The siege of Deir ez-Zor has ended

Deir ez-Zor was a beautiful city on the shores of the Euphrates River, surrounded by a fertile and prosperous farming area. It was also a tourist destination with riverbank restaurants, hotels, and a hub for trans-desert travels.

The Armenian Genocide Martyrs’ Memorial Church, completed in 1990, was not only a church, but also a museum, monument, archive centre, and exhibition. Every year in April thousands of Armenian pilgrims from all over the world descended onto Deir ez-Zor to commemorate the genocide victims in the presence of their religious leaders. In September 2014 the Church and all attached buildings were destroyed by the terrorists of IS (Islamic State).

The beautiful suspension bridge across the Euphrates was another famous tourist attraction, it is destroyed now as well. 

An epic battle

In 2013 a coalition of various Islamic militias, among them Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, captured most of Deir ez-Zor province and part of the capital city (in Syria, a province and its capital always have the same name), but soon infighting between the militias started and in April 2014 IS launched an offensive against their fellow jihadists which resulted in the total defeat of the other groups. In July IS controlled the whole Deir ez-Zor province with the exception of Deir ez-Zor city.

After closing all roads and cutting off power lines and communication cables to the city enclave, IS in December 2014 launched an offensive against the Deir ez-Zor military air base. During three days of fighting, some 200 Islamic fighters and 43 Syrian soldiers were killed. IS could penetrate the air base and seize a strategic mountain plus two nearby villages, but the Syrian army eventually repelled the offensive.

Several other attacks on the enclave followed and failed, yet in January 2016 a massive attack which included six SVBIEDs (suicide-vehicle-born-explosive-devices) overran the Baghiliya and Ayyash neighborhoods of the city. Some 400 civilians were captured and mostly executed (beheaded).

IS then assaulted the Sina’ah district, the industrial zone, the Thayyem Oil Fields and the strategic Jebel (mountain) Tharda. Heavy Russian air-strikes helped the troops stationed on the mountain to fend off the militants.

In September 2016, US and allied fighter aircrafts attacked Syrian positions on Jebel Tharda, killing over 80 soldiers and wounding 110 more in a two hour long raid. IS launched a broad offensive immediately after the bombing and was finally able to take Jebel Tharda and subsequently the whole mountainous areas overlooking the airport. This made the air base unusable for Syrian and Russian aircrafts, as the runway was exposed to IS fire.

Considering all known facts, the repeated averments and declarations of US-military spokespersons that the air raids were a mistake are implausible and unconvincing, the only explanation which makes sense is that the US-coalition jets were sent to help IS overrun the enclave.

In January 2017, IS was able to take the cemetery area and cut the road between Deir ez-Zor airport and the city, leaving the enclave split in two.

After that IS conducted waves of attacks on a daily basis, which were ultimately all repelled. Most of the attack were directed at the Panorama roundabout, the 137th regiment military base, and two hills at the southern entrance to the city.

Suffering and heroism

The three year long siege of Deir Ez-Zor by the Islamic State terrorists has ended now. After the victory in Aleppo this is another pivotal moment in the Syrian war and it will energize the defenders of Syria and demoralize the attacking jihadists.

The legendary commander of the “Tiger Forces” General Suheil al-Hassan personally led the offensive to relief Deir ez-Zor. He and his men were also responsible for breaking the siege of the Kuweires airport in November 2015. Kuweires is another epic tale of suffering and endurance, as only 300 of the 1,100 defenders survived.

During the siege of Deir ez-Zor the population of the city has decreased from 210,000 to 120,000, as many civilians have been evacuated via helicopter and an untold number of both soldiers and civilians died. The siege resulted in widespread malnutrition and starvation, though since 2015 Russia and the UN World Food Program have conducted airdrops of food and other humanitarian supplies to the besieged city. There is no electricity, a few power generators are used to pump water from wells and the river, but the water can be supplied only twice a week and it is untreated because IS has destroyed all treatment facilities with mortars and rockets.

The people of DeZ have suffered beyond comprehension, facing certain death at the hands of the Islamic terrorists in case of a defeat. The ones that stubbornly remained in the enclave are all ardent supporters of the Baath government and none of them would have been spared the wrath of IS.

