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CONFIRMED: Russia rejects ceasefire in Aleppo, fighting resumes after Jihadis refuse to leave

Fighting resumes in Aleppo after Jihadis fail to act on Turkish promise to withdraw from Aleppo and after Russia rejects ceasefire.

Alexander Mercouris

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Reports circulated throughout the evening of yesterday Tuesday 13th December 2016 of a supposed agreement between the Russian military and Turkish military intelligence to evacuate the remaining Jihadi fighters and civilians from eastern Aleppo.

I have learnt through long experience to doubt the existence of any agreement the Russians are supposed to have entered into until they announce it.

In the event the hours passed and no confirmation of the existence of such an agreement came from Moscow or Damascus though in comments to the UN Security Council Russia’s ambassador Vitaly Churkin did appear to refer to it indirectly.

Instead there was a temporary draw down in fighting in the evening of yesterday, with the Syrian government’s green buses appearing in eastern Aleppo this morning, apparently in order to take the Jihadis away.  None however came, Russian and Syrian reports say the Jihadis fired at the buses, and the fighting has resumed in earnest. 

The Russian military’s Reconciliation Centre at Khmeimim air base in Syria is now saying that the Syrian military will continue its offensive until all the Jihadi fighters in eastern Aleppo are either dead or captured or give up.

What happened?

Piecing things together, it seems unlikely that there was any formal agreement between the Russians and the Turks.  However the Russian and Turkish militaries have been in contact with each other since September, and discussions between them about the situation in Aleppo have been underway since at least the first week of November.

it seems that yesterday evening the Turkish military promised the Russians that if there was a draw down in the fighting they would arrange for the Jihadi fighters in eastern Aleppo to leave Aleppo this morning.

The Russians appear to have been skeptical, which is why they failed to make a formal announcement yesterday, and as things turned out they were right not to do so.

The alternative theory, which is being promoted by the Western media today, is that the Syrian government and the Shiite militias in Aleppo objected to the agreement, about which they were supposedly not consulted, and it was this that led to the agreement breaking down this morning.

However the fact that there was indeed a draw down in the fighting last night, and that the green buses appeared this morning, shows that this claim is wrong.

This episode illustrates a recurring problem of the Syrian war.  Though countries like the US and Turkey from time to time purport to enter into agreements with the Russians on behalf of their Jihadi proxies in Syria, their Jihadi proxies then invariably fail to honour them.

The Jihadis refused to withdraw as the Turks promised for two likely reasons:

1. Though it is difficult to discuss the terms of an ‘agreement’ that was never in fact reached, it seems that not all the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo were to be allowed to leave.  The Russians appear to have insisted that the ringleaders and those who carried out the most egregious crimes would not be allowed to leave but would instead be arrested so that they can be put on trial by the Syrian authorities. 

The Russians have a sophisticated intelligence operation in Aleppo, and by now they undoubtedly know who these people are, and everything about them right down to their aliases.  Indeed it is likely they have provided Turkish intelligence with a list of these people over the course of the discussions.

These people are of course the same people who are the local Al-Qaeda commanders in eastern Aleppo.  Since the Russian demand gives them no incentive to allow the other Jihadis to leave, and since they are in a position of authority over the other Jihadis, the Russian demand ensured that they would not allow the other Jihadis to do so.

2. It is doubtful the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo ever actually intended to leave.  Not only are some of them fanatical fighters, sworn to die rather than leave, but their whole strategy is to manipulate the diplomatic process to secure for themselves a ceasefire, which will enable them to stay.

The Russians have repeatedly complained about this, and about the US’s collusion in assisting the Jihadis with this strategy, and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov did so again this morning

“Every time we agree on something, the Americans step back from the agreements. It happened in September, then in December.  We are told: ‘Russia proposes to agree on humanitarian corridors so that the militants will leave, but you should stop fighting first, then, in some days, it will be possible to create such corridors.

No one in Iraq, Libya, or Yemen demands a ceasefire, or a week or two of complete ‘silence,’ before negotiations. But in Syria they call for it.”

