Tag Archives: Damascus

Here’s where the Pentagon says that ISIS is dominant in Iraq and Syria

ISIS Control Pentagon Map

ISIS is experiencing a string of setbacks in Iraq.

Since August 2014, the militant group has lost control of somewhere between 5,000 to 6,000 square miles, according to a Pentagon assessment. This amounts to the group no longer being able to freely operate in 25% to 30% of populated Iraqi regions where they were once active.

The following graphic, from the US Department of Defense, highlights the territory ISIS has lost since August in orange.

Most recently, ISIS was expelled from the Sunni city of Tikrit. The birthplace of Saddam Hussein and a hotbed of Sunni sectarianism, the loss of Tikrit to a coalition of Shiite militias and the Iraqi military aided through US airstrikes was a huge tactical loss for the militant group.

The Iraqi government is now launching operations against ISIS in western Anbar province. The heavily Sunni province’s most populous areas are mostly controlled by ISIS and the group has been openly active in Fallujah since at least December 2013.

So far, the Iraqi government’s Anbar offensive has bypassed Fallujah and focused on dislodging ISIS from the contested provincial capital of Ramadi. In response, ISIS has launched a counter offensive against the Iraqi government in both Ramadi and against the Baiji Oil Refinery north of Tikrit.

Although ISIS has been losing ground in Iraq, the Pentagon warns that the group’s total amount of territorial control in Syria has remained unchanged. Although the group has lost territory around Kobane, it has made gains in the south of the country around Damascus and in the Yarmouk refugee camp, which is just miles from the city’s downtown.

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WW100 – The Ottoman-German Attack on the Suez Canal — 1915

German painting of Bedouin fighters against English troops at the Suez Canal (Ottoman Imperial Archives)

WWI battles in the Middle East preserved in photos by the armies of the waning Ottoman Empire.

Turkish Camel Corps in Be’er Sheva (Ottoman Imperial Archives, 1915)

The opening shot of World War I in the Middle East was fired along the Suez Canal when the German-led Ottoman army attacked British positions along the Suez Canal in January 1915.

German commander of the Suez attack, Gen. Kress von Kressenstein (Library of Congress)

The Canal was essential for keeping the ties open between Britain and its colonies, such as India.

Turkish artillery on the march to the Suez Canal (Ottoman Imperial Archives)

In fact, Indian troops were stationed along the Canal when the attack began.

Turkish troops leaving Jerusalem, passing through the Jaffa Gate (Ottoman Imperial Archives, 1914)

Over the next three years, the war would rage across the Sinai Peninsula.

British and Indian troops in Suez Canal trenches (Q15566, Imperial War Museum – UK)

North to Gaza and Be’er Sheva, through Jerusalem and the Dead Sea area, and to Amman and Damascus.

ruze prince from Lebanon mobilized for the battle at the Suez Canal (Ottoman Imperial Archives)

The Ottoman Imperial Archives provides German illustrations and photograph of the Ottoman attack.

German captions: From the battle of our Turkish allies on the Suez Canal, Turkish encampment in the Egyptian desert. (Ottoman Imperial Archives)

The photographs also show Turkish mobilization in Jerusalem, Be’er Sheva and the Sinai.

Illustration of Turkish guns firing at British planes over the Suez Canal (Ottoman Imperial Archives)

Israel Killed A Very Important Member Of Iran’s Foreign Operations

Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Allah-Dadi ian

A senior general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps – Qods Force was among six Iranians and six Hezbollah operatives who were killed in yesterday’s airstrike in southern Syria that is thought to have been launched by the Israeli military.

Sepah News, the official online news outlet of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), confirmed that Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Allah-Dadi was killed in the airstrike in Quneitra, Syria. Both Hezbollah and the IRGC claimed that Israeli attack helicopters carried out the attack.

Brigadier General Allah-Dadi is the latest high-ranking Iranian military casualty in the wars in Syria and Iraq.

The combined Hezbollah and Qods Force unit is thought to have been scouting jihadist groups, including the Al Nusrah Front and the Islamic Front, two organizations that are known to operate in Quneitra. Iran has supported the Syrian government and Hezbollah against rebel forces since civil war broke out in 2011.

Hezbollah confirmed on Jan 18. that Jihad Imad Mughniyah, the son of the notorious Hezbollah military and intelligence chief who helped found the group, and five other commanders were killed while conducting a reconnaissance operation in Quneitra.

