Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Abu Jaafar is back


Abu Jaafar is back, tells Syrian men to stop chasing half-naked women and go to jihad against the enemies of Allah. Those who don't jihad are fools.

Thus spoke Jesus pbuh:

"Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of Allah belongs to such as these.

"Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of Allah like a child will not enter it at all."

Praise be to Allah and Jesus The Son of Allah!

Allahu Akbar!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

No Sunnis - No ISIS. Shia militias wage counterinsurgency on ISIS in Iraq


In many respects this Guardian report echoes other reports here and here. The absence of Sunni population. Systematic destruction of Sunni property. Shia Kurdish tensions that exploded in clashes the day after the Guardian left. In fact, its appears to be largely the same area visited by the Foreign Policy team.

In my view all reports are valuable as long as they are done professionally. Repeated confirmations establish certainty. So there is no shame in collecting reports that repeat themselves.

In one respect, however, this report adds on its predecessors. The Shia militia operating in the area is not among the ones that usually appear in reports from Iraq such as the Mahdi Army, Badr Brigades, Hezbollah or Asaib Ahl Al Haq. At least, until now.

According to the reporter, this new brigade has pledged allegiance directly to Iran's Supreme Leader of and intends to establish in Iraq an Islamic state in the style of Iran. This puts it at odds with Iraq's mainstream Shia establishment such as Ayatollah Sistani. Never min the secular minded Kurds or the Sunni Arabs with their paranoia of Iran and a Shia intervention from outside.

To summarize this and similar reports from Iraq until now, there are two factors here that can make the war against ISIS unsustainable in the long run.

Expectations are running high in Dabiq after Obama said may consider ground troops

President Obama said will give an order to send ground troops in, if ISIS arms itself with nukes.



To be sure, ISIS doesn't appear to have nukes (yet). But, if there is enough motivation, one can always improvise something. Or, at the very least, simulate. And the motivation does exist.

The motivation exists because ISIS is a great believer in the prophesy of Dabiq which predicts a massive end-of-times battle between Romans (interpreted as Westerners) and Muslim armies. ISIS has not only bothered to capture Dabiq. Even the online magazine published by the caliphate is called Dabiq.

Not so long ago a video recorded by ISIS in Dabiq featured ISIS Western fighters challenging the West to visit the place. To their dismay, the invitation went unanswered.


To be sure, Dabiq is a dull Allah forgotten town in northern Syria. Apart from fighting epic end-of-times battles, the opportunities for having fun in Dabiq are limited. This is simply not a place where one would like to get stuck for any period of time. But with Obama now giving them ideas, the ISIS fighters, bored to death in Dabiq, have finally got something to keep the hope going.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Evolution of the ISISwood

The Sinai province of the Caliphate now produces high quality jihad videos in the style of Saleel as Sawarim and other classics of the ISIS Hollywood.

A new video from  Sinai features the same nasheeds  (vocal songs), piles of bodies of Egyptian soldiers and ISIS signature close-ups of  execution of prisoners.


On the bright side, the execution scene is preceded with a video of Egyptian security forces abusing their prisoners.


Overall, I'd say this video is an improvement on Saleel as Sawarim and other ISIS videos, both in terms of the geographical reach (It's Egypt) and the presentation of jihadi video material (Introducing the scene of army atrocities before the execution).

Source = http://goo.gl/3tNaHG
(Warning: The video is just as graphic as any other ISIS video)

America paved the way for Al Nusra's takeover of Idlib with airstrikes against the group, US-backed rebels say

US-backed rebels tell McClatchy reporters that the US airstrikes against Al Nusra turned the tide of the public opinion in Idlib in favor of the group.  Even fighters of the US supported rebel groups weren't willing to turn their weapons against Al Nusra, leading to bases being surrendered to the Al Qaeda affiliate without a fight.

This report also provides some interesting evidence to the fact of the Islamic State trying to take over Idlib by stealth proxy, including, among others, the infiltration of Al Nusra itself with IS loyalists. For this you can follow the link to read the whole report.

From our perspective what matters is the growing Sunni antagonism towards the US-led coalition with one rebel commander warning that the US can become the real enemy with the rebels and their supporters turning even more towards the IS and Al Nusra. This antagonism is very much fueled by the growing discrepancy between the military effort America is investing into attacking the IS/Al Nusra and the lack of  military action to stop the Syrian regime from barrel bombing and shelling rebel held areas.

And here I should notice that the more the war drags on, the more grows the contrast between the sheer volume of bombs dropped on IS/Nusra and the lack of action against the Syrian regime, antagonizing the Sunni street and rebel groups ever further. That is, there is a trend here which is unsustainable in the medium to long run. And it can see the US plan in Syria to go up in flames pretty soon.

It's this aspect of the situation that this blog is most interested in. (In case you wondered about the logic behind this blog's seemingly erratic way of selectively linking and  quoting reports such as this one)

Al Nusra fighter with a sword in Jabal az Zawiya after 
the group obliterated the US sponsored SRF in the area



# McClatchyDC
BY ROY GUTMAN AND MOUSAB ALHAMADEE () {

Date = November 13, 2014

[...]

Whatever the U.S. intent, commanders say the first attacks... created a wave of sympathy for the al Qaida affiliate among Syrians, both the general public and, more importantly, the fighters.

That “supportive factor” allowed Nusra to sweep through Idlib province this month, displacing the more moderate rebel groups, said Gen. Ahmed Berri, a veteran commander from Hama province whom civilian opposition leaders selected last month to be the chief of staff over rebel forces. Nusra said it was targeting corrupt rebel leaders.

[...]

Neither side deployed large numbers of fighters for the battle, but Nusra had the advantage, commanders said, because the two secular groups’ fighters weren’t willing to battle Nusra, which had been fighting Assad government forces.

“Then the coalition came and bombed it, so people in Syria considered that the coalition was supporting the regime,” Berri said. That did “a lot of damage” to the moderate rebels.

“We lost credibility before our people, because they think it’s the Assad regime doing the bombing, whereas it is the coalition,” Berri said.

