Military Events in Syria and Iraq thread #3

The small city of Manbij was surrounded by SDF (Kurdish) fighters in mid June. Apparently a large force (reportedly several thousand, though I suspect that number may be exaggerated) of ISIS fighters was trapped there. Fighting to take the town has been intense ever since.

ISIS has repeatedly launched large attacks eastward towards Manbij from the vicinity of Al Bab, and from the north and south, in hopes of breaking through. Many small villages have changed hands repeatedly. And the surrounded ISIS fighters in Manbij have repeatedly tried to break out. The SDF has successfully fought off those attempts (at considerable cost) and have penetrated the town. After prolonged fighting they managed to cut the defenders into two groups, a smaller group in western Manbij and a larger group still holding most of the east side of town. The smaller western group has subsequently been mostly eliminated, many of them escaping to join the eastern group, while some die-hards hold out in a fortress-like prison.

ISIS had been using the town's hospital as their command center and supply point, but the SDF has finally taken that strong point after tough fighting. But the US Central Command thinks that the ISIS fighters can continue to hold out for a considerable time to come. There are US and French special forces on scene, probably serving as forward air controllers for coalition air strikes. The US Central Command says that the fighting in Manbij has been unlike anything yet seen in the war against ISIS, very different than the recent battle to retake Fallujah.

I'm thinking that it's possible that this might turn out to be one of the landmark battles of the war. A significant fraction of ISIS' fighters may be involved and the Islamic State's contact with the outside world through the Turkish border is at stake. Losing here will be a significant setback for the jihadists.
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Some new maps from Aleppo near the Castello road:


On the North side, the Syrian army has taken control of some buildings named "Castello complex". As a consequence, they are now safe enough on the Castello road itself and have started to build road blocks there. On the Southern side, they seem to control now all the building East of the Castello road. The distance is now not more than a km between them, and above are able to control the Castello road.

The terrorists have attacked the Kurdish enclave, but failed. Instead, the Kurds have counterattacked, and seem to have taken some objects named "youth housing". On the first map, there is a region named "youth housing". But on other maps, another region is named "youth housing", the other one being the other red area on the second map. So it is not clear what it is the actual situation in the North of the Kurdish enclave. Most probable it is the region in the North-West.
A really good day - it seems, the whole quarter Bani Zeid has been taken by the Syrian army.
At least most of Bani Zeid is now controlled by the Syrian army, some claim that already all, some claim that there are some small encircled remains, "some militants who remain entrenched in parts of the neighborhood have sent pleas to the Syrian Army to permit them to leave the area without any more fighting".

Bani Zeid is the quarter between the Southern front of the Syrian army at the West and the Kurdish Sheikh Maqsud neigbourhood at the East. The "youth housing" taken yesterday was that in the North-West of Sheikh Maqsud, in the North of Bani Zeid, it has been one of the starting points of the attack, the other one was the bus station at the most Northern point of the Southern part of the Syrian army.

This is a really big victory. Bani Zeid is considered to be the most fortified quarter, and a lot of mortar attacks on civilians in Aleppo came from here, so that this means also peace for some quite large environment of Bani Zeid in Aleppo. And, of course, any hope for the terrorists to break the siege can now be given up.
Just to give a picture what has changed during the last two days:

In fact, the color about the "contested area" is wrong, the SAA fighters from the North and the South have already met each other.

And there are more good news. claims that Ammar Shaaban, the military leader of the Islamist rebel group ‘Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki’, has been killed. This is one of the guys seen at the headcutting video of the 12year old boy. And claims that Bani Said was a region mainly controlled by this gang of child murderers. claims that Bani Zaid was the jihadist stronghold from which 80% of the rebel shelling on the 1.5 million civilians of west Aleppo was launched from.


Some progress in the terrorist-held territory East of Damascus, East Ghouta. One more village now under control of the Syrian army. In itself this is not much, but it is expected to be the begin of more. And the village was described as well-prepared for defense, so that it seems not implausible that more can follow. A probable direction may be West - South-West, to encircle the Northern end, which is a well-defended high point, Tal Kurdi. Whatever, step by step, there is some progress.
The fighting in Manbij continues. ISIS forces there are being squeezed by the Kurds into a smaller and smaller area, extending from the center of town to the grain silos on its eastern edge.

