US-led coalition targeted Syrian infrastructure but not IS oilfields – Russian general


January 04, 15:27 UTC+3 MOSCOW
The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman thus commented on a statement by CIA Director John Brennan alleging that Russia was using a “scorched-earth policy” in Syria

MOSCOW, January 4. /TASS/. The US-led international coalition was bombing the entire Syrian infrastructure, except for oil extraction facilities seized by militants of the Islamic State (a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia), Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Wednesday.

The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman thus commented on a statement by CIA Director John Brennan alleging that Russia was using a “scorched-earth policy” in Syria.

“Outgoing CIA Director Brennan knows well that long before the operation of the Russian air task force in Syria, the international coalition had been methodically and consistently destroying the entire economic infrastructure of Syria since 2012 to maximally weaken its legitimate government, in spite of all the ensuing hardships for civilians that resulted in the flows of millions of refugees. Surprisingly, the bombings by the United States and the coalition did not target oil extraction facilities already seized by the ISIL and allowing militants to earn tens of millions of US dollars monthly from the illegal sale of oil and use this money to recruit mercenaries from all over the world,” he said.

The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman also noted that US planes had used nuclear munitions in Japan in 1945, destroying the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Apart from that, the US military carried out Operation Ranch Hand in Laos and Vietnam in 1962-1971 with the use of chemicals, “which were really scorching everything alive there,” he said.

“Moreover, no one in the United States has been punished for this gravest war crime,” the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said.

“I also want to mention that the largest wars of the past few decades unleashed by the United States due to false CIA data in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya started, continued and ended everywhere with the destruction of these countries’ economic infrastructure by the US Air Force,” he added.

“And it is hardly accidental that major US companies close to the CIA and the Pentagon strangely turned out to be the first in the line for contracts for restoring the largest facilities of the economy and infrastructure,” the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said.

The real results of Russia’s operation in Syria were outlined at a final board meeting of Russia’s Defense Ministry at the end of 2016, the spokesman said.

Thus, it was with the assistance of the Russian air task force that the Syrian government troops liberated over 12,000 sq. km. of the Syrian territory, 499 communities and eliminated 35,000 militants, including 204 field commanders, the general said.

“But the main result is that it has become possible without the incumbent US administration and, to be more exact, without the CIA, to conclude for the first time jointly with Iran and Turkey an agreement with the Syrian opposition on the ceasefire that has come into force from December 30 and on preparations for negotiations in Astana on settling the Syrian conflict,” the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said.

Uninvited Saudis, Qatar Behind Syrian Rebel Groups Boycotting Peace Talks


 A rebel fighter carries his weapon inside a damaged building on the forth day of the truce, on al-Rayhan village front near the rebel held besieged city of Douma, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria January 2, 2017

    Commenting on reports that several Syrian opposition groups have threatened to boycott the upcoming political settlement talks in Kazakhstan due to claimed ceasefire violations, Middle East expert Danny Makki explained to Sputnik that those rebels are backed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which have been sidelined from the Turkish-Russian agreement.

   Several Syrian opposition groups have signed a statement declaring boycott of the upcoming political settlement talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, citing alleged ceasefire violations.

    Their statement was widely reported by the western mainstream media on Tuesday, elaborating that 10 rebel factions said they were suspending discussions regarding the Astana conference or the cease-fire “until it is fully implemented.”

   The groups cited alleged “major and frequent violations” in the rebel-held areas of Wadi Barada and Eastern Ghouta outside the Syrian capital Damascus.

    Radio Sputnik discussed the issue with London-based media analyst and researcher, specializing in the Middle East security, Danny Makki.

   First of all, he said, it goes against the UN resolution which was unanimously voted on by all of the countries just on Saturday.

   On December 31, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a Russian-Turkish resolution on a ceasefire regime in Syria, as well as on holding political talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups in Astana, Kazakhstan in January 2017.

