PROSPECTS OF TURKISH-RUSSIAN MILITARY CONFLICT IN SYRIA

Dear friends, during the past 2 weeks, there were signals of the growing confrontation between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham as well as the intensifying coordination between Turkey and Russia in Greater Idlib.

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The region of Greater Idlib remains the main source of tensions in Syria.

The March 5th ceasefire deal reached by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow allowed an end to be made to the open military confrontation between the Turkish Armed Forces and the Syrian Army. However, as of mid-April, the main provisions of the deal have yet to be implemented. Members of al-Qaeda-linked groups still enjoy freedom of movement across Greater Idlib and keep their positions with weapons and heavy equipment in southern Idlib.

The safe zone along the M4 highway, the creation of which was agreed, has not been created. All Russian-Turkish joint patrols have been conducted in a limited area west of Saraqib and have just been a public move needed to demonstrate that the de-escalation deal is still in force.

Ankara turns a blind eye to regular ceasefire violations and other provocative actions by militant groups and their supporters. Additionally, it has continued its military buildup in Idlib. The number of Turkish troops in the region reportedly reached 7,000, while the number of so-called ‘observation posts’ exceeded 50. Meanwhile, Turkish-affiliated media outlets ramped up a propaganda campaign accusing the Assad government of killing civilians, of ceasefire violations, of using chemical weapons and of discrediting the de-escalation agreement by calling it the surrender of the goals of the so-called Syrian revolution.

On the diplomatic level, neither Turkey nor Russia demonstrate open antagonism, but statements coming from the  top military and political leadership of Turkey regarding the conflict in Syria demonstrate that Ankara is not planning to abandon its expansionist plans or aggressive posture towards the country.

These factors set up a pretext for and increase the chances of a new military escalation in Idlib. However, this time the conflict is likely to lead to at least a limited military confrontation between the Turkish and Russian militaries. Both sides have troops deployed in close proximity to the frontline, including the expected hot point of the future escalation – Saraqib.

Possible phases of escalation are the following:

  1. Without the full implementation of the Moscow de-escalation deal and neutralization of radicals, the military situation in southern and eastern Idlib will continue to deteriorate. Militants, inspired by their impunity and the direct protection of the Turkish Army, will increase their attacks on the positions of Syrian forces and their Russian and Iranian allies. These attacks will gradually increase in scale until they provoke a painful military response from the Syrian Armed Forces. Militants, surprised at this blatant ceasefire violation by the bloody Assad regime, will continue their attacks, now justifying them by the right of self-defense. G_4 (A) Turkish diplomats and media outlets will immediately accuse the Assad government of violating the word and spirit of the de-escalation deal and will claim that the “unjustified aggression of the regime”, which is supported by the Russians, led to the killing of dozens of civilians and will film several staged tear-jerkers from Idlib to support this. The so-called ‘international community’ led by the Washington establishment and EU bureaucrats will denounce the aggression of the Assad regime and its backers.
  2. In the face of the continued and increased attacks from Idlib armed groups, the Syrian Army will have two options:
  • To retreat from their positions and leave the hard-won, liberated areas to the mercy of Turkey and its al-Qaeda-affiliated groups;
  • To answer the increased attacks with overwhelming force and put an end to the ceasefire violations by radicals.

It’s likely that the Syrians will choose the second option. The military standoff in Idlib will officially re-enter a hot phase. The previous years of conflict have demonstrated that militants cannot match Syrian troops in open battle. Therefore, if the Turkish leadership wants to hold on to its expansionist plans, it will have no choice but to intervene in the battle to rescue its proteges. Syria and Turkey will once again find themselves in a state of open military confrontation.

  1. As in previous escalations, the Turkish military will likely opt to start its military campaign with massive artillery and drone strikes on positions of the Syrian Army along the contact line in southeastern Idlib and western Aleppo. Special attention will be paid to the area of the expected confrontation between Syrian troops and Turkish proxies: the countryside of Saraqib, Maarat al-Numan and Kafr Nabel. Turkish forces will not be able to stop the Syrian Army advance without taking massive fire damage to their infrastructure and to the forces deployed in these areas. Such strikes will also result in  further escalation because they will pose a direct danger to the Russian Military Police in Saraqib and Maarat al-Numan, and to Russian military advisers embedded with the Syrian units, which are deployed in southeastern Idlib.
  2. If Turkish strikes target Russian positions and lead to notable losses among Russian personnel, Moscow will be put in a situation where they will be forced to retaliate. Since the start of the military operation in Syria in September 2015, the Russian Armed Forces have concentrated a capable military group in the country protected by short- and long-range air defense systems and reinforced by Bastion-P coastal defense and Iskander-M ballistic missile systems. Additionally, the Russian Black Sea and Caspian Fleets and Russian long-range aviation have repeatedly demonstrated that they are capable of destroying any target on the Syrian battleground and thus also in any nearby areas.

The Russian retaliatory strike will likely target Turkish military columns in close proximity to the frontline as well as Turkish depots, positions of artillery, armoured vehicles, and material and technical support points in Greater Idlib.

Prospects Of Turkish-Russian Military Conflict In Syria

If, after the Russian strike, the Turkish leadership does not halt its aggressive actions and its forces continue attacks on Russian and Syrian positions in Syria, the escalation will develop further.

