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ISIS ‘retreating on almost every front’

ISIS buckles as Iraq army captures more of Mosul and as Syrian army and Kurdish militia advance on Raqqa.

Alexander Mercouris

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Since January  the tide has turned dramatically against ISIS on almost every front

1.  Mosul

The Iraqi army began its operation to liberate Mosul in October.  Contrary to initial expectations it encountered fierce resistance and the first part of the operation, which was focused on liberating Mosul east of the Tigris proved exceptionally difficult.  Eventually eastern Mosul was liberated but only after many weeks of fierce fighting and after the Iraqi army suffered heavy casualties.

When the Iraqi army recently launched its offensive to liberate Mosul west of the Tigris it was assumed that ISIS would offer similarly fierce resistance.  Moreover the layout of western Mosul, with its maze of narrow streets and its overwhelmingly Sunni population some of whom are believed to sympathise with ISIS, was expected to favour the organisation.

In the event the Iraqi army seems to be advancing in western Mosul much faster than anyone expected.  Several districts of western Mosul have already been freed from ISIS and the Iraqi army appears now to be within reach of the crucial buildings in the centre of the city where ISIS is believed to have its headquarters.  Meanwhile it seems that ISIS fighters in the city are now completely surrounded.

A possible explanation for ISIS’s relative failure in western Mosul is that its leader Ibrahim Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi (“the Caliph Ibrahim”) is believed (according to US military reports) to have fled the city just before the ISIS fighters there were cut off.  It is possible that the flight of their leader has demoralised the 4,000 of so ISIS fighters believed to be still left in the city.

2.  Raqqa

Whilst most media attention has been on the fight for Mosul, ISIS’s position in northern Syria has collapsed following a triumphant advance of the Syrian army eastwards from Aleppo.  A few days ago the Syrian army reached Lake Assad – Syria’s largest freshwater lake – and the Euphrates river for the first time since 2012, further cutting off lines of advance by the Turkish army towards Raqqa, and putting the Syrian army for the first time in years within striking range of Raqqa itself.

In token of their victory the Syrian troops filled two water bottles with Euphrates war, which they have gifted to the Russian military by way of thanks for the Russian air support which made their victory possible.  The bottles are being sent to Moscow where they may be presented to President Putin himself.

The liberation of this huge area by the Syrian army and its arrival at the shores of Lake Assad has had the important incidental benefit of securing Aleppo’s water supply, which is provided by Lake Assad.  Since the liberation of eastern Aleppo in December ISIS has been trying to cut off Aleppo’s water supply, in particular by turning off a key water filtration plant treating the waters of Lake Assad.  The filtration plant is now under Syrian control and for the first time since the Syrian army was driven from the area during the Jihadi offensive known as Operation Damascus in the summer of 2012 Aleppo’s water supply has been fully secured.

Meanwhile US and Russian backed Kurdish forces, supported by 500 US Special Forces and 400 US Marines, are also pressing their advance on Raqqa.  It seems that Raqqa is now essentially surrounded and that its communications with ISIS forces in Iraq, in central Syria and in Deir Ezzor have been cut off.

There is now a real possibility of a “race to Raqqa” between the Syrian army and the Kurdish militia, whose de facto alliance is far from easy.  One of the purposes of the recent meetings between General Dunford of the US and General Gerasimov or Russia is almost certainly to ensure at least a measure of cooperation between the two.

3.  Central Syria

ISIS’s capture of Palmyra in December proved ephemeral.  The Syrian army backed by Russian Special Forces and the Russian air force recaptured the ancient city a short time ago.  The Syrian army has also been methodically recapturing gas fields in the area.

With ISIS being defeated in Mosul and Raqqa effectively surrounded the prospects of a third ISIS attempt to capture Palmyra now look remote.

4.  Deir Ezzor

The one point where ISIS continues to hold the upper hand is in its siege of the eastern desert city of Deir Ezzor.

During the major ISIS offensive in January ISIS fighters succeeded in cutting Deir Ezzor off from its airport.  Repeated attempts by the Syrian troops in Deir Ezzor to break through to the aid of the Syrian troops defending the airport have so far been unsuccessful.  The reason for this is that with the Syrian troops in Deir Ezzor entirely surrounded and cut off from reinforcement and resupply, the Syrian troops in the city have to husband their men and ammunition, which prevents them from launching the sort of all-out attacks which are needed to restore the situation.

There is some speculation that with ISIS about to lose Mosul, and with its position in Raqqa looking ever more precarious, the organisation is now focusing its remaining resources on capturing Deir Ezzor where it intends to relocate its capital.

The situation in Deir Ezzor therefore continues to be critical, and with the city 200 km from Palmyra over difficult ISIS controlled country and at the operational limit of Russian aircraft flying from western Syria, the success of its defence is far from assured.

Summary

The desperate situation in Deir Ezzor notwithstanding, the situation on the various battlefields shows ISIS coming under increasing pressure and in full retreat.  The organisation is not yet defeated and it still has thousands of fighters.  However with the US and Russia finally working with each other, however discreetly, the forces which are coming together to defeat ISIS – the Syrian army, the Iraqi army, the Kurdish militia, the Iranians, and the airforces and Special Forces of the world’s two military superpowers, the US and Russia – look overwhelming, and the organisation’s days look well and truly numbered.

