Posts Tagged ‘Aleppo’

Britain (and the West) “got Syria wrong every step of the way”

December 23, 2016

For over 5 years the Western media has been complicit in pumping out skewed (if not entirely fake) news about Syria. Much of that has been in support of the US/NATO/EU strategy of achieving “regime change” by proxy. This strategy has ostensibly been about support for the “moderate opposition” to Bashar al-Assad only to find that the “moderates” were not so moderate after all.  The financial and weapons support they provided has effectively been used for the growth of ISIS, the Al Nusrah Front and Al Qaida. Only since the Russian intervention a little over a year ago have the terror organisations lost ground. The retaking of Aleppo, which was held by opposition groups directly supported by the West, has been accompanied by a huge media campaign about the atrocities being committed there by the Russians and Assad’s forces. The media are virtually silent about the atrocities in Mosul where US and Iraqi led forces are trying to retake the city.

But the failure of the Obama/Kerry non-strategy now stands ingloriously revealed and, for the first time, the main-stream Western media are prepared to present stark news without too much spin and without too much skew.

It would have been unthinkable – and politically incorrect – for this story to have been published by the BBC before now. Officially, however, the UK and the US and NATO are still continuing to follow the same old discredited policy – but they have become irrelevant as Iran, Turkey and Russia take the lead. If Trump goes along with them and supports the formation of safe havens for the “rebels” to withdraw to, there may be an end in sight for the troubles in Syria.

BBC: 

Britain “got Syria wrong every step of the way”

Britain’s policy on Syria has been “wrong every step of the way”, a former UK ambassador to the country has said. Peter Ford said the UK had made matters worse by not putting troops on the ground and instead encouraging rebel groups to mount a doomed campaign. The situation had led to hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties, which could have been foreseen, he added.

The Foreign Office said removing the Assad regime was the only way to end the suffering of the Syrian people. Mr Ford, who was the ambassador in Damascus from 2003 to 2006, said the UK should have put forces on to the battlefield or refrained from encouraging the launch of the opposition campaign.

Speaking on the Today programme: “We have made the situation worse. It was eminently foreseeable to anyone who was not intoxicated with wishful thinking. The British Foreign Office, to which I used to belong, I’m sorry to say has got Syria wrong every step of the way.”

On Thursday, the Syrian army regained full control of Aleppo – which has been a key battleground in the civil war between government forces and rebel groups. It is a notable victory for President Bashar al-Assad in the war which began when the uprising against him began in 2011.

Mr Ford said the president’s government should be given “a little credit” for a “relatively peaceful” end to the siege in Aleppo. He told the BBC government forces would now need to strengthen their hold on the city and defend it against possible counter-attacks.

The former diplomat criticised the Foreign Office for saying President Assad’s demise was imminent at the beginning of the war and for predicting he would lose power quickly. He said the department also said the opposition was dominated by “these so-called moderates, that proved not to be the case”.

He went on: “Now they are telling us another big lie, that Assad can’t control the rest of the country. Well, I’ve got news for them; he is well on the way to doing so.”

Mr Ford said the West has condemned the bombing in Aleppo, yet similar attacks were being carried out in the Iraqi city of Mosul and in Yemen without the same amount of criticism from Britain. He went on: “We don’t talk about atrocities; we don’t talk about war crimes, although they are indisputably being committed in both those theatres.”

The former ambassador said “We will be lucky” if those campaigns ended in the evacuation of civilians and rebel fighters on green buses, as was the case in Aleppo. 

The Foreign Office said a political solution and transition away from Assad were the “only way to end the suffering of the Syrian people”. A spokesman added: “The Assad regime has the blood of hundreds of thousands on its hands. There is no way it can unite and bring stability to Syria.


 

Russia accuses US coalition of assisting ISIS attack Palmyra to save Al-Nusra front rebels in Aleppo

December 13, 2016

What has been apparent is that the US led coalition (and France in particular) have a lot vested with the Assad-rebels holed up in Aleppo. France has been particularly active in trying to get the Russians and Assad’s forces to agree to a cease-fire in Aleppo – ostensibly for humanitarian aid – but also for relieving the besieged rebels that they support. Of course the US coalition attacking Mosul in Iraq have not been quite so concerned about the civilians being used as human shields by ISIS.

