MESOP REPORT : Aleppo on verge of decisive battle –

Aleppo may be last stand for Salafi groups

UN Syria Envoy Staffan de Mistura has called for an “urgent initiative” by the United States and Russia, including a ministerial meeting of the International Syria Support Group, to re-establish a cessation of hostilities in Syria. While the UN envoy noted “some progress” in the second round of proximity talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups, he said that the next round would be meaningful only if accompanied by a renewed cessation of violence.

The latest round of UN talks, which concluded last week in Geneva, was overshadowed by the escalation of fighting and casualties in Aleppo, including the bombing of the al-Quds hospital, which killed at least 20, including a pediatrician and three children.

The Russian Federation on April 26 formally requested that the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) add Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam to its list of sanctioned organizations because they “are closely linked to terrorist organizations, first of all Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Al-Qaeda, and provide and receive from them financial, material, technical and military support.” Russia has long argued for the two groups’ designation as terrorist entities, which would allow Syria and its allies to make the case for offensive military operations against them, even during a cessation of hostilities, under UN Security Council Resolution 2254. The United Arab Emirates, for its part, has designated Ahrar al-Sham a terrorist organization.

This column has warned since 2013 about the mainstreaming of these foreign backed “rebel” Salafi groups, including by advocates in the West, and would prefer they be excluded from negotiations about Syria’s future, given their radical sectarian ideology. It should, for example, be alarming that the head of the Syrian opposition’s High Negotiations Committee, Mohammad Alloush, is also the leader of Jaish al-Islam. This, while perhaps alarming, is not surprising as the committee was formed in Riyadh. Alloush’s father, Zahran Alloush, was memorably described by one former US official as simply an “ambitious Islamist commander” in an article about a resurgent “moderate” opposition in 2014. For the record, Zahran Alloush was an apocalyptic sectarian hater of the highest order, memorably warning Shiites that “the Umayyad had previously broken your heads, the Levantines will break them again, you impure rejectionists,” among other bile. We would refer to you an article by Ali Mamouri about the mischaracterization of Alloush as a “moderate.”

The United States is well aware of Ahrar al-Sham’s and Jaish al-Islam’s on-again, off-again collaboration with Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, and both groups’ radical Islamic ideology, which barely differs from that of Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State (IS) and has little foundation or appeal among the vast majority of Syrians. Washington has been boxed in, however, because these groups are backed tooth and nail by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, so Washington has, until now, held the line, and its nose, in resisting Russia’s entreaties in deference to its regional partners and as a means of “pressure” on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The battle for Aleppo could clarify the next phase in the Syria conflict, especially by putting to the test the alleged popular support of these Salafi groups. We cannot envision the population of this great city rallying to defend the Sharia rule of Ahrar al-Sham or other armed groups. The citizens of Aleppo have endured enough suffering. Our hunch is that they will instead welcome a united city and an end to the fighting, as well as the retreat of the Salafi and jihadi “rebels.” We wrote in January, “A Syrian government victory in Aleppo could be the beginning of the end of the sectarian mindset that would have been alien to the city prior to 2011. There is no more appropriate city to begin Syria’s healing. A Syrian government victory in Aleppo will make it harder to rationalize Western backing for jihadi groups that want to keep up the fight against long odds in the rest of the country. IS and al-Qaeda may prefer, over time, to begin to relocate to Libya and other countries where they can avoid the pounding from the US-led anti-IS coalition and Russian- and Iranian-backed Syrian forces. This may already be happening, and if so, it is to be cheered by those who seek a unified, secular and nonsectarian Syria, as outlined in the Vienna Communique, and as is Aleppo’s tradition.”

Aramco’s 5% may be less than meets the eye

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who also serves as defense minister and head of the Council of Economic and Developmental Affairs, last week outlined “Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision,” an expansive program of economic reform and change.

At the core of the 2030 vision is the public offering of 5% of Aramco’s shares, worth an estimated $2 trillion, which would be the largest such offering ever. Rami Khrais explains that “by listing Aramco, the largest oil company in the world, Saudi Arabia hopes to establish the foundation for turning the PIF [Public Investment Fund] into a sovereign fund that lends itself to diversifying sources of national income away from oil revenues, which account for more than 80% of Saudi exports.”