It will never be known how many people parished during the siege, but the death toll includes for sure more than 2,000 Syrian soldiers and about 6,000 to 8,000 IS-fighters. In the war against IS, Deir ez-Zor may in fact be even more important that the Kurdish city Kobane, since it was the battlefield wich proved most costly to the terror organization. Many jihadists died in a massive minefield to the east of the city and the desert around the enclave is littered with corpses, left rotting in the blistering sun because it would be suicidal to retrieve them as snipers and gunners on both sides look for targets.

Deir Ez-Zor was defended by the elite Republican Guards of the 104th Airborne Brigade, which are led by the highly respected and famed General Issam Zahreddine. He took over the garrison after General Jameh Jameh was killed by a sniper. In November 2013, while commanding his forces in al-Rashdiya district, Zahreddine was wounded in the leg by a bullet. Zahreddine is a Druze, his son Yarob is also in the city, fighting alongside him. General Zahreddine is also on a EU sanctions list, a batch of honor he certainly will be proud of and enjoy.

New troops were brought in and wounded soldiers evacuated via helicopter, but this was always dangerous and could only be done in the night as IS tried to hit the helicopters with all available means. One Mi-8 helicopter was lost and a few others barely escaped attacks by guided missiles.

No words can describe the steadfastness and heroism of the garrison. This is, together with the victory in Aleppo, the most significant and iconic battle victory through the entire Syrian war. Books will be written and movies directed, the surviving defenders in the city enclave will be honored, praised, saluted, and never forgotten. They have made history.

How it happened

The biggest town between Palmyra and Deir-ez-Zor is al-Suknah, and the fight for it was bitter and bloody. The town could only be taken after it was approached from several axis, it is a wasteland now and sappers are still working to defuse mines and booby traps.

While approaching al-Suknah from Palmyra and al-Resafa, the Syrian forces cut off IS militants in two huge but sparsely populated pockets, consisting mainly of desert area with small isolated villages. The eastern one is cleared now, the western one is constantly shrinking and Ukayribat, the main town in this pocket, has just been liberated in a fierce battle after several failed attempts and setbacks due to IS suicide attacks. At the moment there is only a small area near al-Salamiya still under Islamist control.

There was also the option to reach Deir-ez-Zor in a push along the Euphrates River via al-Maadan, but IS recaptured a string of villages on the river in a devastating counteroffensive, killing more than 100 Syrian troops. The transfer of IS forces to al-Maadan though left the area between al-Suknah and Deir-ez-Zor exposed.

The terrain after al-Suknah is rather flat with the only exception of Jebel Bisri west of the city, so advancing from there was much easier than from Palmyra to Suknah. Jebel Bisri and the al-Kharata oilfield between Bisri and Deir-ez-Zor were captured surprisingly fast, indicating that IS-defense lines had collapsed.

The Syrian army (including Tiger Forces and Shaitat fighters) advanced on two fronts east of al-Suknah (Ayyash and Hrybsheh near Kabajeb) to meet at al-Shulah. They dismantled an IS communications network (sixth communication tower) near al-Shula and detained a large group of IS-members. The IS supply lines to the Deir ez-Zor front were largely cut.

A small special unit infiltrated under heavy air support IS positions at brigade 137 on the western edge of the city from the rear which allowed the defenders inside to retake several positions, while the army, Hezbollah, Republican guard, Tiger forces, Palestinian Galilee Forces, and 4th Division units, who were just days ago sent from Damascus, tried to establish a corridor to the Panorama Roundabout.

The effort was immens on both sides. IS hastily had sent reinforcements from al-Maadan back to the western and southern entrance of the city and also mobilized every single one of their fighters positioned near the enclave. They made a suicidal last stand, outnumbered, outsmarted, and an easy target for jets and artillery in the open desert. It would have made more sense to withdraw and disperse in the desert, but they chose getting slaughtered on the frontline.

