Friday, December 15, 2017

Media reports: Chinese special forces, Dark Night Tiger, deployed in Syria

    Friday, December 15, 2017   No comments
Day after the leader of "Islamic Party of Turkestan" in Syria, Sheikh Abdul Haq, threatened China during a military parade showcasing dozens of armored vehicles, multiple reports have revealed that Chinese Ministry of Defense sent China's elite counter-terrorism "Dark Night Tiger" and "Tigers of Siberia" special forces to Syria to fight the group there.

 
These reports indicated that that Chinese troops landed in the port of Tartous on Thursday.

No official comments were issued from the Chinese government thus far, and none is likely to emerge since China is reluctant to present an image of itself deploying troops in far war zones.


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Who armed ISIS? A three year study provides some answers

    Thursday, December 14, 2017   No comments

Supplies of materiel, including advanced light weapons systems the U.S. military, from foreign parties — notably the United States and Saudi Arabia, ended up in the hands of ISIS fighters.


This report is the result of more than three years of field investigation into Islamic State supply chains. It presents an analysis of more than 40,000 items recovered from the group between 2014 and 2017. These items encompass weapons, ammunition, and the traceable components and chemical precursors used by the group to manufacture improvised explosive devices.


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Sunday, November 05, 2017

From Saudi Arabia, an ambitious prince is putting Southwest Asia on Edge

    Sunday, November 05, 2017   No comments
ISR Comment: Those who doubted that the Arab Spring would ever affect the richest Arab kingdom, Saudi Arabia, should consider the events that involved that country since this current king took over.

 Besides its involvement in wars in Syria and Yemen, the ambitious crown prince is now purging the country from rivals and imposing a crushing authoritarian order. After his father signed a long list of royal decrees, including giving MBS broad powers to arrest and imprison under the pretext of fighting corruption, it has been reported that 11 princess and a number of current and former government officials were arrested. Some in Lebanon believe that their prime minister is one of those placed under detention order. These articles provide some insight.




++++++++++
Royal decrees as published by Saudi media:

 



Sunday, September 10, 2017

270,000 Flee Myanmar in Two Weeks: UN Migration Agency in Bangladesh Scales Up Emergency Response

    Sunday, September 10, 2017   No comments
Bangladesh, - IOM, the UN Migration Agency, today (8/9) confirmed that 270,000 people have fled violence in Myanmar to seek safety in Bangladesh since 25 August.

IOM, which yesterday allocated USD 1 million from its emergency funds to boost the humanitarian response in Cox’s Bazar, is working with the government and partners to scale up its delivery of lifesaving aid to those most in need. Immediate priorities have been identified as shelter, drinking water, food and medical assistance.

The UN Central Emergency Response Fund yesterday also announced a further USD 7 million to help the thousands of destitute people who continue to flood into Bangladesh.

“I came here three days back along with my husband and four children. It took us six days to walk here, and we had very little to eat. I couldn’t bring anything with me. Even the clothes we had with us, we lost on the way. We now desperately need food and shelter. We need materials to cook with and a place to wash. We haven’t been able to get anything yet, except this meal today,” said Najuma Begum, speaking to IOM staff collecting needs data at a food distribution centre near the Kutupalong makeshift settlement.

While Najuma’s family managed to get a ready cooked meal at the food distribution centre, many people have now set up camp in areas which are too far from established support centres to receive help. Most families are living in the open, in the rain, with children and the elderly at particularly high risk of getting sick.

The number of new arrivals has increased considerably in part due to the joint needs assessment carried out on 6 September, when inter-agency teams visited more host community locations. Arrivals identified in previously unvisited host community settings tally 75,000 in 9 locations visited. At the same time, arrival numbers in the previously known makeshift locations also continue to increase, and over 10,000 are staying in Teknaf Municipality area.

An estimated 130,000 of the new arrivals are now living in the registered refugee camps and three makeshift settlements of Kutupalong, Leda and Balukhali. Another estimated 90,000 people are sheltering in host communities, and nearly 50,000 have settled in new spontaneous settlements which are expanding quickly with people still searching for space to make temporary shelters.

