Thursday, 16 June 2016

There are German troops in Syria

Damascus says German special forces present in Syria, Berlin denies claim

German Bundeswehr army soldiers. © Michaela Rehle
German Bundeswehr army soldiers. © Michaela Rehle / Reuters

15 June, 2016

Damascus has reacted angrily to claims that German special forces are present in the Ain al-Arab and Manbij areas of northern Syria, along with French troops on the ground, describing the alleged move as an “overt unjustified aggression on Syria's sovereignty.”

An official source told the Syrian state news agency, SANA, that the country's Foreign and Expatriates Ministry considered this presence a clear violation of the United Nations Carter.

Commenting on news circulated regarding the presence of groups of French and German special forces in Ain al-Arab and Manbij areas on the Syrian territories, the Syrian Arab Republic vehemently condemns this blatant interference that constitutes a flagrant violation of the UN Charter’s principles and an overt unjustified aggression on the sovereignty and independence of Syria,” the source told SANA in a statement.

The source accused the countries involved in the alleged “interference” of giving legitimacy to terrorist groups by considering them moderate when in reality their ideology appears to be no different from that of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Al-Nusra Front, SANA reported.

© Kenzo Tribouillard

French special forces on ground in Syria – Defense Ministry official

Germany's Defense Ministry has denied that the country's special forces were deployed on the ground in northern Syria. Berlin said repeated allegations by Damascus to this effect had never been true.

"There are no German special forces in Syria. The accusation is false," a ministry spokesman said, according to Reuters.

A French Defense Ministry official meanwhile told AFP last week that France had deployed its special forces on the ground in northern Syria to advise rebels and help them fight Islamic State.

"The offensive at Manbij is clearly being backed by a certain number of states including France. It's the usual support – it's advisory," the official told the agency.
Until recently, France admitted the presence of some 150 special forces in the region, all of them in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Manbij is said to be a key strategic town under IS control in northern Syria, and is a waypoint between the Turkish border and IS-held Raqqa.

Late last month footage emerged showing US special forces fighting alongside Kurdish militia near Raqqa. This comes roughly a month after Obama said some 250 troops would be deployed in the region.

Russia, in contrast, wrapped up its mission in Syria in mid-March, when it withdrew the "main part" of its troops from the country. Moscow continues to help Syrian government forces in their fight against IS and maintains a reconciliation center at the Khmeimim airbase, however.

British Troops Enter Syria and Libya to Ensure That War Outlives ISIS

by Dan Glazebrook, via CounterPunch


The Normandy landings, launched 72 years ago this week, saw the opening of a second front against the Nazis in Europe by the US and the UK after years of procrastination. Despite the signing of a ‘mutual assistance’ agreement with Britain in 1941, and the Anglo-Soviet alliance in 1942, for years very little was done by the US or Britain to actually fight the Nazi menace. In a joint communique issued in 1942, they agreed to open a second front in Europe that same year, an agreement they broke and then postponed repeatedly, leaving the Soviets to fight the strongest industrial power in Western Europe alone for three years – at an eventual cost of 27 million lives.

The US and Britain, it seemed, were following what International Relations theorist John Mearsheimer has termed a ‘bait and bleed’ policy, allowing Germany and the Soviet Union to “bleed each other white” whilst they themselves stood on the sidelines. “If we see Germany winning, we ought to help Russia,” declared US Senator (and later President) Harry Truman in June 1941, “and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and in that way let them kill as many as possible.” The British Minister for Aircraft Production Colonel Moore-Brabazon echoed his views the following month, telling a lunch party of government officials that the best outcome on the Eastern front would have been the mutual exhaustion of Germany and the USSR in order that Britain could then move in to dominate Europe. He was eventually forced to resign following uproar from a public determined to see their government do more to help the embattled Soviets.
In the end, it was not until well after the Nazis’ fortunes had been decisively reversed at Stalingrad that the long promised ‘second front’ actually materialized. Indeed, by this point the outcome of the war had effectively already been determined. D Day, then, was waged not to defeat the Nazis but to ensure the Soviet Union, who had borne almost all of the sacrifice, would not reap the fruits of their victory. As Soviet Admiral Kharlamov, head of the Soviet Military Mission in Britain during the Second World War, wrote, “Certain circles, both in the United States and Britain, feared that should the Red Army defeat Germany single-handed, the Soviet Union would have enormous influence on the post-war development of and social progress in the European countries. The Allies could not allow that to happen. This is why they considered the opening of a second front in Europe not so much a military action but as a political measure aimed at preventing the progressive political forces from coming to power in European countries.”

Documents declassified in 1998 revealed that Churchill had even ordered the drawing up of a plan that would see British and US troops push on beyond Berlin alongside a rearmed German army in a nuclear war against the Soviets.
If we see Germany winning, we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and in that way let them kill as many as possible.”Sen. Harry Truman, June 1941

History is now repeating itself, this time as farce. From 2014 until September 2015, ISIS appeared to sweep all before them, achieving hugely symbolic victories in Iraq’s Mosul and Fallujah, Syria’s Raqqa and Palmyra, and Libya’s Derna and Sirte. At the same time, under Saudi and Turkish tutelage, Al Qaeda’s ‘Al Nusra front’ was making gains in Syria, and the Ansar Sharia faction in Libya took Benghazi, paving the way for a major ISIS infiltration. The West did little to help.

