Saudi Arabia moves planes to Turkey, Joint attack on Russian, Syrian and Kurdish forces begins
By Gordon Duff, on February 13, 2016
Confirmed: Russian and Syrian jets are on standby to shoot down any Turkish or Saudi plane that crosses into Syria. Turkey is prepared to close the Bosporus and attack Russian ships in the Mediterranean.
(Video of Saudi/Israeli nuclear attack on Yemen)
Turkey has begun continuous shelling of YPG Kurds (pro-American) inside Syria for at least 3 hours; this is seen as a prelude to a ground attack on anti-ISIS forces inside Syria.
Munich “cessation of hostilities” is off to a rocky start
[ Editor’s Note, 2:30 pm ET: VT is back up after being hacked for several hours when one key story was up — the one below on the Saudis moving tactical nukes to Turkey, to be closer to the NW Syrian battleground, and the NATO tripwire for any attack that might be launched on Syria after some staged provocation.
This comes the day after Munich started, with the Turks shelling Azaz, 4 to 5 miles south of the Turkish border — the last town on that supply road to Aleppo.
With this shelling, Turkey is in effect saying they are initiating an “artillery buffer zone”, something most would consider a repudiation of the Munich cessation of hostilities. If the Kurds and Syria can move closer to their own borders, they can mine the roads to slow down any Turkish advance.
We also suspect today’s hacking to have been an eavesdropping event to delay a new story we are working on — how Turkey has purchased swine flu from an employee at the Lugar lab in Georgia, which already has killed 1000 in Ukraine, been released in Russia, and surprise, surprise beginning to show up in the Turkish Kurdish resistance.
A $30-million budgeted American Research lab in Tbilisi that came in at $100 million with a contractor making a lot of money. Are you surprised?
This morning our sources are reporting that Turkey is bringing into the Syrian Kurdish region, via the age old ambulance cover, a part of its biological weapons warfare that it thinks it will be able to deny. But after the big Sarin gas attack in Syria that was tracked back to Turkish involvement, the Lugar lab and other bioweapons undercover labs ringing the Russian Federation have been watched very carefully for the obvious threat that they were.
Silverman paid a price for his reporting
VT readers know that Henry Kamens and our own Jeffrey Silverman have been all over the story for several years now, to the extent that the Lugar lab had to be “cleaned” for a press tour.
We do not know how much US and NATO cooperation there may be, if any, on this. Erdogan was busting a guy this week for denouncing the US for working with the Syrian Kurds, a touché to Erdogan for not really fighting ISIL, but using that as a cover to run his war on the Kurds.
Turkey and the Saudis see the jihadis being rolled up in Syria in a couple of months, so they are holding little territory to bargain with at the future peace talks, if there ever are any.
We have a touch and go situation in the success of the Syrian-Russian anti-terrorism campaign. The US coalition, the Arab League, all those that supported the overthrow of Syria have a lot of egg on their face, as support for Assad and the Syrian army is going up every day — not the kind of situation in which the regime change crowd want to negotiate. You just can’t make this stuff up… Jim W. Dean ]
Tactical nukes will be used in any major preemptive strike to assure retaliation ability is destroyed on day one
– First published … February 13, 2016 –
Our sources confirm that Saudi Arabia has delivered tactical nuclear weapons to Turkey. Turkey already has 84 nuclear weapons at Incirlik Air Base under NATO control. We have confirmed that both Saudi Arabia and Turkey have American planes, both F 15 and F 16 modified for nuclear attack by Israel. America has removed all nuclear attack planes from Turkey under orders of President Obama.
We have confirmed that Turkey has a contingency plan to seize the NATO nuclear arsenal at Incirlik with the help of Saudi Special Forces, who have been trained in Israel to defeat US nuclear weapon security measures.
