Subscribe to Peter Clifford Online via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 284 other subscribers



International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory “I so appreciate your Pulitzer-class reporting on the Kobane and Syrian conflicts and look forward to your updates. This is so much better than the superficial coverage that the major TV networks are providing.” JM.



TIMELINE – 27th NOVEMBER 2015 17.55 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 21.43 GMT:

The combined Syrian Democratic Force (SDF), made up of more than 20 Kurdish (YPG), Arabic and Assyrian Christian units, has now cleared over 1,000 square kilometres south of Hasakah from Islamic State (IS) control.

YPG Spokesman Threatens Turkey

YPG Spokesman Threatens Turkey

During a 3 week campaign, the SDF (EDITOR: Also known from its Arabic initials as QSD – in case you are confused!) say they were faced with 43 car bombs, 7 or 8 of which were destroyed by close Coalition air support, some destroyed before impact with AK-47s and rocket propelled grenades and some which got through.

The SDF estimate they killed 200 members of IS during the last 3 weeks and another 195 died following Coalition airstrikes.

Only 15 members of IS were captured alive during this 3 week period and their own SDF losses were put at 33 dead.

Following this huge success, there have been several unverified reports that US special forces advisers have arrived in Kobane to train members of the YPG/SDF, however, the Kobane Canton Defence Minister, as of yesterday, Thursday, said that this has not happened.

Also yesterday a joint YPG/YPJ group of mine-clearing specialists started a security operation to clear the rural area between Mount Abdul Aziz near Hasakah and Ain Issa in Kobane Canton of IEDs planted by IS.

Marking the site of IEDs as they go, the unit aims to clear 350 square kilometres of the explosive devices and make it safe for civilians to return to their homes.

However, the Islamic State continues to target the south-western and the south-eastern sections of Kobane Canton with heavy weapons and mortars, hitting the Kobane village of Ain Issa on both Tuesday and Wednesday with mortar shells.

South of Ain Issa, IS cannon fire hit Filihe village on Thursday and simultaneously heavy weapon fire struck the village of Rabha to the east of Ain Issa.

Additionally, firing across the Euphrates from positions near Jarablous, IS, also on Thursday, targeted the Kurdish village of Qereqozax.

After the Turkey/Russia incident on Tuesday, with the shot down Russian bomber, the YPG has also warned Turkey about its aircraft overflying Rojava.


Turkish Military Helicopters Overflying Rojava?

2 unidentified helicopters, but thought to be Turkish, were seen overflying the Alyan area of northern Qamishli on Wednesday and showing interest in the oil-rich town of Rumelan and the petroleum stations at Tel Adas (Gir Ziro)and Gir Ziyaret.

Turkish border guards north of Qamishli have also been observed in a state of mobilisation since Tuesday.

YPG spokesman, Redur Khalil, warned that, “If this irresponsible action (Turkish breach of Syrian Kurdish airspace) were repeated, we will take the necessary procedures to target any violation.”

(EDITOR: A brave/foolish move that would undoubtedly provide an excuse for the Turkish military to attack Rojava in general and the YPG in particular.

There have even been some rumours that the Russians, with whom the YPG has friendly relations, are prepared to supply Manpads, shoulder launched ground to air missiles. That would be a disaster if true!)

At the same time, Saleh Muslim, the co-Chair of the PYD (the YPG’s political arm) said in an interview on Wednesday that Turkey had “no right to intervene” to create a proposed “safe zone” between the Aleppo province towns of Azaz and Jarablous, adding that the “percentage of Kurds in the area was more than 50%”.

However, Muslim would not say if the YPG or SDF were prepared to launch an attack on IS-held Jarablous and move westwards towards the Kurdish Canton of Afrin. The Kurds would like to join up their Cantons across the north of Aleppo province but Turkey is resolutely opposed.

Sporadically, Turkish troops across the frontier continue to shell YPG positions in Rojava, though casualties so far have not been significant.

But in a particular low form of anti-Kurdish feeling, the Turkish authorities are currently preventing the bodies of Turkish citizens who died fighting for the YPG from returning to their families in Turkey.

Aziz Guler, whose family live in Istanbul, was a student at Istanbul Yildiz Technical University, but joined the YPG to fight the Islamic State, dying in the process. His family went to Kobane to collect his body, but were denied entry to Turkey with it, the dead fighter remaining in the Kobane morgue for 59 days.

The family had to go to the European Court and the UN before Turkey granted a “visa” on November 19th for the return of the corpse for burial.

Another 150 – 200 bodies of Turkish Kurds are also thought to have been denied entry, all party of the ruling Turkish party, the AKP’s anti Rojava/Kurdish policies. You can read more in Al-Monitor.


Respectful Burial for Canadian YPG Fighter John Gallagher – But Not Allowed by Turkey for Turkish Kurds


Meanwhile, the war of words between Russia and Turkey continues, with President Putin demanding an apology from Turkey and President Erdogan saying there is nothing to apologise for.

According to Erdogan he tried to telephone Putin on Tuesday night but his call was not accepted and has not been replied to since. Erdogan has now requested a meeting with Putin in Paris next week on the sidelines of the international climate change conference.

Russia continues in the meantime to draft a wide-ranging list of economic sanctions to apply against Turkey, including a pause in joint investment projects such as a gas pipeline and a nuclear power station that Russia is building for Turkey in the south, as well as restrictions on food imports.

Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, also announced the end of visa-free travel arrangements with Turkey from January 1st 2016.


Presidents Putin and Hollande Enjoying each Others Company

Yesterday, Thursday, President Hollande of France was in Moscow and the 2 men agreed to work on joint efforts to attack and destroy the Islamic State, though both still disagreed on the fate of President Assad, with Hollande insisting that the dictator much go, at least after a transition period to another government.

According to Laurent Fabious, the French Foreign Minister who accompanied Hollande to the talks, Putin asked for a map of “forces that are not terrorists and are fighting the Islamic State, committing not to bomb them once we’ve provided that”.

(EDITOR: If he believes that, he’ll believe anything!)

The Islamic State this week made it’s intentions very clear, issuing a video threatening to make similar attacks to the one in Paris in dozens of countries around the world.

Listed were 60 countries in the footage which burbled on about “the flames of war … in the hills of death” and under a banner saying “No Respite” talked of preparing thousands of children to expand its caliphate under the rule of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. An earlier video this week warned of forthcoming attacks on Washington and New York.

The countries which were threatened in the latest offering were: Australia, Bahrain, Albania, Denmark, Belgium, China, Croatia, Austria, Egypt, Czech Republic, Greece, Canada, Estonia, France, Finland, Iraq, Jordan, Germany, Ireland, Hungary, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Romania, Lebanon, Kosovo, South Korea, Kuwait, Israel, Iran, Italy, Japan, Qatar, Luxembourg, Sweden, Russia, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Slovakia, Switzerland, Lithuania, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Taiwan, U.S., U.K. United Arab Emirates, Spain, Turkey, Oman, Ukraine, Tunisia, Serbia, Slovenia, Poland, Portugal, Morocco, Moldova, and Malta.


Turkmen Fighters and Dog in Training in Northern Latakia

Since the downing on the Russian jet in northern Latakia, the territory there held by the anti-Assad Turkmen has been of specific interest to the Russian military with the Russian Air Force blasting a way through for Syrian forces to initially take a strategic hill at Al-Zahiya.

However today, Friday, the Turkmen stormed the hill again and got it back under their control and captured 2 tanks, (caution dead body) HERE: and HERE:

It is very likely that the Turkmen are being supplied with arms and ammunition from Turkey, while at the same time Russia wants to keep these Opposition groups at least 30 kilometres from its bases in Latakia and ideally drive them out of the province altogether.

In north west Aleppo fighting continues between the Al Nusra Front (ANF) and the YPG/YPJ Kurdish forces guarding the Sheikh Maqsoud Kurdish neighbourhood of the city.

In clashes around the Shukef and Kastillo areas 2 armoured ANF vehicles and 2 x ANF fighters were killed.

Meanwhile, south of Aleppo city, the Opposition coalition Jaish AL-Fatah continues to make progress capturing at least 3 villages today, destroying a Government T-72 tank, a BMP armoured vehicle and a pick-up with a mounted 23mm gun. According to some unverified reports they also killed 40 pro-Assad fighters.

In this footage they blow-up the T-72 tank, HERE:

And north of Aleppo city the Opposition are also reported to have taken control of Kashtaar and Mezre villages.

While Russia continues to cause havoc by bombing border crossings into Turkey, at Azaz in the north of Aleppo province, near both the Turkish border and the Kurdish Canton of Afrin, there have been some complicated confrontations between both pro-Kurdish and anti-Kurdish Free Syrian Army (FSA) units and the Al Nusra Front.

(EDITOR: So complicated I will leave you to sort it out over the weekend! HERE: )



TIMELINE – 25th NOVEMBER 2015 13.45 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 20.35 GMT:

The scenario that many dreaded (EDITOR: Including me. Below is my best interpretation of events compiled from many conflicting reports) happened yesterday, Tuesday, with the downing of a Russian Su-24 bomber over Syria by a Turkish F-16 fighter jet.


Stricken Russian Su-24 Before it Plunges to Earth

Turkey said the Russian plane had been warned “10 times” not to invade their airspace, while Russia said their plane had been shot down over Syrian airspace.

Both statements seem to be correct.

While engaged in bombing raids (the Free Syrian Army [FSA] says the Russian plane had just bombed civilians in Jisr Al-Shughour in Idlib province) the Su-24 had passed several times over a “peninsular” along the Turkish border that sticks out into Syria.

As the Su-24 can fly as fast as 815 mph, to cross this peninsular (see map below) would take 17 seconds or less.

After warnings were ignored, the Turkish F-16 then fired an air-to-air missile, probably from Turkish airspace, which struck the Russian bomber over Syria, bringing it down on the Syrian side a few kilometres from the Syrian/Turkish frontier, HERE:

The pilot and the navigator, who sit side by side in the Su-24 cockpit, ejected from the stricken aircraft as it plunged towards the ground and as they parachuted earthwards, local Turkmen militia, who are anti-Assad and aligned to the FSA, fired upon them killing one, thought to be the pilot, HERE:

While the Turkmen produced video of the dead pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Peshkov, the whereabouts of the navigator, Captain Konstantin Murakhtin, was at the time unknown.

The Russians sent 2 helicopters on a search and rescue mission over the Turkman mountains in northern Latakia province, but these in turn were fired upon by the local militia causing one of them to crash land.

The FSA 2nd Coastal Division then took out this M1-8 helicopter as it was parked on the ground after a forced landing with a (US-made) TOW anti-tank missile, HERE:

A Russian marine in the helicopter was also killed, though it is not clear whether he was shot from the ground or died when the helicopter exploded. The rest of the crew were later rescued.

The Turkmen claimed at one point that they had both the Russians from the downed Su-24, and while this may have been the case for a while, this was not verified.

Latest reports today, Wednesday, say that Syrian special forces mounted a 12 hour operation on Tuesday night that penetrated 4.5 kilometres into Opposition territory in the Turkman Mountains, rescuing the navigator, Captain Muraktin, and returning him to his base near Latakia, “safe and well”.

Later reports from Russia say Murakhtin was found by an 18-man Syrian special forces team acting together with six members of an elite Hezbollah unit. He had hidden for many hours after landing, and was found by a radio signal.

Speaking from Hmeymim airbase Wednesday afternoon, where his plane was based, the rescued navigator said that they had received “no warning”, though that is contradicted by Colonel Steve Warren, an American military spokesman in Baghdad, who says that recorded communication between the Turkish and Russian pilots showed that the Turks did warn the Russian plane 10 times before they shot it down.

This map shows the Turkish border (in turquoise) and the flight of the Russian Su-24 (in red), here:


Border Area Where Russian Jet Crossed into Turkey

While the whole incident had the potential to escalate completely out of hand, with Turkey calling in its NATO partners and then facing up against Russia, it is most likely to turn into a war of words, economic sanctions by Russia on Turkey and lots of military posturing.

President Obama, President Holland and Chancellor Merkel called for “restraint”, while Putin burbled on about a “stab in the back committed by accomplices of terrorists” and promised “serious consequences”.

Putin also claimed that their plane was attacking “Islamic State terrorists”, though there are no known IS Jihadists anywhere near Jisr Al-Shughour where the plane had recently bombed or the Turkman Mountain area.

The Russian Ministry of Defence has said that in future its bombers will be accompanied by defensive fighter jets, it will be sending its advanced S-400 air defence system to Syria to protect its airbase, and the missile cruiser “Moskva” will be deployed off the Syrian coast to “destroy any targets threatening Russian planes”.

Sergie Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, also cancelled a planned visit to Turkey’s capital, Ankara, scheduled for today, Wednesday, saying that the incident “really looks like a planned provocation” but adding, “We do not plan to go to war with Turkey, our attitude toward the Turkish people has not changed.”

Not the feelings of some Russians apparently.  Around a 1,000 attacked the Turkish embassy in Moscow today, Wednesday, smashing all the windows and generally doing their best to wreck it.  The Russian police did not intervene.

Russians have also been told to avoid visiting Turkey, one of their favourite package holiday destinations,  where they “may not be safe”. More than 4 million Russians visit Turkey on holiday each year.


Opposition Fighter in Northern Latakia

The Turkmen are of Turkish decent and have lived in this region since the 11th century.

Since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, many of them have been trained and armed by Turkish special forces.

In Latakia, the Jabal al-Turkman Brigade, which was formed in 2013, comprises of 12 armed units, and its their 2nd Coastal Division, which was formed in 2015 and backed by the FSA, which is involved in the latest incident.

Assad’s and Russian planes regularly bomb the Turkmen villages and kill their civilian population, many of whom now live in tents in the mountains.

Hardly surprising then that they will fire at Russian military helicopters and Russian bomber crew, given the opportunity.

The BBC has more detail on the Turkmen Opposition.

Russia will have to retaliate somewhere and the Turkmen are now their most likely target, indeed latest reports suggest that the Russians have fired 4 cruise missiles at their northern Latakia bases this morning, Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Assad’s forces, backed by Russian air support advanced into the Latakia Turkman territory at Rashwan Hill and the villages of Katf al-Ghader, Ain Samoukh, Jib al-Ahmar and Ruwysat al-Mallouha.

Both the BBC and Al Jazeera have video summaries of all the events.

Map of Northern Latakia Showing Turkish Border


As if all the above were not enough, on Monday night it is alleged that Israel once again bombed Hezbollah and Syrian Army positions in the mountainous Qalamoun region between Damascus and Lebanon.

According to reports, after several hours of reconnaissance flights above the area the Israeli Air Force (IAF) made 2 attacks on a joint Hezbollah/Assad position in the Ras Al-Maara mountains, immediately followed by a 3rd raid on another position in the Qara mountains.

A 4th raid hit a Hezbollah position on Flita mountain. 8 Hezbollah fighters and 5 Syrian troops are said to have been killed in the attacks, as well as injuring dozens more who were rushed to Yabrud and Nabk hospitals, several of them critically injured.

Syria News

French Nuclear Aircraft Carrier Charles de Gaulle

Also on Monday, France moved its aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle into combat position off the Syrian coast and launched a series of bombing raids against Islamic State positions in Tal Afar in Iraq.

The Charles de Gaulle, which is powered by 2 nuclear reactors, carries 26 attack aircraft, tripling France’s capacity to bomb IS targets in Syria and Iraq.

In Aleppo province, heavy fighting continues between the Opposition coalition and pro-Assad forces south of Aleppo. The Opposition have re-captured 10 villages this week in a counter-offensive, driving back an enemy composed mainly of Iranian militia. Latest reports say opposition fighters have captured Banes.

Footage of a successful Opposition TOW strike against a regime communications station on Tel Eis, HERE:

North of Aleppo, Opposition fighters have also struck back at regime positions in Bashkoi, reportedly destroying a total of 10 rocket launchers, tanks and armoured vehicles.


Turkish Tanks Being Brought by Train to the Syrian Border

In what may well be a retaliatory strike following yesterday’s loss of a jet bomber, Russian planes this afternoon bombed Azaz in northern Aleppo province just 4 kilometres from the border with Turkey, hitting a number of trucks, many of which are probably Turkish, HERE:

As tensions grow, there are additionally reports of an increased concentration of Turkish tanks along the Syrian/Turkish border and overflights of Turkish helicopters 3 to 4 kilometres into Rojava, Kurdish territory, north of Hasakah.

In southern Suweida province, which is predominately Druze, a resistance to compulsory conscription gathers pace.

More than ten Druze communities have refused to allow the Assad regime to compulsorily register their young men for military conscription and have said they will fight the authorities if they attempt to take the men by force.

With an increasing lack of manpower, and increasing dependence on foreign militia, the Assad regime was thought in May to have at least 70,000 young men in provinces it wholly or partially controls skipping conscription.

Lastly, there are still people in the world that care and act on the hell that is Syria, this time in the US, HERE:



TIMELINE – 23rd NOVEMBER 2015 14.38 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 22.08 GMT:

An Islamic State (IS) suicide bombing using a motorcycle, killed a man, a woman and a 7 year old girl, in Tel Abyad near the border with Turkey yesterday, Sunday.


IS Motorcycle Bomb Explodes in Tal Abyad

20 others were injured, including another 8 children.

Fighting with IS also broke out near Ain Issa and Suluk in Raqqah province and around Mount Abdul Aziz in Hasakah province.

The first attack was on the Kurds Haweed checkpoint at Al-Hisha village east of Ain Issa, hitting it with mortars, but the YPG responded strongly.

Near Suluk it was the village of Hijouh that came under fire and near Mount Abdul Aziz, the village of Abu Shalhat.

