Gallery

War Chronicle 19-February-2016

1A. Turkish troops crossed into Rojava

1B. Russia warns Turks – “We may bomb your troops”

2. Russia’s UN Rep. provided names of ISIS recruiters that operate in Turkey’s Antalya

3A. Ankara Bombing Fails To Achieve Strategic Changes

3B. 2,000 fewer rebels in Idlib Province – by Colonel W. Patrick Lang

4. A Silk Road train in times of New Cold War By M K Bhadrakumar – 16 February 2016

5A. Syrian army advances into Raqqa province in major anti-ISIS assault

5B. Syrian Army Begins Major Advance into ISIS HQ Raqqa

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1A. Turkish troops crossed into Rojava at 04:22 hours Thursday 18 February 2016 Confirmed at 09:32 Turkish time by ANF News in Turkey

http://anfturkce.net/kurdistan/turk-askerleri-rojava-ya-gecti

Dozens of military vehicles belonging to the Turkish army have crossed into Syria’s Afrin/Efrin Canton and passed through the village square of Ekbis which is 200 meters into Rojava (Kurdish Syria) soil.

The troops were then spotted digging a trench between two villages, known as Sorka and Meidan Ekbis.

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1B Feb. 18 Syria War Updates – RUSSIA WARNS TURKS – “WE MAY BOMB YOUR TROOPS”

Post by U.S.Reporter – 18 Feb 2016 https://www.superstation95.com/index.php/world/909

After yesterday’s “terrorist” bombing in Ankara, the Turkey gov’t is on the warpath; claiming fingerprints from the dead car bomber’s body prove it was Kurds from Syria! They are moving troops toward the Syria border.

Just a couple of problems: The car bomb was said to contain 1,000 pounds of C-4 plastic explosives when it detonated; there would not have been anything left of the car bomber for them to obtain fingerprints from! On top of that, the Turkey gov’t made this “discovery” only 6 hours after the bombing took place, and the individual they CLAIM is responsible, just happens to be a Kurd, from Syria, who is a known “YPG” fighter. The exact people that have been assisting Syria and Russia to hunt down and kill ISIS terrorists!

Turkey has been desperately trying to build a case to send ground troops into Syria because the Syrian Arab Army, the Russians and the Kurds have been blasting the terrorists to hell; and Turkey is openly supporting ISIS and Al-Qaida terrorists! Want proof? Here it is

TURKEY DELIVERS AMMUNITION TO JIHADIS!!!!

This video, taken in Syria TODAY, shows five tractor trailers from the Turkey Regular Army, crossing the border into an ISIS-controlled area of Syria to DELIVER AMMUNITION to the Jihadis! ! ! !

This video was taken by reporters embedded on the ground in the war zone. Their credibility is 100% with us. As with any employer, liars get fired. As such, we completely rely on the authenticity of the video and its description, sent us us at great personal peril.

Turkey is helping ISIS and Al-Qaida terrorists inside Syria. This video at is proof https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BA37nW0spRk&feature=youtu.be .

Turkish Military Trucks caught sneaking 5 tractor-trailer loads of ammunition to Jihadist Terrorists inside Syria! 18 Feb. 2016  

In other developments: (All times are Eastern US Time on 18 Feb. and represent the time that WE received the updates at SuperStation95)

The following timeline is from https://www.superstation95.com/index.php/world/909

(Go daily to https://www.superstation95.com and look for the live coverage updates for that day)

At 04:28 hours  on 18 February 2016 CONFIRMED  KINSIBA HAS BEEN LIBERATED By The Syrian Arab Army, The YPG and the SDF –  Jihadists on the run!

04:32   DIPLOMATIC LANGUAGE BECOMING VERY UNDIPLOMATIC!  US will regret its support of the Syrian Kurds, but it’ll be too late’- Turkish Ambassador Tweet

to which Russia replied:

“Turkey will regret its support for terrorists, but it will be too late”

 05:00 Syria Democratic Forces #QSD (SDF) Condemns #terrorist_attack in #Ankara

05:11  Hundreds of armed rebels cross from Turkey into Syria, says European monitor

 05:25  Turkish PM says country has every right to take any measures it sees fit against Assad regime, which is responsible for Ankara attack. (Hyperbole: Would someone please put a straight jacket on this nut?)

