Kurds face stark options after US pullback

Forget an independent Kurdistan: They may have to do a deal with Damascus on sharing their area with Sunni Arab refugees

October 14, 2019

By Pepe Escobar : Posted with Permission

Kurds face stark options after US pullback

Forget an independent Kurdistan: They may have to do a deal with Damascus on sharing their area with Sunni Arab refugees

In the annals of bombastic Trump tweets, this one is simply astonishing: here we have a President of the United States, on the record, unmasking the whole $8-trillion intervention in the Middle East as an endless war based on a “false premise.” No wonder the Pentagon is not amused.
Trump’s tweet bisects the surreal geopolitical spectacle of Turkey attacking a 120-kilometer-long stretch of Syrian territory east of the Euphrates to essentially expel Syrian Kurds. Even after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cleared with Trump the terms of the Orwellian-named “Operation Peace Spring,” Ankara may now face the risk of US economic sanctions.

The predominant Western narrative credits the Syrian Democratic Forces, mostly Kurdish, for fighting and defeating Islamic State, also known as Daesh. The SDF is essentially a collection of mercenaries working for the Pentagon against Damascus. But many Syrian citizens argue that ISIS was in fact defeated by the Syrian Arab Army, Russian aerial and technical expertise plus advisers and special forces from Iran and Hezbollah.

As much as Ankara may regard the YPG Kurds – the “People’s protection units” – and the PKK as mere “terrorists” (in the PKK’s case aligned with Washington), Operation Peace Spring has in principle nothing to do with a massacre of Kurds.

Facts on the ground will reveal whether ethnic cleansing is inbuilt in the Turkish offensive. A century ago few Kurds lived in these parts, which were populated mostly by Arabs, Armenians and Assyrians. So this won’t qualify as ethnic cleansing on ancestral lands. But if the town of Afrin is anything to go by the consequences could be severe.

Into this heady mix, enter a possible, uneasy pacifier: Russia. Moscow previously encouraged the Syrian Kurds to talk to Damascus to prevent a Turkish campaign – to no avail. But Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov never gives up. He has now said: “Moscow will ask for the start of talks between Damascus and Ankara.” Diplomatic ties between Syria and Turkey have been severed for seven years now.

With Peace Spring rolling virtually unopposed, Kurdish Gen. Mazloum Kobani Abdi did raise the stakes, telling the Americans he will have to make a deal with Moscow for a no-fly zone to protect Kurdish towns and villages against the Turkish Armed Forces. Russian diplomats, off the record, say this is not going to happen. For Moscow, Peace Spring is regarded as “Turkey’s right to ensure its security,” in the words of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. As long as it does not turn into a humanitarian disaster.

No independent Kurdistan

From Washington’s perspective, everything happening in the volatile Iran-Iraq-Syria-Turkey spectrum is subject to two imperatives: 1) geopolitically, breaking what is regionally regarded as the axis of resistance: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Hezbollah; and 2) geostrategically, breaking the Chinese-led Belt and Road Initiative from being incorporated in both Iraq and Syria, not to mention Turkey.

When Erdogan remarked that the trilateral Ankara summit last month was “productive,” he was essentially saying that the Kurdish question was settled by an agreement among Russia, Turkey and Iran.

Diplomats confirmed that the Syrian Constitutional Committee will work hard towards implementing a federation – implying that the Kurds will have to go back to the Damascus fold. Tehran may even play a role to smooth things over, as Iranian Kurds have also become very active in the YPG command.

The bottom line: there will be no independent Kurdistan – as detailed in a map previously published by the Anadolu news agency.

From Ankara’s point of view, the objective of Operation Peace Spring follows what Erdogan had already announced to the Turkish Parliament – that is, organizing the repatriation of no fewer than two million Syrian refugees to a collection of villages and towns spread over a 30km-wide security zone supervised by the Turkish army.

Yet there has been no word about what happens to an extra, alleged 1.6 million refugees also in Turkey.

Kurdish threats to release control of 50 jails holding at least 11,000 ISIS/Daesh jihadis are just that. The same applies to the al-Hol detention camp, holding a staggering 80,000 ISIS family members. If let loose, these jihadis would go after the Kurds in a flash.

Veteran war correspondent and risk analyst Elijah Magnier provides an excellent summary of the Kurds’ wishful thinking, compared with the priorities of Damascus, Tehran and Moscow:

The Kurds have asked Damascus, in the presence of Russian and Iranian negotiators, to allow them to retain control over the very rich oil and gas fields they occupy in a bit less than a quarter of Syrian territory. Furthermore, the Kurds have asked that they be given full control of the enclave on the borders with Turkey without any Syrian Army presence or activity. Damascus doesn’t want to act as border control guards and would like to regain control of all Syrian territory. The Syrian government wants to end the accommodations the Kurds are offering to the US and Israel, similar to what happened with the Kurds of Iraq.

The options for the YPG Kurds are stark. They are slowly realizing they were used by the Pentagon as mercenaries. Either they become a part of the Syrian federation, giving up some autonomy and their hyper-nationalist dreams, or they will have to share the region they live in with at least two million Sunni Arab refugees relocated under Turkish Army protection.

The end of the dream is nigh. On Sunday, Moscow brokered a deal according to which the key, Kurdish-dominated border towns of Manbij and Kobane go back under the control of Damascus. So Turkish forces will have to back off, otherwise, they will be directly facing the Syrian Arab Army. The game-changing deal should be interpreted as the first step towards the whole of northeast Syria eventually reverting to state control.

The geopolitical bottom line does expose a serious rift within the Ankara agreement. Tehran and Moscow – not to mention Damascus – will not accept Turkish occupation of nearly a quarter of sovereign, energy-rich Syrian territory, replacing what was a de facto American occupation. Diplomats confirm Putin has repeatedly emphasized to Erdogan the imperative of Syrian territorial integrity. SANA’s Syrian news agency slammed Peace Spring as “an act of aggression.”

Which brings us to Idlib. Idlib is a poor, rural province crammed with ultra-hardcore Salafi jihadis – most linked in myriad levels with successive incarnations of Jabhat al-Nusra, or al-Qaeda in Syria. Eventually, Damascus, backed by Russian airpower, will clear what is in effect the Idlib cauldron, generating an extra wave of refugees. As much as he’s investing in his Syrian Kurdistan safe zone, what Erdogan is trying to prevent is an extra exodus of potentially 3.5 million mostly hardcore Sunnis to Turkey.

Turkish historian Cam Erimtan told me, as he argues in this essay, that it’s all about the clash between the post-Marxist “libertarian municipalism” of the Turkish-Syrian PKK/PYD/YPG/YPJ axis and the brand of Islam defended by Erdogan’s AKP party: “The heady fusion of Islamism and Turkish nationalism that has become the AKP’s hallmark and common currency in the New Turkey, results in the fact that as a social group the Kurds in Syria have now been universally identified as the enemies of Islam.” Thus, Erimtan adds, “the ‘Kurds’ have now taken the place of ‘Assad’ as providing a godless enemy that needs to be defeated next door.”

Geopolitically, the crucial point remains that Erdogan cannot afford to alienate Moscow for a series of strategic and economic reasons, ranging from the Turk Stream gas pipeline to Ankara’s interest in being an active node of the Belt & Road as well as the Eurasia Economic Union and becoming a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, all geared towards Eurasian integration.

‘Win-win’

And as Syria boils, Iraq simmers down.

Iraqi Kurdistan lives a world apart, and was not touched by the Iraqi protests, which were motivated by genuine grievances against the swamp of corrupt-to-the-core Baghdad politics. Subsequent hijacking for a specific geopolitical agenda was inevitable. The government says Iraqi security forces did not shoot at protesters. That was the work of snipers.

Gunmen in balaclavas did attack the offices of plenty of TV stations in Baghdad, destroying equipment and broadcast facilities. Additionally, Iraqi sources told me, armed groups targeted vital infrastructure, as in electricity grids and plants especially in Diwaniyah in the south. This would have plunged the whole of southern Iraq, all the way to Basra, into darkness, thus sparking more protests.

Pakistani analyst Hassan Abbas spent 12 days in Baghdad, Najaf and Karbala. He said heavily militarized police dealt with the protests, “opting for the use of force from the word go – a poor strategy.” He added: “There are 11 different law enforcement forces in Baghdad with various uniforms – coordination between them is extremely poor under normal circumstances.”

But most of all, Abbas stressed: “Many people I talked to in Karbala think this is the American response to the Iraqi tilt towards China.”

That totally fits with this comprehensive analysis.

Iraq did not follow the – illegal – Trump administration sanctions on Iran. In fact it continues to buy electricity from Iran. Baghdad finally opened the crucial Iraq-Syria border post of al-Qaem. Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi wants to buy S-400 missile systems from Russia.

He also explicitly declared Israel responsible for the bombing of five warehouses belonging to the Hashd al-Shaabi, the people mobilization units. And he not only rejected the Trump administration’s “deal of the century” between Israel and Palestine but also has been trying to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

And then there’s – what else? – China. On a state visit to Beijing on September 23, Mahdi clinched a proverbial win-win deal: plenty of oil supplies traded with investment in rebuilding infrastructure. And Iraq will be a certified Belt & Road node, with President Xi Jinping extolling a new “China-Iraq strategic partnership”. China is also looking to do post-reconstruction work in Syria to make it a key node in the New Silk Roads.

