Syria Daily, Dec 2: Britain & Germany Move Towards Action v. ISIS — But Will It Matter?

In this image taken from the Parliamentary Recording Unit via AP Britain's Prime Minister, David Cameron addresses lawmakers in the House of Commons, London, making his case for airstrikes as part of a "comprehensive overall strategy" to destroy IS and end the Syrian war, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015. Cameron is trying to persuade lawmakers to back action, arguing that the Paris attacks have given new urgency to the fight against IS. The Royal Air Force is part of a U.S.-led coalition attacking the militants in Iraq, but not in Syria. ((AP Photo/Parliamentary Recording Unit, via AP video) TV OUT NO ARCHIVE

PHOTO: Prime Minister David Cameron addresses the British Parliament last Thursday


Britain’s Parliament is likely on Wednesday to authorize airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria, a day after the German Cabinet authorized the deployment of 1,200 support troops, support aircraft, and a frigate for the anti-ISIS mission in Iraq and Syria.

The British Government had been checked by MPs both this summer and in early November in its moves towards airstrikes alongside the US; however, the political atmosphere has been changed by the Islamic State’s deadly attacks in Paris on November 13.

However, British airstrikes are likely to be marginal in the Syrian conflict. Only 8 Tornado jet fighters are reportedly available for sorties. Forty less-advanced Typhoons can undertake missions, but they are not able to use the high-precision Brimstone missile.

Perhaps more importantly, any airstrikes are unlikely to deal with the main issues in the Syrian conflict. They are unlikely to be coordinated with any ground operations against ISIS, and they will not confront the central question of the Assad regime and its 56-month political and military confrontation with opposing groups, as well as attacks which have brought the large majority of the more than 300,000 deaths and displacement of 11 million people.

In August 2013, Parliament rejected the Government’s request for military intervention following the regime’s chemical attacks near Damascus that killed than 1,400 people.

The German Cabinet’s authorization on Tuesday was for soldiers to provide support services for ground operations in Iraq and Syria, the deployment of 4-6 RECCE-Tornado jet fighters for reconnaissance, a frigate to escort the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the eastern Mediterranean, and Airbus tankers to refuel French warplanes.

The measures will now be considered by the Bundestag.

Up to now, Berlin has restricted its involvement in the fight against the Islamic State to arming and training Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga.

US to Add “More than 50” Special Forces for Operations in Iraq and Syria

The US will add more than 50 special forces to its operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told a Congressional hearing on Tuesday.

Carter said a specialized expeditionary force will target ISIS fighters in Iraq and make targeted raids into Syria: “These special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture ISIL leaders.”

Last month, President Obama authorized the deployment up to 50 special forces in Syria. Those troops are likely embedded with Kurdish-led units facing the Islamic State in the northeast of the country.

The US also delivered 50 tons of ammunition and weapons to the new Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

Aleppo Province: Afrin Kurds Declare “State of Emergency”; ISIS Advances Near Azaz

Kurdish officials in the Afrin Canton in Aleppo Province have declared a “state of emergency”, warning that Jabhat al-Nusra and the rebel faction Ahrar al-Sham are threatening residents.

Afrin co-leader Hevy Mustafa said, “The goal of the attack which the Afrin Canton is being subjected to by the forces of terrorism — al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham, which are supported by the Turkish state — is to break the will of the canton’s people.”

Located in northwest Syria near the Turkish border, the Afrin Canton is isolated from the Cizire and Kobane Cantons in the northeast which are now a de facto autonomous region.

In the past two weeks, fighting has surged between rebels and the dissident faction Jaish al-Thuwar, allied with the Kurdish militia YPG, in the area from Afrin to rebel-held Azaz.

The Afrin Canton reiterated its support for Jaysh al-Thuwar, “The terrorist groups have found that the project to build a democratic Syria starts from the Afrin Canton, therefore they have directly attacked Jaysh al-Thuwar. Attacking Jaysh al-Thuwar means attacking the Canton and striking democratic forces.”

Mustafa said the Kurdish militia were now involved in the fighting, “The YPG intervened because it supports all serious opposition forces that [favor] the building of a democratic Syria.”

Meanwhile, pro-opposition activists said the Islamic State has advanced against rebels near Azaz, taking advantage of an escalation in Russian bombing to seize Kafra and other villages.

Assad Reinforces Russia Anti-Turkish Campaign “Erdogan Has Failed”

President Assad has reinforced Russia’s anti-Turkish campaign, telling Czech television that Ankara is supporting “terrorists” via Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Assad also claimed Western government were involved in the operations:

If you really want to fight and defeat [terrorists], then it is necessary to cut off their supplies of ammunition, weapons, money, which they mostly get through Turkey with the support of Saudi Arabia and Qatar….

When the counties that I mentioned — France, Great Britain, USA, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and others — stop supporting terrorists, the situation will improve the next day. And in several months peace will definitely come to Syria if they stop.

See also Syria Audio Analysis: The Reality of Turkey and the Islamic State’s Oil

Assad also claimed that Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane near the Turkish-Syrian border last week showed the weakness of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan:

I think this showed Erdogan’s real intention as he could not cope that the Russian operation changed the balance of power on the ground.

This is Erdogan’s failure in Syria. The failure of his terrorist groups means the end of his political career, and he wanted to do anything to hinder the success [of the Russian military operation].

I do not think that it will change the balance. The war against terrorism continues. Russian support will be stronger, and I don’t think there is a way back.

Asked for his evidence that Western countries were supplying the Islamic State, Assad replied, “You have them very clearly on the Internet.”

