MESOPOTAMIA NEWS TODAYS COMMENTARY : The Russian-Israeli Crisis over Syria Lacks an Exit Strategy

By Yaakov Lappin December 5, 2018 – THE BEGIN SADAT CENTER ISRAEL  – BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,028, December 5, 2018

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Israeli and Russian interests in Syria are colliding. Russia’s new posture is challenging Israel’s defensive campaign against Iran, and Moscow and Jerusalem have so far been unable to defuse the crisis.

The crisis in Russian-Israeli relations that followed the downing of a Russian aircraft in September lacks an exit strategy, and has resulted in significantly higher tensions in the Syrian arena.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS Syria Daily: Turkey — Russia Agrees with Us on Northwest Demilitarized Zone

WEST KURDISTAN (SYRIA) –   by Scott Lucas | Dec 5, 2018 |  – eaworldview – Turkish officials have met a delegation from the town of Jarjanaz in eastern Idlib Province, following almost two weeks of attacks by pro-Assad forces challenging the demilitarized zone. The pro-opposition Nedaa Syria said the meeting was at Turkey’s observation post in the Sarman area.

Citing a “Turkish officer”, the site claimed blame of the Assad regime and Iranian-led forces for defying the Russian-Turkish agreement for the zone. The officer allegedly said that the Turkish military does not oppose “painful” retaliatory attacks on pro-Assad sites to deter further bombardment.Pro-Assad units have been periodically shelling the periphery of the zone. Pro-opposition sources claims 25 people have been killed and dozens wounded in the Jarjanaz area.

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A mosaic commemorating activist Raed Fares: “”The revolution is an idea and an idea can not be killed with weapons” – On November 23, Raed Fares — the civil society activist behind initiatives such as Radio Fresh and iconic demonstrations in Kafranbel in northwest Syria — was assassinated in the town.

Writing for the Atlantic Council, Faysal Itani pays tribute:  4 Dec 2018

I first met Raed Fares in November 2015 when he spoke at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC.

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MESOPOTAMIS NEWS TODAYS FOCUS : US sanctions unlikely to crack Iran’s support for Syria

Soleimani knows how to keep down costs in Syria

4 Dec 2018 – AL MONITOR – “Assuming that the Trump administration and Israel are not inclined to understate Iran’s spending abroad, the $16 billion estimate [of Iran’s support to Syria since 2012] is equivalent to $2.28 billion per annum,” writes Mohammad Ali Shabani. “This would put the cost of Iran’s combined expenditures for operations across the region — whether directly or via proxies — at 0.5% of the GDP. The latter includes an estimated $6 billion in credit lines extended to the Syrian government.”

Shabani assesses Iran’s low-budget regional operations based on US, Israeli and Iranian estimates and data. “Available data suggest that sanctions have had a negative impact on Iran’s military spending,” Shabani explains. “For instance, Iranian academics Sajjad Dizaji and Mohammad Farzanegan point out that military spending dropped by almost one-third between 2006 and 2015 — “one of the highest percentage decreases in military spending globally.” But military expenditures increased by 30% after the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions in 2016, a development that President Donald Trump emphasized when declaring the US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in May.

 “Yet, while there has been a jump in military spending over the past two years, the contraction of such expenditures over the previous decade has meant that the increase has only brought spending back to 2009 levels,” Shabani continues. “Moreover, even after the surge, military expenditures only constitute 3% of the gross domestic product. Here, Dizaji and Farzanegan separate the respective impact of unilateral and multilateral sanctions, and posit that the present US penalties are likely to have a “statistically insignificant” effect on Iran’s military spending “in both the short and long run.”

