Syria/Iraq Roundup – 17 December 2016



The Golden Division of the ISF has reportedly lost 50% of its troops in the Mosul battle thus far.  Field Marshal Ashton Carter was out there recently to buck up the "fellows."  It must have been an interesting set of discussions.  IMO the Iraqis lack the will to take Mosul and the Kurds see it as yet another Sunni Arab city full of people who, like those who are leaving east Aleppo in Syria, are really jihadi supporters.  The IS are well dug in at Mosul and it will be necessary to destroy much of the city to re-capture it.  I wonder what Mikey Flynn will say about that.


It is cold and wet and nasty out in the field in Syria.  That slows everything down.  When your clothes are freezing stiff you don't think about much but getting warm. 

The dastardly propagandists of the Western media continue to suggest that parts of east Aleppo are still in the hands of the takfiri rats, but that is untrue.  The government controls the whole city.  The jihadis are just waiting for the bus.  Part of the agreement for surrender was that the long besieged Shia villages of Kafraya and Fu'a, a few miles north of Idlib City, would be allowed to evacuate their wounded and sick to government lines.  The takfiri rats stopped that evacuation and in retaliation Shia militias in Aleppo halted the outflow of jihadis and their dependents.   That will be sorted out.  I am curious to know how many people actually were in the jihadi enclave at the end. 

I am saddened to learn that the UK government has sent a military mission consisting of 20 officers with ranks up to brigadier to re-establish the military capabilities of escaped and defeated "moderate" FSA unicorns.  These unicorns are refugees from the debacle at Aleppo.   Well, pilgrims, where are the Brits going to do this training, etc.?  Perhaps the unicorn jihadis will be trucked around through Hatay to the area under Turkish Army control between Al-Bab and the Turkish border.  There are some SAS types guarding the trainers and in that area they would be fairly secure.  OTOH, if they try to do their job inside Idlib Province the UK government should prepare to receive some body bags with full ceremony.  pl  

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57 Responses to Syria/Iraq Roundup – 17 December 2016

  1. plantman says:

    I couldn’t find any verification on this in the MSM, but I thought it might interest SST readers
    DAMASCUS – According to two reports coming out of Aleppo today, at least 14 US Coalition military officers were captured this morning in an East Aleppo bunker by Syrian Special Forces.
    This story was quietly leaked by, who announced, “The Security Council is sitting in private on Friday, December 16, 2016, at 17:00 GMT, while NATO officers were arrested this morning by the Syrian Special Forces in a bunker in East Aleppo.”
    Fares Shehabi MP, a prominent Syrian Parliamentarian and head of Aleppo’s Chamber of Commerce published the names of the Coalition officers on his Facebook page on the 15th December:

  2. oldjack says:

    Does this seem believable? Would these countries leave assets in Aleppo to be apprehended?

  3. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    Colonel Lang,SST;
    re: “the UK government has sent a military mission consisting of 20 officers with ranks up to brigadier…the UK government should prepare to receive some body bags with full ceremony.”
    Is this not a deceleration of war?
    Ishmael Zechariah
    P.s: If someone did bag the brigadier, it would improve the morale of some rank-and-file, yours truly included, significantly.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  4. Phodges says:

    ” OTOH, if they try to do their job inside Idlib Province the UK government should prepare to receive some body bags with full ceremony.”
    At some point you would think that the SOF and spook types on tHe ground would get tired of training jihadis. In the 80’s and 90’s it may not have been obvious what was going on. But given the GWOT narrative since 911 it should be obvious to everyone involved what is going on.

  5. LondonBob says:

    Yes Theresa May continues to disappoint, she has clearly signaled her determination to continue to kowtow to the Arab and Israeli lobbies. Despite Brexit our political and media establishment remain as useless and unchanging as ever.

  6. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Copied from a comment in Washington Post:
    “Here are the names and nationalities of 14 US coalition military officers training islamic terrorists and captured yesterday in East Aleppo by Syrian troops.
    Mutaz Kanoğlu – Turkey, David Scott Winer – USA, David Shlomo Aram – Israel, Muhamad Tamimi – Qatar,
    Muhamad Ahmad Assabian – Saudi, Abd-el-Menham Fahd al Harij – Saudi,Islam Salam Ezzahran Al Hajlan – Saudi, Ahmed Ben Naoufel Al Darij – Saudi, Muhamad Hassan Al Sabihi – Saudi, Hamad Fahad Al Dousri – Saudi, Amjad Qassem Al Tiraoui – Jordan, Qassem Saad Al Shamry – Saudi, Ayman Qassem Al Thahalbi – Saudi, Mohamed Ech-Chafihi El Idrissi – Moroccan. ”
    Is this true?
    The link is here:

  7. Lemur says:

    According to reports, the Tiger Forces are redeploying to the Homs front for a counter-attack against ISIS.
    Also, Trump is still saying he’s going to set up ‘safe zones’ in Syria. I imagine he must mean across the border from Turkey in Idlib.

