and Tehran’s tolerance of one another. China too, has a stake in the region as part of its greater “One Belt One Road” initiative, meaning post-war Syria will likely continue to be a theater for a number of major international powers. “How will the great powers agree to disagree on spheres of influence?” Nerguizian tells Newsweek.”It’s still very much a game of great powers.”

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November 28, 2017   Posted in: Syria  Comments Closed

Map of Syrian Civil war/ Global conflict in Syria – Syria …

Syrian opposition sources: Iran-linked Shia militia personnel, including commanders, where present at Qiswa military base south of Damascus, when it was allegedly attacked by Israel East Damascus: 18th straight day of SyAF airstrikes on Harasta front. Talal Silo says the day-to-day commander in the PKK areas is Sahin Cilo, with Nurettin Halef al-Muhammed (Nurettin Sofi) above him [previously Fehman Husayn (Bahoz Erdal), who is now back in Qandil], all answering ultimately to Sabri Ok, a Kurd from Turkey and PKK executive. US Sec.Defense Mattis: Astana has not been productive. A lot of effort went into it. Nothing much has come out of it” Talal Silo notes that during the Minbij operation, weapons formally went through Adnan Abu Amjad, an Arab at the head of the “Minbij Military Council”, while in fact weapons, salaries, and airstrikes were controlled by foreign PKK commanders inside Syria. A crane has been set up at Aleppo’s Great Mosque. Seems that Chechen-funded reconstruction effort is underway. Mattis on US troops in Syria: “We’re changing the composition of our forces to something that supports the diplomats and the Geneva process” Many civilians injured after 9 air raids targeting Harasta city so far, and Civil Defense teams are working to evacuate the injured to medical centers Syria: Many Hts and Ansaar members ask Jolani to release AQ leaders. SE. Aleppo: video showing Jaish Nasr destroying with a TOW a Shilka 2 days ago on Abisan front. Warplanes carried out airstrikes on Harasta, resulting in casualties among civilians and injuring Syria Civil Defense Branch 90 rescuers in doubletap airstrikes while rescuing victims from previous one. In addition to ambulance destroyed Eastern Damascus countryside Former SDF spokesman tells of US arming terror groups: “The basic reason for SDF’s establishment is the US. The US authorities wanted to give arms to Kurds. Announcement of SDF’s establishment was only a drama” Russian Air Force 223rd Flight Unit Ilyushin Il-76MD plane flew from Latakia Bassel Al-Assad International Airport Syria to Russian Air Force base in Mozdok Ossetia near Vladikavkaz through Turkish airspace Very violent battles are ongoing in southern Aleppo Raids of the Syrian airforce on the eastern Ghouta in the countryside Damascus Deir-ez-Zur: SDF captured villages Al-Uwaydiyah ,Al-Kishkiyah,and cleen Suwaydan Jazirah Russian flagged RORO Alexandr Tkachenko, chartered by the Russian government, returns from Syria with at least 8 military trucks, that appear to be new, or unused, or well maintained. Lebanese sources report Syrian military jets overflights in the Wadi Khaled area, near the border with Lebanon Israeli missiles strike military position near Damascus, according to Syrian state television. Two Israeli missiles destroyed by Syrian air defense system nearby Damascus- State TV Redeployed to Mediterranean after 60 days and armed with Kalibr SS-N-27 missiles, Admiral Grigorovich class frigate Russian Navy Admiral Grigorovich departs BlackSea 23 hours after leaving Sevastopol and transits Bosphorus Marmara-bound. Turkish CoastGuard TCSG303 monitored the transit Syria DeirEzZor: New 5 Minute Video showing Scenes from Tiger Forces Military Operations against ISIS at the Mayadin – Salihiyah Axis Israeli air strikes allegedly hit near Al-Kiswa, 13 km south of Damascus. Iranian military forces were suspected of building a permanent base at the site. Video allegedly showing Syrian Anti Air Defense intercepting one of the Israeli Missiles launched towards the countryside of Damascus SDF/DMC controlled Dranj town East DeirEzzor and clashes against Daesh around Abu Hamam, Keshkiya and Abu Swedan. D24 SW. Damascus: Mount Hermon Forces were able to prevent government advances in East foothills of Marzat BeitJin after whole day of battle. British YPG volunteer Oliver Hall, known as Canser Zargros killed clearing mine in Raqqa Deir ez-Zur Eastern countryside: Video shows the tragic situation of the displaced people of Deir al-Zour at the river crossings in the countryside of Albukaml escape the aerial bombardment and continuous artillery around the clock Report: Syrian rebels repelled today another attack by pro-Assad forces around the vehicle management complex in Harasta, Damascus, Syria. 10 reported to be injured or killed during the clashes. A source in Jabal al-Sheikh Forces Union told Syrian News Panorama that government helicopter was shot today in Beit Jin in west Damascus with 9K38 Igla MANPADS DeirEzZor: SRG Soldier on the situation in the Euphrates river front (Suheil is not fighting alone there are also SRG and 17th Division – 250 dead unfortunately Damascus denounces local elections of “Rojava” as ‘unilateral action’

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November 27, 2017   Posted in: Syria  Comments Closed

PM Netanyahu to meet Putin over Iranian presence in Syria – The Jerusalem Post

THE TIES between Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been characterized as straightforward, open and built on personal trust. (photo credit:REUTERS) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Wednesday, the Prime Ministers Office announced on Saturday, amid increasing concerns that Iran is establishing a permanent military presence in Syria. This will be Netanyahus fourth visit to Russia in some 16 months, a testament to Moscows influence in the region as a result of its intense engagement in Syria. In addition to the visits, Netanyahu and Putin speak regularly on the phone. The PMO statement said that the purpose of the regular meetings with Putin is to discuss regional and bilateral issues as well as to prevent any accidental confrontation in Syrias skies between the Israeli and Russian air forces. Soon after Russia sent its forces to Syria in September 2015 to bolster President Bashar Assad, Netanyahu went to Moscow and set up a deconfliction mechanism to ensure that there are not accidents between the two air forces. One senior Russian diplomatic official said recently that while Israel and Russia do not share the same interests in Syria, they do both have an interest in avoiding any accidental military confrontation, and that the cooperation between the two sides on this matter is excellent. Israel has expressed its opposition to a cease-fire in Syria brokered between Russia and the US, because it leaves Iranian positions in place. Netanyahu last met with Putin in March in Moscow, and already warned at that meeting that a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria would be unacceptable to Israel. Share on facebook

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August 20, 2017   Posted in: Syria  Comments Closed


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