Turkey has evidence of US-led coalition support to Islamic State – president

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan


MOSCOW, December 28. /TASS/ Turkey has “confirmed evidence” of US-led coalition’s support to terrorist groups, including the Islamic State extremist group (outlawed in Russia), Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

“They give support to terrorist groups including Daesh (Islamic State), YPG (Kurdish People’s Protection Units), PYD (Democratic Union Party). It’s very clear. We have confirmed evidence, with pictures, photos and videos,” Iran’s Press TV quoted Erdogan as saying during a press conference Tuesday.

Erdogan’s announcement came just a day after former US Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein accused Washington of supporting terrorist groups when it serves its interests.

A US Department of State spokesman, Mark Toner, strongly rejected the accusations as having “no basis for truth.”

“I don’t think anyone could look at our actions on the ground leading the coalition in northern Syria, in Iraq and say anything other than that we’re 100% behind the defeat, destruction of Daesh, and even beyond Syria and Iraq, seeing its networks dismantled, destroyed around the region – or outside of the region around the world,” Toner said.

The spokesman added that the United States is “working constructively with Turkey to lead those efforts.”

“Turkey is playing a part and we have constant dialogue and discussion with Turkey about how we can better leverage both of our efforts,” he said.


Russia’s UN Ambassador Argues Bombing of Syrian Army Killing 80 Was Intentional

US fighter jets in Syria


   The Russian Ambassador to the United Nations found the timing of what the United States called an accidental and unintentional airstrike to be suspicious only minutes after the US representative to the international body effectively blamed Russia and the Assad regime calling the emergency meeting a “stunt.

   “Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations questioned the United States sudden interest in the fight against Daesh in the eastern city of Deir ez-Zor where Syrian forces loyal to the Assad regime have been the vanguard of the fighting force against Daesh saying that it was suspicious that the Americans would suddenly try to “help” the Syrian Army as they claimed they were targeted Daesh in the region.

   “It is highly suspicious that the United States chose to conduct this particular air strike at this time,” Russia’s ambassador Vitaly Churkin said. He also questioned America’s willingness to actively engage the fight against terror rather than focusing on attempting regime change in Syria saying that US forces did “nothing when ISIS advanced on Palmyra.”

   A major diplomatic row looks to be developing between the United States and Russia only five days after a breakthrough ceasefire deal that had called for the two nations to coordinate airstrikes — in large part to prevent incidents like Saturday’s horrific bombing attack against Syrian forces — and came with a demand by the White House for the so-called moderate rebels to disband for the al-Nusra Front with whom they have been embedded with in recent weeks.

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.

Syria: US Soldiers Leave Key Town in Northern Aleppo after FSA Warning

Syria: US Soldiers Leave Key Town in Northern Aleppo after FSA Warning
 (FNA)- Video footage released on Friday showed that at least 25 US Army soldiers deployed in the key town of al-Rai engaged in serious disputes with the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) terrorists before leaving the town, while other reports indicated brief clashes between the two sides.

The FSA militants and their allies threatened to kill the US soldiers operating inside al-Ra’i on Friday if they declined to leave the town.

The FSA terrorists continued threatening the US military personnel even as they were leaving al-Ra’i.

Other reports from the town indicated that the FSA fighters engaged in first fighting with the US military personnel after threatening them.

Syrian Deal: ‘Russia Has Nothing to Conceal’, US Keeps ‘Sensitive’ Details Quiet


Syrian children ride an attraction in the Syrian rebel-held town of Arbin, in the eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, as they celebrate the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday on September 13, 2016 


    24 hours into the Syrian ceasefire agreement, the US media was brimming with questions about the country’s future as the key details of the deal were not made public; and while Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested revealing the key points as “Russia has nothing to conceal”, it is the US who refused to reveal “sensitive” issues.