Gen. Jamil Radoon, a commander who’s been approved to receive aid through a covert program administered by the CIA, put it more bluntly. The U.S. bombing “is the main reason behind the backlash,” he said. “But we should not ignore that Nusra has a good reputation of fighting the regime.”

[...]

Berri and other rebel military officers say they haven’t been consulted at any time during the U.S. bombings and Berri said the U.S. hadn’t responded to his request for consultations.

“Sometimes, the Americans think that they are the only ones who know the truth,” he said. “We have an Arab proverb: Those who ask for counsel will never be let down.”

Another commander warned that if the U.S. doesn’t shift its policy, it will become the enemy. In the current public climate, “I cannot say I am receiving support from the Americans,” said Capt. Musa al Hammoud, who commands rebel fores in the western countryside outside Maarat al Numan, south of Idlib.

“And if American policy continues like this – looking only to its own interests, and targeting Islamist groups without targeting the regime – America will become the real enemy. And there’s the danger” that the Syrian people will turn to Nusra or the Islamic State “in order to target American interests even before those of the regime.”

Source = http://goo.gl/stVg3Z }

Ban Democrats from owning guns!

I wonder, however, whether their rates for gun violence are calculated  per capita.



There exists such a thing called population density




With such promotion, who needs enemy propaganda?

BBC: Syria 'hero boy' video faked by Norwegian director

"We are really happy with the reaction," Klevberg said. "It created a debate."

Source = http://goo.gl/2L1tDf


Friday, November 14, 2014

The Cookie Cutter Shark meets the Middle East

The vile creature in my profile pic is the cookie cutter shark.



It's a very small shark actually.




In case you wonder what the cookie cutter shark has to do with Broken Crescent... Well, it's a very nasty creature actually. Being small doesn't mean the cookie cutter is not a predator. It is!




Cookie cutters attack everything including bigger sharks, seals, whales, dolphins... Occasionally even human divers are on the cookie cutter's menu.

Thought that Orcas are the monarchs of the seas? Think again. Orcas are on the menu too.  Basically all cetaceans are.




This is why I feel that the cookie cutter somehow belongs to the Middle East. The relationship between the cookie cutter and its environment reminds somewhat of the special role the Middle East plays in the world. It's something that doesn't totally kill you, but is still nasty enough to poison lives of everybody around.

"Only for Brothers"

Our weekly column on sports and culture in the Middle East

On the left, the proposed design of Qatar's new stadium for 2022 World Cup, also dubbed "vagina stadium"

The exact location of the prayer room/mosque on the right is unknown


Unnoticed, Libya's southwest is teetering on the brink of collapse


The author was in Fezzan last year. He says Tuareg and Tebu leaders in the region, gripped by tribal warfare, were already worried by the spread of radical Islamism. With Derna now a de-facto province of the ISIS caliphate, If Benghazi falls, an Islamist free transit corridor will be stretching from Libya's coast across North Africa..

# Al-Monitor
By Alexander Roeskestad () {

Date = November 13, 2014

The strategic and geopolitical importance of Fezzan, the Roman name given to Libya’s southwest, is seldom highlighted — its importance is directly related to the survival of Libya as a state. As fighting continues on the coast, in Tripoli and Benghazi, the bottom of the Libyan state may fall out, seemingly unnoticed.

[...]

Tribal warfare has expanded and become a zero-sum game, where each tribe or coalition fights for its survival. With the fall of Gadhafi and consequently the Gadhatfa tribe in the south, several tribes rushed to the scene to crown themselves rulers of Fezzan in response to the power vacuum. The outcome is still to be determined, but the result has so far been bloody...The deaths are but sad examples of the schism that has opened up in the south between various tribes who now fight for domination of the Fezzan.

[...]

In Ubari, a Tuareg-dominated village west of Sabha, radical elements from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) have widened their presence and their activities have started to scare the population and tribes who no longer can control the newcomer. One spokesperson for the Tuareg community expressed desperation and the need for help when I visited in December 2013, especially fearing radicalization of the youth who see a better future in these radical group than the one found back home. Members of the Tebu community in the south are also warning about the spread of radical Islamists. Although the Tebu and Tuareg often clash over the right to protect oil fields in the south, they are also united and scared of the growing presence of radical Islamists. The rapidity, effectiveness and fearlessness of political Islamist groups using violence have overwhelmed societies with weak governments, where everyone is fighting everyone.

Although less politically charged for the time being than the situation in Benghazi, radical groups in the south are armed and present. If Benghazi in the east were to fall completely, like the city of Derna, where Ansar al-Sharia rules supreme, a corridor of free passage stretching from Nigeria, through Mali, Algeria, Chad and Niger, passing through southern Libya could open up.

If southwestern Libya falls into complete chaos, either by the hands of tribal warfare or radical Islamism, all of Libya and North Africa will be at risk.

(Alexander Roeskestad is a specialist in Middle East politics, security, and international business development. He recently worked in southern Libya with Chemonics International )

Source = http://almon.co/2a9q }

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Video: Huge Jabhat Al Nusra column in Idlib

Huge Jabhat Al Nusra column in Idlib. May be heading for Wadi Deif


There are speculations that Al Nusra wants to turn Idlib into the seat of its own emirate/caliphate. Wadi Deif however is a tough nut to crack. The rebels tried numerous times to dislodge the Syrian army from there

جبهة النصرة حماة ثغور المسلمين في إدلب العز

"They say Leave Iraq to us"

Iraqi officials/politicians to Reuters: Iran involvement is deep/extensive, Shia militias will be hard to send home after ISIS is gone


# Reuters
The fighters of Iraq who answer to Iran () {

BY = BABAK DEHGHANPISHEH
Date = Nov 12, 2014

[...]

The next morning, Shi'ite and peshmerga fighters went house-to-house to check IS had cleared out. They came across an IS fighter hiding beneath a blanket. The man shot and killed one peshmerga and detonated a suicide belt, injuring several others.

