The US military is denying reports that it bombed a mosque in northwestern Syria during evening prayers March 16, killing at least 50. There is even controversy over whether the Omar Ibn al-Khattab Mosque in al-Jinah (Jeena) village, Aleppo governorate, is still standing. The Pentagon admits to a an air-strike that supposedly killed several al-Qaeda militants in the village, which is held by Islamist factions including Ahrar al-Sham. The Pentagon released a statement saying the strike was "across the street from a mosque," with footage (supposedly taken minutes after the strike) showing that a mosque next to a destroyed building remained standing. (Al Jazeera, BBC News, Reuters) But Bilal Abdul Kareem, a US national who operates On the Ground News from northern Syria, recorded his own video from the purported bombing site. Kareem shows what he calls part of the "mosque compound" in ruins, and claims the mosque was operated by Jamaat Tablighi, a proselytization group that has hosted prayers there every Thursday for the past four years. (LWJ)
The Trump administration has seriously turned up the heat on Venezuela, slapping sanctions on the country's vice president as a drug "kingpin." The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on Feb. 13 officially named Tareck Zaidan El Aissami as a "Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker" under terms of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act) of 1999. The order charges that El Aissami received pay-offs from a trafficking network linked to Mexico's Zetas narco-gang. Under the order, US nationals and corporations are barred from doing business with El Aissami, and all his assets within the country are frozen.
Remember the reports of a Russian "withdrawl" from Syria over the summer? They were immediately followed, of course, by a massive escalation of Russia's military intervention, with the destruction of Aleppo by Moscow's warplanes. Let's hope we are not in for a replay. With the departure of most of Russian's war fleet from Syria's coast—most prominently, the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov—CNN last week reported: "Russia 'starts to withdraw' forces from Syria." The Interpreter, a neo-Kremlinologist website, flatly contradicts this. It finds that most Russian combat operations have been flown out of ground bases in Syria, not the carrier. At Hmeymim air base (also rendered Khmeimim and Hemeimeem) in Latakia governorate, Russia has now deployed Iskander ballistic missiles, capable of hitting anywhere in Syria and even beyond its borders. Far from withdrawing, The Interpreter says that Russia is "just getting started" with a military build-up in Syria.
As thousands of civilians flee the Assad regime's advance on eastern Aleppo, rebel groups are charging that the Kurdish-led People's Protection Units (YPG) are collaborating in the offensive. The YPG and rebels aligned with the Free Syrian Army have clashed several times in Aleppo, mostly around the Kurdish-controlled Sheikh Maqsoud enclave. In recent days, as the pro-regime forces press their advance on the east, Kurdish fighters have taken over several areas abandoned by the rebels. Photos and video showing the regime flag and the yellow YPG banner raised on top of a building were circulated on social media, suggesting that the Kurdish forces and Syrian national army were in fact fighting together. The YPG, however, said the images were faked, and denied any cooperation with the Syrian army.
Russia used its veto power on the UN Security Council Oct. 8 to kill a French-backed resolution demanding an immediate end to air-strikes on besieged Aleppo. Venezuela, shamefully (but not surprisingly), also voted against it. This was the fifth time Russia has used its veto to kill a UN resolution on Syria since the war began more than five years ago. (Reuters) The aerial terror remains unrelenting. On Oct. 13, a Russian or Assad regime air-strike (it matters little which) killed at at least 15 at a marketplace in rebel-held eastern Aleppo. (Rudaw) Secretary of State John Kerry has called for an investigation of possible war crimes by Russia and the Assad regime.
"Left" media in the US continue to portray a massive Washington program of support for the Syrian rebels to destabilize the regime of Bashar Assad—in spite of the utter baselessness of this thesis. We recently had to call out the ironically-named Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) for spreading such empty dogmatism in a piece entitled "Down the Memory Hole: NYT Erases CIA's Efforts to Overthrow Syria's Government." Despite the sketchy media accounts it cites of supposed CIA expenditures on Syrian rebels, we have repeatedly documented how the US is actually tilting to Assad in Syria's war. What limited aid is being made available is explicitly for use against ISIS—not Assad. We noted last year reports that the US is actually constraining the rebel forces from fighting Assad as a condition of receiving aid, insisting they fight only ISIS. Last week another such report ran on Lebanon's Now Media. Once again, a rebel commander from the FSA's Southern Front is quoted asserting that his forces were ordered by the US Military Operations Center in Jordan not to launch an offensive to retake the town of Sheikh Maskin—which had fallen to the regime when the MOC earlier this year ordered the Southern Front to concentrate on an offensive against ISIS rather than defending its territory. So the price of such arms that the US does provide the rebels is ceding territory to the regime. Let us know how you want your crow prepared, FAIR.
From the Alliance of Syrian and Iranian Socialists, March 2016:
Five years after the beginning of the popular Syrian Revolution which demanded democracy and human rights, the Syrian revolutionaries have been decimated through the combined military force of the Assad regime, the Iranian regime with its sectarian militias, Russian air strikes and military assistance on the one hand, and the ultra-terrorist ISIS and other Salafist–Jihadist organizations on the other hand. Nevertheless, a partial reduction of air-strikes by Russia and the Assad regime in early March led to an immediate revival of mass protests of the democratic opposition across the country with banners such as the following in Idlib: "Our peaceful revolution is still in progress until toppling Assad and imposing justice all over Syria."
The notion that Syria's Rojava Kurds are collaborating with Russia—and, by extension, the genocidal Bashar Assad regime—is fast gaining currency. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond was the latest to make the charge, telling Parliament: "What we have seen over the last weeks is very disturbing evidence of coordination between Syrian Kurdish forces, the Syrian regime and the Russian air force which are making us distinctly uneasy about the Kurds' role in all of this." (