The Al-Qaeda leadership in eastern Aleppo seems to have persisted with this strategy yesterday by trying to use the draw down in the fighting which resulted from the Turkish offer in order to hold out for a ceasefire.

That the Western powers are also still pursuing this strategy is shown by what happened at the UN Security Council yesterday. 

With hindsight it now looks as if yesterday’s UN Security Council debate – convened at France’s request – was timed to coincide with the Turkish promise, and was held in order to pressure Russia into agreeing to convert yesterday’s draw down in the fighting into a ceasefire, with yesterday’s atrocity propaganda intended to embarrass the Russians into agreeing to it.

In the event the Russians have made it crystal clear this morning that they are not prepared to agree to a ceasefire, and there is in fact no ceasefire in place.  Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has also rejected the atrocity propaganda, pointing out that as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon admitted two days ago, it is unverified

“I receive information from independent humanitarian organisations firsthand…. No one has confirmed claims about atrocities or kidnappings.”

In summary, last night’s Turkish offer – almost certainly instigated by Turkish President Erdogan, who is coming under pressure from the Islamist part of his political base to do something to help the Jihadis in Aleppo – has bought the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo a few more hours.

It has not however gained them the ceasefire they wanted, and it is most unlikely there will be any more interruptions in the fighting now. 

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov is saying he expects the situation in eastern Aleppo to be “resolved” within the next 2 or 3 days, and his words suggest that he expects the issue to be resolved by fighting.

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Is this man the puppet master of Ukraine’s new president or an overhyped bogeyman?

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

RT

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Via RT…


It doesn’t actually matter if Ukrainian-Israeli billionaire Igor Kolomoisky is the real power behind Volodymyr Zelensky – the president elect has to get rid of the oligarch if he is to make a break with the country’s corrupt past.

The plots, deceits and conflicts of interest in Ukrainian politics are so transparent and hyperbolic, that to say that novice politician Zelensky was a protégé of his long-time employer was not something that required months of local investigative journalism – it was just out there.

Zelensky’s comedy troupe has been on Kolomoisky’s top-rated channel for the past eight years, and his media asset spent every possible resource promoting the contender against incumbent Petro Poroshenko, a personal enemy of the tycoon, who hasn’t even risked entering Ukraine in the past months.

Similarly, the millions and the nous needed to run a presidential campaign in a country of nearly 50 million people had to come from somewhere, and Kolomoisky’s lieutenants were said to be in all key posts. The two issued half-hearted denials that one was a frontman for the other, insisting that they were business partners with a cordial working relationship, but voters had to take their word for it.

Now that the supposed scheme has paid off with Zelensky’s spectacular victory in Sunday’s run-off, Ukrainian voters are asking: what does Kolomoisky want now, and will he be allowed to run the show?

‘One-of-a-kind chancer’

Born in 1963, in a family of two Jewish engineers, Kolomoisky is the type of businessman that was once the staple of the post-Soviet public sphere, but represents a dying breed.

That is, he is not an entrepreneur in the established Western sense at all – he did not go from a Soviet bloc apartment to Lake Geneva villas by inventing a new product, or even setting up an efficient business structure in an existing field.

Rather he is an opportunist who got wealthy by skilfully reading trends as the Soviet economy opened up – selling Western-made computers in the late 1980s – and later when independent Ukraine transitioned to a market economy and Kolomoisky managed to get his hands on a large amount of privatisation vouchers that put many of the juiciest local metals and energy concerns into his hands, which he then modernised.

What he possesses is a chutzpah and unscrupulousness that is rare even among his peers. Vladimir Putin once called him a “one-of-a-kind chancer” who managed to “swindle [Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich himself.” In the perma-chaos of Ukrainian law and politics, where all moves are always on the table, his tactical acumen has got him ahead.

Kolomoisky’s lifeblood is connections and power rather than any pure profit on the balance sheet, though no one actually knows how that would read, as the Privat Group he part-owns is reported to own over 100 businesses in dozens of Ukrainian spheres through a complex network of offshore companies and obscure intermediaries (“There is no Privat Group, it is a media confection,” the oligarch himself says, straight-faced.)

