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Syria closes the trap: ISIS encircled in central Syria

Alexander Mercouris

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One of the most ambitious military operations launched over the course of the Syria war is now rapidly approaching its climax, with news today that Syrian troops advancing from Resafa in the north and from Al-Sukhnah in the south have largely succeeded in surrounding ISIS fighters in a large stretch territory in central Syria east of Salamiyah, an important government held town in Hama province.

This operation to trap ISIS fighters in what is now essentially a pocket or – using Russian military parlance – a ‘cauldron’ has been underway ever since the strategically important town of Al-Sukhnah in central Syria was captured a week ago.

A good idea of the nature of this pocket or ‘cauldron’ can be obtained from this map published by the Al-Masdar news agency.

Some words of caution are in order.

The Al-Masdar map gives an impression of a territory wholly surrounded on all sides by Syrian troops.

This is an exaggeration.  As is always the case in the Syrian war, the Syrian army simply does not have the necessary number of troops to carry out a total encirclement of this sort.  It is not even confirmed that the Syrian troops advancing from Resafa in the north and from Al-Sukhnah in the south have actually met with each other.

A more accurate way of describing what has happened is that the Syrian army has now gained control of all the main roads leading into and out of the pocket, and that all the towns and villages surrounding the pocket now accept the authority of the Syrian government.

This makes it all but impossible for large columns of ISIS fighters to enter or leave the pocket, or to be resupplied there.

Indeed movement of large groups of ISIS fighters is now also difficult, as their movements are now being constantly tracked by Russian and Syrian aircraft and Russian aerial drones which are patrolling the skies above the pocket.

Obviously individual or small groups of ISIS fighters can still move around or enter or leave the pocket, and over the new few days or weeks some may try to do so.  However Syrian troops and militia located around the pocket will be alert to precisely this danger, and will aim to track hunt down any ISIS fighters who try to enter or leave.

Indeed there were even reports back in February that the Russians have trained a special Syrian army unit named significantly the “ISIS Hunters” for precisely this role, a fact which incidentally shows how carefully the Syrian army’s operations over the last few months have been planned.

According to Syrian troops interviewed by CNN many of the ISIS fighters trapped in the pocket had previously fled there from ISIS’s former capital of Raqqa, which is now in the process of being liberated by the US backed Kurdish militia.

Many of these ISIS fighters are said to be very young, and to be putting up a fanatical resistance, still launching hit-and-run attacks on the main highway south from Aleppo whenever they can, as they have in fact been doing from this area for years.

Fully securing this highway – which ISIS and AL-Qaeda led Jihadi fighters actually managed to cut in the weeks before the Russian intervened in Syria in September 2015 – is an urgent priority for the Syrian government, and explains the high priority given to this operation.

According to the reports which have been appearing in the Al-Masdar news agency and in other Middle East media for the last few weeks, the chief ISIS stronghold inside the pocket is the town of ‘Uqayrbat.

With the main roads offering the main escape routes from the pocket now closed, the Syrian military apparently expects the ISIS fighters trapped in the pocket to fall back and concentrate on ‘Uqayrbat.

The capture of this town will therefore be a major operation, which when completed will signal the final success of the Syrian army’s operation to eliminate ISIS completely in central Syria.

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TravelAbout
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TravelAbout

Israel and its puppet the US have been extraordinarily quite lately concerning the SAA’s advances. They’re predictable and can a “mistaken” attack not be far off? Of course now that the Russians have adapted to these terrorist antics and now provide support aircraft for the SAA’s ground forces perhaps these two cowards know better? .