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Bercow blocks Brexit vote, May turns to EU for lifeline (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 112.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Theresa May’s latest Brexit dilemma, as House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, shocked the world by citing a 1604 precedent that now effectively blocks May’s third go around at trying to pass her treacherous Brexit deal through the parliament.

All power now rests with the Brussels, as to how, if and when the UK will be allowed to leave the European Union.

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Via Bloomberg


Theresa May claims Brexit is about taking back control. Ten days before the U.K. is due to leave the European Union, it looks like anything but.

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow’s intervention, citing precedent dating back to 1604, to rule out a repeat vote on May’s already defeated departure deal leaves the prime minister exposed ahead of Thursday’s EU summit in Brussels.

Bercow, whose cries of “Orrdurrr! Orrdurrr!’’ to calm rowdy lawmakers have gained him a devoted international following, is now the pivotal figure in the Brexit battle. May’s team privately accuse him of trying to frustrate the U.K.’s exit from the EU, while the speaker’s admirers say he’s standing up for the rights of parliament against the executive.

If just one of the 27 other states declines May’s summit appeal to extend the divorce timetable, then the no-deal cliff edge looms for Britain’s departure on March 29. If they consent, it’s unclear how May can meet Bercow’s test that only a substantially different Brexit agreement merits another vote in parliament, since the EU insists it won’t reopen negotiations.

Caught between Bercow and Brussels, May’s room for maneuver is shrinking. Amid rumblings that their patience with the U.K. is near exhaustion, EU leaders are girding for the worst.

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President Putin signs law blocking fake news, but the West makes more

Western media slams President Putin and his fake news law, accusing him of censorship, but an actual look at the law reveals some wisdom.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The TASS Russian News Agency reported on March 18th that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed off on a new law intended to block distorted or untrue information being reported as news. Promptly after he did so, Western news organizations began their attempt to “spin” this event as some sort of proof of “state censorship” in the oppressive sense of the old Soviet Union. In other words, a law designed to prevent fake news was used to create more fake news.

One of the lead publications is a news site that is itself ostensibly a “fake news” site. The Moscow Times tries to portray itself as a Russian publication that is conducted from within Russian borders. However, this site and paper is really a Western publication, run by a Dutch foundation located in the Netherlands. As such, the paper and the website associated have a distinctly pro-West slant in their reporting. Even Wikipedia noted this with this comment from their entry about the publication:

In the aftermath of the Ukrainian crisis, The Moscow Times was criticized by a number of journalists including Izvestia columnist Israel Shamir, who in December 2014 called it a “militant anti-Putin paper, a digest of the Western press with extreme bias in covering events in Russia”.[3] In October 2014 The Moscow Times made the decision to suspend online comments after an increase in offensive comments. The paper said it disabled comments for two reasons—it was an inconvenience for its readers as well as being a legal liability, because under Russian law websites are liable for all content, including user-generated content like comments.[14]

This bias is still notably present in what is left of the publication, which is now an online-only news source. This is some of what The Moscow Times had to say about the new fake news legislation:

The bills amending existing information laws overwhelmingly passed both chambers of Russian parliament in less than two months. Observers and some lawmakers have criticized the legislation for its vague language and potential to stifle free speech.

The legislation will establish punishments for spreading information that “exhibits blatant disrespect for the society, government, official government symbols, constitution or governmental bodies of Russia.”

Insulting state symbols and the authorities, including Putin, will carry a fine of up to 300,000 rubles and 15 days in jail for repeat offenses.

As is the case with other Russian laws, the fines are calculated based on whether the offender is a citizen, an official or a legal entity.

More than 100 journalists and public figures, including human rights activist Zoya Svetova and popular writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya, signed a petition opposing the laws, which they labeled “direct censorship.”

This piece does give a bit of explanation from Dmitry Peskov, showing that European countries also have strict laws governing fake news distribution. However, the Times made the point of pointing out the idea of “insulting governmental bodies of Russia… including Putin” to bolster their claim that this law amounts to real censorship of the press. It developed its point of view based on a very short article from Reuters which says even less about the legislation and how it works.

However, TASS goes into rather exhaustive detail about this law, and it also gives rather precise wording on the reason for the law’s passage, as well as how it is to be enforced. We include most of this text here, with emphases added:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law on blocking untrue and distorting information (fake news). The document was posted on the government’s legal information web portal.

The document supplements the list of information, the access to which may be restricted on the demand by Russia’s Prosecutor General or his deputies. In particular, it imposes a ban on “untrue publicly significant information disseminated in the media and in the Internet under the guise of true reports, which creates a threat to the life and (or) the health of citizens, property, a threat of the mass violation of public order and (or) public security, or the threat of impeding or halting the functioning of vital infrastructural facilities, transport or social infrastructure, credit institutions, energy, industrial or communications facilities.”

Pursuant to the document, in case of finding such materials in Internet resources registered in accordance with the Russian law on the mass media as an online media resource, Russia’s Prosecutor General or his deputies will request the media watchdog Roskomnadzor to restrict access to the corresponding websites.