Continue reading...

 


















 

Saturday, September 09, 2017

The Rohingya Genocide

    Saturday, September 09, 2017   No comments
Nobel laureate issues heartfelt letter to fellow peace prize winner calling for her to speak up for Rohingya in Myanmar
  
  The Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu has called on Aung San Suu Kyi to end military-led operations against Myanmar’s Rohingya minority that have driven 270,000 refugees from the country in the past fortnight.
 
The 85-year old archbishop said the “unfolding horror” and “ethnic cleansing” in the country’s Rahkine region had forced him to speak out against the woman he admired and considered “a dearly beloved sister”.
...

On Tuesday, the United Nations secretary general, Antonio Guterres, said the government clearance operations in Rakhine “risked” ethnic cleansing. A Change.org petition to revoke Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel peace prize had reached 377,332 signatures by Friday. source

...

Myanmar's security forces have been attacking the Rohingya Muslims and torching their villages since October 2016 in a bid to push them out of the western state of Rakhine.

The attacks have intensified since August 25, following alleged armed attacks on police and military posts in Rakhine.

Prior to that, the Muslims were frequent targets of Buddhist mobs. Tens of thousands of Rohingya were driven from their homes in another wave of violence in 2012.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, confirmed Thursday that some 164,000 Rohingya Muslims had fled Myanmar’s Rakhine to seek refuge in camps in Bangladesh since the harsh crackdown against them.

The UNHCR spokeswoman, Vivian Tan, said the figure could go up further as thousands were still crossing the border.

...

World's largest stateless community

The Rohingya are the world's largest stateless community and one of its most persecuted minorities.

Using a dialect similar to that spoken in Chittagong in southeast Bangladesh, the Sunni Muslims are loathed by many in majority-Buddhist Myanmar who see them as illegal immigrants and call them "Bengali" - even though many have lived in Myanmar for generations.

They are not officially recognised as an ethnic group, partly due to a 1982 law stipulating that minorities must prove they lived in Myanmar prior to 1823 - before the first Anglo-Burmese war - to obtain nationality.

Most live in the impoverished western state of Rakhine but are denied citizenship and harassed by restrictions on movement and work.

More than half a million also live in Bangladeshi camps, although Dhaka only recognises a small portion as refugees.

Rohingya refugees from Myanmar's Rakhine state set up shelters at a refugee camp at Unchiprang near the Bangladeshi border town of Teknaf. (AFP Photo)

    Over 250,000 refugees enter Bangladesh from Myanmar

Sectarian violence between the Rohingya and local Buddhist communities broke out in 2012, leaving more than 100 dead and the state segregated along religious lines.

Then last October things got much worse.

...
Who are the Rohingya?

Described as the world’s most persecuted people, 1.1 million Rohingya people live in Myanmar. They live predominately in Rakhine state, where they have co-existed uneasily alongside Buddhists for decades.

Rohingya people say they are descendants of Muslims, perhaps Persian and Arab traders, who came to Myanmar generations ago. Unlike the Buddhist community, they speak a language similar to the Bengali dialect of Chittagong in Bangladesh.

The Rohingya are reviled by many in Myanmar as illegal immigrants and they suffer from systematic discrimination. The Myanmar government treats them as stateless people, denying them citizenship. Stringent restrictions have been placed on Rohingya people’s freedom of movement, access to medical assistance, education and other basic services.

After centuries in Myanmar, it's estimated that half their population has fled to Bangladesh with horror stories of rapes, killings and house burnings.
 ...


Read also, Who are the Rohingya and why are they fleeing Myanmar?




Desmond Tutu condemns Aung San Suu Kyi: 'Silence is too high a price'





Tuesday, September 05, 2017

BRICS nations have expressed concern about Pakistan-based militant groups

    Tuesday, September 05, 2017   No comments
Pakistan's foreign policy in a nutshell: As long as China is backing us, we don't have to worry about the United States or the rest of the world. And that was exactly the official reaction after US President Donald Trump announced his Afghanistan policy last month, criticizing safe havens for Islamist terrorists on Pakistani soil.


