American airstrikes targeted a group of Syrian militia vehicles after they ignored U.S. warnings and violated a “de-confliction zone” on Thursday. CNN reports that the strike occurred near a base American forces use to train allied Syrian opposition fighters. A convoy of twenty vehicles approached the town of An Tanf on Wednesday night, evidently searching for opposition fighters and raising concerns among the U.S. coalition. A total of thirteen vehicles penetrated the de-confliction zone, but the U.S. did not take action until five of them came with 29 kilometers of the base. When five Syrian military vehicles persisted in approaching the base, the U.S. conducted a “show of force” with two warplanes to persuade them to halt. When the Syrians insisted on proceeding into the area, the U.S. planes were cleared to fire. Although one of CNN’s sources said it remained unknown whether the American planes only fired warning shots, a second U.S. defense official said an airstrike “did hit the convoy after the vehicles continued toward the base.” According to ABC News, U.S. officials said several of the Syrian vehicles were destroyed in the strike. Voice of America News reports the decision to launch the airstrike was made by a commander on the ground, and does not reflect a broader change in U.S. policy. According to these sources, militia forces loyal to the regime of Bashar Assad crewed the vehicles, not regular Syrian army troops. Military Times quotes officials describing the targeted militia as “pro-regime” but “not directly associated with the Syrian government.” The Associated Press quotes officials who said the targeted vehicles included “a tank and a bulldozer,” which pro-regime militia were apparently using to set up fighting positions inside the protected area. Ominously, the Syrian regime has its own base fairly close to the one American forces are using to train opposition fighters, and the Syrian base is said to be ready to support “about a battalion’s worth of troops.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has longed to have the US coordinate efforts with Russia in Syria to provide legitimacy to the Russian expeditionary force in the Syrian theater. Recently news leaked that Russian combat aircraft purposefully bombed a secret US base on the Jordanian-Syrian border. US and British troops were active from time to time at the facility and a group of British troops had just left. Four American-backed rebels were killed in the attack. Since the base was not in the normal attack area of the Russian and Syrian forces, the Pentagon confirmed the attack seemed deliberate. The Kremlin was obviously sending the Americans a message, cooperate with Russia in Syria or else. Secretary Kerry and President Obama immediately backed down and gave Russia what they wanted, a formal cooperative announcement in the Syrian theater against the Islamic State. Now the plot thickens as Russia denies the event and even suggests it could target US and US-backed forces again. Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov, an official representative of the Russian Ministry of Defense, made their position clear: if Russian bombers did accidentally hit U.S. troops in Syria, Russia would place all blame for the casualties on the Pentagon, TASS Information Agency reported on July 23. “The fact that anti-ISIS coalitions, deployed in Syria, find themselves under threat from Russia’s air force—the responsibility for this rests exclusively with their military leadership. For our part, we constantly—and through all available channels—call on our partners to provide information on the locations of the units of ‘moderate opposition.’” he said. According to Konashenkov, the Russian military discussed the situation with their American counterparts. “Even after the [first] airstrikes in June, on the training camp for the rebel fighters in At Tanf,” he explained, “our American colleagues were saying [to us], ‘Don’t hit there—where you just hit,’” reports Observer Politics. The Kremlin obviously thinks it can dictate facts on the ground in the Middle East against the feckless Obama administration which has simply decided to kick the can to the next American president. We will see if this scenario holds up under a Trump administration.
