Syria

Indicted Russian Oligarch Controls Mercenaries in Syria

Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch indicted last week by special counsel Robert Mueller, is believed “to control the Russian mercenaries who attacked U.S. troops and their allies in Syria this month” and “was in close touch with Kremlin and ­Syrian officials in the days and weeks before and after the assault,” the Washington Post reports.

Russia Attacked U.S. Troops In Syria

Eli Lake: “If you’ve been listening just to the Kremlin and the Pentagon, you probably didn’t know that Russia attacked American forces and their allies in Syria last week, suffering heavy casualties.”

“Yes, all sides admit that there was an incident at a U.S. base in Deir Ezzor. And that elements of the Syrian regime and Shiite militias participated in the assault. The Pentagon and Kremlin both acknowledge that Russian “mercenaries” participated, too. But the line for now is that those contractors had gone rogue, and Moscow didn’t know anything about it.”
“But make no mistake: There is overwhelming evidence that those Russian contractors were working at the behest of the Kremlin.”

U.S. Strikes Killed Scores of Russian Fighters in Syria

“U.S. forces killed scores of Russian contract soldiers in Syria last week in what may be the deadliest clash between citizens of the former foes since the Cold War,” Bloomberg reports.

“More than 200 mercenaries, mostly Russians fighting on behalf of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, died in a failed attack on a base and refinery held by U.S. and U.S.-backed forces in the oil-rich Deir Ezzor region, two of the Russians said. The U.S. official put the death toll at about 100, with 200 to 300 injured.”

Trump Ends Covert Program to Arm Syrian Rebels

“President Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia,” the Washington Post reports.

“Officials said the phasing out of the secret program reflects Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia, which saw the anti-Assad program as an assault on its interests. The shuttering of the program is also an acknowledgment of Washington’s limited leverage and desire to remove Assad from power.”

U.S. Will Let Russia Decide Future of Syria

“Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres during a private State Department meeting last week that the fate of Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad now lies in the hands of Russia, and that the Trump administration’s priority is limited to defeating the Islamic State,” Foreign Policy reports.

“The remarks offer the latest stop on a bumpy U.S. policy ride that has left international observers with a case of diplomatic whiplash as they try to figure out whether the Trump administration will insist that Assad step down from power. Nearly three months ago, Tillerson had insisted that Assad would have to leave office because of his alleged use of chemical weapons.”

Trump Suddenly Warns Syria

The White House said that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria appeared to be preparing another chemical weapons attack, and warned that he would “pay a heavy price” if one took place, the New York Times reports.

“Several military officials who were reached late Monday said they had been caught off guard by the White House statement, but it was unclear how closely held the intelligence regarding a potential chemical attack was.”

Buzzfeed News: “Five defense officials… said they not only did not know where the potential chemical attack would come from, but they were unaware the White House was planning to release the statement.”

U.S. Accuses Syria of Mass Murders

“The Trump administration accused the Syrian government of operating a crematorium to cover up what U.S. officials called ‘mass murders’ at the notorious Saydnaya prison outside Damascus,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The U.S. estimates the Syrian government is hanging as many as 50 detainees per day at the prison and burning some of the remains afterwards… The U.S. released several declassified satellite photos it says reveal the existence of the crematorium near the main prison.”

Ross Says Missile Strike was ‘After-Dinner Entertainment’

Speaking at a conference, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross “recalled the scene at Mar-a-Lago on April 6, when the summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping was interrupted by the strike on Syria,” Variety reports.

Said Ross: “Just as dessert was being served, the president explained to Mr. Xi he had something he wanted to tell him, which was the launching of 59 missiles into Syria. It was in lieu of after-dinner entertainment.”

As the crowd laughed, Ross added: “The thing was, it didn’t cost the president anything to have that entertainment.”

Assad Says Videos of Dead Children Were Faked

“Vilified by accusations of using a chemical bomb, Syria’s president intensified his counterpropaganda campaign on Thursday, suggesting that child actors had staged death scenes to malign him and that American warplanes had bombed a terrorist warehouse full of poison gases, killing hundreds of people,” the New York Times reports.

Said Assad: “We don’t know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhoun. Were they dead at all?”

American Led Airstrike Kills 18 Rebels Allied with U.S.

“An airstrike by the American-led coalition fighting the Islamic State killed 18 Syrian fighters allied with the United States,” the New York Times reports.

“The strike, on Tuesday in Tabqah, Syria, was the third time in a month that American-led airstrikes may have killed civilians or allies, and it comes even as the Pentagon is investigating two previous airstrikes that killed or wounded scores of civilians in a mosque complex in Syria and in a building in the west of Mosul, Iraq.”

Trump Launched Airstrikes Over Dessert

President Trump described to Fox Business how he told Chinese President Xi about his order to launch airstrikes in Syria last week:

I was sitting at the table.  We had finished dinner.  We’re now having dessert.  And we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen and President Xi was enjoying it.

And I was given the message from the generals that the ships are locked and loaded, what do you do?

And we made a determination to do it, so the missiles were on the way.  And I said, Mr. President, let me explain something to you.  This was during dessert.

We’ve just fired 59 missiles, all of which hit, by the way, unbelievable, from, you know, hundreds of miles away, all of which hit, amazing.

It’s so incredible.  It’s brilliant.  It’s genius.

Donald Trump, Then and Now

“President Obama, do not attack Syria. There is no upside and tremendous downside. Save your ‘powder’ for another (and more important) day!”

— Donald Trump, on Twitter, September 7, 2013.

“What I did should’ve been done by the Obama administration a long time before I did it. And you would’ve, I think Syria would’ve been a lot better off than it has been.”

— Trump, on Fox Business today.

U.S. Accuses Russia of Cover-Up in Syrian Gas Attack

The White House “accused the Russian government of engaging in a cover-up of the chemical weapons attack last week by Syrian forces that prompted American airstrikes, saying that United States intelligence and numerous contemporaneous reports confirmed that the Syrians used sarin gas on their own people,” the New York Times reports.

“In a declassified four-page report that details United States intelligence on the chemical weapons attack, the White House asserted that the Syrian and Russian governments have sought to confuse the world community about the assault through disinformation and ‘false narratives.'”

Republicans Overwhelmingly Back Syria Airstrikes

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that 86% of Republicans support Donald Trump’s decision to launch strikes on a Syria for the same reason while just 11% are opposed.

“Overall, a bare 51% majority of U.S. adults support the president’s action in our new poll. In 2013, just 30% supported strikes. That swing is driven primarily by GOP partisans. For context, 37% of Democrats back Trump’s missile strikes. In 2013, 38% of Democrats supported Obama’s plan. That is well within the margin of error.”