  8. ambrit says:

    I wonder what the poor sods “sent” out to gin up some ready for prime time Unicorns think about this assignment? Are such trainers ordered out or do they volunteer? From your experience, do many do this dangerous work from “True Believer” commitment, or is it just another stepping stone to higher rank? Thanks

  9. turcopolier says:

    I lived in Old Jack’s former classroom one year at VMI. In re the captured agents their sponsors may not have been able to get them out once the encirclement closed around east Aleppo. pl

  10. turcopolier says:

    You do the soldiery an injustice. This is in “line of duty.” It is something like being ordered into Dien Bien Phu or the Philippines in the summer of 1941. pl

  11. pmr9 says:

    The most plausible explanation for why the UK government continues to support the Syrian jihadis even when their defeat seems inevitable, and to support the even more disastrous Saudi intervention in Yemen, is that they have been suborned by Saudi money. A few years ago there was a discussion on SST about how MI6 had allegedly benefited since the 1980s from an off-balance sheet Saudi slush fund associated with oil-for-arms deals, to the point where MI6 was effectively working for the Saudis.
    The latest article by Alastair Crooke (ex-MI6) is mostly about the CIA’s efforts to discredit Trump’s election victory [ but in the final paragraphs, quoted below, he appears to confirm this interpretation
    “The war in Syria has had, it seems, a hugely corrosive effect on services such as CIA and MI6. Firstly, there was the tension of contradiction: the deceit to be maintained of ostensibly fighting terrorism, while secretly supporting such bloody forces (in order to weaken President Bashar al-Assad and subsequently Russia).
    Secondly, that of pretending to be pursuing a “principled” policy of off-shored “identity politics” (Sunnis as victims), while quietly accepting – and becoming dependent on – the “off-balance sheet” subventions flowing from the very patrons of such forces (shades of Clinton Foundation pay-to-play ethos). And thirdly, by becoming the echo chamber of claims, however improbable, however false, thrown up by sundry armed movements and their paymasters – with the intent to force the hand of Western military intervention.

    I think Crooke’s article is worth discussing on SST. It’s now becoming clear that MI6 has been not just an “echo chamber” of false claims by the Syrian rebels, but has been running their information operations and colluding with the set up of alleged CW attacks intended to draw the US into military intervention.

  12. mike allen says:

    The Brit military mission is more likely to be helping US Special Forces to train SDF recruits to take Raqqa. IMHO.
    And David Scott Winer mat be an NGO employee, or an independent trying to help Aleppo civilians. Or a reporter, although I have never heard or read his byline. If not, if what Assad says is true, then the US should charge him with aiding terrorists.

  13. The Beaver says:

    The list was made public yesterday by a minister in Assad’s govt , going by the name Fares (IIRC). He had it on his FB but I can’t access it from where I am.

  14. kooshy says:

    Another noble peace prize for BHO
    “What over 4 years of militancy did to Aleppo: Photos”

  15. mike allen says:

    Lots of Turkish flags along with the Syrian Opposition flags being waved by marchers in London during the “March for Aleppo”.
    Thought I also spotted a lone pre-1980 Iranian flag – green, white, red horizontal stripes and a golden lion with sword. But that can’t be right, can it? Who among the Pahlavi refugees would be mixed up in this protest? Perhaps only to show disagreement with the involvement of the current government of Iran? Or maybe I mis-identified it. Anybody else see that?

  16. wisedupearly says:

    If British forces fall into the hands of the IS we can expect a Tryion Lannister moment “Heads spikes, walls”

  17. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The English have multiple economic equities among the Gulfies. They will say anything to get more money out of the Arabs. The costs are borne mostly not by England but by the United States and the Gulfie Arabs.

  18. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Are these men captured in Eastern Aleppo not illegal combatant – except the fellow from Israel?
    Since there is no declared state of war obtaining between US, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, and Morocco and the Syrian Arab Republic?
    Do not Geneva Conventions only apply to the Israeli fellow?

  19. Laguerre says:

    I don’t know what ideological commitment that would be. I can’t think of any basis for it. The ones who have anti-Iranian commitment are Israel and Saudi, and only Saudi is ideological.

  20. Aristonicus says:

    On Cassad there is this helpful graph (in English) which shows numbers of civilians confirmed in E.Aleppo up to 16.12.16:
    (if anyone can find out where he sourced it from, as he didn’t link back to it, that would be appreciated).

