Assad vows to retake Raqa and ‘every inch’ of Syria

AFP reports: President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday said Raqa is not a priority target for his forces, saying his goal is to retake “every inch” of Syrian territory.

“Raqa is a symbol,” Assad said in an interview with French media, while asserting that jihadist attacks carried out in France were “not necessarily prepared” in the Islamic State group (IS) stronghold in Syria.

“You have ISIS close to Damascus, you have them everywhere,” Assad said, using another acronym for IS.

“Everywhere is a priority depending on the development of the battle,” he said, as a new round of peace talks was set to kick off in the Kazakh capital Astana.

“They are in Palmyra now and in the eastern part of Syria,” he said in the interview in Damascus with Europe 1 radio and the TF1 and LCI television channels.

“For us it is all the same, Raqa, Palmyra, Idlib, it’s all the same.”

The Syrian leader said it was the “duty of any government” to regain control of “every inch” of its territory. [Continue reading…]

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Tahrir al-Sham: Al-Qaeda’s latest incarnation in Syria

BBC News reports: The Syrian jihadist group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), known as al-Nusra Front until it broke off formal ties with al-Qaeda last July, has merged with four smaller Syrian factions and rebranded itself as “Tahrir al-Sham”.

The new group’s leader has been named as Hashim al-Sheikh, who previously served as the head of the powerful Islamist rebel group, Ahrar al-Sham.

Ahrar al-Sham itself has refused to join the new body and has been at loggerheads with JFS in northern Syria.

On 9 February, al-Shaikh delivered the group’s first leadership message in which he insisted the new entity was independent and not an extension of former organisations and factions.

By reinventing itself again, JFS appears to be trying to distance itself from its al-Qaeda past and embed itself more deeply within the Syrian insurgency.

No mention has been made of JFS leader Abu Mohammed al-Julani in any of the new group’s communications. But he is widely believed to be serving as its military commander. [Continue reading…]

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How Trump is helping ISIS

Reuters reports: President Donald Trump has set out to crush Islamic State when it is already at a low ebb, but Islamists and some analysts say his actions could strengthen the ultra-hardline group by creating new recruits and inspiring attacks on U.S. soil.

IS has been weakened in recent months by battlefield defeats, the loss of territory in Iraq, Syria and Libya, and a decline in its finances and the size of its fighting forces.

Trump’s pledge to eradicate “Islamic extremism” looks at first sight to be yet another blow to Islamic State’s chances of success.

But Middle East experts and IS supporters say his election triumph could help revive the group’s fortunes. They also believe his move late last month to temporarily ban refugees and bar nationals from seven mainly Muslim countries could work in the group’s favor.

The executive order, on which IS has been silent, is in limbo after being overturned by a judge. But whether or not it is reinstated, it has angered Muslims across the world who, despite Trump’s denials, see it as evidence that he and his administration are Islamophobic. [Continue reading…]

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Yemen withdraws permission for U.S. antiterror ground missions

The New York Times reports: Angry at the civilian casualties incurred last month in the first commando raid authorized by President Trump, Yemen has withdrawn permission for the United States to run Special Operations ground missions against suspected terrorist groups in the country, according to American officials.

Grisly photographs of children apparently killed in the crossfire of a 50-minute firefight during the raid caused outrage in Yemen. A member of the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, Chief Petty Officer William Owens, was also killed in the operation.

While the White House continues to insist that the attack was a “success” — a characterization it repeated on Tuesday — the suspension of commando operations is a setback for Mr. Trump, who has made it clear he plans to take a far more aggressive approach against Islamic militants.

It also calls into question whether the Pentagon will receive permission from the president for far more autonomy in selecting and executing its counterterrorism missions in Yemen, which it sought, unsuccessfully, from President Barack Obama in the last months of his term. [Continue reading…]

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U.S. military: Trump approved first counterterrorism op without sufficient intel, ground support or adequate backup

Reuters reports: The U.S. military said on Wednesday it was looking into whether more civilians were killed in a raid on al Qaeda in Yemen on the weekend, in the first operation authorized by President Donald Trump as commander in chief.

