Syria Daily, Dec 8: Opposition-Rebel Talks Begin in Saudi Arabia

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PHOTO: President of the Syrian National Coalition, Khaled Khoja


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Talks among Syria’s opposition and rebel groups begin in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, in an effort to establish a bloc before negotiations with the Assad regime.

More than 100 representatives have been invited, including members from the externally-based Syrian National Coalition and the domestically-based National Coordinating Body for Democratic Change. There are also 15 delegates from units of the Free Syrian Army and rebel factions such as Ahrar al-Sham.

Zahran Alloush, the leader of the prominent faction Jaish al-Islam, said he would not attend because the route of the group’s base near Damascus is now “out of control”. However, representatives of Jaish al-Islam’s political office, will participate.

However, the Kurdistan Democratic Union Party (PYD) has not been invited, despite pressure from the US Government for its inclusion in the three-day discussions.

Syrian Kurdish factions will convene in a two-day conference on Tuesday in northeast Syria and will include Kurds. Organizers said the Assyrian Democratic Party, Arab figures, and religious leaders will also attend.


Rebel Counter-Offensive Retakes Village South of Aleppo

A rebel counter-offensive has reportedly retaken a village south of Aleppo, further denting regime efforts to reach the Aleppo-to-Damascus highway.

Local sources reports that the rebel coalition Jaish al-Fateh recaptured Banes after a sudden counter-attack, inflicting heavy casualties.

Footage from the fighting:

Foreign-led regime forces had moved into Banes last month in the south Aleppo campaign, the most successful of the five offensives — covered by Russian airstrikes and including Iranian, Hezbollah, Iraqi, Pakistani, and Afghan forces — against rebels.

However, the regime had been unable to reach its goal of control of the M5 highway.

The capture of Banes overtook earlier reports of a regime advance near Khan Touman, 10 km (6 miles) southwest of Aleppo, threatening the highway and rebel supplies from Idlib Province.

Local sources indicated that rebels used a tactic, seen before in northwest Syria, of allowing regime forces to push forward and then striking back at the extended front line.

There are unconfirmed claims of a further rebel strike on Shia militias with the regime forces, killing a numbeer of them with a large vehicle-borne bomb in al-Eis.


Regime: We Will Send 700,000 Tons of Fruit to Russia to Cover Ban on Turkish Produce

In a PR move linking both Russian pressure on Turkey and the Assad regime’s capabilities, Syrian officials have declared that Damascus Syria will export more than 700,000 tons of citrus fruits to Russia to “fill the gap” left by Moscow’s ban on Turkish agricultural products.

“We are preparing some 700,000 tons of citrus, mostly oranges, to send to Russian markets,” Fares Chehabi, head of Syria’s Chambers of Industry, said. “The first shipment has already left for Russia.”

Chehabi said other Syrian goods, such as textile products, would also be sent to Russia.

Russia banned imports of Turkish produce last month after Turkish jets shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian-Turkish border.

Samer Debes, head of the Damascus Chamber of Industry, told State news agency SANA the shipments provided “a real opportunity” for Syrian goods in the Russian market.

These sanctions “create an important gap and suddenly a real opportunity for Syrian products,” Debes said.

If Syria did send 700,000 tons, it would be more than 2/3rds of the country’s entire output of citrus fruits in the 2014-2015 season.

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19 COMMENTS

  1. These are effectively capitulation and surrender talks a la Dayton. Not surprised to see Ahrar there but there are a lot of FSA groups missing. Those who attend will no doubt be offered incentives – i.e. money and arms – to co-operate and sign local truces with the regime, and to work with the coalition against Isis in the near term, with a longer term aim of fighting groups like Nusra and any factions who don’t sign up to the Vienna accords.

    I think there are two big factors on the ground that will sink this ship: signing up to the plan isn’t going to stop the regime, Russians or Iranians from taking every opportunity to slaughter rebels and sunni civilians, it’s in the nature of the beast, so whats the point; and secondly, there isn’t enough of a critical mass of rebels on board, and the ones who are there are already being condemned by others.

    There should be talks that put the regime, Iranians and Russians under pressure to stop bombing civilian areas and to halt operations, not talks to pressure the rebels into surrendering to Assad.

    • The opposition, and primarily the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), must engage in the project for partial change for the purpose of thwarting the Iranian-Russian plan, which says the Syrian opposition is “” incapable of reaching an agreement to be an alternative to Assad.””