All the attacks were neutralised.

Despite the savagery of the attacks it seems to the Kurd’s military officers that IS are now only able to mount small commando-style raids in northern Syria, not any major campaigns to seize large areas of territory such as that previously launched on Kobane Canton.

Slightly further south, having captured Al-Hawl, the combined Kurd/Arabic/Christian brigade, the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) has turned its attention to IS-held Shaddadi, besieging the outer village suburb of Khamayil, 15 kilometres south of Hasakah.


SDF Arrive in Al-Hawl, Haskah Province

SDF already took control of Dhi Qar village, 20 kilometres south-east of Hasakah on Friday and has now liberated more than 200 villages and strategic towns in the province, as well as cutting the IS supply line to Iraq.

In another major victory, the SDF finally captured the former Assad regime 121st Regiment base at Al-Melabiya on Saturday, but IS apparently managed to transfer large quantities of ammunition and weapons to the Deir Ez-Zour countryside before the defeat.

Interesting article about the destruction of Kobane and other towns and cities across Syria and the likely cost of reconstruction – current estimated cost around $300 billion.

So far 2.1 million homes, half the country’s hospitals and 7,000 schools have been destroyed. The Chicago Tribune has more.

As the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle positions itself off the coast of Syria, ready to start attacks with its aircraft on IS positions in Syria this morning, Monday, the French Defence Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, is quoted as saying President Barzani of Iraq Kurdistan has told him that the Peshmerga are willing to take part in the upcoming fight to liberate Raqqah.

However, it is not clear whether Barzani means the Iraq Peshmerga or the Syrian Peshmerga who defected from Assad’s army and were trained by their namesake’s in Iraq. The YPG would have a problem with the Syrian Peshmerga on “their” territory.

And in northern Aleppo province, just to complicate things further, Turkish nationalists have sent hundreds of fighters across the border to fight the Islamic State.

With the help of both Turkish and US jets, the Al-Sultan Murad Brigade liberated 2 predominately Turkmen towns in Aleppo province early on Saturday morning.

6 x Turkish F-16s, 4 x US F-15, a US Ac-130 and 3 drones took part in the operation to recapture the villages of Dalha and Harjaleh just 5 kilometres from the Turkish border. 55 x IS Jihadists were reported killed in the battle.

The Al-Sultan Murad Brigade was also supported by the Opposition Levant Front which dismantled 300 x IS land-mines near the 2 captured villages after the death of 4 civilians due to explosions on Saturday.

It is now likely that this is the beginning of an active campaign, promoted by Turkey, to get an IS free zone across northern Aleppo against the Turkish border, once again cutting off the Jihadists’ supply routes to Raqqah and Aleppo.

The Turkmen brigade is seen in action against the Islamic State, here:

US Central Command (Centcom) reported 14 Coalition strikes in Syria on Sunday, 2 near Abu Kamal destroying an IS excavator and and an earthen bridge, 4 near Hasakah, 2 near Al-Hawl, 4 near Ain Issa and 2 near Ma’ra in Aleppo province, all hitting or destroying tactical units, IS fighting positions, IS vehicles or structures.

On Saturday 21st November the Coalition, in a delayed report, says it made 2 strikes, one on an oil collection point near Deir Ez-Zour and another destroying an unbelievable 283 x IS vehicles – presumably used for oil delivery.

Helpfully Centcom defines “a strike” as “one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative effect for that location.

So having a single aircraft deliver a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against a group of buildings and vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making that facility (or facilities) harder or impossible to use”.

Over in Iraq, Centcom reports 19 strikes for Sunday, 2 of them near Sinjar hitting an IS tactical unit and destroying an IS heavy machine gun, an IS fighting position, and suppressing an IS mortar position.

Much of the fighting against IS in northern Iraq is on the Gwer front, with many IS Jihadists withdrawing back to Mosul. A Peshmerga commander also claims that 300 x IS Jihadists have surrendered in recent weeks as supply lines to both Raqqah and Mosul become throttled.

On Saturday, say the Peshmerga, Coalition jets struck the IS-held village of Ibrahim Khalilm in the Gwer area, destroying several IS military vehicles, a cache of ammunition and other facilities. The village was apparently used as a base for preparing suicide car bombs.

An added complication in northern Iraq is that a Shiite militia, Hashd al-Shaabi, has appeared from Baghdad and is fermenting trouble between Kurds, Turkmen and Shiites in areas of territory disputed between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi central Government. In Tuz Khurmatu, clashes between the 2 sides have led to as many as 20 deaths.

In Sinjar, now free of Islamic State fighters, some members of the indigenous Yezidi community have returned to see what belongings they can repossess. However, there is not much left – most has been looted or destroyed. You can read more in USA Today.


Household Goods Covered in Dust in Sinjar After Airstrike


South of Aleppo city, the Opposition coalition Jaysh Al-Fatah (JAF), have today launched a massive counter-attack to retake Al-Eis and other positions lost to the mainly Shiite fighters attacking on the Assad regime’s behalf.

After receiving reinforcements, JAF have taken in the last 24 hours the village of Khasi, Tell Mamou, Aziziya, Mukahla, Tel Al-Banjiri, Tel Al-Bakara, Khirbet Al-Zuwari, Kherbet al-Mahal and parts of Tel Bajer. Fierce fighting continues there tonight, HERE:

Along the way, JAF have destroyed a regime vehicle with a 23mm gun, HERE: , a group of Iraqi Shiite militia, HERE:  and an IRAM rocket launcher, HERE:

22.08 GMT:  More footage from the JAF assault south of Aleppo just in, HERE: 

Also a report that the leading Iranian General Qasem Soleimani and his guards were injured today after their convoy was hit by an Opposition TOW missile.  Soleimani is reported to be recovering.

From the other side, the Kata’ib Hezbollah militia from Iran, comes this footage as they defend Al-Hader town, HERE:  Serious stuff!

On the south-western edge of Aleppo city, the Opposition destroyed a 14.5 mm regime gun on top of a building at the so called “School of Wisdom”, HERE:

In Latakia there is a report that Russian ground forces, supported by tanks and planes, have engaged Opposition fighters and taken a hill near the border with Idlib. Russia continues to insist that it will not deploy ground forces in Syria.

However, the report is credible, coming from a Jordanian publication that seems to have good contact with Russian military sources. The report added that the Russian Army was using Syria as a “training ground” to test its combat forces and military equipment “which have not [been used] in a real battle for many years.” You can read more, HERE:

Courtesy of @deSyracuse, there is a map of the Latakia, Idlib, Hama region, here:


Situation Map Latakia, Idlib, Hama 22.11.15

You can find a larger version of the map, HERE:

In Damascus province, Medicins Sans Frontieres says one of its hospitals was struck at Erbin during an airstrike on the town. As doctors were unloading the injured from the attack, 2 missiles hit the entrance to the hospital, killing 2 doctors and injuring others. You can read more, HERE:

In Homs province the Assad regime captured Maheen and Hawareen from IS today, Monday. IS took control of Maheen on November 1st.

Separately in Homs province, the Syrian Army says it has taken control of a series of hills known as The Hayel from IS in the southern part of Palmyra, out in the eastern desert, on Sunday.



TIMELINE – 20th NOVEMBER 2015 15.25 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 21.20 GMT:

The Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) have continued their advance and are currently involved in heavy fighting to take the IS-held former Assad Base 121 south of Hasakah.

IS Truck Bomb Contained 20 Barrels of Explosive

IS Truck Bomb Contained 20 Barrels of Explosive

Dozens of bodies are reported across the battlefield and experienced Kurdish YPG snipers are hunting down the remaining IS Jihadists. Plans are already in hand to take the next IS stronghold at Shaddadi, which will clear the road towards Raqqah.

Pictures have emerged of an IS armour plated truck to be used as a massive suicide bomb against SDF forces near Al-Hawl. The truck was captured before it could be detonated but estimates of the explosives on board put them at the equivalent of 10 tons of TNT.

Hussein Kocher, a leading Kurdish commander SDF, has been quoted as saying their forces are determined to “liberate the whole Syrian soil from Deash (ISIS) terrorists” and that Opposition groups should link together to carry this out.

Macer Gifford, the English City Finance worker who gave up his job to fight with the YPG has recently been interviewed by CBS in the US. He says that there are now more men from the USA and Europe who are keen to fight IS in Syria and Iraq, especially since the attacks in Paris.

You can watch a video interview and read more at CBS.

In the western part of Kobane Canton, IS once again fired mortars from their positions across the other side of the Euphrates River, hitting the Kurdish village of Bouraz. A father and his daughter were reported killed and the mother seriously injured.

35 kilometres east of Kobane city, the Turkish Army, for reasons best known to themselves, again attacked YPG positions near the village of Sibiqran with heavy weapons from across the Turkish border. No casualties were immediately reported.

South-east of Rojava at Raqqah, the outskirts of the city were hit by 3 Russian cruise missiles.

US Central Command (Centcom) reports 13 airstrikes on Syria on Wednesday, 4 of them hitting Raqqah where they struck 3 x IS HQ buildings and a bivouac. 3 strikes hit IS positions near Al-Hawl, 4 near Hasakah and 2 more struck oil and gas separation plants at Abu Kamal.

Coalition airstrikes in both Syria and Iraq are co-ordinated in Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. Careful checks are made to avoid hitting their own forces and civilians. You can read more, HERE:

In Sinjar in Iraq, recently recaptured by Kurdish forces, the Peshmerga have found an elaborate system of underground tunnels which IS used to try and avoid being hit by Coalition airstrikes. The Wall Street Journal has a series of pictures.

Sinjar is essentially a Yezidi city but many Yezidi are reluctant as yet to return, especially as IS is only a few kilometres away and the city is still within mortar range. Those that have come back have found there houses destroyed and belongings looted. You can read more in Al Jazeera.


Kurdish Troops Enter Destroyed Sinjar, Iraq


A proposed initial 15 day ceasefire between Assad’s forces and Opposition fighters in the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, organised by the Russians appears to have come to nothing after the regime pounded the district of Douma with 12 airstrikes on Thursday, killing the city’s only remaining coroner. The 15 day ceasefire was meant to lead to a possible truce.

In IS-held Manbij in Aleppo province, where locals have been demonstrating against the presence of the Islamic State, more trouble brewed when a young man killed an IS Sharia “judge” of Tunisian origin and 2 of his guards, before killing himself.

The “judge” had had 3 members of the young man’s family beheaded, including a brother. Since then IS has increased security, setting up checkpoints throughout the town and imposing a curfew. Several residents taking part in anti-IS demonstrations have been shot and others arrested.

Interesting article in The Daily Beast with the confessions of an IS spy who has now defected.

According to Opposition sources a Russian cruise missile hit the Hayyan industrial area north-west of Aleppo city this morning, casualties unknown.

There are also reports today of a clash between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and IS in Aleppo province near the Turkish border, due north of Aleppo city and north-east of Azaz. Perhaps the start of a new campaign to oust IS from this northern part of Aleppo province against the Turkish frontier.

Turkey has once again been talking to the US about some sort of protected zone along this part of the Syrian/Turkey border. You can read more, HERE:


A 1917 Case of Cutaneous Leishmaniasis in the Middle East

From Homs near IS-held Palmyra come reports that there is a severe outbreak of leishmaniasis among dozens of Assad’s troops facing up to IS in the desert area. Leishmaniasis is spread by a parasite carried by sand fleas who distribute it with their bite.

Around 2 million people a year worldwide are infected. It has several forms, initially causing skin sores but can also infect the intestines and internal organs. Between 20,000 – 50,000 people die from it each year.

Assad’s soldiers have been pleading for appropriate medical treatment or to be transferred to somewhere where they can receive treatment. At the moment, according to reports, they are corralled together in the desert so as not to infect other military units.

As seen in the photograph from World War l, the disease was known as “Jericho Buttons” by soldiers affected by it around the city of Jericho.  You can read more, HERE:

In Daraa province on Thursday the Assad regime bombed an olive oil plant in Sheikh Miskin where local people were processing their harvest. At least 25 people were killed, including children and many others injured.

In Latakia province there are reports that Assad is targeting Turkman villages near the border city of Kasab with the help of Russian airstrikes. Turkey has summoned the Russian ambassador to Ankara to protest against attacks on what it sees as its fellow countrymen.

According to Israeli Intelligence around 55 Iranian military personnel have been killed in recent fighting in Syria, while Hezbollah has lost between 1,000 and 2,000 men over the last two years.

Syria NEWS

Iranian F-14 Tomcats

Interestingly, The Aviationist magazine, after analysing video released by the Russian Ministry of Defence, has spotted that ancient Iranian F-14 Tomcat jets were seen escorting a Russian TU-95 bomber over Syria while it was making a strike.

This is the first time the Iranian Air Force (apart from cargo planes) has been seen in action over Syria.

Russia fired a whole new series of cruise missiles yesterday, Thursday, and this morning, Friday, both from long range bombers and ships.

Some landed randomly but others were targeted at Syrian Opposition groups and the Islamic State.

One cruise missile even managed to hit the regime-held village of Khattab in northern Hama.

Others fell on Ariha, Abu Al-Dhuhur, Hish, Basanqul, Mount Zawiya and Joseph in Idlib province, 200 kilometres away from IS-held territory.

One missile hitting Mir’ian village in the province killed 2 children and their mother.

Deir Ez-Zour has also been hit by 50 airstrikes in the last 24 hours, though it is not clear if they are from the Assad regime, the Russians or a combination of both.



TIMELINE – 18th NOVEMBER 2015 14.25 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 19.23 GMT:

Following the successful capture of Al-Hawl in Hassakah province the combined Arabic/Kurdish Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) is currently 12 kilometres south of Hasakah city attacking Islamic State (IS) positions around the former Assad regime Base 121.

Video footage from Al-Hawl clearly shows SDF firmly in control but significant destruction, HERE:

Yesterday, Tuesday, there were significant battles all day between the SDF and IS around Melabiya, around 10 kilometres south of Hasakah, but with the SDF slowly advancing under Coalition air support.

Centcom reports Tuesday another 6 airstrikes in Syria, 2 near Hasakah destroying 2 x IS buildings, an IS sniper position, an IS machine gun nest and 4 x IS fighting positions, plus hitting an IS tactical unit.

In their campaign to destroy IS’s sources of income, another Coalition strike at Abu Kamal hit an IS gas and oil separation plant and 3 more at Deir Ez-Zour hit 3 x IS controlled oil facilities.

To give you an idea of how devastating these strikes can be, this is released video footage of a Coalition attack on an oil processing plant at Abu Kamal on November 8th, here:

There is also video footage released for the same day of a strike on an IS building near Hasakah in support of the SDF advance, here:

There are currently unconfirmed reports that the US has landed some members of the SDF by helicopter near the IS-held town of Tanf on the Syria/Iraq border in an ongoing operation. Further information awaited.

So successful has the SDF been, and getting a 2nd delivery of weapons and ammunition from the US as a result, that 12 (or 15 depending on the news source) small Opposition brigades in Idlib and Aleppo provinces have indicated that they would be willing to join the Syrian Democratic Force.

The groups include Jaysh al-Thuwar, Idlib Martyrs Brigade, Ayn Jalout Martyrs Brigade, 99th Infantry Brigade, Al-Hamza Brigade, Al-QaQaa Brigade, Brigade 455 Special Operations, Seljuq Brigade, Division 102, Ahrar al-Shamal, and the Tribal Forces in and around Aleppo.

Division 30, a brigade originally trained and equipped by the US but which quickly fell foul of the Al Nusra Front as soon as it crossed the frontier into Syria from Turkey, was originally on the list but has since apparently issued a statement saying that it is not involved in the request.

4 of these brigades, Jaysh al-Thuwar, 99th Infantry Brigade, Brigade 455 Special Operations and the Seljuq Brigade—were among the original signatories to the SDF’s founding statement on October 11th. You can read more, HERE:

This situation map shows SDF gains around Hasakah, courtesy of @deSyracuse on Twitter, here:


Situation Map of SDF Advances 18.11.15

A larger version of the map is, HERE:

Over in Kobane Canton, the Kurdish YPG reported an IS attack on the village of Merasir in the southern part of the region.

After hitting the village with mortars, IS fighters attempted to penetrate the village but were confronted with a group of villagers armed with light weapons. The YPG arrived shortly after and expelled the IS Jihadists but not before 7 villagers had been injured.

The village of Tuzanji, also in the southern part of the Canton, has come under a similar attack, forcing Kurdish villagers to move to a safer location.

In Afrin Canton, their are reports that the Al Nusra Front has surrounded the border of the Kurdish enclave where it abuts Aleppo province after a number of their men were killed in clashes with the YPG. Further information awaited.

The co-President of the YPG’s political organisation, the PYD, Saleh Muslim, was in Paris yesterday, Tuesday, where he laid flowers outside the Bataclan Theatre and paid homage to the victims of Friday’s attack by leading a 1 minute silence, HERE:

South of Rojava, the IS de facto “capital” in Syria has come under renewed Russian and French bombing since the Paris attack and downing of the Russian airliner over Egypt.

At least 33 x IS Jihadists are reported killed in the latest airstrikes on Raqqah in the last 3 days, causing a number of IS families to flee to Mosul according to anti-IS local activist reports because Raqqah was now considered too dangerous.

Russia launched a series of cruise missiles against Raqqah too on Tuesday, informing the Coalition of its intentions before the event, though there was not target co-ordination.

Activists of the campaign “Raqqa Slaughtered Silently”, which documents IS activities from inside Raqqah, said that French attacks were accurate on IS buildings and there were no civilian casualties.