  21. turcopolier says:

    would you guess there were 150,000 people in East Aleppo before the recent offensive began and how many are left there? pl

  22. Pundita says:

    I am concerned that Hollande and Obama are are trying to preempt the Trump administration’s approach to Syria by engaging in hocus-pocus at the United Nations today.
    From AMN’s 12/18 report headlined, “UN considers sending monitoring group to Aleppo.” The money quotes are in the last two paragraphs:
    The UN Security Council will consider France’s initiative to deploy an United Nations monitoring mission in Aleppo to control the evacuation of citizens from eastern quarters of the city during the day, an official with New Zealand’s permanent mission at the UN told TASS.
    According to the official the vote will take place on Sunday, December 18, at 10:00 New York time.
    France’s draft resolution, the copy of which was obtained by TASS, takes into consideration “efforts on evacuation of peaceful citizens and opposition militants from the sieged quarters of Aleppo.”
    The document stresses that this operation “should be conducted in compliance with international humanitarian right,” and peaceful citizens should be given an opportunity to independently choose their destination.
    According to the draft resolution, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should charge the employees who are already in the region of Aleppo “to conducer a competent, impartial monitoring”, reporting on the progress of the evacuation of people and the situation with safety of civilians.
    The document calls on all parties to the conflict to give the monitors “an immediate and impartial access” to perform these tasks. At the same time Secretary General is obliged to report within 5 days about whether the UN staff was admitted to the scene.
    On Friday, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin told reporters that it will take weeks to send an international mission to Aleppo to monitor the process of evacuation of people from the city’s eastern quarters.
    He reminded that a 300-strong United Nations monitoring mission had been deployed in Syria in 2012 at the request of the United States. That mission was preceded by a monitoring mission from the League of Arab States.
    Now, officers of the International Committee of the Red Cross are working in Aleppo, Churkin said, adding that Russia hopes there will be more possibilities for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) after Aleppo’s eastern quarters are liberated from terrorists.
    France’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Francois Delattre said earlier on Friday his country plans to initiate a resolution on deploying an international mission to monitor and coordinate evacuation of people from Eastern Aleppo.
    Diplomats of US and France warned on Friday that if the idea of the resolution fails to find support in the UN Security Council they will call for holding an extraordinary special session of the UN General Assembly. This will allow the General Assembly to adopt the resolution under the “Uniting for Peace” formula that was worked out in 1950.
    A Uniting for Peace resolution would recommend countries to take joint steps to secure peace in Syria under pretense of failure of the UN Security Council to carry out its tasks.
    The final remarks seem to me to indicate a threat of joint military action if the monitoring process isn’t “immediately” possible or runs into problems.
    Keep telling myself they wouldn’t dare challenge Russia to a shooting war in the closing days of the Obama administration, but I put nothing past Messrs Obama and Hollande when it comes to Syria. One would think the country is sitting on a mother lode of unobtanium.
    Well, we’ll know in a few hours what if anything happened at the UN.