The second wave of Russian retaliatory strikes will target Turkish military infrastructure along the border with Syria. HQs and logistical hubs in the province of Hatay, which were used to command and supply its Operation Spring Shield, will immediately be destroyed. The decision to deliver strikes on other targets along the border will depend on the success of Turkish forces in their expected attempt to attack Russia’s Hmeimim airbase and put it out of service.

Prospects Of Turkish-Russian Military Conflict In Syria
Prospects Of Turkish-Russian Military Conflict In Syria

Prospects Of Turkish-Russian Military Conflict In Syria
Prospects Of Turkish-Russian Military Conflict In Syria
Prospects Of Turkish-Russian Military Conflict In Syria

Another factor to consider is that should Turkey appear to be too successful in their attack on the Hmeimim airbase, they risk losing their entire Black Sea fleet. While theoretically the Turkish naval forces deployed in the Black Sea are superior to the Russian ones in numbers, the real balance of power there tells a different story. The combined means and facilities of the Russian Black Sea fleet, the Caspian Sea fleet, air forces and coastal defense forces deployed in the region would allow Moscow to overwhelm and sink the entire Turkish Navy. On top of this, Russia, unlike Turkey, is a nuclear power.

Turkey’s NATO allies have already demonstrated that they are not planning to risk their equipment or personnel in order to support Erdogan’s Syrian adventure. Furthermore, a new round of complaints to the UN or demonstrative sanctions will be no help to any destroyed Turkish airbases or to a fleet resting deep underwater.

Ankara will have to find a diplomatic way to de-escalate the confrontation before it gets to this point. The format of this diplomatic solution and the consequences, which Turkey will have to suffer for its military adventure, will depend only on the moment, when the Erdogan government understands that it’s time to stop.

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Terrorists of the Turkestan Party destroy Zeizoun Thermal power plant tower in Idlib countryside

IDLIB, (ST)  – In the context of their criminal and terrorist acts the so-called (Turkestan Party) supported by the Turkish regime destroyed the Zeizoun Thermal power plant tower in Idlib countryside after these organizations had previously dismantled and smuggled irrigation networks outside Syria.

Videos and pictures showed the terrorist organization “Turkestan Party” terrorist organization destroying the tower of the ZeizounThermal power plant in the vicinity of Jisr al-Shugur in the far southwestern countryside of Idlib.

Two years ago, Zeizoun Thermal power plant was subjected to systematic theft and looting by terrorist groups supported by Erdogan’sregime, which included electronic equipment related to electricity generation, huge electric equipment and operating engines under the supervision of technical terrorists who crossed the border, and the giant steam boiler pipes were removed and sent by truck to Turkey.

The Zeizoun Thermal power plant located near the city of Jisr al-Shugur in Idlib, is one of the plants responsible for supplying the country with electrical energy.

Raghda Sawas

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Syrian ‘Regime Change’ Architect: William Roebuck, US Ambassador of Destruction

By Steven Sahiounie

Global Research, May 06, 2020

Since 2006, William Roebuck, a US Diplomat, has been working toward ‘regime change’ in Syria at any cost. The destruction of Syria, hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries, and the migration of one-third of the population have been the price of the US policy under Roebuck’s tenure.  The ultimate goal of ‘regime change’ has never been about greater freedoms, democracy, or human rights for Syrians, but has been with the single target spelled out by Roebuck in 2006: to break the relationship between Iran and Syria. 

William Roebuck, US Ambassador ‘to the Kurds in Syria’

William Roebuck is a 27 year veteran of the US State Department, having served under Presidents Bush, Obama, and currently Trump.  His current title is Deputy Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. He is a former US Ambassador to Syria and Bahrain.  He has served in the US embassies in Iraq and chargé d’affaires in Libya under Obama. Seymour M. Hersh wrote about the US Embassy in Libya and its role in arming the terrorists used by the US in Syria.  For the past several years, he has been based in Northeast Syria and managing the Kurds.

Roebuck designed the 2011 “Arab Spring” in Syria

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange revealed a plan concocted by William Roebuck, the former US Ambassador to Syria.  Wikileaks published US diplomatic cables, and chapter 10 of “The Wikileaks Files” concerns Roebuck’s cable sent on December 13, 2006.  Ambassador Roebuck wrote that the US should take action to try to destabilize the Syrian government by provoking it to overreact, both internally and externally. That plan was put into action in March 2011 at Deraa, where armed terrorists were interspersed among unarmed civilians in street protests. The terrorists were provoking the police and security forces by shooting at them, as well as shooting unarmed civilians which were blamed on the security forces.

The cables prove that ‘regime change’ had been the goal of US policy in Syria since 2006 and that the US promoted sectarianism in support of its policy, which built the foundation for the sectarian conflict which resulted in massive bloodshed. Roebuck advocated for exploiting Syria’s relationship with Iran, which makes Syria vulnerable to Israeli airstrikes. Roebuck advised that the US should destabilize the Syrian government by promoting sectarian divisions between Sunni and Shia, which at the time was not an issue in Syria, which is a secular government and a tolerant society. By promoting sectarian conflict, which he had observed in the oil-rich Arab Gulf monarchies, Roebuck was crafting the destruction of Syrian society.  The ultimate US goal in Syria was to destabilize the Syrian government by violent means, resulting in a change of government, and the new government would be pro-Israeli, and anti-Iranian.

