MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : Will the PKK use drones very soon ? – By Michael Rubin September 20, 2018 | Washington Examiner

Get ready: The Kurds might soon use drones against TurkeyIn 2013, after months of secret negotiations between imprisoned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s representatives, Turkey and the PKK agreed to a cease-fire, one condition of which was the departure of PKK fighters from Turkey. As part of that agreement, many entered Syria where they augmented the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the most successful indigenous force first in the fight against the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front and then in the battle against the Islamic State.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS TODAYS “MUST READ” : The Underground Caliphate

 ISIS Has Not Vanished. It Is Fighting a Guerrilla War Against the Iraqi State. – September 16 2018, 3:00 p.m. BY SIMONA FOLTYN – THE INTERCEPT

The knock came one night late last year, a persistent bang on the metal door. The family inside shuddered as the sound echoed through the sparsely furnished farmhouse. Officially, their village had been liberated from the so-called Islamic State in October 2017, along with the nearby town of Hawija. But the military campaign had been hasty. The militants had sought refuge in the nearby mountains, leaving Iraqi forces to sweep through the area unchallenged.

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MESOP EXCLUSIVE : Full text of Turkey-Russia memorandum on Idlib revealed

Exclusive: Document calls for the reopening of routes between Aleppo and regime-held areas

The document, obtained exclusively by The National, lists a 10-point plan to avoid an offensive in the northwestern Syrian province. Aside from the demilitarized zone, which would go “15-20 kms deep in the de-escalation area”, the document grants the Iranian-Russian-Turkish coordination centre a role in implementing the ceasefires. The centre was established under Astana talks.

“Effective measures will be taken for ensuring sustainable ceasefire regime within the Idlib de-escalation area. In this regard, the functions of the Joint Iranian-Russian-Turkish Coordination Center will be enhanced,” it said.

Both the Assad government and Iran welcomed the agreement on Tuesday.

The document also declares that transit traffic “on the routes M4 (Aleppo-Latakia) and M5 (Aleppo-Hama) will be restored by the end of 2018.”

These routes have not been active since 2014, but have become viable again after the government, backed by Russia and Iran, recaptured Aleppo in December 2016. Those routes would help resume trade between neighboring Turkey and regime-held areas. The document says these steps are a way “to ensuring free movement of local residents and goods and restoring trade and economic relations”.

It indicates that more work needs to be done for a full agreement on the 15 km demilitarised zone. It says that “the delineation of exact lines of the demilitarised zone will be determined through further consultations”. It also adds that “the two sides reiterated their determination to combat terrorism in Syria in all forms and manifestations”.

The document has been already sent to the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and current President of the Security Council, US Permanent Representative to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

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www.mesop.de

 

MESOPOTAMIA NEWS TODAYS FOCAL OPINION : THE SMART WAY TO SANCTION IRANIAN-BACKED MILITIAS IN IRAQ

by Michael Knights, Barbara Leaf, Matthew Levitt, and Phillip Smyth

PolicyWatch 3018 September 17, 2018 –  Timing is everything, so Washington should coordinate its designations with Baghdad to avoid upsetting the government formation process or throwing Iran a lifeline.

On September 19, the House of Representatives will introduce the “Iranian Proxies Terrorist Sanctions Act,” which calls for imposing U.S. sanctions on two Iranian-controlled Iraqi militias, Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba (HHN). If passed, the legislation will also require the State Department to maintain a public list of armed groups funded, controlled, or influenced by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS BACKGROUNDER : Israel Hits Western Syria — Russian Plane Downed by Assad Regime Forces?

Eaworldview –  by Scott Lucas | Sep 18, 2018 |

UPDATE 0830 GMT: Russia has now acknowledged that its Il-20 warplane, with 14 personnel aboard, was not shot down by a France warship but by the Assad regime’s air defenses. But Moscow is blaming Israel for the incident, claiming that the Israelis did not follow “de-conflict arrangements” established between the two countries since September 2015: Israeli missiles struck targets across regime-held Latakia and Tartous Provinces in western Syria on Monday night, while a Russia military plane with 14 servicemen was shot down — possibly in the response by the Assad regime’s air defenses.