Of course this could just be Russian propaganda but there is some logic to their claim that the US-led coalition have allowed ISIS forces from Mosul to attack Palmyra to try and force Assad’s forces away from retaking Aleppo and instead to defend Palmyra. It is not inconceivable that the US and France are quite desperate to save the Al-Nusra front rebels they support and are even prepared to ease off on ISIS to that end:

RT: 

A new Islamic State attack on Palmyra from the Mosul region could be ‘orchestrated’ to divert the attention of Syrian government forces from Aleppo and spare the militants entrenched in the city, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

The fact that Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) militants launched their offensive on Palmyra from Iraq and “apparently from Mosul” and marched through the “territories patrolled by the aircraft of the US-led coalition makes one think that – and I really hope to be wrong here – that it was orchestrated and coordinated to give a respite to those thugs, who are entrenched in eastern Aleppo,” the foreign minister said during a press conference in Belgrade, Serbia, as he answered a question asked by RT. 

Lavrov went on to say that the US has been conducting a two-faced policy towards terrorist groups in Syria from the very beginning of the Syrian crisis. The US-led coalition is fighting Islamic State but is studiously avoiding targeting another terrorist group, which is Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front, he said.

“There is a significant number of reasons to believe that [Al-Nusra] is being spared as the most effective combat-capable force, which opposes the governmental [forces] of the ground in order to be used for overthrowing the legitimate Syrian government when the time comes,” Lavrov told journalists. …..

That the US is – even now – focused on regime change in Syria and is trying to assist the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front is not at all illogical. The Obama/Kerry strategy in Syria and Iraq is a maze of inconsistencies and fundamentally flawed.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this Russian report held a great deal of truth.


 

Aleppo almost retaken but Mosul must wait for a while

December 9, 2016

The ongoing downfall of ISIS really only began with the Russian intervention in Syria. Even in Iraq, the gradual success against ISIS only really took hold once the Russians showed the resolve in Syria. It has been a repudiation of the absence of an Obama/Kerry strategy. It has also shown quite clearly that it was the US/NATO/ France/UK/ EU/ Turkey obsession with getting rid of Assad which allowed ISIS to grow and then prevented any effective strategy against ISIS from being implemented.

Now Aleppo and its Al Qaeda/ISIS related rebel groups are on the verge of being driven out by Syrian troops with Russian support. In Mosul what was intended to be a liberation of the city – in time for a Clinton success at the US General election – has progressed much more slowly than expected. It has stalled from time to time and it may not even be complete before Obama leaves office. The retaking of Aleppo cannot strictly be compared with retaking Mosul, but it does reconfirm the differences between first, the resolve of Assad’s Syrian troops and the Iraqi army, and second, the difference between the US and Russian implementation of strategies.

Two Reuters reports today caught my eye:

Syrian army’s Aleppo advance slows, but victory in sight

The Syrian army’s advance in Aleppo slowed on Thursday but a victory was still firmly in sight after President Bashar al-Assad vowed that retaking the city would change the course of the six-year-old war. Russia’s RIA news agency quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying the Syrian army, which has captured territory including Aleppo’s historic Old City in recent days, had halted military activity to let civilians leave rebel-held territory. 

The last two weeks have seen rebels driven from most of their territory in what was once Syria’s largest city, the eastern section of which the insurgents have controlled since 2012. Although there are still many rural areas in rebel hands, Aleppo is their last big urban redoubt. The prospect of its fall, following months of government gains elsewhere, has brought Assad closer to victory than at any point since the early months of a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands and made half of Syrians homeless.

“Aleppo will completely change the course of the battle in all of Syria,” Assad said, speaking in an interview with the Syrian newspaper al-Watan.

Iraqi troops pull out from Mosul hospital after fierce battle

Iraqi troops who briefly seized a Mosul hospital believed to be used as an Islamic State base were forced to withdraw from the site, but managed to establish a base for army tanks nearby after days of fierce back-and-forth fighting, residents said.

The rapid advance into the Wahda neighborhood where the hospital is located marked a change of tactic after a month of fighting in east Mosul in which the army has sought to capture and clear neighborhoods block by block.

The ferocity of the fighting reflects the importance of the army’s push from southeast Mosul towards the center, their deepest advance in a grueling seven-week offensive to crush Islamic State in Iraq’s largest northern city.

The soldiers seized Salam hospital, less than a mile (just over 1 km) from the Tigris river running through central Mosul, on Tuesday but pulled back the next day after they were attacked by six suicide car bombs and “heavy enemy fire”, according to a statement by the U.S.-led coalition supporting Iraqi forces.

Coalition warplanes, at Iraq’s request, also struck a building inside the hospital complex from which the militants were firing machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, it said.

The soldiers involved in the action are at the spearhead of a U.S.-backed, 100,000-strong coalition of Iraqi forces including the army, federal police, Kurdish peshmerga fighters and mainly Shi’ite Popular Mobilization forces battling to crush Islamic State in Mosul.