We have a confirmation that Saudi Arabia is moving planes to the American nuclear base in Turkey. This week US planes bombed civilians in Aleppo from this same base. Word from Saudi Arabia and Russia is that they expect a full scale Turkish invasion in response to Kurdish YPG consolidation, with American help, of new positions which would block Turkey’s access to its ISIS partners in Syria.
Both high level Russian and Syrian sources contacted this morning have confirmed that a much broader war is imminent.
Turkey has officially announced that they are ready to move into Syria against the US backed YPG who they deem as a terrorist group. Turkey has yet to attack ISIS and is only fighting Kurds with the exception of the Erbil regional group in Iraq. There is conclusive evidence that both Erbil and Ankara are fully behind ISIS.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said. “They (Saudi military) came, did a reconnaissance of the base. At the moment it is not clear how many planes will come.”
Turkey supplies ISIS in Iraq through the Duhok road aided by the Erbil regime, who have turned against both Baghdad and other Kurdish forces.
… from Southfront:
Amid Turkish preparations for a military intervention in Syria, main stream media and think tanks prefer to provide political speculations and local rumors instead of facts and analysis. SouthFront: Analysis & Intelligence stands on another ground and provides an exclusive paper studying the Turkish military grouping which will be likely used in this operation.
We also recommend that you view an exclusive video ‘Foreign Policy Diary – Turkey’s military intervention to Syria‘, which covers the possible results of this act of aggression.
Written by Brian Kalman exclusively for SouthFront: Analysis & Intelligence. Brian Kalman is a management professional in the marine transportation industry. He was an officer in the US Navy for eleven years. He currently resides and works in the Caribbean.
Recent public comments by the Turkish government have hinted at a possible invasion into Syrian territory to “stabilize” the situation and secure Turkey’s national security. Significant clashes between Turkish army and security forces with elements of the YPG and PKK, which have exacted a costly toll on the Kurdish civilian population have been raging in southern Turkey and northern Syria in recent months. Russian satellite surveillance and human intelligence employed by both Russian and Syria in the region have confirmed the build-up of troops and material on the border.
It is reasonable to believe that Turkey is preparing to salvage its failed policy of supporting Islamic fundamentalist mercenaries and terrorist groups in Syria by invading and establishing a safe area for these groups along its southern border with Syria, while at the same time dealing a crushing blow to the Kurdish forces that have been successful in fighting them. Turkey is not only trying to topple the Assad government in Syrian, but is also trying to liquidate the Kurdish threat both in Iraq and Syria, as well as within its own borders.
Turkey’s membership in NATO complicates its plans of invasion. Unless Turkey is itself attacked, the NATO alliance is not obligated to defend the nation. Turkey will have to engineer a provocation that frames it as the target of an aggression either by Kurdish forces from beyond its borders or by Syrian or Russian forces combating its terrorist allies in Syria. Such a false flag provocation in not outside of the realm of possibility. When a Turkish F-16 shot down a Russian Su-24, claims that the bomber had strayed into Turkish airspace for a number of minutes and ignored radio warnings from the Turkish aircraft were proven to be patently false.
A year earlier in 2014, an audio recording of Turkish officials, including the head of the Security Service (MIT), Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Foreign Minister and the Undersecretary to the Foreign Minister discussing staging an attack on the Tomb of Suleiman Shah (a sovereign piece of Turkish territory) in Syria and using it as a pretext to intervene in Syria were leaked anonymously on YouTube.
The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan responded by banning YouTube in Turkey, in affect giving support to the recordings authenticity. Now that the Syrian government has the upper hand militarily, gaining back territory and destroying, surrounding or pushing back various Turkish-backed terrorist forces, Turkey may be ready to engineer a new excuse to invade.
