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Regional geopolitics

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  • Re: Regional geopolitics

    Syria conflict: Barrel bombs show brutality of war
    By Jonathan Marcus
    BBC defence correspondent


    For all the attention given to the issue of chemical weapons in Syria the fact remains that the overwhelming majority of deaths and injuries - especially civilian deaths and injuries - are caused by conventional weapons.

    Many of them - like the barrel bombs reportedly used again in Aleppo by Syrian government forces during recent days - are home-made, relatively crude and totally indiscriminate in their impact.

    The barrel bomb is essentially a large, home-made incendiary device. An oil barrel or similar cylindrical container filled with petrol, nails or other crude shrapnel, along with explosives. With an appropriate fuse, they are simply rolled out of a helicopter.

    The first recorded use of such weapons goes back to late-August 2012.

    Continue reading the main story

    Start Quote

    International efforts to condemn the use of such weapons have been stymied again”

    Since then, weapons experts like the blogger Brown Moses and human rights groups have closely monitored their role in the conflict.

    Large pipes were initially used but more recent examples have been more the size of oil drums. The weapons have been captured on video both in storage from a site overrun by rebel forces and also in at least one instance actually being rolled out of a government helicopter. Unexploded munitions have also been photographed.

    Incendiary weapons which are defined as those intended to cause injury "through the action of flame or heat" are banned from use in populated civilian areas under the terms of the UN Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons. While Syria is not a party to the convention, the campaigning group Human Rights Watch has insisted that the employment of these weapons constitutes a war crime and that those responsible should be held to account.

    International efforts to condemn the use of such weapons have been stymied again this week with Russia reportedly refusing to back a Western-proposed text at the UN Security Council that would have condemned the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for carrying out such indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas.

    Syrians inspect the rubble of damaged buildings following a Syrian government airstrike in Aleppo on 17 December.
    Rebels say government forces have been using barrel bombs in Aleppo for days
    Why use them?
    A spokesman for the US delegation reacted angrily, noting that the US was "very disappointed that a Security Council statement expressing our collective outrage at the brutal and indiscriminate tactics employed by the Syrian regime against civilians has been blocked".

    Continue reading the main story

    Start Quote

    The Syrian government's use of these types of munitions against its own population in rebel-held areas is a measure of the brutality of the conflict”

    This, of course, is consistent with Moscow's broader diplomatic approach. As one of the Syrian government's few allies, it has blocked any concerted UN Security Council action on Syria.

    Quite why the Syrian government should resort to the use of these home-made munitions is unclear.

    While in no sense accurate, they are probably easier to deploy from helicopters over built-up areas.

    Hitting such targets with fast-moving fixed-wing aircraft would be more difficult.

    Syria of course has also used a variety of Russian-supplied air-delivered cluster munitions which again are highly indiscriminate weapons when used in civilian areas.

    The Syrian government's use of these types of munitions against its own population in rebel-held areas is a measure of the brutality of the conflict, which shows no sign of abating even as plans to remove chemical stocks from the country move into high gear.

    Comment


    • Re: Regional geopolitics

      Originally posted by Vrej1915 View Post
      Quality of the video is rather poor:
      But soil seems wet, looks sandy, as a torrent ('selav'), riverbed.
      Should't you have disntinguished impacts on the soil, between the bodies?
      Not necessarily.....my guess is that it was machine gun fire from a gunship at night with infrared/night vision.

      Saudis do have the AH-64.....whatever it was it was a surprise and it was fast, thoses bodies don't look like they were moved and they don't look too mutilated compared to getting hits by bombs or rockets.
      B0zkurt Hunter

      Comment


      • Re: Regional geopolitics

        Originally posted by Eddo211 View Post
        Not necessarily.....my guess is that it was machine gun fire from a gunship at night with infrared/night vision.

        Saudis do have the AH-64.....whatever it was it was a surprise and it was fast, thoses bodies don't look like they were moved and they don't look too mutilated compared to getting hits by bombs or rockets.
        You are right, it's not artillery or skirmish. They seem machine gunned in the dark, with quite an instant cross fire.
        What the saudi AH-64 got to do? I would have thinked of a Mi-24?
        Do you imply the rebels may have air cover? And why to hit their own men?

