syria for saturday (and london’s daily express keeps reporting a nonexistent shootdown)

Erdogan urges Russia to restrain Syria
al-Araby, Feb 21 2020

Erdogan urged Putin to halt the Syrian regime’s violence in Idlib on Friday as efforts intensified to avoid more bloodshed in the final rebel holdout. Russian airstrikes in the north-western province of Idlib are bolstering a Syrian government offensive. The Turkish presidency said in a statement after the two leaders spoke by phone:

The president during the call stressed that the regime should be restrained in Idlib and that the humanitarian crisis must be stopped.

Erdogan told Putin the solution was to return to the Sochi agreement they signed in 2018, which allowed Turkey to establish military posts across Idlib. Turkey has lost 16 military personnel this month in clashes with Syrian troops. It has reinforced its positions and called on Assad to pull his forces back. Erdogan also held a three-way call with Macron and Merkel in which he called for “concrete actions to prevent a humanitarian crisis.” With Ankara threatening an “imminent” operation against the Syrian regime, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar inspected troops gathered at the Syrian border on Friday. Erdogan spoke of establishing a “safe zone” inside Syria, adding that Turkish organisations were already building structures in the area. he said:

Our work continues. We will have a discussion with Putin. I hope we will take a beneficial step with this.

Merkel and Macron also held talks with Putin on Thursday, later calling for the fighting to end and proposing a four-way summit with Erdogan. A Kremlin spox told reporters on Friday:

The possibility of holding a summit is under discussion, but there is no decision at this time.

Also on Friday, the EU’s 27 leaders condemned Syrian government attacks, saying the offensive was “causing enormous human suffering.” They said in a statement:

The EU urges all parties to the conflict to fully respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law and to allow unimpeded and direct humanitarian access to all those in need.

Erdogan also commented on the conflict in Libya, confirming that Turkey had sent Syrian fighters to Libya to support the UN-backed government in Tripoli in its battle against Gen Khalifa Haftar. Erdogan and Putin said they were “bound to all agreements” during the call and also discussed developments in Libya, the Turkish presidency said, without giving details.

Putin & Erdogan to ‘intensify contacts’ over Syria, Feb 21 2020

Putin and Erdogan talked Syria over the phone, as their troops squared off in Idlib province. The topics of Syrian sovereignty and terrorist threat loomed large. Putin expressed “serious concern about the ongoing aggressive actions of extremist groups” and emphasized the need for “unconditional respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Syria, the Kremlin readout of Friday’s phone conversation said. Moscow and Ankara agreed to “intensify bilateral interagency consultations on Idlib,” along with intensive military contacts. It wasn’t clear how that would translate on the ground in Idlib, where Turkey keeps sending troops and tanks. Ankara’s redout provided to the Turkish press says that Erdogan told Putin:

Assad regime’s actions and the consequent humanitarian crisis must be stopped in Idlib.

Speaking to reporters in Istanbul ahead of the phone call with Putin, he said:

Unless the regime stops the persecution of the people of Idlib at this point, it is not possible to withdraw from there.

Idlib is the last remaining stronghold of militant groups that once sought to overthrow the Syrian government, with the backing of Turkey, the Toads and the West. The dominant force in the province is AQ-allied HTS/Nusra. Over the past month, the SAA has dealt a series of defeats to the militants, liberating the last occupied suburbs of Aleppo and unblocking a strategic highway to the coast. Turkey responded by sending troops and weapons into the province and manning “observation posts” established under a ceasefire agreed years ago. Moscow has pointed out that the same deal required Ankara to separate “moderate” rebels from terrorists, which never happened. There have been multiple clashes between Syrian and Turkish troops as a result of this intervention. On Thursday, a local militants launched an attack on SAA positions, supported by Turkish artillery, until Russian bombers intervened. The Turks only ceased fire after Moscow contacted Ankara via the military hotline. While Turkey insists it will not back down from Idlib, its officials also seek to allay fears that this could escalate into an open war with Russia. Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said in an interview with CNN Turk Thursday night:

We do not aim for a face-off with Russia. This is out of the question. We have done everything in our power to prevent this from happening, and we will continue to do so.

With Damascus insisting on liberating Idlib from the grip of terrorist groups that even Pindostan admits are a menace, it is unclear how that particular circle can be squared.

