Turkey Now Controls Syria’s Jihadists – By Eric ZUESSE – /strategic Culture Foundation

Turkey Now Controls Syria’s Jihadists

Because of the US Government’s repeated threats to start World War III against Russia on Syrian territory if Russia will assist Syria’s Government to eliminate the jihadists who control Syria’s Idlib province, Russia’s Government agreed, on September 17th, with Turkey’s Government, that Turkey’s Government will control Idlib, which is Syria’s most jihadist-friendly province

Consequently, the threatened US-and-allied bombing campaign to overthrow Syria’s Government and replace it with one that would be controlled by the royal family of Saudi Arabia (the Sauds) has been placed on hold, because such a bombing campaign would now mean the US going to war against not only Syria’s Government and Russia’s Government and Iran’s Government, but also against Turkey’s Government, which is a NATO member and (because of its location) has been an essential part of the American Empire.

Turkey is thus now balanced on a knife’s edge, between the US and its allies (representing the Saud family) on the one side, versus Russia and its allies (representing the anti-Saud alliance) on the other.

Historically, the Sauds have competed against the Turkish Government for leadership of the world’s Muslims. Gradually, the Sauds came to ally themselves first with the British Empire, and then with the rising American Empire, which two Empires merged into one right after World War II.

Turkey was the head of the Ottoman Empire — that was actually the Turkish empire — and Turkey became defeated in World War I by the British side, including the leader of the Saud family. As a result of the epoch-making September 17th agreement about Idlib, Turkey, which for nearly a hundred years was an important ally of America, no longer is a US ally, but is vacillating between alliance with Russia, versus alliance with the US

The Historical Background

Some historical background is helpful for understanding where we’re coming from, and where we are heading to, here: 

In 1811, the fundamentalist-Sunni Wahhabis of Arabia, led by the Saud family, revolted against the non-fundamentalist Sunni Ottoman Turks, and were crushed by the Ottomans

In 1830, “The Great Game” started, in which the British Empire unsuccessfully tried to colonize Afghanistan next door to the world’s most natural-resources-rich land, Russia, but Britain gave up in defeat in 1895, and therefore Afghanistan remained neutral.

As British historian Martin Ewans wrote in his 2002 Afghanistan: A Short History (p. 12), “Although never colonized, Afghanistan is part of the colonial history of Tzarist Russia and British India, with a strategic importance that in 1884 brought the two empires to the brink of war.” Ewens indicated (p. 66) that Russia’s opposition to Britain’s colonizing Afghanistan was based upon Russians’ fear that Britain would use the fundamentalist-Sunni Afghans as proxy boots-on-the-ground to spread into and take over parts of Russia.

John David Blom’s March 2009 “The Decline of Anglo-Saudi Relations” noted (p. 7) that, “The major areas of British imperialism in the Middle East during the nineteenth century were the Ottoman and Persian Empires, the Trucial states along the Persian Gulf, Aden, Oman, and Egypt. The Ottoman and Persian Empire provided a buffer against Russian expansion south.” Furthermore, Blom observed (p. 11) that after the Saud family came to recognize that in order for them to dominate against the Ottoman Turks for control over the Islamic world, “The Anglo-Saudi Treaty of 1915 recognized Ibn Saud’s position as ruler of Najd, El Hassa, Qatif and Jubail. It guaranteed British protection of these regions in exchange for control of Ibn Saud’s foreign policy.” Of course, the defeat of Turkey was the real focus of that, otherwise called Treaty of Darin. But the decline of Anglo-Saudi relations was merely the opposite end of the rise of US-Saudi relations. After WW I, this British alliance with the Sauds was effectively taken over on 23 May 1933 by Standard Oil of California (a Rockefeller oil company, now called Chevron) when the existing oil-discoveries in Saudi Arabia failed to excite British and European investors sufficiently. Three years later, Texaco joined SoCal. Then, in 1938, these American drillers made the first big oil-strike in Saudi Arabia. In 1943, the company became renamed Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO), and the previous British Empire now effectively became the American Empire. The alliance between the Saud family and the US aristocracy has remained solid ever since.

Further contributing to the Sauds’ increasing reliance upon the US aristocracy instead of upon the British aristocracy, has been this: In The West at the end of the 1800s, the British Empire adopted the British mining-magnate Cecil Rhodes’s plan for their Empire to become joined with the soaring new American Empire, which combination during World War I won against the then-soaring German Empire (and against its allied Japanese and Italian Empires) and then won against Germany yet again in WW II, this time because Russia and its Soviet allies basically conquered the Germans in the east. The US, emerging then essentially unscarred from WW II which had devastated all of America’s allies in that war, became, more clearly than ever, the Saud family’s winning horse, to carry them closer to final victory. 

In the 1915 Treaty of Darin, between the United Kingdom and Abdul-Aziz al-Saud (sometimes called Ibn Saud, who then led only part of what subsequently became the larger Saudi Arabia) both parties agreed that Saud would join UK’s war to conquer (Ottoman-led) Turkey; and that, in return, the British Empire (UK) would protect and defend the Saud family’s imposed rule, anywhere that it might become challenged.

Turkey’s Government was thus conquered, and then it ended its moderate-Islamist Ottoman Empire, after Turkey’s participation on Germany’s side in WW I produced General Ataturk’s creation of the secular Turkish state in 1923, and the end of the Turkish Caliphate the following year. Ataturk created a Turkey whose laws were almost completely independent of the Quran.

However, after the success of the US-Saudi war against Russia in 1979 by means of spreading Wahhabist and other fundamentalist-Sunni mosques and especially funding and creating mujahideen, Taliban, Al Qaeda, and ultimately ISIS fighters, all against Russia and against Russia’s ally Iran — that is, against the two countries which the Sauds and America’s aristocracy are the most determined to conquer — the Islamist Tayyip Erdogan in 2003 rose finally to power in Turkey, so as to support that US-Saudi cause, against Russia, and against Iran. 

Turkey, of course, is on Syria’s northern border. The accession to power of an Islamist leader of Turkey constituted a disastrous turn against the adjoining Syria, which country now was almost completely surrounded by hostile governments (controlled by fundamentalist Sunnis, except Israel, which is controlled by fundamentalist Jews). Erdogan was very much America’s leader of Turkey. 

However, the US aristocracy wanted Fethullah Gülen, who was even more dependent upon the US, to take over Turkey. So, on 15 July 2016, a US-NATO-backed coup-attempt to replace Erdogan by Gulen occurred and failed. It failed because Russia’s Putin informed Erdogan in time to save Erdogan’s life. This did not, however, turn Turkey immediately and 100% against America’s aristocracy, but it certainly did start that. This is the reason why Russia’s Astana Peace Process to settle and end the war in Syria includes Russia, Iran, and Turkey — and not US, Saudi Arabia, or any other outright enemies of Russia and of Iran.

