• Type:
  • Genre:
  • Duration:
  • Average Rating:

Syria

Stabalizing Iraq and Syria

After years of war, it appears that Iraq and Syria are gradually stabilizing. The government forces supported by the US and Russia respectively are restoring their control over the two countries, and the self-proclaimed Islamic State has lost virtually all of its territory. Yet, this may just be an ephemeral peace. The social and economic foundations of the two states remain shaky at best, and many issues are still unsettled; notably the role of Sunni Arabs and the future of the Kurds. Without a comprehensive action to solve such questions, peace in Iraq and Syria will not be achieved on a solid basis.

I’m your host Kasim, welcome to another KJ Vid. In this video we will discuss the future of Iraq and Syria. Just before we begin, we would like to invite you to our Patreon account where you can get the full reports and other perks for our content. Supporting us on Patreon helps to keep our channel independent and create more videos.

Iraq and Syria in chaos

Iraq has been ravaged by conflict with practically no interruption since the US invasion in 2003. The fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime destabilized the country and resulted in a long insurgency against the occupying American forces. Progress in state-building was slow and limited in scope. The US ultimately withdrew its troops from the country in 2011 by a decision of then-President Barack Obama; but Iraq was still too weak to ensure the authority of the central government over all of the territory. In the same year, the Arab Spring broke out all over the Middle East. In Syria, it rapidly degenerated into a violent civil war opposing the loyalists to President Bashar al-Assad and the rebels; a broad term indicating various armed groups of different affiliation, ranging from those who favoured Western-like democracy and jihadist groups.

Things got more complicated in 2014 with the rise of a Sunni extremist group that would later become known as Islamic State. Exploiting the chaos that reigned in Syria due to the civil war and the power vacuum caused by the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, it took control of large swathes of lands in the northern parts of the two countries. In particular, it seized important facilities such as oil fields and dams in Iraq and it even threatened Baghdad. This prompted the US to organize a multinational coalition to support the Iraqi government in its fight against the terrorist group by deploying special forces and by conducting air strikes. Soon, they also started operating in Syria, where the conflict was about to turn into a major international matter involving various foreign powers that supported the government or the rebels to pursue their own interest.

Russia intervened actively since 2015 to sustain Bashar al-Assad, its main ally in the area. Western powers assisted the rebels and bombed facilities to punish the loyalists for allegedly using chemical weapons against civilians. Turkey, who opposed the al-Assad government, became directly involved in 2016 with the main objective of preventing the formation of some kind of Kurdish territorial entity. As a matter of fact, the Kurds had rapidly proved to be an effective combat force in fighting the IS, and received support from the American-led coalition. This allowed them to take control over a large strip of territory at the border with Turkey, who feared the area would become independent or at least a rear base for Kurdish fighters operating against its territory. As such, it conducted several military operations to secure the lands along its borders and expel Kurdish forces. Iran also took part to the war by sending weapons and troops in support of al-Assad on the basis of the common Shia faith and of converging geopolitical interest. To counter its growing influence, Israel also carried out airstrikes in Syria against Iranian outposts.

Now, it seems that the two intertwined conflicts are about to end. In Syria the government is slowly restoring its authority and the Islamic State has lost almost all of the territory it controlled there and in Iraq. Yet, many issues remain unresolved, notably the role of Sunni Arabs and the Kurdish question.

Sunni Arabs: excluded from power

Sunni Arabs belong to the largest of the two main branches of Islam, the other being the Shias. But even though they are a majority in the Ummah as a whole, their situation in Iraq and Syria is particular.

