Russians threatened by al-Tanf

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Rising tensions between U.S.-backed Syrian forces and the Russian-backed Syrian army — both of which are battling IS — race for control of oil and gas-rich areas of eastern Syria is engendering Russian military accusations.

The claim is that the U.S, is turning a blind eye and effectively providing cover to the Islamic State group’s operations in an area in eastern Syria that is under U.S. control.

The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said on October 6 that IS militants have used the area around the town of Tanf near Syria’s border with Jordan — where U.S. military instructors are also stationed — to launch attacks against the Syrian army.

He says the area has become a “black hole,” posing a threat to Syrian army’s offensive against the IS in eastern Der el-Zour province.

[June 20 F-15E downs Shaheed-129 UAV ]

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Iranian-made drone shot down

 

The Shaheed-129 drone was armed and displayed hostile intent when it was intercepted by an F-15E Strike Eagle around 12:30 a.m. local time near the Syrian city of Tanf, according to U.S. Central Command. It was observed heading toward coalition forces, who were outside the outpost, officials said.   Squadrons of F-15E Strike Eagles are routinely deployed to al Udeid Base in Qatar.

 

[June 30 2016 Al Bukimal drive withdraws with Western special forces ]

thalab

Thalab patrol vehicle near al-Tanf

 

The U.S.-backed New Syrian Army said it was forced to withdraw its forces to its base at Tanf near the Jordanian border after launching what appears to have been a poorly conceived offensive aimed at capturing the strategically important eastern Syrian town of Abu Kamal on the Syrian-Iraqi border.

 

[June 29 2016]

An operation aiming to capture the eastern Syrian town of Al-Bukamal, has began on June 28, adding to the pressure facing Islamic State as it faces a separate, U.S.-backed offensive in northern Syria aimed at driving it away from the Turkish border.

Syrian rebel sources say the rebel force has received military training in U.S.-run camps in Jordan, but most of their training was now being conducted in a main base at al-Tanf, a Syrian town southwest of Al-Bukamal at the border with Iraq.

The New Syria Army’s base in al-Tanf was hit twice earlier this month by Russian air strikes, even after the U.S. military used emergency channels to ask Moscow to stop after the first strike, U.S. officials say.

The rebel commander and the Observatory said the rebels had also captured an air base from Islamic State militants near Al-Bukamal. Heavy clashes were underway, with militants dug in at the Hamadan air base, 5 km (3 miles) northwest of Al-Bukamal.

“The clashes are inside the (town) and matters are not yet settled,” said the rebel commander of the Asala wa-al-Tanmiya Front, one of the Marin elements of the New Syria Army. The rebel forces entered the town at dawn, he said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the offensive was being mounted with backing of Western special forces and U.S.-led air strikes. A DIFFERENT THALAB PATROL VEHICLE NEAR AL-TANF BORDER CROSSING, SYRIA IN EARLY MARCH. IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THE VEHICLE IS OPERATED BY FOREIGN SPECIAL FORCES.

Tthe Jordanian Thalab Long Range Patrol Vehicle has been spotted with the New Syrian Army on two separate occasions. The Thalab LRPV is used by Jordanian Special Forces and is designed for long multi-day patrols in harsh terrain. A Thalab is rather expensive compared to the cheap Toyota Hilux pick-ups supplied to the New Syrian Army by the US. It’s possible that foreign special forces are operating this vehicle, the lack of footage of the Thalab in official New Syrian Army videos further supports this theory.

[January 16 2014 U.S. Special Forces to select moderate Syrian recruits for six-to-eight week training.
American military forces, particularly Special Forces, have decades of experience screening foreign military forces for training, Pentagon officials said.But identifying rebel fighters who don’t have ties to Jabhat al-Nusra, the main al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, is extremely difficult for a Pentagon with limited resources on the ground. “We also know the Syrian opposition better now than we did two years ago through the programs we’ve had providing non-lethal assistance,” said Cmdr. Elissa Smith, a Pentagon spokesperson. The Pentagon, the State Department and other nations are using a number of sources to screen moderate Syrian recruits, and it will be an ongoing process,
A training program could begin as early as March in the three countries that have agreed to host the training: Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. At least four training sites in those countries are being identified and the plan is to split the approximately 400 U.S. trainers and their accompanying support forces evenly across those sites for what is expected to be a six- to eight-week training cycle

8 March 2013 : The planning cell, which was housed at the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Centre in the north of the capital, Amman is now in the Jordanian town of Safawi in the country’s northern desert region, and has since been expanded to co-ordinate a more ambitious training programme, with recent US reports saying it was being led by the CIA. A Jordanian source familiar with the training operations said: “It’s the Americans, Brits and French with some of the Syrian generals who defected. But we’re not talking about a huge operation.”

06/17/2014: Syrian rebels who would later join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS, were trained in 2012 by U.S. instructors working at a secret base in Jordan, according to informed Jordanian officials.

[June 23 2012 No excuse to do nothing about Syria]

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari

No country is immune from this spillover because of the composition of the societies, the extensions, the connections, the sectarian, ethnic dimensions,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said June 23 in Baghdad. “This is not an excuse to do nothing about Syria, no. But there will be an impact.”

Hoshyar Zebari is the current Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iraq. A Kurd originally from Aqrah, a city in Iraqi Kurdistan, Zebari holds a masters degree in sociology from the University of Essex, England and studied political science in Jordan.

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Syria: in operations against ISIS in Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor province, U.S. retains right of self-defense at all times.

Screenshot 2017-09-30 at 7.53.13 PM - Edited

Mayadeen, Boukamal, Bouleil, Bouomar and Mushassan

Airstrikes on villages and towns held by the Islamic State group in eastern Syria have killed and wounded dozens a day after an attack by the extremists killed more than 120 pro-government fighters and briefly cut off the highway linking the capital Damascus with eastern Syria, opposition activists said September 30.

It was not immediately clear if the airstrikes on areas including Mayadeen, Boukamal, Bouleil, Bouomar and Mushassan were carried out by the Russians or the U.S.-led coalition.

 

 

deirezzor

Deir ez-Zur to Al-Suwar

In Deir ez-Zor province, the SDF continued deliberate movement towards the Syria-Iraq border and have reached the town of Al-Suwar, liberating more than 1,000 square kilometers along the way, said Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway, Pentagon Spokesman on September 28.

The flow of displaced civilians traveling north and west fluctuates from 500 to over 2,000 per day as the fighting in the province intensifies. The SDF prioritizes IDP safe passage to camps in Ar-Rashi, Mabrouka and as far away as Ayn Issa.

Checkpoints along main travel ways ensure roads are clear from common criminals, as well as ISIS fighters attempting to harm or infiltrate these group of evacuees.

On September 25, Russian-backed Syrian regime forces conducted artillery strike in the vicinity of SDF fighting position northeast of Deir ez-Zor. The SDF immediately reported the impacts in their area, and later announced casualties. This week, our coalition mourned the loss of one of our own, a master sergeant from the French army’s 13th Dragoons Parachute Regiment was killed during combat operations in support of our fight against ISIS.

Coalition officials immediately passed SDF and impact locations to the Russians through the de-confliction line, with the intent to inform Syrian regime forces of impacts on or near SDF positions.

The coalition and its partners remain committed to the defeat of ISIS, and we will continue to use the de-confliction line as a means to prevent accidental targeting and to ease tensions.

The coalition is committed to our SDF partners in their operations against ISIS in Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor province, and we retain the right of self-defense at all times.

A Marine MV-22B made a hard landing September 29 in Syria. The downing resulted in non-life-threatening injuries to two unidentified service member. It was operating from a coalition ground base and was destroyed following the hard landing.    U.S. military officials and SDF commanders told VOA on March 21 that an airbase in Kobani will be the headquarters for U.S.-led coalition operations to retake Raqqa.

Screenshot 2017-09-30 at 9.09.11 AM

Mayadin to Ashara, Syria

 

On September 14, two airstrikes in Syria targeted IS drone developer Abu Salman near Mayadin and destroyed his research lab in Ashara, Syria.

Salman and “a terrorist associate” were killed while traveling in a vehicle from Mayadin to Ashara.

 

 

September 21 SDF warns against Assad advances on eastern Euphrates riverbank,has twice opened fire on Russian special forces.]

hasakah

Raqqah to Al Hasakah

The Russian Defence Ministry said the SDF had taken up positions on the eastern banks of the Euphrates with U.S. special forces, and had twice opened fire with mortars and artillery on Syrian troops who were working alongside Russian special forces.

“A representative of the U.S. military command in Al Udeid (the U.S. operations center in Qatar) was told in no uncertain terms that any attempts to open fire from areas where SDF fighters are located would be quickly shut down,” Major-General Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

[September 20]

The Syrian army, backed by Russian and Syrian war planes, has made wide advances along the Euphrates’ western riverbank.    Syrian troops also crossed to the eastern side of the river on September 18.

The SDF’s advances have been on the eastern bank of the river.

The convergence of the two rival offensives has increased tensions in Deir al-Zor. On Monday, the US-backed militia warned against any further Syrian army advances on the eastern riverbank.

On September 19, Russia’s defence ministry said the Euphrates had risen as soon as the Syrian army began crossing it. The only way that could have happened was if upstream dams held by the US-backed opposition had been opened, it said.

[September 15 U.S. to press on southbound around Deir Ezzor ]

Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve has decided to press on southbound around Deir Ezzor which could end up isolating ISIS militants trapped between the western Syrian military front and the country’s eastern border with Iraq, where forces supported by both the U.S. and Iran are also battling ISIS. Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the anti-ISIS Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, said September 15 that the U.S.-led coalition had decided not to enter the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, where Syrian troops recently broke an ISIS siege against comrades trapped behind enemy lines for three years. A separate campaign by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces has also pierced through ISIS territory toward Deir Ezzor, but will reportedly stop at the city’s limits “so as not to complicate” the already crowded conflict.

Bassem Aziz, a spokesman for the US-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said they have taken control of an industrial area on the eastern bank of the river, a few miles from the government troops.   Mr Aziz said they were about four miles away from the city’s eastern entrance.

“The convergence of military forces in this area calls for increased awareness and de-confliction,” Dillon said.    Two Russian submarines launched seven Kalibr cruise missiles September 15 targeting ISIS positions in Deir Ezzor, The submarines were the Kilo-class  diesel-electric Velikiy Novgorod and Kolpino boats.

vasili

Velikiy Novgorod

 

[September 14 SDF and the Syrian troops to clash? ]

RUSSIAN air strikes have killed 34 civilians on ferries fleeing violence in Syria’s eastern province of Deir Ezzor, where jihadists face separate assaults by US-backed forces and Russian-backed government troops, a monitor said. The Observatory relies on a network of sources inside Syria, and says it determines whose planes carry out raids according to type, location, flight patterns and munitions used

Deir Ezzor (Syria News) US-led coalition warplanes bombarded, September 10, a military convoy belonging to the Syrian army, east of Deir Ezzor.

Qasioun News reported that the international coalition warplanes bombarded a military convoy belonging to the Syrian army and allied militia, near al-Tayem oil field, east of Deir Ezzor,

The United States and Russia are interested in avoiding a confrontation between the SDF and the Syrian forces and can devise a strategy that will allow both sides to share control over the vast province.

United States officials have suggested they do not seek a confrontation with Assad’s forces.

“We are in the destruction-ISIS activity, and this is what we want to do, and if the Syrian regime wants to do it … and show that they do it exactly at Abu Kamal or Deir el-Zour or elsewhere, this means we do not have to do it in these places, “said coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon in June, referring to a city on the Iraqi border and using a different acronym for IS.

The only way left for the SDF to enter the eastern province appears to be from the northeastern province of Hassakeh, where Syrian activists say the U.S.-backed fighters have been gathering and stepping up preparations for an attack.

A U.S.-trained group, the Deir el-Zour Military Council, which is part of the SDF, is expected to launch the attack against IS in Deir el-Zour under the cover of airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition within days. SDF officials say the imminent attack is not related to government forces reaching the city earlier this week, and was planned months in advance.

Syrian Kurdish official Nawaf Khalil, who is in Germany but frequently visits northern Syria, said the SDF attack on Deir el-Zour could begin at any moment, adding that the battle for Raqqa now no longer needs a large number of fighters.

The US-led coalition in struggle against IS said in an email to The Associated Press that the SDF “will decide when conditions are good for an offensive.”

Asked about concerns over possible confrontation between the SDF and the Syrian troops, the coalition said: “We urge all forces to focus on our common enemy.”

[September 8 Stately Balloon: SFA to capture Lower Euphrates Valley ]

 

syria humvee

 

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appears to working with Russia to stabilize Syria.   Tillerson believes he’s making some quiet progress on  Syria.   The real danger to Russian interests is increasing Iranian power there, especially as Bashar Assad’s regime regains control of Deir el-Zour in eastern Syria. To counter the Iranians, Tillerson supports a quick move by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces to capture the Lower Euphrates Valley.

This bilateral approach creates more room for spoilers to enter the fray, especially with militias active on both sides of the conflict such as the Lebanese Hezbollah or the Iraqi Abu Fadl al-Abbas Brigades and Asaib Ahl al-Haq backing the regime and multinational groups fighting against it. Competing interests between the different parties on the ground mean that those not benefitting from local arrangements have an incentive to undermine them.

  • Syrian Democratic Forces
  • قوات سوريا الديمقراطية‎
  • Hêzên Sûriya Demokratîk
  • ܚܝ̈ܠܘܬܐ ܕܣܘܪܝܐ ܕܝܡܩܪܛܝܬܐ
  • Participant in the Syrian Civil War

 

[10/06/16 Putin pressing his advantage in Syria]

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North Aleppo situation

 

 

 

Mr. Obama has repeatedly refused to involve US forces in the Mideast more robustly, and even if he’s had a change of heart, his administration is drawing to a close. Mr. Putin appears to recognize those facts and is pressing his advantage in Syria while it remains.
“At this point, the US doesn’t have it in its power to offer the Russians anything in Syria that they would find worthwhile,” Yezid Sayigh, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment’s Middle East Center in Beirut. says. “There just is nothing that will get the two [powers] back on track anytime soon.”

 

[June 3 2015 Syria: government mood is black ]

A diplomat who tracks Syria said the tone reflected a new government willingness to admit vulnerability.
“It’s a change in their attitude,” the diplomat said. “The general mood is black.”
The deputy head of Israel’s armed forces said this week the Syrian military had “ceased to exist, de facto”, while Hezbollah was investing in thousands of its fighters in Syria. The previous assumptions that Assad could not be defeated due to his superior military strength underpinned by the air force were no longer valid, the diplomat said. The insurgents were building on their momentum and had more recruits.
“For every 100 soldiers lost by the regime, there are not 100 more coming in,” the diplomat said.

June 2 Assad regime is disintegrating: Russia has evacuated 100 of its senior officials]

Russia has evacuated 100 of its senior officials and their families from Syria via the airport in Latakia. They said that those leaving include experts who worked in the war room in Damascus, along with the Iranian experts and Hezbollah officials. According to the report, they have not been replaced. Syrian opposition sources say that Hezbollah and Iranian military experts have left Assad’s war room in Damascus, along with Russian experts.
There have been increasing signs in recent days that the Assad regime is disintegrating, four years into the civil war that has engulfed Syria. Last week, the Syrian president lost control of another province, which comes on the heels of previous reports that Islamic State already controls more than 50% of the country. here has been a noticeable change in the Russian position toward Syria that Moscow is for the first time willing to discuss with the Americans the exact details of a transition period for the country, and even raise the names of individual military and political officials to oversee it.
After four years of war, the regime controls less than 8% percent of the country’s oil and gas fields, while Islamic State controls more than 80% percent.

http://wp.me/p1kUZv-3U

[June 27 2013 Syria: Damascus Christian area bomb]

French mandate 1920-26 partitions

French mandate 1920-26 partitions

A suicide attacker blew himself up near one of the main churches in Damascus,the Syrian capital June 27, killing at least four people.
The blast struck in the vicinity of the Greek Orthodox Virgin Mary Church in the predominantly Christian neighborhood of Bab Sharqi in central Damascus. Is partition coming.