But here’s the catch: Why would investors put their stake in an industry that the kingdom is seeking to downsize? The decision to wean Saudi Arabia off oil dependence and reduce subsidies — good economic medicine for sure — comes at a time of economic crisis and could be accompanied by social and political volatility, especially if the goal is actually to end oil dependence by 2020, as the deputy crown prince said in the interview.

In an interview on Al-Arabiya television, the deputy crown prince said, “People in the past were displeased with the fact that Aramco’s file and data are undeclared, unclear, and nontransparent. Today, it will become transparent.” Transparency is all to the good, but it has not been the hallmark of Saudi decision-making. The kingdom’s regional policies, especially in Yemen, have seemed at times impulsive and emotional and contribute to a climate of regional instability. The Economist noted this week that the “shadow” of the “Wahhabi religious establishment … hangs over all reform in Saudi Arabia.”

Khrais concludes, “Although the Saudis’ move to establish a new sovereign fund appears to bode well, that alone is insufficient. It also requires a comprehensive blueprint that establishes the functions and powers of the fund and its governance. In addition, the fund’s objectives must complement the objectives of creating a local economic base for sustainable development. Serious public finance reforms will also need to be implemented to ensure optimum outcomes in the long term.”




 PYD co-chair @serokepyd S.Muslim: We believe Assad and Baath Party have no place in Syria’s future. @KPRC_US  –

…. Which means he is a bit closer now with US instead of Putin

Aleppo doctors: We fear another Srebrenica

MESOP URGENT CALL –  Signed by: Dr Hatem, director of the pediatric hospital of Aleppo; Dr Abu Altiem, pediatric hospital in Aleppo; Dr Yahya, pediatric hospital in Aleppo; Dr Abu Albrae, pediatric hospital in Aleppo; Dr Khaled, nephrologist at Al Quds hospital in Aleppo; Dr Salah Safadi, Association of independent doctors.  –  Published in Le Monde

Orient Net Publication Date: 2016-05-01 16:42  – We are doctors of Aleppo at the frontline of the war raging there. We were at least skeptical about the cessation of hostilities negotiated in February. Yet we found some reduction in attacks against our hospitals, when the truce took effect. We dared to hope . This week, we saw our worst fears in the most horrific circumstances. Our city is set ablaze.

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45 groups refuse partial truces—may retaliate elsewhere if hit in Aleppo; HNC must boycott if no aid/prison progress

MESOP : Aymenn J Al-Tamimi‏@ajaltamimi Quwat al-Jalil (pro-Assad Palestinian militia) claims a new fallen fighter in Latakia countryside


MESOP TODAYS COMMENTARY (II) : The Obama administration is ‘giving full cover to the Russians’ in Syria — and the results are ‘catastrophic’

Natasha Bertrand-  Business Insider  – 1 May 2016 – Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad pounded the Syrian city of Aleppo in airstrikes on Thursday, targeting a hospital and killing at least 55 civilians in a new offensive that’s believed to have been months in the making.

The situation has resulted in a “catastrophicdeterioration in Aleppoover the last 24 to 48 hours,” Jan Egeland, the chairman of the UN humanitarian task force for Syria, told reporters Thursday. “Doctors have been killed, health workers have been killed, and medical workers have been blocked from coming to their patients,” he said. “We can now refute allegations we heard from some government people and others that there are only fighters and terrorists in Daraya. We have seen with own eyes very many children, very many other civilians.”Local truces were brokered near Damascus on Friday, but there was no mention of halting combat in Aleppo, further north.