   A day earlier, on Friday, a nationwide ceasefire between Syrian government troops and several opposition factions came into force. Russia and Turkey serve as guarantors of the deal which paves the way for negotiations between the warring parties.

   Danny Makki also noted that initially, Wadi Barada was not part to the ceasefire agreement, it was not considered as an area to the ceasefire. Hence for those rebel groups to say that it was a violation of a ceasefire by the government is incorrect.

    Most of the rebel groups who have issued the statement are on the side of jihadists, he added.

   “Conspicuously, there are some problems from backers such as Qatar or Saudi Arabia who have been sidelined from the Turkish-Russian agreement and perhaps are seeking some sort of revenge by pressuring these groups to pull out of this agreement,” he explained.

    In addition to this, he said, the statement is aimed to derail the process which was started by one of the opposition significant backers, Turkey.

   “It remains to be seen what Turkey makes out of all of this because this have been seen as a diplomatic victory for the Turks in some sense,” he told Sputnik.

   The initial agreement was signed by about 8 major groups and these major groups represent around over 20 or 30 different small groups, the expert said. All in all, there are hundreds of different rebel groups in Syria, at least two thirds of them were signed up to this agreement, totaling to 60,000 fighters.

   The groups which have recently stated that they would not continue the process constitute around 20 or 30,000 soldiers on the ground, he explained. Most of these groups are funded either by Saudi Arabia or have Gulf sponsorship in terms of finance and support. The Turkish-backed groups have not pulled out of the agreement, all of the Turkish groups stayed in.

   “You have so many warring groups and so many different backers that it is almost impossible to get all of them to agree on one thing at one particular moment of time,” Danny Makki noted.

   Most of the groups around Damascus, who have rejected the ceasefire, are the groups which consider themselves on the threat by recent Syrian army offensive around Wadi Barada. But Wadi Barada was never part of the ceasefire plan, he reiterated. It is Gulf States’ attempt to undermine Russian and Turkish agreement, he noted.

    He further elaborated that these groups are relatively influential. They are mainly located in Damascus and around however they already have a huge presence in the north.

    Even though, they haven’t posed a very significant threat to the overall ceasefire plan because the plan has been supported by Turkey’s reputation.

   “You’ve got to remember that many of the groups and movements who have signed up to this agreement are currently fighting with the Turks around the city of Al-Bab against ISIS (Daesh),” he said.

    “Turks have essentially put their necks out on the line and attempted to say to the Gulf countries: you’ve been supporting the opposition for huge amount of time but because we have a border with Syria, because we have better and closer credibility among the Syrian rebels, we can force them into a ceasefire,” he suggested.

   “You can clearly see a fact that Saudi Arabia is not even involved in this peace agreement which would create a problem to most of the jihadist groups being funded by Saudi Arabia,” he said.

    ‘It just shows how significantly Russia has changed the dynamics of the Syrian crisis’

   The expert also noted that the current developments in Syria only prove how significant Russian presence in the region has been and how significantly it has changed the internal dynamics of the Syrian crisis.

    “Who would have thought in 2015 when the government was facing almost breaking point that the Russians would be celebrating at least a moral victory in an international struggle against the US in Aleppo after signing a peace agreement for the rebels with Turkey, one of the main countries and backers of the opposition,” he finally stated.

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The General Staff of the Russian Federation: the United States are not familiar with the real situation in Syria

19 September 2016 16:15

The United States does not have effective levers of influence on the moderate opposition, and are not familiar with the real situation in Syria, was told to reporters today by chief of the Main Operations Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Sergei Rudskoy. Also, according to him, the Russian General Staff believe that the Syrian government forces makes no sense to observe a unilateral ceasefire because of violations by militants, reports radio “Vesti FM.”

Rudskoy added that the Russian and Syrian aircraft over the past week did not cause impacts on areas that have been agreed in the framework of the agreements reached in Geneva. Meanwhile, the Royal British Air force participated in air strikes of the international coalition against terrorism in Syria, which killed the Syrian military, the Associated Press reported, citing the statement of the Ministry of Defence.