Russia calls reports of Syrians fleeing Idlib en masse for Turkey false
Reuters, Feb 21 2020

MOSCOW – Russia’s Defence Ministry on Friday said reports that hundreds of thousands of Syrians were fleeing Idlib in the direction of Turkey were false and urged Ankara to allow Idlib residents to enter other parts of Syria. The ministry issued its comments in a statement, saying it had been using drones and other resources to monitor the situation in Idlib. It also said that Turkey had brought large amounts of military hardware and ammunition into Idlib in recent weeks.

As Usual, Western Media Grossly Distort Syria’s Conflict
Strategic Culture, Feb 21 2020

Western news media are once again distorting the conflict in Syria with lopsided coverage this week, claiming to focus their concern on a humanitarian crisis in the northwest of the country. Outlets such as the NYT and the BBC among others claimed that 900,000 civilians are fleeing violence brought on by Syrian state forces and their Russian ally continuing an offensive against “rebels,” the implication being that responsibility for immense humanitarian suffering was due to callous Syrian and Russian military actions. The NYT described the plight of refugees with emotive words, saying, “it’s like the end of the world.” No-one doubts that there is humanitarian plight from violence and displacement. But what the Western media are engaging in is a gross and nauseating distortion of what is really going on in Syria. It is typical of the way Western corporate media have been lying about the war in that country for the past nearly nine years. It is by now untenable for Western media to spin the fictional narrative about “moderate rebels” fighting against a “cruel dictatorship”. The supposed “rebels” have vanished like the chimera they always were. What is left are the remnants of terror groups that are concentrated in northwest Syria. The dominant component is HTS/Nusra, an offshoot of AQ, like Daesh. These are internationally proscribed terrorist networks which have carried out the most hideous, barbaric cruelties against civilians. Unable any longer to launder the bloody image of the terrorists and retail them as “moderate rebels,” the Western media are now laying on the “humanitarian emotion” as a way to undermine the sovereign right of the SAA to defeat and rid the country of the terrorist scourge. The SAA has already largely eradicated this scourge from most of the country. The last remaining hold-out for the terrorists is in the northwest region of Idlib and Aleppo countryside. Many of the civilians caught up in the conflict are being used as human shields by the militant groups to prevent Syrian state forces advancing towards the final endgame. Commendably, the Syrian army and its Russian ally have deployed valor and painstaking care to liberate terror-held areas with minimal civilian casualties. Again, Western media have functioned as propagandists for the terror groups and their White Helmet agents by airing febrile claims of atrocities committed against civilians by the Syrian and Russian forces.

Two significant events happened this week, both of which were largely ignored by Western media, which gives an indication of their duplicitous political agenda. The SAA routed the terrorist groups from dozens of villages and towns in Aleppo countryside. What then followed were huge celebrations by civilians in Aleppo city, because the terrorists would no longer be able to launch deadly rocket and mortar attacks on residents. It was these attacks over the past year, in violation of countless ceasefire attempts by the government in Damascus, that finally prompted the offensive by the SAA to eliminate the terrorist remnants. The second significant event was the reopening of Aleppo international airport to flights. The airport was not able to operate, despite the city having been fully liberated at the end of 2016 by the SAA and its Russian ally. The relentless shelling by terrorist groups from the surrounding countryside meant that Syria’s second city had to keep its airport closed for the past three years, in addition to the five years before liberation. After finally clearing Aleppo province of militants this week, the city’s airport is now open for business. Life is returning to some normality. When Aleppo city was liberated in 2016, the Western media ignored the celebrations of the civilians overjoyed from at last being freed from the besieging jihadi groups which had held them under a veritable reign of terror. The Western media tried to spin that liberation as an impending massacre against civilians and “rebels” committed by the SAA and Russian forces. None of the Western media ever followed up with reports on real life in Aleppo following the liberation. The reality no doubt would have been too much of a contradiction for their fictive propaganda narrative. Likewise this week, Western media roundly ignored the realities on the ground in Syria, trying to repackage their “humanitarian crisis” fabulation.