A-10 Warthog Showing Front End Gatling Gun

Perhaps the most devastating attack on the Islamic State’s infrastructure this week came on Monday when the US sent in 4 x A-10 attack planes (known as “Warthogs”) and 2 AC-130 gunships which it had recently placed at the Incirlik base in Turkey.

Their target was the 1,000 strong IS oil tanker fleet, based near Deir Ez-Zour, which IS uses to deliver its stolen oil for vast amounts of daily cash to run its operations.

At the start of the operation, which was planned well before last Friday’s Paris attacks, leaflets were dropped by 2 x F-15 jets about an hour before the main attack began, warning tanker drivers to abandon their vehicles and a few strafing runs reinforced the message.

Shortly after, the A-10s dropped two dozen 500-pound bombs and conducted strafing runs with 30-millimeter Gatling guns on some of 295 vehicles gathered in the area for loading.

The AC-130s attacked with 30-millimeter Gatling guns and 105-millimeter cannons.

A number of drivers were seen running for a tent, but were not attacked. Altogether, the US force disabled 116 trucks in this first strike, probably one of many.

In Hama province the Opposition are reported to have seized more regime positions on the outskirts of Soran city and in nearby Idlib province to have destroyed several more of Assad’s tanks and troop carriers near the town of Al-Eis.

There are also claims in Idlib province that Opposition fighters shot down an aircraft north of Ma’arat Al-Numan, either Assad’s or Russian, but in the video footage it looks more like a drone. What do you think? HERE:

Most of the action in northern Syria continues to be in Aleppo province. Last night, Tuesday, Opposition fighters killed 11 members of a pro-Assad Iranian militia near Banes south of Aleppo city.

They also destroyed a Humvee operated by the Iranian militia, some reports saying the explosion killed the militia’s leader who was inside at the time, HERE:

The Russians, in support of Assad, have been firing ship based cruise missiles into Aleppo province, but they still seem to have difficulty guiding them to their destinations, HERE: 

However, several of these missiles found a target, destroying 2 medicine factories and a bread factory (reportedly feeding 120,000 people) and damaging the main water pumping station for the whole of Aleppo. Clearly they are still having trouble finding the Islamic State.

The Opposition have also launched more attacks on the western side of Aleppo, HERE: and HERE:

Having captured Kweires airbase from the Islamic State, Assad’s forces are now trying to force their way westwards through IS-held territory to Aleppo city. Map courtesy of @markito0172  on Twitter, here:


Situation Map East of Aleppo City

In Damascus province, the Opposition Jaysh Al-Islam say they have killed 50 pro-Assad fighters in 3 days of fighting in Eastern Ghouta, though there are unconfirmed reports tonight, Wednesday, that a truce of some kind has been agreed between the 2 sides.

Lastly, even in the terribly battered Opposition-held suburb of Douma, they managed to pay tribute from their own hell to the victims in Paris, here:


Citizens of Douma Honour Paris



TIMELINE – 16th NOVEMBER 2015 14.47 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 21.32 GMT:

Following the appalling Islamic State (IS) attack on Paris on Friday, which according to the latest figures has killed 132 and injured 350, France retaliated by leading a Coalition airstrike on the IS “capital” in Syria, Raqqah, on Sunday.SYRIA NEWS

12 French aircraft, 10 of them jets, are reported to have taken off from their bases in the UAE and Jordan and dropped 20 bombs on targets in and around Raqqah, HERE:

The targets included an IS command centre, a Jihadist recruitment centre, a munitions depot and a training camp. Local sources in Raqqah opposed to IS reported at least 30 explosions.

Both electricity and water supplies in Raqqah were affected by the blasts and restrictions on people’s movements were imposed by the IS authorities.

Following an agreement, the US Pentagon is to accelerate the supply of target information, or “strike packages” as they are known to the French military.

It should be noted though that as bad and awful Friday’s attack on Paris was, innocent citizens of Syria and Iraq have been suffering the same level of carnage almost every day, and certainly every week, for years.

North of Raqqah near Al-Hawl, captured by the joint Arab/Kurdish forces also on Friday, the SDF, the Syrian Democratic Force found 2 x Hummer armoured vehicles, 3 cars, weapons and ammunition and a parked vehicle bomb ready for delivery, in the village of Katunah.

4 x IS Jihadists were also found hiding in the village, but after a 4 hour battle and stand-off, the IS fighters were killed.

In Al-hawl itself, IS has left many bombs, booby traps and explosive laden vehicles as this Asayish (Kurdish security) video (Kurdish only) reveals, HERE:


Mines and Bombs Left Behind in Al-Hawl by IS

As a quick reward for such good results in a short time, the US delivered a 2nd consignment of weapons and ammunition to the SDF on Saturday, but overland (presumably from Erbil), not by air-drop.

Reports suggest that the SDF has now been encouraged to push south against IS in Hassakah province towards Shaddadi and Raqqah.

A new Arabic fighting brigade, Furat Jarblous, has also announced that it is joining the SDF to fight against IS.

In a press conference this afternoon, SDF spokesman Talal Ali Sello said that between October 30th and November 13th, they had already cleared IS from 1,362 square kilometres (545 square miles) in Hassakah province, liberating no less than 196 towns and villages.

Sello also said that 493 x IS Jihadists, 33 SDF fighters and 4 civilians had been killed in the two weeks of fighting and 53 SDF fighters wounded. (EDITOR: An impressive record.  Power to them to continue the job.)

Over in Iraq, Iraqi military sources are saying that they warned the Coalition nations, and France in particular, of an imminent IS attack on Thursday.

The problem is that Western nations get such warnings almost every week. British Intelligence says it has thwarted 7 x IS associated attacks in the last 6 months.

According to the Iraqis, the Paris attack was planned in Raqqah and involved a sleeper cell in France and others coming from outside.

24 x IS supporters were directly involved in the operation, 19 attackers and 5 others involved in logistics and planning. IS claimed responsibility for the Paris attack on Saturday. 99 victims of the attack are still described as critically injured.

In France this afternoon, Monday, President Hollande addressed both chambers of the French Parliament at Versaille, announcing that the French aircraft carrier, Charles de Gaulle, will be in the eastern Mediterranean by Friday, thereby tripling French airstrike power against IS.

In Sinjar, now safely in Peshmerga hands, a mass grave of around 80 Yezidi bodies from the village of Kocho to the east of the city has been found.

Yezidi officials who have visited the site say that it is full of hair, bones, money and house keys, belonging they think to older women which IS captured when they overran the region and whom they decided were of “no use to them”.

The younger Yezidi women were taken into sexual slavery, but the older ones were led behind an institute in the Solagh area east of Sinjar and according to locals who survived, gunfire was heard a short while later.

Badr Sleiman Taha, 24, from Kocho, said his mother, aunt and grandmother were among those killed behind the institute, and that he recognised the cane of an old woman from his village among the remains.

The BBC has a video report.

According to reports emanating from Mosul, on the orders of the Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, 73 members of IS have been executed south of the city for failing to hold back the Kurdish advance around Sinjar.

The international hacker group Anonymous has also declared “total [cyber] war” on the Islamic State in a video published in French on YouTube on Sunday. No idle threat either. According to Foreign Policy magazine by their estimates Anonymous has dismantled at least 149 of IS’s affiliated websites, flagged-up approximately 101,000 Twitter accounts and nearly 6,000 propaganda videos. You can read more on this, HERE:


Kurdish YPJ Fighter Destroys IS Rules Sign in Al-Hawl, Syria


Ignored by world media following the dreadful events in France is a double suicide bomb attack that took place on Thursday evening in the southern Bourj al-Barajneh quarter of Beirut, Lebanon.


Image of 3rd IS Suicide Bomber Shot Before Detonation

Timed to explode 5 minutes apart, two suicide bombers set off their explosives around 6.00pm when the streets were at their most busy.

43 people were killed and 239 injured. A 3rd suicide bomber was shot dead before he could explode his device.

IS has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that 40 “rafideen”, an abusive term for Shiite Muslims, were killed in the “security operation.” You can read about the attack, HERE:

Back in Syria, there have been reports of brave demonstrations over the weekend against IS in the IS-held town of Manbij in Aleppo province.

Discontent has arisen over IS arresting women and men and taking boys for “Sharia courses” whose families later discover have been killed in fighting near Kweires airbase.

Demonstrators have been shot at and arrested. You can read more, HERE:

Fighting between the Opposition and mainly pro-Assad militia south of Aleppo city continues, with Jaysh Al-Fath repelling the Iranian militia fighters at Rasm Al-Sahrij village, HERE:

Still managing to get in some useful strikes, Opposition fighters took out a regime tank on the Tal Hadiya frontline with a TOW missile launcher, HERE: and a regime 57mm cannon with a Kornet anti-tank missile, HERE:

Interestingly, in Idlib province the Opposition have been testing their own home-made missile defence system, with which they hope to bring down slower moving regime aircraft such as helicopters using a basic targeting system. Major Abu al-Baraa of the Buraq Aerial Defense Unit said,  “For the first time we can reach the distance of certain slow moving aerial targets.” The system seems  very rudimentary and is still in the development stage.  More information and video, (Arabic only) HERE:


Opposition Testing Home-made Missile Defence System

And lastly, in Daraa province, the Al-Nusra Front (ANF) has assassinated Abu Ali Al-Baridi, the leader of the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, and 2 of his lieutenants with a bomb at Jumleh, just 5 kilometres from the Syria/Israel demarcation line on the Golan Heights.

Baridi had declared his allegiance to the Islamic State in 2014 and is believed to be behind a number of mysterious assassinations of Free Syrian Army commanders on the Southern Front in Quneitra and Daraa provinces.

ANF has given the rest of the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade 24 hours to surrender and undergo “Sharia retraining”. More on this story, HERE:



TIMELINE – 13th NOVEMBER 2015 14.10 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 18.10 GMT:

In a lightning move, Kurdish Peshmerga forces with their Yezidi and PKK allies and heavy Coalition air support, took control of most of Sinjar city this morning, Friday.


Kurdish Forces Recapture Sinjar City

The major campaign, involving 7,500 Kurdish troops, only finally got underway yesterday, Thursday, with the Kurds and the Yezidi militia who they had trained, attacking Islamic State positions from 3 directions.

Overnight, the Peshmerga quickly captured grain silos, a cement factory and villages around the city, reportedly killing 40 x IS Jihadists in the village of Kolat alone.

This morning, the advance continued with a school, a hospital and municipal buildings quickly taken.

Many IS fighters are reported killed and many others have fled before their escape routes were blocked.

On Thursday, the Peshmerga took over more than 35 kilometres of Highway 47 which connects IS-held Mosul with Raqqah, the IS  “capital” in Syria.

Without this access route, IS can no longer reinforce its fighters in Sinjar or in Tel Afar and a number of other key points. Peshmerga casualties are put at 10 dead and 50 wounded.

19 vehicle bombs are said to have been sent against Peshmerga forces, but most of these have been destroyed before they reach their target. Intercepted IS radio traffic suggests that IS fighters are being threatened with execution by their commanders if they desert their allotted posts.

The Coalition has conducted 36 airstrikes in support of the operation to recapture Sinjar city and US sources are reporting that the jet attacks are being directed by US special forces on top of Mount Sinjar from where the city can be clearly seen.


Kurdish Fighters in the Centre of Sinjar

The latest Centcom report says the Coalition conducted 12 airstrikes around Sinjar on Thursday, hitting 5 separate IS tactical units and destroying 27 x IS fighting positions, 3 x IS heavy machine guns, 5 x IS vehicles, an IS vehicle bomb (VBIED), 11 x IS staging areas, and denied IS access to terrain.

Faced with that and 7,500 Kurds it looks as though the IS fighters decided it was a lost cause. A number of IS Jihadists have also been taken prisoner.

President Masoud Barzani of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq has already given a short press conference on the hills above Sinjar, praising the Peshmerga and thanking the Coalition for their “vital support”.

However, Peshmerga commanders have warned that it may take another 10 – 14 days to completely free Sinjar city from hidden explosive devices and make it safe. Soldiers are being warned not to touch wires strung across the streets and to take precautions entering buildings.

There is some dispute among the Kurds about who is responsible for the victory.  The PKK, who have been in the area for over a year and rescued many Yezidi from the mountains after IS attacked, are angry that the Peshmerga and their political masters in the KDP are claiming all the credit.  You can read more in Vice News.

This footage shows Kurdish troops preparing for the battle and first engagements, HERE:
 and HERE:

The BBC has an up-to-date report from inside the city.

The Kurdish channel, Rudaw, has a number of exclusive videos (unfortunately overlaid with the Rudaw logo) from Sinjar, HERE:


Situation Map for Syria/ Iraq Border – Sinjar City is Just Below Mount Sinjar

BREAKING 17.25 GMT: The SDF are reported to taken Al-Hawl away from IS and are currently engaged in “cleaning-up” operations. Al-Hawl is on the route across the border into Iraq and to Sinjar, and IS fighters are reported to have fled – no doubt they have heard the news from Iraq!

Just across the border in Syria, west of Sinjar, heavy fighting continues between the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF), a combined Kurdish and Arabic brigade, and the Islamic State (IS) around Al-Hawl.

2 villages, Al-Bahra and Al-Khatuniyyah, recently captured by the SDF are under attack once again from IS. At least 11 x IS Jihadists are reported killed and good amounts of weapons and ammunition captured.

Centcom reports for yesterday, Thursday, say that the Coalition made 7 strikes near Al-Hawl, hitting 6 separate IS tactical units and destroying 4 x IS fighting positions, 2 x IS vehicles, and an IS mortar position. Another strike near Raqqah hit an IS tactical unit.

2 x IS suicide bombers also attempted to blow themselves up at the village of Humera, south of Suluk and not far from Tal Abyad. 7 other Jihadists were killed by the Kurdish YPG in the planned assault and 6 AK-47s, one machine gun, an M16 rifle, 10 hand grenades and three explosive belts were also taken from the dead fighters.

Further west, the Islamic State bombed YPG positions in Shuyookh Foqani, Nasiriyah and Atto in the west of Kobane Canton with mortars fired from near Jarablous on the other side of the Euphrates. 4 YPG fighters were injured.

IS also fired mortars and home-made rockets at the villages of Malha, Kanaftar and Bujaq further south near Sarrin, again injuring 2 members of the YPG. In both cases the YPG responded with heavy shelling on IS positions on the other side of the river.

Interesting article in the New York Times on how some local Arabs in Hasakah province are now surviving with all the comings and goings, 1st IS and now the Kurds.


Overnight reports from the US say that a drone strike in Raqqah is thought to have killed the British Islamic State militant known as “Jihadi John”, who is accused of cutting the throats on video of several IS Western hostages.


“Jihadi John” As Seen in Beheading Videos

The reports say that the drone targeted a car in which he was travelling and that US intelligence had been following him for some time, though neither the US or Britain can at this time completely confirm his actual death.

Activist reports from Raqqah itself however say that 4 x IS militants were killed in the drone attack, including “Jihadi John” and an IS commander, as their vehicle was leaving the Al-Mohafza district.

The area, according to locals has now been closed off.

“Jihadi John”, whose real name is Mohammed Emwazi, was born in Jordan and came to Britain when he was 6 where he was educated and eventually obtained a degree in computing at Westminster University in London.

He has appeared in a number of videos in which US, British and a Japanese hostage have been beheaded. The BBC has more about his background.

The attack was carried out by 2 MQ9 US Reaper drones and took place at 20:50 GMT on Thursday night. Latest reports from London say that British Intelligence was also  involved and had third drone operated by the British military in the air at the time of the strike.

3 burnt out vehicles are reported in the street where Emwazi is said to have just left the Islamic Court House before the drones struck.

An activist group opposed to IS called “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently” posted a map to show the location of the drone strike, adding in a Tweet : “The good thing is #JihadiJohn got killed near Clock tower where #ISIS Execute people,” here:


Site of US Drone Strike in Raqqah

BREAKING 17.50 GMT: According to reports from Turkey, a close associate of “Jihadi John”, Aine Lesley Davis, has been detained by security police in Istanbul. Davis, like “Jihadi John”, was reportedly one of a group of British Islamists believed to have been assigned to guard foreign prisoners in Syria. Further information awaited.  (EDITOR: Not an “IS Good News Day”! – Depending on your point of view, of course :))

South of Aleppo on Thursday, Assad forces backed by Hezbollah, Iranian militia and Russian bombing advanced into the former Al-Nusra Front-held towns of Al-Hadher and Al-Eis and also took control of the hill at Jabal al Arba‘in.

The Opposition have now pulled back and are currently trying to establish a new frontline along the M5 Highway.

Opposition fighters continue to strike back though, in this footage hitting a Iranian jeep fitted with a 106mm recoilless gun, HERE:  and regime 23mm mounted gun near Al-Sabqiyah, HERE:

Although currently operating South of Aleppo, the Iraqi militia Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba has vowed to lift the siege in Idlib province on the Shiite enclaves of Fua’a and Kafriyeh, despite the fact that they are part of a truce agreement connected with Zabadani in Damascus province. You can read more, HERE:

There is speculation that a series of explosions at Damascus Airport on Wednesday morning was caused by Opposition shelling or possibly another Israeli airstrike.

What is known is that the missiles hit buildings in the Free Trade Zone and caused a fire as well as explosions. More information on the “mystery” possibilities, HERE:

Lastly, just to compound the Islamic State’s very bad week, IS have announced that both the Omar and the Tanak Oil fields in the eastern part of Deir Ez-Zour province are out of commission after severe destruction from Coalition airstrikes.



TIMELINE – 11th NOVEMBER 2015 14.27 GMT:

The combined Kurdish/Arabic Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) is continuing its advance against the Islamic State (IS) north of Al-Hawl in Hasakah province, yesterday capturing the town of Khatuniyah.


