Monthly Archives: March 2016

“Al-Qaeda” in Syria fears the settlement and rejects the cease-fire: the next target

 

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Why did Assad not attack the “Islamic State” before Palmyra?

“Al-Qaeda” in Syria fears the settlement and rejects the cease-fire.

 

Original article published here via @ALRAIMediagroup

http://www.alraimedia.com/ar/article/special-reports/2016/03/31/669061/nr/syria

 

Elijah J. Magnier: @EjmAlrai

The Syrian opposition and Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda in Syria, began to understand that the cease-fire is no longer in their best interest, especially since the Syrian army and its allies are turning all guns against the “Islamic State” group (ISIS). Al Qaeda in Syria believes that the cease-fire, a possible settlement, and democratic elections represent an existential threat to its existence. Its objective consists in establishing an Islamic State and certainly not a secular state. This is also the same approach of many within Ahrar al-Sham, the group that represents the largest number of militants in northern Syria. Other hardliner factions fighting under “Jaish al Fateh”, the Army of Conquest, also share the same ideology and objective with al-Qaeda.

Those groups believe that the Russian Air Force, the Syrian Army and its allies have won the battle of Palmyra only because of the cease-fire, that enable these to fully dedicate all forces against ISIS. Another battle has erupted, at the same intensity as the 18 days battle on Palmyra, on the Qaryateyn front, in Homs governorate, to defeat ISIS and expel it from the Syrian Eastern desert, opening the road to the strategic city of Deir-ezzour to break the siege and close the borders with Iraq. Russia appears to be imposing the rhythm of peace and war in Syria.

What Al-Qaeda and its allies in Syria believe is that the Syrian Army and the Russian are going to direct their guns toward it when ISIS will be encircled in Raqqa. This conviction is reinforced by the determination of the U.S. to support any Russian military action against any Syrian group, willing to seriously break the cease-fire and interrupt the peace negotiation. Al-Qaeda is not wrong. It would be naïve to think it is going to accept any resolution or agreement against its ideology, with at least 10.000 militants among its ranks, of which at least a third of strongly ideological foreign fighters.

But the question remains: Why Damascus forces did not attack ISIS before?

In the west, there are a few who call themselves “experts in Syrian affairs”, and who believe that an agreement was in force between ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This kind of agreement consisted in avoiding confrontation for years, especially between April 2013 and August 2014. This erroneous analysis is logical as it emanates from those who did not put a foot in Syria; they are far from the Syrian reality and dynamics. But let’s go over that mentioned period of war in Syria:

  • – In April 2013, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the “Islamic state in Iraq”, announced the merge of Jabhat al-Nusra (led by Abu Muhammad al-Joulani) with its Iraqi group, which became the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria”. Al- Joulani rejected the merger and declared allegiance to al Qaeda Central leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who welcomed the allegiance for convenience purposes. Al-Nusra became an Al-Qaeda franchise in the Levant.

It was clear to Damascus and its allies in Iraq, Lebanon and Iran that the battle in Iraq and Syria is one; that the next battle after Syria will be Lebanon; that the fate of Syria cannot be separated that of the Levant.

  • – In April 2013, few days later, the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with Secretary General of “Hezbollah” Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in Damascus. Jabhat al-Nusra and its allies were in the heart of Damascus. It was agreed that the fate of Lebanon and Syria are interlinked and that Hezbollah be allowed to bring in all forces to start its first heavy involvement in Syria.
  • – On May 19, 2013, the battle of Qusayr began. The military situation along the Syrian-Lebanese borders was critical and Damascus was in danger. The Presidential Palace was shelled. Al-Qaeda was close to al-Abbasy’yeen square in the heart of Damascus. But the borders allowed a continuous supply of men and weapons to rebels. Hezbollah promised to close the road and dedicate more effort to Damascus.
  • – In June 2013 the Syrian army and Hezbollah launched the battle of Ghouta, Qaboun, Barzeh, Jobar, Adra, Al-Hajar al-Aswad and the area around the Damascus airport. Al-Nusra and rebels were everywhere around the capital. If Damascus falls, the entire regime would end and with it the Army and the government.
  • – In August 2013, the Syrian army and its allies attacked Harasta , Zamalka and Ein Tarma. All around Damascus.
  • – In September 2013 al-Qaida attacked the Christian Syrian town of Maaloula. In the months that followed, the nuns of Ma’loula were taken hostage.
  • – In March 2014, the battle between Al-Nusra and ISIS began in Deir ez-Zor to control the city and the surrounding oil wells.
  • – In the same month the Syrian army and Hezbollah attacked Nabek, Rima farms, Assal al Ward and Yabrud, enlarging the protection of the Lebanese-Syrian borders and preventing the flow of men to rebels and jihadists.

The attacks were carried following a specific agreed plan between Damascus, Tehran and Hezbollah. This plan consisted of the following objectives:

1 – Protect the capital Damascus and interrupt the supply line to militants around the capital and along the borders with Lebanon.

2 – Rebuild the armed forces of the Syrian army after the defection of huge numbers who either joined the insurgency, or went back home, away from the fighting fronts.