The Iranian media has described Jihad, a rising star in Hezbollah who is said to have commanded the group’s units in the Syrian Golan, as the adopted son of Major General Suleimani, the leader of Qods Force. Jihad’s father, Imad, who was closely tied to Iran, is thought to have been assassinated by Israeli intelligence in a car bombing in Damascus, Syria in 2008.

Also reported killed was Mohammad Issa, who is also known as Abu Issa al Eqlim. He has been identified as a member of Hezbollah’s military intelligence branch.

An Islamic State sniper killed Hamid Taqavi, an IRGC brigadier general who was advising Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Samarra, Iraq in late December 2014.

In October 2014, General Jabar Drisawi, a general in Iran’s Basij militia, was killed during fighting near Aleppo, Syria. And in February 2013, Hassan Shateri, a top commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps who is also said to have served on Hezbollah’s advisory council, was killed in an ambushwhile traveling from Damascus to Beirut.

Brigadier General Allah-Dadi may provide clues to Qods Force’s leadership structure

The material released in the Persian and Arabic language material since Allah-Dadi’s death not only provides interesting insight into his career, but also to Qods Force’s recruitment pattern.

According to the IRGC Public Relations Department, Allah-Dadi was a veteran of the Iran- Iraq War, which was fought from 1980 to 1988. He had served as the commander of the Al Ghadir IRGC Ground Forces in Yazd province in eastern Iran. The most detailed biography however, was released by Mashregh News.

According to the news agency, Allah-Dadi, a native of Pariz, Sirjan in Kerman province, volunteered for the war effort in 1980 and initially served in the irregular forces of Mostafa Chamran (1932-1981). However, as the IRGC’s 41st Sarallah Division, based in Kerman, was established under the command of Qassem Suleimani, Allah-Dadi joined him and participated in most major operations up to the end of the war with Iraq in 1988.

The ceasefire between Iran and Iraq did not put an end to Allah-Dadi’s military career. For a time, he continued serving under Suleimani in Kerman, but later served for three years as Ramazan Brigade chief of the 27th Mohammad Rasoul-Allah Force based in Tehran. In 2006, he was appointed Al Ghadir Force chief based in Yazd, where he served until June 20, 2011.

Systematic references to Allah-Dadi’s work in the local press in Yazd came to an abrupt end after the end of his tenure. This can only be explained by a piece of information released by Mashregh News: “A few years ago, invited by Major General Qassem Suleimani, IRGC QF commander, he joined the Quds Force to fight the Zionist regime in Lebanon and Syria.”

Very little information about Allah-Dadi’s work in Syria has been released to the public. According to the Jan. 19 press release by the IRGC Public Relations Department, Allah-Dadi was deployed to Syria as a military adviser in order to “assist the government and nation of Syria against the takfiri-salafi terrorists [a reference to the Sunni opposition to the Baath regime in Syria].”

israel iran hezbollah

He was allegedly killed while inspecting Quneitra in Syria, as “a group of fighters of the Islamic Resistance [reference to Lebanese Hezbollah]” were attacked by a “military helicopter of the Zionist regime.”

The last recorded instance of Allah-Dadi’s whereabouts before his death appears in a report by journalist Hassan Shemshadi in the Central News Unit. Shemshadi allegedly met the Iranian general at a Shiite shrine in Damascus.

The most important information released about the late Allah-Dadi is the long history of his friendship and service under Suleimani, the current Qods Force commander.

A single case does not provide enough material for drawing conclusions concerning Suleimani’s pattern of appointments in his command, but should other former Suleimani associates and friends be identified as current Qods Force officers, that would provide important parts of the puzzle of the unit’s command structure.

Israel Bombed Suspected Weapons Sites At Syria’s Main International Airport

Israeli_F 16s_at_Red_Flag

Israeli fighter jets on Sunday afternoon hit targets outside Damascus in a brazen day-time raid that most likely targeted a Hezbollah-bound weapon shipment

Israel struck an area near the Damascus International Airport—south of the capital—as well as Dimas, a town near the Lebanese border along the international highway leading to Damascus, Syrian state TV reported.

The report added that there were no casualties in the attack, while Hezbollah’s Al-Manar and Syrian outlets said that Syria had fired surface-to-air missiles at the Israeli jets.

