Saturday, 10 June 2017
'The US-led coalition against ISIS struck pro-Syrian government forces for the third time in recent weeks, prompting speculation among Syrians about what it means for their civil war, even as the US military tries to downplay its significance.
“We certainly welcome any strike against the regime, but we want the real efforts to support the Syrian people and not to increase division in the region,” said Mustafa Serjari, a spokesperson for the Al-Mutasem brigade, a Syrian rebel group backed by the United States.
US forces have been stationed at a base in Al Tanf, in southeastern Syria, for over six months now as part of a mission to train members of the Syrian opposition meant to aid in the fight against ISIS. In each instance where the US has fired on pro-Syrian forces, the US military has said, armed vehicles have entered an area that Russia, who backs the regime, and the US had agreed to be neutral ground. The strikes, which have destroyed several vehicles, were meant to push the pro-regime forces to fall back across the line.
“What is happening in Syria is a genuine conflict of influence,” Serjari said. “These strikes only began when the regime and the Iranian militia decided to move into forbidden areas. The question here is why aren’t the Iranian regime and militias not being targeted in other areas?”
The nature of the strikes — both in their focus in one location and gaining tempo — is prompting some activists to have hope that the war will broaden into a true US intervention against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But the clashes are opening the door to rampant speculation among the opposition about the true goals of the US.
“I think there is a plan to divide Syria under US supervision, which explains the aerial bombing of foreign militias who support the Syrian regime near Al Tanf crossing,” said Ahmad Abdulazez, a Syrian activist based in Idlib. “Why didn’t they bomb them in other parts of Syria? There are a lot of groups trained and supported by the US government who have been attacked, but the US hasn’t defended them and has, in fact, rejected any request from US-backed rebel leaders to push back the Syrian regime and their militias.”
“We welcome any US intervention to save the Syrian people, even if it is too late, but we do not accept any goals to divide the country,” Abdulazez said. “The United States must protect all factions it backs throughout the country, not only in Tanf.”
But the Pentagon has sought to make clear that Tanf is a special case and that the US isn’t spoiling for a fight against the regime. “The Coalition's mission is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” the Pentagon’s statement on the strike released Thursday read. “The Coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian or pro-regime forces partnered with them. The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces near Coalition and partner forces in southern Syria, however, continue to concern us and the Coalition will take appropriate measures to protect our forces.”
That hasn’t kept members of the opposition from holding out hope that a wider intervention is still coming.
“The American intervention in Syria is in the interest of the Syrian revolution because US is a superpower and it doesn’t have ambitions in Syria the way Russia, Turkey or Iran do,” said Muzakhim al-Sallum, a news manager for Hamurabi’s Justice Agency, a publication with close ties to US-backed rebel groups. “The Americans in particular need to take a serious step to deter the [Iranian and Assad] militias because every group that gets supports from the US and other allies are under heavy and violent attack from forces loyal to the Syrian regime.”
Meanwhile, the Syrian government is using the strikes to label the US’s motives as not what they’ve claimed publicly. Syrian news website Al-Mayadeen, quoting an unnamed military source, said the attack exposes the falsehood of the international coalition’s claims that it is fighting terrorism. “The Syrian Arab Army is fighting terrorism on its own territory and no other group has the right to determine the course and direction of its operations,” the military source told the website.'
Tuesday, 6 June 2017
'The last days of May saw the dispatch of Assad forces military columns to Daraa province, concentrated in the regime-held the areas of Izra and Sherbet Ghazala in the northern countryside. The deployment involved hundreds of fighters from the Fourth Division led by Gen. Maher al-Assad, brother of the regime's president, amid reports indicating the this step is preceeding a wide military campaign targeting Daraa’s rebel groups.
Enab Baladi learned from sources on the ground that preparations are underway by rebel groups to repel any potential attack in the area, and the battle for the Al-Manshiyah neighborhood was continuing, resulting in full control over the Sajana district.
The regime mobilization extended from May 28–31, accompanied by additional reports confirming that the Fourth Division leader had visited the city of Izra in on Tuesday May 30. Sources said that a number of officers of the Fourth Division accompanied Gen. Assad in the surprise visit, with him departing within hours and the officers remaining in Izra.
On social media, images spread of “Ghaith Forces” convoys in the Fourth Division under the leadership of Gen. Ghaith Della, heading from Damascus to Daraa. A post on the “Ghaith Forces” page said that “after the operation to clear Qaboun and Barzeh and settle the status of the remaining armed men to incorporate them into the ranks of our glorious forces after sterilizing and drying the settlement, the men of God and the men of victory are heading to Daraa, cradle of the outburst – Daraa is nearly in the grip of the nation and the Syrian flag.” (The first demonstrations against the Assad regime in 2011 began in Daraa and quickly spread throughout the country)
The mobilization comes “in the context of a broad assault against the opposition,” according to the page, which quoted sources as saying that the attack will be “a major one to regain positions in the Al-Manshiyah district in preparation for taking full control over Daraa city, the main base of the opposition in the province.”
According to opposition military sources in the province, Assad forces and allied militias may attempt to seize control over the eastern environs of Daraa city and then cut supply routes to the opposition there.
The sources pointed to the air raids which targeted the town of Naameh (neighboring Daraa on the eastern side) without any direct reason, giving the impression that the town will soon be in a battle extending to the strategic Gharaz area which includes grain silos and the Gharaz prison, the main headquarters of the Dar al-Adel (House of Justice) in Houran.
The sources told Enab Baladi that the Dar al-Adel court had been effectively cleared in the Gharaz area at the start of June and turned into a “military zone.”
Assad forces aim to take control over this area to split the districts under opposition control off from the eastern Daraa countryside, by cutting the road connecting the city and the town of Umm al-Methan through the Gharaz area. Once that is done there will no longer be any route connecting Daraa city with the eastern countryside except a singe road along the border up to the town of Naseem.
The targeting of this axis means that Assad forces aim to surround Daraa city as an alternative plan to igniting the battle in its districts which contain the opposition forces represented by the Al-Bunyan al-Marsous Operations Room. If this reading is correct, the eastern front of Daraa will not be the only one, and the attacking forces may intend to open the front from the west, parallel with the town of Al-Yadooda and the village of Khirab al-Shaham, to cut off the military route connecting Daraa town and the western countryside.
Meanwhile, rebels have continued with their operations against the Syrian regime despite knowing of the regime’s intention to retake the city, as happened in the eastern districts of Aleppo at the end of last year. The groups of Al-Banyan al-Marsous have pushed with the “Death Rather Than Humiliation” battle toward taking control over the Sajana district and most of the Al-Manshiyah district in the city.'