For what concerns the former, Sunnis are indeed a minority. Most Iraqis are Shias, which also means that they are politically closer Iran, the main centre of Shiism. Yet, Sunnism had its glorious days in the country. During the Middle Ages, Baghdad was the heart of the mighty Abbasid Caliphate, from which today’s Islamic State took many symbols. More recently, Sunni Arabs formed the ruling elite in Iraq during the years of Saddam’s rule. His Ba’athist regime was dominated by Sunnis, which meant that in Iraq a minority was ruling over the majority. But the situation was reversed after Saddam was overthrown following the US invasion in 2003. Since Sunnis had formed the backbone of Saddam’s dictatorship, they were removed from their posts and largely excluded from power to the benefit of the Shias. At that point, the Sunni Arab community became the main pool of recruitment for the anti-American insurgency and then for the Islamic State. The situation has improved since then, but properly integrating Sunnis in Iraqi political life remains a central matter to stabilize the country.

The situation of Sunnis in Syria is the opposite and resembles that of Iraq under Saddam, albeit inverted. Sunni Arabs form the majority of Syria’s population, but the governing elite belongs to the Alawite movement, which is a sect of Shia Islam. This generated much resentment among Sunnis, who felt politically emarginated. As a result, many of them joined the ranks of the rebels when the uprising started in 2011. Now, the government seems close to prevailing, but it will have to establish a more inclusive form of governance to ensure peace in the long term.

The Kurds: a stateless people

In the case of the Kurds, the problem is slightly different. Here, it is not about a religious divide, but rather an ethnic and linguistic one. The Kurds are mostly Sunni and speak their own separate language, and as a single people they count around 40 million individuals. They live in a region located at the crossroad of Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq. Yet, their demands for an independent state have systematically been frustrated, and today they remain a stateless nation with little prospects of getting their own independent country.

Yet, they play an important political role. The lands where they live include the oil-rich areas of northern Iraq. The Kurdistan’s Workers Party, or PKK, has been waging a decade-long insurgency against Turkey to obtain independency or at least autonomy for Kurdistan; but Ankara has always firmly opposed their demands without hesitating to use violence and there is no indication that things will change anytime soon. In Iraq, several tens of thousand Kurds were killed by Saddam’s regime during the ‘80s in what is known as Anfal genocide. Later on, Iraqi and Syrian Kurds became America’s most effective on-the-ground allies in the fight against the Islamic State. But this angered Turkey out of fear that Kurdish-controlled territory could turn into an independent state or a base for operations on Turkish soil. As such, Ankara dispatched its military several times to secure Kurdish areas along its borders. However, this has led to a clash with the US, in a moment when bilateral relations are already strained. Washington has been supporting the Kurds and needs to reward them somehow; but any concession implying autonomy would upset Ankara, who is also an important ally. At the same time, Turkey cannot defy the US because the political and possibly economic retaliation might be too harmful. This has resulted into a stalemate that remains unresolved.

As in the case of Sunni Arabs, solving the Kurdish question will be of central importance for ensuring a long-lasting peace in Iraq and Syria, but finding a common agreement is even more difficult in this case: it is not a mainly domestic matter, but a transnational one involving various stakeholders, which makes finding a solution an even more complex endeavour.

Conclusion: ensuring inclusivity

As we have seen, conflict resolution in Iraq and Syria demands to integrate both Sunni Arabs and Kurds in the social and political life of the two countries. This is essential for granting peace in the long term: if Sunnis are not adequately represented, the Islamic State or a similar organization may soon rise again; while the Kurds may take arms and start a large-scale insurgency that would be difficult to tackle. Unfortunately, actually doing so is not easy. Both groups have powerful enemies and are internally fragmented, and other players can exploit these divisions for their own interests. As a matter of fact, major powers like the US, Russia, Iran and Turkey all have their own interests in the area; which is another complicating factor. In addition, given the large number of tribes, parties, armed factions, ethnic groups that live in Iraq and Syria, finding an agreement that satisfies everyone is extremely difficult. But to prevent the emergence of new jihadist groups or a new violent phase of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict and to ensure the stabilization of Iraq and Syria, a solution must be found in this sense.

That’s all for today guys, thanks for watching another KJ Vid. What are your views on CPEC, is it a good thing or bad thing for Pakistan? Is it likely to succeed or fail? We would love to hear your views in the comments below.

