Moscow plans to suspend military cooperation with Ankara after the downing of a Russian bomber by Turkish air forces, Russian General Staff representatives said on Tuesday. Further measures to beef up Russian air base security in Syria will also be taken.
The Russian Air Force should continue its efforts to close the Jarabulus-Afrin corridor in northern Syria, despite the latest Turkish provocation, Bangkok-based geopolitical analyst Tony Cartalucci stresses.
In shooting down a Russian jet operating over Syria, Turkey’s nefarious role in the Syrian conflict has intensified. It also presents a damning indictment of the West's seriousness in confronting extremism and terrorism.
A video has emerged showing the shocking moments when a car carrying two RT reporters was nearly hit by a guided anti-tank missile in Syria. The reporters sustained various injuries and said they escaped heavier injuries only thanks to their body armor.
Note, Nov. 12: With life pressures, a bit of burn-out and distractions, I haven't been able to sort out all the complex information that belongs here, let alone tackle other pending subject). At the moment I'm re-working much of it, mainly the core part of FSA brigades involved in the operation, with plans to re-write this and maybe split off some parts. Nov. 22 - making progress.
Intro 1 (will move/change - skip it) With Syria's ruling government long ago deemed illegitimate and unacceptable, those competing to fill the supposed vacuum include the FSA (Free Syrian Army), largely mythical but "moderate," except parts of disputed size that are kind of Islamist. On another end of the opposition spectrum is the ridiculously barbaric Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL or, hereafter, the Arabic acronym/slur "Daesh"). In the north there are the Kurds, who have been persuaded to be largely anti-government, but in the rest of Syria, the space between Daesh and FSA is filled by a gaggle of hard-to-decipher Jihadist groups, topped with Jabhat al-Nusra, the official branch of Al-Qaeda in Syria - who like the FSA and the rest appear to many as relatively moderate - compared to Daesh.
Recently there's been much protest at how Russian bombs are being aimed at anti-government fighters we often learn with shock are not members of Daesh. The targets are said by the West to be CIA-backed "moderate" rebels the Russians still call terrorists, and activists say they're mainly hitting civilian targets anyway, which the same West condemns. And now that Daesh/Islamic State in Sinai is (possibly) punishing Russian air travelers for Moscow's intervention.
It seems confusing, as the West claims to be targeting them more seriously than Russia and yet ... not suffering terrorist reprisals like airliners shot down... but Daesh and the West agree on regime change, which the Russian air campaign is the biggest threat to. And so the Islamic State, if it launched any such attack on Russia, would be protecting the same project launched by the West and its regional allies in 2011.
It seems we could use a more careful consideration, by minds on all sides of this debate, of the differences, the similarities, and the relationship between these groups, the opportunity provided to all of them by the regime change campaign, and the growing cost to humanity inside and outside the targeted area of that ongoing campaign.
Intro 2 My main contribution at the moment is to review a chillingly relevant case, not quite ignored but strangely muted: the early August, 2013 cluster of massacres around Sheikh Nabhan mountain in Latakia province. It's not a recent case, but relevant. Probably over 200 non-combatants were killed, mainly on August 4, in the worst-yet accepted rebel massacre of civilians of the Alawi (Alawite) faith of President Assad. I and others covered it at the time on this page at A Closer Look On Syria (and more on the talk page). Most readers could use at least a refresher on this incident before we examine just who the "rebels" were in this case.But that's been moved to its own post (also linked at the top). Please check that if you're not familiar with the horror of what we're dealing with hee.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, issued in October, dedicated to blaming Islamist rebel factions for "War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity," based on the available evidence. It will be heavily cited from here on, and is available here:
"You can still see their blood" - Executions, indiscriminate shooting, and hostage taking by opposition forces in Latakia countryside. PDF, 113 pages. Researched and written by Lama Fakih, Human Rights Watch, October 11, 2013. Read or download page (note: the endnotes don't seem to work, on my end anyway)
Involved: Non-FSA Islamists HRW List: Five Jihadist Groups Human Rights Watch's October Report dealt in some detail and nearly half their report with which groups were involved, from fighting to funding. Christof Lehman for one finds serious shortcomings in the report, mainly in the area of external support, focusing on disposable "small fish" and not big backers, especially Western-allied state backers. And the report may go soft on the Western-backed FSA and other Western-backed groups. We'll come back to that. Nonetheless, it seems accurate and useful in what it does mention.