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IS too beneficial to Assad, allowing him to appear as lesser of two evils

In Syria, IS is still holding on to the fertile and densely populated Euphrates valley between the city of Deir al-Zor and the Iraqi border, an area to which many IS leaders are thought to have withdrawn.

The narrow valley would actually be easier to conquer than the cities, but it is located far from where Kurdish militias are operating as they attack Raqqa with U.S. support. Furthermore, the topography of the valley is advantageous for IS: Both sides are flanked by steppe land and desert, making it easy for the terrorist group to quickly pull back.

Perhaps most importantly, though, fighting Islamic State is well down on the agenda of Syrian ruler Bashar Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies, despite all their claims to the contrary. The jihadists have simply been too beneficial to Assad, allowing him to appear as the lesser of two evils in the eyes of the world.

In Iraq, too, the terrorist army continues to maintain its hold on a vast territory beyond the now embattled stronghold of Tal Afar: the district of Hawija, a region of more than 40 square kilometers of fertile land located southwest of Kirkuk, home to several towns, around 100 villages and tens of thousands of residents.

Hawija was one of Islamic State’s first strongholds in Iraq — and will likely be the last one to fall.

[July 20 IS insurgents have infiltrated south of Q-West Airfield from Hawija

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Q=West July 19

* Centcom July 20: “Near Qayyarah, four strikes engaged three ISIS tactical units, destroyed a boat, damaged an ISIS-held building and suppressed an ISIS tactical unit.”

Nineveh – 9:20 PM Wednesday 19 07 2017

1- [Iraqi] Military source: Our powerful troops cleansed the village of Imam, west of the south of Al-Qayyarah and took it back from the control of IS forces.

On July 16,near Qayyarah, two strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units and destroyed two ISIS-held buildings.

[July 12 ]

[Centcom July 12] Near Qayyarah, two strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units and destroyed two mortar systems and two vehicles.[Turkish} Five Iraqi soldiers were killed July 11 in clashes with the Daesh terrorist group in Qayyarah district, south of Mosul, according to a military officer.
Army Captain Mohannad al-Shewili said the clashes continued overnight in the Daesh-held Imam Gharbi village. The Islamic State executed on July 11 three fighters belonging to al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces) in the Imam Gharbi village in al-Qayara neighborhood, southern Mosul, a local source told Shafaaq News. Militants, armed with machine guns and mortars, have now seized more than 75 percent of Imam Gharbi, a village on the western bank of the Tigris river some 70 km (44 miles) south of Mosul, and reinforcements are expected, the Iraqi army officer said.[Reuters].

[July 10]

al-Qayara imam gharbi

Reports continue to come in of an ISIS diversionary offensive in a small town south , near Mosul, where the U.S. has a set up Qayyarah Airfield West. The assault on Imam Gharbi village appeared to be the sort of diversionary, guerrilla-style strike Security sources said IS insurgents had infiltrated , some 70 km (44 miles) south of Mosul on the western bank of the Tigris river, on July 5 evening from a pocket of territory still under their control on the eastern bank.

Two Iraqi journalists were reported killed and two others wounded as they covered the security forces’ counter-attack to take back the village on July 7. Islamic State still controls 60% of the Imam Gharbi village in al-Qayara neighborhood located in southern Mosul, which was liberated several months ago.

“Joint military units have managed to liberate 40% only of the Imam Gharbi village after six days from the IS seizure of the village,” the source said.An unknown number of civilians and military were also killed or wounded.

The fighting forced the U.N.-affiliated International Organization for Migration to suspend relief operations at two sites where it houses nearly 80,000 people near Qayyara, just north of Imam Gharbi, a U.N. statement said.

With water trucks no longer able to reach the sites, the displaced people could run short of water at a time of midsummer temperatures well over 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), it said.

The insurgents were still in control of half the village by July 7 evening, security sources said. The offensive was launched from Hawija. Hawija, a backwater to be sure but one encircled by canals which offer some formidable natural defences.

There is also the countryside around Hawija and the open desert along the Syrian border, dotted with villages on the banks of the Euphrates river leading to al Qa’im, a city as big as Hawija and Tal Afar combined, all under ISIS control

[June 21 Next Year, in Mosul ]

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Q-West airbase

Additional forces from the 82nd Airborne Division will head to the Qayyarah Airfield West, or “Q-West” as the soldiers call it, the official said. U.S. forces have occupied the former Iraqi military base since the summer. Currently, Apache gunships and GPS-guided rocket systems called HIMARS are based there roughly 40 miles south of Mosul to support the ongoing battle for Iraq’s second largest city.

In Hamam al-Alil, 15 miles south of Mosul, a U.S. Army artillery battery has also been supporting the Iraqi-led operation into West Mosul in recent months.

[August 24 2016 Next Year, in Mosul ]

image

Lt. Gen. Townsend

August 22, 2016 @ 12:14 pm WASHINGTON (AP) — The top U.S. commander for the fight against the Islamic State group said August 21 that he is skeptical of any additional military cooperation with Russia in Syria. And he said he believes he can get the mission done without it, outlining new plans to accelerate the pace and scope of the U.S.-led coalition operations to retake the key Islamic State-held cities of Raqqa and Mosul within the next year.

Iraqi officials have suggested they plan to begin the effort to retake Mosul later this fall, and the fight for Raqqa could also start within that timeline. Now they’re just a couple of kilometers away from the town center and about 60 kilometers from Mosul. By the end of the year, they say, they will liberate Iraq’s second-largest metropolitan area seized by ISIS two years ago. Townsend’s vow to have both retaken in the next year only underscores how difficult U.S. commanders believe it will be to drive Islamic State insurgents from those larger, heavily populated strongholds. Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina,

[April 12 Nothing more from U.S. for Mosul, no,no,no
sunni-shia-kurd_state_crop

United States will not send additional troops and equipment to help the Iraqi Security Forces retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State without Iraq first addressing sectarian divisions that could threaten to divide the country into Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite territories. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, speaking to press April 11 during a visit to the Goa state in India. Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, the commander of the international operation against Islamic State, has said that Iraqi generals do not think they will be able to recapture Mosul until the end of 2016 or early 2017 at the earliest.

Too dum hot

[March 16 Equipment moving from Camp Taji in Baghdad towards Mosul ]

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Iraqi security forces ride in vehicles travelling to Mosul to fight against militants of Islamic State at an Iraqi army base in Camp Taji in Baghdad, February 21, 2016.

[March 6 Northern Iraq is littered with U.S. special operation units ]

March 5
An advanced U.S. Army reconnaissance aircraft crash-landed in a field outside of Irbil in Iraqi Kurdistan on morning of March 4.

. Pictures posted to social media show the downed aircraft surrounded by what appears to be well-armed special operations forces. It is outfitted with the Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System, or EMARSS.

The Army flies a small fleet of fixed-wing aircraft that is broken down into three categories: Special Electronic Mission Aircraft, or SEMA, transport aircraft and mission support aircraft. EMARSS-equipped aircraft fall under SEMA.

The EMARSS system consists of a King Air 350ER aircraft equipped with an electro-optic/infra-red (EO/IR) sensor, communications intelligence collection system, an aerial precision geolocation system, line-of-site tactical and beyond line-of-site communications suites, two Distributed Common Ground System-Army (DCGS-A) workstations and a self-protection suite.

It is unclear what the EMARSS-equipped aircraft was doing before the crash. However, northern Iraq is littered with U.S. special operation units, including the Expeditionary Targeting Force, an elite commando unit dispatched to the region to capture and kill Islamic State fighters. While unable to stay in the air as long as drones, manned surveillance aircraft like the MC-12 are integral for missions, such as special operations raids, that require rapid intelligence gathering.

March 1 IS in Iraq “drawing to a close”? ]

 U.S.-led coalition instructors monitor as they train Iraqi soldiers from the army's 72nd infantry brigade while participating in a joint live ammunition exercise at Besmaya military base in south of Baghdad, Iraq, Jan. 27, 2016.


U.S.-led coalition instructors monitor as they train Iraqi soldiers from the army’s 72nd infantry brigade while participating in a joint live ammunition exercise at Besmaya military base in south of Baghdad, Iraq, Jan. 27, 2016.

The Islamic State group’s existence in Iraq looks to be drawing to a close as Pentagon officials confirmed February 29 that U.S.-led coalition forces had commenced operations aimed at driving the terror organization out of its last remaining stronghold in Mosul.
CHRISTOPHER HARRESS @CHARRESS ON 03/01/16

Around 200 U.S. Delta Force troops, in coordination with the Iraqi military, are said to be conducting raids, seizing territory and plotting to rescue hostages and prisoners.
The CIA and other intelligence agencies still use contractors like the former Blackwater or $2.2 billion firm DynCorp and other for paramilitary services. That number of military contractors represents just a fraction of the contractors employed by the U.S. in Iraq. In addition to the 2,028 Pentagon contractors, another 5,800 are employed by other agencies, including the State Department. Many of the contractors in Iraq and neighboring countries are from well known warzone companies like KBR and Fluor Corporation,

Even though Mosul is the final stronghold, the Islamic terror group continues to have small pockets of its fighters dotted across the country, but will no longer have a main base of operations if U.S Special Forces are successful in their current operations. IS currently occupies the city of Fallujah in Anbar province, only 65 kilometers (40 miles) from Baghdad. However, the group is under siege by local Sunni tribesmen who enlisted to help push the group out of the city. United States Defense Department statistics released earlier this month indicate that the number of IS militants in Iraq and Syria had fallen to between 19,000 and 25,000, down from earlier estimates of up to more than 30,000 fighters. It is suspected that IS, commanders especially, are seeking safety in Libya.

[June 10 2015 Extreme summer heat makes retaking Mosul before the fall unlikely ]

[April 16]


IRAQ AND SYRIA: ISIL’S REDUCED OPERATING AREAS AS OF APRIL 2015

Hot in Mosul

Near Bayji, nine airstrikes struck two large and six smaller tactical units, destroyed two ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL heavy machine gun. A U.S. military official said recently the extreme summer heat after Ramadan made any effort to retake Mosul before the fall unlikely.

[April 4 Assault on Tikrit without U.S. planning participation, officials admit]

A vehicle belonging to Shi’ite militia fighters pulls the body of an Islamic State fighter, who was killed during clashes with Iraqi forces, in Tikrit April 1, 2015.

A vehicle belonging to Shi’ite militia fighters pulls the body of an Islamic State fighter, who was killed during clashes with Iraqi forces, in Tikrit April 1, 2015.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi ordered the arrest of looters and for the Shi’ite paramilitaries to withdraw to positions outside of Tikrit Saturday after meeting with officials from Salahuddin province. Government officials have reportedly blamed the looting and violence on local Sunni tribal fighters.
The U.S. military has publicly earmarked Mosul as the next target of the offensive against Islamic State in Iraq. Pentagon officials in February predicted the assault would begin by April or May – a disclosure that should not have been made, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter later said.
Sunni lawmakers who visited Tikrit complained that events have spun out of control since the security forces and militias retook the city. Parliamentarian Mutashar al-Samarrai credited the government with orchestrating a smooth entrance into Tikrit. But he said that some Shi’ite paramilitary factions had exploited the situation. “I believe this happened on purpose to disrupt the government’s achievement in Tikrit,” Samarrai said. “This is a struggle between the (paramilitaries) and the government for control.” The assault on Tikrit was launched without any planning participation by Washington, U.S. officials have admitted.

[March 30 Tikrit: U.S. denies airstrikes March 22-24]

US soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 22nd Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division, ride on a military vehicle as they leave their base on a mission in Tikrit, 180 Kilometers north of Iraqi capital Baghdad, 30 December 2003.

US soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 22nd Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division, ride on a military vehicle as they leave their base on a mission in Tikrit, 180 Kilometers north of Iraqi capital Baghdad, 30 December 2003.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard says a U.S. drone strike killed two of its advisers near the Iraqi city of Tikrit, where a major offensive is underway against the Islamic State group, but the U.S. said March 30 its coalition conducted no airstrikes in the area during the time of the incident.

[March 27 Washington demanded the withdrawal of Shi’ite militias]
Iraqi special forces advanced on central Tikrit on March 26 as U.S.-led coalition planes joined the largest offensive yet against Islamic State militants holding out in Saddam Hussein’s home city. Coalition jets launched their first air strikes against Islamic State targets in Tikrit on March 25, coming off the sidelines to aid Iraqi forces against the Sunni Islamist militants.
Underlying the complex web of loyalties behind the conflict, a senior U.S. general said Washington had demanded the withdrawal of Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias fighting alongside Iraq’s government before agreeing to take part.

List of former U.S bases near Tikrit 2093 -2006
Camp Buffalo (Tikrit)
Camp Cougar (Tikrit)
Camp Ironhorse / FOB Danger (Tikrit)
Camp Raider / FOB Dagger (Tikrit)
FOB Omaha Tikrit
FOB Packhorse Tikrit
OB Remagen Tikrit Tikrit South Air Base
COB Speicher, located near Tikrit, Iraq

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Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death? No?

syriamap20170513

There have been several previous reports of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death. But on August 31, Gen Townsend said there were “indicators in intelligence channels that he’s still alive”.
“We’re looking for him every day. I don’t think he’s dead,” he told reporters, repeating that he had “no clue” as to where the IS leader was.
“The last stand of Isis will be in the Middle Euphrates River Valley,” he added, using an alternative name for IS. “When we find him, I think we’ll just try to kill him first. It’s probably not worth all the trouble to try and capture him.”

[July 25 Clashes in Al-Shaddadi ]

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed up by the US-led coalition, is storming the neighborhoods of Nezlit Shehada and Al-Shaddadi in Raqqah city. According to pro-SDF sources, over 27 ISIS members were killed in the recent clashes and an IED plant was captured. According to ISIS, 8 SDF members were killed recently.

* [July 24]Near Al Shadaddi, seven strikes engaged five ISIS tactical units and destroyed two staging areas, two command and control nodes, an IED storage area, an observation post and a fighting position.

[July 14 ISIS attacking near Hasakah Syria ]

 

CENTCOM– Near Al Hasakah, July 13,seven airstrikes struck an ISIL large tactical unit and five ISIL tactical units destroying seven ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL vehicle and an ISIL armored personnel carrier.
Al Hasakah
a military source in the Kurdish-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), said most of the work on a runway in the oil town of Rmeilan in Hasaka was complete. The Rmeilan airstrip was being used by U.S. military helicopters for logistics and deliveries.[Reuters March 6 2016]

 

[March 26 Tabka:500 troops were airlifted behind enemy lines.]

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GPS steerable parachutes

U.S.-backed local forces fighting Islamic State in Syria said on March 26 they had taken full control of a former Syrian army airport near the city of Tabqa along the Euphrates River. Tabqa is located 25 miles west of Raqqa, ISIS’ self-declared capital,

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias supported by a U.S.-led international coalition, said in a statement they had seized the air base.

Earlier, SDF spokesperson Talal Silo said its fighters had seized “60 to 70 percent” of the airport but were still engaged in intense clashes with the ultra-hardline militants inside the air base and on its outskirts.
March 22, Washington (CNN)Fighters in Syria have begun a major ground offensive, backed up by US forces, to retake Tabka dam near Raqqa, Syria,
The attack also included an unprecedented air assault involving US helicopters landing behind enemy lines — flying about 500 local US allies and coalition military advisers across the Euphrates River and Lake Assad so they could attack the ISIS-controlled dam and neighboring town and airfield from the South.

“We have conducted an air movement, air assault, with the Syrian Arab Coalition and Syrian Democratic Forces,” Col. Joseph Scrocca,
Scrocca would not say how many troops were involved, but a military source said about 500 troops were airlifted behind enemy lines. The attack was backed by US Marines firing M777 howitzers and close air support, including airstrikes carried out by Apache helicopters.

[January 18 Syria airdrops in December]

The Air Force conducted 16 airdrop missions in Syria last year, including six in December. Flights could depart from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus or the Incirlik air base in Turkey.
The U.S.-led coalition is directly providing supplies only to the Arab contingent within the Syrian Democratic Forces, partly to avoid antagonizing Turkey, a key ally.
Initially, Kurds made up the bulk of the coalition-backed forces fighting the Islamic State in northern Syria. But U.S. advisers have made an effort to recruit more Arabs. Today, about one third of the 45,000 troops in the Syrian Democratic Forces are Arabs.
The bundles are guided onto landing zones using GPS technology and steerable parachutes. “We’ll get it within 10 or 15 meters of the mark,” Everhart said. The supplies range from small arms ammunition to vehicles.The Air Force can drop supplies at night and vary where they are dropped to ensure militants are not able to seize U.S. equipment.