“Iran’s Quds Force did not invent inexpensive warfare but has rather perfected it,” adds Shabani. “Indeed, even during the Iran-Iraq War, Iranian military spending peaked at around $10 billion, or 8% of GDP, in 1982. In contrast, the shah spent $17.5 billion, or 12% of the GDP, on his military back in peacetime 1976. Thus, for Iranian commanders such as Qasem Soleimani — whose formative years were during the war with Iraq — propping up the Syrian government at a cost of 2% of what Saudi Arabia is spending in Yemen would simply be an evolution of past experiences.”
Putin plays cop with Israel and Iran over Syria

“Israel considers the joint Iran-Hezbollah precision project (precision-guided missiles) to be a strategic threat that will make Israel more vulnerable in the next conflict than it is today,” writes Ben Caspit. “Precision missiles will allow Hezbollah to interfere with Israeli air force activities, target major infrastructures and population centers, and cause Israel considerable damage. … The Security Cabinet has deemed the precision project a “red line” for Israel and grounds for war. Thwarting the project at almost any cost has been made a top priority. While Israel has launched numerous attacks on this project over the past two years, it limited these attacks to Syrian territory only. According to foreign reports, the Israeli air force attacked a Syrian research center, supply convoys and aerial transports landing at Damascus International Airport, where the cargo was loaded on trucks headed to Beirut.”

“It took the Iranians quite a while to realize that Israel was serious,” Caspit continues. “Right now, it seems like they are changing their tactics. They are no longer flying supplies into Damascus and transporting them over land to Beirut. From now on, their Boeings will land in Beirut on direct flights from Tehran. While this will expose the Lebanese government to international pressure and even sanctions, it will put a sudden stop to Israeli attacks on the transports. Iran does not believe that Israel would dare to down a Boeing jet. Doing so would open the gates of Hell.”

“Israel believes that this change to Iran’s modus operandi, with its transition to direct flights from Teheran, is not simply the result of many hundreds of attacks on convoys by the Israeli air force,” explains Caspit. “It can also be attributed to Russian pressure. Having turned a cold shoulder to Netanyahu recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin made it clear to the Iranians as well that he will not tolerate any activity that threatens stability in Syria. He regards both Israel and Iran as two neighborhood punks who are trying to disturb the public order, and he sees himself as the neighborhood cop who will not allow that to happen. That is why Iran made the decision to skip Syria entirely and use direct flights to Lebanon instead. That is why the number of Israeli attacks on Syrian territory has declined significantly recently.”

Akiva Eldar links developments on Israel’s northern border with its Hamas initiative. “On Nov. 20, Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot said during a tour of the Syrian border that Iran had been far less successful than it had hoped in transferring precision weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon,” Eldar writes. “Since the most recent cease-fire was reached with Hamas on Nov. 13, calm appears to have been restored to the Gaza Strip. Hamas is reining in the violent demonstrations along the border with Israel and Eizenkot is reining in the security cabinet ministers. Military affairs commentator for Haaretz Amos Harel reported Nov. 16 that Israeli officials believe the restored calm will also enable progress in contacts on a long-term cease-fire deal with Hamas.”

Erdogan takes zero-sum approach to YPG

“Officials in Ankara are convinced that Washington is stonewalling their efforts to curb and defeat the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its political wing, the Democratic Union Party (PYD),” writes Semih Idiz. “The prevailing belief is that Washington wants to establish some kind of autonomous Kurdish region in northern Syria, similar to one in Iraq, where it hopes to maintain a military foothold for the foreseeable future with a view toward pursuing its agenda in the Middle East.”

Idiz adds, “At a time when Turkey is combating separatist terrorism by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) at home, the thought that the area along its long border with Syria could be administered by YPG/PYD elements is a nightmare scenario for Ankara.”

He continues, “Ankara appears determined to take a zero-sum approach to the YPG issue and is giving no indication that it is amenable to a negotiated settlement, especially one that legitimizes the YPG in any way. This, however, has prompted Washington to take a series of measures that has only fueled Ankara’s suspicions. …Turkish and US forces in northern Syria recently began joint patrols outside of the city of Manbij, which Ankara also wants to be free of YPG fighters. This was promptly followed by an announcement from Washington that joint US-YPG patrols had started along Syria’s border with Turkey, causing untold irritation on the Turkish side. Ankara rejects any attempt by Washington to establish equivalence between Turkey and the YPG.”



Syria Daily eaworldview : Russia, Turkey Press for US Withdrawal from Northeast

4 Dec 2018 – Both Russia and Turkey have pressed for US departure, with an end to its support of Kurdish groups, from northeast Syria. Moscow has campaigned for months for American withdrawal, in a combination of criticism and disinformation. It has claimed that the US base at Tanf in eastern Syria, near the Iraqi and Jordanian borders, is training “terrorists” and sheltering the Islamic State from attacks.

