Aleppo. War and diplomacy. P-III

First part of the book is here.

Second part of the book is here.

Strongly recommended to read them first, before reading a third part.

 

Again, a few basic rules:

ALAFF is going to post the whole translation by parts. In this post you will have third part — the chapter «UN initiatives to rescue militants in Aleppo» and its first section «Humanitarian pauses and humanitarian convoys«. Text will be supported by links and photos to enrich the submitted material. Some photos are originally from the book, some from other resources to illustrate material of the book. Feel free to follow the links, as well as click on the images for bigger size. The end of each post will contain footnotes and sources.

In some places there may be a personal ALAFF’ comment — it will be indicated as «ALAFF remark» and it will be highlighted in brown. Naturally, this comment(s) is a personal poin of view and it is not directly related to the book (i.e it is not presented in the book).


 

Structure of the book:

  • Introduction — p.10
  • Aleppo, information war and attempts to contain Russia — p.19
  • UN initiatives to rescue militants in Aleppo — p.48
    • Humanitarian pauses and humanitarian convoys — p.51
    • The initiative of urgent medical evacuation from the Eastern Aleppo — p.68
    • «Egeland’s plan» or blackmail of groupings — p.77
    • Evacuation of «civil activists» — p.89
  • Initiative of S. de Mistura on the withdrawal Jabhat al-Nusra militants from the Eastern Aleppo — p.93
  • Russian-American negotiation on Aleppo and issues of combating terrorism in Syria — p.99
  • A «narrow group» of interested states — a multipolarity or polycentric dualism? — p.163
  • Evacuation of militants from Eastern Aleppo — a unique operation of the Russian military — p.177
  • The liberation of Aleppo and the intensification of military-political efforts to establish an all-Syrian regime for the cessation of hostilities — p.187
  • «Lessons of Aleppo»: geopolitics of the Syrian crisis in the context of the transforming world order — p.213

 

UN initiatives to rescue militants in Aleppo.

As stated above, Russia’s actions to combat terrorists in East Aleppo were accompanied by a noisy campaign staged by the United States and its allies and aimed at containing our country in implementing its course in Syria through the provision of massive pressure through a network of controlled media and NGOs. Unfortunately, the United Nations was partly involved in this destructive and unscrupulous campaign.

It’s no secret that after the collapse of the Soviet Union and during the unipolarity period the Westerners in general, and the Anglo-Saxons in particular, put the UN Secretariat on the rails of servicing their own foreign policy installations. This was noticeable earlier, during the campaign to overthrow the regimes in Iraq and Libya. However, in the context of Syria and, in particular, Aleppo, the United Nations, as the saying is, «revealed» to the fullest.

This is especially true of some UN humanitarian agencies, which have shown themselves in a highly improper manner. However, here we need to consider the following factor. The work of the humanitarian staff on the whole is hidden from the prying eyes (for example, not in vain the British, whose intelligence is considered one of the strongest, so «hold on» for the post of UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs — this post is now occupied by British S. O’Brien, and before that it also belonged to the United Kingdom representative V. Amos).

The public is presented with «external» manifestations of this work (distribution of humanitarian aid, trips of the UN personnel to the conflict-affected countries, assistance to vulnerable categories of the population etc.). At the same time, the most important aspects of humanitarian activity, such as the definition of humanitarian priorities (in whose favor the assistance will be provided, and how this will affect the mood of the local population), «parallel» tasks (first of all, collecting information «on the ground»), matching of humanitarian operations parameters with hostile parties (which implies, among other things, contacts with militants, and sometimes even with terrorists) remain hidden from prying eyes.

In the case of Aleppo, the UN and first of all its humanitarian agencies were literally «neck and neck» with the Americans and their allies, making priority the provision of assistance to the population in the city’s districts controlled by the militants, and duplicating «on behalf of the international community» the demands put forth by the countries interested in rescuing the anti-Assad forces blocked in East Aleppo.

