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Showing posts from February 27, 2016

Syria ceasefire comes into force under US-Russia deal

A landmark United Nations-backed ceasefire has come into effect in Syria - the first major truce in a five-year civil war that has claimed more than 270,000 lives.

Fighting raged right up until the ceasefire took force at midnight (8:00am AEST), but guns then fell silent in the Damascus suburbs and the devastated northern city of Aleppo, AFP correspondents said.

Russia and the United States, the sponsors of the ceasefire deal, have said applying it will be difficult in a country that has been torn apart by a conflict that broke out in March 2011.

US President Barack Obama has warned Damascus and its key ally Moscow that the "world will be watching".

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said Syria peace talks which collapsed earlier this month in Geneva would resume on March 7 if the ceasefire held and more aid was delivered.

Less than an hour before the ceasefire, the UN Security Council gave its unanimous backing to a resolution drafted by the US and Russia, demanding that it be upheld.

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Newly Translated WikiLeaks Saudi Cable Overthrow the Syrian Regime, but Play Nice with Russia

By Brad Hoff 
IT IS NO SECRET that Saudi Arabia, along with its Gulf and Western allies, has played a direct role in fueling the fires of grinding sectarian conflict that has kept Syria burning for the past five years. It is also no secret that Russian intervention has radically altered the kingdom’s “regime change” calculus in effect since at least 2011. But an internal Saudi government cable sheds new light on the kingdom’s current threats of military escalation in Syria. Overthrow the Regime “by all means available” A WikiLeaks cable released as part of “The Saudi Cables” in the summer of 2015, now fully translated here for the first time, reveals what the Saudis feared most in the early years of the war: Russian military intervention and Syrian retaliation. These fears were such that the kingdom directed its media “not to oppose Russian figures and to avoid insulting them” at the time. Saudi Arabia had further miscalculated that the “Russian position” of preserving the Assad governmen…

End Times for the Caliphate?

By Patrick Cockburn

The war in Syria and Iraq has produced two new de facto states in the last five years and enabled a third quasi-state greatly to expand its territory and power. The two new states, though unrecognised internationally, are stronger militarily and politically than most members of the UN. One is the Islamic State, which established its caliphate in eastern Syria and western Iraq in the summer of 2014 after capturing Mosul and defeating the Iraqi army. The second is Rojava, as the Syrian Kurds call the area they gained control of when the Syrian army largely withdrew in 2012, and which now, thanks to a series of victories over IS, stretches across northern Syria between the Tigris and Euphrates. In Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), already highly autonomous, took advantage of IS’s destruction of Baghdad’s authority in northern Iraq to expand its territory by 40 per cent, taking over areas long disputed between itself and Baghdad, including the Kirkuk oilfie…