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Top Russian General accuses US of training ISIS at Syrian border base

The chief of Russia’s general staff has said US efforts to fight ISIS are not what they appear

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(ZeroHedge) – From ISIS To US-Backed “New Syrian Army” – “They Change Their Spots” Russia Alleges

According to a new Reuters report, the chief of the Russian General Staff has accused the United States of hosting a training facility for ISIS fighters in Syria along the Syria-Iraq border. Al-Tanf base on Syria’s southeast side has been under the control of the US-backed “New Syrian Army” and their US special forces advisers since the area was captured from ISIS in August of 2016.

Russia has previously called the base a 100km wide “black hole” operated by the US wherein an assortment of unaccountable armed groups and militants can operate freely. That American troops have long been deployed there was previously confirmed through multiple photographs and videos released early in the summer of 2017 which showed US elite soldiers on active patrols with Syrian rebel factions associated with the Free Syrian Army (or FSA, elements of which were more recently renamed the New Syrian Army).


Photos above and below were made public last summer which shows ongoing training of “New Syrian Army” fighters by US military advisers. Russia now alleges ISIS members have sought the protection of the base and area under its control. Russia’s top general said this week, “They are practically Islamic State. But after they are worked with, they change their spots and take on another name.” The images were originally published through Hammurabi’s Justice News, a news outlet affiliated with Maghaweir al Thowra (MaT) – a faction which is the latest incarnation of the US-created New Syrian Army. Via the Long War Journal


Image produced by Maghaweir al Thowra (MaT) – the latest incarnation of the US-created New Syrian Army.

The head of Russia’s General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, made the allegations in an interview on Wednesday with Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, saying that the US base is illegal (and presumably the other roughly up to 10 or more known bases) as the Americans have no right to violate Syrian sovereignty and have not been invited to be there by Damascus in the first place. Russian military officials have recently indicated that the Syrian Army has essentially cut off the area and isolated US-backed forces’ ability to expand. If true this raises significant doubts concerning how the presumed “anti-ISIL” mission of US coalition forces are valid or relevant, or how a direct US military presence in the remote southeast region could be justified.

Early this month Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that the Islamic State had been destroyed and no longer holds cities or significant territory, though insurgent pockets remain. And at the same time the Russian “mission accomplished” announcement was being widely reported, the Pentagon said US forces would stay in Syria “as long as we need to, to support our partners and prevent the return of terrorist groups.” Meanwhile, this week Russia has moved forward with plans brokered with the Syrian government to maintain two permanent Russian military bases on the Mediterranean – the naval station at Tartus and Khmeimim airbase outside of Latakia.

General Gerasimov told the Russian newspaper that the defense ministry possessed drone and satellite footage confirming large numbers of ISIS-affiliated fighters at the US base at Tanf. “They are in reality being trained there,” Gerasimov said, and continued “They are practically Islamic State. But after they are worked with, they change their spots and take on another name. Their task is to destabilize the situation.”

Thus the allegation appears to be that as ISIS loses territory and is rooted out of various pockets in the east, its fighters then conveniently declare their allegiance to US-backed FSA/New Syrian Army factions, after which they enter training programs hosted by US advisers. 

Gerasimov further indicated that some 400 militants recently left a town in the southern al-Hasakah Province for al-Tanf, launching an offensive on the Syrian forces from the eastern bank of Euphrates, after the main ISIS forces were routed there. Russia has over the past months accused the US coalition of essentially relocating ISIS fighters in order to allow their redeploying to locations where they could attack and pressure Syrian and Russian aligned forces.

In one major instance related to the coalition and SDF victory over ISIS in Raqqa, a bombshell investigative report produced by no less than BBC News confirmed that Russia has certainly had reason to be suspicious of the Pentagon’s motives and strategy inside Syria. According the November BBC report:

The BBC has uncovered details of a secret deal that let hundreds of Islamic State fighters and their families escape from Raqqa, under the gaze of the US and British-led coalition and Kurdish-led forces who control the city. A convoy included some of IS’s most notorious members and – despite reassurances – dozens of foreign fighters. Some of those have spread out across Syria, even making it as far as Turkey.

And concerning the latest accusations of US-ISIS complicity in al-Tanf, Gen. Gerasimov further said the pattern continues: “The most important is that we have been seeing the militants advancing from there for several months. When the control [of the Syrian forces] loosened, as many as 350 militants left the area.” He further said of the Russian-Syrian fight against ISIS in the area, “We took timely measures…they have suffered a defeat, these forces were destroyed. There were captives from these camps. It is clear that training is underway at those camps.”