Iran has begun to ask its teenage boys to volunteer to fight in Syria in a sign the hard-line Islamic regime’s military is suffering rising casualties in the five-year war and needs a morale boost, an opposition group says. The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) released a translated video it says was produced by the Tehran’s Bassij Music House and was shown over several days on state-run television this month. The selling pitch to youngsters: You will be defending sacred Shiite shrines in Syria and will position yourselves to invade Israel, whose destruction is an Iranian regime priority. The four-minute clip shows a group of boys in a courtyard, with three of them singing to another boy they are trying to recruit as he watches from a window. The singers are dressed in camouflage and combat boots. On camera, they tie on a cloth headband to complete the warrior look. “This promotional clip first of all manifests the anti-human nature of the regime which seeks to even mobilize the children of its own loyalists as cannon fodder,” said Shahin Gobadi, an NCRI official based in Paris. “We monitor the Iranian regime’s state media thoroughly. Our people noticed this on the state media, and then our people were able to download it from one of the regime’s websites.” Iran is already sending unconventional fighters to Syria to protect its ally, President Bashar Assad. The BBC reported this month that the regime has rounded up, or recruited, thousands of ethnic Afghans and sent them to Syria. Some quit the battlefield and ended up in refugee streams to Europe. “The men, who are mainly ethnic Hazaras, are recruited from impoverished and vulnerable migrant communities in Iran, and sent to join a multi-national Shia Muslim militia — in effect a ‘Foreign Legion’ — that Iran has mobilized to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad,” the BBC said. The Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the dominant military force in Iran, has made major commitments to fight wars in Syria and Iraq. The NCRI said the Guard Corps has taken heavy casualties in battling a range of rebel groups, including the al Qaeda-connected Nusra Front and the Islamic State terror army. At least one prominent Guard general was killed in Syria during the battle for the city of Aleppo. Tehran contends its troops are only advising the Syrians. The NCRI opposition group says there are 8,000 Iranians in Syria fighting on the government’s side. Outside experts have put the number much lower, at about 2,000. On Thursday, Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, was turned once again into a major battleground in the civil war. Airstrikes and artillery killed more than 60 people in the past 24 hours, including dozens at a hospital in a rebel-held neighborhood, Aid agencies warn that Aleppo is on the brink of a humanitarian disaster with the collapse of a two-month cease-fire and stalled peace talks. The intensified violence — by far the worst since the partial cease-fire began — coincides with reports of a military buildup outside Aleppo that many fear is a prelude for a government attempt to force a complete siege of the city’s neighborhoods. Battle-hardened residents were shocked by the bloodshed. Opposition activists accused the government of carpet-bombing rebel-controlled areas, while Syrian state media said more than 1,000 mortar rounds and rockets were fired at government-held districts, killing 22 people. Video posted online by opposition activists showed rescuers pulling bodies from shattered buildings in the rebel neighborhoods of Sukkari, Kallasa and Bustan al-Qasr. Chief opposition negotiator Mohammed Alloush blamed the government of Mr. Assad for the violence, saying it shows “the environment is not conducive to any political action.” “What is happening is a crime of ethnic and sectarian cleansing by all means,” Mr. Alloush told The Associated Press, adding it was an attempt by Mr. Assad’s government to drive residents from Aleppo. A Damascus-based Syrian military official denied the government had hit the hospital. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov also denied bombing any hospitals in Aleppo, saying its aircraft have not flown any missions in the region for several days. Col. Steve Warren, the spokesman for the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State group, said fighter jets from the international coalition have not carried out any airstrikes in Aleppo in the past 24 hours. About 200 civilians have been killed in the past week in Syria, nearly half of them around Aleppo. With the U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Geneva completely deadlocked, Syrians are watching the escalating violence with dread, fearing that Aleppo is likely to be the focus of the next, more vicious phase of the 5-year-old war. In Iraq the Revolutionary Guard has been fighting and organizing Shiite militias since 2014 to contest Islamic State terrorists who invaded western and northern Iraq. Mr. Gobadi said the recruitment pitch for teenagers is the first time Tehran has turned to children volunteers since its long war with Iraq in the 1980s. The song encouraging teenage volunteers refers to their supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, and to Shiite shrines in Syria. “On my leader [Khamenei’s] orders I am ready to give my life,” the boys sing, according to an NCRI translation. “The goal is not just to free Iraq and Syria; My path is through the sacred shrine, but my goal is to reach Jerusalem. … I don’t regret parting from my country; In this just path I am wearing my martyrdom shroud. … From Mashhad [northeast Iran], I will walk on foot to Damascus. I am like the bird who flocks to the sacred shrine.” The headband is tradition, Mr. Gobadi said, explaining why they don it during the song. Historic Shiite shrines are located near Damascus. Much of the Iranian ground-forces fighting has been near Aleppo, to the north of Damascus. “Since the Iran-Iraq War it has been customary for the IRGC and Iranian paramilitary forces to wrap a piece of cloth on their heads,” he said. “They write religious sentences or verses on them as a sort of slogan. In this particular case the loose translation is that ‘we defend the sacred shrine with all we have.’ In the Iranian regime’s lexicon, ‘defending the sacred shrine’ is the equivalent of deploying the forces of the IRGC and, more recently, the regular army to Syria to defend the Assad regime as it massacres the people of Syria. This is while the majority of the Iranian regime’s casualties are near Aleppo, which is several hundred kilometers away from the holy Shiite shrines near Damascus.”
