Next Cold War Roundup 2/24/16
Javelin Missiles Show Up on Battlefield in Syria
_ Just as a cessation of hostilities agreement is being implemented, Javelin anti-tank guided missiles are showing up on the battlefield in Syria, in the hands of YPG Kurds in Shaddadi, in the Hasakah region. Many US-backed proxies have begged for these sophisticated anti-armor weapons but were denied. The Kurdish activist who posted photos of them and video of a Javelin used to blow up an ISIS suicide bomber vehicle claims they weren’t fired by the Kurds or the Americans, but by “others”, whom he won’t name. Charles Lister opines that the Turks will “blow a gasket”.
_Dr Partizan, a Kurdish activist) that the US has provided Javelin anti-tank guided weapons (ATGM) missiles to the Syrian YPG Kurds.
Asked for more info on this pic of YPG with Javelin, comments were: "Guarded by special people. "In safe hands." pic.twitter.com/kLwSYHYMkC
— Dr Partizan (@DrPartizan_) February 23, 2016
_ At the 15 second mark, you can see the missile engaged in signature “top attack” against an ISIS vehicle loaded with explosives:
2 days ago we saw footage of Kurdish fighters destroying an ISIS VBIED. Likely weapon used is shown above. pic.twitter.com/4mtFgA3BoJ
— Dr Partizan (@DrPartizan_) February 23, 2016
_ The State department and CENTCOM denied that the US is providing YPG or SDF with Javelins:
State Department Spokesman John Kirby said that he could not confirm the authenticity of the image and that “nothing has changed about our policy of not providing the YPG with weapons.”
Col. Pat Ryder, a spokesman for the United States Central Command, echoed Kirby adding that Syrian Democratic Forces had also not been armed with Javelins.
_ On Monday, the State Dept announced that the US and Russia have agreed on a plan for a temporary truce, a “cessation of hostilities” (CoH) in Syria that would begin Saturday Feb. 27th. The truce would not include al Qaeda or ISIS. Presidents Obama and Putin were expected to finalize the agreement via a phone conversation. AP kept a timeline/liveblog of the developments here. Monday evening, a leader of the Saudi-backed opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) said the rebels have agreed “in principle” to the truce.
_ Analysis by Moon of Alabama (MoA) on the terms of the CoH: “Does This Cessation of Hostilities Allow Attacks on Jaish al-Fatah?” MoA notes the word “associated” is missing, when comparing the CoH to the relevant part of the underlying UN Resolution 2254, which makes groups associated with al Qaeda questionable, such as Jaish al-Fatah or the Army of Conquest, Ahrar al-Sham, and others. The CoH doesn’t even mention al Qaeda, just al Nusra.
UN Res 2254: “for Member States to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), Al-Nusra Front (ANF), and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al Qaeda or ISIL, and other terrorist groups, as designated by the Security Council, and as may further be agreed by the ISSG and determined by the Security Council”
Cessation of Hostilities: “The nationwide cessation of hostilities is to apply to any party currently engaged in military or paramilitary hostilities against any other parties other than “Daesh”, “Jabhat al-Nusra”, or other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council.”
_ At the State Dept briefing, AP’s Matt Lee asks what the difference is between this CoH and the previous ones and gets a dodgy answer. He asks “How in heaven’s name do you expect to monitor this if there’s no observation force on the ground?” Spox says the task force will have to figure it out. State Dept briefing 2/22/16 transcript is here.
_ In the weekly interview with Stephen Cohen on the John Batchelor Show, Cohen said that Putin is staking a lot of political on this cessation of hostilities deal, that he went on Russian TV to promote it, looked very grim and stressed and the reason is that he’s doing this against the advice of his top military advisors who oppose it and think he’s naive to trust the Americans who, in their view, always break their promises. They feel that they’re on the verge of a strategic victory and the US will renege. On the other hand, some pro-Russian analysts see this as a victory for Russia since rebel groups are forced to decide on their loyalty to al Nusra and Kerry had to back off on his earlier demand that Nusra should be included in the ceasefire.
Who’s In? Who’s Out?
_ Al Rai’s war correspondent Magnier relays that the non-al Qaeda group Jund al Aqsa “leaders and scholars join AQ” along with Sham al-Ummah from Idlib. Several other groups, Jaish al Muhajereen (Aleppo suburbs), Katibat Ansar al Sharia and Muntassir Billah (Damascus suburbs) pledged loyalty to al Qaeda. He also reported Jaish al-Fatah rejected the ceasefire because al Nusra (al Qaeda) was not included in it. Magnier speculates that because of this, northern Syria will “remain under fire.”
_ AP’s Matt Lee reiterates that the cessation of hostilities requires rebel groups to assert their agreement in order to be included. Based on information he got from the State Dept., the only gorups who are excluded from ceasefire up front are four: “ISIL, Nusra, Abdallah Azzam Brigades & Army of Emigrants & Supporters.”
_ The Syrian government issued a statement agreeing to the truce/cessation of hostilities but reserve the right “to respond to any violation carried out by insurgents.”