Roebuck’s memo leaked

In November 2019 an internal memo written on October 31 by Roebuck was leaked to the press. He criticized Trump for failing to stop Turkey from invading the Northeast of Syria. “Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria, spearheaded by armed Islamist groups on its payroll, represents an intentioned-laced effort at ethnic cleansing,” Mr. Roebuck wrote, calling the abuses “what can only be described as war crimes and ethnic cleansing.”Empowering Terrorism to “Stop” Terrorism: America’s Foreign Policy in Syria Summed Up in Three Headlines

Roebuck praised the SDF as a reliable partner acting as guards to keep US troops safe while they occupied Syria illegally, to steal the Syrian oil, which is to be used to support the SDF, instead of the Pentagon payroll.

Two is the company, but three is a crowd

The US state department has a Syrian trio: William Roebuck, and the special representative for Syria engagement, James Jeffrey. Joel Rayburn is a deputy assistant secretary for Levant Affairs and special envoy for Syria.

Iraqi and Syrian Kurdish officials are often confused as to which US officials are in charge on any given issue, and whether their policies were personally driven, or reflected US foreign policy directives. Many analysts agree that the US foreign policy on Syria is a confusing mess.

Roebuck pushes the Syrian Kurds to unite

The Kurdish National Council (KNC) and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) have begun direct talks which US diplomat William Roebuck has promoted. For the last two years, he has been working with the Syrian Kurds.  The goal is to unite all Kurdish parties in Syria in one body, which could be part of the UN peace talks in Geneva to end the Syrian conflict.  The KNC and PYD have had serious disagreements over the years.

The KNC is part of the Istanbul-based ‘Syrian opposition’ and aligned with the Kurdish nationalist Massoud Barzani and his Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Iraq.  The KNC received criticism as being pro-Turkish after the Turkish Army invaded the Northeastern region of Syria.

The PYD is part of the political arm of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who had been the US partner fighting ISIS.  PYD bases its political and organizational projects on the PKK’s ideology. The PKK is considered as an international terrorist group accused of thousands of deaths in Turkey over the decades.

The first direct negotiations between the KNC and PYD were held in early April at an illegal US military base near Hasakah, with William Roebuck, an SDF commander Mazlum Abdi in attendance.  Roebuck has met numerous times over the past three months with the KNC, trying to push the idea of unification among the Kurdish factions.

At an April 25 press conference in Qamishli, it was announced that Roebuck had presented a draft that called for a unified political vision for Syria.  After about four meetings, the two sides were in agreement on the following points: Syria is to be a federal, democratic, and pluralistic state; the current Syrian government in Damascus was not acceptable; the Kurdish northeast region was to be a political unit.  It was stressed that both parties were committed to resolving the Syrian crisis through the implementation of UN Resolution 2254, and the new Syrian constitution must recognize Kurdish national, cultural, and political rights.

The SDF and PYD do not have political representation in the Geneva talks because of Turkish opposition to their participation, given the fact that Turkey views the groups as terrorists.  Turkey rejects any project that would lead to Kurdish autonomous rule in Syria, which is the goal of the US. When Trump ordered the sudden withdrawal of US troops from the Northeast of Syria in October, the Kurdish leaders immediately turned to the Syrian government in Damascus to save them from extermination at the hands of the invading Turkish Army.  However, the US did not want the Kurds to be protected by Damascus. The US goal is ‘regime change’ using UN Resolution 2254 as their tool. To achieve that end, William Roebuck has continued to work with the Kurds of the Northeast and is now trying to get them united to be at the negotiating table in Geneva. The Kurds might unite, but they will always remain a small minority numbering only 7% of the population, but who are attempting to control 20% of the territory in Syria.  Will there be justice for the Syrian homeowners and landowners within the territory the Kurds call “Rojava”, who have been made homeless and destitute at the hands of the Kurds? Will the Syrians one day rise in a “Kurdish Spring” cleaning to regain their properties?

Ahed al-Hindi, a political analyst based in Washington, DC, told  Al-Monitor that the US goal to unify the Kurdish ranks in northeastern Syria is a part of a project designed to unify the entire Syrian north, including Idlib and the Kurdish Northeast.  The US goal is to prevent the Syrian government from access to the resources which could be used to rebuild Syria.

The next UN peace talks in Geneva

UN Special Envoy Geir O. Pedersen gave a UN Security Council briefing on the situation in Syria on April 29. He announced the agenda for the next session of the Constitutional Committee had been agreed between the co-chairs, and meetings in Geneva would resume as soon as the COVID-19 restrictions would allow. He continued to stress the importance of the current nationwide ceasefire, which was needed to combat and treat COVID-19.  He declared there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict, and the UN Security Council resolution 2254 must be used as the path to a political settlement that would be acceptable for the Syrian people while restoring the sovereignty, borders, and independence of Syria.

*

Note to readers: please click the share buttons above or below. Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums. etc.

