Last revised on December 21, 2017

Thank you for visiting shout.news, a media destination for news and information. Shout! News ("Shout!", "we", "us" and "our") operates websites (each a "Site") and services made available through the Sites (collectively, the Site and such services, the "Services"). Certain features of the Services may be subject to additional guidelines, terms, or rules, which will be posted in the Services in connection with such features. All such additional terms, guidelines, and rules are incorporated by reference into this Agreement.

These Terms of Use ("Agreement") set forth the legally binding terms for your use of the Services whether you are simply a "Visitor" (which means you are just browsing the Services) or an "Authorized User", which means you have registered to use them. Collectively, Visitors and Authorized Users are referred to as "Users" or individually as a "User" or "you". By accessing or using the Services, you are accepting this Agreement (on behalf of yourself or the entity that you represent) and you represent and warrant that you have the right, authority, and capacity to enter into this Agreement (on behalf of yourself or the entity that you represent). you may not access or use the Services or accept the Agreement if you are not at least 18 years old. If you do not agree with all of the provisions of this Agreement, do not access and/or use the Services.

These terms require the use of arbitration to resolve disputes and limit the remedies available to you in the event of a dispute as set forth in section 8.

  • Registration
    • Registering Your Account. In order to access certain features of the Services, you may be required to become an Authorized User. An "Authorized User" is a user who has registered an account on the Services ("Account"), or has a valid account on a social networking service ("SNS") through which the user has connected to the Services (each such account, a "SNS Account").
    • Access Through a SNS. If you access the Site through an SNS, you may link your Account with SNS Accounts by allowing us to access your SNS Account, as permitted under the applicable terms and conditions that govern your use of each SNS Account. You represent that you are entitled to grant Shout! News access to your SNS Account without breach by you of any of the terms and conditions that govern your use of the applicable SNS Account and without obligating us to pay any fees or making Shout! News subject to any usage limitations imposed by such third-party service providers. You have the ability to disable the connection between your Account and your SNS Accounts at any time by [accessing the "Settings" section of the Site]. YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THIRD-PARTY SERVICE PROVIDERS ASSOCIATED WITH YOUR SNS ACCOUNTS IS GOVERNED SOLELY BY YOUR AGREEMENT(S) WITH SUCH THIRD-PARTY SERVICE PROVIDERS, AND WE DISCLAIM ANY LIABILITY FOR PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION THAT MAY BE PROVIDED TO US BY SUCH THIRD-PARTY SERVICE PROVIDERS IN VIOLATION OF THE PRIVACY SETTINGS THAT YOU HAVE SET IN SUCH SNS ACCOUNTS.
    • Registration Data. In registering an Account on the Site, you agree to (a) provide true, accurate, current and complete information about yourself as prompted by the registration form (the "Registration Data"); and (b) promptly update the Registration Data to keep it true, accurate, current and complete. You represent that you are of legal age to form a binding contract and not a person barred from using the Site under the laws of any applicable jurisdiction. You are responsible for all activities that occur under your Account. You may not share your Account or password with anyone, and you agree to notify Shout! News immediately of any unauthorized use of your password or any other breach of security. If you provide any information that is untrue, inaccurate, not current or incomplete, or Shout! News has reasonable grounds to suspect as much, Shout! News has the right to suspend or terminate your Account and refuse any and all current or future use of the Site. You agree not to create an Account on behalf of someone other than yourself or if you have been previously removed by Shout! News.
    • Your Account. You have no ownership or other property interest in your Account, and all rights in and to your Account are and will forever be owned by and inure to the benefit of Shout! News.
