Syria: The Perfect Storm To Ignite A Huge Chapter In This Current WW-3
(THIS ARTICLE WAS FIRST WRITTEN ON FEBRUARY 14th, OF 2016 BUT I HAVE ADDED 2 EXTRA PARAGRAPHS AT THE END)
Today Syria is primed to be the location where the pot boils over and this World War that we are currently all living in gets a new very nasty twist in pure violence. The Syrian civil war has turned into a continuance of the 1,400 year old Islamic civil war between the Sunni and the Shiite. The president of Syria is a Shiite so he is an ally of the government of Iran who is the biggest Shiite player in the world. Also there is the fact that the country of Iraq is now led by a Shiite government and its geographical location is as the bumper between the two. First ISIS joins the fight as the major Sunni group against the Syrian government and now Russian president Putin has joined the fight on the side of Iran and Syria. Soon we see if our Nations Leaders are actual leaders, or idiots and fools.
Today I picked up off of CNN a story within an interview being done by reporter Ms. Amanpour with the Saudi Foreign Minister while he was in Munich Germany yesterday. I am going to type out a couple of the Saudi Foreign Ministers quotes and then I am going to ask you a couple of questions to see the level of understanding we each have. Quotes—“The Syrian President must go. If the political process fails then force must be used”. Yet he says that the Saudi’s will only send troops into Syria if…”we are part of a multi-national force lead by the U.S.”. There is another important quote of his on this matter, “Syria’s President will leave–have no doubt about it. He will either leave by a political process or he will be removed by force”.
I am looking at this from an American persons view, those of you reading this from other parts of the world may have different view points than I do or what most Americans may have as a view, if so, please leave comments. The Saudi Foreign Minister says that the Syrian President will leave “have no doubt about it”. Yet he say that the Saudi’s will only put boots on the ground in Syria if they are “part of a U.S. led force”. So, does he have some secret knowledge of an undercover deal with our President? Reality is that the only way the Syrian President gets removed is if he is assassinated or if the U.S. puts thousands of troops on the ground to fight against the Shiite side and for the Sunni side of this 1,400 year civil war. This Syrian conflict is indeed a Civil War but it is mostly a civil war between the Shiite and the Sunni. Russian President Putin has stuck his foot in up to his rear-end on the side of Iran and Syria if the U.S. puts boots on the ground they will be fighting on the side of the Sunni nations. There is this other absolute fact, all these people hate us and our military, they will applaud every time an American or Russian blood is spilled on Syrian sand. The Saudi Foreign Minister did say one accurate quote when he said that “you can not take, then hold ground from the air alone”. The question now is whose boots will it be, whose blood will it be?
(TODAY’S DATE IS APRIL 17th OF 2018)
Okay, it is now two years and two months since the Saudi Foreign Minister said that Syria’s President Assad would be removed one way of another, to me, it looks like he was wrong. About the only way now that I can see President Assad being removed is if someone assassinates him. Will the Saudi’s go that far as to send an assassin into Syria to kill him? Personally I doubt it, it would be to risky for them to do that. It looks to me that because of the help of Russia’s President Putin and the help Mr. Assad is getting from Iran and Hezbollah that he will remain the president of this destroyed hunk of ground. Even if all fighting were to stop inside the borders of Syria today, it would take many trillions of dollars and several decades to rebuild the infrastructure that was in place there seven years ago.
As far as Syria being the location of a huge proxy war involving the militaries that are still operating inside their borders the risks are still very high. I personally believe that the U.S. should get out of Syria as quick as is humanly possible. We said we went in there to destroy ISIS, this mission is at least 95% finished. The government of Syria has made it very plain that they do not want any U.S. military inside their borders so we should leave and let Russian, Syrian, Iranian, and Hezbollah troops finish the mop up work on ISIS. The longer we are there the greater chances that we will get directly involved with the killing of Russian, Iranian and Syrian troops thus dragging us into a much wider and bloodier war with them directly. There is also the reality that Syria will be the location of a direct shooting war between Iran and Israel, and Hezbollah. If Iran attacks Israel will the U.S. stand idly by? If we back Israel will Russia jump in to help Iran? You can bet your last nickel that if Iran attacks Israel that Syria, Iraq and Hezbollah will also attack Israel, so what is the U.S. going to do? What is Russia going to do, come to think of it, what is Saudi Arabia going to do? This article is all just fodder for your thoughts, what do you think is about to happen, full-out WW-3, or maybe nothing? China would probably love the U.S. to get tied up in an all out war in the Middle-East as this would give them free rein to totally dominate all of the Asian Countries. Also it would give China the green light to enforce their will over all of the South China Sea and to invade Taiwan. As I said, just trying to get you to think.
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Extremes, think about the word itself for a moment, what does that word mean to you? My wife just told me the two words that come to her thoughts and they were “always and never”. I guess this is one of those things that we as a person know that you know, without ever really thinking about it, “what does always and never mean as a definition”? Pick any issue in life that you wish whether it be something like “my 14 yr old daughter will Never date a 21-year-old Woman”, or maybe “well sure I would Always let my 14-year-old son to be allowed to date a 30 yr old Pole Dancer, what, what’s wrong with that”? I would think that most folks would agree with that type of assumption, at least I hope so, though there are always many sides (at the very least 2, before there becomes only 1 acceptable side), even to an obvious story.
For most, live allows us many avenues in which we may be allowed to follow, these are things that we tend to take for granted here in America and the West (as well as many other Democratic leaning countries). Something that the whole world does, and doesn’t, (to different levels), what is acceptable in venues like labor relations, politics, religion, economics, race, cultures and there are probably many others that you have also thought of where for Humanity’s sake we must learn to compromise, or die as a species on this planet.
Folks the first one of these “Issues” I am going to refer to is one that I became quite aware of at the age of 10. This is when my family moved from a desolate situation in Spear Fish South Dakota to my Dad getting hired at a new Chrysler Assembly Plant in Belvidere Illinois in 1966. My Mom had always spoken very highly of Workers Unions from the time I could remember much as being the only way for working people to get such “Benefits” from your Employer as a livable wage, safe conditions to work in, and security of keeping your job even if your boss is having a bad day. To me, in my awareness of time, this job my Dad got at Chrysler would be the first Union job either of my parents ever had. From November of 1966 through the summer of 1975 when Dad became disabled from there, was what was going on every third year with labor negotiations between the U.A.W. and Chrysler Corporation. Mom was always worried that they would end up losing their home they had been able to buy in Belvidere if there was a Strike. Most working people in lower paying jobs never have more than a week or two of survival money in the bank, they can’t afford too, not when all their income is required for the minimum basics like housing and food. There are people who will argue with every little point of every issue though no matter what you think or say.