And he continued, “Instead of the New Syrian Army, mobile ISIS groups, like a jack in the box, carry out sabotage and terrorist attacks against Syrian troops and civilians from there.” And though the pretext for the Tanf base’s creation was “the need to conduct operations against ISIS” – the rapid recent demise of ISIS proves that the Americans have ulterior motives, according to the Russian general.

Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has heightened his rhetoric of late regarding uninvited foreign forces operating on Syrian soil. He said last week in a televised interview which was subsequently posted to multiple Syrian official social media channels: “Those who work with foreigners against their army are traitors.” Assad has also on multiple occasions promised to return all of natural Syria to the control of the Syrian government and army.

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Constantinople: Ukrainian Church leader is now uncanonical

October 12 letter proclaims Metropolitan Onuphry as uncanonical and tries to strong-arm him into acquiescing through bribery and force.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The pressure in Ukraine kept ratcheting up over the last few days, with a big revelation today that Patriarch Bartholomew now considers Metropolitan Onuphy “uncanonical.” This news was published on 6 December by a hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (running under the Moscow Patriarchate).

This assessment marks a complete 180-degree turn by the leader of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople, and it further embitters the split that has developed to quite a major row between this church’s leadership and the Moscow Patriarchate.

OrthoChristian reported this today (we have added emphasis):

A letter of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine was published yesterday by a hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in which the Patriarch informed the Metropolitan that his title and position is, in fact, uncanonical.

This assertion represents a negation of the position held by Pat. Bartholomew himself until April of this year, when the latest stage in the Ukrainian crisis began…

The same letter was independently published by the Greek news agency Romfea today as well.

It is dated October 12, meaning it was written just one day after Constantinople made its historic decision to rehabilitate the Ukrainian schismatics and rescind the 1686 document whereby the Kiev Metropolitanate was transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church, thereby, in Constantinople’s view, taking full control of Ukraine.

In the letter, Pat. Bartholomew informs Met. Onuphry that after the council, currently scheduled for December 15, he will no longer be able to carry his current title of “Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine.”

The Patriarch immediately opens his letter with Constantinople’s newly-developed historical claim about the jurisdictional alignment of Kiev: “You know from history and from indisputable archival documents that the holy Metropolitanate of Kiev has always belonged to the jurisdiction of the Mother Church of Constantinople…”

Constantinople has done an about-face on its position regarding Ukraine in recent months, given that it had previously always recognized the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate as the sole canonical primate in Ukraine.

…The bulk of the Patriarch’s letter is a rehash of Constantinople’s historical and canonical arguments, which have already been laid out and discussed elsewhere. (See also here and here). Pat. Bartholomew also writes that Constantinople stepped into the Ukrainian ecclesiastical sphere as the Russian Church had not managed to overcome the schisms that have persisted for 30 years.

It should be noted that the schisms began and have persisted precisely as anti-Russian movements and thus the relevant groups refused to accept union with the Russian Church.

Continuing, Pat. Bartholomew informs Met. Onuphry that his position and title are uncanonical:

Addressing you as ‘Your Eminence the Metropolitan of Kiev’ as a form of economia [indulgence/condescension—OC] and mercy, we inform you that after the elections for the primate of the Ukrainian Church by a body that will consist of clergy and laity, you will not be able ecclesiologically and canonically to bear the title of Metropolitan of Kiev, which, in any case, you now bear in violation of the described conditions of the official documents of 1686.

He also entreats Met. Onuphry to “promptly and in a spirit of harmony and unity” participate, with the other hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in the founding council of the new Ukrainian church that Constantinople is planning to create, and in the election of its primate.

The Constantinople head also writes that he “allows” Met. Onuphry to be a candidate for the position of primate.

He further implores Met. Onuphry and the UOC hierarchy to communicate with Philaret Denisenko, the former Metropolitan of Kiev, and Makary Maletich, the heads of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” and the schismatic “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” respectively—both of which have been subsumed into Constantinople—but whose canonical condemnations remain in force for the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The hierarchs of the Serbian and Polish Churches have also officially rejected the rehabilitation of the Ukrainian schismatics.

Pat. Bartholomew concludes expressing his confidence that Met. Onuphry will decide to heal the schism through the creation of a new church in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church under Metropolitan Onuphry’s leadership is recognized as the sole canonical Orthodox jurisdiction in Ukraine by just about every other canonical Orthodox Jurisdiction besides Constantinople. Even NATO member Albania, whose expressed reaction was “both sides are wrong for recent actions” still does not accept the canonicity of the “restored hierarchs.”