ColinNZ
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ColinNZ

Nice update Alex. Please also see below .. this is a reply from Syrianperspective analyst ‘Canthama’ to my question regarding US-SDF interference/disruption to SAA & allies progressive approach to the liberation of DeZ city … “… can’t say the SDF won’t try a thing in DeZ Province, but I doubt they will try it before Raqqa is finished, simply they do not have the nbrs for two offensives and BTW the Raqqa campaign has been extremely bloody, SDF lost an incredible amount of fighters, under reported of course. The Hama/Homs pockets must be cleared of ISIS, it is a dagger… Read more »

John Mason
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John Mason

Thanks Colin, that extract is exactly the type of information that needs to be told, very logical.

Daisy Adler
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Daisy Adler

“Syria closes the trap: ISIS encircled in central Syria”

I see here the Russian strategics hand. Syrian Army has now priceless counselors.
“Russians have trained a special Syrian army unit named significantly the “ISIS Hunters” for precisely this role, a fact which incidentally shows how carefully the Syrian army’s operations over the last few months have been planned.”

Precisely. There is order and pre-planned action. How things have changed since September 2015, when Russia air force became active on Syria front !

Daisy Adler
Guest
Daisy Adler

In the news: Syrian Brigadier General Suheil Hassan has been awarded by the Russian defense minister for conducting a successful parachute landing behind ISIS defense lines and in the capture of Al-Hadar. The operation was carried out by the Syrian army on Deir ez-Zor, August 12.
Russian armed forces’ chief of staff Valery Gerasimov handed an honorary weapon and a letter from Minister Shoigu to the general during his visit to the Hmeimim airbase in Latakia.

Shahna
Guest

Very nicely done Syria and Russia.
Very well done indeed.

Daisy Adler
Guest
Daisy Adler

Latest News:
“In order to prevent Daesh (ISIS) militants from escaping to Deir ez-Zor, aircraft from the Russian Air Force have been conducting both day and night aerial reconnaissance with the use of drones. Russian warplanes
are attacking terrorists’ equipment, including heavy weaponry and armored vehicles,” Russian Defense Ministry report.
730 Daesh targets were destroyed in the operation, including bunkers, ammo depots, weapons factories and armored vehicle facilities.
Video showing the use of high-precision weapons against terrorists near Akerbat, including guided missiles and smart bombs:
https://youtu.be/vQkPLKN5HP0

Daisy Adler
Guest
Daisy Adler

Russian Air force attacking and destroying the “Jebhan Al-Nusra” (Al Qaeda) HQ in
Hama, Syria.
Waiting patiently for all the terrorists to enter the building …
https://youtu.be/OhTN-t5tH1g

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Why did Trump recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territory?

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 116.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the reasons behind US President Trump’s sudden recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory.

Following Trump’s statements as US President, acting Israeli Foreign Minister is saying that Trump will make it official and sign an executive order to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Syrian border territory on Monday.

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Via DW

Israel says White House officials are preparing an official document to codify support for Israel’s sovereignty of the Golan Heights, which will be signed by US President Donald Trump on Monday.

The signing of the decree will be witnessed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during talks with Trump at the White House, Israel’s acting foreign minister, Israel Katz (pictured), said in a Tweet.

“Tomorrow, President Trump, in the presence of PM Netanyahu, will sign a decree recognizing Israel’s sovereignty on the Golan. Israel-US ties are closer than ever,” Katz said.

Israel seized the strategic plateau from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war, subsequently annexing it in 1981 in a move never recognized by the international community.

Trump’s tweet annoys allies

Trump broke with decades of US Middle East policy when he posted a Tweet on Thursday that said it was time to accept Israel’s widely-contested claim to the border territory.

The decision has been criticized by many US allies — Germany, Britain, France and the EU have all said they still consider the Golan Heights to be “occupied” by Israel.

Syria and other states in the region said the recognition, if confirmed, would violate international law.

Netanyahu has long pushed for Washington’s endorsement, and many analysts see Trump’s comments as a campaign gift ahead of Israel’s April 9 election.