U.S. Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens was killed in the raid on a branch of al Qaeda, also known as AQAP, in al Bayda province, which the Pentagon said also killed 14 militants. However, medics at the scene said about 30 people, including 10 women and children, were killed.

U.S. Central Command said in a statement that an investigating team had “concluded regrettably that civilian non-combatants were likely killed” during Sunday’s raid. It said children may have been among the casualties.

Central Command said its assessment “seeks to determine if there were any still-undetected civilian casualties in the ferocious firefight.”

U.S. military officials told Reuters that Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations.

As a result, three officials said, the attacking SEAL team found itself dropping onto a reinforced al Qaeda base defended by landmines, snipers, and a larger than expected contingent of heavily armed Islamist extremists. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports: Just five days after taking office, over dinner with his newly installed secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, President Trump was presented with the first of what will be many life-or-death decisions: whether to approve a commando raid that risked the lives of American Special Operations forces and foreign civilians alike.

President Barack Obama’s national security aides had reviewed the plans for a risky attack on a small, heavily guarded brick home of a senior Qaeda collaborator in a mountainous village in a remote part of central Yemen. But Mr. Obama did not act because the Pentagon wanted to launch the attack on a moonless night and the next one would come after his term had ended.

With two of his closest advisers, Jared Kushner and Stephen K. Bannon, joining the dinner at the White House along with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Mr. Trump approved sending in the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, hoping the raid early last Sunday would scoop up cellphones and laptop computers that could yield valuable clues about one of the world’s most dangerous terrorist groups. Vice President Mike Pence and Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, also attended the dinner.

As it turned out, almost everything that could go wrong did. And on Wednesday, Mr. Trump flew to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to be present as the body of the American commando killed in the raid was returned home, the first military death on the new commander in chief’s watch.

The death of Chief Petty Officer William Owens came after a chain of mishaps and misjudgments that plunged the elite commandos into a ferocious 50-minute firefight that also left three others wounded and a $75 million aircraft deliberately destroyed. There are allegations — which the Pentagon acknowledged on Wednesday night are most likely correct — that the mission also killed several civilians, including some children. The dead include, by the account of Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Qaeda leader who was killed in a targeted drone strike in 2011. [Continue reading…]

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Eight-year-old American girl ‘killed in Yemen raid approved by Trump’

The Guardian reports: President Donald Trump personally approved a US commando raid in Yemen that left one elite serviceman dead and may have killed an eight-year-old American girl, the US military has told the Guardian.

At least 14 people died in Sunday’s raid by the elite Joint Special Operations Command, which is now the subject of a preliminary inquiry to determine if allegations of civilian deaths are sufficiently credible to merit a full investigation.

The operation was launched to gather intelligence on suspected operations by al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula (AQAP), according to Colonel John Thomas, a spokesman for US Central Command. Planning for the raid “started months before”, under Barack Obama’s administration, but was “not previously approved”, he said.

Thomas said he did not know why the prior administration did not authorize the operation, but said the Obama administration had effectively exercised a “pocket veto” over it.

A former official said the operation had been reviewed several times, but the underlying intelligence was not judged strong enough to justify the risks, and the case was left to the incoming Trump administration to make its own judgment.

An eight-year-old girl, Nawar al-Awlaki, was killed in the raid, according to her family. Nawar, also known as Nora, is the daughter of the al-Qaida propagandist and American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a September 2011 US drone strike in Yemen. Awlaki’s 16-year-old son Abdulrahman was killed in a second drone strike soon afterwards.

On the campaign trail, Trump endorsed killing relatives of terrorist suspects, which is a war crime. “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families,” he told Fox News in December 2015. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s big mistake on Syria refugees

Peter Bergen writes: On Friday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that effectively suspends the entry of Syrian refugees into the United States indefinitely. As he signed the order, President Trump said that this was “to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States.”

This order will achieve absolutely nothing because there is no evidence of terrorists among the Syrian refugees who are settling in the United States.

All the lethal acts of jihadist terrorism in the States since 9/11 have been carried out by American citizens or legal residents, and none of them have been the work of Syrian refugees.