[January 7 Tabka Dam  one of last defense lines before Raqqa city ]

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January 06, 2017 5:34 PM The Pentagon said that SDF forces are only seven kilometers away from the dam, also known as the Baath Dam.

“Liberating the dam will allow us to control the town of Tabqa as well,” said Nasir Hajj Mansur, an SDF commander who is involved in the ongoing offensive. “It will also break the back of (IS) as it is one of the last defense lines before Raqqa city.”

The dam, which IS has controlled since 2014, is a hydropower facility that is one of the main sources of electricity in the country. It has also been vital for the irrigation of farms in the fertile region around Raqqa.

 

 

[December 24 2016 Syrian Arab Coalition,  supported by Coalition advisers and air strikes before Raqqah ]stephen-townsend

Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, left, XVIII Airborne Corps commanding general, during a visit to Fort Bragg, N.C., July 27, 2016. Now serving as commander of the Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve, he spoke with The Fayetteville Observer from Baghdad on Tuesday and described some of the ongoing efforts. In Syria, he said Fort Bragg troops are supporting special operations forces and the Syrian partners with logistical, medical and artillery support. That includes teams from the 18th Field Artillery Brigade deployed into the country with High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems.

December 10 The Syrian Democratic Forces announced the start of the next phase of their operation to isolate ISIL’s self-proclaimed capital of Raqqah, Dec. 10. The SDF, made up in part by local Arabs and its Coalition trained and equipped Arab component, the Syrian Arab Coalition, and supported by Coalition advisers and air strikes began the operation to isolate Raqqah on Nov. 5. In their march toward Raqqah, the SDF has already liberated dozens of villages and more than 700 square miles of ISIL-held terrain. Local Arab fighters continue to join the SDF and fight to liberate their own land. During the initial phase of isolation efforts, our Syrian partners have proven their ability in battle, pushing ISIL back and destroying ISIL heavy weapons, vehicles, fortifications, IED facilities, VBIEDs, armored vehicles, technical vehicles, bridges, decoys, and caches. The Coalition supports the SDF through training, advise and assist operations, airstrikes and material support to the SAC. Since the start of the operation the Coalition conducted more than 300 strikes delivering more than 850 munitions in support of its partners on the ground to enable the isolation of Raqqah and defeat of ISIL in Syria.

December 20 Near Raqqa, three strikes destroyed an oil tanker truck and damaged an ISIL supply route.

December 21 Attack, bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 20 strikes in Syria: — Near Raqqah, 11 strikes engaged four ISIL tactical units; destroyed three oil storage tanks, two oil wellheads, two oil tanker trucks, two fighting positions, two tactical vehicles, a financial storage facility, an artillery system and a vehicle bomb; and damaged a supply route.

December 22 Near Raqqah, two strikes destroyed an ISIL mortar system and suppressed a tactical unit.

December 23 Attack, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 10 strikes in Syria: — Near Raqqah, eight strikes engaged three ISIL tactical units; destroyed six oil storage tanks, two vehicle bombs and a technical vehicle; and damaged a supply route, a fighting position and a truck.

December 24 — U.S. and coalition military forces Strikes in Syria Attack, bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 14 strikes in Syria: — Near Raqqah, 13 strikes engaged 10 ISIL tactical units, destroyed seven fighting positions, three vehicles, a car bomb and damaged a supply route

 

[September 8 Turks taking on SDF ]

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Turkey now wants to push the SDF out of Manbij, to the south of Jarabulus, back east across the Euphrates, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed anti-IS Kurdish-Arab alliance dominated by Kurdish fighters.. To the west, Turkey appears set to try to seize control of Dabiq, a small town and scene of a 16th-century battle that figures prominently in ISIS’s eschatological vision. “ISIS sees Dabiq as a kind of mystical place,” said Can Acun, an international relations expert specializing in Syria at SETA, Turkey’s government-supported think tank. “They believe in the future there will be a big fight there. They will try to defend it against Turkey.” Experts say Turkey is also contemplating taking control of al-Bab, an agricultural hub northeast of the major city of Aleppo, from ISIS, a move that would give Ankara and its FSA allies control over a significant crossroads to Aleppo.
“Turkey’s aim is Manbij and al-Bab, but our goal goes beyond that,” said Ahmad Othman, commander of the Sultan Murad brigade, a major FSA unit allied with Turkey.

[May 30   HIMARS for Syria delayed by Turkey   ]

HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System)

The deployment of US HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) missiles on Turkey’s southern frontier to battle Islamic State has been held up until August without offering an explanation. The deployment was originally expected in May to help counter cross-border bombardments that have killed 21 people since Jan. 18, as the two governments tussle over the makeup of the assault force

However, the battlefield successes of the Syrian Kurdish PYD group in the course of their country’s civil war has haunted Turkey, which fears their territorial gains will embolden the separatist aspirations of Turkey’s own Kurdish minority. “The aim of those who are using the PYD terrorist organization to surround Turkey’s southern borders is clearly to cut Turkey’s ties with the Middle East and North Africa,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said may 29 at a ceremony marking the 1453 conquest of Constantinople, today’s Istanbul

[May 28 Special ops in Syria take off girls patch ]

a US special forces soldier wearing the patch of the YPJ

U.S. Special Forces troops in Syria have been ordered to stop wearing the arm patches of YPG a Kurdish rebel group regarded as an offshoot of a terrorist organization by Turkey, , the YPG [ and Women’s Defense Units (YPJ) ] dominates in the umbrella group SDF, which also includes Arab and Christian fighters, and has notched victories against ISIS in northeastern Syria.
“Wearing those patches was unauthorized and inappropriate and corrective action has been taken. We have communicated as much” to NATO ally Turkey, said Army Col. Steve Warren. Although the U.S. has backed the YPG/YPJ force with airstrikes and supplies, and its fighters have proven to be among the most effective in Syria’s multi-sided civil war, Turkey has branded the group as the military wing of the Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK. Both Turkey and the U.S. have labeled the PKK as a terrorist organization.
The images appear to show a US special forces soldier wearing the patch of the YPJ (Kurdish: Yekîneyên Parastina Jin‎, YPJ, pronounced Yuh-Pah-Juh) – a Kurdish female militia group. A Pentagon spokesman said troops often blended in with partners for safety. The series of images, by an AFP photographer, show the US soldiers operating alongside members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed anti-IS Kurdish-Arab alliance dominated by Kurdish fighters.

patch of the YPJ

An effort to rebrand the YPG as a coalition with Arab rebels called the Syrian Democratic Forces has brought only a small number of Arabs into the force so far.    A requirement that applicants sign a document pledging to fight only the Islamic State and not the government of President Bashar al-Assad deterred many from signing up at all.

 

[May 3 Mission Creep: “Special-operation forces exploitation operations. They pick up computers, cellphones. “ ]

The coalition couldn’t move faster than its partners on the ground—both Iraqi security forces as well as Kurdish fighters in Iraq and Syria.“Special-operation forces are especially adept at exploitation operations. They pick up computers, cellphones. ” said Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work in Brussels, April 29.

Attack, ground-attack and fighter aircraft conducted seven strikes in Syria:— Near Hawl, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position. — Near Shadaddi, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL staging areas and two ISIL vehicles. — Near Raqqah, a strike destroyed an ISIL crane. — Near Mara, three strikes struck three separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed six ISIL fighting positions.

ypgfighter

el-Hawl area Kurdish fighter November 2015

 

 

[April 30 Green Berets on the front lines during the assault on Shaddadi ]

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…have appearance of Green Berets?

 

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FDS forces before Shaddadi

 

A group of Special Forces soldiers on the front lines during the assault on Shaddadi, French, American and British advisors with the SDF forces. The soldiers in question have the appearance of American Green Berets and are clearly in combat.
April 25: The additional 250 U.S. forces will work with Kurdish militiamen and others as they seek to isolate Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria. The plan to move toward Raqqa follows last year’s successful northern Syria offensive that was led primarily by Kurdish forces, aided by U.S. airstrikes, with some support from a group of Sunni opposition fighters the United States has been struggling to support. Raqqa, farther to the south, is a Sunni city that Kurdish forces are not eager to move toward and where they would not be welcome.

[March 21 U.S. and its partners have supported capable and motivated local forces in Syria ]

The U.S. and its partners have supported capable and motivated local forces in Syria to retake the eastern Syrian town of Shaddadi, Carter said. That is the last major northern artery between Raqqa and Mosul — between ISIL in Iraq and ISIL in Syria, he pointed out.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter testified at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the fiscal year 2017 defense budget request. US Department of Defense -March 21, 2016

[March 14 work being done both east and west of Shaddadi]

“We are increasing the number of folks that we are supporting on the ground — in this case the Syrian-Arab Coalition,” he said. “Right now we don’t have a timeline for the operation for when we will take Raqqa. It’s going to be conditions-based — based on the size of the force we have, based on enemy dispositions, and of course, there is some other work being done both east and west of Shaddadi to consolidate the operation so far.”
Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr.

The campaign in eastern Syria is directed by about 50 U.S. Special Operations Forces now on the ground there, joined by about 20 French and perhaps a dozen British commandos. They’re working with about 40,000 Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters dubbed the Syrian Democratic Forces; all but about 7,000 are from the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the YPG. The methodical campaign in eastern Syria contrasts with the messy battlefield to the west, where Syrian regime troops backed by Russia confront rebels supported by the CIA, Turkey and Saudi Arabia — all facing jihadists from the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra. U.S. officials describe this confusing layering of forces as “marbling,” and it’s the reason the current cease-fire is so fragile.

 

[February 24 Shaddadi front using U.S. Javelin ]

First documented use of a FGM-148 Javelin in the war against the Islamic State

Raytheon-Lockheed Martin FGM-148 Javelin replaced the Cold War-era M47 Dragon portable anti-tank missile launcher.

[February 5 FSA’s Northern Division kill  a Russian officer with  TOW ]

On February 3, the FSA’s Northern Division, one of the 39 anti-Assad militias backed by the CIA, uploaded a video showing one of its soldiers firing a TOW missile at half a dozen or so unidentified uniformed men gathered on a rooftop of a building. The video, uploaded at 5:57 GMT, named the targets as Russian officers but gave no details about the exact location of the attack apart from noting that it was somewhere near Syria’s coast—the region of the country where Russia has recently constructed forward operating bases and airfields. There was little doubt that whoever was on that roof didn’t survive the resulting blast.
About an hour later, Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency reported that a Russian officer who had been advising the Assad’s army had indeed been killed in Syria—not by U.S.-backed rebels but by ISIS, which allegedly hit a military garrison with mortars. No location for this attack was given.

[October 29 Division 13 and Suqour al-Ghab fire Raytheon missiles at Syrian Army ]

Insurgent groups have also posted more than two dozen videos in the past few days showing them firing American-made TOW antitank missiles, deepening the impression that a proxy war between the United States and Russia is joining the list of interlocking conflicts in Syria

Insurgent groups have also posted more than two dozen videos in the past few days showing them firing American-made TOW antitank missiles, deepening the impression that a proxy war between the United States and Russia is joining the list of interlocking conflicts in Syria

Optically tracked, Raytheon wire-guided BGM-71 TOW missiles

Optically tracked, Raytheon wire-guided BGM-71 TOW missiles

Russia has focused its earliest operations on the insurgent coalition known as the Army of Conquest, or Jaish al-Fatah, rather than on the Islamic State, according to the official from the pro-government alliance, because it is the Army of Conquest’s positions that most urgently threaten the crucial government-held coastal province of Latakia, while Islamic State forces are farther to the east and can later be isolated and hit. Latakia is Mr. Assad’s family’s ancestral home and the heartland of his fellow Alawites, who provide a critical bloc of support. The Army of Conquest is an Islamist coalition that includes the Nusra Front. Often fighting alongside it are more secular groups calling themselves the Free Syrian Army, including some that have received American aid.

[October 7 Mission Creep: 4 Russian warships launch 26 cruise missiles at 11 targets]

anti-ship missile Klub. PKR 3K14 Kaliber

anti-ship missile Klub. PKR 3K14 Kaliber

The Russian cruise missiles are known as “Kaliber” missiles and are similar to the American Tomahawk missile. This is thought to be the first time they were used operationally, U.S. officials said. Four Russian cruise missiles aimed at antiregime forces in Syria during an aerial assault Wednesday instead landed inadvertently in Iran, U.S. officials said.
[earlier]A Russian flotilla of four warships in the Caspian Sea had struck 11 targets in Syria. The use of 26 sea-based cruise missiles marked one of the first known uses in combat of Russian missiles with this range The Russian minister of defense, Sergei K. Shoigu, told President Vladimir V. Putin in a televised .No civilians were harmed in the strike, he said. It is not clear yet why these particular weapons were chosen in preference to air strikes – but the missiles would have had to fly a considerable distance over Iraq and then Iran to reach Syria.
August 17, 2015 ISTANBUL — Washington would withdraw its Patriot missile batteries from the country in October after bolstering Ankara’s air defenses against threats from Syria’s civil war.
The NATO mandate for the two-year mission will run out in October and will not be renewed, but the US is prepared to return Patriot assets and personnel to Turkey within one week if needed, a joint Turkish-US statement said.

SEPTEMBER 24 2015 About 4,000 soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team will deploy to Kuwait later this year, the Army announced September 24, with some expected to serve in Iraq.

The soldiers from Fort Riley, Kansas, are deploying to backfill soldiers from 3rd BCT, 4th Infantry Division, who have been in country since February. As the brigade prepares to deploy to Kuwait, right across the border to the U.S. military’s ongoing efforts against the Islamic State terror group the soldiers are ready for the job

Oct 5, 2015 Members of the 682nd Engineering Battalion based in Willmar will be leaving later this month for a nine-month deployment to Kuwait. The units will be deployed to Kuwait and will be joined by subordinate companies from other parts of the country to form a large engineering battalion, said Lt. Col. Keith Ferdon of Motley. He is the battalion commander and will be on his fourth deployment.

While based in Kuwait, “we will support U.S. soldiers wherever they are deployed in the Middle East,” he said. The deployment includes companies for “horizontal” and “vertical” engineering, “so we can build roads and buildings,” he said. “The busier we are, the faster it will go.”

There were 15,000 troops stationed at Camp Arifjan, Ali Al Salem Air Base and Camp Buehring, in Kuwait in June 1012.

[October 5 Komoyedov says Russian paid volunteers for Syria]

Adana-Incirlik Air Force Base

Adana-Incirlik Air Force Base

Vladimir Komoyedov, the former commander of the Black Sea fleet, told the Interfax news agency that Russians who had previously fought alongside rebels in eastern Ukraine “can’t be stopped” from going to fight for the Assad regime.

“A unit of Russian volunteers, conflict veterans, will probably appear in the ranks of the Syrian army,” Komoyedov said. “What brings volunteers there besides the cause? Of course, it’s probably money.”

[June 5, 2015 Mississippi, Kentucky, and Minnesota National Guard now in Kuwait]

HASTINGS, Minn.- Soldiers from the Minnesota Army National Guard’s Hastings-based B Company and C Company, 834th Aviation Support Battalion, 34th Combat Aviation Brigade, will deploy for a seven-month mobilization in support of Operation Spartan Shield.

“The deploying Soldiers of the 834th Aviation Support Battalion are eagerly anticipating their upcoming deployment to Kuwait. With a 40-personnel manning requirement, the deploying unit received more volunteers for this deployment than we had slots available,” said Capt. Caleb Seelhoff, company commander.

“The task force has the mission to augment the 185th Theater Aviation Brigade from the Mississippi National Guard, and the 351st Aviation Support Battalion from the Kentucky National Guard, who are already stationed in Kuwait. Our Minnesota troops will be providing communication systems support and helicopter maintenance support,” said Seelhoff.

