“Dozens of moderate opposition fighters have withdrawn from the program after they refused to sign a contract assuring that they would not fight against the Syrian regime.”
Reports have claimed that the al-Qaida linked Al-Nusra Front has detained 18 U.S. trained Syrian rebels, including
Syrian Turkmen Colonel Nedim Hassan,
-who is allegedly the leader of the U.S train-and-equip program-, and field commander Farhan Jasim near the Syrian city of Aleppo on Wednesday.
Pentagon said on Wednesday that the Al-Nusra abductees are not members of U.S. train and equip program.
“While we will not disclose the names of specific groups involved with the Syria Train and Equip program I can confirm that there have been no New Syrian Force personnel captured or detained.” Pentagon spokeswoman or Cmdr. Elissa Smith told Daily Sabah.
One Turkish senior official speaking to Daily Sabah on Thursday also confirmed that there was no detention or abduction of US-trained Syrian rebel forces. “Those detained by Al-Nusra are not part of train and equip program”, the official said.
It was claimed that the Syrian opposition members who were returning from the train-and-equip program from Turkey were cut in by the Nusra militants, and were allegedly detained on the grounds that they are cooperating with the U.S.
The first group of (FSA) soldiers, who trained in the central Anatolian Kırşehir province as part of the train-and-equip program, completed their training and crossed into Syria on July 12. The convoy of 30 vehicles and 54 men crossed the Turkish border and were expected to join opposition forces to fight ISIS at the Savran front in northern Aleppo.
The 30th Division, established by nine opposition groups from the Free Syrian Army (FSA), was commanded by Colonel Nedim Hasan, a Turkmen defector from the Syrian army, who is aided by the Syrian Group Captain Sahir Mustafa.
The U.S. and Turkey signed an agreement in February to train and equip moderate Syrian opposition forces and after months of delay due to logistical issues the program started in Kırşehir in May. The program was to take place in Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but so far it has taken place in Turkey and Jordan only. A total of 154 men were trained by both Turkey and Jordan under the 30th Division, which was established by the U.S. to specifically fight ISIS. One-hundred men completed the 54-day training in the camp in Jordan and returned to their country 20 days ago. Fifty-four men who completed their 74-day training in Turkey were granted permission to cross into Syria on July 12. The U.S. equipped the men with 30 pick-up trucks, middle range weapons such as DShK, along with M16 assault rifles and a vast quantity of ammunition.
According to the agreement between the U.S. and Turkey, groups of 300 to 2,000 FSA soldiers were planned to be trained, but only 54 have been trained. Pentagon officials recently reported the program is moving slower than expected due to complications in vetting volunteers and transporting them from Syria for training. Moreover, Turkish media outlets recently reported that dozens of moderate opposition fighters have withdrawn from the program after they refused to sign a contract assuring that they would not fight against the Syrian regime. Many Syrian volunteers prefer to use their training to fight both ISIS and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, which was the original aim of the revolution before it got complicated.
*Contributed by Ragıp Soylu
“Nobody ever knew what really happened. How many fighters or civilians killed to what effect…nobody knew any facts. In other words, it all seemed like theater for public consumption.”
[Is the quotation above about Turkish airstrikes or American drone strikes? How do we know that any “legitimate media” war report is true?]
In Turkey, an ISIS suicide bomb kills 30 and wounds many more in the Kurdish area town of Suruc. The Kurdish insurgent terrorists, the PKK, then start killing Turkish policemen and soldiers while ISIS attacks a Turkish military border post. Peace demonstrations ensue in some cities which police put down with the, by now, familiar methods of severity against civilians. Ankara and Washington reach an agreement allowing the US to use its bases inside Turkey against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Erdogan’s spokesmen announce that Turkey’s air force has conducted raids against both PKK and ISIS targets across the border. Turkish authorities arrest some 900 people nationwide, mostly Kurds, for allegedly belonging to terror networks. Turkish tanks shell Kurdish villages in Syrian borderlands near Kobani. Meanwhile, news leaks that the US has solid evidence of Turkish collusion with ISIS in months past. Let us pause here and dispel some of the fog.
First, let us remember that Turkey conducted a national election on June 7 and still hasn’t formed a government. All these decisions in a time of crisis are being taken by somebody. Someone’s running the country. We’ll get to the full implications later but initiatives are being taken, orders given. The air raids for instance. Worth a little scrutiny. For example, you have to wonder, since the Turkish air force knew of PKK targets in Iraq, so quickly and easily neutralized, why didn’t it act before? And why attack Syrian Kurds near Kobani who, after all, are busy fighting off ISIS? Especially if you’ve declared ISIS the enemy because it has killed 30 people in a suicide bomb inside Turkey.