Unsurprisingly, he has been dabbling in politics for decades, particularly following the first Orange Revolution in 2004. Though the vehicles for his support have not been noted for a particular ideological consistency – in reportedly backing Viktor Yushchenko, then Yulia Tymoshenko, he was merely putting his millions on what he thought would be a winning horse.

Grasp exceeds reach

But at some point in the post-Maidan euphoria, Kolomoisky’s narcissism got the better of him, and he accepted a post as the governor of his home region of Dnepropetrovsk, in 2014.

The qualities that might have made him a tolerable rogue on TV, began to grate in a more official role. From his penchant for using the political arena to settle his business disputes, to creating his own paramilitary force by sponsoring anti-Russian battalions out of his own pocket, to his somewhat charmless habit of grilling and threatening to put in prison those less powerful than him in fits of pique (“You wait for me out here like a wife for a cheating husband,” begins a viral expletive-strewn rant against an overwhelmed Radio Free Europe reporter).

There is a temptation here for a comparison with a Donald Trump given a developing country to play with, but for all of the shenanigans, his ideological views have always been relatively straightforward. Despite his Russia-loathing patriotism, not even his fans know what Kolomoisky stands for.

The oligarch fell out with fellow billionaire Poroshenko in early 2015, following a battle over the control of a large oil transport company between the state and the governor. The following year, his Privat Bank, which at one point handled one in four financial transactions in the country was nationalized, though the government said that Kolomoisky had turned it into a mere shell by giving $5 billion of its savings to Privat Group companies.

Other significant assets were seized, the government took to London to launch a case against his international companies, and though never banished, Kolomoisky himself decided it would be safer if he spent as long as necessary jetting between his adopted homes in Switzerland and Tel Aviv, with the occasional trip to London for the foreseeable future.

But the adventurer falls – and rises again. The London case has been dropped due to lack of jurisdiction, and only last week a ruling came shockingly overturning the three-year-old nationalization of Privat Bank.

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

Own man

Zelensky must disabuse him of that notion.

It doesn’t matter that they are friends. Or what handshake agreements they made beforehand. Or that he travelled to Geneva and Tel-Aviv 13 times in the past two years. Or what kompromat Kolomoisky may or may not have on him. It doesn’t matter that his head of security is the man who, for years, guarded the oligarch, and that he may quite genuinely fear for his own safety (it’s not like nothing bad has ever happened to Ukrainian presidents).

Volodymyr Zelensky is now the leader of a large country, with the backing of 13.5 million voters. It is to them that he promised a break with past bribery, graft and cronyism. Even by tolerating one man – and one who makes Poroshenko look wholesome – next to him, he discredits all of that. He will have the support of the people if he pits himself against the puppet master – no one would have elected Kolomoisky in his stead.

Whether the oligarch is told to stay away, whether Ukraine enables the financial fraud investigation into him that has been opened by the FBI, or if he is just treated to the letter of the law, all will be good enough. This is the first and main test, and millions who were prepared to accept the legal fiction of the independent candidate two months ago, will now want to see reality to match. Zelensky’s TV president protagonist in Servant of the People – also broadcast by Kolomoisky’s channel, obviously, would never have compromised like that.

What hinges on this is not just the fate of Zelensky’s presidency, but the chance for Ukraine to restore battered faith in its democracy shaken by a succession of compromised failures at the helm.

Igor Ogorodnev

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Roger Waters – The People’s Champion for Freedom

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there.

Richard Galustian

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Submitted by Richard Galustian 

Roger Waters is one of Britain’s most successful and talented musicians and composers but more importantly is an outstanding champion for freedom in the world, beyond compare to any other artist turned political activist.

By way of background, he co-founded the rock band Pink Floyd in 1965.

A landmark turning point of his political activism occurred in 1990, when Waters staged probably the largest rock concert in history, ‘The Wall – Live in Berlin’, with an attendance of nearly half a million people.

In more recent years Waters famously narrated the 2016 documentary ‘The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States’ about the insidious influence of Zionist Israel to shape American public opinion.