It is most likely that elements of the Turkish Second Army are positioned along the southern border with Syria, and will form the nucleus of any invasion force. The 2nd Army is responsible for defending Southwestern Turkey. Its headquarters is based in Malatya, with approximately 100,000 troops under its command. The army is comprised of three corps, the 4th, 6th and 7th which are composed of the following units:
- 3rd Tactical Infantry Division
- 28th Mechanized Infantry Brigade
- 58th Artillery Brigade
- 1st Commando Brigade
- 2nd Commando Brigade
- 5th Armored Brigade
- 39th Mechanized Infantry Brigade
- 106th Artillery Regiment
- 34th Border Brigade
- 16th Mechanized Brigade (Diyarbakır)
- 20th Armored Brigade
- 70th Mechanized Infantry Brigade
- 172nd Armored Brigade
- 2nd Motorized Infantry Brigade
- 6th Motorized Infantry Brigade
- 3rd Commando Brigade
- 107th Artillery Regiment
It is not known how many elements of the 2nd Army have been committed to the build-up of forces on the border, nor how many elements of other Armies of the Turkish Armed Forces have been temporarily attached to this possible invasion force. Additional commando or mechanized units could be pooled from other military districts and added to the core of mechanized infantry, armor and artillery forces of the 2nd Army.
It is surmised that most of the 2nd Army has been committed to a possible invasion or a limited offensive operation against the forces of the YPG all along the border. The map below shows the position of these units:
Photographic evidence shows that the mechanized and armored forces being used in the internal operations against the Kurds within Turkey and Syria and also the incursion into northern Iraq, are composed of relatively modern tanks and infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs).
Reports have recently been made public that over 1,000 pieces of military equipment, likely consisting of MBTs, IFVs, self-propelled and towed artillery and their prime movers, as well as trucks and light vehicles have been massing in staging areas just north of the border. Turkish military spokesmen have stressed that they have positioned approximately 30 percent of the Turkish land forces along the border with Syria.
The troops belonging to these units are highly trained and motivated. They have been engaged in fighting in the border regions for many years and know the territory well. They have also been engaged in fighting the irregular forces of the PKK in urban areas for decades. The forces assembled are equipped with modern, effective combat arms and equipment that has been proven in battle.
From video and photographic evidence, Turkey has deployed at least the following types of equipment:
- M-60T (Turkish version of the Israeli Sabra Mk.II).Turkey has 170 M-60-Ts in service. This modernized and up-gunner version of the M-60, is an Israeli design. It boasts better armor protection than the M-60A3, as well as a more powerful 120mm main gun and better fire-control and imaging systems.
A modernized M-60T (Sabra Mk. II) on maneuvers.
- M-60 ATT and A3. Turkey has 762 of these U.S. designed tanks in service. This is a sound tank design, but is not on par with later generation MBTs. Armored units, possibly of the 5th, 20th or 172nd Armored Brigades utilizing large numbers of these tanks have been seen deploying to the southern border in the previous weeks. They were used during incursions into Syria and Iraq in earlier operations to combat Kurdish forces in both nations.
M-60 ATT/A3s deployed in northern Iraq in 2015, most likely of the 172nd Armored Brigade.
- Leopard 2A4. Turkey has 354 of these highly capable German manufactured tanks. It does not appear that these MBTs are in use by any of the armored units currently deployed in operations against the Kurds in the south of the country, nor incursions into Syria or Iraq. It is most likely that these more capable MBTs are with units tasked with guarding Turkey’s border with Russia and the Caucasus, where they would have to fight against a much more capable adversary, utilizing more modern and capable MBTS and Anti-Tank (AT) weapons.
- FNSS ACV-15. Based on the Turkish Army’s experience with the U.S. M113, the ACV-15 is an indigenous design that has many variants including APCs, Mortar Carriers, Ambulances, and ARVs. The IFV is equipped with a 25mm cannon.
A recent photograph of a mechanized unit equipped with ACV-15s assembled in the Turkish town of Suruc, approximately 100 miles north of the Syrian city and stronghold of ISIS, Raqqa.
- Kirpi (Hedgehog). Turkey acquired MRAPs after the U.S. invasion of Iraq exhibited the weakness of most light vehicles when confronted with IEDs and urban ambush. Turkey has between 200 and 600 MRAPs of this indigenous design.