SDF on Their Way to Take Al-Hawl

The SDF have also taken the village of Al-Behera and secured the whole perimeter of nearby Lake Khatuniyah.

As many as 45 x IS Jihadists are reported killed in the latest operations and 2 x IS vehicle bombs destroyed. 2 x IS vehicles with mounted machine guns were also seized.

The immediate target remains Al-Hawl, followed by the IS-held town of Shaddadi on the road to Raqqah.

500 new recruits have just completed training with  Liwa Thuwar, an FSA unit in Tall Abyad and are now on their way to join the SDF.

An analysis of the “importance of the Hasakah battle” is, HERE:

Meanwhile, IS bombed the village of Skahrat al-Abed Sheikh yesterday, Tuesday, 25 kilometres south of Tel Abyad on the Turkish border. The mortar shells killed 3 men and a 6 year old boy and wounded 2 others.

At about the same time on Tuesday, Turkish forces shelled the village of Charikli in western Kobani Canton not far from the Syrian/Turkish frontier. No casualties are so far reported.

Over in Iraq, the Peshmerga are reporting that according to their estimates 700 x IS Jihadists have been killed in fighting in the Sinjar area since January, with a loss to the Peshmerga of 40 men. The majority of Sinjar city however, still remains under IS control.

Interesting article on western fighters prepared to fight for the YPG and the Peshmerga both in Syria and Iraq, HERE:

Yesterday the Coalition carried out 11 airstrikes in Syria and and 17 in Iraq. 5 of the Syrian airstrikes struck IS targets around Al-Hawl hitting 4 separate IS tactical units and destroying 8 x IS fighting positions, an IS building, and an IS vehicle bomb.

2 more strikes struck IS positions near Hasakah, with others targeted at Palmyra, Deir Ez-Zour and Mar’a. French aircraft are reported to have taken part in the Deir Ez-Zour attack, hitting an oil distribution station and a gas separation plant.

6 of the 17 airstrikes in Iraq were near Sinjar city, hitting 3 separate IS tactical units and destroying 8 x IS fighting positions, 2 x IS command and control nodes, 3 x IS vehicles, and 18 x IS staging areas.

The main news yesterday, Tuesday, from the rest of Aleppo province was that Assad’s troops strongly aided by waves of Russian bombing, managed to break their way through to Kweires Airbase which has been surrounded by IS Jihadists and under siege for 2 years.

1,000 of Assad’s troops had been trapped in the defunct airbase all that time, holding out against repeated IS attacks. According to Russian sources, the Opposition helped them with co-ordinates for finding IS positions – though there is no knowing how true this is or whether it’s just Russian mischief making.

Hezbollah, who were involved in the battle to take the airbase reported the death of 8 of their fighters, and according to a military source in Aleppo, the Iranians have lost 46 men to fighting in the province since October 1st.

South of Aleppo city the battles between the Opposition and Assad’s forces and allies continues, with Opposition fighters taking control of Khirbet Al-Mahal and the village of Makhalah.

The Opposition also recaptured the villages of Aziziyah, Tel Tlalin and Mamo on Monday, using a field gun against Government forces, HERE:

Kweires Airbase situation map courtesy of @PetoLucem on Twitter, here:


Situation Map of Kweires Airbase, Aleppo Province



TIMELINE – 9th NOVEMBER 2015 13.25 GMT:

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the combined Arabic, Assyrian and Kurdish brigade, announced at the weekend that they had regained around 350 square kilometres of territory from the Islamic State (IS) in just over a week.


Members of the Syrian Democratic Force

The re-captured area is mainly south of Hasakah city and included 36 villages, 10 farms, 2 gas distribution stations and 6 border posts on the Syria/Iraq frontier.

In a statement the SDF said that 178 x IS Jihadists had been killed in the first phase of fighting, 99 of them on the battlefield and 79 by Coalition airstrikes. 13 SDF fighters had died during the same period.

IS were recorded as detonating 17 vehicle bombs, 2 of them exploding on IS territory and the rest hitting SDF positions, although one bomb blast hit a gathering of civilians in Atshan village.

The SDF also seized 2 Dushka heavy machine guns, 5 rocket propelled grenade launchers, 5 other machine guns, 11 rifles, 2 motorbikes, a car bomb, 6 military vehicles and a mortar shell.

Last Saturday, the SDF took control of the Tishreen gas field near Al-hawl, the Chinese company building, the village of Shalala, some grain silos and the road from Tishreen gas field to the Jibisa Oil Field in Hasakah province.

Earlier on Thursday the SDF had liberated the villages of Hanaj and Nasrat south of Hasakah and the farm and its surrounding fields at Ogla Naim.

IS tried to hit the SDF at Ogla Naim with 2 more vehicle bombs on the Shaddadi-Al-Hawl road but they were exploded before reaching their target. You can see one recent SDF strike on a vehicle bomb, HERE:

Also on Thursday the SDF captured the village of Soefaat north-east of Al-Hawl after violent clashes near Lake Khatuniyah and freed the village of Ali Hassan on the road between Hasakah and Al-Hawl, which IS had been using as a strategic base to fire rockets at the SDF. They also destroyed an IS Kornet anti-tank missile launcher and a vehicle bomb at Hinish near Lake Khabur.

The village of Al-Hasbawi was also liberated on Saturday evening. SDF units are now no more than 3 kilometres from the outskirts of Al-Hawl.

A video of the SDF in action, with English sub-titles, is here:

Between the 6th and 8th November, the Coalition are reporting 14 airstrikes on the Al-Hawl area in support of the SDF, destroying 21 x IS fighting positions and 3 vehicles, as well as hitting 12 separate IS tactical units.

There were 9 airstrikes around Hasakah as well during the same time period and many others at Abu Kamal, Deir Ez-Zour, Mar’a and near Washiya in Syria.


Members of the Rojava Peshmerga near Barzan in Iraq Kurdistan

Over in Iraq, the Kurdish Peshmerga continue their attempts to gain control of Sinjar city supported by by 21 Coalition airstrikes from the 6th to the 8th November.

The 4,000 men of the “Rojava Peshmerga”, who were trained and equipped by the Kurdistan Regional Government and Peshmerga in Iraq, are still being prevented from entering Syria to fight the Islamic State by a political dispute with the Syrian Kurdish YPG.

The YPG does not recognise the “Rojava Peshmerga”, which consists mainly of Kurds who defected from Assad’s Army at the beginning of the conflict and is intent on not allowing them back into Rojava, which it considers to be it’s “own territory”, not controlled by any other force.

(EDITOR: Sadly, the Kurds, like every other group in Syria, seem unable to work together to defeat their common enemy – the Islamic State. This just plays into the Jihadists’ hands.

Lastly, 37 Christian Assyrians were released by the Islamic State on Saturday.  Those freed were part of a much larger group kidnapped by IS back when they overran the Assyrian villages in the Khabor area south of Hassakah last February.

The released captives were mainly women and the elderly.  Another group of 22 had been released in August.

This is not an “act of kindness” by IS.  All the captives were only released after long and strenuous negotiations by tribal leaders in Iraq and Syria and the Assyrian Church – plus the payment of a large ransom fee.  140 others are still in IS captivity.


154 comments to SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

  • Jim Martin

    Dear Peter: comment for you alone as I don;t have contacts for you. As a reader it would be good to have a link on your side at the top so that you could read your latest update, and then click to go to most recent posts. It would save a lot of scrolling that might loose some people and also at least make some aware at the top that there is a comment section. Just an idea to make it more reader friendly with options

  • Jim Martin

    Turkey Hands Over Wounded YPG Fighters to Al-Qaeda’s Jabhat Al Nusra

    Does anyone know what happened to these six YPG fighters?

    If this is true, it is akin to, but actually worse, the famous picture of the South Vietnamese officer shooting the suspect in the head with the revolver without a wiff of due process. This case is worse as they are six anti ISIS fighters being handed over to Al Nusra which is an Al Qaeda terrorist affiliate. I would say such action by ay Turkish Official must be investigated and prosecuted as a war crime at the International Criminal Court: 6 Counts. Why even hand them over to Al Nusra, when some in Turkey could simply shoot them in the head in the street? Both acts are IIC war crimes

    By the way, the Canadian responce to a fallen Candian YPG fighter, John Gallagher brought home

    The Turkish military response to restarting a mindless blood letting with the PKK as they also fight ISIS in both Syria and Iraq as allies.I could say more the words of my “brother”, Lt. Col Mehmet Alkan speaks volumes below. As you know for those of us who have served in the Armed Forces the word “brother” is a serious statement and not taken lightly by any of us. It is even more important with Turkey as a NATO ally and both 78,000,000 Turkish Citizens and people in the countries of NATO and Internationally deserve better than this. Lt. Col Mehmet Alkan words are below

    “There’s nothing like sitting in a palace surrounded by bodyguards or riding in an armored car and declaring ‘I want to be a shahid.’ If you want to be a shahid, be a shahid,” Lt. Col. Mehmet Alkan challenged Taner Yildiz after the Turkish energy minister expressed a wish to be a martyr for Islam”.

    In the same story printed in “The Australian” Lt. Col. Alkan was to be “investigated” and 150,000 Turkish people stood up for him and signed a petition in his support. The Turkish people are sick to death of this mindless waste just as Lt Col Alkan and legions of other are in Turkey. His words are truly palatable, and the pain in Lt. Col. Alkan’s words were very painful to read and very hard for many of us to take. In the Australian he repeated again “…. if you want to be a Martyr. Go, Just Go!”. I was virtually in tears reading this combined with the picture of him at his brother’s casket (Capt Alkan) in this mindless, violently racist KKK type blood letting within Turkey for no benefit, except to ISIS

    I believe I write this for the Turkish people as allies, not against them just as Lt Col Alkan speaks out. When we do not speak out with them as allies we smother the necessary descent of people like the 150,000 Turks and legions of others who want a better future without the Turkish version of the KKK, which is in fact no future in 2015 but more of the same, heading towards Apartheid like South African sanctions, decades ago. Hey, isn’t this 2015? Maybe some fantasize it is 1915. like some perverse 100 anniversary. NATO cannot tolerate this unless we want a worthwhile organization to be reduced to the status of a “comedy club”

    By the way this is what the Turkish people are really like in Fethullah Üzümcüoğlu and Esra Polat who represent many/most of the 78,000,000 people and as our NATO allies, and not opportunists like Erdogan. These are the people we have to support helping its people and as our NATO ally push back against the stupidity

    I feel like Mel Gibson in one of those 1990s Mad Max B movies when he says ” If you want to get out of here alive*, follow me” Could we have a low budget sequel ?

    • Thanks Jim for your contribution.

      1. I do not know what happened to those 6 YPG fighters – but unconscionable behaviour by the Turks if true, whether they survived or not. If anyone does know what the conclusion of that story was, let us know.

      2. An impressive turn out for John Gallagher both in Kobane and Ontario – an an endorsement of the Kurds and their struggle.

      3. I have nothing against Turkey or the Turkish people but under Erdogan’s lightly veiled dictatorship I neither want to see it in NATO or the EU. Like Assad he is an arch manipulator who will destroy anyone who gets in his way.

      4. The wedding story of some very fine Turkish people I carried at the time with video. PC.

  • Richard Balcom

    Peter Clifford:

    I have been reading your newsletter since the summer of 2015 during the YPG/YPJ campaign to capture Sarrin. I have found your blog to be the most comprehensive and unbiased reporting of the Syrian conflict in Rojava (Western Kurdistan). I also appreciate that that your website is free of malware and advertising. Keep up the good work!

    • Many thanks, Richard, for your kind comments. Much appreciated and valued and glad you have found my work so useful. There are a few ads – not that they even cover the costs of running the site – but hey, I don’t do it for the money! PC.

  • after cold blood shooting parachuting Russian pilot by Allah akbar shouting( so praised by you )anti Assad opposition fighters I start really believe that Russian are only ones who truly fighting terrorists..
    could you be so kind as so called human rights activist to enlighten me what new
    kind of pro terrorists action is going to happen and on which side NATO is

    • Omar, I personally do not approve of anyone killing anyone, especially in cold blood, whatever their religion or politics. However, what do you expect when Assad, responsible for at least 250,000 deaths and probably more, and his Russian allies bomb Turkman civilians in their mountain villages? The Russians can’t even distinguish between IS and non-IS. It’s all a ruse to keep Assad in power – a bloodthirsty dictator who should be brought before the ICC. PC.

      • hi Peter!
        with all my respect to you I have to say your answer is double standard, so typically of western minds
        it imonstersthat neither Assad nor Russia are biggest terrorists in Syria(as you suggest)
        but Mother of all democracies(lol)
        America regime with ugly lapdog regimes of Turkey S.Arabia and others
        because USA administration learn a lot about Islamic taqqiya it implements it through action of idiot Erdogan
        American imperialists are paranoid about domination and are going to any pact with any devil to achieve (who created human monsters of Daesh?)it
        your so praised FSA is a sick joke
        99% of so called liberation army are rather oppressive gangs of jihadists
        Arab Spring was brutal destructions of MEast by West including the worst criminal batalions of ultra extreme jihadists created and still supported by Western powers…
        have you ever thought that maybe people of Middle East don’t really
        starving for Western style of democracy..
        hypocrisy of America on war on terror became macabre grotesque
        because of it there is blood on ME
        desert african jungles on the streets ofor Paris London and NYC
        and looks that they REALLY want to be like that both outside and inside
        Macchiavelli couldn’t do it better
        we are so long on mercy of those
        demon-creatic masters
        pure horror
        still your reports are head and shoulders above the comments of greedy and manipulative(especially from leftist
        sorry for bothering you

        • Thanks, Omar, especially for your last comments. However, I will stick by original premise that people have a right to protest against a dictatorship and call for change. If they vote in an Islamist government and that is the majority choice, then that is fine by me. However, I agree many Opposition groups in Syria have many oppressive and mixed agendas and if they seek to impose those on the majority against their will, then we are back to square one. PC.

        • “Assad nor Russia are biggest terrorists in Syria(as you suggest) but Mother of all democracies”

          I’ll let Peter handle the issue of who is guilty of the greatest brutality in Syria.
          As to the origins of Al Quaeda and Daesh that rests squarely on the shoulders of Assad and Iran.Twice Assad allowed Baathist officers to escape the US military and hide out in Syria.The first time in 2003 when they formed AQ in Iraq.And again after the Anbar Awakening which lead to both the rise of the Nusra Front and Daesh.There’s no question Iran wanted those Baathists to have safe haven in Syria.They would late come in handy undermining the US project in Iraq.And the great military hardware grab that occurred in Anbar can be credited to the failed shiite leadership of the Iraqi military.That too is a bi-product of Iran’s influence on Baghdad.
          Throwing fuel on the fire was Recep Erdogan.He also decided to play the “Deash game” by using them to try and thwart Kurd aspirations in Rojava.He has failed thanks to US and coalition support for the YPG defense of Kobani and counter offensive that has yet to stop.That offensive has now been augmented by the formation of the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces].Fingers crossed,they will steamroll that Kurd-Arab alliance into a major player in a post Assad Sunni Syria.

          • To answer Mike’s question, the reality is that 80% of the deaths in Syria are at the door of Assad’s barrel bombs and Russian bombing is hardly less indiscriminate. By bombing (Sunni) civilians, Assad is attempting both to get rid of the “sectarian enemy” and try and make the victim’s families so fearful that they will run away and not support the Opposition. Rule by terror? Not a good proposition in the 21st century. PC.

  • Wisdom

    hi Peter, I’m reading news which says that Daesh has been kicked out of Sinjar… hoping that the news is true; if so, it will make us all really very happy!

    • Hi, Wisdom, I think that “kicked out” may be a little premature at this stage. However, a delayed formal push my the Peshmerga started last night to take control of the city, but still has some way to go. 24 Coalition airstrikes reported in last 24 hours. Fingers crossed for a good and quick result. (Updated 12.41 GMT) PC.

  • During Remembrance and Veterans day today, and with the people in the field fighting for a better future and a better world as I write and past Veterans I thought I would share a Tribute Page I found which articulates for the first time in one spot what this remarkable “great generation” is fighting for also in Syria and Iraq

    In the words of Wordsworth also noted, and which speaks volumes: ” A true soldier fights not because he (or she) hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him”

    I was reminded of this again as I watched the following documentary “Her War: Women vs. ISIS” While I am not an RT fan with their usual Soviet propaganda, however they did a truly excellent job, In about Minute 26, Binefsh a 20 year old young women and teacher serving with the YPJ in Syria is truly part of this great generation when she said: “While I am alive, I want to be useful”. This, as by deed she stands up for others around her who cannot stand up for themselves. I hope that she survives the war as loosing her, and others, would be like loosing one’s little sister. People so utterly deserving of our support to the bitter end, so that the bitter end will not be their fate and the fate of those around them in this four year ongoing pitiless human obscenity called the Syrian Civil War.

    I believe we have to enshrine our support for them in the way of International treaty so that our support is growing and consistent and survives are own domestic election cycles and our dysfunctional partisan politics of the entire International community. These people must be helped to overcome and stop suffering from “the ashes of Indecision” and willful neglect as Angelina Jolie put so well at the UN

  • “A Little Fantasy of mine” :o), in response to a Turkish Special Forces Video and my comments below quite appropriate to the mission

    My commentary:

    Some of the political comments here are tragic. Our Brothers and Sister’s in the Turkish Armed forces and Gendarmerie should be supporting their own Brothers and Sisters in the Turkish PKK against the sworn enemy of ISIS as the “dark army from hell”. It is beyond tragic for the Jihadi President Erdogan and some of his racist “brown shirts” in the AKP to break a two year cease fire while he baited and pushed the PKK back into a fight because he lost the Majority position in the June 2015 elections

    The spectre of Turkish Military forces working with the PKK against ISIS would have changed the dynamic between the Nationalists of the AKP and the PKK, not to mention Turkey’s 18% Kurdish population FOREVER. This, because there is no military solution in Turkey just a political one with the Kurds having provincial autonomy rather than independence , with Turkey finally recognizing the Kurdish 18% minority as a distinct part if their society, and as valuable contributing members. Sound too much like a genuine, enduring peace??

