Thursday 21 April 2016

Developments in Syria - 04/20/2016

This is from Super Stations95 which is, by no means a reliable source, but this could be read in conjunction with the article below from the WSJ.

Who knows? Putin has been known to act from left-field before.

Putin Orders Russian Troops To Seal Border Between Syria and Turkey

Putin Orders Russian Troops To Seal Border Between Syria and Turkey

In a shocking move, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russian troops inside Syria, to seal the Syrian border with Turkey.   This is going to cause HUGE trouble.

Turkey has been profiting by allowing oil, stolen from Syria by ISIS terrorists, to be smuggled into Turkey via convoys of oil tanker trucks.  Once the tankers arrive in Turkey, the oil is slightly refined, re-packaged to look legitimate, then sold cheap on the open market.  This theft and smuggling nets ISIS about $100 Million per month, which funds its terror operations.  Of course, Turkish officials get their palms greased as well, for allowing the smuggling to take place.  Chief among those getting their beak wet is Turkish President Recypt Erdogan and his sons.

In addition to now cutting off ISIS money - and Turkey's illicit profits -- this border closure will stop the flow of weapons into Syria.  Weapons supplied paid for by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and supplied to ISIS and Al Qaida inside Syria via Turkey, designed to overthrow the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

This move by Putin amounts to "check-mate" against the coalition that has been trying for four years to overthrow the government of Syria.  That coalition includes the USA.

This totally unexpected move comes on the heels of a negotiated cease-fire which very much calmed fighting throughout Syria.  But in that time of cease fire, vast quantities of weapons and ammunition were shipped into Syria from Turkey, and ISIS has now escalated its fighting, re-taking portions of Syria previously liberated by Syrian and Russian troops.  Rather than fight such battles over again, Putin has ordered the border sealed.
This is a very dangerous situation now, because Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, the USA and UK  (among others) have now been halted in their efforts to overthrow Syria's government.  They now have three choices:
1) Try to run the border closing and get fired upon by Russian and Syrian troops, OR;
2) Engage in overt, open warfare to battle it out, OR;
3) Accept defeat.
This is a very dangerous time, indeed.

Russia Moves Artillery to Northern Syria, U.S. Officials Say
Deployment is a sign Moscow and the Assad government are preparing for a return to full-scale fighting

20 April, 2016

Russia has been moving artillery units to areas of northern Syria where government forces have massed, raising U.S. concern the two allies may be preparing for a return to full-scale fighting as the current cease-fire falters, U.S. officials said.

The recent Russian redeployments of the units and the forces that operate them have been accompanied by the return of some Iranian army forces to government-controlled areas close to the front lines, according to officials briefed on the intelligence. Russia, Iran and the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah movement have been Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s main supporters in the conflict.

U.S. concerns about the Russian military movements, and the negative impact they could have on the cease-fire and political negotiations in Geneva, prompted President Barack Obama’s call to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, officials said.

Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, used unusually blunt language in describing the exchange between the two leaders, calling it an “intense conversation.”

Russian officials have voiced support for the partial cease-fire and the United Nations-mediated negotiations in Geneva, both in public and in private settings, according to U.S. officials.

Citing widening attacks by government forces, representatives of the main opposition broke off the latest round of indirect talks on Monday. Government forces have stepped up attacks in some areas in northern and central Syria in recent days, and one opposition negotiator on Tuesday described the truce as over.

Still, the cease-fire, which began Feb. 27, has held far longer than officials in Washington and in the region had expected. It has reduced the overall level of violence in Syria and brought about at least a temporary pause in the proxy fight between Russia, which has supported the Assad regime, and the U.S., which has supported the moderate opposition.

Mr. Obama and White House officials have warned in recent days that the cease-fire could collapse, without mentioning the Russian buildup. The White House declined to comment on the new intelligence. Russian officials in the U.S. didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

After the partial cease-fire took effect in late February, U.S. intelligence agencies tracked the movement of Russian artillery units south to areas where the Assad regime at the time was fighting Islamic State militants, particularly in the Tadmur and Palmyra areas.

Russian troops directly operate the artillery pieces, which have been used with devastating effect on the battlefield since last year, according to U.S. officials. Russia has also deployed advisers to support the Assad regime in its military campaign, officials said.

About two weeks ago, U.S. intelligence agencies began to detect the redeployment of artillery units to areas near the northern city of Aleppo, the opposition stronghold, and inside Latakia province, near where government forces have been gathering, according to a senior U.S. defense official.

The Russian artillery movements have increased in recent days, raising U.S. alarm about Moscow’s intentions, the official said.

U.S. intelligence agencies have indications that some of the newly-redeployed artillery pieces have been used in recent days in support of government forces, particularly in clashes with the Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.

Both the Nusra Front and Islamic State were excluded from the cease-fire brokered by the U.S. and Russia in February.

U.S. officials say Russian forces in Syria have also stepped up the tempo of their air operations in support of the Assad regime in recent days. The Russians are currently conducting about a dozen airstrikes a day, compared with as many as 100 a day before the cease-fire took effect, according to the senior U.S. defense official.

Since the start of the truce, Obama administration officials have been divided over Mr. Putin’s seriousness about finding a political solution to the conflict and his willingness to have Mr. Assad leave office.

Another open question within the Obama administration has been over how much influence Moscow really has with the Assad regime.

U.S. officials pointed to recent statements from regime officials in Damascus about a planned offensive against rebel forces in their Aleppo stronghold in northern Syria. Russian officials told their American counterparts that the regime was bluffing about the offensive, but Moscow was noncommittal about getting Damascus to disavow the idea, either because the Russians knew Damascus wouldn’t listen or because they weren’t sure themselves what the Assad regime’s intentions were, or both, according to officials.