05:35  500 extremists cross into Aleppo under Turkish supervision

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/29075/

05:53  Davutoglu: Turkey reserves the right to take any measure against Syrian regime

SYRIA REPLY:  A hot war is coming very soon if Turkey tries anything.

Also, Hundreds of Syria rebels re-enter country from Turkey to reinforce trapped insurgents – rebel sources
“On Sunday, the Syrian government had said Turkish forces were among 100 gunmen who had entered Syria accompanied by 12 pick-up trucks mounted with heavy machine guns, in an ongoing supply operation to insurgents.” [http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-mideast-crisis-syria-aleppo-idUKKCN0VR0RH] (Which Turkey previously – and publicly – DENIED!  They just got caught lying!)

06:24 Tiger Forces capture Al-Siin while surrounding ISIS at the Aleppo Thermal Plant

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/tiger-forces-capture-al-siin-while-surrounding-the-aleppo-thermal-plant/

06:41 #RuAF airstrikes Jihadis in Bani Zayd in Aleppo

06:55  al-Nusra (Al Qaeda): “We are moving from Hama to N. Aleppo country side to support our brothers”

06:57  Jaish al-Thuwar (part of Kurdish-led SDF), reports heavy clashes with #ISIS near Qere Qozaq north of Sarrin #Syria

07:10 #Breaking Turkey summons ambassadors of permanent UNSC members following Ankara terror attack.

07:20  Massive explosions rocking Tal Abyad western countryside believed to be Turkey artillery shelling YPG positions there

07:23 Breaking: Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launch “Wrath of Khaboor” op to take #ISIS-held Shaddadi in East Syria. 

08:44 Village of Ghawnat/Ghuna liberated by SDF, 25km NE of Shaddadi.

09:08 BREAKING: SDF have seized the road between Mosul and ISIS held Shaddadi.

09:18   Obama admin rejects plans to hit ISIS’ Libyan capital

09:32  Russian Navy Deploys the “Novocherkassk “142 through the Bosphorus today en route to Tartus Syria

 

09:46  Breaking : #SAA Tiger Forces captures Jeb Ghabishah in E.#Aleppo

09:57  At least 38 killed in U.S.-led strikes in Syria’s Hasaka over 48 hours to support SDF/YPG   (Is the U.S. finally switching sides?  Are we Finally beginning to back the good guys ??  Is this a direct slap in the face to Turkey who is demanding the US regard YPG as “terrorists????) 

10:08  Breaking Massive explosion rocked eastern parts of #Qamishli near #Turkey borders.. #Syria. Turkey artillery rounds just hit #YPG positions in border town Ras al-Ayn.. #Hasakah #Syria  (The good guys just took a very bad, direct hit, from Turkey’s army.  )

10:24 AM  U.S. tanks and artillery sent to Norwegian caves
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Marines are prepositioning battle tanks, artillery and logistics equipment inside Norwegian caves as the U.S. pushes to station equipment near the NATO-Russia frontier.

“Any gear that is forward-deployed both reduces cost and speeds up our ability to support operations in crisis, so we’re able to fall in on gear that is ready-to-go and respond to whatever that crisis may be,” Col. William Bentley, operations officer for the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, said in a statement Friday on the Norwegian deployment that called the caves classified.
The deployment of new equipment to the Cold War-era caves comes amid renewed tensions between NATO and Russia. Russia shares a 121.6-mile long border with Norway. The border was heavily militarized during the Cold War, and the Russian navy’s Northern Fleet is in Murmansk, about 100 miles from the border.
In October, Norway’s Chief of Defense, Adm. Haakon Bruun-Hanssen, told reporters that Russia has “shown that they are willing to use military force to achieve political ambitions.”
The Norwegian Defense Ministry did not respond to requests to comment for this story.

