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Raqqa Assault by the Coalition Forces can Bring about a Change

The terror state would survive the loss of Mosul, but not the fall of Raqqa

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Fighters of the Syria Democratic Forces prepare to fire a mortar shell towards positions held by Islamic State fighters in northern province of Raqqa, Syria, May 27, 2016. (VOA)
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  • Located on the the northeast bank of the Euphrates River, Raqqa, the first provincial capital in either Syria or Iraq the group captured, has even more than Mosul been the administrative center of the caliphate and the city from which terror attacks against Europe are planned
  • Control of Raqqa and its province has supplied IS with considerable revenue, from the sale of oil from the nearby Al-Habari and Al-Thawra oil fields and from cash the group has demanded from the Assad regime in Damascus for the electric power generated by the Euphrates and Baath dams
  • Raqqa has come under pressure. President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, backed by Russian air power, have made advances southwest of the city, while a Kurdish-dominated alliance supported by U.S. airstrikes has been attacking from the north

October 12, 2016: Which city is more important for the Islamic State, Syria’s Raqqa, the capital of the terror group’s self-styled caliphate, or Iraq’s Mosul, the much bigger city where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced more than two years ago the creation of his caliphate straddling Iraq and Syria?

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With maybe days to go before Iraqi and Kurdish forces, backed by the United States and other Western allies, launch an assault on Mosul, which will likely take weeks if not months to succeed, Western military officials and independent analysts are cautioning the liberation of Iraq’s second largest city won’t trigger a sudden collapse of the terror group. Its fall would represent a major strategic and symbolic blow to IS, which has already lost a quarter of the territory it once held.

Fighters from predominantly Sunni Arab force take part in a training session before the upcoming battle to recapture Mosul in Bashiqa, Oct. 6, 2016. (VOA)
Fighters from predominantly Sunni Arab force take part in a training session before the upcoming battle to recapture Mosul in Bashiqa, Oct. 6, 2016. (VOA)

The terror state would survive the loss of Mosul, but not the fall of Raqqa, they say. To speed up the end of the caliphate, some officials and analysts argue a better strategy would have been to attack both cities at the same time, forcing an already stretched group to defend two major offensives on different fronts and limiting its ability to reinforce either.

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“I think Raqqa is more important to IS than Mosul is, because of how central Raqqa is to the group’s administration of its declining state,” said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based research group.

Raqqa, Syria (VOA)
Raqqa, Syria (VOA)

Caliphate’s administrative center

Located on the the northeast bank of the Euphrates River, Raqqa, the first provincial capital in either Syria or Iraq the group captured, has even more than Mosul been the administrative center of the caliphate and the city from which terror attacks against Europe are planned.

And control of Raqqa and its province has supplied IS with considerable revenue, from the sale of oil from the nearby Al-Habari and Al-Thawra oil fields and from cash the group has demanded from the Assad regime in Damascus for the electric power generated by the Euphrates and Baath dams.

Canadian Brigadier-General David Anderson told reporters last week in Irbil that IS values Raqqa more than Mosul. Anderson, who heads a Canadian military mission that is training Iraqi soldiers for the Mosul campaign, is one of several Western military officials who would prefer twin assaults to be mounted simultaneously on Mosul and Raqqa, arguing IS fighters will flee Mosul once the Iraqi city’s fall is imminent only to reinforce the group’s Syrian stronghold, making to harder for Raqqa to be overrun.

“Mosul’s fall doesn’t mean IS is completely defeated,” Anderson cautioned. “Ideally, both could be pressured at the same time, because I think if I was in Mosul and I needed somewhere to go, I would go to Raqqa, if I wanted to maintain the fight,” he said.

Gartenstein-Ross agrees that the best strategy would be to assault both. “It would be a good idea, given how overstretched IS is at present, to attack both at once,” he said.

“But doing so depends on having coalition forces that are capable of mounting a serious assault on both of IS’s major cities at the same time,” he added.

FILE - Soldiers from the Syrian army fire a rocket at Islamic State group positions in the province of Raqqa, Syria, Feb. 17, 2016. (VOA)
FILE – Soldiers from the Syrian army fire a rocket at Islamic State group positions in the province of Raqqa, Syria, Feb. 17, 2016. (VOA)

Raqqa under pressure

Raqqa has come under pressure. President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, backed by Russian air power, have made advances southwest of the city, while a Kurdish-dominated alliance supported by U.S. airstrikes has been attacking from the north.

