Wednesday 28 October 2015

Syria update - 10/27/2015

IS militants airlifted from Syria to Yemen, Saudi Arabia — Syrian army spokesman
According to the reconnaissance data, on October 26 four planes from Turkey arrived to the airport of the city of Aden (Yemen) with more than 500 IS militants taken from Syria on board

27 October, 2015

LATAKIA (Syria), October 27. /TASS/. The Islamic State (IS) militants have been airlifted from Syria by Turkish aircraft to save them from Russian airstrikes, spokesman for the Syrian Armed Forces Brigadier General Ali Mayhub said on Tuesday.

"On October 26, according to the reconnaissance data, four planes from Turkey arrived to the airport of the city of Aden (Yemen). Two of them belong to Turkish Airlines, one — to Qatar Airways and one more aircraft owned by an airline of the United Arab Emirates," said the Syrian army spokesman.

"There were more than 500 militants of the Islamic State terrorist organization on board, they were taken from Syria to save them from Russian airstrikes," General Mayhub said.

According to him, "the militants were met by officers of the Saudi coalition that took them from the airport in three groups. The first went to the city of Al-Bab in Mandeb province (Yemen), the second — to Marib (Yemen), the third — to the Saudi regions of Jizan and Asir."

Moscow demands US-led coalition in Syria 'prove or deny' allegations Russia is 'bombing civilians'

27 October, 2015

The Russian Ministry of Defense has summoned military attaches of NATO countries and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, asking the officials to clarify their countries' allegations that Russian airstrikes in Syria have hit civilian targets.

"Today we invited military attaches from the US, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the NATO bloc to ask them to give official validation to their statements, or make a rebuttal," Defense Ministry deputy head Anatoly Antonov said on Tuesday.

It particularly touches upon Western media's "outrageous accusations" that the Russian Air Force has allegedly bombed hospitals in Syria, the military official said.

Information attacks on Moscow's anti-terror efforts in the region have intensified recently, Antonov said, adding that the Russian military is "blamed not only for conducting airstrikes on the 'moderate opposition,' but also on civilian buildings, such as hospitals, mosques and schools."

The MoD official stressed that such blame is put upon Russia not only by the media, but also officials and politicians from a number of Western states, including US Secretary of State John Kerry, US Department of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, the UK's Defense Secretary Michael Fallon and France's Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Allegations will be considered "stove-piping" should Russia not receive proof in the next following days, Antonov said, adding that the Defense Ministry "closely monitors and analyzes such statements."

The MoD deputy head once again called on foreign military officials to join efforts in fighting Islamic State, saying that a wider international coalition should be immediately formed to defeat terrorists in the region.

"We are still waiting... for cooperation in defining concrete targets to be bombed in order to annihilate ISIS bases, or [providing] coordinates of facilities that should not be targeted by the Russian Air Force," Antonov said.

Reports of a field hospital in northwestern Syria destroyed by Russian airstrikes, killing civilians, emerged last week, based on information provided by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Russian Foreign Ministry has disputed the media reports, having questioned the credentials of the source, which is based in Britain, has no direct access to the ground in Syria, and is run by one man.

Syrian Army Liberates 50 Villages in Aleppo Province - Source

27 October, 2015

The Syrian Army, with the support of armed militia fighters, has liberated 50 villages in the south-east of Aleppo province, a militia source said Tuesday.

According to the source, residents of at least two villages had begun returning to their households to clear the rubble.

"Yesterday, the army advanced deep towards the Idlib province. We have liberated some 50 villages and took hold of an area of about 120 square kilometers [some 46 sq. miles]," a source from the Desert Hawks armed militia group told RIA Novosti.

The Desert Hawks was formed at the start of the crisis in Syria four years ago, by retired Syrian army officer Mohamed Jaber. The unit consists of between 4 and 5 thousand people, comprised of fighters of various religions and from all regions of the country. All of the actions of the militia are fully coordinated with the Syrian army, RIA Novosti reported.

Earlier, reports from the Iranian Fars News Agency suggested more than 800,000 Syrian refugees were expected to return to their homes, thanks in part to Russia's military operation in Syria.

The latest data shows Russian fighter jets have destroyed 285 ISIL and al-Nusra Front targets in Syria over the past three days. The military operation started on September 30 after Syrian president Bashar Assad sent Russian authorities an official request.