The fact is since the beginning of the war in Mar 2011, Western governments and NATO members have been covertly arming the terror groups which have inflicted so much suffering and horror on Syria in a nefarious scheme for regime change in Damascus. The Syrian people, their government and army have bravely resisted this criminal conspiracy for the most part of a decade and are now bringing it to a final end. Russia, Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah deserve credit for their steadfast support to the Syrian nation against the foreign-backed aggression. Turkey, is currently most visibly exposed as being an accomplice with the terror groups that are being rolled up by the SAA. but FUKUS have played a dirty role in fomenting the war in Syria. Western media do not give this coverage, because the appalling culpability and criminality of Western governments is too shameful to contemplate or expose to the public. If Western media were genuinely concerned about “humanitarian crises” they would do well to report on how their governments have created the suffering and misery in Syria. Why don’t they report extensively on how Pindo military are illegally occupying the country and looting Syria’s oil fields, preventing the nation accessing its natural wealth to fund reconstruction and supply returning refugees with fuel? Why don’t Western media report on how Pindostan & Eurostan are tightening economic sanctions on Syria, further hampering the war-torn nation from reconstructing? Syria is a case study of how, despite pretensions of ethics and journalism, Western news media serve as propaganda tools. More than propaganda tools, they are complicit in the war crimes perpetrated against Syria, because they have knowingly distorted the truth to cover up for their criminal governments.

Turkey & Russia reaffirm commitment to all agreements on Syria
Mu Xuequan, Xinhua, Feb 21 2020

ANKARA – Erdogan and Putin reaffirmed their countries’ commitment to previous agreements on Syria during a phone call on Friday, the Turkish presidency said. During their discussion of the recent developments in Syria’s Idlib Province, Erdogan said the Syrian government should restrain its actions in the rebel stronghold to end the humanitarian crises, according to a presidency statement. The Sochi deal must be fully implemented for a solution in Idlib, he noted. The recent developments in Libya were also discussed in the phone conversation. The phone call comes just after Erdogan said earlier in the day that the outcome of his discussion with Putin would “determine” Turkey’s attitude toward the Idlib issue.

Syrian war pulls in major foreign actors, increasing tension
Zeina Karam, AP, Feb 21 2020

BEIRUT — In northern Syria, heavy exchanges between Syrian and Turkish troops are erupting with more frequency, threatening to escalate into full-blown conflict. Russian and Pindo convoys criss-cross each other on remote dirt roads, the tension between them on full display. Pindo troops even have had a deadly clash with Syrian gunmen troops at a checkpoint. Syria’s civil war long has provided a free-for-all battlefield for proxy fighters. But in its ninth year, it is drawing major foreign actors into direct conflict, with the threat of all-out confrontations becoming a real possibility. In the north-west, the Syrian government’s Russia-backed military offensive to recapture Idlib, the country’s last opposition-controlled region, has infuriated Ankara, which has poured in thousands of troops in response. In the north-east, Pindo troops on a murky mission to protect oil fields find themselves an increasing target as government troops exhibit more confidence. The result is a battlefield so fraught with tensions that every day brings the potential for an incident or a miscalculation that could ignite broader violence. On Thursday, Turkish forces and Turkey-backed rebels attacked government troops in Idlib, and Russian warplanes struck back. Two Turkish soldiers were killed in the incident, bringing the number of Turkish troops killed in Idlib this month to 15. Later, Turkey said it had asked Pindostan to deploy Patriot missile defense systems on Turkey’s border with Syria, to guard against possible attacks from Syrian territory. A look at the foreign actors and how they’re involved in northern Syria:

Syria’s northern neighbor was an early backer of the Syrian opposition, providing crucial logistical support as well as weapons and funding for the rebels who took up arms against Assad. Nine years later, Turkey has essentially lost that war. Idlib province, near the Turkish border, is the last region still held by the rebels. That’s why for Ankara, it has become an existential problem. The Syrian government’s rapid military advances in Idlib threaten areas of the border farther north that were captured in Turkey’s incursions. Ankara, which hosts more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees, is also worried that an attack on the provincial capital and its surroundings will push 2 million more people toward its border, putting it under enormous pressure to let some of them in. In the last two weeks, it has sent thousands of additional troops to Syria to try to stem the government’s advances, triggering clashes with Syrian government troops. So far, talks between Russia and Turkey to reduce tensions have failed to bring results. Now, Erdogan is threatening a larger operation to halt Syria’s current offensive, but to do that would be to risk a direct confrontation with Moscow that Ankara can ill-afford to have.

If there has been a constant in the Syrian war, it is Russia’s unwavering support for Assad. Russia has waged a military campaign in Syria since Sep 2015, allowing Assad’s the government to reclaim control over most of the country. The cost has been huge: Whole cities have been destroyed, mostly by indiscriminate Russian bombardment. But Syria, and its naval base in Tartus, gives Moscow a strategic foothold in the Mediterranean, and Russia is determined to go all out to protect it. Moscow has blamed Turkey for the collapse of a ceasefire in Idlib, accusing Ankara of “provoking further escalation” by continuing to offer military support for militants in violation of the 2018 agreement. Russia moved to fill the vacuum left by Pindostan last year after Trump ordered the pullout of Pindo forces in north-eastern Syria, deploying its troops to keep apart Syrian Kurdish and Turkish forces. That made Moscow the ultimate power broker, mediator and winner of the war, maintaining cooperation with all the players, including the Kurds, Turkey and even Pindostan, with whom it operates a so-called deconfliction line to defuse tensions.