It ain’t over till the fat (Chinese) lady sings while doing deals. Meanwhile, Erdogan can always sing about sending 3.6 million refugees to Europe.

What’s happening is a quadruple win. The US performs a face saving withdrawal, which Trump can sell as avoiding a conflict with NATO alley Turkey. Turkey has the guarantee – by the Russians – that the Syrian Army will be in control of the Turkish-Syrian border. Russia prevents a war escalation and keeps the Russia-Iran-Turkey peace process alive.  And Syria will eventually regain control of its oilfields and the entire northeast.

Syrian War Report – October 11, 2019: Turkish Forces Storming Tell Abyad, Ras Al-Ayn

South

Since October 9, the Turkish Armed Forces and Turkish-backed militants have been developing a ground phase of their operation against Kurdish armed groups in northeastern Syria.

The main Turkish efforts were focused on the towns of Ras al-Ayn and Tell Abyad. Turkey-led forces captured several villages surrounding the towns and event entered Tell Abyad. Nonetheless, the situation in the area remains unstable. It is expected that the Syrian Democratic Forces, a brand used by mainstream media to describe the YPG and the YPJ, will be able to defend fortified urban areas until they are not encircled.

According to pro-Turkish sources, over 100 YPG/YPJ members were neutralized since the start of the operation. This number remains unconfirmed. Pro-Kurdish sources claim that the YPG was able to eliminate several pieces of Turkish military equipment and kill two dozens of Turkish proxies. These claims were also barely confirmed by any evidence. However, at least 17 civilians were injured in a mortar shelling that targeted the Turkish town of Ceylanpınar.

Syria’s state-run news agency SANA reported on October 10 that about 100 US troops had left northeastern Syria through the Semalka border crossing with Iraq. Taking into account that US President Donald Trump called Turkey’s operation a “bad idea”, but distanced himself from Kurdish forces because they did not help the US in World War II, it becomes more and more clear that the Turkish military action in the region is in fact coordinated with the US.

By this move, the Trump administration makes an important step to return confidence of its key ally in the eastern Mediterranean and, at the same time, delivers a blow to efforts of the Obama administration and the CIA that had contributed notable efforts in supporting the Kurdish project in northern Syria.

The possible rapprochement of the US and Turkey over the conflict in Syria will allow Washington to strengthen its campaign to limit influence of Iran and the Assad government in the war-torn country, as well as open additional opportunities for a revanche of the US military industrial complex on the Turkish market. This is a logical step in the framework of the national-oriented policy provided by the Trump administration.

The key question is how deep into Syria the Turkish military is planning to expand its Operation Peace Spring. Currently, pro-Turkish sources speculate about the possible creation of a 30km-deep corridor. If the US allows Turkey and Turkey appears to be capable of reaching this goal, Anakra will boost its role in the conflict even further and gain a wide range of options to influence its possible settlement. In this event, the Assad government will lost all the remaining chances to restore the territorial integrity and the Trump administration will get additional leverages of pressure on Iran, the Assad government and Russia in Syria.

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TURKISH OPERATION PEACE SPRING IN NORTHEASTERN SYRIA, EXPLAINED

South Front

10.10.2019

Turkey officially announced that it had launched a military operation in northeastern Syria. Over the past years, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other representatives of the country’s leadership have repeatedly announced this idea. However, this time promises were turned into reality.

On October 6, the administration of US President Donald Trump released a statement saying that Turkey will soon carry out its “long-planned operation” into northern Syria. According to the statement, US forces will not “support or be involved in the operation” and “will no longer be in the immediate area”. The announcement came following a phone conversation between the US and Turkish presidents.

On October 7, US forces started withdrawing from their positons along a large chunk of the Syrian-Turkish border. US military garrisons in Tel Abyad, Tel Musa, Tel Hinzir and Tel Arqam were abandoned. US patrols in the border area were halted. The Pentagon provided no details regarding the number of troops withdrawn from the border. US mainstream media outlets mention the numbers from 50 to 100.

This US decision caused a kind of panic among leaders and members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). They simultaneously called the US decision a backstab, asked the US-led coalition to establish a no-fly zone ‘like in Iraq’ and declared their readiness to resume negotiations with Russia and the Assad government, which they just a few weeks ago were calling a ‘bloody regime’.

Kurdish armed groups, mainly the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), are the core of the SDF. The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) dominates in the self-proclaimed administration of northeastern Syria. Ankara names the YPG, the YPJ and the PYD terrorist groups because of their links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). This separatist group is engaged in a long-standing guerrilla war against the Turkish state in an attempt to establish an independent Kurdish state on territory of southeastern Turkey. The PYD and its military wings pursue similar goals in northeastern Syria.

Ankara has reasonable concerns that funds, weapons, equipment and training provided by the US to Kurdish armed groups in northern Syria will later be used by the PKK in its fight against the Turkish government. The US-Turkish ‘safe zone’ agreement on northern Syria was designed to remove these concerns. Turkey insisted that Kurdish armed groups should be removed from the border and disarmed, or, at least, the US should stop supplying them with weapons and equipment. However, this did not happen. The peak of the US-Turkish coordination over this question was several joint patrols along the border.

By evening of October 9, Turkey had put its proxy forces on a high alert and the Turkish Air Force had bombed SDF positions near Tell Abyad, Ras al-Ayn, Kobane and al-Qamishli. The Operation Peace Spring started.

President Erdogan says that its goals are to neutralize “terror threats” along the border, establish a real safe zone and facilitate return of Syrian refugees to their homes. Besides the anti-terror declarations, one of the main points of the Turkish public rhetoric is the oppression of Arab locals by Kurdish militias.

If the Operation Peace Spring develops like Turkish operations in al-Bab and Afrin, Ankara will use its proxy groups as a first line of the ground advance and a shield for Turkish personnel deployed on the ground. Artillery, warplanes and special forces of the Turkish military will be the main striking power. Pro-Turkish sources say that about 15,000-20,000 members of pro-Turkish groups have already been mobilized. If this is true, the total number of personnel, including Turkish servicemembers, involved in the operation may reach 30,000.

At the first phase of the advance, Turkey will likely to get control of the area of the non-implemented US-Turkish safe zone. Some Turkish sources speculate that in the event of success the Turkish Army may push even towards Deir Ezzor. However, this remains unlikely in the current military and diplomatic situation in the region.

SYRIAN WAR REPORT – APRIL 1, 2019: US SAYS SYRIAN ARMY MUST WITHDRAW FROM GOLAN HEIGHTS’ CONTACT LINE

SOUTH FRONT

01.04.2019

Over 50 ISIS members were eliminated by strikes of the US-led coalition in the outskirt of the town of al-Baghuz al-Fawqani in the Euphrates Valley over the past few days, local sources reported. The airstrikes were a part of the operation of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the coalition in the area, which is ongoing despite a formal US statement declaring defeat over ISIS.

According to local sources, a notable number of ISIS members is still hiding in a network of caves and underground tunnels in the area.

Besides this, ISIS cells within the SDF-held area have recently carried out a series of attacks killing at least 10 SDF members near the town of Diban and in the area of the Omar oil fields, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates.

On March 28, General Commander of the SDF Ferhat Abdi Sahin claimed that the group, which includes the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and their all-female faction, the Woman’s Protection Units (YPJ), had made a decision to capture the area of Afrin from Turkish forces.

“We are preparing and making arrangements in order to liberate Afrin … Because this is a military matter, everyone should know that when the time is suitable, the liberation phase will begin,” he said in an interview with Sterk TV.

Currently, the SDF has no land route to Afrin from northeastern Syria while YPG and YPJ control only a few positions to south and southeast of the area. Therefore, SDF statements regarding the military advance on Afrin should are just a political move designed in an attempt to buy support of the Syrian population. The group, which deeply relies on the foreign support to control northeastern Syria, is currently facing notable problems with the control over the Arab-populated areas seized from ISIS.

While the SDF has no real chances to capture Afrin itself, YPG and YPJ cells conduct attacks on Turkey-led forces on a regular basis. On March 31, a Turkish service member was killed and one was injured an attack by Kurdish rebels, according to Turkey’s Ministry of National Defense.

Following the announcement, the Turkish military artillery fired more than 100 shells at YPG positions in the towns of Tatmrsh and Shuargha. No casualties as a result of the shelling were reported.

The US-led coalition and its proxies from the so-called Revolutionary Commando Army continue to prevent evacuation of civilians from the Rukban refugee camp. They even held a live-fire drill involving High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems near the US garrison of al-Tanf located in the same area.

The situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone remains unchanged. The ceasefire regime is violated almost on a daily basis. Firefights and artillery dues are especially intense in northern Hama and southern Idlib.

On March 28, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came with a new statement claiming that his  country will continue working against Iranian presence in Syria. The statement shows that the Israeli military is set to continue its military campaign in Syria.

In own turn, the US did not limit its recent actions in support of Tel Aviv to recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. It also demanded the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) to withdraw from the separation line area established in the framework of the 1974 Disengagement Agreement. US-Israeli efforts to force the SAA to do so could easily turn the Golan Heights into a new hot point and fuel the Syrian conflict further.

