After initiating talks on Syria that exclude Washington, Turkey and Russia each accused the US of backing what they called "terrorist groups" in the country. The accusations came Dec. 27, the same day both governments agreed to hold further talks in Kazakhstan next month. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he had evidence that US-led coalition forces support ISIS as wel as the Kurdish-led Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military arm, the People's Protection Units (YPG). "They were accusing us of supporting Daesh," Erdogan said at a press conference in Ankara, using the Arabic abbreviation for ISIS. "Now they give support to terrorist groups including Daesh, YPG, PYD. It is very clear. We have confirmed evidence, with pictures, photos and videos." The US State Department issued a requisite statement dismissing Erdogan's claims as "ludicrous." (Al Jazeera, Dec. 21)
The diplomatic initiative started when the foreign and defense ministers of Russia, Turkey and Iran met in Moscow Dec. 20 to work toward a political accord for Syria. John Kerry and Ashton Carter were not invited. (NYT, Dec. 20)
This is grimly hilarious. Russia has for years been pretending to fight ISIS in Syria while actually fighting the FSA and aligned rebel forces. Turkey has been pretending to fight ISIS while actually fighting the YPG—and has indeed been accused of actually conniving with ISIS against the Kurds. The YPG has meanwhile been accused of collaborating with Russia and the Assad regime against Turkish-backed rebel forces. Whaetver faith the YPG had in the regime and its foreign backers was presumably shaken by Assad's ultimatum to the Kurdish forces to abandon their enclave in Aleppo after the fall of the city. We trust it is now dashed entirely by the new Putin-Erdogan convergence.
Moscow is now claiming that Russian troops have found mass graves in fallen Aleppo, with bodies showing signs of torture and mutilation. We will remain skeptical of these claims until Amnesty International and the UN have had time to examine them. But the admission that Russia has ground forces in Aleppo is worthy of note. (The Independent, Dec. 26)
Certainly what Russia and Assad just perpetrated in Aleppo constitutes a massacre of massive proportions—probably a genocide. Medical workers on the ground in the devastated city describe "hell" for the survivors following the systematic destruction of hospitals in regime and Russian air-strikes. Physicians for Human Rights has documented 400 attacks on medical facilities in Syria throughout the conflict, with more than 90% allegedly perpetrated by the Syrian government or its Russian backers. (Syria Deeply, Dec. 26)
And the US has but belatedly agreed in principle to provide the rebels with the anti-aircraft missiles they desperately need to defend against such attacks. The 2017 Defense Authorization bill, signed by Barack Obama Dec. 23 approves anti-aircraft ManPADS for the rebels—of course protested by the Russian Foreign Minister as a "hostile move." (Washington Times, Dec. 27)
We anticipate even this little and late support for the Syrian rebels will come to a screeching halt as Donald Trump takes office and joins the consolidating global fascist convergence led by Vladimir Putin.