Turkish Army Kirpi MRAP on duty somewhere in southern Turkey.
- Approximately 1200 of these small MRAPs exist in the Turkish Land Forces inventory. These are small utility vehicles much like the Russian Tiger or U.S. HUMMV; however they have increased survivability against mines and IEDs, as they were purpose built to deal with these threats. They are widely used by all Turkish land forces, including border and internal security forces.
Cobras being utilized by a Turkish Army Border Brigade in southern Turkey.
Self- Propelled Artillery:
- T-155 Firtina self-propelled howitzer. The T-155 was the product of a joint venture with South Korea to develop a more modern self-propelled howitzer. The South Korean variant is known as the K9. The Turkish Firtina makes use of the chassis and 155mm/L52 gun of the South Korean K-9, but uses an indigenous turret design, and navigation, communications and fire-control systems. There are at least 280 units in service with the Turkish Army.
T-155 self-propelled howitzers on the firing line.
- M-52T self-propelled howitzer. A major modernization program was conducted in the 1990s to modernize a weapons system that was developed in the 1950s by the United States. The vehicle was up-gunned from a 105mm howitzer to a German produced 155mm L39 gun. Turret design was modernized and electronics systems were brought up to modern standards including communications and fire-control. There are at least 360 units in service.
M-52Ts being moved into forward positions via prime movers in recent weeks. This is faster, more efficient and aids in overall maintenance when moving military hardware over long distances.
- Atilgan and Zipkin short range AA missile system. These pedestal mounted air defense systems (PMAD) have been mounted on various vehicles, including the ubiquitous ACV-15 and M-113. They can fire Igla or Stinger short range anti-aircraft missiles. They are deployed with mechanized and armored units to give them their own short range defense against both low flying fixed wing and rotary wing attack aircraft.
This Atilgan unit appears to be based on an M-113 chassis. It is forward deployed with a tank platoon equipped with M-60 ATT/A3s. This picture was taken in 2015 in northern Iraq.
The most obvious strategic aim of a Turkish invasion into Syrian territory would be to secure a sizable “safe zone” for Turkish-backed insurgents and terrorist forces in northern Syria. Not only would this salvage the Turkish proxies for future use, possibly in guerilla style attacks and acts of terrorism against Syria, but would more importantly drive a wedge between the Kurdish YPG forces in Northwestern Syria (north of Idlib Province) and those located in the Northeastern Syria (east of Jarabulus).
Zone of the expected Turkish military invasion
The Turkish government is determined to make sure that the YPG does not gain control of the Kurdish dominated regions in an unbroken area all along the border. The YPG has recently been successful in attacks against Turkish-backed terrorists in small offensives in this “wedge” between YPG areas of control. These offensives have been backed by Russian air operations and with airdrops of weapons and ammunition in recent weeks.
It is most likely the prospect of greater territorial gains by the Kurds that the Turkish Army will be deployed to prevent. How the Turkish military command plans to carry out such an operation successfully, and how the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and Russia will respond will determine the course of the conflict and undoubtedly the odds of a wider war.
An initial observation of the forward deployment of Turkish Army units along the border with Syria gives hints as to their tactical employment in a possible invasion. Two armored brigades and two mechanized brigades are positioned just north of the border, adjacent to the area that is currently controlled by various terrorist groups and militias under the umbrella of support of the Turkish regime, and that lies in between the YPG dominated areas.
Their axis of advance would cover, approximately the area between Azaz and Jarabulus, and would probably not extend beyond the depth of 20 to 25 miles (30 to 40 km).
Two armored and two mechanized brigades, representing approximately 15,000 to 20,000 men would be able to mount a fast assault. These units are highly mobile, flexible, and self-sufficient and pack a great deal of offensive power. They would most likely be aided by elements of at least one commando brigade. They could cover the 20-25 mile distance quickly and consolidate the area rapidly, and would be maintaining short lines of communication and supply.