        But if we do accept a figure close to the official , putting casualties at more than 150: how can a chopper close in silently enough, surprise, and gun down that many, in a matter of seconds, in a rather flat foothills? There must have been more than one? In high coordinated cross approach, in total silence?
        The terrain there looks parallel flat valleys of foothills, as much as I judge from photos and google earth. The choppers must have known the exact position of the target, its direction, speed, and used an adjacent valley to close in in full cover and silence...

        And then, from all the survivors, reaching Arsal in Lebanon, no one talking of an air attack?

        Comment


        • Re: Regional geopolitics

          Originally posted by Eddo211 View Post
          Not necessarily.....my guess is that it was machine gun fire from a gunship at night with infrared/night vision.

          Saudis do have the AH-64.....whatever it was it was a surprise and it was fast, thoses bodies don't look like they were moved and they don't look too mutilated compared to getting hits by bombs or rockets.
          Not understanding.
          The bodies shown are the terrorist correct? They were killed by pro Assad or Hizbola correct?
          So the Saudis having AH64 has what relevance? Also, terrorists don't have access to Saudi air power correct?
          HARK

          Comment


          • Re: Regional geopolitics

            Originally posted by Artashes View Post
            Not understanding.
            The bodies shown are the terrorist correct? They were killed by pro Assad or Hizbola correct?
            So the Saudis having AH64 has what relevance? Also, terrorists don't have access to Saudi air power correct?
            Correct

            Comment


            • Re: Regional geopolitics

              At the start of the war, Russia took out some the old or unfit helis off Syria (possibly only the attack Mi 24 ??), they had a lot of trouble bringing back, due to turkish veto, etc..., they had to use their navy to take them in.
              Possibly those were equipped by state of the art navigation, and night vision?
              It is not impossible, that some russian pilots are also on duty for highly skilled night missions?

              Nevertheless, I doubt this is a helicopter job.
              Too complicated, while small, skilled and well informed mobile ground troops might have done same job.
              Do not forget, it is not deep in rebel territory, since the TV is able to operate on morning...., just hours later.

              Comment


              • Re: Regional geopolitics

                Originally posted by Artashes View Post
                Not understanding.
                The bodies shown are the terrorist correct? They were killed by pro Assad or Hizbola correct?
                So the Saudis having AH64 has what relevance? Also, terrorists don't have access to Saudi air power correct?
                Maybe I am mistaken but the article says Saudi backed fighters did this (liwa al Islam)........Vrej it just looks odd for all those fighters to fall right where they stand (as it seems) if they were just ambushed by 400 fighters. It just seems to me they didn't put up much of a fight but its hard to tell from the video. A gunship can cut all those guys down in one or two passes, not saying thats what happened though.
                B0zkurt Hunter

                Comment


                • Re: Regional geopolitics

                  Originally posted by Eddo211 View Post
                  Maybe I am mistaken but the article says Saudi backed fighters did this (liwa al Islam)........Vrej it just looks odd for all those fighters to fall right where they stand (as it seems) if they were just ambushed by 400 fighters. It just seems to me they didn't put up much of a fight but its hard to tell from the video. A gunship can cut all those guys down in one or two passes, not saying thats what happened though.
                  No, these are salafist/islamist/rebels (backed by Saudis/Qatar/Turkey/"west")...;
                  They were embushed by the Syrian Army, or its ally the Hizbella (differs, according source).
                  The Army and its allies (Iraki shia militias, and possibly Iranian pasdaran?), are in a vast encirclment operation, at least engaging Hizbella on its western (lebaneese) side.
                  According official tale, they were about 400, moving out of one small town, under army attack, toward an other. They have been embushed. They left some 60-65 corpses, and yet again according official data, some 150 dead or wounded did manage to cross back into their stronghold, just inside Lebanon, called Ersal.

                  You are quite right, these guys did not resist. They were shot in a very surprise, and very intense, small caliber fire (state of the bodies).
                  You are right, in saying a chopper might have done it.
                  I just doubt, it is possible in this case, on this terrain.
                  What's the chance, for a chopper to close in unnoticed, and surprise that many guys, still in walking line, without dispersal?
                  Does really the Syrian army have that kind of operational capacity left?

