AntiWar.com & Reuters & The Guardian & The Independent – 2015-11-25 01:46:07
Turkey’s Stab in the Back
Justin Raimondo / AntiWar.com
(November 24, 2015) — War is the great clarifier, and in the case of the battle against Islamist insurgents, including ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria, the downing of the Russian war plane by the Turkish military has demonstrated this principle quite dramatically.
The US and its NATO allies, including Turkey, claim to be fighting ISIS, otherwise known as the “Islamic State,” but the Turks’ main fire has been directed at the Kurds and the Syrian regime itself. Turkey has been the main conduit for aid to the Islamic State, and the Turkish intelligence agency has long collaborated with Islamists in the region.
The US, for its part, has attacked ISIS positions, and yet Washington’s insistence that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must go has undermined their ostensible goal of destroying the Islamic State: most of the Americans’ resources have gone into buttressing the “moderate” Islamist opposition.
These “moderates” include, incredibly enough, the Syrian affiliate of al-Qaeda, who have forged an alliance with US-backed rebels in a joint effort to overthrow Assad.
On the other hand, the Russians have been unequivocal about their war aims: the elimination of the jihadists from Syrian territory. This has meant supporting the only viable alternative to jihadist rule: the Assad regime.
Working in conjunction with government forces, Russian war planes have devastated jihadist positions and aided the Ba’athist regime in its effort to regain territory.
This incident has revealed what the real sides are in the Syrian civil war: who is fighting whom, and for what. The Russian plane crashed into Syrian territory and one of the pilots was shot from the skies as he parachuted: this barbaric act was captured on video by the rebels, who are being reported as affiliated with the Turkmen “10th Brigade.”
This is just for public consumption, however: in reality, the area is controlled by an alliance of rebel forces dominated by the al-Nusra Front, which is the official Syrian affiliate of al-Qaeda. The jihadists took control of the area in March of this year, and it has been the focal point of recent fighting between al-Qaeda and Syrian government forces backed by the Russian air offensive.
Vice is reporting:
“Russia sent helicopters to search for the downed pilots. Syrian fighters later fired at a helicopter forcing it to make an emergency landing in a nearby government-held area, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. A Syrian insurgent group, recipient of US Tow missiles, said its fighters hit the helicopter with an anti-tank missile.”
So here we have it: US-backed jihadists, including al-Qaeda, are using weapons supplied by Washington to fight the Russians and the Syrian government. A cozy arrangement, indeed.
As I’ve written here as long ago as the summer of 2012, Washington has effectively entered an alliance with al-Qaeda. And as I pointed out here more recently, our “war on terrorism” has turned into a war on Russia, a proxy war in Syria in which Washington is actively aiding its former enemies — the very same people who brought down the World Trade Center and attacked the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
Turkey is a member of NATO, and in any conflict with Russia we are pledged to come to their aid. The danger highlighted by this incident can hardly be overemphasized. As I put it last month:
“With the addition of Russia to the Middle East equation, the stakes have been raised a hundred-fold. How long before this “proxy war” turns into a direct confrontation between two nuclear-armed powers? Will I witness another version of the Cuban missile crisis in my lifetime?”
Putin’s accusation that this is “a stab in the back by the accomplices of terrorists” is absolutely correct — but he isn’t just talking about Turkey, whose Islamist regime has been canoodling with the terrorists since the start of the Syria civil war.
Washington and its allies, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar — who have been directly aiding ISIS as well as the “moderate” head-choppers — is indirectly responsible for the downing the Russian plane — including a barbaric attack on the rescue helicopter, which was downed by a US-provided TOW missile launcher.
Yes, folks, your tax dollars are going to support Islamist crazies in Syria. The same people who attacked Paris are being aided and abetted by the US — and if that isn’t a criminal act, then there is no justice in this world.
As Europe cowers before a terrorist assault, and the War Party justifies universal surveillance of the American people by citing the threat from domestic attacks by ISIS, we are allied with these barbarians in Syria. And the foreign policy wonks in Washington are taking this opportunity to demonize Russia: according to them, Putin and not ISIS is the real threat to the West.
As Dan Drezner, one of the Washington Post’s resident Russia-haters, writes:
“If Putin has a modus operandi, it’s to foment tensions in a new region when the situation is worsening in an ongoing area of conflict. So it wouldn’t surprise me if Putin tries to coerce or intimidate the Baltic states soon, as a way of signaling to NATO that it has leverage elsewhere.”
This would be funny if it wasn’t such a widely shared talking point. For the past year or so the Russia-haters have been confidently predicting that Putin would be marching through the streets of Kiev and gobbling up the Baltics in a single swallow. A Russian invasion, according to the Ukrainians and their US cheerleaders, has been “imminent” for the past nine months or so!
