BREAKING NEWS UPDATE!
As predicted by Putin hours earlier, the forces of KSA Salafists will try to destroy any agreement leading to a diplomatic resolution on Syria. We’ve seen and watched it over the last six years, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her successor John Kerry could not succeed at Geneva because of the hostilities between proxy rebels of the Muslim Brotherhood (Qatar and Turkey) and the Salafists supported by KSA and GCC states. The Pentagon and the CIA have also developed adversaries in the proxy war, vying for control of territory as the bloodshed continues. Fortunately since the intervention by Russia, the number of deaths have steadily decreased.
A Syrian bus convoy transporting the residents of two villages being evacuated in a deal between warring parties has been hit by a blast on the outskirts of Aleppo, according to SANA news agency. 15 people have been reportedly killed.
The blast was reportedly caused by a suicide attacker detonating a car bomb. Syrian state TV said an unknown number of people had been killed and wounded.
Pictures have emerged on social media purporting to show the aftermath of the blast.
Hey USA … what do you say? Rebels allied to your forces of military intervention to overthrow president Assad. In 2012, Hillary Clinton remained silent by a double car bomb attack hitting civilians in Damascus . Suicide attacks are a hallmark of Salafists indoctrinated by Wahhabism professed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. When is it enough U.S. Congress with president of mischief Trump settling in the White House? Symbol of hatred in the world, not PEACE!
Trump still represents the American bully on the playground with lack of true leadership in global affairs. So at home he gets applause from friends and foes, an indication of the American choice between war and peace, violence or diplomacy.
The white hunters destroying the buffalo population, the livelyhood of the native American Indians. The white man in need of a “savage” to vindicate their crimes of genocide. The savage taking on a different form for each generation. How truly sad.
Hitler used a warped view of history to blame Jews and set out to eliminate a whole race. The will and perseverance of the Soviets in the defense of Leningrad put a first dent in the Nazi blitz across a crippled Europe. The German axis with Imperial Japan and the cowardly attack on a Sunday morning on Pearl Harbor woke up the American giant once again to defend a great nation and freedom. The greatness of a Franklin D. Roosevelt and his Four Freedoms, the fundament for the European Union.
Theodore Roosevelt wrote to a friend in the year 1897: “In strict confidence . . . I should welcome almost any war, for I think this country needs one.”
The year of the massacre at Wounded Knee, 1890, it was officially declared by the Bureau of the Census that the internal frontier was closed. The profit system, with its natural tendency for expansion, had already begun to look overseas. The severe depression that began in 1893 strengthened an idea developing within the political and financial elite of the country: that overseas markets for American goods might relieve the problem of underconsumption at home and prevent the economic crises that in the 1890s brought class war.
And would not a foreign adventure deflect some of the rebellious energy that went into strikes and protest movements toward an external enemy? Would it not unite people with government, with the armed forces, instead of against them? This was probably not a conscious plan among most of the elite — but a natural development from the twin drives of capitalism and nationalism.
Expansion overseas was not a new idea. Even before the war against Mexico carried the United States to the Pacific, the Monroe Doctrine looked southward into and beyond the Caribbean. Issued in 1823 when the countries of Latin America were winning independence from Spanish control, it made plain to European nations that the United States considered Latin America its sphere of influence.
The fates of 26 members of a Qatari royal hunting party held hostage for more than a year in Iraq were used to help negotiate a population swap in Syria, where residents on Friday started leaving two Shia villages and two Sunni towns in a synchronised easing of a four-year siege brokered by regional powers.
Residents of the Shia areas of Fua and Kefraya, in northern Syria, were transported to nearby east Aleppo as the first buses began leaving Zabadani and Madaya, Sunni strongholds between Damascus and the Lebanese border, for a final destination somewhere in the rebel-held areas of Idlib province.
The deal was finalised in recent days after nearly two years of negotiations between one of Syria’s main opposition groups, Ahrar al-Sham, and Iran. The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and Qatar have also been central – both taking a stake five months ago when members of Doha’s ruling family were offered up as a component of the swap.
The agreement, and the regional choreography surrounding it, marks one of the most sensitive episodes of the Syrian war. Iran and Hezbollah have been determined not to cast the moves as a demographic swap, while Ahrar al-Sham and members of the Syrian political opposition insist that what has been proposed cannot be characterised otherwise.