Around midday, the burned and mangled body of the IS fighter was lying in the sun when a group of Shi'ite fighters approached. A Reuters team saw one Shi'ite fighter behead the corpse with a large knife while a handful of fighters filmed with their phones. The dead fighter's head was mounted on a knife, and one Shi'ite fighter shouted, "This is revenge for our martyrs!"

The Shi'ite fighters put the head in a sack and took it away with them.

[...]

The main body funding, arming, and training the Shi'ite militias is Iran's Quds Force. The model it uses is Hezbollah in Lebanon...

Coordinating the three is Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, who, at least until the IS victories in Iraq this summer, had gained a reputation as one of the region's most effective military leaders...

"Soleimani is an operational leader. He's not a man working in an office. He goes to the front to inspect the troops and see the fighting," said one current senior Iraqi official. "His chain of command is only the Supreme Leader. He needs money, gets money. Needs munitions, gets munitions. Needs materiel, gets materiel."

[...]

Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shi'ite who left office in 2005, told Reuters that "Iran is interfering in Iraq. Foreign forces are not welcome here. And militias controlled by foreign powers are not welcome also."

Iraq's Shi'ite militias have certainly fueled sectarian violence. In the past few months they have taken revenge on Sunnis thought to be sympathetic to IS, burned homes and threatened to stop Sunnis returning to their towns. Shi'ite fighters have kidnapped or killed civilians, say Sunni family members.

"The militias are a problem," said Askari, the former Maliki adviser. "What do you say after Islamic State ends? Thank you very much and go home?"

[...]

Tehran's high profile contrasts sharply with Washington's. Both Iran and the United States are preparing for a long battle against IS. But Iraqi officials say the two take very different views of Iraq.

"The American approach is to leave Iraq to the Iraqis," said Sami al-Askari, a former member of Iraq's parliament and one-time senior adviser to former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki. "The Iranians don't say leave Iraq to the Iraqis. They say leave Iraq to us."

[...]

Source = http://reut.rs/1EsH5ze }

US efforts to arm moderate rebels in Syria run aground in a vicious cycle of mutual mistrust and defections


Following the defeat inflicted on the US backed rebel groups by Jabhat Al Nusra in northern Syria, rebel commanders interviewed by the Telegraph admit rebel defections to ISIS.

The important thing to notice here is how the strict vetting of groups and control over arms supplies, driven by the fear of US weapons falling into ISIS hands, leaves these groups underequipped to fight either Islamist rivals or the Assad regime. This demoralizes the rebels, leading to defections with some fighters joining ISIS which they see as the only force capable of defeating the Syrian regime.

The defections, in their turn, lead to more caution and vetting on the part of the rebel Western sponsors, making the cycle of vetting and mistrust to proceed in an escalating manner towards a total paralysis of the US plan to create a credible rebel force.

# The Telegraph
By Ruth Sherlock () {

Date = 11 Nov 2014

[...]

Even when they received weapons heavier than rifles, they came encumbered with bureaucracy.

"We decide on the mission that we want to do. Then we apply to operations room for the weapons. If they agree with our military plan, some weapons arrive,” said a commander with the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed.

"If we receive TOW anti-tank missiles, we have to film every time we use one to prove that we haven't sold it on."

The conditions are imposed because of America’s long-standing fear that weapons provided to the “moderate” rebels will end up in the hands of jihadists.

[...]

Abu Majid, another rebel leader, who has been receiving western support for six months, said it had not prevented his recent defeat by Jabhat al-Nusra and that he was losing faith. More than 1,000 men, half his brigade's strength, had left in despair, many defecting to Isil.

"This level of military support does not allow us to advance,” he said. “We can barely hold our own positions.

"The biggest weapons they give us are anti-tank missiles, and even then it’s rarely more than a dozen in one go. The amount we get is random. Sometimes we request support and it comes but it's less than we need. At other times nothing comes at all."

[...]

Defection to the jihadists has now been going on for years. Mahmoud, a former prisoner of the regime who used to work for the FSA, now runs safe houses in Turkey for foreign fighters looking to join Jabhat al-Nusra and Isil.

He said he wasn't an extremist, just practical. "Many of my friends are doing the same now," he said. "Isil is the only solution for us. If Obama had given support to the FSA things would have been different.

"The most important thing now though is to remove the regime and Isil are the strongest group. I will do whatever it takes."

Source = http://fw.to/Crp6eLa }

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Syrian rebel commander says has to film every TOW missile


If you ever wondered about the avalanche of TOW videos of the last few months, here you have it.

# The Telegraph
By Ruth Sherlock () {

Despite President Barack Obama’s strategy, outlined last month, to arm and fund rebels to fight first Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and then the Assad regime, arms supplies remained at a trickle, they said.

Even when they received weapons heavier than rifles, they came encumbered with bureaucracy.

"We decide on the mission that we want to do. Then we apply to operations room for the weapons. If they agree with our military plan, some weapons arrive,” said a commander with the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed.

"If we receive TOW anti-tank missiles, we have to film every time we use one to prove that we haven't sold it on."

Source =  http://fw.to/Crp6eLa }


Rebel TOW video

One cameraman films the TOW operator who is accompanied by the second cameraman who films the target and the actual shot. The video is stable which indicates that the first cameraman also uses a fixed camera mounted on a tripod or something.




PS

I should notice that rebels have plenty of reasons to film their TOWs besides the requirement by suppliers. Good videos attract sponsors and recruits. There is an intense competition with rebel brigades trying to outfilm each other.

Egypt is busy planting its next demographic time bomb

Egypt is busy planting its next demographic time bomb. Survey finds TFR went up from 3 births to 3.5 per woman since 2008

I should notice that it's an article of faith among demographers that nations that experienced prolonged declines of fertility don't reverse the decline until they hit the sub replacement zone (less than 2.1 births to woman). So Egypt here is turning tables on the science of demography

Apart from this, Egypt already imports a half of its food and apparently turned into a net energy importer.

Given that the surge in births has been going on since 2008 and that Egyptians often start to work at the age of 15, if not younger, the attack on the labor market should come within a decade.