MRAP and Humvee vehicles in Kuwait

more U.S.Kuwait

[June 5 ISIL convoy coming into Iraq from Syrian territory at the al-Qa’im border crossing]

[March 16 Training at Camp Taji: “We’ll be ready for the real fight.”]
Coalition warplanes have today launched massive air strikes against an ISIL convoy coming into Iraq from Syrian territory at the al-Qa’im border crossing. The convoy included more than 40 armored vehicles and some mobile military equipment.

Iraqi Army troops move along the frontline April 14, 2015 near Al-Karmah, in Anbar Province, Iraq

Iraqi Army troops move along the frontline April 14, 2015 near Al-Karmah, in Anbar Province, Iraq

[April 14 ]

May 28, 2010 Taji-Bucks est. 2007. In December 2004 and until October 2010, Camp Taji reportedly boasted the largest PX facilities in Iraq, with Subway, Burger King and Pizza Hut franchises. Of some 106 bases used by the United States in Iraq, Camp Taji is considered one of 14 “enduring” bases.

The 300 American soldiers here, with a smaller number of United States Marines at Al Asad air base in Anbar Province, are the only American soldiers deployed outside Baghdad.
Sgt. Ali Mesin Hamid, the Iraqi squad leader, was clearly appreciative. “We’ve never had training this good,” he said after his men went through the exercise, exulting at having hit all the targets. “We’ll be ready for the real fight.” With the Taji training site running at maximum capacity, as it is now, that means the program will reach at most about 30,000 Iraqi soldiers by the end of this year, probably far less. The Marines at Al Asad train smaller numbers of regular soldiers.
Colonel Schwemmer said he was stunned at the state in which he found the Iraqi soldiers when he arrived here. “It’s pretty incredible,” he said. “I was kind of surprised. What training did they have after we left?” Apparently, not much. The current, woeful state of the Iraqi military raises the question not so much of whether the Americans left too soon, but whether a new round of deployments for training will have any more effect than the last.

Camp Taji [East of Nahiyat al Karmah]

Camp Taji [East of Nahiyat al Karmah]

<a id=”brigade”>Kuwait</a>

 

 

 

 

 

[March 12 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, arrived at Camp Buehring, Kuwait]

 Southwest Asia – “Pacesetters” of 3rd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, download an M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzer, March 9, 2015. Army Soldiers partnered with Air Force Airmen to safely transport the M109A6 Paladin.

Southwest Asia – “Pacesetters” of 3rd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, download an M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzer, March 9, 2015. Army Soldiers partnered with Air Force Airmen to safely transport the M109A6 Paladin.

March 4, 2015. The transfer of authority ceremony, held on Camp Buehring, Kuwait, officially signified the passing of mission from 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team “Devil” brigade, 1st Infantry Division, to 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team “Iron” brigade, 4th Infantry Division beginning the next chapter in the U.S. and regional partnership mission in the region.March 6, 2015 CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait — The “Iron Knights” of 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, arrived at Camp Buehring, Kuwait over the last several weeks.
more 3rd Brigade

[March 10 Anbar police chief Maj. Gen. Kadhem Mohamed Fares Abu Kaf claims IS leader killed]

“The ISIL military commander in al-Baghdadi, Sheikh Awwad al-Satouri, and four bodyguards have been killed in a joint military operation carried out by the Iraqi forces in western Anbar,” said Anbar police chief Maj. Gen. Kadhem Mohamed Fares Abu Kaf.
March 6 “precise and effective airstrikes on enemy positions in and around Al Baghdadi” help clear towns]

Iraqi security forces and tribal fighters from the Anbar region successfully cleared Al Baghdadi of ISIL

Iraqi security forces and tribal fighters from the Anbar region successfully cleared Al Baghdadi of ISIL

Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve said in a news release that it had delivered “precise and effective airstrikes on enemy positions in and around Al Baghdadi, in support of the Iraqi government’s fight against ISIL.” According to CJTF-OIR, Iraqi security forces and tribal fighters from the Anbar region successfully cleared Al Baghdadi of ISIL, retaking both the town’s police station and three Euphrates River bridges, which had been held by the terror group since September. Additionally, CJTF-OIR said Iraqi security forces, with coalition support, succeeded in pushing ISIL from seven villages northwest of Al Baghdadi on the road to Hadithah.

[February 25 Families displaced from Al Baghdadi District, Anbar province]
Combined Joint Task Force [CJTF] – Operation Inherent Resolve News Release February 24, 2015 Iraq
* Near Al Asad, three airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit, an ISIL fighting position and an ISIL IED location. The following strikes took place between 8a.m., Feb. 22, and 8 a.m., Feb. 23, local time. These airstrikes were inadvertently omitted from yesterday’s release. * Near Al Asad, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

[February 23 al-Baghdadi in Anbar province: Iraqi security forces begin a military operation]

Iraqi special operations forces (ISOF) in al-Baghdadi, western Anbar uploaded 2:08 ET February 23 2015

Iraqi special operations forces (ISOF) in al-Baghdadi, western Anbar uploaded 2:08 ET February 23 2015

“I believe a major victory will be achieved in the next few hours if our forces maintain a steady advance,”

Iraq’s Defence Minister Khaled al-Obeidi said Iraqi security forces began a military operation on Sunday ,February 22,to drive Islamic State fighters out of the western town of al-Baghdadi in Anbar province. “I believe a major victory will be achieved in the next few hours if our forces maintain a steady advance,” he said. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi noted that international support to Iraq had increased in recent days, his office said, without giving details. He also pointed to progress “mobilizing and recruiting people in Nineveh, Anbar and Salahuddin to liberate them from terrorist gangs” referring to the main areas of Islamic State control.

[February 22 Ayn al-Asad base, about 1,000 U.S. troops arrived February 21, reported]

Guests, service members and journalists came to see one of the last convoys of service members cross the border from Iraq into Kuwait on Dec. 18 [2011] . The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, was the last unit out of Iraq. The soldiers were welcomed into Kuwait by soldiers from the 1st Theater Sustainment Command and 3rd Army.

Guests, service members and journalists came to see one of the last convoys of service members cross the border from Iraq into Kuwait on Dec. 18 [2011] . The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, was the last unit out of Iraq. The soldiers were welcomed into Kuwait by soldiers from the 1st Theater Sustainment Command and 3rd Army.

[

[February 22] There are reports that a broad military operation will be launched within the next few hours, accompanied by about 1,000 U.S. troops who arrived at the base yesterday evening.

[February 20] Supplies and weaponry have been arriving February 19 and will be deployed soon to take part in the military effort at al Baghdadi.
{February 15] an armored brigade has reached the Ayn al-Asad base to take part in the military operations in and around Baghdadi. Which, Whose

primary hub

[February 15 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division back to Kuwait, the primary hub for troops moving in and out of Iraq]

3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, will serve as U.S. Central Command’s Reserve force in the Middle East. The Army has kept a brigade in Kuwait since the end of the Iraq war in 2011. Those soldiers, including two units from Fort Carson, have worked to train local troops from throughout the Middle East. In its most recent deployment to Kuwait, Fort Carson’s 2nd Brigade Combat team conducted training missions with allies including Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, which have joined the coalition against Islamic State fighters. For years, Kuwait has been the primary hub for troops moving in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and most of the troops there were merely transiting through on their way to war or back home. December 29th, 2014: U.S. has stockpiled over 3000 military vehicles, mostly mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs), in a depot in Kuwait.

MRAP and Humvee vehicles in Kuwait

[February 12 Not a combat mission: resolution to Congress asking to authorize the use of force against ISIL]


Commander in Chief Barack Obama sent a draft resolution to Congress asking to authorize the use of force against ISIL.

[November 26 In Hit, Anbar: Senan Meteeb, the so-called ISIS “emir” of the western Anbar province, reportedly killed]

Senan Meteeb, the so-called ISIS “emir” of the western Anbar province

Senan Meteeb, the so-called ISIS “emir” of the western Anbar province

An air strike in west Iraq reportedly killed on Wednesday a senior figure in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Al Arabiya’s correspondent reported.

Senan Meteeb, the so-called ISIS “emir” of the western Anbar province, was reportedly killed by a coalition air raid in the Anbar city of Hit. Twenty-four other ISIS fighters were also reportedly killed.
November 25: Baghdadi and the Ayn Al-Asad Base are now the only places where preparations are being made for the campaign to liberate the rest of Anbar.

[November 24 U.S. armed Sunni Tribesmen to attack HIt – FOB Eden- Hagel resigns]

Reports from within Hit indicate that large numbers of ISIL gunmen have been fleeing the town following the announcement of the impending operation to liberate the town.
“Tactically, the guerrilla army would avoid any confrontation with large units of enemy troops, but seek and eliminate small groups of soldiers to minimize losses and exhaust the opposing force. ”
In the areas around Hit today, Iraqi aircraft dropped large quantities of leaflets, calling on the civilian population to leave the town immediately in preparation for a major military operation in the town. Eyewitnesses are reporting that hundreds of families have been leaving since this morning, making their way to Baghdadi, Haditha, and also toward the capital, Baghdad, and other parts of Iraq.
Also today, security forces have airlifted military equiment to the Ayn Al-Asad military base in Baghdadi, describing the equipment as being sufficient for implementing a military operation to liberate Hit from ISIL forces. The areas around the Fedayee Hit have also been brought under security forces control.

The Vietnam and Algerian wars have demonstrated that the overwhelming conventional military superiority of major powers is no guarantee against their defeat in wars against small nations. For external powers such wars are necessarily “limited,” which constrains escalation above certain levels. With no direct survival interest at stake, fighting the war does not take automatic priority over the pursuit of other social, political, and economic objectives. Prosecuting the war consumes resources—economic, human, and political—which are thus not available for the pursuit of these other objectives. In the absence of a quick victory this creates the potential for those political divisions which historically have shifted the balance of forces in the metropolis in favor of withdrawal. For the insurgents, the fact of invasion and occupation generates cohesion, minimizes constraints on mobilization, and maximizes the willingness to incur costs. Precisely the opposite effects tend to characterize the war effort of the external power. A conceptual framework for the analysis of the evolution and outcome of such conflicts is presented and its applications and limitations discussed.
Andrew Mack – World Politics / Volume 27 / Issue 02 / January 1975, pp 175 – 200
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down under pressure from President Barack Obama’s Cabinet,. He has battled behind the scenes with Rice , about the National Security Council’s micromanagement of national security and the growing centralization of decision-making by the White House, even sending her a memo sharply critical of the administration’s strategy for Syria.
Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey have sought to preserve maneuvering room for U.S. commanders to send troops to Iraq to help Iraqis in their battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
http://www.c-span.org/video/?193594-1/book-discussion-soldiers-promise

[November 24 Turkey bombs P.K.K. from former U.S. bases, U.S. airstrikes support P.K.K. in Kobani]

Pirinçlik Air Base, U.S. closed 1997, Diyarbakır, r

Pirinçlik Air Base, U.S. closed 1997, Diyarbakır, r

Kürecik Air Base, U.S. closed 2010, in Malatya, Malatya, which the U.S. now wants to use for support,r

Kürecik Air Base, U.S. closed 2010, in Malatya, Malatya, which the U.S. now wants to use for support

“Today there were American air strikes throughout the day, which is a first. And sometimes we saw one plane carrying out two strikes, dropping two bombs at a time, the strikes are still continuing. In the afternoon, Islamic State intensified its shelling of the town The fact that they’re not conducting face-to-face, close distance fight but instead shelling the town from afar is evidence that they have been pushed back a bit.”

Turkish warplanes struck positions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as the P.K.K., in southeastern Turkey late October 13.
“Turkish F-16 and F-4 warplanes which took off from (bases in the southeastern provinces of) Diyarbakir and Malatya.
The dynamic of twisted allegiances has been on display in the fight for Kobani. While Turkey took military action against the P.K.K., the United States ramped up its bombing runs over Kobani in support of the P.K.K.’s Syrian splinter group, the Democratic Union Party, or P.Y.D. — even though the United States and its European allies have listed the P.K.K. as a terrorist group.

[October 14 Militants occupy Hit military camp, with all its equipment and very large quantities of munitions, Forward Operations Base Eden 2003]

ISIL gunmen today took control of the Hit military camp, with all its equipment and very large quantities of munitions. The seizure followed fierce clashes and bombardment exchanges that continued for about 8 hours between last night and this morning.
Also today, gunmen have seized Al-Doulab village in the Baghdadi township. Along with the military camp, these are considered ‘sensitive’ strategic centers lying between the eastern and western regions of Anbar Province.

Forward Operations Base Eden, Hit, former presidential palace site
On 05 May 2003 Company B/54 (-) moved to FOB Eden, 94th Military Police Brigade-Reserve unit out of Saco , Maine assigned to F.O.B. Eden have been some of the chief players in getting the local police force up and running. They have worked with 3d squadron to enforce the Coalition mandated curfew and worked with groups like PSYOP and Civil Affairs to ensure the local police get the support of the community. They have also provided escorts for U.S. and Coalition convoys in their area.

[October 13 Baghdad suburb of Abu Ghraib has been infiltrated, airport threatened ]

Abu Ghraib, only 40 kilometers (24 miles) from Baghdad

Abu Ghraib, eight miles from the city’s airport

Islamic State fighter wielding what appeared to be MANPADS - Man Portable Air Defense System- it has the characteristics of an SA-18 and other Soviet MANPADS.

Islamic State fighter wielding what appeared to be MANPADS – Man Portable Air Defense System- it has the characteristics of an SA-18 and other Soviet MANPADS.

 Baghdad Central Correctional Facility or BCCF at Abu Ghraib 2007

Baghdad Central Correctional Facility or BCCF at Abu Ghraib 2007

When ISIS fighters were within 20 to 25 kilometers of the strategically important Baghdad airport, Apache helicopters were called in to assist Iraqi forces. The strikes, were launched Ocxtober 4-6 amid heavy fighting in the western approaches to Baghdad, around both Fallujah and Hit. AH-64 Apache attack helicopters were deployed to Baghdad International Airport in June to provide protection for U.S. military and diplomatic facilities.
An outer suburb of Baghdad located only eight miles from the city’s airport has now been breached. The suburb of Abu Ghraib has been infiltrated by ISIS militants who are currently engaging in hit-and-run style attacks on local Iraqi security forces. According to the Institute for the Study of War, ISIS controlled most of the territory from Qaim on the Syrian border to the city of Abu Ghraib, only 40 kilometers (24 miles) from Baghdad, as of October 7.

[October 12 Dutch and U.S. planes strike near Tal Afar and Hit in Anbar ]

The U.S. military is conducting air strikes in Iraq against the Islamic State, two-thirds of them, the majority, are from bases. The U.S. military will not disclose where the warplanes being deployed over Iraq are based, citing political sensitivities. The Pentagon has relied on several large air bases it has built up in the region

The U.S. military is conducting air strikes in Iraq against the Islamic State, two-thirds of them, the majority, are from bases. The U.S. military will not disclose where the warplanes being deployed over Iraq are based, citing political sensitivities. The Pentagon has relied on several large air bases it has built up in the region

Ali Al Salem Air Base (ICAO: OKAS) is a military airbase situated in Kuwait, approximately 23 miles from the Iraqi border

Ali Al Salem Air Base (ICAO: OKAS) is a military airbase situated in Kuwait, approximately 23 miles from the Iraqi border

U.S. and Dutch militaries also carried out three airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq near Tal Afar and Hit on October 10-11. The air strike north of Tal Afar struck a small Islamic State unit and destroyed an armed vehicle, while two small units of the group were targeted in two strikes northwest of Hit.

The actions of the fighter aircraft are coordinated from the Joint Forces Air Component Command in Kuwait. Dutch officers are among the staff working at this joint command post. The Netherlands is contributing:
• 6 F-16s (plus 2 reserve aircraft);
250 military personnel (flight personnel and personnel for maintenance, weapon and communication systems, mission planning and logistics)

[October 11 Sunni Militants advancing from Hit towards Ramadi, shades of 2006]

Euphrates River in Ramadi, Iraq, taken April 23, 2008 from a U.S. Marine Corps UH-1N Huey Helicopter flown by Marines of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 169, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

Euphrates River in Ramadi, Iraq, taken April 23, 2008 from a U.S. Marine Corps UH-1N Huey Helicopter flown by Marines of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 169, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

ISIL gunmen have launched an assault on Hit, in an attempt to seize control of the southern and southwestern sectors which they have not been able to seize since their first attack on the town. Clashes and bombardment targeted a number of the town’s districts. 3 civilians have been killed and 7 wounded.