Strikes, no strikes, Unions, no unions, what should this have mattered to a 10-year-old kid? Don’t be snobbish now, those of you who think that the working class children don’t matter to you, everyone on Earth matters, yes, even you. During those years that Dad was employed by Chrysler I was age 10-19, it was during these years where I first started learning of labor negotiations with Corporations. Those of us who are old enough should remember that there was a nation wide industrial slowdown from about 1976-84 and it hit America’s industrial/now the rust belt, very hard with many Corporations either going out of business or having laid off employees several years deep into the seniority list. I have a question for those of you who honestly don’t understand it yet that when it comes to the adults earning ability how it affects not only the employee but the others that depend on the adults earning ability in order to stay housed, clothed, and fed. If someone bigger or richer or more powerful than you comes along and takes it all from you, how do you honestly think you would feel? Unless you are the one lone remaining survivor what have you really gained? This is true of a business or of the world itself and it is true for each human on this planet.
During the years of my youth I learned some basic lessons about Unions and Employers and even I as a youth could see the need for moderation on both sides of that isle. I spent most of my adult years in America’s Transportation Industry as a coast to coast truck driver which pretty much means anywhere and everywhere in the lower 48 states. There are many things that a person can learn about a country’s true feelings and condition as you travel all around the country for years. You can learn how different company’s treat their employees and I’m not just speaking of the trucking companies, I am speaking of the brokers, all the companies that transport or receive anything from a shipping or receiving truck dock. You learn both good things and bad about companies (which is really just another way to say a company’s leadership). But you also learn many things about some of the people employed there, as well as about people and events in the town of that region of the state or country which helps form political opinions on how people value each other, or not. Here I bring down the reason why I spent so much time above about Unions, so that you would be able to see that I do try to give the best most honest opinions on all things all of the time. I am not smart enough to be able to remember lies so I have to stay honest or I might forget who I am as a Spiritual Soul. I believe that when we forget that, then we are risking a very hot retirement.
Would my mostly good thoughts about Unions disappear when I could as a truck driver get loaded at a shipper and the six big pieces of product with a total dock time of about 15 minutes with shipping paperwork in hand, from a non-union mill in Louisiana? Would those good thoughts dissipate when you take the load to the shippers union company warehouse in Indiana? Your on time, you are the only trailer there in a 40 plus dock warehouse, you check in and then you sit there for about four hours while the employees are in the break room. In the real world what every one of us does affects others, it just seems a lot of people simply don’t give a damn about anyone else.
Just like life is a learning process about pretty much everything in life, we also each will in our own way, judge everything. We learn not just the art of compromise but the absolute requirement of compromise, or we all die as a species. Just as there are companies I have known in my life who have gone bankrupt some because of unions who would not allow the workers to work hard or for a full paid shift, so the company’s could not compete and dissolved. There are also companies who went bankrupt because of mismanagement and or theft. There are also companies who go under because of pure greed by management and ownership where they only pay anyone anything because our government makes them or if they can’t get anyone at the price they were willing to pay. If a company goes under and has to close it does many things and all are negative. No matter how or why the business had to close, now there is a loss of income that spreads in many directions not just to the former employees (both hourly and salary). This event depending on size of business and size of local employee market can shut down whole communities. Many people can suffer so badly just because of one arrogant, greedy, or hate filled person.
I am going to close with the main point of the note to you for your thoughts on why I say that if the world systems do not allow many minute compromises as well as the huge ones then the world will implode. It is my total belief that only one side wins when one side wins all, and there are always those who believe that one only wins if one wins all. In my country there are those in the public and in political positions who hate all trucks and badly want them all off of “Their” roads not realizing that everything that they own had at sometime and probably several times got to them via a truck. So no trucks, no food, no gas, no clothes, no pretty much anything. I hope these idiots are happy unemployed, living under someone elses bridge or in someone elses forest or open field. I hope they would have good luck finding any food or shelter when no one cares.
Point is that the world is now facing the most dangerous time in our history. The one place in this world that possesses the hate needed to destroy at least 6 of the 7 billion of the planets population is through religious hatred. I have no doubt that all 7 billion will be destroyed if certain members of that remaining one billion were able to get their hands on nuclear weapons. It is not just some of the worlds politicians and or some of its military leaders who want total global supremacy and domination, as we all know, some people try this by hiding behind a Cloth!
There are still people who are mostly of the belief that there is no such thing as a Deity or that through lack of any knowledge, who believe that all of these religions worship the same God. People who have spent a lot of time studying what the (at least major) world religions teach know very well that this simply isn’t correct. I used to think that same thing until I spent many hours studying the different teachings. When you break all things down, we don’t. I only know of one major religion that teaches world domination with the twist of convert or die. But, this hatred is taught in a major world religion that is not anywhere in Biblical Scripture. You don’t believe as they do, doesn’t matter, they will enjoy in cutting your throat just the same.
If the people of this planet decide to kill each other off I am sure that we could do that if a Deity didn’t stop it. Just because a person does not believe in something, that something if real in someone elses mind, it can still kill you. If there is a Deity that has final control of this planet but yet another Deity, or for these purposes, another Big Boss Man (or woman) that is not a God and is not you, then you are screwed just like all the rest of us. So, if you are not God then you really need to quit acting like an idiot like the politicians in Washington D.C. do every day. Both of our main parties will throw out a member if they try to work toward the middle of the aisle so that the country can once again function. With the main four political groups we currently have Democrats (which really aren’t anymore just as President Reagan felt ), Republicans and the Tea Party (which really has little to do with the current Republican Party), it is said we have two main parties, we really have at least four. If we as a country do as our so-called leadership is doing then all of the nation will implode upon itself and there are many who do not care, not as long as they win. One last question for the would be gods of the planet, when you have conquered all, but all is destroyed in your victory, what have you really won when everything equals nothing left? Just think of the current situation in Syria, President Assad because of the help of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah are going to win their 8-year-old civil war. Yet what is it that he has won? Reality is that it is going to take several decades to rebuild that country even to the status level of 2010 and it is going to take several trillion dollars to rebuild it. Right now there is no infrastructure, all there is now is a bombed out pile of rock and cement. This can happen to any country at any time, it is what hate will do for a people and their country.
