Russia Questions 'Syrian Free Army'; Warns US Is Actually Arming Islamic Terrorists
October 14, 2015
RT News & TASS & AntiWar.com & Reuters
The US has reportedly delivered 50 tons of munitions to Syrian rebels but the Russian Foreign Ministry warns that the weapons will likely end up in terrorists' hands. Claiming that most CIA-backed rebels in Syria are 'anti-American, anti-Western and anti-democracy,' Russian officials have challenged the US to identify the members of the so-called "Free Syrian Army." Meanwhile a Pentagon funding bill is asking for another $600 million for Syrian rebels plus $300 million to Kiev government.
Lavrov: Little Doubt US Arms Delivered to Syrian Opposition to Fall into Terrorists' Hands
MOSCOW (October 13, 2015) -- The Russian Foreign Ministry has few doubts that weapons and munitions supplied by the US to the so-called "moderate Syrian opposition" will end up in terrorists' hands. The US Air Force has reportedly delivered 50 tons of munitions to Syrian rebels.
"I want to be honest, we barely have any doubt that at least a considerable part of these weapons will fall into the terrorists' hands," Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with NTV channel.
Lavrov pointed out that American society and the Congress are also getting anxious about the Washington's previous efforts to support "moderate Syrian opposition."
American airlifters have reportedly dropped 50 tons of small arms ammunition and grenades to Arab groups fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in northern Syria. US officials assure the fighters have been screened and are really confronting IS up in arms.
The parachute airdrop of 112 containers with rounds for M-16 and AK-47, according to the Fox News who cited a senior defense official, was made from Air Force C-17 cargo planes.
A spokesman for the Baghdad-based US military command of the anti-IS campaign in Syria and Iraq, Colonel Steve Warren, confirmed to AP by email that the airdrop took place. A CNN source added that the airdrop took place in the northern Syrian province of Hasakah and was received by the rebel forces known as the Syrian Arab Coalition. Hasakah is controlled primarily by the Kurdish forces.
Last week the Obama administration announced termination of a $500 million program aimed at creating a military force of moderate Syrian rebels that would fight against IS. Instead, the US would focus on providing munitions and equipment support to the already existing groups on the ground opposing IS.
In an email to the Associated Press, the US anti-IS military headquarters denied they provided direct support to the Kurdish forces in Syria over the last week. At the same time, Kurdish official Mustafa Bali residing in the northern Syrian city of Kobani informed the AP that the US had delivered 120 tons of weapons and ammunition to the People's Protection Units (YPG) of the Kurdish militia fighting IS.
Bali was unable to specify whether the supplies were airlifted or brought by land. The YPG has not returned calls from the AP.
A recently-formed alliance of the YPG and rebel factions dubbed 'Democratic Forces of Syria' proclaims its main goal in fighting Islamic State, reports Bali. The coalition, consisting of Arab, Assyrian and Kurdish rebel group claims it is going to advance towards the city of Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of IS in Syria. The troops of President Bashar Assad, backed by air support from the Russian Air Force in Syria, are also aiming to capture Raqqa and knock out the jihadists out of this city.
Intercepted IS communications revealed that the terrorist forces in Syria have been seriously discouraged by two weeks of intensifying airstrikes by Russian warplanes, with many IS fighters either dying in the airstrikes or escaping from the Syrian territory into neighboring countries.
Lavrov to Kerry: Show Us Your Fake 'Free Syrian Army'
TASS Russian News Agency and Russia Insider
(October 7, 2015) -- The Free Syrian Army and the moderate opposition in general remain a "phantom" group, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said, adding that Moscow has called on the US to explain what it is and where it is based.
"No one has told us where the Free Syrian Army operates or where and how the other units of the moderate opposition act," Lavrov said. "We will even be ready to establish contact with it, if these are indeed efficient armed groups of the patriotic opposition that consist of Syrians," the foreign minister added.
So far, the Free Syrian Army remains a "phantom group," he said. "Nothing is known about it," Lavrov said. Lavrov said he has asked US Secretary of State John Kerry to provide information on this group and its leadership.
Last week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said "there is absolutely controversial information about this so-called army." "What is Free Syrian Army? Is this an official term? Are they official armed forces or what is it," Peskov said. He reiterated that Russia would support Syria in the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group and other extremists and terrorists.
US Weapons Drops Arming Unvetted Syrian Rebel Factions
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(October 13, 2015) -- Past US programs of smuggling arms into Syria for "vetted" rebel factions have mostly failed, and left a lot of weapons in the hands of Islamist factions like ISIS and al-Qaeda. Incredibly, with the return to throwing arms at Syria's Civil War, the US is moving away from the vetting part.
Pentagon officials are conceding that this week's airdrops of weapons and ammunition to rebels in northeast Syria are going to wholly unvetted forces, saying it is a "moot point" since the rebels are meant to be fighting ISIS, and not the Syrian government.
The problem here is pretty clear, because one of the big reasons for vetting was to try to keep US weaponry out of the hands of factions that might give them to terrorist groups. That the factions are in close proximity to ISIS doesn't "moot" the question of whether the groups are ultimately going to sell or give the arms to ISIS.