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SYRIAN WAR REPORT – DEC. 14, 2018: RUSSIAN FORCES START SIEGE OF US BASE IN AT-TANF

South Front

Russian forces have established several military positions near the US-controlled zone of at-Tanf, pro-government media activists reported on December 12.

A source familiar with the situation, told SouthFront that several air-defense systems and other military equipment were deployed at the Russian positions. More weapons, including heavy rocket launchers, are reportedly expected to arrive there in the upcoming few days.

The Saudi London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat even claimed that Russia is going to deploy an S-300 system to the province of Deir Ezzor. However, this type of rumors is common for the Saudi outlet, which has been actively working to fuel tensions between the Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance and the US-Israeli-led bloc as well as between Russia and Iran.

In early December, forces of the US-led coalition employed its M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System to fire several rockets at positions of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the area of al-Ghurab Mount. The shelling caused no casualties but contributed to further growth of tensions in this part of Syria.

Late on December 13, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces made a fresh effort to capture the town of Hajin from ISIS. According to pro-SDF sources, the group is now in control of the town center and clashing with the terrorists in its southern part. Some sources even already speculated that Hajin is under full SDF control. However, this is yet to be happen.

A spokesman for the coalition of pro-Turkish militant groups branded as the Syrian National Arma, Major Youssef Hamoud, told Reuters that up to 15,000 Turkish-backed militants will participate in the upcoming Turkish operation against the Kurdish militais – YPG/YPJ in northern Syria.

The statement came as the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) deployed a few dozens of armoured vehicles in its provinces bordering the Syrian province of Aleppo.

Meanwhile, a Turkish soldier was killed in an attack of the YPG near the town of Tell Rifaat in northern Aleppo. The TAF responded to the attack by launching a series of powerful artillery strikes on YPG and SAA positions near the town.

It should be noted that earlier in 2018 a notable number of YPG members had fled from the Turkish advance on Afrin to the areas protected by the SAA near the city of Aleppo. Local sources say that YPG members may attempt to use SAA positions as a shield for their attacks on the TAF. In case of the success, this approach may cause open hostilities between the SAA and the TAF in the area.

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Turkey Threatens US-backed Kurdish Forces With New Operation

December 13, 2018

Turkey has threatened a new plan to launch a military operation against US-backed Kurdish groups in northern Syria.

During the Turkish Defense Industry Summit on December 12, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) “will launch an operation east of the Euphrates in a few days to save it from a separatist terrorist organization”. He slammed the plan of the US-led coalition to establish observation posts along the Syrian-Turkish border, but noted that the TAF will not attack US forces.

“It is clear that the purpose of U.S. observation points [in Syria] is not to protect our country from terrorists but to protect terrorists from Turkey,” Erdogan said.

The towns of Ayn Arab (also known as Kobani) and Tell Abyad are named among the most likely targets of such an operation. For example, Haitham Afisi, the leader of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) told the news outlet Enab Baladi that the advance will target Tell Abyad and several villages around it.

In response, the so-called Democratic Autonomous Administration (DAA), an administrative body controlled by the Kurdish militias YPG/YPJ as well as their political wing PYD declared a “total mobilization” in response to Turkish threats. Furthermore, it called on the international community and NATO countries to take a stand against “Erdogan’s aggressive plans”.

The DAA even called on the Damascus government, which YPG and SDF-affiliated entities have repeatedly slammed as an oppressive regime and even as a supporter of ISIS, to take a stand against the possible Turkish advance.

In its first response to the situation, the Pentagon said that any military action into northeastern Syria would be “unacceptable” and a source of concern. Commander Sean Robertson stressed that “dialogue is the only way to secure the border area in a sustainable manner” and that “uncoordinated military operations will undermine that shared interest”.

Meanwhile, US-backed forces have still not been able to deliver a final blow to ISIS terrorists in the Hajin area in the Euphrates Valley. The terrorist group has recently employed at least 6 suicide car bombs to target SDF positions there and at least one of them did reach its target.

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Syrian War Report – November 2, 2018: Syrian Army Discovers ISIS Depot With US-supplied Ammunition

South Front

02.11.2018

On November 1, Hayat Tahir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) announced that its members had attacked positions of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) near the village of Abu Qamis in southeastern Idlib. Three SAA soldiers were reportedly killed.

A source in the SAA told SouthFront that clashes had erupted near the village, but declined to provide additional details. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least one Hayat Tahrir al-Sham member was killed.

Later on the same day, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and another al-Qaeda-linked group, Horas al-Din, shelled multiple SAA positions in northern Hama and western Aleppo.

Meanwhile, Turkish and US troops carried out a first joint patrol near the town of Manbij. The patrol was carried out near the Saju Stream, which separates the Turkish-held city of Jarabulus from Manbij, which is controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF consists mostly of Kurdish armed formations like the YPG, which are considered as terrorist groups by Ankara.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar publicly promised that members of the YPG and another Kurdish armed group, the PKK, “will be buried in the trenches it has dug” near Manbij. He also stated that Ankara would continue its military operations against the PKK in northern Iraq, where the group has a wide infrastructure used for attacks in Turkey.

Sporadic clashes between the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the YPG/PKK are still ongoing near Kobani in Syria. Reports also appeared that the TAF is now forming a list of Turkish-backed groups, which would participate in a possible military operation against the YPG near the Euphrates River.

In the province of Deir Ezzor, the SAA uncovered a large ammunition depot, which included 450,000 bullets of 7.62×51mm caliber, near the city of al-Mayadin. This ammunition depot had been left behind by ISIS terrorists when they lost the battle for al-Mayadin to the SAA. According to the Syrian state media, this ammunition had been supplied by the US to Syrian militant groups, which then sold it to ISIS. Over the past few years, there have been multiple examples when US-backed “opposition groups” have appeared to be terrorist groups or openly cooperated with ISIS.

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Alliance Between Syria and YPG Deepens Ahead of Idlib Offensive, Provoking an Unpredictable Turkey

Whitney Webb 

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ALEPPO, SYRIA — With military forces from the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and Russia gathering around Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province, the last major military offensive of Syria’s seven-year-long war may only be weeks away. As the noose tightens around Idlib, the last hold-out for majority of terrorist fighters still active in Syria, the Syrian army seems to have secured the help of a new military ally: the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Turkish media reported on Sunday that 1,300 YPG fighters have been transferred to Aleppo over the course of the past two weeks to take part in the upcoming Syrian military offensive against the rebel-controlled Idlib province. According to those reports, the last of the YPG convoys arrived in Aleppo from Manbij on Saturday.

The Turkish newspaper The Daily Sabah, citing a report from the Turkish state-funded outlet Anadolu News Agencystated that the YPG’s participation in the upcoming offensive would mark the first time that YPG forces have allied with the Syrian Arab Army on the battlefield since the conflict began. The report also asserted that the YPG “plans to strengthen good relations with the regime and Russia by supporting the [Syrian] regime’s attacks on the opposition.” However, it is worth noting that the YPG expressed interest in battling terror groups within Idlib long before its new alliance with the Syrian government emerged.

News of a YPG-SAA military alliance may come as a surprise as the YPG and related Kurdish groups in Northern Syria chose to ally themselves with the United States early on in the conflict. Indeed, the YPG have long formed the backbone of the U.S. proxy force in occupied northeastern Syria known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in hopes of using the U.S.’ desire to partition Syria to transform that territory into an independent Kurdish-dominated state, long a goal of some elements within Syria’s Kurdish community.

The YPG’s collaboration with the U.S. and its international coalition in Syria has been used by the latter as a common justification for its illegal occupation of around 30% of Syrian territory, claiming that U.S. ground troops in the area were only present in the area to aid the YPG in fighting the terror group Daesh. Thus, this alliance has largely facilitated the U.S. coalition’s occupation of a considerable amount of Syrian territory, a territory that accounts for the majority of Syrian oil, gas, freshwater and agricultural resources.

However, the U.S. has increasingly abandoned its protection of the Kurds, having allowed Turkey, which regards the YPG as a terrorist group, to attack YPG-held territory earlier this year, resulting in the YPG’s loss of Afrin and the surrounding area to the Turks. Adding insult to injury, since June, the U.S. military presence in the area has been involved in joint patrols with the Turkish military near Manbij as part of a deal that Turkish media reports have claimed is “aimed at purging the area of the YPG/PKK presence.”

Given that the U.S. military has long justified its presence in the area by claiming to support the YPG’s and SDF’s offensives against Daesh (ISIS), the U.S.’ increasing cooperation with Turkey has forced the Kurds to take a long hard look at their alliance with American forces.

Unsurprisingly, over the past few months, the Syrian Kurds have been distancing themselves from the U.S. military presence in Syria and steadily increasing coordination with the Syrian government, a direct consequence of the U.S.’ apparent embrace of Turkish military operations in Syria and increased local resistance to the U.S. occupation.