  • Access to the Site
    • License. Shout! News grants you a non-transferable, non-exclusive, revocable, limited license to access and use the Site solely for your own personal, noncommercial use. You acknowledge and agree that Shout! News will have no obligation to provide you with any support or maintenance in connection with the Site.
    • Certain Restrictions. The rights granted to you in this Agreement are subject to the following restrictions: (a) you will not license, sell, rent, lease, transfer, assign, distribute, host, or otherwise commercially exploit the Site or any content displayed on the Site; (b) you will not modify, make derivative works of, disassemble, reverse compile or reverse engineer any part of the Site; (c) you will not access the Site in order to build a similar or competitive website, product, or service; and (d) except as expressly stated herein, no part of the Site may be copied, reproduced, distributed, republished, downloaded, displayed, posted or transmitted in any form or by any means. Unless otherwise indicated, any future release, update, or addition to the Site's functionality will be subject to these Terms. All copyright and other proprietary notices on the Site (or on any content displayed on the Site) must be retained on all copies thereof.
    • Modification. Shout! News reserves the right, at any time, to modify, suspend, or discontinue the Services (in whole or in part) with or without notice. You agree that Shout! News will not be liable to you or to any third party for any modification, suspension, or discontinuation of the Site or any part thereof.
    • Ownership. All IP rights, including copyrights, patents, trade marks, and trade secrets, in the Site and its content are owned by Shout! News or Shout! News's suppliers. Neither these Terms (nor your access to the Site) transfers to you or any third party any rights, title or interest in or to such IP rights, except for the limited access rights set forth in Section 2.1. Shout! News and its suppliers reserve all rights not granted in these Terms.
  • Indemnification. You agree to indemnify and hold Shout! News (and its officers, employees, and agents) harmless, including costs and attorneys' fees, from any claim or demand made by any third party arising out of (a) your use of the Site, (b) your violation of these Terms or (c) your violation of applicable laws or regulations. Shout! News reserves the right, at your expense, to assume the exclusive defense and control of any matter for which you are required to indemnify us, and you agree to cooperate with our defense of these claims. You agree not to settle any matter without Shout! News's prior written consent. Shout! News will use reasonable efforts to notify you of any such claim, action or proceeding upon becoming aware of it.
  • Third-Party Links; Release
    • Third-Party Links. The Site may contain links to third-party websites and services and/or display advertisements for third parties (collectively, "Third-Party Links"). Such Third-Party Links are not under our control, and we are not responsible for any Third-Party Links. We provide access to these Third-Party Links only as a convenience to you, and we do not review, approve, endorse, or make any representations with respect to Third-Party Links. You use all Third-Party Links at your own risk and when you click on any of the Third-Party Links, the applicable third party's terms apply, including the third party's privacy and data gathering practices.
    • Release. You release and forever discharge the Shout! News (and our officers, employees, agents, successors, and assigns) from, and hereby waive and relinquish, each and every past, present and future dispute, claim, controversy, demand, right, obligation, liability, action and cause of action of every kind and nature (including personal injuries, death, and property damage), that has arisen or arises directly or indirectly out of, or that relates directly or indirectly to, the Site (including any interactions with, or act or omission of, other Site users or any Third-Party Links). IF YOU ARE A CALIFORNIA RESIDENT, YOU HEREBY WAIVE CALIFORNIA CIVIL CODE SECTION 1542, WHICH STATES: "A GENERAL RELEASE DOES NOT EXTEND TO CLAIMS WHICH THE CREDITOR DOES NOT KNOW OR SUSPECT TO EXIST IN HIS OR HER FAVOR AT THE TIME OF EXECUTING THE RELEASE, WHICH IF KNOWN BY HIM OR HER MUST HAVE MATERIALLY AFFECTED HIS OR HER SETTLEMENT WITH THE DEBTOR."