      The Syrian opposition groups have nothing to lose if they reach an agreement and cooperate.

  2. PYD & SDF (Kobane Front) have reached Tall al Sim`an. (27 km north of Raqqa)
    Looks like that northern Kobane Front have left the Kanton Kobane.

  3. Superb Article From FP:

    Was This Obama’s ‘Crisis of Confidence’ Moment?

    EXCERPTS

    President Obama’s address to the nation on Sunday night was reminiscent of Jimmy Carter’s famous July 1979 Oval Office so-called “crisis of confidence” speech..At least Carter put forward a number of initiatives, both that he was able to take as president, and that he requested from the Congress, though few of them were actually realized. Obama did not even do that much…

    What the president offered was a rehash of old policies and pronouncements — a grudging recognition that the terrorism that was threatening America had some relationship to extremist Islamism — though he did not utter those words, nor even employ Hillary Clinton’s “jihadism” formulation. He seemed constitutionally unable to detach himself from his long-standing straw-man argument that the only alternative to his administration’s so-called strategy for “defeating” IS was a massive incursion of American land forces that would mire the United States in fighting a decades-long insurgency…

    The fact is that American strategy for combatting the IS is completely bankrupt. The administration has no new ideas, and is accomplishing very little with its old ones…

    http://news.yahoo.com/obama-crisis-confidence-moment-212641664.html

    It appears that even Obama’s long-time defenders on EA, who once railed against my soi-called rants regarding Obama’S Iincompetende and his enabling of genocide, radicalism, sectarian warfare, ISIS, and related conseqquences (terror attacks, refugee crisis), have grasped the essential truths they once denied. If only enough had done so earlier and if only Democrats hadn’t sacrificed national security to become the Party of Appeasment, the Footstool of Putin, Assad and Khamenei,

    Maybe the political pressure on Obama would have been sufficient to get him off his butt (and maybe not given his stubborn inflexibility, his total lack of strategic sense and his endless efforts to given Russia and Iran a major role in Syria’s future. As in Putin’s Ukraine invasion and the current Russian and Iranian invasion of Syria, Obama’s behavior virturally invited all of this. Ditto for ISIS expansion from almost nothing when Obama the Magnificent (sarcasm) took office.

    • 1..US strategy at the moment: to contain, reduce and defeat Daesh. No US boots on the ground but Kurdish, Yazidi & SDF forces, backed by U.S. air power.

      What`s wrong with it?

      2..The terrorist attacks in Paris, the downing of the Russian airliner and the Daesh Bomb that exploded in the Shiite sector of Beirut, are a payback of Daesh.

      Daesh is getting smaller in Syria and it`s territory gets smaler. Haedcutters are growing desperate and they are lashing out and they try to go to Libya and Europe.

      Is this the mistake of Obama? Can`t see it.

      3..Whats the meaning of incompetence?
      Incompetence it is not to see that there are 150 rebel groups and 1,000 militias but no common ground for shaping the political future of Syria.

      Incompetence is the unability see that the freedom struggle of syrians is a part of the game only. Turks, Saudi Arabia, Iranians and Russians are fighting to gain influence – additional it`s a fight between sunni and shia.

      What should be the part of US and EU in this struggle? To back Moslem Brotherhood (Turkey) which has helped that the military dictatorship came back to Egypt? Or should they back Ahrar el Sham or Jaysh al Islam?

      The reason of syrian refugee at Europe is the hopelessness of the situation at syria:
      The first reason to flee is the war, the second Assad and the third is Daesh.

      The common enemy of US and Europeans is Daesh. This fight is backed by the UN resolution (no. 2249), the Article 51 of the UN Charter and Article 42, paragraph 7 of the EU Treaty of Lisbon, according to which EU countries owe to help and support.
      (France has asked)

      4..The establishment of Daesh is a problem that has arisen after the Iraq war. The Iraq war has shown the unability of nationbuilding at Iraq. Same thing has happened at Libya.
      Do you want to make the same mistake for a second and for a third time trying to solve a problem with a full scale war which can`t be solved with using western troops on the ground?

      5….decades-long insurgency….
      You find a good descrition for the Afghanistan war. Thank you.

      6…After the unability to make the Iraq and Libya engagement successful it would have been even a bigger disaster if US would have stepped in with a big scale war. We should avoid a second Afghanistan. Without talks the middle east crises can`t be solved: To many interests and to many different problems.