On the ISIS front, it’s worth viewing the video put out by Ankara of the air strikes against several sites by F-16s using laser-guided munitions. All the targets seem to have one thing in common: they’re each at a safe distance from residential complexes in ISIS territory. They’re set apart in open fields. They betray no marks of military activity. Now, humanitarian though this might seem – which itself begs the question – you still have to wonder. Does ISIS keep strategic targets clear of population centers? And, if so, why were such targets still so manifestly available. The US has waged its air war against ISIS since last September. They left a few for the Turks? The skeptic might ask if these were meaningful targets at all.
I remember during the Iraq war that Ankara would announce with fanfare various bombing sorties to hit PKK camps nestled in the Zagros mountains in retaliation against one or other PKK atrocity inside Turkey. Nobody ever knew what really happened. How many fighters or civilians killed to what effect? The PKK never slowed down. Barzani grumbled about territorial integrity. The White House mumbled about Turkey’s right to self-defense. I queried Kurds from Iraqi Kurdistan, from both Suleymaniah and Erbil, during those years about any publicly mooted information about those recurrent air strikes. While they expressed outrage at territorial violation by Turks, nobody knew any facts. In other words, it all seemed like theater for public consumption in Turkey.
Let’s keep firmly in mind the overarching attribute of Turkey’s AKP leaders throughout the last decade: they’re invariably long on demagogy and short on solutions. The goal always is to stay in power, mute criticism, corrupt all necessary institutions, suppress dissent, play the populist card. And play it so unscrupulously that the country polarizes step by step. Protestors are terrorists. Critical journalists are atheists. Gulenists serve a foreign power. Kurdish politicians are fronting for the PKK. The mayor of Ankara, a top Erdoganista, sued a journalist for accusing him of – wait for it – being Armenian!
Much of the time nobody knows what’s really going on after any eruption of internal conflict first gets reported – they only get exposed to propaganda and polemics. The media gets muzzled and social media suspended. It happened after two gas cylinder bombs exploded at a HDP Kurdish party rally ahead of the elections killing two and wounding over 100.
It has happened after the Suruc horror by ISIS. Erdogan’s main objective, to befog with theater when he can’t hide the reality, hasn’t wavered. Hence the display of signing the Incirlik Airbase deal with the White House. Hence the bombing runs against ISIS. These add up to a manifest U-turn as he and his party have publicly abetted ISIS in myriad snide ways, even giving cover to its foremost vociferous advocate in Turkey, the noisy and sinister Halis Bayancuk whom they’ve just re-arrested. Previously arrested in 2014, he was released by the authorities while the prosecutor and judge who had moved against him were demoted. The government then defended him publicly as a victim of the ‘deep state’ conspiracy, one of Erdogan’s favorite polemical bogeys.
Meanwhile, as many domestic commentators now say, Turkey is hovering on the brink. Similarly, others are pointing out that the country now faces total crisis not accidentally but in line with Erdogan’s plan to monopolize power, become the indispensible figure amid chaos. In the old days, when fractured elections led to paralysis and conflict, the military would step in and tidy up the mess, acting as last-chance custodians of the Republic. These days their role resides, democratically, with the President. Alas, the ‘honest-broker’ is also a dishonest protagonist in the fray, namely Erdogan himself. The office of the Presidency requires him to stand above politics. He hasn’t – even though the country voted away his party’s parliamentary majority for that reason, as a rebuttal of his ambition to make the Presidency paramount. He planned to re-enact the Putin/Medvedev tango, Turkish-style, moving between the position of PM and President to avoid term limits.
As I wrote here after the election produced no winner six weeks ago, Turkey has never fared well with coalitions. In this case, the coalition didn’t even materialize. While the various parties continue to negotiate on forming a government, they’ve left Erdogan in charge by default. What I warned then, is coming to pass (even quicker than expected) when I said, “and here’s the most scary part: as things deteriorate it will be up to the President to impose order by one means or another” and “a fundamental player in the equation (Erdogan) has no interest but to let things get very bad indeed”.