Based on this request, Roskomnadzor will immediately notify the editorial board of the online media resource, which is in violation of the legislation, about the need to remove untrue information and the media resource will be required to delete such materials immediately. If the editorial board fails to take the necessary measures, Roskomnadzor will send communications operators “a demand to take measures to restrict access to the online resource.”

In case of deleting such untrue information, the website owner will notify Roskomnadzor thereof, following which the media watchdog will “hold a check into the authenticity of this notice” and immediately inform the communications operator about the resumption of the access to the information resource.
The conditions for the law are very specific, as are the penalties for breaking it. TASS continued:

Liability for breaching the law

Simultaneously, the Federation Council approved the associated law with amendments to Russia’s Code of Administrative Offences, which stipulates liability in the form of penalties of up to 1.5 million rubles (around $23,000) for the spread of untrue and distorting information.

The Code’s new article, “The Abuse of the Freedom of Mass Information,” stipulates liability for disseminating “deliberately untrue publicly significant information” in the media or in the Internet. The penalty will range from 30,000 rubles ($450) to 100,000 rubles ($1,520) for citizens, from 60,000 rubles ($915) to 200,000 rubles ($3,040) for officials and from 200,000 rubles to 500,000 rubles ($7,620) for corporate entities with the possible confiscation of the subject of the administrative offence.

Another element of offence imposes tighter liability for the cases when the publication of false publicly significant information has resulted in the deaths of people, has caused damage to the health or property, prompted the mass violation of public order and security or has caused disruption to the functioning of transport or social infrastructure facilities, communications, energy and industrial facilities and banks. In such instances, the fines will range from 300,000 rubles to 400,000 rubles ($6,090) for citizens, from 600,000 rubles to 900,000 rubles ($13,720) for officials, and from 1 million rubles to 1.5 million rubles for corporate entities.

While this legislation can be spun (and is) in the West as anti-free speech, one may also consider the damage that has taken place in the American government through a relentless attack of fake news from most US news outlets against President Trump. One of the most notable effects of this barrage has been to further degrade and destroy the US’ relationship with the Russian Federation, because even the Helsinki Summit was attacked so badly that the two leaders have not been able to get a second summit together.

While it is certainly a valued right of the American press to be unfettered by Congress, and while it is also certainly vital to criticize improper practices by government officials, the American news agencies have gone far past that, to deliberately dishonest attacks, based in innuendo and everything possible that was formerly only the province of gossip tabloid publications. The effort has been to defame the President, not to give proper or due criticism to his policies, nor credit. It can be properly stated that the American press has abused its freedom of late.

This level of abuse drew a very unusual comment from the US president, who wondered on Twitter about the possibility of creating a state-run media center in the US to counter fake news:

Politically correct for US audiences? No. But an astute point?

Definitely.

Freedom in anything also presumes that those with that freedom respect it, and further, that they respect and apply the principle that slandering people and institutions for one’s own personal, business or political gain is wrong. Implied in the US Constitution’s protection of the press is the notion that the press itself, as the rest of the country, is accountable to a much Higher Authority than the State. But when that Authority is rejected, as so much present evidence suggests, then freedom becomes the freedom to misbehave and to agitate. It appears largely within this context that the Russian law exists, based on the text given.

Further, by hitting dishonest media outlets in their pocketbook, rather than prison sentences, the law appears to be very smart in its message: “Do not lie. If you do, you will suffer where it counts most.”

Considering that news media’s purpose is to make money, this may actually be a very smart piece of legislation.

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ABC’s Ted Koppel admits mainstream media bias against Trump [Video]

The mainstream news media has traded informing the public for indoctrinating them, but the change got called out by an “old-school” journo.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Fox News reported on March 19th that one of America’s most well-known TV news anchors, Ted Koppel, noted that the once-great media outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post, have indeed traded journalistic excellence for hit pieces for political purposes. While political opinions in the mainstream press are certainly within the purview of any publication, this sort of writing can hardly be classified as “news” but as “Opinion” or more widely known, “Op-Ed.”

We have two videos on this. The first is the original clip showing the full statement that Mr. Koppel gave. It is illuminating, to say the least:

Tucker Carlson and Brit Hume, a former colleague of Mr. Koppel, added their comments on this admission in this second short video piece, shown here.

There are probably a number of people who have watched this two-year onslaught of slander and wondered why there cannot be a law preventing this sort of misleading reporting. Well, Russia passed a law to stop it, hitting dishonest media outlets in their pocketbook. It is a smart law because it does not advocate imprisonment for bad actors in the media, but it does fine them.

Going to prison for reporting “the truth” looks very noble. Having to pay out of pocket for it is not so exciting.

Newsmax and Louder with Crowder both reported on this as well.

This situation of dishonest media has led to an astonishing 77% distrust rating among Americans of their news media, this statistic being reported by Politico in 2018. This represents a nearly diametric reversal in trust from the 72% trust rating the country’s news viewers gave their news outlets in 1972. These statistics come from Gallup polls taken through the years.

 

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