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September 26, 2016 / 23 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Kurds’

Another US-Russian Ceasefire Deal for Syria, Again

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

U.S. Secretary of State and Russian Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov shook hands Friday on a deal to impose a new cease-fire in Syria after marathon talks in Geneva. More than half a million Syrians have died since the start of the savage civil war that has raged in the country since March 2011.

The truce is scheduled to begin Monday together with the start of the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

But few have faith the deal will hold up for more than a few minutes.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA), itself little more than a name on paper for a collection of secular opposition groups backed by the West, quickly dismissed the possibility that this time the deal would bring peace.

Fares al-Bayoush, head of the FSA’s Northern Division group, pointed out that Russia and Syrian government troops had not complied with the previous cease-fire. Likewise, Captain Abdul Salam Abdul Razak, military spokesperson for the Nour al-Din al-Zinki Brigades opposition group said the agreement would only give government troops the opportunity to gather forces and reinforce troops in Aleppo with more Iranian-backed military forces.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also welcomed the agreement but reminded that “broken promises” had been heard before, The Guardian reported. “I call on all parties to the Syria conflict and all countries with influence upon them to do what is needed to end violence and lift sieges,” he said. “In particular, it’s vital that the regime in Damascus now delivers on its obligations, and I call on Russia to use all its influence to ensure this happens.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Kerry by phone on Saturday that Ankara welcomes the cease-fire. Two and a half weeks ago, Turkey launched its own invasion of Syria after dealing with an endless flood of Syrian refugees through its southeastern border, and numerous “overflow” attacks from the war. Now Ankara has said it will provide humanitarian aid to Aleppo, in northern Syria, in cooperation with the United Nations, following the cease-fire.

It’s not the first time such a cease-fire has been proposed the same two parties; just six months ago, a similar truce was made, and violated repeatedly by both sides almost immediately. Before that, the two sides worked out a cease-fire deal in 2013. That one didn’t happen, either.

Kerry told reporters at a joint news conference with Lavrov, “The United States is going the extra mile here because we believe Russia and my colleague have the capability to press the Assad regime to stop this conflict and come to the table and make peace.

“Out of complexity in Syria, there is emerging a simple choice between war and peace,” he said.

The plan is for the U.S. and Russia to establish a joint operation center to coordinate military efforts against the Da’esh (ISIS) and Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organizations.

Russia informed President Bashar al-Assad about the agreement and, according to Lavrov, the regime agreed to comply. Although the terms were documented and agreed to by both sides, they would not be made public, he told reporters, according to the UK-based newspaper, The Telegraph.

The deal rides on Russia’s ability and willingness to stop attacks by the Assad regime and its allies, and the same cooperation by the United States to halt attacks by “moderate” opposition forces who unite with Al Nusra and other radical Islamists when it suits their needs.

Other forces that have become involved in the Syrian conflict include Iran and Hezbollah, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and the Kurds.

It’s a coin toss whether anyone will actually pay more than five minutes’ attention to the terms of the deal in Damascus this time — and some bookie is probably making good money on the estimates of how long the quiet will last, or if it will even be quiet at all by Monday night.

Hana Levi Julian

The Betrayal of Syria’s Kurds

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

{Originally posted to the JNS website}

From Moscow to Washington, we are told that the principle enemy in the Middle East is the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization. At the same time, the outside powers that have intervened in Syria’s horrendous conflict are waging a phantom war against IS as a cover for separate military campaigns that end up empowering these very same barbarians.

We’ve known that the Russians and the Iranians have been following this strategy for at least three years. Both Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and the Islamist mullahs in Tehran have backed the regime of President Bashar al Assad to the hilt, with the tacit approval of the United States. As the Wall Street Journal reported recently, the Obama administration’s determination to secure last year’s flimsy nuclear agreement with the Iranians meant that the “red lines” the president declared in Syria over Assad’s use of chemical weapons turned out to be a more anemic color. The Iranians got their deal and all the financial benefits that went with it, while the peoples of Syria and the entire region were forced to realize that, under Obama, the much vaunted American empire is actually what Chairman Mao [Zedong] once called a paper tiger.

Just as the war against Islamic State has, for Russia and Iran, been a war to keep Assad in power and extend the territory under his control, so it is with Turkey, which last week sent its troops over the border into Syria. The Turks say they are targeting IS, but in the same way that the Russians and Iranians have turned their firepower on civilian targets and non-Islamist rebels alike – strengthening IS by default – Turkey’s real agenda in Syria is to crush the burgeoning Kurdish national movement in the north and east of that country.