3 – Form and train a parallel force to the army, the National Defence Force (NFD) so the population is involved in fighting for their lives against Jihadists of Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

4 – Protect Damascus, Homs, Hama, Aleppo and Latakia. The Eastern Syria and the desert were left to the already established and existing isolated Syrian military bases. It was not possible to defend these, but it was necessary to hold on as long as possible, enough to keep the enemy engaged. ISIS understood this weakness and took advantage by attacking in July 2014 the Division 17 in the north of Raqqa, the Kuweires military airport in the west of Aleppo, and the airport of Tabaqa northeast of Aleppo. All officers and soldiers captured by ISIS were killed.

5 – All parties decided to protect what was defined as “useful Syria”: the capital Damascus and its airport, which represents the weight and centre of the system and the arrival of military supplies; Homs, being Syria’s largest province that its limits are very close to the borders of Lebanon and Iraq; adjacent to the protectors of Homs, and Aleppo, which is the economic capital of Syria; the maritime port of Latakia and its suburban and rural area.

6 – Idlib was considered the most sensitive and dangerous province that must be protected. Turkey found it mouth-watering and was waiting to devour it. Turkey had ambitions in Syria. Already Turkey asked from the Lebanese Prime Minister Najeeb Mikati to declare war on Assad. His request was officially denied.

At no time was ISIS considered a priority, due to its existence in an open space in the East of Syria, away from the regime’s centre of command and control. ISIS didn’t represent an existential threat to the regime, unlike Al-Qaeda and its allies that were, not only naively called for years as “moderate rebels” or “simple opposition”, but also supported by the West and the regional countries.

But the tide turned against the regime, again, reshuffling the plans up side down, when Turkey allowed for thousands of al-Qaeda fighters and its allies to travel across its country and take the Idlib province, Jisr al-Shoughour and attack north and east of Lattakia. Kesab was in the hands of Jihadists who finally had an access to the Mediterranean Sea. The Syrian Army was morally incapable of fighting. Officers found it easier to run away and leave posts when in danger in many- but not all – battles. Damascus had a soft policy toward these to prevent officers and soldiers from further deserting. The Turkish move was considered a game-changer and broke all red lines. The partition of Syria was at this moment possible. Latakia was surrounded by land on its eastern and northern front. The long safe city of Latakia was bombed. The U.S. and Europe were happy to provide all rebels, including Jihadists, with weapons. The lesson of Afghanistan was forgotten. The stinger of the twentieth was replace with the TOW of the twenty first century.

This is when Damascus and Tehran asked Russia to intervene. The argument was that no one could guarantee what the next ruler of Syria was going to do with its allies. The Jihadists were overwhelming the rebels with high motivation, driven by their solid ideology. The Syrian Army and its allies were incapable of fighting on many fronts.

Russia agreed to intervene as long as Damascus, Tehran and Hezbollah provided the ground forces. In the first months, many western observers mocked the “lack of results”, expressing their wishful thinking. The balance was established. None the less, another game-changer occurred: Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 in November 2015.

Russia’s prime concern shifted to defeat all Turkish allies and dismantle Turkey’s plans in Syria. The Russian Air Force managed, with its allies on the ground, to regain control of the most difficult front, the province of Latakia and its rural area; it provided a recovery for Daraa in the south; restored the control of Homs rural area in Mheen; created a wider security parameter around Damascus; recovered the south of Aleppo; took most of the north of Aleppo, thus opening the road to the long besieged cities of Nubbl and Zahraa; and finally took back Palmyra after advancing toward Tabqa.

Only an amateur with limited knowledge of the war in Syria would consider Palmyra to be the “first victory of the regime” and its allies. All the above are “First Victories”.

It is certain that Russia and the United States have managed together to impose the cease-fire, transforming it into an international victory. It is clear that the cease-fire is serving the purpose of fighting ISIS now that all other fronts are relatively calm. All other parties involved in the war in Syria are negotiating with the excepting of Al-Qaeda, unless its leader accepts to engage in the road map and a democratic secular Syria: this is highly unlikely.

It is most likely we shall see some setbacks to Syria’s cease-fire. However, both the U.S. and Russia are determined in moving forward in the peace talks, with parliamentary elections, a new constitution and a new government in Syria with wider participation. Simultaneously, the war will continue against ISIS, and later Al-Qaeda… the second biggest loser in this cease-fire.

 

Read also related article:

  1.  For Assad defeating al-Qaeda and its allies, rather than ISIS, is a top priority: ISIS is a “marionet… https://elijahjm.wordpress.com/2016/01/09/why-defeating-al-qaeda-and-its-allies-is-a-top-priority-for-assad-rather-than-isis-isis-is-a-marionette/ via @EjmAlrai

2. How you become a famous “Terrorist Expert” on social media. https://elijahjm.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/how-you-become-a-famous-terrorist-expert-on-social-media/ via @EjmAlrai

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How you become a famous “Terrorist Expert” on social media.