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In a further response, the IDF “targeted Iranian targets in Syria”, according to the military. The mission deep inside Syrian territory was successfully completed, it said.
After coming under Syrian anti-aircraft fire, the F-16’s two crew members ejected and were later taken to hospital. One of them was “severely injured as a result of an emergency evacuation”, the IDF said.
All five crew on board – including a female flight mechanic – were killed in that incident.
Alert sirens sounded in areas of northern Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights because of Syrian anti-aircraft fire.
Residents reported hearing a number of explosions and heavy aerial activity in the area near Israel’s borders with Jordan and Syria.
Syrian state media quoted a military source as saying that the country’s air defences had opened fire in response to Israeli “aggression” against a military base on Saturday, hitting “more than one plane”.
What did Israel do next?
Israel launched its second wave of strikes in Syria. Eight of the Syrian targets belonged to the fourth Syrian division near Damascus, IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus said.
All the Israeli aircraft from this sortie returned safely.
“Syrians are playing with fire when they allow Iranians to attack Israel,” the spokesman warned.
He added that Israel was willing to exact a heavy price in response but was “are not looking to escalate the situation”.
Meanwhile Iran and the Tehran-backed Hezbollah movement in Lebanon – which are allied with the Syrian government – dismissed reports that an Iranian drone had entered Israeli airspace as a “lie”.
Russia expressed “serious concern” over the Israeli air strikes and called for all sides to show restraint.
What is the Iranian presence in Syria?
Iran is Israel’s arch-enemy, and Iranian troops have been fighting rebel groups since 2011.
Tehran has sent military advisers, volunteer militias and, reportedly, hundreds of fighters from its Quds Force, the overseas arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
It is also believed to have supplied thousands of tonnes of weaponry and munitions to help President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and the pro-Iranian Hezbollah, which is fighting on Syria’s side.
Tehran has faced accusations that it is seeking to establish not just an arc of influence but a logistical land supply line from Iran through to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
A powerful new element
Analysis by BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus
For years Israel has been striking at weapons stores and other facilities in Syria with a single goal – to disrupt and, as far as possible, to prevent advanced Iranian missiles being delivered to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Syria has often been the conduit for these shipments, but the changing balance of power there, with the Assad regime’s survival bolstered by Iranian help, has introduced a powerful new element – a direct Iranian role in the crisis.
This commentary today is simply my belief’s on the issue of the U.S. still having troops, combat or otherwise within the borders of the sovereign State of Syria. When our mission there was to destroy the illegal Caliphate of ISIS we had a defined reason and mission for being inside the borders of Syria. Since ISIS is now just another run of the mill terror group without a ‘State’ foothold our ‘mission’ there is done. The reason I say that we have no right to be there is because the legitimate government of Syria under its President Mr. Assad has said several times that we are not welcome there and that he wants us out of their country, now.
Just because we don’t like the Leader of a country this is not a legal reason for our government leaders to conduct military operations in that country. The last I heard the U.S. is conducting military operations in about 30 countries, why isn’t this enough for the military hawks in our government? As long as the government of these 30 or so countries have asked us in, asked us for help against honest to goodness terrorists, then we have a right to be there, if we so choose to help them. But, in a case like Syria where the government does not want us there and has said that they will attack any of our troops that are on their soil, we have no legal right to be there!
What could possibly be the reasoning behind our government keeping troops in Syria? Is our military and our government trying to start a direct war with Syria? Yet a bigger question would be, is our government trying to start not just a direct war with Syria but a proxy war with Iran and with Russia? If this is the case folks there is no doubt that we will end up being in a direct shooting war with Syria, Iran and Russia, is this really what we the people of the U.S.want? I really don’t think so. About the only member of President Trumps Cabinet that I have been backing so far is our Secretary of State Rex Tillerson but about two days ago he made the statement that we (the U.S.) need to be in Syria ‘long term’. I am not such a fan of his now folks.
Here in the United States if a country, any country, came inside our borders and started shooting and bombing any of our citizens we would declare War on that country. This would be the case even if our direct neighbors like Canada or Mexico attacked any group of our people whether they be Hispanic, Indian, Oriental, Black or White, we would actively repel them, neighbors or not. Why does our government feel that they have any right to be in Syria without the blessings of the Syrian government? Folks, we don’t have any right to be there, none! I do not like the Leadership of Syria nor the Supreme Leader of Iran nor his flunkies but they are a reality that we have no legal right to depose. It is a shame that we have the relations that we now have with President Putin and Russia and it appears that as long as President Putin is in charge there we will not be able to have the friendship between our Nations that I wish we had. No matter what you or I like or think, by the laws of our Country it is illegal for us to have any troops inside the borders of Syria. Without a Congress approved declaration of War it is also illegal for the U.S. Military to fire any missiles into the sovereign Nation of Syria. We need to get out right now before we blow this up into a World War.
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Two years ago, on Sept. 30, 2015, Russian warplanes launched their first airstrikes in Syria, plunging Russia into a civil war that had already been festering for four years.
Moscow intervened in Syria vowing to fight Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, terrorist groups banned in Russia. Its objective was to transform its relationship with Washington and Brussels by disarming an imminent threat to the West after it had hit Russia with sanctions for the Kremlin’s “adventures in Ukraine.”
Days before the airstrikes began, Putin delivered a speech at the United Nations General Assembly calling for a united front against international terrorism, framing it as the modern equivalent of World War II’s coalition against Hitler.
But two years later, Russia’s hopes of winning concessions in Ukraine for its campaign against Islamic State have come to very little. Putin’s strategic alliance with the United States never materialized.
Russia, however, has met two less lofty goals. One was to rescue the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad, Moscow’s longtime ally, from the inevitable defeat at the hands of an armed Sunni rebellion.
Moscow leveraged its ties with Iran, another regime ally, to deploy Shia militias from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight the Syrian rebels. This allowed Moscow to send a modest ground force to Syria — artillery and some special operations forces — without a large footprint.