IS tried to stop government troops advances by sending over a dozen of SVBIEDs against Syrian troops. Most of them were destroyed by the Russian Air Force, some were destroyed by anti-tank missiles. A Russian frigate in the Mediterranean Sea fired Kalibr cruise missiles at strategic IS targets, destroying a communications and command centre, ammunition depots, and an armored vehicle repair shop. Two Russian soldiers were killed, when their vehicle column was hit. IS also counter attacked on the northern flank of the Tiger Forces offensive in the vicinity of the al-Kharata oilfield.

In the Shoula area IS managed to get behind Syrian forces and to ambush an army unit, however, the attack was repelled eventually. As a result of the ambush, the army had to retreat temporarily. 

Meanwhile soldiers in the enclave were franticly working to open loopholes in the minefields to enable safe passage of arriving units and of the trucks full with food and medicine which they brought with them.

The air base was approached via the Al Tayyim Oil Well. This is a strategic important point wich allows the linking of the air base with the city and the recapture of the cemetery.

When finally a dozen Syrian tanks plus support vehicles entered the Brigade 137 base, it was clear that the siege had been broken. The new corridor is wide enough to allow a safe transfer of troops and supplies.

Already before this arrival the army had raised the Flag of the Syrian Arab Republic in the Armenian Cemetery at the southern entrance of Deir ez-Zor, only five kilometer from the Panorama Roundabout, and Governor Mohammed Ibrahim Samra had declared the end of the siege. The residents of Deir ez-Zor are celebrating in the streets since three days despite mortars and artillery shells from IS still raining down onto them.

Fighting is not over yet and it will take some days till the IS holdouts in the cemetery area and in the northern parts of the city have been eliminated.

Final notes

This development is so significant that not even Western mainstream media can ignore it and first reports appeared already on Reuters, AP, and the British Independent. The Syrian broadcaster SANA has started a life stream on YouTube which is watched by thousands, the Twitter and Facebook scene is buzzing with news, questions, and comments. This is big news, this is a game changer, this is a big moral boost for all Syrians who support the secular state, no matter how Western propagandists will try to spin it.

The relief of the siege has also geopolitical consequences, as it opens the way to Al-Qaim and Al-Bukamal on the Iraqi border. Palmyra, Sukhna, Deir ez-Zor, al-Bukamal are important links in the direct land route from Iran to Lebanon, which could become the backbone of the “Shia Crescent”.

The US-coalition pressures the Kurdish led SDF forces to reach al-Bukamal via the Khabur route, following the Khabur River from southern Hasakah province into Deir ez-Zor province. At al-Busayrah, where the Khabur meets the Euphrates, SDF forces would march south along the eastern bank of the Euphrates toward Mayadin and from there to al-Bukamal. As long as the SDF is fighting in Raqqa such an offensive is not likely, but after the fall of Raqqa there could be a tough race between the Syrian army and the SDF towards al-Bukamal.

One last word:

This is war, and though the inhabitants of Deir ez-Zor and with them all Syrians are more than entitled to celebrate this victory, an uninvolved observer has to remain sober and reflective. Whatever helps to avoid death and destruction has to be done, and the constant reconciliation and appeasement efforts of the Assad government and Russia are the right way, even if crimes remain unpunished and perpetrators evade justice.

It may not be possible to integrate the most severe cases, the psychopathic, unrepentant, remorseless, unalterable criminals back into society. They will have to be neutralized somehow. Other than that though, everyone deserves another chance to join humankind.



Another map:


Links September 2017

As Harvey devastated Texas, catastrophic floods unfolded in South Asia, mostly unnoticed in Western media. Monsoon rains have caused deluges and landslides affecting 41 million people in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal, resulting in the death of more than 1,200 people.

Frequent floods in South Asia are common in the monsoon season between June and September. But this is “one of the most serious humanitarian crises” the region has seen in many years, according to Martin Faller, deputy regional director for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Aid organizations try to provide food and shelter for stranded victims, while the risk of water born diseases like Cholera, Hepatitis A, Leptospirosis, Typhoid, Malaria, Dengue fever grows.

The crisis has been going on since mid-August and the downpours have most recently come for India’s megacity Mumbai. Since one week the city’s roads are flooded, schools have closed early, and flights have been canceled. Life has come to a standstill.

