MESOP INSIGHT : THE STRATEGIC GOAL FOR DESTROYING ISRAEL – Hizballah’s trust in Russia – strategic dilemma for Israel

Israel finally took a hand in the swiftly moving events looming from Syria over its northern borders by launching multiple air raids against the key northern Syrian air base known as T4 near Palmyra early Friday night March 17.Those events are spearheaded by the pro-Iranian Hizballlah’s drive to capture the Golan in line with its war of “resistance” on the Jewish state.  This fixation came into sharp focus the day after the air strike in a rare admission by Hizballah of the loss of a commander. He was named Badee Hamiyeh and was described as having been killed “in the southern Syrian region of Quneitra near the Israeli-held Golan Heights.”  This was the first anyone had heard of any recent battle on the Golan.

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Israeli-Russian clash over Hizballah’s Golan grab

23 March2017 – DEBKA FILES  – The Israeli drone that targeted the Syrian militiaman Yasser Sayad outside the Golan town of Quneitra Sunday, March 19, reinforced the message first carried by the Israeli Arrow 2 which shot down a Syrian SA-5 anti-air missile Friday. The Israeli ambassador was called twice to the Russian foreign ministry.Both hits were precise: Sayad was on his way to join the Hizballah forces who are trampling Syrian rebel villages on the Hermon slopes to clear their path to the Golan; and the Syrian SA-5 was intercepted microseconds before hitting the Israeli jets attacking a consignment of Hizballah weapons outside the Syria T4 base near Palmyra, where a Russian contingent is also housed.

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MESOP NEWS : Turkey attacks Kurdish villages in Syria’s Afrin, dozens of civilian casualties reported

 March 23, 2017    – ARA News – Turkey’s military forces on Wednesday launched an offensive on the Kurdish district of Afrin in Syria’s northwestern Aleppo Governorate, killing and wounding dozens of civilians, eyewitnesses and officials told ARA News.

The Turkish Army initiated the offensive by shelling the villages of Malla Khalil and Der Ballout in the Jinderis area of Afrin. Several houses were destroyed and dozens of civilians were killed or injured during the attack.

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Russia wants Syrian Kurds in Geneva talks despite Turkey’s resistance

March 23, 2017  – ARA News – Russia will work with Turkey to seek Kurdish involvement at intra-Syrian negotiations despite Ankara’s ambivalent stance toward the Kurds, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday. “We will continue to look for solutions to this issue with our Turkish partners, including through contacts on the Astana platform, but it is not possible to postpone it in the long run,” Lavrov said at a news briefing.He noted the importance of “finding a solution on how to attract the Kurds to the Geneva talks.”

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Turkey still determined to play role in final Raqqa assault


23 March 2017 – It sounded dramatic: The leaders of 50 Syrian Arab tribes met in Sanliurfa, Turkey, and announced they would set up the Army of Al-Jazirah and Euphrates Tribes to end Russian and Iranian occupation of Syria and cleanse the Euphrates and Al Jazeera areas of the Islamic State (IS), the Kurdish nationalist Democratic Union Party/Kurdistan Workers Party (PYD/PKK), Hezbollah and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Sheikh Rafi al Raco Ukla represented the Shaitat tribe. In his opening speech at the March 14 meeting, he thanked Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia for their assistance and added, “The US supports the PYD. The PYD is not different from [IS]. They deported many families from their homes in more than 50 villages.”

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MESOP FOCUS ON WASHINGTON MEETING : Tillerson’s Push for Safe Zones in Iraq and Syria Faces Questions, Obstacles

By John Hudson, Paul Mcleary  – 2017-03-22 18:18 GMT – by FOREIGN POLICY  – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced a plan to establish safe zones in war-torn countries to allow refugees to return home, setting the stage for a dramatic shift in refugee policy and a greater U.S. and Western military footprint in Iraq and Syria. Speaking at summit of the 68-member coalition against the Islamic State, Tillerson said the U.S. would set up “interim zones of stability” without elaborating on the specifics, such as where they would be located or how they would be secured.

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23 March 2017 – Al Qaeda Takes Advantage in Syria | Bennett Seftel, The Cipher Brief
While the U.S. remains focused on defeating ISIS in Syria and Iraq, al Qaeda in Syria is accumulating strength at an alarming pace and may eventually pose the most daunting counterterrorism challenge that the U.S. has ever faced.
Expert Commentary

Al Qaeda in Syria Can Change Its Name, But Not Its Stripes | Colin Clarke, Political Scientist, RAND Corporation
Following recent infighting with other Syrian rebel groups in the northwestern part of the country, al Qaeda in Syria appears to have recognized the need to secure legitimacy and present itself to the civilian population it seeks to influence as an authentically Syrian entity.
How Al Qaeda Exploited the Syrian Civil War | Charles Lister, Senior Fellow, Middle East Institute
“Al Qaeda has methodically enhanced its standing in Syria and finds itself in 2017 as arguably the most influential, explicitly anti-regime actor in the conflict.”

MESOP NEWS Syria Daily: Rebels Within 3 Miles of Hama City / FACING NEXT ROUND OF TALKS

23 März 2017 – BY eaworldview – Rebels closed within 5 km (3 miles) of Syria’s fourth-largest city Hama on the second day of their offensive in northern Hama Province.

The offensive, including the Islamists of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and units of the Free Syrian Army, captured more than 90 square kilometers (33 square miles) on Wednesday. Having begun with the takeover of the town of Souran on Tuesday, the rebels advanced through Khattab and moved west and south. By the evening, they overran regime defenses in the village of Arzeh and the nearby al-Shayha hill (see map), 5 km (3 miles) from Hama city.

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US airdrops special forces near Raqqa in surprise attack on Isil…/us-airdrops-special-forces-ne…/

US airdrops special forces near Raqqa in surprise attack on Isil

The US-led coalition has airdropped American paratroopers and allied Syrian fighters near the Isil-controlled city of Raqqa in a surprise attempt to cut off… –

MESOP TODAYS STARTER : Five Myths About Syrian Refugees

Separating Fact From Fiction – By Foreign Affairs

22 March 2017 – By Max Abrahms, Denis Sullivan, and Charles Simpson – The Syrian refugee crisis is the worst human security disaster of the twenty-first century. Beyond the death toll, which stands at around 400,000, an estimated 11 million Syrians—about half the national population—have fled their homes since the beginning of the conflict in March 2011. Prior to the evacuation of eastern Aleppo in late 2016, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that over six million Syrians were displaced inside the country; about five million refugees have fled to nearby Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey; and nearly a million more have requested asylum in Europe, mostly in Germany. This crisis is not only a matter of life and death for millions of Syrians but is consequential to Syria’s immediate neighbors and to much of the rest of the world.

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