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Syrian Army Declares End of Ceasefire


 A Syrian army fighter in position during the assault of the BBC school in the southern part of the Syrian city of Aleppo


   The Syrian Army has declared end of ceasefire claiming that militants did not adhere to any provision of the truce.

   Syrian militants have breached Moscow-Washington brokered truce more than 300 times, the Army said.

   The Syrian army reaffirmed commitment to fight against terror after the end of truce.

   “The ceasefire regime should have been a real chance to stop bloodshed, but units of terrorists did not abhere to any of the points of the agreement. The number of ceasefire violations suprassed 300,” SANA news agency quoted the Syrian Army General Command as saying.

   The statement also said that Syrian government forces have made every effort to comply with the ceasefire and “have shown the highest degree of restraint confronting violations by terrorist groups.”

   On September 9, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry announced a new peace plan to address the conflict in Syria that called for a ceasefire and anti-terrorism cooperation among other clauses of the treaty.

Russian MoD: US Fails to Fulfill Obligations Amid Syria Rebels’ Truce Violations


 Syrian rebels attend a training session in Maaret Ikhwan, near Idlib, Syria in 2012.

   The Russian General Staff said that the United States fails to fulfill obligations on Syria, adding that Washington will be responsible for the breakdown of the ceasefire if the situation does not change.

The US did not respond to Russia’s appeal containing data on the violations of the Syrian truce by US-controlled armed groups, the chief of the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria, Lt. Gen. Vladimir Savchenko, said Saturday.

“The United States didn’t reply to any of our appeals containing information on ceasefire violations by US-controlled armed groups. Moreover, the US side declines telephone conversations, including those planned in advance, as it happened yesterday,” Savchenko said during a videoconference.

“This indicates that the United States does not control the situation in Syria and is not ready to take steps to force US-controlled militants to implement ceasefire.”

   During a video link-up, Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznikhir, the first deputy chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian General Staff, said the number of ceasefire violations by Syrian rebel groups had been steadily on the rise since the truce came into force last Monday.

   “Five days into the truce, we can say that only the Russian and Syrian sides have fulfilled their commitments. The United States and the so-called moderate groups under their control have not fulfilled a single obligation.”

   “Russia has been doing everything in its power to stop the government troops from responding to the attacks in kind. If the US side does not take steps to fulfill its obligations under the September 9 agreement, it will be fully responsible for the breakdown of the cessation of hostilities regime in Syria,” he continued.

   Lt. Gen. Poznikhir stressed that the key point in the US-Russia deal was that the United States separates “moderate” opposition groups from Daesh and al-Nusra Front terrorists.

Syrian opposition forces violated the nationwide truce 55 times within the past 24 hours, Poznikhir said at a videoconference.

   “The number of ceasefire violations by opposition groups has been rising steadily.” “There were 55 episodes of shelling from their [Syrian rebels’] side within the past 24 hours.”

   Of those 55 violations, 27 were detected in the Aleppo province, 11 in the Damascus province, seven in Hama, six in the mountainous Latakia region, two in Homs, and one each in Daraa and Quneitra. Both government positions and civilian targets had been attacked, he stressed.

   The military official said the US-Russia deal for a Syrian ceasefire had been violated a total of 199 times in the past five days since the truce came into effect late Monday.

   “The situation in Syria is deteriorating, mostly in Aleppo and Hama where opposition groups are using the cessation of hostilities regime to regroup, restock ammunition, weapons and preparing to launch an offensive to grab new territories,” Lt. Gen. Poznikhir said.

   “Continued shelling, illegal armed groups’ failure to comply with the ceasefire regime, the absence of a checkpoint in the militant-controlled eastern part of the Castello Road do not allow to guarantee security of humanitarian access to Aleppo,” he continued.

   Militants have carried out 26 mortar and rocket attacks on residential areas and Syrian army positions in the city of Aleppo over the past 24 hours, a representative of the Hmeymim-based Russian reconciliation center for Syria said Saturday.