    Imagine for a minute Turkish F-16s and F-4s with “PPK” painted on the tails, published widely, flying CAS – close in air support- for the PPK against ISIS as natural allies. It is already a pure gift to have the PKK fighting ISIS and shedding their blood willingly as our allies. Who but extremists would want to kill them in Iraq or bait, or force them back into Turkey to wastefully fight the Turkish Armed forces and Gendarmerie in Turkey? “What kind of stupid is that?”

    The fight against ISIS is the perfect opportunity to make not only the PKK, but all Turkish Kurds in a great country of 78,000,000 people to be as proud of being Turkish as they are Proud of being Kurdish.

    In order for all in Turkey to have a better future, one first has to imagine a better future as an objective, not years of “more of the same” leading nowhere. In the words of the late Nelson Mandela ” we have to inspire others to get them to be better then they think they CAN be”: and “to Inspire greatness when nothing less will do”

    • Thanks Jim. You are completely right, there is only a political solution to this problem and alienating 18% of your population is not the way to go. Video reminds me of Iraqi Golden Brigade video – pure showbiz. PC.

  • Terrorist protector and friend Err-dog-an
    Is trying murderous tactics to destroy righteous democratic ambitions of Rojava
    do you think that US will do anything against attrocities of this pathetic dictator?

    • No. Although Obama will not feel comfortable dealing with Erdogan, Turkey is considered an important NATO country on its eastern flank, and self-interest will prevail. As long as Erdogan and his ilk are in power, I hope though they will never be allowed into the EU.

  • I have read that turkish airlines and emirates flew about 500 isis murderers from Syria to Yemen. .
    have you any idea if I is true?

  • Jak

    Hello Peter. In response to your most recent post about the proposed plans for an offensive and movement of troops and equipment, it occurs to me that, if accurate and indicative of the actual preparations and objectives of an operation, this will be tactically sensitive information which could compromise the objectives and success of the mission. I hope that this is not the case as someone who is concerned for human rights, like myself, would gladly wait a few days (or even weeks) for the release of information, which if given even a few hours advance might aid ISIS in their disposition of forces and resources. I hope this has already been considered an factored into your considerations, but it is just the way that the post was phrased gave me concerns and prompted me to comment. All the best.

    • Hi, Jak, thanks for your concern. Everything on my blog, apart from my own opinion, has already been researched, published and written on the Internet. In the particular case you mention, what I have written has already been publicly said by Peshmerga officers and others, so I am sure IS are already very aware. I would not publish anything that I knew to be strategically confidential. PC.

  • David Bromfield

    Hello Peter,
    First, thanks for such an informative web site on Syria.
    Just my 2 cents worth, yet you may wish to clarify somewhat your description of how an ATGM works… [ For the uninitiated they work on identifying targets emitting any infra-red light, usually any heat source such as a tank engine or other vehicle or a field gun of some sort, recently used.
    Once they have found that source the operator can lock the missile on and it is wire-guided to its destination, usually with devastating results.]
    Wire guided is only one of 3 methods of control with radio and beam guided being the other two. This wikipedia page explains it well:
    Again, many thanks for such an excellent source of info on the situation in Syria.

  • clarissasmith

    I hope Russia won’t take on YPG/YPJ—I’d be relieved if NATO had ground forces in Rojava, Putin wouldn’t dare to attack the Kurds then.

    • Thanks for your comments Clarissa. I think it very unlikely the Russians will attack the YPG. Quite the opposite is more likely. The YPG’s political wing, the PYD, is about to open an office in Moscow and the YPG has already said they welcome air support from the Russians. Politically and historically, via its connections with the PKK, the YPG is closer to Moscow than Washington. PC.

  • In response to the Russian incursion,which is mostly helping Daesh,the US has increased support for those fighting them.
    It appears Obama is determined to out race Putin to the finish line.Putin wants to clear the battlefield of nationalist groups,leaving only Assad and Daesh as the alternatives.Obama has become more determined to both fight Daesh and Assad simultaneously,hence weapons going in to everybody right now.The US air dropped 50 tons last week to FSA brigades who are specifically targeting Daesh.
    It seems the US and FSA have now met in the policy middle – both agree that Assad and Daesh have to be fought simultaneously and with equal vigor.

    Meanwhile,the PYD has nice words for Putin but is getting increased support from the US,much to Tayyip’s chagrin.And they will use that support to keep pounding Daesh,even if it’s not to Assad’s advantage.

    The nationalist factions will never get Damascus now.The Russo-Iranian support will keep Assad safe.The real war now is over the economic assets that will be located in the border area of a future,split nation.The Shaer gas field in Homs province,vital roads,utilities etc etc,all located in the west from Aleppo down to Deraa.Both sides want those assets for the their future states.I believe the die is cast for final deal,splitting Syria east and west.It’s now mostly a question of when the two sides will accept the realities and start talking.

  • Wisdom

    hello Peter, looks like Baiji is finally under Iraqi control. I hope Ramadi & Fallujah should also soon be… your reporting informs us about significant progress in the Sinjar area… so we guess Mosul, Raqqa & Deir ez Zur are going to be the next formidable challenge…

    • Hi, Wisdom, yes some progress, but it will take longer to free Ramadi and Fallujah. Mosul and especially Raqqah are definitely on the list. Deir Ez Zour may be left to the Assad regime to sort for the moment. My feeling is that the Coalition and allies will attack several IS centres simultaneously to tie up the Jihadist’s resources. Possibly not until the Spring – though I will be surprised if they wait that long. PC.

  • It looks like all world is converging to Syria to clear (?) This quagmire. I know, to answer the question when and how it really finish (if it’s going really to finish in definite terms) it’s hardly possible. ..
    but in your vision how do you think the things are going to develope and to look in both near and more distant future……
    I think that many people are afraid it will can cause even much more disastrous effect
    possibly US/NATO -RUSSIA/CHINA confrontation. ..

    • While it has the potential to be the stage for WW3, I think it unlikely. Russia and China are both stretched economically right now and will have one eye on that. A real war against another major power would be too economically destructive. Eventually, everyone will have to sit round a table and work out a political solution. PC.

  • Mike Saunders

    ” I think it also my duty to report information from Amnesty ”

    Absolutely.The best disinfectant for lies and misconceptions is informed criticism.I believe I speak for many of us here when I say : We are morally and intellectually confident in our support for Kurdish rights and independence.We’re confident enough to support them with our eyes wide open and recognizing they are an imperfect people in the midst of an incredibly complex struggle.That’s far better than melting down into howling,foolish denials in response to every criticism.We should leave that to the extremists who are intellectually incapable of defending their beliefs.
    As a people the Kurds have long,long way to go before their new status as a nation is clear.Along the way they will make mistakes and will need constructive criticism from the outside.It’s good for them to know the whole world is watching.It’s important for those of us who support their struggle to keep our eyes open and participate in that discussion.We can put in our 2 cents to both correct misinformed criticism and remind the Kurds they will be held to higher standard.After,that higher standard is why we support them.

    • Agreed absolutely. I look forward to Rojava being an example to the whole world. They are capable of it – as they were over Kobane. PC.

      • Mike Saunders

        Thank you so much for posting the photos and updating us on the rebuilding of Kobani.It is inspiring and yet again,demonstrates why we support these people.Their resilience is remarkable.Every time they get just a little breathing space they get busy building a society.They are an island of sanity in an ocean of madness and death cults.Americans should be proud of every penny spent and life lost in support of these incredible people.Their rising independence is the one,truly good thing to come out the entire US military effort since 2003.

  • Mike Saunders

    “In villages south of the town of Suluk, some residents said YPG fighters had accused them of supporting IS and threatened to shoot them if they did not leave. While in some cases residents acknowledged that there had been a handful of IS supporters in their villages the majority were not supporters of the group…., in some cases, for example in the mixed town of Suluk, Kurdish residents have also been barred by the YPG and Asayish,from returning to their homes. Elsewhere, for example in Abdi Koy village, a small number of Kurdish residents have also been forcibly displaced by the YPG.”

    Put simply : The YPG is moving people out of areas that can be recaptured by Daesh and that includes some Kurds..
    Amnesty International lives in a dreamworld.In their world all conditions are equal and there’s a single standard for what they call “abuse”.Applying such a standard to the Syrian battlefield is utterly stupid.They would prefer Deash return to these areas? Because the fact is the YPG-Asayish have a limited number of troops available to maintain security.It’s that simple.The Kurds can’t afford the niceties Amnesty would like to see.It’s SYRIA and fighting Daesh is tough business.
    If Amnesty wants Kurds to be have like Danes let them provide the requisite security.If not,they should change their tune and start singing the praises of the YPG for liberating a huge swath of that country from those hideous,nihilistic madmen who’ve committed so much butchery.There can be no decent future unless the YPG succeeds….period,end of that story.

    • I agree with much of what you say Mike. And Macer Gifford’s rebuttal from his own observations is a good, clear one. It is a difficult situation and clearly some will take advantage of it to put down the Kurds and the YPG in particular. Having said that, I think it also my duty to report information from Amnesty – otherwise I get accused of ignoring it! It is difficult to know where the precise truth lies, especially at a distance – but it is out there somewhere! PC

  • I think you are right Peter anyway IF ESPECIALLY USA don’t change their policy(eg main reason they try to get rid of oppressive Syrian government not because it is oppressive(although it is true) but because this particular dictator doesn’t want to be puppet of America) THIS KIND OF action IS NOT JUST HYPOCRISY it is just failure I tragedy for Syrian population
    also this nonsense of controlled by western regimes Amnesty International and politically correct lunatics about alleged ethnic cleansing by Kurds is another example that leaders of the WEST WANT PROLONG THIS CONFLICT AS MUCH AS it IS POSSIBLE

    • Yes, I am not convinced by these “ethnic cleansing” accusations thrown at the Kurds either – they will just have to be scrupulous in everything they do. But Amnesty do have a good reputation overall and when they speak, it must be considered. I do not think it is a conspiracy by anyone – more sectarianism looking for something to hang its inadequacy on. What a total mess! PC

  • these opposition fighters on your last posted d picture look very like like ISIS aren’t they?

    • After years in the battlefield, shaving and getting a good haircut is probably not high on their survival list. I have thought the same myself. They may in fact be Al-Nusra.

      • syrian

        Yes Peter I think you are rjght
        This war is so bad and tragic
        and no side really care about suffering of the syrian people
        why the human race is so belligerent and cruel?

        • That’s a good question, Omar. I think is a reflection of how people are treated in their own lives, especially in childhood. Then they are taught that it is okay to behave that way and to take out their personal anger on others. PC.

  • infowarrior1

    Is it just me or is ISIS very shit in terms of fighter quality? Given that their men in fighting seem to die by the hundreds or thousands with few casualties on the opposing side.

    • Thanks for your comment. Given that all armies underestimate their own casualties and overestimate those of the enemy, all for the cause of “keeping up morale”, total YPG casualties are in the few hundreds, not in the thousands, probably because they are well trained, disciplined and don’t take unnecessary risks. IS deaths are certainly in the thousands, if not the tens of thousands, because many of their fighters are raw recruits with little if any basic training and no army mentality to implement tactics and strategy. Also with the “heaven/virgin philosophy” behind them they tend to be reckless with their lives and take unnecessary risk. That would be my assessment. Hope that helps. PC.

      • infowarrior1

        There may be also be possibility that if the flows of fighters are not stopped the Kurds could be eventually worn down. As the Powerful Byzantine Empires and Sassanian Empires were worn down due to long drawn out conflict.

        • Possibly. But that would take an inordinately long time and I think the “attraction” of Middle East Jihad to Moslems will have worn thin to most westerners by then. The YPG recruitment of both men and women continues to increase and embrace other minority ethnic groups too. I am sure IS can be defeated if everyone co-ordinates their opposition to them – and firepower. PC.

      • Miroslav Janko

        Truth is first casuaty of war they say. Little is known what’s going on in Syria. That holds true for every side. Doubts are in place.

        TANK MASSACRE? Tweets show TOW-operators not changing positions after firing but shouting out ‘alah u akbah’. That’s ‘hit me’ in arabian, isn’t it? conclusion: what is shown is not a battle. And what can be called a tank massacre depends on the number of tanks in relation to the number of tanks destroyed. In WW2, the Soviet path to Berlin was lined with destroyed T-34s. At least the german propaganda told so. What’s about a different view? FSA facing a fierce offensive with their backs against Al Nusra troops. Ah, sb would actually have to go there to verify.

        ROJAVA BEING DEMOCRATIC AND RESPECTING HUMAN RIGHTS. UN and Amnesty International knows better.
        ( eg ; )


        The list is endless. So I stop. Have a great day all.

        • Truth, as you say, is often the first casualty of war. However, although I make no secret of my anti-Assad support, I do filter videos, reports and all information quite thoroughly and at the end of the day make an informed judgement on what is real or not. If I am unsure of its veracity, I will describe it as “unconfirmed” at best and discard it altogether at worst.

          I am afraid your knowledge of Arabic is worse than mine (and that’s saying something). “Allah Akbah” means “God is Great”, nothing to do with “hit me” and is used as a cry of encouragement and prayer for a favourable result.

          While a “tank massacre” would depend on numbers, given the relatively small numbers of tanks that Assad has left, the number of the most recent losses will definitely be causing Assad’s high command some pain, though the Russians may address that in the long term. I suspect it must be also pretty difficult for Assad to get tank crew recruits these days – not a job for my son certainly.

          Rojava is not perfect and I have never implied it was, and if you read my posts regularly you will see that I have commented on their political actions and other accusations made by Amnesty and others. But they have enabled a constitution which is way ahead of all the Gulf states and most countries in the Middle East and Africa. I for one expect them to live up to it – and will speak out if they don’t, until they get it right.

          As for Turkey’s actions against the PKK, it is clear that this is stupid action by Erdogan for political reasons, as most informed commentators agree. They were very near a peace deal, until Erdogan became enraged because the Kurdish party got 80 seat seats in Parliament, preventing him have an overall majority.

          That, I think is nearer the truth, and I will stand by that. PC.

  • Wisdom

    hello Peter, just read this “Now, #Iraqi army stormed the center of #Ramadi city, #Anbar, #iraq” on the isis.livemap website.

    What does it imply? What is Daesh’s situation in Fallujah? Also, why are the Russians so aggressive on Deir ez-Zur?

    ps: apologies if I am asking too many questions… but I am hoping Fallujah & Ramadi are retaken by the Iraqi army.

    • Yes, latest reports suggest that Iraqi and anti-IS forces have made progress in the north and western suburbs of Ramadi, but much to be confirmed. Some IS units reported to have fled towards Syria. No change in Fallujah as far as I can see, still an IS hold.

      Russians are attacking IS in Deir Ez Zour for 3 reasons. One, to stop IS capturing the military airfield, which is the only one Assad still holds in the east of the country.Two to stop IS capturing the rest of the city they do not hold, which would give IS another regional capital, like Raqqah, under their control, and 3 having lost all the oil fields in province to IS, it would be extremely difficult to recapture them if they had no base there.

      Hope that helps. And thanks for reading the blog. PC.

  • USA and their western partners ,Saudi Arabia and Gulf States, Turkey, Iran and recently Russia saying to fight and to destroy terrorists,
    so far it looks that only Kurds who really fights them, nobody is too serious about it
    As anti Assad opposition it seems that only others terrorist groups supported by islamic governments are only real fighting force….where is this so called FSA?
    Who will be next to bomb Syria?
    macabre grotesque.
    The alleged “peacemakers” from all the sides actually are warmongers

    • And the behaviour of some of these governments is often “terrorist” in nature – so the word is rather subjective anyway. “Peace” would be great – but we won’t get it until people find it within themselves and stop blaming everyone and everything else for their problems. PC.

      • Yes I agree
        anyway reading a thousands of blogs more than 90% of readers both from West East MEast and elsewhere are strongly praising the actions of Putin it looks than most of people are totally dissapointed with hypocrisy of America and her
        The almost the same numbers of refugees to whom I was talking (even quite a number of Sunnis)
        Prefers Assad than any other opposition including FSA (rather insignificant in numbers compared to Islamic jihadist) they calling the most powerful leader on the world(really?) Obama bin Laden
        what most of the Muslims don’t see the biggest factor of their disasters is its medieval interpretation of Islam
        if USA are serious against murderous dictators what about their great friends of SAbia?
        I highly appreciate the action of people like you but with that approach of West and others world leaders is not possible to do much

  • dutchnational

    What I would like to have is some more analysis on the situation and position of the kurds within Aleppo and Afrin.

    What one can read is mostly propaganda, from both sides, and except for a few articles there is hardly any objective info about what is going on there.

    Would you have something?

    • Thanks, Karel. I have written from time to time about Afrin, though since things calmed down in Kobane Canton information about the Kurds is generally thin on the ground.
      In Afrin there have been several clashes/truces between the YPG and the Al Nusra Front (ANF), clearly some Arab/Kurd rivalry. Having said that the YPG have the Canton quite well defended and prepared for any eventuality. I have written however about the YPG and their Kurdish political rivals, the KDP-S – Scroll down and see my report of 14th September before it disappears off the bottom.
      In Aleppo city, there have been ongoing clashes in the Sheikh Madsud district which is basically a Kurdish area, but very near the Opposition supply route into eastern Aleppo. YPG got on pretty well with the FSA, but again now clashes regular with ANF and other Islamist factions, most recently last weekend. Hope that helps. Will incorporate when I have useful information and sufficient time, PC. p.s. See today’s updated report – 2nd October, last item!