  23. JakeSF says:
    PETER HITCHENS: Amid the bombs of Aleppo, all you can hear are the lies
    I AM the opposite of a war junkie. I loathe the sound of fireworks because they remind me of a bloody night in Lithuania in January 1991, where I lay down in dirty snow to save my skin from Soviet bullets. I was also frozen with fright in lawless, gang-ruled Mogadishu in December 1992, waiting for US marines to arrive.
    In Bucharest at Christmas 1989, I crawled under the bed as tracer fire whizzed past my hotel-room window, and – because my long-delayed call home came through just then – I dictated my account of events to my wife. No heroics for me, thanks.
    I was in all these dreadful places by accident. I never meant to be there. I take great care not to get caught in such things again.
    But I learned a bit from it, mostly that the old cliche ‘the first casualty of war is truth’ is absolutely right, and should be displayed in letters of fire over every TV and newspaper report of conflict, for ever.
    Almost nothing can be checked. You become totally reliant on the people you are with, and you identify with them.
    If you can find a working phone, you will feel justified in shouting whatever you have got into the mouthpiece – as simple and unqualified as possible. And your office will feel justified in putting it on the front page (if you are lucky).
    And that is when you are actually there, which is a sort of excuse for bending the rules.
    In the past few days we have been bombarded with colourful reports of events in eastern Aleppo, written or transmitted by people in Beirut (180 miles away and in another country), or even London (2,105 miles away and in another world). There have, we are told, been massacres of women and children, people have been burned alive.
    The sources for these reports are so-called ‘activists’. Who are they? As far as I know, there was not one single staff reporter for any Western news organisation in eastern Aleppo last week. Not one.
    THIS is for the very good reason that they would have been kidnapped and probably murdered. The zone was ruled without mercy by heavily armed Osama Bin Laden sympathisers, who were bombarding the west of the city with powerful artillery (they frequently killed innocent civilians and struck hospitals, since you ask). That is why you never see pictures of armed males in eastern Aleppo, just beautifully composed photographs of handsome young unarmed men lifting wounded children from the rubble, with the light just right.
    The women are all but invisible, segregated and shrouded in black, just as in the IS areas, as we saw when they let them out.
    For reasons that I find it increasingly hard to understand or excuse, much of the British media refer to these Al Qaeda types coyly as ‘rebels’ (David Cameron used to call them ‘moderates’). But if they were in any other place in the world, including Birmingham or Belmarsh, they would call them extremists, jihadis, terrorists and fanatics. One of them, Abu Sakkar, famously cut out and sank his teeth into the heart of a fallen enemy, while his comrades cheered. This is a checked and verified fact, by the way.
    Sakkar later confirmed it to the BBC, when Western journalists still had contact with these people, and there is film of it if you care to watch. There is also film of a Syrian ‘rebel’ group, Nour al-din al Zenki, beheading a 12-year-old boy called Abdullah Issa. They smirk a lot. It is on the behalf of these ‘moderates’ that MPs staged a wholly one-sided debate last week, and on their behalf that so many people have been emoting equally one-sidedly over alleged massacres and supposed war crimes by Syrian and Russian troops – for which I have yet to see a single piece of independent, checkable evidence.
    When I used to travel a lot in the communist world, I especially hated the fact that almost every official announcement was a conscious lie, taunting the poor subjugated people with their powerlessness to challenge it.
    I would spend ages twiddling dials and shifting aerials to pick up the BBC World Service on my short-wave set – ‘the truth, read by gentlemen’ – because it refreshed the soul just to hear it. These days the state-sponsored lies have spread to my own country, and to the BBC, and I tell the truth as loudly as I can, simply because I cannot hear anyone else speaking it. If these lies go unchallenged, they will be the basis of some grave wrong yet to come.

  24. LeaNder says:

    Do not Geneva Conventions only apply to the Israeli fellow?
    Explain, would you please, I am too lazy to try to look up what you may have in mind.

  25. kooshy says:

    Tasnim’ news of Iran (Persian) reporter in Aleppo reported that some forign military adviser to takfiries were among the militants surendred, without naming any names or countries.

  26. mike allen says:

    Kooshy –
    What are your thoughts about the Pahlavi flag being waved near 10 Downing Street during the “March for Aleppo” in London?
    And never fear about the peace prize, someone in either Moscow or Tehran will nominate the optometrist.

  27. Chris Chuba says:

    The Geneva Conventions would generally apply to any uniformed combatant. So as long as the military personnel were wearing some form of military identification then they should be considered POW’s. Illegal combatants is a term reserved for spies or for people who hide their association with their country of origin. One of the more famous examples of that were the German commandos who actually dressed as American soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge, they were summarily executed. If these people really do exist, I hope that they are identified but I do not want to see them executed.

  28. ambrit says:

    This is a quandry for a non military observer. The concept of “line of duty” is understandable but the “average” outsider would have a hard time reconciling viewing this as an expression of “esprit de corps” versus the Nuremberg Doctrine. Admitting freely the observation that “the victors write the history books” makes me scratch my head and admit to my inadequacies in judging.
    Thanks for all you do for us.
    Merry Christmas to all.

  29. turcopolier says:

    The mentality of good combat soldiers is generally incomprehensible to civilians including people who just show up for a war from patriotic feeling. Try to think of us a guild in the medieval sense. That probably won’t help but try it. The Nuremberg Doctrine? The guilt of the Nazis in their extermination of the Jews, etc. is easily understood as crime by such as me and my brethren. We do not do that, but the concept that “planning and waging aggressive war” is a crime is in my opinion merely vengeance wrought upon the defeated. For example the execution of Keitel and Jodl was, in my opinion simply judicial murder. Much the same could be said of Homma and Yamashita. It was never established that either of them were responsible directly for the treatment of PWs or the mass murder of civilians in Manila. My father used to refer occasionally to the “ancient and honorable profession of arms.” We soldiers should, in my view, be judged by whether or not we lived and died by the standards of our profession. pl