The visceral hostility of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Kurdish aspirations has been well documented. In the wake of July’s failed military coup, Erdogan has banked the messages of support from foreign leaders, particularly in the United States, to launch a crackdown on the universities and the press, and to continue the demonization of Turkey’s own Kurdish minority as a fifth column threatening the country’s integrity.

On the military front, the Turks have long been concerned by the successes of the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria, claiming that these fighters are indistinguishable from the militants of the PKK, who have been fighting Ankara’s rule in the south-east of Turkey for decades. The US it should be said, does not share this view, and regards the YPG as the most able and courageous fighters in that part of the Middle East. “[W]e draw clear delineation between the PKK and the Syrian Kurds, as I said, who are part of the many groups that are fighting against Daesh,” US State Department spokesman John Toner explained on July 2.” Toner added that Washington had been in dialogue with the Turks over its support “for those Kurdish forces who are, frankly, very capable forces fighting to remove Daesh from its foothold in northern Syria.”

And yet now that Turkey is attacking an ally of the US, the Obama administration is restricting itself to verbal criticism. Defense Secretary Ash Carter is one of several officials to have called on both Turkey and its local allies and the Syrian Kurds to concentrate on defeating IS, rather than each other. But Secretary of State John Kerry has already shifted the balance towards the Turks. Speaking at an August 26 press conference in Geneva with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, Kerry played down the US relationship with the YPG, speaking of a “limited engagement” with “a component of Kurdish fighters on a limited basis.”

These are, frankly, mealy-mouthed words, given the central role played by the Kurds in liberating the town of Manbij, just south of the border with Turkey, from IS. It also shamefully ignores that the YPG is the only military force in Syria to have carried out a humanitarian operation, rescuing thousands of sick and dying Yazidis in the Sinjar region from further massacres and other outrages, including the kidnapping of young girls, by IS terrorists in the winter of 2015.

On top of that, the US now looks like it has been blindsided by the Turkish offensive, thereby delivering another blow to America’s standing in the region. The State Department behaves as if it really believes that war against IS can be separated from the other challenges in the region, whereas a successful policy needs to deal with the unresolved issues that allowed IS to flourish in the first place.

Chiefly, this means setting the removal of the Assad regime as a specific goal, and seeking a political solution that will permit all the nations and ethnicities in northern Syria – Arabs, Kurds and Turkomans among them – to live with a minimum of conflict. As long as Turkey carries out its aggression against Syria under the pretext of pushing the Kurds east of the Euphrates river, and as long as Iran and Russia continue to back Assad with impunity, Syria’s agony will continue.

We have been in this position many times before. Some might remember that in September 2013, Putin penned an op-ed for the New York Times in which he praised Obama for seeing the opportunity behind “the Syrian government’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction.”  We all know where that led us.

The next American president will face a stark choice. Either succumbing to a regional alignment that now includes Turkey, which has abandoned its longstanding aim of demanding Assad’s removal, alongside Iran and Russia, or striking out on a different path to end Syria’s suffering and the extraordinary instability that goes with it.

 

Ben Cohen

Kurds Shoot Rockets at Turkish Airport, Kill 11 Police in Truck Bomb Attack

Sunday, August 28th, 2016

Turkish authorities blame the Kurdish PKK of shooting rockets at a civilian airport in Diyarbakir in southwestern Turkey Saturday night, sending passengers and staff scrambling for shelter, Dogan news agency reported. There were no casualties. According to Dogan, four rockets were shot at a police checkpoint outside the airport’s VIP lounge just before midnight. According to Turkish TV, the rockets did not hit their target but landed instead in an open field nearby. Diyarbakir governor Huseyin Aksoy told the TV news channel there was no disruption in the flights schedule.

The PKK has been fighting the Turkish government since 1984, and is considered a terrorist organization by the US and the EU.

On Friday morning, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim reported that 11 police officers were killed and 78 wounded, including three civilians, in a truck-bomb attack in the Cizre district of the southeastern province of Şırnak.

According to Dogan, the attack took place at a police check point outside a riot police station in the Konak neighborhood on the Cizre-Şırnak highway. After some shooting, the bomb on the truck was detonated, destroying the riot police building.

Speaking at a press conference with his Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borissov in Istanbul, Yildirim vowed to overcome all attacks against his country, saying, “No terrorist group could hold Turkey captive,” and “the brotherhood will not be damaged.”

“Let our nation know that we have opened a total war against these terrorist groups,” Yildirim announced, then quoted Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founding father of modern Turkey, who paraphrased on Patrick Henry when he declared, “Give me independence or give me death.” Yildirim added that “these vile people” would get their just deserts.

David Israel

11 Killed in Car Bombing Attack Near Istanbul University

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Seven police officers and four civilians were killed and 36 others were wounded in a massive explosion Tuesday morning at the Vezneciler metro station in the Beyazit district in Istanbul. Three of the injured were in critical condition.