Indeed, in June, over 70 tribes — whose territory is either partially or entirely under occupation by the United States and the YPG-dominated SDF — expressed their commitment to rejoining the Syrian state, re-establishing Syrian territorial integrity, and creating a joint military force with the SAA that would seek to expel foreign troops and militants from Syria. Facing increased local resistance, along with the apparent duplicity of their American allies, the Kurds have increasingly turned to the Syrian government.

First, in July, a military alliance began to take shape as the YPG and the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) reached a preliminary agreement that led to increased SAA influence in areas under YPG control in the al-Hasakah region. Per the agreement, the YPG also allowed the SAA to reopen recruitment offices throughout the region. Since then, the YPG has agreed to hand over several of Syria’s most lucrative oilfields — a devastating strategic loss to the United States. And it further reportedly agreed to form a joint “police force” with the Syrian Army to protect Manbij from a potential Turkish invasion, given that the Turkish government has suggested that a military operation to take Manbij continues to be on the table.

Now, the YPG-SAA alliance has only deepened ahead of the Idlib offensive, as confirmed by reports of YPG deployments to Aleppo in preparation for the upcoming military operation alongside the Syrian Arab Army. The YPG’s participation in the upcoming Idlib offensive on the side of the Syrian government would essentially cement its realignment in the Syrian conflict, greatly weakening the U.S.’ justification as well as its motivation for its continued military presence in Syria, while also potentially provoking an increasingly unpredictable and reactionary Turkey.

Turkey’s motives and choices

Just one day after news of the YPG’s participation in the Idlib offensive was reported, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that Turkey was in “the last stage of preparations for increasing the number of regions in Syria, where we have provided stability through ‘the Euphrates Shield’ and ‘the Olive Branch’ operations. With God’s help, we will liberate new territories in the near future and bring security there.”

Though it is unknown exactly what the targets of this upcoming military operation will be, past Turkish military operations have largely targeted Kurdish militants, making it likely that either parts of Idlib or Kurdish-controlled areas elsewhere, like Manbij, will soon be targeted by the Turkish military.

Indeed, Erdogan had mentioned both areas as the sites of future Turkish military operations earlier this year. In January, Erdogan stated that Turkey would soon control Idlib, ostensibly to clear out terrorist groups in order to allow Syrian refugees living in Turkey to return to Syria. However, Turkey has consistently supported rebel groups within Idlib, such as the Free Syrian Army and even Daesh itself, making it almost certain that any Turkish effort to “clear out” terrorists would only target select groups that Ankara dislikes and allow the other terrorist groups of which it approves to proliferate.

Since Erdoğan first mentioned the plan to take Idlib, Turkey has set up several “military observation posts” surrounding Idlib, which were agreed under the Astana deal with Russia and Iran to create “deconfliction” zones in Syria. These Turkish military outposts have given Turkey territorial control over parts of Idlib and a role of one kind or another in the upcoming offensive. It seems likely that Turkey will only seek to expand its influence in the region and not sit idly by during the upcoming Syrian government offensive — particularly if the Syrian military is joined by the YPG, which Turkey wishes to see eliminated.

However, it is unlikely that Turkish troops would attack the YPG troops active in the Idlib offensive directly, particularly if they are embedded with Syrian or Russian troops. Indeed, given Turkey’s crumbling relations with the U.S. and the associated economic ills that have accompanied that for Ankara, Turkey is reconsidering its alliance with the United States, not just in Syria but entirely — making it unlikely that Turkey would seek to make enemies of the Syrian government, or Syria’s powerful allies like Russia, in order to target a little over a thousand YPG soldiers.

A tangle of contingencies

Yet, Erdoğan has also spoken of wresting Manbij from Kurdish control, stating in March that Turkey would attack Manbij unless Kurdish forces immediately and unconditionally withdraw. Given that the Syrian government and its allies — along with over a thousand YPG soldiers — will be focused on the Idlib offensive, the opportunity may arise for Erdoğan to make good on his promise to target the Kurdish-held city and the surrounding area. If so, the U.S. is unlikely to defend the Kurds at this point, especially in light of the fact that the YPG has given Syria control over its most lucrative oil fields and is increasingly abandoning the U.S. alliance.

However, the joint “police force” combining YPG and SAA fighters could deter Turkey from taking Manbij. If that proves to be true, Turkey may set its sights elsewhere in Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria, given that Erdoğan has also stated a plan to invade Kurdish-held territory as far as Qamishli, the most easterly Syrian town held by the YPG before the Iraq border.

Though Turkey is unlikely to occupy permanently any territory it controls, the more territory it controls the greater its ability to bargain with the Syrian government once the conflict has ended. This would potentially give Turkey the opportunity to push for concessions regarding the Kurdish territories and a severe reduction in the autonomy the Kurds in Syria are seeking.

Ultimately, the upcoming offensive on Idlib and Turkey’s reaction to the YPG’s role in that fight will force Turkey to reassess its alliances in the Syrian conflict — given that Turkey, ironically like the Kurds, is now second guessing its alliance with the United States. Yet, Turkey — with or without the United States — may seek to continue acting as a maverick within Syria, remaining one of the conflict’s most potent and troubling wild cards.

 

SYRIAN WAR REPORT – MARCH 6, 2018: MILITANTS RETREAT UNDER SYRIAN ARMY PRESSURE IN EASTERN GHOUTA

South Front

The Syrian Arab Army, the Tiger Forces and their allies have advanced on positions of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) and other militant groups in the areas of Harasta, Hawsh Ashari, Bayt Siwwa in the Eastern Ghouta region. Government forces have also entered the area of Rayhan, but have not been able to secure it yet.

Meanwhile, the US-led block, the mainstream media and pro-militant sources are developing their propaganda campaign in an attempt to save militants operating in Eastern Ghouta from defeat accusing government forces of civilian casualties and chemical attacks.

On March 5, the Pentagon announced that Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the area of Afrin had led to an “operational pause” in US-led efforts against ISIS in eastern Syria.

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning added that the operational pause had not affected US strikes on ISIS and the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces still control territory it had seized.

Another Pentagon spokesman, Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway, said that “Some fighters operating within the SDF have decided to leave operations in the middle Euphrates river valley to fight elsewhere, possibly in Afrin.”

Thus, Washington at least admitted that the YPG was the main if not only ground striking force of the SDF. Various US officials had repeatedly claimed that the SDF consisted of some mysterious Arab-dominated forces with some YPG presence.

On the other hand, the US will be able to justify their further military presence in eastern Syria with “we are fighting ISIS” mantra now as long as its operation is on “pause”.

On March 5 and March 6, the Turkish Armed Forces and the Free Syrian Army advanced further in Afrin and captured the villages of Qurayriyah, Qatirah, Karakih and entered the Sharan district center. Clashes are ongoing.

Syrian Army readies for urban warfare operation after seizing all rebel-held farmland areas in east Damascus

 Syrian Army progress in East Ghouta since start of ground offensive (Credit: Syrian Digital Media).

BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:10 A.M.) – Just two weeks since kicking off its ground offensive against armed rebel groups in Damascus’ East Ghouta region, the Syrian Army has seized virtually all of the farmland areas that once made up the insurgent pocket.

By this advance, the Syrian Army has cornered militant groups within a number of district towns and cities on Damascus’ eastern periphery as several suburbs belonging to the easternmost parts of the capital itself (i.e. Jobar).

 Hitherto, the Syrian Army has mostly only engaged Jaysh al-Islam militants due to the main focus of the operations being in the eastern half of the rebel bastion where the insurgent groups predominates.

In taking the main urban regions of East Ghouta itself, the Syrian Army will now encounter a multitude of other rebel factions simultaneously including Al-Qaeda affiliate Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham (better known by its former name Jabhat al-Nusra), Syrian Muslim Brotherhood affiliate Ahrar al-Sham and Free Syrian Army affiliate Faylaq al-Rahman.

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SYRIAN WAR REPORT – FEBRUARY 16, 2018: TURKISH FORCES CAPTURE LARGE AREA IN AFRIN

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On February 15, the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) achieved a major breakthrough in their battle against Kurdish YPG/YPJ forces in the area of Afrin. The TAF and the FSA captured the villages of Karri, Sharbanli, Kamrash, Shadia, Khara Suluq, Jaqla Tahtani, Durakili and Diwan al-Fawqani. The YPG counter-attacked in Sirinjak and Duraqli but failed to achieve any progress.

Pro-Turkish sources say that over 40 YPG members were killed in the recent clashes. The total number of so-called ‘neutralized terrorists’ claimed by the Turkish General Staff since the start of Operation Olive Branch is over 1,500.

On February 16, clashes between Turkish forces and the YPG continued across Afrin as the TAF and the FSA further developed momentum.

Amid the Tukrish success, the Lebanese al-Mayadin TV reported that the Damascus government and the YPG had allegedly reached an agreement over Afrin. The agreement will reportedly allow units of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) to enter the area. However, this report is still not confirmed by official sources. Previous media reports about the alleged Damascus-YPG agreement were dismissed by the YPG.

Another Turkish military convoy entered the province of Idlib and is now establishing an observation point in the village of Sarman, according to pro-opposition sources. The TAF already has observation points in al-Eis and Tell Tuqan. If it establishes the next one somewhere near Khan Shaykhun, any SAA offensive operation in Idlib will be blocked by Turkish forces.