_ The Saudi-backed opposition umbrella group, High Negotiations Committee (HNC), issued a statement saying it “has given its acceptance of international efforts for a cessation of hostilities in Syria.” Their “acceptance of the truce is conditional” requiring the Syrian government to end its siege on “18 rebel-held areas, releasing detainees and the cessation of aerial and artillery bombardment.” On Wednesday, HNC’s spokesman Riyad Agha said they will attend the next round of peace talks.
_ Ahrar al Sham media activist says “there will be no cessation of hostilities or ceasefire while Nusra attacked.”
_ Turkey agrees to the truce/cessation of hostilities, but with reservations . Turkey’s deputy prime minister said that the Turkish military can still fire on the Kurds in Syria if they “attack” Turkey. Given that Turkey has been saying that they are acting in self defense during their recent shelling, it’s not clear what they consider to be an attack. He also said they have “‘reservations and fears’ about possible continued Russian airstrikes on civilians.”
Turkey Won’t Allow a “Terror Belt” Along Their Border
_ Turkey’s PM Davutoglu said Russia and Syria are creating a “terror belt” along their border and a terror “structure” involving ISIS and the YPG Kurds. “Turkey is aware of these games aiming to make Turkey a neighbor with a terror structure and will not allow it.”
Al Qaeda Teaming Up With Saudi Coalition in Yemen
_ This is a huge story. BBC filmmakers caught Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) fighting as part of the Saudi coalition in the Yemen city of Taiz. Antiwar.com says “Desperation to accomplish something on the ground may have played a role in the sudden arrival of AQAP forces to join the battle.”
_ Yemenis are shocked that BBC reported Al Qaeda fighting along side Saudi coalition, say more will be revealed about who AQAP really are.
I notice many in the CT field who are experts on Al Qaeda & Yemen have been stunned into silence by this BBC expose. https://t.co/N10T64ZFkC
— Haykal Bafana (@BaFana3) February 23, 2016
I promise this : you will soon be further overwhelmed by a deluge of facts & information on who's really AQAP in Yemen. It's coming.
— Haykal Bafana (@BaFana3) February 23, 2016
French, British, US Special Forces in Libya
_ “French special forces and intelligence commandos are engaged in covert operations against Islamic State militants in Libya in conjunction with the United States and Britain, the French newspaper Le Monde reported on Wednesday” LeMonde calls it “France’s secret war in Libya” and now they are under investigation as the French defense ministry tries to identify their sources.
_ Al Masdar reports that French forces have arrived at Benina Air Base in Libya and will support Brigadier General Khalifa Haftar.
Assad Calls Parliamentary Elections
_ Bashar al Assad’s office issued a statement on Monday calling parliamentary elections for April 13. Previous elections were held in 2012 and they are held every four years.
Syrian Rebels Integrated With ISIS
_ Various reports that Syrian rebel groups are allied and integrated with ISIS. This has not gotten much press yet:
The rebels now openly admit their fighters are integrated with ISIS & al-Qaeda, so we shouldn't attack either! https://t.co/qvXzmo4kpK.
— Max Abrahms (@MaxAbrahms) February 23, 2016
_ ISIS made some gains in southeast Aleppo and cut off government supply lines
— Peto Lucem (@PetoLucem) February 22, 2016
Qamişlo: Kurdish National Alliance of Rojava held their first meeting today. Statement released soon. pic.twitter.com/yBJ4mw8bU5
— Dr Partizan (@DrPartizan_) February 24, 2016
Questions About Terrorist Attack in Ankara, Turkey
_ UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry concluded that the Syrian war is a “multisided proxy war steered froe m abroad by an intricate network of alliances” . They said the state is on the “hbrink of collapse” and risk of “internationalization of the conflict.” The Commission said war crimes are being committed by both the government and ISIS, and urged the UN Security Council to bring violators to the ICC court or “an ad hoc tribunal.” “Syria is not an ICC member so the only way the court could take it up is with a Security Council referral.”
_ IRGC Saberin (Sabereen) Special Forces at work in Syria. The name Saberin means “patient ones” and was inspired by a Quranic verse. The Saberin “unit emulates from tactics deployed by 11 special forces units, particularly the British Special Air Service. They also studied U.S. special forces.”
_ German and French foreign ministers are nervous about the volatile political situation in Kiev, the fact that Minsk agreement mandated legislation has not been passed, and corruption issues have not been addressed. A March 3 meeting in Paris has been scheduled.
_ In their weekly radio interview, John Batchelor and Stephen Cohen talked about political turmoil in Kiev. Cohen said Poroshenko has “no way out” in that EU ministers want him to implement the Minsk accords but neo-Nazi groups will not allow that to happen. They also discussed the likelihood that the Ukraine military will launch an offensive to retake the Donbass, and the fact that the Ukraine military has been pounding the region again, massing weapons on the front line, and reportedly sending snipers, SBU and special forces, as the situation with the already failing ceasefire gets even worse. Batchelor said the visit by foreign ministers of Germany and France signals crisis.
South China Sea
_ China has deployed figher jets to the same island (Woody Island or Yongxing Island) where they deployed surface-to-air missiles last week , according to US officials. The Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, was scheduled to visit the Pentagon on Tuesday, but that meeting was canceled due to “scheduling conflicts.”
_ There are reports of Iraqi forces capturing ISIS radios and ISIS asking for amnesty or safe passage to Fallujah.