While the Islamic country's politicians and government officials refuted Trump's claims that Pakistan was supporting militant groups near its border with Afghanistan, they heaved a sigh of relief when Chinese officials came to their support against Trump.

Therefore, it was quite natural for Islamabad to expect that the BRICS nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – would not criticize Pakistan-based militant groups during their recently held summit in the Chinese city of Xiamen.

But after Trump's censure, Xi Jinping's China, too, expressed its worry about the jihadi groups that many experts say are Pakistan's proxies in the region.

"We, in this regard, express concern about the security situation in the region and violence caused by the Taliban, 'Islamic State'(IS)..., al Qaeda and its affiliates, including the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP and Hizb ut-Tahrir," the BRICS leaders said in a joint declaration. read more...

UN report on yemen humanitarian crisis: “Either stop the war or fund the crisis. Option three is, do both of them”

    Tuesday, September 05, 2017   No comments

WFP’s Executive Director David Beasley: “Saudi Arabia should fund 100 percent of the needs of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen... Either stop the war or fund the crisis. Option three is, do both of them.”
The United Nations human rights chief has called for an independent, international investigation into the allegations of serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Yemen, in a new report published today.

“An international investigation would go a long way in putting on notice the parties to the conflict that the international community is watching and determined to hold to account perpetrators of violations and abuses,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein in a news release on the report.

“I appeal to all the parties to the conflict, those supporting them and those with influence over them to have mercy on the people of Yemen, and to take immediate measures to ensure humanitarian relief for civilians and justice for the victims of violations,” he added.


    
According to the report, which records violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law since September 2014, such acts continue unabated in Yemen, with civilians suffering deeply the consequences of an “entirely man-made catastrophe.”

Between March 2015, when the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) began reporting on civilian casualties, and 30 August, at least 5,144 civilians have been documented as killed and more than 8,749 injured.

Children accounted for 1,184 of those who were killed and 1,592 of those injured. Coalition airstrikes continued to be the leading cause of child casualties as well as overall civilian casualties. Some 3,233 of the civilians killed were reportedly killed by Coalition forces.

The report states that the past year witnessed airstrikes against funeral gatherings and small civilian boats, in addition to markets, hospitals, schools, residential areas, and other public and private infrastructure.

The Popular Committees affiliated with the Houthis and the army units loyal to former President Abdullah Saleh (the Houthi/Saleh forces) were responsible for some 67 per cent of the 1,702 cases of recruitment of children for use in hostilities.

The report stresses that “the minimal efforts towards accountability in the past year are wholly insufficient to respond to the gravity of violations and abuses continuing every day in Yemen,” adding that the National Commission established to investigate human rights violations in Yemen is not perceived to be impartial.

The report also found that the governorates most affected by the conflict were Aden, Al-Hudaydah, Sana'a and Taizz.

The humanitarian crisis – with nearly 18.8 million people in need of humanitarian aid and 7.3 million on the brink of famine – is a direct result of the behaviour of parties to the conflict, including indiscriminate attacks, attacks against civilians and protected objects, sieges, blockades and restrictions on movement, the report states.

“In many cases, information obtained…suggested that civilians may have been directly targeted, or that operations were conducted heedless of their impact on civilians without regard to the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack. In some cases, information suggested that no actions were taken to mitigate the impact of operations on civilians,” the report states. Source

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Syrian army on the verge of ending ISIL's siege of the city of Deir Ezzor

    Sunday, September 03, 2017   No comments
Syrian government soldiers and allied fighters have advanced to the edge of a government enclave besieged by the Islamic State group in the country's east, a monitoring group said Sunday.

Syria's army, backed by Russian military support, has been advancing towards the city of Deir Ezzor on several fronts for weeks.
Units from the Syrian Arab Army continued their campaign against the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS, ISIL) in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor on Saturday.

The soldiers conducted a raid in the direction of Tallet Alloush and the surrounding areas, attacking IS militants and seizing their weapons and ammunition.