Environmental news:
http://e360.yale.edu/features/thirty-years-after-the-montreal-protocol-solving-the-ozone-problem-remains-elusive It’s not only the Antarctica ozone hole, the ozone layer has become thinner everywhere, with UV radiation increasing on every place on the earth.
http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/41564-fukushima-plant-is-releasing-tons-of-radioactive-water-into-the-pacific-ocean Sharing the burden with all of humanity. Just pour the radioactive tritium water into the ocean. Where else should it go?
http://www.postandcourier.com/business/early-signs-of-incompetence-at-every-level-went-unheeded-as/article_b47acd2c-89a5-11e7-830a-9364c7e7b71b.html Good! Make it hurt.
http://www.montrealgazette.com/health/flame+retardant+couches+seats+mats+linked+98lower+reproductive/14353012/story.htmlAnother way to solve the problem of overpopulation.
https://news.mongabay.com/2017/08/these-3-companies-owe-indonesia-millions-of-dollars-for-damaging-the-environment-why-havent-they-paid/When insufficient environmental laws, underfunded government agencies, and armies of defense lawyers make it nearly impossible to punish environmental crimes.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/08/26/windscreen-phenomenon-car-no-longer-covered-dead-insects/ This was reported before and is evident to everyone who has a sense for nature. Amphibians, birds, insects — who will be next? Maybe we ourselves?
http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/mass-extinction-life-on-earth-farming-industrial-agriculture-professor-raj-patel-a7914616.html Re-imagining a world with less stuff but more joy.
When you turn the management over to the tree-huggers, the bird and bunny lovers and the rock lickers, you turn your heritage over.”
Mike Noel, a Republican state representative in Utah who wants to reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument and reopen the area for mining and drilling.

Media and technology news:
http://www.dw.com/en/interior-ministry-shuts-down-raids-left-wing-german-indymedia-site/a-40232965 Acts of censorship will be more frequent and open. Get used to it — this is the new normal.

Imperial news:
There are moments when US President Donald Trump seems to be in full meltdown mode, but he keeps going. Spokesman on national security matters Sebastian Gorka, a Bannon ally, has been pushed out.
Army and Marine officials in Trump’s cabinet — retired General John Kelly, retired General James Mattis and active duty General H.R. McMaster — have used the crisis surrounding Trump’s ambiguity over the far-right disturbances in Charlottesville and elsewhere, to strengthen the grip of the military over the government.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/08/30/pers-a30.html How can one be that negative? Hurricane Harvey will be a boon for the economy, because hundred thousand homes need to be rebuilt, half a million cars and other vehicles be replaced, roads and all other infrastructure in a third of Houston have to be repaired or replaced. Think about how that will push up profits and GDP! (win-win-win)
https://newrepublic.com/article/144606/harveys-hidden-side-effectExxonMobil disclosed that hurricane damage at two of its Houston-area refineries may have released 12,000 pounds of contaminants into the air. Chevron Phillips Chemical reported that the shut down of its Cedar Bayou Plant may have released more than 745,000 pounds of contaminants. 300.000 people have no safe drinking water.
http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/08/28/pers-a28.html Correct observations about Houston floods, but one ideological issue: Ecological problems will not automatically be solved if capitalism ends. Socialism may have answers to some of the problems humanity faces, but it has no remedy against overpopulation, resource depletion, and the poisoning of the biosphere by human industrial activity.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/ladawn-jones-jason-spencer-race_us_59a6e0dee4b00795c2a33a51 A white lawmaker in Georgia warns a black attorney she may “go missing” if Confederate statues are threatened.

Uncategorized news:
https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/08/lifes-a-pitch.html One can surely describe a competitive capitalist society in this way, but there are more variables than “competition versus cooperation” in play, “private versus public” for instance or “central versus local.” Networking is not necessarily a bad thing, even “pitching” is not necessarily bad. Promoting, advertising, pushing ones ideas, ideals, visions may be necessary to draw attention and ignite a discussion. And in a more humane society pitching by downcast people will get them the help and care which they desperately need.
http://theduran.com/pakistan-karachi-school-drops-john-lennon-song-student-performance-blasphemous-lyrics/ Religious bigots reign in the Greater Middle East (and in the USA as well).