Fixed wing and rotary wing attack aircraft would be assigned to provide air cover to the ground operation. The initial assault would most certainly be followed up by the advance of infantry and border patrol units to establish and provide internal security for the long haul.
Click to see the full-size map
The unknown variable for the Turkish military planners is the reaction of the Russian forces deployed within Syria, at the request of the only legitimate government of that country. Will the Russian air forces deployed in Syria react to thwart the incursion of a hostile force that aims to directly undermine the sovereignty of Syria?
Will Russian air defense forces based at Khmeimim airbase or naval vessels positioned offshore fire upon Turkish aircraft that violate the sovereign airspace of Syria engaged in providing air cover for Turkish ground forces, and that could possibly threaten the Russian position in Latakia? There are a number of unknown variables that present immense uncertainties in the Turkish strategic calculus when planning such an undertaking.
The recent Russian snap drills by forces in the Southern Military District, which included the participation of airborne and air transport units, was a clear message to Turkey that Russia was prepared to defend her borders and her national interests in Syria. This is only the latest in a series of clear messages by the Russian leadership that it will not tolerate a Turkish sabotage of its campaign in Syria to restore order and to stabilize the situation in the country.
The question remains, does the Erdogan regime believe that the potential benefits of setting up a de-facto safe haven for its proxies in Syria outweigh the potential of direct military conflict with Russia?
The determination of the Erdogan regime to undermine the sovereignty of Syria by supporting, both logistically, materially and monetarily various factions of Islamic fundamentalist mercenaries and terrorist groups, has only harmed the security of Turkey and strengthened the position of their long time enemy the Kurds.
The past five years have enriched the bank accounts of the Erdogan family and their cronies through the illegal oil trade, human trafficking of refuges, and the smuggling of arms; however, the Turkish people have suffered from a bloody crack-down on the Kurdish minority in the south of the country, terrorist bombings, an assault on civil rights, press censorship and the erosion of Turkish-Russian relations to a level not seen since the darkest days of the Cold War.
This policy of intervention in the affairs of both Syria and Iraq, the support of a multitude of Islamic terrorist groups, and the undermining of neighboring countries to the benefit of a ruling elite in Turkey has been disastrous. It may turn out in the end that Turkey itself has been the most negatively affected by Erdogan’s misguided policies.
NATO and Europe as a whole have been undermined, and it remains to be seen how much longer even they will tolerate the situation. Is NATO ready to be dragged into a war with Russia as a result of Turkey’s aggressive and misguided foreign policy? A pretext for invasion that casts Turkey as the victim will have to be engineered by the Erdogan regime prior to any incursion south in order to maintain NATO support.
By bringing to light, in embarrassing detail, the Erdogan regime’s illegal activities in direct support of internationally recognized terrorist groups and the illegal plunder of the oil resources of Syria and Iraq and the establishment and operation of the logistics network that facilitates the sale of the oil at great profit to the Erdogan family itself, Russia has laid the truth bear to the world.
In so doing, they have also allowed Erdogan a way to back off the stage, so to speak, and abandon his misguided aspirations in Syria. Continued support by NATO and the United States in light of the ugly realities of Turkey’s actions in the conflict, will only undermine both parties’ legitimacy in the eyes of the international community.
Turkey most definitely has the military power in place to successfully carry out a limited invasion to establish a terrorist safe zone and to prohibit the consolidation of the entire northern border under the control of the Kurds; however the costs if this invasion is contested by Russia and Syria nullify any potential benefits. In short, further efforts to salvage a disastrous foreign policy on the part of the Erdogan regime through force of arms will only hasten their political isolation and destruction.
The Turkish people deserve better, and as political opposition continues to grow in the government and on the street, a disastrous invasion just may push the current regime out of power. This would be a positive development; however, the very real possibility of a Turkish incursion developing into a wider war would prove disastrous to the entire world.