Syria Daily, Nov 23: Russia Renews Pressure for US Withdrawal

Foreign Ministry Sergey Lavrov returned to the theme on Sunday, both on Tanf and on US support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in the northeast.

What is happening on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River clearly violates the commitment to Syria’s territorial integrity, declared by all and confirmed in the UN Security Council’s resolution. In my view, this is already evident for all.

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الرئيسية / بوابة المجلس / البيانات /

2018-12-03  – A Statement to the public opinion 

series of declarations were given by Russian Foreign Minister Mr.Sergey Lavrov regarding the American presence in north and east of Syria. His recent declaration about the east part of the Euphrates and the Kurdish issue, is suspicious and disturbing. 

We as a political party in the Syria Democratic Council, are striving to solve the Syrian crisis by peaceful and Democratic ways. And we consider that the Kurdish issue as a national issue that must be resolved in accordance with the international pacts , and must be dealt with constitutionally within the unity of Syria. And these rights must be affirmed with the rights of all entities as a basic principle to replace peace and security to the country. Therefore, we reject such declarations, which only contribute to unrest and unstability of the region, which has maintained the civil peace ,the lives of citizens, and fought terrorism and defeated ISIS in its strongholds 

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Turkey irate over US obstructions in Syria

Semih Idiz November 29, 2018  –  Article Summary – Ankara’s frustration with the United States continues to grow as Washington takes yet another step that Turkish officials believe was designed to hamper them from unleashing the Turkish military against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units in Syria along Turkey’s border. Turkish anger at the United States over developments in Syria is on the rise again.Officials in Ankara are convinced that Washington is stonewalling their efforts to curb and defeat the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its political wing, the Democratic Union Party (PYD). The prevailing belief is that Washington wants to establish some kind of autonomous Kurdish region in northern Syria, similar to one in Iraq, where it hopes to maintain a military foothold for the foreseeable future with a view toward pursuing its agenda in the Middle East.

At a time when Turkey is combating separatist terrorism by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) at home, the thought that the area along its long border with Syria could be administered by YPG/PYD elements is a nightmare scenario for Ankara.

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US & Turkey could influence the political outcome in Syria – if they put their differences behind them – By Michael Young

Agreeing common objectives with the Turks will help Americans push for Assad’s departure – Updated: November 28, 2018 03:24 PM THE NATIONAL

For some time, it has been obvious that the United Nations’ plan for Syria is a dead letter. As the regime of Bashar Al Assad has regained territory, all talk of transferring power away from the Syrian president, the cornerstone of the UN plan, has become pointless. However, Mr Al Assad’s hold on power remains vulnerable while foreign forces remain on Syrian territory and the reconstruction of the country looms large.

Two foreign states opposed to Bashar Al Assad, the US and Turkey, can potentially have a major influence on what happens in Syria. For that to happen, however, both will need to move beyond their differences and co-ordinate their policies against Mr Al Assad. This is by no means guaranteed, as each side is pursuing very different objectives there.

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Amberin Zaman  – AL MONITOR – November 28, 2018 & Fabrice Balanche – ARTICLE SUMMARY – The 11th Astana meeting between Moscow, Tehran and Ankara reportedly focused on maintaining the cease-fire in Idlib as flare-ups threaten to ignite the area. Officials from Russia, Iran and Turkey assembled with representatives of the Syrian opposition and the Syrian regime in the Kazakh capital Astana today. The first order of business was reportedly to ensure that a shaky cease-fire in the rebel-held province of Idlib agreed in September doesn’t collapse.Worries that the violence would escalate grew after Russian war planes struck opposition targets in Hama and Idlib provinces Sunday.

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28 Nov 2018 – MESOP  – SYRIA: Of some 250 attacks in Syria that involved ambulances in 2016–2017, more than half deliberately targeted the emergency vehicles, according to a new study (BMJ) in a British health journal. The study found that Russian and Syrian government forces were responsible for nearly 90 percent (Reuters) of those attacks.

Read study full text

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