No to Astana: Opposition
Key Syrian opposition group Ahrar Al-Sham said it will not take part in peace talks between the regime and opposition factions in the Kazakh capital next week. The group decided not to participate in the negotiations in Astana due to “the lack of implementation of the cease-fire” in force since Dec. 30 and ongoing Russian air strikes over Syria, it said in a statement.
Ahrar Al-Sham was among opposition groups that signed the cease-fire deal brokered by regime supporter Russia and opposition backer Turkey last month. The truce has largely held across Syria although fighting has persisted in some areas, allowing Russia, Turkey and Iran to organize the peace talks in Astana.
Ahrar Al-Sham said “the regime’s offensive against our people in Wadi Barada,” an area 15 km northwest of Damascus that is the capital’s main source of water, was among the reasons it would not attend the talks. Assad’s forces have pressed an assault to retake the area from opposition groups after mains supplies were cut last month, leaving 5.5 million people in Damascus and its suburbs without water.
Mohammad Alloush, a prominent figure of the Jaish Al-Islam faction, will in Astana head a “military delegation” of around eight people, backed by nine legal and political advisors from the High Negotiations Committee umbrella group.
- ○ Syrians leave family, memories behind as tens of thousands are evacuated in previously brokered deal
Continued below the fold …
Meanwhile, 2,500 Sunni rebels and their families from Zabadani and Madaya would start being bussed to Shiite towns in the northern province of Idlib — one of the only provinces in Syria still firmly under rebel-control.
The intricate deal involving swapping dead soldiers and prisoner exchanges is highly controversial.
It effectively solidifies a demographic reshuffling in the country, which leans in Syrian president Bashar Al Assad’s favour.
He speculated that Iran could have expedited the deal out of fear that Russia and the US reach a deal at its expense.
A “Shiite-belt” around Damascus would help insulate it from rebel attacks.
Leading Syrian opposition figures have expressed outrage over the deal.
“This criminal deal forcefully depopulates cities,” Adib Al Shishakli said, adding that it is tantamount to striking them with chemical weapons.
Other parts of the deal — still not mentioned in the media — include transporting militants in the Palestinian Yarmouk Camp and Boukein, also in the capital’s countryside.
Nearly 52 years ago, a Syrian political leader hiding in exile was killed in the heart of Brazil. As Syria watchers continue to monitor and understand the country’s grinding civil war, the era of the former Syrian political figure Adib Al-Shishakli could yield some clues.
The flag of the Syrian opposition factions bares the green, white, and black tricolor with three red stars. The very same flag once flew over Syria from its independence until the late 1950’s, a turbulent era marked by political intrigue, military coups, early experiments with democracy, and authoritarian rule. At the center of this era was a powerful political figure now barely remembered both outside of Syria, Adib Al-Shishakli.
As policy makers in capitals across the Western World grapple with Syria’s endless violence, Shishakli’s legacy and the lessons from his time are worth remembering today. Shishakli’s rule over Syria, geopolitical trends, his relationship with the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), and his ensuing ouster yield some clues on what we might expect as the civil war prepares to enter its sixth year.
Coups, Stability, and Authoritarian Rule
Hailing from Hama, Shishakli was a Syrian Kurd who served in the Arab armies that took part in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. His exploits on the front lines earned him a following among Syria’s officer corps. Though Shishakli was not known to be an ideologically driven figure, he entertained many of the nascent political activists at the officer’s club in Damascus. Shishakli was largely known for his close association with Antoun Saadeh’s SSNP, also sometimes referred to as the Parti Populaire Syrien (PPS). In addition, his participation in nationalist inspired actions against the French, such as the take over and occupation of the Hama citadel in 1944, only added to his reputation as a man of action.