Pentagon officials are refusing to talk about the "restrictions" on these arms drops, but did say that they "ask" the factions to use them to fight ISIS, and apparently that's tantamount to a full-fledged vetting process these days.
US Airdrops Ammunition to Syria Rebels
John Davison and Phil Stewart / Reuters
BEIRUT/WASHINGTON (October 12, 2015) -- US forces airdropped small arms ammunition and other supplies to Syrian Arab rebels, barely two weeks after Russia raised the stakes in the long-running civil war by intervening on the side of President Bashar al-Assad.
One military official said the drop, by Air Force C-17 cargo planes in northern Syria on Sunday, was part of a revamped US strategy announced last week to help rebels in Syria battling Islamic State militants.
Last week, Washington shelved a program to train and equip "moderate" rebels opposed to Assad who would join the fight against Islamic State.
The only group on the ground to have success against Islamic State while cooperating with the US-led coalition is a Kurdish militia, the YPG, which has carved out an autonomous zone in northern Syria and advanced deep into Islamic State's stronghold Raqqa province.
On Monday, the YPG announced a new alliance with small groups of Arab fighters, which could help deflect criticism that it fights only on behalf of Kurds. Washington has indicated it could direct funding and weapons to Arab commanders on the ground who cooperate with the YPG.
Amnesty International, in a new report, accused the YPG of committing war crimes by driving out thousands of non-Kurdish civilians and demolishing their homes in Kurdish-controlled areas. A YPG spokesman called it "a false allegation."
The US military confirmed dropping supplies to opposition fighters vetted by the United States but would say no more about the groups that received the supplies or the type of equipment in the airdrop.
Syrian Arab rebels said they had been told by Washington that new weapons were on their way to help them launch a joint offensive with their Kurdish allies on the city of Raqqa, the de facto Islamic State capital.
The Russian intervention in the four-year Syrian war has caught US President Barack Obama's administration off guard. Washington has been trying to defeat Islamic State while still calling for Assad's downfall.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was rebuffed in his bid to gain support for his country's bombing campaign, with Saudi sources saying they had warned the Kremlin leader of dangerous consequences and Europe issuing its strongest criticism yet.
The head of Syria's Nusra Front, an offshoot of al Qaeda, took aim on Monday at the Russian intervention, urging insurgents to escalate attacks on the strongholds of Assad's minority Alawite sect in retaliation for what he called Russia's indiscriminate killing of Muslim Sunnis.
Describing Russia's action as a new Christian crusade from the east that was doomed to fail, the audio message from Abu Mohamad al-Golani posted on YouTube said: "The war in Cham (Syria) will make the Russians forget the horrors of what they faced in Afghanistan."
"The new Russian invasion is the last dart in the weaponry of the enemies of Muslims and the enemies of Syria," said Golani, whose extremist Muslim Sunni fundamentalist group is one of the most powerful forces fighting Assad's government. Putin met Saudi Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman on the sidelines of a Formula One race in a Russian resort on Sunday.
On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said those talks, along with discussions with the United States, had yielded progress on the conflict, although Moscow, Washington and Riyadh did not agree in full "as yet".
A Saudi source said the defense minister, a son of the Saudi king, had told Putin that Russia's intervention would escalate the war and inspire militants from around the world to go there to fight. Riyadh would go on supporting Assad's opponents and demand that he leave power, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
European foreign ministers, meeting in Luxembourg, issued a statement calling on Moscow to halt its bombing of Assad's moderate enemies immediately. They were unable to agree on whether Assad should have any role in ending the crisis, but they did decide to extend sanctions by essentially freezing the assets of the spouses of senior Syrian figures. The war has taken 250,000 lives and caused a refugee crisis in neighboring countries and Europe.
Moscow says it targets only banned terrorist groups in Syria, primarily Islamic State. In its briefings, it describes all of the targets it strikes as belonging to Islamic State. But most strikes have taken place in areas held by other opposition groups, including many that are supported by Arab states, Turkey and the West in a war that has also assumed a sectarian dimension with Shi'ite Iran at odds with Saudi Arabia's Sunni rulers.
RUSSIAN AIR SUPPORT
Syrian government forces and their allies from the Lebanese Shi'ite militia Hezbollah, backed by Iranian military officers, have launched a massive ground offensive in coordination with the Russian air support. They fought their fiercest clashes on Monday since the assault began, advancing in strategically important territory near the north-south highway linking Syria's main cities.
Russian warplanes carried out at least 30 air strikes on the town of Kafr Nabuda in Hama province in western Syria, and hundreds of shells hit the area.
The Syrian army announced the capture of Kafr Nabuda and four other villages in Hama province. It also said the army had seized Jub al-Ahmar, a highland area in Latakia province that will put more rebel positions in the nearby Ghab Plain within range of the army's artillery. The UN diplomat trying to convene talks to end the war said he would hold talks in Russia on Tuesday and then in Washington.
Additional reporting by William Maclean in Dubai, Tom Perry and John Davison in Beirut, Gabriela Baczynska in Moscow, Ahmed Tolba in Cairo, Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman and Robin Emmott in Luxembourg; Writing by Peter Graff, Giles Elgood and David Alexander, Editing by Peter Millership, Howard Goller and Ken Wills.
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