  30. Bandolero says:

    It looks like the western media is currently heading for a train wreck. Quote:
    Buses assigned to evacuate Syrians from villages burned, deal stalls
    The buses were to take part in the evacuation of over 2,000 wounded and sick Syrians from two rebel-besieged villages.
    A delicately timed evacuation deal involving trapped civilians and fighters in war-ravaged east Aleppo and two Syrian villages was thrown into doubt Sunday when assailants torched six buses assigned to the operation.
    The buses were to take part in the evacuation of over 2,000 wounded and sick Syrians from Foua and Kfarya, two rebel-besieged villages that have remained loyal to the government in an area under opposition control in the northwest Idlib province, activists and government media reported.
    The bus burnings could scuttle a wider deal to evacuate thousands of vulnerable civilians and fighters from the opposition’s last foothold in Aleppo and return the city entirely to government control. …
    The western media can’t avoid but telling their audience that
    – their beloved rebels besiege two villages loyal to the government
    – their beloved rebels don’t allow medical evacuations out of these villages
    – their beloved rebels torched busses sent to mutually evacuate besieged people
    That all sounds like a big train wreck for the western media to me. It shows the extremism of the beloved rebels centerstage and destroys much of the media narrative that their beloved rebels are acting in a human way or are worth of any support.

  31. turcopolier says:

    The “opposition” has no “last toehold” in Aleppo. It is ALL in government hands. The jihadis and their supporters there are just waiting at the bus stop. BTW the people defending Kafraya and al-Fu’ah are not just “Syrians.” They are 12er Shia, not Alawis. They are and have been there living surrounded in a sea of Sunnis. These 12ers think the Alawis are polytheist infidels and the Sunni jihadis believe the 12ers to be heretics. There. Does that make your head hurt. Good. pl

  32. ambrit says:

    Thank you for this. I’ll be mulling it over today.
    Merry Christmas

  33. Bandolero says:

    Sorry, these were not my words, but a quote. I hoped it was clear.
    Apart from this, AFAIK, Fuah is mainly a 12er shia village while Kafraya was mainly Ismaili. Today, because of the war, the reality is a bit different, because now there are all kind of people from other villages nearby, like Sunni government employess, Alawis, Christians and so on, who fear to be persecuted by the takfiri jihadis and looked for shelter not far from home. And of course, there are large contingents of the Syrian army and Hezbollah there. Without the contribution of the Syrian army and Hezbollah these famous resistance villages were long gone. And yes, here you are true, the people of Fuah and Kafraya became famous. Heroic songs about Fuah and Kafraya are quite popular among 12er Shia, Hezbollah and Janubis.
    Regarding the discussion of Alawites being muslim or not, I think these times are long gone on the Shia side. I don’t know any Shia, and especially no marja, who doesn’t regard Alawis as muslim. A couple of decades ago, when Musa Al Sadr and Imam Khomenei ruled the Alawis to be muslims and lost sons of the Shia, that may have been controversial, but on the shia side that discussion is settled. And the other thing is that the times when Hezbollah was a 12er Shia militia are also gone somewhat. Hezbollah nowadays defines itself not sectarian, but politically, ie as resistance (against Israel and Israeli partners in crime, eg Takfiris, American and European imperialists etc). There are nowadays for example quite some christians nowadays in Hezbollah – wearing chains with crosses around their necks in battles against Takfiris in Aleppo right next to pictures of Nasrallah. And believe me, in Fuah and Kafraya all kind of people are united, especially since it is essential to survive in what may well be the most difficult situation in the whole of Syria.

  34. turcopolier says:

    Thanks for the level of detail. Well, I DO NOT consider Alawis, Druze or Yazidis to be Muslims any more than I consider Mormons to be Christians except by their definition of the term. I was unaware that there are Christian members of Hizbullah. Tell me, how have these two villages supported themselves economically or been supported these four years? pl

  35. pl and Bandolero,
    I’ve seen a video of an Iranian C-130 airdropping supplies into the besieged villages. There are supposedly around 4,000 defenders including National Defense Forces (locals?) and some Hizbullah.

  36. charly says:

    It has only been cut off since the fall of Idlib.