America’s CIA has actually been trying ever since 1949 to place the Middle East’s only committedly anti-sectarian, pro-secular, nation, Syria, under the control of the fundamentalist-Sunni Saud family, who own Saudi Arabia and cooperate with US oil companies.

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CIA admits orchestrating Syrian Coup of March 1949.

8,782 views Osman Sáffah Published on Jan 26, 2014

CIA agent Miles Copeland Jr in an interview with the BBC in 1967 admits that the CIA orchestrated and staged the 1949 Syrian Coup against President Shukri al-Kuwatli. 

[Copeland says that nations’ leaders who don’t do what US corporations want them to do are “corrupt”]

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The Recent Background of the September 17th Agreement on Idlib

That brings us to the U.S-Saudi-Israeli war against Syria, which is called by the aggressors ‘the Syrian civil war’ in order to blame it against Assad instead of against themselves. 

Early in this invasion of Syria, Turkey was a leading participant, and provided pathways both for international jihadists — all of them fundamentalist Sunnis — and for the weaponry for them, to enter into Syria. 

Qatar, which is owned by its fundamentalist-Sunni royal family the Thanis, likewise was essential to the invasion and occupation of Syria, and funded the Muslim Brotherhood in order to assist the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad (as the Thanis did more successfully in Egypt with their installation of Mohammed Morsi). But then, on 5 June 2017, the Sauds decided that the Thanis aren’t sufficiently anti-Shia and anti Iranian; so, the Sauds tried to blockade Qatar and to crush the Thanis. Whereas America’s aristocracy turned against Erdogan, Saudi Arabia’s royal family turned against the Thanis. So: both Turkey and Qatar are now on the fence and no longer committed to the US-Saudi side against Syria.

Throughout the recent phase of the 7-year-long jihadists’ war to overthrow Syria’s Government, almost all of the surviving jihadists who did not surrender to Syria’s Government have been killed on the spot where they were, and all of the jihadists who did surrender were bussed by Syria’s Government into Idlib, which consequently is now even more jihadist-friendly than it was at the war’s start. Here is how this happened:

When Barack Obama came into the White House in January 2009 he was hoping to overthrow Syria’s Government. Also in 2009, UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron’s Government was actively planning to do it.

The pro-jihadist Thani family, as the main funders of the Muslim Brotherhood and owners of Qatar, have been almost as important cooperators with US oil and gas companies as are Saudi Arabia’s royal family. The Thanis’ Al Jazeera network reported, on 13 March 2012, that already Idlib was “opposition-held” and that “The Free Syrian Army is based in Turkey and its border is the most likely location for getting arms into Syria.” That’s how The West was transporting weapons to the jihadists. Al Jazeera’s correspondent said that the Syrian Government’s campaign to defeat its opponents there “was ‘Shooting fish in a barrel’ — these people can’t escape, they can’t help themselves, they have very little weaponry, what can they do but sit there and take it?” The West was thoroughly sympathetic, and supplied weapons to the supposedly helpless jihadists.

On 29 July 2012, when the US Government still had not yet made clear that it was planning to hand Syria over to the Saud family, the New York Times headlined “As Syrian War Drags On, Jihadists Take Bigger Role” and already noted that, “Idlib Province, the northern Syrian region where resistance fighters control the most territory, is the prime example.” Their report observed, without any indication of the significance of the fact, that, “A central reason cited by the Obama administration for limiting support to the resistance to things like communications equipment is that it did not want arms flowing to Islamic radicals. But the flip side is that Salafist groups, or Muslim puritans, now receive most foreign financing.” The significance was that Washington was taking its lead from the Sauds and the other fundamentalist-Sunni Arab oil monarchs. The article did, however, note that, “Significantly, most of the money flowing to the Syrian opposition is coming from religious donors in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf region whose generosity hinges on Salafi teaching.” “Salafi teaching” is fundamentalist-Sunni teaching. It originated with Mohammed ibn al-Wahhab, the man who in 1744 authorized the Saud family to conquer the world for Allah. As the NYT reported there, Saudi fundamentalist-Sunni teaching was now taking over in the most-Sunni parts of Syria, because that’s what was being funded by the war’s financial backers: 

The attitude prompts grumbling from fighters used to the gentler Islam long prevalent in Syria. Adel, a media activist from Idlib interviewed in Antakya, Turkey, in June, complained that “the Islamic current has broken into the heart of this revolution.” When a Muslim Brotherhood member joined his group in Idlib, he said, inside of a week the man demanded that the slogans that they shouted all included, “There is no god but God.” “Now there are more religious chants than secular ones,” Adel groused. …

Ahrar al-Sham in particular enjoys the support of Sheik Adnan al-Arour, a Sunni Muslim media star in exile, who blasts Shiites and Alawites on his television show and on what appears to be his authentic Twitter account. “We buy weapons from the donations and savings of the Wahhabi children,” said one recent Twitter posting, referring to the Islamic sect prominent in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. …

Abu Zein, a spokesman for Sukur al-Sham, said the organization included Syrians plus other Arabs, French and Belgians. “The Qaeda ideology existed previously, but it was suppressed by the regime,” he said in a Skype interview. “But after the uprising they found very fertile ground, plus the funders to support their existence,” he added. “The ideology was present, but the personnel were absent. Now we have both.”

Bill Roggio, of Long War Journal, reported on 4 August 2012 that “Al Nusrah Front conducts joint operation with Free Syrian Army”. Nusrah was the name for Al Qaeda’s Syrian branch, and the FSA were controlled by Turkey’s Government. These were America’s key allies on this matter. 

On 15 November 2012, Roggio concluded that, “The al Qaeda-linked Al Nusrah Front has been the most active jihadist group in Syria.” He also clarified, which the July NYT report had not, that, “The Ahrar al Sham Brigades is a Salafist-jihadist group that operates in Idlib and the surrounding areas, and has numerous foreign fighters in its ranks. Sheik Adnan al Arour, a prominent Syrian cleric who has often appeared in the media, backs the Ahrar al Sham Brigades.”

Roggio reported on 19 December 2012 that, “The Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, an al Qaeda-linked jihadist group that is fighting Bashir al Assad’s regime in Syria, and allied jihadist groups took control of the last major Syrian Army base in western Aleppo after a two-month-long siege. The base is believed to be involved in Syria’s chemical weapons program.” So, that might have been one of the incidents when jihadists obtained chemical weapons to blame subsequently against Syria’s Government.