  • Disclaimers
  • THE SITE IS PROVIDED ON AN "AS-IS" AND "AS AVAILABLE" BASIS, AND SHOUT! NEWS (AND OUR SUPPLIERS) EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMS ANY AND ALL WARRANTIES AND CONDITIONS OF ANY KIND, WHETHER EXPRESS, IMPLIED, OR STATUTORY, INCLUDING ALL WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, TITLE, QUIET ENJOYMENT, ACCURACY, OR NON-INFRINGEMENT. WE (AND OUR SUPPLIERS) MAKE NO WARRANTY THAT THE SITE WILL MEET YOUR REQUIREMENTS, WILL BE AVAILABLE ON AN UNINTERRUPTED, TIMELY, SECURE, OR ERROR-FREE BASIS, OR WILL BE ACCURATE, RELIABLE, FREE OF VIRUSES OR OTHER HARMFUL CODE, COMPLETE, LEGAL, OR SAFE. IF APPLICABLE LAW REQUIRES ANY WARRANTIES WITH RESPECT TO THE SITE, ALL SUCH WARRANTIES ARE LIMITED TO NINETY (90) DAYS FROM THE DATE OF FIRST USE.
  • SOME JURISDICTIONS DO NOT ALLOW THE EXCLUSION OF IMPLIED WARRANTIES, SO THE ABOVE EXCLUSION MAY NOT APPLY TO YOU. SOME JURISDICTIONS DO NOT ALLOW LIMITATIONS ON HOW LONG AN IMPLIED WARRANTY LASTS, SO THE ABOVE LIMITATION MAY NOT APPLY TO YOU.
  • Limitation on Liability
  • TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, IN NO EVENT WILL SHOUT! NEWS (OR OUR SUPPLIERS) BE LIABLE TO YOU OR ANY THIRD PARTY FOR ANY LOST PROFITS, LOST DATA, COSTS OF PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE PRODUCTS, OR ANY INDIRECT, CONSEQUENTIAL, EXEMPLARY, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL OR PUNITIVE DAMAGES ARISING FROM OR RELATING TO THESE TERMS OR YOUR USE OF, OR INABILITY TO USE, THE SITE, EVEN IF SHOUT! NEWS HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES. ACCESS TO, AND USE OF, THE SITE IS AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION AND RISK, AND YOU WILL BE SOLELY RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY DAMAGE TO YOUR DEVICE OR COMPUTER SYSTEM, OR LOSS OF DATA RESULTING THEREFROM.
  • TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, NOTWITHSTANDING ANYTHING TO THE CONTRARY CONTAINED HEREIN, OUR LIABILITY TO YOU FOR ANY DAMAGES ARISING FROM OR RELATED TO THESE TERMS (FOR ANY CAUSE WHATSOEVER AND REGARDLESS OF THE FORM OF THE ACTION), WILL BE LIMITED TO A MAXIMUM OF FIFTY US DOLLARS (U.S. $50). THE EXISTENCE OF MORE THAN ONE CLAIM WILL NOT ENLARGE THIS LIMIT. YOU AGREE THAT OUR SUPPLIERS WILL HAVE NO LIABILITY OF ANY KIND ARISING FROM OR RELATING TO THIS AGREEMENT.
  • SOME JURISDICTIONS DO NOT ALLOW THE LIMITATION OR EXCLUSION OF LIABILITY FOR INCIDENTAL OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES, SO THE ABOVE LIMITATION OR EXCLUSION MAY NOT APPLY TO YOU.
  • Term and Termination. Subject to this Section, these Terms will remain in full force and effect while you use the Site. We may suspend or terminate your rights to use the Site (including your Account) at any time for any reason at our sole discretion. Shout! News will not have any liability whatsoever to you for any termination of your rights under these Terms, including for termination of your Account. Even after your rights under these Terms are terminated, the following provisions of these Terms will remain in effect: Sections 2.2-2.4, 3 -8.
  • General
    • Changes. These Terms are subject to occasional revision, and if we make any substantial changes, we may notify you by sending you an e-mail to the last e-mail address you provided to us (if any), and/or by prominently posting notice of the changes on our Site. In the event that the last e-mail address that you have provided us is not valid, or for any reason is not capable of delivering the notice described above, our dispatch of the e-mail containing such notice will nonetheless constitute effective notice of the changes described in the notice. Any changes to these Terms will be effective upon the earlier of thirty (30) calendar days following our dispatch of an e-mail notice to you (if applicable) or thirty (30) calendar days following our posting of notice of the changes on our Site. These changes will be effective immediately for new users of our Site. Continued use of our Site following notice of such changes will indicate your acknowledgement of such changes and agreement to be bound by the terms and conditions of such changes.
    • Dispute Resolution. PLEASE READ THIS CAREFULLY. IT AFFECTS YOUR RIGHTS.