  37. turcopolier says:

    You are right. It is only a year and a half. pl

  38. Bandolero says:

    Regarding Alawis being Muslim, that’s a theological discussion with no clear answer, but politically it makes perfect sense. Alawi literally means “follower of Ali” – whom you may call the founder of the Shia sect, and many Alawis do adore Imam Ali, though in ways very atypical for muslims. So when Musa al-Sadr and Khomeini ruled that Alawis are “lost sons” of the Shia sect they indeed had a theological case. But it is also not illogical to see their rulings as a political move to get the backing and friendship of Alawi Syrian president Hafez Al Assad. For Alawis the 12er Shia rule of Alawis being a lost Shia muslim sect was a perfect way to counter the wahhabi narrative that the followers of Nusayr – as they call the Alawis up to this day – are infidels and therefore illegitimate and worthy of repression of all kinds and death.
    Regarding the economic livelyhood of Fuah and Kafraya during the war they were until spring 2015 the extended northeastern front of Idlib city, which was under government rule and had a fragile lifeline via Ariha and Jisr Shughur to Hama. When Al Qaeda & friends cut that lifeline to Idlib city and conquered Idlib city many of the Syrian army soldiers stationed in Idlib city and also some locals of Idlib city fled to Fuah & Kafraya which was defended mostly by locals & Hezbollah. That is when the siege began.
    To be able to get supplis into Fuah & Kafraya Hezbollah implemented a counter siege on jihadi villages Zabadani & Madaya west of Damascus, and then they established the rule: for each truck of UN aid Hezbollah allows into Zabadani & Madaya the jihadis have to allow one truck of UN aid into Fuah & Kafraya. So there were some UN aid convois to each of Zabadani & Madaya and Fuah & Kafraya.
    Some aid is also dropped by air, surely weapons, ammo and money. Money is of use because there seem to be some locals in surrounding villages who help smuggle stuff (Diesel seems to be a hot topic here) into Fuah & Kafraya, though when caught the jihadis execute the smugglers. For food, Fuah & Kafraya have also some home grown production as the enclave is of considerable size, 50 sqm or more I would estimate.
    For military survival there is also a truce deal with the jihadis of surrounding villages and in Idlib city in place, that basically says as long as the jihadis do not attack Fuah & Kafraya, the Syrian/Russian airforce will not bomb the jihadis in the surrounding villages and in Idlib city. However the jihadis are not very unified and some of them don’t abide by that truce deal, so oftenly there is some fighting going on. The burning of the busses today seems to have been the work of the rogue jihadi group Jund Al Aqsa if I see things right.
    For those not familiar with Jund Al Aqsa, the long war journal has some posts about them as this one:

  39. Chris Chuba says:

    Pinning down the number of civilians in Aleppo is frustrating and I believe that there is a really bad reason for it. The U.N. provides aid based on the number of civilians in any given territory and now that the Syrian govt controls it they have in interest in inflating the numbers again and are probably wrestling with the Russians in what to present. I can’t prove this, it’s just a gut feeling because both the Russians and the Syrian govt has to know the real number by now. When I was tracking this on “Al Masdar News” and Southfront on a daily basis, I was getting a figure between 40k-50k by adding up the number of civilians who fled. Then I saw some weird numbers being blurted out that suddenly disappeared when I tried to find them again, on the order of 100,000. The Russians love presenting statistics but probably do not want to contradict the Assad govt so they are biting their tongue for now.
    I hope the Syrian govt decides to opt for more transparency because if they release an inflated number then people will start murmuring about disappearing people, etc. but who knows what they will do. This is something that I am looking out for.

  40. Pundita says:

    The UN vote was bumped from this morning to Mon 9am because they spent Sunday wrangling over the wording of competing FR and RU resolutions, which has been resolved.
    AP (veteran reporter Philip Issa in Beirut) did live blogging of the negotiations, finishing at 12:15am local time (12/19) and filing the report at 5:18pm ET:
    But RT has the most extensive report/background on the negotiations:
    Reuters reported 5:15pm ET that the evacuations had restarted
    The evacuation of the rebel-held enclave of east Aleppo resumed late on Sunday night after three days of delays, a U.N. official in Syria told Reuters.
    “Evacuations are on. Buses and ambulances are leaving east Aleppo now,” the U.N. official said in an email message, adding that the first people left east Aleppo at around 11 p.m. (4 p.m. ET).
    The official had no immediate information about a planned simultaneous operation to evacuate people from two Shi’ite villages [Fua’a and Kafraya] near Idlib that are besieged by mostly Sunni rebel forces.
    From Bandolero’s description, obviously it’s misleading to characterize those villages as Shiite.
    FWIW FARS posted this at 4:20 local time:
    Turkey to Reorganize Terrorists Expelled from Aleppo
    TEHRAN (FNA)- Turkey has plans to reorganize thousands of terrorists who have been evacuated from Aleppo in Idlib under a new title, ‘The Islamic Board of Syria’.
    ARA News close to the Kurds quoted a dissident source in Gaziantep city as saying that the ringleaders of most militant groups who have left Eastern Aleppo are now in Idlib at the request of a high-ranking Turkish intelligence official.
    “The high-ranking official from Turkey’s intelligence ministry has demanded that the situation of these grouplets goes under study after their transfer to the bordering city of Idlib in the presence of the Syrian dissidents’ coalition council,” the source said.
    Noting that Turkey seeks to reorganize the grouplets and prepare them for merger with the Euphrates Shield Operation forces, the source said that serious consultations have started among more than 15 militant groups to form a new front to be called The Islamic Board of Syria with its headquarters in Idlib and even the names of ringleaders for leading the board have been declared.
    Rest of the report is about Aleppo evacuations.