Militant groups operating in northern Homs announced on February 15 that they had withdrawn from a de-escalation agreement with the SAA and said that they will not conduct any direct talks with the Damascus government. They also called on Ankara to help them to combat what they called the Assad regime.

Syrian War Report – February 15, 2018: Israel Claims Half Of Syrian Air Defenses Is Destroyed

South Front

The Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) captured the village of Qude from YPG/YPJ forces in the Afrin area. Separately, reports appeared that the TAF and the FSA had deployed additional troops and equipment west of the Jandaris district indicating the upcoming offensive there.

Pro-YPG sources said that Kurdish forces had repelled Turkish attacks in the districts of Rajo and Bulbul. Over 20 Turkish-backed fighters were reportedly killed there.

Both the Syrian Army and US-backed forces are reportedly massing troops and fortifying their positions in the Euphrates Valley. According to pro-opposition and pro-government sources, the sides are preparing for possible skirmishes in the area.

ISIS captured Haifa Street from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and its allies in the center of the Yarmouk refugee camp in southern Damascus. Separately, the terrorist group also attacked HTS positions in the western part of the camp, but failed to gain any ground. Four ISIS members were reportedly killed.

February 10 Israeli airstrikes took out nearly half of the Syrian air defenses, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on February 14 citing “senior Israel Defense Forces officials”. The sources considered the operation a “success” even despite the fact that the F-16I had been shot down.

On the same day, the Russian media provided another look at the story citing Syrian and Russian military sources. According to this version, Syrian forces shot down 13 of 18 Israeli air-launched cruise missiles during the encounter additionally to the F-16I.

On February 14, Ali Akbar Velayati the top adviser to Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on the US to withdraw its troops from Syria describing its presence as illegal.

The statement was a response to earlier remarks by US State Secretary Rex Tillerson, who argued that the Iranian presence is destabilizing the situation in the country. The diplomat also rejected an idea that the US lacks influence in Syria saying that Washington and the coalition forces control a large part of the country’s oil fields and about 30% of its territory.

Considering the current attitude of the sides, it’s hard to expect that any kind of a comprehensive diplomatic solution of the crisis can be found soon.

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YPG Says “No Intention to Fight” Syrian Gov’t Troops

February 13, 2018

YPG

A representative of the Kurdish self-defense units, Nuri Mahmoud said the YPG forces have no intention of attacking government forces.

Mahmoud remarks were during an interview with Sputnik about the relationship of the Kurdish forces with the Syrian government troops and the United States.

Mahmoud stressed that in the rural areas of Deir ez-Zor province, clashes occur from time to time between government forces and the YPG units, but the Kurdish forces “have no intention of attacking government forces.”

Talking about the cooperation of the Kurdish forces with the United States, Mahmoud said:

“The purpose of our alliance with the United States is to jointly fight against ISIL (referred to Daesh in Arabic), we have no other purpose in mind. We have no intention of fighting the Syrian government or anyone else. We want everyone to live freely and peacefully, we want an early resolution of the Syrian conflict within a united Syria. Our actions are always based on the principle of defense, not attack. Our forces fought against ISIL, because the group would never enter a dialogue, and it rejects the idea of a democratic settlement.”

“We are fighting for the stability of Syria. A large number of people from all across Syria are moving to the territories that we liberated from ISIL. We have freed and control 40 percent of the Syrian territory to date,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mahmoud denied allegations that ISIL militants joined the ranks of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

“We are the force that is continuously fighting against ISIL. Those who claim the opposite, want to simply distort reality. YPG and YPJ [women’s units of the YPG] units are the only ones that defended Kobani from ISIL. The whole world knows about our fight against ISIL,” he concluded.

Turkey’s started its so-called “Olive Branch” offensive in Syrian Kurdish-dominated city of Afrin, on January 20. As Ankara had repeatedly emphasized, the offensive was aimed at protecting the Turkish border with Syria from the terrorist presence, referring to Kurdish formations in the region: YPG and the PYD, linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) listed as a terrorist organization by Ankara.

SourceSputnik

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SYRIAN WAR REPORT – FEBRUARY 9, 2018: SYRIAN ARMY PURGED ISIS TERRORISTS IN NORTHEASTERN HAMA

South Front

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the Tiger Forces and their captured Ibn Wardan Qastel and the large nearby area in the northeastern Hama pocket after the ISIS defense had collapsed there. According to pro-government sources, army troops are now close to full liberation of the area.

Government forces are also working to evacuate civilians and to remove IEDs and mines from the recently liberated villages.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) and its allies failed to overrun the SAA defense in the area of Abu al-Duhur and their attack resulted in almost no gains. Pro-government sources say that the militant groups lost about a dozen of fighters and two vehicles in the recent clashes.

Separately, the Syrian military increased airstrikes on positions of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam, Ahrar al-Sham and Faylaq al-Rahman in the districts of Irbin, Duma, Harasta, Madira, Mesraba, Zamalka and Saqba in eastern Damascus. Local sources link this activity with the facts that the militants rejected a ceasefire agreement reached during the Vienna talks.

Kurdish YPG/YPJ forces repelled attacks of the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the districts of Sheikh al-Hadid and Bulbul. According to pro-Kurdish sources, the YPG/YPJ killed over 38 members of the Turkey-led forces as well as destroyed two vehicles and a battle tank in the recent clashes.

According to the TAF’s general staff, Turkish forces have neutralized over 1,000 Kurdish fighters and some mysterious ISIS members since the start of Operation Olive Branch. Meanwhile, the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that over 123 Kurdish fighters have been killed. This number is likely closer to the reality.

Contradicting reports are circulating about the February 7 strikes of the US-led coalition on government forces in the province of Deir Ezzor. According to some US military officials quoted by the mainstream media, over 100 pro-Assad fighters were killed in the strikes. Syrian media activists say that 25 government fighters were killed and about 50 others injured. According to the February 8 statement of the Russian Defense Ministry, 25 people were injured in the attack. The ministry added that government troops were conducting an operation against ISIS sleeper cells in the area when they were shelled with mortars, rocket launchers and then attacked by the coalition’s attack helicopters. It should be noted that according to the US-led coalition’s version, government forces were attacking positions of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Meanwhile, the Arab al-Bakara tribe announced in an official statement that dozens of its members were killed in the coalition strikes. The statement added that al-Bakara is ready to fight ISIS, the SDF and the US-led coalition.

The situation revealed the high level of tensions existing in the Euphrates Valley region. These tensions may be used by ISIS to resume its terrorist activities in the area.

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US Setting Up Military Base In Syria

By South Front

June 20, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – According to local sources, US-led coalition forces have begun setting up a new military base in Tabqah town in the province of Raqqah.

The new base will be located in the military housing area, the Mohammed Fares school as well as the military and security buildings in the third district of the town. US forces reportedly intend to build a command center and residential buildings for its troops. According to opposition sources, USA wants to adopt the new base in Tabqah town as a long-term base in Syria.

Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports from Kurdish sources appeared arguing that a new agreement between the USA and YPG was made. The agreement will allegedly allow the US military to stay in the YPG-held areas for 10 years. In turn, the US will continue providing military aid to YPG. However, no official sources have reported about this.

The Turkish News Agency Anadolu announced that Washington has supplied YPG and YPJ Kurdish forces in Syria with modern weapons within the last ten days. On June 16 , 50 trucks loaded with weapons arrived through Kurdistan Region border crossings. On June 5, 60 trucks loaded with arms arrived to the SDF-held areas. 20 more trucks arrived on June 12, according to the agency.

According to the Anadolu report, the Kurds received: 12,000 rifles, 6,000 machine guns, 3,500 machine guns, 3,000 RPG-7 bombers and 1,000 grenade launchers of the AT-4 type produced by the United States and LNG grenades, besides near 235 mortar rounds, 100 sniper rifles and 450 7PV night vision sights.

This article was first published by South Front

State Senator Calls US Base in Syria a Violation of International Law

By Sputnik

June 20, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The US base in Syria’s At Tanf area is a clear violation of international law, State Senator from Virginia Richard Black told Sputnik.

“We’ve even set up a base at Al Tanf in the southern part, it’s an American base within the country of Syria,” Black said. “You can’t get a more obvious violation of international law than to actually move in and set up a military base in a sovereign country that has never taken any offensive action towards our country.”

The United States last week transferred two high mobility multiple-launch rocket systems from Jordan to the US special operations forces base at At Tanf.

US President Donald Trump, Black added, has unfortunately given authority to people “who are not well-intentioned and they are using that military authority in Syria.”

The senator also noted that Russia, Syria, and its allies are “definitely on the move. ”

“There’s no doubt that the terrorists are being thrown back on every front and I think that’s very encouraging,” he stated.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that the Russian military is analyzing the US deployment of artillery where terrorist formations are said to be virtually absent.

The US-led coalition against Daesh terror group (outlawed in Russia) has twice struck Syrian-government aligned forces in the At Tanf area, and Trump launched a missile strike against a Syrian air base in April.

This article was first published by Sputnik

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

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SYRIAN WAR REPORT – MAY 24, 2017: GOVT FORCES ADVANCE ON MULTIPLE FRONTLINES

South Front

Government forces are advancing against ISIS and Western-backed militant groups on multiple frontlines across Syria.