      • Any and all controversies, disputes, demands, counts, claims, or causes of action (including the interpretation and scope of this clause, and the arbitrability of the controversy, dispute, demand, count, claim, or cause of action) between you and Shout! News and our employees, agents, successors, or assigns, regarding or relating to the Site or these Terms will exclusively be settled through binding and confidential arbitration.
      • Arbitration will be subject to the Federal Arbitration Act and not any state arbitration law. The arbitration will be conducted before one commercial arbitrator with substantial experience in resolving commercial contract disputes from the American Arbitration Association ("AAA"). As modified by these Terms, and unless otherwise agreed upon by the parties in writing, the arbitration will be governed by the AAA's or JAMS's rules for commercial arbitration and, if the arbitrator deems them applicable, the procedures for consumer-related disputes.
      • You are thus GIVING UP YOUR RIGHT TO GO TO COURT to assert or defend your rights EXCEPT for matters that may be taken to small claims court. Your rights will be determined by a NEUTRAL ARBITRATOR and NOT a judge or jury. You are entitled to a FAIR HEARING, BUT the arbitration procedures are SIMPLER AND MORE LIMITED THAN RULES APPLICABLE IN COURT. Arbitrator decisions are as enforceable as any court order and are subject to VERY LIMITED REVIEW BY A COURT.
      • You and we must abide by the following rules: (1) ANY CLAIMS BROUGHT BY YOU OR US MUST BE BROUGHT IN THE PARTIES' INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, AND NOT AS A PLAINTIFF OR CLASS MEMBER IN ANY PURPORTED CLASS OR REPRESENTATIVE PROCEEDING; (2) THE ARBITRATOR MAY NOT CONSOLIDATE MORE THAN ONE PERSON'S CLAIMS, MAY NOT OTHERWISE PRESIDE OVER ANY FORM OF A REPRESENTATIVE OR CLASS PROCEEDING, AND MAY NOT AWARD CLASS-WIDE RELIEF, (3) in the event that you are able to demonstrate that the costs of arbitration will be prohibitive as compared to costs of litigation, we will pay as much of your filing and hearing fees in connection with the arbitration as the arbitrator deems necessary to prevent the arbitration from being cost-prohibitive as compared to the cost of litigation, (4) we also reserve the right in our sole and exclusive discretion to assume responsibility for all of the costs of the arbitration; (5) the arbitrator will honor claims of privilege and privacy recognized at law; (6) the arbitrator's award will be final and may be enforced in any court of competent jurisdiction; (7) the arbitrator may award any individual relief or individual remedies that are permitted by applicable law; and (8) each side pays its own attorneys' fees and expenses unless there is a statutory provision that requires the prevailing party to be paid its fees' and litigation expenses, and then in such instance, the fees and costs awarded will be determined by the applicable law.
      • Notwithstanding the foregoing, either you or we may bring an individual action in small claims court. Further, claims of infringement or misappropriation of the other party's patent, copyright, trademark, or trade secret will not be subject to this arbitration agreement. Such claims will be exclusively brought in the state or federal courts located in Arlington, Virginia Additionally, notwithstanding this agreement to arbitrate, either party may seek emergency equitable relief before the state or federal courts located in Arlington, Virginia in order to maintain the status quo pending arbitration, and hereby agree to submit to the exclusive personal jurisdiction of the courts located within Arlington, Virginia for such purpose. A request for interim measures will not be deemed a waiver of the right to arbitrate.
      • With the exception of subparts (1) and (2) in Section 8.2(d) above, if any part of this arbitration provision is deemed to be invalid, unenforceable or illegal, or otherwise conflicts with the Agreement, then the balance of this arbitration provision will remain in effect and will be construed in accordance with its terms as if the invalid, unenforceable, illegal or conflicting provision were not contained herein. If, however, either subparts (1) and (2) in Section 8.2(d) is found to be invalid, unenforceable or illegal, then the entirety of this arbitration provision will be null and void, and neither you nor we will be entitled to arbitration. If for any reason a claim proceeds in court rather than in arbitration, the dispute will be exclusively brought in state or federal court in Arlington, Virginia.
