Syria – Residents of Liberated Syrian Towns

Syria liberated 1
Syrian towns Nubl and al-Zahra in Northern Aleppo province had been occupied by the Free Syrian Army since July, 2012. After their liberation on the February 3rd and following improvement of their living conditions, residents are expressing their gratitude to Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.
Only about two weeks ago, the two strategically important towns were under the control of various rebel factions, including the al-Nusra Front. According to reports from locals, for more than three years they had to conquer fear and learn how to survive without enough aid, but with constant shelling in the background.
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2 thoughts on “Syria – Residents of Liberated Syrian Towns

  1. German General: NATO Article 5 won’t apply to Turkey’s buffer zone in Syria
    BY CHRISTINA LIN on NOVEMBER 14, 2015 in AT OPINION, MIDDLE EAST

    http://atimes.com/2015/11/german-general-nato-article-5-wont-apply-to-turkeys-buffer-zone-in-syria/

    In a Nov. 9 interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said a ground forces operation in Syria could be possible to establish a buffer zone, but Turkey would not conduct it alone.

    “[A] ground forces [campaign] is something which we have to talk [about] together and share…there’s a need of an integrated strategy, including an air campaign and ground troops.” Davutoglu added that Turkey alone cannot take on this burden.[1]

    A Turkish security source said such an operation is unlikely without support from the UN Security Council or NATO Council.

    Interestingly, almost exactly a year ago on Oct. 8, 2014, Germany’s former Chief of General Staff and NATO chairman of the Military Committee, General Harald Kujat (ret.), criticized that Turkey is trying to drag NATO into a Syrian war for its own parochial interests.[2]

    In an interview on “Anne Will” ARD-TV broadcast, and stating almost the same words that Davutoglu said on CNN, General Kujat said “look, that’s what Turkey wants to provoke [NATO Article 5]. Therefore it keeps saying ‘we can’t do that alone, others have to participate.’”

    In face of then ISIS massacre of Kobane Kurds, he continued bluntly: “Turkey basically wants to drag NATO into this situation because the actual goal of Turkey is to neutralize Assad…ISIS’s actions and what’s happening to the Kurds are subsidiary…and it has to be clearly said that an ally who behaves like this doesn’t deserve the protection of this alliance, an ally who doesn’t intervene for protection in a such tragic situation doesn’t deserve protection himself.”

    The former NATO general recommended removing Patriot batteries from Turkey to send a signal, and in August 2015 they were removed.[3]

    Regarding the Patriot missiles, German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau said: “Politically, the mission did not serve anything. The Turkish government is more concerned with its own interests, not with those of the alliance.”[4]

    On whether Turkey could invoke the mutual defense clause if its military were deployed to Syrian territory to set up a buffer zone, General Kujat said “if Turkish troops were to conduct operations in Syria without Syria’s permission and without a UN mandate and then be attacked this would never amount to a casus foederis (Article 5).”[5]

    Thus, in the absence of a NATO Article 5, would Turkey be able to acquire a UNSC mandate for a buffer zone/no-fly zone similar to Libya?

    That would likely depend on whether the buffer zone is really for humanitarian purposes.

    Aleppo as Turkey’s 82nd province?

    On a practical level, the buffer zone in Syria’s Aleppo region is an illusive haven. By definition a safe zone maintains neutrality in a military conflict, but the positioning of armed opposition groups in the safe zone will turn the area into a prime target.

    Moreover, claims that on 10 August Turkish military forces entered the planned zone in Syria along with the Sultan Murat Brigade, which is composed of Turkmens, presents a worrying picture when taken in conjunction with pro-government media that proclaimed Aleppo as the 82nd province of Turkey.[6]

    On 5 August Turkish newspaper Takvim featured a map of the buffer zone that includes Aleppo, Idlib and the north of Latakia to be under Turkey’s control as an eventual 82nd province.[7]

    According to Hurriyet Daily, Erdogan is using the Turkmen card again especially when nationalist sentiments are on the rise, so that “any attack on our Turkmen brothers in the safe zone could easily spark a military clash and drag Turkey into war.”[8]

    However, the article ended “do we really want to fight for an 82nd province?”