Most of the areas lying between Hit and Ramadi are not controlled by either the security forces or the gunmen, and there have been clashes there, with both sides trying to establish control.

 2006 Feb 6, In Iraq 3 US Marines were killed by a bomb blast in Hit, 85 miles west of Baghdad. Toby Keith while visiting Hit, Iraq. June 04, 2007


2006 Feb 6, In Iraq 3 US Marines were killed by a bomb blast in Hit, 85 miles west of Baghdad. Toby Keith while visiting Hit, Iraq. June 04, 2007

US troops take cover from small arms fire while investigating a car bomb explosion in Tameem, Ramadi, August 10, 2006

US troops take cover from small arms fire while investigating a car bomb explosion in Tameem, Ramadi, August 10, 2006

[October 7 U.S. Apache helicopters attacking Sunni Militants west of Baghdad, as in 2007

 AH-64D Apache flying over Baghdad, Iraq in 2007


AH-64D Apache flying over Baghdad, Iraq in 2007

WASHINGTON—Four “strikes northeast of Falluja struck two mortar teams, a large ISIL unit and two small ISIL units,” because Iraqi forces were close to ISIS forces, the Apaches were used because they fly low and can strike with precision. Apache AH-64 helicopters come equipped with a wider array of sensors and targeting devices than other aircraft used in the military. [October 6] The triangle formed by Fallujah, Garma, and Samarra is now (as of noon today) in ISIL hands following the withdrawal of the army units from that area.
In Ramadi, there is astonishment over the decision to withdraw of army units from the residential districts of Anbar’s cities and towns; the Anbar Council has once again called for the replacement of the Anbar Operations commander, Gen. Rashid Flayyih; it has also warned that the coming few hours will be disastrous unless positive steps are taken to spare the governorate a further expansion by ISIL forces. Only three areas –
Baghdadi which is the location of the Ayn al-Asad military base, Sufiya, and Habbaniya – are still controlled by security forces. Al Asad Airbase (ICAO: ORAA) was the second largest US military airbase in Iraq and is located in the largely Sunni western Province of Iraq Al Anbar.

President George W. Bush, center, stands over a map as he is briefed at Al-Asad Airbase in Anbar province, Iraq, Sept. 3, 2007

President George W. Bush, center, stands over a map as he is briefed at Al-Asad Airbase in Anbar province, Iraq, Sept. 3, 2007

[October 6 RAF planes bomb Ramadi…heard this song before?]

Ramadi, Anbar, what a victory, twice... three times?

Ramadi, Anbar, what a victory, twice… three times?

Paveway smart bomb adaptation

Paveway smart bomb adaptation, cost £13698 plus bomb

Two RAF Tornado jets used Paveway guided bombs to attack militants who were firing on Iraqi troops from a building near Ramadi, west of Baghdad.General Lord Richards says “It isn’t actually a counter-terrorist operation, this is a conventional enemy.”

After Cyprus won independence in 1960, it opposed the 250 square kilometres of land Britain retained as “sovereign” territory for two miliary bases being used in offensive action against neighbouring Arab states. But Cyprus sees ISIL’s staggering brutality as a threat.
President Nicos Anastasiades, a conservative elected last year, has swiftly reoriented Cyprus’s foreign policy, bringing it closer to the West after five years of rule by a communist-led government that leaned more towards Russia. Some Gulf Arab states, where recession-hit Cyprus is trying to drum up investment, are part of the coalition against ISIL and involved in the US-led bombing of the terrorist organisation in Iraq and Syria.

Brimstone missile (UK)

Brimstone missile (UK)

RAF planes bomb Islamic State targets in Iraq for the first time. In the course of an armed reconnaissance mission , based in Cyprus, from RAF Akrotiri, two Tornados were tasked to assist Kurdish troops in north-west Iraq who were under attack from Isil (Isis) terrorists”,The Tornado patrol subsequently identified an Isis armed pick-up truck in the same area and conducted an attack on the vehicle using a Brimstone missile. [cost: £175,000 inc development, weight, 48.5 kg. A Toyota Tacoma weighs about 1247 kg.]

[September 29 And so it goes: somebody’s boots have to be on the ground.]

U.S. Iraq casualties since 2003

House Speaker John Boehner:
“At some point somebody’s boots have to be on the ground.”
“American?” Stephanopoulos asked…somebody’s boots have to be there.”
“If no one else will step up, would you recommend putting American boots on the ground?”
“We have no choice,”

[August 12 Save the Yazidis: American forces in direct confrontation with Sunni fighters]

The U.S. is weighing a military mission in Iraq that risks putting American forces in direct confrontation with Sunni fighters for the Islamic State.

The US has sent another 130 US military personnel to Iraq on what the Pentagon described as a temporary mission to lay the groundwork for a rescue of thousands of displaced Yazidis trapped on Sinjar Mountain.

Chuck Hagel, the US defence secretary announced the deployment saying that “this is not a combat boots on the ground kind of operation”.

Another defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the extra troops were Marines and special operations forces whose mission was to assess the situation in the Sinjar area and to develop additional humanitarian assistance options beyond current US efforts there.

The 130 troops, who are in addition to 250 US military advisers already in Baghdad and Erbil, arrived on Tuesday in the city of Erbil, well east of Sinjar.

Even in Europe the process of creating national identities accepted by the masses was long and difficult and in some ways and places is not complete. Indeed one could ask if that process is is complete in the US.

W. Patrick Lang

[August 11 Biden called Iraqi President Fouad Massoum and Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Ibadi to express U.S. support]

Fouad Massoum, Iraq’s new president, on August 11 nominated Haider al-Ibadi, the deputy parliament speaker to form the new government, in a televised address.

Al-Ibadi, was nominated for the post by the Iraqi National Alliance, a coalition of Shia parties that al-Maliki’s State of Law is part of, but has turned against. The White House says Biden called Iraqi President Fouad Massoum and Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Ibadi August 11 to express U.S. support

[August 10Pro-Maliki Shi’ite militias station a tank at the entrance to Baghdad’s Green Zone, which houses government buildings.]
Special forces loyal to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki were deployed in strategic areas of Baghdad on August 10 after he delivered a tough speech indicating he would not cave in to pressure to drop a bid for a third term, police sources said. After al-Maliki’s speech, Brett McGurk, a deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq and Iran, expressed support for Massoum. Note he tweeted after Maliki and before Massoum

Pro-Maliki Shi’ite militias stepped up patrols in the capital, police said. An eyewitness said a tank was stationed at the entrance to Baghdad’s Green Zone, which houses government buildings.

In a speech on state television, Maliki accused Iraq’s Kurdish President Fouad Masoum of violating the constitution by missing a deadline for him to ask the biggest political bloc to nominate a prime minister and form a governmen

[August 8 Recep Erdogan wins Turkey’s first presidential election]

Recep Erdogan is predicted to win Turkey’s first presidential election.
To claim victory and become president after the first round on Sunday, Erdogan must secure an absolute majority of the popular vote. If he fails, he will have to go to a runoff against the candidate with the second highest percentage – widely expected to be Ihsanoglu – on 24 August.

Analysts point out that a failure to claim first round victory would be a catastrophe for Erdogan and the AKP.

“Going into a second round would be a major defeat for the AKP and would represent a detrimental blow to the legitimacy of Recep Tayyip Erdogan as president,” said Gencer Özcan, professor for international relations at Bilgi University in Istanbul. “It would put in question his project to change the constitution and transform Turkey’s government into a presidential system.”

[August 7 Save Qaraqosh? Administration is considering US air strikes and air drops in Iraq]

The Obama administration is considering US air strikes and humanitarian air drops to help besieged religious minorities chased up a mountain by militants in Iraq.
The move comes as Qaraqosh, Iraq’s largest Christian city, was all but abandoned as the jihadist group Islamic State (Isis) advanced through minority communities in the country’s north-west and towards the Kurdish stronghold of Irbil.
Over the past several weeks, hundreds of American “advisers” – mostly elite military forces – have established joint operations centres in Baghdad and in the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil. Those operations centres host US forces capable of spotting for potential air strikes.
One option for US air missions is to launch from Incirlik air base, which the Americans share with the Turks and Britain’s RAF, just outside the city of Adana on Turkey’s southern Mediterranean coastline.
In the absence of central government authority, Shia militias are taking dominant roles, amplifying sectarian enmity between Islam’s two most dominant sects.
Without any protection, Yazidis, Christians and Turkmen are being uprooted from communities they have lived in for millennia and the geo-social fabric of Iraq is being rapidly shredded.
The past 11 years of war and insurrection since the US invasion have led to most of Iraq’s Christians fleeing. Numbers have plummeted starkly from an estimated one million before 2003 to around 150,000 now. A large number of those who remain are now displaced.
The capital of the Kurdish north is already home to a new Chaldean Christian community, which fled Baghdad in the wake of an Isis-led massacre inside a cathedral in October 2010. Many fleeing Christians have headed for the Ainkawa neighbourhood, which is home to Baghdad’s Christian exiles. Incirlik in Syria civil war

[November 14 2011 [Predators from Iraq moving to Turkey]

Adana-Incirlik Air Force Base

Adana-Incirlik Air Force Base

Four Predator drones are flying out of Incirlik Air Base, a joint U.S.-Turkish military installation as part of a joint Turkish-American counterterrorism operation in northern Iraq, with U.S. troops scheduled to leave Iraq by year’s end.
U.S. forces have been flying the drones from Iraqi bases since 2007.

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Libya: Saif al-Islam the interlocutor – says Russia

johnson20and20haftar2028screengrab29

 

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson met Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi on August 24. The visit and his remarks were the latest show of growing Western recognition for Haftar, who has long been supported by Egypt and the UAE and rejects the GNA’s authority.    “Field Marshall Haftar has a role to play in the political process,” Johnson said in a statement. “I urged him to adhere to the commitments he made during recent meetings in Paris, to respect a ceasefire, and to work with Mr. Salame in order to amend the Libyan Political Agreement.”
Libya is divided between two enemy administrations. In one side, the Government of Tripoli headed by Serraj, supported by United States, Italy and UN. In the other the House of Representatives in the eastern city of Tobruk (or Tobruk), in the control of Haftar’s fotces. The second ‘government’ is primarily supported by Egypt, but somewhat also by France and Russia.

“According to the Russian Press Agency RIA, ” Saif al-Islam is trying to reorganize tribal clans, traditionally strong in Libya, especially in the southern part of the country.
‘More and more people are convinced that Saif may represent the turning point for stabilizing the country, seeing in him the right interlocutor capable of controlling the true Libyan power holding tribes.’

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[August 9 : Haftar visits Egypt after Macron ]

2017-636307135023663401-366

Army Chief of Staff Mahmoud Hegazy met with Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar in Cairo on August 6 to discuss the latest developments in Libya, including the results of a recent Paris meeting between Libyan factions.

 

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Factions

[July 22 Macron to see Haftar and Seraj ]

 

 

07-39-300x211

Haftar

LIBYA – 21 July 2017:Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, in the east of Libya, and Fayez Seraj, head of the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on July 25. The meeting comes at a time when Haftar has gained ground militarily with Egyptian and United Arab Emirates support, and Western states say Haftar must be part of any solution to the conflict in the oil-producing North African state.

The two held talks in Abu Dhabi in May, their first in more than a year and a half, about a U.N.-mediated deal that Western powers hope will end the factional fighting that has dominated Libya since the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi. The meeting will be a diplomatic win for the United Arab Emirates, the United Nations and neighbouring Egypt.

Macron said on July 13 there would be concrete diplomatic initiatives on resolving the conflict soon.

[June 6 LNA gains Jufra ]

220px-jufra_in_libya-svg

Jufra

Lieutenant General فريق Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) has gained ground in central and southern Libya since last year, taking control of oil facilities and military bases. Most recently they have advanced near oasis towns in the Jufra and Sabha regions.

Regional powers have sided with opposing camps that have vied for power in Libya since the 2011 uprising that toppled veteran strongman leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Egypt and the UAE are considered key supporters of Haftar, who has built his position battling Islamist militants and other opponents in eastern Libya. East Libyan authorities accuse Qatar of backing rival, Islamist-leaning factions in western Libya.
Libya’s eastern-based government has followed regional allies in cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar, its foreign minister, Mohamed Dayri, said on June 5.

The government, which sits in the eastern city of Bayda, has little authority within Libya. It is appointed by a parliament that also sits in the east and is aligned with powerful military commander Khalifa Haftar. They have spurned a U.N.-backed, internationally recognised government in the capital, Tripoli.

The eastern-based government’s announcement came after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism.

Dayri gave no immediate explanation for the Libyan move.

[May 20 Third Force massacre ]

20052017_libya

Members of the Libyan National Army (LNA), also known as the forces loyal to Marshal Khalifa Haftar, patrol on January 28, 2017 the area of Qanfudah, on the outskirts of Benghazi, after retaking it from IS fighters

An attack on Brak al-Shati airbase in south Libya has killed 141 people, mostly soldiers loyal to military strongman Khalifa Haftar The attack breached an informal truce between the rival forces that was reached earlier this month when the LNA’s commander, General Khalifa Haftar, met the UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.

n4hr_14002082191

 

Tripoli had decided to suspend its defence minister, al-Mahdi al-Barghati, and Jamal Al-Treki, the head of the Third Force from their duties until those responsible were identified.   The Tripoli government has set up an investigative committee to present its findings to the prime minister within 15 days.

 

[March 3 Khalifa Haftar: Trump to support Haftar’s Eastern forces ?]

2049

Khalifa Haftar in Russia in November for arms talks

Egypt is being sidelined in the talks between Moscow and Haftar on a range of issues.

“Haftar promised to provide Russia a naval base on the Mediterranean, probably in Barca, in return for increased Russian military support to Haftar in order to allow him to increase the land under his territorial control. [This would also entail] a promise by Russia to secure American and European approval to guarantee a role for Haftar in any future political arrangements in Libya,” he says.

Haftar visited Moscow twice in the last year and boarded the Russian aircraft carrier the Admiral Kuznetsov in January, after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the ship to anchor off Libyan shores as it made its way back from a mission to support Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria. On board, Haftar held a video conference call with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu, in what is the most publicly visible sign of Russia’s increasing support for Haftar.

Trump enters the fray
Any frustration felt toward Haftar did not prevent Egypt from attempting to secure support from the United States for him, as US and Libyan sources revealed last week that there had been “undeclared efforts exerted by Egypt to establish direct relations bY and contacts between Haftar and the new US administration led by President Donald Trump, which is reconsidering how to deal with Haftar as the strongman in Libya.”

The Egyptian official news agency prominently highlighted the remarks that Trump’s Middle East campaign advisor Walid Phares gave to the local “Libya Al-Hadath” television channel earlier this week, reporting that Phares said, “The Trump administration will deal with the national Libyan military institution led by General Haftar. This army is the one officially acknowledged by the administration, despite international political disagreements and suggestions to build another army.”

Phares’s comments represent a potential change in the US position on Haftar, as the previous US administration had offered military support to militias supporting Sarraj in their battle against the Islamic State in Sirte last year

http://www.madamasr.com/en/2017/02/25/feature/politics/haftar-and-sarraj-in-cairo-the-details-of-egypts-partially-successful-libyan-summit/

[December 9 2016]

Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan House of Representatives MP Jaballah Al-Shibani has asserted that someone in Trump’s campaign team had promised him and other MPs that the Libyan crisis would be ‘one of the Trump administration’s priorities, emphasising that they will support the Libyan Army with the needed military equipment because they are looking for who can bring back stability and security in Libya.’
Al-Shibani also declared, ‘Trump believes in strong and powerful men and he has good relations with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and the Egyptian President Abdelfattah El-Sisi, which will pave the way for good relations with Libya as well.’
Other than in relation to the presence of the Islamic State group, however, Libya is unlikely to be a top policy priority for the president-elect. Nevertheless, many easterners believe that the Trump presidency will help to alter the balance of power inside Libya in Haftar’s favour. Khalifa Haftar’s position has obviously been bolstered significantly of late as a result of his September takeover of the oil export terminals. This has enabled the field marshal to extend his control more firmly across the east.   Foreign support for eastern forces loyal to Haftar — includes U.S. ­allies France and Egypt.