10:35 Syria – Syrian Army Targeting ” ISIS ” Terrorist Positions Around The Clock, In The Current Offensive Towards Raqqa 

10:37   #Russia has promised to protect #Kurdish fighters in #Syria in case of a ground offensive by #Turkey http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-02-18/kurds-warn-turkey-of-big-war-with-russia-if-troops-enter-Syria

 10:55  Turkey has reportedly shelled YPG controlled Ras Al-Ayn in Hasakah countryside Syria

11:39  Erdogan’s son probed for money laundering in Italy

http://news.yahoo.com/erdogans-son-probed-money-laundering-italy-091916115.html

12:02  US Air Force Central Command has notified #Russia where its special forces are in #Syria PentagonPresSec says this was done “out of the abundance of safety” to keep special operators safe from Russian air strikes in Syria.  http://m.military.com/daily-news/2016/02/18/us-told-russia-secret-locations-american-special-forces-in-syria.html?ESRC=todayinmil.sm

12:38 ISIS on a huge offensive to retake border town Tal Abyad; terrorist Jihadis of ISIS said to be desperate to re-open supply lines from Turkey into Syria.

12:50   Syrian Army retakes last militant stronghold in #Latakia province

13:07 Syrian Foreign Ministry: German Chancellor Merkel’s proposal for no-fly zone aims to protect terrorists

13:22 Turkey’s army artillery open intense fire on YPG targets all over northern Aleppo countyside

BREAKING White House: We have not determined responsibility for attacks in Turkey. (oooooh another slap in the face to Turkey ! ! !)

13:37  #Turkey army now shelling: Tal Rifaat, Deir Jameel, Menagh, Ayn Daqnah, Maranaz, Alqamiyah, Kafr Anton, Nsiriyah, Malikiyah, Kafr Nasih, Afrin (in north Syria)

13:45  Turkish forces facilitated the transfer from one front to another over several nights, covertly escorting rebels as they exited Syria’s Idlib governorate, traveled four hours across Turkey, and re-entered Syria to support the embattled rebel stronghold of Azaz, the sources said.
“We have been allowed to move everything from light weapons to heavy equipment, mortars and missiles and our tanks,” Abu Issa, a commander in the Levant Front, the rebel group that runs the border crossing of Bab al-Salama, told Reuters, giving his alias and talking on condition of anonymity.   Now, even the Jihadis and the rebels are publicly admitting that Turkey is giving them tremendous logisitial military support.

13:51 Current estimate and it is an estimate is that Turkey are putting fire in to around 20 locations. Intense incoming shells at all those locations

13:53 IRGC says its elite commando unit is on the ground in #Syria with permission of Syria govt. http://www.radiofarda.com/content/f14_irgc_iran_syria_war/27560526.html

13:58 Russian drone downed near Syrian Turkey border

14:01  Reports #Turkey has recommenced intense shelling of SDF in northern Aleppo.

14:07 PM   FLASH  US Spox Kirby says Ankara attack is an open question. Rejects Turkish PM Davutoglu’s “certain link w YPG” assertion.  (Direct, public slap in the face to terrorist-supporting-Turkey!) 

14:12 PM #Washington has informed #Russia not to attack a special #USA army force currently operating in northeast #Syria (Translation: Go bomb those backstabbing turks and their army. We’ll be watching from over here.)

14:18 ISIS offensive at #Maheen ends in failure; Syrian Army recaptures https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/isis-offensive-at-maheen-ends-in-failure/

14:52  SAA advancing against Daeshi terrorists in Southeast Homs Countryside today

15:13  “Turkish State started has now begun attacking THEIR OWN (Kurdish) CITIZENS inside THEIR OWN cities/towns/villages of Gever, Hezex, Sur, simultaneously. YPS on resistance. ”  (This appears to be the start of actual ethnic cleansing!)

15:41  Russia warns Assad not to snub Syria ceasefire plan  – (Ohhhhh, a little public smack from Russia to Syria to remind them not to get too impressed with themselves.  This is good.  Between what the US did to Turkey (publicly) today, and now Russia doing this to Syria (publicly) it looks as though the two super-powers have decided to put an end to this Syria trouble and keep all the little ones in-line.)  If so, this is very good news, but sadly, at this point, it is only SPECULATION on our part here at SuperStation95)

15:49 IS launch another assault on Mare’ in north #Aleppo countryside

16:36 Dozens of Turkish military vehicles cross Syria border, dig trenches – reporthttps://www.rt.com/news/332924-turkish-vehicles-cross-syria/

16:42 #YPG has fired 8 rockets on Turkey’s army border posts near Afrin in effort to force Turkey to stop firing artillery shells at them!

