While relations between the Kremlin and Oval Office have never been worse in the post-cold war era, a new conflict has been reignited between Vladimir Putin and the man many have accused of being the mastermind behind the European refugee crisis: billionaire George Soros, who is also one of the more prominent supporters of Hillary Clinton.
After Russia previously banned the operation of Soros’ Open Society Foundation in Russia last November saying it was a “threat to the foundations of Russia’s Constitutional order and national security“, Soros took the opportunity to respond by writing a rare post on his website, in which he condemned Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria, accusing President Putin of exploiting the chaos and power void in the White House ahead of the upcoming U.S. presidential elections. Relying on an analysis by the NYT, Soros suggested that “Putin calculates that the departing President Obama will be unlikely to intervene in the escalating Syrian conflict and a new American president who might consider a tougher policy will not yet be in office…The next American president will face a new reality and will be forced to accept it.”
* * *
H/t reader squodgy:
“Here we go again, staged actors…. we just can’t believe anything anymore can we?”
A boy, seemingly wounded, sits quietly in a brand new, very well equipped ambulance. At a point he touches what looks like a wound on his left temple. He shows no reaction to that touch.
The two minute video (also here), from which the pic is taken, shows the boy being handed from the dark above to some person in a rescue jacket and carried into the ambulance. There he sits quietly, unattended, while several people take videos and pictures of him. One other kids, not obviously wounded, is then carried to the ambulance.
As the story is told:
Harrowing images of an ash-covered boy who survived an air strike in Syria has quickly spread across the internet, shocking and disturbing social media users.
This boy Pulled from under the rubble (hush-hush; after a Russian airstrike) on Qaterji district in Aleppo todaypic.twitter.com/cl6DOoNQ6J
— Mannfred Nyttingnes (@MannfredNikolai) August 17, 2016
While there are many horrifying images from Syria, this, like the image of drowned Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi, managed to capture the world’s attention.
The skies above the Syrian city of Aleppo filled with smoke earlier this week as children burned tires to create a makeshift no-fly zone in a last-ditch effort to protect their homes. This heartbreaking act of desperation directly followed recent air raids, which killed at least 42 civilians and left dozens more wounded. Syrian and Russian government forces have been pummeling what was once known as “the jewel of Syria” with heavy fire for more than 80 consecutive days.
In that time span alone, at least two hospitals have been hit, and more than 6,000 people have been killed or injured — mostly civilians. Although rebels have been fighting back, the combined power and resources of the Syrian and Russian governments are thus far impossible for the rebels to match. Meanwhile, U.S.-backed rebels fighting against Assad in Syria recently beheaded a young boy on camera and have been suspected of a recent chlorine gas attack that killed five civilians, among other atrocities.
According to a Kurdish source, French forces stationed in northern Syria have begun constructing a military base near the city of Kobani in Aleppo province.
MOSCOW (Sputnik) – French forces stationed in northern Syria have begun constructing a military base near the city of Kobani in Aleppo province, a Kurdish source told Sputnik on Friday.”The French have begun constructing a military base similar to the US military bases… French experts and military advisers working in the region will be stationed there,” the source said.
According to the source, French, UK and US experts are stationed in the city of Manbij in the same province to consult the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces militias.
* * *
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Russia will provide “the most active” air support for Syrian ground troops in and around the city of Aleppo to prevent terrorists from seizing it.
“We will decide on how our air forces should act, depending on the situation,” Lavrov said in a media conference following talks with his Finnish counterpart. “This will not be a surprise for the Americans.”
Al-Nusra Front, an al Qaeda offshoot in Syria, went on an offensive in Aleppo last week. The Russian military blamed the US for stalling Russian airstrikes against the terrorist group’s forces in the region. The US said moderate rebel groups mingled with the terrorists in some areas and that Russia should use caution and not strike those groups by mistake.
The Iranian Army’s elite 65th Airborne Brigade (NOHED) reportedly arrived to the southern Aleppo town of Al-Hadher on Tuesday after the recent announcement of their deployment to Syria in order to advise the Syrian Armed Forces.
The official page of the pro-government militia “Liwaa Al-Baqir” was the first to report their arrival; however, there has been no official confirmation from the Iranian Ministry of Defense.
What could possibly go wrong?
Update: At least two sources confirm that Turkey also fired on the Syrian army on Saturday, an exceptionally provocative move.
Update: Washington has now weighed in and is asking the Turks to please stop shelling the soldiers the Pentagon is arming.
#BREAKING US urges Turkey to halt artillery fire on Kurd, regime forces in Syria
— AFP news agency (@AFP) February 13, 2016
* * *
Even as all sides – including the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and select rebel groups – pretend to be working towards a ceasefire and a diplomatic solution to the five year conflict in Syria, actions speak louder than words, and to put it as succinctly as possible, everyone is still fighting.
In fact, the fighting is more intense than ever. Russia and Hezbollah are closing in on Aleppo, the country’s largest city and a key urban center where rebels are dug in for what amounts to a last stand. If the city is liberated by the government (and yes, “liberated” is more accurate than “falls” because occupied territory belongs to the Syrian government, not to Sunni extremists), Assad will have regained control of the country’s backbone in the west.
Now that the Syrian army, with help from Russia, is taking back Syria, “Syrian refugees” are fleeing to Europe?
– Turkey fears new influx of up to 600,000 Syrian refugees (The Times of Israel):
Ankara says current objective is to keep wave of people on other side of its borders, provide needed aid there
NKARA, Turkey — The Turkish government fears that fierce fighting in Syria’s Aleppo province will spark the arrival of up to 600,000 refugees at its border in a “worst case scenario”, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said Monday.
“The worst-case scenario that could happen in this region in the short term would be a new influx of 600,000 refugees at the Turkish frontier,” Kurtulmus told journalists following a cabinet meeting.The clashes in the north of Aleppo province — sparked by a week-long government assault with Russian air support — have displaced tens of thousands of people.
Back in May, ISIS seized the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, a UNESCO world heritage site.
The world immediately began to panic at the prospect of the city’s destruction at the hands of Islamic State. Since then, there have been various reports which indicate ISIS has in fact decimated a few treasures of antiquity and indeed, some of that destruction reportedly involved tying prisoners to ancient columns and then subsequently blowing them up (that “intelligence” comes from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights so one should take it with a grain of salt).
(an image purporting to show the destruction of ancient ruins)
Palmyra is but one key city the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian allies are attempting to retake. Others include Aleppo, where Hezbollah and IRGC forces are fighting under cover of Moscow’s warplanes to wrest control from a hodgepodge of rebels and militants.