                  While I can easily imagine a small detachment of 50 or so disciplined and battle hardened unit (like at least the Hizballa did prove it had, during 2006 war), well informed an hour or 2 before, of the itinerary,, preparing an trap, by installing one or 2 fortified and well covered position at the entrance and at the end of the "valley".
                  They just had to have the gotts to let enter the group, without whispering a breath, waiting they arrive 3-500m down, the end of the alley.
                  Once all of them in the nest, it must have been total surprise, and hell on earth, for couple of minutes, until those surviving, got out from the nest, or by retreating, or by climbing up the hills, that are not that high, on the section showed, and retreat to Lebanese Ersal

                  Comment


                  • Re: Regional geopolitics

                    4 December 2013

                    The Syrian rebel groups pulling in foreign fighters
                    By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi


                    Throughout the Syrian civil war, one of the major concerns of Western powers in particular has been the inflow of Sunni foreign fighters, who come from the wider Arab world, Western Europe, and as far afield as Kazakhstan and Indonesia.

                    According to a recent estimate by Aaron Zelin of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, there could be up to 11,000 of these fighters. It raises the questions of which groups they join, and what the relations between these groups are.

                    By far the two most popular banners for these foreign fighters are al-Qaeda's official Syrian affiliate, the al-Nusra Front, and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).

                    ISIS is the result of a unilateral attempt by the leader of Iraq's al-Qaeda affiliate, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to merge his group with al-Nusra. The move was rejected al-Nusra's leader, Abu Mohammed al-Julani, and by al-Qaeda overall leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, but Baghdadi refused to disband ISIS.

                    Activist networks
                    Of the two organisations, ISIS appears to attract more foreign fighters.

                    They constitute a majority of ISIS's elite fighter corps and are disproportionately represented in its leadership, as opposed to native Syrian majorities on both counts in al-Nusra.

                    An ISIS "faith-strengthening" event for children in one of the group's strongholds in Aleppo province
                    An ISIS "faith-strengthening" event for children in one of the group's strongholds in Aleppo province
                    However, it would be a mistake to conclude, as is often reported, that ISIS in Syria overall is primarily a group of foreigners.

                    On the contrary, I would estimate at least a 60-70% Syrian majority in ISIS's Syrian branch.

                    This is because the group, bolstered by abundant financial resources, maintains extensive activist and service networks run by locals, such as the Islamic Administration for Public Services, which provides electricity and buses among other services in Aleppo.

                    In any event, ISIS is increasingly recruiting native Syrians to conduct important military operations, and understands that to perpetuate its existence in Syria, it must recruit from the next generation.

                    Hence, outreach to children is a key part of ISIS's modus operandi for consolidating power.

                    Saudis and Moroccans
                    Besides al-Nusra and ISIS, there are several other groups to which foreign fighters congregate.

                    Smoke rises after reported air raid on Salma, Latakia (file photo)
                    Groups of foreign fighters tried to take Alawite areas in Latakia in the summer
                    They are particularly concentrated in the Latakia countryside, near the Mediterranean coastline.

                    During the summer, these groups - along with al-Nusra and ISIS - played a leading role in an ultimately unsuccessful rebel offensive on Alawite areas, with the aim of scoring a symbolic victory by capturing President Bashar al-Assad's ancestral village of Qardaha.

                    Of these other groups, some are formations independent of both al-Nusra and ISIS, even though they have ideological affinity.

                    For example, primarily based in the Latakia countryside, there are the two groups Suqour al-Izz and Harakat Sham al-Islam.

                    The former, founded at the beginning of this year, is led by Saudi foreign fighters; the latter, established in the summer, is led by Moroccan foreign fighters.

                    Both have attracted fighters of other nationalities, including some Syrians.

                    Ideological affinities
                    Outside of Latakia, the most notable independent formations are the Green Battalion and Jamaat Jund al-Sham.

                    The Green Battalion is based in the Qalamoun area of Damascus province and was founded in the summer by Saudi fighters who are of similar ideological orientation to ISIS and al-Nusra but had personal problems both groups.

                    Omar Shishani (centre) and other Chechen fighters in Syria
                    Chechen Omar al-Shishani (centre) led Jaysh al-Muhajirin before it split, and is now part of the al-Qaeda-affiliated ISIS
                    However, in the recent intense battles in Qalamoun with regime forces and Shia militias, the Green Battalion co-ordinated operations with ISIS and al-Nusra.