 















Thursday, August 24, 2017

Almost all of Germany's 4.7 million Muslims feel connected to the German society... the feeling is apparently not mutual

    Thursday, August 24, 2017   No comments
...
Most Muslims are well integrated into German society, an international research project published on Thursday revealed. But they also face Islamophobia, with nearly one in five Germans saying they would not want Muslim neighbors.
  A new study by Germany's Bertelsmann Foundation looked into the level of education, employment and social engagement of Muslims in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France and the United Kingdom, and found that 96 percent of German Muslims - both of first and following generations - felt connected to Germany. The study did not cover Muslims who arrived after 2010.


"The international comparison shows that it is not religious affiliation that determines the success of opportunities for integration, but the state and the economic framework," said Stephan Vopel, an expert on social cohesion at the Bertelsmann Foundation.

"This study proves that the reality, when it comes to participation of Muslims in society, isn't as bleak as it is often presented in the media," said Ayse Demir, spokeswoman for the Berlin-based Turkish community organization TBB. "It shows that a lot of Muslims feel integrated, but there is a lack of acceptance - and that's also our perception. Participation isn't a one-way street: It needs to come from both sides."

Demir blamed the media for this disconnect. "We're having a right-wing shift in Germany and in Europe," she said. "At the moment a lot is being instrumentalized: Muslims are being presented as the 'enemy' - and of course that gets used by right-wing populists, and then people verbally attack Muslims."  source

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

And the winner is: Assad

    Tuesday, August 22, 2017   No comments
The US is increasingly moving away from its anti-Assad course. The Syrian president appears increasingly confident, announcing that conditions will apply to countries wanting to rejig their relationship with Syria. 
  On Sunday, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad gave a speech in front of dozens of his country's diplomats. He came across as confident: Among other things, he declared that there would be no cooperation with countries "that do not clearly and definitively cut their ties to terrorism."

This dig was aimed at several states, including some Arab ones, especially on the Arabian Peninsula. It also refers to a number of European countries – and the United States. Assad accuses them of collaborating with "terrorists."

Assad has reason to be optimistic. He gave this speech three days after a jihadist drove into and killed 14 people in Barcelona, injuring more than 100. Attacks like these are a gift to the Syrian president: They help make him look like a potential partner to those who have, until now, opposed him. Hardly a week goes by the West without an IS-backed terror attack, Assad told the assembled diplomats, adding: "This fact has forced Western politicians to change their attitude" towards Syria.

...

It does seem that Assad is going to stay in power, at least for the time being. He has succeeded in presenting himself as a bulwark against jihadism. From his point of view, this portrayal makes absolute sense. But if the Sunnis should come to the conclusion that they were now facing an alliance of Shiites, Russia and the USA, this would probably once again fuel jihadism. The American think tanks warn that, if this should happen, the terrorism we are seeing now would be just the precursor to a subsequent, even more brutal expression. Source


Friday, August 11, 2017

602,759 displaced Syrians returned home in first 7 months of 2017 according to reports from UN Migration Agency

