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.
Pentagon Posts Videos of Airstrikes in Syria on YouTube
These three strikes were part of a wide-ranging operation in Syria launched by the United States along with Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The strikes were the first ones conducted inside Syria, and follow a series of air strikes against ISIS in Iraq. These operations, the Pentagon said, are “part of the President’s comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately defeat” ISIS.
And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I’ll say it clear,
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain.
I’ve lived a life that’s full.
I’ve traveled each and ev’ry highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way…
U.S. President Barack Obama called for united action to confront violent extremism Wednesday, as he addressed the United Nations General Assembly after a second day of U.S. airstrikes in Syria.
Airstrikes were carried out overnight Tuesday into Wednesday against five more targets: four in Iraq and one in Syria, the U.S. Central Command said.
In Syria, a U.S. aircraft and coalition plane struck an ISIS staging area near the Iraqi border, northwest of Al Qa’im, damaging eight ISIS vehicles.
In Iraq, two airstrikes west of Baghdad destroyed two ISIS armed vehicles and a weapons cache. Two airstrikes southeast of the city of Irbil destroyed ISIS fighting positions.
The latest raids come on the heels of major airstrikes in Syria early Tuesday.
President Barack Obama’s call for action comes as he faces questions about his decision to bomb terror groups in Syria without approval from the U.N. Security Council or U.S. Congress.
As Pepe Escobar has written, “So call this warped western a masterful depiction of American exceptionalism. And mirror it with the soft pull of a dying, lone superpower which is still capable of turning the whole planet into junkies, addicted to the cinematically sumptuous spectacle of its own demise.
Speaking in New York, Obama told of the need to confront the “threats” (to the US Empire?) that face the world today, including the violent extremism embodied by the radical group ISIS, also referred to as the “Islamic State” or ISIL.
“It is no exaggeration to say that humanity’s future depends on us uniting against those who would divide us along fault lines of “tribe or sect; race or religion,” he said. Is this the reason why the military occupied Ferguson?
“This is not simply a matter of words. Collectively, we must take concrete steps to address the danger posed by “religiously motivated fanatics”, and the trends that fuel their recruitment.”
At the same time, Obama stressed that the United States “is not and never will be at war with Islam.”
‘A hateful cause’
To battle extremists like ISIS, the world must focus on four areas, the ruler of the world said.
First, he said, ISIS must be degraded and ultimately destroyed. Second, it is time for the world to explicitly reject the ideology of al Qaeda and ISIS.
Third, the world must address the cycle of conflict, including sectarian conflict, that creates the conditions that terrorists thrive on. And fourth, Arab and Muslim countries must focus on the potential of their people, especially youths.
The United States is not standing alone in the fight against ISIS, Obama said. “Nor do we intend to send U.S. troops to occupy foreign lands.”
Instead, the United States will use its “military might in a campaign of airstrikes” against ISIS, help train and equip forces fighting them on the ground, work to cut off their financing and stop the flow of foreign fighters, he said.
“Already, over 40 nations have offered to join this coalition. Today, I ask the world to join in this effort. Those who have joined ISIL should leave the battlefield while they can,” he warned.
“Those who continue to fight for a hateful cause will find they are increasingly alone. For we will not succumb to threats; and we will demonstrate that the future belongs to those who build, not those who destroy.”
Obama’s call for action comes as he faces questions about his decision to bomb terror groups in Syria without approval from the U.N. Security Council or U.S. Congress.
U.S. strikes the Khorasan group in Syria
Tomahawk missiles launched against ISIS
And as the President takes the world stage, U.S. law enforcement agencies are looking out for possible lone-wolf attack plots to retaliate for the bombings.
Why not strike the regime?
While some Syrians celebrated the U.S. airstrikes on radical militants, others expressed frustration that President Bashar al-Assad’s government, which world leaders blame for thousands of civilian deaths, goes unscathed. In other words, they want him killed.
“I am just wondering why the U.S. didn’t bomb the regime’s brigades,” Aleppo resident Foaad Hallak said.
“If the international community is willing to show their good intentions to Syrians, they have to bomb the regime and its militias and also ISIS, and also they have to supply FSA (the rebel Free Syrian Army) with anti-aircraft missiles.”
Muhammad al-Dleby said he was frustrated that after three years and more than 100,000 deaths in Syria, “the international community stepped in only because radical militants were “a threat to its interests.”
“Assad is the biggest terrorist in Syria, and he did crimes that even … extremists didn’t do,” he said.
Kerry: Strikes effective but will take time
So far, U.S. Central Command has conducted 198 airstrikes across Iraq against ISIS and, along with partner nations, another 20 airstrikes against the group across Syria.
Conceding that airstrikes haven’t flushed out ISIS in Iraq, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that U.S airpower may nonetheless have prevented the fall of Baghdad and Irbil to the militants.
