Syrian government officials say US not coordinating with Damascus on strikes, ‘but it’s OK‘
“Although we continue to assess the outcome of these attacks, initial indications are that they were successful,” read a statement from U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), which is coordinating the air campaign.
CENTCOM added that the grain silo it struck was in the hands of ISIL, the violent Al-Qaeda splinter group that swept through Iraq and Syria this summer.
“The storage facility was being used by ISIL as a logistics hub and vehicle staging facility,” CENTCOM said.
However, the bombing in Manbij appeared to have killed only civilians, not fighters, said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Observatory, which gathers information from sources in Syria.
The United States has targeted ISIL and other fighters in Syria since last week with the help of Arab allies, and has hit ISIL in Iraq since last month. Washington says it aims to damage and destroy the bases, forces and supply lines of the violent armed group that has captured large areas of both countries.
The CENTCOM statement also listed other strikes in the region, including what it said were ISIL assets in Deir al-Zour, Aleppo and Raqqa, the heart of ISIL-held territory.
Bombs also hit ISIL vehicles near Kirkuk, a contested city near the Kurdish region of Iraq, and Sinjar, just west of Kirkuk, where thousands of Yazidis, a religious minority, sought refuge from the ISIL onslaught in August.
Participating with the U.S. in the attacks were the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.
‘We are satisfied’
Syrian Foreign Minister Waleed Moallem on Monday said Damascus was satisfied with the U.S.-led bombing campaign against ISIL, adding that the airstrikes should be expanded to include all other rebel groups in Syria.
Rebel groups unaffiliated with ISIL, meanwhile, have criticized the U.S. for not targeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorial regime, which they seek to overthrow. The White House maintains, as it has since the beginning of Syria’s civil war in 2011, that it hopes Assad will leave power, but has not effectively backed any anti-government group.
American diplomats have denied that they are working in concert with the regime — sometimes informing Syrian officials that the raids would take place, but not asking for permission to strike.
Al-Moallem said the U.S. does not inform Syria of every strike before it happens, “but it’s OK.”
“We are fighting ISIS, they are fighting ISIS,” he said, referring to the group by one of its acronyms.
“Until today, we are satisfied. As long as they are aiming at ISIS locations in Syria and in Iraq, we are satisfied,” he said.
How about the civilians (and children) being killed by the air strikes? Not one word.
Despite questions over legality of US strikes in Syria, world keeps silence
Germany and the EU mafia accused Russia of violating international law and sovereignty by “invading” and “occupying” Crimea, and then “anexing” Crimea to the Russian Federation. The nations that felt “threatened” by Russia asked their patron, the United States, to protect their countries against a Russian invasion. It was a chorus singing the same song day after day. Then they decided to “punish” Russia with sanctions.
Why are these nations silent about the US air stikes in Syria and Iraq? The United States, once again, is violating international law and the sovereignty of two countries. Why the hypocrisy lecturing and threatening Russia with more sanctions and backing NATO?
President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have put together this motley crew coalition that includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates — American warplanes are doing most of the airstrikes in Syria — even though in countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, powerful elements are financing some of the same terrorists that their governments have been enlisted to fight.
In a fancy-old New York hotel that evoked Marlon Brando making the peace with the heads of the five families in “The Godfather,” President Obama offered a tableau of respect to the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
“This represents partners and friends in which we have worked for very many years to make sure that security and prosperity exists in the region,” he said.
As Maureen Dowd wrote in her article “From Pen and Phone to Bombs and Drones”, because we need the regressive rulers in the Persian Gulf to sell us oil and buy our fighter jets and house our fleets and drones and give us cover in our war coalitions, we don’t really speak out about their human rights violations and degradation of women as much as we should. The Obama administration was sparked to action by the videos of ISIS beheading two American journalists. Yet Saudi Arabia — wooed to be in the coalition by Kerry with a personal visit this month — has been chopping off heads regularly, sometimes for nonlethal crimes such as drugs or sorcery.
The president should just drop the flowery talk and cut to the chase. Americans get it. Let’s not pretend we’re fighting for any democratic principles here.
The muted reaction may or may not mean the world is buying the Obama administration’s legal rationale for striking ISIL in Syria, an argument that is premised on the White House’s refusal to partner with the Assad regime and that takes advantage of gray areas in international law.
Given the indiscriminate brutality of ISIL in Syria and Iraq, and the sectarian threat it poses to regional stability, it may simply be the case that the international community is willing to turn a blind eye.