   “We are in the Ashrafia neighborhood of Aleppo, where residential areas were shelled with mortars and improvised rocket launchers. The situation remains difficult in the Aleppo province and in the city itself. Over the past 24 hours, we recorded 26 instances of residential area and government position shelling by the militants,” Col. Sergei Kopytsin said during a video conference outlining the results of the first five days of the new September 12 Syrian ceasefire.

   The attacks involved mortars as well as multiple launch rocket systems and anti-tank guided missiles and targeted four districts, a gas plant and farms to the south of the city, he added.

   “The largest number of casualties was recorded in the Sheikh-Ali-Kobtani district, where three people died and 12 were injured,” the representative added.

   Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznikhir said that an agreement had been reached on allowing a humanitarian convoy access the besieged Damascus suburb of Moadamiyeh.

   “The Syrian government guarantees the humanitarian convoy’s passage through the territory under its control, but the issue of its passage through areas controlled by moderate opposition, which is influenced only by the United States, remains. Measures have still not been taken to separate moderate opposition controlled by the United States fromal-Nusra Front,” he added.

Kurdish Factor ‘Key to the Success of the Syrian Ceasefire’


 A Syrian flag on a truck with a machine gun of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) near the town of Mhin, Syria

   On Monday, the Russian-US sponsored ceasefire in Syria officially stepped into force. Asked to comment on the chances that the Lavrov-Kerry ceasefire plan has for turning into a comprehensive settlement, experts speaking to one of Russia’s leading independent online newspapers explained that ultimately, much will depend on the Kurdish wildcard.

   Over the weekend, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that they had reached an agreement on a new plan aimed at quelling the violence in Syria, including a nationwide ceasefire which officially came into force at 16:00 GMT on Monday.

   United Nations Syria special envoy Staffan de Mistura praised Russian and US officials for their effort, emphasizing that it was a sign of determination Moscow and Washington both have to solving common problems, particularly the struggle against the Daesh (ISIL/ISIS) terrorist group.

   Meanwhile, even before the ceasefire stepped into force, some American and Russian experts rushed to suggest that the ceasefire has little hope of lasting. Last week, before the ceasefire deal was announced, the Washington Post published an article explaining that as Daesh’s self-proclaimed ‘caliphate’ continues to collapse, the risk of a wider war breaking out between the multiple regional and global powers involved in the conflict grows

   The newspaper’s ideas on what could come next in Syria included several chilling scenarios, from Kurdish-Arab proxy wars involving Ankara, to Turkish-Kurdish, Turkish-Syrian, Syrian-US, or even a broader Sunni/Shiite war that might spread across the region.

   Pondering the chances of these dangerous scenarios becoming a reality and pulling Syria into endless war, independent online newspaper Svobodnaya Pressa turned to geopolitics experts Stanislav Tarasov and Alexei Fenenko and asked their view on the prospects of peace returning to the war-torn country.

   Tarasov, the director of the Middle East – Caucasus Research Center, said that he felt the scenarios listed by the Washington Post were all a real and dangerous possibility, and that the fragmented and multilayered nature of the conflict means that there are actually several dozen different conflicts that could flare up in the region, not just the ten listed by the US newspaper.

   At the same time, “how the situation develops depends on the implementation of the agreement made by Lavrov and Kerry as a result of 15 hours of talks, which concluded on Saturday night in Geneva,” the analyst added.

   Recalling that many details about the five-part agreement remain unknown, Tarasov explained that the deal includes small steps to a ceasefire, in 48 hour increments, along with a delineation of ‘moderate opposition’ forces from terrorists; the latter will require the creation of the Russian-American Joint Executive Center, “composed of the military and intelligence services of the two countries. The delineation is [also] meant to prevent the bombing of areas where there are civilians, and [eventually,] to lead to coordination between the Russian and US military forces operating in Syria.”