Russia helped Assad recast the civil war and the popular uprising against his regime as a fight against jihadi terrorists by focusing its airstrikes over the last two years on moderate Syrian rebel groups, while paying little attention to Islamic State.
This rendered the conflict black and white — a binary choice between Assad and jihadists. It allowed Moscow to sell its intervention as support for Syria’s sovereignty against anarchy and terrorism. Russia made clear that it saw the path to stability in the Middle East as helping friendly autocrats suppress popular uprisings with force.
At home, the Kremlin sold its Syrian gambit as a way of defeating terrorism before it reached Russian soil. Russia, after all, needed to prevent Russians and Central Asians who joined Islamic State from returning home to wreck havoc at home soil.
Moscow was also able to use Syria as a lab for its newest weaponry.
By workshopping newly-acquired precision cruise-missile strikes, Russia joined the United States in an exclusive arms club. Showcasing military prowess, while keeping casualties figures low — some 40 Russia servicemen died in Syria — it was able to win public support at home for the intervention.
But perhaps most importantly, the Kremlin’s intervention in Syria has reaffirmed Russia’s status as a global superpower which is capable of projecting force far from its own borders.
Andrei Luzik / Russian Navy Northern Fleet Press Office / TASS
While Moscow may have been offended by former U.S. President Barack Obama’s dismissive description of Russia as a “regional power,” it impressed Arab leaders with its unwavering support for Assad, which was important at a time when U.S. commitment to allies’ security and the stability in the region was in doubt.
Moscow’s backing of Assad ensured it had channels with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, despite their support for Syrian rebels. It was even able to convince the Gulf to wind down its support for the opposition as a Russia-led victory for the regime became inevitable.
Russia’s alliances with Jordan and Egypt proved useful in setting up direct lines to armed opposition groups to reach de-escalation agreements. And even as it fights alongside Shia Iran, Moscow has avoided being drawn into a sectarian proxy war with Sunni Arab states.
Russia’s most stunning diplomatic coup was to change Turkey’s calculus in the war from a proxy adversary into a major partner in securing the decisive victory in Aleppo. Through the Astana process, Russia alongside Turkey wound down fighting with moderate rebels.
Russia’s victory in Syria was helped by Washington’s decision not to immerse itself into Syria and a war by proxy with Russia. Instead, the U.S. focused its military operations on defeating Islamic State in eastern Syria.
Now, with de-escalation in western Syria, regime forces and Russian airpower are turned to defeating Islamic State, which has brought them into contact with the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) advancing from the northeast as part of their offensive to liberate Raqqa from Islamic State.
The potential for a U.S.-Russia kinetic collision in Syria with unpredictable consequences is escalating. This highlights the looming endgame in Syria and the choices Moscow and Washington will have to make moving forward.
Washington needs to decide whether it wants to stay in Syria for counterinsurgency operations to prevent the re-emergence of Islamic State. It may also decide to block Iran from establishing the “Shia land bridge” from the Iraqi border to the Mediterranean.
But this entails supporting the SDF and helping them control sizeable real estate northeast of the Euphrates river and blocking regime forces and Russia from advancing east.
Moscow needs to decide whether it wants to be dragged into Assad and Iran’s strategy of ensuring a complete military victory in Syria and preventing the opposition from exercising any autonomous self-rule. That could see Russia pulled into a nasty proxy fight with the Americans.
Two years after Russia intervened in Syria, the war may be winding down. But the stakes for Moscow and Washington are stacking.
The views and opinions expressed in opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the position of The Moscow Times.
Any time that a person or more so a military, are in or flying above another Nation without the permission of that Nations government then you are an illegal intruder and you have declared war on that Nation. Syria’s President Assad has made it very clear that he considers the U.S. and their Alliance partners to be in his Country illegally and that he does not want them there. Even though I am an American citizen I cannot condone our actions in this Syrian Civil War nor with Syria’s inner-border conflict with the terrorist group called ISIS. We were never invited to step into this conflict within Syria’s borders and we should never have gone into that country, we have no right to be there. I will try to keep this article as short as I can yet I will do my best to explain my thoughts/beliefs as to why I believe as I do, for your consideration.
As I have written a few times before on this site that history shows within the Islamic world that it appears that about the only way to not have total chaos is if a rather brutal dictator rules their country. I personally do not like anything to do with brutality or with dictators, I am merely expressing an observation. I know that Syria’s President Assad is both of these elements yet I believe that the people of Syria as a whole were far better off six years ago than they are today. In Islamic countries there has been a civil war raging for about 1,400 years now between their two main sects and this hatred of each other still shows no sign of ending, ever.
Just like in Afghanistan the U.S. is in an Islamic country with our military and we have no exit strategy, as is the case in Syria. In Afghanistan the American tax payers have spent well over a trillion dollars to help bring peace to this tribal war-torn land and we have spilled the blood of many of our soldiers, and for what? In the long game our government has been trying to get the Taliban and to sit down with the very weak Government in Kabul to form a ‘sharing’ government, so why are we there? Unless a person is totally ignorant of reality they must know that once there is a ‘sharing’ government and the U.S. pulls out of the country that the Taliban will simply murder the civilian government people and everything will go back to the Taliban like it was 15 years ago. So, all of that gold and all of that blood spilled, for what? With all of this money the American government has spent in this country it is estimated that 90% of the civilians there only have one set of clothing, our occupation time there could have been spent in more productive ways.
Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, all far away countries that in the long run where our blood and gold have really accomplished very little to nothing. There is always one ‘positive’ to these military campaigns and that is the jobs provided by the ‘war-machine’ industry and of course the billions of dollars that go to the corporations leaders and to the people who are able to afford stock in these companies. To many government leaders in to many different countries seem to believe that their infrastructure must have a very strong weapons export economic base. People in these ‘second and third’ world nations (economically) need safe housing, schools, clothing and food. They need an infrastructure, roads, bridges, hospitals and jobs. I am sure that you noticed that these items I mentioned are the same exact things that the people of the economic powers also want and need, in most respects all people need and wish for the same things. The ‘Western Powers’ have a long history of setting up ‘war lords’ to rule small countries, then sell them a lot of weapons whom they use against their own citizens and then we wonder why their people hate us so much.