Please also consider supporting us on Patreon so we can produce more of these geopolitical reports and help to keep us independent from political influence.

The 1982 Hama Massacre – 36 Year On – Like Father, Like Son

February 2018, marks 36 years since the infamous Hama massacre of 1982 by the regime of President Hafez al-Assad, father of the current Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad. Like father, like son, both have committed grave crimes that has torn the lives of millions of Syrians.

During that bloody month nearly 30 years ago, Syrian Muslim Brotherhood members rose up in the city, killing hundreds of troops loyal to the Alawi-led regime of President Hafez al-Assad. In response, Assad conducted one of the most chilling acts of retribution in the modern Middle East: Forces under the command of his brother, Rifaat, leveled entire neighborhoods of the city, killing an estimated 20,000 people.

Hafez al-Assad’s crackdown on Hama began in the dead of night on Feb. 2, 1982, and continued over the next month until every neighborhood in the city was subdued or destroyed. While reporters stationed in Damascus were acutely aware that a bloody insurgency was underway in the city, they had little sense of its scope. On Feb. 24, the Associated Press quoted Western diplomatic sources saying that the fighting in Hama had “resulted in an estimated 2,000 casualties on both sides” — an approximation that grossly underestimated the number of people killed.

It was not until a year and a half later that reports of the Hama massacre’s true extent filtered into the international media. Amnesty International’s November 1983 report estimated that 10,000 to 25,000 people had been killed during the crackdown. The report also contained chilling details about the Assad regime’s methods of coercion. “I was stripped naked…. My wrists were then tied and I was hung up and whipped on my back and all over my body,” recounted a Syrian trader detained in 1980. “I was beaten on the toes until my nails fell out.”

Even then, Hama did not become a byword for the brutality with which Middle Eastern autocrats treated their subjects until the publication of Thomas Friedman’s From Beirut to Jerusalem in 1989, which offered a blow-by-blow account of the massacre.

Buy book here – http://amzn.to/2o2PUQV

Friedman recounted a conversation he had with a friend — a businessman who had been involved in several deals with Rifaat al-Assad — who said that the Syrian general had pushed back against some estimates of those killed as too low, not wanting to erode the fear that the Assad regime had instilled in the Syrian population. “What are you talking about, 7,000?” Rifaat reportedly said. “No, no. We killed 38,000.”

But Friedman’s and Amnesty’s reports were released long after Assad had consolidated his control, rendering their impact in Syria largely moot. At the time, reporters were not only constrained by the media blackout — they also had to contend with that old standby, fear of government retribution. On March 4, 1982, Washington Post assistant managing editor Jim Hoagland described the difficulty journalists in then Syria-occupied Beirut faced in reporting on the unfolding struggle. “One British journalist working the Middle East is convinced that some senior Syrian authorities did make a deliberate decision nearly two years ago to silence press critics,” he wrote, the result of which was the assassination of several Lebanese journalists and the shooting of a Reuters correspondent. “[T]he perception of danger has spread throughout the Beirut press corps,” Hoagland concluded.

Read original article by David Kenner on Foreign Policy here.

Read how the Guardian reported events.

In a three-week siege, Hama was razed and thousands died as Syrian security forces combed the rubble, killing surviving rebels.

SYRIA-ASSAD BROTHERS
 Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, right, with his youngest brother Rifaat at a military ceremony in Damascus. Photograph: EPA

The Syrian city of Hama was the scene of a massacre in 1982 when President Hafez al-Assad, father of the current president Bashar al-Assad, razed the city to crush a Sunni rebellion, slaughtering an estimated 20,000 of his own people.

Assad’s troops pounded Hama with artillery fire for several days and, with the city in ruins, his bulldozers moved in and flattened neighbourhoods.

The 1982 massacre is regarded as the single bloodiest assault by an Arab ruler against his own people in modern times and remains a pivotal event in Syrian history.