Archaeologists have offered a grim assessment of the damage wrought by Islamic State militants to a museum in the Syrian city of Palmyra, suggesting it is far more extensive than was first thought. The museum itself was destroyed and some of its most distinctive statues were shattered by the Muslim extremists during the 10 months that ISIS controlled the town before being expelled last month. The militants had cut off the heads and hands of statues and demolished others before being driven out of the city. Bartosz Markowski of the Archaeological Center at Warsaw University, revealed Saturday that most of the 200 objects on display on the ground floor had been destroyed, smashed by hammers and mallets, and many other artefacts were stolen, presumably for sale on the black market. Markowski and his colleagues spent a week painstakingly collecting fragments of priceless broken sculptures and preparing them to be sent to Damascus for conservation in a rescue mission they hope will help salvage most of its contents. Last fall Islamic State militants demolished three ancient arches in Palmyra, as part of their campaign to obliterate important historic monuments across the territories of Iraq and Syria. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the jihadists used explosives to destroy the 2,000-year-old arches while leaving the supporting columns in place, apparently because the symbols and inscriptions on the arches clash with the radical Islamist ideology of the group. The Islamic State believed the pre-Islamic monuments of the region to be idolatrous. After seizing the city in May, 2015, ISIS extremists destroyed the shrine of Baal Shamin and the Temple of Bel. The Temple of Bel was 2,000 years old and regarded as the greatest jewel of Palmyra’s antiquities. Along with ideological opposition to the monuments, ISIS also used the sale of ancient artifacts on the black market to fund the war effort of the “Caliphate.” The Islamic State’s systematic pillaging and demolition of cultural artifacts in the Middle East has been called the worst large-scale destruction of the region’s cultural heritage since the Second World War. The terrorists, who have struggled to finance an expensive war especially with falling oil prices and coalition bombing of ISIS-held oil fields, have drawn a significant portion of their income from the sale of precious historical treasures. For the jihadists such a situation is a win-win, since they derive substantial economic benefit from the looting as well as stripping an entire region of important ties to its religious and cultural patrimony. Palmyra was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and the museum was among the biggest tourist attractions in Syria. Prior to Syria’s civil war, which began in 2011, Palmyra attracted 150 thousand tourists a year.
Two intelligence analysts at U.S. Central Command claim to have been forced out of their jobs for producing skeptical reports about U.S.-backed rebels in Syria, The Daily Beast reported Sunday. The report claimed that one of the two analysts alleging the reprisals is CENTCOM’s top analyst in charge of Syria. He and his colleague doubted the rebels’ abilities and commitment to U.S. interests in Syria. For expressing those doubts, the report claims, they have been sidelined from their positions and well not be working at CENTCOM. It was not immediately clear whether the two analysts had formally left their jobs. The latest accusations of interference with battlefield analysis at CENTCOM centers on the $500M program by the Obama administration to train and arm so-called “moderate” members of Syria’s rebel armies. Despite an initial goal to train roughly 5,400 fighters to take on ISIS in the program’s first year, CENTCOM Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin admitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee this past September that only “four or five” of the U.S.-trained fighters remained on the battlefield. That admission resulted in criticism from commitee members, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who called the program an “abject failure.” In September of last year, it was reported that more than 50 analysts at CENTCOM had backed a complaint to the Pentagon that their reports on ISIS and the Al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front in Syria had been inappropriately altered by senior officials. The complaint alleged that the reports had been changed to make the terror groups appear weaker than they actually were. The complaint about the altered ISIS intelligence reports is being investigated by the Pentagon’s inspector general. In November, Fox News reported that CENTCOM analysts were pressured to ease off negative assessments about the threat from ISIS. On at least two occasions, emails were sent to the analysts saying they needed to “cut it out” and “toe the line.”
