Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Russia Names Rebel Groups It's Supposedly Helping in Syria

From Newsweek:

 MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's defense ministry said on Tuesday its planes had carried out air strikes to support four rebel groups in Syria, saying it was working to try to unite the efforts of the Free Syrian Army and government troops against Islamic State.

The General Staff of the Russian army issued the statement as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held closed-door talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, with Syria topping the agenda.

It said over 5,000 Syrian opposition rebels were fighting against Islamic State in concert with the government forces of President Bashar al-Assad and that some rebels were supplying Russia's air force with targets for air strikes.

It said it had conducted strikes in support of a group called "Ganim" which it said was part of the Free Syrian Army, as well as in support of a group called "Desert Lions", another group called "Kalamun," and another called "the Democratic Forces."

"This work aimed at uniting the efforts of the government forces and other groups, which are interested in liberating Syria from international terrorists, will be continued," the statement said.

The Kremlin has sent mixed signals on the Free Syrian Army with some government officials saying Russia is arming them and others denying that. The FSA itself has denied receiving any Russian help, complaining that Russia is continuing to bomb it instead.

The Russian defense ministry said more than 150 Syrian opposition groups were helping support the land operation conducted by the Syrian government army.

"Actions by the so-called 'moderate opposition' against Islamic State have assisted the success of the land operation conducted by Syria's armed forces," it said.

A senior Western diplomat who declined to be named was skeptical of Russia's assertions about its collaboration with the FSA.

"That’s not reality on the ground," the diplomat said. "The FSA categorically denies it and it’s pure propaganda to try and divide the opposition.



  1. That Reuters article seemed pretty vague -- giving no name of the official making the statement? -- so I tried to find an article from Russia that would confirm this. And here is an article that seems to be the source for the Rueters story: The armed forces will continue to combine the efforts of the troops of Syria and the opposition against ISIS

    Thanks to Yandex translation, here is the key paragraph:

    MOSCOW, 15 Nov – RIA Novosti. Russian Armed forces will work to bring together the Syrian government troops and multiple troops, also fighting against terrorist group "Islamic state" (IG, Arabic version – "DAESH" is prohibited in Russia), told reporters on Tuesday the head of main operational Department of the General staff of VS Russian Federation Lieutenant General Sergey Rudskoy.
    "I want to emphasize that we will continue to work at uniting the efforts of government troops and other groups interested in the liberation of Syria from international terrorists," he said.

    The Reuters story seemed odd at first, but then I remembered reading (at the Sic Semper Tyrannis blog, I think) that during the fighting for Aleppo, Russians were receiving intelligence against ISIS from certain factions among the Syrian "rebels", and that the people in those factions had perhaps seen that they needed to get in good graces with the side that appeared to be winning.


    Phil K

    1. Thanks for the additional info Phil!

      You are correct. Only the office was named as the source of the information-

      "The General Staff of the Russian army"

      I didn't know quite what to make of this news item, as I had read on more then one occasion this claim by the Russians that they had alternative 'boots on the ground' but, couldn't find info on just who it was?

      The NATO side denies there is anyone from FSA cooperating- but, since they are all basically guns for hire- anything is possible.

      Some people claim that the Russians have allied themselves with Kurdish militias- I haven't been able to find anything to substantiate that claim and the YPG deny this themselves

      This is the bogus "Syrian Democratic Forces" which is really the Kurds/ YPG with a few token Arabs thrown in for good measure

      "It is said that Russia is supporting you with weapons?

      The allegations of Russia backing us are not true. It is only made to taint the image of our force and has no basis in truth. If there is something, we will not hide it. We are an honest force and we cannot hide such a thing from the people"

      Wish I could find more substantive info. Sigh. But you've helped fill in the blanks a bit more so I appreciate that!