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US greenlights missiles for al-Qaeda-linked, Turkish-backed Salafi-jihadists occupying Syria’s Idlib

Published: June 1, 2019
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The Trump administration has approved a Turkish shipment of US-made anti-tank missiles to al-Qaeda-linked Islamist rebels fighting a Russian-backed offensive in Syria’s Idlib province.

By Ben Norton

While the US corporate media continues propagating the conspiracy theory that Donald Trump is a secret Kremlin asset, the Trump administration has approved heavy weapons for al-Qaeda-allied, Turkey-backed militants to fight against a Russian-backed offensive in Syria.

The Syrian army has relaunched a campaign to retake the northwestern province of Idlib, which has been under the control of Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate for more than four years. Washington has responded by greenlighting a cache of US-made anti-tank missiles, rocket launchers, and armored vehicles sent from NATO ally Ankara to sectarian Islamist militants in Idlib.

Syria’s ally Russia had negotiated a peace deal with Turkey in September 2018. Ankara is militarily occupying part of northern Idlib, and the NATO member has constructed a dozen military bases in the Syrian province. But after seven months, Turkey and its rebel proxies have still failed to uphold their side of this peace agreement.

Under the deal, the Syrian government was supposed to regain access by the end of 2018 to major highways running through Idlib that were partially controlled by Islamist rebels. But Damascus still does not have authority over these critically important roads.

The peace agreement additionally stipulated that extremist militants in a demilitarized zone on the edge of Idlib were not allowed to launch attacks on Syrian government-held territory. Yet these Salafi-jihadist rebels have continued indiscriminately attacking civilian territories that are controlled by Damascus.

Frustrated with Turkey’s failure to fulfill the peace deal, the Syrian army and Russian military decided to re-initiate their joint campaign to retake Idlib. In April, Moscow began a series of airstrikes; and in early May, Damascus kicked off a ground offensive.

The Trump administration immediately condemned this Syrian-Russian campaign to retake Idlib from al-Qaeda militants. US officials also claimed, without providing any evidence, that the Syrian army was using “chemical weapons” in the offensive. (This unsubstantiated accusation came at the same time when a leaked OPCW report suggested that a previous gas attack in Douma, Syria had actually been staged.)

A US government official also said that Washington “greenlighted” the use of devastating anti-tank TOW missiles by Turkey-backed Islamist rebels in Syria.

Reuters reported on May 25 that Turkey has ramped up its weapons supplies to the al-Qaeda-linked militants that occupy Idlib. The Turkish military has also sent a convoy to a military base in rebel-held territory north of the Syrian city Hama.



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