Waters has been an outspoken critic of America’s Neocons and particularly Donald Trump and his policies.

In 2017, Waters condemned Trump’s plan to build a wall separating the United States and Mexico, saying that his band’s iconic famous song, ‘The Wall’ is as he put it “very relevant now with Mr. Trump and all of this talk of building walls and creating as much enmity as possible between races and religions.”

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there, or any place else for that matter.

Here below is a must see recent Roger Waters interview, via satellite from New York, where he speaks brilliantly, succinctly and honestly, unlike no other celebrity, about FREEDOM and the related issues of the day.

The only other artist turned activist, but purely for human rights reasons, as she is apolitical, is the incredible Carla Ortiz.

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ISIS Says Behind Sri Lanka Bombings; Was ‘Retaliation’ For New Zealand Mosque Massacre

ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. 

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Via Zerohedge…


Shortly after the death toll from Sunday’s Easter bombings in Sri Lanka climbed above the 300 mark, ISIS validated the Sri Lankan government’s suspicions that a domestic jihadi organization had help from an international terror network while planning the bombings were validated when ISIS took credit for the attacks.

The claim was made via a report from ISIS’s Amaq news agency. Though the group has lost almost all of the territory that was once part of its transnational caliphate, ISIS now boasts cells across the Muslim world, including in North Africa and elsewhere. Before ISIS took credit for the attack, a Sri Lankan official revealed that Sunday’s attacks were intended as retaliation for the killing of 50 Muslims during last month’s mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

However, the Sri Lankan government didn’t offer any evidence for that claim, or the claim that Sunday’s attacks were planned by two Islamic groups (though that now appears to have been substantiated by ISIS’s claim of responsibility). The group is believed to have worked with the National Tawheed Jamaath, according to the NYT.

“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene told the Parliament.

Meanwhile, the number of suspects arrested in connection with the attacks had increased to 40 from 24 as of Tuesday. The government had declared a national emergency that allowed it sweeping powers to interrogate and detain suspects.

On Monday, the FBI pledged to send agents to Sri Lanka and provide laboratory support for the investigation.

As the death toll in Sri Lanka climbs, the attack is cementing its position as the deadliest terror attack in the region.

  • 321 (as of now): Sri Lanka bombings, 2019
  • 257 Mumbai attacks, 1993
  • 189 Mumbai train blasts, 2006 166 Mumbai attacks, 2008
  • 151 APS/Peshawar school attack, 2014
  • 149 Mastung/Balochistan election rally attack, 2018

Meanwhile, funeral services for some of the bombing victims began on Tuesday.

Even before ISIS took credit for the attack, analysts told the Washington Post that its unprecedented violence suggested that a well-financed international organization was likely involved.

The bombings on Sunday, however, came with little precedent. Sri Lanka may have endured a ghastly civil war and suicide bombings in the past – some credit the Tamil Tigers with pioneering the tactic – but nothing of this scale. Analysts were stunned by the apparent level of coordination behind the strikes, which occurred around the same time on both sides of the country, and suggested the attacks carried the hallmarks of a more international plot.

“Sri Lanka has never seen this sort of attack – coordinated, multiple, high-casualty – ever before, even with the Tamil Tigers during the course of a brutal civil war,” Alan Keenan, a Sri Lanka expert at the International Crisis Group, told the Financial Times. “I’m not really convinced this is a Sri Lankan thing. I think the dynamics are global, not driven by some indigenous debate. It seems to me to be a different kind of ballgame.”

Hinting at possible ISIS involvement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a Monday press conference that “radical Islamic terror” remained a threat even after ISIS’s defeats in Syria.

Of course, ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. The extremist group said the attacks were targeting Christians and “coalition countries” and were carried out by fighters from its organization.

Speculation that the government had advanced warning of the attacks, but failed to act amid a power struggle between the country’s president and prime minister, unnerved citizens and contributed to a brewing backlash. Following the bombings, schools and mass had been canceled until at least Monday, with masses called off “until further notice.”

 

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