In 2017, Trump drew condemnation throughout the Middle East when he recognized the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

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Russia Gives US Red Line On Venezuela

Political force is out. Military force is out. Respect international law and Venezuela’s sovereignty. That’s Russia’s eminently reasonable ultimatum to Washington.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


At a high-level meeting in Rome this week, it seems that Russia reiterated a grave warning to the US – Moscow will not tolerate American military intervention to topple the Venezuelan government with whom it is allied.

Meanwhile, back in Washington DC, President Donald Trump was again bragging that the military option was still on the table, in his press conference with Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro. Trump is bluffing or not yet up to speed with being apprised of Russia’s red line.

The meeting in the Italian capital between US “special envoy” on Venezuelan affairs Elliot Abrams and Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov had an air of urgency in its arrangement. The US State Department announced the tête-à-tête only three days beforehand. The two officials also reportedly held their two-hour discussions in a Rome hotel, a venue indicating ad hoc arrangement.

Abrams is no ordinary diplomat. He is a regime-change specialist with a criminal record for sponsoring terrorist operations, specifically the infamous Iran-Contra affair to destabilize Nicaragua during the 1980s. His appointment by President Trump to the “Venezuela file” only underscores the serious intent in Washington for regime change in Caracas. Whether it gets away with that intent is another matter.

Moscow’s interlocutor, Sergei Ryabkov, is known to not mince his words, having earlier castigated Washington for seeking global military domination. He calls a spade a spade, and presumably a criminal a criminal.

The encounter in Rome this week was described as “frank” and “serious” – which is diplomatic code for a blazing exchange. The timing comes at a high-stakes moment, after Venezuela having been thrown into chaos last week from civilian power blackouts that many observers, including the Kremlin, blame on American cyber sabotage. The power grid outage followed a failed attempt by Washington to stage a provocation with the Venezuelan military over humanitarian aid deliveries last month from neighboring Colombia.

The fact that Washington’s efforts to overthrow the elected President Nicolas Maduro have so far floundered, might suggest that the Americans are intensifying their campaign to destabilize the country, with the objective of installing US-backed opposition figure Juan Guaido. He declared himself “acting president” in January with Washington’s imprimatur.

Given that the nationwide power blackouts seem to have failed in fomenting a revolt by the civilian population or the military against Maduro, the next option tempting Washington could be the military one.

It seems significant that Washington has recently evacuated its last remaining diplomats from the South American country. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commented on the evacuation by saying that having US personnel on the ground “was limiting” Washington’s scope for action. Also, American Airlines reportedly cancelled all its services to Venezuela in the past week. Again, suggesting that the US was considering a military intervention, either directly with its troops or covertly by weaponizing local proxies. The latter certainly falls under Abrams’ purview.

After the Rome meeting, Ryabkov said bluntly: “We assume that Washington treats our priorities seriously, our approach and warnings.”

One of those warnings delivered by Ryabkov is understood to have been that no American military intervention in Venezuela will be tolerated by Moscow.

For his part, Abrams sounded as if he had emerged from the meeting after having been given a severe reprimand. “No, we did not come to a meeting of minds, but I think the talks were positive in the sense that both sides emerged with a better understanding of the other’s views,” he told reporters.

“A better understanding of the other’s views,” means that the American side was given a red line to back off.

The arrogance of the Americans is staggering. Abrams seems, according to US reporting, to have flown to Rome with the expectation of working out with Ryabkov a “transition” or “compromise” on who gets the “title of president” of Venezuela.

That’s what he no doubt meant when he said after the meeting “there was not a meeting of minds”, but rather he got “a better understanding” of Russia’s position.

Washington’s gambit is a replay of Syria. During the eight-year war in that country, the US continually proffered the demand of a “political transition” which at the end would see President Bashar al Assad standing down. By contrast, Russia’s unflinching position on Syria has always been that it’s not up to any external power to decide Syria’s politics. It is a sovereign matter for the Syrian people to determine independently.