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Whether you are a bored, retired civil servant, a journalist, a blogger, or just a young enthusiastic ambitious person looking for fame, all you have to do is to present yourself as a Terrorist Expert. If you are smart enough to learn a few words of Arabic and train yourself to pronounce them well, you can become an ATE, an “Arabic Terrorist Expert”. In fact, your orphan Arabic words sound better if pronounced with a western accent. This will impress, show a lot of intelligence, and certainly demonstrate a huge amount of knowledge! This is why “experts” use Arabic words to an audience who hardly know where Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen are on the map.

The next step is to go on social media and follow accounts of Al-Qaeda franchises and the “Islamic State” group of “keyboard jihadists” for you to reproduce and post their stuff. When you see a comment, you just copy it, translate it into your own mother tongue language and post it on Twitter or Facebook. Once spotted, you are guaranteed to receive dozens of calls, weekly, from newspapers, radios and television around the globe, looking for the added value of comments from a “terrorist expert” in their programme or article.

You can enjoy tweeting:”I am going to be on the ABCD at 1400 PM to discuss ISIS (ISIL/Daesh/IS)”. You can start chatting with those Mujahedeen who follow you to sharpen some timely information and tweet it, confirming more of your expertise. You can even talk to rebels in Syria, meeting them over endless coffee in 5 star hotels in the Middle East and then write a book about them, reflecting their version, pretending to be someone who spends his life walking down the street in Syria.

You could also envisage visiting Lebanon, spending few days talking to taxi drivers, or taking it further by going to the suburbs of Beirut, sitting in a restaurant and speaking to people around. Then when you can, come back and write about your “credible sources” within Hezbollah. It will look very sexy on paper: You become a Hezbollah expert, you can repeat “Lab’baiki Ya Zaynab” at every opportunity and say “Hezbollah originated in the south of Lebanon”! Not really difficult mainly if your speciality is to count Shia tombs and identify militia flags…

Once you are a famous analyst, you keep an eye on any mantra that is starting to pick up in the social media. You just need to be fast enough to follow it and so be among the first. Usually it starts with a group of analysts, all-sitting in a tank pretending to think. In fact, as they are all mostly working for the same group around the world, they promote each other. They are looking at the word through binoculars, dictating to western governments what they should or should not do and getting angry when these governments do not listening to their “unique advice” – advice that is equivalent, in their perception, to “the only Coca-Cola in the desert”. Once the idea is dropped onto social media, everybody else runs to pick it up and chew it, each one from a different angle.

Don’t worry if it is wrong. Everybody is saying the same thing and everybody will just turn the page when it is wrong and start looking for another idea. Who cares, anyway, whether it is right or wrong?

So it turns out that terrorism is the most popular field of study in western society today. The number of scholars and theorists specialising in terrorism has boomed since 9/11. Leonard Weinberg said:” The Library at the university where I work contains almost five thousand books on Terrorism. When I log on to Google and search under the heading “terrorism”, the result is approximately fifty million entries”.

The U.S.A intelligence budget invested in fighting terrorism and paying think-tank organisation to do the thinking job for them has reached around $70bn per year. This amount is still relatively low in comparison to the cost of the war in Iraq.

We need to look no further for the reason why “people hate us”. Just listen to what the President of the United States is saying: “According to the latest figures compiled by Iraq Body Count, to date more than 200,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed, although other sources say the casualties are twice as high. More than 4,000 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq, and tens of thousands more have been injured and maimed. The war has cost US taxpayers more than $800 billion”.

In an interview with VICE founder Shane Smith, Obama has stated, “ The rise of the Islamic State was a direct result of the disastrous invasion. ISIL is a direct outgrowth of al Qaeda in Iraq that grew out of our invasion, which is an example of unintended consequences. Which is why we should generally aim before we shoot.”[1]

Yet, these newly born “analysts” and “terrorist experts” truly believe they know much better than Obama about the root cause of terrorism and who is behind ISIS’ growth. Of course they do. They spend all day looking at the news on Twitter following hundreds and thousands of activists on social media who take them on the merry-go-round. They can even count bombs while watching youtube videos provided by activists and add another title to themselves: “twitter war zone journalists”. While the poor Obama has only access  to what 16 most informed  intelligence agencies can produce.

The best intelligence reports and analysis are worthless if decision makers are not convinced and reject it. I believe that Terrorism Studies, offered by real scholars and academia, can provide unique perspectives that analysts and journalists could advantageously have access to. In fact, scholars and theorists can excel when they can join, in teamwork, with people who covered the events on the ground, offering high quality insights. This is how timely analysis can find acceptance by decision makers.

 

 

[1] Leopold Jason, The CIA Just Declassified the Document that Supposedly Justified the Iraq Invasion, VICENEWS, 19 March 2015. https://news.vice.com/article/the-cia-just-declassified-the-document-that-supposedly-justified-the-iraq-invasion

 

The difference between Russia and Iran over Syria

 

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ELIJAH J.MAGNIER –

 

Russia is speaking to its allies in the same tone used by U.S President Barack Obama when he addressed his Middle Eastern allies saying “I shall not be drown in your swamp”, in Syria, marking a contrast with Iran about several issues. The main disputes are related to the timing of the ceasefire, which Tehran considers it was agreed too early; the fate of the person of President Bashar al-Assad; and the early announcement of the withdrawal of the Russian air force, when many areas are still under the control of the “Islamic State” group (known as Daaesh or ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra,- Al-Qaeda in the Levant, and their allies.

