By Cheri Berens
ISIS and the al-Qaeda “rebel” group al-Nusra, occasionally fight each other over leadership–but not their ideology or goals, and often they merge to fight the Syrian National Forces. The Syrian National Forces are the only reason that ISIS and al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra front have not taken over Syria and formed an Islamic Law country (Islamic State). Together they have taken more than half of Syria. Therefore, al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra and ISIS strongholds were the first targets of Russian hits.
Obama officials are condemning the Russian bombings because Russia is also targeting al-Qaeda. Obama officials claim that Russia is not targeting ISIS when this is simply untrue. Russia has extensively hit ISIS, as detailed below. But Russian aircraft are also targeting positions of al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra front. The United States has officially recognized al-Qaeda as responsible for the hijacking of airplanes and flying them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11. The need to “defeat al-Qaeda” has been the primary reason used by the U.S. for its war on terror conducted for 14 years in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. It is outrageous that the Obama admin, the Pentagon, and US media now denounces Russian bombings of the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria.
The Russian bombing of al-Qaeda in Syria did hit a small group of U.S. funded Islamists fighting alongside al-Qaeda. Yes—fighting with al-Qaeda. U.S. taxpayers have paid for arms, training and salaries for Islamists who are fighting with, and not against, al-Qaeda. It appears that it is ok to fight with al-Qaeda if they are killing Syrians and helping to overthrow independent governments in the Near East and North Africa.
DETAILS OF RUSSIAN STRIKES
On October 2, the Russian Air Force’s Su-34 Fullback strike fighters destroyed an ISIS command center and training camp in Aleppo province. These were highly sophisticated pinpoint attacks that hit the ISIS command center, its communications center and the training camp.
In a 24 hour period, Russian teams, in coordination with Syrian Forces, carried out 18 combat missions and hit twelve ISIS targets.
Su-25 attack aircraft also struck an ISIS training camp in the vicinity of Maarat Numan in Idlib province, west of Aleppo province. They destroyed the terrorists’ bunkers, as well as arms and fuels depots.
Also hit were training camps at Midan Jadeed and a covert command center southwest of Raqqa. The fortified ISIS command center was damaged and the infrastructure of the training camp was fully destroyed.
On September 30 and October 1, Russia carried out pinpoint airstrikes on ISIS targets. During those two days, the Russian and Syrian Air Forces hit 10 targets, among them an explosives factory, an arms depot and an ISIS coordination center. The targets were chosen based on intelligence, including air surveillance, gathered and verified by Russia and Syria.
In those first attacks, the terrorist known as Abu Bilal al-Tunisi (Abu Bilal the Tunisian) was killed in a Syrian Air Force airstrike. He was one of the leaders of the main ruling body of ISIS and was the one who captured the Jordanian pilot Muath Safi Yousef al-Kasasbeh who was horrifically set on fire and burned to death. The Jordanian people were quite pleased at this development.
Also included in strikes during the first day of operations was airstrikes against ISIS and al-Nusra in Latakia. Latakia has been held by ISIS, al-Nusra, and other rebel groups for nearly four years. It was Latakia where enormous massacres of civilians occurred by the hand of rebel groups and where over 100 women and children were kidnapped and later killed. Many of the children of Latakia were moved to the al-Gouta neighborhood of Damascus and their dead bodies filmed; the rebel groups claiming that they had been killed via chemical weapons by the Syrian Army (CLICK HERE FOR INFO on the falsified attacks).
The combat unit of the Russian Aerospace Forces, which is involved in launching airstrikes against ISIS is stationed at the Hmeymim airbase, just outside Latakia. ISIS positions were located and identified with the use of surveillance data collected by both Russia and Syria. The airstrikes targeted ISIS and al-Nusra command points, communications facilities, explosives manufacturing plants and ammo and fuel depots.
Russian jets are equipped with high-precision weapons. No civilian infrastructure where civilians reside were damaged during any of the airstrikes. Russian involvement is intended to stop al-Qaeda backed rebel armies and ISIS from overtaking the country.