That shouldn’t be too surprising, because the United States has accepted only a minuscule number of Syrian refugees, even though the Syrian civil war is one of the worst humanitarian crises since World War II and has generated a vast outflow of nearly 5 million refugees from Syria.

The United States has taken only around 15,000 Syrian refugees, amounting to a tiny 0.2% of the total number of refugees, the large majority of whom are women and children.

Not only are these Syrian refugees not terrorists, but they are fleeing the brutal state terrorism of the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and the brutal non-state terrorism of ISIS.

The refugees are the victims of terrorism, not the perpetrators of terrorism. [Continue reading…]

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Ousted after the Arab Spring, a former dictator is back

The Washington Post reports: The slim, brown-suited man with the handlebar mustache nodded approvingly.

He stood behind a chair at a ceremony in the summer, watching as his loyalists and rebels signed a power-sharing deal to rule the country. Never mind that peace talks were underway at the time, or that the United Nations had expressed concerns that the deal violated the constitution.

Yemen’s former longtime ruler, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was back.

Ousted during the Arab Spring uprisings, one of the Middle East’s wiliest politicians has risen up again. He is taking advantage of the chaos of conflict and the political inexperience of the rebels to deepen his influence, officials and analysts say. [Continue reading…]

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Ceasefire in Syria: Turkish policy sets Syria on new path

Yezid Sayigh writes: If the ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey holds, it will be welcomed by most people in Syria – but the odds seem stacked against it.

Several previous ceasefires have collapsed, and new clashes have already broken out in several parts of the country amidst sharp differences in interpretation of the latest agreement by the Syrian opposition and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

But not all past ceasefire attempts have failed. And this time dramatic shifts in Turkish policy towards the Syrian conflict may alter everything.

Political investment by major external powers is clearly critical for any ceasefire deal to succeed.

The “cessation of hostilities” that was brokered by the US and Russia in February 2016 produced a major drop in levels of violence in all regime- and opposition-held areas for some two months.

Its eventual collapse was likely, but not inevitable.

Other, more localized ceasefires were mediated by Iran in the city of Homs in May 2014 and January 2015 and by Iran and Turkey in the large towns of Zabadani, Foah and Kefraya in September 2015.

These were flawed and highly coercive arrangements that had to be renegotiated repeatedly, but they allowed the evacuation of fighters and wounded and some supply of humanitarian assistance.

Russia and Turkey appear sufficiently invested politically to make the latest ceasefire work.

But in seeking to encompass all parts of Syria not under Islamic State control, they are hostage to the two parties that have the least stake in a general truce: the Assad regime and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra until ending its formal affiliation to Al-Qaeda last July.

Their gradual military escalation and counter-escalation was the principal reason for the ultimate collapse of the February cessation of hostilities agreement.

Already, the Assad regime has claimed that the latest ceasefire does not include Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. But opposition spokesmen say the opposite: that only areas under IS control are excluded. [Continue reading…]

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Ohio State attacker complained bitterly in Facebook post of treatment of Muslims ‘everywhere,’ reports say

The Washington Post reports: Just minutes before an 18-year-old Somali college student used a car and butcher knife to attack people on the Ohio State University campus Monday morning, he said in a Facebook post that he’d reached a “boiling point” and was “sick and tired” of seeing Muslims around the globe “killed and tortured,” law enforcement officials told CNN and NBC.

The post said the U.S. should stop “interfering” in the Muslim world and referenced “lone wolf” attacks.

The post appeared to be on the Facebook page of the alleged attacker, Ohio State student Abdul Razak Ali Artan, and has since been disabled, reported ABC News. The Post could not independently confirm the story.

On Twitter, CNN’s Jake Tapper shared the full text of the post, which he said law enforcement officials confirmed was connected to Artan.