According to their scenario, by this time Putin should be crossing the English Channel and laying siege to London., Naturally, nothing of the sort has happened, nor will it happen: it’s the Americans who want a repeat of the Cuban missile crisis, not Putin.
And now they have it.
Are you ready for World War III?
Turkmen Forces in Syria
Shot Dead Pilots of Downed Russian Jet — Deputy Commander
Mehmet Emin Caliskan, Humeyra Pamuk and Daren Butler / Reuters
YAMADI, Syria (November 24, 2015) — Turkmen forces in Syria shot dead the two pilots of a Russian jet downed by Turkish warplanes near the border with Turkey on Tuesday as they descended with parachutes, a deputy commander of a Turkmen brigade told reporters.
“Both of the pilots were retrieved dead. Our comrades opened fire into the air and they died in the air,” Alpaslan Celik, a deputy commander in a Syrian Turkmen brigade said near the Syrian village of Yamadi as he held what he said was a piece of a pilot’s parachute.
Video Shows Russian Pilot on Ground, Rebel Says He Is Dead
(November 24, 2015) — Moments before and after Russian plane shot down. Pilots parachute to safety. Turkmen fighters opened fire killing at least one pilot. Warning: graphic footage of dead pilot.
BEIRUT (November 24, 2015) — A video sent to Reuters by a Syrian rebel group on Tuesday appeared to show a Russian pilot immobile and badly wounded on the ground, and an official from the group said he was dead.
“A Russian pilot,” a voice is heard saying as a group of men gather around him. “God is great,” a voice is heard saying.
The video was sent to Reuters by a rebel group operating in the northwestern area of Syria, where groups including Free Syrian Army are operating but Islamic State has no known presence.
The official from the group, who declined to be named for security reasons, told Reuters the pilot was dead. He did not mention a second Russian pilot who was in the plane.
Turkey Shoots Down Russian Warplane Near Syrian Border
Reuters and VICE News
(November 24, 2015) — This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Turkish fighter jets shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border on Tuesday, the first time a NATO member’s armed forces have downed a Russian or Soviet military aircraft since the 1950s, and an act Russian president Vladimir Putin said would have “significant consequences.”
Speaking at a joint press conference with French President FranÃ§ois Hollande on Tuesday afternoon, President Obama urged all sides to proceed with caution. “We are still getting the details of what happened,” he said, adding that “Turkey like every country has a right to defend its country and its airspace.”
Obama appeared to lay the blame for the incident at the feet of the Russians.
“If Russia were directing its operations towards ISIL, some of those mistakes… are less likely to occur,” using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State. Before the press conference, White House officials told Reuters that the “Russian incursion into Turkish airspace lasted seconds.”
The fate of the pilots of the Sukhoi Su-24 fighter-bomber, a two-seater twin-engine jet, is not clear.
Turkey said the aircraft had violated its airspace and was warned 10 times in the space of five minutes before it was shot down by F-16 fighter jets. The country has requested an extraordinary NATO meeting to inform members about the incident, which is taking place in Brussels.
At first Russia’s account of the downing of the plane conflicted with Turkey’s, with its military saying the Su-24 had apparently come under fire from the ground. It also said it could prove the plane never left Syrian airspace.
Later Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed it had been shot down by Turkish F-16s, calling the act a “stab in the back carried out by accomplices of terrorists.”
In a very strongly-worded statement, Putin said the plane fell on Syrian territory four kilometers (2.5 miles) from Turkey.
“Neither our pilots nor our jet threatened the territory of Turkey. This is obvious,” he said, speaking ahead of a visit by King Abdullah II of Jordan in Sochi. “We will analyze everything, and today’s tragic event will have significant consequences, including for Russia-Turkish relations.”
“Do they want to make NATO serve ISIS? I understand that every state has its own regional interests and we’ve always respected that, but we will never allow the kind of crime that happened to today to take place. And of course we hope that the international community will find the strength to come together and fight against the common evil.”
Footage from private broadcaster Haberturk TV showed a warplane going down in flames in a woodland area, a long plume of smoke trailing behind it. The plane went down in an area known by Turks as “Turkmen Mountain” in northern Syria near the Turkish border, Haberturk said.
Ethnic Turks living there have been fighting the Assad government and the Islamic State for the past few weeks, and have been targeted by Russian airstrikes in support of the regime’s army.
The 10th Division, a Turkmen rebel group closely affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, published a video on Tuesday afternoon showing what appeared to be the bloodied corpse of one of the Russian airmen.
Meanwhile, the deputy commander of another Turkmen unit told Turkey’s Dogan News Agency that both pilots had been shot and killed while they were parachuting to earth.
The badge seen on the man’s right arm matches Russian Air Force insignia. “A Russian pilot,” a voice is heard saying as a group of men gather around him, “God is great.”