  41. kooshy says:

    Mike who said this Pahlavi flag, this is the flag of iran for at least last 400 years, it was the flag of Iran for Iran’ monarchy constitution of 1906 which was adopted during the Qajar dynasty. Interestingly after the revolution my own father and some other Iranian history scholars defended this flag as historic flag of Iran which has nothing to do with monarchy, but the revolutionary Iran did not accept their reasoning and voted for change of the Lion and sun symbol. As far as I remember based on the article my dad published back in 1980 and based on the study presentation they made for the revolutionary government the lion and sun symbol has been the symbol of Iran ever since the Buyid dynasty, but the color of flag had been changed every often.
    Mike even more interesting, new American non- terrorist friends, the MKO, a few years after they escaped Iran in disgrace, adopted the lion and sun flag as their flag of Iran for their government in exile. those you see marching against Iran in London they are MKO not monarchist, monarchist now days can’t
    even fill a room. And what do I think of them?, I think they are murderers and pice of shit terrorist, as matter of fact they started their organized terror by terrorizing and murdering american servicemen back in 70s IMO they deserve the same American politicians who get paid and make speeches in their rallies.
    I have a feeling, since you know so much about Kurds and other Iranian insurgencies you know who MKO are and who was at the London demo with the pre revolution flag, I don’t mind the flag I mind the terrorist that US and EU supports. Mike, do you like Tim McVeigh, if you like McVeigh, Iranians will like like MKO.

  42. Chris Chuba says:

    Iranians at it again
    Bandolero, your account of the govt loyalists villages besieged by the rebels was butchered by FOX on Sunday. After showing outrage over the plight of Aleppo and the loss of the U.N’s doctrine of R2P (which they conflate with the U.S’s unilateral use of it), the host and her guest took time to snarl at the Iranians. They got mad that the Iranians were demanding the evacuation of Shiites (their words) from these villages, apparently only we in the U.S. get to protect people and only the right kind of people, everyone else is trespassing. This shows the decline of U.S. influence. Do people in the U.S. ever pause to think how presumptuous this must sound to anyone else in the world? I think we have been trained well.
    The White Hats
    Col. here is a story mentioning 110,000 people in the Aleppo pocket.
    The primary point of this article is a claim that govt forces found no NGO’s in Eastern Aleppo, no White Helmets. This would call into question any of the videos said to have been produced there. How would we know the location of videos just showing a pile of rubble? I suppose that the White Helmets could claim that they slipped out in the refugee stream to avoid the evil govt forces for fear of retribution or that the govt is simply lying but this is an interesting assertion.
    “60 Minutes” aired a story glorifying the White Helmets last night underlying the claim of ‘double tapping’. An air attack followed by a second one to kill rescue workers so this has made it into the consciousness of western viewers. They also mentioned that the U.S. provides 25% of their funding, but we are trying to overthrow the Assad, isn’t this potentially compromising. They did not mention any conflict of interest or any possibility that they were rebel sympathizers.
    General Rudskoi,

    “Officers of Russia’s Center for the Reconciliation of the Warring Sides in Syria and representatives of the International Red Cross Committee entered together with Syrian servicemen the Aleppo districts liberated from militants “but found no corpses there,” Rudskoi said.
    “Besides, unmanned aerial vehicles were broadcasting in real time to the entire world. Our people are working on the ground and we’re receiving first-hand information rather than information from social networks and militants’ websites,” the general said.”

  43. Aristonicus says:

    Honestly, I would not have guessed that many, maybe half that based on this article:
    “The general thought there were only 75,000 civilians left in eastern Aleppo, an intriguing figure since the number of trapped families in the enclave have moved between 70,000 and 300,000 according to various “experts”. The UN believes the higher figure, a Syrian army officer on the front line suggested 200,000, another far more senior Syrian intelligence officer thought 250,000, the Ba’ath party guessed between 112,000 to 115,000. All of which proves that no one – neither the UN, the Syrians or journalists – has the slightest idea of just how many souls are waiting to be saved or to die.”
    As to how many are left after the last green bus exits stage right – it could be thousands; a surprising number of civilians survived Stalingrad and this battle wasn’t up to that level of intensity. We will see no doubt.