The HRW investigation "found that at least 20 distinct armed opposition groups participated in the operation." It wasn't clear who all was present on the 4th when the worst massacres happened, but they identified five groups "who were the key fundraisers, organizers, planners, and executors of the attacks" and "were clearly present from the outset..." Two of these are the well-known #3 Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra or Victory Front) and #2 Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (herein Daesh) These should need no introduction, but the other three are: (see here for more details on each group) 1) Ahrar al-Sham -Harakat Ahrar ash-Sham al-Islamiyya (Islamic Movement of the Free Men of the Levant") A coalition of Islamist brigades that "cooperates with the Free Syrian Army and other secular rebel groups; however, it does not maintain ties with the Syrian National Council." In October 2013 their political office was in the ISIS capitol of Raqqah, suggesting teamwork then at least (Reuters, Oct. 11). HRW heard that Ahrar al-Sham "assumed responsibility for the hostages taken during the offensive," "announced on its website that it had participated in a coordinated operation to “liberate” four villages," (Isterbeh, Nabata(misspelled), Hamboushia, Abu Makka) and posted video of them breaking into homes in a fifth (Balouta). 4) Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar -(Army of Emigrants and Supporters), briefly affiliated with Daesh but "after changes in leadership it took an increasingly hostile stance against it." In September 2015, JMA joined with JaN. JMA-Daesh confusion - formally allied at the time: SOHR Facebook post "Confirmed reports that a Libyan Emir of the ISIS was killed by the al-Hamboshiya clashes ..." Others report the same as "a Libyan kidnapper named Abu Suhaib Alleebi, Emir of the Mujahadeen Brigade."
5) Suquor al-Izz - Wikipedia as Suqour al-Ezz - - (Arabic: كتيبة صقور العز) - primarily Saudi jihadists - initially cooperated with both Daesh and Nusra, rejected the former and merged into Nusra in January, 2014.HRW adds: "Sheikh Saqr, the leader of Suquor al-Izz, seems to identify himself on what is believed to be his Twitter account as the person responsible for the finances for the operation and that Abu Taha from Ahrar al-Sham was his deputy in this regard. The operation was reportedly largely financed by private Gulf based donors."
The other groups with evidence of involvement in the fighting in the relevant areas, and maybe but not clearly involved in planning or executing the massacres. (again, see here for more details on each group) 6) ...
Implicated by Graffiti HRW cited some clues in the scrawls left behind, presumably, by the killers. Of course this isn't the strongest clue, as anyone could write anyone else's name to make them look bad. We saw this in Libya already, rebel-found massacre sites covered with pro-Gaddafi slogans. But in this case, all other evidence tends to point to the same people.
As cited above, "heroes of Khirbet al-Jawz" were aiming for "the genocide of the Alawites" per one message. Another tag shown in a photo says “Oussama Bin Zeid Battalion.” Another photo: "“Thuwar al-Haffeh passed through here, there is no God but God.” (Hiffeh is a nearby city and this general area. Thuwar = Islamic "revolutionaries") (to do: search these groups) One message written on a vacated house says "The Free Syrian Army passed through here.”Just where and when are not clear.
Al-Mayadeen's documentary, as transcribed, describes the scene as they entered Balouta: "Various banners and scrawled messages are around indicating which gangs of terrorists were in this village. ... “Jabhat al Nusra”, “Dawat al Islam”, “Katibet Soukour al-Iz”, “The Islamic State of Iraq and Sham” and “Haraqat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyyah” .... More foodstuffs are found. The packaging is written in Turkish." (to do: search Dawat al-Islam - the rest are covered by HRW)
I have my own video stills - one from Kharata, the other maybe also (need to check) showing readable rebel graffiti, sharpened up to more readable. I don't have a full translation yet. I couldn't make out much past "Allahu Akbar." Petri got a half-usable translation from his network, which I verified, even correcting one part (see here) into the following best reading (may change).
