China enters Syrian war?

We noted a year ago that China was an official but not very active member of the global convergence against ISIS. Now Pravda reports the claims of Russian Senator Igor Morozov that Beijing has taken the decision to send warships to the Syrian coast. Morozov, a member of the Russian Federation Committee on International Affairs, said: "It is known that China has joined our military operation in Syria, the Chinese cruiser has already entered the Mediterranean, aircraft carrier follows it." The growing Russian military presence in Syria is viewed with unease by the West, revealing a tension (at least) within the global convergence. This tension will be significantly augmented if China really enters the fray. 

In an almost certainly related development, Long War Journal reports that a Uighur jihadist group has emerged in Syria, calling itself the Turkistan Islamic Party. It has apparently just released a creepy video showing off its "little jihadists"—young children dressed in camo and black headbands posing with Tawhid flags and AK-47s and other weapons. It is said to be allied with the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front.

This news comes along with the admission by the Pentagon that some of its trained Syrian rebels turned over six US-supplied pick-up trucks and much of their ammunition to Nusra Front in exchange for safe passage through their zone of control. This was apparently the second batch of some 70 fighters sent into Syria after receiving Pentagon training (presumably in Turkey). The first batch, of just 54, has been reduced to 37 by death and capture. Al Jazeera reports that the US-trained formation is called the New Syrian Forces. The $500 million program officially aims to train 5,400 fighters a year for three years, but has been slowed by the vetting process. This new revelation will only make that process more cumbersome—despite the sense of self-fulfilling prophecy here: It is precisely the lack of support to secular and pro-democratic rebels that has facilitated the rise of Nusra and ISIS.

  1. US-backed Syrian rebels: down to four

    Did we say 37 US-trained Syrian rebels still in combat? Actually, the Pentagon admitted earlier this month that the number was down to "four or five," after loses to the Nusra Front. Several fighters were taken captive when Nusra forces overran a base of the Division 30 rebels, which they accused of being an "American project." (BBC News, Sept. 17)