News from cat land:

Heavy rain pouring down here just like almost everywhere else in the world, but no flooding, because our home is on the gentle slope of a hill. 

Wendy was missing for nearly one day. The horror! In the morning, when usually all cats report for duty (and for food), I thought she will come later, but when she still had not arrived for lunch I got a lump in my throat, my puls increased, and I began to sweat. I went out into the rain, running through the forest dripping wet, calling: “Wendy, Wendy.” Gandhi Jr. accompanied me, also dripping wet and meowing as loud as he could.

Wendy didn’t respond and so Gandhi Jr. and I ended the search and went home. I started to write this blog post in order to distract me from painful concerns and worry.

Suddenly, at 5 PM Wendy unceremoniously reappeared and now everything is good again. She was not even wet and I wonder where she did hide. At the moment she sleeps on one of my used T-shirts (always a favorite cat resting place). She got special food and special attention, which is of course counter productive because it could prompt her to occasionally stay away longer in order to get the special treatment.
I found Wendy as a tiny kitten on an abandoned farm. She is nine years old and, together with the other members of the cat family, has become a part of my life. Nine years, that is a long time for a cat, it is even a long time for me.

Time doesn’t stand still and the cats get older. Miss Marple is now 19 years old, still in good health and not frail at all, Aunt Rosy is 13, Princess Min Ki 12. Its crazy how the days, month, and years rush by, as the seasons change and flowers grow just to wither away and die when it gets cold again.


A short notice about the Anti-Empire report

William Blum sent out the newest of his Anti-Empire reports. Over the years he has published 150 reports and they are all worth reading. Blum wrote also several important and informative books. Please visit his site


In response of his report, I wrote this email to him:

Please keep going as long as you can, but if you want to take it easy, be assured that your readers will have you in their minds and will continue your work for peace, fairness, equality. You’ve certainly done your duty!
A comment to your report:

Ecological problems will not automatically be solved if capitalism ends. Socialism may have answers to some of the problems humanity faces, but it has no remedy against overpopulation, resource depletion, the poisoning of the biosphere by human industrial activity.

A social contract, an economic system, a culture is defined by many variables: competitive versus cooperative, individual versus collective, private versus public, central versus local, task-sharing and interdependent versus self sufficient and independent, hierarchical versus equal, democratic versus meritocratic or technocratic. Not to forget: Violent, merciless, rigid versus peaceful, forgiving, flexible.

The fine-tuning of these variables will be done by the realities on the ground (the ecological and economic limits) and, to a lesser extent, by a universal compromise reached after painful and exhausting struggles. One can only hope that the groups and individuals prevail who aim to alleviate suffering and who work for a harmonic and sustainable integration of humans into the natural world.

Social, cultural heritage and the “popular mind” will shape the system, regardless of the organizational structures a ruling elite, an outside victorious power, or a democratic process may impose. Abandoning old habits, changing the minds of people, and erasing collective memories, fears, mental blockages will take a long time even with the most intense efforts of informing, convincing, persuading, (re)educating, indoctrinating, brainwashing.

After all this is factored in, is it still conceivable that a new social order could resemble socialism? Maybe, and I hope so. In the end it is just a matter of definition.
My ideal would be Muammar Gaddafi’s Jamahiriya, an example, an alternative model of a society that was so frightening to the moneyed elites that it had to be destroyed in a bloody air war. 

Gaddafi will not be forgotten and others will follow his lead and will work tirelessly and undeterred to establish more humane, equal, just, peaceful societies.

My best wishes!


Remembering Dick Gregory

African American comedian Dick Gregory died at the age of 84. He was a friend of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, John Lennon, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, a civil rights and antiwar activist, social critic, writer, and actor. He embodied the rebellious spirit of the 1960s and kept that spirit alive even as most of his fellow travelers retreated, expressing his stinging criticism of US society with dead seriousness and irreverent humor. 

Born in St Louis, Missouri, Gregory was raised, with his five siblings, by his mother Lucille, who worked long hours at menial jobs to support them after their father deserted the family.

During his eventful life he performed in nightclubs, including Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Club in Chicago, as well as in churches, at political rallies, and in acclaimed TV shows. 