As the Daesh position in the town grows more dire, their jihadist compatriots are attacking intensely from the west, north and south, trying to break through to relieve them. The US and its 'coalition' allies including France and the UK are flying many sorties a day of close air support for the SDF.

Al Qaida (now renamed Fatah al Sham) and a lot of their friends have tried a large offensive to break the siege of Aleppo. Initially they have made some gains. But these gains seem to have been presented in the media much greater than they have been in reality. Whatever, yesterday in the evening the Syrian army started a counterattack, and have recovered most of what has been lost.

The green area are terrorist-controlled, the red SAA-controlled, the blue line was that of greatest claimed advance during the last two days offensive.

There is also heavy fighting in the North-East of Aleppo, where the Syrian army attacks the Handarat camp.
It looks like the rebels were attacking from the southwest, hoping to break through to the southern end of the surrounded rebel arc in the east side of the city. (The now-severed Castello road is at the northern end.) Doesn't seem to have succeeded though.

The rebels have apparently resumed their offensive in the southwest of Aleppo, aimed at cutting a corridor through to encircled east Aleppo while more or less cutting off Syrian government held west Aleppo. (There would still be a narrow outlet in the north through the small Kurdish enclave.)

There is a large military complex in the southwest that hosted several Syrian military training schools before the war, and still is a major Syrian army strong-point today. Reportedly the rebels have entered this complex and fighting there is heavy, building to building. Jets are flying overhead. (I'm guessing Russian, since close air support of ground troops is something the Syrian air force is not very good at.)
The rebels (many apparently from the recently-renamed Nusra Front) are claiming that they have taken the Syrian military schools and that the rebels in east Aleppo have pushed outwards to link up with them. Hezbollah-controlled al-Manar TV is insisting it isn't true, but Western journalists report that celebratory gunfire into the air has broken out all over east Aleppo.
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In Manbij, the SDF appears to have made advances in the eastern parts of the town, confining the last ISIS defenders to a shrinking area in the center. There's a photo in one of the news stories showing Kurdish fighters walking around freely in the eastern grain silos, which were an ISIS strong point for weeks.

Some Kurdish sources are already claiming that the town is taken, but that's probably premature.

(There's a Middle Eastern custom of declaring a town is taken when its city hall or central government building is captured, even if much of the town and its strongpoints remain in enemy hands. The Iraqis claimed several times to have retaken Tikrit from ISIS before they really did.)
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damned nice job
10 Facts the Mainstream Media Won’t Tell You About the War in Syria
The media does report on events that contradict this narrative — albeit sparingly — but taken together, these underreported details shine a new light on the conflict.

10: Bashar al-Assad has a higher approval rating than Barack Obama

Despite Obama’s claims Assad is illegitimate and must step down, the fact remains that since the conflict erupted in 2011, Assad has held the majority support of his people. The elections in 2014 – which Assad won by a landslide with international observers claiming no violations – is a testament to the fact that although Assad has been accused of serious human rights violations, he continues to remain reasonably popular with the Syrian people.

Obama, on the other hand, won elections in 2012 with a voter turnout of a mere 53.6 percent of the American public; only 129.1 million total were votes cast. This means approximately 189.8 million American people did not vote for Obama. His current approval rating sits at about 50 percent.

9: The “moderate” opposition has been hijacked

There is no longer such a thing as “moderate” opposition in Syria – if there ever was. The so-called Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) has been dominated by extremists for years. The U.S. has known this yet has continued to support the Syrian opposition, despite the fact the New York Times reported in 2012 that the majority of weapons being sent to Syria have been ending up in the hands of jihadists. A classified DIA report predicted the rise of ISIS in 2012, stating:

“If the situation unravels, there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria… and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”

Further, an FSA commander went on record not only to admit his fighters regularly conduct joint operations with al-Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria), but also that he would like to see Syria ruled by Sharia law.

Apparently, moderate can also mean “al-Qaeda affiliated fanatic.”