This article was originally published on Mideast Discourse.

Steven Sahiounie is an award-winning journalist. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

ISIS REARS ITS UGLY HEAD IN SOUTHERN SYRIA AND CENTRAL IRAQ

South Front

Tensions between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and the Syrian Army are growing in southern Idlib. Recently, government forces repeatedly shelled positions of the terrorist groups in the Zawiya Mountain area. The most intense shelling targeted Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorists near Fatterah and Sufuhon.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and the al-Qaeda-affiliated “Wa Harid al-Muminin” operations room described this as a blatant violation of the ceasefire regime and announced that they’d killed several pro-government fighters in retaliatory strikes.

At the same time, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham blocked several Turkish military vehicles near the town of Darat Izza in western Aleppo. According to local sources, the group is opposing the growth of the Turkish military presence there because earlier Turkish-backed forces opposed its attempt to reopen commercial crossings with the government-held area in western Aleppo and eastern Idlib.

Contraband traffic and various fees on commercial activities are an important source of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s income. Therefore, despite the public declarations to defeat the Assad regime, the group is interested in trade between the militant-held part of Greater Idlib and the government-controlled part of Syria.

Militant groups directly controlled by Turkey also faced a series of attacks. On May 2, a prominent commander of the Sham Corps, known as Haj Talib al-Khatib, survived an assassination attempt receiving light injures. Unknown gunmen on a motorcycle fired on his vehicle on the road linking the towns of al-Nerab and Sarmin. Late on the same day, Abu ‘Arib, a field commander of the Ahrar al-Sham, died from a land mine explosion on the frontline in southern Idlib. A part of Pro-Turkish sources accuses Hayat Tahrir al-Sham of staging such attacks in order to undermine the influence of its Turkish-controlled counterparts even further.

ISIS cells assassinated two Syrian intelligence officers and a supposed Hezbollah member in the province of Daraa in attacks on April 30 and May 2. These assassinations became the latest in a series of ISIS attacks on government forces. Using the instability on the frontline in Idlib, the terrorist group expanded its operations southern Syria.

The ISIS activity is also growing in Iraq.

Early on May 2, ISIS cells carried out coordinated attacks on positions of the Popular Mobilization Forces in the province of Saladin. Nine fighters of the Tigris Regiment were killed near Mukeshefah and a member of the 41th Brigade was killed near Balad. ISIS militants also briefly seized the PMF positions in the Mukeshefah area.

Later on the same day, ISIS terrorists armed with machine guns and sniper rifles fired on a police station in the village of Zaghinah in Diyala province. Four police officers were killed and nine others were injured.

In a separate development, ISIS units detonated an improvised explosive device on the route of a PMF convoy in the district of Udhaim, and then attacked the convoy’s vehicles with machine guns. A soldier was killed and 3 others were injured.

The increasing number of ISIS attacks in late April and early May even drew the attention of the US-led coalition. On April 29, coalition warplanes bombed the ISIS stronghold in the Hamrin Mountains. The strikes followed a PMF security operation in the area. Nonetheless, the following developments in the provinces of Saladin and Diyala demonstrated that the ISIS threat remains an important factor of the security situation in the country.

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‘They Accept Us as We Are;’ Christians Join Forces With Muslim Group Hezbollah to Fight ISIS in Lebanon

‘They Accept Us as We Are;’ Christians Join Forces With Muslim Group Hezbollah to Fight ISIS in Lebanon

May 02, 2020

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‘They Accept Us as We Are;’ Christians Join Forces With Muslim Group Hezbollah to Fight ISIS in Lebanon

By Vincent Funaro, Christian Post Reporter

The Iran-backed Shiite Muslim militant group Hezbollah, classified for many years by U.S. Intelligence as a terrorist organization, is training Christians to fight ISIS in Lebanon and the Middle Eastern believers say their new and unlikely allies “accept us as we are.”

Citing Lebanese sources, Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin says Christian villages in the Bekaa Valley area of Lebanon are forming militias to join Hezbollah fighters already engaging ISIS and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nursa Front in the Syrian Qalamoun mountains opposite villages in central and eastern Bekaa.

Rifit Nasrallah, a Catholic businessman who is part of the militias fighting ISIS in Ras Baalbek, discussed the alliance with Hezbollah in an International Business Times report last month.

“We’re in a very dangerous situation,” he said. “The only people who are protecting us are the resistance of Hezbollah. The only one standing with the army is Hezbollah. Let’s not hide it anymore.”

Nasrallah said Hezbollah does not expect its allies to convert to Islam or create an allegiance to the group’s ideals.

“They accept us as we are,” he said. “They do not impose on us anything. When there’s an occasion, they come to our children’s birthdays. The people here accept that Hezbollah comes and helps.”

This unlikely alliance between Christians and Hezbollah is a far cry from the adversarial relationship depicted between the two groups in the region.

According to the IB Times report, however, the alliance is one of convenience. Hezbollah is Iran’s strongest proxy in that area of Lebanon and has been a key factor in keeping President Bashar Assad’s regime in power after four years of the Syrian war. Protecting Ras Baalbek is a priority for the group because losing it to ISIS would put the surrounding Shiite towns under direct threat.