On 25 February 2013, the New York Times bannered, “Saudis Step Up Help for Rebels in Syria With Croatian Arms” and reported, regarding those ‘rebels’ (who were actually being led by Al Qaeda — but the NYT kept this fact a secret) that, “Washington’s role in the shipments, if any, is not clear. Officials in Europe and the United States, including those at the Central Intelligence Agency, cited the sensitivity of the shipments and declined to comment publicly.” (Already, any honest newspaper would have abandoned using Obama’s ‘rebels’ label for them and would honestly have instead said “jihadists” in order to refer to them, but the US major media clearly aren’t honest.)

On 8 March 2013, Britain’s Telegraph bannered “US and Europe in ‘major airlift of arms to Syrian rebels through Zagreb’: The United States has coordinated a massive airlift of arms to Syrian rebels from Croatia with the help of Britain and other European states, despite the continuing European Union arms embargo, it was claimed yesterday.” This newspaper reported that, “Western officials told the New York Times that the weapons had been bought from Croatia by Saudi Arabia, and that they had been funnelled to rebel groups seen by the west as more secular and nationalist.” Since virtually all “rebel groups” in Syria actually worked under Al Qaeda’s leadership and training, calling them “more secular and nationalist” was simply to lie — someone had lied there, too.

Dr. Christof Lehman on 8 August 2013 presented considerable support for the view that “Ultimately, the designated function of the Muslim Brotherhood (AKP) administration of Tayyip Erdogan is the dismantlement of the Turkish Republic and the subsequent establishment of smaller US/NATO client states along ethnic and sectarian lines.”

On 22 June 2014, Dr. Lehmann reported that, “The green light for the use of ISIS brigades to carve up Iraq, widen the Syria conflict into a greater Middle East war and to throw Iran off-balance was given behind closed doors at the Atlantic Council meeting in Turkey, in November 2013, told a source close to Saudi – Lebanese billionaire Saad Hariri, adding that the US Embassy in Ankara is the operation’s headquarter. … The summit was, among others, attended by Turkey’s President Abdullah Gül, US Energy Secretary Ernst Monitz, Atlantic Council President Frederick Kempe, former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former US National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft.”

On 12 June 2015 (less than four months before Russia, at Syria’s request, was to enter the war on 30 September 2015, to prevent a Saud takeover of Syria), the Washington Post reported that, “because of regime losses in Idlib and elsewhere, … many people are starting to openly talk about an endgame for Assad and Syria.” Victory for the US-Saud-Turkey-Qatar-al-Qaeda side seemed now to be almost assured.

Then, Dr. Christina Lin wrote on 19 September 2015, that “Turkey-backed Chinese Uyghur terrorists are gaining a stronghold in Syria from which to launch attacks on China” and “3,500 Uyghurs are settling in a village near Jisr-al Shagour that was just taken from Assad, close to the stronghold of Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) that is in the Turkey-backed Army of Conquest. They are allegedly under the supervision of Turkish intelligence that has been accused of supplying fake passports to recruit Chinese Uyghurs to wage jihad in Syria.” Turkey was recruiting Al Qaeda’s Uyghur Chinese Turkmen into Syria. America and its allies seemed confident that Assad would soon be overthrown.

The Debka File was the only honest English-language reporter on the top news-story of 30 September 2015 (if not of that entire year), the historic day when, as they headlined it with unique honesty, “Russia enters Syrian war with air strikes, jolts the Mid East into new era” — and the Washington Post headlined as the journalistic bad joke that that neoconservative-neoliberal propaganda-sheet is, “Did the Russians really strike the Islamic State?”. And CNN bannered with the ambiguous, but less dishonest and far less ludicrous “Russia launches first airstrikes in Syria”. However, CNN’s heavily propaganda-laden ‘news’ report even contained some lies, such as the sub-headed one, “Russia: Coalition strikes on ISIS illegal,” which falsely suggested that Russia was against bombing ISIS in Syria, when the reality was instead that the US was against bombing ISIS and had not done it until Russia did first, which was on that very day. The US regime was simply bewildered at what had just occurred, which is that the war in Syria was now a superpower war on both of its sides, and no longer only on one side, as it had been until that moment. Putin decided, at that time, that he had had enough of Western aggression, and that he wouldn’t take it anymore: he would come to the defense of that ally. France24, being in line with the US regime, bannered “Russia hitting all of Assad’s opponents: analysts” and opened with the likewise falsifying “Syrian rebels who oppose both the regime and the Islamic State group have been hit hardest by Russian air strikes, showing Moscow’s determination to defend President Bashar al-Assad against all enemies,” as if the French Government, too, were not up to its neck in that war on the jihadists’ side, and as if Russia’s Government had not been consistently ferocious against the spread of jihadism.

The West was already deep in blood on this matter, on the devil’s side of it.

America’s “PBS” Public Broadcasting System TV headlined on 1 October 2015, “Mike Morell, former deputy director of the CIA, talks about why Russia deployed airstrikes in Syria” and Morell told interviewer Charlie Rose about Vladimir Putin: 

This guy is a thug. This guy is a bully. The second point I’d make is that he only understands relative power — who’s got more power, who’s got less power. That’s how he thinks about relationships. Third, I will tell you that he tries to create the image that he is this great strategic thinker. He’s not at all. He is a very good tactician, very good reacting to situations taking advantage of situations but he’s not particularly good at thinking them through. You know, I think that he is actually the biggest loser over the long term in the Ukraine crisis and I think he’s miscalculated what he’s doing in Syria now.

What a perfect description he gave there of himself, and of his bosses.

On 25 October 2015, Dr. Christina Lin headlined “Qatar’s jihad and mideast failing states” and reported: “This week Qatar’s foreign minister Khadlid Al-Attiyah said Doha is mulling military intervention in Syria alongside Turkey and Saudi Arabia to fight Assad, rather than ISIS.” The real story always had been that the US is on the side of jihadists, as cheap boots-on-the-ground to do the US aristocracy’s dirty-work abroad.

On 16 November 2015, Dr. Lin reported that, “Chinese Turkistan Islamic Party, Uzbek Imam Bukhari Jamaat and Katibat Tawhid wal Jihad have planted themselves in Idlib. In Aleppo, a May 2015 USAID report on Central Asian fighters in Syria, referred to three Uzbek militant groups allied with Al Nusra as “Aleppo Uzbeks”: Imam al-Bukhoriy Brigade, Uzbek Brigade of Jabhat al Nusra, and Seyfullah Shishani Jamaat. Now, various intelligence sources estimate there are around 5,000 Uzbek, 2,000 Chechens and more than 1,000 Chinese militants in Syria.”

