Syria

Assad, Russia launch Idlib offensive

The Assad regime and allied militias, backed by Russian air-strikes, this week launched the long-feared offensive on Idlib, the northwest Syrian province that is the last under rebel and opposition control. The offensive places at risk the lives of more than 4.5 million civilians. Just this month, a further 150,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in Idlib, joining the ranks the displaced. The UN has previously warned that an assault on Idlib could cause “the worst humanitarian catastrophe the world has seen in the 21st century.” At particular risk are 350,000 people living in displacement camps, who have no protection from the bombs. The more recently displaced are now without any shelter on lands near the Turkish border, which Ankara has shut to prevent a refugee influx. (Photo: EA Worldview)

Syria

Syria’s Idlib still under bombardment

Syria’s last opposition-controlled province of Idlib has receded from the headlines since a joint Russian-Turkish deal was announced last September, forestalling an Assad regime offensive on the province and establishing a “demilitarized zone” policed by the two foreign powers. But shelling and bombardment of the province by Assadist and Russian forces has escalated over the past month—and much of the shells and missiles are falling within the “demilitarized zone.” UN Senior Humanitarian Advisor for Syria Najat Rochdi reports that over 100,000 Idlib residents have fled their homes since February as a result of increased fighting. More than 90 civilians, half of them children, were killed in the province in March. As ever, medical facilities and schools continue to be targeted. (Photo via EA Worldview)

Syria

Anarcho-fascist convergence at State of Union?

We’ve already noted the strange bedfellows in the Rojava Kurds’ political push to forestalll a US withdrawal from northern Syria, which would be a green light for Turkey to attack their autonomous zone. Well, they just got stranger with the arrival in Washington of Ilham Ahmed, co-president of the Syrian Democratic Council, civilian wing of the Kurdish-led US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. She and her delegation met with Trump at the Trump International Hotel, where the prez reportedly told the group “I love the Kurds,” and promised that they are “not going to be killed” by Turkish forces. Making it even more surreal, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, best friend of fascist dictator Bashar Assad on Capitol Hill, brought Ahmed to the State of the Union address as her special guest. The Turkish newspaper Takvim ran a photo of Ahmed standing beside Trump at the SOTU. We wonder if Ahmed, who represents a radical-left Kurdish revolutionary movement that is influenced by anarchism, is aware that the presidential bid of her host Gabbard has been endorsed by David Duke—who shares Tulsi’s fondness for Assad.

Syria

Idlib still threatened as Assad escalates genocide

Assad regime artillery struck areas of Syria’s opposition-held Idlib province after militants allegedly tried to infiltrate regime-held areas. The shelling was reportedly focused on the town of Tamanaa, which was seized from Turkish-backed rebels by jihadist forces earlier in the week. The was apparently part of a ceasefire agreement ending an internal conflict between rival opposition forces in Idlib, which saw jihadists taking over much of the province. These ominous developments may spell an end to Idlib’s reprieve from the threatened Assad offensiive on the province since establishment of a joint Turkish-Russian buffer zone there. To make this all more sobering still, the Assad regime appears to be escalating its campaign of genocide in the areas of Syria it has re-conquered, stepping up its mass extermination of detainees. The Syrian Network For Human Rights said in a year-end report that nearly a thousand died, presumably under torture, in regime prisons in 2018.  (Photo of hunger strikers at Syrian prison via Foreign Policy. Credit: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

Syria

Podcast: Solidarity with Idlib and Rojava

In Episode 23 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the assassination of Raed Fares, a courageous voice of the civil resistance in besieged Idlib province, last remaining stronghold of the Syrian Revolution. The resistance in Idlib, which liberated the territory from the Bashar Assad regime in popular uprisings seven years ago, is now also resisting the jihadist forces in the province, expelling them from their self-governing towns and villages. Their hard-won zones of popular democracy face extermination if this last stronghold is invaded by Assad and his Russian backers. As Assad and Putin threaten Idlib, Trump’s announced withdrawal of the 2,000 US troops embedded with Kurdish forces in Syria’s northeast is a “green light” to Turkey to attack Rojava, the anarchist-inspired Kurdish autonomous zone. The two last zones of democratic self-rule in Syria are each now gravely threatened. Yet with Turkey posing as protector of Idlib, the Arab revolutionary forces there have been pitted against the Kurds. The Free Syrian Army and Rojava Kurds were briefly allied against ISIS and Assad alike four years ago, before they were played against each other by imperial intrigues. Can this alliance be rebuilt, in repudiation of the foreign powers now seeking to carve up Syria? Or will the US withdrawal merely spark an Arab-Kurdish ethnic war in northern Syria? Weinberg calls for activists in the West to repudiate the imperial divide-and-rule stratagems, and demand survival of liberated Idlib and Rojava alike. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: NYC Syria Peace Vigil Group)

Syria

Syria: UN urges information on disappeared

The UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic stressed the need for greater information and accountability to be provided to the families of missing persons and detainees. The report charges that the Syrian regime is still carrying out mass public arrests and detentions, many leading to torture and eventual death, while families are induced to pay bribes to learn the whereabouts of their loved ones. Many families did not learn of their relatives’ whereabouts at all until May, when information was provided in bulk by the Interior Ministry. The Commission notes that even after this information was disclosed it was obfuscated, with causes of death being listed as “heart attack” or “stroke”—while many individuals died on the same day. The Commission infers that mass executions may have occurred in some of these facilities, many of them on military bases. (Photo of hunger strikers at Syrian prison via Foreign Policy. Credit: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