As a result, Hezbollah has invested heavily in sustaining the relationship with Christians. The group trained Christians in Syria to fight ISIS alongside them, according to a November report from Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar and even paid wages similar to Hezbollah members for Christians joining their ranks.

“We are not speaking of an assumed threat, we are speaking of a real aggression that exists every hour, every day, every night,” said Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in a recent speech. He explained that armed groups have launched continuous attacks inside Lebanese territories while also holding dozens of Lebanese soldiers and police officers hostage, “so we need a permanent solution.”

Last fall, The Christian Post reported that GOP 2016 presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was booed after he offended some Middle Eastern Christians by declaring at an event in Washington, D.C. that “Christians have no greater ally than Israel.”

Mark Tooley, president of the Institute of Religion and Democracy and an attendee at the evening event, later wrote in a blog entry that he was not surprised by the reaction.‘They Accept Us as We Are;’ Christians Join Forces With Muslim Group Hezbollah to Fight ISIS in Lebanon

“It’s no secret that many Mideast Christians generally aren’t big fans of Israel. I learned this firsthand during the 2006 Israel war on Hezbollah, when my discussion at church with a Lebanese Christian nearly escalated to a shouting match,” wrote Tooley.

“Sometimes American Christians romanticize overseas persecuted Christians into disembodied noble souls unaffected by terrestrial concerns. But they, like everybody else, have histories, loyalties, resentments, grievances, and political calculations.”

The Times of Israel reported in March that Iran and Hezbollah were removed from the list of terror threats against the U.S. as a result of its campaign against ISIS.

“We believe that this results from a combination of diplomatic interests (the United States’ talks with Iran about a nuclear deal) with the idea that Iran could assist in the battle against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and maybe even in the battle against jihadist terrorism in other countries,” the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center said in an analysis of the unclassified version of the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Communities released in February.

Another American body, the Defense Intelligence Agency, however, said both Iran and Hezbollah were still terrorism threats.

“Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and Lebanese Hezbollah are instruments of Iran’s foreign policy and its ability to project power in Iraq, Syria, and beyond,” noted the body in their assessment, submitted to the U.S. Senate on Feb. 26.

“Hezbollah continues to support the Syrian regime, pro-regime militants and Iraqi Shiite militants in Syria. Hezbollah trainers and advisors in Iraq assist Iranian and Iraqi Shiite militias fighting Sunni extremists there. Select Iraqi Shiite militant groups also warned of their willingness to fight U.S. forces returning to Iraq,” it noted.Contact: Vincent.funaro@christianpost.com; follow me on Twitter @vinfunaro

AL-JULANI GOES ON PR TOUR AS PROTESTS AGAINST HTS HEAT UP (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

South Front

In one of his fairly usual PR stunts, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) leader Abu Mohamad al-Julani paid a visit to some of his injured militants in an unspecified hospital in Greater Idlib.

In several photos released by HTS on May 2, al-Julani can be seen meeting and greeting a number of his fighters who lost limbs or got paralyzed in recent battles with the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies. The notorious terrorist was wearing white gloves, likely to protect himself from the novel COVID-19.

Al-Julani Goes On PR Tour As Protests Against HTS Heat Up (Photos, Videos)
Al-Julani Goes On PR Tour As Protests Against HTS Heat Up (Photos, Videos)
Al-Julani Goes On PR Tour As Protests Against HTS Heat Up (Photos, Videos)
Al-Julani Goes On PR Tour As Protests Against HTS Heat Up (Photos, Videos)
Al-Julani Goes On PR Tour As Protests Against HTS Heat Up (Photos, Videos)
Al-Julani Goes On PR Tour As Protests Against HTS Heat Up (Photos, Videos)

The visit was clearly meant to promote al-Julani as a leader of Greater Idlib. In the last few weeks, al-Julani received a backlash over a plan to open a crossing with government-held areas.

Earlier this week, HTS opened the crossing in western Aleppo, challenging some local protesters. The group’s security forces clashed with the protesters, killing a civilian and injuring many others.

The incident provoked a wave of protests in Greater Idlib. This forced HTS to suspend work in the crossing, at least for the time being

Al-Julani’s little PR stunt didn’t go too well. Many in Greater Idlib saw his visit as a provocation. As a result, a new wave of protests against HTS and al-Julani took place.

The recent events indicate that HTS’ popularity in Greater Idlib is declining. The terrorist group’s confrontation with the Turkish military also played a role in this.

With its popularity declining, HTS may resume operations against the SAA. The terrorist group could also move against opponents in Greater Idlib, similar to what happened over the last two years.

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Is there really a group ready to hang Erdogan out to dry?