      • Notwithstanding any provision in this Agreement to the contrary, if we seek to terminate the Dispute Resolution section as included in these Terms, any such termination will not be effective until 30 days after the version of these Terms not containing the agreement to arbitrate is posted to the Site, and will not be effective as to any claim of which you provided Shout! News with written notice prior to the date of termination.
      • For more information on AAA, its Rules and Procedures, and how to file an arbitration claim, you may call AAA at 800-778-7879 or visit the AAA website at http://www.adr.org. For more information on JAMS, it's Rules and Procedures, and how to file an arbitration claim, you may call JAMS at 800-352-5267 or visit the JAMS website at http://www.jamsadr.com.
      • Any and all controversies, disputes, demands, counts, claims, or causes of action between you and Shout! News and our employees, agents, successors, or assigns, regarding or relating to these Terms or the Site will exclusively be governed by the internal laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia, without regard to its choice of law rules and without regard to conflicts of laws principles except that the arbitration provision will be governed by the Federal Arbitration Act. The United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods will not apply to these Terms.
    • Export. The Site may be subject to U.S. export control laws and may be subject to export or import regulations in other countries. You agree not to export, reexport, or transfer, directly or indirectly, any U.S. technical data acquired from Shout! News, or any products utilizing such data, in violation of U.S. export laws or regulations.
    • Disclosures. Shout! News is located at the address in Section 8.8. If you are a California resident, you may report complaints to the Complaint Assistance Unit of the Division of Consumer Product of the California Department of Consumer Affairs by contacting them in writing at 400 R Street, Sacramento, CA 95814, or by telephone at (800) 952-5210.
    • Electronic Communications. The communications between you and Shout! News use electronic means. For contractual purposes, you (a) consent to receive communications from Shout! News in an electronic form; and (b) agree that all terms and conditions, agreements, notices, disclosures, and other communications that Shout! News provides to you electronically satisfy any legal requirement that such communications would satisfy if it were be in a hardcopy writing. The foregoing does not affect your non-waivable rights.
    • Entire Terms. These Terms constitute the entire agreement between you and us regarding the use of the Site. Our failure to exercise or enforce any right or provision of these Terms will not operate as a waiver of such right or provision. If any provision of these Terms is, for any reason, held to be invalid or unenforceable, the other provisions of these Terms will be unimpaired and the invalid or unenforceable provision will be deemed modified so that it is valid and enforceable to the maximum extent permitted by law. Your relationship to Shout! News is that of an independent contractor, and neither party is an agent or partner of the other. These Terms, and your rights and obligations herein, may not be assigned, subcontracted, or otherwise transferred by you without Shout! News's prior written consent, and any attempted assignment, subcontract, or transfer in violation of the foregoing will be null and void. The terms and conditions set forth in these Terms will be binding upon assignees.
    • Copyright/Trademark Information. Copyright © 2017, Shout! News. All rights reserved. All trademarks, logos and service marks ("Marks") displayed on the Site are our property or the property of third parties. You may not use these Marks without our prior written consent or the consent of such third party.
    • Contact Information:
    • Shout! News, 1133 15th Street, NW, Floor 12, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20005
    • Telephone: 202-370-1437
    • Email: team(at)shout.news
Show Comments ()
"Checkpoint zero," marking the frontline just outside the city of Manbij, Syria, June 20, 2018 (Flavius Mihaies)