A US official said the regime’s military accidentally hit the plane with a Russian-made missile system. The Russian Defense Ministry pointed at France, saying its warship was firing rockets nearby:

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS BACKGROUNDER: Assad’s Law 10: Reshaping Syria’s Demographics / By FIKRA Forum Ibrahim Abu Ahmad – Ibrahim Abu Ahmad is a senior researcher at the ALMA Research and Education Center. – Also available in العربية September 17, 2018 Now that the conflict in Syria is entering its final stages, out of the many Syrians who have fled the country over the past seven years some have begun to make their way back on the apparent invitation of the Assad government, mostly from Syria’s neighbor Lebanon. Nevertheless, since it appears that Assad will ultimately win the war, much of the Sunni Syrian population both within and outside of Syria is now worried that the Assad government is attempting to orchestrate demographic changes. Government actions appear designed to tip the balance of power between the country’s different ethnic groups in Assad’s favor by blocking Sunni refugees’ returns to certain strategic areas of Assad-controlled territories. If Sunnis become less than 50 percent of the population, other minorities could create an effective majority that will be able to stand against Sunni Syrian interests. Indeed, if Assad were to succeed in creating a Syria where Sunnis are no longer a majority of the population, he may be able to place increasing pressure on a group that already has tense relationship with Syria’s minorities, and is now in addition blamed by Assad’s supporters for the war. One important measure that threatens any Syrian who is not explicitly pro-Assad is Law No. 10, which provides the act of shifting demographics in Syria with an appearance of legitimacy. The new law, enacted in April 2018, allows the government to determine which areas of the country will be designated for reconstruction. According to the law, once the government selects an area for reconstruction, local authorities have a week to obtain a list of property owners from the area’s public real estate authorities and 45 days to submit this list. Law No. 10 stipulates that if a property owner does not appear on official documents, he or she has one year to provide proof of ownership after receiving notification that their property is in an area slated for ‘reconstruction.’ If the owner fails to provide proof, he or she will not be compensated for the loss and the ownership will be transferred to the province, town, or city in which the property is located. On the other hand, those who succeed in providing evidence of ownership may either receive land shares from the reconstruction area, sell their shares, or create a company to invest in and develop the reconstruction area. For many IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) and those who remain refugees outside of Syria—most of whom are Sunni—the requirement of establishing proof of ownership miles away from home is essentially infeasible. Even receiving notification that their properties happen to fall under the government designation of a ‘reconstruction’ zone is highly unlikely. Nor is registration a realistic expectation within large parts of Syria: More than half of the total private properties within Syria are either unregistered or lacking documents of ownership, which have been destroyed or lost because of the war. The realities of property ownership in the post-war climate demonstrate the potential for the law to permanently displace those who have already been forced to flee the country once. Consequently, the ambiguity in the law’s wording has raised speculation that this legislation is part of a government initiative to gain control over vast swaths of personal property by enabling the state to become the final determinant of which civilians will reside where in post-war Syria. Many Syrians fear that the government intends to redistribute the properties of its Sunni citizens to Assad supporters and non-Syrian Shiite proxies, providing residences for Shiite forces and their families and thus making permanent their presence in the country. Reports on how Law No. 10 will be applied are just beginning to emerge. One such report is an account by opposition sources that concludes the government is refusing to allow residents of former opposition territories to reside in the newly reconstructed areas of Damascus. These areas were reconstructed as part of the framework of the 2012 Law No. 66 that established the basis for Law No. 10. Reports from Damascus, including reports on systemic harassment and demands of bribery made by authorities, raise the question of whether this discrimination will occur in the rest of Syria, especially in the full half of the country that operated outside of Assad government control during the war. Locals have expressed their helplessness in the face of Law No. 10’s wide reach, as they have no means to refute it. However, other countries have taken issue with the law. By filing an official complaint with the UN General Assembly against this law, Turkey and Germany are trying to influence the Syrian Government’s decision and protect civilians from the confiscation of their lands and properties. This measure is supported by 40 states including Arab states, European nations, Japan, Australia, and the United States. Amid pressure from civilians and the international community, the Syrian Government is attempting to assert that the law is a simple reconstruction process rather than a scheme to take over citizens’ properties and other real estate. In particular, it emphasizes its efforts to ease procedures for the return of the displaced and refugees and holds up its facilitation of the return of refugees from Lebanon as an example. In this context it is worth noting that though only a small fraction of the more than one million refugees currently residing in Lebanon has actually returned as of yet. Moreover, in June, the Syrian Government extended the period in which civilians are required to submit proof of their ownership from 30 days to one year. It has also extended the list of documents that can be submitted to the government as proof of ownership, and now allows family members to provide the appropriate documents if the owner is unable to do so. All of these adjustments have occurred in an apparent effort to prove to the Syrian people (and the international community) that it is not the government’s intention to seize real estate from its own people. Nevertheless, steps taken by the state tell a different story. Despite attempts by the government to defend the legality of its actions through the passage of decrees and laws, its actions remain unlawful and brutal. The case of the 60 year old Sobhi Boidani is a tragic example of this government policy. Last April, during the siege on Eastern Gouta, Boidani, who is originally from Douma, was forcibly displaced to Idlib. According to August 9 reports from Syria, Boidani returned to his hometown after learning that the government intended to confiscate his house and properties using the newly enacted Law No. 10. Upon arrival, Boidani was killed while interrogated by Syrian intelligence. The case of Boidani shows that while the government is making a show of changing legislation to comply with international pressure, it continues to find ways to promote its own agenda—with or without legislation. Despite the veneer of legality, Syria is still far from being a democracy, and Assad’s government continues to believe it is above the law. Assad is trying to secure strategic areas in Syria by creating a majority of a non-Sunni population there, which will enable him to gain a stronger control over Syria with less cost and more efficiency. This will also serve the interests of Iran, which would like to from a Shiite corridor from Tehran to Beirut.

