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'Thursday FSA, Friday ISIS'

Russians furious after US attack on Syrian forces

Russia has reacted with fury over an illegal US coalition airstrike in Syria. An air force group of the US-led counter-terrorist squad on May 18 attacked pro-government forces operating within the established de-escalation zone northwest of Tanf.

Published: May 20, 2017, 9:50 am

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    Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov issued an angry statement about the bombing of Syrian government forces.

    “Any military actions leading to the aggravation of the situation in Syria definitely affect the political process. Especially if such actions are committed against the Syrian armed forces… This is totally unacceptable; it is a violation of Syrian sovereignty. Of course, it does not help the political process”.

    Russian Federation Council member Konstantin Kosachev also condemned the strike. “You cannot consider the US-led coalition airstrike against pro-government forces on Thursday an accident or a mistake anymore. This is a deliberate action and its consequences are yet to be estimated. This is not only an attack in Syria and against Syria, but also against Geneva [negotiations]. The US is irritated that the Geneva process is not under its control and, what is worse, it can be successful”.

    The Syrian army was advancing towards the ISIS besieged city of of Deir Ezzor in the east of the country. But the US had trained a few thousand “New Syrian Army” insurgents in Jordan and was reportedly also heading to Deir Ezzor. A military source on the Syrian government side said on Friday that the air strike had hit “one of our military points”, without elaborating, Syrian state TV reported.

    The air strike late on Thursday, hampered efforts by the Syrian army and its allies to fight the Islamic State.

    The SAA’s aim is to lift the ISIS siege on Deir Ezzor and close the border between Syria and Iraq with its own forces, although the move will block any potential US incursions from the south.

    On Friday, a small battalion from the regular Syrian army, Syrian National Defense Organization volunteers and Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces were advancing from the west towards Tanf. They were about 23 kilometers away from the border station when they were attack by US aircraft, flying in from Jordan. The American forces directly fired at the convoy, and destroyed at least one Syrian tank and several other vehicles. Six Syrian government forces were reported killed and several more wounded.

    According to the US command the strike was a “defensive” move to “protect” its soldiers at the Tanf station. Both US and British special forces are currently stationed near the area to lead and train the NSA contingent.

    The US attack against legitimate forces of the sovereign Syrian government, is baffling because it claims it is “fighting ISIS” in Syria. But by attacking the Syrian government forces while these launch a large operation against the very same enemy, the US claims do not seem credible.

    The new strike of the US Air Force in Syria confirms Washington’s intention to use the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist group – outlawed in Russia – for the fight against Bashar Assad’s government, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters on Friday.

    “We see the confirmation of an intention to use opposition and some extremists, including Jabhat al-Nusra, in the fight against the legitimate government of Syria,” Lavrov said.

    This comes amid Washington’s calls to stop all contacts with Assad, Lavrov told TASS, noting that the US Congress had passed a law demanding punishment for those who cooperate with the legitimate government of Syria.

    “This distracts us from the Syrian settlement and the major goal of this settlement – preventing the seizure of Syria and other parts of the Middle East by terrorists,” Lavrov said. “So, what we hear about Washington’s position on Syria now is in fact coddling terrorists.”

    The coalition’s headquarters argued that the forces had posed a threat to the United States and its allies, but Lavrov dismissed the claims.

    US air strike against pro-government forces in Syria was illegitimate and unlawful, the Russian diplomat added: “The US command said the strike was delivered because these pro-government forces posed a threat to the opposition which cooperates with the US-led coalition. Whatever the reason the US command made such a decision, the strike was illegitimate and unlawful. It was yet another crude violation of Syria’s sovereignty,” he stated.

    It seems that there is no such thing as a “moderate” Syrian rebel, even if the US State Department chooses to believe so for funding and arming purposes. A week ago, two prominent ISIS commanders left the ranks of the calliphate to join forces with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters, the so-called “moderate rebels” on the provincial border between Homs and Deir Ezzor, al Masdar news reported.

    ISIS commander Mahmoud al-Faraj, together with Ghassan al-Sankeh, arrived in Badia in central Syria, joining the US effort. Al-Faraj is one of the highest ranking ISIS commanders in ISIS’ new capital of Al-Mayadin.

    Al-Mayadin is a city on the Euphrates River which reports indicate the Islamic State has transformed into its new capital. ISIS controls the vast majority of the eastern province of Deir Ezzor although the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has maintained a presence in the provincial capital throughout the conflict while the FSA emerged in its southwestern desert last week.

    Meanwhile, peace talks were advancing with ISIS’ oil funding almost entirely gone. Its fighters are also on the defensive in both Syria and Iraq, suggesting that the US may be worried about peace breaking out soon.

    The current sixth round of the Geneva peace talks are aimed at finding a political solution to the six-year-long invasion of Syria, while the concurrent Astana talks have been more militarily framed, Reuters reported.

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