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Idleb province; General Joseph Dunford

Infighting erupt between anti-Assad gangs in Syria

New infighting erupted in the north-west Idleb governate and the city of Idleb in Syria between between Ahrar al-Sham and Tahrir al-Sham.

Published: July 24, 2017, 9:15 am

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    Ahrar, an off-shoot of al Qaeda, is supported by Qatar and Turkey while Tahrir (Jabhat al Nusra) is said to have support from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Members of the CIA’s Free Syrian Army (FSA) gangs were intermixed with these, blogger Moon of Alabama (MoA) explained.

    “Their primary task was to collect supplies from the CIA in Turkey and to distribute those to their friends in al-Qaeda and Ahrar al-Sham. Each of these groups received support in the range of at least $1 billion per year,” the blogger said. But the diplomatic tension between Qatar and Saudi Arabia has limited interest in their proxies in Syria.

    The Trump administration’s decision to end the CIA support program for its FSA proxies in the north-west, changed the dynamic between the various anti-Assad factions, MoA added. But the CIA still supports other groups, according to Russia’s top diplomat.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told NBC last week that he rejected the claims of an end to CIA support to the insurgents: “I understand that the US supports much more groups than just the ones, which were announced as being left without the American weapons.”

    Lavrov had warned against illegal US bases in Syria, after US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis last month suggested the possibility of longer-term assistance to Kurdish YPG militia in Syria, saying the United States may need to supply them weapons and equipment even after the capture of Islamic State’s Syria stronghold of Raqqa.

    Speaking at a security conference at the Aspen Institute, US Special Operations Command chief Army General Raymond Thomas however admitted that international law could prevent the US from maintaining a long-term presence in Syria.

    Russia’s involvement in Syria was at the request of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, something that Thomas said could allow Moscow to make a solid case against the United States for leaving Syria.

    “Here’s the conundrum: We are operating in the sovereign country of Syria. The Russians, their stalwarts, their backstoppers have already uninvited the Turks from Syria. We’re a bad day away from the Russians saying, ‘Why are you still in Syria, US?,'” Thomas said.

    The Syrian military’s successful recapture of Aleppo has widely been considered a turning point in the war and demonstrated how Russia’s support was crucial to end the advances of foreign funded ISIS jihadists.

    But according British Major General Rupert Jones, the US-led coalition will have “a great deal more” to do in Syria even after defeating the Islamic State in Raqqa. Jones spoke to the media in the town of Ain Issa, 50km north of Raqqa.

    The deputy commander of the coalition told AFP on Sunday: “Daesh is not defeated with the liberation of Raqqa. The defeat of Daesh was not completed with the liberation of Mosul” in Iraq,” Jones said. “We know as an international coalition there’s still a great deal more to do here in Syria.”

    He said that the US-backed Arab-Kurdish alliance known as the Syrian Democratic Forces “have proved themselves to be a reliable counter-Daesh partner”. But MoA pointed out that the attacking Kurds will have high losses in dislodging ISIS completely from Raqqa eventually, which “even after ISIS is defeated will never submit to Kurdish control”.

    “One wonders how the political leadership of the YPG will justify this costly effort when questioned by its constituency,” MoA remarked.

    According to the coalition, 603 civilians have been killed in US-led strikes on Iraq and Syria since the air campaign against ISIS was launched at the end of 2014.

    But Airwars, a London-based collective of journalists and researchers that tracks civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria, noted that 744 civilians were killed in coalition strikes in Syria and Iraq in the month of June alone.

    Meanwhile the chairman of the American Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, who also spoke at the Aspen security forum, said the Syrian authorities did not carry out attacks using chemical weapons, at least not after the US carried out its missile strike against Syria.

    In June, the White House surprisingly claimed that the Syrian government was gearing itself up for what was described as a “new attack by using chemical weapons”.

    Last week, Wikileaks’ Julian Assange continued his crusade to accurately reporting the truth about Syria. On Twitter, Assange highlighted an article from Thursday where the Financial Times noted how many Syrian rebels are getting salaries from the CIA.

    According to the Financial Times: “Rebels contacted by the FT say their CIA interlocutors had not confirmed any change, and political opposition figures, who met with US officials this week, say they, too, were given no hint of any change. The White House has not confirmed that the programme has been cancelled.”

    Anti-Assad commanders confirmed to the FT that their salaries had been paid by the CIA last month.

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