Exactly 100 years ago, the aftermath of World War I and the destruct of the centuries old Ottoman Empire …
On December 11, 1917, Khaki-clad British soldiers escorting Field Marshal Edmund Allenby covered the last mile before Jerusalem As they approached, the city’s population, shrunken to half its size by hunger, exile, and deportation inflicted by the desperate Ottoman governor Izzet Bey, opened the long-closed Jaffa Gate to the liberator. For the first time since the brief restoration of Crusader rule in the early thirteenth century, Western boots marched across the ancient cobblestone streets of what the Muslims call al-Quds. Allenby, intelligent, sensitive to the ways of the Arabs, perhaps grasped the moment. He came on foot, his head bared. Standing at the citadel below the Tower of David, he uttered the prophetic words “Lest any of you be afraid.” But for the Arabs, there was much to fear.
As British military forces moved through Palestine at the end of World War I, they were greeted as liberators by a people tyrannized by Ottoman rule. Around them hovered the vague promises of Arab independence that had fueled the Arab Revolt. And in them the Arabs for a moment saw their deliverance. But British imperial interests joined by those of France destroyed this promise, not just in Palestine but across the Fertile Crescent.
From my earlier diary – NATO Allies Have Stopped Bombing IS Targets in Syria
The Emperor Has No Clothes
The declassified document was written in July, 1986 by the Foreign Subversion and Instability Center, a part of the CIA’s Mission Center for Global Issues, and is titled “Syria: Scenarios of Dramatic Political Change.” As the document itself states, its purpose is to analyze – in a “purposely provocative” manner – “a number of possible scenarios that could lead to the ouster of President Assad [Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafez] or other dramatic change in Syria.”
The report’s meager distribution list suggest it was considered by top officials in the Reagan administration, specifically because it was distributed to national security chiefs, not entire agencies. It was also distributed to a handful of key players in U.S.-Syria relations, such as former Ambassador to Syria William Eagleton.
The Syrian Mountain Lion
Mr. Assad was most renowned for lecturing foreigners, even American presidents, about the unfair colonial fragmentation of the Middle East. In case anyone missed the point, his reception hall was dominated by a large painting depicting the Arab armies under Saladin defeating the Crusaders during the battle of Hittin in 1187, a not-so-subtle reminder that he considered present circumstances temporary.
”Even in his bitterness toward Israel, he retained a certain wry humor about their conflicting views, and he seemed to derive great patience from his obvious sense of history,” President Jimmy Carter wrote in ”The Blood of Abraham,” a 1985 study of the region.
Syria was a young nation adrift before Mr. Assad’s rule. The government had been a revolving door swung repeatedly by coups after independence from France in 1946, resulting in little development and a population weary of chaos.
The bloodless power grab he staged in November 1970 brought stability and the first modern construction of roads, schools and hospitals. Mr. Assad followed the Soviet model of a single-party police state, constructing a network of 15 competing intelligence agencies that spied on his own people.
It was in regional politics, however, that Mr. Assad most sought to create a legacy, remaking Syria into a power among the Arabs rather than a political football. He was inspired by the Arab nationalism preached by President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, and like many of his generation, he sought to inherit Nasser’s role as the voice of Arab unity.
But Mr. Assad, more than most, experienced the bitter chasm between the vaunted oratory of unity and the constant scheming and back-stabbing that marked actual relations between the Arab states in watershed events like the wars against Israel. He often told negotiators that he would face assassination if he negotiated a separate peace.
”Nobody expects us to raise banners of happiness and pleasure with such a clandestine agreement held behind our backs,” he said in an American television interview in October 1993, right after Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, led by Yasir Arafat, announced a peace agreement worked out in secret under Norwegian auspices. ”The Arabs are one people. If I were to sign an agreement similar to that signed by Arafat, I would have faced great problems. You all know that there are Arab leaders who paid with their lives as the price for such separate behavior.”
Mr. Assad’s roots in an isolated, impoverished religious minority made him an unlikely candidate to become leader of Syria. But for a man who spent his lifetime railing against the legacy of Western colonization, its waning years brought unprecedented change to sleepy villages like his.
The Brilliant Son Of a Mountain Family
Hafez al-Assad was the ninth of 11 children, born on Oct. 6, 1930, to minor notables in the village of Qardaha, in the Ansariya Mountains, which rise sharply from the Mediterranean coast. (The adopted family name, sometimes transliterated Asad, means lion.) The mountain redoubts were a secure home for his ethnic group, the Alawite sect, a tiny branch of the Shiite school of Islam and a sect often branded as heretical by the Sunni Muslim majority that dominated Syria.