Now, back to the main line of thought, the situation in Syria. The Syrian President Mr. Assad has many economic and security issues within his borders and hundreds of thousands of people have died because of this Civil War that has been raging for the past six years. Back in the first term of U.S. President Obama when he had Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State the so-called Arab Spring started. Mrs. Clinton pushed Mr. Obama into trying to ‘help’ fire up the civil war in Libya to over through their dictator, look at the total mess that Libya still is. Egypt came next where we helped to over through their dictator then we got the Muslim Brotherhood who had to be over thrown by the Egyptian Army before Egypt became another Libya. Then Hillary set her eyes on removing President Assad from power in Syria, now look at what a disaster Syria has become.
The U.S. encouraged the Syrian citizens to revolt against President Assad and we have spent several billion dollars on training and supplying weapons to ‘moderate Islamist’ whom Assad calls terrorist, if the situation were reversed would we not call them terrorist? As we all know when we decided to pull out of neighboring Iraq we opened up a vacuum along their western border which made a very weak Iraqi government even weaker. We should have stayed longer just doing border control help while the government soldiers and police tried to keep the peace in the cities and the country’s interior. Our governments failures helped open up the eastern part of Syria and the western part of Iraq (both Shiite Islamic nations) for a new Sunni military army to step in and form their own government in these two countries. ISIS is a result of our governments ignorance of reality in this part of the world. We say we are in Syria to fight against this group of mass murderers and that we are not at war with Syria itself but that is an obvious lie. If we are training and supplying groups like the ‘Free Syrian Army’ who are fighting to bring Assad’s government down then we are in an ‘undeclared’ war with the Syrian government.
The Syrian government has many allies to help them fight the different intruders trying to over through them. Russia of course is their most powerful ally but they do have several more including other Shiite countries like Iraq, Iran and basically Lebanon through their proxy Hezbollah. The ethnic people know as Kurd’s are also fighting against ISIS but their case is a bit different because several hundred thousand Kurdish people have lived within these borders for thousands of years so in a sense they are fighting against ISIS and to a degree against the Syrian government in an attempt to keep and to achieve their own Nation. The recent episodes where we have shot down a Syrian jet fighter and a couple of Iranian drones has brought the U.S. closer to direct war with Syria, Russia and Iran. These events would not be a reality if we simply weren’t there. Some will say that we have to be there to fight ISIS but this is not true. The American people have spent our own money and blood in a Nation who has not attacked us or declared war on us and whom does not want us there. If the U.S. and our ‘Alliance’ partners were not there then Syria’s allies would have and could have taken our place with their bombers and their soldiers. But the real question is why are we doing what we are doing there? My question is, is it because of the trillions of dollars in war materials our economy produces and of course the jobs this creates for our economy? Could the reason partly be because of the friends our politicians have on the Boards of these companies, or is it because of the stocks that our Senators, Congressmen and women and also this President own in these companies?
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A day after a US Navy fighter jet shot down a Syrian war plane , Russia says it has stopped using a key communication channel set up to avoid conflict between US and Russian forces in Syria.
Amping up rhetoric against US actions in the area, Russia said Monday it will consider aircraft west of the Euphrates River “air targets” and track them by air and on land.
The Defense Ministry explained the move by saying it will stop abiding by its military cooperation agreement with the US in Syria.
And a top Russian official called the US downing of the Syrian plane an act of aggression that assists terrorists.
A senior US defense official tells CNN the so-called “de-confliction line” remains open with Russia. The official also says the US does not believe Russia is targeting US planes at this time.
This is not the first time that Russia has said the “de-confliction” channel has been suspended. In April, after the US missile strike on a Syrian airbase, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Russia would suspend the 2015 agreement aimed at minimizing risks of in-flight incidents.
US downing of plane an “act of aggression”
The US military said that it shot down a warplane that had dropped bombs near Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) fighters. SDF forces are backed by the US-led coalition fighting ISIS.
It’s the first time the US has shot down a Syrian aircraft since it began fighting ISIS in the country in 2014.
“This strike can be regarded as another act of defiance of international law by the United States,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Monday, according to Russia’s state-run news agency Tass.
“What was it, if not an act of aggression? It was also an act of assistance to those terrorists whom the United States is ostensibly fighting against,” Ryabkov said.
“Considered air targets,” Russia says
The Russian Ministry of Defense called the downing of the plane “a cynical violation of the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic” and “military aggression.” It also demanded an investigation by US command.
Further, the ministry’s statement declares that west of the Euphrates River, Russian aircraft will escort any aircraft and unmanned vehicles.
“From now on, in areas where Russian aviation performs combat missions in the skies of Syria, any air-born objects found west of the Euphrates River, including aircraft and unmanned vehicles belonging to the international coalition, tracked by means of Russian land and air anti-aircraft defense, will be considered air targets,” the statement reads.
The US military is prohibited by law from coordinating directly with the Russian military, but given the increased pace and scale of military operations in Syria, the US and Russia have sought ways to ensure that their respective personnel are not targeted by mistake, setting up a series of so-called “de-confliction zones” that delineate areas of operation for the coalition and the Russian forces.
Strike followed attack on SDF-controlled area
The Syrian aircraft was destroyed, the Russian ministry said. The pilot of the Syrian Air Force self-ejected over the area controlled by ISIS, and his fate is unknown, the ministry said.
The strike came a little more than two hours after forces allied with the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad attacked the north-central Syria town of Ja’Din, which was controlled by the SDF.
A number of SDF forces were wounded in the attack, the statement from the Combined Joint Task Force said. The attack drove the SDF from Ja’Din, which is west of Raqqa, the coalition statement said.
CNN’s Mary Ilyushina and Emma Burrows contributed to this report.
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Syrian president Bashar al-Assad never seemed cut out to be a dictator. As a young man, Assad—the second son of strongman president Hafez al-Assad—was so painfully shy that in conversation, “he wouldn’t look in your eye…he covered his mouth with his hands when he talked, and spoke in a low voice,” says Ayman Abdel Nour, a university friend. Indeed, Assad generally avoided gatherings of more than handful of people, and would hunch over to make his tall frame less conspicuous. “He was a totally regular citizen; you wouldn’t guess he was the son of the president unless you knew him personally,” Abdel Nour remembers.
While Bashar’s flashy older brother Bassel quickly rose through the ranks of the military, Bashar chose to study ophthalmology and took a softer posting as an army doctor. “The doctors aren’t considered real army,” Abdel Nour says. “They’re not real fighters—there’s no army in the world where the major general is a doctor.”