It began with a general denunciation of violence against Muslims “everywhere,” then referenced specifically the Rohingya Muslim community in Burma, who have been long-persecuted and are denied citizenship and basic rights. While the struggles of the Rohingya Muslims receive little publicity in the U.S., their situation has attracted more attention in recent weeks, as the Post’s Annie Gowen reported. Thousands of them have been fleeing into the forests and neighboring Bangladesh on the heels of a brutal military crackdown that followed a terrorist attack on police posts Oct. 9, allegedly carried out by Rohingya militants.

This week, a United Nations refugee agency official told the BBC that Burmese troops were “killing men, shooting them, slaughtering children, raping women, burning and looting houses, forcing these people to cross the river” into Bangladesh.

The official claimed the government’s goal was “ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority.” [Continue reading…]

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Obama expands war with Al Qaeda and greatly extends Trump’s capabilities and authorities

The New York Times reports: The escalating American military engagement in Somalia has led the Obama administration to expand the legal scope of the war against Al Qaeda, a move that will strengthen President-elect Donald J. Trump’s authority to combat thousands of Islamist fighters in the chaotic Horn of Africa nation.

The administration has decided to deem the Shabab, the Islamist militant group in Somalia, to be part of the armed conflict that Congress authorized against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to senior American officials. The move is intended to shore up the legal basis for an intensifying campaign of airstrikes and other counterterrorism operations, carried out largely in support of African Union and Somali government forces.

The executive branch’s stretching of the 2001 war authorization against the original Al Qaeda to cover other Islamist groups in countries far from Afghanistan — even ones, like the Shabab, that did not exist at the time — has prompted recurring objections from some legal and foreign policy experts.

The Shabab decision is expected to be publicly disclosed next month in a letter to Congress listing global deployments. It is part of the Obama administration’s pattern of relaxing various self-imposed rules for airstrikes against Islamist militants as it tries to help its partner forces in several conflicts. [Continue reading…]

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Obama directs Pentagon to target al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, one of most formidable forces fighting Assad

The Washington Post reports: President Obama has ordered the Pentagon to find and kill the leaders of an al-Qaeda-linked group in Syria that the administration had largely ignored until now and that has been at the vanguard of the fight against the Syrian government, U.S. officials said.

The decision to deploy more drones and intelligence assets against the militant group formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra reflects Obama’s concern that it is turning parts of Syria into a new base of operations for al-Qaeda on Europe’s southern doorstep, the officials said.

The move underlines the extent to which Obama has come to prioritize the counter­terrorism mission in Syria over efforts to pressure President Bashar al-Assad to step aside, as al-Nusra is among the most effective forces­­ battling the Syrian government.

That shift is likely to accelerate once President-elect Donald Trump takes office. Trump has said he will be even more aggressive in going after militants than Obama, a stance that could lead to the expansion of the campaign against al-Nusra, possibly in direct cooperation with Moscow. The group now calls itself Jabhat Fatah al-Sham — or Front for the Conquest of Syria — and says it has broken with al-Qaeda, an assertion discounted by U.S. officials. [Continue reading…]

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ISIS and Al Qaeda turf wars in Africa may push fragile states to breaking point

Jason Burke reports: It is a war within a war, fought across thousands of miles of desert, scrub and forest, from the Atlantic seaboard to the Indian Ocean coastline.

It pits the Islamic State (Isis), the Iraq and Syria-based group that has expanded deep into Africa since surging to international attention in 2014, against al-Qaida, the veteran extremist group, which has maintained a significant presence in much of the continent in recent years.

Both groups and their affiliates are also fighting an array of armies and counter-terrorist agencies: French soldiers, US special forces, British military trainers, as well as the local armies of a dozen states. Last week, it was revealed the US was building a $50m base for drones in Niger, which is at the very centre of the conflict zone.

But at the same time, the extremist groups are fighting each other. Such internecine struggles between militant groups may seem esoteric to casual observers. But the eventual result will have an enormous impact on the security of dozens of often fragile states in Africa and, more broadly, on the future of Islamic militancy.

