Monday, 22 February 2016

News from Syria and the Middle East

RT News - February 21, 2016 (16:00 MSK)

Turkey has the right to carry out military operations not only in Syria, but in any other country, which is hosting terror groups that threaten the Turkish state, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

Turkey has every right to conduct operations in Syria and the places where terror organizations are nested with regards to the struggle against the threats that Turkey faces,” Erdogan was cited as saying by the Hurriyet newspaper

Ankara’s stance has “absolutely nothing to do with the sovereignty rights of the states that can’t take control of their territorial integrity,” the president insisted.

On the contrary, this has to do with the will Turkey shows to protect its sovereignty rights,” he aqdded

The Turkish president’s used an unexpected platform to make his hawkish remarks. On Saturday, he was visiting an event celebrating the inclusion of Turkey’s southeastern province of Gaziantep on the list of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network in the gastronomy category.

Erdogan warned that his government will treat “attitudes to prevent our country’s right [to self-defense] directly as an initiative against Turkey’s entity – no matter where it comes from.

No one can restrict Turkey’s right to self-defense in the face of terror acts that have targeted Turkey; they cannot prevent [Turkey] from using it,” he said.

The Turkish forces have been shelling Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces, which Ankara views as a terrorist organization, as well as government troops on Syrian territory since mid-February.

The bombings of YPG targets, the military wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), continue despite Turkey’s ally, the US, considering the Kurdish fighters an important partner in fighting Islamic State (IS, Daesh, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

There were also reports of dozens of Turkish military vehicles crossing into Kurdish northern Syria, with servicemen digging trenches in the area.

In December, Ankara also deployed 150 soldiers backed by artillery and around 25 tanks to northern Iraq, without consent from the government in Baghdad.

Turkey will use its right to expand its rules of engagement beyond [responding to] actual attacks against it and to encompass all terror threats, including PYD and Daesh, in particular,” Erdogan said on Saturday as cited by the Anadolu news agency.

Twenty-eight people, mainly Turkish military, were killed and 61 others injured in a suicide bombing in Ankara on Wednesday.

Despite the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) militant group claiming responsibility for the attack, Turkey says the YPG was also involved.

In an attempt to protect itself, Turkey will treat anyone, who opposes it as a “terrorist and treat them accordingly,” the president said.

I especially want this to be known this way,” he added.

Erdogan also slammed countries that criticized Ankara for their incursion into Iraq and Syria, calling them “disingenuous” due to “preaching only patience and resoluteness” to Turkey, but acting in a completely different manner when they are attacked themselves.

Update: Multiple sources confirm bombers have also targeted SAA and Hezbollah positions in Damascus. 22 are now reported killed. ISIS has now claimed responsibility

Initial Photos after the terrorist attacks in the Sayyidah Zaynab district today

"We have reached a provisional agreement in principle on the terms of a cessation of hostilities that could begin in the coming days,” John Kerry said on Sunday, at a news conference in Amman with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.

Kerry was in contact with Sergei Lavrov today and the two diplomats reportedly agreed on “the modalities” for a ceasefire - whatever that means.

Although this is being reported by both the Western and Russian media as though it marks some kind of turning point, Russia again reiterated that any deal won’t include “the terrorists” and Moscow’s list of “terrorists” in Syria is a bit longer than Washington’s list. While Lavrov indicated that The Kremlin would refer to the UN Security Council’s list of terrorist groups, the situation on the ground is so fluid in Syria that it’s fairly easy to target whomever you please and claim there were terrorists in the area because frankly, there are terrorists, militants, and Sunni extremists virtually everywhere.

Even Kerry himself admitted the ceasefire would likely have no effect. "I do not believe that in the next few days, during which time we try to bring this into effect, there is somehow going to be a tipping point with respect to what is happening on the ground.... The opposition has made clear their determination to fight back," he said.