But Assad’s relatively quiet life changed dramatically when Bassel died in a car accident in 1993. Studying in London at the time of the crash, Assad was called back to Syria where his father dubbed him the new “hope” of the Syrian people. Seven years later, after his father’s death, he took over as president. In 2013, the urbane, Phil Collins-loving would-be eye doctor reportedly slaughtered around 1,400 people in what the UN called the “most significant confirmed use of chemical weapons against civilians since Saddam Hussein” in 1988. On April 4th, Assad used chemical weapons (paywall) on his own people again.
“There’s an irreconcilable Dr Jekyll-Mr Hyde tension in the person of Assad.”“There’s an irreconcilable Dr Jekyll-Mr Hyde tension in the person of Assad,” says Nadim Houry, who directs Human Rights Watch’s terrorism program and spent 11 years monitoring Assad’s regime. “There’s this clean-cut guy who gets interviewed by outlets, always has an Apple laptop on his desk and speaks very calmly. He’s very far from the image of an Arab dictator like Saddam or Gadaffi with their rifles in the air. Yet when you look at the behavior of the regime, it behaves very much like a typical, brutal Arab dictatorship—massive torture, massive killing of civilians, indiscriminate and deliberate bombing.”
The world has reacted with horror to Assad’s brutality, but while his cruelty is nothing new in the region, his transformation is more perplexing. What could possibly have so changed this soft-spoken man, who promised to reform his late father’s heavy-handed dictatorship, into a tyrant so desperate to hold on to power that he would eventually gas his own people to do so?
Ask 10 different Syrian experts and you’ll get 10 different answers. No one really knows if Assad ever genuinely cared about the reformist ideas he initially championed, but there was at least some early inclination towards economic liberalism. What we do know is that these desires were repeatedly trampled by two factors: the entrenched authoritarianism of the forces around him, and the instincts that shaped him.
“He’s a child of the Cold War on the side of the USSR; of the Arab-Israeli conflict on the side of the Arab states; and, most of all, he’s the child of his father,” says David Lesch, a history professor at Trinity University in Texas, and the author of two books on Assad’s Syria. “These are the influences that shaped his worldview, rather than being a computer nerd and liking Western music.”
The “Damascus Spring” and high early expectations
After 29 years of Hafez al-Assad, a ruthless air force commander who came to power in a coup, Bashar’s sleek suits and British investment-banker wife seemed like a breath of fresh air. His inaugural speech in July 2000 called for “democracy,” “transparency,” and “constructive criticism”—it even contained implicit criticisms of his father. “The speech created a great deal of hope,” says Lesch.
The inauguration was followed by a period of relative openness, known as the “Damascus Spring.” Some opposition parties were allowed, the press got a little bit freer, and hundreds of political prisoners were released. Liberal intellectuals founded discussion salons across the Syrian capital and put together political pamphlets and petitions for reform.
His inauguration was followed by a period of relative openness. It didnt last long.But this openness didn’t last long. “Of course, it didn’t take more than a few weeks before people were demanding regime change because the regime was so corrupt,” says Joshua Landis, director of the University of Oklahoma’s Middle East Studies Center and author of the Syria Comment blog. “It stunk. The whole thing stunk—so, any kind of critique had to lead to regime change.” Within months, Assad was warning (pdf, p. 5) that civil society groups criticizing the government were, consciously or unconsciously, helping “the country’s enemies” and, ominously, would be “dealt with.” A few months later, 10 opposition leaders were imprisoned.
Even now, there’s little agreement among analysts on whether Assad actually wanted the “Damascus Spring” to last. Dovish voices like Lesch believe his mildly progressive ambitions were thwarted by hardliners from his father’s government. Many others believe the early rhetoric was merely a front to attract international investment to Syria’s backward economy. “It was a PR campaign to normalize the government,” says Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Radwan Ziadeh, a human-rights activist and fellow at the Arab Institute in Washington, DC, agrees. “The Damascus spring was only a cosmetic step to try to get legitimacy,” he says. “Assad actually got this because lot of international leaders praised him early on.”
“The Damascus spring was only a cosmetic step to try to get legitimacy.”Ziadeh has good reason to be skeptical of Assad’s motives—he was one of the opposition intellectuals Assad targeted in 2001. Never persuaded by Assad’s promises of reform, Ziadeh criticized him in articles published under a pseudonym in Lebanese newspapers. When the crackdown started, the government took his passport away, censored his writing, and had him followed by the security services for almost a year, he says. He eventually fled to the US in 2007 under the pretext of buying medicine for his father, who had cancer, and has never returned to Syria.
The family ties that bind
Even if political reforms were a veneer, Assad did seem committed to economic liberalization. His father had shored up power through what Landis calls an “authoritarian bargain.” In this Soviet-style model, the regime provides the means for basic sustenance for the rural working class, who in exchange give their political allegiance to it. However, during the 29 years of Hafez’s reign, the country’s population had more than doubled, and as the world globalized, the country badly needed to open its economy up to allow non-oil sectors to develop.
Despite resistance from old hands in the security services who worried that any openness would lead to opposition, Bashar did bring about some economic reforms. Banks were privatized, the internet was introduced, and foreign investment was made easier. However, his motivation for such changes was hardly altruistic, argues Abdel Nour, Assad’s university friend, who worked as a voluntary government adviser in the early 2000s. In reality, he says, changing the economy to help ordinary Syrians was far from the top of Assad’s priorities; what was most important was enriching his friends and, especially, his family.
Abdel Nour says this ulterior motive finally dawned on him in 2003, when Syria’s parliament passed a reform bill he had worked on. Assad’s uncle persuaded him not to sign the bill until it had been changed to include six or seven clauses that would directly benefit his cousin’s businesses.
“I realized then that I’m not working for a country, I’m working for a family business”—Ayman Abdel Nour, former friend of AssadThat was the last time Abdel Nour spoke to his old university friend. “I realized then that I’m not working for a country, I’m working for a family business,” he says. “I discovered that all this about reforms was wrong; it was bullshit and propaganda. So I decided to inform the Syrian people about what has happening so they would push for reforms themselves.” Abdel Nour stopped advising Assad, and set up the opposition news website All4Syria, which he now runs from Los Angeles.