While Trump ordered Pindo troops to withdraw from Syria last year, his military commanders and advisers later convinced him to keep a scaled-back force to protect Kurdish-controlled oil fields and facilities form falling into the hands of militants from Daesh. Apparently there are about 750 Pindo troops in eastern Syria, spread across a swath of land that stretches more than 150 km from Deir el-Zour to the border region east of al-Hassakeh. They patrol a region crowded with other troops, including the Russians, Syrian government troops and even Iranian proxy forces not too far away. But it is clear who has the upper hand. Earlier this month, Pindo troops shot and killed a man after their convoy came under attack near a checkpoint manned by pro-Assad government forces on a remote road east of the city of Qamishli in north-eastern Syria. The convoy was attacked by stones and firebombs, and a man was seen firing at the convoy with a rifle. A Pindo vehicle got stuck in the dirt, apparently having veered into a ditch, while another had a flat tire. At one point in the melee, a Russian army convoy arrived on the scene, apparently to mediate. Images showed vehicles bearing Russian, Pindo and Syrian flags all in one frame. The Russian Defense Ministry said the arrival of Russian troops prevented “further escalation of the conflict.”

Here is the Daily Express’ second effort along these lines. I posted the first one yesterday:

WW3: How Putin dubbed Erdogan ‘accomplice in terrorism’ after shock jet strike
Charlie Bradley, Daily Express, Feb 21 2020

WW3 fears have surrounded the conflict on Syria for years – but, while many feared a Pindo-Russia flashpoint, Putin looks set to clash with supposed ally Turkey and its leader Erdogan. That is because yesterday Turkish-backed rebels in Syria shot down a Russian reconnaissance plane worth £7m, sparking fears of renewed tensions in the Middle East. There are also reports suggesting the revolutionary forces had destroyed two Syrian government tanks during violent clashes, bringing rivals Erdogan and Assad to the brink of conflict. Both Damascus and Ankara have enjoyed friendships with Russia, with the former a long-standing ally and Turkey emerging as a surprising partner given its NATO membership. Given Putin’s unwavering support for the Syrian regime, his sights will likely to turn to the Turkish leader, whom he has previously described as an “accomplice in terrorism” during a remarkably similar dispute. In Nov 2015, A Turkish Air Force F-16 fighter jet shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 near the Syria-Turkey border. Ankara claimed that the Russian aircraft was targeted because it had encroached on Turkish airspace by around 1.4 miles. Turkish forces also said that they warned the aircraft to change course 10 times in a five-minute period, but Moscow’s Defence Ministry said that its plane had never left Syrian airspace. Pindostan backed its NATO ally, wading in to argue that the Kremlin’s Russian forces had violated Turkish territory, and that the Turks gave multiple warnings to the pilot, to which they received no response and released audio recordings of the warnings they had broadcast. Putin was enraged by the dispute, and the prior progress made in relations between Russia and Turkey quickly deteriorated. He called the incident “a stab in the back by the accomplices of terrorists” and vowed it would have “serious consequences” for Russian-Turkish relations. Faschingstein’s intervention into the flashpoint was symptomatic of the growing rivalry in the Middle East, as Pindostan and Russia battled for supremacy in the region. While Putin defiantly backed Assad, the White House opposed his presidency citing alleged use of CW on his own people, accusations which have been echoed by the UN. Aside from the Middle East, Moscow and Faschingstein have also been embroiled in a naval arms race as Pindostan boasts nuclear missile-armed submarines capable of “ending the Human race,” in the words of defence magazine National Interest. The outlet also claims they are the “most deadly weapons mankind has ever devised.”

One Comment

  1. Posted February 22, 2020 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    (and london’s daily express keeps reporting a nonexistent shootdown)

    it must be incredibly exciting to witness a massive dogfight among stealth planes, invisible to naked eye, inaudible to naked ear, as they swoop, barrel roll and fire ghostly missiles at each other, their crashes to the ground only accessible through a ha’aretz subscription.

    by deception you shall separate mensch from untermensch.

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