   Given the failure of previous efforts to reach peace in Syria, including the numerous Geneva talks involving the Syrian government, opposition, the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Russia, Tarasov suggested that the bilateral agreement between Moscow and Washington “makes sense only in one case: if Russia and the US are able to set apart spheres of influence, and to work together across the country.”

   Today, the analyst noted, together with Russia and the US, Turkey and Iran, “plus a scattering of radical and non-radical non-state actors,” are directly involved in the Syrian conflict.

   With Iran yet to make clear its reaction to the Russian-US agreement, Tarasov emphasized that Turkey, on the other hand, is the one to watch, when it comes to the ceasefire deal; “Ankara becoming more and more involved in the conflict, even though it is now clear that Operation Euphrates Shield was in some sense agreed to by Moscow and Washington. The question is how long the Turks go along with the US and Russia.”

     Turkish authorities, the expert noted, “are already trying to play an independent game, carrying out separate negotiations with Washington about storming Raqqa, while clashing with the Syrian Kurds, who are supported by the Americans. Against this background we can see the activation of the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] factor. It’s no accident that there are terror attacks occurring in Turkey almost every day…All this only further works to tangle the knot of contradictions around Syria.”

   In any case, the Tarasov noted that another factor which complicates any predictions about how the situation will develop next is the US’s November elections. “Barack Obama has very little time left before he leaves office. And no matter who enters the White House in November – Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump – the new administration will need time to develop a new Syria policy and to form a new state apparatus. As practice shows, this restructuring usually takes seven or eight months,” i.e. into mid-2017.

   “And this means that the agreement between Lavrov and Kerry can either be blocked by the new administration, or substantially transformed in several areas.” © Sputnik/ Mikhail AlaeddinSyrian Army troops in the Ramouseh district of southern Aleppo.

   As far as the parties to the conflict go, each of them will ‘demand a place under the sun’ during peace negotiations. For now, Tarasov noted, almost all of them can at least formally agree on the need to preserve the Syria’s territorial integrity. In this situation, “some signs suggest that visions of a confederated Syria are being considered.”

   “The problem, however, is that Ankara is not satisfied by the idea of a confederation. Turkey fears the emergence of an autonomous [Kurdish] enclave in Syria, according to the model of the de-facto independent Kurdish enclave in Iraq. Turkey considers that the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds will strengthen separatist Turkish Kurdish sentiments, thereby destabilizing the country.” © Sputnik/ Mikhail VoskresenskiyAssad Not Allowed to Go After Terrorists Under Ceasefire – US State Dept.

   If this were to happen, the analyst noted, “some part of Turkey would turn into today’s Syria, figuratively speaking. And in this case there is simply no obvious way out of this situation.”

   In any case, “for now, we are witnessing this diplomatic waltz between Lavrov and Kerry. It’s true that they have experience of effective joint action – for example, when Russia and the US solved the problem of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal. But whether the two countries’ foreign ministers will be able to repeat that success in the current situation remains an open question.”

   For his part, Alexei Fenenko, a senior researcher at the Institute of International Security Problems, explained that he too sees the Kurdish question as the key to the success or failure of the current ceasefire. There are three main possible scenarios as far as Turkey’s involvement is concerned, he said.

   “The first is a purely military attempt to suppress Syrian Kurdish autonomy; it doesn’t matter who does it – Assad or someone else. The problem with this, however, is that Damascus does not have the strength to defeat Kurdish forces. The Kurds have proven themselves excellent fighters in the fight against Daesh; plus they have American backing.”

   “The second scenario is to turn Syria into a confederation. But this decision would automatically mean war with Turkey. Ankara would never voluntarily allow an autonomous Rojava on their border without war.” And finally, the last option, according to Fenenko, “is to somehow come to an agreement with the Kurds in a way that does not irk Ankara.” That option, for obvious reasons, would be the most difficult to achieve. But anything else, including the creation of a state of Kurdistan involving Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, would mean war with Turkey.