The first step was the politicized decision of the UN Deputy Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs S. O’Brien on September 29, 2016 to include the Eastern Aleppo in the list of besieged areas of Syria [1] — in violation of the criteria used in such cases: the settlement should be completely «sealed» within three months. While Russia and Syria have created humanitarian corridors for the exit of the population, near which there were centers for distribution of humanitarian assistance and mobile clinics (although militants have obstructed those who sought to leave the city).

pic_-_besieged_eastern_aleppo


Siege Watch report #4, available here.

The inclusion of Eastern Aleppo in the category of «blocked areas», being essentially illegal, had a rather strong political charge. It provided an opportunity for Western politicians, the media and human rights activists to fan the theme of «humanitarian tragedy» in the city, to position Moscow and Damascus as violators of «international humanitarian law», and under this pretext to demand the cessation of the counter-terrorist operation of Russia and Syria in Eastern Aleppo.

In this context the United Nations — from the submission of the anti-Assad camp — promoted a whole number of «humanitarian initiatives», at first glance aimed at helping the population of East Aleppo, but in fact aimed at saving the group of militants blocked there, and creating obstacles to the counter-terrorist operation of the Syrian government forces with the support of Russia in the city.

Let’s consider some of these initiatives.

 

Humanitarian pauses and humanitarian convoys.

Beginning in the summer of 2016, the United Nations sought to introduce 48-hour «humanitarian pauses» in Eastern Aleppo in order to get there humanitarian convoys from Turkey. All this was accompanied by literally hysterical attacks in the Humanitarian Task Group of ISSG in Geneva with the demand to Russia (and only to Russia) to agree to the announcement of pauses (their duration varied: first, the United Nations insisted on the introduction of 48-hour «silence», then it dealt with the 72 hours). The humanitarian advisor of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Syria S. de Mistura, the Norwegian J. Egeland, as if without noticing that in the Syrian conflict «on the ground» there’re lot of forces, demanded an ultimatum from Russia to agree to a 48-hour truce for delivering humanitarian aid «to the starving Syrians» [2]. In parallel, starting from July 2016 Western and some Arab media began to promote the story of the «dramatically degrading humanitarian situation in Eastern Aleppo» [3]. Allegedly the population of the city «trapped in the ring of Syrian government forces» is in extreme need of everything. Moreover, everything was submitted through politics: as if the citizens of East Aleppo pay a high price for not supporting the «bloody regime of Assad». Being under the pressure from Western countries, United Nations staff, including the UN Deputy Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs S. O’Brien, began to demand that Russia put in place measures that would allow the humanitarian convoy to be sent to Eastern Aleppo [4].

map2_eng


map No. 2 — The scheme of created by Russia in July 2016 humanitarian corridors for the release of civilians from Eastern Aleppo. // original map in Russian here.

Russia, guided by concern for residents of the eastern districts of the city captured by militants, came out with the initiative to create seven «humanitarian corridors» for the free exit of civilians from the Eastern Aleppo (see map No. 2). This was announced by the Minister of Defense S. Shoigu [5]. Along these «corridors», as well as in the places of immediate evacuation of people, humanitarian centers were set up where the Syrians could receive food, medical and other assistance. One of the corridors (northern one) was intended for the release of militants with weapons. However, this initiative did not suit the West, which began to criticize Russian efforts [6], and at UN meetings called the humanitarian corridors the «corridors of death». The UN, for its part, continued to demand precisely the introduction of humanitarian pauses for sending humanitarian UN convoys to East Aleppo.

Once again Russia agreed to accommodate the requests of humanitarian workers. On August 10, 2016, the Russian Defense Ministry announced its readiness to declare three-hour «humanitarian windows» every day since August 11, during which all military operations, air and artillery strikes cease. The Russian military expressed its readiness to ensure the safe delivery of assistance to citizens of Aleppo [7].

Moreover, suggesting a next initiative, Russia continued to regularly deliver humanitarian aid to Aleppo via bilateral channels, without stipulating it with any preconditions.