1) seen in Kharata, pop. 37 (which, by the way, I corrected HRW's placement on by studying the videos from there. My map above shows it where it is.) (source video 0:50, at "checkpoint" on road into town): Top, easy: Allah Akbar الله أكبر Line 2 first half: first brigade اللواء الأول Line 2, second half: an unclear symbol, then "western front" الجبهة الغربية line 3 "belonging to Authenticity and Development Front." (or Front for... FAD) التابع لجبهة الأصالة والتنمية As that link, to the ACLOS discussion/investigation shows, FAD is a U.S.-backed, "moderate Islamist" force, using FSA colors and cooperating with them, but not a part of FSA or answerable to the "moderate" SNC. They get funding from Saudi Arabia. They keep a fairly low profile, but with controlled territory, if limited (sectors of Aleppo, Deraa, Douma, decreasing from there, with no swathes of land). "Western front" suggests this is past their usual turf, as almost anything would be - perhaps a unit invented just for this for this joint foray.
The graffiti was seen in a video of theirs, on the wall of a checkpoint at the entrance to the village. This suggests they were in charge of that town. Reports are not clear how many civilians were killed here - some don't mention fatalities there (HRW's report doesn't), some say only 10 survived, the other 27 killed. The FAD is reasonably implicated in the massacre.
2) moved to intro post ...
Involved: FSA "Protectors"?
Claiming to be There, Accused of Trying Not to Be Human Rights Watch's five groups clearly implicated in the rampage of August 4 does not include any FSA brigades, but at least one network they cooperate with (Ahrar al-Sham), besides FAD, and the four others they may have worked with in the only case we're talking about at the moment. An "opposition activist" who says he witnessed the operations who spoke to HRW "said that (the FSA's) participation did not begin until after August 4 and that it was limited." Otherwise, here's how the report handled possible FSA involvement:
In the case of the other groups who participated in the operation, the extent of their involvement in fundraising, planning, and leading it, and direct participation in abuses is not clear. It is also unclear whether their fighters were present and involved in the operation on August 4, the date when Human Rights Watch believes the abuses took place.
One of these groups is the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army which is led by Salim Idriss, the Chief of Staff. Several statements from Idriss, days after the beginning of the operation, indicate that fighters under his command were participating in it days after August 4.
Reuters is reporting that now a Russian military helicopter is down, apparently by a group fighting the Syrian government in Syria:BEIRUT - Syrian fighters fired at a Russian helicopter forcing it to make an emergency landing in a nearby government-held area in Syria's Latakia province on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.A Syrian insurgent group, recipient of U.S. Tow missiles, said its fighters hit the helicopter with an anti-tank missile.
Russia will have to resort to electronic warfare in Syria to protect its pilots and prevent incidents similar to the downing of Russia’s Su-24 jet on Tuesday, according to Lieutenant-General Evgeny Buzhinsky; they will include both ground-based systems and equipment installed on special aircraft.
Muscovites are outraged by the shooting down of Russian SU-24 on an anti-terrorist mission over Syria. People discuss it in homes, on public transport and in cafés.Russians feel betrayed. They thought Turkey was a friend, one of the first countries to fly civilian planes to Crimea after it reunited with Russia, and a favorite Russian holiday destination.
The leaders of all countries should consider the potential dangers of war games and do whatever it takes to prevent the escalation of the world's most hazardous conflicts, according to Robert Farley, a senior lecturer on diplomacy for the University of Kentucky.
Turkey has been consistent in pursuing its own agenda: to pretend to be fighting ISIS while settling scores with one of the two parties that are actually capable of fighting ISIS on the ground – the Kurds, says Foreign Affairs Editor Srdja Trifkovic.
Turkey has entered the war on the side of the Islamic State, the Vice President of the Italian Senate Roberto Calderoli said after a Russian Su-24 jet was downed over Syria with an air-to-air missile launched by a Turkish F-16 fighter.
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