The US has warned that repeated “ceasefire violations” and reports that the Syrian Army may advance to retake the city of Deraa in the country’s south, will be met with force.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Friday warned: “As a guarantor of this de-escalation area with Russia and Jordan, the United States will take firm and appropriate measures in response to Assad regime violations”.
The US, Russia, and Jordan struck a deal in November last year for “the reduction, and ultimate elimination of foreign forces and foreign fighters from the area to ensure a more sustainable peace”.
It is clear from the deal that the Syrian government and its Russian allies have every right to fight ISIS and al-Qaeda, also in the light of the de-escalation agreement. Two UNSC resolutions even demand that.
Syrian state media has reported on US fighter jets attacking Syrian Army positions in the eastern desert near the Iraq border on Wednesday, killing 12 pro-government fighters.
But the US has denied any involvement: “We have no operational reporting of a US-led coalition strike against pro-Syrian regime targets or forces,” CENTCOM spokesman Captain Bill Urban said in a statement.
A Pentagon spokesman repeated the denial: “These reports are false, the coalition did not strike any Syrian army positions in eastern Syria.”
The move by Syria would open the M5 highway, Syria’s lifeline between Damascus and Jordan and secure the country’s border with Jordan as well as the demarcation line that run along the Golan Heights.
The southwest Daraa governorate is infested with a large presence of ISIS as well as al-Qaeda and associated terrorist groups. Many believe the US statement must be interpreted as protection for these terrorists.
A war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reported on Wednesday that Syrian government forces were moving into the southern province of Deraa. Syrian state-run media have reported on government aircraft distributing leaflets on rebel-held areas in Deraa urging fighters to disarm.
The US warning comes weeks after a similar attack on a de-escalation zone in northeastern Syria held by US-backed proxies. US ground and air forces repelled the more than four-hour attack, killing perhaps as many as 300 pro-Assad militia members, many of them Russian mercenaries, The New York Times reported.
A Reuters report notably acknowledges the US warning comes in the wake of Syrian government forces advancing to mop up the last ISIS pockets in the country’s south; and Damascus now “in its strongest position since the early months of the war in 2011”.
Reuters also reported that the Syrian government has “recaptured all remaining insurgent areas near Damascus in recent weeks, including the densely populated eastern Ghouta area, as well as big enclaves in central Syria”.
So according to the US State Department, Syria cannot “expand” within its own sovereign borders long recognised internationally as well as by the United Nations.