US Betrayal in Syria Lead Moscow and Damascus to Develop New Strategy.
Hawks in the US foreign policy establishment appear to have succeeded in their effort to rip the Russian-US Syrian ceasefire agreement to shreds. However, according to independent political observer Albert Naryshkin, the ‘war party’ should remember the proverb ‘be careful what you wish for…’, because Moscow and Damascus aren’t backing down. Last Saturday, just over a week after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry succeeded in hammering out a comprehensive Syrian ceasefire agreement, US-led coalition jets struck an area of Deir ez-Zor, a government-controlled city in eastern Syria which has been besieged by Daesh terrorists for nearly two years. The attack left over 60 Syrian servicemen dead, and wounded over 100 more.
More than anything, Syrian and Russian officials were incensed by the fact that immediately after the airstrikes took place, Daesh began an offensive. Lavrov made sure to highlight this amazing ‘coincidence’ in his speech before the UN Security Council on Wednesday. “And here an amazing thing happened,” Naryshkin noted in his analysis for PolitRussia. “The US, which never apologizes for anything or to anyone, suddenly expressed regret, and apologized for the death of Syrian troops.”
Soon afterward, US media began buzzing that the Pentagon was “furious over the fact that someone was apologizing and officially calling its actions mistaken or regrettable.” But at that moment, the journalist added, the situation evolved further, widening the rift between Washington on one side and Moscow and Damascus on the other. “On the one hand,” Naryshkin recalled, “after the meeting between Lavrov and Kerry at the UN General Assembly, we didn’t hear anything to the effect the truce agreement was ruined, or that the US would abandon its commitments. However, other events allow us to characterize the current status of the treaty as nothing more than a ‘phantom’.”
This comes down to three facts, according to the journalist.
First and foremost, this includes the brazen attack on Deir ez-Zor, which was not only a violation of the truce, but proof that there are at least elements in the US political establishment who are “ready to revive the idea of direct military operations against Assad’s forces.” Secondly, there is the reality on the ground that some militants, including Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly known as al-Nusra) never had any intention of halting the fighting. Finally, Naryshkin noted, is the Syrian Army’s recent decision to withdraw from the ceasefire, its high command justifying the decision by noting that militants had violated the ceasefire agreement over 300 times in the space of a single week.
The Russian General Staff soon declared it support for the decision, stating Monday that it made no sense for the Syrian Army to observe the ceasefire if militants were not willing to reciprocate. The War of Nerves and Worlds: US Has ‘No Will’ to Join Russia in Syria In other words, “the Pentagon seems to have achieved its goal, and dealt serious damage to the agreement reached at Geneva. Even if it has not been formally announced, the agreement has already been violated and is not being adhered to, and its future looks tenuous. But this was the Pentagon’s step – how will Moscow and Damascus respond?”
The answer, Naryshkin noted, is quite simple: the two countries aren’t going to give up to US military pressure.
“Damascus began its response with a show of force. The Syrian Army and allied militias launched a massive offensive in northern Hama province, where militants [from the Jund al-Aqsa, a subunit of al-Nusra] are holding on to a small enclave. Knocking them out of the suburbs of Homs, the Syrian Army would be able to ensure safety in three major urban settlements: Damascus, Homs and Hama.” “According to militia, fighting is now taking place near the village of Koukab, with advance units moving toward Taibat al-Imam…Before that, the Syrian Army returned to the positions from which it had previously withdrawn to respond in kind to attacks made by the terrorist forces that had refused to comply with the truce.” Moscow, for its part, “decided to raise the stakes, and to send the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier cruiser to the Mediterranean Sea. The ship will join the group of Russian ships in the eastern Mediterranean,” Defense Minister Shoigu announced Wednesday.
