The turning point was the Obama and Putin discussion in Hangzhou.
The recent Syria agreement signed in Geneva by Kerry and Lavrov (probably it will be remembered as “Pizza and Vodka deal”, as the journalists have been served these delicacies by the negotiating teams during the time they had to wait for the results) beside the points disclosed by the foreign ministers included five documents. The US insisted on keeping the content secret, despite Russian insistence to make them known. Here is what we learned about the contents of the secret documents and the negotiation process from our usually reliable Arab and Israeli sources.
The secret documents describe what should happen in Syria after the cease-fire will come into effect. The first day of cease-fire is called Day D. The Russians wanted it to begin at noon, while the Americans preferred sunset on Monday September 12, 2016. The American view prevailed. After first two days, at D+2, if cease-fire holds, the Russians and the Americans will extend it for a longer time. This actually happened on September 14, in a telephone conversation between Lavrov and Kerry. They extended it for another 48 hours. If it will hold for a week, hopefully the sides will extend it indefinitely and proceed to the next stage.
US military officials acknowledge responsibility for the bombing attack against Syrian Army positions that paved the way for a major Daesh offensive against Assad government forces and that killed 80 Syrian service personnel, but claimed that the attack was an accident with the intended target being Daesh terrorists.
It was late on Friday night at the President Wilson Hotel in Geneva, and tired, hungry journalists were waiting in the hotel’s windowless basement ballroom for word from either US SecState John Kerry or his Russian colleague, foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, that (yet another) deal over Syria had been reached, or alternatively, none was coming. The process was being held back by Kerry, according to Reuters, as US negotiators were engaged in back and forth consultations with officials in Washington. Lavrov confirmed as much when he told reporters to blame the American, expressing disbelief that things were taking so long.
“I hope before Washington goes to sleep we can get some news,” he said.
An hour or so later, he fed the press corps another tidbit, literally. Lavrov, accompanied by a posse of officials, including one bearing a tall stack of pizza boxes, announced that they
were a gift “from the U.S. delegation”. But while the pizza was from the Americans, the booze came from Russia: as reporters were eating the pizza, Lavrov came again, this time to hand over two bottles of Russian vodka.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry, which has the backing of Russia and as of last week, China, condemned Turkey’s military incursion against an Islamic State-held Syrian town near its border, aided by aircraft from a U.S.-led coalition, as a breach of its sovereignty, Syrian state television reported. It added that any counter terrorism operations inside its borders had to be conducted in coordination with Damascus and accused Ankara of launching the incursion to replace Islamic State with “other terrorist groups” a reference to rebels.
There has already been speculation that Turkey’s latest incursion into Syrian territory has little to do with the stated purpose of cleansing ISIS forces close to its border following this weekend’s Gaziantep suicide bombing which was promptly blamed on ISIS, and is merely the latest escalation in Erdogan’s ongoing conflict with militant Kurdish forces located in the region.
Wed, Aug 24, 2016 By Daniel McAdams (Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity)
“… this de facto “no fly zone” … may be a US last-ditch effort to prevent Syrian government forces, aided by Russia, from taking back Aleppo and thus breaking the back of the foreign-backed insurgency.”
“Call it whatever you want to call it”
Reading between the lines in today’s Pentagon press briefing, a bombshell US policy shift is becoming more apparent: Syrian forces and their Russian partners are being told that conducting military operations in some parts of Syrian airspace opens them up to being shot down by the US military.
Pentagon Spokesman Peter Cook was asked numerous times in numerous ways whether this amounts to a US “no fly zone” over parts of Syria. His first response was vague but threatening:
We will use our air power as needed to protect coalition forces and our partnered operations. …We advise the Syrian regime to steer clear of [certain] areas.
Retired army major general Robert H. Scales: Russia has better weapons and better men to fight the ideological war than the US does.
Leonid Bershidsky of Bloomberg has lamented just a few days ago that Russia is actually winning the war in Syria by a landslide. “With Russian air support,” he said, “the regime forces [the Assad government] and their Iranian and Lebanese allies are pushing back and holding the siege, which cuts the rebels off from Turkey.”
Bershidsky is frustrated because the US is obviously losing the war in the region. Bershidsky wants US “victory” at any cost. He wants Assad to go. He wants more bloodshed and misery in the region. In fact, terrorist groups do not bother Bershidsky at all. Listen to him very carefully here:
Maria Zakharova, Director of the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, has recently declared that the so-called Syrian rebels, who have been receiving US military backing from time immemorial, have used poison gas on civilians in Aleppo. This recent poison gas attack
“led to the deaths of five and suffocation of eight more civilians…A local police source told SANA that terrorist groups fired rocket shells at the al-Hamadaniyeh neighborhood, injuring six. They also targeted the Salah-Eddin neighborhood, killing two and injuring 11 more.”
The United States, said Zakharova, is an accomplice:
The Syrian Arab Army (SAA), assisted by Russian aircraft and its local allies, has managed to cut off all militant supply routes to the city of Aleppo in a weeks-long offensive that has demonstrated how efficient and potent Damascus-led forces have become, the Lebanese newspaper As Safir asserted.
The media outlet viewed the battle for the Bani Zeid neighborhood as the key in the offensive that was launched in June to prevent radical groups, including al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham, from smuggling fighters, weapons and supplies in and out of Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city.
The crew members on board Russia’s transport helicopter downed in Syria died heroically in an attempt to minimize civilian casualties on the ground, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday.
The Russian Aerospace Forces’ Mi-8 Hip transport helicopter was downed in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib while returning from a humanitarian mission in Aleppo, the Russian Defense Ministry said earlier in the day. Three crew members and two reconciliation center officers were on board the helicopter.
On July 25, the Syrian army successfully advanced in the Layramoun industrial area of Aleppo city, liberating over dozen buildings there. After liberation of the brick factory, sugar factory, Sabbagh factories, Bana factory, Shabareq factory and “Marketna Mall” area, the Syrian army reached Al Barrad crossroad. Heavy clashes were reported there. If Al Barrad crossroad is secured by pro-government forces, the logistical capabilities of militant groups operating in Aleppo will deteriorate significantly.
Early on July 26, the Syrian army further advanced south from the Mallah Farms, securing Castello Complex and expanding the zone of control along the strategic Castello Highway.
On July 21, Russian warplanes and helicopter gunships intensified in northern Latakia, responding to the recent militant gains in the area. The joint force of Al Nusra, Jaysh Al-Fateh, the Free Syrian Army and the Turkmen Islamic Party had seized the strategic town of Kinsibba and the nearby villages of Shalaf, Ballah and Ruwaysat Shakara. Various sources say that the Russian Aerospace Forces already made up to 30 air strikes, targeting militant manpower and military equipment.