Weeks after expanding its military presence in Syria, Russia has announced a new intelligence-sharing agreement with Iran, Syria, and Iraq. Russian officials says the purpose of the agreement is to facilitate attacks against the Islamic State. Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to discuss the issue further in his remarks at the U.N. General Assembly and in his meeting with President Barack Obama today. On Friday, Iraq’s foreign minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari called for greater access to intelligence. “It is true that we more need equipment, training, intelligence, air force coverage but we do not need ground troops and bases from this country or that country,” he said.
Secretary of State John Kerry spent the weekend making the case for a political solution to the Syrian civil war. He met this weekend with Jaafari and separately with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Putin outlined his position on a political transition in Syria in an interview that aired on 60 Minutes on Sunday. “We support the legitimate government of Syria,” he said. “And there is no other solution to the Syrian crisis than strengthening the effective government structures and rendering them help in fighting terrorism — but at the same time urging them to engage in positive dialogue with the rational opposition and conduct reform.”
U.S. Confirms Equipment Transferred to Al-Qaeda by U.S.-Trained Rebels
U.S. Central Command confirmed that a Syrian rebel commander who recently completed the U.S. train-and-equip program did in fact turn over U.S.-supplied equipment to Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate. The equipment included six trucks and ammunition supplies — approximately 25 percent of the equipment provided by the coalition to the group of rebels. The rebel commander said it was given to an intermediary for Jabhat al-Nusra in exchange for safe passage and that the rebels still possess their U.S.-provided weapons.
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- Israeli riot police clashed again with Palestinian protesters throwing stones and firecrackers at the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem on Sunday.
- The French military has carried out its first strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria after announcing it would expand its air campaign earlier this month; it has previously limited its strikes to targets in Iraq.
- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York to discuss the implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement.
- The Saudi-led coalition intervening in Yemen conducted helicopter strikes in the town of Bani Zela that killed 25 civilians, residents of the town told Reuters; Saudi officials dismissed the accounts as “totally false.”
- Saudi Arabia has withdrawn as much as $70 billion in global assets to stem a budget deficit that has grown amid low oil prices.
Arguments and Analysis
“It’s Time to Rethink Syria” (Philip Gordon, Politico Magazine)
“These developments make it increasingly difficult to deny what should have been apparent for some time — the current policy of the United States and its partners, to increase pressure on Assad so that he ‘comes to the table’ and negotiates his own departure — must be rethought. As the Coordinator for Middle East policy in the White House from 2013 until April of this year, I watched and participated as the administration grappled with what one top official called ‘the hardest problem we’ve faced — ever,’ and I know just how bad all of the options are. But the urgency of the humanitarian crisis, now with the potential to destabilize Europe as well — along with Russia’s dangerous new escalation — means we must revisit some fundamental questions about a conflict that is tearing the region apart. What’s needed is a new diplomatic process that brings all the key external actors to the table and agrees on a messy compromise to deescalate the conflict — even if that means putting off agreement on the question of Assad.”
“Meet the Obscure Company Behind America’s Syria Fiasco” (Aram Roston, BuzzFeed)
“At the heart of the high-stakes U.S. program to train and equip Syrian rebels to fight ISIS is a multimillion-dollar arms deal that the Pentagon farmed out to a tiny, little-known private company called Purple Shovel LLC. A BuzzFeed News investigation, based on inside documents and confidential sources familiar with the Syria operation, has found:
Purple Shovel, through the subcontractors it selected and oversaw, tried to sell the U.S. thousands of Russian-style rocket-propelled grenades that were considered unreliable because they were manufactured three decades ago, before Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union.
The U.S. government rejected them, and that delayed the effort to stand up the Syrian rebel force.
An American contractor, 41-year-old Francis Norwillo, was killed in a weapons explosion in Bulgaria while training with such outdated grenades.
The U.S. violated its own policy and gave Purple Shovel approval to acquire millions of dollars’ worth of high-tech missiles for the rebels from Belarus, a dictatorship that is under sanctions by the European Union.”
-J. Dana Stuster
Thaer Ghanaim/PPO via Getty Images