 

According high official present in Syria, Russia will withdraw the biggest of its air force from Hmaymeem airport in the coming days and will keep helicopters and jets, sufficient to protect the Russian naval base at Tartus, and support the war on Salafist Jihadists. This move coincides with an agreement between Washington and the Kremlin to impose the capitulation on all fighters without exception, excluding Jihadists. According to the agreement, the U.S will enforce on its regional Middle Eastern allies the cessation of the flow of weapons. Although Moscow doesn’t share the same view but aim for a general unconditional election, Washington and Saudi Arabia would be even happy for the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to select the candidate of his choice as long as he steps down. In this way, no party involved in the war in Syria can be defeated but all would come out as winners.

 

What Washington and the Kremlin accept is unsuitable for Tehran. The person of Assad represents the “axis of the Resistance”. His fall leads to the shaking of the axis. As no one can guarantee the future and he is the person who has accepted to go to war to defend the doctrine and value of this axis he belongs to. Therefore, the removal of Assad is not on Iran’s agenda. For this, Iran and those within the “axis of Resistance” won’t abandon him. Otherwise, the death of thousands of those who helped Assad (Iranian IRGC forces, Hezbollah and Iraqi militia) and tens of thousands of Syrians who fought under his banner would be wasted.

 

President Barak Obama is distributing cookies on each side: He confirmed that Iran’s interest in the Middle East must be observed, agreed to the nuclear deal, supported the military campaign of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia against Yemen, rejected the Kurdish federation to please Turkey, and is bringing everybody around a negotiation table, along with Russia, for potential undeclared concessions somewhere else. So each side is pleased with a little piece of the cake and no one takes it all.

 

“Iran did not agree with Russia on the timing of the ceasefire, because its forces were advancing on several axes. Moreover, the withdrawal of the Russian air force came in an inappropriate moment, during the Geneva negotiations. It has affected the negotiations and offered wide speculation and interpretations. When the Russian President Vladimir Putin informed Iran of his intention to withdraw his Air force, he emphasised that this tactical move does not mean that Russia is pulling out from Syria; that the Kremlin can, in 24-hours, bring back the entire fleet to the battlefield if necessary; that the move would be announced only to facilitate the process of a political solution in agreement with the United States. We expressed our concern of the inadequate time of this move and confirmed that we are ready to fill up any gap needed to protect the regime and the country by all means and inject more forces in Syria. Moscow knows now that Iran is not pulling away under any circumstances”, said the source.

“Iran would send more troops to Syria to fill up the Russian void because it does not consider that the removal of al-Qaeda and ISIS is possible without ground forces fighting these groups. The battle will regain soon because both al-Qaeda and ISIS are not interested in any cease-fire or in any political settlement in Syria and enjoy strong ideology to reach their objectives that contradict any USA-Russia deal. Both parties aspire publicly Islamic state and won’t stop before achieving their objectives. This is why the announcement of the end of the war in Syria is premature. ISIS and al-Qaeda will not be removed in the corridors of Geneva or around a secret meeting between the United States and Russia. And last, Iran doesn’t agree that Russia negotiates on behalf of Syria and strike deals with the Americans. Therefore, there are obviously differences between Tehran and Moscow”.

 

Russia is not sensitive toward the religious differences between Iran and other Middle Eastern countries (mainly Saudi Arabia). Moreover, Turkey considers today that Assad can prevent any partition of the country or even a Kurdish state on the Turkish borders, from al-Hasaka to Efrin. Such a federation endangers Turkey and Syria but could also push Kurds in Iran to rise. While the Turkish-Russian relationship is at the bottom, the Turkish-Iran relationship meets on many political and economical issues.

 

Although Russia doesn’t mind a federation in Syria, its aim is to prevent the partition of the country, regardless who is in command. Iran doesn’t see any alternative but Assad in power. Moreover, Russia maintains a good relationship with Israel while Iran supports the Syrian President who chooses to distance himself from Israel as a matter of doctrine. Any one who would replace Assad will pave the way to a peace with Tel Aviv”.

 

Iran shall not back down in its support to Assad, while the United States and Russia believe a solution is possible where all parties are winners. Moscow still supports elections under the auspices of the United Nations, which involved any candidate, including Assad with no particular care to the person. It is also clear that there are tactical differences between the allies. Tehran and Damascus were informed about the latest Russian decisions but not consulted. Moscow entered into the den of the major influential countries in the Middle East from the Syrian gate. If it gets out now of it now, where it is going to go to?

 

 

Original article published here: http://www.alraimedia.com/ar/article/special-reports/2016/03/18/665756/nr/syria

 

On twitter: ‪@EjmAlrai

Did Putin leave Assad alone in Syria?

