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US Secretary of Defense lacks basic intel on jihadists in Idlib

The US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, seems to lack some basic intelligence that the UN and the US Department of State have already seen.

Published: September 7, 2018, 10:54 am

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    According to Mattis, there is “zero intelligence” that jihadists in Syria’s Idlib province have a chemical weapons capability.

    Mattis told Reuters that “the facts” did not back Russian assertions. “We have zero intelligence that shows the opposition has any chemical capability,” Mattis said during a press briefing in New Delhi.

    “We cannot see anything that indicates the opposition has that capability,” Mattis concluded. But on 18 October 2017 already the US State Department issued a travel warning for Syria in which they warned that the jihadists had such a capability.

    Terrorist and other violent extremist groups including ISIS and al-Qa’ida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham [dominated by al-Qa’ida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusrah, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organisation], operate in Syria. In July 2017, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham consolidated power in Idlib province after it clashed with other armed actors. […] Tactics of ISIS, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and other violent extremist groups include the use of suicide bombers, kidnapping, small and heavy arms, improvised explosive devices, and chemical weapons…

    The UN is also aware of such a capability and is similarly concerned about Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s chemical weapons. During a press conference on August 30 the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, explicitly described these:

    So, the issue of avoiding the potential use of chemical weapons is indeed crucial and would be totally unacceptable. We all are aware that both the government and al-Nusra have the capability to produce weaponised chlorine, that’s the one people are talking about, not sarin. Hence an increased concern by all of us, and everyone else, and alert.

    There is therefore no doubt that HTS and other jihadist groups have chemical capabilities.  Mattis has been ignoring these facts noted by his own government as well as the United Nations.

    The Russian Ministry of Defense has released videos of air strikes carried out in the Idlib province against jihadists. Four Russian aircraft took off from the Hmeymim air base and carried out high-precision attacks against targets of the terrorist group Al-Nusra Front, possibly in an effort to halt a chemical attack by the jihadists.

    Igor Konashenkov detailed how two Su-34 Russians bombed a factory of arms production of the terrorists. He quoted independent sources claiming that the terrorists in the Tahrir al-Sham group were preparing a provocation in Idlib to blame Damascus for using chemical weapons against civilians.

    A statement from the Russian Defense Ministry released on Wednesday revealed that two strategic Tu-160 bombers conducted military exercises in the Mediterranean Sea.

    “Two strategic Tu-160 bombers that left the Engels airfield successfully completed their tasks in the large-scale exercise plan of the Russian Naval and Aerospace Forces in the Mediterranean,” the statement said.

    “The plane made a 10-hour flight on low-level terrain under difficult weather conditions and successfully simulated the launch of cruise missiles on ground targets in a specific area,” the document said.

    Su-30 and Su-33 jets that left the Khmeimim air base in Syria followed the Tu-160 bombers. The Tu-160 can be refueled in flight, this aircraft can be operated for an entire day.

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