   As the 48-hour Syria ceasefire agreement came into force on Monday, the US media was flooded with the questions about the Syrian future, as the details of the deal were not made public. “

   The agreements, five separate documents, won’t be published, ostensibly to prevent Islamist groups from disrupting the humanitarian effort that should follow the deal,” Bloomberg columnist Leonid Bershidsky wrote in his article for the website in the follow up to the joint press conference by Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry.

   “That in itself is a good sign: It means the sides are really going to try to implement it rather than argue publicly about who’s to blame for renewed violence. But it also means only the general outlines of the deal are available,” he further mentioned.

   The lack of the details prompted another US-based news outlet, The National Interest, to compile a list of five questions it seems to be interested in the most.

   The magazine seems to be very eager to know what will happen if the Syrian President Assad does not adhere to the condition to ground his aircraft in areas designated in the agreement. Who will monitor the withdrawal from the Castello Road so that the humanitarian convoy is able to get through.

   ‘How will the joint Russia-US operations proceed once the ceasefire holds for the set period of seven days. Will the so-called “moderate” opposition be separated from the terrorists as stated in the agreement and how it will be done.

   Finally, once the violence comes down, what will be next? This particular question is echoed by Bloomberg, whose columnist also notes that “the biggest problem, however, is that there is no inkling of how political issues will be addressed after a putative US-Russian victory over al-Nusra [Front] and Islamic State (Daesh).”

   “Unless the two big players agree on a joint solution to push for, there will be too much uncertainty for local players and too many reasons to keep fighting,” he notes.

   Meanwhile, the US-based news website Vox has identified “three things to watch for in coming days” which will indicate that the ceasefire is “actually furthering” the rest of the agreement: “what counts as a violation of the ceasefire, whether Turkey decides to keep fighting, and whether US-backed Syrian rebels really do decisively part ways with their jihadist partners.”

   It is however interesting to note that on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged the United States to make the diplomatic deal transparent, saying it should be released so the public can assess any alleged violations of the ceasefire. CSPAN (Screenshot)US Believes Aspects of Syria Ceasefire Too Sensitive to Share Publicly

   “In order to brush away any doubts on how we will fulfill our commitments in the way in which they were stipulated in the agreement, we suggested revealing these agreements and not keeping them secret, as our American partners wanted,” the Russian media quotes Russia’s top diplomat as saying.

   “We have nothing to conceal, everything that is stipulated in the agreement has been agreed upon,” he added.

   The minister said that Russia will work for a full release of this document and will suggest to approve it without any amendments by the resolution of the UN Security Council.

   Washington however believes that aspects of the Syrian ceasefire deal brokered with Russia “are too sensitive to release to the public”, US Department of State spokesman Mark Toner said at a briefing on Tuesday.

“[T]here are some operational details, areas of sensitivity, we do not believe would be in the interest of the agreement, or in anyone’s interest, to share,” Toner stated.

Iran Denies Harassing US Navy Vessels in Persian Gulf


 Riverine Command Boat (RCB) 805 in the Persian Gulf. (File)


   The US Navy claims its ships have been harassed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps in the Persian Gulf on multiple occasions. On Sunday, Tehran denied that these incidents occurred.

   Last week, Pentagon officials claimed that the USS Firebolt was intercepted by Iranian attack craft while operating in international waters in the Persian Gulf. According to the US Navy, this was, at a minimum, the 31st encounter of its kind since January.

“We’ve seen an uptick in confrontations by Iranian vessels in the Arabian Gulf,” said Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the top US commander in the region, according to The Hill.

   “Ultimately if they continue to test us we’re going to respond and we’re going to protect ourselves and our partners.”

   On Sunday, Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri, deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, dismissed the claims, adding that Tehran has acted in accordance with international law.

“Iranian boats continue to act based on defined standards and are well aware of the international laws and regulations, so the claims are not only untrue, but stem from their fear of the power of Iran’s soldiers,” he said, according to Military.com.