8: Assad never used chemical weapons on his own people

A U.N. investigation into the first major chemical weapons attack committed in early 2013 — an atrocity the West immediately pinned on Assad — concluded the evidence suggested the attack was more likely committed by the Syrian opposition. A subsequent U.N. investigation into the August 2013 attack never laid blame on anyone, including Assad’s forces. In December 2013, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh released an article highlighting deficiencies in the way the situation was handled:

“In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports…citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.”

7: Toppling the Syrian regime was part of a plan adopted shortly after 9/11

According to a memo disclosed by 4-star General Wesley Clark, shortly after 9/11, the Pentagon adopted a plan to topple the governments of seven countries within five years. The countries were Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Iran.

As we know, Iraq was invaded in 2003. American ally Israel tried its hand at taking out Lebanon in 2006. Libya was destroyed in 2011. Prior to this intervention, Libya had the highest standard of living of any country in Africa. In 2015, alone, it dropped 27 places on the U.N. Human Development Index rating. U.S. drones fly over Somalia, U.S. troops are stationed in South Sudan — Sudan was partitioned following a brutal civil war — and Syria has been the scene of a deadly war since 2011. This leaves only Iran, which is discussed below.
6: Iran and Syria have a mutual defense agreement

Since 2005, Iran and Syria have been bound by a mutual defense agreement. The Iranian government has shown they intend to fully honor this agreement and has provided the Syrian regime with all manner of support, including troops, a $1 billion credit line, training, and advisement. What makes this conflict even more dangerous, however, is the fact Russia and China have sided with Iran and Syria, stating openly they will not tolerate any attack on Iran. Russia’s military intervention in Syria in recent months proves these are not idle threats – they have put their money where their mouth is.

Iran has been in the crosshairs of the U.S. foreign policy establishment for some time now. George W. Bush failed to generate the support needed to attack Iran during his time in office — though not for lack of trying — and since 2012, sanctions have been the go-to mantra. By attacking and destabilizing Iran’s most important ally in the region, the powers that be can undermine Iranian attempts to spread its influence in the region, ultimately further weakening Iran.

5: Former Apple CEO is the son of a Syrian refugee

The late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, was the son of a Syrian who moved to the United States in the 1950s. This is particularly amusing given the amount of xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism and hatred refugees and migrants seem to have inspired — even from aspiring presidents. Will a President Donald Trump create the conditions in which future technological pioneers may never reach the United States? His rhetoric seems to indicate as much.

4: ISIS arose out of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, not the Syrian conflict

ISIS was formerly known as al-Qaeda in Iraq, which rose to prominence following the U.S.-U.K. led invasion of Iraq in 2003. It is well-known that there was no tangible al-Qaeda presence in Iraq until after the invasion, and there is a reason for this. When Paul Bremer was given the role of Presidential Envoy to Iraq in May 2003, he dissolved the police and military. Bremer fired close to 400,000 former servicemen, including high-ranking military officials who fought in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. These generals now hold senior ranking positions within ISIS. If it weren’t for the United States’ actions, ISIS likely wouldn’t exist.

ISIS was previously known by the U.S. security establishment as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), but these fighters ultimately became central to Western regime change agendas in Libya and Syria. When the various Iraqi and Syrian al-Qaeda-affiliated groups merged on the Syrian border in 2014, we were left with the fully-fledged terror group we face today.

3: Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia wanted to build a pipeline through Syria, but Assad rejected it

In 2009, Qatar proposed a pipeline to run through Syria and Turkey to export Saudi gas. Assad rejected the proposal and instead formed an agreement with Iran and Iraq to construct a pipeline to the European market that would cut Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar out of the route entirely. Since, Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia have been staunch backers of the opposition seeking to topple Assad. Collectively, they have invested billions of dollars, lent weapons, encouraged the spread of fanatical ideology, and helped smuggle fighters across their borders.

The Iran-Iraq pipeline will strengthen Iranian influence in the region and undermine their rival, Saudi Arabia — the other main OPEC producer. Given the ability to transport gas to Europe without going through Washington’s allies, Iran will hold the upper-hand and will be able to negotiate agreements that exclude the U.S. dollar completely.