In Syria, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) had been left to fight such groups not only bereft of support from the West, but facing a West apparently determined to destroy them. Similarly, the Libyan National Army – representing the elected Libyan parliament – was hamstrung by an arms embargo scrupulously observed in relation to them, but regularly violated by the West’s gulf allies when it came to the ‘Libya Dawn’ sectarian militias who were attacking them. And even the US’ supposedly closest allies in the Iraqi army, the elite ‘Golden Division’, had trouble getting effective US support when they needed it.

Despite this, starting with last September’s Russian intervention in Syria, the tide has begun to turn against ISIS and Al Qaeda, paving the way for a string of victories by the Syrian Arab Army and the Libyan National Army in particular, and pointing, potentially, towards the full restoration of governmental authority in both countries.

In Libya, the key moment was in February 2016, when the Libyan National Army finally regained control of Benghazi from ISIS and Ansar Sharia after 18 months of intense fighting. Both the ISIS presence in Benghazi and the city’s liberation were predictably downplayed in Western media, despite the city’s fate having been apparently so important to British and US leaders back in 2011. On May 3rd, the Libyan National Army began its march West from Benghazi towards ISIS’ last Libyan holdout in Sirte.

In February, too, a massive Syrian army offensive towards Aleppo began to make serious gains, taking territory from Al Qaeda, ISIS and Ahrar Al Sham. On February 3rd, the supply route to Aleppo was severed, breaking a rebel siege of two government-held towns south of Azaz. Mass surrenders to the SAA followed, including 1200 in Hama. Then, exactly one month later, the world-historic city of Palmyra was liberated from ISIS by Syrian government forces backed with Russian air support. In what was presumably an attempt to appear relevant, the US had also launched two token airstrikes on the city, illustrating, said journalist Robert Fisk, that the US “want to destroy iSIS – but not that much”.

Today, ISIS’ original stronghold, the capital of its self-declared caliphate, is itself under threat. The Times reported earlier this week that a massively re-moralised Syrian army, is “storming towards the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa” and that “the Syrian regime’s elite Desert Hawks unit, backed by the Russian airstrikes, crossed the southern border of Raqqa province at the weekend – the first time that any of Assad’s forces have set foot there since being driven out by isis nearly two years ago.” They have been making swift advances.

Throughout 2016, then, the national armed forces of Libya and Syria, representing the elected governments of both countries, have been on a roll; and the days of ISIS and their sectarian bedfellows may well be numbered. So it is interesting that it is precisely this moment – not when ISIS were making gains, but now that they are facing defeat – that British troops have deigned to openly enter the fray.

The same edition of the Times that reported that the SAA were “storming towards …Raqqa” also carried, as its front page story, the news that “British special forces are on the frontline in Syria defending a rebel unit”, noting that “the operation marks the first evidence of the troops’ direct involvement in the war-torn country rather than just training rebels in Jordan.” And the same newspaper had reported the previous week that British special forces undertook their first known combat mission in Libya on May 12th, in support of the ‘Libya Dawn’ faction of the Libyan civil war. Libya Dawn is an umbrella group of mainly Misrata-based militias that emerged following the elections of June 2014 under Qatari patronage to fight against the newly elected secular parliament, and its armed forces, the Libyan National Army (LNA). The Times tacitly acknowledged that, up until now, the LNA has been fighting ISIS alone, noting that “MIsrata had largely ignored the metastasis of ISIS in Sirte, 170 miles away, since the first terrorist cells embedded themselves there in 2013”. Now, however, alongside the British ‘boots on the ground’ that Cameron vowed would never step foot in Libya, they have suddenly found themselves the ‘chosen force’ to liberate the country.

As in 1945, having sat back whilst a vicious and genocidal group laid waste to thousands upon thousands of soldiers fighting alone against them, the Cameron regime now wants to deny those armies the fruits of their heroic sacrifices. Cameron would rather see Raqqa and Sirte liberated by a ragtag of militias with little to unite them other than their sectarianism, than to see the authority of the elected governments restored.

With British troops now in combat roles alongside the insurgents in Syria, however, this raises the prospect of a direct confrontation with Russian forces. Just like Churchill in 1945, it appears he is quite prepared to risk this. Back then, saner heads prevailed. The question is – where are those heads now?

Dan Glazebrook is a political journalist and author of Divide and Ruin: The West’s Imperial Strategy in an Age of Crisis

Syria: NATO Troop Build-Up Inside Syria Continues as Germany is Accused of Boots on the Ground

The US and NATO are pulling out all stops to turn their Syrian quagmire into something resembling their objectives in Syria. While US and UK troops had been setting up base in the north of Syria ostensibly in order to strike ISIS in Raqqa, the Syrian Arab Army has stolen a march on them with air-cover from the RUAF.