  • Hi Peter!
    By no means I am fan on Mr.Assad but even less of disgusting hypocrisy of western so-called democratic governments
    Of course this man is bad dictator but what about even more obscene dictators
    of Saudi Arabia Qatar Kuwait and some others
    yet our democratic leaders (lol) embrace sweetly (also literally) those oppressors
    of their own people who also bombing civilians and cities of their neighbours also member of Nato
    Turkey of another islamist dictator bombing his own population
    all belong to the same group of genocide perpetrators
    and it seems ironically what more and more is obvious the best option from only ugly options what was left is cooperate with him
    There is not really at the moment any good opposition to Assad only ISIS AL NUSRA
    and other terrorist supported by Gulf States and of course the worst regime of the world SArabia
    So called free syrian army is a myth
    and Kurds deserve to be independent and
    fight for their country not for interest of despicable islamic regimes
    The war in Syria because of cruel manipulation of world elites is nothing else like obscene grotesque full of frightening lies
    Way to nowhere….

    • I agree, Syria is appalling right now and the world is full of oppressive dictators, most of them cynically supported by Western governments for what they can get out of it. The Kurds, especially the YPG, will prevail though – it remains in their interests to defeat IS, both security wise and for the credibility of their cause to have an independent state. PC.

      • Hi Peter!
        I have just read ‘Independent’ interview
        where Mr.Salah Muslim president of PYD in Rojava said that if anti Assad coalition will win (and almost all of them are classified as terrorist or very close affiliate with terror military organisations) it will be big disaster .In his opnion although being opponent to syrian regime its opponents are much more worse
        What do you think about this and where is opposition army suppose to liberate country?

        • As a secular group, I suppose the PYD’s concerns are around extremists like Al-Nusra and other Islamist groups. However, the YPG, his military arm, have worked extensively with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), e.g. Euphrates Volcano group, and know it works well. Pity the West has not armed and supported FSA better, they would have a hard time controlling Islamists as Mr. Muslim implies. PYD work with the Assad regime in Qamishli and Hasakah because that is the status quo, but have no hesitation in pushing them out of districts when they show weakness. When Assad regime eventually falls, the YPG will just assume complete control of those two cities. PC.

    • Miroslav Janko

      democratic leaders do what grants them being reelected. employment, electricity and the ability of people to buy crap are the key questions. If somebody stands up for refugees, people will rather vote for the guys who tell them, they are just illegal immigrants.
      Western countries rather point their fingers at other people and occasionally bomb them or send some troops to show their values. It’s cheap compared to the costs of really solving a problem. In Afghanistan 6000 troops total were sent to Kundus. How many are these per km²?Has there ever been a fair assesment on drone killings in regard to how they help to fight terrorism? Has anyone ever asked how Turkey knows they have killed PKK fighters by dropping bombs at a speed of Mach 1+ or get into a village and shoot at everything that is moving?
      Sometimes they actually defend western values. These are ‘US first’ for the USA and ‘not US, as long as we get the oil’ for Europe. Sometimes it’s ‘National Security’ like for Turkey, which basically means ‘allow an unjust situation to be maintained without having to bear the consequences’. Other examples: Every military US-intervention since WW2, Israel bombing palestinian neighbourhoods where terrorists are. Just look for public international law keyphrase:’inherent right of collective selfdefense’
      Sometimes less privileged countries try to make use of the ‘inherent rights of public international law’ like Assad has been doing for keeping the oilfields he has inherited. Sometimes other entities do it like the PKK. It’s commanders needed a reason to still enjoy the privileges of being commanders after HDP provided sufficient kurdish representation in the turkish parliament. Let’s not forget, the blueprint of Nazi politics was the native american genocide, the blueprint of japanese politics during ww2 was what the USA have done to them some 100 years before.
      How anybody finds it worth the effort to point out, western democracies do not act according to (their own) ethical standards, I just don’t get it.
      Back to the subject: Syrian Kurds do not understand a democratic constitution is a treaty and it is established by consent and equal rights of men and women cannot be established by the use of force. Further concerns risen here: .
      Ofc one can doubt these articles. But on the other hand: What do we know what’s going on there if not from YPG headquaters or pages like raqqa-sl? Nothing. You got it already, didn’t you? No free press in Rojava. Whatever the reasons may be …

      PYD not able to find allies like this. PKK and AKP going after HDP. Russia delivering more weapons. Assad killing ‘terrorists’. (btw did you know there is no valuable legal definition of the word ‘terrorist’? So basically a terrorist is somebody who you want to treat according to anti-terrorist legislation)

      People die and we are discusssing it like last saturday’s football game. Same limited interest, same level of expertise. Local players only have their own interest in mind.There is no hope until PYK leaders learn their responisbility for their own troops with their rusty aks because western states won’t donate weapons to what could as well be another stalinist experiment. And their responsibility for whole Syria: A constitution based on CONSENT could be the base of an alliance of all tribes/local authorities and is the only alternative to Mr Assad regaining power with a helping hand of Mr Putin.

      • Thanks Miroslav for your comprehensive review. I agree with much of what you say. As you know I do have reservations about so-called Western democracies, which are often nothing more than the manipulation of the less wealthy by the wealthy elite. I also take what I see and read with a large pinch of salt, rejecting many of the videos and articles I watch and read each day. The IS “organ” article is a case in point – badly written and/or translated and virtually no evidence. That does not mean it is not happening though, particularly blood taking. Re. YPG, my impression is that they have moved on from “Stalinism” and their current constitution in a good basis for something more inclusive and democratic. Though on several occasions recently I have pointed out where they have violated human rights and democratic values (the US and UK Governments do it all the time as well). Arab attempts to rubbish the YPG are also not very convincing. At the end of the day I have to make, rightly or wrongly, value judgements on what I read and watch and to try and convey a reasonably balanced view on everything to my readers – it is up to them to judge whether I accomplish that.

        My concern is the human family. Discrimination on the basis of colour, sex, race, religion,age, sect or sexual preference, provided none of that is abuse of others, is irrelevant.

  • Wisdom

    Hello Peter, Recently we read that Baghdadi had fled Raqqa. Is that true? More important could Raqqa fall?

    • Hi, Wisdom. There are constant rumours and stories about Al-Baghdadi, so who knows. However, after the US special forces attack on his close associate near Deir Ez-Zour earlier this year, I suspect he does not stay anywhere for very long, but moves constantly. Hopefully they will get him soon. And yes, Raqqah can fall. It will need a well planned assault using Opposition forces plus Kurds YPG plus Coalition aircraft. However, I suspect a plan to clear IS from Jarablous will happen first. Let’s see. PC.

      • Wisdom

        Thanks Peter. I am at Mumbai. I regularly read your updates, and am impressed with the valuable content therein, & your style of reporting. The other site I follow is …for news flashes.

        I think Daesh is the gravest threat humankind has ever seen. They are a Cancer. I hope the forces fighting Daesh are able to exterminate them… and that they do it soon.

        PS: but for this Cancer there would have been no reason I would have been concerned about places like Kobane, Hasakah, Sinjar, Sarrin… but now I truly am; & feel sorry (& helpless) after seeing what the people there are undergoing.

        • Thank you for your kind comments. The other site is also useful, so I have now bookmarked it.

          I agree that IS is grave threat to the whole of humankind – they will have to be destroyed. I hate war but I see no alternative, otherwise all that is good and kind about humanity, including art and music, will be wiped out. We cannot allow that to happen.

          Although there is little you can do from Mumbai, I would encourage you do what you can for human kind there – as you know there are plenty of problems and lots of people, including the young, needing help. Everywhere good act, wherever in the world it takes place, adds to the sum of human decency – while monsters like IS try to take it away. PC.

          p.s. I watched a musical this week by a school for poor children in Mumbai, 1500 of them, – very, very inspiring.

  • Miroslav Janko

    armed ideology, sorry to say but that’s a smoking gun.
    EU also concerned though focusing on ethnic matters:
    my personal opinion: Germany right now keen on delivering those Leopard 2s, if only PYG could be trusted

    • Thanks for your comments, Miroslav. Most of the YPJ manifesto seems pretty reasonable to me. That they make up 40% by charter of YPG forces is impressive and the Kurdish habit of joint male/female senior appointments is useful is addressing the gender imbalance. What they must learn is addressing the acceptance of other religions, political views and groups to the letter. While nothing is perfect, including political structures in the West,frankly, I trust the YPG more than Barzani outfits. PC.

  • David

    Question about airstrikes in Tuz (Iraq) as reported in DoD/Centcom Coalition Airstrike Reports.

    Consistently seeing crazy numbers of fighting positions reported as destroyed in Tuz versus any other city/region. Examples:

    9/7/2015: Near Tuz, an airstrike destroyed 49 ISIL fighting positions, four ISIL tunnels and an ISIL weapons cache.
    9/6/2015: Near Tuz, three airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed 26 ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL weapons caches and an ISIL vehicle bomb.
    8/25/2015: Near Tuz, 12 airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and six ISIL staging areas and destroyed 57 ISIL fighting positions and three ISIL vehicles.

    Otherwise, don’t hear this city/region mentioned specifically in any media outlets as a highly contested area/an area with significant activity.

    Anyone have any insight on what’s going on here?

    – David

    • Hi, David, having checked that out, those are high numbers, but no reason to not think they are genuine. Sounds like some very heavy blanket bombing to wipe out that number of positions, but at this stage I do not know why. Also no reason to think it is a mistake. Will keep eyes peeled for any reference to this area. PC.

      • David

        Thanks for the response! I didn’t mean to imply that there was anything fishy about the reported #’s, just thought it was interesting in how much of an outlier it was. But speaking of DoD airstrike reports, here’s a video of the Coalition’s airstrike on a stadium acting as an IS logistics base, just came out today – things escalate around the one-minute mark.

        As a side note, do you know of any precedent of a government/allied group publicly reporting military progress on a daily basis (which has done since ~septermber 2014)? My guess would be no, and that part of the impetus for this daily reporting falls into the first half of the “degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL” mission statement (by virtue of constant reporting about airstrikes against IS, which IS has essentially zero means of preventing).

        I continually look forward to your next post, thanks again for the quality reporting.

        • Interesting stuff! Pretty impressive video. I don’t thing much survived that ordinance exploding. Re. the constant reporting, I doubt we have ever had it in such detail and you are certainly right it is done to degrade the moral of the enemy, but also to bolster public support. War PR has a long history, at least from World War 2, though hopefully not as distorted as it was sometimes then. Many thanks for the positive comments. PC.

  • Jim Martin

    The Future of a multicultural Syria – Two Pivotal Minutes

    Pushing Back the Islamic State: The Battle for Rojava (Dispatch 1)
    Published on Aug 6, 2015
    By Vice News

    Text from between Minute 5 and 7; The True definition of a country “of the people, by the people, for the people”. The Kurds with their structure, tolerance and genuine willingness to work with other Syrians are the key, not a problem. If this PYD/YPG/YPJ structure is able to spread thought Syria, then the war is ultimately over and the Syrian regime is not overthrown, but dissolved. The Syrian people will/are effectively solving this problem themselves if we sport its Kurds and other moderate Syrians (who are already working together) to the bitter end, so the bitter end is no longer the end result. Turkish President Erdogan’s hostility towards the Kurds threaten the only way out of Syria’s mess, and would leave it with, unstable extremist fiefdoms. Erdogan’s hostility is no longer welcome in Syria and not representative Turkeys; 78,000,000 people , including its 18% Kurdish minority. Syrian and also Turkish Kurds have to be made as proud to be Syrian and Turkish after 100 years as they are as proud of being Kurdish . Peace in Syria based on the When this point is reached provincial autonomy as a distinct society as valuable contributing members of society in both Syria and Turkey, and Kurdish independence will not only not be necessary, it will become irrelevant. The following penetrating footage from a Syrian Arab officer talking about his Syrian Kurdish brothers and sisters is undeniable


    What was the fighting like here over the past few days?

    YPG Arab Ex SAA Officer

    The Clashes were very heavy. Our Units are now starting to bring Civilians back to their houses


    Obviously you are an Arab Officer. How long have you been in the YPG, and how did you become to join the YPG?

    YPG Arab Ex SAA Officer

    I have been fighting along side them for two years. The YPG is fighting with belief. They protect people. I was working for the (Syrian) regime’s intelligence (services), but when I understood that the regime would not be able to liberate a single area in this country, but moreover, they are after money, the steal, and they loot, I decided to leave them and join the YPG


    Some Journalists that have claimed recently that the YPG have been ethnically cleansing Arabs from from areas they have captured, of Rojava and Hasakah Province, pushing Arabs out. As an Arab fighter in the YPG what do you think of those claims?

    YPG Arab Ex SAA Officer

    First of all these allegations are not true, those saying them are attempting to cause trouble in this country. If the YPG was displacing Arabs, and harming their existence, you wouldn’t see me fighting alongside them right now. I would leave the (YPG) and go support the Arabs. I would go back to fight along side the regime or another Arab section. So, it is a big lie, it was IS mercenaries that displaced people. For example, in this neighborhood, when IS entered, they displaced civilians and cut off their heads, as well as slaughtering women and children.

    Original Vice page

    • Thanks Jim for your information. I did publish that video some time ago. Would be good if the rest of Syria and the ME in general adopted those values – but as yet sectarian prejudice will prevent it, unfortunately. PC.

      • Jim Martin

        Thank you Peter for your comments. While it is working with some in Syria the ex Syrian Army office said quite clearly there are people in Syria who would like to cause trouble and in the middle of this civil war, its actually to be expected, however, the Kurds, Arabs Christians Yazidis and others are already forming together as the video notes. These people who do not represent “gravity”, the future will of 17,000,000 Syria and their desire to end this hellish mess where Sectarian Prejudice will have to be overcome. Bosnians agreed to peace after four years of civil war not only because of the bombing and Dayton, but because all three parties realized there was no exclusive military solution. This was further reinforced when the UNs ORH – Office of the High Representative was given impartial king like powers buy Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats by mutual agreement to keep the stabilization process going. When any party tried to do a number on each other (Like Nouri Al Malkaki in Iraq). the OHR stepped in like a king/impartial referee and dissolved the partisan BS , and no one could object as all three parties agreed to this from the beginning. This worked well until stability took hold and while F BiH has its share of problems since, it no longer involves tracers and artillery and rockets flying across Sarajevo. I wrote a policy paper on this last year for Iraq to apply to Iraq’s Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds and it could work their to rebuild the plans of David Petraeus and others that was ripped apart by the likes of Nouri Al Malaki and others, with painfully predicable results

        In Syria we need a plan as noted above that includes the Kurds working with Arabs and others already happening and it needs to be enshrined by International treaty so the International community finishes what we start. It also must exclude racist Erdogan policies until the Turkish people dump him for good. These policies have no place in the future of 17,000,000 Syrians and 78,000,000 Turkish if they expect to leave a dark past. I say by treaty as the plan has to live past one administration of other international players for a consistent, coherent future for 17,000,000 Syrians

        Its not supposed to be easy but is is the future of 17,000,000 members or our own species. I am reminded of the late President Theodore Roosevelt in the “Man in the Arena” speech in Paris in 1910. This well exemplifies our own beliefs, – the ones we say we value, as a way to inspire others to be better that they believe they can be; and to accomplish achievable goals, sometimes at the very edge of possibility:

        “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”.

        It is exemplified by people such as the Syrian Arab ex Syrian Army Officer, the Kurds, Christians and Yazidis and others who have already formed up and are working together as brothers and sisters: “The YPG is fighting with belief” This is pro Arab, Pro Kurd, and ultimately pro 17,000,000 Syrians for a better future

  • Jim Martin

    I have found that both Peter and Mike’s comments are invaluable in helping for a better understanding. First some good news in that our brothers and sisters in the Turkish Armed Forces and Gendarme as pushing back against Erdogan’s bitter partisan attacks on the Kurds for political gain

    78,000,000 Turkish Citizens are not fringe hostiles, or animals. nor are they as STUPID as Erdogan thinks of them as

    In other news the Turkish Minister of Economy is calling it a “war between Muslims and infidels” . I am talking it that the Kurds are infidels and as the Americans were given only 10 minutes warning before the PKK was bombed in Iraq as Erdogan doesn’t trust them the Americans must be infidels as well? Turkey is a friend and NATO ally, these homicidal bumpkins in the AKP are more like “Frenimies”, like extremists in Pakistan’s government who support Taliban and are responsible for the deaths of Pakistanis and Afghan and NATO ISAF

    Can either of you quote source on Erdogan’s rants about the possible pending fall of Kobani last fall. What did he say and where was it said?

    • Thanks Jim for your comments. Yes, as you say, the Turks are not stupid. I had already posted a video of an army officer whose brother has just been killed by the PKK, blaming the Government for their stupidity in starting another war in the first place, when a peace agreement was not that far off.

      Re. Erdogan’s comments about the fall of Kobane, just put “Erdogan says Kobane will fall” into Google and many articles like this,, will come up.

      Extremists from either edge, left or right, religious or secular, will continue to be a problem. PC.