    Friday, August 11, 2017   No comments
Between January and July 2017, 602,759 displaced Syrians returned home according to reports from IOM, the UN Migration Agency, and implementing partners on the ground. Findings indicate that the vast majority of the people returning (84 per cent) had been displaced within Syria. The next highest number of people (16 per cent) returned from Turkey, followed by Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Returnees from Turkey and Jordan reportedly returned mainly to Aleppo and Al Hasakeh Governorates.
An estimated 27 per cent of the returnees stated that they did so to protect their assets or properties and 25 per cent referred to the improved economic situation in their area of origin. Other factors people gave IOM and partners as their reasons for returning included the worsening economic situation in the place where they were seeking refuge (14 per cent), social or cultural issues such as tribal links, political affiliations or any obstacle preventing integration in their area of displacement (11 per cent), and the improvement of the security situation in their area of return (11 per cent).
Half of all returns in 2016 were to Aleppo Governorate. The report shows that similar trends have been observed in 2017. Consequently, an estimated 67 per cent of the returnees returned to Aleppo Governorate (405,420 individuals), 27,620 to Idleb Governorate, and 75,209 to Hama Governorate, 45,300 to Ar-Raqqa Governorate, 21,346 to Rural Damascus and 27,861 to other governorates.
Within the Governorates mentioned, Aleppo city, received the most returnees, followed by Al Bab sub-district in Aleppo Governorate, Hama sub-district in Hama Governorate, Menbij sub-district in the northeast of Aleppo Governorate, and Al-Khafsa sub-district also in Aleppo Governorate.
According to reports, almost all (97 per cent) returned to their own house, 1.8 per cent are living with hosts, 1.4 per cent in abandoned houses, 0.14 per cent in informal settlements and 0.03 per cent in rented accommodation.
Access of returnees to food and household items is 83 per cent and 80 per cent respectively. Access to water (41 per cent) and health services (39 per cent) is dangerously low as the country’s infrastructure has been extremely damaged by the conflict.
The report indicates that an increasing number of Syrians displaced within the country appear to be returning home. The total figure by end of July this year was already close to the 685,662 returns identified in the whole of 2016. However, of those returnees, an estimated 20,752 and 21,045 were displaced again in 2016 and 2017 respectively. This means that around 10 per cent of those who returned ended up as internally displaced persons (IDPs) once again.
While trends of returns increase, Syria continues to witness high rates of displacement. From January to July 2017, an estimated 808,661 people were displaced, many for the second or third time, and over 6 million in total currently remain displaced within the country.
 
 
IDP returns have mainly been spontaneous but not necessarily voluntary, safe or sustainable. As such, they cannot, at present, be considered within the context of a durable solutions framework. Find out more about this at: https://www.iom.int/progressive-resolution-displacement-situations.
These data have been collected by IOM’s implementing partners, who use a set of tools and methods to identify, assess and monitor different population categories throughout Syria, in relation to needs and mobility dynamics at a community level. source

 

what will China do if the U.S. or North Korea launch first strike?

    Friday, August 11, 2017   No comments
ISR comment: While the U.S. and North Korea increased their threats to one another, China moved to make its position clear. Although the views of this news outlet are not direct official government declarations, reports nonetheless represent China's inclination made public before issuing policy statements. The Global Times outlined China's position as follows:
 
Beijing is not able to persuade Washington or Pyongyang to back down at this time. It needs to make clear its stance to all sides and make them understand that when their actions jeopardize China's interests, China will respond with a firm hand.

China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten US soil first and the US retaliates, China will stay neutral. If the US and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

'Islam is in a transformative process'

    Thursday, August 10, 2017   No comments
Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im
Muslims feel conflicted about certain aspects of historical Islam, says the Islamic scholar Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im. How does the notion of Sharia fit within the idea of a secular state?
Sharia in a secular state -  isn't that a contradiction in terms?
Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im: The question is: what does one mean by Sharia? People tend to think of the legal end of it, as if that is the whole principle of Sharia. But Sharia consists of the whole normative system of Islam founded in the Koran, the Sunna and the hadith, or tradition of the Prophet. So it is not possible - even in a secular state - to deny Muslims the right to turn to Sharia to answer questions such as how to pray or how to fast.   

Sharia cannot be enforced by the state anywhere. There is absolutely no possibility to enact Sharia as a law of the state whether it be in a so-called "Muslim majority country" or a tiny Muslim minority anywhere. The nature of Sharia defies codification. It is about the interpretation that people choose through their own conviction.

So what is Sharia for you?
Sharia provides moral guidance for Muslim individuals. State and religion should be clearly separated. For me, as a Muslim, I need the state to be secular so that I can practice Islam through conviction and choice. The need of the state to be secular derives from an Islamic point of view; it has nothing to do with the European Enlightenment. The state has nothing to do with my being a believer or an atheist.

If state and religion are to be clearly separated, what role can religion play in public discourse?

