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Wednesday, October 28

Found! A non-Islamist, non-terrorist Syrian militia!

"The Desert Hawks was formed at the start of the crisis in Syria four years ago, by retired Syrian army officer Mohamed Jaber. The unit consists of between 4 and 5 thousand people, comprised of fighters of various religions and from all regions of the country. All of the actions of the militia are fully coordinated with the Syrian army."

-- From Sputnik's Oct 27 report, Syrian Army Liberates 50 Villages in Aleppo Province

Now why are we just learning about the Desert Hawks? We've been learning a great many things since Syria's president asked the Russians for help. In more news about Syria that you won't see at Google News --   

Sputnik, October 26
Syrian Army Takes Key Heights Near Turkish Border Under Control

The Syrian army continues its large-scale offensive on terrorist positions in a number of provinces, taking hold of key heights near the Turkish border, an army spokesman said Monday.

JABLA (Sputnik) — According to Brigadier General Ali Mayhoub, the government troops supported by local militia attacked ISIL positions in the Homs and the Aleppo provinces, liberating two villages to the north of Homs and five villages to the south of Aleppo.

"As a result of the attacks on the militants' positions, dozens of terrorists have been killed or wounded," Mayhoub said.

"Our armed forces have also carried out combat missions in the Salma-Joub al-Ahmar area [near the Turkish border], taking control of key heights," the general added.

The Syrian army repelled an ISIL counter-attack in the Deir ez-Zor province, he said. Moreover, the Syrian Air Force destroyed ISIL headquaters in the provinces of Homs and Idlib, Mayhoub said.


Okay; here's some news from Syria that showed up at Google, maybe because it was featured in The Japan Times although it was actually an AFP report: Russia boasts bombing record 94 Syria targets in 24 hours; U.S. airstrikes abate, October 27.  

Let's see; that was two days after USA TODAY reported that the U.S. defense department was concerned the poor condition of Russian jets in Syria was making the Russians cut back on airstrikes.   
High school.

Here's another one, filed by the Associated Press, which made it onto Google News. I think I'll feature the entire report because it's so terribly queer in light of the historical record. And it lays bare that the American press persists in ignoring implications of facts it routinely reports about Syria.

It comes down to this: 
  • Anyone who uses violent means to protest the American government is ipso facto a terrorist. Anyone who uses violent means to protest the Syrian government is engaged in legitimate actions. 
  • Any foreign government that arms Americans trying to the overthrow the U.S. government is subject to U.S. sanctions and is a legally defensible U.S. military target. Any foreign government that arms Syrians trying to overthrow the Syrian government has its reasons.  
  • In America, the rights of the majority do not obviate the rights of minorities. In Syria, a Sunni majority has a perfect right to institute its version of Islamist government.        
To boil it down further, we must destroy American values in order to preserve Syria.
Russia Pounds Syrian Rebels, Then Reaches Out to Opposition
OCT. 27, 2015, 5:17 P.M. E.D.T.
The New York Times

BEIRUT — When Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his country was ready to aid Syrian rebels fighting the Islamic State group, rebel commanders scoffed, pointing out that Russian aircraft were pounding their bases in central and northern Syria on a daily basis.

Moreover, Lavrov not long ago had ridiculed the main Western-backed rebels known as the Free Syrian Army, calling the group a "phantom structure."

But some in the Syrian opposition are wondering whether the Russian offer, for all its ambiguity, might be worth seizing in order to test Moscow's commitment to finding a negotiated solution to the four-year civil war. The seeming change of tune is in sharp contrast to the stance of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who considers all rebels on the ground to be terrorists.

"Maybe there is a disconnect between the regime's discourse and that of the Russians," said Munzer Abkik, of the Syrian National Coalition, an opposition group in exile that coordinates with the Free Syrian Army.

"We are watching cautiously in the coming days to see if they are serious about finding a political solution through a real transition of power, or if they are simply maneuvering to gain time," he said. "The rebel commanders are considering this possibility ... If they sit with (Russian officials), they say they can find out if they are bluffing."

Russia says it has already met with rebel commanders in Moscow, a claim denied by the opposition and their political allies. But some mediators and politicians who coordinate with the Free Syrian Army say the Russians have reached out to the rebels, either to individual commanders on the ground or through mediators.

Lavrov first made the offer last week. On Tuesday, he repeated it, saying, "We would like and would be ready to help not only the Syrian army, but all opposition units confronting terrorists on the ground in Syria." He said Moscow was reaching out to the United States and countries in the region to help locate moderate and anti-terrorist opposition factions in Syria.

"I would say frankly that it hasn't been easy to find them, and we are still continuing the search," Lavrov said.

Retired Lebanese army Gen. Hisham Jaber, who is familiar with the Syrian military, said Russia is looking to show flexibility. "The aim is political ... to talk to those in the trenches, not those in hotels," Jaber said. "Russia can't talk about a peaceful resolution and hold the Syrian regime card alone."

Russia is signaling that it is willing to include rebel fighters in any unified Syrian military force to fight terrorism that might emerge from negotiations, Jaber said. But Moscow also wants to underline to the U.S. and its allies how disunited the Free Syrian Army is and how difficult it is to negotiate with them. Still, with 25,000 to 30,000 fighters on the ground who claim affiliation with the Free Syrian Army, Russia knows they are a force to reckon with.

"What is there to lose to throw the test balloon ... and give the impression that Russia is here to solve the problem?" Jaber said.

By thrusting itself in the complex Syrian conflict, Russia also stirred a new flurry of diplomacy.

The four powerhouses that have leverage over the conflict — Russia, the U.S., Turkey and Saudi Arabia — have been holding talks over Syria's future, and on Tuesday U.S. officials said that Iran — like Russia, a major backer of Assad — had been invited to participate for the first time. Few details have emerged, and Iran has yet to reply.

In a sign of possible discord with his Russian allies, Assad's office issued a statement Tuesday reiterating that he will not consider any political initiatives "until after eradicating terrorism." The statement was in response to comments by Russian lawmakers who visited Assad on Sunday and said the Syrian leader was willing to hold early presidential elections that he would run in.

A former Free Syrian Army soldier who is now in Turkey and acts as a contact between rebel factions and Russia said a Russian emissary had already reached out to him to arrange meetings with rebel commanders. The go-between, who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Jad, described the emissary as a Russian of Syrian origin, whom he met through a Syrian politician, who in turn had met him in Moscow.

"We didn't give a decision yet. We are waiting for a confidence-building step," Abu Jad said. "They have to stop the raids against the FSA."

Abu Jad said there was no consensus among rebel commanders on whether to take up the offer. But he added that with a new push for diplomacy, the rebels must be prepared for a possible new channel of negotiations. "Wars always end in negotiations ... We try to be ready and restore our place so as not to always be dependent on the outside."

Jamil Saleh, the commander of the CIA-backed rebel faction Tajammu Alezzah, said the group's bases in central Hama have been pounded by Russian airstrikes every day since the campaign was launched on Sept. 30. Last week, an emissary of the Russians contacted him to arrange for a meeting in a third country. Saleh said he rejected the offer.

"This is an attempt to win over some factions or cause strife among them and with their (foreign) supporters," Saleh told The Associated Press. "It is a matter of principle, so long as Russia supports the regime and is pounding us and Syrian cities we can't talk to them. They must first recognize the Syrian revolution and the Free Syrian Army."


Associated Press writer Vladimir Isachenkov contributed to this report from Moscow.



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