Russian president Vladimir Putin to put forward ideas on countering extremism
RUSSIAN politicians have given President Vladimir Putin the go-ahead to put troops on the ground in Syria to annihilate terror group Islamic State.
The Federation Council voted behind closed doors on Wednesday to allow Putin to begin air strikes in middle eastern nation.
Sergei Ivanov, chief of Putinâ€™s administration, said in televised remarks that the council, which is the Russian parliamentâ€™s upper house, voted unanimously to approve the request.
Ivanov said the authorisation was necessary â€œnot in order to achieve some foreign policy goalsâ€ but â€œin order to defend Russiaâ€™s national interestsâ€.
Ivanov said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had â€œappealed to the leadership of our country with a request for military aidâ€.
Putin has to request a parliamentary approval for any use of Russian troops abroad, according to the constitution. The last time he did so was before Russia annexed Ukraineâ€™s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014.
The Kremlin announced Wednesday that Putin has sent a request to Russiaâ€™s upper chamber of parliament asking politicians to authorise using the Russian army abroad.
The Kremlinâ€™s statement did not specify where Putin was considering sending the troops but said the request was made â€œin line with recognised principles and norms of the international lawâ€.
Federation Council chairman Valentina Matvienko was quoted earlier in the day as telling the politicians they would consider the request on Wednesday. The chamber cut its live web broadcast in order to consider Putinâ€™s request.
The Kremlin reported that Putin hosted a meeting of the Russian security council at his residence Tuesday night outside of Moscow, saying that they were discussing terrorism and extremism.
PUTIN GOES HIS OWN WAY
Putin has snubbed a US-led counterterrorism forum of some 100 world leaders and experts, preferring to put forward his own ideas about how to stop Islamic Stateâ€™s rampage across the Middle East.
One day after Putin and US President Barack Obama failed to make headway in their standoff over Syria at their first formal meeting in more than two years, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump is agreeing with Putin on his backing of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
â€œIf he wants to fight ISIS, let him fight ISIS,â€ the Republican frontrunner told The Oâ€™Reilly Factor from his Trump Tower skyscraper in Manhattan.
â€œI say thereâ€™s very little downside with Putin fighting ISIS.â€
The US has long insisted that Syriaâ€™s future cannot include Assad. But Putin has cast Assadâ€™s government as the best defence against Islamic State militants, a group the US is also working to defeat.
Billionaire property mogul Trump also suggested that Assad, who has used barrel bombs and chemical weapons against civilians, was preferable to other potential options.
â€œPersonally, Iâ€™ve been looking at the different players and Iâ€™ve been watching Assad,â€ Trump said, â€œ … and Iâ€™m looking at Assad and saying maybe heâ€™s better than the kind of people that weâ€™re supposed to be backing because we donâ€™t even know who weâ€™re backing. We have no idea.â€
Obama and Putin have a tense relationship that was on full display as the pair met at the United Nations General Assembly in New York yesterday.
Trump has long predicted that he would get along well with Putin and declared Monday that, â€œPutin is a nicer person than I am.â€ He repeated his criticism that Putin is the better leader when compared with Obama.
â€œI will tell you that, in terms of leadership, heâ€™s getting an â€˜Aâ€™ and our president is not doing so well,â€ he said. â€œThey did not look good together.â€
Obama said yesterday that Assad must go if the Islamic State group is to be defeated.
â€œIn Syria (…) defeating ISIL (also known as Islamic State) requires, I believe, a new leader,â€ Obama told the gathering, held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin blasted the US-led summit as â€œdisrespectfulâ€ toward the United Nations, saying it â€œseriously undermines UN efforts in this direction.â€
On Wednesday, Russia will chair its own meeting on countering extremism as this monthâ€™s UN Security Council president â€” an event bound to highlight sharp differences in approach.
The fight against terrorism, particularly in Syria, has seized the attention of top officials, but there has been no overall agreement on how to end the conflict there.
At the summit, Obama said the United States was ready to work with Russia and Iran to â€œfind a political mechanism in which it is possible to begin a transition process.â€
The fight against terrorism has been complicated by a Russian military build-up in Syria in support of Assad.