However, the three-hour «humanitarian windows» did not suit either the West or the United Nations. Humanitarian workers persistently demanded from Russia to guarantee at least weekly 48-hour humanitarian pauses for the transportation of UN assistance to Aleppo. In so doing, at the meetings of the Humanitarian Task Force on Syria in Geneva the United Nations staff assured: if Russia declares humanitarian pauses, they will be ready immediately, «this instant» to send the convoy with the help to citizens of Aleppo.

map3_ramouse


map No. 3 — The situation in the south of Aleppo, including the Ramouse district (Autumn 2016). // original map here.

As a result, the Russian Defense Ministry on August 18, 2016 made a difficult decision about introducing weekly 48-hour humanitarian pauses in Aleppo, as was required by the UN [8]. Difficult because at this same time there was an active counterterrorism operation of the Syrian Armed Forces with the support of the Russian Aerospace Forces, both in the north of Aleppo and in the south-west (Ramouse district — see map No. 3), where jihadists from Jabhat al-Nusra were entrenched, as well as the numerous so-called «moderate» (in the opinion of Americans) armed groups that joined them — Ahrar al-Sham, Falak al-Sham, Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, Ajnad al-Sham and others. Nevertheless, Russia agreed to stop the fire in order for UN humanitarian assistance to go to Aleppo quarters captured by militants. Moscow also accepted the UN demand that trucks with assistance will go from the territory of Turkey (previously its contents would be checked by the UN). Russia persuaded the government of SAR to direct the Syrian military who were at checkpoints on the Castello road not to inspect the UN humanitarian convoys for a second time in order to shorten the term of the operation. It was solely the safety of UN seals on cars that has to be checked. Despite some skepticism expressed by the Syrian leadership, the Russian General Staff in good faith announced its readiness to implement this idea. Russia together with the UN developed a route from the Bab el-Hava border transition across the Castello road to the blocked quarters (see map No. 4). The order of passage of humanitarian columns through checkpoints of the government is coordinated.

map4_eng


map No. 4 — Developed by Russia and the UN the route of the humanitarian convoy through the Castello road to the blocked quarters of East Aleppo (August 2016). // original map in Russian here.

We repeat, all this happened against the backdrop of constant incantations that «the tragedy of the starving East Aleppo» can be stopped only if Russia agrees to the UN demand for the introduction of 48-hour humanitarian pauses.

What was the reaction of those who demanded the delivery of humanitarian aid to Aleppo?

A number of opposition groups broke out angry statements about the Russian-UN initiative. The so-called «local council» of East Aleppo [9], a self-proclaimed «interim government» [10] (located in Turkish Gaziantep) and a coalition of factions «Fatah Halab» [11] attacked Russia and the United Nations. They rejected the option of delivering assistance along the Castello route. They demanded to send a humanitarian convoy to Eastern Aleppo along the Ramouse road (controlled by terrorists), which in fact would mean sending UN workers in front of bullets.

ALAFF remarktalking about refusal of the «local council» to use Castello road to deliver humanitarian assistance and their demand to use Ramouse road, Maria Khodynskaya-Golenischeva referred (footnote [9]) to the document «Aleppo Local Council. Statement #822, 24.08.2016«. No success to find the original of this document in Internet, but Russian Mission to UN in Geneva on 25 August, 2016 posted a tweet with a photo — a statement that shows exactly the refusal of «local council» to use the Castello road and demand to make Ramouse road as the only way to deliver humanitarian assistance. Original document «Aleppo Local Council. Statement #822» dated of 24 August, 2016, and Russian Mission to UN in Geneva posted a photo on 25 August, 2016 — actually 99,9% probability that the shown document is precisely the document «Aleppo Local Council. Statement #822»:

aleppo_local_council_statement_822

In this, the statement of the «local council» was drawn up in brilliant English. And a petition of the emigrant «interim government» was signed by the «minister» of the regional management, a certain Yaqub al-Iyar.

The commanders of the armed opposition groups told the humanitarian workers that they are not ready to receive assistance from the territories controlled by the Syrian «regime» [12].