Assad2
 Click on the images for the full stories

James MacManus, in a dispatch from 23 January 1982, reports that government forces are laying siege to Hama as house-to-house fighting wipes out any opposition. He recalls a series of car bomb attacks in Damascus culminating in an attack on a shopping centre in which more than 100 people died, describing the attacks as “the high point, but by no means the end, of a campaign of terror and counter terror… which President Assad now claims to have won”.

Assad3
 Click on the images for the full stories

On 11 February 1982 the paper’s foreign staff report “heavy fighting” between Syrian government forces and dissidents in Hama, noting that the city is sealed off by military units and that there are no eyewitness accounts.

Assad4.1
 Click on the images for the full stories

On 24 February a Guardian editorial draws attention to the “merciless carnage” taking place.

Assad5
 Click on the images for the full stories

On 27 February Harish Chandola reports from Hama after the guns have fallen silent. He sees a column of smoke rising from the old quarter, where the fighting was the worst, noting: “I was not allowed to visit it. The security forces are tightly controlling entry and exit from the city to prevent the Muslim Brothers from escaping.”

Assad6
 Click on the images for the full stories

Nearly a year after the crackdown, the Guardian’s David Hirst reports from amid the ruins in Hama, talking to residents and officials about the razing of the city’s mosques.

Assad7
 Click on the images for the full stories

End.


 

Key Middle East Publics See Russia, Turkey and U.S. All Playing Larger Roles in Region

Read original on Pew Research Centre or read below;

Most do not expect Syrian war to end in 2018

Majorities across five Middle Eastern and North African countries agree that Russia, Turkey and the United States are all playing more important roles in the region than they did 10 years ago, according to a spring 2017 Pew Research Center survey.

While a median of 53% across the same countries also see Iran playing a more important role, fewer in the region say that Israel and Saudi Arabia have gained influence in the past 10 years. The only country the surveyed publics see as less influential a decade on is Egypt.1

Overall, a number of influential powers in the Middle East are not seen in a favorable light. Roughly one-third or fewer view Russia (median of 35%) or the U.S. (median of 27%) positively. Within the region, views of Iran are particularly poor (14% favorable), though Saudi Arabia fares better (44%).

Middle Eastern and North African publics also tend to rate leaders of other countries in their region negatively. A median of roughly one-third have positive opinions of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Saudi King Salman. Views of Jordanian King Abdullah II are similarly low. And very few view Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu favorably, while a median of 12% have a positive view of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is the exception to the generally negative views, but opinion of him is still mixed.

With respect to the ongoing conflict in Syria, publics are divided on how long they expect it to continue; a median of 26% expect the war in Syria to end in the next year, 32% expect it to end in the next five years and 29% think it will continue for more than five years. Overall, just 32% in Jordan are optimistic about the war ending in the next year, but 64% of Syrians living in Jordan expect the conflict will end in 2018.

Additionally, on the issue of allowing Syrian refugees into their country, people in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon are strongly in favor of letting in fewer, with many volunteering “none” as the best option.

These are among the major findings from a Pew Research Center survey conducted among 6,204 respondents in Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia and Turkey from Feb. 27 to April 25, 2017.

Influence of Russia, Turkey, U.S. seen as increasing in the Middle East

Middle Eastern publics see both the U.S. and Russia playing more important roles in the region today than they did 10 years ago.

At least half in all of the nations surveyed say Russia is more influential now compared with a decade ago. Lebanon is particularly likely to say Russia’s role has grown, with Shia (81%) and Sunni Muslims (77%) sharing this view.

Majorities in four of the five nations surveyed also say that the U.S.’s prominence in the region has grown in the past 10 years. A plurality in Israel agrees, although roughly a quarter each say that the U.S.’s role is as important (24%) or less important (27%) now.

In Lebanon, Sunni Muslims (78%) are more likely than Christians (64%) or Shia Muslims (52%) to believe the U.S. has become more prominent.