This story is of particular interest to yours truly, as I was a senior intel analyst for CENTCOM several years ago. Thankfully, I left right about the time Obama became President, and wasn’t subjected to this sorta thing. But, I AM aware of others who have experienced this sorta crap. IF this indeed happened, then hopefully the IG (inspector general) will uncover it and present its findings to Congress, and to the American public. The job of intelligence professionals is to get accurate information to decision makers, regardless of whether they like it or not. And, if that intelligence is altered to support some arbitrary preconceived agenda, then it’s not intelligence. It’s propaganda.
The handful of Christian families remaining in ISIS’ Syrian stronghold of Raqqa have been forbidden from fleeing the city, according to a tweet from a secret group that reports from inside the caliphate. The activist group Raqqa is Being Silently Slaughtered said the black-clad terrorist army issued a decree that any Christians or Armenians still within city limits may not leave. It is believed that there are just more than 40 Christian families left in the city, and that they have been forced to register with the extremist group and to pay a “jizya,” or a minority tax in exchange for being unharmed. “Any Christian living within Syria or Iraq is in a very dangerous and precarious position,” David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, a Christian advocacy organization, told FoxNews.com. ‘We want to see the Christian church survive in the Middle East, especially in the areas occupied by the Islamic State.” Raqqa first fell into rebel control in March 2013 after a battle between Al Qaeda-linked jihadi group Al Nusra and Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s regime, becoming the first provincial capital under rebel control. ISIS has since used the city as a launching point to increase their caliphate. According to Raqqa is Being Silently Slaughtered, there are about 43 Christian families left in the city. “The suffering of Christians began with ISIS control of Raqqa,” RIBSS said on its website, according to news blog The Foreign Desk. “ISIS looks at Christians as infidels loyal to the West more than their loyalty to their homeland which they live.” Sources in contact with people in Raqqa told FoxNews.com that the ban extends to all citizens within the city. Christians once accounted for up to 20 percent of the population in Syria, but recently, that number has been dwindled to 10 percent. Islamic extremism and authoritarian governments combined to make last year the worst in modern history for Christians around the world, according to a recent report from Open Doors USA. The trend spiked upward in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia, with thousands of Christians killed or imprisoned, and even more chased from their homes. ISIS alone is responsible for driving out the entire Christian population in Mosul, long considered a Christian enclave in Iraq’s Nineveh Plain. Two weeks ago, the U.S. State Department officially declared a “genocide” designation in regards to the treatment of religious minorities in Syria and Iraq. “This is another chapter in the sad story of genocide in the region against Christians, apostates and other minorities,” Ryan Mauro, national security analyst with The Clarion Project, told FoxNews.com. In 2014, as they gained a foothold in the region, ISIS established a list of restrictions that Christians living in Raqqa had to follow in order to live under the Caliphate. In addition to registering and paying extra tax, they are banned from building or repairing churches, displaying Christian symbols and praying in public.
More of the same. These evil, barbaric, Islamic animals continue their methodical genocide of Christians in Syria, Iraq, Libya..and elsewhere… Awful..
Back in August of 2015, before the Russian intervention in Syria, the Kremlin and the Assad regime signed an agreement for an open-ended military presence in Syria beyond the already long-established Russian naval base at Tartus. The deal was made to defend the “sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of the Russian Federation and the Syrian Arab Republic,” according to the document, reports AFP. Military analyst Alexander Golts said the agreement with Syria suited Russia’s interests.”Russia can halt its operation at any time so it does not have any responsibilities before Syria,” he told AFP. At the same time it can stay there for as long as it wishes. It’s totally up to the Russian authorities.” With the development of Russia arming Hezbollah, selling Iran sophisticated weapons, building Iranian nuclear plants, and building up its forces in the region, President Vladimir Putin has re-established a Russian presence in the Middle East that is not going away anytime soon, at the expense of the interests of the United States. The new reality in the Middle Eastern region is the axis of Russia, Iran and Syria. The next American president will have his work cut out for him to re-establish American allied relationships and prevent a safe-haven for terrorists to plot attacks against the homeland. This is the consequence of a complete abdication of American leadership in the region and the world.