It's not that Egypt doesn't suffer from high unemployment already. And I am not talking about food, fuel or energy in the meantime. So Sisi has years counted to kickstart Egypt's economy before the bomb goes off and turns Egypt into a Yemen-on-the-Mediterranean.

# Associated Press
APNewsBreak: Egypt's birth rate dramatically rises () {

By = Merrit Kennedy
Date = October 28, 2014

The survey, conducted jointly with Egypt's Ministry of Health and Population and a U.S. Agency for International Development-funded organization, said the number of births per woman has increased from 3 to 3.5 since 2008. Egypt's fertility rate had been steadily decreasing since at least 1980, when the survey began.

"It's a stunning result," said John Casterline, a professor at the Ohio State University who focuses on fertility rates. Casterline said it is extremely unusual for a country's fertility rate to suddenly increase after decreasing for years.

Researchers say the reasons behind the striking uptick are largely unclear.

The news raises serious economic concerns for the Arab world's most populous country, whose economy has been staggering since its 2011 revolt.

Source: http://buswk.co/1wgiHA7 }

Everybody loves ISIS nasheeds



Everybody loves ISIS nasheeds because they are great



"No Arabs, no cars"

Growing Israeli Arab tensions as Israel appears heading for another intifada

Source = http://toi.sr/1u9Bn4n
 


Half of Jihad is Media

Twitter Revolutions --> Twitter Jihad --> Twitter Armageddon

Lost amid the first excitement over the Twitter revolutions of the Arab spring was a simple fact that Twitter, just like any other social network, is an ideologically non committed medium. It can be used to instigated absolutely everything from animal rights movements to white supremacist groups. Twitter is a general purpose destabilization tool. It doesn't play favorites.  And it can serve as a recruitment tool for anti government militias in America just as well as it does for anti American jihadists in the Middle East. 

The day the Western society wakes up to the dangers of  social media... It will be probably too late.

# Financial Times
Jihad by social media () {

Date = March 28, 2014
By = Sam Jones

(...)

“If the Gulf was the first televised war, this is the first tweeted war,” says Jonathan Russell, liaison officer at the Quilliam Foundation, a British think-tank that aims to combat Islamist extremism. “Gone are the days when you had to go to a certain problematic mosque and meet a hate preacher. There are stories of guys just following events on Twitter, or just sending messages to people over there, and then booking an easyJet flight to Turkey.”

(...)

If Twitter is a vehicle for self-expression, its darker side – in the context of radical Islamism and of jihad in Syria – is its power as a recruiting tool. All the jihadis the FT communicated with were very conscious of the fact. “It’s important for people to see the real picture, directly from the ground,” one fighter from Holland wrote – so that others will join the fight. Many said their tweeting was like “Da’wa”, which means “preaching” in Arabic and is the term used to describe proselytising Islam. There are no parade-ground calls-to-arms on the Twitter feeds or video uploads of most jihadis, just young fighters posting pictures of themselves in the desert and revelling in their own sense of purpose and community.

“In many ways, Syria has revolutionised the jihadist use of PR and the jihadis’ use of information – the dominance of social media to communicate, stay connected, provide statements – and for people to have their own accounts has been profound,” says Charles Lister, a Doha-based terrorism expert at the Brookings Institution. “I don’t think any other conflict has come anywhere near the quantity or scale of social media use we are seeing in Syria. This effect is going to continue for years to come ... it has been hugely valuable in terms of recruitment.”

(...)


(Image = Screenshot from the profile of a jihadi tweep)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Did the tank fire a shell by itself in a viral rebel video?


The final version of this video to the tune of the nasheed Qalu innaha Waad has gone viral by the virtue of the spectacular death throes of its tank hit by a rebel anti tank TOW missile in Latakia, Syria. The video obviously features added sound effects in the form of explosion booms which are absent in the long original video. This, in fact, is normal for rebel TOW videos, probably, because the distance is usually too big for ammo explosions to be heard on the rebel side.

However, it's intriguing that the most spectacular part of the video when the tank fires a shell by itself doesn't appear in the original either.

The nasheed version of the video

راائع لواء العاديات عصفورين بصاروخ #تاو واحد الدبابة و حاجز #البركة



Here is the original six minutes long video. The scene with the tank exploding with a shell from the barrel is absent. Now this can make one suspect that the video was not only acoustically enhanced, but was also edited to add a scene that didn't happen. However, it's virtually unheard that Syrian rebels would enhance their videos with 3D effects. The scene itself looks too realistic which would suggest a serious amount of graphics for rebels to do by themselves or purchase from outside.

راااائع ومميز لواء العاديات تدمير دبابة بصاروخ #تاو وإحتراقها بالكامل حاجز البركة 11-8-2014



So I went the YouTube channel of that rebel group and found the scene published lately in a separate video.

شاهد بعد تفجير الدبابة بصاروخ تاو الدبابة تقصف مكان تمركز جنود حاجز البركة بقذيفة 11-8-2014



Now I say that the scene is real but for some reason it was omitted from the original video. The original video, in fact, was edited itself. So it looks to me. It took a while for the tank to die. The rebels apparently skipped some parts when they were editing the first video. So I believe the tank did fire a shell by itself at some point. This really happened.

In fact, this is not the first video of a Syrian tank springing into action by itself after being hit by rebel anti tank weaponry. Here is another rebel video shot in Dariya, Damascus, last year.

داريا - التصوير الكامل لتفجير الدبابة 25-1-2013


The case for a Christian Lebanon

The author is right that Christian sentiment about independence in Lebanon is unclear. However, if the country detonates with the next Sunni Shia war, they may have no other option left

The case for a Christian Lebanon () {

Secularism in the Middle East has failed. Maybe it's time to consider independent states in Lebanon.

By = HUSSAIN ABDUL-HUSSAIN
Date = 10/11/2014

After the Scottish referendum for independence and the unofficial survey in Catalonia, there should be no shame if Christians in Lebanon hold a plebiscite over possible separation from Lebanon and the creation of a “small Lebanon” that many Christians have long craved.