Within the region, many say that Turkey plays a more important role. People in Turkey and Jordan are the most likely to say Turkey’s role in the region has grown. Israel is the only country where a plurality says Turkey has lost influence over the past decade. This view is more common among Israeli Jews (45%) than among Israeli Arabs (29%).

About eight-in-ten in Lebanon say that Iran is more influential in the Middle East today than it was 10 years ago. Large majorities across all religious groups hold this view: 89% of Shia Muslims, 77% of Sunni Muslims and 71% of Christians. The view that Iran now plays a less important role in the region is held by roughly a quarter in both Israel (24%) and Turkey (26%).

More than half of Israelis and Jordanians say that Israel has taken on a more important role in the Middle East. And in Israel, Jews and Arabs are similarly likely to hold this view. By contrast, roughly three-in-ten in Lebanon (31%) say that Israel’s role has decreased.

Across the region, fewer say Saudi Arabia’s role in the region has grown. Jordan is the only country where more than half hold this view, though a majority (61%) of Sunni Muslims in Lebanon say this. Only a quarter or fewer in Israel and Turkey agree.

Few say that Egypt plays a more important role in the Middle East now compared with 10 years ago. Instead, at least four-in-ten in Turkey, Lebanon, Tunisia and Israel say that Egypt’s prominence in the region has waned.

Widely negative views of Iran

Overall, the Middle Eastern and North African nations surveyed have a very poor opinion of Iran and generally rate Saudi Arabia and Turkey more positively.

Majorities in both Tunisia and Jordan espouse positive views of Turkey. Lebanese are split based on their religious views, with more than half of Sunnis and Christians but only 8% of Shias holding a favorable opinion. Similarly, Israeli Jews and Arabs strongly disagree on Turkey; 72% of Israeli Arabs but only 7% of Israeli Jews think well of Turkey.

Many view Saudi Arabia negatively, but Jordan – which has deepened its ties to Saudi Arabia in recent years – has a very positive opinion of the neighboring kingdom. More than half in Tunisia agree. As with views of Turkey, Sunni Muslims in Lebanon hold significantly more positive views of Saudi Arabia than Shias.

Opinions of Iran are remarkably poor. Fewer than one-in-five in Turkey, Israel and Jordan have positive views of Iran. Jordan’s extremely negative views are similar to views in 2015, but have soured substantially since 2006 – the first time the question was asked in Jordan – when roughly half (49%) viewed Iran favorably.

Compared with its neighbors, Lebanon holds more positive views of Iran overall, but opinions are once more sharply divided by religious background; 93% of Shia Muslims in Lebanon view the Shia-majority nation positively, compared with only 27% of Christians and 16% of Sunnis.

Mixed views of Erdogan; poor ratings for Assad, Rouhani, Netanyahu

Publics in the Middle East tend to see Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan more positively than other Middle Eastern leaders. Yet, views of the Turkish president vary drastically across the region. Fewer than half in Lebanon and only 15% in Israel express a positive opinion of Erdogan. Israeli Jews (4%) and Lebanese Shia Muslims (7%) hold particularly negative views.

Views of Erdogan have improved in Tunisia (up 10 percentage points since 2014) and Jordan (7 points since 2015). Lebanese views have become less favorable since 2015 (down 8 points).

Middle Eastern publics have much more tepid views of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Israelis have the most positive opinion of Sisi among the countries surveyed, but Israeli Arabs (22%) view him significantly less positively than Israeli Jews (49%). Sisi receives the most negative ratings in Turkey, where only 12% view him favorably. Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister in 2013, publicly opposed the overthrow of Sisi’s predecessor, Mohamed Morsi.

Saudi King Salman is generally viewed poorly, especially in Israel where only 14% hold a favorable view and no Israelis say they have a very favorable opinion of the Saudi leader. By contrast, 86% in Jordan view Salman positively and half view him very positively.

Jordanian King Abdullah II receives ratings more similar to those of other Middle Eastern leaders. Views of the king are the least positive among Turks; only 18% view him favorably, but a plurality (43%) does not express an opinion.