On 24 November 2015, she bannered “NATO, Turkey, annexation of north Syria like north Cyprus?” and ripped into Erdogan as the snake that he is. And she noted: “While Russian jetfighters are flying over Syrian territory at the invitation of the sovereign government of Syria, Turkish jetfighters are flying over Iraqi territory to bomb Kurdish rebels without the consent of the Iraqi government, prompting the Arab League to issue a statement on 4 August condemning Turkey’s violation of Iraqi sovereignty.” He’s like America’s current and recent Presidents. She pointed out that, “as NATO member Turkey is transforming from a secular, democratic system to one of an increasingly Islamist and autocratic presidential system under Erdogan, it appears the alliance is also transforming from a value-based alliance of human right, democracy, and rule of law to one that is increasingly interest-based.” Was she talking about Trump, Obama, and Bush? She closed: “as Erdogan continues to goad NATO to stand in solidarity with Turkey and its territorial expansions in the Levant, it appears the world is now entering a dangerous new phase of an increasingly post-western and illiberal world order.”

But now that Putin had saved Erdogan from being killed by Obama, Erdogan is no longer an American stooge. What he is, is whatever secret deals he has secretly committed himself to. 

So: Trump threatened WW III in order to protect the people in the only province in Syria that even at the war’s start were about 90% preferring Al Qaeda and/or ISIS over Assad’s secular Government (and which is even far more jihadist today). As a result, on 17 September 2018, Putin and Rouhani — at least for the time being — offered to hand control of Idlib over to Erdogan, because doing this would postpone if not end that US-and-allied threat, of destroying the world in order to conquer the US aristocracy’s main targets.

Russia vows to wipe out terrorist-run drone assembly workshops in Idlib – By TASS

September 14, 16:57 UTC+3

The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said on September 5 that two Russian frontline bombers Sukhoi-34 wiped out a Jabhat al-Nusra workshop in Idlib

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

© Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS

BERLIN, September 14. /TASS/. Russia has information where the terrorists assemble drones in Idlib and it will be eliminating these underground workshops, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a meeting of the German-Russian forum on Friday.

“We have intelligence information where drones are assembled in Idlib from components smuggled there,” he said. “As soon as we get such information, we will be eliminating such underground workshops that make lethal weapons.”

“What some describe as the beginning of a Russia-supported offensive by the Syrian army is malicious distortion of facts. Both the Syrian forces and we merely react to hit-and-run raids from Idlib,” Lavrov said. “It is very hard to detect drones with ordinary air defense weapons. Many of them are made of wood and cannot be seen on radar screens.”

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on September 5 that two Russian frontline bombers Sukhoi-34 wiped out a Jabhat al-Nusra (outlawed in Russia) workshop in Idlib, where militants assembled attack drones and kept in store ammunition for them.

In the early hours of September 4, air defense systems of the Hmeimim air base shot down two drones the militants hand launched. Both drones were eliminated far away from the base. Over the past month 47 drones have been shot down or neutralized in the area of the Russian base.

More:
http://tass.com/politics/1021676

The Real Problem For Syria’s Idlib Offensive is Turkey -By Andrés Perezalonso- Sott.net -SOTT

Noor i Alaa na prosvjedima protiv antiterorističke kampanje u Idlibu

© Twitter

After liberating the region of Daraa and the border with the Golan Heights in the south-west of the country, the Syrian Army has turned its attention to the northern province of Idlib, the last stronghold of ‘rebels’ – these ones backed by Turkey – and Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups. The ‘Battle for Idlib’ has been expected for weeks – yet against all talk of a build-up of troops, and the alarmist declarations of Western powers, the offensive may take some time to begin. When it does, it may more resemble a careful, patient and strategic hunt rather than ‘shock-and-awe’.

The Independent‘s Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk is, as far as we know, the first and only Western journalist to have assessed the situation from the front-line of Idlib. Rather than witnessing the 100,000 Syrian soldiers said to be amassing for the assault, he came across a contingent of some 200 Syrian soldiers with no armored vehicles or heavy weaponry. Not much else out of the ordinary was to be seen that would indicate that the storming of Idlib was imminent. Only preparatory Russian and Syrian airstrikes targeting jihadi positions between Hama and Idlib have been reported.

It was to be expected that the attack would not begin before presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia, Hassan Rouhani of Iran and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey met in Teheran on the 7th of September to discuss a common strategy for Syria. Before and after the meeting, the government of Turkey echoed the West’s opposition to the offensive in the name of avoiding civilian casualties. This is of course a hypocritical narrative, as the US showed no such concern when leveling Raqqa last year with the help of Kurdish militias; and Turkey is illegally occupying the northern area of Syria around Afrin, and has a vested interest in protecting Jabhat al-Wataniya al-Tahrir (aka the National Front for Liberation), a ‘rebel’ coalition it created and which controls about half of the territory of Idlib (the other half is in the hands of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the latest incarnation of Al-Qaeda-in-Syria).

military map northern Syria Idlib

© Suriye Gundemi
Military situation in northern Syria: September 2018

For a high resolution image of the map above, see here.

Turkey’s original reason for stepping into Syria was to drive Kurdish militias away from its borders. While this has worked so far, it has also had interesting consequences. One is that Turkey has placed the US forces in the northeast of Syria in a difficult position by being unable to defend their Kurdish proxies against a fellow NATO member. Another is that the Kurds and the central Syrian government have found common cause, besides defeating ISIS, in ridding the north of Turkish forces. What both of these effects have in common is that they obstruct America’s infamous ‘Plan B‘ of slicing a Kurdistan out of Syria in order to turn it into a US/Israel client state.

Turkey, Russia and Iran are joining forces in regards to certain key issues apart from Syria – for example, in ditching the dollar for their commercial transactions. While Syria is determined to recover the entirety of its territory, it naturally does not need a direct confrontation with Turkey. Therefore, if there is no hurry to start the ‘Battle of Idlib’, it is probably because Russia, Syria and Iran are attempting to reach a compromise with Turkey.

As they buy time, the liberators of Syria will be especially interested in avoiding any inconvenient escalations that disturb the process of reconciliation. This would explain in part why Russia has been insisting so much that the threats of US and European officials – John Bolton, Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley among others – to retaliate against Syria if it uses chemical weapons, will be met with a false-flag provocation organized by terrorist groups and the White Helmets in Idlib, as they did earlier this year in Douma. As I write this, the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria has announced that the White Helmets have shot nine videos of a staged chemical attack in the town of Jisr al-Shughur. Russia has warned against such tricks in the past, but the amount of detail about the nature and timing provided on this occasion seems to be intended to discourage or postpone their publication by preemptively destroying their credibility, therefore disrupting a US/UK/French aggression on Syrian forces.