He was jailed, beaten, and shot at civil rights protests. He disputed the Warren Commission report about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, was on Nixon’s enemies list, and a target of FBI surveillance. He was a write-in candidate in presidential elections for the Freedom and Peace party. He staged a public fast to protest against the Vietnam war and a hunger strike in Iran during the 1980 Tehran hostage crisis after he failed to negotiate a release of the embassy personal.

Gregory was an outspoken feminist, and in 1978 joined Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug, Margaret Heckler, Barbara Mikulski, and other suffragists to lead the National ERA March for Ratification and Extension.

After being a chainsmoker and heavy drinker he became drug abstinent, a vegetarian, and an animal rights activist. When Gregory was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer in 1999 he was treating the cancer with herbs, vitamins, and exercise, which apparently kept the cancer in remission.

One of his famous comedy routines:

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I understand there are a good many Southerners in the room tonight. I know the South very well. I spent twenty years there one night.

Last time I was down South I walked into a restaurant and this white waitress came up to me and said, “We don’t serve colored people here.” I said, “That’s all right. I don’t eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken.”

Then these three white boys came up to me and said, “Boy, we’re giving you fair warning. Anything you do to that chicken, we’re gonna do to you.” So I put down my knife and fork, I picked up that chicken and I kissed it. Then I said, “Line up, boys!

Some quotes:

Segregation’s not all bad. Have you ever heard of a collision where the people in the back of the bus got hurt?

I used to get letters saying, “I didn’t know black children and white children were the same.”

I never learned hate at home, or shame. I had to go to school for that.

I never believed in Santa Claus because I knew no white dude would come into my neighborhood after dark.

I am really enjoying the new Martin Luther King Jr. stamp – just think about all those white bigots, licking the backside of a black man.

I waited at the counter of a white restaurant for eleven years. When they finally integrated, they didn’t have what I wanted.

Just being a Negro doesn’t qualify you to understand the race situation any more than being sick makes you an expert on medicine.

We used to root for the Indians against the cavalry, because we didn’t think it was fair in the history books that when the cavalry won it was a great victory, and when the Indians won it was a massacre.

I wouldn’t mind paying taxes — if I knew they were going to a friendly country.

Poor is a state of mind you never grow out of, but being broke is just a temporary condition.

Love is man’s natural endowment, but he doesn’t know how to use it. He refuses to recognize the power of love because of his love of power.

Because I’m a civil rights activist, I am also an animal rights activist. Animals and humans suffer and die alike. Violence causes the same pain, the same spilling of blood, the same stench of death, the same arrogant, cruel and vicious taking of life. We shouldn’t be a part of it.

America will tolerate the taking of a human life without giving it a second thought. But don’t misuse a household pet.

When I lost my rifle, the Army charged me 85 dollars. That is why in the Navy the Captain goes down with the ship.

You know, I always say white is not a color, white is an attitude, and if you haven’t got trillions of dollars in the bank that you don’t need, you can’t be white.

Everything we do we should look at in terms of millions of people who can’t afford it.

One of the things I keep learning is that the secret of being happy is doing things for other people.

Now here’s what I’m saying: I’ve always believed that every other month we hear about compromization of bank records, I think that’s the CIA and the FBI. Now let me tell you why I’m saying this. I don’t believe no insignificant pip-squeak is going to be able to pull this off month after month and we can’t find out what’s going on.

I buy about $1,500 worth of papers every month. Not that I trust them. I’m looking for the crack in the fabric.

There is a limit on how much information you can keep bottled up.

If democracy is such a good thing, let’s have more of it.

The only good thing about the good old days is that they’re gone.

Y’all act like this country was good and then got bad. This country ain’t never been no good.

In America, with all of its evils and faults, you can still reach through the forest and see the sun. But we don’t know yet whether that sun is rising or setting for our country.

Written words can only convey that much. One should look up videoclips of him on the internet to get the full power of his appearance.

Dick Gregory was an extraordinary person and he deserves to be remembered fondly. A few of his actions and views could be deemed controversial even by open minded people but this doesn’t taint his legacy. He was a rebellious mind, not bowing to authority, seeking for the truth, fighting for fairness, equality, and peace.

He will not be forgotten, he didn’t live and fight in vain.