Others say Washington’s partnership with regional powers lends credibility to the operation.
Still, many legal scholars say the U.S. justification for striking ISIL may be valid.
The U.S. has already invoked Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, which allows for collective self-defense of a sovereign state without Security Council approval, to justify the ongoing offensive against ISIL strongholds in Iraq. Baghdad has formally requested military assistance to combat the armed group in the country’s Sunni strongholds, so the legality of foreign intervention on the Iraqi side of ISIL’s vast territory is clear-cut. Is it?
But any campaign against ISIL that is limited to one side of the Iraqi border would amount to a stopgap measure, since ISIL fighters can easily retreat into Syria, where the group is based, to replenish and refuel. In other words, the U.S. argues, defending Iraq from ISIL requires expanding the offensive into Syria.
“The U.S. claim of self-defense is parasitic upon Iraq’s claim,” said Jens Ohlin, a professor at the Cornell University School of Law and an expert on the legality of international military action. “Iraq has suffered attacks from ISIS [an acronym for another name for ISIL] units that have a safe haven in Syria, which is unable to stop ISIS from operating on its territory. This argument is controversial but supportable in my view.”
In fact, there wouldn’t even be a debate over the legality of U.S. strikes on ISIL if the White House secured the permission of the Assad regime. But after recently announcing it would boost aid to Syria’s moderate rebels and already under fire for taking too soft a line against the Assad regime over three years of bloody civil war, the White House is afraid it would paint itself as hypocritical by collaborating with Assad against a common enemy — even for a brief time.
So the U.S. has made the controversial argument that the Syrian government is “unwilling or unable to prevent the use of its territory” by ISIL as a staging ground for attacks in Iraq, according to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power. After all, Assad has lost control of over one-third of his country to ISIL — hence “unable” — and there is evidence he has allowed ISIL to metastasize while focusing fire on other rebel factions because the group has spurred so much rebel infighting — therefore “unwilling.”
But Syria’s regime recaptured (Sept. 25, 2014) a town near Damascus from Islamist rebels and attacked other rebel-held areas, fanning fears among some in the opposition that President Bashar al-Assad is gaining advantage from the U.S.-led air campaign against Islamic State militants.
Syrian military officers, speaking on state television, said their forces and an allied militia drove the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and other rebels from Adra al-Umaliya after nearly a year of fighting over the town. State television touted it as a major victory.
The U.S.-led airstrikes that began this week have targeted extremist group Islamic State and another al Qaeda-linked rebel group Khorasan, which is closely intertwined with Nusra Front. So any gains by Syrian government forces at the expense of Nusra Front and other Islamist rebels risk fueling the perception among many in the opposition that the international airstrikes are unintentionally aiding Mr. Assad’s struggle to cling to power.
Nusra Front and Islamic State are two of the most potent rebel groups fighting the Assad regime, which has welcomed the U.S.-led airstrikes against its enemies. Nusra Front and other Islamist groups as well as Western-backed rebels have been fighting both the regime and Islamic State, also known as ISIS, in the multi-sided civil war.
“When we are fighting against ISIS in northeast Aleppo and at the same time being hit by regime aircraft, how can we win this fight against the terrorism on the ground and the terrorism in the sky?” Husam Almarie, spokesman for the Western-backed Free Syrian Army in northern Syria, said on Wednesday. “If the U.S. wants to defeat terrorism, it must hit both Assad and ISIS.”
Sunni insurgents took over Adra al-Umaliya, on the outskirts of the capital, in late 2013. They were accused at the time of massacring Alawites, the Shiite-linked Muslim sect whose members dominate the top echelons of the Assad regime.
A military officer speaking to local reporters bused from Damascus to Adra al-Umaliya on Thursday said his forces surrounded rebels in the area from all directions, forcing many of them to flee.
“We put pressure on the armed terrorist groups and they took huge losses and we killed many members of these gangs,” he said in remarks broadcast on state television.
To date U.S. fighter aircraft, bombers and drones have launched about 190 airstrikes within Iraq.
Urged on by the White House and U.S. defense and military officials, Congress passed legislation late last week authorizing the military to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels. Obama signed the bill into law on Friday, providing $500 million for the U.S. to train about 5,000 rebels over the next year.
ISIL, meanwhile, has threatened retribution. Its spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, said in a 42-minute audio statement released on Sunday that the fighters were ready to battle the U.S.-led military coalition and called for attacks at home and abroad.