In fact, about the only people in this dispute that seem to be in support of the “restored” hierarchs, Filaret and Makary, are President Poroshenko, Patriarch Bartholomew, Filaret and Makary… and NATO.

While this letter was released to the public eye yesterday, the nearly two months that Metropolitan Onuphry has had to comply with it have not been helped in any way by the actions of both the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Ukrainian government.

Priests of the Canonical Church in Ukraine awaiting interrogation by the State authorities

For example, in parallel reports released on December 6th, the government is reportedly accusing canonical priests in Ukraine of treason because they are carrying and distributing a brochure entitled (in English): The Ukrainian Orthodox Church: Relations with the State. The Attitude Towards the Conflict in Donbass and to the Church Schism. Questions and Answers.

In a manner that would do any American liberal proud, these priests are being accused of inciting religious hatred, though really all they are doing is offering an explanation for the situation in Ukraine as it exists.

A further piece also released yesterday notes that the Ukrainian government rehabilitated an old Soviet-style technique of performing “inspections of church artifacts” at the Pochaev Lavra. This move appears to be both intended to intimidate the monastics who are living there now, who are members of the canonical Church, as well as preparation for an expected forcible takeover by the new “united Church” that is under creation. The brotherhood characterized the inspections in this way:

The brotherhood of the Pochaev Lavra previously characterized the state’s actions as communist methods of putting pressure on the monastery and aimed at destroying monasticism.

Commenting on the situation with the Pochaev Lavra, His Eminence Archbishop Clement of Nizhyn and Prilusk, the head of the Ukrainian Church’s Information-Education Department, noted:

This is a formal raiding, because no reserve ever built the Pochaev Lavra, and no Ministry of Culture ever invested a single penny to restoring the Lavra, and the state has done nothing to preserve the Lavra in its modern form. The state destroyed the Lavra, turned it into a psychiatric hospital, a hospital for infectious diseases, and so on—the state has done nothing more. And now it just declares that it all belongs to the state. No one asked the Church, the people that built it. When did the Lavra and the land become state property? They belonged to the Church from time immemorial.

With the massive pressure both geopolitically and ecclesiastically building in Ukraine almost by the day, it is anyone’s guess what will happen next.

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Ukrainian leadership is a party of war, and it will continue as long as they’re in power – Putin

“We care about Ukraine because Ukraine is our neighbor,” Putin said.

RT

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Via RT…


Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has branded the Ukrainian leadership a “party of war” which would continue fueling conflicts while they stay in power, giving the recent Kerch Strait incident as an example.

“When I look at this latest incident in the Black Sea, all what’s happening in Donbass – everything indicates that the current Ukrainian leadership is not interested in resolving this situation at all, especially in a peaceful way,” Putin told reporters during a media conference in the aftermath of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This is a party of war and as long as they stay in power, all such tragedies, all this war will go on.

The Kiev authorities are craving war primarily for two reasons – to rip profits from it, and to blame all their own domestic failures on it and actions of some sort of “aggressors.”

“As they say, for one it’s war, for other – it’s mother. That’s reason number one why the Ukrainian government is not interested in a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Putin stated.

Second, you can always use war to justify your failures in economy, social policy. You can always blame things on an aggressor.

This approach to statecraft by the Ukrainian authorities deeply concerns Russia’s President. “We care about Ukraine because Ukraine is our neighbor,” Putin said.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been soaring after the incident in the Kerch Strait. Last weekend three Ukrainian Navy ships tried to break through the strait without seeking the proper permission from Russia. Following a tense stand-off and altercation with Russia’s border guard, the vessels were seized and their crews detained over their violation of the country’s border.

While Kiev branded the incident an act of “aggression” on Moscow’s part, Russia believes the whole Kerch affair to be a deliberate “provocation” which allowed Kiev to declare a so-called “partial” martial law ahead of Ukraine’s presidential election.

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When Putin Met Bin Sally

Another G20 handshake for the history books.

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Via Zerohedge


In the annals of handshake photo-ops, we just may have a new winner (much to the delight of oil bulls who are looking at oil treading $50 and contemplating jumping out of the window).

Nothing but sheer joy, delight and friendship…

…but something is missing…

Meanwhile, earlier…

Zoomed in…

And again.

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