And so here we are. For Erdogan it’s even better that there’s no government. He rules by diktat. To do so, he needs crises. He’s busy creating them. Stoking the Kurdish conflict simply polarizes the country further, catalyzes civil war Assad-style. He will call a sudden election when things are bad enough. There’s some chance he might have miscued though. After all, he has no coalition to blame. Instead of seeing him as the indispensable strongman, the country might hold him responsible for all the chaos. If there is still a country by then.
MOSCOW — Russia’s foreign minister has scheduled a trilateral meeting in Qatar with his U.S. and Saudi counterparts.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Sergey Lavrov will confer with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi Foreign Minister Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir during his two-day trip to Doha starting Sunday. Kerry earlier has said he plans to meet separately in Doha with Lavrov to discuss Syria, Iran and the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
The ministry said that during his visit to Qatar, Lavrov will discuss the crises in Syria, Libya and Yemen, international efforts to combat the Islamic State group and Iran’s role in regional affairs after last month’s signing of Iran’s nuclear deal.
Despite Russia-U.S. tensions over Ukraine, President Barack Obama has thanked Moscow for helping reach the agreement.
[If the Saudis can buy diplomatic immunity all over the world, it is but a small step for them to pay a little more bribe money, to extend that immunity to their counterfeit version of Islam (SEE: Saudi Royals Request Removal From 911 Lawsuit).]
Saudi Arabia, a world leader in religious, sexist, and political oppression, continued to beat the drums over a global ban of any religious criticism. They claim criticizing religious symbols and scripture is intolerance. In other words, a country that decreed all atheists to be terrorists, and persecutes anyone who dares criticize the government, is going to give the world a lecture on tolerance and free speech.
“We have made it clear that freedom of expression without limits or restrictions would lead to violation and abuse of religious and ideological rights,” said Abdulmajeed Al-Omari, director for external relations at the Ministry of Islamic Affairs.
“This requires everyone to intensify efforts to criminalize insulting heavenly religions, prophets, holy books, religious symbols and places of worship,” he added.
In truth, protecting religious rights has nothing to do with this proposed censorship. The United States has religious rights, far more than Saudi Arabia. People are free to worship any god they want per the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. People also have the right to change their religious beliefs, if they chose to do so, without threat of being murdered.
The U.S. also has freedom of speech whereas religion, politics, and all ideas are open to criticism. Having one’s beliefs open to criticism, or even ridicule, is not a violation of one’s rights to have that belief. Secure beliefs can withstand and tolerate scrutiny, insecure beliefs cannot.
The cowardly kings and clerics of Saudi Arabia don’t want any kind of free speech that would cause them to actually defend themselves and their ignorant policies. They arrogantly think that they’re above any kind of challenge. Anyone who defies their Wahhabi interpretation of Islam is considered to be a criminal.
The world knows all too well about Saudi Arabian intolerance and discrimination. The world knows how this extremist country treats those with different ideas within it’s’ borders. We all know about the sadistic persecution of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, and the numerous barbaric public beheadings. We know about the horrible restrictions against women such as not even having the right to drive a car, or anything that could be interpreted as “showing off their beauty.”
Saudi Arabia is a joke of human rights. When Saudi Arabia joined the United Nations, the UN became a joke of human rights. The Saudi government directly and repeatedly violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which is the United Nations’ charter of human dignity of all people. In direct and constant violation of these rights, Saudi Arabia stands unashamed and unaccountable.
And what about the education system in Saudi Arabia? Does it teach children to be tolerant and open minded? Quite the opposite, according to a study the textbooks promote the following:
• Condemn and denigrate the majority of Sunni Muslims who do not follow the Wahhabi understanding of Islam, and call them deviants and descendants of polytheists.
• Condemn and denigrate Shiite and Sufi Muslims’ beliefs and practices as heretical and call them “polytheists;”
• Command Muslims to “hate” Christians, Jews, “polytheists” and other “unbelievers,” including non-Wahhabi Muslims, though, incongruously, not to treat them “unjustly”;
• Teach that “Jews and the Christians are enemies of the [Muslim] believers” and that “the clash” between the two realms is perpetual;
• Instruct students not to “greet,” “befriend,” “imitate,” “show loyalty to,” “be courteous to,” or “respect” non-believers.
Should Saudi Arabia be preaching to the world about religious tolerance and free speech? The only examples they have to give is the promotion of religious oppression and fanatical censorship. They wish to pervert all forms of human expression. The real supporters of human rights and dignity must stand up against these despicable frauds.
-James Kirk Wall
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
• Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
• Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
AL Arabian News – Saudi Gazette – Saudi official: Criminalize vilification of religious symbols