They also made it clear that they will not allow aid to the city until all transport routes, including the Ramouse road, are open to free movement, and the «regime» will not set a humanitarian pause in the whole city and the surrounding area. Here we must clarify that according to the rules of the United Nations, the zone of «silence» covered only the routes of the convoy’s movement, the areas of location of the warehouses and distribution of assistance. Truce could not be proclaimed in the south-west of the city, where there were fierce battles to curb the advance of Jabhat al-Nusra. Fulfilling the demand of the militants to declare the southwest a «zone of silence» would mean a conscious withdrawal al-Nusra terrorists from under the fire. All attempts by the UN workers to persuade armed groups to change their minds failed.

A few words about «local councils» by whose guilt the UN humanitarian operation was disrupted.

In the fall of 2016, there were two «councils» of Aleppo — «provincial» and «city». Moreover, both were located outside the city.

«The Council of the Province of Aleppo» was formed in 2013 (elections were held in Gaziantep, Turkey). It was headed by M. Fadyla. It is curious that after the liberation of Aleppo the link to the material of March 2, 2013, which expressed the salutation of the results of the «free and democratic elections» of the local councils of Aleppo, shamefully disappeared from the website of the French Foreign Ministry [13].

ALAFF remark: spending some time, ALAFF was succeed to find and extract from Internet the article that the French Ministry had removed from its website, and here it is:

FD_-_syria_aleppo_municipal_and_provisional_elections

«City Council» was located in the settlement of Atrib (20 kilometers south-west of Aleppo). It was led by Brita Hagi Hasan. This structure was established in 2013 on the initiative of the emigrant oppositional National Coalition of the Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.

The zone of responsibility of these structures was Eastern Aleppo, not being controlled by the government of SAR.

Both councils were established with the direct financial support of Qatar. At a later period the main revenues to the budget of these «local governments» were made from Turkey, the United States, France, Great Britain, Denmark. According to the idea of the «curators», the structures had to be responsible for providing life support and maintaining the security of the population in areas beyond the control of the authorities. The «councils» were formally subordinated to the «interim government in exile» led by Javad Abu Khatab, which operated in Turkey and worked closely with the National Coalition, the United States and their allies.

The leaders of both «councils» were convinced opponents of the «B. Assad’s regime». It was through the fault of «local governments» that the humanitarian convoys to Aleppo, planned in August by the United Nations during the announcement by Russia and the Syrian government of 48-hour «humanitarian pauses», were thwarted. This was done despite the fact that the majority of opposition armed groups in the eastern districts of the city (as was believed in the office of the special envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Syria) were ready to accept convoys with food, even if the column would go along the road of Castello. «Councils» behaved destructively also during the period of «humanitarian pause» for medical evacuation on October 20-22, ripped off by militants.

The «City Council» had a certain influence in the eastern districts of Aleppo, primarily by controlling the bakeries that provided the population with bread. At the same time, outside the control of the «council» was the local «police», which was funded in the framework of the American-Danish project, as well as «Sharia courts».

According to some sources, both «councils» maintained contact with illegal armed groups, as well as with Jabhat al-Nusra (in case of the «city council»).

Bottom line is: the so-called «local governments» were never based in Aleppo and functioned entirely on the funds of external sponsors. The US with its allies kept them, as they say, «for the future». In the case of a full transition of the city under the control of militants, «councils» could be transferred to Aleppo to create there an «alternative opposition capital of Syria». Fortunately, these plans were not destined to come true.

It was precisely «for the future» that Western leaders and the media paid special attention to the leaders of self-proclaimed governing bodies.

Thus, for example, H. Brito along with the head of the Syrian «White Helmets» R. Saleh on October 19, 2016 was received with a fanfare by the President of France F. Hollande [14], and on December 15, 2016 — by the chairman of the European Council D. Tusk [15]. It is interesting, how would they react in Europe to reception at the highest level in one of the countries, for example, the supporters of the independence of Venice, Corsica, Scotland and Catalonia?

Thus, the Syrian opposition disrupted the detailed (plan was already finalized and agreed) Russian-UN humanitarian operation in the areas of Aleppo controlled by opposition. The conclusion is obvious: the «opposition» nurtured by the US, some Europeans and regional players, and the militants patronized by these countries, used the population that was under their control as a hostage to their political games.