  4. “Reuters

    AMMAN/BEIRUT: Syrian government forces backed by Iranian troops edged closer to a major rebel-controlled highway south of Aleppo Tuesday, pushing further into insurgent-held areas supported by heavy Russian airstrikes.

    After seizing a series of villages including Zitan, Humaira and Qalaajiya, the army said it had thrust to the outskirts of Zirba and encircled the town of Khan Touman, an advance rebels said had left them outgunned from the air and ground.

    The aim of government forces appeared to be to cut the main Aleppo-Damascus highway that fighters use to transport supplies from rebel-held Idlib province to the north.

    Two months of Russian airstrikes twinned with army ground offensives backed by Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces have shored up Syrian President Bashar Assad in his western heartland. The government side has made gains in Latakia province near Turkey’s border, and in southern Aleppo, but they have not tipped the war decisively Assad’s way.

    Still, a retaking of Khan Touman and attaining the highway would mark the biggest milestone in the offensive in southern Aleppo province where the army and supporting units of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, Hezbollah fighters and Iraqi Shiite Muslim militia have already secured large swathes of territory.

    Khan Touman housed a large military ammunition store before being seized by rebels in 2013. Retaking it would allow government forces to disrupt rebel lines linking their Aleppo province strongholds with Idlib.

    Rebels said the military pressure on them had intensified in the area, and conceded that Khan Touman, 10 km (6 miles) southwest of Aleppo city, could fall back into government hands.

    SITUATION “BAD:” REBEL OFFICIAL

    “The situation is bad in general. It is the same story – there is no military balance or even the slightest degree of it,” an official in one of the rebel groups operating in the area told Reuters.

    “There are planes, artillery, rocket launchers of every type, and militias from all countries,” said the official from the Sham Revolutionary Brigades, giving his name as Abu Mohamed.

    The government’s Aleppo offensive targets a large area to the south of the city near the highway to the capital Damascus in the south. Continued advances would eventually bring the army and its allies to two besieged Shiite towns, Kefraya and al-Foua, further to the west.

    “We have built fortifications to thwart any new advance,” said Yousef al-Issa, a field commander for Ahrar al-Sham, one of the main insurgent groups fighting in the area. “We are trying to disperse their forces but the Russian bombing is holding us back.”

    Government forces also seek to regain the rebel-held Zirba power plant in the area that once fed parts of Aleppo city. Losing it to rebels, officials say, worsened power shortages in the city of more than three million people, pre-war Syria’s commercial capital, officials say.

    Last month the army and allied fighters, backed by Russian airstrikes, recaptured the town of al-Hader and the Talaat al-Eiss highlands, a move that secured control of most of southern Aleppo countryside.

    But reinforcements to the mainly Islamist rebels, including Syria’s Al-Qaeda offshoot the Nusra Front, later slowed further government gains.”

    • Rebels retook Tall Bakkarah north of Kafr Haddad, Nusra detonate 2 vehice bombs in Shiite militia hold Al-Eis town in southern Aleppo, FSA is bombing daesh at Asanbel, JaF try to storm now Al-Eis town in southern rural Aleppo and Aleppo Rebels retook Zaytan in southern Aleppo.

      But it seems tobe that a Russia’n submarine at the Syria’n coast now launching cruise missiles on Syria. Since when Daesh is fighting at the Mediterranean Sea?

      Russians are crazy – they are doing everything to transform Syria into Afghanistan reloaded.

      But no gains on the ground for Putin and Khamnei – except a zero-sum game.

      • There are reports that those cruise have been launched against Isis targets. But again will have to be confirmed. On the other hand JAF sudden counter attack retook Banis and then it seemed they went directly to try and storm Al Eis. Taking the latter would be a major gain by JAF having it lost not long ago and beeing a strategic location.

        • As long as the SAA holds Al Eis the M5 is going to be under threat. Al Eis is a linchpin, but its going to be very hard to take.

      • James, don”t takes twitter reports of markito too seriously, especially the rumors coming right after defeats.

        He was claiming one month ago that rebels retook Hadher the night after they lost it. These claims are countless in the history of this war. Informations of counter attacks coming right after rebels defeats are at 95% false.

  5. Multiple Russian Orthodox Crusade airstrikes targeted Sunni civilians inc. a school in al-Halk, Khaldiya & Layramoun in #Aleppo this AM.–Sami

    Shiite Crusade militias hang a poster of Qassem Soleimani on a Sunni mosque in Aleppo. Iran the tolerant.-Michael Doran.