Assad’s forces, however, are now focused on seizing eastern Aleppo from rebel militias. And plans for a full-scale offensive on Raqqa by U.S.-backed forces appear to have been put on hold thanks to a dispute with Turkey, which opposes the Kurds leading an assault on Raqqa, and divisions among IS enemies on the ground.

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Olivier Guitta of GlobalStrat, a geopolitical risk consultancy, says “to do both operations at the same time is really a stretch.” In Iraq, he says, the anti-IS coalition can “count on the Iraqi army and Shi’ite militias,” but “in Syria there is a different picture.”

As late as August, U.S. war planners were looking at ways of pulling off coordinated offensives on both cities, which they believed would have had the benefit of pinning down the terror group’s highly mobile units. Now U.S. officials are talking about pressuring Raqqa while Mosul is under assault.

U.S. airstrikes have noticeably decreased in tempo on the outskirts of Raqqa. Washington has been avoiding bombing runs on the center of the city to reduce civilian casualties, with the focus being more Iraq.

Coalition airstrikes

On Monday, there were no U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in or near Raqqa, according to the Pentagon. When it comes to airstrikes in Syria, the Pentagon’s focus now appears to be hampering IS in eastern Syria close to and along the border with Iraq, disrupting the terror group’s ability to reinforce Mosul, from Deir Ezzor.

U.S. officials say they have been monitoring the Syria-Iraq border for months now, building up a detailed picture about how IS moves back and forth across the border.

Surveillance of the border will be intensified, they say, to prevent IS units heading to Mosul and to target jihadist fighters fleeing to Raqqa. (VOA)

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Indian Cuisine becomes the most sought after in Moscow

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Indian cuisine in FIFA World cup
Indian dishes available in Moscow during FIFA World Cup 2018, representational image, wikimedia commons

June 17, 2018:

Restaurateurs Prodyut and Sumana Mukherjee have not only brought Indian cuisine to the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018 here but also plan to dish out free dinner to countrymen if Argentina wins the trophy on July 15.

Based in Moscow for the last 27 years, Prodyut and Sumana run two Indian eateries, “Talk Of The Town” and “Fusion Plaza”.

You may like to read more on Indian cuisine: Indian ‘masala’, among other condiments spicing up global food palate.

Both restaurants serve popular Indian dishes like butter chicken, kebabs and a varied vegetarian spread.

During the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

The Mukherjees, hailing from Kolkata, are die-hard fans of Argentina. Despite Albiceleste drawing 1-1 with Iceland in their group opener with Lionel Messi failing to sparkle, they believe Jorge Sampaoli’s team can go the distance.

“I am an Argentina fan. I have booked tickets for a quarterfinal match, a semifinal and of course the final. If Argentina goes on to lift

During the World Cup, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia
FIFA World Cup 2018, Wikimedia Commons.

“We have been waiting for this World Cup. Indians come in large numbers during the World Cup and we wanted these eateries to be a melting point,” he added.

According to Cutting Edge Events, FIFA’s official sales agency in India for the 2018 World Cup, India is amongst the top 10 countries in terms of number of match tickets bought.

Read more about Indian cuisine abroad: Hindoostane Coffee House: London’s First Indian Restaurant.

Prodyut came to Moscow to study engineering and later started working for a pharmaceutical company here before trying his hand in business. Besides running the two restaurants with the help of his wife, he was into the distribution of pharmaceutical products.

“After Russia won the first match of the World Cup, the footfall has gone up considerably. The Indians are also flooding in after the 6-9 p.m. game. That is the time both my restaurants remain full,” Prodyut said.

There are also plans to rope in registered fan clubs of Latin American countries, who will throng the restaurants during matches and then follow it up with after-game parties till the wee hours.

“I did get in touch with some of the fan clubs I had prior idea about. They agreed to come over and celebrate the games at our joints. Those will be gala nights when both eateries will remain open all night for them to enjoy,” Prodyut said.

Watching the World Cup is a dream come true for the couple, Sumana said.

“We want to make the Indians who have come here to witness the spectacle and feel at home too. We always extend a helping hand and since we are from West Bengal, we make special dishes for those who come from Bengal,” she added. (IANS)