Inside the Battle: Al Nusra-Al Qaeda in Syria (Trailer) – Vice News Published on Oct 12, 2015

VICE News filmmaker Medyan Dairieh gains exclusive access to the Syrian branch of al Qaeda, al Nusra, a jihadist group fighting against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and the Islamic State (IS).

Spending more than a month with al Nusra and exploring their expanding territory, Dairieh meets the highest-ranking members of the organization, who reveal their identity on screen for the first time and discuss their military doctrine.

Al Nusra, which swore allegiance to al Qaeda two years ago and is now emerging as a powerful force to rival IS in Syria, has seized several strategic towns in the northwestern province of Idlib. While it supplies water, electricity, and food to the local population, a school run by al Nusra is also grooming young boys to become the next generation of al Qaeda and preparing them for jihad.

VICE News also secures exclusive access to the frontlines of the battle for Abu Al-Duhur airport in Idlib, a major airbase held by Assad’s forces, besieged by al Nusra for two years. Aided by dust storms during the attack, the airport was the last remaining government stronghold in the region. Dozens of government soldiers were subsequently executed, according to the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Watch “The Islamic State (Full Length)” –

My Escape From Syria: Europe or Die – Vice News Published on Oct 6, 2015

Syria’s brutal civil war has created hundreds of thousands of refugees, civilians who have been forced to leave everything behind at home and travel in search of a new life in Europe.

Ismail, 25, filmed his journey to Germany with 19-year-old Naeem, capturing the most dangerous parts of a perilous trip, including the boat crossing from Turkey to Greece where hundreds of refugees have died this year.

In this exclusive footage, VICE News gives an insight into a desperate trek, as Ismail and Naeem give first-hand accounts of their journey, the life they left behind, and their hopes for the future.

Watch “Libya’s Migrant Trade: Europe or Die (Full Length)” –

Russian Airstrike in Syria Targeted CIA-Backed Rebels, U.S. Officials Say – By DION NISSENBAUM and ADAM ENTOUS in Washington, NATHAN HODGE in Moscow and SAM DAGHER in Beirut Updated Sept. 30, 2015 11:07 p.m. ET

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to the media about the situation in Syria at the United Nations in New York on Wednesday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to the media about the situation in Syria at the United Nations in New York on Wednesday. Photo: andrew kelly/Reuters

Russia launched airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday, catching U.S. and Western officials off guard and drawing new condemnation as evidence suggested Moscow wasn’t targeting extremist group Islamic State, but rather other opponents of Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

One of the airstrikes hit an area primarily held by rebels backed by the Central Intelligence Agency and allied spy services, U.S. officials said, catapulting the Syrian crisis to a new level of danger and uncertainty. Moscow’s entry means the world’s most powerful militaries—including the U.S., Britain and France—now are flying uncoordinated combat missions, heightening the risk of conflict in the skies over Syria.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Russia’s approach to the Syrian war—defending Mr. Assad while ostensibly targeting extremists—was tantamount to “pouring gasoline on the fire.”

“I have been dealing with them for a long time. And this is not the kind of behavior that we should expect professionally from the Russian military,” Mr. Carter said at a Pentagon news conference.

Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and said he raised U.S. concerns about attacks that target regime opponents other than Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. In Syria’s multi-sided war, Mr. Assad’s military—aided by Iran and the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah—is fighting both Islamic State and opposition rebel groups, some of which are supported by the U.S. and its allies.

Speaking alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that the United States and Russia have agreed to hold a military meeting as soon as possible to avoid any direct collisions or exchanges of fire in Syria, where both the U.S. and Russia are now conducting airstrikes. Photo: AP

Mr. Kerry said the U.S. and Russia need to hold military talks as soon as possible and Mr. Lavrov said he agreed.

The U.S. and its allies were angry at the Russians on many scores: that they are supporting Mr. Assad; that they aren’t coordinating their actions with the existing, U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition; that they provided terse notice only an hour before their operations; that they demanded the U.S. coalition stay out of Syrian airspace; and that they struck in areas where anti-Assad rebels—not Islamic State—operate.

“It does appear that they were in areas where there probably were not ISIL forces, and that is precisely one of the problems with this whole approach,” said Mr. Carter, the U.S. defense chief.

U.S. officials said it was unclear if Moscow directly targeted a location held by the CIA-backed fighters in western Syria because of their association with the U.S.’s covert program to fund, arm and train the rebels.

Officials said it was also unclear if any U.S.-backed fighters were killed in the strike. A CIA spokesman declined to comment.

Russia said its initial strikes inside Syria on Wednesday were aimed at Islamic State targets. But senior U.S. officials cast doubt on those claims.

The U.S. spy agency has been arming and training rebels in Syria since 2013 to fight the Assad regime. Rebels who receive support under a separate arming and training program run by the Pentagon weren’t in areas targeted by Russia in its initial strikes, the officials said.