 

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Original article here: http://alrai.li/hfplqgb

Elijah J. Magnier:

Many observers explained the decision of the Russian President Vladimir Putin of partial withdrawal of its forces from Syria as he was abandoning the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, alone, in the middle of the battlefield.

A senior official in the joint operations room in Syria said, “Cease-fire has been achieved in over 70% of the military operational area in Syria. According to the principle of “economy of forces”, which it is one of the origins of war, no troops should be gathered on the front when there is no need for these to stay”.

“About 95% of the Syrian southern front is committed to a cease-fire in the provinces of Horan, Daraa, Suweida and Quneitra. Most forces agreed to stop fighting and some are negotiating with the government reconciliation programs. In Hama and Idlib 60 to 65% respect the cease-fire agreement. In northern Syria, from Aleppo and its rural area, there is a commitment of about 70%. Thus, the Middle and Eastern Syrian front remains on fire, especially on the banks of the Euphrates River and the areas where Daaesh (The Islamic state – ISIS). Fighters in these areas are still fighting and will remain as such. But these are the concern of the international community and not only Russia or Damascus. Hence, the redeployment of Russian ground force was needed. The special Forces, the coordination and guidance of artillery fire team, the artillery regiment howitzer 130 and multi rocket launchers “Smerch”, all of whom are still in their places to support the Syrian army and its allies as they progress to target forward defence lines and potential troop concentrations of ISIS as well as Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda in the Levant. ”

Over 100 drones keep covering the entire Syrian geographical area around the clock to survey the gathering of forces, collect intelligence information and report hostile forces gathering. This reduces surprise attacks against the Syrian army and its allies. Thus, the firepower is still present on the ground. However, the Russian air force pulled out nearly 60 combat aircraft. 53 su-24M, Su-30SM and su-35S are still waiting on the ground at Hmaymeem. Many of these will be shipped in the coming days. A small number of jet is due to stay behind “.

According to the source, the “withdrawal of fighter jets and service ground crews is part of the principle of economy of forces. Rocket stores and bombs warehouses remain ready for quick use on-demand. The remaining jets will be enough to ensure the safety of the Russian crew and naval base in Tartus. We are working to establish a peace in Syria. Our office at Hmaymeem is in contact with a large number of opposition rebels on the ground, happy to see the Russian “iron fist” lifted from above their heads. This would help to support the regime in Damascus to talk to all groups and open a national dialogue to rebuild the country”.

Sources believe that “President Putin’s announcement of the partial withdrawal pulls away the carpet under the Mujahideen’s feet, who used the Russian presence to mobilise foreign fighters and local volunteer calling the war as “holy” and evoked the war in Afghanistan. The reason for Syrian locals to stay with al-Qaeda and ISIS is no longer standing with the cease-fire, the reconciliation, the Geneva talk and now the Russian withdrawal. It is all in Damascus’ benefit”.

On Twitter: 

Moscow informed Washington, Damascus and Tehran of its intention to reduce forces in Syria

 

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Russia Plan B is always an option in Syria

Hammymeem, Latakia, by Elijah J. Magnier:

The Hammymeem military base hosting the Russian Air Force is observing frenetic movement preparing for daily departure of the excess of Air personnel and jets that were standing by for the last two weeks, following a reasonably implemented Cease-fire.

Russian Air Force used to carry between 200 to 350 sorties, bombing selective objectives, on daily basis until the end of the month of February when the Cease-fire was declared in Syria. Today, the operation room can identify less than 30 objectives per day, with a major concentration on hitting the “Islamic State” group (ISIS) in Palmyra, Tadmur, and other very limited objectives in cities under al-Qaeda fi bilad al-Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra’ control.

The Russian Defence Ministry asked the military command in Syria over a week ago to prepare a list of effectives and number of personnel unnecessary to stay in combat readiness due to a significant reduction of battles and confrontation on the Syrian geography. Orders were also given to a number of Special Forces, pilots and crews Engineering to prepare to leave.

The Air base in Hammaymeem and the naval base in Tartus are fully under Russian control that obviously intends to stay for very long and consolidate their presence. All Air defence systems are in place and the high number of jet doesn’t allow a clear distinction between what has returned home and what stayed behind. Russia maintained an undeclared number of jets and helicopters, superior than the 70 officially announced. Departing Pilots have had unique experience in life combat and manoeuvre in real war that Russia didn’t observe since decades. Russian special forces have also endured enough experience, along with artillery units, in regaining full control of the Lakatia province and participating to several operations in Aleppo. A team of Russian experts worked frenetically in observing and transferring the unlimited experience of combat lessons drawn mainly when a state effective, like Russia, is coordinating effective guerrilla attacks with non-state forces (Hezbollah, IRGC – Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps).

Moreover, The Jihadists in Syria and their allies were representing a serious danger when their bombs could reach many locations in Latakia and could have posed a real threat to the Russian personnel. It was necessary to create enough security parameter, and, simultaneously, spoil the Turkish plan to create a buffer zone on the Syrian-Turkish borders.