In keeping with another common dictatorial trope, Assad’s cronyism eventually backfired, Landis says, as it undermined the “authoritarian bargain” that kept his father in power. “The class gap suddenly just widened,” he says. “That created tremendous resentment because the elite would get wealthy beyond belief.” This division would set the stage for Syria’s 2011 revolution—an event that would also solidify Assad’s transformation into a cold-blooded mass murderer.
Assad would also learn that even limited change can embolden the opposition. For example, by insisting on bringing the internet to Syria, he made surveillance impossible at the levels his father had maintained. The security services had managed easily when snooping meant tapping phone lines and reading mail— but they just weren’t capable of covering the giant spiderweb of the internet. The web also gave people access to information and enabled debate. Both factors helped spark the 2011 uprising.
The Iraq war and the power of paranoia
Assad’s shift away from reform dovetailed with a change in his personality, as he withdrew into a bubble of authoritarian power. Lesch notes this behavior has been a hallmark of Syrian leaders for decades. “The Syrian leadership since the 1950s has been a very paranoid leadership because of constant coups and counter-coups. There have been enough imperialist shenanigans to make them believe that any opposition is a conspiracy,” he says.
Lesch says he first glimpsed this alternative reality when talking to Assad shortly after his re-election in 2007. The only candidate in what was technically a referendum on his presidency, Assad waltzed to victory with 97.6% of the vote. Lesch had spent hours and hours interviewing the president while writing a book about him in 2004 and 2005, and says he got to know a “self- deprecating, unpretentious, humble guy.”
“I remember thinking…that he had drunk the Kool-Aid of power and that he would be president for life.”But when Lesch asked him his thoughts on the sham vote that had brought him back to power, he was taken aback by the reply. “I really thought he’d say, ‘You know, it’s not a real election,’” Lesch said. “But he sat back and said, ‘The people love me; this shows they really love me.’ I remember thinking to myself at that moment that he had drunk the Kool-Aid of power and that he would be president for life.”
Assad’s paranoia, too, began to noticeably increase. “He became a psychopath, believing that if you are not with me, you are against me, and you should be killed,” says Abdel Nour. Assad’s fears were only heightened by the Iraq war and US president George W. Bush’s rhetoric of “democracy promotion” and “regime change.” Dictators throughout the region saw their fears of external enemies validated.
Assad’s tough talk regarding the Anglo-American invasion further soured his relations with the US, which had been fraught ever since Bush widened the “axis of evil” in 2002 to include Syria, Cuba, and Libya. Then came a more direct attack: In December 2003, Bush placed sanctions on Syria over its decades-long occupation of Lebanon and backing of terrorist groups.
Assad initially refused to withdraw his troops from Lebanon. But after being accused of ordering the murder of Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, he bowed to the international pressure and pulled out. The capitulation stung and “fed the feeling that [Assad] is insecure, and that he can’t handle these regional or international crises,” says Ziadeh.
An insecure dictator playing with fire
By the time journalist Reese Erlich interviewed Assad in 2006, he found an insecure dictator, obsessed with the conceit that his people loved him and reforms were not needed. The forces that would shape the 2011 civil war were becoming clearer. And yet, Assad refused to address prominent issues like the possibility of free elections or opposition parties, whether Syria should grant citizenship to its hundreds of thousands of ethnic Kurds, or how to deal with the country’s rampant inequality.
“He basically brushed off all these things as either unimportant or plots from the West,” says Erlich, whose book Inside Syria documents the dynamics that led to the civil war.
“…when I turned the mic to him he would suddenly jump.”Paranoia marked those interviews too. Assad became jittery at the sight of Erlich’s radio microphone, which ever so slightly resembles a gun. “The security people had checked it so they knew it wasn’t a weapon,” Erlich said. “But he got all nervous… I would point the microphone at my own mouth when I spoke and then when I turned the mic to him he would suddenly jump.”
In public, however, Assad was defiant. In 2010, despite his promises to help constrain the Lebanon-based militant Islamist party Hezbollah, the US received clear intelligence that Assad’s government had given it Scud missiles. When John Kerry, later US secretary of State but then a senior senator, confronted Assad with this discovery, the Syrian president was unflustered, Tabler says: “At first, Assad denied that they are Scud missiles, and then he said, ‘No, no, these are [fake] Israeli films.’”
For Tabler, this episode highlights Assad’s duplicity, his nefarious priorities, and his relationships with nations like Iran and Russia. Iran’s support and strategic backing of Hezbollah enabled Assad to openly lie to Kerry, just as Russia’s political and military assistance continues to give him cover to use chemical weapons.
The other effect of the Iraq war was increasing sectarianism and the spread of radical Islamism across the region. According to Tabler, Assad contributed to this increase by “allowing jihadists into the country through Damascus airport to go and fight US forces in Iraq.”
But like his economic policies, this decision, too, would eventually hurt him. By the end of the Iraq war, large groups of the disenfranchised, radical Sunnis he had let in were based in the east of the country—Syria’s poorest region. They would eventually become recruits for ISIL. Meanwhile, Assad’s power relied in part on the support of Christians and other minorities, along with Sunni urban elites. As a member of the minority Alawite sect in a country with a heavy Sunni majority, Assad’s meddling was playing with fire.
From father of the people to executioner
The 2011 revolution crystallized Assad’s psychological and political decline. When protesters took to the streets—at first calling not for regime change, but for political reforms—his reaction was a telling one.
“The West looks at this like he’s killing his own countrymen and unfortunately he doesn’t see it this way.”Assad “demonize[d] his opponents as Saudi terrorists who are bringing Islamic fascism to Syria,” Landis said. His narrative was that these were not Syrians, but foreign forces seeking to undermine one of the last bastions of pan-Arab secularism. “He began to see this as an existential struggle and that these people who were fighting against him were foreign terrorists—and he believed his own rhetoric,” Landis said. “The West looks at this like he’s killing his own countrymen and unfortunately he doesn’t see it this way.”
Once you’ve persuaded yourself of this falsehood, Lesch says, fighting an existential threat can justify terrible means. Assad’s forces “don’t have the resources to go town to town to retake them from the opposition,” Lesch says, “so they need to use the asymmetric methods [like chemical weapons] to brutalize them.”