If and when ‘F.UK.US’ perform airstrikes against Syria, we will most likely see a repeat of the limp display we saw back in April, although the possibility of escalation is ever-present. Still, at this point in time what Turkey does next is more critical to the end of the Syrian war than anything American and European forces could do.

Unfortunately, Turkey is not making things easy for itself or its neighbors. The following video, dated September 11th, shows Turkish military convoys purportedly building up their forces inside Idlib and Aleppo.

By supporting terrorist groups in Syria, Erdogan has made a deal with the devil and will now have to pay the price. Sooner or later, either by force or diplomacy, Turkish forces will have to leave Syria. But when that happens, what will become of the remnants of the soon-to-be destroyed Jabhat al-Wataniya al-Tahrir and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham? What of the refugees? Will they cross the border into Turkey, even if it is without its consent? And once there, what will they do? It’s entirely possible that Turkey is being blackmailed by the USA and its Gulf allies: if it refuses to side with their agenda, it may find itself overrun by jihadis, just like Syria. Perhaps by now Erdogan has understood that helping to set your neighbor’s house on fire carries the risk of burning down your own.

Syrian rebel threatens Erdogan against ‘selling Idlib’

A militant from an unspecified group stationed in Idlib has issued a threat to Turkish President Recep Tayyip, warning that militants in northwestern Syria have dug a tunnel stretching into Turkey’s Hatay province.

He went on to explain that in the event of Erdogan “selling Idlib”, militants will use the tunnel to cross into Turkey, to potentially carry out attacks against civilians and security forces.

“Reyhanli [a town in Hatay province] is behind me. As you know, us [militants] from Ghouta are good at digging and since you’ve built a 960-kilometer border barrier… We want to tell you: if you sell Idlib or other opposition-held areas, we’re going to buy Reyhanli from you. I won’t give you more details, but this is your warning,” the militant said in video footage circulating on social media.

The video was published just days after a trilateral summit in Tehran, attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian and Turkish counterparts, to discuss the situation in Idlib, ahead of the Syrian Army’s impending offensive.

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Andrés Perezalonso

Andrés Perezalonso has been a contributing editor for Signs of the Times in both its English and Spanish versions since 2007. He holds a PhD in Politics, an MA in International Studies, a first degree in Communication, and has a professional background in Media Analysis. He thinks that understanding world events is not unlike detective work – paying attention to often ignored details and connections, and thinking outside of the box. He was born and raised in Mexico and currently resides in Europe.

No Iranian Bases in Syria, Only Syrian Soldiers Were Killed’ – Journalist – By SPUTNIK

This photo released on Wednesday, May 9, 2018, by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows flames rising after an attack in an area known to have numerous Syrian army military bases, in Kisweh, south of Damascus, Syria

© AP Photo / SANA

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The Israeli air force conducted airstrikes on Syria for several hours on May 10, claiming that they were attacking Iranian forces purportedly stationed in Syria. Damascus has denied the allegations and slammed the attack, which claimed lives of several servicemen.

Among the targets picked by Israeli forces were an ammo depot near Damascus and a radar installation. The attack reportedly resulted in the deaths of several Syrian army soldiers. Sputnik Mundo discussed the latest Israeli airstrikes against Syria with Syrian journalist and correspondent for the Prensa Latina agency in Damascus Fady Marouf. He said that all the targets selected by Israeli forces were “Syrian” and that Iran “had nothing to do with it.”

READ MORE: WATCH Syrian Air Defenses Shoot Down Israeli Missiles

Tel Aviv claims that Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Al Quds force had fired 20 missiles at the Golan Heights from Syrian territory. Marouf is confident that it was battle between Israel and Syria and as has been the case throughout the seven year-long war in Syria, Tel Aviv “was the first to attack.”

“The pretext [for the bombings] was to allegedly strike Iranian bases. But there are no Iranian bases in Syria. We have Iranian military advisers, who help the Syrian army fight terrorist groups. That’s why only Syrian soldiers were killed and wounded,” Marouf said.

He also reminded that Syria hasn’t conducted airstrikes on Israel since the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, but that Israel attacks the Arab country regularly, as it doesn’t want to have a neighbor with a strong army. “Israel is afraid of it,” Marouf added.

READ MORE: Israel Strikes on Syria Kill at Least 23 Fighters — Reports

He also noted that residents of Damascus went to their balconies during the attack to see Syrian air defenses intercept Israeli missiles over Damascus’ suburbs, while Israelis hide in bunkers.

“Syria wants peace, but today, after seven years of war, the Syrian people and army have become much more resilient. We are not going to give up,” Marouf concludes.

Russia, Iran, Turkey warn against attempts to divide Syria – By TASS

April 28, 15:41 UTC+3

The Russian, Iranian and Turkish top diplomats discuss situation in Syria

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Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Russia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu

© Stanislav Krasilnikov/TAS

MOSCOW, April 28. /TASS/. Moscow, Tehran and Ankara believe attempts to split Syria on ethnic and religious grounds to be unacceptable, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Saturday following a meeting with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts – Mohammad Javad Zarif and Mevlut Cavusoglu.

“We agreed that attempts to split Syria on ethnic and religious grounds were totally unacceptable,” Lavrov said.

“We have stated that we will counter attempts to undermine our joint efforts and pointed out that the Astana process is stable,” he said. “We will continue solving important tasks related to de-escalation, easing tensions and reducing the conflict potential. Ceasefire violations continue to happen but we have a mechanism to monitor them and we will seek to overcome this situation, particularly by strengthening trust among the parties ‘on the ground’,” Lavrov added.

He pointed out that Saturday’s meeting between the foreign ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey “comes when developments in Syria are not always positive.” “We have already said that the illegal attack on Syria on April 14 that the United States, Great Britain and France carried out before experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had even started their work, caused a setback in efforts to advance the political process,” he said.

 

“However, we are determined to continue these efforts, we agreed on specific steps that our three countries will take individually and together in order to get us all back to the path leading to the implementation of the [UN Security Council] Resolution 2254,” Lavrov stressed. “We strongly believe that there is no alternative to political and diplomatic efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis based on the Resolution 2254 and recommendations issued by the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi,” the Russian top diplomat noted.

Attempts are being made to hinder the peace process in Syria, particularly to prevent the establishment of a constitutional committee, Lavrov said.