Indeed, efforts to curtail the fighting are off to a rather inauspicious start. 46 people were killed in Homs on Sunday after two car bombs hit the city center's Zahra district. Charred bodies lay smoldering in the wreckage and more than 100 injured bystanders stumbled through the streets, shell shocked. “The explosions at a traffic light at al-Siteen Street in the al-Zahra neighborhood happened within minutes of each other,” RT reports. “At least one of the two blasts was triggered by a suicide bomber driving a car.”

Although no one immediately claimed responsibility, ISIS is the likely culprit. The group killed 26 people in Homs less than a month ago in a similar attack.

"Sunday's attacks also came a day after government advances against Islamic State," Reuters notes, an apparent reference to the SAA's push towards Raqqa, Bakr al-Baghdadi's self-styled capital.

Meanwhile, Bashar al-Assad said Saturday that he's prepared to halt military operations on the condition that "the terorrists" don't use a lull in the fighting to their advantage. "The issue relates to more important factors ... such as preventing terrorists from using it to improve their positions," he told El Pais. He also said a ceasefire was impossible unless the Turks and the Saudis stop sending fighters, money, and guns to Sunni militants. "Other countries, especially Turkey, are prevented from sending more terrorists and weapons, or any kind of logistical support."

Yes, no more "logisitcal support." Like shelling Azaz to keep the YPG from routing the rebels and consolidating gains in the north. Asked by El Pais about the possibility that Ankara, Riyadh, Doha may send ground troops, Assad said only this: "We're going to deal with them like we deal with the terrorists."

* * *

In light of the latest attack in Homs, we thought it an opportune time to repost the following images which depict just how desolate the city has become.

Fromthe Guardian

'Provisional' Syria ceasefire plan called into question as bombs kill 120

John Kerry points to agreement between US and Russia on day when bombs take major toll on Homs and Damascus

A “provisional agreement” on a ceasefire in Syria has been reached between the US and Russia, the US secretary of state John Kerry said on Sunday, but serious doubts remain on whether it will come into force as the country reeled from a series of deadly car bombs in Syria’s two biggest cities that left more than 120 dead.

Al-Nusra Front Terrorists Ask the UN for Protection Against Russia
Russian airstrikes have forced al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organization al-Nusra to appeal for help in the United Nations, Germany's Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten reports

21 February, 2016

The Syria-based terror group, DWN says, citing a Reuters report, has asked for a "two-three week truce," and demanded that all attacks on the terrorist group be stopped. 

The group has tabled the measure in the hopes that the break in hostilities will give them time to regroup, preventing their complete destruction, the paper says.
For their part, the United States and Saudi Arabia have long-supported the terror group with arms and finances, while politicians have attempted to put al-Nusra in a more favorable light by counting them in the ranks of the so-called 'moderate opposition', the newspaper suggests. 

And "while the al-Nusra Front has officially rejected al-Qaeda's goals, they have done so only in order to participate in the carve-up of Syria," DWN adds. In the meantime, "a UN report has accused al-Nusra of crimes against humanity."
"Russian airstrikes have put the al-Nusra Front, as well as Daesh, under considerable pressure, recently surrounding [the former] in Aleppo. The Syrian Army, which is supported by the Russians, has been advancing undeterred and does not want to engage in negotiations with the terrorists."
"The precarious situation," DWN says, "has forced the terrorist group to try an original move – to bring about a ceasefire in the UN. This was reported by Reuters, citing anonymous sources 'close to the peace negotiations'."
These sources, the newspaper notes, may have received their information from the CIA. The intelligence agency's cooperation with al-Nusra Front has served to annoy both the Pentagon and the White House, with President Barack Obama previously referring to this strategy as a failure.
Ultimately, the newspaper suggests, "the offer is of course just a trap for the Russians: The militants desire to regroup in order to prevent their utter destruction…because the Russians and Syrians are proceeding with the battle for Syria with the utmost severity."
"The Russians," DWN notes, "will not agree to the proposal. Unlike the West, the [Syrian-Russian-Iranian] alliance is resolute in its fight with Daesh, and are even officially recognized by the UN. [However,] Russia itself suffered a diplomatic defeat on Friday: The UN Security Council postponed a decision on a resolution against a Turkish invasion of Syria."