  44. turcopolier says:

    We must also remember that something like 100,000 from east Aleppo have chosen NOT to leave Aleppo and are being sheltered in west Aleppo. pl

  45. turcopolier says:

    Mika B. today told the MJ audience that the two villages are “rebel held.” She does not seem to know that the green buses belong to the government. Nor does she seem to have any grasp at all of geography in Syria. sad. pl

  46. turcopolier says:

    “that’s a theological discussion with no clear answer, but politically it makes perfect sense.” Yes. Yes. I know all about the political usefulness of declaring Alawis to be Muslims. But, to dismiss the argument from the religious sciences as merely “theology” is a badly flawed argument. Islam IS a religion. This religion has certain basic features that are determinative as to one’s status as an orthodox believer. the most important of these is a belief in the oneness of God. The Alawis lack that commitment to true monotheism. pl

  47. It is an interesting question about ‘Mika B’, whether she is simply a ‘runt of the litter’, making a successful career by trading on the name of a famous father, or whether the family are all stupid.
    Some interesting evidence on this question was provided by an article published in the ‘Financial Times’ in December 2013, under the title ‘Russia, like Ukraine, will become a real democracy: A renewed sense of identity has combined with a yearning for prosperity, says Zbigniew Brzezinski.’
    (Unfortunately, it is behind a subscription wall, but for purposes of record, the link is at .)
    As it happens, I have been to Ukraine precisely once. But, for complex reasons, both my own family and my wife’s have a great number of complex links with that part of the world.
    And so I said to myself, when I read Brzezinski’s piece: have you ever sat drinking, with people who come from places near to where you were born, late into the night, and heard them say what they think and do not say in academic conferences?
    You do not need to go to Ukraine to do this. It is very easily done in West London.

  48. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I agree, Islam is militantly monotheistic.
    There is also the fact that Muslims do not recognize the legitimacy of any claim to prophet-hood ( a Nabi who has a “Book”) proceeding the Prophet Mohammad.
    Druze, Alevis, Sikhs, Babis, Baha’ai, Ahmadhis all are rejected as authentic religions of God based on that criterion.
    If I am not mistaken, hypothetically, Islamic Tradition can accommodate a “rasul” – a messenger of God without his own “Book” – who could be emphasizing or elaborating the messages of previous Prophets – but I have never heard of such a person in Muslim history.

  49. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I was told that the Lion symblized Imam Ali.
    The colors likely have the same symblism as they do among Catholic Christians:
    Red is for Love
    Green is for Hope
    White is for Faith
    I noticed that Italy, Hungary, Mexico, KRG, Bulgaria, Tadjikistan, and Oman also use the same 3 colors.

  50. Philippe says:

    Voltaire has zero credibility. It’s something like Debka. Some apparently crazies, actually earning a living with pseudo intel insiders revelations, mixed with (very little) facts and a bunch of wild speculations.

  51. mike allen says:

    A white-bearded Mosuli gives his sword to the Commander of the Iraqi CTS. Is this a matter of respect or a formal surrender by a tribal elder?

  52. kooshy says:

    Babak during our elementary school ( shah’ time) we were told lion is Imam Ali , sword is zolfaghar his sword, sun was Islam coming up lightning the universe, red was resistance to hostilities,( defense with blood) white was peace in center and back ground of sun, and green was color of Islam which was the religion of Iran. But Mary Boyce in her researched history of Zoroastrian, believes many of this symbols are related to pre Islamic period.

  53. The Beaver says:

    Oh oh The Syrian Ambassador at the UN has listed all the names today during an UNSC session

  54. mike allen says:

    Kooshy & Babak –
    Thank you for the response. Interesting on the colors and the history.
    But I thought MKO was a Marxist organization. And that they played an active part in the downfall of the Shah. They supported Ayatollah Khomeini until 1981. So why would they wave a monarchist flag?
    I suspect the flag belonged to a supporter of the Iran National Council:

  55. kooshy says:

    Mike- here, you can pick your own favorite national council of iran in exile there are many,
    National Council of Resistance of Iran
    National Council of Iran
    The National Iranian American Council (NIAC)
    As for questions on MKO, I think best is to ask Rudy Giuliani,Newt Gingrich, Howard Dean, and others.

  56. kooshy says:

    Mike here is one more i missed in case you didn’t like any earlier one.
    National Resistance Movement of Iran

  57. kooshy says:

    Mike, there are the flags in Paris
    “Joint Demonstration by the Syrian Opposition and the Iranian Resistance in Paris”
    As Iranians say, sum of these, wouldn’t add up to an underwear for Fati

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