Tag Archive | "Russia -Syria"

Russia Effectively Smashing US-Supported Terrorists in Syria


Russia’s military intervention in Syria at the request of its government began two years ago today – September 30.

It dramatically changed the dynamic on the ground, turning sure defeat into eventual triumph. 

Thousands of square miles of Syrian territory were liberated from the scourge of US-supported terrorists, defeating Washington’s imperial aims, wanting regime change, the country transformed into another vassal state.

Tass reviewed Russian operations over the past two years, saying “victory over terrorism is near.” Its efforts transformed armed opposition conflicting groups into “a common front in the struggle against terrorists.”

What began two years ago today “is entering its final phase,” Russian air power enabling Syrian and allied forces to regain control over “85% of the country’s territory,” a remarkable turnaround from conditions before Moscow’s involvement.

Washington didn’t expect it, intending to eliminate Assad the way it ruthlessly killed Saddam Husseinand Muammar Gaddafi.

Things didn’t go as planned. Russia foiled US objectives, achieving them highly unlikely, a significant body blow to its regional aims, a step closer to defeating them worldwide.

In Syria, Aleppo was liberated late last year, the country’s pre-war commercial hub. Historic Palmyra was freed twice, hopefully for good after the second time.

The campaign to liberate Zeir Ezzor province entirely from US-supported terrorists continues, ISIS’ last stronghold in the country. Its three-year-long siege of the city was broken, security sweeps underway to eliminate its remnants in residential and other areas.

“Official forecasts regarding the chances of a successful completion of the anti-terrorist operation sound ever more optimistic,” said Tass.

Ahead of the Deir Ezzor campaign, Akerbat was liberated,

“a major transport hub and command center (and stronghold) of the terrorists in the east of Hama province,” Tass explained.

“With the loss of the city the terrorists were no longer able to regroup forces, receive ammunition and supplies, while the Syrian government army gained access to Deir Ezzor.”

During 24 months of combat, 38 Russian military personnel perished, including General Valery Asapov, the coordinates of his location almost certainly provided ISIS by US forces. Washington bears responsibility for his death.

Russian and American objectives in Syria are world’s apart – Moscow combating terrorism, Washington supporting it. Bilateral relations are dismal on virtually everything except cooperation in non-military space activities.

Astana peace talks spearheaded by Russia continue making progress – without significant breakthroughs so far because Washington wants endless war and regime change, waging a losing battle, pursuing it anyway.

According to Russia’s reconciliation center, 2,200 localities joined the ceasefire agreement. More than 230 armed groups agreed to observe it.

Reconstruction in some areas began, restoring power, water and other essential infrastructure a vital first step, along with supplying humanitarian aid – Russia, Iran and Damascus alone providing it.

Nothing from America. Nothing from the EU. Nothing from regional Arab countries. Nothing from Israel, of course. Woefully inadequate UN help, Syrians on their own, dependent on their government and allies.

Moscow remains firmly committed to Syrian sovereign independence, its territorial integrity, and right of its people alone to choose their leadership, free from foreign interference.

“Both Russian and Syrian military commanders stress the intention to push ahead with the operation until the elimination of the last terrorist” nationwide, said Tass.

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Russia announces deal on safe zone in Syria’s Homs


The Russian army says it has reached a deal with foreign-backed militants in Syria to create a new de-escalation zone in the country’s northern parts of Homs province.

Russian military spokesman Igor Konashenkov made the announcement on Thursday, saying that new safe zone will span 84 towns and villages populated by more than 147,000 people in Homs.

The official noted that a ceasefire was to take effect in the area at 12:00 p.m. local time (0900 GMT) on Thursday.

The zone is the third to be established in Syria under a Russian-led initiative aimed at halting clashes in four key conflict zones between Syrian government forces and anti-Damascus militants.

Last Saturday, the warring sides agreed on a deal declaring Eastern Ghouta as a de-escalation zone.

Russia, along with Iran and Turkey, brokered the deal for establishing four de-escalation zones in mainly militant-held areas of Syria during ceasefire talks in the Kazakh capital city of Astana in May.

The plan, which came into effect at midnight on May 5, calls for the cessation of hostilities between militant groups and Syrian government forces.

It covers the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, northeastern areas of the western coastal province of Latakia, western areas of Aleppo province and northern parts of Hama province.

The parties to the Astana talks are now working on the details of the deal.

Syria has been fighting different foreign-sponsored militant and terrorist groups since March 2011. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimated last August that more than 400,000 people had been killed in the crisis until then.

