Syrian Kurdish official praises US decision to provide arms

Members of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). (AFP)
Updated 10 May 2017
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Syrian Kurdish official praises US decision to provide arms

BEIRUT: A top Syrian Kurdish official on Wednesday welcomed the US decision to arm Kurdish fighters with heavier weapons, saying it would “legitimize” the force as it prepares to march on Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Daesh group.
But Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli said the decision, announced by the Trump administration Tuesday, was “unacceptable.”
The US said it would provide heavier arms to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which have driven Daesh from much of northern Syria with the help of US-led airstrikes, and are among the most effective ground forces battling the extremists.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he was confident the US would be able to resolve tensions with Turkey over the matter, saying: "We’ll work out any of the concerns."
Ankara says the Kurdish militia known as the YPG, which forms the backbone of the force, is an extension of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, which has been waging a decades-old insurgency in Turkey and is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and other Western countries.
“The Trump administration providing arms to a terrorist organization — either directly or indirectly through the YPG — does not change the fact that this amounts to support to a terror organization.” Canikli told Turkey’s A Haber television.
Ilham Ahmed, a top official in the Syrian Democratic Forces’ political office, said the decision to provide heavier arms carries “political meaning” and “legitimizes the YPG and the Syrian Democratic Forces.”
She said the decision is likely to be met with “aggression” from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is to visit Washington next week.
The SDF’s rapid advance against Daesh last year prompted Turkey to send ground forces across the border for the first time in the more than six-year-old civil war to help allied Syrian forces battle Daesh and halt the Kurds’ progress.
Since then, Turkey is believed to have positioned more than 5,000 troops in northern Syria, and has escalated its airstrikes and cross-border artillery attacks against Kurdish forces.
A Turkish air raid in late April killed 20 YPG fighters and media officials, prompting the US to deploy armored vehicles along the border in a show of support for the group.
Canikli expressed hope that Washington would reverse its decision, saying “there is no truth to the claim that the fight against Daesh can only be successful with the YPG.” Daesh is the Arabic acronym for Daesh.


Hezbollah leader boasts group has ‘highly accurate’ missiles

Updated 29 min 50 sec ago
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Hezbollah leader boasts group has ‘highly accurate’ missiles

BEIRUT: The leader of Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah is boasting the group possesses “highly accurate” missiles despite Israeli attempts to prevent it from acquiring such weapons.
Hassan Nasrallah spoke in a televised speech on Thursday to supporters commemorating Ashoura, one of the most important religious holy days for Shiite Muslims.
Nasrallah says Israel knows the regional balance of power has changed, and that recent Israeli strikes in Syria to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring those weapons failed because this “has already been achieved.”
He says Hezbollah now has “highly accurate ... missiles” and that, should Israel impose a war on Lebanon, “it will face a fate and a reality it never expected.”
Israel worries Hezbollah has been improving its capabilities and increased its strikes in Syria to prevent weapons shipments to the group.