“What we’ve done is we’ve stopped the onslaught,” he told crypto-glamorous Pentagon/State Department stenographer Christiane Amanpour anchoring CNN’s coverage from New York. Christiane Amanpour.
“That was what we were able to achieve with air power. They were moving towards Irbil. They were moving towards Baghdad. Baghdad could well have fallen. Irbil could have fallen.”
U.S. airstrikes aren’t designed to defeat ISIS by themselves, Kerry said. “You and others should not be looking for some massive retreat in the next week or two,” he said. Boots on the ground…?
The airstrikes early Tuesday in Syria came in three waves, with coalition partners participating in the latter two, Army Lt. Gen. William Mayville Jr. said Tuesday.
The airstrikes against ISIS focused primarily on the city of Raqqa, the declared capital of ISIS’ self-proclaimed Islamic State.
The operation began with a flurry of Tomahawk missiles launched from the sea, followed by attacks from bomber and fighter aircraft, a senior U.S. military official told CNN.
The goal: Taking out ISIS’ ability to command, train and resupply its militants.
In all, 200 pieces of ordnance were dropped by coalition members, and four dozen aircraft were used, a U.S. official told CNN. About 150 weapons used were precision-guided munitions. The United States fired 47 Tomahawk missiles, eight of them against Khorasan targets.
The first wave mostly targeted the Khorasan Group, whom Obama described as “seasoned al Qaeda operatives in Syria.“
The second wave of airstrikes Tuesday involved ISIS targets in northern Syria, including the town of Raqqa.
The third wave involved planes targeting ISIS training camps and combat vehicles in eastern Syria, Mayville said.
Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan took part in airstrikes on the ISIS targets, the U.S. military said, while Qatar played a supporting role.
In all, 200 pieces of ordnance were dropped by coalition members, a U.S. official told CNN.
It’s too early to say what effect the U.S. strikes had against the Khorasan Group, Mayville said.
U.S. officials said “the group was plotting attacks against the United States and other Western targets”. The intelligence community discovered the plots against the United States in the past week, an intelligence source told CNN.
The attacks on ISIS, however, destroyed targets including training compounds, command-and-control facilities, a finance center and supply trucks, the U.S. Central Command said.
The airstrikes apparently took a toll on another terror group, killing the leader of the al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, according to a statement from the group.
Al-Nusra Front identified the leader as Abu Yousef al-Turki, also known as “The Turk.” It posted a statement on Twitter, accompanied by a so-called proof-of-death — a photograph — of al-Turki.
But the United States has not identified al-Nusra as a group targeted in the strikes.
Activist: ISIS fighters keep low profile
An activist from Raqqa, who uses the pseudonym Maher al-Ahmad, told CNN he’d gone back to the town after the airstrikes.
“It’s the first time I didn’t see ISIS in the streets, that I was able to walk around, because I am wanted by them,” said al-Ahmad, who moves between Raqqa and Turkey’s Gaziantep province.
He said people who were there during the strikes described them as feeling like earthquakes.
Some 20 to 25 vehicles filled with ISIS fighters, including people he believes were senior leadership because of the level of security around them, left the city within hours of the attacks, the activist said.
After keeping a low profile during the day, the ISIS fighters were out in the streets again by Tuesday evening but in lower numbers than usual, he said.
ISIS fighters began moving into the homes of civilians in the past two to three weeks, al-Ahmad said, raising fears that the civilians may be used as human shields or fall victim to future airstrikes.
Hassan al-Halabi, an activist from Aleppo, voiced similar fears, saying residents there have two main concerns about upcoming strikes in Syria.
“The first is that they are afraid of having civilian casualties because ISIS’ members and fighters are among civilians,” al-Halabi said.
“And the second concern is that what will happen after that? Who will replace ISIS, especially that the regime is ready to take control of ISIS’ areas?”
Concern over possible backlash by the terror groups against the United States has prompted the Department of Homeland Security to warn law enforcement agencies of potential lone-wolf terror attacks on American soil, a U.S. law enforcement official with knowledge of the warning told CNN.
The bulletin calls for vigilance as well as scrutinizing social media for anyone encouraging violence in response to the strikes. It points to the use of social media as a tactic by ISIS to spread its message and call for violence.
It also advises agencies to look for changes in appearance or behavior in those they’re tracking, the official said.
Congressman OK with keeping secret the Khorasan Group strike
Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, told CNN’s Carol Costello on Wednesday morning that he is fine with the Obama administration not telling Congress about the U.S. attack on the Khorasan Group, a collection of senior al Qaeda members who have moved into Syria.
King said he’s known about the group for weeks, and he added that telling only a select few about plans to strike militants who could attack the U.S. was probably the only way to carry out the surprise strike. “You can’t have 435 commanders in chief,” King said, referring to the probable difficulty in having all representatives know that secret and keep it under wraps.