The United States reportedly wants Russia to influence the future leadership of Syria as Damascus regains full control of the Middle Eastern Arab state.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson relayed this message to the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, according to Foreign Policymagazine.
During a private meeting last week, Tillerson told Guterres that President Bashar al-Assad’s future now lies in the hands of Moscow, the report said Monday.
“What happens to Assad is Russia’s issue, not the US government’s,” Tillerson told the UN chief in the private meeting, according to sources close to the magazine.
But Tillerson’s latest assurances to Guterres signaled the Trump administration’s new understanding that it was up to Moscow to decide on the issue due to geopolitical links between Russia and Syria and Moscow’s support to Assad.
He also signaled that US military attacks on Syrian government forces in recent months were of tactical nature and not meant to weaken the government or strengthen the opposition forces.
Tillerson’s remarks are considered to be harbingers of the Syrian government’s imminent victory against foreign-backed militants in the devastating six-year-long conflict.
Political observers assess the top diplomat’s remarks as a compromise on behalf of the Trump administration.
Syrians to decide
“The Syrian people should determine their country’s political future through a political process,” said a US State Department official asked by Foreign Policy to comment on Tillerson’s remarks to Guterres.
Tillerson had announced earlier this year that Assad’s future “will be decided by the Syrian people.”
Tillerson’s recent remarks announcing the decision to let Russia decide Assad’s future comes on the eve of President Donald Trump’s first face-to-face meeting next week with President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Germany.
Tillerson said earlier this month that Trump had tasked him with repairing the broken US-Russia relationship.
The US Congress slapped sanctions against Russia for its alleged role in the US presidential election which ended with Trump at the helm.
‘Israel doing everything to prevent Syria from prevailing against terrorists’
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) fired at a “Syrian military artillery position”on Saturday in response to “projectiles launched” at Israel from Syria, the IDF said on Twitter.
This attack follows five almost identical incidents in the Syrian and Israeli sections of the Golan Heights over the past week.
While no casualties have been reported on the Israeli side, two Syrian soldiers were reportedly killed by Israeli fire last Saturday.
Investigative journalist Rick Sterling says the situation could escalate, as Israel now seems to be launching cross-border strikes into Syria on an almost daily basis.
“As the Syrian army advances and slowly but surely is crushing the armed opposition, the terrorists within Syria, Israel is escalating its attacks and its intervention. It should be noted that where these projectiles are falling is actually Syrian territory; it is Israeli occupied Syria,” he told RT.
Meanwhile, the Assad government is not in the position to retaliate against Israel, the journalists said.
“They’ve got so much fighting going on within Syria. There are so many terrorists and so-called moderate rebels that are allied with Al-Qaeda and Al-Nusra. They’ve got their hands full right there, and they don’t need it escalating with Israel. It is really dangerous,” he said.
“It is extremely dangerous. It is clearly a violation of Syrian sovereignty. Also, Israel is attacking Syria, even if the so-called projectiles come from the terrorist groups there. So, they’re using this as an excuse, and it has been pointed out that the terrorists can just fire some projectiles into the Israeli occupied territory and get the Israeli to come in and to attack the Syrians in alliance with terrorists,” Sterling said.
The Golan Heights has been a contested area since it was captured by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967. The journalist noted that Israel has been actively involved in the Syrian conflict “from the start supporting the terrorist campaign.”
“The former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren, who was the ambassador to the US – he said explicitly they would prefer the terrorists to the Syrian government. He said: ‘We’d prefer the people we don’t like, who aren’t associated with Iran to those who are.’ Israel has a lot at stake here. They are hell-bent on preventing the Syrian government from stopping terrorism, because they would view that as basically it’s Hezbollah and Iran in alliance with Syria, which is fighting terrorism in Syria,” he said.
“As the possibility approaches of the Syrian government and their allies prevailing in the conflict, Israel is interceding to do everything they can to prevent that,” Sterling concluded.
Massoud Shadjareh, the chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, has stated that Israel’s retaliation is not justified, while also labeling the latest developments as “extremely dangerous.”
“I think it is now very clear that Israeli government and the military are actively involved against the Syrian government. Around nine months ago there were many photographs and evidence presented that Israeli armed forces and, indeed, medics were bringing these terrorists who are opposing the Syrian government into Israel and giving them medical treatment, and then sending them back. Last month [it was reported] that the Israeli government is involved in financing these rebel groups,” Shadjareh told RT.