Syria slams US-led coalition for destroying two bridges/ Turkey might continue Syria incursion for years/ US To Suspend Syria Diplomacy With Russia, Prepares “Military Options”/ ‘Best gift to terrorists’ would be US boycott of Syria peace effort – Moscow
Syria has slammed the US-led coalition purportedly fighting Daesh for destroying two bridges over Euphrates River in the eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr, where the same alliance recently killed 83 Syrian soldiers.
The attacks “confirm the so-called international coalition’s intent to bomb and destroy Syrian infrastructure and economic and social establishments through repeated aggressive acts,” the Syrian Foreign Ministry said in two letters to the UN chief and the Security Council on Thursday.
The ministry said said terror groups are the only beneficiaries of the US-led coalition’s attacks, which come under the pretext of a war against Daesh.
The letters reiterated that the US-led alliance’s raids run contrary to international rules and the UN Charter, calling on the world body to condemn this “deliberate” act of aggression.
The official SANA news agency reported that the bridges of al-Asharah and al-Mayadin in the eastern countryside of the provincial capital city of Dayr al-Zawr were hit by the coalition’s warplanes on Wednesday.
Syria’s ambassador to the UN Bashar Ja’afari said the bridges had been used by hundreds of thousands of civilians in the area.
Meanwhile, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based rights group advocating militants in Syria, said the two bridges are now unusable, a situation which would impede aid deliveries and hamper movement of civilians.
Since 2014, the United States, along with a number of its allies, has been leading a so-called anti-terror campaign in Syria and neighboring Iraq.
Instead of helping to rein in the Takfiri terrorists, the air raids have killed many civilians, and caused extensive damage to the country’s infrastructure.
On September 17, a Syrian army airbase in Dayr al-Zawr came under attack by US-led warplanes in violation of a nationwide ceasefire deal, which had been mediated by Russia and the US.
More than 80 Syrian soldiers lost their lives and some 100 others were wounded in the US-led airstrikes, which helped Daesh terrorists make some gains in the area.
Syria ‘not killing its own people’
Speaking to reporters after a Thursday UN Security Council meeting on Syria, Ja’afari further dismissed accusations that the Damascus army targets civilians, saying it is the terrorists who have been killing Syrians and hampering relief operations.
“The Syrian government is not bombing civilians. These people are our own people. We don’t bomb civilians, we don’t kill civilians,”
The senior diplomat added, “We don’t bomb humanitarian convoys. We don’t do that. Those who did it are the terrorists.”
On September 19, an airstrike targeted a UN aid convoy near Aleppo, killing 20 people. The US claimed Syria and Russia were behind the raids, an allegation they strongly rejected.
The comments came after UN Secretary General blamed the government in Damascus for most civilian deaths in Syria since the outbreak of the foreign-sponsored crisis there in early 2011.
More than 400,000 people have died and half the 22 million population have been uprooted in the crisis, according to the latest estimates by UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.
Over the past weeks, there has been a rise in fighting between Syrian forces and Takfiri militant groups across the Arab state, particularly in the city of Aleppo, after the collapse of a week-long ceasefire there.
The truce, which had been mediated by the US and Russia, expired on September 19, with Damascus refusing to extend it after its base in Dayr al-Zawr was hit by US-led air raids in breach of the deal.
A senior Turkish official says Ankara’s military incursion into Syria could last for years if necessary.
Turkish troops entered the Syrian territory in a sudden incursion which resulted in the occupation of Jarablus after Daesh left the city without resistance earlier this month.
Turkey has indicated that its eyes were now set on the Syrian city of Raqqah which is controlled by Daesh.
The senior Turkish official said on Friday a planned US offensive to retake Raqqah using Kurdish militia fighters would trigger an ethnic conflict there.
He said driving out Daesh from the Syrian city of al-Bab is also among the targets of Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria.
On Sunday, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey was planning to send troops deeper into Syrian territory to establish what it calls a safe zone.
Damascus has condemned the incursion, denouncing it as a “flagrant breach” of its sovereignty.
Syria’s envoy to the UN Bashar Ja’afari said last week Turkey, along with the US and Israel, have moved from a proxy war to a “personal” one on the Arab state.
Turkey and Israel will mutually name ambassadors within 10 days as part of the normalization of ties, the Turkish official said.
In the most dramatic diplomatic escalation involving the Syrian conflict in the past years, yesterday John Kerry issued an ultimatum to Russia, in which he warned his colleague Lavrov to stop bombing Aleppo or else the US would suspend all cooperation and diplomacy with Russia.
24 hours later, this appears to be precisely what is about to take place, leading to an even greater geopolitical shock in Syria. According to Retuers, the United States is expected to tell Russia on Thursday it is suspending their diplomatic engagement on Syria following the Russian-backed Syrian government’s intense attacks on Aleppo, U.S. officials said on condition of anonymity.
“We are on the verge of suspending the discussion because it is irrational in the context of the kind of bombing taking place to be sitting there trying to take things seriously,” Kerry told an audience in Washington.
“It is one of those moments where we are going to have to pursue other alternatives,” he added.
Why now and what happens next? According to US officials, the Obama administration is now considering tougher responses to the Russian-backed Syrian government assault on Aleppo, including military options. According toReuters, the new discussions were being held at “staff level,” and have yet to produce any recommendations to President Barack Obama, who has resisted ordering military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s multi-sided civil war.