Another view, from dissidents like Ziadeh and Abdel Nour, is that Assad didn’t justify his slaughter by “othering” the rebels. Instead, he was invoking something akin to medieval Western monarchs’ belief in the “divine right of kings.” “Like his father, he always believed that he had the right to do whatever he wants to his own people; to kill them, torture them, disappear them: ‘They are my own people and that’s the sovereignty that I have,’” explains Ziadeh. Assad, he says, sees himself as a father punishing his errant sons. “The father is allowed to do whatever when the sons make mistakes. He doesn’t understand that this is a social contract between the Syrians and elected officials.”
“The real test comes when your authority is really challenged.”Abdel Nour agrees: “His brain doesn’t keep him up at night telling him not to do these terrible things because he thinks he’s the representative of God; that people who are against him are sinning against God,” he said.
The question of what turns a man into a monster is never an easy one. For Assad, it’s possible the seeds of brutality were planted very early on, lying dormant but ready to emerge when the time was right. Or perhaps he simply succumbed to a system that for decades had existed with the principle goal of keeping hold of power. Certainly, after 2011 there would be no turning back.
As Houry points out, a leader’s true colors come out when their regime is under threat. “Gaddafi did not start out as a crazy man, he ended up that way,” he says. “The real test comes when your authority is really challenged, and Assad’s authority was never challenged before 2011.” When the challenge came, Assad met it, in the eyes of hawks like Tabler, by being “more brutal on his own people than Saddam or Gadaffi ever did.”
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Yesterday, we discussed Bashar al-Assad’s trouble following the US strike and his denial of the town of Khan Shaykhoun chemical attack by saying it was 100% fabricated.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the reports indicating there is a chemical attack in the town are fake. Lavrov’s statements came during a press conference in Moscow on Friday held jointly with the Assad’ regime FM and the Iranian FM.
Are Lavrov and Assad on the same page? Is Lavrov defending Assad? They may share the same understanding but surely the motives are different. It seems that Lavrov is not defending Damascus’ criminal as much as he is protecting Russia which vowed in 2013 to remove Assad’s chemical arsenal after using it against Syrians.
Moscow took that pledge so that Assad can evade crossing the red lines set by former US President Barack Obama who was lenient towards Assad’s crime and cast a blind eye as part of a Russian debunked trick.
Things are different today, precisely after the US strike. Russia can no longer be the honest mediator after Assad used chemical weapons once again. One can’t rely on the credibility of Russia in Syria.
It is astounding that Russia, Iran and Assad’s regime, are demanding via Lavrov a thorough and honest investigation into the chemical attack in Idlib.
It is “astounding” because Russia itself had used the veto for the 8th time during the security council’s session on Wednesday to protect Assad from being condemned for using the toxic gas and thus pressuring Assad to cooperate with an international investigation into that incident!
It is also “astounding” since Assad himself had told AFP: “Syria would only allow an impartial investigation into the poison gas incident involving unbiased countries in order to make sure that they won’t use it for politicized purposes.”
He added that during the days that followed the attack, they discussed with Russia the possibility of an international investigation.
So, who should do such an investigation? How can it be international without being under the umbrella of an international organization of the UN? Is it that they want Russia to do the investigation and thus repeat the charade of Arab observers in Syria?
This is quite strange and it gives away the fact that Russia is not defending Assad as much as it is trying to protect its credibility. That is why Moscow hindered the UN project and demanded a new definition of “impartial” investigation and outside the UN monitoring.
Russia is doing this to protect its credibility that was tampered by Assad, which is his game. By game here we mean lying. But who believes Moscow now?
Is using chemical weapons any different that explosive barrels? Or killing Syrians with Russian-Iranian weapons?
Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin’s mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor’s degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.
A bomb blast hit a bus convoy waiting to cross into government-held Aleppo in Syria on Saturday, killing and wounding dozens of people evacuated from two Shi’ite villages the day before in a deal between warring sides.
The agreement had stalled, leaving thousands of people from both government-besieged and rebel-besieged areas stranded at two transit points on the city’s outskirts, before the explosion occurred.
Pro-Damascus media outlets said a suicide attacker detonated a car bomb and killed at least 22 people. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the death toll was at least 24.
Footage on state TV showed bodies lying next to charred buses with their windows blown out, and vehicles in flames.
The blast hit buses in the Rashidin area on Aleppo’s outskirts. The vehicles had been waiting since Friday to cross from rebel-held territory into the government-controlled city itself.
The convoy was carrying residents and pro-government fighters from the rebel-besieged Shi’ite villages of al-Foua and Kefraya in nearby Idlib province.
They had left under a deal where, in exchange, hundreds of Sunni insurgents and their families were granted safe passage from Madaya, a government-besieged town near Damascus.
But a delay in the agreement had left all those evacuated stuck at transit points on Aleppo’s outskirts since late on Friday.
Residents of al-Foua and Kefraya were waiting in the Rashidin area.
The rebels and residents of Madaya, near Damascus, were waiting at the government-held Ramousah bus garage, a few miles away. They were to be transported to the opposition stronghold of Idlib province.
Still image shows a cloud of black smoke rising from vehicles in the distance in what is said to be Aleppo’s outskirts, Syria April 15, 2017. Social Media Website via Reuters TV
People waiting in the Ramousah garage heard the blast, and said they feared revenge attacks by pro-government forces. They circulated a statement on social media imploring “international organizations” to intervene so the situation did not escalate.
The evacuation deal is one of several over recent months that has seen President Bashar al-Assad’s government take back control of areas long besieged by his forces and their allies.
The deals are unpopular with the Syrian opposition, who say they amount to forced displacement of Assad’s opponents from Syria’s main urban centers in the west of the country.
They are also causing demographic changes because those who are displaced are usually Sunni Muslims, like most of the opposition. Assad is from the minority Alawite sect and is supported by Shi’ite regional allies.
It was unclear who carried out Saturday’s bombing attack.
The exact reasons for the delay in completing the evacuation deal were also unclear.
The Observatory said the delay was caused by the fact that rebels from Zabadani, another town near Damascus included in the deal, had not yet been granted safe passage out.
A pro-opposition activist said insurgents blamed the delay partly on the fact that a smaller number of pro-government fighters had left the Shi’ite villages than was agreed.
Earlier on Saturday, at the transit point where the buses from al-Foua and Kefraya were waiting, one resident said he was not yet sure where he would live.