25 February 2018

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First US air raid in Syria, to "defend" rebels fighting against jihadists (and Assad)

The United States has launched its first ever series of attacks to defend the "New Syria". It is a local rebel group, trained and equipped by Washington in the war against the Islamic State (and Damascus). US-Turkey axis gathers strength in the Syrian conflict.

Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The United States has launched the first in a series of air strikes on Syrian territory to "defend" a group of local rebels, confirming the increasing involvement of Washington in the conflict. 

Yesterday the Pentagon officialy confirmed the raid that took place on July 31. It was launched to cover the ground operations of the opposition movement called "New Syria", trained and supplied with weapons by the Americans. Pentagon spokesman Bill Urban said that "the last Friday was the first" in a series of air operations that will be launched in the near future.

Previously a senior government official in Washington had said that the US had hit militants  of the al Nusra Front, a branch of al-Qaeda in Syria, in response to attacks launched by Islamists against other rebels trained by the Americans. 

The administration of US President Barack Obama announced "additional measures" to defend the pro-American forces on the ground and launched a warning to the Assad regime to "not interfere".

The US government's decision to launch air strikes on Syrian territory is covered by the 2001 anti-terrorism law, which provides for the use of force against extremist militia fighters. However, according to critics this law is being exploited. 

Recently the United States has trained and equipped a group of fighters - called "moderates" - to fight the jihadi militias of the Islamic State (and the government of President Bashar al-Assad). However, they have so far been irrelevant in the balance of the conflict and have repeatedly suffered heavy losses.

Washington has recently signed an agreement with Turkey, aimed at creating what has been called an "Islamic State free zone" in the north of Syria. A senior US administration official, behind anonymity, said that the details of this area "have yet to be worked out." 

However, it is taken for certain that it will involve the presence and support of Ankara, the largest Muslim country that is also a NATO member, which the US considers a "partner in the field" in the fight against the jihadists (and President Assad).

Since the beginning of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, in 2011, over 3.2 million people have fled Syria and other 7.6 million have been internally displaced. There have been at least 230 thousand victims of the conflict, many of them civilians, with 2014 being declared the worst year for deaths. In this panorama of war and terror, members of the Islamic State have become synonymous with brutality and violence, the jihadists are believed to have executed more than 3 thousand people in the first year since the birth of the "Caliphate" in Iraq and Syria, of which 1800 were civilians, including at least 74 children.

See also

Iraqi Army ejects Islamic extremists from Haditha Dam
The mega-plant in the west of the country, is of strategic importance. The strike marks an expansion of military operations (mostly air) by Washington, so far limited to northern Iraq. The governor of Anbar wounded in the clashes with Islamists. The Arab League promotes joint action against extremist groups, including the Islamic State.

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Erdogan and Trump relaunch US-Turkey friendship. Divisions over Kurds remain

The Turkish leader confirms his hostility towards Kurdish militias, which he terms "terrorist organizations". For Washington, they represent a key ally in the struggle against the Islamic State. The Turkish leader renews request for extradition of the Islamic preacher Gülen, considered mastermind of a coup.

Ankara using anti-Jihadi campaign to fight Kurdish autonomist desires
Erdogan is really worried about the possible declaration of a Kurdish state. The president, who is probably thinking about early elections, claims that some lawmakers from the Kurdish-based HDP party have links to Kurdish terrorists in the PKK. The HDP’s success at the polls in June prevented the ruling party from having an absolute majority. Turkey and the United States confirmed their intention of creating a 90-km long "IS-free zone" inside Syria.

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CIA chief in Turkey to discuss Syrian conflict and Islamic State

Forty-eight hours after Trump and Erdoğan spoke, Mike Pompeo made a surprise visit in Turkey. Washington and Ankara are trying to restore relations after the tensions of recent years. The extradition of Islamic preacher Gülen is an obstacle. Trump sends letter to Xi Jinping expressing hope for "constructive" relations between Beijing and Washington.

Washington asking a reluctant Turkey to do "more" against the Islamic state
A statement by US Secretary of State John Kerry confirms that the US is putting pressure on Ankara, which however is more concerned about the possibility that Syrian Kurds autonomy alongside the largely autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan might boost a push for autonomy by Turkish Kurds. Turkey also wants the coalition to get rid of Assad.

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