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MESOP BASHAR’S MULLAH’S – Assad’s top cleric Hasson calls to exterminate people of Aleppo

Orient Net – Special  Publication Date: 2016-04-30 – Assad regime’s top cleric Ahmad Badr al-Hasson passed a fatwa, judgment, to exterminate Syrians in  the eastern parts of Aleppo where civilians live under opposition’s control. Hasson said on Assad regime’s news channel al-Akhbaraya, “I call upon the Syrian Army to show us its rage and I also call upon our leader to show us their rage in exterminating those criminals.”  Hasson has been known for his fatwas of extermination and destruction in Syria for the last four years. It is worth reminding that Assad’s top cleric warned Western countries against military intervention in Syria and threatened to retaliate with suicide bombings in the United States and Europe if his country comes under attack.

MESOP ALARM ! As bombs fall, Aleppo asks: ‘where are the Americans?’

A Syrian family runs for cover amid the rubble of destroyed buildings following a reported air strike on the rebel-held neighbourhood of Al-Qatarji in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo
A Syrian family runs for cover following an air strike on a rebel-held area of Aleppo

Recovering in Turkey after a deadly air strike on a hospital in Aleppo, all that Abu Abdu Tebyiah could think about was the six children he had been forced to leave behind. Mr Tebyiah was critically injured when the Syrian regime dropped three bombs on al-Quds hospital next to his house in the east of the city last Thursday.

He was one of a lucky few allowed over the border to receive treatment for his broken ribs and pelvis, wounds that would probably have killed him otherwise. But the 49-year-old shop owner was taken away so quickly that he had little chance to tell his rescuers that his children were waiting for him at home.

“They are too young to be on their own,” Mr Tebyiah told the Telegraph. “The government is using barrel bombs on our neighbourhood again, so I stopped them going to school. They are now in great danger.”

Mr Tebyiah said the only way to bring his children to Turkey, which closed its border to fleeing Syrians earlier this year, was to pay smugglers $500 for each child – money he did not have.

“I have to find a solution as soon as possible,” he said. “Or I don’t want to think what will happen.”

Fighting has intensified in Syria’s second city this week, claiming over 250 lives and ending in all but name a much-vaunted ceasefire agreed in February.Now the opposition-controlled eastern side of Aleppo is braced for an offensive by Bashar al-Assad’s regime and his Russian and Iranian allies. If Assad succeeds in recapturing the whole of the city, it could change the course of the war.As the regime’s bombs dropped on their houses, hospitals and schools, residents wondered where their supposed protectors, the Americans, were.

Many had been optimistic that the ceasefire, brokered by the United States and Russia, was the ray of hope that Aleppo needed after enduring four years of killing since Syria’s war came to the city in 2012.

But, a few week later, they found the bombs were dropping once more.

Moscow says that eastern Aleppo is controlled by jihadist rebels – including Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliate – and so it should not be covered by the truce.

“The fighting there is very alarming,” a US State Department spokesman said when asked why America did not try to halt the escalating violence in Aleppo. “But the situation is very complex,” he added.

Aleppo was Syria’s commercial hub before the war, home to some two million people. Because of its strategic location near the Turkish border and symbolic significance, it is often said that whoever holds Aleppo wins the conflict.

Neither side has managed to fully control it since rebels captured parts of the east in 2012. The president and his troops have been preparing for months for what they call a “war of all wars” to retake Aleppo.

• Last Jewish family in Aleppo flee for Israel

Victory for Assad in the city would convince regional powers that his regime is not about to fall, giving him much greater bargaining power around a negotiating table.

Thousands of Aleppo’s people have fled in the last 72 hours, according to Ismail al-Abdullah, an activist living in the city who said that residents were afraid of what is to come.

“Many gather between 5 and 6am under the cover of darkness, before they can be spotted by the planes,” he said.

The regime’s air strikes  have become a grim routine – always beginning at 7am, pounding the rebel side of the city, where some 200,000 people still live.

More than 30 such bombing raids took place before midday on Saturday, adding six more lives to the mounting death toll.

Little girl rescued from rubble of Aleppo air strikePlay!01:39

Zahra al-Mansour and her three children were among those leaving. Carrying only a hastily packed bag of schoolbooks, food and clothes, she did not know exactly where they was going, but she knew they had to get away before the Syrian and Russian bombs started dropping.