Report: Why Syria's Manbij matters beyond the Islamic State

Last June I visited "checkpoint zero," marking the frontline just outside the city of Manbij, Syria, where an Islamic States-claimed suicide attack killed four Americans on a routine patrol last Wednesday.

"Checkpoint zero" is manned by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, the alliance of Kurdish, Sunni Arab, and Syriac Christian militias and other forces created in 2015 to defeat the Islamic State.

However, there isn't the Islamic State on the other side of the frontline that "checkpoint zero" defends, but fellow Syrians; rebels backed by the Turkish military. The Euphrates Shield, as Turkey named them.

They are there to prevent Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces from expanding further west of the Euphrates and toward the border with Turkey--a scenario the Turkish government considers as a threat because of what it claims is an existential link between the Kurdish fighters in Syria and the PKK in Turkey, who has been engaged in a bloody armed struggle with the Turkish state.

The Kurds and their Syrian Democratic Forces allies said they have every reason to fear that Turkey and allied Syrian rebel forces will act in Manbij the same way they did in Afrin, a Syrian city further north, where Turkish-backed rebels reportedly committed exactions against the local population.

Jonathan Farmer was a decorated soldier (US Army)

Top 3 Syria war news - January 21, 2019

  • Three of the four Americans killed in the Islamic States-claimed suicide attack in Manbij, Syria, last Wednesday have been identified: Jonathan Farmer, a soldier, Shannon Kent, a sailor, and civilian and former Navy Seal Scott Wirtz, the BBC reported. The fourth victim of the explosion is an unnamed contractor, according to US Central Command. President Trump met with their families at the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware during the weekend.
  • A suicide bombing hit a U.S.-Kurdish-backed Syrian Defense Forces convoy in northern Syria today, making it the second suicide attack to target American troops in five days. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says two U.S. soldiers were injured and five of their Syria Democratic Forces escorts were killed. The convoy was driving on the road of al-Hasakah – al-Raqqah near al-Shaddadi area. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, CNN said.
  • In an unprecedented move, Israel confirmed latest attacks on Iranian targets in Syria. Israel's acknowledgment of its strikes reflect a shift in policy, with the country increasingly taking responsibility for specific attacks in Syrian territory after years of ambiguity, the New York Times said. The Israeli military said the targets included sites in Syria of the Iranian Quds Force, the branch of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
An armoured vehicle, part of a US army convoy patrolling near the city of Tall Tamr, in the northwestern Syrian province of Hasakah on January 16, 2019 (DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Former U.S. Amb to Syria: “The Iranians understand” that if American soldiers are killed Trump will abandon Syria

Before I left for Manbij as an independent journalist last June I talked to Robert Ford, a former U.S. ambassador to Syria.

The big picture: On Wednesday an Islamic State-claimed suicide attack killed four Americans, including two soldiers, on patrol in Manbij, Syria.

Highlights:

  • "[President] Trump has been consistent about what he says about Syria. He does not want to keep American forces in Syria, he does not want to get too involved in it."
  • "If there is an incident where ten or fifteen American soldiers are killed, it becomes a political issue in the U.S., and Trump will abandon Syria. The Iranians understand that."
  • "We don't know who is responsible" for the death of Army Master Sgt. Jonathan Dunbar. Mr Dunbar, who was killed in an IED attack March 30, 2018, was the last U.S. soldier to die in Syria prior to Wednesday's attack. Also in Manbij.

Go deeper:

What will the President do?

Two U.S. troops killed in Syria attack claimed by Islamic State

U.S. President Donald Trump pauses during the American Commemoration Ceremony at the Suresnes American Cemetery in Paris, France, on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. (Getty Images)

What will the President do? ​


News media are pondering whether President Trump will reconsider his plan to withdraw troops from Syria following the suicide attack that killed four Americans, including two US soldiers, on patrol in Manbij yesterday. The Islamic State claimed responsibility.

So far, U.S. officials said there were no plans to reverse Syria pullout decision, CNN reported.

The attack emboldened critics of President Trump's assertion that the Islamic State had been defeated in Syria, which was the reason invoked when he announced the troop withdrawal on December 19. They hope he will halt or reverse his decision.