Turkish military shells Kurdish targets in northern Syria – Kurds to RT
Turkey’s army has shelled targets near the city of Azaz in northwestern Syria, Kurdish sources on the ground tell RT.
The Turkish shelling of Kurdish positions has continued for more than three hours almost uninterruptedly, a Kurdish source told RT, adding that the Turkish forces are using mortars and missiles and firing from the Turkish border not far from the city of Azaz in the Aleppo Governorate.
The source also said that that there were casualties, but the exact number is unknown. The Turkish forces fired shells at the villages of Malikiya and Tannab, a source told RT, citing a statement by the Jaysh al-Thuwwar group. A source in the Turkish government confirmed to Reuters that the Turkish military had shelled Kurdish militia targets near Azaz on Saturday.
“The Turkish Armed Forces fired shells at PYD positions in the Azaz area,” the source said, referring to the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Ankara views as a terrorist group.
A Kurdish official confirmed to Reuters that the shelling had targeted the Menagh air base located south of Azaz. According to the official, the base had been captured by the Jaysh al-Thuwwar rebel group, which is an ally of PYD and a member of the Syria Democratic Forces alliance.
Syrian Kurds are actively engaged in the fight against the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group and have been recently described as “some of the most successful” forces fighting IS jihadists in Syria by US State Department spokesman John Kirby, AFP reports.
Earlier, the US also called the PYD an “important partner” in the fight against Islamic State, adding that US support of the Kurdish fighters “will continue.”
Saudi Arabia is to deploy military jets and personnel to Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base in the south of the country, Ankara said. The base is already used by the US Air Force for their sorties in Syria.
The deployment is part of the US-led effort to defeat the Islamic State terrorist group, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.
“At every coalition meeting, we have always emphasized the need for an extensive result-oriented strategy in the fight against the Daesh terrorist group,” he said, referring to IS by an Arabic-language abbreviation.
Cavusoglu spoke to the Yeni Şafak newspaper after addressing a security conference in Munich, Germany, where the Syrian crisis was one of the top issues on the agenda.
“If we have such a strategy, then Turkey and Saudi Arabia may launch a ground operation,” he added, fueling concerns that a foreign troop invasion may soon further complicate the already turbulent situation in the war-torn country.
Russian PM warns US, Saudis against starting ‘permanent war’ with ground intervention in Syria
Earlier, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE voiced their readiness to contribute troops for a ground operation in Syria on the condition that the US would lead the intervention. Damascus and its key regional ally, Iran, warned that such a foreign force would face strong resistance.
The US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have shared goals in Syria, as all three want the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad to be toppled by rebel forces. On other issues they differ. For example, the US supports Kurdish forces in Syria who scored significant military victories against IS, but Turkey considers them terrorists and is targeting them with airstrikes.
Russia, which supports the government of Bashar Assad, seeing it as the only regional force capable of defeating IS on the ground, has warned against a ground intervention, which, Moscow believes, would only serve to prolong the war in Syria.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev called on his Western counterparts “not to threaten a ground operation” in Syria, stressing that Moscow is doing its utmost to pave the way for a lasting peace in the war-torn country.
Russia and other leading world powers have brought Damascus and a number of rebel groups to negotiations and leveraged them into agreeing to a ceasefire. The agreement, however, remains shaky, as neither side trusts the other, and the unity of the rebel delegation remains questionable. The terrorist groups IS and Al Nusra Front are not part of the talks.
Russian PM warns US, Saudis against starting ‘permanent war’ with ground intervention in Syria
Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev told German media that sending foreign troops into Syria could unleash “yet another war on Earth.” The warning follows increasingly aggressive statements made by Saudi Arabia and Turkey amid Bashar Assad’s gains in Aleppo.
“All sides must be compelled to sit at the negotiating table, instead of unleashing yet another war on Earth,” Medvedev told Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper. “Any kinds of land operations, as a rule, lead to a permanent war. Look at what’s happened in Afghanistan and a number of other countries. I am not even going to bring up poor Libya.”