The General Command of the Syrian armed forces linked the Israeli attacks to the insurgent campaign against the regime, saying the strikes followed “Syrian army victories in Deir Ezzor and Aleppo.”

“The Israeli attacks will not deter us from our fight against terrorism.”

Meanwhile, Israeli state authorities did not comment on the raid, as per their normal policy, with an Israel Defense Force spokesperson telling Reuters he wouldn’t comment on “foreign reports.”

Bombing run

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Israeli warplanes conducted a raid on import and export warehouses storing weapons in the military zone of the Damascus International Airport.

Another raid targeted military zones in Dimas outside Damascus, with at least 10 explosions being heard in the area, the monitoring NGO added.

Lebanon’s pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar cited security sources as saying that “eight Israeli enemy planes raided two sites, one of which is close to Damascus International Airport and the other close to the Dimas sailplane airport to the northwest of Damascus.

The sources said that the targeted Dimas site consists of “a group of hangars inside a military facility.”

However, the daily did not elaborate on whether there were any weapons in the facilities.

“Weapon shipment”

Israeli leaders have publicly said they would strike any shipment of “advanced weapons” from Syria to Hezbollah, calling such a move a red line, indicating the current strike probably hit a weapon consignment.

The Washington Post reported that the strike most probably hit a weapon shipment.

“This is part of an Israeli pattern where, when they see a shipment of destabilizing arms going to Hezbollah, they strike,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy fellow Jeff White told the US daily.

Haaretz said that the “air strike was probably aimed at warehouses where arms shipments that arrive by air from Iran are stored, while the border area was bombed to prevent an arms convoy from moving toward Lebanon.”

The London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi cited Syrian sources as saying that the raids “probably targeted advanced Russian [S-300 missiles] intended for transfer to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

The sources added that the airport in Dimas is a warehouse for sophisticated Russian-manufactured air defense systems.

Meanwhile, Israeli media outlets speculated that the weapon shipment consisted of advanced Fateh-110 surface-to-surface missiles.

Despite past Israeli warnings to strike weapon shipments headed for Lebanon, Hezbollah has boasted that it would continue to receive advanced arms.

In May 2013, following Israel airstrikes in Syria, Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah boasted in a televised speech that “Syria will give the resistance qualitative weapons, which the resistance has never received before.”

 We, the resistance in Lebanon, announce that we are ready to receive any sort of qualitative weapons even if it is going to disrupt the [regional] balance,”

Israel on alert

Israeli forces went on alert along its northern borders with Lebanon and Syria following the raid, with heavy drone and surveillance plane overflights reported across southern Lebanon on Sunday evening.

“The Israeli army increased its level of alert along the border, especially in the Shebaa area, in anticipation of any developments that could occur after the raid in Syria,” Lebanon’s state National News Agency reported Monday morning.

The previous day, blasts could be heard along the border as IDF troops conducted extensive military drills.

Hezbollah has retaliated twice in the past year to Israeli actions. In mid-March, the Shiite group planted an IED to target an Israeli patrol along the border, in a move Nasrallah described as retaliation for Israel targeting a purported weapon shipment from Syria that had crossed into Lebanese territory.

On October 7, the militant group once again detonated an IED targeting an Israeli border patrol, this time in retaliation for the death of a Hezbollah operative after Israel remotely detonated an espionage device he had been inspecting.

Hezbollah did not make any public statements on the latest Israeli attack in Syria.

MI6 in secret talks with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s regime

The British MI6 spy agency was reportedly engaged in months-long talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime in the lead-up to the Western military campaign against the Islamic State group.

Officers from the agency have been conducting discussions in Damascus with members of Assad’s intelligence network as well as senior Syrian diplomats, despite a recent assertion by British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond that a pact with the dictator would not be “practical, sensible or helpful,” the Mirror newspaper reported.

The United States has also denied any coordination with the Syrian government or its close ally Iran regarding the air campaign against the Islamic State, which has carved out a large swath of territory in Syria and Iraq and declared an Islamic caliphate there, killing thousands of people in the process.

“We warned Syria not to engage US aircraft,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Tuesday. “We did not request the regime’s permission. We did not coordinate our actions with the Syrian government.”