   “When Iranian boats pass by them at a distance of a few kilometers, Americans claim that Iranian boats have approached them within a range of one kilometer.”

   He added that Tehran will continue to act normally, despite US claims of aggression.

“Iran’s marine corps will never be stopped by the propaganda of extra-regional enemies and their vassals in the region in guarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s sea borders and economic interests,” Jazayeri said.

   In addition to the Firebolt, Washington claims that the USS Nitze was intercepted by four Iranian vessels while sailing through the Strait of Hormuz. Following this encounter, similar incidents occurred with the USS Squall, USS Stout, and USS Tempest.

   Earlier this year, two US Navy patrol vessels drifted into Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf. Crewmembers were apprehended by the Revolutionary Guard in an incident that nearly sparked an international crisis in the midst of the Iran nuclear negotiations.

   Iranian defense minister Gen. Hosein Deghan defended Tehran’s actions, maintaining that it would perform similar intercepts as often as necessary.

“If any foreign vessel enters our waters, we warn them,” he told Tasnim news agency, “and if it’s an invasion, we confront.

US, Turkey Not Likely to Liberate Raqqa Without Green Light From Russia, Iran


Syrian city Raqqa


   Commenting on the recent announcement of the Turkish president that “Ankara sees no problem” in joining forces with the US to free the Syrian city Raqqa from Daesh, Russian political analyst Boris Dolgov said that such an operation will be held only after consultations with Russia and Iran.

Ankara and Washington are discussing military action on Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, Daesh), Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told a group of journalists on his way back to Turkey from the G-20 summit in China, where he had a tête-à-tête meeting with US President Barack Obama,” Turkish Hurriyet Daily News reported on Wednesday morning.

   “Obama particularly wants to do something together [with us] about Raqqa. We have told him that this is not a problem for us,” it quotes the president as further elaborating.

   The Turkish leader said that Ankara has suggested the high-ranking soldiers of both parties could come together and discuss the issue.

   “What can be done there will become more concrete after talks,” he said. “What can be done on the issue is related to the US stance.”

   Commenting on the above announcement, Senior research fellow at the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Boris Dolgov noted that such an operation won’t be launched without previous consultations with Russia and Iran.

   The political analyst said that even though Washington and Ankara have a solid case for liberating the Daesh stronghold in the region, they may still have ulterior motives.

   In particular, he says, it might be an implementation of the “American scenario” of the solution to the Syrian crisis.

   “Both Raqqa and north of Syria are the territories of the sovereign state and if the above plan is going to be implemented, Raqqa will find itself under Turkish control,” he told in an interview with RIA Novosti.

   “Turkey, in turn, is leading the units of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), hence it would mean that part of Syria would then find itself under control of the FSA. And this would have far-reaching consequences,” the expert explained.

   Afterwards, Boris Dolgov said, using the presence of the FSA in the region, the US and Turkey might form an alternative leadership in the region and with its support lay down certain conditions to the country’s legitimate government.

   Dolgov is, however, convinced that it is premature to speculate on the launch of the operation.

   “This operation will inevitably preceded by consultations with Russia and Iran. Russian Airspace Forces now partially control Syrian air space, thus there is a clear need in consultations with the Russian military leadership,” he finally said.

Washington’s Two Strategies in Syria Canceling Each Other Out


 US Troops Wearing YPG Kurdish Patches in Northern Syria


   The United States has pursued two strategies to resolve the Syrian crisis – one led by the CIA, the other devised by the Pentagon, but instead of reinforcing each other they are getting in each other’s way, with Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria serving as tangible evidence of this trend.

     Ankara launched its offensive, dubbed Operation Euphrates Shield, on August 24 to ostensibly push Daesh out of the border town of Jarablus and the surrounding areas. The Free Syrian Army backed by Turkish warplanes, tanks, artillery and special forces seized the town largely without any resistance from Daesh. The Turkish troops and the rebels then started fighting US-backed Kurdish militias in areas that have already been liberated from the terrorist group by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

   Both Turkey and the SDF, largely made up of fighters from People’s Protection Units (YPG), are key US allies in the region.