In the province of Aleppo, the Syrian Army (SAA) Tiger Forces liberated Jamiliyah, Rasm al-Hammam, Mahsanah, Qanawiyah, Kherbet Marzah and the so-called 2nd Farm. Considering the current rapid progress, government troops will likely reach the ISIS stronghold of Maskanah located near the Raqqah province border within this week.

ISIS does not have enough manpower to stop the government advance in the Maskanah countryside. The terrorist group responded intensifying raids at the Inthriyah-Aleppo road, the only supply line to the government-held city of Aleppo.

In the province of Homs, the Republican Guard advanced east of al-Qaryatayn capturing a number of hills, including Jabal Baridah. Government troops are moving in the direction of the al-Busairi crossroad, an important point south of the Tiyas Airbase. Reports appear that ISIS has already abandoned this area. However, this still has to be confirmed.

In the Syrian desert northeast of Suweida, the SAA, the National Defense Forces, Hezbollah, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and other pro-government units advanced east of the recently captured Zuluf area and south of the Scientific Research Battalion. These operations are aimed at preventing US-backed militant groups from developing momentum in the area and establishing control over important sites and the Syrian border with Iraq.

The so-called moderate opposition in southeastern Syria had been able to achieve no success during the peak phase of battles against ISIS. However, now, when the terrorist group is collapsing, these militant groups are turning in a useful tool for the US-led block.

The SAA, the 5th Assault Corps and Liwa al-Quds continued operations against ISIS northeast and south of Palmyra.

According to Turkish Anadolu Agency, about 100 trucks with weapons and equipment for Kurdish militias arrived Syria from Iraq between May 15 and May 21. The weapons were provided by the US as a part of its program to supply directly YPG and YPJ that were a core of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

According to the report, Kurdish militias received BGM-71 TOW and Milan missiles, 80mm and 120mm mortars, MK19 belt-fed automatic grenade launchers, assault rifles as well as Humwee and Cougar vehicles and drones. The agency also argued that the US has provided FGM-148 Javelin missiles to Kurdish forces.

 

Syrian War Reports – May 10, 11,12, 2017

Syrian War Report – May 12, 2017: Pro-Turkish Militants Form Coalition To Fight ‘Terrorists’

Some 70 ISIS members have withdrawn from the town of Tabqah and the Tabqah Dam under a deal with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Pentagon confirmed in a statement at the website of its International Coalition for Operation Inherent Resolve on May 11. Thus, the US-led coalition officially confirmed rumors that had been circulating about a possible open corridor for the ISIS terrorists operating in the town of Tabqah and the nearby Tabqah dam. This was the second deal of the US-backed force with ISIS that became widely known. Previously, a large group of ISIS members left the town of Manbij encircled by the SDF in the province of Aleppo.

Following the withdrawal from Tabqah, ISIS militants launched an attack on SDF positions in the villages of Ayed Kabir and Al-Mushirfa near Tabqah. Clashes are still ongoing in the area.

According to pro-SDF sources, 26 ISIS militants were killed and 3 vehicles were destroyed. ISIS claimed that five Kurdish fighters were killed in the village of Ajeel south of the Tabqah military airport.

Talal Sallou, spokesman of the SDF said that the next aim of the US-backed force is to isolate Raqqa city from the western, northern and eastern flanks prior to storming the ISIS self-proclaimed capital. Thus, ISIS will have an open way to the south, which means that the US-led coalition may be willing to push ISIS to withdraw into the Syrian desert where terrorists will fight the SAA and its allies.

Leader of Lebanese Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, announced on Thursday that the group has dismantled its military positions on the border with Syria as the mission of securing the area has been completed and the Lebanese eastern borders have became safe.

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and Hezbollah have captured three hills in the mountains of Shomaria in the eastern Homs countryside after violent clashes with ISIS terrorists. As a result of this advance, pro-government fighters reached the outskirts of the village of Hamida.

Meanwhile, the SAA has been strengthening its forces in the vicinity of the Seen Military Airbase and at the Al-Tanf road. According to some pro-government sources, the SAA aims to take full control of the Al-Tanf road and then the Al-Tanf border area. However, this effort will be linked with clashes against Western-backed militants operating in the area.

Opposition sources announced the formation of a new force of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in northern Aleppo named. The group was named “First Corps” and created with a Turkish support.

The militant groups known as the Sultan Mohammed Al-Fateh Brigade, the Samarkand Brigade, Jaish al-Ahfad, the Al-Muntaser Bellah Brigade, the 101st Division, the Al-Fatah Brigade, the Tala’a al-Nasr Brigade joined the First Corps. The group now includes 10,000 fighters, according to Capt. Abu Kanan al-Homsi. Its militants had received training and equipment from Turkey.

According to opposition sources, the main objective of the First Corps would be to fight ISIS, Hayat Tahrir Al Sham (HTS), and Kurdish militias (YPG, YPJ, PKK). The group will be stationed in the towns of Al-Rai, Akhtarin and Ghandoura in the northern Aleppo countryside.

In Idlib, the HTS issued a ban on the transfer of anti-tank missiles, Grad rockets and modern weapons and started an effort aimed to confiscate them from all local groups. HTS already arrested some members of Ana’ al-Sham and confiscated their weapons in the northern Hama countryside.

According to local sources, tensions have once again increased in the countryside of Idlib between Ahrar al-Sham and HTS. A new round of clashes in the province of Idlib may start soon.

 

Syrian War Report – May 11, 2017: Syrian Army Renews Operation Against ISIS In Eastern Aleppo

Voiceover by Harold Hoover

On May 10th, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces fully liberated the important town of Tabqah and the Tabqah dam from ISIS terrorists in the province of Raqqah. The town of Tabqah is located within 40 km of the ISIS self-proclaimed capital of Raqqah. US-led coalition aviation and US special forces assisted the Syrian rebels in the Tabqa campaign.

Meanwhile, the SDF resumed their anti-ISIS operations north of Raqqah, capturing the villages of al-Jalai and Mayselum that had been held by ISIS.

Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. John Dorrian revealed what kind of arms the United States would supply to Kurdish forces (a core of the SDF) when he told reporters, “…..what we are talking about here is ammunition, small arms, heavy machine guns, and mortars….”

Earlier this week, the Pentagon announced that US President Donald Trump had approved a plan to directly arm Kurdish forces operating in Syria.

Government forces, led by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) Tiger Forces, resumed anti-ISIS operations in the eastern Aleppo countryside, liberating the village of Al-Mahdoum and advancing further against ISIS near the Jirah Military Airport.

Russian Aerospace Forces supported the SAA advance by bombing ISIS gatherings and vehicles in the area between the Al-Jirah Military Airport and the town of Maskana.

Pro-ISIS sources claimed that ISIS members had destroyed a 23mm gun with an ATGM in the village of Kharaj Daham and a T-72 battle tank and BMP-1 vehicle in the village of Jarrah Saghir.

A number of Syrian soldiers were allegedly killed or wounded in the village of Atshana as a result of 2 VBIED attacks on SAA troops there.

ISIS also damaged an SAA T-72 battle tank in the village of Ma’moura after targeting it with an armed drone.

Russia has sent some 21 Soviet-made M-30 howitzers [122 mm] to Syria government forces, Fox News reported citing US officials. The artillery pieces arrived via cargo ship in the Syrian port city of Tartus in the past few days, according to the article.

The media outlet also speculated that Russia is sending more missiles for the advanced S-400 air defense system. The step is allegedly aimed at increasing the Russian air defense capabilities in Syria.

 

Syrian War Report – May 10, 2017: Trump Administration Approves New Plan To Arm Kurdish Forces

The administration of US President Donald Trump has approved a plan to directly arm Kurdish forces operating in Syria, the Pentagon said. Spokeswoman Dana W. White said the president made the decision Monday, describing the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as “the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future.”

The mainstream media and US officials have repeatedly argued that the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are a “multi-ethnic and multi-religious alliance” fighting against ISIS. However, since the formation of the SDF, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) have remained the core of the organization. The upcoming advance on the ISIS-held city of Raqqa has pushed Washington to accept the reality publicly and to make a decision to army YPG and YPJ on an official level.

Meanwhile, Ankara argues that YPG and YPJ are terrorist groups affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The decision to arm Kurdish militias in Syria will further damage the already shaky US-Turkish relations.

Meanwhile, the SDF, backed up by US-led coalition forces, is still fighting against ISIS militants inside the town of Tabqa west of Raqqa. In late April and in early May, pro-SDF sources repeatedly spread reports that the town and the nearby dam were almost under the full control of the SDF. However, videos and photos appearing from the ground contested these reports.

Now, the number of ISIS militants operating in Tabqa and the Tabqa dam is estimated between 100 and 200 fighters and they are in very bad tactical situation. It’s expected that the town and the dam will be fully secured by the SDF this month.

Western backed militants have been trying to counter-attack Syrian army troops advancing in the desert southeast of Damascus. However, government forces were able to defend their gains in the area. Earlier this month, government troops have captured more than 70 square kilometers east of  the al-Seen Military Airbase, setting control over Beir al-Siba, the Mount Sabahiyat and the Rishi, Tal Shahab, al-Sabab Biyar and the Zaza Checkpoint. In case of further advances, the Syrian army will attempt to reach areas controlled by the 5th Assault Corps south of Palmyra.