On paper Christians are the majority in 11 districts, nine of them geographically contiguous and connected to Beirut’s predominantly Christian north and northeast. The creation of a contiguous Christian state might force Christians to retrench to the “small Lebanon” and agree to land and population swaps with non-Christian districts, just as Greece and Turkey did a century ago.

(...)

Christians should not settle for second best. They should not live in countries with “Allahu Akbar” on their flags, as in Iraq. They should not be forced to fight for the creation of a state whose emblem is a mosque, like Palestine. Christians of Egypt should not settle for a constitution that mandates a Muslim president. Alawites of Syria should not obtain edicts certifying they are Muslims to become presidents.

If the Sunnis, the Shiites, the Kurds and others can openly assert their identity in territories where they are a majority and can turn religio-cultural symbols into national ones, Christians should be given a similar opportunity to make their own country in whatever image they like.

(...)

Source = http://mme.cm/1J8U00 }

Monday, November 10, 2014

It's great to be a rebel ally of America in Syria these days

One of the leaders of the US backed Syrian rebels says the patience of the Syrian street is running thin with US air strikes. 

The air strikes came in the wake of the defeat inflicted on the US supported rebel groups in the north by Jabhat Al Nusra - the Syrian department of Al Qaeda. The attacks targeted Al Nusra and, for a not very clear reason, a major Islamist rebel group Ahrar Al Sham. There was apparently a collateral damage to the air strikes in the form of Syrian civilians who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

# Telegraph
US air strike on rebel ally is helping Assad, say Syrians () {

By = Ruth Sherlock
Date = 06 Nov 2014

Rebels, including those backed by the US, said the raids were likely to turn local public opinion further against the American intervention and drive more people into the arms of hardline jihadist organisations.

"This only makes things more difficult for the international coalition," said Khaled Saleh, the Secretary General of Harakat Hazm, one of the principle rebel groups to receive US military support.

"The patience of the Syrian street is running out. They wonder why everyone is bombing them, and now, when an attack comes they don't know if it's from the regime or from the US-led coalition."

Source = http://fw.to/6BaWBzi }


While it would be tempting to conclude that the air strikes have demonstrated the US determination to support its rebel allies, or at least punish Al Nusra (the air strikes came a bit too late), the US Central Command flatly denied that this was the case. The CentCom said the air strikes were directed at an obscure group which was presumably plotting attacks against Western interests.

# U.S. Central Command
News Release #20141105 {

Date = November 6, 2014

These strikes were not in response to the Nusrah Front's clashes with the Syrian moderate opposition, and they did not target the Nusrah Front as a whole. They were directed at the Khorasan Group whose focus is not on overthrowing the Asad regime or helping the Syrian people. These al-Qa'ida operatives are taking advantage of the Syrian conflict to advance attacks against Western interests.

Source = http://goo.gl/4F78U3 }


In this regard, it's worth mentioning that two weeks ago the US envoy for the global coalition against ISIS, Gen. John Allen, said that the US arming of moderate groups in Syria doesn't aim at helping them to storm into Damascus as much as to help them "earn their spot at the table when the time comes for the political solution" .

# Asharq Al-Awsat
By Mina Al-Oraibi () {

Date = 25 Oct, 2014

Q: But you don’t see the FSA units that are being trained to fight ISIS as being those who will later fight the regime’s armed forces?

No. What we would like to see is for the FSA and the forces that we will ultimately generate, train and equip to become the credible force that the Assad government ultimately has to acknowledge and recognize. There is not going to be a military solution here [in Syria]. We have to create so much credibility within the moderate Syrian opposition at a political level . . . that they earn their spot at the table when the time comes for the political solution.

Source = http://goo.gl/Yeh8vx }


To put it short, being designated as a moderate rebel counterweight to ISIS/Al Qaeda doesn't mean per se that the US is going to intervene in case you have your ass kicked by the mentioned Islamists. Neither the US aid is meant to see you topple Bashar Assad.

Otherwise, these minor technicalities aside, it's great to be a rebel ally of America in Syria these days.



Image = Al Nusra fighter with a sword in Jabal az Zawiya after the group obliterated the US supported SRF in the area


Thursday, November 6, 2014

FP reporter accuses Iraq Shia militias of systematic campaign to destroy Sunni towns and drive population out

Foreign Policy reporter in Iraq says Shia militias, who largely replaced the Iraqi army after its collapse this summer, are running a systematic campaign of destroying Sunni towns and driving the population out. The reporter warns that, if left unchecked, the militias will plunge Iraq into new depths of revenge killings and destruction.

Separately, numerous bombing against Shia targets by ISIS were reported in the last few days as well as an execution of hundreds of members of the anti-ISIS Sunni tribe Albu Nimr after its defeat by ISIS. The other side of a cycle of sectarian violence escalating in Iraq.

Also noteworthy is what the reporter says about the relations between Kurdish Peshmerga and Shia militias in the area. Another time bomb waiting to detonate

Foreign Policy () {

The Gangs of Iraq

By = TIRANA HASSAN
Date = NOVEMBER 3, 2014

(...)

Beyond the main road, an entire neighborhood of two-story homes was razed and flattened, with concrete slab roofs heaped atop piles of rubble. The destruction was overwhelming. The only houses that remained standing shared one common feature -- blackened exterior windows showing where the militia had set fire to them in their efforts to destroy whatever they could not loot.

Families that had been driven from their homes told us that when the militia arrived, they destroyed the families' homes. Former residents told us that those who have tried to return are accused of being Islamic State members or sympathizers; some were held by the militia for days, blindfolded, questioned, and beaten -- or simply disappeared...

The militia had made no effort to conceal its crimes, but instead advertised their destruction by spray-painting "Khorasani" and Shiite slogans on the walls that were still standing.

(...)

In a back corner of the village, Kurdish Peshmerga forces have established a small base from which they control a small residential quarter. It seemed their only common goal with the Shiite militia was repelling the Islamic State. As the Khorasani Brigade turned their efforts toward driving out the Sunni Arab population that lived in the town, the Kurdish forces found themselves outnumbered and powerless to intervene. The Peshmerga commander told us that the Shiite militia will not allow his forces to enter areas where they exercise control.