Mosul may still take some time but that it will be retaken before too long  seems almost certain.


 

Western media treatment of East Aleppo and Mosul is hypocrisy in action

October 23, 2016

The Western media (US and Europe) have views about the Middle East which are more than a little coloured by the self induced delusion that the US and Europe are on a righteous crusade against oppression and for the promotion of democracy. That has been and still is the overwhelming view from the time of the first Iraq war, the overthrow of Gaddaffi and all through the Arab spring uprisings in North Africa and now in Syria and Iraq again. That Europe and the US have not just encouraged and supported, but also instigated rebel groups to the prevailing regimes, to the point of recklessness is completely forgotten. Many of the rebel groups (including ISIS and Al-Nusra) would not have dared to begin their blood-letting without the false hopes raised by the Saudi money and the US/NATO/EU support. (It is the same pattern of reckless EU/NATO expansionism – but without the Saudi money – which prevailed in Ukraine and led to the Russian aggression and annexation of the Crimea). This “political correctness” is now blatantly apparent in the difference of media treatment to the assaults on East Aleppo in Syria and on Mosul in Iraq.

Patrick Cockburn has this in The Unz Review (originally in The Independent):

In Libya, Gaddafi was demonised as the sole cause of all his country’s ills while his opponents were lauded as valiant freedom fighters whose victory would bring liberal democracy to the Libyan people. Instead, as was fairly predictable, the overthrow of Gaddafi rapidly reduced Libya to a violent and criminalised anarchy with little likelihood of recovery.

In present day Syria and Iraq one can see much the same process at work. In both countries, two large Sunni Arab urban centres – East Aleppo in Syria and Mosul in Iraq – are being besieged by pro-government forces strongly supported by foreign airpower. In East Aleppo, some 250,000 civilians and 8,000 insurgents, are under attack by the Syrian Army allied to Shia paramilitaries from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon and supported by the Russian and Syrian air forces. The bombing of East Aleppo has rightly caused worldwide revulsion and condemnation.

But look at how differently the international media is treating a similar situation in Mosul, 300 miles east of Aleppo, where one million people and an estimated 5,000 Isis fighters are being encircled by the Iraqi army fighting alongside Kurdish Peshmerga and Shia and Sunni paramilitaries and with massive support from a US-led air campaign. In the case of Mosul, unlike Aleppo, the defenders are to blame for endangering civilians by using them as human shields and preventing them leaving. In East Aleppo, fortunately, there are no human shields – though the UN says that half the civilian population wants to depart – but simply innocent victims of Russian savagery.

Destruction in Aleppo by Russian air strikes is compared to the destruction of Grozny in Chechnya sixteen years ago, but, curiously, no analogy is made with Ramadi, a city of 350,000 on the Euphrates in Iraq, that was 80 per cent destroyed by US-led air strikes in 2015. Parallels go further: civilians trapped in East Aleppo are understandably terrified of what the Syrian Mukhabara secret police would do to them if they leave and try to pass through Syrian government checkpoints. ……

…….

The advance on Mosul is being led by the elite Special Forces of the Iraqi counter-terrorism units and Shia militias are not supposed to enter the city, almost all of whose current inhabitants are Sunni Arabs. But in the last few days these same special forces entered the town of Bartella on the main road twelve miles from Mosul in their black Humvees which were reportedly decorated with Shia religious banners. Kurdish troops asked them to remove the banners and they refused. An Iraqi soldier named Ali Saad was quoted as saying: “(T)hey asked if we were militias. We said we’re not militias, we are Iraqi forces and these are our beliefs.”

It may be that Isis will not fight for Mosul, but the probability is that they will, in which case the outlook will not be good for the civilian population. Isis did not fight to the last man in Fallujah west of Baghdad so much of the city is intact, but they did fight for Khalidiya, a nearby town of 30,000, where today only four buildings are still standing according to the Americans.

The extreme bias shown in foreign media coverage of similar events in Iraq and Syria will be a rewarding subject for PhDs students looking at the uses and abuses of propaganda down the ages.

This has been the pattern of reporting of the wars in Syria and Iraq over the last five years. Nothing much has changed since 2003 when the Iraqi opposition to Saddam Hussein had persuaded foreign governments and media alike that the invading American and British armies would be greeted with rapture by the Iraqi people. A year later the invaders were fighting for their lives. Misled by opposition propagandists and their own wishful thinking, foreign government officials and journalists had wholly misread the local political landscape. Much the same thing is happening today.


 


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