The beheadings of three American and British citizens over the past six weeks, as well as the Islamic State’s shocking assault on other religious and ethnic groups in northern Iraq, galvanized the US into forming an international coalition of nations to attack the group.

“It makes sense that MI6 would try to make inroads with Assad by talking to his people, first through proxy channels like other Arab nations, but then directly,” an unnamed source was quoted by the Mirror as saying.

“It may be there are no face-to-face meetings with Assad himself but behind the double-speak of foreign relations it is perfectly normal for them to see his senior people. It would be staggering if Britain’s intelligence agencies were not talking to Assad’s people. The talks they have within Syria are of invaluable benefit to Britain’s security.”

According to the report, Britain is also acting under the assumption that Assad’s agents could possess information on the British nationals who are in Islamic State captivity.

A Syrian man inspects the damage following a reported US-led coalition airstrike against the headquarters of al-Nusra Front, 20 km west of the northern city of Aleppo, on September 25, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Sami Ali)

A Syrian man inspects the damage following a reported US-led coalition airstrike against the headquarters of al-Nusra Front, 20 km west of the northern city of Aleppo, on September 25, 2014

On Saturday, British warplanes flew their first anti-jihadist combat missions over neighboring Iraq.

Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 jets took off from Britain’s RAF Akrotiri on Cyprus for Iraq but returned to base without dropping their laser-guided bombs.

“On this occasion no targets were identified as requiring immediate air attack by our aircraft,” said a Defense Ministry spokesman in London.

The US and Arab allies began airstrikes against IS in Syria on Tuesday, more than a month after Washington launched its air campaign against the jihadists in Iraq.

A US defense official told AFP Friday the Syrian mission is now similar to Iraq’s, with “near continuous” sorties.

Washington also plans to train and arm 5,000 Syrian rebels, although top US military officer General Martin Dempsey said 12,000-15,000 men would be required to recapture “lost territory” in Syria.

Isis Syria News: 70 Assad Officers Beheaded in Audacious Attack on Idlib

Idlib

Isis (Islamic State) and Jabhat al-Nusar militants were close to capturing Syria’s second city after hundreds of jihadists took over the newly appointed governor’s office in the provincial capital, Idlib.

It’s believed 70 Syrian senior army officers were beheaded before government troops could recapture the building and save Idlib.

A message to Damascus read: “they were slaughtered,” and the Assad administration initially assumed that the city was taken over by the jihadists after a majority of security officials at governor Kheir Eddib Asayed’s office surrendered the building.

The soldiers at the city’s perimeter, however, kept fighting several hundred jihadists who were trying to enter into Idlib until the governor’s office was finally recaptured.

A timely call to army headquarters by the new governor, who was not in his office at the time, helped prevent false news of Idlib’s capture from causing havoc in Damascus.

Despite the attack being directly linked to Jabhat al-Nusra rebels, the Syria army considers all of its opponents a part of Isis terrorists.

The gunmen even carried out the attack in the typical Isis-style by capturing the maximum number of senior regime officers and carrying out their ritual beheadings using a knife rather than shooting their enemies.

Before the Jabhat al-Nusra rebels were defeated, they were heard claiming that their victory was “a second Raqqa” and “soon, you will hear the screams of unbelievers,” reported the Independent.

Idlib is strategically placed between Aleppo and the coastal city of Latakia, and had it been lost to the jihadists, President Bashar al-Assad’s regime would have taken a major blow.

Over 2,000 people are reported to reside within Idlib and the city is known amongst tourists for its museum that houses treasures from Roman ‘dead cities’ of northern Syria.

At present, the eastern city of Raqqa remains under the control of the Islamic caliphate (Isis).

Syrian Rebels Seize Russian Spy Station Near Israeli Border

When the Free Syrian Army pushed Assad’s soldiers out of a town south of Damascus, the last thing they expected to find was a Russian spy post, a few miles from the Golan Heights.

Syrian rebels have overtaken a joint Russian-Syrian secret facility that they claim was a covert intelligence collection base.

Opposition fighters say the post was used to snoop in on the communications of opposition groups — and perhaps even the nearby Israelis.

Free Syrian Army officials, U.S. officials, and independent experts told The Daily Beast that the evidence of Russian involvement in the facility, just a few miles from Syria’s border with Israel, if verified, would show a level of Russian involvement in the Syrian civil war that was not previously known.