August 10 escalation of conflicts between Haftar and Siraj UN-proposed government ]

http://www.thearabweekly.com/article/5641/Libyas%20Haftar%20seeks%20Russian%20support

Cairo- The army loyal to the government based in the east Libya announced breaking off relations with commander of 204 tanks brigade and the defense minister-designate of the UN-proposed government Colonel Al-Mahdi Al-Barghathi.

The commander of the Libyan National Army Khalifa Haftar issued a resolution that stipulates changing the name of 204 tanks brigade to 298 tanks brigade and appointing Abd Al-Karim Barghouti as a leader of the tanks brigade.

Latest updates indicate termination of official relations between Minister of Defense in Siraj government and the military institution in eastern Libya; they also signal an escalation of conflicts between Haftar and Siraj.

[May 12 American forces in Libya snub Hifter

Two teams totaling fewer than 25 troops are operating from around the cities of Misurata and Benghazi to identify potential ­allies among local armed factions and gather intelligence on threats, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive mission overseas. The activities of the American “contact teams,” as they are known, take place in parallel to those of elite allied forces from France and other European nations in the same areas, U.S. and Libyan officials said.

Some officials privately complain that foreign support for eastern forces loyal to Hifter — including from U.S. ­allies France and Egypt — makes consolidation of the unity government’s power more difficult. The Misuratan forces recognize the unity government in Tripoli; those loyal to Hifter do not. “Our priority in Libya is full support to the government and not support to a particular force,” a French diplomatic official said.

[October  9 2015 Khalifa Haftar on de facto partition of Libya ]

In spite of being threatened with sanctions, Gen. Khalifa Haftar has the support of Egypt, the UAE and the Arab League. He recently signed a military deal with Jordan.
Haftar’s Plan would confer all powers on a temporary president or declare a state of emergency with a military council governing the country and himself as head of the council, and thus de facto partition of the country. Haftar believes he can defeat the GNC and retake the rest of the country.

[March 11 Lieutenant General فريق Khalifa Haftar, army commander of Libyan Army]

 commander of Libyan armed forces

commander of Libyan armed forces

On March 2, 2015,Khalifa Haftar was appointed commander of the armed forces loyal to the elected, internationally backed government, the Council of Deputies. Haftar has been promoted to lieutenant general. His appointment as army commander, which was announced on March 2, is apparent confirmation of official support for the Dignity campaign, which has battled extremist militias in the eastern city of Benghazi.

[February 25 2015 Tobruk Libya: Aguila Salah Issa to name an army chief]

parliament speaker Aguila Salah Issa

parliament speaker Aguila Salah Issa

“The chamber (of deputies) adopted today a law regarding the general leadership of the Libyan army,” calling on parliament speaker Aguila Salah Issa to name a chief, MP Issa al-Aribi said. Another MP said the law was adopted to “legitimise” General Khalifa Haftar, chief of the Libyan National Army, and that he would be formally named in the “coming hours.

[June 19 2014 Ahmed Abu Khattala taken into custody in a secret US raid. As the raid took place, Operation Dignity attacked Islamic militant camps]

The lifeless body of the American ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.

The lifeless body of the American ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.

buzz:Despite official denials, June 15’s capture of Khattala was conducted in a joint effort with “Operation Dignity.” General Haftar’s airstrikes and raids in Benghazi then may very well have been the “Fix” portion of JSOC’s “Find, Fix, Finish” strategy. By launching simultaneous attacks in Benghazi, Khattala would have been forced to bunker down inside his compound, the military action serving to deny him freedom of movement. How many Islamists were killed during this round of strikes and operations ranges from a dozen all the way up to 60 depending on which sources you believe.

[June 18]
As the U.S. raid took place on Sunday,June 15, forces loyal to Operation Dignity attacked Islamic militant camps in Benghazi as part of a new assault against the groups. Airstrikes targeted the camps on behalf of Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who was a top military official under dictator Moammar Gadhafi but later defected and lived for years in the U.S.

It isn’t clear what the strikes targeted. The general later said the clashes killed five of his fighters.

Ahmed Abu Khattala was taken into custody in a secret US military raid in Libya on 15 June.
For days, Army Delta Force commandos, the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies lay in wait for one of the alleged masterminds behind the deadly September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Then, they lured Abu Khatallah to a point south of the city and nabbed him.

Khalifa Haftar’s troops, backed by tanks and rocket launchers, attacked several suspected camps of Islamists in western areas of Benghazi on Sunday, June 15. http://wp.me/p1kUZv-3e

[April 6, 2011]

 Chris Stevens, former deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli

Chris Stevens, former deputy chief of mission in Tripoli

A U.S. envoy has arrived in Benghazi to get to know Libya’s opposition and discuss how the United States might help it meet its financial needs, a U.S. official said on April 6.

The visit by Chris Stevens, former deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, reflects a U.S. effort effort to deepen its contacts with the rebels, who are fighting a civil war against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s forces. here

Fathi Baja, a political science professor who heads political committee

Fathi Baja, a political science professor who heads political committee

Fathi Baja, the rebels’ head of international affairs. Washington Post but see

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MQ-1 Predator crashes near Incirlik

An MQ-1 Predator,  crashed in southeast Turkey at around 11:50 a.m. (0850 GMT). Turkish authorities this month detained a suspected Islamic State militant of Russian origin after he allegedly planned to use a drone to bring down a U.S. plane at Incirlik.

 

August 17 Drones on ISIS summary ]

droneusage

 

Drones have launched more than 70% of 495 airstrikes against the militants, helping local Libyan militia fighters retake Surt by December, according to the Air Force.

Danger-close drone missions also played a role in the nine-month offensive to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul, which finally fell to coalition-backed Iraqi forces July 10.
Targeting and guidance systems have steadily improved, adding a greater degree of precision than in the past.

“If you have three-story buildings on either side, I can shoot down an alleyway,” said a Reaper pilot and operations commander who wasn’t authorized to give his name. “If there’s a sniper in one of the windows, I can hit that.”

[July 25 Syria: Russia pressure on US forces to leave ]

 

21489603_0

 

 

General Raymond Thomas, Commander of the U.S. Special Forces Command, at the Aspen Security Forum on Friday, July 21: “ the Russians might ask the US forces to leave Syria, after ISIS is done.

“Here is the conundrum, we are operating in the sovereign country of Syria, the Russians they are stalwart, their back stoppers, already uninvited the Turks from Syria, we are bad days away from Russians saying why are you still in Syria,” he said.

“And its has come up with comes close calls there, but it will be hard, I refer to the lawyers in the crowd and others, in terms of international law, on basis for us staying there other than our CT writ, we went there for all the righteous reasons, but if Russians play that card, we might want to stay, but have no ability to do it. They could play it out,” he said about the possibility of Russia pressuring US forces to leave.

[July 7 U.S agrees Russian military police will monitor new truce in Syria ]

United States and Russia struck an agreement July 7 on a cease-fire in southwest Syria.   The deal could help the Trump administration retain more of a say over who fills the power vacuum left behind as the Islamic State is routed from additional territory in Syria.   Syrian government forces and its allies will stay on one side of an agreed demarcation line, and rebel fighters will stick to the other side. The goal is also to enable aid to reach this area of Syria,. All sides will try to ensure aid deliveries to the area,   Russian military police will monitor the new truce

[June 24 CIA talked to Syria: Pompeo-Mamlouk call ]

bw_zyd

General Ali Mamlouk

Mike Pompeo reportedly conducted secret telephone conversations with Syrian General Intelligence Director (GID) General Ali Mamlouk in February.   The Pompeo-Mamlouk call would represent the highest-level communication between the two governments in years. It also is surprising given the widespread allegations of Mamlouk’s culpability in human rights atrocities in Syria’s civil war. Mamlouk has been subject to U.S. sanctions since 2011.

The CIA declined to comment.

The visit of General Ali Mamluk, head of Syria’s National Security Bureau, to Saudi Arabia late July 2015 was reportedly engineered by Russia, and the Syrian intelligence chief flew in a Russian jet for talks with Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince and defense minister.   By a royal decree, Saudi Arabia has relieved Muhammad bin Nayef as crown prince, replacing him with Mohammad bin Salman June 18 2017.
more
[April 7 2017 Cruise missile target status of forces ]

Shu`ayrat

Shayrat AB Shayrat
7 Squadron MiG-25
675 Squadron MiG-23
677 Squadron Su-22
685 Squadron Su-22

[January 19 2016 Turkey allowing U.S. Airstrikes from Incirlik

F-15 fighter jet glides in for a landing in front of Adana’s main mosque March 7, 2003 at Incirlik Air Force Base in Turkey.

Turkey has agreed to allow U.S. planes to launch air strikes against Islamic State militants from the U.S. air base at Incirlik, close to the Syrian border, U.S. defense officials said on July 24.

[ January 19 Iranian Guard Gen Allah-Dadi killed in Syria, Al-Nusra Front claims hit, Israeli helicopter strike suspected]

Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of a Hezbollah military chief assassinated in 2008, was also among those killed

Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of a Hezbollah military chief assassinated in 2008, was also among those killed

Abu Azzam Al-Idlibi, a member of Al-Nusra Front, said: “The killing of Jihad Imad Mughniyeh in an ambush at Jaroud, Syria, will be the end of the Persian project, God willing.”

Al-Idlibi challenged Hezbollah to release the pictures of its fighters and officers, tweeting: “From now and within the next two days, if the corpses of the Hezbollah leaders are released, then we can say they were targeted by the Israelis. Yet, if these pictures are not released, then this proves that they were killed by the mujahideen.”

[September 24 Assad uses poison gas as Coalition bombs Syria]

Assad forces in the Adra industrial zone published September 25

Assad forces in the Adra industrial zone published September 25

Forces loyal to President Bashar Assad wrested back a rebel-held industrial area near Damascus after months of clashes, the Adra industrial zone, after opposition forces accused them of using chemical explosives on September 24. Footage of the wounded from the incident, in which six people were killed, showed men jerking uncontrollably and struggling to breathe before their bodies went limp. The footage, posted on social networks, appeared genuine and consistent with The Associated Press reporting of the event depicted. The town – Adra al-Omalia – is about 30km from central Damascus but far from parts of Syria where the United States has launched air strikes against fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

[April 28 Not in America’s interest to tamp down violence in Syria?]

The president could be seeking to intentionally prolong the war because it is bad for Iran and Russia.
White House chief of staff Denis McDonough is described as the administration official whose views on Syria were most closely aligned with the president’s. , McDonough reportedly “questioned how much it was in America’s interest to tamp down the violence in Syria.” He later suggested that “a fight in Syria between Hezbollah and al Qaeda would work to America’s advantage.”

President Obama’s answer to a question on Syria during a recent interview provides further insight into his calculus:

“I’m always darkly amused by this notion that somehow Iran has won in Syria. I mean, you hear sometimes people saying, ‘They’re winning in Syria.’ And you say, ‘This was their one friend in the Arab world, a member of the Arab League, and it is now in rubble.’ It’s bleeding them because they’re having to send in billions of dollars. Their key proxy, Hezbollah, which had a very comfortable and powerful perch in Lebanon, now finds itself attacked by Sunni extremists. This isn’t good for Iran. They’re losing as much as anybody. The Russians find their one friend in the region in rubble and delegitimized.”

[January 26]

Anas Al-Abdah is  Chairman of the Movement for Justice and Development in Syria.

Anas Al-Abdah is Chairman of the Movement for Justice and Development in Syria.

The Syrian opposition has agreed to a government request for a list of detainees held by armed rebel groups. Syrian government delegates, at peace talks in Geneva, have agreed to allow women and children to immediately leave a besieged district in the central city of Homs.

Top Syrian government officials say that an aid convoy is ready to enter the city of Homs after rival delegations meeting in Geneva agreed on the need for humanitarian access to conflict areas.

Bouthaina Shabaan, President Bashar al-Assad’s media and political adviser, made the remarks on January 26, the third day of peace talks in the Swiss city.

Anas Al-Abdah is Chairman of the Movement for Justice and Development in Syria. He was born in Damascus in 1967 and grew up there before leaving for Jordan in 1980 to study for a BSC in Geology at Yarmouk University. He moved to the UK in 1989 to continue a post-graduate degree in Geo-physics at Newcastle University.
Wikileaks cables have revealed US State Department funding of Barada TV. There may be a closeness of the Movement for Justice and Development in Syria, Barada TV and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights by virtue of the high level administrative & family links at the level of the al-Abdeh brothers.

[November 1 2013]

Alleged Air Force base attacked

Alleged Air Force base attacked

November 1, 2013, 7:58 am. Turkey was behind the October 30 attack in Latakia, Syria, which targeted “missiles and related equipment” meant for Lebanese terror group Hezbollah. The Lebanese report cited Israeli officials who allegedly claimed the attack came in response to the June 2012 interception of a Turkish jet, which Syrian forces shot down. The pilots were subsequently killed. The report could not be independently confirmed.

July 16, 2013 11:13, Israel used a Turkish military base to launch one of its recent airstrikes against Syria from the sea, a reliable source told RT. Israel has been under scrutiny since last week, when it was reported to be responsible for a July 5 depot attack in Latakia. Turkish armed forces have begun to establish a new base on the top of Kel Mountain, adjacent to the Syrian coastal city of Latakia.

[September 30]

BD-700 in which Tony BlaIr travels, here at Adirondack Regional Airport in August 2013

BD-700 in which Tony BlaIr travels, here at Adirondack Regional Airport in August 2013

Tony Blair:

People see the terrible things that President Assad (Syrian President Bashar al-Assad) has done with the use of artillery and, as we’ve seen, with the use of chemical weapons.

But they also know now there are, I’m afraid, elements within the Syrian opposition that are extreme — linked to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups — and who are also committing atrocities. So, this situation has become more complicated.
[September 26]

Haji Qassem Suleimani

Haji Qassem Suleimani

As Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tries to engage the West, he will have to contend with the hard-liners, including Suleimani and his comrades. “Suleimani is the single most powerful operative in the Middle East today,” John Maguire, a former C.I.A. officer in Iraq, told me, “and no one’s ever heard of him.”

In the chaotic days after the attacks of September 11th, Ryan Crocker, then a senior State Department official, flew discreetly to Geneva to meet a group of Iranian diplomats. “I’d fly out on a Friday and then back on Sunday, so nobody in the office knew where I’d been,” Crocker told me. “We’d stay up all night in those meetings.” It seemed clear to Crocker that the Iranians were answering to Suleimani, whom they referred to as “Haji Qassem,” and that they were eager to help the United States destroy their mutual enemy, the Taliban. Although the United States and Iran broke off diplomatic relations in 1980, after American diplomats in Tehran were taken hostage, Crocker wasn’t surprised to find that Suleimani was flexible. “You don’t live through eight years of brutal war without being pretty pragmatic,” he said. Sometimes Suleimani passed messages to Crocker, but he avoided putting anything in writing.
The good will didn’t last. In January, 2002, Crocker, who was by then the deputy chief of the American Embassy in Kabul, was awakened one night by aides, who told him that President George W. Bush, in his State of the Union Address, had named Iran as part of an “Axis of Evil.” Like many senior diplomats, Crocker was caught off guard. He saw the negotiator the next day at the U.N. compound in Kabul, and he was furious. “You completely damaged me,” Crocker recalled him saying. “Suleimani is in a tearing rage. He feels compromised.” The negotiator told Crocker that, at great political risk, Suleimani had been contemplating a complete reëvaluation of the United States, saying, “Maybe it’s time to rethink our relationship with the Americans.” The Axis of Evil speech brought the meetings to an end. Reformers inside the government, who had advocated a rapprochement with the United States, were put on the defensive. Recalling that time, Crocker shook his head. “We were just that close,” he said. “One word in one speech changed history.”

[August 31]

four destroyers with Tomahawk Missiles within range now

four destroyers with Tomahawk Missiles within range now

USS San Antonio GULF OF ADEN (Aug. 18, 2013)

USS San Antonio GULF OF ADEN (Aug. 18, 2013)

July 11, 2013. As political unrest continues in post-coup Egypt, USS San Antonio, amphibious assault ship, has moved to the coast there.