Russia has managed to turn the balance of power up side down in six months of its intervention in Syria. Regardless the return of control of a vast strategic land to the regime in Damascus, the Kremlin forces all parties to sit with Assad representative around the Geneva table when these were rejecting the idea for the last four years of war. Russia is pushing for a free election, within the area under the regime and the rebels’ control, under the supervision of the United Nations.

 

The Kremlin asked President Assad if he has the intention to run for the Presidency election. Mr Assad not only showed determination but also is confident of winning. The role of Moscow is to support an election where no one is excluded, including Mr Assad.

 

Russia, according to high-ranking sources, informed Washington, Damascus and Tehran of its step of reducing forces in Syria. The Kremlin expect from the United States to exert its promises imposing on regional parties, i.e. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, to stop all sorts of weapons and financial supply to all rebels without exception. The USA is confident to obtain from its regional allies in the Middle East this commitment at the cost of joining the bombing, with Russia, of all those willing to continue fighting and violate the open-date Cease-fire in Syria. Saudi Arabia and Turkey see no longer Syria as a possibility to implement their old plans and agreed, theoretically, to act accordingly. Russia would be monitoring this particular stand in the coming days.

“We have agreed with the Americans to stop the war in Syria by all means. The agreement consists in joining all efforts to defeat ISIS and to free Raqqa. Al-Qaeda in Syria (Jabhat al-Nusra) is another story. As long as the violation of the cease-fire is accepted, its role is limited. If there are attacks followed by a concentration of forces, these would represent a happy and a perfect target to the Russian Air Force. Let us see how serious the American commitment is”, said the source. Al-Qaeda in Syria seems to pose little threat to the regime in Damascus since the cease-fire. Its internal struggle and continuous bickering with the population and moderate rebels are enough to diminish its influence in Syria. People are fed up of war and can’t walk along with al-Qaeda objectives to an open endless war that goes even beyond the Syrian territory.

According to the source, Russia “has shown the world that it can equip any base with the latest weapons they have not been used before. Russia changed the course of military events by supporting local forces at the lowest possible ground intervention and losses. Russia is back on the International arena as an essential player in the Middle East. The partition of Syria is no longer on the table; the dream of the establishment of a “caliphate State” or “Islamic extremist state” in the land of Sham is over now; the Damascus regime is holding its position stronger than ever since five years, avoiding a “Libya fail-state” scenario where remorse of those who contributed to derail the state is irrelevant (with reference to what US “President Barack Obama doctrine”, quoting  the failure of France and Britain of their obligations towards Libya after Gaddafi). The war is not over yet. We watch the USA role and fulfilment of its commitment to ensure the success of the peace road plan in Syria”.

Russian aircraft continue leaving Hammymeem military base daily for two destinations: One back home and another to continue bombing ISIS positions. Six months ago, Russia has managed, in few days, to establish a vast military operation in Syria and turn the course of the war. If the Cease-fire falls apart, the over hundred jets will return also in a matter of days for the “plan B”.

 

Elija J. Magnier on Twitter: ‏‪@EjmAlrai

 

Original article via ‪@AlraiMediaGroup here:

http://www.alraimedia.com/ar/article/special-reports/2016/03/16/665321/nr/nc

 

Is there a war between Israel and Hezbollah any soon?

 

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Hezbollah, Israel, Russia, Syria, Lebanon.

Original article:  

Translation here http://www.fort-russ.com/2016/03/is-israeli-hezbollah-war-imminent.html

by:  and  

Damascus by Elijah J. Magnier

Tel Aviv seeks to push forces into Syria to shut its borders with Lebanon…but will Moscow allow it? 

Tensions are rising as Tel Aviv claims that the Israeli army is preparing for war against Hezbollah, and that Israel seeks this, as a hostile environment stokes around Hezbollah with their Arab neighbours. But will a war ignite soon? 

A senior officer involved in the Syrian war operation room said: “Israel is preparing for a war against Hezbollah as if it’s gonna happen tomorrow. This is a standard military procedure for any state that feels threatened by an opponent state or an armed militia, considered a threat to its national security”.

“Israel conducts frequent military drills, unilaterally and with other allies. These drills simulate various war scenarios to maintain the readiness of its forces and to repel any sort of threat. Moreover, as intelligence reports have indicated that Hezbollah have acquired new tactical weapons, Israel conducts its drills accordingly. As far as the media has reported on “avoiding giving Israel an excuse to wage war against Hezbollah”, generally speaking, Tel Aviv no longer decide matters of war due to a provocation or a tactical excuse – as in the 2006 war – rather it relies on its ability to reach a specific goal. It also takes into consideration the military losses, and the internal and international ramifications that must be considered after the end of the war”, the source said.