"I hope the President will look long and hard at where he is headed in Syria," Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said.

But the President will certainly weigh in the possible consequences of any further American casualties in Syria. More American deaths will inevitably lead the public to demand that the troops be withdrawn.

What's next: In fact, yesterday's attack could paradoxically comfort President Trumps in his decision to pull out troops from Syria. And with the 2020 presidential election approaching, the President will not want to see more American casualties in the news.

Scene of the attack in Manbij, Syria, on January 16, 2019 (Getty Images)

Two U.S. troops killed in Syria attack claimed by Islamic State

Three U.S. soldiers have died in Manbij alone since America sent troops to Syria in 2015

The bomb attack took place in the town of Manbij, controlled by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, while U.S. forces were conducting a routine patrol, officials said and Reuters reported.

This would be the deadliest attack on U.S. forces in Syria since they deployed on the ground there in 2015.

Photos and footage on social media show a large explosion on a busy street and wreckages that include human remains.

Three U.S. soldiers have died in Manbij alone, so far. A total of four lost their lives since 2015, when the U.S. sent troops on the ground in Syria.

Graduation of new Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) members at a camp in the countryside of the northern Idlib province, Syria, on August 14, 2018. (OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

Can an al Qaida-affiliated militia stay in control of Idlib?

Last week, al Qaida-affiliated Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) militia network increased its control of the city and province of Idlib in northwestern Syria, at the expense of Turkish-backed fighters.

The Turkish government listed HTS as a terror group in August 2018 and last weekend carried out counter-terrorism operations against the group's alleged members in cities throughout Turkey, AFP reported.

Yes, but Abu Muhammad Al Julani, HTS leader, expressed his support for Turkey's military operation against U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria. Al Julani is a U.S. government wanted terrorist.

"HTS can not afford losing Idlib despite their in-fights with other groups. The only side that can protect them at this point will be Turkey," says Yousif Ismael from the Washington Kurdish Institute.

If HTS was to succeed and reposition Turkey from nemesis to potential tacit ally, it could make the task of reconquering Idlib harder for the Syrian regime and potentially give an al Qaida-affiliated group a say in Syria's future.

However, a preferred outcome for the Turkish state is for its allied armed groups to retain control of Idlib. The response to HTS' avances toward Turkey would therefore be a fin de non-recevoir.

Syria's conflict news you should know - January 14, 2019

  • Al Qaida-affiliated Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham militia network increased its control over the city and region of Idlib in northern Syria. Consolidation of territory control and fighting forces will help the Islamist-majority in control solidify their hold and render the task of reconquering Idlib harder for the Syrian regime.
  • The Turkish government continued pushing back against U.S. National Security Advisor Ambassador John Bolton's statement that "the U.S. military would only leave Syria if Turkey guaranteed the safety of Kurds there," he said on his trip to Turkey last week. Sources said Turkish military is amassing more troops at the border with Syria, raising the prospect for an attack into Syria, in the region currently under the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces control.
  • Former veteran with combat experience in Iraq and current Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii, announced her intention to run for US president. A member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, she stood out for her position on the ongoing conflict in Syria, arguing against the U.S. removing President Bashar al Assad from power. She visited Syria last year.


Syria's conflict news you should know - January 11, 2019

  • U.S. military has begun Syria withdrawal process…Well, not so fast. Today's initial media reports said that the U.S. military began the process for withdrawing its 2,000 troops in Syria. The Pentagon later said it has begun withdrawing equipment but not troops.
  • "The U.S. military would only leave Syria if Turkey guaranteed the safety of Kurds there," U.S. National Security Advisor Ambassador John Bolton said, on his trip to Turkey this week, prompting a harsh Turkish diplomatic backlash.
  • Russian troops arrived near Manbij, the Manbij Military Council announced today. Earlier this week, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces--to which the Manbij Military Council is affiliated--said they were in talks with Russia on the future of northern Syria and their safety from a Turkish military attack.
  • Scoop: at this year's CES, the world's largest consumer electronic trade show that just ended in Las Vegas, I spoke with technology and social impact entrepreneurs with experience working with Syrian refugees in neighboring countries as Jordan as well as in Syria. They said they want an end to the armed conflict and stability, seemingly less obsessed about the "Iran threat" and the Assad-must-go focus prevailing in Washington.
Axios