Syria

Syria: Idlib ‘buffer zone’ takes effect

The “buffer zone” through Syria’s northern Idlib province, negotiated by Russia and Turkey to forestall an Assad regime offensive on the opposition-held portion of the province, officially takes effect this week. Rebels began withdrawing heavy weapons from the zone at the start of the month, but said that fighters are remaining. Fighters from designated “radical terrorist groups”—primarily Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)—are supposed to withdraw entirely from the zone. HTS initially said it would comply on a “de facto” basis, but the zone is being implemented despite the fact that a deadline has been missed for withdrawal of all its fighters. Bashar Assad insisted that the so-called “demilitarized zone” is temporary. Addressing the central committee of his Baath Party, Assad reiterated his pledge to retake “every inch” of Syrian territory: “This province and other Syrian territory remaining under the control of terrorists will return to the Syrian state.” (Photo: EA Worldview)

Syria

Podcast: Standing for Idlib

In Episode 19 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses the urgent need for solidarity with Idlib, the last remaining stronghold of the Syrian Revolution, and looks at heroic examples of the civil resistance there, which is standing up to the Assad regime and jihadists alike—such as Rania Kisar, who has been running schools and other civil institutions; and Radio Fresh, which is continuing to broadcast in defiance of threats and censorship from the jihadists. The weekly Friday demonstrations in Idlib continue to keep alive the spirit of the 2011 Arab Revolution, demanding a democratic future for Syria. In a victory for the forces organizing in solidarity with Idlib around the world, the long-planned Assad regime invasion of the opposition-held province has been postponed (at least) in a deal negotiated by Russia and Turkey, buying time for the survival of the revolution. But those who stand in solidarity with Idlib in New York City have themselves been threatened and physically attacked by followers of sectarian pseudo-left factions that support the genocidal Assad regime. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: Syria Solidarity NYC via Facebook)

Syria

US tightens clampdown on Syria aid

The US government has reinforced “counter-terrorism” controls on aid operations in Syria. New contractual terms require US-funded organizations to get special permission to provide relief in areas believed to be controlled by extremist groups. The move further complicates aid operations for those trapped in Syria’s last rebel stronghold, Idlib, where two thirds of its three million people urgently need assistance. (Photo of Aleppo ruins from UNHCR)

Syria

Syria: reprieve for Idlib; flashpoint at al-Tanf?

The long-feared Assad regime offensive on Idlib province appears to have been called off—for now. After meeting in Sochi, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly agreed to a “buffer zone” in Idlib—a strip some 25 kilometers wide to separate regime forces in south from rebel and opposition forces in the north. Although it is being called a “demilitarized” zone, it will in fact be jointly patrolled by Russian and Turkish troops. Meanwhile, a secondary small pocket of rebel control in Syria’s south, where US forces have established a position, is shaping up as a potential flashpoint. US Marines held unprecedented joint exercises with rebel forces in the pocket of al-Tanf, and Russia responded by threatening to attack it—despite the fact al-Tanf is one of the so-called “de-escalation zones” declared last year.  (Photo via EA Worldview)

Syria

Thousands rally in Idlib as Assad offensive looms

In the latest of ongoing weekly demonstrations in Syria’s besieged Idlib province, thousands took to the streets after Friday prayers, calling on the world to act to prevent the impending massacre there. One of the biggest demonstrations was held in the city of Maarat al-Nouman in central Idlib, where some 25,000 gathered for the march called by the civil resistance. “There will be no solution in Syria without Assad’s fall,” read one prominent banner. Russian-led air-strikes have already opened on Idlib ahead of the anticipated offensive by the Assad regime and its allies to take the province, now the last significant area of Syria still controlled by the opposition. Air-strikes last week reportedly destroyed a hospital run by the White Helmets in the town of Hass. The UN has provided Russia with the GPS coordinates of 235 schools, hospitals and other civilian sites in Idlib, in the hope the move will help protect them from being attacked. But Russia and Assad have been repeatedly accused of intentionally bombing hospitals over the course of the Syrian war. (Photo: Freedom)

Greater Middle East

Russian naval build-up ahead of Idlib offensive

The Russian Ministry of Defense released a statement explaining its unprecedented build-up of naval force in the Mediterranean as part of a week-long exercise would begin on 1 September. It said the exercise would involve 26 warships and naval vessels, including two submarines, with 34 aircraft, including missile-armed long-range bombers. But it is obvious that this build-up is timed to coincide (at least) with the planned Assad regime offensive on Idlib, the last Syrian province that remains under opposition control. Russia will certainly be massively backing the regime offensive, which the UN warns could spark a humanitarian catastrophe. With Turkey closing its borders to new refugees, it is unclear that civilians have any place left to flee. Many are already living in camps in Idlib under desperate conditions, with two million in need of humanitarian aid. (Photo: Syria News)