Nearly three years after Russia intervened militarily in Syria to salvage the Arab country from a US-backed covert war for regime change, the American side has manifestly given up on its erstwhile imperious demands for “political transition”. The principle of Syrian sovereignty has prevailed, in large part because of Russia’s trenchant defense of its Arab ally.

Likewise, Washington, in its incorrigible arrogance, is getting another lesson from Russia – this time in its own presumed “back yard” of Latin America.

It’s not a question of Russia being inveigled by Washington’s regime-change schemers about who should be president of Venezuela and “how we can manage a transition”. Moscow has reiterated countless times that the legitimate president of Venezuela is Nicolas Maduro whom the people voted for last year by an overwhelming majority in a free and fair election – albeit boycotted by the US-orchestrated opposition.

The framework Washington is attempting to set up of choosing between their desired “interim president” and incumbent Maduro is an entirely spurious one. It is not even worthy to be discussed because it is a gross violation of Venezuela’s sovereignty. Who is Washington to even dare try to impose its false choice?

On Venezuela, Russia is having to remind the criminal American rulers – again – about international law and respect for national sovereignty, as Moscow earlier did with regard to Syria.

And in case Washington gets into a huff and tries the military option, Moscow this week told regime-change henchman Abrams that that’s a red line. If Washington has any sense of rationale left, it will know from its Syria fiasco that Russia has Venezuela’s back covered.

Political force is out. Military force is out. Respect international law and Venezuela’s sovereignty. That’s Russia’s eminently reasonable ultimatum to Washington.

Now, the desperate Americans could still try more sabotage, cyber or financial. But their options are limited, contrary to what Trump thinks.

How the days of American imperialist swagger are numbered. There was a time when it could rampage all over Latin America. Not any more, evidently. Thanks in part to Russia’s global standing and military power.

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With RussiaGate Over Where’s Hillary?

Hillary is the epitome of envy. Envy is the destructive sin of coveting someone else’s life so much they are obsessed with destroying it. It’s the sin of Cain. She envies what Trump has, the Presidency.

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Authored by Tom Luongo:


During most of the RussiaGate investigation against Donald Trump I kept saying that all roads lead to Hillary Clinton.

Anyone with three working brain cells knew this, including ‘Miss’ Maddow, whose tears of disappointment are particularly delicious.

Robert Mueller’s investigation was designed from the beginning to create something out of nothing. It did this admirably.

It was so effective it paralyzed the country for more than two years, just like Europe has been held hostage by Brexit. And all of this because, in the end, the elites I call The Davos Crowd refused to accept that the people no longer believed their lies about the benefits of their neoliberal, globalist agenda.

Hillary Clinton’s ascension to the Presidency was to be their apotheosis along with the Brexit vote. These were meant to lay to rest, once and for all time, the vaguely libertarian notion that people should rule themselves and not be ruled by philosopher kings in some distant land.

Hillary’s failure was enormous. And the RussiaGate gambit to destroy Trump served a laundry list of purposes to cover it:

  1. Undermine his legitimacy before he even takes office.
  2. Accuse him of what Hillary actually did: collude with Russians and Ukrainians to effect the outcome of the election
  3. Paralyze Trump on his foreign policy desires to scale back the Empire
  4. Give aid and comfort to hurting progressives and radicalize them further undermining our political system
  5. Polarize the electorate over the false choice of Trump’s guilt.
  6. Paralyze the Dept. of Justice and Congress so that they would not uncover the massive corruption in the intelligence agencies in the U.S. and the U.K.
  7. Isolate Trump and take away every ally or potential ally he could have by turning them against him through prosecutor overreach.

Hillary should have been thrown to the wolves after she failed. When you fail the people she failed and cost them the money she cost them, you lose more than just your funding. What this tells you is that she has so much dirt on everyone involved, once this thing started everyone went along with it lest she burn them down as well.

Burnin’ Down da House

Hillary is the epitome of envy. Envy is the destructive sin of coveting someone else’s life so much they are obsessed with destroying it. It’s the sin of Cain

She envies what Trump has, the Presidency.

