Washington and Moscow appear close to agreeing to their armed forces teaming up for war operations in Syria and Iraq. Nothing definite has so far emerged about this potential collaboration, or even if it is to be conducted covertly and experimentally ad hoc or seriously and out in the open.
A comment suggesting that the Obama administration was ready for a new direction on Syria came from US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter Tuesday, Oct. 27. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, he said, “we won't hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL...or conducting such mission directly, whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground."
According to Pentagon sources, the US intends to deploy small units of Special Operations forces in Syria and “special advisers” in Iraq, which too are believed to be special operations units under another name.
Small-scale military ventures in open-ended war situations tend to extend beyond the scale originally intended. Therefore, it is more than likely that both the US and Russia will find themselves committing increasing numbers of air and ground troops if the conflicts in the two countries continue.
The way matters are going now, the plan for Iraq is for US forces to join Iraqi and Iranian units in launching an offensive to recover Ramadi, capital of the Western province of Anbar, 110 km West of Baghdad, which ISIS captured in May.
In Syria, American troops plan to work with the northeastern Kurdish PYD-YPG militia for marching on Raqqa, the Islamic State’s headquarters in that country.
At the Senate hearing, Carter pointed to last week’s rescue operation in northern Syria. US Delta commandos and Syrian Kurdish special forces stormed a prison held by the Islamic State and freed dozens of Kurdish prisoners. This operation was outside the bounds of normal US involvement in the Syrian conflict. After it was over, the US Defense Secretary said the military expects “more raids of this kind.”
This joint US-Kurdish raid brought forth a furious response from Turkey.The Turkish military twice directed machine gun fire at the Syrian Kurdish PYD force in the Syrian town of Tal Abyad Sunday, Oct. 25. Tel Abyad is the closest point to Raqqa to have been reached by America’s Kurdish allies.
Ankara is vehemently opposed to the US partnership with the Kurds of Syria and Iraq, and puts its campaign against their separatist trends ahead of its commitment to the anti-ISIS coalition.
However, the Obama administration appears to have finally come down in favor of a combined operation with the Kurdish forces, even at the expense of its ties with Ankara, another pointer to the up-and-coming US ground operations in Syria.
Neither Washington nor Moscow has commented on their possible military cooperation for the fight to vanquish ISIS. But straws in the wind point in that direction.
Russian President Putin has repeated: “I have no plans to put ground troops in Syria,” indicating that Moscow would confine itself to air strikes.
The US Defense Minister Tuesday explicitly mentioned “…direct action on the ground” as well as, ”supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL."
The Americans plan to deploy ground troops for fighting with Kurdish forces, the Russians will stick to aerial attacks in conjunction with certain Syrian rebel groups.
Moscow’s plan unfolded on Monday, Oct. 26, when a delegation of the Free Syrian Army, which is backed by the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia, turned up in Moscow seeking to coordinate its military operations with the Russians.
It is hard to tell if US-Russian military cooperation in the Syrian and Iraqi wars actually ripens into a productive effort or proves ephemeral. Israel’s concerns and its responses to the fast-moving, explosive situation on its northern borders are scheduled to be thrashed out in the talks Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon is holding this week in Washington with Defense Secretary Carter.
The creator of Harry Potter last week joined 150 British artists in signing an open letter to The Guardian that condemned the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BSD) campaign against Israel and espousing the value of cultural engagement with the Jewish state over a cultural boycott. More than 340 British academics fought back by pledging not to cooperate with Israeli academic institutions. JK Rowling answered critics by saying “Israel needs cultural bridges not boycotts” and stating that she had “never heard of a cultural boycott ending a bloody and prolonged conflict.”
The Turkish military twice shot at the main Syrian Kurdish PYD force in the town of Tal Abyad Sunday, mostly with machine guns, after the town was included into a Kurdish enclave. Confirming this Monday night, Turkey’s prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu said: “We said the PYD will not go west of the Euphrates and that we would hit it the moment it did. We hit it twice.” He did not give further details. The US is working hard to attach the PYD to anti-coalition versus ISIS as the most effective combat force in Syria. Turkey a coalition member puts its campaign against Kurdish separatism ahead of its responsibilities to the coalition against ISIS.
According to Pentagon data, the last US-coalition strike in Syria was a drone attack on Oct. 22 that targeted an Islamic State vehicle and “mortar tube.” Russia in contrast maintains a high tempo as it nears the end of its first month of bombing, claiming to have hit 94 targets in the past 24 hours. Pentagon officials say the Russian sorties have no bearing on coalition actions in Syria and the slowdown reflects greater refinement in choice of targets.
In its first sortie over Quneitra opposite Israeli Golan, the Russian air force struck Islamic State and Nusra Front positions Tuesday. Iranian sources noted that this was the closest Russian warplanes had ever come to the Syrian-Israeli border. The Russian jets also struck rebel targets the southern Syrian town of Deraa near the Jordanian border. Sine Oct. 9, Israel has braced for Russian aerial intrusions over its Golan border.
Nearly 7000 Israelis marched in Tel Aviv last night, before police shutdown the march. The marchers called on Israeli leaders to sit down with Palestinian leaders and work for long lasting solution to the Middle East conflict. In contrast, Palestinian youth are being bombarded by visuals of incitement by the PLO, Hamas and various Arab nations. They call on the youth to sacrifice their lives and be martyrs. While Israelis are protesting for peace and suing Facebook for its role in spreading anti-Semitic hatred the ongoing incitement by Palestinian on social media and Palestinian television creates a culture and society of martyrdom that seemingly worships death over life.
Russia has no plans to cut underwater fiber-optic cables in the Atlantic Ocean that carry almost all global Internet communications despite recent rumors to the contrary, the head of the Russian State Duma's defense committee and former Black Sea Fleet commander told RIA Novosti.
He added that Russian subs have a right to venture into the ocean to carry out patrolling missions and perform tasks in the interests of Moscow.
Komoyedov's comments came in response to a report published by the New York Times on Sunday. The newspaper stated that US military and intelligence officials were concerned with Russia's naval activities. They were allegedly especially wary of Russian submarines severing underwater data cables.
Former Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Viktor Kravchenko offered an explanation as to why US officials might be worried. Russian submariners could have been ordered to become more active, he told RIA Novosti.
Apart from that, "Soviet and then Russian submarines repeatedly placed transmitters on American cables located in the Atlantic to gather information. Americans carried out similar operations in our territorial waters. Since then not much has likely changed," Kravchenko added.