Why? The answer is simple. The opposition and its external sponsors (Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United States) were extremely interested in preserving the problem of the «starving» Eastern Aleppo blocked by the «bloody regime of B. Assad» and its supporting Russia. That’s why they sabotaged the UN-Russian humanitarian action. Moreover, it would be unacceptable for the opposition and its curators if the World would saw that at the request of the United Nations Russia created all the conditions for the delivery of assistance to the areas of Syria controlled by the militants. This would raise Moscow’s rating in the eyes of the local population, held by jihadists as a «human shield».

According to the UN staff themselves, in order to break the resistance of the militants in relation to the humanitarian operation in Aleppo, they turned to the patrons of the «opposition» from among the regional players. Including directly to Qatar. But they have received a categorical refusal: no humanitarian aid if it comes along a route controlled by the «regime».

What were the actions and reaction of the UN in these conditions?

The UN cancelled the humanitarian operation in Aleppo, even despite the fact that Russia urged it not to obey the militants and still to deliver help. The office of S. de Mistura made a neat statement that «the Special Representative regrets the negative reaction in some circles of the opposition» to the proposals of the United Nations and Russia on the delivery of assistance [16].

Though Americans were noticeably embarrassed by the behavior of the «oppositionists» and militants, nevertheless they quickly navigated the situation. On September 15, 2016 at a meeting of the Humanitarian Task Force, the US delegation did not hesitate to say that it treats the requirements of field commanders «with understanding». If only Moscow would agree to the introduction of humanitarian pauses «on the entire territory of Aleppo» (that is, including the southwest, where al-Nusra was in charge), then the opposition would «generously accept» UN humanitarian aid. This is a hypocritical approach — because the UN has never asked Russia to extend the «silence regime» to the southwest. It was exclusively about the routes of humanitarian columns and distribution zones of assistance. And Moscow fully provided the UN demands.

As a result, 40 loaded trucks, standing on the neutral strip of the Turkish-Syrian border for about two weeks, were reoriented to other populated areas or disassembled. It was made without noise. And it is not surprising — after all, at the height of emotional appeals to Russia to agree on humanitarian pauses, the UN staff pressured Russian diplomats on the terms of a humanitarian pause, complaining that the food in the trucks is already beginning to decay. As it turned out, it was not true.

By the way, interesting details were revealed here. Drivers who were hired on a regular basis by UN to deliver humanitarian goods from Turkey to the SAR, either had expired driver’s license, or did not have any documents at all. Trucks were more like trash: holes in the bodies (which made senseless the practice of sealing them with UN seals), the lack of any kind of humanitarian marking to identify convoys from the ground and especially from the air. When driving through territory controlled by militants, the cars were unaccompanied along the routes that the driver determined by himself. Such a complete «lack of discipline» on the part of the United Nations (whether it was intentional?) represented the possibility of using these columns to deliver «targeted» assistance to the militants.

Thus, in August 2016, ordinary residents of Eastern Aleppo became a bargaining chip in the unscrupulous game of those who were interested in changing the regime in Syria.

Western media and NGOs, not noticing the behavior of the «opposition» and the militants, continued the tantrum over the «cynicism of Russia» regarding the suffering of the peaceful population of Aleppo [17].

We should focus separately on the role of the United States in these events. According to the author, the failure of the humanitarian operation in East Aleppo, especially considering Moscow’s consent to facilitate its implementation, contradicted American interests. It demonstrated the limited capabilities of Washington in cases when it is necessary to achieve from the allegedly controlled forces «on the ground» the implementation of humanitarian plans agreed with the UN and Russia. There is no doubt that it was the «allies» of the United States who did not allow the realization of the humanitarian operation, giving the command to armed groups to sabotage the corresponding efforts.