August 31, 2013 The USS San Antonio, an amphibious ship with several hundred US Marines on board, was positioned near five US destroyers armed with cruise missiles.
San Antonio’s passage into the Mediterranean was long-planned, but officials thought it prudent to keep the ship in the eastern Mediterranean near the destroyers given the current situation.
“It’s been kept there as a precaution,” one said.

[August 30]
What are the options? First, to recognize that the situation could be made much worse. Major western military intervention would do that.

http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/containing-fire-syria
[earlier]
The League of
the Arab world on August 27 blamed the Syrian government for a chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds of people last week, but declined to back a retaliatory military strike, leaving President Obama without the broad regional support he had for his last military intervention in the Middle East, in Libya in 2011.

[earlier]
Warplanes and military transporters have begun arriving at Britain’s Akrotiri airbase on Cyprus, less than 100 miles from the Syrian coast, in a sign of increasing preparations for a military strike against the Assad regime in Syria.

Two commercial pilots who regularly fly from Larnaca on Monday told the Guardian that they had seen C-130 transport planes from their cockpit windows as well as small formations of fighter jets on their radar screens, which they believe had flown from Europe.

Residents near the British airfield, a sovereign base since 1960, also say activity there has been much higher than normal over the past 48 hours.
[Earlier]
Meeting in Amman Jordan today, The summit will be led by General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, and his Jordanian counterpart. It will take place little more than 100 miles from Damascus, where an apparent chemical weapons attack killed hundreds of civilians last week.
Top generals from Germany, Canada, Italy, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are also expected to attend a meeting which will coincide with UN weapons experts visiting the site of the attack in an attempt to determine what happened and who was behind it.
The key players in any possible strike against Syria, widely considered to be the US, Britain and France, already have substantial military muscle in the area.
[August 27]
Kuwait’s permanent delegate at the Arab League Ambassador Jamal Al- Ghunaim welcomed the League call to hold an emergency session at level of permanent delegates, on August 27, to discuss prospective steps at the international level to deal with the dangerous developments in Syria.
5:45 pm edt 8/26/13: An official from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization said NATO allies were closely monitoring developments in Syria and the wider region and “will keep the situation under constant review, as appropriate.”
[August 26]
The French foreign minister says there will be a “proportionate response” to the alleged chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb that he blamed on Syria’s government.

“It will be negotiated in coming days,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Europe 1 radio on Monday. Fabius acknowledged that the lack of a U.N. blessing was problematic. “All the options are open. The only option that I can’t imagine would be to do nothing.”

“It’s a step too far to say we’re drawing up legal justifications for an action, given that the president hasn’t made a decision,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations. “But Kosovo, of course, is a precedent of something that is perhaps similar.”
Kosovo is an obvious precedent for Mr. Obama because, as in Syria, civilians were killed and Russia had longstanding ties to the government authorities accused of the abuses. In 1999, President Bill Clinton used the endorsement of NATO and the rationale of protecting a vulnerable population to justify 78 days of airstrikes.

A senior administration official said the Kosovo precedent was one of many subjects discussed in continuing White House meetings on the crisis in Syria. Officials are also debating whether a military strike would have unintended consequences, destabilize neighbors like Lebanon, or lead to even greater flows of refugees into Jordan, Turkey and Egypt.

In the Mediterranean, the Navy’s regional commander postponed a scheduled port call in Naples, Italy, for a destroyer so that the ship would remain with a second destroyer in striking distance of Syria during the crisis. Pentagon officials said the decision did not reflect any specific orders from Washington, but both destroyers had on board Tomahawk cruise missiles, long-range weapons that probably would be among the first launched against targets in Syria should the president decide to take military action.

[August 23]
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “The only possible explanation of what we have been able to see is that it was a chemical attack and clearly many, many hundreds of people have been killed, some of the estimates are well over 1,000.

“There is no other plausible explanation for casualties so intense in such a small area on this scale.

“I know some people in the world would like to say this is some kind of conspiracy brought about by the opposition in Syria – I think the chances of that are vanishingly small. He noted that subsequent air attacks by the Syrian Air Force might have destroyed evidence of the perpetrator, likely the Syrian army.

Rocket/gas attack victims in Damascus suburbs

Rocket/gas attack victims in Damascus suburbs

Syria’s moderate opposition earlier pointed out that if the rebels had had access to chemical weapons they would have been tempted to use them much earlier against Assad’s military bases.The Syrian army unit in the thick of the campaign for the suburbs is the 4th Armoured Division of the Republican Guards, led by Mr Assad’s brother, Maher. Chemical weapons were said to have been issued to that unit in 2012.
[August 21]
Rockets with chemical agents hit the Damascus suburbs of Ain Tarma, Zamalka and Jobar during fierce pre-dawn bombardment.

150 bodies were counted in Hammouriya, 100 in Kfar Batna, 67 in Saqba, 61 in Douma, 76 in Mouadamiya and 40 in Irbib, all suburbs of Damascus.

Minority groups — primarily Alawites who traditionally supported the government of President Bashar al-Assad, himself an Alawite. But other groups, including the Kurds, Druze and Christians, who together with the Alawites make up a quarter of Syria’s 22.5 million people, are also seen as supportive of the secular government and therefore viewed as enemies. This week, some 30,000 Syrian Kurds fled into Iraq’s Kurdistan region saying they were being killed by jihadists targeting the minority.

What appears to be a deliberate campaign against these groups poses serious dilemmas for the Obama administration and European nations such as Britain and France, which have planned to support the pro-democracy forces by providing advanced weaponry. They are already grappling with the problem of how to ensure that those arms will not end up in the hands of Jabhat al-Nusra — the al-Qaida-affiliated group that emerged as the most effective and capable of the rebel forces — and the increasing attacks on minorities by insurgents creates an additional quandary.

Although many members of Syria’s ethnic and sectarian groups are in fact secular, approximately three-quarters of the population is nominally comprised of Sunni Muslims. Alawites make up about 11 percent, Christians of various denominations — including Greek Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, Maronite, Syrian Catholic, Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic — another 10 percent, and the Druze and Shiite contribute 3 percent and 2 percent, respectively, to the total.

At the start of Syria’s troubles in March 2011 many members of the minorities, including Alawites, supported the calls for reform and more political freedoms. But as the conflict intensified, opposition ranks became more and more dominated by radicalized members of Syria’s Sunni majority and jihadist fighters who started joining the rebellion in large numbers.

Today, the conflict has morphed into a full-fledged civil war in which more than 100,000 people have perished. The most capable units on the rebel side — those spearheading the fight against the secular government — are composed of Islamist militants, many of whom fought U.S. forces in Iraq. The militants now accuse Christians of being supporters of Assad’s regime.

“They have threatened to cut our throats,” said Bahri, a Roman Catholic. “I love my country, but if it means having the terrorists slaughter me, my wife and our two boys, I’d rather escape to Lebanon.”

[March 28]

M60 recoilless rifle manufactured in Yugoslavia from Croatian stock

M60 recoilless rifle manufactured in Yugoslavia from Croatian stock


Mideast powers opposed to President Bashar Assad have dramatically stepped up weapons supplies to Syrian rebels in coordination with the U.S. in preparation for a push on the capital of Damascus,
Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are headed by Sunni Muslim governments seeking the fall of Assad’s regime, which is dominated by Syria’s Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. The Arab powers in particular are hoping Assad’s departure would break the influence in the region of predominantly Shiite Iran and its Hezbollah allies in Lebanon. Croatian arms began appearing only recently in Syria. They include M60 recoilless guns, M79 Osa rocket launchers, and RBG-6 grenade launchers, which all are powerful anti-tank weapons. Griffiths said the Croatian arms are a “major game changer.” He said they are “portable, but pack a much bigger explosive punch.”

[March 25]

Ilyushin 76 aircraft owned by Jordan International Air Cargo have been spotted in Croatia -company owned by Air Force

Ilyushin 76 aircraft owned by Jordan International Air Cargo have been spotted in Croatia -company owned by Air Force

An official in Washington said the possibility of the transfers from the Balkans was broached in the summer of 2012, when a senior Croatian official visited Washington and suggested to American officials that Croatia had many weapons available should anyone be interested in moving them to Syria’s rebels.
At the time, the rebels were advancing slowly in parts of the country, but were struggling to maintain momentum amid weapons and ammunition shortages.
Washington was not interested then, the official said, though at the same time, there were already signs of limited Arab and other foreign military assistance. The Saudis appear to have stepped up.
[February 13]

Yak-130

Yak-130

Anatoly Isaikin, the director of Rosoboronexport, said Russia sees no need to stop its arms trade with Syria as the trade isn’t prohibited by the United Nations. Isaikin said his company has a contract with Syria to deliver Yak-130 combat jets but so far has not shipped any. He didn’t explain why no deliveries have been made, but the reason could be the aircraft’s long production cycle.
Russian media reported last year that the contract was for 36 Yak-130s worth $550 million. The Yak-130 is a combat training jet that can also carry modern weapons for ground attack missions.
Isaikin didn’t mention any other weapons systems which his company has delivered to Syria or is planning to ship in the future.
But the Russian media said they included Pantsyr-S1 and Buk-M2 air defense systems and Bastion anti-ship missile system. The latter is armed with supersonic Yakhont cruise missiles that have a range of up to 300 kilometres and provide a strong deterrent against an attack from the sea.

[January 11]

Thaer al-Waqqas, northern commander of al-Farouq Brigades, one of Syria’s largest rebel groups, was shot dead at a rebel-held position in the town of Sermin, a few kilometres from Turkey, early on Wednesday morning.

Al-Waqqas had been suspected of involvement in the killing four months ago of Firas al-Absi, a main jihadist leader in al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, which Washington dubbed a terrorist organization in December.

[December 23]
Alawi State?

If Assad fled to Tartus, he could seek protection from the Russian naval base there, or flee aboard a Russian vessel. Russia announced that it was sending a small flotilla toward Tartus, possibly to evacuate its citizens who live in Syria.
But Tartus residents said that the Russian families from the naval base had already left. The officers do not leave the base, which is little more than an enclosure near the civilian port.
There is a precedent for a rump state. France, the colonial power in the region in the early 20th century, fostered an Alawite state from 1920 to 1936, but it eventually merged with what became an independent Syria.
Opposition military commanders vow to block any such attempt.

[November 30]

https://i1.wp.com/static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/maps_and_graphs/2012/7/18/1342611528357/Screengrab---Damascus-fig-001.jpg

After months of skirmishes with the army on the capital’s outskirts, rebel groups said they were attempting to storm strongholds of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, including security buildings from where the regime side of the civil war has been run and the presidential palace.

[November 29]

PAC-3 Patriot Missiles

PAC-3 Patriot Missiles

Turkey has asked NATO to deploy 18 to 20 Patriot missiles along its border with Syria, but the Alliance only offered about eight to 10 missiles,

NATO countries that have advanced PAC-3 model Patriot missiles, namely Germany, the Netherlands and the United States. The decision is likely to come in early December on whether NATO should deploy surface-to-air missiles in Turkey, ostensibly to protect that country from Syrian missiles that could carry chemical weapons. Patriot missile system would not be “for use beyond the Turkish border.”

But some strategists and administration officials believe that Syrian Air Force pilots might fear how else the missile batteries could be used. If so, they could be intimidated from bombing the northern Syrian border towns where the rebels control considerable territory. A NATO survey team is in Turkey, examining possible sites for the batteries. The Obama administration, hoping that the conflict in Syria has reached a turning point, is considering deeper intervention to help push President Bashar al-Assad from power

While no decisions have been made, the administration is considering several alternatives, including directly providing arms to some opposition fighters.

[November 7]

Damascus Presidential Palace

Damascus Presidential Palace

Mazzeh Jabal 86

Mazzeh Jabal 86

Mortar shells fired by anti-government rebels targeted but missed the presidential palace, which sits on a hill overlooking the capital and fell November 7 in a Damascus district that is home to many members of President Bashar Assad’s Alawite sect. Mazzeh Jabal 86 is home to many officers in the Syrian military and security services, which are dominated by members of Assad’s minority Alawite sect, considered an offshoot of the Shiite branch of Islam. Syria’s Alawite minority is largely supportive of Assad in the face of the Sunni-led uprising against his family’s more than 40 years of autocratic rule.

[October 11]

Smoke rises from Damascus military headquarters hit by two explosions

Smoke rises from Damascus military headquarters hit by two explosions

Far left, Maher al-Assad

Far left, Maher al-Assad

Islamist groups Ahfad al-Rasoul and Ansar al-Islam said in a joint statement they planted bombs in a compound belonging to State Security in the area.

Syrian state television said a “terrorist explosion” had injured two people. Witnesses said soldiers in full combat gear were deployed in the area and all roads leading to Umayyad Square were cut.

[October 7]a car bomb has exploded near police headquarters in central Damascus.

Residents reported hearing a huge explosion that rattled the Syrian capital just after sundown October 7.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government policy, told The Associated Press the blast was caused by a car bomb that blew up in the Fahameh district near police headquarters.

[Sept.28[Two loud explosions struck the General Staff Command Building (Hay’at al Arkan) in the Umayad Square in central Damascus.

[August 28]An administration official speaking on condition of anonymitysaid that the White House is still resisting any move that would see U.S. military assets used inside Syria, such as through a no-fly zone, but opponents of intervention are slowly losing ground.

“It’s a Donilon call at the end of the day,” the official said, referring to National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, who is leading a complicated interagency policy process on the Syria crisis. “There’s not enthusiasm but there are differences of opinion about a no-fly zone,” the official said. “There is no rush to do it.”

[August 16]Reuters says:”We heard that he (Maher al-Assad) lost one of his legs during the explosion, but don’t know any more,”

A Gulf source confirmed the report: “He lost one of his legs. The news is true.”

A Saudi daily insisted August 15 it had held an interview with Russian Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, following denials from Moscow that he had ever spoken to the newspaper. A recording was posted on the al-Watan website. Further explosions in Damascus on the 15th.

Al-Watan posted online a recording which it said proved the interview, in which Bogdanov purportedly said Syrian President Bashar Assad’s influential brother Maher lost both his legs in a bomb attack, had indeed taken place.

[August 14]

Al Jazeera Arabic reported on July 18 a number of explosions at 4th Brigade headquarters which protects the presidential palace which is headed by Maher al-Assad, the brother of Bashar al-Assad. [see below].

On August 14, the Saudi newspaper al Watan that Maher had lost both legs in such an explosion and was in critical condition, according to a telephone interview with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov. more

Incirlik Air Base has a U.S. Air Force complement of about five thousand airmen, with several hundred airmen from the British Royal Air Force and Turkish Air Force also present, as of late 2002.

Incirlik Air Base has a U.S. Air Force complement of about five thousand airmen, with several hundred airmen from the British Royal Air Force and Turkish Air Force also present, as of late 2002.

[August 11]

U.S. State Department and Turkey’s Foreign Ministry have set up a working group to respond to the crisis in Syria as conditions there deteriorate. They said the group will coordinate military, intelligence and political responses to the potential fallout in the case of a chemical attack, which would result in medical emergencies and a likely rise in the number of refugees fleeing Syria.

[August 2]Under provisions of a presidential finding, the United States is collaborating with a secret command center operated by Turkey and its allies.

Along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Turkey had established a secret base near the Syrian border to help direct vital military and communications support to Assad’s opponents.

This “nerve center” is in Adana, a city in southern Turkey about 60 miles from the Syrian border, which is also home to Incirlik, a U.S. air base where U.S. military and intelligence agencies maintain a substantial presence. Incirlik Air Base (Turkish: İncirlik Hava Üssü) (ICAO: LTAG) is a United States Air Force installation, located near İncirlik, Turkey. Incirlik Air Base is located 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) east of Adana, Turkey, the fifth largest city in the country, and is 56 kilometers (35 miles) inland from the Mediterranean Sea. The United States Air Force and the Turkish Air Force are the primary users of the air base, although it is also used by the British Royal Air Force.

Incirlik Air Base is the home of the 10th Air Wing (Ana Jet Üs or AJÜ) of the 2nd Air Force Command (Hava Kuvvet Komutanlığı) of the Turkish Air Force (Türk Hava Kuvvetleri). Other wings of this command are located in Merzifon (LTAP), Malatya/Erhaç (LTAT) and Diyarbakır (LTCC).