“The developments of the recent weeks show that not everyone wants peace to be restored in Syria. Every time hope arises, a strike is carried out on it,” Lavrov said. “We have to point to ongoing attempts to prevent dialogue among Syrians and the establishment of a constitutional committee in accordance with decisions made at the Sochi event, which were supported by United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and his Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura, who participated in the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi,” the Russian top diplomat added.

“It turns out that were create and build, while our counterparts seek to destroy the results of our joint constructive efforts, even violating international law, just like the US, Great Britain and France did when they carried out an attack on Syria on April 14,” Lavrov said.

According to him, the trilateral attack “not only significantly raised tensions on the international stage but also considerably damaged the prospects for a political settlement.”

Opposition’s demands to change political regime

Syrian opposition’s demands to change the political regime in Damascus complicate the restoration of the Geneva negotiating process, Lavrov said.

“In the context of efforts to revive the Geneva negotiating platform, we consider as extremely destructive some statements made by specific representatives of the external opposition, which set preliminary conditions for the settlement of the Syrian conflict and the switchover to political negotiations,” Lavrov said.

“As preliminary conditions, they advance the demands of changing the regime and bringing the Syrian leadership to trial as war criminals,” the top Russian diplomat said.

“Such approaches contradict the substance and the form of the UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and are also openly aimed at maximally complicating the work to resume the negotiating process, considering those breakthrough results that were achieved at the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi,” Lavrov stated.

War on terror

The war on terrorists who are trying to hide in de-escalation zones in Syria will be uncompromising, Lavrov said.

“The ceasefire must be observed in the de-escalation zones, naturally, except for terrorist groupings, which are trying to hide in these zones and speculate on their status. This struggle against terrorists will be absolutely uncompromising. Those groups of the armed opposition who are patriotically minded must immediately separate themselves from terrorists,” Russia’s top diplomat said.

“The UN, which has contacts with all the basic armed groups, with all the main political forces of the Syrian opposition and with those who support and direct the work of these oppositionists, could convey this idea more clearly: you needn’t be entangled with terrorists, you needn’t create some unions and alliances with them, even if situational,” Russia’s top diplomat said.

Astana process

The foreign ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey are determined to urgently agree further steps within the framework of the Astana process towards a settlement in Syria.

“We agreed to hold this early Astana process meeting at the foreign minister level to discuss the no simple situation in Syria and around it,” Lavrov said. ” We believe it is necessary to urgently agree collective measures within the framework of the Astana format we created more than a year ago to keep moving Syria towards peace and normalization in these difficult conditions.”

“We share a common wish to facilitate this process and hope to discuss the situation that has emerged in Syria and new additional steps that would foster positive trends, including those in the context of decisions made at the second summit of the presidents of Russia [Vladimir Putin], Iran [Hassan Rouhani] and Turkey (Recep Tayyip Erdogan], which took place in Ankara. The Astana process is an example of how seemingly insoluble problems can be resolved, provided there is the political will,” he said.

The UN may help the Astana process on Syria effectively develop in all areas, Lavrov added. 

“The UN was invited to the Astana process when it was launched. Now the UN can do much to make the Astana process effectively develop in all areas,” Lavrov said. “Now the UN can do much to make the Astana process effectively develop in all areas,” the minister stressed, noting that the main areas of work are de-escalation zones, humanitarian support and political dialogue.

Humanitarian assistance 

Russia, Iran and Turkey will be working with Damascus and the opposition in providing humanitarian assistance to Syria, Lavrov said.

“Today we confirmed the need for stepping up efforts in providing humanitarian assistance,” he said. “We will ensure this aid should be provided in the most effective way. We will be cooperating with the government, the opposition and, of course, with our counterparts at the United Nations, the International Red Cross, the Syrian Red Crescent and other international organizations. It is important to ensure international assistance, including assistance in mine-clearing operations, be provided to the areas that return to peaceful life as a result of our joint efforts without any politicization or any political preconditions put forward.”

“We are calling on the UN to avoid being pressured for politicization of humanitarian deliveries and humanitarian help,” he said. “And, of course, the UN has no right to play to those who state that help will be provided only to areas controlled by the opposition.

Lavrov noted that Russia has contacts with UN humanitarian bodies and helps them reach agreements with the Syrian government under the norms of international humanitarian law. “We induce our colleagues in Damascus to be more flexible, think constructively, although it is difficult at times, regarding the discriminate approaches of some Western partners that they are observing,” the minister stressed.

 
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Press review: Russian potential reaction to US Syria strike and ruble devaluation benefits – By TASS

April 11, 13:00 UTC+3

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, April 11

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© Piotr Kovalev/TASS

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia may hit back at US strike on Syria with cruise missiles

If the United States decides to use force in Syria in the wake of the alleged chemical attack in Douma, it will get a symmetric response both from Damascus and Moscow, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes on Wednesday. Russia’s UN envoy Vasily Nebenzya along with other Russian politicians and officials have warned of serious consequences, should such steps be taken by the Americans and their allies. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov earlier said the Russian army was ready to protect Damascus.

Several military websites wrote that on April 8-9 Russia’s Armed Forces had been secretly put on full combat alert. No official comments on these reports have been made. However, according to the Russian Defense Ministry’s report, the army and the fleet have stepped up activity, especially in the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and also in the Caspian Sea from where the Kalibr cruise missiles had been fired on targets in Syria. It is not ruled out that preparation for these strikes there is underway now, the paper says.

“The Kalibr strikes may be launched on US facilities and bases in the Middle East if the Pentagon, which accuses Russia of the notorious chemical attacks, decides to deal a retaliatory blow on the Russian bases in Tartus and Hmeymim,” military expert Lt.Gen. Yuri Netkachev said.

Reuters reported citing the White House’s sources about possible strikes by the US and its allies on the Russian facilities. The expert stressed that Moscow won’t leave these strikes unanswered. But such a scenario is unlikely as this will spark “a real big war, which neither the US nor Russia want.”

 

Another military expert, Col. Vladimir Popov, did not rule out that if the missiles launched from the US destroyers kill Russian servicemen in Syria, the US vessels will be attacked by Russian missiles or aviation. Chief of Russia’s General Staff Valery Gerasimov had earlier warned of this possible Russian response.

 

Kommersant: Ruble devaluation to boost Russian grain exports

This week’s sharp ruble devaluation may prop up Russian grain exports, which started declining by the end of the season, Kommersant business daily writes. “The devaluation factor will influence the market for several weeks. Even if the ruble manages to recover losses soon, the short-term jump in the foreign currency rate will significantly help exports,” Director of SovEcon analytical center Andrei Sizov said.