Radioactive device feared stolen by ISIS found outside petrol station in Iraq

File photo: Industrial gamma radiography device ©
File photo: Industrial gamma radiography device ©

A potentially lethal radioactive industrial scanner, spirited away from an Iraqi oil facility last November, has been recovered, after thieves failed to put it to use, and decided to dispose of it instead.

The device, used to test pipeline integrity with gamma radiography, contained up to 10 grams of Ir-192, an isotope of Iridium, when it was found next to a petrol station in Zubair, a town in the Basra province, still in its original laptop-sized casing.

"A passer-by found the radioactive device dumped in Zubair and immediately informed security forces which went with a special radiation prevention team and retrieved the device," said Jabbar al-Saidi, the chief of security panel in Basra provincial council.

"After initial checking I can confirm the device is intact 100 percent and there is absolutely no concern of radiation."

The station was about 50 km from the storage facility, belonging to US oil & gas services company, Weatherford, from which it had been taken three months ago.

Early in the morning, Tiger Forces entered and imposed full control over the villages of Jubb al-Safa, Kabarah, Rayyan, Al-Halabiyah, Dakwanah, Tall Istabl, Ain Sabil and Tall Riman. As such, the Syrian Arab Army has now officially captured a large previously ISIS-held pocket in eastern Aleppo while simultaneously securing a safe pathway for government supplies from Aleppo city to Kuweiris Airbase.

According to an Al-Masdar source, only a few ISIS suicide bombers remained in the villages; their main aim was to inflict maximum casualties upon advancing government soldiers. Apparently, hundreds of ISIS fighters had already managed to retreat towards al-Bab prior to government forces encircling this area. Nevertheless, dozens of improvised ISIS traps, mines and bombs have been planted as to harass the Syrian Arab Army’s rapid advances in eastern ALeppo.

Reportedly, many are yet to be dismantled – however, Syrian bomb disposal units are currently engaged with this task. Yesterday, government forces finally managed to capture the strategic Aleppo Thermal Power Plant from ISIS fighters. This vital piece of infrastructure could very well enable a more steady stream of electricity to the people of Aleppo city in the months to come.

Over the past month, Syrian government troops have gradually built a corridor from Aleppo city to Kuweiris Airbase and carried out a pincer manuever on ISIS fighters in the region. Since launching the offensive on the 23rd of January, elite Tiger Forces of the Syrian Arab Army have captured approximately 30 villages from ISIS militants.

Furthermore, hundreds of government troops are reportedly in the process of being redeployed to the eastern Aleppo frontline as the Syrian Arab Army is likely to attack either Deir Hafer or Al-Bab in the very near future. If the Islamic State loses these strongholds, they will be forced to flee towards their capital of ar-Raqqah further east.

Davutoglu:Ankara Is Waiting for U.S Solidarity Without Any "If's" Or"But's"

Translated by Ollie Richardson for Fort Russ
20th February, 2016


Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that the country expects full support from allies in the case of a possible threat. He also stressed that such actions, in particular, Ankara expects from the United States.

"We expect that our allies will stand in our defense, if Turkey is to be threatened. We will not make this a topic for discussion. From USA we are waiting — for solidarity with us without any "but's" or "if's". We don't want to hear any more phrases starting with "but", — TASS quoted Davutoglu.

From yesterday

AFurious Turkey Says US Is "Acting Like An Enemy," DemandsWashington Brand Kurds "Terrorists

As you might have noticed, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is about to lose his mind with the situation in Syria.

To be sure, the effort to usurp the Bashar al-Assad government wasn’t exactly going as planned in the first place. Regime change always takes time, but the conflict in Syria was dragging into its fifth year by the time the Russians got directly involved and although it did indeed look as though the SAA was on the verge of defeat, the future of the rebellion was far from certain.