Ms Mansour, a 38-year-old teacher, had stayed in Aleppo out of loyalty to her husband – a rebel fighter who was killed in battle last Christmas – and after his death out of a pride that had stopped her from leaving the only city she has called home.

“No matter how bad it got, I somehow always had faith we would be ok,” she told the Telegraph. “This time it is different. Every street is marked by war – I realise now Assad will not stop until there is no one left.”

Even leaving offers little guarantee of safety. The only way out for Aleppans – the once porous Bab al-Salam border crossing into Turkey – has now been closed. Turkey wants to create a safe zone inside Syria rather than admit the estimated 100,000 refugees waiting at the frontier.

John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, had talked of a “Plan B” if the ceasefire and peace talks in Geneva collapsed. This was believed to include supplying moderate rebels with more powerful weapons, such as shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles that would render Russian warplanes vulnerable.But US officials continue to claim the truce is still alive. Even as rescuers pulled children from the ruins of al-Quds hospital’s paediatric ward on Thursday, John Kirby, the State Department spokesman said: “I think we would still maintain that it has largely held.”

Kyle Orton, a Middle East analyst at the Henry Jackson Society, believes that America’s inertia shows that President Vladimir Putin of Russia, Assad’s loyal ally, is now calling the shots.

“Russia has always had a clear idea of what this ceasefire is – a cover for them to consolidate and plan what we are now seeing,” he said.

“The US seems to have been torn between understanding the ceasefire was a mirage, establishing a Plan B in the event of its failure, and on the other hand really committing to the process and going along with the pretence that the truce is in operation long after it has clearly failed. It just looks like they’ve sided with Russia by allowing them to claim the city is full of terrorists.”

Mr Orton added: “The Americans have effectively signed off on Russia taking over the city.”

There is a sense of abandonment on the ground too.

“The Russians are great friends to Assad,” said the activist, Mr Abdullah. “We can’t say the same for the Americans. When we heard Mr Kerry say Aleppo was run by al-Qaeda we realised we were on our own. There are no terrorists where the government is bombing – it is a lie that everyone is agreeing to accept for the sake of the ceasefire agreement.”

With only one road out of Aleppo for those who live in the rebel-held east, residents worry that if the regime forces manage to sever that lifeline, then thousands will be besieged.

Fadi Hakim, a doctor from Aleppo, said: “This offensive will leave thousands encircled, without food and without medicine. The regime has already bombed the hospitals and its doctors so when the casualties mount up there is no one left to treat them.

“It will be a massacre, the likes of which we haven’t seen before.”

Additional reporting by Yusuf Eissa in Gaziantep


MESOP : STRATEGISCHE FLÜCHTLINGSPOLITIK / Wikileaks: „Strategische Entvölkerung“ ist die US-Strategie zum Sturz von Assad.

30 April 2016 – Nach der Veröffentlichung der US Depeschen durch Wikileaks u.a. aus Syrien sollte es für jeden, der es denn zur Kenntnis nehmen will, klar sein, dass die USA nicht intervenierten, um das Land vom schrecklichen Diktator Assad zu befreien oder gar Demokratie zu bringen, sondern sie handelten allein aus geostrategischen Interessen.

Migration wurde dazu als Waffe eingesetzt und weil diese nicht so recht anlaufen wollte, wurde die Hungerhilfe für die Flüchtlinge in den Lager im Libanon und der Türkei um die Hälfte reduziert.Ziel ist und war, Russland den Weg ins Mittelmeer zu versperren, russische und iranische Öl- und Gaslieferungen nach Europa zu unterbinden und stattdessen das Pipelineprojekt aus den Golfstaaten zu verwirklichen.

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MESOP FLASH : First on CNN: Russians ‘barrel roll’ over another U.S. Air Force plane

By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent – Updated 2138 GMT (0438 HKT) April 29, 2016

Washington (CNN)A Russian SU-27 conducted a “barrel roll” Friday over the top of a U.S. Air Force RC-135 which was flying a reconnaissance mission in international airspace above the Baltic Sea, the Defense Department said.

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