As we walked around the handful of streets under Peshmerga control, the air became filled with smoke as the Khorasani Brigade set more houses on fire. Approaching one, we could still see the stain where the militia had poured the kerosene they used to start the fire. It was deliberate and precise. As we watched the smoke billow from one house, its mud brick walls collapsed in front of us. There is little chance that Yengija's residents will ever return here. If any do, they will find that where they formerly lived and worked is now a scene of utter destruction.

What we saw at Yengija was not at all unique. During our visit to a makeshift camp at the foot of nearby hills, we met dozens of displaced families from more than 20 predominantly Sunni villages within a 10-mile radius of Yengija. They all provided similar, chilling accounts of the systematic destruction of their villages by government-backed militias determined to prevent Sunni Arabs from returning. Hundreds of families have been left homeless, and are now taking shelter in abandoned factories, in graveyards, and under cars and trucks.

(...)

Source = http://t.co/U9FvFtYu5l }

ISIS nasheed: Asad ul Nizali


ISIS nasheed: Asad ul Nizali

Translated by @NizosBlog () {

We are the masters of the battlefield
Tyrants do not impress us
We seek excellence
We are the horsemen of life

We are the conquering men
In this life and the hereafter
We seek to engage in struggle
On all fronts

With Abu Baker we came to engage in battle
Our warrior horesman and Emir

We are fed up with life in the shadows
Among the trembling hearts
We long for the dignified past
And for high heavens

We dedicate our lives and fortunes
To you oh brave defenders of Sham (Greater Syria)
Tell your families to expect good news
Oh Damascus and Hama

Oh lions of Allah
Set sail for the land of Sham and the Euphrates }


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

US drone over Idlib


A US drone over Idlib amid reports that US is pondering air strikes in the area against Al Qaeda 's official franchise in Syria - Jabhat Al Nusra http://wapo.st/1qmP8ai

عدسة المكتب الاعلامي لمدينة كفرتخاريم رصد تحليق مكثف لطيران استطلاع تابع للتحالف في سماء المدينة2/11

Israeli professor says the third intifada has already started

Israeli professor makes a good point. He says the third intifada has already started. It's just going to be different from either of the previous two.

This may be the reason why Israel is slow to recognize the beginning of this thing or anticipate correctly the future direction of events. History does repeat itself, but not exactly.

# Telegraph  
Israel 'on brink of third intifada' after new car attack () {

By = Kate Shuttleworth
Date = 05 Nov 2014

Menachem Klein, professor of political science at Bar Ilan University, said Jerusalem was facing a renewed intifada, or uprising, after previous uprisings in the 1980s and again from 2000-2005.

"Those who say this is not an intifada have in mind intifada one and two as models, but I refuse to assume that the third intifada should exactly follow the first and the second. It can be different – it's a popular rejection of the Israeli authority," he said.

"It's a local intifada, yes, and Israel is trying to contain it.

"Israel uses different measures in order to stop the intifada in Jerusalem – by using law and settlement expansion."

Source = http://fw.to/EmGeEdI }

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

SOHR: US attacks in Syria, targets Nusra & Ahrar Al Sham



SOHR: US attacks in Syria, targets Nusra and Ahrar Al Sham.

Two observations:

1) There is a certain mission creep here as the US targets Ahrar. It should be noticed that Ahrar was one of the leading groups in the last rebel war against ISIS. In fact, the abduction and killing of an Ahrar commander served a trigger for the outbreak of the hostilities.

2) The fact remains that while neither the barrel bombing of rebel held areas, nor the alleged chemical attacks in Ghouta and elsewhere triggered US military action against Syrian regime, the US campaign in Syria has now deteriorated to targeting key rebel groups while allowing the Syrian army to better focus its forces on the rest of the rebel groups.

The unavoidable conclusion is that the US has probably already lost the war for Sunni hearts and minds amid escalating suspicions on the part of the Syrian rebels and their supporters about the true motives of the US military intervention in Syria

SOHR () {

Date: November 6, 2014

Coalition warplanes targeted vehicle for Jabhat al-Nusra in Sarmada town near Syria-Turkey borders, and its HQ in Harim city, reports of human losses ( including 2 children ). Coalition warplanes also targeted for the first time a HQ for Ahrar al-Sham Islamic movement in Basbqa town near Bab al-Hawa crossing. }


Monday, November 3, 2014

HRW: Iraq security forces and police involved in August massacre at a Sunni mosque in Diyala

According to HRW witnesses the massacre was basically broadcast live thru the mosque's loudspeaker but there was no response from the nearby Iraqi army and police checkpoints.
Iraq's descent into an all-out sectarian war would not only ruin the US plan to contain ISIS. The perception that US warplanes provide air cover for a Shia genocide of Sunnis in Iraq/Syria may put at risk the governments of some Sunni members of the anti-ISIS coalition.


# CNN 
By Chelsea J. Carter and Raja Razek () {

Date = November 2, 2014

(...)

Victims of the massacre "by Iraqi pro-government militias and security forces recognized the attackers and knew them by name," the report said. Some wore Iraqi police uniforms, according to the report.

The rights group called on the government to make public details of its findings into the attack, which HRW said was consistent with a pattern of killings being carried out in Iraq by Shiite militias, including al Haq, the Badr Brigades and Kataib Hezbollah.

"Pro-government militias are becoming emboldened and their crimes more shocking," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at HRW.

HRW called on the United States and its allies to stop providing Iraq "with military support and assistance until the government ensures that such widespread war crimes and crimes against humanity have ended," the rights group said.

(,,,)

"Don't move. No one leave," a gunman wearing a dark green T-shirt and a headband typically worn by militiamen affiliated with Asaib al-Haq, the survivor said.

"He aimed his first shot at the sheikh, and then he continued shooting the rest of us. When I heard the first gunshot, I dropped to the ground," the survivor said.