Dmitry Rylko, Director General of the Institute for Agricultural Market Studies, expects that exports will revitalize amid the ruble’s decline, but this factor’s influence will be restrained by infrastructure restrictions.

Traditionally, by the end of the season, grain exports diminish. But Russia’s grain exports in March and April turned out to be higher than expected, Sizov said. According to the customs data, on April 4 Russia’s grain export grew 39% year-on-year to 40 mln tonnes, and wheat supplies rose 41% to 31.2 mln tonnes. By the end of the season, the wheat export is anticipated to reach 39.7 mln tonnes, according to SovEcon.

ProZerno CEO Vladimir Petrichenko forecasts that the drop in value of the Russian ruble will positively affect the price climate on the Russian grain market.

The global grain market is racked by drought in North America and problems in Argentina, but due to the ruble devaluation the buyers of Russian wheat will seek to contain prices as the contract value in rubles grows, Rylko noted. According to Sizov, the ongoing ruble devaluation will also affect the growth of domestic grain prices.

If the ruble’s devaluation sends domestic grain prices soaring, the Russian authorities may step in and limit supplies, he said.

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Pyongyang seeks Moscow’s backing in talks with Seoul, Washington

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may visit Russia in the run-up to the summits in late April-early June with South Korean and US Presidents, Moon Jae-in and Donald Trump respectively, Seoul’s media reports said citing the US special services. They view the visit of North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho to Moscow as a hint at groundwork being laid for a meeting between the Russian and North Korean leaders, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Russian officials have refuted reports on the possible visit of the North Korean leader. Speculation about Kim Jong-un’s trip to Moscow is being fueled by his recent trip to Beijing, his first foreign tour since coming to power, the paper writes. Experts recall that the North Korean leader’s father Kim Jong-il had held high-level meetings with Russia and China before and after his meeting with South Korea’s then-President Kim Dae-jung in 2000.

These trips by the North Korean leadership come amid the need to secure support of the major global powers in preserving the political system and strengthening their positions at talks, the paper writes. However, Kim apparently remembers that the West’s unilateral guarantees helped neither Saddam Hussein nor Muammar Gaddafi.

“Although Pyongyang is offended by Moscow’s almost unquestioning support of the UN Security Council’s resolutions, and imposing tough sanctions on North Korea, he wants to know Russia’s position if no agreement is reached with Washington on the peninsula’s denuclearization,” said Alexander Zhebin, Director of the Center for Korean Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Far Eastern Studies. “The deal is unlikely to be clinched soon without providing security guarantees to America.”

According to the expert, North Korea wants Russia to understand that the upcoming summits won’t result in any immediate nuclear disarmament. Pyongyang does not want inspections in the country like with Iraq, and the US is very interested in total inspections. “I think the inspections issue will be a key obstacle for agreements between North Korea and the US,” he stressed.

Russia needs to develop new tactics in order to remain an active participant in the changing climate on the Korean Peninsula. Therefore, a meeting between the leaders of Russia and North Korea could be useful, the paper writes.

 

RBC: Weaker ruble to benefit Russian federal budget, exporters

Black Monday’s market carnage sent the ruble into its deepest plunge in two years. The collapse was due to investors’ psychological response to risks from US sanctions, but no further downturn is expected if there are no geopolitical factors, experts questioned by RBC said.

Russia’s federal budget and exporters will benefit from the weakening ruble, analysts said. The falling ruble rate creates very suitable conditions for exporters of raw materials, said Evgeny Nadorshin, chief economist at the Moscow-based PF Capital. The current ruble rate is beneficial for the budget. The ruble price for oil after the falling rate is more than 4,000 rubles per barrel, the analyst said, while the price of 3,300 rubles per barrel is considered to be more than acceptable for the budget, the analyst noted.

A weaker ruble will bolster exports, Chief of the Center for Strategic Research (CSR) and ex-finance minister Alexei Kudrin said. “A number of sectors are likely to profit due to this rate. So, in general, the balance [of payments] will be good and this won’t significantly affect economic growth.”

Alexandra Suslina of the Economic Expert Group said, “If the current situation does not result in falling oil prices and does not lead to restrictions on the volume of exported goods, oil and gas revenues will increase.”

However, if the foreign currency rate grows more, it will hit the budget, the economy and the citizens’ welfare, she warned. The current tensions on the markets are a threat to stable development and a decrease in the broad taxation bases, the expert said.

Under the current climate, investors may lose interest in Russia over high risks, Nadorshin cautioned. “Then, all plans for economic development – boosting growth, increasing efficiency and industry 4.0 – will go unfulfilled,” he stressed.

The falling ruble rate will mostly affect companies that import goods, Oleg Shibanov, professor of finance at the New Economic School, told the paper.

 

Izvestia: Russia gears up to greet new diplomats after expulsions

Russia is ready to welcome new diplomats in exchange for those expelled in retaliation for the Western diplomatic demarche in the wake of the poisoning episode of former Russian military intelligence (GRU) Colonel-turned-British spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, UK. According to a high-ranking diplomatic source, Moscow did not cut the overall number of staff members in diplomatic missions of foreign states, Izvestia writes. The United Kingdom is the only country, which cannot fully restore its pre-crisis number of diplomats.

“In the UK’s case, we equaled the number of their staff members with those working in our diplomatic missions. So, instead of 73 expelled staff members London will be able to replace just 23 people. In turn, we also plan to replenish our diplomatic personnel,” the source said.

The Foreign Ministry of the Czech Republic and the US Embassy in Russia confirmed their plans to the paper to send their diplomats to Russia.

Spokesperson for the US Embassy in Moscow told Izvestia that all requests on diplomatic accreditation would be considered on an individual basis. Russia has not notified the embassy of its plans to cut the number of staff members in the US diplomatic mission in Russia, she said.

The Czech Republic’s Foreign Ministry noted that when a country decides to expel diplomats, this does not mean that their positions are “frozen” and new people cannot fill these posts.

“All countries face a similar situation, not only between Russia and the Czech Republic. That’s why Russia may fill 60 positions with new diplomats in the US, for example, or vacant diplomatic posts in the Czech Republic. Prague will also seek to fill vacancies in Russia as in general we have few people there,” Spokesperson for the Czech Republic’s Foreign Ministry Michaela Lagronova said.

 

TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in these press reviews

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Skripal Poisoning: ‘UK Could End Up Looking Very Foolish’ – Former Guernsey MP – By Sputnik

 World's cities. London

© Sputnik/ Vladimir Pesnya

Opinion

21:04 14.03.2018(updated 21:12 14.03.2018) Get short URL

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In response to the alleged poisoning attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skirpal, UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats during the weekly session of Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) today, without presenting conclusive evidence which tied the attack to the Russian government.

