PHOTO: Prime Minister David Cameron addresses the British Parliament last Thursday
Britain’s Parliament is likely on Wednesday to authorize airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria, a day after the German Cabinet authorized the deployment of 1,200 support troops, support aircraft, and a frigate for the anti-ISIS mission in Iraq and Syria.
The British Government had been checked by MPs both this summer and in early November in its moves towards airstrikes alongside the US; however, the political atmosphere has been changed by the Islamic State’s deadly attacks in Paris on November 13.
However, British airstrikes are likely to be marginal in the Syrian conflict. Only 8 Tornado jet fighters are reportedly available for sorties. Forty less-advanced Typhoons can undertake missions, but they are not able to use the high-precision Brimstone missile.
Perhaps more importantly, any airstrikes are unlikely to deal with the main issues in the Syrian conflict. They are unlikely to be coordinated with any ground operations against ISIS, and they will not confront the central question of the Assad regime and its 56-month political and military confrontation with opposing groups, as well as attacks which have brought the large majority of the more than 300,000 deaths and displacement of 11 million people.
In August 2013, Parliament rejected the Government’s request for military intervention following the regime’s chemical attacks near Damascus that killed than 1,400 people.
The German Cabinet’s authorization on Tuesday was for soldiers to provide support services for ground operations in Iraq and Syria, the deployment of 4-6 RECCE-Tornado jet fighters for reconnaissance, a frigate to escort the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the eastern Mediterranean, and Airbus tankers to refuel French warplanes.
The measures will now be considered by the Bundestag.
Up to now, Berlin has restricted its involvement in the fight against the Islamic State to arming and training Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga.
US to Add “More than 50” Special Forces for Operations in Iraq and Syria
The US will add more than 50 special forces to its operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told a Congressional hearing on Tuesday.
Carter said a specialized expeditionary force will target ISIS fighters in Iraq and make targeted raids into Syria: “These special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture ISIL leaders.”
Last month, President Obama authorized the deployment up to 50 special forces in Syria. Those troops are likely embedded with Kurdish-led units facing the Islamic State in the northeast of the country.
The US also delivered 50 tons of ammunition and weapons to the new Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
Aleppo Province: Afrin Kurds Declare “State of Emergency”; ISIS Advances Near Azaz
Kurdish officials in the Afrin Canton in Aleppo Province have declared a “state of emergency”, warning that Jabhat al-Nusra and the rebel faction Ahrar al-Sham are threatening residents.
Afrin co-leader Hevy Mustafa said, “The goal of the attack which the Afrin Canton is being subjected to by the forces of terrorism — al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham, which are supported by the Turkish state — is to break the will of the canton’s people.”
Located in northwest Syria near the Turkish border, the Afrin Canton is isolated from the Cizire and Kobane Cantons in the northeast which are now a de facto autonomous region.
In the past two weeks, fighting has surged between rebels and the dissident faction Jaish al-Thuwar, allied with the Kurdish militia YPG, in the area from Afrin to rebel-held Azaz.
The Afrin Canton reiterated its support for Jaysh al-Thuwar, “The terrorist groups have found that the project to build a democratic Syria starts from the Afrin Canton, therefore they have directly attacked Jaysh al-Thuwar. Attacking Jaysh al-Thuwar means attacking the Canton and striking democratic forces.”
Mustafa said the Kurdish militia were now involved in the fighting, “The YPG intervened because it supports all serious opposition forces that [favor] the building of a democratic Syria.”
Meanwhile, pro-opposition activists said the Islamic State has advanced against rebels near Azaz, taking advantage of an escalation in Russian bombing to seize Kafra and other villages.
ISIS has suddenly advanced and has taken Kafrah,Jarez,Al-Bal,Sheikh Rih,Mazraat Talibiyah
— Abdel Rahman (@VivaRevolt) December 2, 2015
Assad Reinforces Russia Anti-Turkish Campaign “Erdogan Has Failed”
President Assad has reinforced Russia’s anti-Turkish campaign, telling Czech television that Ankara is supporting “terrorists” via Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Assad also claimed Western government were involved in the operations:
If you really want to fight and defeat [terrorists], then it is necessary to cut off their supplies of ammunition, weapons, money, which they mostly get through Turkey with the support of Saudi Arabia and Qatar….
When the counties that I mentioned — France, Great Britain, USA, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and others — stop supporting terrorists, the situation will improve the next day. And in several months peace will definitely come to Syria if they stop.
Assad also claimed that Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane near the Turkish-Syrian border last week showed the weakness of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan:
I think this showed Erdogan’s real intention as he could not cope that the Russian operation changed the balance of power on the ground.
This is Erdogan’s failure in Syria. The failure of his terrorist groups means the end of his political career, and he wanted to do anything to hinder the success [of the Russian military operation].
I do not think that it will change the balance. The war against terrorism continues. Russian support will be stronger, and I don’t think there is a way back.
Asked for his evidence that Western countries were supplying the Islamic State, Assad replied, “You have them very clearly on the Internet.”
In response to the challenge, “The message to the West is there was no discriminate killing of the civilians in the beginning of the Syrian war, there was no massive torturing of opponents of the regime?”, Assad replied:
War is about killing; armament is about killing. You always have casualties and you always have innocents in any war throughout history….How do you kill them when you want their support?
As for the 11 million Syrians who have been displaced, Assad said, “The feeling is very sad, especially if you think that every person of those Syrians who left Syria has a sad story behind him.”
He added, “I didn’t fail them, I did not destroy their infrastructure, I did not give the arms to terrorists to kill and to destroy. The question is: who did that? The Europeans and the Saudis and the Qataris.”