In response to the challenge, “The message to the West is there was no discriminate killing of the civilians in the beginning of the Syrian war, there was no massive torturing of opponents of the regime?”, Assad replied:

War is about killing; armament is about killing. You always have casualties and you always have innocents in any war throughout history….How do you kill them when you want their support?

As for the 11 million Syrians who have been displaced, Assad said, “The feeling is very sad, especially if you think that every person of those Syrians who left Syria has a sad story behind him.”

He added, “I didn’t fail them, I did not destroy their infrastructure, I did not give the arms to terrorists to kill and to destroy. The question is: who did that? The Europeans and the Saudis and the Qataris.”

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.


  1. Britain & Germany action against Daesh — but what will it matter?

    There is a kind of politic chance against russia: Yesterday Stoltenberg made it clear that Nato stands behind Turkey securing it`s borders. Additional Montenegro aspires to join NATO and the Allies have invited the country to begin accession talks to join the Alliance.

    Hollande has asked European partners for help against Daesh – the very quick german and british decision of action is a show of solidarity to bolster Hollande.

    Seems to be that Nato have learned the lesson from the Ukrain and Syria conflict:

    • I am sure something is brewing in north aleppo. The turks have been massing military hardware at the border and there are consistent rumours of a safe zone and a NFZ to be imposed shortly, this is something which will have to be orchestrated with NATO. And all these last 48hrs russian airstrikes favouring YPG (and ISIS mostly) in that area makes me think the russians know what is coming.

      • archicivilians ‏– “As expected – opposition forces lost Kafrah village to Daesh due to heavy Russian airstrikes, giving Daesh the ability to gain territory”.

        Russian airraids makes Daesh stronger. Putin doesn`t care about Deash because he is busy writing the propaganda narrative that Assad has stoped
        the breaking down of Assad`s Syria with the Help of russian forces.

      • I don’t think Turkey will let the rebels lose their supply route to Turkey in Aleppo. They won’t let IS control it and they certainly won’t let the Kurds control it.

  2. Scott – I am very intrigued to find out something that is not at the moment being over-reported, and that is how much is being reported in the Arab press about the destuctionon and deaths being caused by the Russian campaign in Syria? Is there a growing sense of outrage in the region?

  3. Just a quick reminder that despite all the different groups now claiming to fight IS. The rebels have by far the best track record. Charles Lister tweet sums it up the best. The 4 provinces the conventional opposition have forced ISIS out of are Damascus, Idlib, Latakia, and Daraa.

    Charles Lister ‏@Charles_Lister
    – Jan-Mar ’14, #Syria’s conventional opposition forced #ISIS from 4 provinces.
    – Sep ’14-Nov ’15, Kurds won back c.60% of 1 province.

    • Maybe Russia are relying on old information as the majority of much of their bombing have been in Idlib and Latakia. The rebels already finished the job here almost two years ago.

      • Assadist and Iranian soldiers obviously don’t get the same treatment, but then again it’s not LAF sending troops abroad to prop up a destructive regime.

        One of the Christian Lebanese soldiers even thanked JaN post-release for a kind treatment. Definitely a case of Stockholm Syndrome, but it’s obvious they weren’t mistreated. This is essentially a replay of the 2014 release of captive nuns.

      • Gunny,

        At length Hamed discribs the massacres and Mohammeds strange connections to women and he is painting Muhammad as a mass murderer and as a sick tyrant who has suffered from compulsion to control, narcissism, megalomania, fears to loss something and paranoia. At one point Hamed is comparing him even with Hitler.

        Hamed Abdel-Samad appears to be an interesting chap, and thanks for bringing him up. He is vivid evidence shattering the post colonial Left’s Islamaphobia thesis that all Muslims love Islam and Mohammad.

        But the point is: Hamed says that Islam isn`t refomable. Hamed stance would be the same as if you ask the Catholics to reject the idea of an immaculate conception and the doctrine of the Trinity, or if you aske the Jews to finally recognize Jesus as the final prophet.

        That is a good point gunny. Immaculate conception or the Trinity, etc. are theologic arguments of the he-said she-said class. One can argue them either way till the cows come home.

        However with the character Mohammad, there is a historic record, ahadith, sirat, and the Qur’an. Things get pretty black and white. It is hard to discuss Islamic theology (as there is very little) without getting into the character of Mohammad. Thus Islamics are always on their backfoot trying to whitewash Mohammad and insist on perfection. On the other hand the critics have no other avenue to talk about Islam, or to reform Islam so to speak, without critiquing this odious character.

        In this sense, Islam become unreformable, as a simple reformation of Islam requires the dismantling of the doctrines of immaculate conception and the Trinity, namely that Mohammad was and is for eternity the perfect human being.

        This is absurd. Hameds fight against the devils of his childhood is okay – but his discrimination of 1.5 Billion Muslims to potential perpetrators of violence and terrorists like Daesh and Boko Haram is the same as if you would tell the Ku Klux Klan with its burning crosses is the only correct interpretation of Christianity.

        I think what Hamed is saying is that there is no such thing as a modern and libertarian interpretation of Islam, that can and will be accepted by the Islamics and believers. Because Islam does not allow debate, contemplation, and doubt, how are you going to convince a believer to even look at alternative interpretations? The greatest sin is doubt in Islam. Your salvation is out the window the minute you entertain doubt. Any modern interpretation of Islam would have to say that Mohammad was just a human being and he did commit unsavory acts and errors, but that does not make him any less of a prophet. When Muslims are not even allowed to have a rendering of his face, how do you expect them to discuss such emotional issues? The more liberal forms of Islam, such as Ismailis, Ahmadis, and even Alawis are apostates as far as the ordinary believer is concerned. These sects can’t even proselytize and attract new followers.


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