The PM was commenting on recent statements from Saudi Arabia claiming that it was ready to send ground troops to Syria, should Washington lead the way.
“The Americans and our Arab partners must think well: do they want a permanent war? Do they think they can really quickly win it? It is impossible, especially in the Arab world. Everyone is fighting against everyone there,” Medvedev added. The interview was published on the eve of the International Syria Support Group meeting in Munich, where the cessation of hostilities in Syria became a top item on the agenda.
Meanwhile, the situation in Syria has been heating up, as Syrian government troops have been making advances in the northern city of Aleppo, half of which is considered to be under the control of anti-government rebel groups. The same region has also been inundated with terrorist groups, such as Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), Ahrar al-Sham, and Al-Nusra Front, which are all being targeted by Russian as well as US-led air campaigns.
At the same time, the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have recaptured a former military airbase from jihadists near the Turkish-Syrian border, reportedly with the support of Russian air strikes. The base is located near the rebel-held town of Azaz in Aleppo province.
Turkey, meanwhile, continues to insist that the Kurdish militia fighting IS are terrorists just as the Kurdish rebels fighting inside Turkey. Ankara, which has been criticized for bombing Kurds inside Syria instead of helping to fight IS, has recently fallen out with Washington over America’s support for the Kurdish YPG.
On the Syrian battlefield, Turkey openly supports anti-Assad rebel groups. The latest statement by Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu, who pledged to return a “historical debt” to Turkey’s “Aleppo brothers,”gave new rise to speculations over a looming Turkish ground invasion of Syria.
The situation has prompted fears of a possible military clash between world powers backing different sides of the Syrian conflict, with hopes that the Munich talks could de-escalate the deadlock. While some Western leaders have openly called upon Russia to stop supporting Assad with airstrikes, the communique that was agreed upon after five long hours of discussions does not directly mention any downsizing of strikes. Instead, it calls for a“nationwide cessation of hostilities” over the period of one week, although it exempts terrorist groups from the potential ceasefire.
In the latest alarming episode, Russian and American militaries traded accusations over the bombing of civilian infrastructure in Aleppo. Russia’s Defense Ministry said two US Air Force A-10 warplanes had destroyed nine facilities in the city, with the Americans shifting the blame onto Russia’s air campaign afterwards.
Russian jets, however, had not targeted any civilian areas and were operating 20 kilometers away, according to the ministry. The spat started on Wednesday with the US alleging the destruction of “two main hospitals in Aleppo by Russian and regime attacks.”
From February 4 to 11, the Russian Air Force performed over 500 sorties, eliminating nearly 1,900 terrorist facilities in the Syrian provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama, Deir ez-Zor, Daraa, Homs, Al-Hasakah and Raqqa, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the US is seeking to boost the anti-Islamic State coalition it is heading in Iraq and Syria by officially drawing in NATO as a member, AFP reported. While some NATO member states are already active members of the coalition, the military alliance’s chief, Jens Stoltenberg, said their increased role could bring “significant development” and “unique capabilities” which include “building partner capacity, training ground forces and providing stabilization support.”
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has been lobbying for greater participation by NATO in the war on Islamic State, giving a dramatic Thursday speech on “a new stage in the coalition campaign to defeat ISIL” and adding the countries would then be able “look back after victory and remember who participated in the fight.”
The alliance, however, has already found itself in one uneasy situation related to the conflict, when it had to back Turkey’s downing of a Russian Su-24 bomber that was striking militant positions in Syria. While Ankara rushed to seek NATO’s support following the aggressive and clearly avoidable move, and the bloc delivered this support on an official level, reports cited sources taking part in a NATO emergency meeting at the time as expressing discontent with the rash unilateral move by the Turks.
Turkey has since stopped its sorties into Syria in what some attribute to the dispatch of the Russian S-400 air defense systems there, but also due to the pressure by Ankara‘s NATO allies to follow the bloc’s more cautious rules of engagement.