south front

Instant Karma For Al-Qaeda Affiliates In Syria’s Greater Idlib
South Front, Jun 23 2021

The situation in Northern Syria remains as volatile as ever, with the Syrian Arab Army exchanging fire with militants in the Idlib governorate. On Jun 20, five munitions fired from the northwestern Syrian region of Greater Idlib by militants hit the government-held town of Jurin in the al-Ghab Plains in the northwestern countryside of Hama. The munitions landed in residential areas killing a little girl and wounding her brother. The government forces’ response to the ceasefire violation came fast. Since the morning of Jun 21, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has been shelling Turkish-backed armed opposition groups. Several casualties were reported, including one commander of the National Liberation Front (NLF). The SAA artillery targeted the suburbs of the towns of al-Bara, Ehsim, Kansafra, Mashoun and Fleifel, in the Zawiya Mountain area. The shelling resulted in the killing of at least 2 fighters of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and 5 NLF members. The shelling of Syrian government forces was reportedly conducted with air support by Russian warplanes and drones which were spotted over the countryside of Idlib, Hama and Latakia, without conducting any air strikes. The exchange of fire continues.

The SAA reportedly shelled the militant positions in the vicinity of the city of Ariha, in the localities of al-Bara, Kansafra, Ihsim, and Khirbat al-Naqus. Meanwhile, militants have continued their attacks on the villages and towns in Hama countryside. From their positions in al-Sarmanieh village on the northwestern al-Ghab plain, they again shelled civilian settlements in Jourin town. Amid the ongoing escalation, the Syrian state outlet SANA reported that HTS is preparing to stage an attack with chemical agents in Syria’s Idlib and Hama provinces. According to the Syrian Foreign Ministry, the HTS terrorists, together with assistance from the White Helmets ‘rescue organizations’ are making preparations to stage a chemical attack. According to the Foreign Ministry, barrels with poisonous substances have recently been delivered through the border settlement of Bab Al-Hawa to the settlement of Atma, where a chemical factory is located.

Turkey is yet to undertake any moves to respond to the SAA shelling on Idlib groups that it backs. This is likely because its hands are busy with northeastern Syria, and dealing with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). According to the SDF, on Jun 22, Turkish forces and the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (TFSA) fired rockets at the positions of the Kurdish forces in the northwestern part of the Manbij district. Turkish artillery struck the Rafiyah and Hawshariyah areas; clashes were reported on the fronts of Tukhar al-Saghir, Muhsanli, Arab Hassan, Hamran, and Yalishli. 3 SDF fighters were reportedly wounded in Rafiyah. The SDF’s Manbij Military Council announced that the Turkish army had previously shelled al-Sayyadah, al-Dandaniyah, al-Jamousiyah, and al-Farat villages with mortars fired from their bases in Sheikh Nasr and al-Yalishli villages, causing damage to civilian properties. Meanwhile, the SDF is also carrying out an operation in Deir ez-Zor, besieging the town of Al-Busairah in the eastern countryside of the city, with the aerial support of the US Coalition’s helicopters. Local sources from the town stated that SDF gunmen had imposed a security cordon around the city, preventing entry and exit. Northern Syria is in a constant state of chaos, in a sort of free-for-all, with each side mostly fighting the others.

The Taliban Rush At Full Tilt To Capture More Strategic Districts In Afghanistan
South Front, Jun 22 2021

The US pull-out from Afghanistan is moving according to plan, while the Taliban are capturing district after district. On Jun 21, Taliban fighters took control of a key district in Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province, encircling the capital of the same name. Fighting around the Imam Sahib district began late on Jun 20 and by midday the next day, the Taliban had overrun the district headquarters and were in control of the police headquarters. Imam Sahib is strategically located near Afghanistan’s northern border with Tajikistan, a key supply route from Central Asia. Taliban spokesman Zabih’ullah Mujahed confirmed that the Imam Sahib district was in Taliban hands. Dozens of districts have fallen to the Taliban since May 1, when US and NATO troops began their final departure from Afghanistan. The Taliban have taken several regions across the three northern provinces of Kunduz, Baghlan and Balkh. Significantly, witnesses said the Doshi district in Baghlan province was in Taliban hands. This means the Taliban have assumed control of the one road that links five northern provinces to the capital Kabul. Government forces later claimed the recapture of the Doshi area, but the Taliban is still active in the district, capturing more areas and seizing more military equipment in bases left by national forces. Similarly, to the Imam Sahib district in northern Kunduz, the significance of the captured districts often lies in their proximity to roads and major cities. The Maywand district in Kandahar province fell to the Taliban after a tunnel bombing targeting the main Afghanistan Armed Forces base in the area.

The Taliban have circulated videos on their website and to WhatsApp groups in which they claim show government soldiers who have surrendered being promised to return to their homes and receiving money from the Taliban. On Jun 20, Taliban leader Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhunzada issued a statement ordering his soldiers to “treat those who surrender well and display good behavior with them.” The Afghan Armed Forces, in response, continue their operations, but they have had limited success, despite reports of heavy casualties on the Taliban side. 147 Taliban militants were killed and 53 others were wounded as a result of Afghan Army operations in Nangarhar, Laghman, Uruzgan, Kandahar, Zabul, Faryab, Balkh, Helmand, Nimruz and Kunduz provinces just on Jun 20, according to the Afghan Defense Ministry. Instead of gains in these provinces, the Afghan Armed Forces are losing ground. Biden will meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani soon, the White House said. Biden’s talks with Ghani will be their first face-to-face meeting. The US leader is set to pledge diplomatic, economic and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan to prevent it from becoming a haven for militants. Meanwhile, Turkey is attempting to implement itself into the solution in Afghanistan, and assume control of Kabul International Airport, how it will potentially fare against the Taliban remains a mystery. Any significant success is mostly unexpected.