I make a distinction between the state and politics. The state has nothing to do with Islam, but politics is a field where religion is always relevant. You cannot keep religion out of politics. Just like the CDU [editor's note: Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats] in Germany believes that its political platform is inspired by Christianity, believers - whatever their religion - act politically out of their conviction as believers. Whether you ban Sharia from politics or not, Muslims will continue to act in ways that are consistent with their understanding of Sharia. You cannot prevent that possibility unless you disenfranchise Muslims. source...

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Saudi Arabia signals a shift in its policy, advises the Syrian opposition faction it supports to come up with new strategy guided by the fact that Assad will be in power for the foreseeable future

    Sunday, August 06, 2017   No comments
In an interview on Almayadeen, a member of the Syrian Opposition faction supported by Saudi Arabia, Ahmad Asrawi, the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir has advised the group to rethink their political strategy to factor in the possibility that the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, will remain in power. Jubeir signaled that the new Saudi position is guided by the idea that the future of Assad, like that of Syria, is entirely in the "hands of Syrians, not the Saudis."

 Al Asrawi said that Al Jubeir assured them that that Supreme Council of Saudi Arabia supports any efforts, aimed at finding a political solution in Syria, a solution wherein Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity remain intact. 

  
According to Asrawi, Al Jubeir said that the international community's approach to fight terrorism in the wake of terrorist act that devastated the French capital city of Paris, is not right and has led to the killing of dozens of people.

Hours after the interview was aired, the Saudi Foreign Ministry released a statement claiming that the information is inaccurate and stressing that there is no change of policy: Saudi Arabia does not see a future Syria with Assad in charge.
   



This new development is reflective of the new reality in which the Syrian government and its allies are gaining more ground while opposition forces are engaged in infighting and looking for way out of a war they now know cannot be won.
Some rebel groups decided to move from Syria's eastern country side to Kurdish control areas and form a new army they want to call Syria's liberation army. Others refused to move and formed a second coalition that will continue fighting the government. Meanwhile, Islamists in Idlib continue to fight each other. The Syrian army and its allies are closing in on ISIL's stronghold, Deir Ez zor.



Syrian troops are advancing towards Deir Ez Zour from the northwest and southeast.




Wednesday, August 02, 2017

U.S. to handover Tanf base to Russia, attempt to collect weapons it gave Syrian rebels, many are surrendering to Syrian armed forces

    Wednesday, August 02, 2017   No comments
On the same day Trump signed Russia sanctions bill, it was reported that U.S. and Russian negotiators were working on a plan that would lead to US withdrawing American forces from al-Tanf and handing over its control to Russia. 


According to some reports, the talks took place in Jordan over many weeks and when the news of the meeting reached the Syrian rebels affiliated with the U.S., several groups that are affiliated with the Free Army Syrian Army (FSA) and trained by U.S. defected.

Al-Thawra members decided to leave al-Tanf after they were informed of the US-Russia possible agreement and the Syrian army's massive operations to free the Northern parts of Sweida province, a number of them have surrendered to the Syrian troops.

Sources affiliated with opposition groups disclosed on Wednesday that another group backed by the US army surrendered to the Syrian Army troops in al-Tanf region in Southern Homs. The group of al-Thowrah brigade has fled its positions in al-Tanf region and surrendered to the Syrian Army troops with their arms and military equipment. A Syrian army commander said that several groups of Jeish Maqawir al-Thowrah have handed over their weapons and military hardware to the army men after they surrendered. This trend, apparently, prompted the U.S. to start a process of taking back the weapons it gave the rebels.

One of the commanders of Jaysh Maqawir al-Thowrah in Syria's Badiyeh (desert) with the nom de guerre Haws al-Forati along with 30 of his forces fled the militant-held regions. The fleeing militants took a number of weapons, vehicles and munitions with them while fleeing.

U.S. military and CIA agents have trained Syrian rebels and equipped them with weapons and communication devices over the past six years. Most recently, it established a base on the Jordanian-Syrian-Iraqi border with the aim of connecting much of southern Syria to the Kurdish-held northern region. That plan fell apart after the Syrian troops and their allies cut them off during the last eight months and essentially restricted them to desert (seem attached map).

 









  
   

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