    And this is a serious issue for consideration not just for the people in Turkey, but for US and coalition forces that are considering a Syrian “buffer zone.” Do they want to risk their troops lives and fight for Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman ambitions for an 82nd province?

    Moreover, do they want to be complicit in carving out a safe haven in northwest Syria for Erdogan’s Army of Conquest that consists of militant groups from Central Asia, China and Russia?

    Safe haven for Eurasian militants?

    According to the director of Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdul Rahman, there are at least 2,000 fighters from Chechnya, Dagestan and other Caucasus regions operating with Al Nusra, and “they are concentrated in Idlib, Aleppo, and Latakia provinces”—where Erdogan has called for a buffer zone.[9]

    Counterterrorism experts also reveal Chinese Turkistan Islamic Party, Uzbek Imam Bukhari Jamaat and Katibat Tawhid wal Jihad have planted themselves in Idlib. In Aleppo, a May 2015 USAID report on Central Asian fighters in Syria, referred to three Uzbek militant groups allied with Al Nusra as “Aleppo Uzbeks”: Imam al-Bukhoriy Brigade, Uzbek Brigade of Jabhat al Nusra, and Seyfullah Shishani Jamaat.[10]

    Now, various intelligence sources estimate there are around 5,000 Uzbek, 2,000 Chechens and more than 1,000 Chinese militants in Syria.[11]

    The Syrian army has been fighting these militants on behalf of Central Asian states, China and Russia—all members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). However, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are now weakening regime forces with supplies of anti-tank TOW weapons.

    As such, a UNSC resolution for a buffer zone is unlikely from China and Russia, as it would provide a base for their militants from which to launch attacks on the homeland.

    Without NATO and UNSC backing, Turkey would stand alone against these Eurasian states’ interests to deny Syria as a haven for their militant groups. Any escalation of the conflict would only draw in these Eurasian powers to fortify ground forces that are helping them fight their militants—that means the Syrian Kurds and the Syrian army.

    Going forward, Turkey—still a dialogue partner of the SCO—should seek a reset with the members, and work with other world powers to de-escalate the conflict and restore regional stability. Vienna II and G-20 meeting may be good places to start.

    [1] Ugur Ergan, “Turkey: Syria land operation possible but not alone”, Hurriyet Daily, 11 November 2015, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-syria-land-operation-possible-but-not-alone.aspx?pageID=238&nID=91001&NewsCatID=352

    [2] “Former NATO official: Turkey wants to drag NATO into Syria https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UjQjlM8jeI

    [3] Metin Gurcan, “US plays politics with Patriot missile removal”, Al Monitor, 20 August 2015, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/08/turkey-germany-patriots-controversial-arrival-controversial.html#

    [4] http://www.dw.com/tr/patriotlar-siyasi-bir-semboldü/a-18652882

    [5] Sven Pohle, “How NATO’s Article 5 could work in the case of Turkey”, Deutsche Welle, 9 October 2014, http://www.dw.com/en/how-natos-article-5-could-work-in-the-case-of-turkey/a-17983762

    [6] Selin Nasi, “Conquering Aleppo?” Hurriyet Daily, 18 August 2015, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/conqueringaleppo.aspx?pageID=238&nID=87106&NewsCatID=396

    [7] http://www.sabah.com.tr/gundem/2015/08/05/yeni-sehir

    http://www.takvim.com.tr/guncel/2015/08/05/yeni-sehir

    [8] http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/conqueringaleppo.aspx?pageID=238&nID=87106&NewsCatID=396

    [9] “In Syria, Russia is chasing Chechens once again”, The National, 7 October 2015, http://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/in-syria-russia-is-chasing-chechens-once-again