Putin has suggested Russia could launch air strikes against the militants in Syria, if sanctioned by the United Nations or requested by Damascus.
The United States has long insisted that Assad must leave power but Obama did not specify whether the Syrian leader could take part in a transition in an interim role.
Hinting at a possible compromise, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington could co-operate on Syria if Russia and Iran persuade Assad to stop using barrel bombs against civilians.
â€œThey are both in a position, in exchange perhaps for something that we might do, they might decide to keep Assad from dropping barrel bombs,â€ Kerry said in an interview with MSNBC.
Western diplomats maintain that Assad has killed more civilians by using barrel bombs dropped from helicopters than IS in its brutal advance in Syria.
Obama returned to Washington Tuesday with the path forward no clearer than when he arrived in New York, even after lengthy talks with Putin.
â€œNowhere is our commitment to international order more tested than in Syria,â€ Obama acknowledged when he addressed the UN General Assembly.
So far diplomacy aimed at a political transition and Assadâ€™s removal has sputtered. Economic sanctions, a favourite tool of the Obama administration, have had little effect on the Syrian president. A plan to train â€œmoderateâ€ Syrians to fight the extremists now uncontrolled in the country has failed spectacularly.
The decision of Russia, a longtime ally of Assad, to become involved has created even more complications.
Ahead of Putinâ€™s arrival in New York, the Russian president sent more military equipment and troops to Syria. He called on the leaders gathered at the UN to rally around Assad, portraying him as the only viable option for confronting the Islamic State.
Obama, in public remarks and private meetings, argued to Putin that supporting Assad was a losing proposition. He said the US was willing to work with Russia on a political transition, but only if Assad leaving power was the result.
Itâ€™s an argument Obama has made for years with little success. And to some analysts, itâ€™s unclear at this point what else he might be willing to do to persuade Putin to follow his plan.
â€œIf he has leverage, it really would require him to show countries in the region that the US will become more involved,â€ said Anthony Cordesman, a foreign-policy analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS CENTRAL
The counterterrorism summit took place after Obama vowed to crush IS in his UN speech a year ago and called on countries to join the United States in the campaign.
Taking stock one year on, Obama said IS had lost a third of the â€œpopulated areasâ€ it controlled in Iraq and had been â€œcut offâ€ from almost all of Turkeyâ€™s border region.
But he added that military action alone would not succeed unless efforts were made to address the conditions that allow Islamic radicalism to thrive.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for international aid to equip his troops fighting the jihadists, who triggered alarm after seizing the city of Mosul in June last year.
Since then, IS fighters have captured territory in Syria and Iraq and gained a foothold in Libya, Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East, with alliances as far afield as Nigeria, with Boko Haram.
Speakers at Tuesdayâ€™s meeting spoke of the need to confront the extremism which Jordanâ€™s King Abdullah II described as the â€œgreatest collective threat of our time.â€
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the organisationâ€™s most recent data shows a 70 per cent increase in foreign terrorist fighters from over 100 countries to regions in conflict.
â€œSocial media is central,â€ he said, urging measures against online recruitment of young people. â€œWe need to offer a counterweight to the siren songs that promise adventure, but deliver horror â€” and that promise meaning, but create more misery.â€
The US-led coalition wants to step up measures to prevent foreign fighters from joining the IS battlefield after a report showed nearly 30,000 had travelled to Iraq and Syria since 2011.
The meeting also heard from the Iraqi leader, who sought more help against Islamic State in his country, and learned from Obama that three more countries â€” Nigeria, Tunisia and Malaysia â€” were added to the coalition fighting the group.
Iran was not invited to the summit even though it is playing a major role in the fight against IS, providing military advisers, weapons and trainers.
The coalition has carried out more than 7,200 air raids over the past year, with France sending its warplanes this week to pound IS targets in Syria.
Aside from the aerial bombardment of IS targets, the Pentagon has set up a $500 million program to train â€œmoderateâ€ Syrian rebels.
But that tactic has turned into a fiasco after the Pentagon said only a few dozen of fighters had been trained and that some of those had handed over their weapons to Al-Qaedaâ€™s affiliate in Syria.