In private meetings with Russian officials, Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan has warned that the alternative to the current cease-fire could be a dangerous escalation on the battlefield, officials have said.

The CIA and its partners in the region have been drawing up a list of anti-artillery and antiaircraft weapons which could be provided to the moderate opposition if the cease-fire collapses and full-scale fighting resumes.

US failed to persuade moderate opposition to withdraw from Al-Nusra-controlled areas – Lavrov

By Jim W. Dean, Managing Editor on April 20, 2016

20 April, 2016
Lavrov - always right on the money
Lavrov – always right on the money
from Russia Today,  Moscow
The US coalition will do everything it can to subvert the peace talks
The US coalition will do everything it can to subvert the peace talks
Editor’s Note:  Washington is exposed now as not having much control over the Syrian opposition that it has supported, which has been a major problem all along and contributed to the foreign policy disaster we have… again.

The opposition groups quickly did their own ceasefires with Al-Nusra, primarily in the NE of Syria to have access to their Turkish supply lines. What the opposition groups contributed was protecting Al-Nusra from being bombed, because then the opposition could claim the truce had been broken.
I had predicted early on that these groups would all start intermingling whenever that suited them to exploit the chaotic situation. When you add in their foreign support, you have more than a little brake pedal ability to apply to the peace process.
The US coalition tipped their hand when they threatened that if the ceasefire was broken “they” would provide the opposition with advanced weapons — better TOWs to killed the newer Russian tanks, and MANPADS to start taking more planes down.
So the Saudi HNC group stalling the talks has been giving time for the logistics to move these armaments into the regions still held by the jihadis. As Gordon would say, “Welcome to how the world really works… Jim W. Dean ]
While Syria focused on Palmyra Turkey reinforced NE Syria to be able to launch counter-offensives
While Syria focused on Palmyra, Turkey reinforced NE Syria jihadis to be able to launch counter-offensives
First published  …  April 18, 2016 –
Syrian moderate opposition has failed to withdraw from areas controlled by Al-Nusra Front terrorists, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, blaming the US for failing to exert influence on the opposition and questioned its claims of being moderate.
Washington has itself earlier raised the issue of moderate opposition forces, who are part of the ceasefire agreement in Syria, being present in Al-Nusra-controlled areas, Lavrov told reporters on Monday.
Washington officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, agreed with Moscow’s stance,
 “that if these groups want to fulfill the conditions of the ceasefire and don’t want to look like terrorist supporters, they must do a simple thing – change their dislocation area and physically separate themselves from the terrorists,” the minister elaborated.
According to Lavrov, the US has repeatedly promised Russia to exert their influence on moderate opposition, but the minister said that those promises are still not fulfilled.”
If this moderate opposition doesn’t want to leave the areas occupied by Al-Nusra, maybe it is not moderate? Maybe they are just those, who cooperate with Al-Nusra despite the UN Security Council resolution?” he asked.
The FM assured that the Syrian government forces “aren’t carrying out military action against that part of the opposition, which accepted the terms of the truce.”
The Syrian army, backed by the Russian Air-Space Forces, is fighting against the terrorists,” he stressed.
The top Russian diplomat said that around the city of Aleppo, Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) has very strong positions and there’s quite a large area occupied by Al-Nusra Front.”
Both terrorist groups are trying to improve their positions in the Aleppo area. They are, I stress once again, a legitimate target for those, fighting against terrorism in Syria,” he added.
Washington must bring Ankara to its senses’
Lavrov again urged the Syrian Kurds, who were very effective in fighting Islamic State, to be granted a seat at the intra-Syrian talks in currently underway in Geneva.
He stressed that the opposition delegation at the negotiations in the Swiss capital must of a truly representative character.”
This would require out US partners to just bring to senses their Turkish allies, who are blocking the Democratic Union Party of Syrian Kurds (PYD) from joining the talks,” the FM said.
Turkey is also among the nations, who are pushing for the military solution in Syria counter to the international peace effort, Lavrov stressed.
Despite the denial from Washington, there are many people, who wish to think about certain ‘Plan B’, if not in the heart of the Pentagon, then certainly in the [Middle Eastern, Western Asian] region,” he explained.
In particular, I can mention Turkey, which doesn’t leave the attempts to intervene [into Syria] by force”and topple the country’s government of President Bashar Assad, the minister added.
Those, behind the ‘Plan B,’ are “counting on the collapse of the Syrian peace talks, which would allow pumping more arms into Syria for the inappeasable opposition so that it could solve the task of removing the government militarily,” he said.
The Russia-US brokered ceasefire kicked off in Syria on February 27 and was supported by various armed opposition groups, but excluded terrorists from Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front.

Lavrov also refuted rumors of secret talks on the fate of President Assad, calling them another attempt to derail the peace process in Syria.
The claims that there is some sort of a secret negotiation channel and that, moreover, in the framework of this secret channel someone promised to decide the fate of Assad outside the framework of the intra-Syrian talks … are not true,”he said.
It’s an attempt to disrupt the implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions, in which… it’s directly stated that only the Syrian people will determine the fate of Syria,” the FM added.
The minister also criticized the European Union for not trying to suppress what he called Turkey’s aggressive ambitions towards Syria.
He noted that Ankara repeatedly proposed various ideas of handling the Syrian crisis, such as introducing no-fly zones or security zones, which were nothing but attempts to cover up possible Turkish aggression.”
According to Lavrov, it is very disturbing that the EU… doesn’t suppress such ambitions by Ankara and even tries to indulge it in a certain way.”

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