Situation in Syria
I have to start this briefing with a phrase that has opened many of the briefings in the past few years: the situation in Syria remains tense. It is particularly complicated in the north of the country, mainly in and around Aleppo where government forces continue fighting Jabhat al-Nusra militants and groups affiliated with it.
Every day civilians die as a result of the so-called “blind” shelling of western Aleppo controlled by the government forces. Militants from various illegal armed groups have occupied eastern Aleppo and at least half of them belong to Jabhat al-Nusra. They are basically holding the locals hostage and use them as live shields blocking their escape through the humanitarian corridors created by the Syrian Armed Forces and the Russian reconciliation centre at the Hmeimim air base. One of the favourite tactics of the illegal armed groups is using civilian facilities, schools, hospitals and residential buildings, as their headquarters and defence centres, and to open sniper fire from these buildings at Syrian personnel and civilians. A Syrian swimming champion and her 12-year-old brother fell victim to this kind of shooting the other day.
Armed opposition groups and their so-called governing bodies, such as the Aleppo local council, continue to prevent humanitarian aid access into eastern Aleppo. Our opinion is that the foreign “patrons” of the militants – those who provide assistance to them – should have started handling this problem long ago. It is necessary that they influence the militants’ commanders. So far, we have mostly seen attempts by Western forces to protect Jabhat al-Nusra and affiliated militants – literally, helping them out of danger – rather than relieving the humanitarian crisis.
Another odious crime happened on October 3 near Hasakah where suicide bomber killed over 30 and injured 90 at a wedding. As we reported before, the Russian Embassy in Damascus was under mortar attack on September 3. The strike came from the suburban town of Jobar, currently controlled by the terrorist groups Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) and Faylaq al-Rahman. Fortunately, there were no victims, but the embassy building sustained some damage. We suspect a connection between this terrorist attack and the vague threat of attack recently passed on by Washington. It is indicative that the attack happened in the midst of a discussion to possibly supply the militants with man-portable air-defence systems and other military equipment that could be used from anywhere.
We get the impression that our Western partners are forgetting that Jabhat al-Nusra (Jabhat Fateh al-Sham), ISIS, Jund al-Aqsa, Ahrar ash-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam and other similar groups are basically the same evolving Al-Qaeda that conducted the horrible terrorist attacks in the United States 15 years ago. Why do our American colleagues not remember that and why do they not remind their people about it on a daily basis at public events? It is beyond my understanding.
The US is protecting Jabhat al-Nusra by all possible means. For the past two years, almost every day we hear tragic reports of American police killing ordinary citizens who only looked like they could hypothetically be a threat to the police or the public. Some police officers thought they were armed, the others thought they could be dangerous, etc. Those were ordinary people who were only suspected of being a threat. Now imagine that two or three people from Jabhat al-Nusra – so thoroughly protected by the US government – walk down the streets of Washington. Imagine what the police would do to those people if they walked down the street in Washington, Chicago or any US city looking the way they usually look. Nobody would have any doubt that those people clearly pose a threat to civilians. Then why is it that those people would be immediately destroyed in one geographic location with complete public support but in another location, they are presented as fighters for justice, as the moderate opposition, a group that is not yet on the genuine path to political resolution, a group that needs refinement but does not yet meet the high standards completely? It is a very strange approach.