    From Foreign Affairs Quarterly: THE RESISTABLE RISE OF VLADIMIR PUTIN

    How did twenty-first-century Russia end up, yet again, in personal rule? An advanced industrial country of 142 million people, it has no enduring political parties that organize and respond to voter preferences. The military is sprawling yet tame; the immense secret police are effectively in one man’s pocket. The hydrocarbon sector is a personal bank, and indeed much of the economy is increasingly treated as an individual fiefdom. Mass media move more or less in lockstep with the commands of the presidential administration. Competing interest groups abound, but there is no rival center of power. In late October 2014, after a top aide to Russia’s president told the annual forum of the Valdai Discussion Club, which brings together Russian and foreign experts, that Russians understand “if there is no Putin, there is no Russia,” the pundit Stanislav Belkovsky observed that “the search for Russia’s national idea, which began after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, is finally over. Now, it is evident that Russia’s national idea is Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.”

    https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/resistible-rise-vladimir-putin

    Stephen Kotkin also has a video on the subject at You Tube. You’ll find that along with other aanalysis of Putin by various authors at this location:

    https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video;_ylt=A0SO81ElIWdWUfEAbdFXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEyM3FyamVhBGNvbG8DZ3ExBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQjEzMjVfMQRzZWMDc2M-?p=The+Resistable+Rise+of+Vladimir+Putin&fr=mcafee

  6. Syrian Oppositison comes together at Saudi Arabia.

    ———————————————————————

    Syria’s opposition was gathering in Saudi Arabia discussions on forming a United Front in potential peace talks with the massmurder President.

    The Saudi-organized talks, due to start Wednesday, mark the first time representatives of some of Syria’s various political and armed opposition factions come together since the outbreak of the country’s conflict in March 2011.

    The goal: to form a unified bloc for talks with the president of 25% syria
    ———————————————————————
    Participants: (so far as known)

    The main Western-backed political alliance, the Opposition Forces, supports the implementation of the 2012 Geneva Communique, which calls for the establishment of a transitional governing body in Syria. Its Turkey-based leadership insists that President Assad must go

    The Syria-based opposition grouping, the National Co-ordination Committee for Democratic Change, calls for negotiations on a peaceful transition. It is tolerated by the government, though its members have been harassed and detained.

    The Western-backed Southern Front alliance, which operates in the south, describes its self as “the moderate voice and the strong arm of the Syrian people”.

    Ahrar al-Sham , Jaysh al-Fatah (saudi backed)

    Some 100 delegates are expected for the talks on forming an opposition bloc to negotiate with Assad on the transition.

    Nusra and Daesh were not invited.

    —————————————————————–

    Riyadh insists invitations were extended to “all factions of the moderate Syrian opposition” including from all parties, sects and ethnic groups.

    But Kurdish organisations, including the recently formed and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which includes Kurds, Arab Sunni Muslims and Christians fighting ISIS, were not invited.

    ——————————————————————–
    Kurdish groups, including the leading Democratic Union Party, have organized their own two-day conference starting Tuesday.
    ——————————————————————–

    The meeting would be chaired by Abdulaziz Sager, a Saudi who heads the independent Gulf Research Center in Geneva.

    The first day would focus on political questions, including the general contours of a potential settlement, while Thursday would be dedicated to discussing “terrorism, a ceasefire and reconstruction,” the delegate said.

    About 20 members of the Istanbul-based National Coalition, the main opposition grouping, are taking part in the meetings.

    Charles Lister, visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, told AFP the talks aim “to go some way towards establishing an opposition negotiating team.”

    The Riyadh meeting is also “an attempt to establish a unified political structure between the recognized political opposition coalition and the armed opposition as a whole,” the analyst said.

    Syria’s political opposition, including the National Coalition, has long been accused of being out of touch with forces on the ground.

    He said the aim was to “agree on a common and clear position concerning the future of Syria, the transition and the stance on (the fate of) Bashar al-Assad.”

    http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2015/Dec-08/326432-syrian-opposition-in-riyadh-for-difficult-unity-talks.ashx

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35035232

  7. Mark ‏ — 12.000 refugees are trapped in the syrian desert at the border triangle to Jordan & Iraq.
    Jordan blocks them if they want to cross the border.

    • Assad, Putin and Khamenei are doing everything possible to destabilise the region right now and if he will stay in power. More killings, more scorched earth – and more refugees including irresolvable hatred between two religions.

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