In today’s reports from the Syrian Arab News Agency, we hear that the Syrian Army Air Force destroyed ISIS vehicles to the north of the Zakia crossroads and the south side of Tabqa city in the countryside of Raqqa province.
Meanwhile, SANA claim that French and German forces have invaded north western Syria in the Ain al-Arab [Kobani] and Manbij areas. This brings them into proximity to the hotly contested Aleppo, Al Qaeda/Al Nusra central where 90% of civilians are being targeted daily in the government held western sectors of the city by a variety of US & NATO backed terrorists gangs embedded in the northern and eastern sectors, aided and abetted by their first response team, US and NATO funded Syria White Helmets.

he following report is from the Syrian Arab News Agency in Damascus:

Syria on Wednesday strongly condemned the presence of French and German special forces in Ain al-Arab and Manbij areas.

In a statement to SANA, an official source at Foreign and Expatriates Ministry considered this presence as a blatant interference, a flagrant violation of UN Charter’s principles and an overt unjustified aggression on the sovereignty and independence of Syria.

Commenting on news circulated regarding the presence of groups of French and German special forces in Ain al-Arab and Manbij areas on the Syrian territories, the Syrian Arab Republic vehemently condemns this blatant interference that constitutes a flagrant violation of UN Charter’s principles and an overt unjustified aggression on the sovereignty and independence of Syria,” the source said.

It added that claiming that this violation comes within counter-terrorism process cannot delude any one because the active and legitimate counter-terrorism requires cooperation with the legitimate Syrian Government, whose army and people are fighting terrorism on each inch of the Syrian territory providing great sacrifices to cleanse the country of terrorism which constitutes a serious threat to the entire security and stability of the world.

The source continued to say that the real intentions of this interference are beyond combating terrorism, especially that the countries involved in this action have constituted a main supporter to terrorism since the eruption of the crisis in Syria and hindered any sincere international effort for putting an end to this plague, particularly in terms of giving legitimacy to some terrorist groups through considering them moderate although their approach and ideology are not different from those of ISIS and al-Nusra.

It added that the Syrian people stress once again their absolute adherence to the sovereignty and independence of Syria and its territorial integrity and readiness to provide more sacrifices to defend it. The Syrian Arab Republic calls the aggressor states to wake up from daydreams and abandon their illusions and colonialist mentality as the eras of Mandate and Guardianship have irretrievably gone.”

In July 2013, the outgoing head of the British Army said the West would have to invade Syria if it wanted to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

You have to be able, as we did successfully in Libya, to hit ground targets,” General David Richards told The Telegraph. “If you want to have the material effect that people seek [i.e. Assad’s ouster] … you would be going to war if that is what you want to do.”

According to Reuters, Germany is hotly denying the presence of their special forces in northern Syria:

There are no German special forces in Syria. The accusation is false,” a ministry spokesman said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the Syrian civil war now in its sixth year, said French special forces were building a base for themselves near Kobani.

France’s defense minister said last week that there were special forces operating in Syria helping the SDF advance towards Manbij.

The Observatory also said German, French and American military advisers, and French and American special forces, were assisting the SDF in its fight against Islamic State but had so far remained in a support role and not fought on front lines.”

The US and NATO is failing in Syria and it is failing because the Syrian people have steadfastly supported their armed forces and elected Government despite five years of crippling sanctions, US and NATO terrorism, hostile media and NGO complex generated propaganda on a scale never before witnessed in the history of imperialism. They will continue to fail but not without moving every chess piece at their command around the bloodied road map of Syria that is thwarting their neocolonialism and exposing their hypocrisy with every devious move they make.

From Robert Fisk

Robert Fisk: After splitting with Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra is being presented to the West as a moderate force. It’s nothing of the sort

The jihadist force's reputation is being cleaned up, to suggest it is deserving of CIA support

So ol‘ Doc Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s chief executive successor, has told the Syrian Jabhat al-Nusra that it can dissociate itself from Al-Qaeda. Good public relations: Nusra doesn’t like the Isis “caliphate” very much, but as long as it remains a Qaeda clone, it can’t get off America’s terrorist list and qualify to join the (non-existent) 70,000 Syrian “moderates” dreamed up by David Cameron and a lot of American television networks.

Qatar's relations with Nusra raises questions. It denies direct ties with the group, and yet six months ago the Qatari Al-Jazeera channel interviewed Nusra’s leader, Mohamed al-Jolani, who said that it had nothing against Christians, Alawites or Americans – only that pesky president in Damascus who’s got Hezbollah, Iran and Russia on his side.

Have no doubts about the Qatar link. Nusra boys have just released three Spanish journalists held in northern Syria for the past 10 months, after which the Qatari state news agency boasted that the Qatari authorities were involved in freeing them. You bet they were. Had the unlucky three fallen into the hands of those other morbid sons-of-the-desert, Isis (for whom many Saudis seem to have an unhappy affection), then the reporters would have had their throats cut on videotape against a soundtrack of yet more mushy "nasheed" music. ...[ ] 

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