– Ibrahim Abu Ahmad is a senior researcher at the ALMA Research and Education Center.  –

Also available in العربية September 17, 2018

Now that the conflict in Syria is entering its final stages, out of the many Syrians who have fled the country over the past seven years some have begun to make their way back on the apparent invitation of the Assad government, mostly from Syria’s neighbor Lebanon. Nevertheless, since it appears that Assad will ultimately win the war, much of the Sunni Syrian population both within and outside of Syria is now worried that the Assad government is attempting to orchestrate demographic changes. Government actions appear designed to tip the balance of power between the country’s different ethnic groups in Assad’s favor by blocking Sunni refugees’ returns to certain strategic areas of Assad-controlled territories. If Sunnis become less than 50 percent of the population, other minorities could create an effective majority that will be able to stand against Sunni Syrian interests. Indeed, if Assad were to succeed in creating a Syria where Sunnis are no longer a majority of the population, he may be able to place increasing pressure on a group that already has tense relationship with Syria’s minorities, and is now in addition blamed by Assad’s supporters for the war.

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ESOPOTAMIA NEWS SHORT CUTS : Syria Holds First Local Elections Since 2011

17 Sept 2018 – Syrians in government-controlled regions voted yesterday (DW) for local representatives on administrative councils. Elections were not held in the opposition-controlled province of Idlib nor in Syria’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region.

In Foreign Affairs, Aaron Stein discusses the post-American future of Kurdish forces in Syria. More via www.mesop.de

SYRIA DAILY: REGIME HAILS LOCAL ELECTIONS — BUT 1/2 OF SYRIANS CANNOT VOTE

SCOTT LUCAS – EAWORLDVIEW  – 17 SEPT 2018 – The Assad regime has hailed the first local elections in parts of Syria since the start of the Syrian uprising in March 2011 — but more than half of the country’s citizens could not vote.

More than 40,000 candidates were registered for 18,478 seats on administrative councils. State news agency SANA proclaimed that voting was extended by five hours until midnight (2100 GMT) because of “high participation”.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : IDLIB – OR THE TRUE PKK/PYD REUNIFICATION WITH BASHAR ALS ASSAD

YPG rejects rumours of participation in Idlib campaign

16 Sept 2018 – ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Nuri Mahmud, the spokesperson of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) on Sunday rejected media reports that the YPG is joining the Syrian government’s upcoming Idlib offensive.“While the probability of a military campaign in the city of Idlib and its surroundings increases, some media outlets have been speaking about the participation of our forces in this operation. This kind of allegation is mere speculation and is far from the truth,” Nuri Mahmud said in a statement.The Guardian, on Sep. 7, reported that “aggrieved Kurdish fighters quietly join Syrian regime side in battle for Idlib.”

Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, wrote in a letter to New York Times’ editors, published on Thursday, that the YPG brokered a deal with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in July to aid the Syrian government in an attack against Idlib.

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The Shiʿi Revolution in Iraq: A Retrospective Ofra Bengio

MESOPOTAMIA NEWS TODAYS ANALYSIS BY OFRA BENGIO – TEL AVIV

Volume 12, Number 15 September 16, 2018 – MOSHE DAYAN CENTER

On July 8, 2018, mass protests erupted in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. These protests have continued unabated for two months, gaining traction throughout Shiʿi dominated cities in the south and even reaching Iraq’s capital, Baghdad. Participants called the demonstrations an intifada, and they have been among the most serious in the history of Iraq, in terms of their scope, duration, and the number of casualties. By mid-July, 14 people had died and hundreds were wounded, and this included both protesters and security forces.1During September, at least 12 more protesters and members of the security forces were killed. Protesters blocked roads, briefly took control of the airport in Najaf, launched rockets at Basra’s airport, and set fire to city hall, and the offices of all Shiʿi parties and the headquarters of al-Hashd al-Shaʿbi (the “Popular Mobilization Forces”, PMF), the pro-Iranian Shiʿi militias. Some demonstrators denounced Iran and burned pictures of the Iranian Islamic Revolution’s revered leader, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.2 Recently, protesters even set fire to the Iranian consulate in Basra.3

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