Washington's Syria "Strategy" In Complete Disarray As "Ally" Turkey Bombs US-Armed Rebels

27 October, 2015

A little over a week ago in “Full Metal Retard: US Launches ‘Performance-Based’ Ammo Paradrop Program For Make-Believe ‘Syrian Arabs” we outlined what is perhaps the most hilarious Pentagon scheme designed to arm rebels in Syria to date (and that’s saying something). 

Following the comical demise of the latest “train and equip” program, the US is out of options for supporting the opposition in Syria and so Washington decided to go back to Old Faithful: the Kurds. 

But that presents a problem.

The US is now flying sorties from Incirlik and Turkish autocrat President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hates the Kurds and has gone out of his way to make it clear that Ankara doesn’t distinguish between the PKK and the YPG. For the uninitiated, here’s the problem broken down in bullet points:

  • The US is flying from a Turkish airbase

  • Access to that airbase came with NATO’s tacit approval of Erdogan’s move to crack down on the Kurdish PKK operating in Turkey (that crackdown is designed to bolster support for the government ahead of elections next month)

  • Both the US and Turkey designate PKK as a “terrorist” group 

  • BUT while Ankara equates the PKK with the Kurdish rebels battling ISIS in Syria, Washington actually supports those same rebels, setting up a conflict of interest
Now clearly, this is beyond absurd. That is, Turkey only got NATOs support for the politically motivated crackdown on the PKK because Ankara agreed to bundle said crackdown with a military campaign against  ISIS. But the Syrian Kurds are the most effective ground force of them all when it comes to combating Islamic State.  Because those Syrian Kurds are aligned with the PKK, Turkey is effectively trying to say its army is fighting ISIS, the PKK, and YPG all at once even as both the PKK and the YPG are also fighting ISIS. 

And so, in an unbelievably silly attempt to keep from angering Erdogan, the US effectively created a fictional group of "Syrain Arabs" and then claimed that YPG had formed an alliance with the made-up army. Next, Washington dropped 50 tons of ammo into the desert (literally) and claimed that the "Syrian Arab Coalition" had retrieved it. Of course it was the Kurds who actually picked it up, the Pentagon just needed a cover story to feed to Ankara in case Erdogan lost his mind. Which he did. 

As noted above, all of this comes in the context of what is supposed to be a cooperative effort between the US and Turkey to fight ISIS.

When the deal was struck a few months back (following a suspect suicide bombing in Suruc that served as the pretense for Erdogan's "war on terror"), the two countries agreed to establish an "ISIS-free zone" near Aleppo. Here's the map:

Note that when the US-Turkey alliance was formally established, the Kurds were set to squeeze ISIS from the east and west, meaning that if Washington and Ankara had just left the YPG to their business, the "ISIS-free zone" would have probably been rid of Islamic State in a matter of months. But alas, Turkey convinced the US to tell the YPG to halt their advance and the ensuing awkwardness put Washington in a tough spot, as the US had previously backed the Kurds with airstrikes. 

Well now, just days ahead of elections in Turkey which Erdogan is banking on to restore AKP's absolute majority at the expense of popular support for the pro-Kurdish HDP, the Turkish army has now attacked the very same Kurdish fighters that the US just supplied with 50 tons of ammo two weeks ago. Here's The New York Times:

Turkey has confirmed that it struck positions in Syria held by Kurdish militias that over the last year have become the most important allies within Syria of the American-led coalition fighting the Islamic State.
The confirmation of the strikes, which the Kurds said took place over the weekend, adds a new level of complexity to the United States’ struggle to put together a coherent strategy to fight the Islamic State in Syria. It also increases tensions between the United States and Turkey, which are nominally allies in the battle against the militant group, but whose interests diverge substantially.
In an interview on a Turkish news channel Monday night, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey did not specify when the strikes had taken place, but he said they came after Ankara warned Kurdish fighters not to move west of the Euphrates River.
We struck them twice,” Mr. Davutoglu said.

The Turkish strikes were in Tal Abyad, a largely Arab border town that the Kurds captured from the Islamic State over the summer. The strikes appear to have been limited — they were said to involve machine-gun fire from across the border and did not seem to cause much damage —but they could suggest a new determination by Turkey to expand military operations against the American-allied group.