The attack, according to witnesses, was carried out in two stages, with gunmen opening fire inside the mosque and then shooting would-be rescuers outside.

"The witnesses said there was an army checkpoint about 200 meters (656 feet) from the mosque and a police checkpoint about 150 meters from the mosque, but that no security forces responded to the attack even though the shooting was broadcast over the mosque loudspeaker," the report said.

Witnesses testified the shooting carried over the loudspeaker could be heard at a distance of at least 600 meters (1,969 feet), it said.


Source = http://t.co/rxyqxwtIR5 }


Video = HRW interviews survivors of the massacre at a Sunni mosque in Diyala Iraq 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Syrian rebels armed and trained by US surrender to al-Qaeda

This is pretty much a collapse of the US strategy in Syria. Depending on how many people in Washington are waiting to stab the Obama administration in the back, the outcome may be no strategy at all for a while

# The Telegraph 
Syrian rebels armed and trained by US surrender to al-Qaeda () {

By = Ruth Sherlock, Gaziantep
Date = 02 Nov 2014

"As a movement, the SRF is effectively finished," said Aymen al-Tammimi, a Syria analyst. "Nusra has driven them out of their strongholds of Idlib and Hama."

It was not immediately clear if American TOW missiles were among the stockpile surrendered to Jabhat al-Nusra on Saturday. However several Jabhat al-Nusra members on Twitter announced triumphantly that they were.

(...)

In Idlib, Harakat Hazm gave up their positions to Jabhat al-Nusra "without firing a shot", according to some reports, and some of the men even defected to the jihadists.

In Aleppo, where Harakat Hazm also has a presence, the group has survived, but only by signing a ceasefire agreement with Jabhat al-Nusra, and giving up some of their checkpoints to the group.

Mr Tammimi said: "One of the conditions for giving Harakat Hazm weapons was that they did not work with Jabhat al-Nusra. The Western bolstering of these groups posed a threat to them."

(,,,)

Mr Tammimi said of the US-led efforts in Syria: "This attempt to cultivate groups includes such a thorough vetting process that it slows down the operation. Maybe it would have worked in the Syrian war 2012. Now it really is too little, too late."


Source = http://fw.to/O9FWWqQ  }

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Iraq Next Time Bomb

The article parsed below was published by Rudaw on October 1. That is, exactly one month ago.

Yesterday, Rudaw reported another clash between Kurdish peshmerga and the Shia Badr militia. This time the Shia militias took some peshmerga fighters prisoner

The dysfunctional Iraqi army apart, Peshmerga and Shia militias are pretty much all the US got to rely on for ground forces in Iraq.

# Rudaw
Sunni Arabs seek Peshmerga protection from Shia militias in Kirkuk () {

By = Hiwa Hussamaddin
Date = 1/10/2014

(...)

Sherwan Hamid, a Kurdish Peshmerga officer near Kirkuk, told Rudaw, “The policy and behavior of Shiite militants have changed completely. In the beginning their only goal was to retake Shiite areas, but now they have started seeking revenge.”

Hamid added, “Following the liberation of Amerli, Suleiman Beg and some other villages, the Shiite militants entered the village of Yenginje and destroyed all the houses, stores and shops that belonged to Sunni Arabs.”

“When they find an IS militant corpse, they behead it and drag the body from the car in the streets,” he maintained.

(...)

Pola Ahmed, director of Daquq security station south of Kirkuk, said, “IS still controls several areas within Kirkuk’s borders. The security authorities, with the help of the Iraqi army, have a plan to retake those areas and the Shiite militants are expected to participate in the operation. This has raised grave concerns among the Sunnis.

Ahmed added, “We have been approached by Sunni Arabs in those areas via tribal leaders. They have informed us that they would like to have the Peshmerga forces attack their areas and that they are ready to surrender themselves and their arms to Peshmerga forces on the condition that Shiite militants can’t attack their areas,” Ahmed added.

(...)

The director of security in the town of Tuz Khurmatu in Salahaddin province south of Kirkuk, said the Peshmerga worked well with the Shiite militias on anti-IS missions but their relationship has deteriorated over the past few weeks.

They “attacked our checkpoint at Khurmatu gate, but we repelled the attack,” he said. “The Shiite militants, on a daily basis, make problems for Kurds inside the town of Khurmatu.”

Source = http://t.co/7voEU3sxxn 
}

Friday, October 31, 2014

Iraq Victory in Jurf al-Sakhar

WaPo reporter in Jurf al-Sakhar finds a destroyed town, signs of Iranian presence and no local population. It's not clear how many more such victories America's Sunni allies in the region can stomach

Iraq’s victory over militants in Sunni town () {

By = Loveday Morris
Date = October 29

A visit to the Sunni settlement Tuesday laid bare the huge cost of the victory. The town is now emptied of its 80,000 residents, and building after building has been destroyed — by airstrikes, bombings and artillery fire.

On Tuesday, hundreds of militiamen trundled out of Jurf al-Sakhar in trucks and buses, handing over control of the town and outlying villages and farms to Iraqi security forces... The Shiite forces could not remain in the area, militia commanders said. Their presence would only spark controversy and accusations of sectarian killings, they said. There already have been reports of revenge attacks in the aftermath of the Jurf al-Sakhar victory.

It was not hard to see why such reports were circulating. A convoy of trucks blaring religious music from loudspeakers drove out on a dusty road just north of the town. The men in the truck were jovial and flashed peace signs, but the decaying body of an alleged insurgent was being dragged behind the vehicle...

(...)

A local police officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media, said Iranian fighters were present on the battlefield, while a Washington Post employee heard Farsi being spoken at a military base.

(...)

The future of the town is unclear. None of its Sunni residents remain or are likely to return anytime soon. Those who had stayed in the town until last week were considered combatants, said Hassan Shakir Oda, a member of the provincial council and the Badr Brigade.

“We considered every family that stayed al-Qaeda or Daesh,” he said, referring to the Islamic State by its Arabic acronym. “If anyone against Daesh had stayed, Daesh would have killed them.”