May 01, 2020

Is there really a group ready to hang Erdogan out to dry?

by Intibah Kadi for the Saker Blog

Australian Investigator and Reporter, Chris Ray, has written an excellent piece [1]on Syrian born Imam Fedaa Al Majzoub, a graduate from the world’s most prestigious Muslim institution, Al-Azhar University, and who, until recently, enjoyed a privileged position in the Sunni Islamic community in Australia as a leader and academic and was presented as a “moderate”. Like many of his peers, he engaged with government and NGO’s in “interfaith” activities [2], reassuring the Australian government and public of unity, fraternity and equal regard for the law [3]and governance of Australia , glossing over, or in fact denying any contradictions vis-à-vis their hardline Takfiri agenda and where loyalties ultimately lie, also perhaps underplaying the decades-long role Saudi Arabia has played in the Muslim communities of Australia[4]. Some of the positions this Imam held in Australia were; Adjunct Lecturer at a public Australian university, Religious Advisor to the Islamic Council of NSW (the most populous state in Australia), Deputy Chairman of the NSW board of Imams, Member of the Fatwa Board on the Australian National Imams Council and Head of Muslim Chaplaincy within the NSW Government Department of Family and Community Services.

My interest in the subject of the Al Majzoub family began back in 2012 when they received media coverage and government sympathy in Australia. They were well known for their opposition to the Syrian government. Several people produced exposes of two brothers of the family including Fedaa Al Majzoub, and corporate media in Australia even repeated those allegations and defended the family. In closed forums the background was discussed and explored regarding the father of the family Hassan AlMajzoub, Syrian born, educated further in Egypt and Saudi Arabia and having lived and worked in Pakistan and Afghanistan where he came and went from Australia for a period of time. When allegations broke out in late 2014 in Australia about the academic and cleric, Imam Fedaa Majzoub, the subject of Chris Ray’s current article, government leaders and the major media rushed to defend him. The prestigious, conservative paper, a prominent newspaper,The Australian, published an article titled “The Respected Aussie imam smeared by Assad regime.” [5], referring with outrage to alleged Syrian Government allegations against him. One of the allegations was that Majzoub was implicated in massacres, one which Ghassan Kadi and I described in English from a Syrian, Arab language documentary.[6]

Notwithstanding Chris Ray’s excellent article on Al Majzoub and his alleged activities, including a previous piece on the two brothers written in 2014 [7], it appears that part of the sources he drew from, namely that of author Abdullah Bozkurt, could be problematic but, even if it does, it provides an interesting story in itself.

Bozkurt produces stunning exposés on Erdoğan, one after another. They are quite delightful to read. Many of his articles are excellent. Nevertheless, Bozkurt appears to have his own dubious agenda. The recent news regarding documents implicating Fedaa AlMajzoub, which Chris Ray has picked up on, seems to only originate from one source; Bozkurt [8]. Perusing Arabic, English and Turkish language media, there appears to be nothing about Fedaa AlMajzoub being in trouble with Turkish authorities. I stand to be corrected, but I will not accept to be corrected if there are reports or the subject is covered by any Gülenist media or supporters because of their history. This is because I believe Bozkurt is working with or sympathetic to the Gülenists. In Sweden, after evacuating from the 2016 attempted coup in Turkey where he was the Ankara bureau chief of the Gülen-friendly “Today’s Zaman Daily, Bozkurt established the media outlet https://www.nordicmonitor.com/. From Sweden, Bozkurt made his claims regarding connections between Al Majzoub and Erdoğan, replete with documents described as genuine.

Abdullah Bozkurt, professes to have recently come across or been furnished with leaked memos allegedly from Turkish police and intelligence compiled way back in 2012. They appear to not contain letter heads and, according to some observers, are not written in a style recognised as typical of Turkish officials. Of interest, the documents don’t implicate any Western powers despite it being well-known that the war on Syria and Libya was prosecuted primarily by the West and that with regard to Syria, Turkey was a crucial enabler for its NATO allies and terrorists’ to access Syria. Bozkurt, being an experienced media man, a former Bureau Chief of a large Turkish newspaper with many contacts, could well be telling the truth about the reliability of these documents, particularly if they have come from dissidents, including Gülenists, who have or still are deeply embedded into the Turkish apparatus, a weeding out task seemingly almost impossible for Erdoğan.Gülenists have been used by the CIA in intelligence operations and are referred to as Gladio B operators[9] and, naturally, they are not going to expose the dirt of the West and their allies in the going-ons regarding Syria or anywhere else. Gülenist articles on international or Turkish affairs may seem attractive, but they are yet another side of the coin when it comes to terrorism.

Bozkurt’s claim is that the classified intelligence documents he states he received, reveal a jihadist group called the Ben Ali Group, led by an Abdaladim Ali Mossa Ben Ali, a Libyan with close ties to Al Qaeda, having participated in transferring foreign fighters and weapons from Libya through to Turkey and that links existed between this group and Erdoğan who was Prime Minister at that time. The documents presented as genuine, show a close working relationship between Ben Ali and Fedaa Al Majzoub, which it alleges was in touch with Erdoğan’s then chief advisors, namely Ibrahim Kalin, now the Presidential spokesman, and Sefer Turan, now the chief Presidential advisor, during the process of arranging the transfer of foreign fighters and weapons. None of this news is new information to those up-to-date on the attempts to take down the sovereign state of Syria. The surprise lies in the total absence of Bozkurt implicating any role of Western forces behind the events he reports on and their close relationship, particularly at this period, with Erdoğan.

At the time of these documents which were claimed to have been created in 2012, any such concerns expressed within them by Turkish authorities would have been laughable as all the enemies of Syria worked together for as long as they were moving forward in achieving their individual aims.

