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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




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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4 resignations and counting: May’s government ‘falling apart before our eyes’ over Brexit deal

The beginning of the end for Theresa May’s government.

The Duran



Via RT

Four high profile resignations have followed on the heels of Theresa May’s announcement that her cabinet has settled on a Brexit deal, with Labour claiming that the Conservative government is at risk of completely dissolving.

Shailesh Vara, the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office was the first top official to resign after the prime minister announced that her cabinet had reached a draft EU withdrawal agreement.

An hour after his announcement, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab – the man charged with negotiating and finalizing the deal – said he was stepping down, stating that the Brexit deal in its current form suffers from deep flaws. Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, submitted her letter of resignation shortly afterwards. More resignations have followed.

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Trickett, predicted that this is the beginning of the end for May’s government.

The government is falling apart before our eyes as for a second time the Brexit secretary has refused to back the prime minister’s Brexit plan. This so-called deal has unraveled before our eyes

Shailesh Vara: UK to be stuck in ‘a half-way house with no time limit’

Kicking off Thursday’s string of resignations, Vara didn’t mince words when describing his reservations about the cabinet-stamped Brexit deal.

Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement leaves the UK in a “halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally become a sovereign nation,” his letter of resignation states. Vara went on to warn that the draft agreement leaves a number of critical issues undecided, predicting that it “will take years to conclude” a trade deal with the bloc.

“We will be locked in a customs arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say,” he added.

Dominic Raab: Deal can’t be ‘reconciled’ with promises made to public

Announcing his resignation on Thursday morning, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: “I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”

Raab claimed that the deal in its current form gives the EU veto power over the UK’s ability to annul the deal.

No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said that Raab’s resignation as Brexit secretary is “devastating” for May.

“It sounds like he has been ignored,” he told the BBC.

Raab’s departure will undoubtedly encourage other Brexit supporters to question the deal, political commentators have observed.

Esther McVey: Deal ‘does not honor’ Brexit referendum

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey didn’t hold back when issuing her own letter of resignation. According to McVey, the deal “does not honour” the result of the Brexit referendum, in which a majority of Brits voted to leave the European Union.

Suella Braverman: ‘Unable to sincerely support’ deal

Suella Braverman, a junior minister in Britain’s Brexit ministry, issued her resignation on Thursday, saying that she couldn’t stomach the deal.

“I now find myself unable to sincerely support the deal agreed yesterday by cabinet,” she said in a letter posted on Twitter.

Suella Braverman, MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU © Global Look Press / Joel Goodman
Braverman said that the deal is not what the British people voted for, and threatened to tear the country apart.

“It prevents an unequivocal exit from a customs union with the EU,” she said.

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Five Saudis Face Death Penalty Over Khashoggi Killing; Crown Prince Cleared

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime.”



Via Zerohedge

Saudi Arabia public prosecutor Sheikh Shaalan al-Shaalan said on Thursday that the kingdom will seek the death penalty for five suspects among the 11 charged in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, confirming suspicions that members of the murder squad purportedly sent to “interrogate” Khashoggi will now themselves face beheadings as the Saudi Royal Family closes ranks around the Crown Prince, per the FT.

As for Mohammed bin Salman who runs the day to day affairs of the world’s top oil exporter and is the de facto head of OPEC, the prosecutor said had “no knowledge” of the mission, effectively absolving him of any domestic suspicion, if not international.

The charges were handed down after the kingdom dismissed five senior intelligence officers and arrested 18 Saudi nationals in connection with Khashoggi’s disappearance. The Saudi insider-turned-dissident journalist disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to pick up documents that would have allowed him to marry his fiance. Khashoggi was a legal resident of Virginia.

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime,” according to CNN.

The prosecutor said that the former Saudi deputy intelligence chief, Ahmed al-Assiri, ordered a mission to force Khashoggi to go back to Saudi Arabia and formed a team of 15 people.

They were divided into three groups, the Saudi Public Prosecutor said: a negotiation team, an intelligence team and a logistical team.

It was the head of the negotiating team who ordered the killing of Khashoggi, the prosecutor said.

The Saudis stuck by latest (ever changing) narrative that the Washington Post columnist was killed after a mission to abduct him went awry. The deputy chief of intelligence ordered that Khashoggi be brought back to the kingdom, Shaalan said. The team killed him after the talks failed and his body was handed to a “collaborator” in Turkey, he said.

Asked whether Saud al-Qahtanti, an aide to Prince Mohammed, had any role in the case, Shaalan said that a royal adviser had a coordinating role and had provided information. The former adviser was now under investigation, the prosecutor said, declining to reveal the names of any of those facing charges.

Al-Shaalan did reveal that a total of 21 suspects are now being held in connection with the case. Notably, the decision to charge the 5 comes after National Security Advisor John Bolton repudiated reports that a recording of Khashoggi’s murder made by Turkish authorities suggested that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was behind the murder plot.

But as long as OPEC+ is planning to do “whatever it takes” to boost oil prices, the US’s willingness to give the Saudis a pass could always be tested if crude prices again turn sharply higher.

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U.S. May Impose Sanctions Against Turkey Over S-400 “Threat” To F-35

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform.

The Duran



Authored by Al Masdar News:

Turkish officials have repeatedly insisted that Ankara’s purchase of the advanced Russian air defense system poses no threat whatsoever to the NATO alliance. Last month, the Turkish defense ministry announced that delivery of S-400s to Turkey would begin in October 2019.

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform, and may impose sanctions against Ankara, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency has reported, citing a high-ranking source in Washington.

“I can’t say for certain whether sanctions will be imposed on Ankara over the S-400 contract, but the possibility is there. The US administration is not optimistic about this issue,” the source said.

While admitting that Turkey was a sovereign state and therefore had the right to make decisions on whom it buys its weapons from, the source stressed that from the perspective of these weapons’ integration with NATO systems, the S-400 was “problematic.”

The source also characterized the deployment of S-400s in areas where US F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighters are set to fly as “a threat,” without elaborating.

Emphasizing that negotiations between Washington and Ankara on the issue were “continuing,” the source said that there were also “positive tendencies” in negotiations between the two countries on the procurement of the Patriot system, Washington’s closest analogue to the S-400 in terms of capabilities.

Designed to stop enemy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles at ranges of up to 400 km and altitudes of up to 30 km, the S-400 is currently the most advanced mobile air defense system in Russia’s arsenal. Russia and India signed a ruble-denominated contract on the delivery of five regiments of S-400s worth $5 billion late last month.

Last week, the Saudi Ambassador to Russia said that talks on the sale of the system to his country were ongoing. In addition to Russia, S-400s are presently operated by Belarus and China, with Beijing expecting another delivery of S-400s by 2020.

Washington has already slapped China with sanctions over its purchase of S-400s and Su-35 combat aircraft in September. India, however, has voiced confidence that it would not be hit with similar restrictions, which the US Treasury has pursued under the 2017 Counter America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

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