2: Leaked phone calls show Turkey provides ISIS fighters with expensive medical care

Turkey’s support for hardline Islamists fighting the Syrian regime is extensive. In fact, jihadists regularly refer to the Turkish border as the “gateway to Jihad.” In May 2016, reports started emerging of Turkey going so far as to provide ISIS fighters with expensive medical treatment.

Turkey is a member of NATO. Let that sink in for a moment.

1: Western media’s main source for the conflict is a T-shirt shop in Coventry, England

This is not a joke. If you follow the news, you most probably have heard the mainstream media quote an entity grandiosely called the “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights” (SOHR). This so-called “observatory” is run by one man in his home in Coventry, England — thousands of miles away from the Syrian conflict — yet is quoted by most respected Western media outlets (BBC, Reuters, The Guardian, and International Business Times, for example). His credentials include his ownership of a T-shirt shop just down the road, as well as being a notorious dissident against the current Syrian president.


Despite the fact much of the information in this article comes from mainstream outlets, those circulating it refuse to put all of the storylines together to give the public an accurate picture of what is going on in Syria.

People have the right to be properly informed before they allow themselves to be led down the road of more war in the Middle East, and consequently, more terror attacks and potential conflicts with Russia and China.

Your thoughts?
The T-shirt shop is, of course, only a cover, for some information agency which obviously wants to hide its name. One can guess between MI5 new or CIA news. The rough rule is that whatever can be used as propaganda is certainly a lie, but pure information about the front line and so is more or less ok.

The terrorists have even claimed that they have broken through. Not clear but possibly some small groups have succeeded. But it looks like actually there is no such breakthrough. There are claims that large parts of the artillery school have been taken back by the Syrian army.
The T-shirt shop is, of course, only a cover, for some information agency which obviously wants to hide its name. One can guess between MI5 new or CIA news. The rough rule is that whatever can be used as propaganda is certainly a lie, but pure information about the front line and so is more or less ok.

The terrorists have even claimed that they have broken through. Not clear but possibly some small groups have succeeded. But it looks like actually there is no such breakthrough. There are claims that large parts of the artillery school have been taken back by the Syrian army.

Oh yes, Heaven forbid any food getting through to the 250,000 terrorists in East Aleppo, that would herald the ruin of civilization in the Levant and beyond. When the toxic gas clouds start falling from the sky, we'll all know it was ISIS and Al Nusra Front gassing the city in a desperate ploy for international sympathy.
Sunday August 7, many news sources are reporting that rebels have managed to link up with their encircled comrades in east Aleppo. But most of the information seems to be coming from rebel or pro-rebel sources, since few Western news agencies have reporters on the scene. Syrian government and Hezbollah sources are denying the breakthrough, but they can't be considered reliable either. The truth is probably that the situation is still fluid. Government forces and their allies (Hezbollah and probably some Iranians) are still fighting to close the breach and Russian air strikes are continuing. So it's doubtful whether the breach can serve as an effective supply corridor at this point. It does serve to cut off government controlled west Aleppo though.

Here's a pretty authoritative report on the rebel forces involved. The attack was large, one of the largest rebel offensives of the war. It included fighters from dozens of factions, suggesting an unusual amount of coordination. But the leadership, as is usually the case, was hardline and Islamist: the recently renamed Nusra Front (now it's Jabhat Fath al Sham) and another group called Ahrar al Sham that models itself on the Taliban. The two spearhead a combined force called Jaysh al Fath ('Army of Conquest') that currently controls Idlib. The other participant in the recent attack was a smaller coalition called Fatah Halab (Aleppo Conquest) composed of several smaller groups including the small but much-hyped Free Syrian Army. This group seems to have punched above its weight, due to its possession of US-supplied TOW anti-tank rockets.
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And now, queue the complaints from disgruntled, marginalized American conspiracy crazies about how those awful civilian terrorists should just do the honourable thing and let a bunch of droopy-eyed rapists kill them from the air, instead of this cowardly allying with whoever saves their families bullshit.