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Here’s how the Jihadis in Aleppo brought about their defeat

Though the greatest credit for the Syrian army’s victory must go to the soldiers of the Syrian army and to the people of Aleppo, the fanaticism and intransigence of the Jihadis in Aleppo, and the intransigence of their Western backers, contributed significantly to their “total defeat” and the Syrian army’s victory.

Alexander Mercouris

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As ‘the Great Battle of Aleppo’ had ended in total Jihadi defeat, I find myself looking back to an article I wrote for The Duran on 30th July 2016, just after the Syrian army cut the Castello road, the main supply route of the Jihadis to Turkey.

In that article I pointed that the reason the Jihadis had got themselves trapped in eastern Aleppo was first and foremost their own intransigence.

Firstly, the so-called ‘moderates’ amongst the Jihadis repeatedly refused to dissociate themselves from Al-Qaeda, which in the form of its Syrian branch Jabhat Al-Nusra eventually took over the leadership of the whole Jihadi movement in eastern Aleppo.

Secondly, they repeatedly refused to abide by ceasefires negotiated for them, instead using them – as I pointed out in my very first article for The Duran, written on 3rd May 2016 – as an opportunity to resupply and regroup preparatory to going back on the attack.

Thirdly, and most importantly, they always and invariably refused to compromise on their one overriding objective, which they were never in a position to achieve but which they still made their inflexible demand, that Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad be removed from office and that they be installed in his place.

I pointed in my July article that this intransigence was leading the Jihadis down a blind alley, setting them up for inevitable defeat.  This is what I wrote

In February the US and Russia agreed a joint ceasefire plan which was confirmed in a succession of resolutions by the UN Security Council.  This called for a cessation of hostilities in Syria which excluded known terrorist groups such as Daesh and Jabhat Al-Nusra.  It also called for rebel groups in Syria to dissociate themselves and separate themselves from UN declared terrorist groups like Jabhat Al-Nusra, and for negotiations in Geneva to be held between all the Syrian parties to achieve a political settlement.

Since February this process has been deadlocked.  The rebel groups in and around Aleppo refused to dissociate themselves or separate themselves from Jabhat Al-Nusra.  Jabhat Al-Nusra for its part, with the support of the other rebel groups, exploited the cessation of hostilities and the pullout in March of part of the Russian aerial strike force to launch a series of counter-offensives against the Syrian army in and around Aleppo.  The negotiations in Geneva went nowhere, with the Syrian rebels and their Western and Arab backers continuing to insist on the removal of President Assad as a pre-condition for a peace settlement.

Since neither the Syrian rebels nor their Western or Arab backers proved willing or able to implement the agreements made in February, the Syrians and their Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah backers resumed the offensive they interrupted in February.  Since that is what the Russians warned would happen if the February agreement was not honoured it is difficult to understand why this should have come as a surprise.  After all the warning was repeated on 17th March 2016 by no less a person than Putin himself:

“If necessary, of course, Russia will be able to enhance its group in the region in a matter of hours to a size required for a specific situation and to use all the options available.  We would not want to do that. Military escalation is not our choice. Therefore, we still count on the common sense of both sides, on the adherence by both the Syrian authorities and the opposition to a peaceful process.”

Just as the Syrian offensive before the cessation of hostilities in February carried all before it because it had the backing of the Russian air force, of Hezbollah and of the Iranian army, so the Syrian offensive that was launched following the failure of the February agreement has similarly carried all before it and for the same reason – because it has the backing of the Russian air force, of Hezbollah and of the Iranian army.  The result is that the rebels in Aleppo, who had secure supply lines to Turkey at the time the February cessation of hostilities agreement was agreed, have now seen those supply lines cut off and now find themselves encircled and trapped.  Again given the balance of forces on the ground this was entirely predictable and it is difficult to understand why anyone should be surprised.

The reason the war in Syria has gone on for so long, and the reason why the rebels in Aleppo are now trapped and facing total defeat, is ultimately the same: the total intransigence of the Syrian opposition and of their Western and Arab backers.  Though negotiated routes out of the war have repeatedly been offered to them (eg. the Arab League’s Peace Plan of 2011, the Kofi Annan plan of 2012, and this year’s February cessation of hostilities agreement) they have always in the end spurned them.  Instead they have insisted on being given what they have never succeeded in achieving on the battlefield: President Assad’s removal from power and thus total victory.  If they are now instead looking at total defeat then that is only because that is where their refusal to moderate their maximalist demands by even the slightest degree has led them. 

In the Syrian war as in all else those who play for all or nothing risk ending up with nothing.

Today, following the Jihadis’ disastrous defeat in Aleppo, their withdrawal from the city, and the Syrian army’s announcement of victory, I feel justified in saying that every part of this analysis has been proved true.

Though the Jihadis did mount a major offensive in August in an attempt to break the siege of eastern Aleppo, in the end they were no more successful than they had been in preventing the siege from being imposed in the first place.

Subsequently events followed exactly as I predicted, so that today the Jihadis are experiencing “total defeat”.  As I said in my July article “given the balance of forces on the ground” it could not have been otherwise.

The one point I did not make in my July article, and which I should have made because it was already apparent, was that the intransigence which finally doomed the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo was fully matched by the intransigence of their Western backers.

The same intransigence is the true reason for many of the civilian deaths in Aleppo.