     “The origins of the conflict lie in the fact that the United States has two policies in Syria. Initially the US policy was designed to support the opposition to the Assad regime,” Jerusalem-based journalist Seth J. Frantzman wrote for the National Interest.

   As part of these efforts, the US was vetting rebel armed groups that could prop up the so-called moderate opposition. Both the CIA and the Pentagon were involved in this process.

   The Pentagon’s $500 program was meant to produce approximately 5,000 fighters. The initiative ended in a major embarrassment for the US Department of Defense (DoD) when General Lloyd Austin, commander of US Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that only “four or five” US-trained rebels were fighting against Daesh.

     According to Frantzman, the rise of Daesh prompted Washington to shift its focus from trying to depose Assad to counterterrorism.

   By late 2015, “Defense Department, CIA and State Department policies began to diverge, and the Defense Department began to see the Kurdish YPG and its effective fight against [Daesh] as the best partner for the anti-[Daesh] coalition forces,” he said.

   Turkey was not happy with this plan. As Kurdish forces moved further west and closer to the Euphrates, Ankara became increasingly insistent that the river was a red line that the Kurds were not allowed to cross. High-ranking Turkish officials have repeatedly said that if the Kurds decide to move further west, the Turkish military would launch a ground operation to stop them.

This is exactly what happened.

   On August 12, the SDF took control of Manbij, a city located west of the Euphrates, in an operation that was conducted in close cooperation with the Pentagon. Three days later the Kurdish forces said that the Daesh-held town of al-Bab, situated further to the west, was their next target, adding that the Manbij offensive would continue until the militants are pushed out of surrounding areas.

   Two weeks later Ankara sent its Armed Forces to northern Syria.

   On August 24, several hours after Operation Euphrates Shield was launched, US Vice President Joe Biden sent a strong message to the Kurds, saying that they must move back east of the Euphrates. Two days later John Kerry downplayed US support for the Kurds saying that there “has been some limited engagement with a component of Kurd fighters on a limited basis.”

     Washington’s response to Turkey’s incursion undoubtedly upset many Kurdish fighters since they, not Ankara, were instrumental in the US-led anti-Daesh efforts in northern Syria.

   “There is ample evidence that the DoD has been in competition with the CIA to find viable partners and that the DoD has been more successful in its relationship with the Kurds and SDF, who are far more effective than the plethora of Syrian rebel groups.”

   Moreover, the clashes between the Turkish military and the YPG appear to be pointing to Ankara’s true goals in this region.

   “The risk the United States faces is alienating the Kurds and seeing the SDF salient in Manbij collapse. This will set back US plans to launch a strike on Raqqa and cut off the head of the [Daesh] snake,” Frantzman observed.

US Citizen Released From Syrian Prison With Russian Help for Humanitarian Reason

Russian President Vladimir Putin.


Russia has facilitated the release of a US citizen from a Syrian prison several months ago for humanitarian reasons without the involvement of a special operation or ransom, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday.

Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko
© Photo: provided by Konstantin Yaroshenko’s attorney

ST. PETERSBURG (Sputnik) – He voiced readiness to act in the same manner regarding citizens of any state, and said he hoped Russia’s partners would do the same.“Several months ago the United States requested us to assist them in liberating an American citizen who found himself in prison in Syria. Following necessary activities we managed to do it. It wasn’t some kind of a special operation, we just talked to Syrian authorities. We received this individual and handed him over to the Americans, of course, with no ransom money involved. We were driven by purely humanitarian motives,” Putin told reporters.

Left Dissatisfied, Disappointed by Washington, Syrian Rebels Turn to Russia

Opposition fighters fire shells from their position in Aleppo's southern countryside (File)


Syrian rebels who were trained and equipped by the US now blame Washington for betraying them and not honoring agreements to pay them to fight in Syria; they’re now searching for “other options on the table” and thinking of “transferring of loyalties from Washington to Moscow”, according to the US-based news website The Daily Beast.