In northern Hama, sporadic clashes continued in the area of Zaqilyat. However, the situation remained relatively calm as no sides were launching large attempts in order to change the current status quo.

In eastern Damascus, militants and their families have been evacuating from the area of Qaboun under a fresh deal with the government. The evacuation will include few stages and then the area will be transferred under the control of government forces. So far, about 1,000 have officially left the area to Idlib.

Reports are circulating in various sources that the government advance with a strategic goal to reach the city of Deir Ezzor will be launched soon. This operation will be possible only if the safe zones agreement signed in Astana and implementing a ceasefire in a number of areas in Syria will be kept by all the sides.

 

Syrian War Report – May 10, 2017: Trump Administration Approves New Plan To Arm Kurdish Forces

May 10, 2017

 

The administration of US President Donald Trump has approved a plan to directly arm Kurdish forces operating in Syria, the Pentagon said. Spokeswoman Dana W. White said the president made the decision Monday, describing the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as “the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future.”

The mainstream media and US officials have repeatedly argued that the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are a “multi-ethnic and multi-religious alliance” fighting against ISIS. However, since the formation of the SDF, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) have remained the core of the organization. The upcoming advance on the ISIS-held city of Raqqa has pushed Washington to accept the reality publicly and to make a decision to army YPG and YPJ on an official level.

Meanwhile, Ankara argues that YPG and YPJ are terrorist groups affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The decision to arm Kurdish militias in Syria will further damage the already shaky US-Turkish relations.

Meanwhile, the SDF, backed up by US-led coalition forces, is still fighting against ISIS militants inside the town of Tabqa west of Raqqa. In late April and in early May, pro-SDF sources repeatedly spread reports that the town and the nearby dam were almost under the full control of the SDF. However, videos and photos appearing from the ground contested these reports.

Now, the number of ISIS militants operating in Tabqa and the Tabqa dam is estimated between 100 and 200 fighters and they are in very bad tactical situation. It’s expected that the town and the dam will be fully secured by the SDF this month.

Western backed militants have been trying to counter-attack Syrian army troops advancing in the desert southeast of Damascus. However, government forces were able to defend their gains in the area. Earlier this month, government troops have captured more than 70 square kilometers east of  the al-Seen Military Airbase, setting control over Beir al-Siba, the Mount Sabahiyat and the Rishi, Tal Shahab, al-Sabab Biyar and the Zaza Checkpoint. In case of further advances, the Syrian army will attempt to reach areas controlled by the 5th Assault Corps south of Palmyra.

In northern Hama, sporadic clashes continued in the area of Zaqilyat. However, the situation remained relatively calm as no sides were launching large attempts in order to change the current status quo.

In eastern Damascus, militants and their families have been evacuating from the area of Qaboun under a fresh deal with the government. The evacuation will include few stages and then the area will be transferred under the control of government forces. So far, about 1,000 have officially left the area to Idlib.

Reports are circulating in various sources that the government advance with a strategic goal to reach the city of Deir Ezzor will be launched soon. This operation will be possible only if the safe zones agreement signed in Astana and implementing a ceasefire in a number of areas in Syria will be kept by all the sides.

 

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The latest development in northern Syria

September 07, 2016

By Aram Mirzaei

With Multiple interventions and multiple offensives, the situation in northern Syria is messy to say the least. There are several frontlines with different parties struggling for the same piece of territory.

Two weeks ago, the Turkish army made an intrusion into the northern Aleppo countryside, in the small ISIL controlled border town of Jarabulus. The so called “Euphrates Shield Operation” offensive was aimed at creating a new Islamist rebel pocket in northern Syria, in addition to the Azaz pocket in the northwestern parts of the Aleppo province. Furthermore, the offensive was not only aimed at expelling the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from the Turkish-Syrian border area, but also to stop the Kurdish-led “Syrian Democratic Forces” from connecting the Afrin Canton with the rest of their territory in northeastern Syria.

When the Kurdish YPG led “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF) captured the ISIL stronghold of Manbij last month, speculations arose as to what their next target would be. It would seem that the SDF had set its sights on the imperative border town of Jarabulus, situated north of Manbij in an effort to cut ISIL off from the Turkish border, thus isolating them further. This prospect would also give the SDF control of a second border crossing to Turkey, something which alarmed the Turkish AKP government as they have continuously opposed the formation of a Kurdish federative state on its southern borders. It is noteworthy that Turkey considers the YPG to be terrorists since they have connections to the terrorist designated Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

In response to those advances, the Turkish Armed Forces initiated the “Euphrates Shield” offensive, entering Jarabulus with tanks along with the so called “Free Syrian Army” and several Islamist proxy groups, most notably Harakat Noureddin Al Zinki and Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham in order to both push back ISIL out of Jarabulus and to deter the SDF from advancing any further north. The Turkish backed Islamist rebels met little to no resistance when they entered and captured Jarabulus and its surrounding villages, whilst Turkish artillery began shelling SDF positions almost immediately in order to pave the way for Islamist militants to advance southwards. They attacked the SDF on several occasions, thus creating a three-way battle between the SDF, Islamist militants and ISIL.

The Turkish incursion also received the backing of US Vice President Joe Biden who warned the SDF to retreat back to their positions east of the Euphrates river, and threatening to withdraw US support to SDF if they did not comply. [1]

Meanwhile, the Turkish-backed Islamist militants in the Azaz pocket in northwestern Aleppo began to move eastwards in an effort to connect the Azaz pocket and the newly established Jarabulus pocket, this prospect became a reality a few days ago when ISIL was fully removed from the Turkish-Syrian border area.

The Russian-Iranian-Syrian reaction to this Turkish incursion has been very silent with only minor expressions of dissatisfaction coming from Damascus and Tehran, while Moscow has been rather silent.

The Iranian media has been rather critical of the Turkish invasion with PressTV notably pointing out that Turkey has invaded Syria and that it still supports and arms Takfiri militants in the country. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi sounded a bit skeptical on Aug 31 when he highlighted that fighting terrorism cannot be used to justify the violation of territorial integrity and disregard of the sovereignty of another country, adding that “the Turkish Army should immediately stop its military operations there. [2]

The Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Muallim also condemned the Turkish Army’s violation of Syrian sovereignty, emphasizing that they did not have the permission to enter the country unannounced and without coordination with Damascus. [3]

These are however rather weak responses when one considers the prospect of a similar invasion back in February 2016, with both Syria and Iran threatening to engage any invading force who entered Syria. This coupled with the fact that Russia has remained rather silent gives us a hint that perhaps this incursion was not so unannounced as one would believe. It may seem that Russia could have given Turkey the green light to enter Syria and clear the border area from ISIL, and while both Syria and Iran still view Turkey’s intentions as untrustworthy, they may have been swayed by Russia to at least wait and see what will happen in northern Syria before taking any actions which could lead to a tremendous escalation of the conflict.

It is worthy of notice that just before the Turkish incursion, the Kurdish YPG and their police forces “Asayish” were attacking the Syrian government forces in the city of Al-Hasakah, and despite numerous attempts at a ceasefire by the Syrian government, the Kurdish forces refused and declared their intention to fully claim Al-Hasakah for themselves. This could also explain why Syria and Iran have been neglecting the fact that Turkish forces are attacking the YPG/SDF as well. Indeed both Syria and its allies have previously tried to cooperate with the SDF or at least remain neutral towards them, yet recent events have shown that they answer to Washington rather than taking an independent stance towards the conflict. This was very much clear when the SDF spokesman Talal Silo said in an interview that “in Syria, the Americans forbid us from talking to Russia”. [4]

Whatever may have been said behind closed doors, and whether or not Syria and Iran were aware of the incursion beforehand, this invasion and the establishment of an Islamist corridor in northern Aleppo is of danger to the Syrian-Russian-Iranian alliance as this would open up a new front against the Syrian Army and its allies in Aleppo. Currently the Islamist militants have only the Bab Al-Hawa border crossing in Idlib to use for resupplying their forces and conduct attacks against the Syrian government positions in Aleppo. Should the Islamist militants push for the ISIL stronghold of Al-Bab which lies directly to the east of Aleppo city, they will be able to attack Aleppo city from both the western and the eastern flanks, which could spell a lot of trouble for the Syrian Army. However, the Turkish backed Islamist militants must first reach Al-Bab before the SDF does, as capturing Al-Bab is also the last hope for the Kurdish led SDF to connect their territory with the Afrin canton to the west. The race for Al-Bab is on.

On a different note and in a different area in the Aleppo province, the Syrian Arab Army conducted a powerful counter-offensive in response to the massive Islamist operation led by Jaysh Al-Fateh (Army of Conquest) to break the siege of Aleppo last month, with the army attacking the imperative Aleppo Artillery base, near the Ramouseh district. This battle went back and forth for almost two weeks before the army managed to break through the collapsing Islamist defences and managed to fully recapture the Artillery base on Sunday night, with huge advances being made the day after due to a total collapse in the Islamist frontlines in the Southwestern Aleppo city area. As a result of the capture of the Artillery base and its surroundings, the siege of Aleppo is once again established with the Russian Defence Ministry declaring that there are 7 corridors open for humanitarian aid and one corridor open for militants who want to surrender their arms. [5]

In the latest development, Iranian IRGC Major-General Qassem Soleimani has been seen in southwestern Aleppo inspecting the Harakat Al-Nujaba forces (Iraqi Paramilitary) stationed there, possibly in preparation for a new pro-government offensive on the town of Khan Touman, which was lost to Islamist militants in a May-June offensive this year.