Clearly until the break between Qatar and Saudi Arabia in 2017, memberships in terrorist groups largely were interchangeable and often based on who provided the best or most exciting opportunities. Ghassan Kadi explained to Sputnik in 2015 [10] that “…members walk in and out of these organizations all the time, and in effect, there is no difference between them at all”. Their relationships only fell apart when they failed to take down the Syrian government and scrambled to look for whom to blame for their own failures. Even well after this alleged police and intelligence report, numerous exposés appeared on Erdoğan’s own son and son-in-law’s business ventures with ISIS regarding Syrian oil.

Perusing many of Bozkurt’s articles in turkishminute.com, clearly a Gülenist mouthpiece or strong sympathiser media site, there is no evidence [11]of Bozkurt mentioning any Western players in bed with Turkey with regards to any of the mischief and mayhem going on with Syria and all the bands of terrorists involved. His Twitter account renders no satisfaction either on this deficit.

Had the Western enemies of Syria decided it was time to take down Erdoğan, surely this article and its contents, and maybe some others by Bozkurt, would suddenly have gained prominence, making it to “news flash” status. Fetullah Gülen is no longer a favourite tool of the Americans; some of his key people and enablers spend more time in court than doing anything else in the US. Or, perhaps it is early days and the news, if true, hasn’t been taken up by entities of America’s choosing. If the documents are genuine and have only recently come to the attention of Erdoğan, surely the paranoid megalomaniac would be on another purge within his government and all its apparatuses; that is unless it is being kept very quiet. However with opposition to Erdoğan around the world, keeping the lid on any purge might be difficult.

Investigations I carried out on Feeda AlMajzoub placed him clearly with the FSA and if the 2012 Turkish reports are true, he would have worked with all kinds of people and entities committed to taking down the Syrian government. It was publicly stated by AlMajzoub’s own people that he was the “only Australian “[12] on the Syrian National Council, the political wing of the FSA, at that time funded by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. He was allegedly in the terrorist area when his brother was killed [13] and there are many photos of him with militants from all over the world.

However, once Saudi Arabia and Qatar fell out, the FSA and its affiliates were funded primarily by Qatar, with Turkey facilitating and allowing all the physical logistics such as training camps and, most importantly, access into Syria. Saudis no doubt from the beginning would have felt uncomfortable that they could not control all aspects of the war on Syria due to the longest border with Syria being that of Turkey. Whilst Saudi Arabia controls Jordan, Jordan’s long border with Syria could not provide in any way the logistics and attributes possessed by Turkey. It is common knowledge that Syria would never have been invaded without the key help of Turkey due to its geography[14].This reality was a boon for Turkey’s (Erdoğan’s) dream to gain world Sunni leadership [15].

So why, according to Bozkurt’s article, is Turkey turning on alleged assets such as this Imam, when the regime itself is and has for a long time been deeply involved in the actions described in Bozkurt’s exposé? If this is true, perhaps one explanation could be offered that such individuals have served Erdoğan’s purposes. If that is the case, Erdoğan would likely want to identify all who were loyal and co-operative with him on Syria but who also took money and orders from Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom Erdoğan wishes to wrestle the title of “Leader of the Sunni world” from and, who Erdoğan these days, along with Qatar, stands against. If these claims of Bozkurt are true, and if a Turkish “crackdown” on Al-Qaida has indeed been taking place, given that Al-Qaida, also identified as Al Nusra, which has been a crucial asset to Erdoğan, surely it would merely be a tokenistic action for Western consumption.

Boztkurt’s exposé intimates that the lid is about to blow off on the activities of Erdoğan in respect to this Ben Ali Group and associates. No evidence of such an impending event seems to exist, nor does potential collaboration by powerful entities or states seem to transpire around these allegations, let alone any sign of a developing action brewing in an attempt to set up Erdoğan for a fall. When the time for Erdoğan to take a tumble arrives, we may get a surprise as to who will be responsible.

References and Footnotes:

[1] Chris Ray. “Moderate” Australian Imam Named in Syria arms trafficking operation

[2] Footnote: Chris Ray’s article picks up an important point of a strategy used in Australia by the hidden radical leadership in the Sunni community, that being the activities of “Interfaith” meetings. Such meetings, encouraged initially by the Jewish B’nai B’rith movement, were embraced by Government and relevant NGO’s and educational facilities as a celebration and affirmation of a harmonious, diverse and culturally rich Australia. Concurrently this raised the profile of government “approved” and endorsed, mostly highly qualified, articulate Islamic leaders in the country, ignoring the fact that not all of the country’s Muslims were Sunni. Not only did they become the “show ponies”, trotted out each time Australian authorities or NGO’s wanted to express harmony, they were also used to quell the public anxieties after 9/11, subsequent attacks attributed to “Islamic terrorism” or any disharmony such as the Cronulla Riots in 2005. Fedaa Al Majzoub was up there with Prime Ministers and people of influence. Note the fifth last paragraph of the report below regarding a high level interfaith event; “Interfaith Dinner honouring His Grace Bishop Kevin Manning as the 2010 Champion of Cultural Inclusion”, 9 June 2010

https://islamicfriendshipevents.blogspot.com /2010/06/interfaith-dinner-honouring-his-grace.html

