Trump signature confirms US support of Kurdish militia YPG since late 2015


UPDATE 1745 GMT: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has criticized the confirmation of the US support to the Kurdish militia YPG.

Erdoğan said the fight against the Islamic State “should not be carried out using other terrorist groups”.

He said he hoped that the decision would be revised during his visit to Washington and meeting with Donald Trump next week.

“I want to believe that Turkey’s allies will side with us, not with terrorist organizations,” Erdoğan asserted.

UPDATE 1725 GMT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has met Donald Trump and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington.

A brief State Department readout of the Lavrov-Tillerson meeting said:

The Secretary and Foreign Minister discussed the importance of defeating ISIS, de-escalating the violence in Syria, and ensuring that humanitarian assistance reaches hundreds of thousands of civilians throughout the country. Additionally, the Secretary and Foreign Minister restated support for the UN-led political process in Geneva, which is central to international efforts to bring about an enduring resolution to the conflict.

Significantly, there is no reference to Russia’s proposed “de-escalation zones”, about which the US has expressed concern because of Iranian involvement on the ground.

The White House readout of the Trump-Lavrov meeting says only, “President Trump emphasized the need to work together to end the conflict in Syria, in particular, underscoring the need for Russia to rein in the Assad regime, Iran, and Iranian proxies.”

ORIGINAL ENTRY: The US has confirmed it is providing arms to the Kurdish militia YPG in Syria, despite Turkish objections.

American officials said Donald Trump, after months of debate, approved the deliveries for an offensive against the Islamic State in the city of Raqqa, ISIS’s center in northern Syria. The Pentagon said the weapons would be provided
“as necessary to ensure a clear victory”.

One U.S. official said the equipment for the YPG could include small arms, ammunition, machine guns, armored vehicles, and engineering equipment.

The Military Times reported on Sunday that the US is providing the YPG with sophisticated American combat equipment,
night-vision goggles, rifles, and advanced optics used by American special operations forces and the foreign commando units they train.

The US has backed the Syrian Democratic Forces, led by the YPG, since the SDF was formed in autumn 2015 to fight ISIS. Washington has provided arms and supplies, and US special forces have been photographed with the force. However, Tuesday’s announcement is the first confirmation by Trump officials of the arrangements.

Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist group linked to the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK, which has battled Turkish security forces for more than 30 years. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said he considers the YPG and PKK “terrorist hubs” which must be eliminated.

Ankara launched airstrikes on both groups in late April, killing up to 30 YPG fighters in northeastern Syria. The US responded with a high-profile movement of armored vehicles and personnel along the Turkish-Syrian border, in a show of support for the YPG.

US Tries to Balance YPG Support With Assurances to Turkey

Top Turkish officials, including head of armed forces General Hulusi Akar, met American counterparts on Monday in the White House. Akar briefly saw Trump.

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary James Mattis called Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik. There was no indication of Isik’s response, but the Pentagon said that both “affirmed their support for peace and stability in both Iraq and Syria.”

“We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey,” said Dana White, the chief Pentagon spokeswoman. “We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the US is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally.”

White said the US would still give priority to arming Arab fighters within the Syrian Democratic Forces, with equipment
provided “incrementally as objectives are reached”.

Mattis told reporters before the announcement, after a meeting in Denmark with members of the anti-Islamic State coalition, “Our intent is to work with the Turks, alongside one another, to take Raqqa down, and we’re going to sort it out and we’ll figure out how we’re going to do it.”

TOP PHOTO: A US commander with Kurdish militia YPG colleagues after Turkish bombing of a YPG site in northeast Syria, April 25, 2017

Video: Another 2,000 Removed from al-Wa’er in Homs

Another group of residents has been removed from al-Waer in Homs city, the latest stage of displacement under a March capitulation agreement:

A report from pro-opposition Orient News:

Up to 20,000 of the 50,000 people in al-Wa’er, which was the last opposition district in Homs, are being transferred to Jarablus on the Turkish-Syrian border or Idlib Province in the northwest of the country.

See also Why Opposition al-Wa’er Finally Capitulated to Assad Regime


Regime Bombs Rebels Near Jordan Border After Warning to Amman

Assad regime warplanes bombed rebel positions early Tuesday, hours after a warning by Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem to Amman not to send troops into Syria.

The airstrikes, at around 3 a.m. were the first in the area.

“The Syrian regime’s jets conducted four strikes against us,” said Tlas al-Salameh, the commander of Osoud al-Sharqiya, a Free Syrian Army faction.

Salameh said one strike hit a border area where rebels’ families are shelters, and others hit a rebel outpost 8 km (5 miles) from the Rukban camp with more than 75,000 displaced people. there were no casualties.

In recent weeks, the Free Syrian Army has cleared the Islamic State from more than 2,200 square km (850 square miles) in east and southeast Syria.

Foreign Minister al-Moallem said on Monday, “If the Jordanian forces entered [Syria] without coordination with the Syrian government they will be considered as hostile forces.”