The attack took place on the first day of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, in a nation led by a government that has grown increasingly observant of Islamic cultural mores and restrictions.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nachshon, no Israelis were killed or injured in the terror attack, “according to the information we have from our Consulate.”

A car bomb detonated at around 8:35 am as a police bus passed a police station while heading to Istanbul University for regular duty, according to Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin.

Police evacuated the area and exams scheduled for the day at the nearby university were cancelled.

Security was increased in the Vezneciler neighborhood where the attack took place, and bomb disposal teams were sent to the site. Gunshots were heard immediately following the blast, the Anadolu news agency reported.

There has not yet been any claim of responsibility for the attack. However, Turkey has been a prime target for the Kurdish Workers’ Party PKK terror organization, as well as Da’esh (ISIS) in recent months.

Hana Levi Julian

ISIS Suspected of Using Mustard Gas

Saturday, November 7th, 2015

The Islamic State (ISIS), which has reached dangerously close to Israel’s Golan Heights border, appears to have obtained and used chemical weapons, according to a Reuters report quoting the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

ISIS was not directly accused of using mustard gas that killed two people, one of them a baby, but the gang of beheaders is the obvious suspect.

Reports of disappearing stockpiles of the Assad regime’s chemical and biologic weapons, banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention, surfaced before the government said it removed them.

Assad’s forces have deployed chemical weapons several times, but even more frightening is the ISIS getting its hands on them.

The OPCW report stated that mustard gas was used near Aleppo in August. A source told Reuters that either ISIS has been able to produce mustard gas or has captured part of Assad’s chemical weapons that the regime still holds.

Other reports also point to the probability that ISIS is using chemical warfare. It was accused by Kurdish officials of firing mortar shells with a mustard agent in clashes in northern Iraq.

The Obama administration on Friday expressed its concern over the possible use of chemical weapons.

A Rasmussen poll released Friday shows that the chaos in Syria has leaped into one of the major worries of Americans, spooked by ISIS beheadings and growing Islamic radical violence in the United States.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

1 American Killed in Effort to Rescue Iraqi ISIS Hostages

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

A rescue force comprised of Kurdish and American forces stormed a compound in northern Iraq where ISIS was holding prisoner members of Iraqi security forces, Army and police.

American helicopters and American and Kurdish special operations forces were reportedly successful in freeing 70 prisoners. Fox News reported that at least 10 ISIS hostage takers were killed during the operation, and at least five were themselves taken hostage.

The Iraqi prisoners were being held near the town of Hawija, an ISIS outpost in northern Iraq. American airstrikes bombed roads leading to the ISIS prison just before the special forces commando teams landed.

“People were chained to walls,” a military source told Fox News. Another senior defense source said that a “mass atrocity was averted.”

According to the Pentagon, rescuers “deliberately planned” the operation, and moved in when it was apparent that ISIS hostage takers were planning to kill the hostages.

This was the first known American commando operation in Iraq in the fight against ISIS. The soldier was the first American fatality in Iraq since the U.S. withdrew from that nation in 2011.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

ISIS used Mustard Gas on Kurds, Likely Obtained from Syria

Friday, August 14th, 2015

U.S. officials said on Thursday, Aug. 13, that Islamic State terrorists this week used mustard gas against Kurdish forces in Iraq.

Mustard gas, or sulfur mustard, is a type of chemical warfare agent that is not found naturally in the environment and which today has no medical use. It blisters the skin and may lead to blindness, adverse effects to the respiratory and digestive tracts and bone marrow abnormalities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No antidotes currently exist for mustard gas exposure.

And where did ISIS get that mustard gas? They probably obtained it from Syria, Wall Street Journal reporter Adam Entous said he was told by U.S. officials.

CBS is reporting that a senior Department of Defense official said the mustard gas was either “leftover from Saddam Hussein stockpiles” or “were brought over from Syria.” Of course, it could be the same chemicals from both sources, as Hussein was believed to have whisked stockpiles of chemical weapons from Iraq and hid them in Syria.

In 2013, Syria’s Bashar Assad’s government admitted having caches of mustard gas as well as other chemical warfare agents.

At that time, U.S. President Barack Obama claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin removed Syria’s chemical weapons, but U.S. intelligence now admits Syria was able to hide some chemical weapons reserves from international inspectors.

Saddam Hussein also used mustard gas against the Kurds in 1988.

The Kurds claim that ISIS used chlorine gas, another chemical weapon, against them in a Jan. 23 suicide truck bomb attack in northern Iraq.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/isis-used-mustard-gas-on-kurds-likely-obtained-from-syria/2015/08/14/

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