And she was willing to tear it down to keep him from having it no matter how much damage it would do. She’s worse than the Joker from The Dark Knight.

Because while the Joker is unfathomable to someone with a conscience there’s little stopping us from excising him from the community completely., even though Batman refuses.

Hillary hates us for who we are and what we won’t give her. And that animus drove her to blackmail the world while putting on the face of its savior.

And that’s what makes what comes next so obvious to me. RussiaGate was never a sustainable narrative. It was ludicrous from the beginning. And now that it has ended with a whimper there are a lot of angry, confused and scared people out there.

Mueller thought all he had to do was lean on corrupt people and threaten them with everything. They would turn on Trump. He would resign in disgrace from the public outcry.

It didn’t work. In the end Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen and Roger Stone all held their ground or perjured themselves into the whole thing falling apart.

Andrew Weissman’s resignation last month was your tell there was nothing. Mueller would pursue this to the limit of his personal reputation and no further.

Just like so many other politicians.

Vote Your Pocketbook

With respect to Brexit I’ve been convinced that it would come down to reputations.

Would the British MP’s vote against their own personal best interests to do the bidding of the EU?

Would Theresa May eventually realize her historical reputation would be destroyed if she caves to Brussels and betrays Brexit in the end?

Always bet on the fecklessness of politicians. They will always act selfishly when put to the test. While leading RussiaGate, Mueller was always headed here if he couldn’t get someone to betray Trump.

And now his report is in. There are no new indictments. And by doing so he is saving his reputation for the future. And that is your biggest tell that HIllary’s blackmail is now worthless.

They don’t fear her anymore because RussiaGate outed her as the architect. Anything else she has is irrelevant in the face of trying to oust a sitting president from power.

The progressives that were convinced of Trump’s treason are bereft; their false hope stripped away like standing in front of a sandblaster. They will be raw, angry and looking for blood after they get over their denial.

Everyone else who was blackmailed into going along with this lunacy will begin cutting deals to save their skins. The outrage over this will not end. Trump will be President when he stands for re-election.

The Wolves Beckon

The Democrats do not have a chance against him as of right now. When he was caving on everything back in December it looked like he was done. That there was enough meat on the RussiaGate bones to make Nancy Pelosi brave.

Then she backed off on impeachment talk. Oops.

But the Democrats have a sincere problem. Their candidates have no solutions other than to embrace the crazy and go full Bolshevik. That is not a winning position.

Trump will kill them on ‘socialism.’

The Deep State and The Davos Crowd stand revealed and reviled.

If they don’t do something dramatic then the anger from the rest of the country will also be palpable come election time. Justice is not done simply by saying, “No evidence of collusion.”

It’s clear that RussiaGate is a failure of monumental proportions. Heads will have to roll. But who will be willing to fall on their sword at this point?

Comey? No. McCabe? No.

There is only one answer. And Obama’s people are still in place to protect him. I said last fall that “Hillary would indict herself.” And I meant it. Eventually her blackmail and drive to burn it all down led to this moment.

The circumstances are different than I expected back then, Trump didn’t win the mid-terms. But the end result was always the same. If there is no collusion, if RussiaGate is a scam, then all roads lead back to Hillary as the sacrificial lamb.

Because the bigger project, the erection of a transnational superstate, is bigger than any one person. Hillary is expendable.

Lies are expensive to maintain. The truth is cheap to defend. Think of the billions in opportunity costs associated with this. Once the costs rise above the benefits, change happens fast.

If there is any hope of salvaging the center of this country for the Democrats, the ones that voted against Hillary in 2016, then there is no reason anymore not to indict Hillary as the architect of RussiaGate.

We all know it’s the truth. So, the cheapest way out of this mess for them is to give the MAGApedes what they want, Hillary.

And hope that is enough bread and circuses to distract from the real storm ahead of us.

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