The combination of unpredictable, unilateral action that flouted Western exhortations posed an unmistakable resemblance to Ukraine, where Mr. Putin moved to annex the Crimea region and has defied international demands to halt its support for separatists.


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Putin’s Syria intervention isn’t grand, brilliant strategy. It’s an act of fear. – Updated by Amanda Taub on September 30, 2015, 9:20 a.m. ET `

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military intervention in Syria, and then his call at the United Nations for a global “anti-Hitler coalition” to fight ISIS there, can certainly look, from the American perspective, like a power grab. Putin’s boldness seems like a sign that President Obama’s passivity has allowed the Russian leader to run roughshod over US interests in the Middle East — particularly to hawks already frustrated that the US has refused to do more in Syria.

But don’t be taken in by Putin’s carefully cultivated image of strength and decisiveness. His intervention in Syria is most likely driven not by boldness but by reactiveness and, most of all, by fear. Fear of anarchy, fear of populist uprisings, fear of Western meddling, fear of any weakening of strong government rule, and fear that he himself could succumb to these forces.

(Putin’s Syria strategy is also unlikely to be very effective: Propping up Assad and partnering with Shia Hezbollah and Iran seems likely to worsen the sectarianism and anti-Assad sentiment that is driving much of the war. And Russian airstrikes aren’t likely to rally Syrians around Assad.)

To understand how Putin sees Syria, and why he’s getting himself into this mess, you have to understand how he looks at Libya, the lessons he drew from its collapse, how it led him to misunderstand the West — and why both Libya and Syria are the sum of many of his worst foreign policy fears.

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Why Putin just proposed an “anti-Hitler coalition,” but to fight ISIS – Updated by Zack Beauchamp on September 28, 2015, 2:10 p.m. ET



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  1. Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his address on Monday to the United Nations General Assembly, called for a new global effort to fight ISIS and other terrorist groups.
  2. Putin called for the UN Security Council to meet and draft a resolution that would coordinate this effort. He said it should be “similar to the anti-Hitler coalition,” the point being that the US and Russia should get over their differences and work together against ISIS.
  3. What he’s really doing here is trying to pull the US closer to Russia’s policy of propping up Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, by positioning a pro-Assad coalition as the best way to fight terrorism, and by conflating all Syrian rebels with ISIS.

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Iran’s President: ‘Driving Out The Terrorists’ Is Key To Syria’s Future – Steve Inskeep SEPTEMBER 27, 201510:11 PM ET

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani prepares to speak with NPR's Steve Inskeep on Saturday in New York. Rouhani reaffirmed Iran's commitment to the nuclear deal and said his country would be willing to discuss Syria's future with the United States — after ISIS is defeated.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani prepares to speak with NPR’s Steve Inskeep on Saturday in New York. Rouhani reaffirmed Iran’s commitment to the nuclear deal and said his country would be willing to discuss Syria’s future with the United States — after ISIS is defeated. Bryan Thomas for NPR

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani prepares to speak with NPR’s Steve Inskeep on Saturday in New York. Rouhani reaffirmed Iran’s commitment to the nuclear deal and said his country would be willing to discuss Syria’s future with the United States — after ISIS is defeated.

Bryan Thomas for NPR

Here’s the basic difference between the United States, Russia and Iran: The U.S. wants Syrian President Bashar Assad to go. Russia and Iran, Assad’s allies, want him to stay.

Over the weekend, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, met with NPR in New York, where he will be attending the United Nations General Assembly. Through an interpreter, Rouhani argued that, where Syria is concerned, the most important issue for everyone is destroying ISIS.

“Perhaps political reform is needed. However, is that today’s priority? We believe that it’s driving out the terrorists,” he tells NPR.

“The issue of stability and security in the region is of utmost importance for us,” he emphasizes. Americans may not like Syria’s government, he says, but Iran needs to prop it up to avoid a dangerous leadership vacuum. If Assad goes now, Rouhani says, extremists will step in.

So Iran is collaborating with Syria, Russia and Iraq against ISIS. An intelligence-sharing agreement among the four countries was announced by Iraq on Sunday.

“We say between worse and bad, we must choose bad. Or in other words, we choose the lesser of two evils,” he says.


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The Volunteer Firefighters of Daraa (Excerpt from ‘The Battle for Syria’s South’) – Published on Sep 22, 2015

Daraa is where Syria’s revolution began four years ago. Now it’s the scene of a forgotten war, in which largely secular Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels — marginalized elsewhere in Syria — continue to lead the struggle against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

The FSA are fighting a bitterly hard battle under a virtual media blackout to change the course of Syria’s civil war. If they can take Daraa, they will stand at the beginning of the road to Damascus, the seat of Assad’s government.

In this excerpt from ‘The Battle for Syria’s South,’ VICE News follows a group of volunteers tackling fires and rescuing civilians trapped in rubble, as barrel bombs and grad rockets rain down daily on neighborhoods.

Watch “The Battle for Syria’s South (Full Length)” –