What Trump's Syria policy means for Syrians

We are about three weeks into President Trump's announcement that he will withdraw American troops from Syria and I caught up with Sameh, the young engineer from Damascus who is developing alternative and sustainable way of farming that could help bring food security to local populations in Syria. His story was published by the Atlantic Council last November.

Sameh told me what he thinks American troops pulling out of Syria means for his country and the future of his agriculture project.

  • "A crazy turn of events for an area [northern Syria] everybody around me took for granted was going to be under the protection of the U.S.."
  • "We don't know who's going to be in control [of northern Syria], which has been a recurring problem with the Syrian revolution…Since 2011 there has been too many people and too many parties involved, each with their own agenda for Syria. Islamic groups, fighters who don't have religion, fighters backed by Arab Gulf countries gulf and who follow their orders, groups backed by Turkey…Each come with their own propaganda."
  • Three main opposition fighting groups are left in Syria. "Islamic groups, like HTC, groups backed by Turkey, and in between the Muslim Brotherhoods who lost in Ghouta and southern Syria and might have joined groups backed by Turkey and therefore support Turkey's policy in Syria…and the Kurds."
  • The U.S. might be taking a stand for the Kurds and delaying withdrawal. "According to a recent statement [by the Trump administration], the U.S. wants to make sure that the Kurds are not going to be killed. What is the meaning of this big statement? Will the U.S. give weapons to the Kurds or seek an agreement with Turkey? Are they going to leave one single military base in northern Syria, perhaps near the oil wheels, around which Kurdish fighters would relocate?
  • "My agricultural project [initially planned for northern Syria] is in wait and see mode. But we are still working on building the prototype, here in America."
Flavius Mihaies

Syria's 2000 American troops: Strength is not in numbers

But "if there is an incident where 10 or 15 American soldiers are killed, it becomes a political issue in the U.S. and Trump will abandon Syria. The Iranians understand that," last U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford told me.

With President Donald Trump's announcement to withdraw American troops from Syria on December 19th, analysts and American media have deemed the presence of about 2000 troops in northern/eastern Syria controlled by the U.S.-allied and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces either as:

  1. Wholly insufficient compared with the number of troops and military assets from the Syrian regime, Russia, Iran, Turkey and Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces, or,
  2. In the word of Hagar Chemali, a former spokesperson for the US Mission to the United Nations, on CNN yesterday: "a very low-cost effort. You have about 2000 troops in areas that have already been liberated. They're there to make sure that things are rebuilt, that refugees can go back. And we know that ISIS is not completely defeated."

"Only" 2000 troops, but boots on the ground is not the full story about American military capability in Syria. On February 8, 2018, an attempt by pro-Syrian government forces to attack territory controlled by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and where American troops were present was met with devastating American and coalition airstrikes and repelled, the New York Times reported. U.S. troops on the ground typically collect intelligence and call in airstrikes.

Characterizing American presence in Syria as a "very low-cost effort [...] in areas that have already been liberated," is equally inaccurate and misleading. As I saw the day of my arrival in Manbij last June, American troops go in patrols in groups of three Hummvees and go on foot patrols as well, reportedly. This makes them vulnerable to attacks. One U.S. soldier was killed in an improvised explosive device attack in Manbij on March 30th. Army Master Sgt. Jonathan Dunbar was the fourth service member who has died in Syria since the U.S. sent troops to Syria in 2014.

"If there is an incident where 10 or 15 American soldiers are killed, it becomes a political issue in the U.S. and Trump will abandon Syria. The Iranians understand that," Robert Ford, the last U.S. ambassador to Syria, told me in May.