    • These days when one says “Turkey” they mean “Erdogan”.The erratic,reckless policy style is all his.The challenge for both the Kurds and Turks who value liberal democratic principles is to oppose and survive this man’s rule.That brings us to the election.I do not believe Turks want to return to a state of general civil war anymore than Americans want to refight Vietnam or Russians refight Afghanistan.That will be Erdogan’s fundamental miscalculation in restarting the fight with the PKK.
      Moreover,Erdogan is politically vulnerable for another reason,one he can’t control.Markets have gone bear as the global economy has slowed.A typical five year expansion [from 2010-2015] is now exhausted and the global economy will take a rest for a year or two.”It’s the economy stupid” remains an important paradigm in all elections.Presidents and PM’s rise and fall with bull and bear markets.Erdogan will be hurt be the economic downtrend.
      The secondary challenge is within the AKP.Erdogan needs to be damaged enough to weaken his Svengali grip on the party and allow Gul room to make a move for the leadership.I believe he returned to Turkey to try and moderate Erdogan’s influence.But he’s up against a cult of personality.That must be weakened before Gul can make a run for the top.Turkey will not be safe until Erdogan is out of the top position at the AKP.And Gul would bring the party back to some semblance of normal,responsible behavior.

      I suggest the following piece on Turk attitudes towards Erdogan,the war and the PKK in AL Monitor:

      • Thanks Mike, again good points. The Al-Monitor article is also a good summary – recommended. PC.

      • Jim Martin

        Thanks Mike for the article. A very thoughtful, methodical analysis and I believe a lot Turkey’s people are thinking the same way or heading in that direction. Its obscene to see our Kurdish PKK brothers and sisters facing ISIS in Iraq being bombed by our brothers and sisters in the Turkish Armed Forces and Gendarme. Its a true gift to have PKK forces in Iraq shedding their blood with us, and it is clinically insane to force them back into Turkey to fight Turkish Forces. Who in the hell wants them back fighting in Turkey when they were perfectly happy[y fighting “the dark army from hell” in Iraq? What an obscene waste, like the battle of Gettysburg and Abraham Lincoln’s comments that followed about the definition of a country “of the people, by the people, for the people”. It 2015 in Turkey this means 78,000,000 people and its 18% Kurdish population. If North Americans treated Black minorities, French Canadian minorities, and Hispanic minorities we would be in civil war or outright insurgency. Our multicultural diversity is not a fractured weakness, but the reinforced strength because in any team the sum of the parts and diversity makes us stronger together

        The most sensible comment in this current tragedy came from the PKK leadership who recently told their members not to engage in unprovoked attacks on Turkish Armed Forces and Gendarme. Yes you can say that is good PKK PR, but it also makes a hell of a lot of sense to de-escalate this mess and nothing even close from Commander Erdogan. Makes you wonder why the PKK is not taken off the list of terrorist organizations , and more accurately members of the AKP party are not put on? Hmmnn? We you get AP reports of helicopters fire bombing Kurdish crops and livestock in Turkey it is no longer a “counter terrorist operation” and more like a true war crime, plan and simple. Maybe Erdogan can have Milosevic’s cell in the Hague a the ICC – International Criminal court ?

  • Political opinions cannot be based on rumours.

  • Jak

    There are reports/rumours that Turkey informed Nusra (JaN) of the travel plans of the (American trained) Division 30 fighters that were abducted by JaN. I am not sure of the veracity of the report, but this should be investigated (by independent news organisations).

    I am sad to say though that it would show more consistency with Turkeys other actions in Syria, than with the narrative that they are transparent partners in trying to build a human rights based Syrian legacy.

    • Yes, I was aware of that report, but not sure how accurate it is. There is a temptation to “demonise” Turkey at present and I am trying to resist that. There actions are difficult to understand and confusing, though it appears to me it is mainly down to Erdogan, as his attempts to “demonise” the Kurds may well backfire. PC.

      • I’ve no doubt the MIT would gladly provide all the info and coordinates to the NF.But Division 30 posted vids and info announcing their mission in Syria.That’s why the NF was waiting for them.The real story is Ahrar Al Sham’s rebranding project which continues.Turkey is determined to clean up their rep and make them acceptable to the US.And the only way the US will accept them is if they’re partnered with some kind of FSA.And that’s where the new game is being played out.Turkey wants to control the composition of any new FSA going into Syria.In effect,there’d be no FSA as the US imagined it.Instead a small,puppet group that works for,instead or partnered with Ahrar.Fooled into supporting the sham partnership,the US would then go ahead with coordinated air attacks.
        The only way the US can be sure there’s an actual partnership is by forming a secular political leadership and backing it to the hilt.I suspect that’s the CIA’s project.Regardless,they know Tayyip can’t be trusted but they’re obligated to work with him.

        • I have no doubt Mike that that is a fair assessment of a very complicated situation, though personally I have no way of knowing who is playing what game here! I just hope that at some point it will all sort itself out. You can’t blame any Syrian, whatever their politics, for wanting to escape to Europe and start a new life under the circumstances of 5 years of hopelessness and nothing better to look forward to. PC.

        • Jak

          I agree with the overall sweep of your argument, but the problem with this is that, I would argue that, the US is really not in the driving seat in the ME & the ease with which their projects (as a non-Muslim power) can be spoiled and the factors which suggest that the blame would be placed squarely on the US rather than the ‘spoilers’ and held up as another example of the ‘failure of THE secular’ (used pejoratively of course) value-system.

          I cannot see the US actively working with any salafist political religious group (like Ahrar As-Sham), without some serious hard sacrifices and concessions on their part first would be political suicide on the part of any US administration or party. Lip-service to ‘equality and respect for human rights and self determination’ is easy, but some core tenets would have to be placed on the ‘altar’ (I sincerely hope all here know the swathe of opinion and justification of these groups on issues such as ‘freedom of conscience’, ‘critical thinking’, ‘moral crimes’, ‘legislative authority’ etc), to show any serious intent and the US does not have the leverage to force such a change in philosophy or leadership.

          The conversations I have had in person and over the internet, with people hiding behind an appeal to ‘human rights (and equal rights at that)’ but supporting the very worst human rights abusers, and with a blatantly sectarian motivation or philosophy (I think suggest predictably bad results).

          You can’t blame the Syrian public, but the core issue is if they can see what philosophical strands (and their rooting in culture and religion) contributed to this situation and not rebuild these (psychological, social and political) structures in whatever environment they find themselves.

          Working with unreliable allies, what to give share and what to conceal, building alternative alliances as leverage, and trying to mediate between the interests of those willing to reconcile (even between different Kurdish factions) is an intelligence service’s raison-d’etre. I just hope they don’t get wrong-footed and sacrifice THEIR core tenets, for a short-sighted unsustainable situation and short change their most reliable allies (which at the moment are the various Kurdish factions, both in Iraq and Syria).

      • Jak

        It’s not my aim to demonise Turkey, I just think we need to be more skeptical as to the very limited nature of the shared interest between Turkey and the US’s aims. Sure the AKP party is the most prominent reflection of this, but the philosophy is deeply rooted.

        I respect people as human beings, but I also realise that they would willingly sign up to political projects that would be ruinous to them for any number of reasons: if correctly primed and indoctrinated, lacking critical thinking or skills, overly idealistic- without a serious attempt to balance ‘values and interests’ (one of Obama’s most candid speeches I think) and an attitude of compromise or finding shared interests.

        I think the real story of Turkey are the long-term trends in terms of changes to the education system, the judiciary and law enforcement arms and attempted sectarian (prominent) re-introduction of religion into public life. Democracy is only a shell without separation of powers, (mechanisms to challenge conflicts of interest & abuse of power), an (objectively) informed electorate, freedom of conscience (to exercise their political and social wishes) & civil society with power to put forward a reasoned agenda (freedom of assembly). I think the problems unleashed in Turkey have not even begun to take effect and I see more parallels with the Pakistani direction subsequent to General Zia (and neighbouring Afghan war), than I care to see. The result of the most recent election, heartening as it was, not withstanding. I think populous of that country has some time, but not much, to save itself from strife.

        I understand the restraints placed on national governments engaged in negotiations and with interest, while trying to use ‘soft-power’ to change values, but I think Turkey’s (or Erdogan’s AKP’s) actions are consistent, just not with their ‘stated’ priorities of (primary) concern for a democratic human-rights (UNDHR) driven region.

  • “What’s not sure for sure is if US don’t abandon or even betray Kurds in future like we have seen in the past ..?

    I share Tanto’s trepidations.
    And I certainly agree with Peter that US policy will based on strategic objectives.But there is an important difference between then and now.In the Nixon-Kissinger era Americans knew nothing about the people of Kurdistan.But now they hear about them in the news virtually every day.And there is literally no such thing as anti Kurd press in the United States.Across the board,from left to right,there is unanimous admiration and support for the Kurdish people.There is no independence movement in the world that enjoys such widespread political support in the US.It helps to remember – the US spent great blood and treasure in Iraq.And the KRG is the one,crowning success resulting from that war.The US has a vested interest in the security of Iraqi Kurdistan.
    The question everyone asks in D.C. hearings is how best to support the cause of Kurdish independence? Unfortunately the answer is complicated.And it has to be enfolded in US broader strategic objectives.Nonetheless,I believe it’s safe to say a Nixon-Kissinger type betrayal is highly unlikely.Today any Pres. who did that would be subject to howls of criticism from the public and both sides of the congress.The more specific problem for US policy planners is how to make Kurdish independence work within a broader strategic framework.And that is a much better situation than it was in the 70’s.

    • Yes, the Kurds are in a much better position now than before but how the US balances any support with keeping Turkey happy remains to be seen. Also, the Kurds need to find a convincing level of unity with one objective. With divisions between the PKK and KRG especially that a the moment in unlikely. PC.

      • The American public doesn’t distinguish between the KRG and PYD.But Washington certainly does.The KRG has legal autonomy and that gives the US a more solid basis to support it’s independence.Moreover the US has had time to prepare for the likely dissolution of Iraq.So none of this is ad hoc or on the fly policy making.On the other hand Rojava is just that.It emerged unexpected from the chaos of the civil war.And had it not been for Daesh it would still be fractured and figuring out how to fit into the politics of the civil war as it did the first two years.But Daesh changed everything.Suddenly the US had skin in the game and the YPG were proving the only effective fighting force against them.
        Then came Kobani.That battle evolved from the defense of the city into an ongoing offensive that continues to this day.And the American people are cheering them on every step of the way.So are those who fly in support.Kobani showed the US it had a rock solid,winning partner on the ground.And it cleared up any illusions about Tayyip being a partner in the fight against Daesh.That had lot to do with the sudden increase in US support.
        But it all comes in the midst of political uncertainty.US policy vis a vis Rojava must be ad hoc because there isn’t even a government to negotiate with,Nonetheless,I am confident the US wants to see Rojava gain legal autonomy ala Iraqi Kurdistan.The US knows the Kurds will be reliable friends and that has strategic value.It also knows they’ll have good relations with Israel.These are good strategic opportunities and likely on the US wish list for the end of the civil war.It’s all a question of how to get there from here.

  • What’s not sure for sure is if US don’t abandon or even betray Kurds in future. .like we have seen in the past ,american administration made alliance and still making it of the name…..? Whatever they think

    • I am afraid Tanto, that you can only expect governments, US, UK or Saudi or otherwise, to do what is in their current self-interest. If that coincides with what the majority of local people want, then it is going to be luck more than anything. PC.

  • ” if IS stuck to a moral line that people could aspire to – without being so brutal and careless of people’s lives – then perhaps it would have some merit for those who wish to choose such a lifestyle.”

    In Syria that raises political as well as cultural questions.
    The country has become a laboratory of Islamism.There’s a wide range of concepts about sharia from Daesh’ insanity to Ahrar Al Sham’s efforts to implement much more lenient versions.

    [ I’d suggest checking out the Carnegie Endowment For Peace med east section for in depth analysis of Ahrar Al Sham’s evolution. ]

    And there’s a rarely discussed difference between nationalist Islamists like Ahrar and Jihadists like Nusra Front and Daesh.Ahrar Al Sham and their allies look like they’re trying to establish something like the Islamists in Tunisia IE – A purely nationalist Islamist movement.In that regard they are an emerging model both for the sharia “lifestyle” you refer to and perhaps a serious political entity.Weather or not they can make the full,”rebranding” transition to a serious political organization remains to be seen.But they’re heading that way and evolving into the Islamist group most likely to gain US-NATO acceptance..

    If Tunisia’s democratic Islamist’s are one model for Syria that begs the question: What about the secular opposition? That’s the balance that makes Tunisia’s democracy work.
    That’s where the Safe-Zone might come into play,IF they can create it.There is growing talk of Ahrar defending the zone.And both the GCC and Turkey like Ahrar.But they’re not yet fit for US/NATO consumption.However,if they cooperated with these new FSA being trained in Turkey that could change.In that scenario the FSA only needs a couple of hundred highly trained fighters acting as forward observers for US-NATO air strikes.Then,like the YPG,Ahrar rushes in to battle the remnants.That would be the battle partnership.
    Meanwhile the US-NATO diplomats try and paste together a secular political leadership.And there’s your formula for finishing off Daesh,the NF and creating post Assad governance.
    Chances are Assad is going to keep his western fiefdom.That’s probably a good thing for Rojava.Assad still has pockets of support in the far north east and west corners.A new,confederated Syria in the shape of an upside “L” would include political provisions for those corners and………legal autonomy for Rojava.
    And a new sunni state is created from the rest.
    For the Kurds sake,that’s my hope.I’m concerned that sunni Arab dominance in Damascus would not be good for Rojava’s independence.The Arabs still have too many axes to grind and scores to settle.That’s the problem throughout Syria/Iraq and other parts of the region.I mean that as no aspersion against Arabs.But the breakup of the Sykes-Picot world is still releasing hot emotions.The Kurds are more likely to get what they need from an Assad in retreat than Sunni Arabs on the ascension.

    • Thanks Mike, that’s an interesting analysis. I only wish such a logical froward plan would materialise but suspect reality is going to be a lot more messy! But we can but hope for some form of peaceful coexistence between all reasonable parties eventually. Certainly the level of mass murder we have seen so far and in the last few days cannot be allowed to continue. PC.

      • ” Certainly the level of mass murder we have seen so far and in the last few days cannot be allowed to continue.”

        If I think about the horror on a personal level it’s too much.I try to keep my head clear and focus on solutions.I’m pathetically optimistic by nature.I have to believe the victims are being martyr’d FOR something.And that something is the end of Sykes-Picot,a new middle east created by the millions of progressive young people around the region and ……….Kurdistan.The mullahs freakish ideology will wither and die as young Iranians drag the country into the 21st century.These progressive young people can be found everywhere throughout the region.They are the quiet majority.They don’t make Jihad or violence.We see them only occasionally,in Tahrir,Taksim and the Green Movement in Iran.But they will control the future,not the crazy ones.
        And a generation from now it will be one of the most dynamic regions in the world.

  • Mr Clifford what amazes and terrifies me is how
    it happens that so few liberal leftist traitors of the West are so successful in destroying western culture and democracy?
    that what’s happening in Middle East is off-shot of this
    it looks that orwellian disaster is going to happen

    • I think politicians of all directions (left, right etc) are destroying democracy. It is all about self-interest these days and very, very few actions for the right moral reasons. We need something else. In the Middle East it is sectarianism that is destroying society. As long as self interested politicians and demagogues pursue that there is no hope for peace and stability. They need no “help” from the West. PC.

  • Id strongly suggest reading “No Turkish Safe Zone in Syria on the Carnegie Endowment For Peace site.I agree with this anlaysis.The so called “safe zone ” will never happen.:

    • Yes, I broadly agree with that article Mike. This is not about “safe zones”, but suppressing Kurdish nationalism in general and the PKK in particular. Ironically, the best way to create a “safe zone” would have been to allow the YPG to join Kobane with Afrin. The Kurdish YPG would effectively drive IS out and protect the rights of all ethnic and religious groups under the Rojava Constitution. But sadly not to be for the foreseeable future. PC.

      • Of course.How ironic it was that Kurd and allied Arab brigades came to the rescue of Division 30.And all while Ahrar stood there and just watched.But in the end all that Tayyip will have accomplished is to create a new civil war within Turk borders..I don’t believe he can bomb Iraqi sovereign territory indefinitely.And while I have little confidence in Obama to be a true Kurd ally I do believe he needs the YPG too badly for his ISIS project to abandon them.Obama wants to destroy ISIS before he leaves office because it’s a feather in the cap of his legacy.He wants to get ISIS the way Tayyip wants to get the Kurds.And it was that desperation that lead to this faustus bargain.
        But there’s one thing you can always count on with Tayyip – unfailing ineptitude.Somehow,the Kurds usually benefit from his hysterical approach to foreign policy.In fact one can credit him with helping create Rojava.After all,if it wasn’t for the chaos produced by his support for ISIS the US wouldn’t be there,providing help from above.
        A million thanks for the work you do on the behalf of the Kurdish people.Outstanding.

  • Wisdom

    hi Peter, wanted to know what are the prospects of Daesh getting kicked out of Sinjar, Tal Afar? does it mean that Daesh will lose the Mosul – Raqqa link?

    • Hi,Wisdom, good question. One would have expected Sinjar especially to have fallen by now, but the Peshmerga, unlike the YPG, seem to be indecisive in their campaigns, despite assistance from the Coalition. As for Tel Afar, it is part of the Mosul campaign which was supposed to start during Ramadan, but was put off after Ramadi fell to IS. A lack of determination, grit and skills seems to infest the Iraqi Army, and while the Peshmerga have had some success, they do not seem as able as the YPG/YPJ. PC.