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The US Should Steer Clear of Russian ‘Help’ in Syria

This photo, made from footage taken from the Russian Defense Ministry's official website, claims to show a Russian sapper looking for mines in a street in Aleppo, Syria.

Until Moscow decides that working to reduce radicalization is more important than propping up Assad, the anti-ISIS coalition doesn’t need its help.

When scores of foreign ministers gather in Washington on Thursday for their latest meeting to coordinate the fight against ISIS, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will once again be missing. Despite a January phone call in which Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin discussed collaborating against the Islamic State, it appears that the White House has at least temporarily shelved the idea. If that holds, it will be good for the United States.

Last August, I sat across from senior Russian generals and intelligence officials in a meeting meant to explore whether our two countries could agree on modalities for delivering humanitarian assistance to the beleaguered city of Aleppo. Our Pentagon delegation was trying to convince the Russians to pull back Assad-regime forces from critical supply routes such as Castello Road in northern Aleppo. It was painfully clear from our discussions then, just as it is now, that the Russian General Staff was not focused on the fight against ISIS and cared even less about civilian casualties, which had become a tool for extremist radicalization. It appeared that the generals across the table were simply playing for time so Assad could barrel-bomb his way to victory in Aleppo. Their focus was on mustering every conceivable argument to oppose humanitarian access to Aleppo neighborhoods where the local population sympathized with the opposition.

In these discussions, the Russians repeatedly accused the United States of failing in its ostensible responsibility to separate radical groups like Jabhat Al Nusrah (now called Jabhat Fateh al-Sham) from moderate opposition fighters. Whether they were oblivious or understood and simply did not care, the Russians failed to appreciate the argument that bombing urban centers radicalizes the civilian population and pushes moderate and extremist groups towards tactical alliances against a common enemy. In any case, after days of negotiations we did manage to agree on a plan for humanitarian access that alleviated Russian concerns about the possibility of military resupply for opposition fighters in Aleppo. Unfortunately, when Foreign Minister Lavrov met Secretary Kerry in Geneva a few days later, Lavrov reneged on the agreement.

The reason is simple. Lavrov’s bosses in the Kremlin view the Syrian opposition the same way they viewed the Chechen opposition 20 years earlier: as a regime threat that needs to be physically eliminated. The only difference is that in Syria the Kremlin prefers to outsource the bloody ground combat to its three allies: Assad’s army, Lebanese Hezbollah, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. It is a “hearts and minds” campaign of a different sort, one based on terrorizing the civilian population into submission and capitulation. Because Russia is militarily embedded with these groups and coordinates its actions with them, it is fully complicit in this campaign. For this reason alone, the United States should continue to avoid any association or entanglement with this notorious alliance.

Another reason to avoid collaboration with Russia in Syria is because it would require sharing intelligence on military targets, which would expose U.S. sources and methods to Russian military intelligence. Because Russia’s air campaign in Syria is based largely on unguided munitions, sharing even sanitized target information would risk U.S. complicity in any collateral damage, including civilian deaths, from airstrikes using “dumb bombs.” If intelligence on targets were shared in the reverse direction, it would also pose problems because it would require the United States to independently verify Russian targets — a painstaking and lengthy process — before taking action. Assuming the targets were valid, it would make far more operational sense for the Russian military simply to take action on its own rather than to wait for the United States. Fortunately, the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community understand these dangers and have staunchly resisted calls for collaboration in the air campaign.

Instead of pursuing a futile attempt to cooperate with Russia against ISIS, the U.S. should continue to deconflict its operations with Moscow so an accidental encounter in the congested skies over Syria does not inadvertently set off an escalatory spiral. Deconfliction channels that were opened under the Obama administration should continue to be maintained and even improved to ensure that sufficiently senior (i.e., flag) officers are available 24/7 if something happens. Another potential step is a more defined geographic deconfliction of activities on the ground. This would involve designating areas where Russia bears responsibility for clearing ISIS, such as those regions where Moscow has a significant military footprint already, and leaving other areas to the Counter-ISIS Coalition. Geographic delineation of areas of responsibility would ensure that ground forces supported and armed by the two sides do not inadvertently clash, but would not involve any combined missions or operations. Further still down the road, if geographic de-confliction became a reality and de facto zones of influence emerged in Syria that were reasonably well delineated, one could envision a negotiation among key stakeholders to discuss Syria’s future governance structure.