16:54  A school has been shelled by the Turkish Army in Efrin.

16:59 Footage from a hospital in Efrin as wounded civilians are treated, they were injured by Turkish shelling. https://twitter.com/DrPartizan_/status/700438640783130625

16:49 Turkish warplanes intensive raids on PKK strongholds in the mountains side of Dihok and Erbil provinces inside IRAQ ! ! !   It appears the Turkish government is now attacking ALL Kurdish people, be they inside or outside or Turkey.  In Diplomatic parlance, this is described as “Going Full Retard.”  If Turkey does not stop this aggression, it may fall upon We in the US to stop them;  after all, Turkey is OUR dog, if its gotten rabbies and gone crazy, it will be up to us to put it down.

17:23 Syrian Air Force destroys ISIS HQ in Deir Ezzor https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/syrian-air-force-destroys-isis-hq-in-deir-ezzor/

17:41  Damascus rejects proposals for no-fly zone in Syria, 

17:00 PM NATO:  Turkey artillery are shelling the Kurdish city of Afrin (Northern Syria). Afrin is not even close to any battlefield, let alone ISIS.  There is no legitimate military or terrorist target in Afrin, just Kurd civilians.  Turkey appears to be carrying out ETHNIC CLEANSING.

18:16 PM  A lot of military air assets are leaving UK!!!!   Inside info:   Live op

Tankers, UK Tornados and American F-15’s  leaving from Mildenhall.

Additional F-15’s leaving from RAF Lakenheath

18:40     US F-15 Declared In-Flight EMERGENCY over southern England 

(FlightEmergency Squawking #7700 US Air Force #USAF ATILA1 from RAF Lakenheath) 

https://www.superstation95.com/index.php/world/909 Email U.S.Reporter@protonmail.com

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2. Russia’s Permanent Representative at the UN Vitaly Churkin provided names of ISIS recruiters that operate in Turkey’s Antalya – http://tass.ru/en/politics/857508

THE UNITED NATIONS, February 18. /TASS/. Turkey may provide training to terrorists of the Islamic State terrorist group (outlawed in Russia) not only for fighting in Syria but for their further possible transfer to Russia, Russia’s Permanent Representative at the UN Vitaly Churkin said in a letter to the world organization’s Security Council.
“Reportedly, representatives of ISIL – with the help from the Turkish intelligence services – have established an extensive network in Antalya for the recruitment of individuals who have arrived in Turkey from the post-Soviet States, to enable their participation in the Syrian conflict and possible transfer to Russia,” says the letter posted on the UN Official Documents System Search on Wednesday.

Churkin provided names of recruiters, with natives of Russia and Azerbaijan among them.

“They are led by a Russian Federation national, Ruslan Rastyamovich Khaibullov (also known as Baris Abdul or by the pseudonym ‘The Teacher’), born on 1 April 1978 in Tatarstan. He lives with his family in Antalya. He has a Turkish permanent residence permit,” he wrote in the letter.

Recruitment “takes place with the knowledge of the temporary detention center administration” in Antalya.

“If a detainee agrees to accept Islam and engage in terrorist activity, the recruiters promise to ‘make a deal’ with the Turkish law enforcement agencies and offer, free of charge, the services of a Turkish lawyer, Tahir Tosolar,” the diplomat said.

In the meantime, another Turkish national named Sultan Kekhursaev, a Chechen, makes visits to those detention centers as well.

Militants are transferred to Syria and Yemen

Russia’s envoy said that in September 2014 a group of over 1,000 fighters of the Islamic State terrorist group, “who had come from countries in Europe and Central Asia” were allowed to cross into Syria from Turkey in the locality of at Alikaila (Gaziantep).