The US-backed Syrian rebels, trained and armed by Washington, are now blaming their patrons for betrayal.

The leader of one of one of Pentagon-backed brigades stationed in the Syrian Governorate of Aleppo has revealed to the US-based news website The Daily Beast the payment agreements for their fight on the Syrian soil and complained of the US neglect to keep up to its promises.

Opposition fighters drive a tank in the Al-Huweiz area on southern outskirts of Aleppo as they battle to break the government seige on the northen Syrian city on August 2, 2016
© AFP 2016/ Omar haj kadour
Opposition fighters drive a tank in the Al-Huweiz area on southern outskirts of Aleppo as they battle to break the government seige on the northen Syrian city on August 2, 2016

In an exclusive interview with the website, Mustafa Sejry of the Liwa al-Mu’tasim Brigade stationed in the town of Marea, 25 km north of Aleppo, has revealed why he is considering “transferring of loyalties from Washington to Moscow.”

“When we signed our contract with the Americans, we had initially asked for $500 per fighter in addition to getting support for injured and killed soldiers,” he told the website.

“They agreed to $250 for the first half year, and said that we’d get an additional $250 per man after six months. We only ever got $250 and never any money for our injured or killed. And that’s when they did pay us, which was rare,” the rebel revealed.

“During the entirety of their year-and-a-half enlistment with the United States military, Sejry claims, his fighters have been paid infrequently and sporadically,” the outlet describes.

“We’ve received only one month worth of salaries in the last three months,” it quotes the rebel as saying.

As the town where his brigade has been based was besieged by Daesh in June, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) airdropped ammunition and supplies to the Mu’tasim fighters, “enabling the brigade to break the siege and mount a moderately successful counteroffensive against ISIS (Daesh) in other outlying villages.”

Fighters of the Syrian Islamist rebel group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the former al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, ride on a pick-up truck in the 1070 Apartment Project area in southwestern Aleppo, Syria August 5, 2016
© REUTERS/ Ammar Abdullah
Fighters of the Syrian Islamist rebel group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the former al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, ride on a pick-up truck in the 1070 Apartment Project area in southwestern Aleppo, Syria August 5, 2016

Sejry, the website says, had hoped that 11th-hour bailout, attended also by US airstrikes on ISIS positions around Marea, would set a precedent for more constant and steady support. Instead it appears to have been a one-off.

He also complained that since breaking the ISIS siege two months ago, the Mu’tasim Brigade hasn’t received replacement hardware for what it lost battling the jihadists.

“We lost a lot of vehicles and mounted machine guns. We can’t fix or replace broken ones,” he said.

Meanwhile the rebel, the website says, was among 1,000 other affiliated rebels — then only applicants to the Pentagon’s train and equip program.

And was described by Nicholas A. Heras in a policy brief for the Washington, D.C.-based Jamestown Foundation as a “rising leader within the Syrian armed opposition who has adroitly brokered his contacts both among the anti-Assad insurgents and the anti-ISIS coalition to make the Mu’tasim Brigade one of the most reputable in the country.”

Sejry now claims that he was approached by some “Moscow representative” at the Syrian-Turkish border 10 days ago and was offered “unlimited amounts of weaponry and close air support” to fight both ISIS and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, (the rebranded al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria), in “exchange for the Mu’tasim Brigade’s transfer of loyalties from Washington to Moscow.”Sejry also claimed that he is scheduled to “have follow-up discussions with the Russians” in Istanbul, “quietly facilitated by the Turkish government”.

The rebel says that he is considering “the offer”, but mostly “to leverage more and better support from the Americans”.

And blames this change of his mindset on the Americans.

Meanwhile, he says, there was no response from the two points of contact in the US military, both Army captains, whom he earlier contacted.