US DoJ Acknowledged Seizure Of Dozens Of Domains, Including PressTV, Al Masirah
South Front, Jun 22 2021

On Jun 22, the US seized 33 websites used by the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union (IRTVU) and three websites operated by Kata’ib Hizballah (KH), in violation of US sanctions. The fact was later acknowledged by the US Dept of Justice. The statement by the US DoJ said:

On Oct 22 2020, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated IRTVU as a Specially Designated National (SDN) for being owned or controlled by the IRGC. SDNs are prohibited from obtaining services, including website and domain services, in the US without an OFAC license. OFAC’s announcement explained that components of the government of Iran, to include IRTVU and others like it, disguised as news organizations or media outlets, targeted the US with disinformation campaigns and malign influence operations. Thirty-three of the websites seized today were operated by IRTVU. The 33 domains are owned by a US company. IRTVU did not obtain a license from OFAC prior to utilizing the domain names.

These website seizures were insvestigated by the US Dept of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement and the FBI. The National Security Division’s Counter-Intelligence and Export Control Section prosecuted the seizure. Visitors to leading Iranian media sites such as Press TV and Al-Alam, the country’s main English-language and Arabic-language broadcasters, as well as the Al-Masirah TV channel of Yemen’s Houthis (as Ansar Allah movement is known), were met with single-page statements, declaring the website has been seized by the USG, accompanied by the seals of the FBI and the US Commerce Dept. Both IRTVU and IRGC have been placed on the US sanctions blacklist, making it illegal for Americans, US companies and foreign or non-American companies with US subsidiaries to have business with them or their subsidiaries. The US government also took over the domain name of the news website Palestine Today, which reflects the viewpoints of Gaza-based groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, redirecting the site to the same notice. Bahrain’s LuaLua TV, a channel run by opposition groups with offices in London and Beirut, was also seized by the US. IRIB accused the US of repressing freedom of expression and joining forces with Israel and Saudi Arabia “to block pro-resistance media outlets exposing the crimes of US allies in the region.” On the website of their political wing, the Houthis branded the action “American piracy and copyright confiscation.” They said:

The government of the USA is banning the Al-Masirah website without any justification or even prior notice.

The move comes just days after the election victory of Iran’s hardline judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, known for his hostility to western countries. Raisi took a hardline position in his first news conference. He ruled out the possibilities of meeting US President Joe Biden or negotiating over Tehran’s ballistic missile programme and support for regional militias – concerns the Biden administration wants to address in future talks. Press TV, launched in Jun 2007, is perhaps the most well known of the seized sites. It is the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting’s (IRIB) English-language service. This also presents a precedent, in which the US can choose any website, at all, and deem it ‘harmful’, seize it and impose censorship for arbitrary reasons.

The End Of Global Internet: US Seized Foreign Domains
South Front, Jun 22 2021

On Jun 22, the US Department of Justice seized a number of websites of Iranian, Palestinian, Yemeni, Iraqi news channels. According to the reports, at the moment, the list of victims of US ‘democratic move’ includes:

  • PressTV (Iran)
  • PalToday (Palestine)
  • Al-Masirah TV (Yemen)
  • Al-Alam TV (Iran)
  • Nabaa TV
  • KafMedia (Iraq)
  • LuaLua TV

The seizures affected only the .com and .net domains that are under US jurisdiction. Among the targeted websites, there is Tehran’s state media agency Press TV that is the international English-language service of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting. Al-Alam is another news channel broadcasting from Iran in Arabic, Farsi and English. Another victim is Al-Masirah that is owned by Ansar Allah (the Houthis) with headquartered in Beirut, Lebanon. The US State Dept is still to comment on blocking of the websites of TV channels. They will say only:

At the moment, we have nothing to say about this. Probably, the Dept of Justice will soon provide some information on this issue.

Until there are no official comments, the possibility of a cyber attack remains. At the same time, Washington has still a room for maneuver. If realizing the gravity of such a censorship, it may blame the attack on any “secret cyber group” and after that backpedal. However, such a delayed response of the US Ministry of Justice is a already a signal. Probably, today, we are once again facing the new round of application of the Overton window approach regarding freedom of speech. Washington has consistently been moving towards this unprecedented step. At first, disinformation campaigns, discrediting and blackmailing of independent media became the norm. Further, the persecution of journalists and editors became the common practice. Further, the Americans used to introduce personal and group sanctions, freezing (in other words ‘stealing’) individual funds of undesirable persons. Further, there were arrests and even kidnappings of those who went beyond the American agenda. Realizing their impunity, the White House started to block the independent media and objectionable news agencies. The Big Techs, controlled by the White House, began to scour the information space from content that, according to Washington, could pose a threat to the promotion of the interests of the American elites. Since the above measures did not bring the desirable results, the Americans decided to take the next step and completely block domains of its ‘foes.‘ Thus, today, we can proclaim the death of global Internet. This is a signal to the whole world and an open declaration of US imperial dominance.

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