Unsurprisingly, PM May’s announcement of diplomatic sanctions against Russia, and her government’s wider handling of the matter, have drawn criticism.

“Today’s UK Parliamentary debate was a shock to many independent-minded people as none of the MPs were asking for the facts. You would not want any of them being in a jury for a trial,” Anthony Webber, a political commentator who served as an MP for Guernsey for 13 years told Sputnik.

READ MORE: Skripal Case Staged to Keep UK Within EU Over “Russian Threat” – UKIP Member

Mr. Webber went on to question the British government’s credibility, as it has a history of making baseless allegations, which they know to be false, especially surrounding chemical weapons.

“As the British government has lied before, as with the Iraq war [claims of Saddam Hussein’s forces possessing chemical WMDs], the public are aware they are capable of doing this. If the truth came out, the prime minister would probably have to resign for misleading MPs and the public,” Mr. Webber added.

READ MORE: UK a Priori Blaming Russia in Skripal Case is Business as Usual — Analyst

He also raised doubts about the weapon used in the attack on Sergei Skripal, suggesting that, if it was indeed an planned and carried out by the Russian government or its intelligence agencies, they would have used something which wouldn’t seemingly implicate them.

“It is blatantly obvious that the Russian government would not be stupid enough to use the Novichok agent for such an operation as it suggests Russian involvement, but the Conservative government seems to think the British public is gullible enough to believe it. But maybe the British public is not so gullible? The UK government could end up looking very foolish,” Mr. Webber concluded.

READ MORE: US Had Access to Substance Allegedly Used to Poison Skripal Since 1999 – Report

US gave Kurds modern arms, made Turkey launch Afrin op – Russian Security Council – By RT

US gave Kurds modern arms, made Turkey launch Afrin op – Russian Security Council
Washington provoked Ankara into launching a military offensive on Syria’s Kurdish-controlled Afrin by “boosting” the Kurds with advanced weapons, according to the Russian Security Council.

“The Kurds are being boosted with advanced weaponry. The deliveries of modern weapons and encouragement of separatist sentiments among the Kurds have in fact provoked Turkey into carrying out the military operation in Syria’s northern Afrin region,” the Assistant to the Secretary of the Russian Security Council Alexander Venediktov told Ria Novosti.

READ MORE: Turkey deploys special forces to Afrin, Syria in ‘preparation for new fight’

Turkey launched the military operation dubbed ‘Operation Olive Branch’ targeting Kurdish militias in Syria on January 20. In late February it deployed specialist police, who are expected to join the offensive and to hold the villages Turkish troops have taken from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Ankara considers the Kurdish-led militia to be an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), outlawed in Turkey as a terrorist organization.

The Kurdish militias have enjoyed the support of the US-led coalition in Syria, causing discord between NATO allies Washington and Ankara. Tensions have risen further since the US announced the decision to sponsor the creation of a 30,000-strong security border force in Syria, half of which would be recruited from Kurdish-led forces.

READ MORE: Tillerson in Ankara pledges limited weapon supplies to SDF, says Manbij ‘priority’ in Syria

In mid-February, the US secretary of state Rex Tillerson attempted to reassure Ankara that Washington respects its ally’s security concerns.

“We have always been clear with Turkey that the weapons provided to the Syrian Democratic Forces would be limited, mission-specific, and provided on the incremental basis to achieve military objectives only,” Tillerson said during his visit to the Turkish capital.

Turkish shells explode behind reporter covering pro-Syrian govt deployment in Afrin (VIDEO) – By RT

 
 
Turkish forces have attempted to prevent the convoy of pro-government Syrian militias from entering the Kurdish-held Afrin, unleashing a barrage of artillery fire which hit close to media covering the deployment.

A reporter, apparently working for Al Mayadeen pan-Arabist satellite television channel, has narrowly escaped being struck by a shell that landed a few hundred meters down the road from the crew’s position. The video, obtained by RT’s Ruptly video agency, show the correspondent reporting live on camera as a projectile narrowly misses his position.

“Turkish forces targeted with artillery the locations of the popular forces upon their arrival in the area of Afrin, in addition to targeting media delegations that are covering the arrival of the forces,” Syrian SANA news agency’s reporter in Afrin confirmed.

While SANA reports that the “popular forces” comprised of Shia militias have established themselves in the region to support the Kurds against terrorists and the “Turkish aggression,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday claimed that the Syrian forces’ advance into Afrin was thwarted. “They were forced to go back after artillery shooting,” the Turkish President said, noting that “Afrin city center will be besieged in the coming days.” Earlier, Turkey said they it fired “warning shots” at Syria pro-regime forces in Afrin, claiming that militias were forced to fall at least ten kilometers back.

Turkey, which has been conducting the so-called operation Olive Branch in Afrin since January 20, insists that the offensive is solely aimed at wiping out Kurdish “terrorist” fighters along its borders, denying allegations that it has targeted civilians. Medical sources at Afrin Hospital, however, told Syrian media that at least 175 civilians were killed and more than 450 wounded since the launch of the Turkish operation in northern Syria.

Ankara’s operation, which aims to create a 30km “secure zone” within Syrian territory, has repeatedly been denounced by Damascus as a blatant attack on its sovereignty. Seeking protection, the Kurdish authorities in Afrin called on the government to send troops to help defend the border from Turks.

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Pro-govt Syrian fighters begin entering Kurdish Afrin despite Turkish threats – Syrian TV (VIDEO) – By RT

Pro-govt Syrian fighters begin entering Kurdish Afrin despite Turkish threats – Syrian TV (VIDEO)
A convoy of fighters waving Syrian flags has apparently entered the northern Kurdish-held region of Afrin, which Turkey is targeting in a cross-border operation, footage on Syrian state TV shows.

The pro-government fighters were filmed entering the village of Nubul in some 20 pickup trucks. An RT source on the ground has confirmed the movement of troops to Afrin.

A reporter at the scene for Syrian state agency SANA said that the area where the fighters arrived has already been targeted by an attack from the Turkish side.

 
 

Turkish media later reported that an artillery attack on the convoy forced it to retreat.

The deployment comes after a reported deal between Damascus and Kurdish authorities, which sought the involvement of the central government amid a continued fight against Turkey and the militias supported by Ankara.

READ MORE: Turkey will lay siege to Syria’s Afrin in coming days — Erdogan

Turkish officials earlier warned that their forces would lay siege to the city of Afrin if pro-Damascus fighters show up there.

 
 
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