Russia to Send Admiral Kuznetsov Cruiser to Mediterranean Sea – Defense Minister “Currently, the Russian naval group in the eastern Mediterranean comprises six warships and three or four support vessels from all of Russia’s fleets. In order to strengthen the combat capabilities of the group, we plan to include a naval aircraft carrier group with the Admiral Kuznetsov cruiser in its composition,” Shoigu explained. According to the Defense Ministry, aircraft aboard the Admiral Kuznetsov will carry out strikes against the jihadists between October and January. In effect, Naryshkin noted, the Syrian and Russian military response to the Pentagon’s provocation demonstrated the failure of US hawks’ attempt to squeeze Moscow and Damascus into submission.
But at the same time, the journalist emphasized that waiting for an even ‘tougher’ response, absent another provocation from Washington, is not worth it, either. “Moscow will continue to calmly support Syrian troops as they finish squeezing [militants in] Aleppo, and cleaning out the suburbs of Hama and Homs.” “In this way, Russia is demonstrating that it will not reject peace initiatives; nor will it close the door for the implementation of the signed peace agreements, which can always be returned to; at the same time, it is showing that every provocation will be met with a serious operation inside Syria itself. And this will very quickly deplete the Pentagon’s ‘arsenal’, since it will force it to make a choice about whether to engage directly in an open military confrontation with Assad and Russia – something they vowed not to do, and wouldn’t be allowed to do.”
Russia Not Backing Out of Syria Ceasefire Pact With US This is especially true given that President Obama’s term is almost up, and lame duck presidents generally can’t afford to risk launching major new military operations. Ultimately, Naryshkin suggested that even if individuals like Secretary of State Kerry might be counted on for having the good sense to stick to agreements signed with Moscow, Russia cannot sit back and hope that the president and the Pentagon will have the same wisdom. Moscow requires a ‘new strategy’ in Syria – one which it has been implementing in recent days. According to the journalist, that strategy consists of always leaving the door open to peace negotiations, but also showing the will “to clear the terrorists out of Syria entirely…Washington only made concessions and agreed to talks because the opposition was beginning to run out of steam. And if the US does not want to or cannot participate in a peaceful solution, the conflict will continue to be resolved as it has over the past year, when consistently, one after another, hundreds of settlements and militia groups signed on to our proposal for a truce, while the government liberated large areas of territory, and surrounded Aleppo in a ring.”
© Sputnik/ Alexei Druzhinin
US airstrikes on Syrian troops were ‘intentional,’ lasted nearly 1 hour – Assad to AP
Speaking to the Associated Press in Damascus, the Syrian leader denied that the airstrikes carried out by the US near Deir ez-Zor on September 17 were an accident. Sixty-two Syrian soldiers were killed and over 100 were injured, according to the Syrian military. Assad said they were “intentionally” targeted.
“It was not an accident by one airplane; it was four airplanes which kept attacking the position of the Syrian troops for nearly one hour or maybe a little bit more than one hour,” Assad told AP, adding they were attacking a large area that “constituted of many hills” adjacent to where the Syrian troops were stationed.
Assad also questioned how IS was able to launch an attack so quickly after the airstrike.
“The IS troops attacked at the very same time as the American strike. How could they know that America was going to attack that position in order to gather their militants right away and attack it one hour after the strike. It was definitely intentional and not unintentional,” he added.
The Pentagon said the airstrikes on Syrian troops were an accident and that they were aimed at Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists.
Assad also claimed that the US is not interested in fighting terrorists in Syria, saying that Washington “lacks the will” to join Russia in trying to eliminate extremist groups.
“When you have many external factors that you don’t control, it’s going to drag on and no one in this world can tell you when,” he answered a question about when the war might end.
He also said that the conflict is likely to drag on because the US, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar keep supporting those opposed to Assad’s rule.
The Syrian president dismissed US claims that Russian or Syrian planes were responsible for a fatal attack on an aid convoy which killed 21 people September 19. He said the American accusations have “no credibility” and they are “just lies.”
“I would say whatever the American officials said about the conflict in Syria has no credibility. Whatever they say is just lies.”
When pressed about what happened to the aid convoys, Assad said they were passing through rebel-held areas and these“terrorists” were responsible for their security.
“We don’t have any idea about what happened. The only thing we saw was videos of burnt-out, destroyed trucks and nothing else,” Assad said.