Below are two maps showing mainly the Turkish-backed advance, with the second map focusing on the army’s advance in southwestern Aleppo city.

  1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-3756554/US-told-pro-Kurdish-forces-Syria-not-cross-Euphrates-Biden.html
  2. http://en.mehrnews.com/news/119376/FM-voices-concern-at-Turkey-s-military-incursion-in-Syria
  3. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/syrian-government-condemns-turkish-armys-illegal-entry-aleppo/
  4. https://life.ru/t/%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B8/893017/komanduiushchii_dss_v_sirii_amierikantsy_zaprieshchaiut_nam_razghovarivat_s_russkimi
  5. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/aleppo-7-corridors-aid-delivery-one-militants-exit-russian-dm/

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Mass Grave with Thousands of Civilians in Syria

Reports: Daesh Horrifying Mass Grave Found in Syria, Thousands Massacred!
 
Whenever America, its allies and proxies show up, mass slaughter and destruction follow – Syria ravaged like its other imperial victims, the horrendous human toll in the region and beyond in the millions.
 
On Monday, Britain’s Daily Express reported on a mass grave discovered in Suluk near Turkey’s border. After Kurdish YPG forces retook it from ISIS, they found the remains of “thousands of men, women and children (believed tortured, murdered) then discarded in a deep ravine.”
 
After seizing the area in February, ISIS began mass killing for weeks before Kurdish fighters were able to stop them.
According to YPG commander Mohamed Jirkis, “(j)ust after we arrived to liberate the area, we met with Kurds and Arabs, and asked them about Daesh’s  crimes.”
 
“We discovered thousands of bodies of innocent victims in the ravine.” One area resident described what he saw, saying:
“They would bring those still alive to the precipice, blindfold them and shoot above their heads to scare them. People would then start running and fall over the edge. They’d bring the bodies of others, covered in blankets, and throw them off.”
 
“The proof is in these bones and the blood that’s there. Nobody knows how deep the gorge is” or precise body count in it.
Other mass graves were discovered earlier, including in liberated Palmyra with dozens of slaughtered men, women and children.
 
America created ISIS and other regional terrorist groups. As long as it maintains support, conflict resolution remains pure fantasy.
 
On Tuesday, foreign ministers from 20 US/Russia co-chaired International Syria Support Group (ISSG) member states along with UN representatives meet later in Vienna.
 
Sergey Lavrov said “contours of a  possible Russia/US document” were discussed in advance, including ways of “block(ing) channels of supplies to terrorists,” especially through Turkey.
 
Efforts so far achieved little. Expect Tuesday’s ISSG meeting to advance nothing toward peace. Washington’s rage for endless war and dominance undermine peaceful conflict resolution.
 
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.
 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
 
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Russia Intercepts Another US Plane Flying Near Its Territory

[ Ed. note – This latest intercept, over the Baltic Sea, comes after:

  • the intercept of a US spy plane near Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula on April 21
  • an earlier intercept over the Baltic Sea, on or about April 18
  • the buzzing of the USS Donald Cook, also in the Baltic, on April 12

Intercepts are common, almost routine, but of course these come at a time of heightened tensions, with the US accusing Russia of carrying them out in an “unsafe” manner. At the same time, violence in the Syrian city of Aleppo has ramped up dramatically, with some 200 civilians killed in the past week, this occurring–probably not coincidentally–at the same time as the US has announced it will send some 250 additional ground forces into the country. Meanwhile, the US has rejected a call by Russia for Al-Qaeda-allied rebel groups in Syria to be designated as terrorists. Is all this a prelude to a US ground war in Syria in an effort to topple President Bashar Assad? If it is, we could be on the threshold of World War III.

A passage from an article posted Thursday at the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is worth taking note of here. Keep in mind what you’re reading is US government propaganda, so you sort of have to read and dissect between the lines:

Earlier in the year, a coalition of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) troops, Hizballah fighters, and Iraqi Shi’ite militias fought side by side with the Syrian military to break the battle lines of the anti-Assad rebels who have held northern Syria for years. IS took full advantage of this situation and launched its own offensive, capturing large amounts of territory as its fighters pushed west from their strongholds and north toward the Turkish border. Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters to the west also launched an offensive against the struggling anti-Assad rebels, and a small group of those rebels are now trapped.

The rebels in the area east of Azaz had been making gains against IS in early April, but by the middle of the month that progress had now been reversed. While it’s dangerous to ever take the word of jihadist propaganda as truth, the presence of the A-10 in this area would suggest that the United States is providing close air support for the anti-Assad rebels as they push back against IS — a level of coordination between the United States and local ground forces typically reserved for Iraq or eastern Syria.

If the United States is conducting air strikes against IS, and in support of anti-Assad rebels, it may be an attempt to protect the Turkish border and reassure a frustrated NATO ally. However, IS is still making gains. On April 27, there were reports that IS had captured five rebel-held villages, including Dudyan, west of Al-Rai and right on the Turkish border. IS is now close to closing off and destroying the anti-Assad rebels who are defending their most important border crossing — and the only one they still control in northern Aleppo.

What the writer seems to be doing is presenting a justification–or at least it could be construed as that–for  an expanded US military role in Syria. If the Syrian government and its allies had simply left the poor “struggling anti-Assad rebels” alone, and allowed them to continue occupying Aleppo and terrorizing the local population, then none of these terrible things would be happening–this is more or less what we’re being told here, and the article also seems to ply the well-worn talking point that Assad is a “magnet” for jihadists and the that only way to bring peace to the region is by overthrowing him and setting up a “democratic” and pro-Western government in his place.

Just close your eyes, click your heels together three times, and repeat, “It’s all about democracy…” Whether it’s setting up NATO bases on Russia’s border, overthrowing the government of Syria, or sending reconnaissance flights out over the Baltic with their transponders off, just remember–“it’s all about democracy…it’s all about democracy…” ]

***

‘Stay Away from Russian Borders or Keep Transponders on’: Russian Ministry of Defense

RT

Russian Defense Ministry suggests US surveillance planes should either keep their distance from Russian borders while performing flights over the Baltic Sea, or at least keep aerial transponders switched on for identification.

There are two solutions for the US Air Force [operating in the Baltic Sea]: either do not fly near our borders, or turn on transponders for automatic identification by our radars,” Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said in an official statement on Saturday.

The statement comes after a Russian fighter jet intercepted a US surveillance plane, which was spotted in international airspace above the Baltic Sea on Friday with the transponder switched off.

The RC-135U reconnaissance plane is frequently trying to sneak up to the Russian border with the transponder off. Our anti-aircraft defense has to order our fighters off the ground simply to visually identify the type of aircraft and its ID number,” Konashenkov explained.

A Russian Sukhoi Su-27 performed a barrel roll within 25 feet from the US plane, with the Pentagon describing the move as “dangerous” and “unprofessional.”

We are already starting to get used to insults coming from the Pentagon regarding the alleged “unprofessional” maneuvers when our fighters intercept the US spy planes near Russian borders.

Yet, all flights of Russian aircraft are held in accordance with international regulations on the use of airspace,” Konashenkov states, adding that another reconnaissance aircraft  Boeing OC-135B – has landed in Ulan-Ude earlier on Saturday under an international “Treaty on Open Skies,”  and “no one raised the fighters to identify it.

Fifteen days prior to this latest incident, on April 14, another Su-27 fighter jet conducted a barrel roll over another US reconnaissance plane, and between April 11 and 12, the USS Donald Cook ship was flown over by Su-24 fighter jets, with the Pentagon releasing footage.

The deputy head of Russia’s Upper House committee for defense and security Frants Klintsevich commented on the frenzy over the latest incidents in Baltic airspace, saying the fizzbuzz has a clear goal – to put a smokescreen for NATO plans to deploy additional troops in Eastern Europe.

It is now completely clear why the United States needed a hype around the interception of the US spy plane over the Baltic Sea and the incident with the destroyer Donald Cook.

It was to prepare the information space for deploying four additional NATO battalions to the Baltic region […] On the tip from US, the North Atlantic alliance continues its strategy of encircling Russia,” Klintsevich said, as quoted by his press service. He also noted that the turmoil began immediately after the latest Russia-NATO Council meeting, throwing into question the expediency of such gatherings.

Moscow has been unhappy with the NATO military buildup on Russia’s borders for some time now, with Russia’s envoy to NATO Aleksandr Grushko stating that Moscow would definitely compensate militarily for an “absolutely unjustified military presence.

According to the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, the permanent presence of large NATO formations at the Russian border is banned. Yet some voices in Brussels are saying that since the NATO troops stationed next to Russia are going to rotate, this kind of military buildup cannot be regarded as a permanent presence.

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