VICE News could not independently confirm the authenticity of the video. Turkish government official told Reuters the pilots were believed still to be alive and that Ankara was working to secure their release from Syrian rebels.
One pilot is reported to be in the hands of anti-Assad rebels from the Alwiya Al-‘Ashar group, Brookings Doha analyst Charles Lister told The Guardian.
On Tuesday, another Syrian insurgent group, which is a recipient of US weapons, claimed its fighters had used an American-made anti-tank TOW missile to destroy a Russian helicopter that had been sent to look for the pilots.
The helicopter had been forced to make an emergency landing in a nearby government-held area in Syria’s Latakia province on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. A video purports to show the destruction of the helicopter on the ground with a TOW missile.
Russia’s air contingent in Syria is estimated at four Su-30 interceptors and roughly 12 each of the older Su-24 and Su-25 fighter-bombers, plus some Su-34 bombers.
A Turkish government official said its military’s rules of engagement had been made public in the past and other nations knew the consequences of any violation of airspace.
“In line with the military rules of engagement, the Turkish authorities repeatedly warned an unidentified aircraft that they were 15 km (9 mi) or less away from the border,” the official said. “The aircraft didn’t heed the warnings and proceeded to fly over Turkey. The Turkish Air Forces responded by downing the aircraft.”
“This isn’t an action against any specific country: Our F-16s took necessary steps to defend Turkey’s sovereign territory.”
Shortly after 4pm Turkish time (9am ET) it was reported Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had called an emergency security summit with his top generals, heads of intelligence, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and other senior ministers.
Turkey called this week for a United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss attacks on Turkmens in neighbouring Syria, and last week Ankara summoned the Russian ambassador to protest the bombing of their villages.
Ankara has traditionally expressed solidarity with Syrian Turkmens, who are Syrians of Turkish descent.
About a dozen Turkmen rebel militias operate in Syria’s coastal Latakia province. Both Turkmen groups that may have been responsible for shooting the Russian pilot or pilots as they parachuted from the jet have fought alongside more moderate opposition groups, as well as Islamist units and Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra.
The 10th Division has close links with a joint operations centre created by the US and its allies known in Turkish as Musterek Operasyon Merkezi, or MOM, which provides vetted commanders with money and weapons, according to Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center.
A number of Turkmen militias have been formed in Syria during the course of the conflict, many of which have received training from Turkish security forces, as well as continued backing from Ankara.
Most are now united under the Syrian Turkmen Brigades banner, divisions of which operate elsewhere in the country against both government troops and the so-called Islamic State.
The Turkmen people, who are Turkish by both ethnicity and language, have lived in the region for around 1,000 years. They faced harsh repression at the hands of Syria’s ruling Baath party.
Fighting between Turkmen brigades and pro-government forces — including Syrian regulars and the Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah — has been going on for weeks in the area close to the Turkish border where the jet was brought down, and Russian aircraft have repeatedly bombed the rebels.
The strikes were a source of serious concern for Turkey, and its foreign ministry summoned Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov to complain about what it described in a November 20 statement as “the bombardment of civilian Turkmen villages” close to its Yaylada border crossing. Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlio’lu said that the bombings could result in “serious consequences”.
Related: Russia Is Playing a High-Stakes Game of Chicken With the US in the Skies Over Syria
Related: NATO Is Getting Ready to Defend Turkey From Russia
Related: Turkey Says Russia Violated Its Airspace and Is Escalating Syria’s Crisis
Follow VICE News on Twitter: https://twitter.com/vicenews@vicenews
US-armed Syrian Rebels ‘Hit Russian Helicopter
With Missile’ as It Searched for Downed Plane Pilots
Adam Withnall / The Independent
(November 24, 2015) — A US-armed Syrian rebel group claims it has hit a Russian military helicopter with an anti-tank missile, forcing it to make an emergency landing.
The helicopter was understood to have been among a number of Russian aircraft searching for the two pilots from an Su-24 jet which was downed by the Turkish military.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Free Syrian Army officials said its fighters successfully targeted the Russian search helicopter with anti-tank weaponry.
The insurgent group is among the recipients of US Tow missiles, among other armaments, designed to bolster it against regime forces.
Unlike the pilots of the Russian jet, the helicopter did not come down within rebel-held territory in the mountainous north-eastern Latakia province where it was hit, the Observatory told Reuters.
Instead, it was reportedly able to make an emergency landing in a nearby government-held area.
What happened to the pilots of the Russian jet remains unclear. While the rebels said they had video and photos showing one had been found dead upon landing near the Turkish border, conflicting reports suggested the second pilot was either missing or also dead.
Turkey has said the Russian plane repeatedly violated its airspace and was warned 10 times before it was shot down by two patrolling F16 fighter jets.
But Russia has said the jet was in Syrian skies at all times, and Vladimir Putin has described its downing as “a stab in the back” from Turkey.
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