                    Jamaat Jund ash-Sham was founded last year by Lebanese fighters in western Homs governorate but has since incorporated many Syrians into its ranks. Ideologically, it is close to ISIS and al-Nusra, and nothing suggests personal tensions with either organisation.

                    Other foreign fighter groups are or have been mere fronts for ISIS. The most notable case is Jaysh al-Muhajirin wa al-Ansar, based primarily in Aleppo, Idlib and Latakia provinces.

                    In May, its leader- Omar al-Shishani - was appointed northern commander for ISIS by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, with authority over Aleppo, Raqqa, Latakia and northern Idlib provinces.

                    From that time until late November, Jaysh al-Muhajirin became synonymous with ISIS, both in its own discourse and in the eyes of other rebels.

                    Yet since late November, Jaysh al-Muhajirin has split, with Shishani and his followers now only identifying themselves as part of ISIS, and those wanting to operate as an independent group appointing a new commander: Salah al-Din al-Shishani.

                    Also in November, an independent group of foreign fighters in Latakia - the Lions of the Caliphate Battalion, led by Abu Muadh al-Masri - pledged formal allegiance to ISIS.

                    'World domination'
                    The concluding question that vexes governments is what kind of threat, if any, these foreign fighters may pose to the outside world.

                    Of all the above groups, ISIS most openly expresses the ultimately global nature of its struggle, in which the end goal is world domination, delusional as that may seem.

                    Indeed, it is likely for this reason that ISIS appears to be attracting the most foreign fighters, who generally come from global jihadist ideological backgrounds and already had this worldview before coming to Syria.

                    At the same time, ISIS fighters and supporters make clear to me that a fight against the UK, for example, is destined for the far future, after an Islamic state is established in Iraq and Syria and then extended throughout the Muslim world as a caliphate.

                    Some statements purportedly from ISIS and al-Nusra have appeared with threats to attack Turkey, but these have all been forgeries from pro-Assad circles.

                    As for the other groups, the testimony of one fighter who went to Latakia has suggested that Harakat Sham al-Islam is using Syria as a training ground to prepare to fight the government in Morocco - something that has otherwise not appeared in the group's discourse.

                    As an official al-Qaeda affiliate, al-Nusra is committed to a transnational project of a caliphate, but its leader and its native Syrian component tend not to talk openly about such a goal. Instead, they emphasise the more immediate objective of establishing Islamic law for the people of Syria.

                    Turkish corridor
                    Given the protracted nature of the conflict in Syria that will likely continue without a meaningful peace agreement for at least 10 to 15 years, the problem of inflow of foreign fighters will remain for quite some time to come.

                    Rebels on Bab al-Hawa border gate between Turkey and Syria (file photo)
                    Turkey is the main route into Syria for foreign jihadists
                    At present, however, there is little that can be done beyond pressuring Turkey (which it can be argued has for a while turned a blind eye partly in the belief that the foreign fighters are useful proxies against Syrian Kurdish militias seen as the greater threat) to take rigorous measures to crack down on smuggling networks for foreign fighters and adopt more thorough vetting policies at airports.

                    To be sure, Turkey has always denied facilitating the inflow of foreign fighters, but testimony from both foreign fighters and those who run smuggling networks points to neglect on the part of Turkish authorities.

                    To a lesser extent, Iraq and Lebanon have also served as conduits for foreign fighters - both Shia and Sunni.

                    However it is not only lack of central government control over porous border areas which has enabled foreign fighters to reach Syria from Iraq and Lebanon.

                    Factionalism, sectarianism and dysfunction have also led to a lack of united effort and willpower to deal with the problem.

                    Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is a student at Brasenose College, Oxford University, and a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum, who specialises in jihadist and ethnic minority militias in Syria. Follow on Twitter: @ajaltamimi

                    Comment


                    • Re: Regional geopolitics

                      They probably didn't even think about their location as a perfect ambush walk right into it.
                      its just like how they shoot those AKs......spray and pray.
                      Well done by Hezbs/Persian/Syrian join ops.
                      B0zkurt Hunter

                      Comment

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