The routes of militants’ crossings pass in the vicinity of the Turkish-Syrian border through Antakya, Reyhanl·, Topaz, Sanl·urfa and Hatay.

Besides, since last December the Turkish intelligence services have organized “an air route for moving ISIL fighters from Syria through Turkey to Yemen using Turkish military air transport,” the letter says.

“An alternative means of transporting fighters is by sea to the Yemeni port of Aden,” Churkin said.

Besides, Churkin mentions in the letter training camps in the Turkish province of Hatay, where the country’s intelligence services had assisted to set up camps “to gather illegal migrants and provide training in preparation for the dispatch of extremist gangs to Syria.”

Rehabilitation of militants and supplies of weapons

Russia’s ambassador to the UN pointed out that the militants wounded in Syria had been undergoing treatment and were provided with rest places in Turkey’s areas neighboring Syria. Thus, in Gaziantep “at least 700 fighters” underwent rehabilitation.

Along with this, Churkin exposed a scheme of weapons supplies to terrorists in Syria through Turkish funds – Insan Hak Ve Hurriyetleri Ve Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), Imkander and Oncu Nesil Insani Yardim Dernegi.

Supplies of weapons, military hardware and ammunition “are arriving from abroad via the Turkish port of Iskenderun,” he said. Then the military equipment is transported from there through the Hatay Province (Oncupinar border crossing) to the Syrian cities of Aleppo and Idlib on the trucks belonging to these Turkish funds. Churkin listed the vehicle registration plates in his letter. Later on, in Syria the weapons and ammunition are distributed among Turkmen fighters.

Russia’s envoy said that weapons and medicines were transported through the Ceylanp·nar border checking point in the Reyhanl· district.

On September 15, 2014 the shipment was escorted via the Turkish territory “by a vehicle carrying MIT personnel (Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization eds. TASS).”
http://tass.ru/en/politics/857508

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3A. Ankara Bombing Fails To Achieve Strategic Changes

Posted by b on 18 February 2016 at http://www.moonofalabama.org/

The bombing in Ankara yesterday killed 27 mostly military people. It was a big car bomb and a suicide attack.The Turkish government claims that the person who did this was one Saleh Nejar and also claims that he is connected to the Syrian Kurdish group YPG.

There is no way to verify this. But the YPG has so far never used any car bombs or done any suicide attacks. It never touched any target in Turkey. It officially denied to have taken any part in it.

The Turkish group PKK has done vehicle bomb attacks and a few suicide attacks but not in Ankara or any other major west-Turkish city. Its attacks are usually operational, not strategic like this one.

In the last Turkish version of its magazine the Islamic State had called for attacks in Turkey and on Turkish soldiers. It is the entity that has most to win through such an attack that would predictably be blamed on the Kurds. It is the most plausible culprit.

The attack could also have been arranged by the Turkish secret service MIT. But the number and type of casualties seems to be too high and valuable for a stage-managed false flag attack.

The Turkish government first claimed that that the PKK was responsible for the attack and send fighter jets into the Qandil mountains in Iraq to bomb some PKK positions. The Turkish Prime Minister then blamed the Syrian YPK and then the Syrian President Assad. Next will be Russia, the Jews and the Illuminati.

The Turkish government called in the ambassadors of the permanent members of the UN Security Council to present its evidence. A “western diplomat” told the Wall Street Journal that the evidence shown was “not conclusive”. That is the diplomatese expression for “bullshit”. The Turkish attempt to use the attack to change the U.S. and EU relations to the YPK failed. The YPK and its associated Arab and Turkmen forces is a very valuable asset for the U.S. to fight the Islamic State. It will refrain from condemning it as long as that is the case.

The YPG groups in west Syria are fighting together with others under the label Syrian Democratic Forces. These and the mysterious additional attendants are pressing Jihadi forces in the Azaz pocket at the Turkish border. They are now seeing more resistance. The Turks use artillery to protect the Jihadis in Azaz and the number of enemies has grown. One “rebel” tells Reuters that 2,000 “rebels” with some tanks came from Idleb through Turkey to Azaz. That number is dubious. The British MI6 outlet SOHR as well as a Turkish pro government daily put the numbers at 350 on Monday and another 500 on Wednesday. To transport the tanks through Turkey would likely have been too much a hassle. I doubt that any reached Azaz.

