WEST POISED TO JOIN FORCES WITH PRESIDENT ASSAD IN FACE OF ISLAMIC STATE
Islamist forces are fighting their way into western SYRIA from bases further east, bringing forward the prospect of US military intervention to stop their advance. If ISIS, which styles itself ISLAMIC STATE, threatens to take all or part of ALEPPO, establishing complete dominance over the anti-government rebels, the US may be compelled to act publicly or secretly in concert with President BASHAR AL-ASSAD, whom it has been trying to displace.
Read related Reuteres Article:
BY Oliver Holmes and Jason Szep
(Reuters) - It was just after midnight on July 4 when at least two dozen U.S. Delta Force commandos arrived on heavily armed Black Hawk helicopters in Akrishi, a small town near the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa on the bank of the Euphrates River.
Before they landed to search for American hostages including journalist James Foley, they destroyed a crucial target: anti-aircraft weapons at a jihadist base about 3 miles (5 km) southeast of the city, a stronghold of Islamic State militants seeking to build a monolithic Islamic state.
The above account and other details of the raid have emerged from witnesses who spoke with a member of a Syrian opposition activist group, who identified himself as Abu Ibrahim al Raqaoui. Raqaoui told the information to Reuters in an interview via Skype from inside Syria. His group also posted witness accounts of the raid on Facebook soon after it took place. The posts, which were viewed by Reuters, have since been taken down.
"The raid happened just after midnight," Raqaoui said. "The helicopters first started destroying anti-aircraft weapons.”Reuters could not verify the account.
The White House publicized details of the raid on Wednesday, a day after Islamic State jihadists posted a video showing Foley being beheaded. The White House said the commandos failed to find Foley or other hostages and that it was prompted to make the announcement after several U.S. news organisations learned of the operation. The U.S. military incursion into the heart of Islamic State territory, made on U.S. Independence Day, ended in disappointment when the soldiers found no prisoners.
"BURNED THE CAMP"
After landing, the commandos blocked the main road to Raqqa and moved towards a makeshift jail believed to hold Foley and other hostages, Raqaoui said. Discovering Foley wasn’t there, they attacked the base, which the militants had named "Bin Laden", after the former al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, Raqaoui said. They lit it on fire, he said.
"According to villagers, they burned the camp and killed all the ISIS fighters,” he said, using one of the acronyms that refer to the Islamic State.
U.S. officials said “many” Islamic State fighters were killed and one American soldier was wounded when a helicopter came under fire. Raqaoui’s account puts the number of wounded U.S. soldiers at two.
The mission was authorised by President Barack Obama and based on U.S. intelligence, including information from hostages who have been released, the administration said. U.S. officials would not confirm that it was on July 4. It was first direct ground engagement between the United States and Islamic State militants, and the first known U.S. ground operation in Syria since the start of its civil war in 2011.
The raid's failure to bring hostages home underscores the limits of U.S. intelligence about Syria's chaotic conflict.
“We believed we had a good case for where they might be,” said one U.S. official who declined to be identified.
MILITANTS TIPPED OFF
A Syrian source close to the Islamic State told Reuters that the militants had been tipped off to the planned operation when Americans were seen asking about the hostages in the Turkish city of Antakya, about 12 miles (20 km) from the Syrian border.
“The Americans were looking for their hostages and desperately looking for any information,” said this person, who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity.
“They met people in Antakya and asked questions. Afterwards, the operation became expected. The (Islamic) State anticipated the operation and took precautions. They expected it and that is why they have probably changed the location of the hostages.”
Rami Abdelrahman, founder of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors violence in the Syrian war via a network of activists across the country, said that at the time of the operation last month, his activists in Raqqa received a report from a single source close to the Islamic State saying that there had been a raid in the area by American troops.
“The residents said they heard the noise of aircraft and gunfire but did not know more than that,” he said.
The source close to the Islamic State had said at the time that some of the Americans had been killed, Abdelrahman said. The source said Islamic State fighters also had been hurt. “They said some of the brothers were wounded.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists, a U.S. independent group, estimates that two dozen kidnapped journalists, both local and foreigners, remain in Syria, including American Steven Sotloff who was shown at the end of the Islamic State video on Tuesday. The militant who killed Foley warned that Sotloff would be next if U.S air strikes persist. U.S. warplanes and drones have continued daily attacks on Islamic State positions in Iraq. U.S. officials say they have not ruled out escalating military action against the jihadists, who have increased their threats against the United States since the air campaign in Iraq began two weeks ago.