Views of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are negative across all of the Middle Eastern and North African nations surveyed. Only 7% in Israel and 1% in Jordan view Assad positively. Syrians living in Jordan have similarly negative views of the Syrian president; only 3% have a favorable view of Assad.

Views of Assad are more favorable in Lebanon than in any other country, but they vary starkly between Shia and Sunni Muslims in the country. A large majority of Shias (93%) and only 13% of Sunnis have a favorable opinion of the Syrian president.

In most countries, ratings of Assad have been similarly low since the first time this question was asked. However, opinion has become more favorable in Tunisia over the past five years (up 13 percentage points since 2012).

Opinions of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are generally similar to opinions of Assad. Fewer than 10% in both Israel and Jordan hold a positive view of the Iranian president.

Public views of Rouhani have become more negative in Jordan – 13% held a positive view of the leader in 2015 – but views in Israel have remained very low. Israeli Jews (0% favorable) and Israeli Arabs (22%) share low opinions of Rouhani. And in Jordan, both Syrians (1%) and Jordanians (4%) have very negative opinions of the Iranian president.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu receives extremely negative ratings from nations in the Middle East and North Africa. Only 7% in both Tunisia and Turkey, 1% in Jordan and 0% in Lebanon have a favorable view of Netanyahu. And the negative opinion in Jordan and Lebanon is particularly intense; 95% of Jordanians and 97% of Lebanese say they have a veryunfavorable view.

Lebanese opinion on leaders diverges by religious group

In Lebanon, Christians, Shias and Sunnis have remarkably different views of the Middle Eastern leaders tested. Overall, Shias and Sunnis disagree the most, with Christians’ views falling somewhere in the middle.

Shia Muslims in Lebanon hold more positive views of both Rouhani and Assad, compared with Sunni Muslims. Rouhani supports Assad in the civil war in Syria, as does Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia-run militant group labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. A Pew Research Center survey in 2014 found that a large majority of Shia Muslims in Lebanon held a positive view of the group.

Sunni Muslims show the strongest preference for Erdogan, a 66-percentage-point difference compared with Shia Muslims. Salman, Sisi and Abdullah II – all leaders of Sunni-majority countries – are also viewed more positively by Sunnis than Shias.

Netanyahu is the only leader whom Sunni and Shia Muslims in Lebanon view similarly; none of the Lebanese surveyed hold a positive view of the Israeli leader.

The Syrian civil war

The Syrian civil war, now in its seventh year, pits many of the region’s key players against each other. Few are optimistic that the war will end within the next year, though many believe it will not last beyond the next five years.

Views are most optimistic in Jordan. Fully 80% expect the war in Syria to end sometime in the next five years, including 32% who think it will end within the year. Syrians living in Jordan are even more hopeful about the war in their homeland; 64% expect it will end within the year, 26% say it will end within the next five years and only 10% think it will continue for more than five years.

Roughly two-thirds in Israel say the war will be over within the next five years, and 48% in Lebanon agree.

Turks are the most pessimistic about the length of the civil war in Syria. Nearly half say the war will continue for more than five years.

While the conflict continues, many in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon want their country to accept fewer refugees. As of mid-2016, these countries and other neighboring nations have taken in about 4.8 million Syrian refugees. Only 8% in Jordan and 4% in Lebanon and Turkey support accepting more refugees from Syria.

A majority in Jordan wants its country to accept fewer Syrian refugees and around one-quarter (23%) say their country should not accept any refugees (a volunteered category). However, Syrians already living in Jordan have very different views. A large majority of them say the country should accept more refugees from Syria and 0% say that Jordan should stop accepting refugees all together.

In Lebanon, similar numbers say their country should either accept fewer refugees (40%) or none at all (42%). Christians are more likely than Shia or Sunni Muslims to say that Lebanon should not accept any refugees from Syria.

Three-in-ten in Turkey want their country to accept fewer refugees from Syria and more than half say their country should stop accepting refugees entirely.