As I also mentioned in the July article, the Russians were talking about establishing ‘humanitarian corridors’ to evacuate eastern Aleppo’s civilian population as soon the siege was imposed.  Not only were these proposals spurned, but at the time I wrote my July article they were being derided.  Disastrously, they continued to be spurned and derided in the following months, even as the siege of eastern Aleppo tightened, and even as the position of the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo became ever more desperate.

To be clear, there was no reason why the evacuation of Jihadi fighters and civilians from eastern Aleppo which has just happened could not have happened in September, when Lavrov and Kerry appeared to have agreed to it.

By going back on that agreement and by prolonging the siege pointlessly for 3 more months, the Jihadis and their Western backers – including of course the hardliners in the Obama administration – caused far more suffering and many more civilian deaths than there need have been to no military purpose.  This is the key point to remember whenever the subject of civilian deaths in Aleppo caused by Russian and Syrian bombing is brought up.

The Syrian army’s victory in Aleppo had multiple causes of which the staunchness of the Syrian army and of the population of Aleppo under the terrible conditions of a four year Jihadi siege is by far the most important.  Obviously the Syrian army could not have won the victory it has won now if its defences had crumbled or the population had fled or panicked during the long hard years of the Jihadi siege.

However the key point in military terms is that once the Russians and to a lesser extent the Iranians had become involved the Jihadi position in eastern Aleppo became militarily untenable.  The Jihadis only realistic option at that point was either before July to abide by the February ceasefire, or after July to withdraw.

By refusing to do either of these things the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo doomed many civilians to unnecessary deaths.  By failing to criticise them for doing so, the Western powers colluded with them in doing that.

By refusing to do those things which were realistic and rational, the Jihadis also landed themselves with a “total defeat” and helped secure their own downfall.

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Brexit Withdrawal Agreement may lead to Theresa May’s downfall (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 151.

Alex Christoforou

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The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement has been published and as many predicted, including Nigel Farage, the document is leading to the collapse of Theresa May’s government.

During an interview with iTV’s Piers Morgan, remain’s Alistair Campell and leave’s Nigel Farage, were calling May’s Brexit deal a complete disaster.

Via iTV

Alastair Campbell: “This doesn’t do remotely what was offered…what is the point”

“Parliament is at an impasse”

“We have to go back to the people” …”remain has to be on the ballot paper”

Nigel Farage:

“This is the worst deal in history. We are giving away in excess of 40B pounds in return for precisely nothing. Trapped still inside the European Union’s rulebook.

“Nothing has been achieved.”

“In any negotiation in life…the other side need to know that you are serious about walking away.”

“What monsieur Barnier knew from day one, is that at no point did Theresa May intend to walk away.”

“Fundamental matter of trust to the electors of our country and those who govern us.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Theresa May’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, and why the deal is a full on victory for the European Union and a document of subjugation for the United Kingdom.

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Coming in at 585 pages, the draft agreement will be closely scrutinized over the coming days but here are some of the highlights as outlined by Zerohedge

  • UK and EU to use the best endeavours to supersede Ireland protocol by 2020
  • UK can request extension of the transition period any time before July 1st, 2020
  • EU, UK See Level-Playing Field Measures in Future Relationship
  • Transition period may be extended once up to date yet to be specified in the text
  • EU and UK shall establish single customs territory and Northern Ireland is in same customs territory as Great Britain

The future relationship document is less than seven pages long. It says the U.K. and EU are seeking a free-trade area with cooperation on customs and rules: “Comprehensive arrangements creating a free trade area combining deep regulatory and customs cooperation, underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition.”

The wording might raise concerns among Brexiters who don’t want regulatory cooperation and the measures on fair competition could amount to shackling the U.K. to EU rules.

As Bloomberg’s Emma Ross-Thomas writes, “There’s a clear sense in the documents that we’re heading for a customs union in all but name. Firstly via the Irish backstop, and then via the future relationship.”

Separately, a government summary of the draft agreement suggests role for parliament in deciding whether to extend the transition or to move in to the backstop.

But perhaps most importantly, regarding the controversial issue of the Irish border, the future relationship document says both sides aim to replace the so-called backstop – the thorniest issue in the negotiations – with a “subsequent agreement that establishes alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland on a permanent footing.”

On this topic, recall that the U.K.’s fear was of being locked into the backstop arrangement indefinitely in the absence of a broader trade deal. The draft agreement includes a review process to try to give reassurance that the backstop would never be needed. Basically, the U.K. could choose to seek an extension to the transition period – where rules stay the same as they are currently – or opt to trigger the backstop conditions. In fact, as Bloomberg notes, the word “backstop,” which has been a sticking point over the Irish border for weeks, is mentioned only once in the text.

As Bloomberg further adds, the withdrawal agreement makes clear that the U.K. will remain in a single customs area with the EU until there’s a solution reached on the Irish border. It’s what Brexiteers hate, because it makes it more difficult for the U.K. to sign its own free-trade deals, which they regard as a key prize of Brexit.

Predictably, EU Commission President Juncker said decisive progress has been made in negotiations.

Meanwhile, as analysts comb over the documents, Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group, has already written to Conservative lawmakers urging them to vote against the deal. He says:

  • May is handing over money for “little or nothing in return”
  • The agreement treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the U.K.
  • It will “lock” the U.K. into a customs union with the EU
  • It breaks the Tory election manifesto of 2017

The full document…

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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

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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.”

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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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