He explains that, “ Israel on numerous occasions expressed its concern about the continuous increase of Hezbollah’s capabilities and acquisition of advanced weaponry. According to Israel, the only viable option is to strike Hezbollah now before its growth of capabilities. Time is crucial for Tel Aviv that views the Syrian defenses as having been nullified and that the Damascus outskirts is a soft target. Moreover, Jabhat Al-Nusra and the Free Syrian Army opposition group will not be much of a hindrance against their advancing forces, mainly if the aim is to break the back of Hezbollah in Syria. So, with this in mind, it is possible to cut the Lebanese-Syrian border and to extend Israeli control by 70-80 kilometers reaching the city of Al-Qusayr”.

“ Israel has added the “Magic wand” defense military system designed to further bolster the “Iron Dome”, “Arrow” and “Patriot” to counter Hezbollah’s missiles. The Israeli politicians are further poised to attack Hezbollah after being labeled as a terrorist organization by Arab countries, giving a clear message to Hezbollah that whatever destruction incurred upon southern Lebanon after such a war with Israel will not be rebuilt with Arab finances. Both sides know that the upcoming war will be more devastating than the 2006 war. Israel will have the moral support of regional countries, especially after the much-awaited Arab summit, which makes the timing of the start of the war convenient. A point worth noting is that Israel usually starts a war against Lebanon after the end of winter and at the start of the summer. The aim of such a war could be to set a reasonable objective to destroy Hezbollah’s ability to launch attacks on Israel and not to annihilate Hezbollah. This is a flexible aim that can be achieved by destroying the Al-Fateh 110 and M-600 long range missiles. It might also be an opportunity to bait Hezbollah to show off some of their reconnaissance ability and other advanced missile systems by forced reconnaissance. Israel would be than able to market its war under the objective of “Eradicating missile capabilities that threaten Israeli internal security”.

The source asks questions that Israel doesn’t have the answer to:

  1. Will Russia allow Israel to venture into their Syrian playground to encircle and strike a force that is working on the ground to destroy Al-Qaeda and ISIS with Russia’s aerial support?
  1. Will Israel be able to sustain damages incurred upon vital institutions, such as military and civilian airports and other sensitive locations that Hezbollah’s long-range missiles can strike?
  1. Does Israel really want to confront the new version of Hezbollah with its combined classical-guerrilla warfare style and its enhanced firepower capabilities?
  1. We have seen from Syria that Hezbollah forces’ ability to maneuver across the frontline and deep in enemy territory. These forces maneuvers under aerial missile protection, a capability that could already have been passed into Hezbollah’s hands. It would be a stumbling block the Israelis tneed to think about. It would also put major constraints on Israel’s most important weapon which is its ability to freely bomb with no worries about anti aircraft missiles. This is a new and serious challenge that Tel Aviv needs to consider thoughtfully in any upcoming war scenario.
  1. We have seen Hezbollah operating within an area of 50,000 square kilometers in Syria. We have seen their tactics, offensives, and quick transitions, injecting new forces every time there are major personnel losses, and replacing forces with ones that quickly adapt to the geography and start their operations on a wide range of fronts. Whereas Israel is 21,000 square kilometers and Lebanon is 10,000 square kilometers. Do leaders in Tel Aviv take this into consideration?
  1. Israel has a strong army, composed mainly of reserves, though the barracks of these reserves are well known. So, would Israel start its war with shelling and aerial bombardment, with the possibility of those gathering points being hit with precision missiles that can strike targets within 250-300 kilometers into Israeli mainland in the first days of the war?

The source goes on, “ In 2006 Damascus opened its arms stores to Hezbollah. In 2016, 2017 or any other future year, the Syrian regime will not stand idly by because it no longer have anything to lose. It is impossible to avoid the war if an ally, who has lost thousands to death and injury, is being attacked. The radius of the war would expand beyond a simple war against Hezbollah only. But above all, this goes against Russia’s interests, which seeks to end the war and defeat Al-Qaeda and ISIS. Therefore, striking Hezbollah is not the same as striking Hamas. This war has many ramifications that no one wants to face at this moment. Israel must live with Hezbollah just as the two Korea’s live with each other”

 

On twitter: @EjmAlrai

The rich Al-Qaeda is winning the “hearts and the minds” in Yemen, introducing new names.

 

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Yemen, Iran, Hezbollah, Saudi Arabia, AQ, AQAP, Ansar al-Shari’a, USA

By Elijah J. Magnier (on Twitter @EjmAlrai )

The Saudi-led Operation Decisive Storm helped Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to gain more ground, showing an increase of financial assets and popularity, providing public services in ther controlled area, mainly in Hadramawt province, the home of Usama Bin laden’ family. AQAP is no longer using this acronym, but, mainly the name of Ansar al-Sharia (AaS) and is introducing new names. Saudi Arabia’ war is definitely contributing in increasing the power of AaS in Yemen provinces.

Riyadh is sucked into a Yemen quagmire when, almost a year ago, it has declared total war against the Zaidi tribes, once considered old partners and allies. Saudi Arabia needs all the possible help to come out of Yemen with less damage possible. It is accusing Iran of intervening in its backyard, raising tension between the two countries. The nervousness reached its peak when a video leaked to the Saudi, showing pro-Iranian Lebanese Hezbollah  Video training Houthis in Intelligence warfare inside Yemen, confirmed authentic to me by sources close to Hezbollah leadership. Therefore, it is not surprising to see reports on a collaboration between the Saudi-led coalition and Ansar al-Sharia (AQAP) for the battle against the Zaydi Houthis as the tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran increases.