Though they share many aims, al-Qaida and Isis have divergent strategic visions and favour dramatically different tactics. Al-Qaida has largely avoided attacks on other Muslims, including Shias, and has sought to build support from local communities. Though still committed to strikes in the west, it does not appear to see a terrorist campaign in Europe or the US as a priority. Isis, also known as Isil, has made other Muslims who do not share its beliefs a key target, often used violence to keep local communities in line, and launched bloody attacks in the west. [Continue reading…]

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UN Syria envoy offers to escort Nusra fighters out of eastern Aleppo

The New York Times reports: The top United Nations diplomat for the Syria conflict proposed a new truce on Thursday, in hopes of averting what he called the destruction of rebel-held eastern Aleppo by Russian and Syrian forces. He offered to personally escort the jihadist fighters in the area to safety if the bombing is halted.

The proposal by the diplomat, Staffan de Mistura, reflected his despair over the relentless bombardment by the Syrian military and its Russian allies in the past few weeks, following the collapse of a cease-fire negotiated by Russia and the United States.

But Mr. de Mistura’s proposal also was seen as part of a possible new diplomatic effort to press the Russians over their role in the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Aleppo, the divided Syrian city that was once the country’s commercial capital and is now a sprawling urban kill zone.

Roughly 275,000 people in the rebel-held eastern half of Aleppo have been subjected to indiscriminate aerial bombing that has killed hundreds, including many children. Outside access to that part of the city has been cut off.

Russia, which has been supporting the forces of President Bashar al-Assad for the past year with airstrikes and other military assistance, has said it is not responsible for the killing of civilians.

In Aleppo, the Russians have said, their targets are the radical jihadist fighters of the Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al Qaeda that is also known as the Levant Victory Front. Those fighters are regarded as enemies by the United States and its allies as well as by the Syrian government and Russia.

Speaking to reporters at the United Nations offices in Geneva, Mr. de Mistura said opposition groups had a total of no more than 8,000 fighters in eastern Aleppo, including roughly 900 to 1,000 Nusra members. Their departure from the city, Mr. de Mistura said, would remove any justification by Russia and Syria for the ferocious bombardments. [Continue reading…]

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Tunisian men detail CIA black site torture involving electric chair and more

The Guardian reports: Two Tunisian men held in secret CIA prisons for more than a year have told a leading human rights organization they were tortured with gruesome and previously unknown techniques.

The men, who were released to Tunisian custody in 2015, described being threatened with placement in an electric chair at a black site prison in Afghanistan in 2002; being beaten with metal batons while their arms were suspended by a bar above their heads; and having their heads pushed into barrels of water.

One of the men, Ridha al-Najjar, was a pivotal detainee for the CIA, which believed him to be a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. Najjar was the first man taken by the CIA to the black site, which was code-named Cobalt and was where at least one detainee is known to have died. His interrogation became a template for others at the site, according to the CIA inspector general. Najjar said the interrogators forcibly inserted something into his anus.

According to a footnote in the 2014 Senate intelligence committee’s investigation into torture, John Brennan, now CIA director, was among the senior CIA officials briefed in the summer of 2002 on the interrogation plan for Najjar. According to the Senate report, the plan included isolation, “‘sound disorientation techniques’, ‘sense of time deprivation’, limited light, cold temperatures, and sleep deprivation”.

“There was a barrel full of water, and they kept submerging [my head] in the water,” the other Tunisian man, Lotfi al-Arabi El Gherissi, told Human Rights Watch, which shared the two men’s accounts with the Guardian. [Continue reading…]

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Russia’s brutal bombing of Aleppo may be calculated, and it may be working

Max Fisher writes: The effects of Russia’s bombing campaign in the Syrian city of Aleppo — destroying hospitals and schools, choking off basic supplies, and killing aid workers and hundreds of civilians over just days — raise a question: What could possibly motivate such brutality?

Observers attribute Russia’s bombing to recklessness, cruelty or Moscow’s desperate thrashing in what the White House has called a “quagmire.”

But many analysts take a different view: Russia and its Syrian government allies, they say, could be massacring Aleppo’s civilians as part of a calculated strategy, aimed beyond this one city.

The strategy, more about politics than advancing the battle lines, appears to be designed to pressure rebels to ally themselves with extremists, eroding the rebels’ legitimacy; give Russia veto power over any high-level diplomacy; and exhaust Syrian civilians who might otherwise support the opposition.