“For now, it’s impossible that they come back,” he said.

Source = http://wapo.st/1tJGUze 
}


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Our weekly column on sports and culture in the Middle East

Dragging bodies around tied to cars seems to be a big hit in Iraq right now. Before it was the hanging of bodies from electricity poles

Image: Presumably, Shia militias with the body of a dead ISIS fighter



The more caliphates, the better

I would notice as interesting the fact that historically it was accepted that there could be more than one caliphate. Given the split and ensuing rivalry between ISIS and Al Qaeda and Al Nusra's latest fallout with other rebel groups in Idlib, it makes you wonder... Of course the chances that, by creating its cross border empire, ISIS is about to start a race of caliphates across the region are not very high. But it's an interesting possibility to consider nonetheless


# BBC
What's the appeal of a caliphate? () {

By  = Edward Stourton 
Date = 25 October 2014 

(...)

"Seventy years after the Prophet's death, this Muslim world stretched from Spain and Morocco right the way to Central Asia and to the southern bits of Pakistan, so a huge empire that was all… under the control of a single Muslim leader," says historian Prof Hugh Kennedy. "And it's this Muslim unity, the extent of Muslim sovereignty, that people above all look back to."

Yet these dynasties extended their rule so far, and so fast, that it became increasingly difficult for any one lineage to control all Muslim lands. As power fragmented, it was not just a political dilemma for any particular dynasty, but also a theological challenge to the very idea of the caliphate. The power of unity was closely linked to the idea of a caliph - yet it only took just over a century of the Muslim faith for the world to see parallel - and even competing - caliphates emerge.

The Sunni theologian Sheikh Ruzwan Mohammed argues: "While you do have two caliphs on earth proclaiming that they're the representatives of the Muslim community at this point, and more deeply that they are the shadow of God on earth, Muslims at that point were very pragmatic, and they acknowledged the fact that there could be more than one caliph representing the benefits and the concerns of the Muslim community - and that was also understood and accepted by Muslim theologians."

(...)

Source = http://t.co/q8RjGDnnFi  }

ISIS fighters answer dead Peshmerga phone



A rare video of ISIS Sunni Turkmen (Iraq ethnic minority) fighters who ambushed Kurdish peshmerga and answer call to one of the dead peshmergas' phone

Warning: The video is somewhat graphic

٦ أكتوبر، ٢٠١٤

The third intifada has already started

Jewish politicians in Jerusalem agree. The third intifada has already started.

For now it's a local Jerusalem affair. But this may change


# Jerusalem Post 
The city’s politicians agree: Third intifada is a foregone conclusion () {

By = DANIEL K. EISENBUD
Date = 10/28/2014

It would appear that the only issue that two of the city’s most outspoken and diametrically opposed politicians can agree on is that the violence is indeed another intifada, and it is anything but silent.

According to councilmen Dr. Meir Margalit (Meretz), who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio, and right-wing hardliner Arieh King (United Jerusalem), the “third intifada” is already upon us, and has been for some time.

“For several weeks I have said that we are inside the third intifada,” said Margalit on Monday. “I don’t know why they call it a “silent intifada,” because it’s very loud, so the word silent is incorrect. It’s an intifada, and we have to call it by its proper name.”

(...)

“It’s different than the second intifada, because there are no suicide bombers,” he said. “It’s more similar to the first intifada, which was defined by rock throwing and firebombs.

“I think the main reason is that Hamas is not a part of this process,” he explained. “The suicide bombers came from Hamas, and it seems that they are not part of the issue.”

Another reason, Margalit continued, “is that I think the Palestinians realize that the strategy of suicide bombers was counterproductive; that the international community condemned them, damaging the Palestinian struggle.”

Moreover, he said that Palestinian Authority President Muhammad Abbas has no control over the east Jerusalem violence.

“The fact that it hasn’t started in the West Bank is because Abbas and the Palestinian Authority are not interested in an intifada, but in Jerusalem they have no control over what happens on the ground,” he said.

(...)

Councilman King concurred with Margalit regarding the existence of a third intifada.

“It’s been a reality for at least two years -- people just have a short memory,” he said. “Stones today are something people aren’t counting – only firebombs and firecrackers.

But for at least two years there have been daily attacks against Jews in the Yemenite village [Silwan] and at the Mount of Olives Cemetery, where stones are thrown at Jews visiting and leaving every single day.”

King said the third intifada actually began two years ago when the National Security Council “made sure that everything that happens in east Jerusalem goes through the Prime Minister’s Office, including building permits and city planning.” He added that “the PMO didn’t have any clue what they were dealing with.”

(...) }

Source = http://t.co/Aa1g2FwUNd

Syrian rebel targeting regime warplanes in Handarat Aleppo ten days ago

ريف حلب حندرات التصدي للطيران الحربي بالأسلحة الخفيفة على يد الجيش الحر 20 10 2014

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Because there is nothing louder than the sound of bullets


# Newsweek
Because there is nothing louder than the sound of bullets () {

Date = October 29, 2014
By = Laura Kasinof 

(...)

“It doesn't seem that Hadi has much control,” says Nadwa al-Dawsari, a Yemeni civil society activist and researcher, who specialises in tribal conflict. “In his last speech, he asked the Houthis to evacuate Sana’a and other cities immediately, but they are still there and expanding. It only means that he no longer has control over Houthis, security or even his own military forces.”

The Houthis’ takeover also threatens to bring a sectarian-based conflict to Yemen not unlike those being fought in Iraq and Syria. The Houthis are traditionally Shia, .. They preach a Shia’a revivalist doctrine and have been engaged in an on-again, off-again war with the Yemeni state since 2005.

“There is a strong atmosphere of apprehension and rumours about the motives of the Houthis, including one that they want to claim a long lost right to rule based on religious grounds,” says al-Dawsari. “While this might not be true, the Houthis’ expansion by force across different areas of Yemen is reinforcing this perception and instigating radical responses based on that ­perception.”

(...)

Source = http://t.co/puzcmFwRa 
}