Ansar al-Sharia come out as the absolute winner, offering infrastructure support, “recruiting” through activities, public service and games to win the “hearts and the minds”. It certainly contradict  John O. Brennan, Assistant to the U.S.A President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, who said in 2012 that “Al-Qaida has been left with just a handful of capable leaders and operatives, and with continued pressure is on the path to its destruction.  And for the first time since this fight began, we can look ahead and envision a world in which the al-Qaida core is simply no longer relevant.” Brennan’ statement is unfounded as we see the conditions of Ansar al-Shari’a improving and its control over land is expansion. Al-Qaeda in Yemen has a fully functional harbour in Mkallah, bringing not only substantial financial support, but can also welcome recruits in a safe environment.  Usama Bin Laden’s death didn’t leave a weak al-Qaeda in 2016. Had he not been killed, he would have been proud of it today in the home of his ancestors.

In religious extremist groups, no Mujaheed or leader is indispensable, regardless his charisma. Al-Qaeda with its franchises, have never been stronger, despite the death of key leaders or the “Islamic State” rivalry in several countries. The new branch or franchise in Syria came from the womb of the “Islamic State in Iraq” group to increase the number of al-Qaeda Mujahideen, willing to engage in Jihad. Al-Qaeda (fi bilad al Sham) in Syria (i.e. Jabhat al-Nusra), is attracting thousands of Syrians among its ranks that never joined the arms before the war on the Syrian land.

The assassination of AQAP leader and Bin Laden’s companion, Nasser al-Wuhayshi, respected even by al-Qaeda’s rivals, was immediately replaced by Qasim al-Raymi. The killing of Ibrahim al-Rubaish, AQAP’s top ideological leader and scholar, brought to light other key figures (see photos).

Today, al-Qaeda in Yemen is mirroring the name of the area, province or city where it is operating. New names like “Abna’ Hadramawt” (sons of Hadramawt-see photos below) and “Abna’ Ab’yan” (sons of Ab’yan) are mainly used along with the name of Ansar al-Sharia, not the name of AQAP.

The name of al-Qaeda has been dressed to the group by the U.S.A, even if it was used in Afghanistan to indicate the Base of the Mujahideen. In the 80’s and the 90’s, names like Ma’sadat al-Ansar, Marqaz al-Siddiq, Marqaz al-Farooq, Jama’at al-Jihad, Qa’idat al-Jihad, Jam’iyat al-Inqaz al-Islamiya, al-Jabha al-Alamiya li-qital al-Yahud wal-Salibiy’een, al-Qaeda al-Tadribiya, Qaedat al-Mujahedeen and other names. These were used to indicate the Mujahedden gathering, organization or base of training or even a database. The name al-Qaeda was first publicly used in 1993 . It was the plan of Bin Laden to change it. Yemen AaS is taking the lead of change, adopting another name and more names to meet the population on their ground.

 

Important:  One Billion riyals found at Ansar al-Shari’a commander house in Mamsoura, Aden, Yemen. http://www.barakish.net/news01.aspx?cat=12&sub=23&id=394543

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  1. Removing uncovered female adverts in Mkallah by Ansar al-Shari’a (AQAP)

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2. Destroying ancient tombs in Hadramawt

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3. Religious Police called Hisba in Hadramawt, Yemen

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4. Key figures in Ansar al-Shari’a

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5. Stoning to death for claim of adultery

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6. Public services , activities, first aid kits, food distribution and da’wa kiosk.

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7. Ansar al-Sharia offering an electric generator

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8. “Sons of Hadramawt” offering gas at reduced priceCdjCKchWEAAB4p2

7. Medicine distribution in Hadramawt-Mkallah. Hear “Abna’ Hadramawt” (Ansar al-Shari’a / AQAP) in Video:

 

8. (Masjed) “Aqsa (Palestine) we are coming”:

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9. Ansar al-Shari’a, in Adan, issuing a communiqué denying media claims they are behind the killing of a leading Salafi sheikh

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10.  Ansar al-Shari’a  Al-Masra’ weekly news Paper:

Few Front page Titles:

Saudi Arabia suspends $3bn donation to the Lebanese Army

Last batch of Abbottabad documents released (UBL)

Sheikh Joulani speech (Jabhat al-Nusra Emir)

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11. Money (bonus) distribution by Ansar al-Sharia, in the name of “Abna’ Hadramawt” (as written on the envelops, motivating hospital personnel. A mini-state in Yemen province”

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12. Burning Music CDs in Mkalla by Ansar al-Shari’a (note the continuos change of name)

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13. Executing a “sorcerer” in Al-Sha’har city, Yemen, by Ansar al-Shari’a. Note that Ansar al-Shari’a doesn’t show the execution act, unlike ISIS, bit is holding the same ideology. Media approach is different.

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