(Writing by Jason Szep, additional reporting by Mariam Karouny and Tom Perry in Beirut, and Steve Holland and Missy Ryan in Washington; editing by Peter Henderson)
REBEL FORCES HAVE BEEN DANGEROUSLY INFILTRATED BY VARIOUS EXTREMIST GROUPS WITH DIVERSE AGENDAS WHICH WILL HELP DETERMINE ANY SHIFT IN THE BALANCE OF POWER IN THE MIDDLE EAST
US PASSES INTELLIGENCE TO ASSAD VIA BNA
The US has already covertly assisted the ASSAD government by passing on intelligence about the exact location of jihadi leaders through the BND, the GERMAN intelligence service. This may explain why SYRIAN aircraft and artillery have been able on occasion to target accurately rebel commanders and headquarters.
IN 2011 WE WROTE: TUMBLING OF REGIME COULD BE USED BY FUNDAMENTALISTS TO SEIZE POWER
SYRIAN army troops are engaged in a fierce battle to hold TABQA airbase in RAQQA province, the fall of which would open the way to HAMA, SYRIA’S fourth-largest city. Further north, ISIS has captured crucial territory that brings it close to cutting rebel supply lines between ALEPPO and the TURKISH border. The caliphate declared by ISIS on 29 June already covers the eastern third of SYRIA in addition to a quarter of IRAQ. It stretches from JALAWLA, a town 20 miles from IRAN, which the IRAQI army and KURDISH PESHMERGA are trying to recapture, to towns 30 miles north of ALEPPO.
The question of possible US military action in SYRIA, such as air strikes, jumped to the top of political agenda when the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, General Martin DEMPSEY, said: “Can they [ISIS] be defeated without addressing that part of the organisation that resides in SYRIA? The answer is no.”
He stressed that he was not predicting that the US was intending to take military action in SYRIA, but the US is very conscious that ISIS can survive indefinitely if it has a large safe haven in SYRIA.
DIRECTION CHANGE: CALLING IT OFF WITH ASSAD
Chas FREEMAN, the former US ambassador to SAUDI ARABIA, said that General DEMPSEY was pointing out that ISIS straddles the IRAQ-SYRIAN border and there should be a consistent policy towards it on both sides of the divide.
General DEMPSEY “did not spell out the implications of that but, to me, they point in the direction of calling it off with ASSAD. It might also imply the sharing of intelligence with the opponents of ISIS, even those from whom we ourselves are estranged. Odder things have happened in the MIDDLE EAST.”
Background Information on related subject:U.S. GOVERNMENT BACKED THE PREVIOUS OPPOSITION “LEADERSHIP,” THE SYRIAN NATIONAL COUNCIL, WHICH WAS FORMED AS A RESULT OF AMERICAN INITIATIVE OPERATING THROUGH ISLAMIST TURKEY
US REFUSES TO LEARN FROM HISTORY: AMERICAN AGENDA IS NOT THE ELIMINATION OF ISIS, BUT PREVENTING ITS EXPANSION........
Mr FREEMAN, who is retired, added he had no knowledge about whether intelligence-sharing with President ASSAD’S government was being considered. For the moment, the most pressing issue in SYRIA is not the elimination of ISIS, but preventing its expansion after a series of victories in July and August. Firstly, it drove out JABHAT al-NUSRA, the SYRIAN affiliate of AL-QA’IDA, from the oil-rich province of DEIR EZZOR on the EUPHRATES. Then it overran two important SYRIAN army bases, one held by Division 17 in RAQQA province and a second by Regiment 121 in HASAKAH province where the IRAQI regimental commander was killed.
SYRIA holds greater opportunities for ISIS in terms of expansion than IRAQ because the movement draws its support from the SUNNI ARAB community: 60 per cent of SYRIANS are SUNNI ARABS, compared to 20 per cent in IRAQ.
The policy of the US, BRITAIN and their allies in the region over the last three years has been to support “moderate” SYRIAN rebels who are supposed to fight Isis and other jihadists as well as the ASSAD government in DAMASCUS.
Related articles on subject matter:
SYRIA: ASSAD WINNING THE WAR?
SYRIA – ASSAD FIRM IN SADDLE
US INTELLIGENCE: ASSAD FIRMLY IN CHARGE IN SYRIA. At: http://geopoliticsrst.blogspot.com.ar/2012/03/syria.html