Incirlik Air Base has a U.S. Air Force complement of about five thousand airmen, with several hundred airmen from the British Royal Air Force and Turkish Air Force also present, as of late 2002. The primary unit stationed at Incirlik Air Base is the 39th Air Base Wing (39 ABW) of the U.S. Air Force. Incirlik Air Base has one 3,048 m (10,000 ft)-long main runway[1] and one 2,740 m (8,990 ft)-long secondary runway, both located among about 57 Hardened Aircraft Shelters.

A Turkish newspaper claims that the U.S. deployed four Predator drones at the Incirlik Air Base in late October, Precisely when Obama signed the secret intelligence authorization, an action not previously reported, could not be determined. Bradley Strawser, assistant professor of philosophy at Monterey’s Naval Postgraduate School, argues the US is not only entitled but morally obliged to use drones.

“It’s all upside. There’s no downside. Both ethically and normatively, there’s a tremendous value,” he says. “You’re not risking the pilot. The pilot is safe. And all the empirical evidence shows that drones tend to be more accurate. We need to shift the burden of the argument to the other side. Why not do this? The positive reasons are overwhelming at this point. This is the future of all air warfare. At least for the US.”

[July 31]”I think it’s important when Assad leaves – and he will leave – to try to preserve stability in that country. And the best way to preserve that kind of stability is to maintain as much of the military, the police, as you can, along with the security forces, and hope that they will transition to a democratic form of government. That’s a key,”

more

Syrian intelligence

[July 28]

security council head, Maj. Gen. Ali Mamlouk

security council head, Maj. Gen. Ali Mamlouk

Assad promoted the Sunni chief of his general intelligence directorate to security council head, Maj. Gen. Ali Mamlouk. The head of military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Abdel-Fattah Qudsiyeh, was made the security council’s deputy head. A senior military intelligence general was elevated to take his place. The head of another of the four intelligence agencies, the Political Security Department — Maj. Gen. Deeb Zeitoun, also a Sunni — was moved over to lead the General Intelligence Directorate, replacing Mamlouk.

To fill in Zeitoun’s now empty position, Assad brought in loyalist Maj. Gen. Rostom Ghazali from his job as security chief for the Damascus suburbs, which has been a battleground with rebels for months. Previously, as Syria’s intelligence chief in Lebanon, Ghazali was a key enforcer of Syria’s then-direct domination over its smaller neighbor, which lasted for 29 years until 2005.

The head of the fourth intelligence agency, air force intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Jamil Hassan, apparently remained in his post.

[July 25]

Alawite shown as Shia

Alawite shown as Shia

The Assads have spent more than four decades safeguarding the building blocks of political authoritarianism and co-opting a broad coalition of social, political, sectarian and ethnic communities. The Alawis, a minority sect within Islam, are the spearhead and power base, but other interest groups play a critical legitimising role, such as Christians, Druzes, and an important segment of the Sunni merchant class and the new bourgeoisie, all of whom benefited from Assad’s neoliberal economic policies. The durability of the Assad rule has depended not only on coercion and hegemony but also on co-option and the balancing of various interest and communal groups.

Alawite flight has led to speculation that Assad himself and his inner circle might fall back on their ancestral mountain fortress if they felt power was slipping from them. That speculation was heightened when opposition sources said he had moved to the coastal city of Latakia last week after the stunning bomb attack which killed four of his top officials.

The reports were not confirmed and Israel later said Assad, who has launched a sustained counter-offensive against rebel fighters in Damascus, was still in the capital with his family.

But many suspect it remains Assad’s option of last resort.

“It wouldn’t be surprising if there were some contingency plans – a safe house, fortifying the presidential palace in Latakia, moving artillery to the mountains,” said Shashank Joshi of the RUSI defense think tank in London.

[July 20]A day after a bombing killed his brother-in-law and two other key military figures, Assad was in the coastal city of Latakia, opposition sources and a Western diplomat told Reuters.

“Our information is that he is at his palace in Latakia and that he may have been there for days,” said a senior opposition figure, who declined to be named, according to Reuters.

Latakia province is home to several towns inhabited by members of Assad’s minority Alawite sect.

Reuters Wed Jul 18, 2012 1:04pm EDT The bomber, said by a security source to be a bodyguard assigned to Assad’s inner circle, struck a meeting in central Damascus attended by ministers and senior security officials as battles raged within sight of the nearby presidential palace.

Syrian General Hassan Turkmani, a former defense minister and senior military official, died of wounds sustained in a bomb attack in Damascus, Hezbollah’s al-Manar television and a security source said. Hafez Makhlouf, head of the investigations at the Syrian Intelligence Agency died in the Damascus explosion, Al Arabiya reported citing Syrian sources.

Al Jazeera Arabic reports that a number of explosions at 4th Brigade headquarters which protects the presidential palace which is headed by Maher al-Assad, the brother of Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian Defence Minister Daoud Rajiha

Syrian Defence Minister Daoud Rajiha

Al-Shaarm

Al-Shaarm

HassanTurkmani

Hassan Turkmani

Hafez Makhlouf

Hafez Makhlouf

Gen Rajiha has been defence minister for less than a year, serving previously as chief of staff, and is on a US blacklist for his role in the suppression of dissent. Syrian Defence Minister Daoud Rajiha has been killed in bomb explosion inside the national security headquarters in the capital Damascus. Opposition sources say bombers got away.

The deputy head of the armed forces, President Assad’s brother-in-law Assef Shawkat, and Hisham Ikhtiar, the head of general security have died. Mohammad Shaar held a number of security positions, including Chief of the military police in Aleppo and was the Director of Sednaya prison. He was commander of the military police prior to being appointed Minister of the Interior.

Other senior officials meeting inside at the time are said to be critically hurt.

He is believed to be an Orthodox Christian – a rarity in the Alawite-dominated Syrian military and government.

[July 4]

Parking Lot

Parking Lot

al-Marjeh

al-Marjeh

Two magnetic bombs exploded in two judges’ cars in the open-air car park, while a third was in the process of being defused in car park of the Palace of Justice in the al-Marjeh district of Damascus on June 28,.

[June 27]

 attack on Ikhbariya TV south of Damascus

attack on Ikhbariya TV south of Damascus

Gunmen have attacked a Syrian pro-government TV channel, killing seven people, state media say.

Journalists and security guards died in the attack on Ikhbariya TV south of Damascus.

[May 10]

In background: Al-Qazzaz Intelligence Compound

In background: Al-Qazzaz Intelligence Compound

The district targeted is said to house a military intelligence complex, including the headquarters, 10 floors high, of the counter-terrorism operation for the military security in Syria, involved in President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on the ongoing pro-democracy protests.

Next to it was another military security intelligence building which was also destroyed in the attack.

The building is part of a broader military compound the Palestine Branch, one of the most feared among the more than 20 secret police organisations in the country, correspondents say.

It was originally set up in the 1950s to interrogate suspected Israeli spies, and then to deal with the 500,000 Palestinian refugees in the country, which it still does. But over the past decade, it has evolved into the country’s counter-terrorism unit, and is infamous for interrogations and torture,

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Nissour Square Massacre: Nicholas Slatten gets new trial

Paul Slough, Nicholas Slatten, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard

Paul Slough, Nicholas Slatten, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard

 

A federal appeals court on Friday overturned the first-degree murder conviction of a former Blackwater security contractor, ordering a new trial for the man prosecutors say fired the first shots in the 2007 slayings of 14 Iraqi civilians at a crowded traffic circle in Baghdad. In a split opinion, the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia Circuit ruled a lower court erred by not allowing Nicholas Slatten to be tried separately from his three co-defendants in 2014. The 33-year-old contractor from Tennessee is serving a life sentence for his role in the killings, which strained international relations and drew intense scrutiny of the role of American contractors in the Iraq War.

[ April 20 2015 life for one, 30 years for three ]

Nicholas A. Slatten, 31, of Sparta, Tenn., received a life sentence after being convicted of murder in October for firing what prosecutors said were the first shots in the civilian massacre. The three others — Paul A. Slough, 35, of Keller, Tex.; Evan S. Liberty, 32, of Rochester, N.H.; and Dustin L. Heard, 33, of Maryville, Tenn. — were sentenced to 30 years plus one day after being convicted of multiple counts of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter.

[October 22 2014 Nissour Square Massacre verdict guilty stunned the defense]
Four former Blackwater security guards were found guilty Wednesday in the 2007 shootings of more than 30 Iraqis in Baghdad, and a federal judge ordered them immediately to jail.

In an overwhelming victory for prosecutors, a jury found Nicholas Slatten guilty of first-degree murder. The three other guards — Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard — were found guilty of multiple counts of voluntary manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and gun charges.

The four men had been charged with a combined 33 counts in the shootings and the jury was able to reach a verdict on all of them, with the exception of three charges against Heard. The prosecution agreed to drop those charges.

The outcome after a summerlong trial and weeks of jury deliberation stunned the defense.

Jurors in the trial of four Blackwater security guards may have reached agreement on some criminal charges while raising the possibility they may become deadlocked on others. In a note from the jury of asking the judge for instructions, asking whether they could return a partial verdict on the charges where they had reached a unanimous decision and what would happen if they were in deadlock on others.
They also asked in two consecutive notes on Monday and Tuesday detailed questions about separate weapons charges that seem to indicate they are leaning towards sticking with voluntary manslaughter charges, rather than reducing them to involuntary manslaughter as had previously been suspected. , the judge instructed them that the government was only suggesting the grenade launchers may count as destructive devices, but need only prove that any weapon was used to make the charge stick.

[October 2 jury hints involuntary manslaughter]
Jurors in the long-running murder and manslaughter case against four former Blackwater Worldwide security guards hinted to a D.C. federal judge on October 1 that they may convict at least one of the defendants of involuntary manslaughter stemming from a 2007 incident in Baghdad.

On day 17 of deliberations, jurors asked U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth whether the weapons charge against Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard must be predicated on a voluntary manslaughter conviction or if the charge also applies to involuntary manslaughter, suggesting involuntary manslaughter.

[September 19 Nisour Square massacre: jury back on Monday]

[August 29 2014 Blackwater Trial Comes to a Close]

 Paul Slough, 34; Nicholas Slatten, 29; Evan Liberty, 31; and Dustin Heard, 32. another charges dropped

Paul Slough, 34; Nicholas Slatten, 29; Evan Liberty, 31; and Dustin Heard, 32.

In closing arguments, assistant US attorney Anthony Asuncion claimed three of the four defendants were guilty of manslaughter and a fourth of murder for showing extreme disregard for human life in retaliating against what they mistakenly believed was a car bomb attack on their convoy.

But the defence summed up its case with a blistering attack on the government for ignoring evidence of alleged incoming machine gun fire at the convoy, which it also accused Iraqi police of helping to cover upJurors are expected to begin deliberating September 2.

[June 20 Nisour Square massacre: Opening arguments in trial of four former Blackwater Worldwide guards]
WASHINGTON— Opening arguments were heard on June 17 in the trial of four former private security guards charged in the 2007 killings of 14 Iraqis in Baghdad.
Assistant U.S. Attorney T. Patrick Martin said mayhem ensued when Nicholas Slatten, a Blackwater sniper riding in a convoy of armored vehicles assigned to provide security for a U.S. diplomat, shot the driver of a white Kia sedan in the head for no reason other than a hatred of Iraqis.
Six of his fellow guards would soon join in the shooting, Mr. Martin said, gunning down 13 more innocent Iraqis in and around busy Nisour Square, even though they posed no threat.
Mr. Slatten “lit the match and the other defendants fanned the flames of destruction that day,” Mr. Martin told jurors.
Mr. Slatten alone faces a murder charge for the alleged killing of the Kia driver, Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y.
Three other defendants— Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard—face charges of manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and illegal use of weapons for the shooting that allegedly occurred after Mr. Al Rubia’y’s death.
All four have pleaded not guilty to the charges in federal district court in Washington, D.C. The reputation of the guards’ employer, Blackwater USA was severely tarnished . The company has since been sold and is now called Academi LLC.

[May 21]
Four former Blackwater Worldwide guards go on trial together scheduled to begin on June 11 in the killings of 14 Iraqi civilians and the injuring of at least 18 others in Baghdad.
Prosecutors, obtained a first-degree murder indictment last week against one of the guards, Nicholas Slatten.U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth dismissed a manslaughter indictment against Slatten on April 23 after an appeals court said the statute of limitations had lapsed. There is no time limit on bringing a first-degree murder charge. Slatten fired the first shots at Nisur Square. Another former Blackwater guard, Jeremy Ridgeway, pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Blackwater Worldwide is now known as Academi and is based in McLean, Virginia. At the time of the shooting, the guards were escorting a State Department convoy through the streets of the Iraqi capital.

[December 5 2013]
Four ex-Blackwater guards are pleading not guilty to multiple manslaughter charges stemming from a deadly 2007 shooting on the streets of Baghdad.
[October 17]

A new indictment was returned by a grand jury in Washington against four former Blackwater Worldwide security guards for a 2007 shooting in Baghdad that prosecutors said killed 14 unarmed civilians. The charges 33 counts, including voluntary manslaughter, attempt to commit manslaughter and using a firearm in a crime of violence.

The guards had pleaded not guilty to the nearly identical charges brought five years ago. They are Paul Slough, 34; Nicholas Slatten, 29; Evan Liberty, 31; and Dustin Heard, 32.
Blackwater is now named Academi and is based in McLean, Virginia.

[June 6 2012]

Blackwater/Academi

Ted Wright, CEO Academi, The company formerly known as Blackwater

Supreme court has declined to review ruling that guards would be criminally charged for role in shooting that killed 17 civilians
The so-called Nisour Square massacre was the single bloodiest incident involving American private security contractors during the Iraq conflict. It outraged Iraqis, put severe strain on relations between Baghdad and Washington, and served as a watershed moment in the debate surrounding private fighters in foreign war zones.

The shooting took place on September 16, 2007 at the congested Nisour Square intersection, after a convoy of four armoured vehicles manned by Blackwater guards had departed from Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone.

In a span of 15 minutes, heavy gunfire erupted and by the time it was over, more than three dozen Iraqi civilians had been shot, at least 17 fatally. Among the dead was nine-year-old Ali Kinani, who was shot in the head as he rode in a car with his father, Mohammed Kinnani.

The guards maintain that they opened fire in self-defense after being shot at by insurgents.

The state department had ordered the guards – Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard and Donald Ball – to explain to investigators what happened under the threat of losing their jobs.The contractors’ attorney, claimed his clients’ constitutional right against self-incrimination was violated when these statements were used to charge the men.

On December 31, 2009, federal judge Ricardo Urbina agreed with the guards’ claims and threw out the cases, citing “reckless violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights”. After the ruling, Blackwater reportedly paid the some of the victims’ families about $100,000 for each death and issued a statement that it was “pleased” with the outcome.

But in April last year a US federal appeals court reinstated the charges after months of closed-door testimony.

On June 1, former Blackwater executives asked the judge in a firearms case to dismiss the charges related to the gun gift and others in the indictment.

Federal prosecutors in 2010 accused former Blackwater Worldwide president Gary Jackson and four past colleagues of various federal firearms violations. A group of charges related to five guns given to King Abdullah II of Jordan. Prosecutors said the guns were part of a bid for Blackwater to land a lucrative overseas contract, but allege that records tracking the guns were later falsified to claim the weapons were sold to individuals.

Defense attorneys filed declarations from two retired CIA officials who say they are familiar with gifts presented during the king’s 2005 visit to Blackwater’s Moyok, N.C., headquarters. John Macguire, who described himself as a CIA officer for 23 years ending in 2005, and Charles Seidel, who said he was CIA station chief in the Jordanian capital of Amman in 2005, said they would be willing to testify about their knowledge of government involvement if the spy agency allows it.

“I have information related to the transfer of firearms to the King of Jordan described in numerous counts of the indictment and how the U.S. government’s authorization for the transfer of those weapons took place,” Maguire said in a statement filed in federal court in Raleigh, where the case is pending.

A group of investors bought Blackwater in December 2010 from founder Erik Prince. It is now called Academi.

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