I suspect that many of these “rebels” in Azaz are actually Turks of some radical nationalist and Islamist faction as well as Grey Wolf fascists which have strong connections to the MIT. Pictures show such “rebels” in Latakia with Turkish and Islamic State flags and in Azaz with their typical Grey Wolf hand sign.

The more “rebels” join the fight in the pocket the less will be in Idleb and elsewhere. The Syrian army and its allies will be happy when lots of the “rebels” join the Azaz pocket and are kept there by the YPG. There is no urge yet to eliminate them.

The Syrian army today liberated Kinsaaba in Latakia near the Turkish border. It was the last bigger holdout of “rebels” in the governate. The Syrian troops in north Latakia can now mop up what is left of the “rebels” and then move to the eastern ridge of the Latakia mountains. From there they can look down onto Idleb province and the city of Jisr al Shughour. When the big battle for Idleb province begins during the next months that city will be their first target.

Yesterdays attack in Ankara has moved less than expected. While the Turks would like to enter Syria and fight the Syrian government troops as well as the YPG they are too afraid of the Russian forces to go alone. NATO and the U.S. are for now unwilling to give them any cover.

Posted by b at 02:20 PM, 18 February 2016

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3B. 2,000 fewer rebels in Idlib Provinceby Colonel W. Patrick Lang, retired senior officer U.S. Military Intelligence & U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets)

” Syrian rebels have brought at least 2,000 reinforcements through Turkey in the past week to bolster the fight against Kurdish-led militias north of Aleppo, rebel sources said on Thursday.

Turkish forces facilitated the transfer from one front to another over several nights, covertly escorting rebels as they exited Syria’s Idlib governorate, traveled four hours across Turkey, and re-entered Syria to support the embattled rebel stronghold of Azaz, the sources said.

“We have been allowed to move everything from light weapons to heavy equipment, mortars and missiles and our tanks,” Abu Issa, a commander in the Levant Front, the rebel group that runs the border crossing of Bab al-Salama, told Reuters, giving his alias and talking on condition of anonymity.”  NY Times

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Before this transfer of rebels to Azaz, there were only a limited number of rebels (unicorns and jihadis) in Idlib province between the R+6 forces at Aleppo, as well as farther south astride the Damascus highway (the M5) and the R+6 forces in east Lattakia Province.

The Turks have  now cooperated with the Idlib rebels in moving 2,000 fighters from Idlib Province to the Azaz pocket north of the R+6  force that obstructs movement of rebel supplies and forces from Turkey south into Aleppo Province.

The 2,000 moved into Turkey’s Hatay Province through a normal border crossing post and then their convoys were escorted north and then east so that they could re-enter Syria in the Azaz Pocket.

Good!  The Turks’ role is fully transparent and there are many fewer rebels (mostly jihadis) in what will be seen in history as the Idlb Pocket as the situation progresses.  The effectiveness seen thus far in the over all campaign planning demonstrates the effect of the high quality schooling that Russian officers have been receiving in their service schools as well as experience of the kind gained in the 2nd Chechen War.

I would think that for the present support to the YPG Kurds fighting around Azaz will be limited to the continuation of the Russian air defense umbrella to keep the Turkish air force out of the fight and provision of as much materiel support as can be mustered.  The Azaz Pocket can await elimination until other phases of the over all plan are finished.

For the moment the action farther east of the R+6 forces in moving to take Tabqa air base and in so doing to cut IS off from re-supply, reinforcement and oil sales in Turkey is a critical, possibly decisive move against IS in Syria.  The YPG Kurds have already closed the route to Turkey east of Lake Assad.  Closure of the two routes to the northwest would probably force IS back into Iraq because of a lack of communications and re-supply routes.   A good deal of care will be taken I would think to guard against IS counter-attacks to try to break the interruption in their LOCs, but R+6 total air supremacy over desert country should be able to deal with that problem.

