Daily Archives: October 3, 2015
Russia’s military intervention in Syria has expanded radically in two directions. debkafile’s military and intelligence sources report that China sent word to Moscow Friday, Oct. 2, that J-15 fighter bombers would shortly join the Russian air campaign that was launched Wednesday, Sept. 30. Baghdad has moreover offered Moscow an air base for targeting the Islamic State now occupying large swathes of Iraqi territory
Russia’s military intervention in Syria has five additional participants: China, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hizballah.
The J-15 warplanes will take off from the Chinese Liaoning-CV-16 aircraft carrier, which reached Syrian shores on Sept. 26 (as debkafile exclusively reported at the time). This will be a landmark event for Beijing: its first military operation in the Middle East as well the carrier’s first taste of action in conditions of real combat.
Thursday night, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi, made this comment on the Syrian crisis at a UN Security Council session in New York: “The world cannot afford to stand by and look on with folded arms, but must also not arbitrarily interfere (in the crisis).”
A no less significant development occurred at about the same time when Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, speaking to the US PBS NewsHour, said he would welcome a deployment of Russian troops to Iraq to fight ISIS forces in his country too. As an added incentive, he noted that this would also give Moscow the chance to deal with the 2,500 Chechen Muslims whom, he said, are fighting with ISIS in Iraq.
debkafile’s military sources add that Al-Abadi’s words came against the backdrop of two events closely related to Russia’s expanding role in the war arena:
1. A joint Russian-Iranian-Syrian-Iraqi war room has been working since last week out of the Iraqi Defense Ministry and military staff headquarters in Baghdad to coordinate the passage of Russian and Iranian airlifts to Syria and also Russian air raids. This command center is also organizing the transfer of Iranian and pro-Iranian Shiite forces into Syria.
2. Baghdad and Moscow have just concluded a deal for the Russian air force to start using the Al Taqaddum Air Base at Habbaniyah, 74 km west of Baghdad, both as a way station for the Russian air corridor to Syria and as a launching-pad for bombing missions against ISIS forces and infrastructure in northern Iraq and northern Syria.
Russia has thus gained a military enclave in Iraq, just as it has in Syria, where it has taken over a base outside Latakia on the western coast of Syria. At the same time, the Habbaniyah air base also serves US forces operating in Iraq, which number an estimated 5,000.
In a pragmatic move, which has sound geo-political and economic basis, the Sri Lankan ‘national’ government of major parties, headed by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, on Thursday co-sponsored with the United States and an overwhelming majority of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), a resolution which ties Colombo to far-reaching institutional reforms for bringing about reconciliation and accountability. Among the reforms, one which will have an immediate impact on the ethnic question is the establishment of an ad hoc Judicial Mechanism with the participation of foreign judges and other legal personnel to try cases of alleged war crimes and rights abuses. Lanka’s historic step at Geneva stemmed from its new rulers’ desire to abjure divisive and confrontationist domestic and international politics, which had taken the country to rack and ruin, and opt for dialogue and accommodation. The Tamil problem, the root cause of Lanka’s woes, may now move towards a solution with the country’s judicial system acquiring legitimacy and credibility in Tamil eyes.
India, which faces a potentially destabilising fallout from the Lankan Tamil problem, will be relieved. Former president Rajapaksa had driven India to despair as he dragged his feet on the devolution of power to the Tamils. Except for a decade under President Chandrika Kumaratunga, Lanka was looked upon with disfavour by the West because of its uncompromisingly confrontationist approach to the Tamil question. Under Rajapaksa, it was in danger of facing unaffordable western trade and economic sanctions. It stood to lose a huge trade surplus of USD 2.5 billion with the US, and also Euro 2.3 billion worth of exports to the EU. China, which the Rajapaksa government favoured, is no substitute, importing only goods USD 153 million. The present government’s Look West policy promises to bring in FDI and the restoration of GSP Plus concessions for a wide range of Lankan exports.
But, Sinhalese ‘nationalists’ led by Rajapaksa will denounce the stand taken in Geneva as a ‘sellout’ to recapture power. But if, unlike its predecessors, the present government implements its commitments, thereby satisfying the Tamil minority, and also convinces the majority Sinhalese to accept the deal, the Tamil problem will be mitigated and the resultant peace will benefit all stakeholders.