[3]Dinner Meeting between the Imams and the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, Mr. Tony Negus 25 December 2010

https://islamicfriendshipevents.blogspot.com/2010/09/dinner-meeting-between-imams-and.html

[4] Footnote: Saudi Arabia’s role in strong business relationships with Australian government and companies and as a strong US ally, gave them a powerful inroad to radicalising Muslim communities, including emerging refugee communities. Saudi Arabian Wahhabi missionaries could easily enter Australia and go about their activities. Funding for Islamic based activities was substantial. This included funding universities, mosques, study groups, promoting to government particular Islamic leaders, inculcating Saudi Wahhabi culture into communities in place of their traditional cultures, just to mention some of their strategies to replace Sunni Islam with the Wahhabi version. Some links” “Revealed: the Saudis’ paymaster in Australia”, Sydney Morning Herald, 10 September, 2005; https://www.smh.com.au/national/revealed-the-saudis-paymaster-in-australia-20050910-gdm1ko.html ,and “How to be a useful idiot: Saudi funding in Australia”, Mervyn Bendle, 13 October 2008, updated 29 September 2010; https://www.abc.net.au/news/2008-10-13/32626 and “NATIONAL SECURITY:Secret Saudi funding of Australian institutions”,Mervyn Bendle (reviewer) 21 February 2009 http://www.newsweekly.com.au/article.php?id=3808. All this time, it appeared Australian authorities in general, possessed little of no capacity in appreciating the nefarious undercurrents to many of these events, culminating in recruitment opportunities for Wahhabis for the wars and conflicts that interested them.

[5] Respected Aussie Imam Smeared by the Assad Regime, The Australian, December 2014

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/the-respected-aussie-imam-smeared-by-the-assad-regime/news-story/01bafc012a5b37d65c626e82be829049

[6] OGARITE DANDACHE’S AUGUST 2013 DOCUMENTARY ON LATTAKIA MASSACRE

https://intibahwakeup.blogspot.com/2013/10/ogarite-dandaches-august-2013.html

[7] Blood Brothers; the Sydney Jihadists who took on Assad, Chris Ray, 9 January 2014
https://www.crikey.com.au/2014/01/09/blood-brothers-the-sydney-jihadists-who-took-on-assad/?wpmp_switcher=mobile?wpmp_switcher=mobile%20*http://www.smh.com.au/good-weekend/the-controversies-raging-inside-our-islamic-schools-%2020151012-gk790z.html

[8]Al-Qaeda group in Libya had close ties to Erdoğan, intelligence documents reveal, Adbullah Bozkurt, 20 January 2020

[9] The Origins of NATO’s Secret Islamic Terrorist Proxies. Tom Secker, 11 March 2013

[10] “Moderate Islamism” Washington, Brussels Playing with Fire in Syria, Iraq. Ghassan Kadi, Sputnik,12 December 2015

https://sptnkne.ws/x3Zy

[11] Search on Adbullah Bozkurt’s articles https://www.turkishminute.com/author/abozkurt/

[12] Popular Sydney Sheikh Mustapha Al Majzoub martyred in Syria, Muslim Village, 20 August 2012; https://muslimvillage.com/2012/08/20/27205/popular-sydney-sheikh-mustapha-al-majzoub-martyred-in-syria/

[13] Footnote: In 2012 the younger brother of Imam Fedaa AlMajzoub, Sheikh Mustapha AlMajzoub was killed in a terrorist held part of Syria. He was a “Sheikh”, a school teacher responsible for cultivating the minds of young Muslims in Australia and, on his Facebook page, boasted about the capture of 72 Syrian government loyalists. Under his post a friend asked if they had been “slaughtered” yet. The then Premier of NSW, Barry O’Farrell, allegedly, according to Arabic Newspaper, An-Nahar, published on 27 August 2012, offered his condolences for the “killing” of Sheikh Mustapha Al Majzoub. This is despite on the 22nd of August 2012, The Australian publishing that the Sheikh was ” … known to police and intelligence services because of his “extreme” views” https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/sydney-sheik-killed-in-syria-an-extremist/news-story/795ec65ea88ecf84f0622b84e08a6aa4. The grieving father Hassan AlMajzoub travelled to the terrorist held area where his son was killed to visit his grave.The headstone says “Al Shahid Mustapha Al Majzoub”. The father posted a video on his Facebook page of his visit https://www.facebook.com/hassan.almajzoub.31/videos/310864785734275/?__cft__%5B0%5D=AZUKkfhfK2lZeHTBMp5Z_JM9y_nmpWkOiHq6DUuo9B_uWgbB72S38q6xaXp9SUYvvQ7QrUza_-_cfDLMuT2ctlurWw-ElbqHXUQ2J4pUkPhPBSQMZBmXiPZwVfBMeCwee8cKigq-hiQCxN5nzxe6S_Ws&__tn__=%2CO%2CP-y-R

[14]The Gateway To Idlib Goes Via Cilica, Ghassan Kadi, The Saker,1 March, 2020 http://thesaker.is/the-gateway-to-idlib-goes-via-cilica/

[15] Erdogan’s Long-Coming Reality Check: Ghassan Kadi , The Saker, 14 February 2020

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