      • I am far away to be as competent in ME affairs and politics as you Peter but seams to me that Peshmerga are in situation when they have to cooperate with Iraqi government and military and the both of Iraqi sides are not well prepared to do so and Peshmerga arestill at least officially part of Iraq (?)
        The example of IS show how big damage determined gang of of generally light armed criminals can do and greatest power on the world says it has no clear policy (willingness it is) to stop this medieval mayhem
        lslamic radicals so thriving in the West are simply result of complacency, stupidity , cowardice of western leaders and political correctness
        people in ME are victims of genocide
        it seems , a rather strangely but only Israel doesn’t look too much frightened compare to rest of others
        yes situation in ME is very complicated but in history of the world nothing new
        there were worse and more dangerous things in the past than IS
        what is scary is that that for quite a few and quite opposite sides Isis is beneficial (horror)
        thank you for your great articles which stand out of this sensational
        rubbish of other press

        • Thanks for your comments Tanto. Re. Peshmerga, I rather think they are under control of Barzani, who has his own agenda. What amazes me is that they have not cleared Sinjar city yet and that they were reportedly ordered to abandon the Yezidi on Mount Sinjar in the first place. Personally I prefer the ethos of the YPG and the Constitution of Rojava which are a much better basis for moving forward.

          There is more to Islamic fundamentalism in the West than you say – and I hope to write about that before too long. I agree, if IS stuck to a moral line that people could aspire to – without being so brutal and careless of people’s lives – then perhaps it would have some merit for those who wish to choose such a lifestyle. However, no-one in their right mind can justify their horrific behaviour which is destroying the lives of others for many years to come. The psychological damage of multiple rapes is indescribable – I know, I work with it every week.

          That the spread of IS will have to be stopped is an urgent necessity. No problem if people choose a philosophy as long as it respects others different choices and IS does not. And any religion or philosophy that says their’s is the only way is wrong by arrogant definition. PC

  • a234

    Erdragon sends airplains on Kurd pozition in Syria. Is friend Erdragon? He wars with Assad and with Kurds too. And FSA is glad. That is very goog. O lala. FSA in Syria … no rule … never. With FSA and Nusra will be Syria new Lybia.

    • Thanks for your comments, Patto. I think Erdogan is full of self-interest and doing whatever he thinks can get public opinion on his side, take away power from the Kurds (HDP) and win him the next election.

  • Mehmet Mert

    if anyone run self brain , can easily see Turkey back to coalition to protect ISIL.
    so, to weaken the apposite (the coalition) of ISIL, Turkey is fighting with them.

  • I have already frightened your holidays would take a lot of time, but since you are back in three days let it be.
    I used to check your reports every time and find them as relevant and in depth overview of what is going on. Many thanks for your efforts.

  • And again thank you for your informed site and all the hard work you put in it . Your love for the syrian people always shows. God bless praying for the day when all your site is about nothing but peace for the syrian people

    • Douglas, thank you kindly for your comments. I always write with humanity, human rights and decency in mind and try to feature things, amid all the horror, that reflect that, so I am glad it shines through. Amen, to your last comment. I look forward to that too! PC

  • Mr Clifford! You are like bright star of truth and facts high above rubbish of most of the media thank a!

  • Hallo friend..Clifford..I guess the Kurds just did big mistake by mess up with isis in Raqqa..the truth isis let the Kurds win in Kobane..because they are is o,k if the Kurds refuse ti join Isis ti fight Assad Alawi.So the Kurds have to satisfied with their past territories..but the Kurds deserve to gain more..they tries to take Raqqa..Isis strong hold..this of course enrage they will not let the Kurds in peace..I guess it is fierce war in Kurds territories and cost more corpses on both side..The Kurds are too Greedy.I see they are wrong from the beginning..Zionist and America is using the Kurds to destabilize the area…it is America and Zionist games in Iraq to destroy both Shiiites ans Sunnis on behalf of Israel in midst of too many Arabs.Limeited weapons to all side and limited air strikes means the war will prolong to decades in future and destroy Muslim unity..and Israel will safe forever in Palestinians soil.These retarded Kurds know nothing a bout world affairs.I guess you agree with me.

    • No, Zabada, I don’t agree with you. As long as you and others are obsessed with sectarian division and conspiracy theories based on rumour and prejudice and not facts, then there will never be any peace or stability in the Middle East and you will get the continuing chaos you have chosen through your divisive rigid opinions. In my view the Kurds have done an extraordinary job in fighting back the Islamic State and deserve all the credit and help they can get. I also see no evidence so far to support “ethnic cleansing” smears, bearing in mind that large numbers of Arabs have lived contentedly in Cizire for years.PC.

  • suzie

    Pls I hope all the good people of Kobani and also especially for the likes of Mr Muhamed Ali who lost his entire family that people all over the world are thinking of them in this shattering hour for the Kurdish people as a whole who have done so much to blunt this evil force that the world has to endure with. My love goes out to you in my heart and prayers. Suzie

  • Zoltan SPIN

    Dear Peter,
    On the map you show today there is an arrow from Jarabulus to Kobane. Is this assuming the trucks had a way to cross the Euphrate ?

    • Hi, Zoltan, thanks for your comments. I asked the same question yesterday. As far as we know the bridge opposite Jarablous is impassable. They may have originally come from the south-west near Sarrin – if the “Turkey theory” does not hold up. Still unclear. PC.

  • paul kohagura

    For awhile I wondered about the general Turkish population since they supported the Erdogan/AKP dictatorship for so long. The recent election means nothing if a government cannot be put together. To deflect from his and his AKP one party dictatorship’s responsibility for ethnic cleansing within TURKEY, Erdogan has accused Lybia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Israel, … and now the YPG/YPJ and indirectly the US led coalition of ethnic cleansing in the Tell Abyad (Gire Spi) area. A tweet says State Department not pleased with Erdogan. Well the fall of ISIS here is a great victory for Rojava!!! I mean a great victory for Arabs, Kurds, Assyrian and others except for those who wanted the Islamic Extremism. Too bad. Extremist intolerance of other beliefs has to be gone.

    • I agree Paul. Sectarianism and intolerance have no place in a modern society. Despite Erdogan’s bluster, unfounded allegations and threat, I hope the Kurds continue to behave responsibly. PC

  • suzy

    This is great reporting again. I wonder when (not if i am sure) Tel Abyad falls to the Kurdish forces if they will be able to take Sarrin and position themself’s to the north of Raqqa. I would love to know the battle plan and see where the lines are drawn in one or two months time.

    • Many thanks for your comments, Suzy. I am not sure how far the Kurds are prepared to go in driving away the Islamic State – they are already outside the boundaries of Rojava and no doubt stretched. On the other hand the Coalition know that the Kurds are the only effective force fighting IS in the Middle East and may persuade them with money and weapons to continue the fight. These are questions, as you say to be answered over the coming months. Hopefully though Assad will be finished by the end of the year. PC.

      • Jak

        I think that the secular parties, representing the Kurds, whether primarily nationalistic or federal in aim, whether in Iraq (PUK, PKK, KDP) or Syria (KDP of Syria, PYD), know that IS is an implacable enemy that considers them as ‘apostates’ for their political agenda and as such will always pose a threat without the weakening and containment. I have argued elsewhere that a greater consideration of effective-governance (in the form of inclusivity and adherence to human rights) should be made over the almost slavish adherence to the concept of national (state) sovereignty. It is this deference to the insecurities of states (primarily Turkey and Iraq) that prevents greater support for the effective Kurdish factions. It would put the US at odds with Turkey, Iraq and many other ME countries.

        I would argue that the Turkish government has not behaved as a real ally to the US/Western nations (though I need to look into more depth at the recent moves to disrupt IS networks by Turkish intelligence) and Iraq has been deeply penetrated by Iran, and Qatar is fully supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood. I have to research more about the exact nature of the promotion of the Hanibali/Wahabi-salafist doctrine by the other nations in the ME, but definitely SA has promoted the dominance of this deeply sectarian interpretation. The problem does not end there of course, but acknowledging these Real-politikal positions would make a start.

        In the context of all of this, containment of IS and a parallel (secret) track of consolidation of secular forces is the correct track to follow, though it is difficult to assess whether the US/Western countries are paying adequate attention to facilitating this. This necessarily is done in secret, because to do it in public would likely (unfairly) undermine the legitimacy of said groups.

        Thank you for your informative research and regular posting. Regards.

  • tanto

    The most credible source info of them all
    great job

  • Valentin

    Hi Peter,

    Just wanted to correct a mistake I noticed in one of your posts. In update 91, toward the end of the post you mentioned the Syrian army fleeing Ramadi. I believe that you mean to say the Iraqi army.

    In any case, I love your work, thank you for the time you put into this. It is incredibly informative.


    • Ah! Well spotted Valentin, thank you and now corrected! Perhaps information overload on my part as I handle and sort a lot of material – but still not bad for a 67 year old, I reckon! Glad you enjoy the blog and glad you find it useful. PC.

  • steve

    Once again to hear the news of the advances of the Kurdish forces is like a flicker of hope in this world of ours that seems to crumble daily into more chaos. The song you posted was heart wrenching and moved me to tears of joy to know that real people with real human feelings could are winning rather than the animals they have to face daily with their warped ideologies. This page is the first thing i look for every day and God i hope one day i shall visit and meet these people whom i admire so very much. Bless them all, mu thoughts at least are with you.

    • Many thanks, Steve. Despite these terrible, terrible events, I do try to add a bit of heart and hope to the reports – otherwise I believe that without this humankind is lost. That’s the dark side of the message of IS – so called “spirituality” without humanity, a message without a future which for all our sakes must be defeated.

      Thanks for your continued loyal interest – much appreciated. PC.

  • James


    The replacement for the current President ,should he fall, will be JAN/isis
    who will impose a ‘lifestyle’ like that being experienced in Raqqa ,back to the dark age. A prospect the majority of ordinary Syrians must dread. What began as a freedom movement attempting to bring change evolved into a proxy war between Iran and Saudia Arabia/ Qatar/Turkey( basically Shia versus Sunni) with the Syrian civilians in the middle. The ‘ King’ of Saudi who is partly funding the continuance of this conflict is equally as despotic as President Assad. It will be a change from from one despot who lets the people have every freedom except political choice and another where their is no freedom and no political choice. As I mentioned I visited Syria before this debacle began. It was a nice, pleasant relaxed country. I feel for the Syrian people’s plight. Their is no way I would wish to visit Raqqa or Saudi where freedom is unknown.


    • Got you message James, just been busy with other things, so hence delay in reply. Apologies.

      Well, the outcome after Assad is not assured or clear. It could be what you say or it could be something else. I will be surprised if the Alawites don’t get rid of Assad before long themselves. Yes, in many respects it is a proxy war, just like Iraq, Afghanistan etc but we should still support the centre ground in a chance to find a decent outcome. I too have been to Syria. While on the surface fine, it has never been a “nice, relaxed country” for those imprisoned or tortured or their families or the tens of thousands killed by Hafaz Assad before his son even got started. The ICC for Bashar Assad as far as I am concerned. PC.

  • James

    I agree the Kurdish YPG/J have an enlightened approach compared to the rest of the Middle East. Very similar to the Israeli model but perhaps a little more left leaning. It is hoped they can achieve some autonomy out of this mess. The rest of Syria is now a basket case, being fought over by so called freedom fighters, who , if the Government or what’s left of it falls will prove just as repressive. It’s a case of (or was) better the devil you know.

    • Thanks James for your comments. Yes, the ensuing mess after Assad falls is no guarantee that anything stable will come out of it. However, we must all believe that justice and goodness will eventually prevail – otherwise there is no hope for the planet at all, anywhere. I would, personally, take a punt on getting rid of Devil Assad and see what emerges. PC.

  • paul kohagura

    First, How did your journal/report numbers go from 79 to 90? Did I miss a lot the fighting reports? Second, I like your reports. Third, for JAMES. What makes the YPG/YPJ in Syria so attractive to the real combat veterans in the west is the rise of gender equality within the ranks of the fighters! Islamic extremist try to bully their way into power. The foundation of all religious extremism is the subversion of the female gender, ethnic discrimination, and religious conformity/genocide. The young female YPJ fighters clearly state that they are fighting for gender equality and freedom. A few proclaim they will continue this fight for all humanity. It is easy to over look or dismiss these young girls/fighters. But on a deeper level, gender equality and religious freedom will keep religious extremism at bay and change the middle eastern culture if backed up a female fight force (all female). Armed militia for local self protection and minorities is not a bad idea. When the local situation is fluid as it once was in Israel, they created the Kibutz system to defend and populate the frontier In the Kobani Canton the fighters are young and committed to giving up their lives for equality and freedom. They go into battle willingly and with conviction to succeed. Look at the Barzani and Talibani Peshmerga troops sitting outside Tekrit and Mosel unwilling to go in because it is an arab area. Shingal also stalled maybe because the Peshmergas are not committed to giving up a Kurdish life for a Yuzidi home. Or maybe, the Peshmergas commitment to equality and freedom are really BS like the Turks. The State Department better wake to the new reality of people power in Western Syria. The Central Command certainly recognize the YPG/YPJ fight, but because of the state department idiots and the thanksgiving TURKEY next door, the mission control has to go thru the FSA for air strikes. I have no idea where the YPG/YPJ is getting their ammunition resupply and soon the Kurds in the Kobani Canton will run out of fighters, guns and ammunition to hold on the territory gained.That little surge put on by the extremist fighters put on to link up at the cement plant and the town Sal is a symptom of too much territory and not enough fighters with guns. The synergistic aura arises as one watch the Kobani warriors go into combat and celebrate their victories. Culture and societal change within the YPG/YPJ is thriving. Permanent women fighters and women fighting units will kill the extremist bully and certainly change the female role. As with all bullying gangs (Daesh./ISIS), they will pick on only those to weak to fight back and those unprepared to fight back.

    • Thanks Paul for your comments. The report number was a mistake on my part – it just felt like report 90! It’s been a long time! :) As for the rest of your comments I agree with them entirely. Don’t know if you have read the Rojavan constitutional statement on democracy and equality but it’s very, very good – so good some Western states would have trouble emulating it. All Arab states, and Iraq Kurdistan, are miles away. Sexual equality is probably the key to peace in the Middle East, but until men give up their false belief of superiority and stupid sectarian defensiveness, we won’t be seeing an end to war and fighting any time soon. PC.

  • Joe

    Very rarely is a revolution peaceful – they are bloody, chaotic, desperate times. When viewed from within the turmoil it can seem endless and hopeless, but Assad will fall. It may take a decade and war might rage long after that, but this is a blink of an eye in history. Peace, when it will come and homes have been rebuilt, will be worth all this evil.

  • James

    If the Syrian President falls and his regime disintegrates we will have another failed State like that of Libya and Iraq. No one likes the Dictators
    and their methods but they have to be preferable to what is happening
    now. All the unemployed brainwashed jihadi lunatics from the world over
    given weapons and creating mayhem. Murdering innocents who do not
    conform to their narrow view of how society should be.
    As some Syrians say, we now have Assad but with a beard.
    The ordinary Syrian must deeply regret the Arab spring and wish the clock could be turned back.

    • Thanks for your comments James. While I have no time for the inhuman “brainwashed jihadi lunatics”, who are an extreme danger to us all, I also don’t think we have a right to impose Assad on the Syrian people. He is a murderer of innocents on a vast scale (11,000 children for a start if you have read my latest post) and probably guilty of torturing, imprisoning and killing 200,000 +. The only “state” Assad deserves is a small cell at the ICC. While some Syrians will want to return to the past inevitably, those with a brain who started the fight for freedom will want to see this through until the end. Europe in the Middle Ages was riddled with “failed states”. Although the “Arab Spring” has turned into something of an Arab winter of discontent, it will sort itself eventually, once they abandon sectarianism, though that will take some time. But the right to self-determination is not ours in the West alone – it is everybody’s right. PC.

      • Jak

        While I agree with you, that a leader who pays lip-service to human rights, while running a fascist, dictatorship (complete with secret prisons torture, summary executions etc) is not a potential solution, the analogy with Europe of the Middle Ages, I believe is misleading. Just because Europe was full of states that were dominated by religious (sectarian) power hierarchies (& equal measure of ‘secular’ or ‘religiously inspired’ strongmen) and went through a period of turmoil to come out at the other end with a secular state system (and eventually liberal- recognising and respecting ‘individual rights’- type democracy) is no guarantee that the same is likely or even possible in the Arab or Muslim world.

        With respect Mr Clifford, your comment here has the implication that all religions have the same philisophical constraints, and or methods of replication and that as such the factors determining their place in public life and creating sectarian outlooks are largely similar. I would say that this approach is irrational and inadvertently holds great dangers, and rather each is to be analysed separately. I believe that this extrapolation of the course of Christian religious and application to the Muslim world opens up space for a major threat to the democratic, liberal and/or human-rights values that you espouse.

        I do not know what reading you have done on the faith, but I would be intrigued to find out what reading and research you have done that indicates to you that this path is possible or likely, given the rules laid down by Mohammed in both thought and action, and the precedents set by him as recorded through the quran, hadiths, various treaties and transcribed speeches made by him. I am sad to say that in such cases, I think you will find the alignment with democracy, equality, human (conceived) rights and even secular legal/power system to be dubious at best and highly conflictual at worst.

        ‘Once they abandon sectarianism’, is a huge assumption and does not take into account the forces (from the foundation of the religion to the present day) that are pushing in the other direction (and may even win).

Come on! Feel Free to Say Something!

itizsdewljnwcicpg69m5ud0c99kla647z076rw4rk0s3t5rvo5lr6x0wprs6m8-uvptwq5p-a7f4rhdbbwiwexe5nkae6cbszaj1cu3rbc1l8rqpcpno2nrs3cm2f6o 6a3912c4828bd8bfa72a95c5771e1085