“The president has asked all of the agencies to put forward options, some familiar, some new, that we are very actively reviewing,” Blinken said. “When we are able to work through these in the days ahead we’ll have an opportunity to come back and talk about them in detail.”
However, now that diplomacy with Russia is set to end, this will give the greenlight for Obama to send in US troops in Syria, with Putin certain to respond appropriately, in what will be the biggest military escalation in the Syrian proxy war in its five and a half year history.
The US’ refusal to cooperate with Russia would be a real “gift” to terrorists in Syria, on a par with its failure to separate “moderates” from jihadists and the recent airstrike against Syrian army, Moscow said in response to a barrage of criticism from Washington.
US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power accused the Syrian and Russian governments of carrying out a “soul-shattering” air campaign in Aleppo, saying that their anti-terror efforts would only lead to more “radicalization”and a greater refugee flow out of Syria.
“What they are doing is a gift to [Islamic State] and [al-Nusra Front], the groups that they claim that they want to stop,”Power said Thursday.
This outburst by the US led Moscow to express puzzlement, with Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova saying that it is the US who is offering “gifts” to terrorists. Commenting on the diplomatic deadlock, Zakharova recalled how Washington denied the existence of terrorists in Syria until the fact became too obvious, and the US had to switch the narrative to accusing Russia and Damascus of bombing so-called “moderates.”
“If we discuss ‘gifts to terrorists’, then those of course are the merger of al-Nusra Front and ‘moderate opposition’, the deliveries of humanitarian aid to the militants and the bombing of the Syrian army fighting against ISIS,” Zakharova wrote on Facebook. “However, the best gift [to jihadists] would be Washington’s refusal to cooperate with Russia on Syria’s settlement.”
“If Washington’s threat to terminate interaction is formalized, then there will be no doubt left that White House has taken militants under its wing, and the sun shines down the terrorist street,”Zakharova added.
The latest seven-day truce in Syria brokered by US and Russia expired on September 19 – two days after a US-led coalition airstrike on Syrian army positions near the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) frontline at Deir Ezzor killed over 60 soldiers. On Thursday, Moscow offered to impose 48-hour ‘breaks’ in military operations in Aleppo instead of week-long ceasefires, and once again voiced hope that Washington would finally honor their obligations and separate the so-called “moderate rebels” which they support from terrorist units on the ground.
“In general, we express regret at the rather non-constructive nature of the rhetoric voiced by Washington in the past days,”Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding that Russia will “continue the operations of its air force in support of the anti-terrorist activity of Syria’s armed forces.”
Speaking at a public policy conference in Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry told the crowd that the US was “on the verge of suspending the discussion because it is irrational in the context of the kind of bombing taking place to be sitting there trying to take things seriously.”
“It is one of those moments where we are going to have to pursue other alternatives,” he added. No suspension of work has yet been announced by either Moscow or Washington, but Kerry spoke to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the phone on Wednesday and Thursday about salvaging the diplomatic effort in Syria, according to Russia’s foreign ministry.
“Mr Lavrov again emphasized that quite a few anti-government units that Washington calls ‘moderate’ have not merely refused to carry out the September 9 Russian-US agreement on consolidating the truce and providing humanitarian access, but are merging with Jabhat al-Nusra and continue fighting against the Syrian army side by side with this Al-Qaeda affiliate,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on the subject of Wednesday call. “Mr. Lavrov drew Mr. Kerry’s attention to the revelations of Jabhat al-Nusra field commanders in the media about the external support they receive, including US arms supplies, and the claim of the Western-backed Syrian opposition leader Riad Hijab that Jabhat al-Nusra is not a terrorist organization.”
Meanwhile, the US is seriously considering a non-diplomatic solution to the crisis, with Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that President Barack Obama had asked staff to look at how Washington might respond.
“The president has asked all of the agencies to put forward options, some familiar, some new, that we are very actively reviewing,” Blinken said, adding that officials would “work through these in the days ahead.”
Blinken echoed the words of US State Department spokesman John Kirby who said on Wednesday that US policy makers are discussing options “that don’t revolve around diplomacy” in Syria.
Commenting on Washington’s rhetoric, a former Pentagon official, Michael Maloof, told RT that US diplomats have been voicing “frustration” over their inability “to do [their] job” under the US-Russian agreement and “control the moderates.”While a concrete “Plan B” is yet to be announced by Washington, Maloof believes that the US will simply expand its aid to the rebels.
“There won’t be a direct US action but there will be continued efforts, particularly by the Saudis and Qataris to continue providing a surface to air missiles, for example, to the rebels, as they have been doing and provide other armored type of military assistance to the rebels,” he said.
The expert’s assessment is in line with other analyses offered by US officials to Reuters, who claimed that the US might now allow the Gulf states to supply rebels with more sophisticated weapons. Another alternative is for the US to strike Syrian government airbases. Supporting rebel counter-attacks with weapons and air strikes is also on the table. Such a reverse in policy, one official noted, “might not reverse the tide of battle, but might cause the Russians to stop and think.”
As the US threatens to quit diplomacy, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in a telephone call with Lavrov called on Moscow and Washington to resume ceasefire discussions and produce at least a temporary truce.