On October 1, Russian strikes also targeted al-Nusra’s positions at the hills of Deir Hanna and Jabal Al-Zaweed (Latakia province), while also attacking the terrorist groups as far south as the city of Ghannam; these airstrikes were concentrated on the al-Nusra corridor that stretches along the Turkish border.
Following their airstrikes north of the city of Latakia, Russian airstrikes then concentrated their efforts on al-Nusra and Liwaa Suqour al-Sham positions inside the northern Hama cities of Al-Lataminah and Kafr Zita. These airstrikes were in response to the continued al-Nusra attacks on the densely populated Syrian Christian city of Mhardeh. The Russians concluded their airstrikes with one last ferocious assault on the Islamist rebels in the Dara countryside (southern Syria). Dara has been a recent site of horrific atrocities committed on the Syrian people by both al-Qaeda rebel groups and ISIS.
The strikes on October 1st targeted the Army of Conquest, a coalition of insurgent groups that includes al-Nusra Front, the hard-line Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham, and a wide range of Islamist groups. Often these smaller rebel groups fight alongside the Army of Conquest, one of which is what is left of the loose-knit Free Syrian Army, including some that have received United States training and advanced American-made antitank missiles. At least one U.S. trained group was among the targets hit on September 30th. In March 2015, most of the members of the US trained group joined ISIS.
On October 2nd, the Syrian al-Qaeda group al-Nusra, and their allies from the Free Syrian Army (U.S. backed), attempted to retaliate against the Russian Air Force after the Russians destroyed their hideouts inside Deir Hanna in the countryside of Latakia province. However, the four grad rockets they fired towards the International Airport in the Jableh District fell short of their target and the Syrian National Forces quickly launched mortar shells and rockets into Deir Hanna before pummeling the al-Qaeda militants with a powerful series of airstrikes.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have criticized Russia for its fight against al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra front. Both Saudi Arabia and Qatar have backed al-Nusra financially. But those countries that are protesting Russia’s participation in Syria, specifically Saudi Arabia, is the same government that is currently bombing Yemen daily, killing over 5,000 civilians in a few months’ time.
On October 4th, the Russian Air Force surprised ISIS with a series of airstrikes inside the ISIS stronghold at Aqayrbat in the al-Salamiyeh district inside Hama province (south of Idlib). These are the first airstrikes inside this very strategic area of the countryside in which ISIS has hideouts. This is an important strike because it is near the Tabaqa Military Airport (ISIS’ main base in Syria).
As long as ISIS controls this part of the al-Salamiyeh District, they have full access to northeastern Homs and the densely civilian populated Ismaeli (a minority religious sect) city of al-Salamiyeh.Since ISIS captured the Tabaqa Military Airport in 2014, they’ve been able to control the rural area in Hama’s countryside. It is also next to the major highways leading to Hama City and Homs City.
The Islamist rebel group, Jaysh al-Fateh [Army of Conquest] has been attacking the towns of Kafraya and Foua for several weeks. They’ve held a stronghold inside Latakia as well, always targeting civilians, and massacring Christians and Alewite minority groups and enforcing Islamic Law. Things worsened a few weeks ago when two more rebel groups came and joined in the fight for Kafraya and Foua. Al-Nusra’s full name is Jabhat al-Nusra [Soldiers of Victory], and the other rebel group that joined Jaysh al-Fateh was Jund al-Aqsa (Soldiers of al-Aqsa mosque). Al-Aqsa mosque is in Jerusalem and Islamists believe taking al-Aqsa will mean Islam has conquered the world). The three Rebel Groups captured hilltop advantage points and a number of checkpoints in the area.
The propaganda war in the West of whether or not Russia is hitting ISIS targets or al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra is a strategy. It divides America and continues to push them towards promoting Islamist groups and fighting against Russia’s intentions of ridding Syria of an Islamist takeover. Wake up America–Obama’s strategy of dividing America via “racism” and “Islamism” is working. Don’t fall for it.
Cheri Berens is an independent foreign correspondent living in Egypt.
With special thanks to Bob Bennett.