Free Syrian Army officials posted several videos on YouTube showing both the outside and the inside of the facility, which the FSA captured over the weekend during a battle near Al Harah, south of Damascus, next to the Golan Heights.

The videos and accompanying photos show insignias representing a branch of Syrian intelligence and the Russian Osnaz GRU radio electronic intelligence agency.

 

The FSA found photos and lists of senior Russian intelligence and military officials who visited the facility, pictures of Russian personnel running the base, and maps showing the location of Israeli military units.

Israeli news reports earlier this year said the Russian government had upgraded an advanced surveillance and intelligence gathering station in that area which could snoop on Israel, large parts of Jordan, and western Iraq, potentially to warn Iran in advance of an Israeli strike. Initial reports said documents from the facility suggested the Russian equipment was used to spy on Israel, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

U.S. defense officials told The Daily Beast the photos of the Russian

insignia first shared on blogs were legitimate. But that evidence, at the same time, may not necessarily mean the facility captured by the opposition was controlled by Russia’s military; it could just mean that Russians were working there, as advisors or partners to Syrian troops.

Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russia’s military and intelligence services at New York University said the term “Osnaz” on the insignia just meant a special unit of any kind. “It’s the kind of unit that the Russians would have had there because Syria is not the easiest area to operate in, they are an element of the radio-technical intelligence boys who do this.”

Firas Al Hawrani, the official spokesman for the FSA in southern Syria, told The Daily Beast Monday that FSA forces had seen about 15 Russian personnel operating in the Al Harah area before the FSA took the facility, but they left before the area fell out of regime control.

“The Russians who were at the Al Harah mountain, the regime took them to Damascus by plane two weeks ago,” he said.

Galeotti said these Russian advisers would specifically be working on intercepting radio communications of opposition figures.

 

“They would be running an operation for detailed radio technical intelligence, we are not talking about intercepting telemetry and aircraft,” he said.

“This is for eavesdropping on rebel radio communications. Cell communications are easier identified through other means. And this is also for identifying the presence of these units, which leads directly into targeting.”

Russia has been one of Syria’s most important allies for years. The port of Tartus is Russia’s only naval base on the Mediterranean, for example. And since the civil war in the country broke out in 2011, Russia has provided the country with advisers and billions of dollars’ worth of heavy military equipment.

Galeotti said Syria’s security services are good as “traditional secret police skills,” such as interrogation and bugging telephones. The facility taken over by the Syrian opposition, however, suggests the Russians gave the regime “a whole new capability,” Galeotti said. “A lot of the Syrians are very clumsy. Some of the more precise attacks in the last year have suggested a new sophistication.”

The facility taken over by the Syrian opposition suggests the Russians gave the regime a whole new capability. A lot of the Syrians are very clumsy. Some of the more precise attacks in the last year have suggested a new sophistication.

Sen. John McCain told The Daily Beast Monday that the apparent Russian involvement in the base, which was also reportedly tasked with collecting signals intelligence and communications of rebel groups, showed of the depth of Moscow’s collusion with Damascus in the Syrian civil war.

“If what they’ve recovered is true and I have no reason to believe it’s not, it really is very indicative of the significant involvement of Russia in this conflict,” he said. “It shows significant coordination, establishment of a facility they could use for coordination and intelligence capabilities including intercepts. It’s a pretty sophisticated operation there that they’ve uncovered.”

Meanwhile, in Northern Syria, ISIS continued a major assault on the city of Kobani near the Turkish border as Kurdish and tribal forces tried to repel them.

 

Dr. Najmaldin Karim, the governor of Kirkuk, was in Washington last week asking U.S. officials to expand the airstrikes in both Iraq and Syria and to increase aid to the Kurdish forces in both countries.

Not only is ISIS advancing in Northern Syria, they are digging in their positions in several Iraqi cities, including Mosul and Ramadi, Karim told The Daily Beast in an interview.

Gen. John Allen, whom President Obama appointed to coordinate the international coalition against ISIS, said in Baghdad that the drive to free key cities like Mosul may take as long as a year.

“A lot of the front lines are basically frozen,” said Karim. “The worst thing would be for the United States, the region, and for Iraq, would be if the situation stays like this and festers. These guys have been there since June. If it goes further, it becomes a way of life. It will become like Somalia.”

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