The question is: what Turkey, KSA and Qatar persecuted with their demarche? The answer seems to be that Ankara, Riyadh and Doha, the alliance between which by that time was very strong, were dissatisfied with the Russian-American negotiations on the establishment of a joint structure to combat terrorism. During these consultations, which at that time took place in Geneva without the participation of the regional players, Washington even formally but was forced to agree, including publicly, with the need to separate the terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra and the «moderate» ones. This of course could not but irritate the regional troika, for which al-Nusra was the most capable force in Eastern Aleppo — under its «umbrella» all the other factions acted. The regime for the cessation of hostilities in the city, agreed by Moscow and Washington, also did not meet the tasks of the three countries that spent a lot of money on fueling the IAF [18] in East Aleppo. Under the conditions when the regional players could not openly oppose the Russian-American agreements, they found the opportunity to sabotage any positive initiatives through forces that they supervised «in the field».


[1] ISSG Progress on Access: Overview of inter-agency assistance provided to UN designated besieged locations in Syria (as of 5 October 2016).

[2] Nebehay S. U.N. Wants Russia to Agree «Workable Humanitarian Pause» in Aleppo / S. Nebehay // Reuters. 11 August 2016.

https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-mideast-crisis-syria-un/u-n-wants-russia-to-agree-workable-humanitarian-pause-in-aleppo-idUKKCN10M174

[3] Syrians must not be forced out of Aleppo, UN says. 23 July 2016 //

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/afp/2016/07/syria-conflict-aleppo-un.html#ixzz4JJrCZ8Mu

[4] International Criticism over Russian «Humanitarian» Plan in Aleppo. 30 July 2016 //

https://eng-archive.aawsat.com/taha-abed-alwahed/news-middle-east/international-criticism-russian-humanitarian-plan-aleppo

[5] Shoigu announced the launch of a large-scale humanitarian operation in Aleppo on July 28, 2016 //

http://vz.ru/news/2016/7/28/823948.html

[6] Syria: UN considers role in Russia’s ‘deeply flawed’ humanitarian corridors plan // The Guardian. 2016. 5 August.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/05/syria-un-considers-role-in-russias-deeply-flawed-humanitarian-corridors-plan

[7] Speech of the Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Lieutenant-General Sergei Rudskoy before media representatives. 10.08.2016 //

http://syria.mil.ru/en/index/syria/news/more.htm?id=12092560@egNews

original in Russian — http://function.mil.ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12092560@egNews

[8] The Ministry of Defense announced its intention to make a 48-hour «humanitarian pause» in Aleppo. 18 August, 2016 //

http://www3.vz.ru/news/2016/8/18/827568.html

[9] Aleppo Local Council. Statement #822 24.08.2016

supposed to be this — https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Cqsq5BIXEAARCeO.jpg:large

the image is taken from here.

[10] (text written in Arabic) 25.8.2016

see a photo from the book here.

[11] (text written in Arabic) 26.8.2016

see a photo from the book here.

[12] Sanchez R. UN Says Armed Syrian Groups Blocking Aleppo Aid For «Political Gain» / R. Sanchez // The Telegraph. 2016. 12 September.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/14/un-says-armed-syrian-groups-blocking-aid-to-aleppo-for-political/

[13] Aleppo Municipal and Provisional Elections. 2 March 2013 //

the original link that Maria Khodynskaya-Golenischeva gave in her book — deleted from the website.

check out restored version here.

[14] Imbert L. A Paris, des Elus pro-Assad Ciblent les Casques Blancs Syriens / L. Imbert // Le Monde. 2016. 19 Octobre.

http://www.lemonde.fr/syrie/article/2016/10/19/a-paris-des-elus-pro-assad-ciblent-les-casques-blancs-syriens_5016241_1618247.html

[15] Remarks by President Donald Tusk After His Meeting With Brita Hagi Hasan, President of the Local Council of Eastern Aleppo. 15 December 2016 //

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2016/12/15-tusk-meeting-hasan-aleppo/

[16] Media Statement by the Offcie of the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. Staffan de Mistura. Geneva, 27 August 2016 //

http://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/note-correspondents/2016-08-27/media-statement-office-united-nations-special-envoy-syria

[17] Lema L. Quand Le Cynisme Rend Impossible Toute Courte Trevea Alep / L. Lema // Le Temps. 2016. 30 Aout.

https://www.letemps.ch/monde/2016/08/30/coulisses-tragedie-dalep

[18] Illegal Armed Formations

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