    [10] Jacob Zenn, “Al Qaeda-aligned central Asian militants separate from Islamic State-aligned IMU in Afghanistan”, Terrorism Monitor, Volume 13, Issue 11, 29 March 2015, http://www.jamestown.org/programs/tm/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=43968&cHash=618bae17a86c2d23c30b7e219c3c731c#.VkT9aYSaLlI ; Noah Tucker, “Central Asian Involvement in the Conflict in Syria and Iraq: Drivers and Responses”, US Agency for International Development, 4 May 2015, https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1866/CVE_CentralAsiansSyriaIraq.pdf Chinese al Qaeda group TIP fighting in Syria https://news.siteintelgroup.com/tag/31.html ; Chinese jihadists equipped with advanced anti-tank missiles that will be a concern for China https://news.siteintelgroup.com/Jihadist-News/turkistan-islamic-party-photo-report-shows-clashes-with-regime-forces-in-homs.html

    [11]http://www.jamestown.org/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=44409&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=7#.VkUVK4SaLlI; http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/isil-child-training-camp-discovered-in-istanbul-report-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=90052&NewsCatID=341

    Dr. Christina Lin is a Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at SAIS-Johns Hopkins University. She is the author of “The New Silk Road: China’s Energy Strategy in the Greater Middle East” (The Washington Institute for Near East Policy), and a former director for China policy at the US Department of Defense.

    The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Asia Times.

    (Copyright 2015 Asia Times Holdings Limited, a duly registered Hong Kong company. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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  2. NATO, Turkey, annexation of north Syria like north Cyprus?
    BY CHRISTINA LIN on NOVEMBER 25, 2015 in AT OPINION, MIDDLE EAST
    (From Times of Israel)

    On Tuesday 24 November Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border, and yet again called for another NATO emergency meeting to obtain statements of solidarity with Turkey.

    http://atimes.com/2015/11/nato-turkey-annexation-of-north-syria-like-north-cyprus/

    —–

    Back in July, Turkey also called for an emergency NATO meeting after an ISIS attack in the Kurdish town of Suruc (that Kurds blame on collusion of Turkish police), in order to justify and legitimize its bombing campaign against the PKK and war on Turkish Kurds. Ankara was able to extract a statement from NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: “The security of the alliance is indivisible, and we stand in strong solidarity with Turkey.”

    It likewise extracted a statement from the White House that Turkey had a right to defend itself and go after the Kurds, thereby giving a green light for Ankara to pulverize the PKK and alienate US key ally Syrian Kurdish militia forces, who were the most effective ground forces fighting ISIS.

    In September, Turkey again extracted a statement of solidarity from NATO SACEUR General Breedlove at the NATO Military Committee conference in Istanbul.

    In October, reports from two CHP deputies in the Turkish parliament corroborate previous testimonies that the notorious sarin gas attack at Ghouta was a false flag orchestrated by Turkish intelligence, willing to commit the war crime of sacrificing 1,300 innocent civilians to goad US into the Syrian war to topple Assad.

    Turkey’s unhealthy pattern as arsonist-firefighter so exasperated NATO member Germany, that in August Berlin removed its Patriot batteries from Turkey.

    Can Turkey get NATO to fight for its 82nd province?

    As former NATO chairman of the Military Committee, German general Harald Kujat (ret.) said in an interview on ARD-TV last October, he criticized, “that’s what Turkey wants to provoke [NATO Article 5 on mutual defence]… Turkey basically wants to drag NATO into this situation because the actual goal of Turkey is to neutralize Assad…ISIS’s actions and what’s happening to the Kurds are subsidiary…”

    Now, would NATO stand in solidarity with Erdogan as he proceeds to annex Syria’s Aleppo as Turkey’s 82nd province similar to northern Cyprus?

    Currently, Erdogan is aggressively pushing NATO and EU to carve Syria’s Aleppo as a no-fly zone/safe zone. However, this is an illusive haven because by definition a safe zone maintains neutrality in a military conflict, and the positioning of armed opposition groups will turn the area into a prime target.

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