This approach could succeed even if pro-government forces never retake Aleppo. A yearlong siege of the city has not brought President Bashar al-Assad’s forces closer to victory. Too weak to win outright, they appear instead to be hedging, trying to weaken the rebels so that they cannot win either, and to ensure any final settlement would be more favorable for Moscow and its allies.

Though killing civilians often backfires in war, in this case it may be all too effective. [Continue reading…]

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The new terror: Even when it fails, it works

Christopher Dickey writes: Police have released the photo of a 28-year-old man originally from Afghanistan, Ahmad Khan Rahami, being sought for questioning in connection with the bombing in New York City on Saturday night. [The suspect has now been arrested.]

According to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, talking to CNN, Rahami should be regarded as “armed and dangerous.”

“Things are moving very quickly,” De Blasio said, but he would not confirm that Rahami was part of an operating cell or that it had connection with jihadists overseas, including al Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State.
What to make of all this?

“Terrorists are now doing what we had long expected them to do and wondered why they didn’t do,” former acting CIA director John McLaughlin told an audience in New York last week. “They are going for soft targets.”

He was talking about attacks in Europe.

This week, he could say the same thing — exactly the same thing — about the United States.

It appears all but certain to counterterrorist officials in Europe and the United States that the long-anticipated jihadist strategy of random terror carried out with such devastating social and political consequences in France and Germany over the last year has now begun in America.

The implications in this deeply troubled election year, right as the United Nations General Assembly is convening in New York City, are enormous. [Continue reading…]

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How our leaders, and would-be leaders, became accomplices in terrorism

Christopher Dickey writes: When President Barack Obama says there will be no more 9/11s, he almost certainly is right, although what’s left of the core al Qaeda leadership still longs for an atrocity worthy of disaster-film director Roland Emmerich.

The bad news: in the Age of Anxiety, as my colleague Michael Weiss calls it, the jihadists have learned they get almost as much social, political and economic impact out of minor events, and even failure, as they do out of “successful” atrocities.

And that’s not so much because of the bad guys as it is because of us.

The terror perpetrated by the few has become a tool used by demagogues — our demagogues — to frighten and sometimes to stampede the masses. (Am I thinking of Donald Trump? Marine Le Pen? Geert Wilders? Boris Johnson in Brexit mode? Yes.)

What we have lost in the 15 years since the horrors of September 11, 2001, is a sense of perspective about the scale of the threat we face. [Continue reading…]

The threat from terrorism is asymmetrical in obvious ways, but fearmongers — with the help of the media — obscure the most significant asymmetry that is evident in the immediate aftermath of every atrocity: the inhumanity of the perpetrators is dwarfed by the humanity evident in the responses of the survivors. In the face of terror, the people who reach out to help each other, vastly outnumber the terrorists. Those whose fears are most susceptible to being purposefully amplified are those who get terrorized at a distance.

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U.S.-Russian Syria ceasefire deal explained

Al Jazeera reports: A nationwide ceasefire by Assad’s forces and the US-backed opposition is set to begin across Syria at sundown on Monday.

That sets off a seven-day period that will allow for humanitarian aid and civilian traffic into Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, which has faced a recent onslaught.

Fighting forces are to also pull back from the Castello Road, a key thoroughfare and access route into Aleppo, and create a “demilitarised zone” around it.

Also on Monday, the US and Russia will begin preparations for the creation of a Joint Implementation Centre that will involve information sharing needed to define areas controlled by the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham group (formerly known as al-Nusra Front) and opposition groups in areas “of active hostilities”.

The centre is expected to be established a week later, and is to launch a broader effort towards delineating other territories in control of various groups.

As part of the arrangement, Russia is expected to keep Syrian air force planes from bombing areas controlled by the opposition. The US has committed to help weaken Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria that has intermingled with the US-backed opposition in several places.

A resumption of political dialogue between the government and opposition under UN mediation, which was halted amid an upsurge in fighting in April, will be sought over the longer term. [Continue reading…]

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