Assad appears on Syrian currency for first time

Read original article by Tom Perry and Mark Potter on the Reuters or read below;

  1. President Bashar al-Assad has appeared on the Syrian currency for the first time, his portrait printed on a new 2,000-pound banknote that went into circulation on Sunday.
  2. Central bank governor Duraid Durgham said the 2,000-pound note was one of several new notes printed years ago but the decision to put it into circulation was delayed “due to the circumstances of the war and exchange rate fluctuations”.
  3. The new note is equal to around $4 (£3.07) at current exchange rates. The currency has plunged in value since the conflict began in 2011, from 47 pounds to the dollar in 2010 to around 500 pounds to the dollar at present.
  4. Citing wear and tear of the existing notes, Durgham said the time was right to put the new note into circulation, the state news agency SANA reported.
  5. Previously, the highest denomination of Syrian banknote was 1,000 pounds. Assad’s father, the late President Hafez al-Assad who died in 2000, appeared on coins and on an older version of the 1,000 pound note, which is still in circulation.
  6. Durgham said the new note was put into circulation “in Damascus and a number of the provinces”.After years of war estimated to have killed hundreds of thousands of people, Assad appears militarily unassailable thanks in large part to direct military support from his allies Russia and Iran.

Syria’s Ancient History in Pictures

The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, shown here in the ’20s, is one of Syria’s most famous ancient sites.

A man prays above the ancient city of Damascus

People shop in the market of the Al-Hamidiyah Souq in Damascus, the country’s largest.

Shoppers chat under straw brooms and reed baskets at a bazaar in Damascus.

A young cobbler’s assistant carries strips of leather in Damascus. This photograph was featured in a 1946 National Geographic

Shoe vendors sit underneath hanging bundles of their wares in the 1940s.

The modern buildings of Damascus, seen in 1997, rise above the ancient sites.

A mud-and-brick housing compound in the region of Tell Mardikh, which was first settled some 5,000 years ago. The area is one of Syria’s most important ancient sites, but has been badly looted in the war.

Perched atop camels, Syrians prepare to ride in front of the gateway at Palmyra in the 1930s.

The modern buildings of Damascus, seen in 1997, rise above the ancient sites.

A boy works at a locksmith booth at a market.

Syrian kids pile on a car in Damascus.

A mother and her daughter walk along the waterfront in Latakia.

A boy reads an issue of National Geographic in Beirut when the city was part of Syria.

A waterwheel brings water from the Orontes River to an aqueduct in Hama. Thousands of years ago, the river served as an important trade route from modern-day Turkey, Lebanon, and Syria.

Original Source – National Geographic

Germany pulls troops and aircraft from Turkish airbases in row with Ankara

Image result for independent logo

Read original article on The Independent or read some of the key points below;

  1. Germany will pull all of its troops and aircraft from its Turkish airbase amid a diplomatic row with Ankara, defence minister Ursula von der Leyen has announced.
  2. Around 270 troops stationed at Incirlik, near the Syrian border, as well as Tornado reconnaissance jets and a refuelling plane, will be moved to Jordan over the next two months. Ms Von der Leyen said, “Given that Turkey is currently not in a position to allow German parliamentarians the right to visit Incirlik, the Cabinet today agreed to move the Bundeswehr from Incirlik to Jordan.”
  3. Tensions between Berlin and Ankara have mounted in recent weeks after Turkish officials refused to let German MPs visit troops stationed at the base.
  4. The arrest of German journalists in Turkey and Germany’s decision to grant asylum to soldiers and others who Turkey alleges were involved in last year’s failed coup have also contributed to the diplomatic standoff. Both sides took part in last ditch talks aimed at maintaining Germany’s presence at the airbase, from where its aircraft contribute to the anti-Isis mission.
  5. Foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel was in Turkey on Monday in an attempt to convince Ankara to soften its stance, but said Turkey had refused the visits for “domestic political reasons”. He said he had wanted to avoid further damaging ties with Turkey and pushing it towards Russia.