But to whatever extent the rebels’ fate was up in the air before September 30, the cause was dealt a devastating blow when Moscow’s warplanes began flying sorties from Latakia and while Ankara and Riyadh were initially willing to sit on the sidelines and see how things played out, once Russia and Hezbollah encircled Aleppo, it was do or die time. The supply lines to Turkey were cut and without a direct intervention by the rebels’ Sunni benefactors, Moscow and Hassan Nasrallah’s army would ultimately move in on Aleppo proper and that, as they say, would be that.

The problem for Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar is optics. That is, everything anyone does in Syria has to be justified by an imaginary “war on terror.”Turkey can’t say it’s intervening to keep the rebels from being defeated by the Russians, and similarly, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the US, France and everyone else needs to preserve the narrative and pretend as though this all doesn't boil down to the West and the Sunnis versus the Russians and the Shiites.

Here’s what we said earlier this month: somehow, Turkey and Saudi Arabia need to figure out how to spin an attack on the YPG and an effort to rescue the opposition at Aleppo as an anti-ISIS operation even though ISIS doesn’t have a large presence in the area.

Well it turns out that’s an impossible task and so, Turkey has resorted to Plan B: a possible false flag bombing and the old “blame the Kurds” strategy.

The attack on military personnel in Ankara this week was claimed by The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (an offshoot of the PKK) in retaliation for Turkey's aggressive campaign in Cizre (as documented here), but Erdogan has taken the opportunity to remind the world that the PKK and the YPG are largely synonymous. That is, they're both armed groups of non-state actors and if one is a terrorist organization, then so is the other.

Erdogan's anti-Kurd stance is complicated immeasurably by the fact that both the US and Russia support the YPG out of sheer necessity. The group has proven especially adept at battling ISIS and has secured most of the border with Turkey. As we noted way back in August, it was inevtiable that Washington and Ankara would come to blows over the YPG. After all, the US only secured access to Incirlik by acquiescing to Erdogan's crackdown on the PKK, but some of the missions the US was flying from Turkey's air base were in support of the YPG. The whole thing was absurd from the very beginning.

Well now, Turkey is not only set to use the fight against the YPG as an excuse to intervene in Syria on behalf of the Sunni rebels battling to beat back the Russian and Iranian advance, but Ankara is also demanding that the US recognize the YPG as a terrorist group. If Washington refuses, "measure will be taken." 

"If the Unites States is really Turkey's friend and ally, then they should recognize the PYD — a Syrian branch of the PKK — as a terrorist organization. If a friend acts as an enemy, then measures should be taken, and they will not be limited to the Incirlik Airbase, Turkey has significant capabilities," Erdogan advisor Seref Malkoc told Bugun newspaper.

So yeah. Turkey just threatened the US. It's notable that Malkoc specifically said actions would go "beyond Incirlik," because pulling access to the base would be the first thing any regional observers would expect from Ankara in the event of a spat with Washington. For Turkey to say that measures will go beyond that, opens the door for Erdogan to become openly hostile towards his NATO allies. 

"The only thing we expect from our U.S. ally is to support Turkey with no ifs or buts," PM Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conferenceon Saturday."If 28 Turkish lives have been claimed through a terrorist attack we can only expect them to say any threat against Turkey is a threat against them."

In other words, Turkey is explicitly asking the US to support Ankara's push to invade Syria and not only that, Erdogan wants Washington to sanction attacks on the YPG which the US has overtly armed, trained, and funded. "The disagreement over the YPG risks driving a wedge between the NATO allies at a critical point in Syria's civil war," Reuters wrote on Saturday. "On Friday, a State Department spokesman told reporters Washington would continue to support organizations in Syria that it could count on in the fight against Islamic State - an apparent reference to the YPG."

Right. "Washington will continue to support organizations in Syria that it can count on in the fight against Islamic State." So we suppose that means the US will support Russia. And Iran. And Hezbollah. But most certainly not Turkey, who is the biggest state sponsor of the Islamic State on the face of the planet.

No comments:

Post a Comment