More, from NPR:

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Turkish television that Ankara had warned the Syrian Kurds known as the PYD that they should not cross west of the Euphrates River — and after the group did so, Turkish jets struck twice at PYD targets.
"U.S. officials have supported the Kurdish efforts to battle ISIS in northern Syria, though it has tried to be sensitive to Turkish concerns about the group, which has ties to Kurdish militants in Turkey who are considered terrorists by both Ankara and Washington.
"Turkey is worried that Syrian Kurds will expand and consolidate their area of control near Turkey's border while fighting ISIS."

So just to drive the point home, US ally Turkey is now firing on a group that the US just handed 50 tons of ammo and weapons to earlier this month and that same group has traditionally proven to be exceptionally effective at fighting ISIS. 
Needless to say, this is incoherent to the point of absolute absurdity. Washington is spending millions if not billions in taxpayer dollars to both i) fly sorties from a Turkish airbase ostensibly with the aim of hitting Islamic State, and ii) supply Syrian Kurds with hundreds of tons of weapons and ammo even as "ally" Turkey shoots at those same Kurds. 

This has become so convoluted and self-defeating that one wonders how long it will be before someone in Congress decides it's time to take a look at exactly what's going on here and why it seems like this entire debacle is simply too bad to be true.

Moscow Summons US, NATO, Saudi Arabia Envoys Over Civilian Deaths Claims

27 October, 2015

The Russian Defense Ministry has urged NATO and Saudi Arabia to explain accusations that Russian airstrikes had allegedly targeted hospitals in Syria, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said Tuesday.

"We have summoned the US, UK, French, German, Italian, Saudi Arabian, Turkish and NATO military attaches today asked to give a formal explanation of these statements or to refute them. This especially concerns a number of outrageous allegations in the English-speaking media about alleged airstrikes on hospitals," Antonov said.

Deputy Def Minister Anatoly 's statement for Media after meeting with mil.attaches

Embedded image permalink

According to him, information attacks on the Russian Aerospace Forces' actions in Syria have intensified in a number of Western media outlets.

"We are being accused not only of launching airstrikes on 'moderate opposition', but also on civilian targets like hospitals, as well as mosques and schools. As a result, civilians are allegedly killed, according to Western media reports," Antonov added.

: We're accused of performing strikes at objects like hospitals, mosques and schools. As by Western media civilians are being killed

He expressed regret that "some officials and politicians of a number of foreign states make similar statements [on civilian deaths in Russian airstrikes in Syria]."

Antonov cited statements made by US State Secretary John Kerry, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon and French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian as examples.

The Russian Defense Ministry is "closely monitoring and analyzing these statements," he added. According to him, Russia is bringing Russian and international communities to the notice about the Russian aviation's actions in Syria on a daily basis.

"If our partners have some additional information, we have long called on them to share it with us."

He added that if no evidence on civilian deaths in Russian airstrikes in Syria was provided in a few days, Moscow would come to a conclusion that the claims were part of the information warfare against Russia.

"But if there is no evidence [of civilian casualties in Syria] or official refutal, we will consider that these anti-Russian media hoaxes are part of the information war against Russia."

"In every case when the information is confirmed about destroyed hospitals, mosques and schools, as well as the deaths of civilians as a result of the Russian Air Force's actions we will conduct a thorough investigation, of which Western media… will be informed."

Iran to be invited to participate in Syria talks – US

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov shake hands during a photo a photo opportunity in Vienna, October 23, 2015. © Carlo Allegri
Iran is going to be invited to participate in multilateral talks about the conflict in Syria which will take place in Vienna, the US State Department said. It will be the first such US invitation extended to Iran since the eruption of the Syrian war in 2011.

At some point, obviously – and the Secretary’s talked about this – we know there’s going to need to be a conversation with Iran towards the end of a political transition there [in Syria], towards that end,” US State Department spokesperson John Kirby said during daily press briefing on Monday.

At some point, the Secretary has made clear, Iran’s going to have to be made part of this discussion. Now when that’s going to be and where that’s going to be and under what context, I think it’s fair to say that all that is still being worked out,”he dded.

Although Kirby has not specified when Iran is going to join the multilateral talks over Syria, there are some speculations that the country could take part in the next diplomatic round which starts on Thursday in Vienna, AP reported, citing unnamed sources who claimed that such an invitation has already been sent.

Lastly, the CNN version of events. They insist that Iran is losing and Russia has entered its second Afghanistan

International Military Review - Syria-Iraq Battlespace, Oct. 27, 2015

Great Syria's War Update for October 26, 2015

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