Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

With Peace Restored in Post-Daesh Palmyra, What’s Next for the Syrian Army?

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The ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, which for a long time was under the control of Daesh terrorists, is finally celebrating its liberation. Meanwhile, on the outskirts of the civil airport, a real battle is unfolding. Sputnik correspondent Mikhail Alaeddin, at the Palmyra airport along with a Syrian special ops unit, witnessed an operation aimed at eliminating the positions of terrorists and advancing deeper into the desert.

Free Tour of the Airport

According to Alaeddin, the Palmyra airport is literally just a kilometre away from town. The Syrian commander on the spot received orders to arrive at the airfield to assess the situation. The Syrian officer told Alaeddin as they rode in the lead vehicle in a military convoy:

We haven’t yet cleared the direct road from Palmyra to the airport, so we have to detour through the desert.

The airport area resembles a completely flattened concrete field. Almost all the buildings are gone. Only a few concrete hangars once used for military aircraft in the northern part of the airport remain. At present, the fortified structures either serve as shelters for Syrian Arab Army soldiers or as dumps for heavy equipment confiscated from terrorists. The Syrian forces managed to repel the terrorists from the airport a couple of days ago, but realising the strategic significance of the facility, the terrorists once again attacked the government positions and tried to occupy the airport. Then, air assets and artillery came to the rescue. The terrorists approached the airport at night and tried to storm it. However, the soldiers of the special ops group supported the frontline infantry and kicked back the terrorists. The loss of the airport could’ve jeopardised Palmyra’s security once again.

Liberation is Sweet

Meanwhile, in Palmyra itself, the battle raging near the airport wasn’t audible. In the historical centre of the city, more than a hundred people gathered. An aerobatic performance by the Syrian Air Force welcomed senior coalition commanders. The Syrian Minister of Defence expressed gratitude to Russia and to the Russian military for helping liberate Palmyra. Unfortunately, the traditional music at the amphitheatre (played by girls from the Homs music school) wasn’t audible at the airport.

Silence of the Night

After the incident ended, the Syrian special oppers left the airport together with our correspondent. On their way back, they passed some districts where one could still see Daesh flags on buildings and some houses. The senior officer told us:

This is normal; we haven’t yet cleared this quarter, so no one has yet climbed onto the roof of the hotel. As soon as we clear it, we’ll raise the Syrian flag and burn this one.

As the night fell, the army continued its offensive towards the airport to drive the terrorists some twelve kilometres into the desert, in the direction of the city of Sukhn to the northwest. Government forces are also on the offensive in the west, where they’ve liberated oil and gas fields. At the same time, they’re defeating the terrorists in eastern Aleppo Governate, where the army is moving towards Raqqa Governate.

A Matter of Honour

Our correspondent pointed up that the Syrian commanders think that ensuring Palmyra’s security and advancing to the north and northwest of the ancient city is a matter of honour. On Thursday, Syrian forces, backed by the Russian military aircraft operating in Syria, regained control over Palmyra. Daesh first captured Palmyra in May 2015. In the ten months that followed, the brutal group, notorious for destroying pre-Islamic cultural heritage sites, levelled the Temple of Bel, the Temple of Baalshamin, the Monumental Arch, and several tomb towers. They smashed or defaced some of the priceless artefacts on display at a local museum. The Syrian Arab Army, assisted by Russian warplanes and allied forces, took control of Palmyra on 27 March 2016 but lost it on 11 December. Daesh then destroyed a tetrapylon and part of a Roman theatre in the ancient city, using it to carry out mass executions.

7 March 2017

Sputnik International



The Syrian Arab Army had a hard choice in December:

  • Hold Palmyra, but allow the fighting in Aleppo to drag on, with incalculable damage in the “media war” and continuing civilian casualties
  • Withdraw from Palmyra, using the forces to wind up the Aleppo situation

Assad chose to withdraw, to concentrate on Aleppo (a wise military move, with some blowback in the informational war). Once Aleppo fell to government forces, it was relatively easy to retake Palmyra. It was a classic illustration of “one step back, two steps forward”. ISIS has (apparently) lost its American sugar daddies… Obama used them to strike at Russia (Zbig was doing the same thing that he’d done in Afghanistan… using radical Islamists to attack Russia). Has Trump dropped them? We’ll have to see… the CIA and Israel both use ISIS as a client and proxy… they’re not minor players in the Great Game, are they?

Events await development…


Race in America: Blacks More Likely to Be Wrongfully Convicted Than Whites


A study released on Tuesday indicates that racial bias in the USA makes African-Americans much more likely to be wrongfully convicted of drug crimes, sexual assault, and murder than white defendants are. The National Registry of Exonerations (NRE) examined cases spanning from 1989 to October 2016, and out of 1,900 people convicted and later exonerated of crimes, black Americans made up 47 percent, a figure over three times their share of the population in the USA. African-Americans are also seven times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder than whites, according to the study and are 12 times more likely to be convicted of drug crimes than white Americans. The report noted further discrepancies in murder convictions:

African-American prisoners convicted of murder are about 50 percent more likely to be innocent than other convicted murderers. Part of that disparity is tied to the race of the victim. African-Americans imprisoned for murder are more likely to be innocent if they were convicted of killing white victims. Only about 15 percent of murders by African-Americans have white victims, but 31 percent of innocent African-American murder exonerees were convicted of killing white people.

Samuel Gross, University of Michigan Law School professor and senior editor for the group tracking exonerations, said:

In the murder cases we examined, the rate of official misconduct is considerably higher in cases where the defendant is African-American compared to cases where the defendant is white. Unconscious racial bias, overt discrimination, and institutional racism often play a factor in wrongful convictions.

NRE released a separate study noting that 2016 was a record year for exonerations in the USA, with the most since 1989. There were 166 exonerations, an uptick from 2015’s 160 cases. Harris County in Texas, which includes Houston, showed chiefly drug convictions and was the source for most of the exonerations in the state. There were many instances of people pleading guilty to drug possession, only for crime reports to reveal months and years later that there were no controlled substances in the seized material. There were 52 exonerations for murder across the country, along with 73 exonerations of drug possession and other non-violent crimes. Illinois had the most exonerations in 2016 after Texas, with 16. There were 14 exonerations in New York and 9 in California. The “San Antonio Four”, four Latino women convicted of child sex crimes in the 1990s were the highest-profile exoneration of last year. In the majority opinion, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge David Newell wrote:

Those defendants have won the right to proclaim to the citizens of Texas that they didn’t commit a crime. That they’re innocent. That they deserve to be exonerated… these women have carried that burden. They’re innocent. And they’re exonerated.

8 March 2017

Sputnik International


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