The present fighting in the city of Aleppo itself is, IMO, more of a distraction than anything else.  The city will fall of its own weight if it is completely isolated for an extended period.   If the government is wise it will allow humanitarian relief of the rebel occupied parts of the city while encouraging defections and evacuation of remaining rebel forces.  pl

Refer to: http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2016/02/18/world/middleeast/18reuters-mideast-crisis-syria-aleppo.html?ref=world

Posted at 11:39 AM in As The Borg Turns,Sic Semper Tyrannus at http://turcopolier.typepad.com/

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4. A Silk Road train in times of New Cold War By M K Bhadrakumar – 16 February 2016

http://blogs.rediff.com/mkbhadrakumar/2016/02/16/a-silk-road-train-in-times-of-new-cold-war/

Two days after the International Syria Support Group met in Munich, Middle East witnessed an extraordinary event – the arrival on Monday in Tehran of a freight train carrying 32 containers after a long journey of over 10000 kilometers originating from China’s eastern province of Zhejiang. The journey took 14 days – at an average of 700 kilometers per day, through the steppes and deserts of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

It is hard to tell which is going to be more crucial for world politics in an enduring way – Syrian conflict or the first Silk Road train to the Middle East from China. In immediate terms, it could well be that the conflict in Syria and the war with the Islamic State dominates world attention, but from a historical perspective, the Silk Road train will stand out as a milestone beating the Islamic State by a mile.

To be sure, China has avoided involvement in the Syrian conflict and has preferred to invest on what really counts in the fullness of time. Can it be that the United States has missed the plot?

Take a look at the Silk Road train. China has tested the efficacy of freighting a consignment to Iran in a time frame of a fortnight, which is 30 days less than what a sea voyage is presently taking from Shanghai to the port of Bandar Abbas in Iran. And this is the first attempt at an overland rail route. Trust Beijing to upgrade the infrastructure to make the route faster and cheaper.

The Silk Road train comes under President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road” initiative. Beyond that, it is a big advertisement in Iran for China’s “go global” strategy for its rapidly advancing rail technology. China is currently building a $2 billion high-speed rail project connecting Tehran and the eastern city of Mashhad, cutting down the travel time to just 6 hours and will also increase the freight capacity to 10 million tons annually. (China will maintain the new rail line for 5 years after completion of the project in 42 months.)

The Silk Road train is destined to play a significant role in the China-Iran trade, which the two countries hope to increase to $600 billion through the coming decade, with cooperation on nuclear energy and the “One Road, One Belt” projects.

To be sure, the Silk Road train is eventually destined to run in a westerly direction far beyond Tehran to destinations in Europe to increase trade and open new markets for Chinese companies as the domestic economy slows.

I am reminded of an excellent blog written recently by a friend, Graham Fuller (who used to be a top CIA official), lamenting about the myopic vision of the US strategists and the political class in America as regards the world of tomorrow. He wrote in the piece entitled NATO – America’s Misguided Instrument of Leadership:

  • American strategy seems fundamentally stuck in defensive mode against rising powers. Such powers indeed do challenge American aspirations for continued hegemony. But a defensive posture robs us of our vision and spirit; it represents a basically negative orientation, like King Canute on the beach trying to stop the encroaching tide. Worse, American military power—and the budget keeps rising—seems to have become the default US response to most foreign challenges. The Pentagon has put the State Department out of business.
  • NATO today particularly symbolizes that myopic and defensive orientation. 
  • So while Washington focuses on building defensive military structures, bases and arrangements overseas against Russia and China, we are being rapidly outflanked by a whole array of new economic plans, visions, projects for a new continental infrastructure and institutional developments that span Eurasia. These developments are indeed spearheaded by China and Russia. But they are not fundamentally defensive or military in nature, but rather represent the creation of a new international order from which we have either opted out, or even oppose. Meanwhile obsession with NATO and military alliances as the major vehicle of US military policy after the Cold War is a chief reason we are losing out in that new order. 

How prescient! Of course, in geopolitical terms, the route from the eastern China trade hub of Yiwu city to the Iranian capital completely bypasses the Malacca Straits and makes it a point to run through two transit countries that are famous for their independent foreign policies. It gives a wide berth to the great game, the US’ rebalance in Asia, et al.