US facing new era of instability as Middle East sinks further into turmoil

Read original article by Anna Pujol-Mazzini on the Reuters or read some of they key points below;

  1. “An annual global peace index has concluded that US political turmoil had pushed North America into deep instability in 2016 while the Middle East sank deeper into turmoil.”
  2. “Although this year’s up-tick is reassuring, the world is still mired with conflict in the Middle East, political turmoil in the US, refugee flows and terrorism in Europe,” said Steve Killelea, founder of the Sydney-based Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), which produces the index.”
  3. “Three out of the five least peaceful countries – Syria, Iraq and Yemen – are in the Middle East, and Syria retained the top spot of least peaceful country for the fifth year in a row.”
  4. “It measures 23 indicators including incidents of violent crime, levels of militarisation, weapons imports, as well as refugee tallies and the number killed in internal conflict. Syria retained its overall top spot in the index.”
  5. “About half a million people are estimated to have been killed in Syria’s six-year civil war, which has dragged in regional and world powers and caused the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War.”
  6. “Many countries in the Middle East and North Africa, however, became more peaceful in 2016, including Morocco and Iran, where political stability has increased, the index said.”
  7. “Meanwhile, political stability in the United States dropped as the presidential campaign that elevated Donald Trump to the White House highlighted deep divisions within society.”Add Row
  8. “Iceland is the world’s most peaceful country listed in the index, followed by New Zealand, Portugal, Austria and Denmark.”

Mass hangings and extermination at Saydnaya Prison, Syria

“Saydnaya is the end of life – the end of humanity.” (Abu Muhammed, former guard at Saydnaya)

  • In a press briefing Monday 15th May, acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Stuart Jones — a career foreign service officer who’s served as ambassador to Iraq and Jordan — presented newly declassified satellite evidence suggesting that the Syrian government has built a crematorium to dispose of bodies at its notorious Saydnaya prison complex, outside Damascus. [NYT / Gardiner Harris and Anne Barnard]
  • If Saydnaya sounds familiar, that’s probably due to a February report from Amnesty International that estimated that anywhere from 5,000 to 13,000 people have been executed there since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011. Deaths due to disease or malnutrition were common, and guards torture inmates by withholding water, beating them with electrical cables and belts made of cut-up tank tracks, and forcing prisoners to rape each other. Prisoners are typically executed by hanging, after being blindfolded and told they’re going to a “good place.” [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • The Amnesty report said that the prison facility was enlarged in 2012 to enable more executions. “Our data … suggests as many as 50 murders a day coming out of the complex,” the State Department’s Jones told reporters. “If you have that level of production of mass murder, then using the crematorium would help.” The photos released by State show the addition of HVAC facilities, a discharge stack, and other changes that suggest a crematorium has been constructed. [State Department / Stuart Jones]
  • Jones further specified that he thinks the crematorium is a way to destroy evidence of the Syrian government’s crimes: “We believe that the building of a crematorium is an effort to cover up the extent of mass murders taking place in Saydnaya prison.”
  • Jones’s remarks included a specific call-out to Russia, the Syrian government’s main foreign backer, calling on it to “exercise its great influence over the Syrian regime” to stop the mass murders at Saydnaya. [Washington Post / Karen DeYoung]
  • The timing of the revelation is also important: Tomorrow, indirect peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition start up again in Geneva, and Jones is the highest-ranking American official involved in the details of the Syrian peace process. The Assad government has downplayed the Geneva talks in favor of a parallel process in Kazakhstan with Russia, Turkey, and Iran, to negotiate local ceasefire zones. Jones has been an observer for some of those talks too. [The Guardian / Julian Borger​]

How Erdogan Betrayed Aleppo

This is a brief outline of Erdogan’s recent interventions in Syria. For a detailed exposition with all references, read this essay: https://goo.gl/ePJQ5V

Scroll to top