For now, however, it is important to recognize that while Russia has a clear national interest in defeating ISIS, good counterterrorism policy is about more than just eliminating bad guys. It is also about creating socio-political conditions on the ground that mitigate against future radicalization. Iraq learned this lesson the hard way under Prime Minister Maliki’s exclusionary rule, during which Al Qaeda in Iraq was transmogrified into ISIS. It is not a lesson that Russia or its allies in Syria appear to understand, given their direct role in deepening sectarian divisions. So long as that is the case, the United States and the rest of the Counter-ISIS Coalition should steer clear of collaborating with Russia.

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Russia set to break grisly stalemate in Syria

Image result for Russia SYRIA CARTOON
By M K Bhadrakumar 

There are distinct signs that the discussion regarding the Syrian conflict between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the US President-elect Donald Trump last Monday has been a defining moment. At the very least, it creates a firewall against the present US administration of President Barack Obama creating new facts on the ground that vitiates the climate for US-Russian cooperation in Syria after Trump takes over.

The US Defence Secretary Ashton carter had openly stated a week ago that he’d advise the president-elect firmly against taking any cooperation from Russia in addressing the Syrian situation. On the contrary, the remarks in Beirut on Thursday by the Russian presidential envoy on the Middle East and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov suggest that there are contacts below the radar with Trump’s transition team. Bogdanov said:

  • We are at an important turning point; a new team is coming in with president-elect Donald Trump. We are now already beginning contact with people who will likely assist the new president. We hope the outgoing and incoming administration will accept that without Russia it is impossible to solve the Syrian issue, we are ready for open dialogue.

It is highly significant that soon after Monday’s phone conversation, Russian jets have resumed bombing missions in Syria. Jets from the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and ship-launched cruise missiles joined attacks on Idlib and Homs. On Thursday, long-range strategic bombers flew an 11,000 kilometre mission from bases in Russia to fire missiles at targets in Syria. Syrian jets have also operations against rebel targets in Aleppo.

Even as the Obama administration is reduced to a mute witness, a dramatic change in the US policy in Syria seems to be unfolding. To quote Prof Malcolm Chalmers, deputy director-general of Britain’s respected think tank, Royal United Services Institute, Trump’s “evident sympathy” for Vladimir Putin and his scepticism for America’s military alliances “cannot be assumed to be passing fancies”. (See a sensational report in Telegraph newspaper titled Downing Street warned to prepare for Donald Trump reversal on Syria and military support for the UK.)

Something of all this is most certainly emboldening Turkey to make a grab for the strategic northern Syrian city of Al-Bab, which aims at pre-empting any Kurdish enclave forming along Syria’s border with Turkey. The Syrian Kurds will be furious at the Turkish move, and they have been the US’ best allies so far in Syria. (Reuters )

Turkey’s intention is to break the backbone of the US-Kurdish alliance in northern Syria and pick up the pieces to put together a new Turkish-American paradigm by the time Trump takes office. By the way, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a contender to be Trump’s national security advisor, has been a staunch backer of Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s government.

The Turkish offensive on Al-Bab cannot happen without a tacit Russian nod. Obviously, Turkey has reached out to [Russia] and Moscow is not standing in Erdogan’s way. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim is due to travel to Moscow for talks about Syria and deepening bilateral relations. A Voice of America commentary said on a sombre note, “Deepening ties with Moscow is leading to some of Turkey’s NATO allies starting to question where Ankara’s loyalties lie… Ankara’s diversifying of its relations coincides with severe, if not unprecedented, strains with its Western allies.”

“Ankara remains at loggerheads with Washington over the latter’s support of Syrian Kurdish forces and Turkey’s demand for the extradition of U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen… Those ties could be further strained over rising speculation that Gulen could be allowed to leave the United States for a third country.”

“Another key anchor with the West, Turkey’s decades-long bid to join the European Union, is on the verge of being severed, with its effort facing collapse, amid mutual recriminations.”

Similarly, the Iraqi Shi’ite militia supported by Iran is making a bid to capture Tal Afar, some 60 kilometres to the west of Syria. Control of Tal Afar will facilitate a direct land route for Iran to Syria and to Lebanon. The capture of Tal Afar by the pro-Iranian militia will be a serious blow to Israel.

Where does Trump stand on Syria? Actually, there is remarkable consistency in Trump’s pronouncements on the Syrian conflict over a considerable period of time. Deutsche Welle put together ‘fragments of a blueprint’ for Trump’s ‘vision’ of the conflict. Read the revealing ‘fragments’ here.

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