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5A. Syrian army advances into Raqqa province in major anti-ISIS assault

https http://www.rt.com/news/332462-syrian-army-offensive-raqqa/

Syrian army units and paramilitary forces are reportedly moving into Raqqa province, seizing strategically important areas along the Salamiyah-Raqqa road which leads directly into the Islamic State stronghold.

On Sunday, Syrian government forces and Palestinian armed militia captured the strategically important Tal Masbah hilltop, the last entrenched Islamic State (IS, previously ISIS/ISIL) position.

The fortified position guarded approaches to the Salamiyah-Raqqa highway, leading to the terror group’s stronghold in the city of Raqqa, Al-Masdar news outlet reported, citing a military source.

Later that day, the Syrian government army launched a massive assault on the village of Zakiyah and seized an important crossroads near the village, cutting IS’s major supply route from Raqqa to nearby Hama province.

The Syrian government army’s 555th Brigade, 4th Mechanized Division, “Desert Hawks” brigade and Golani regiment, as well as the pro-government Palestinian Liwaa Al-Quds militia (Jerusalem brigade) took part in both ground offensives.

A source in the 555th brigade told Al-Masdar that IS militants entrenched at Tal Masbah hilltop were forced to flee northeast towards the desert on the Raqqa-Hama border, where an intense battle between the terror group and government forces is taking place.

© Google  Maps

The Syrian government army is also set to retake the key Tabaqah military airbase in southwest Raqqa province, which was captured by IS in August 2014.

“This is an indication of the direction of coming operations toward Raqqa,” a military source briefed on the battle told Reuters. “In general, the Raqqa front is open … starting in the direction of the Tabqa area.”

The advance into IS-held Raqqa province would allow Damascus to regain control over a region where Syrian government forces have had no presence since 2014. It would also complicate any move by Saudi Arabia to deploy forces to the area.

Previous media reports indicate that Saudi Arabia is considering a full-scale ground invasion into war-torn Syria, where they are backing anti-government rebels battling Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Riyadh has also been threatening that Assad will be toppled if he does not leave during a period of political transition. “Bashar al-Assad will leave – have no doubt about it. He will either leave by a political process or he will be removed by force,” Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told CNN.

The possible Saudi intervention as well as recent Turkish artillery shelling of Kurdish and Syrian army positions came amid a successful anti-IS offensive by government forces in Aleppo, another important region.

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5B. Syrian Army Begins Major Advance into ISIS HQ Raqqa

By Stuart Hooper, 15 February 2016

The end is near for ISIS, and the terror group could perhaps be history in just a few short months.

On Sunday, the Syrian Arab Army and Palestinian armed militias captured the strategically important Tal Masbah hilltop, which was also the last entrenched ISIS position.

The fortified hilltop was the last line of defence for approaches to the Salamiyah-Raqqa highway, which leads to the terror group’s stronghold in the city of Raqqa.

Furthermore, the Syrian army mounted a huge assault on the village of Zakiyah seizing an important crossroad nearby, cutting ISIS’s major supply route from Raqqa to the nearby province of Hama.

A source in the Syrian army says that militants on the Tal Masbah hilltop were forced to flee northeast towards the desert on the Raqqa-Hama border, where an intense battle between the terror group and government forces is currently taking place.

The source also said:

This is an indication of the direction of coming operations toward Raqqa,”

In general, the Raqqa front is open.”

The Syrian government also expects to recapture the Tabaqah military airbase in southwest Raqqa shortly, which was taken over by ISIS in August 2014.

While the end of ISIS is certainly brilliant news, the most important aspect of this report is that it means it will now be much harder for Saudi Arabia and Turkey to launch their planned invasion of Syria.

This is because there will be no logical rationale for such actions if the terrorists’ headquarters have already fallen.

Just days ago, 21WIRE reported that Russia had destroyed the CIA’s arms smuggling operation in Syria, an event which appears to have had a huge affect on the terrorists as they are now on the verge of total defeat.

Watch now for Russia to step up its air campaign in Raqqa, which will accelerate the victory for the Syrian Army and Palestinian militias.

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