Date :Monday, June 25th, 2018 | Time : 16:53 |ID: 64962 | Print

Washington told Syrian rebels it won’t intervene in southern Syria

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SHAFAQNA The United States has told Syrian rebel factions “You’re on your own” and should not expect military support to assist them resist a major government offensive to regain strategic area of southern Syria bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

A copy of a message sent by Washington to heads of Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups, which was seen by Reuters, said the U.S. government wanted to make clear that “you should not base your decisions on the assumption or expectation of a military intervention by us”.

The United States had earlier warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian allies that violations of a “de-escalation” zone agreed by the United States and Russia last year would have “serious repercussions” and pledged “firm and appropriate measures.”

The toughly worded statements coming from the administration had raised the hopes of the Western-backed opposition of a possible American military intervention in the event the Syrian army’s several days long bombing campaign broadens to an all-out offensive across the southwest.

The U.S. message also told the rebels it was left to them alone to take the right decision on how to face the Syrian army’s military campaign based on what they saw was best for themselves and their people.

“We in the United States government understand the difficult conditions you are facing and still advise the Russians and the Syrian regime not to undertake a military measure that violates the zone,” the message also said.

According to Aljazeera, the US used to play a significant role on the southern front. The Amman-based US-led Military Operations Center (MOC) was providing training and weaponry to a number of Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups operating in southwest Syria between 2014 and 2016.

The United States has supported the mainstream FSA faction with millions of dollars worth of arms and paid monthly salaries to thousands of rebels in the course of the seven-year war under a military aid program run by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Analysts believe the aid has dropped after U.S. President Donald Trump decided last year to shut down the program.

Ultimately, when Washington signed the ceasefire agreement with Moscow, it closed the supply lines to the southern front.

Jordan sealed off its border with Syria after it was overwhelmed by the large number of refugees fleeing the Syrian war. Since then, the southern front became a low priority issue for the Trump administration compared with the high-level US diplomatic and military engagement on the northern front.

State media said the Syria government is shelling what it called terrorist posts northeast of Daraa, destroying their weapons.

The government turned its attention to the south after capturing the last rebel-held.

After that string of military victories, the regime has set its sights on retaking rebel-held areas of southern Syria – whether through negotiations or a military operation.

Since the start of the offensive last week, the Syrian government had mostly deployed artillery and rockets. Russian warplanes that were critical to the recovery of other rebel-held areas were conspicuously absent.

Throwing in Russia’s full military weight in the campaign to regain southern Syria will weaken the ability of mainstream rebel groups to withstand.

According to The Guardian, two tracking centres that monitor military aircraft movements recorded at least 20 strikes on Busra al-Harir, north-east of Daraa.

“We have tracked a sortie of five Russian jets that performed 25 raids,” said one source, adding the jets had set off from Russia’s Hmeimim airbase in the western coastal province of Latakia.

The southwest is of strategic concern to U.S.-allied Israel, which has this year stepped up attacks on Iran-backed militia allied to Assad.

Israel began its occupation of the 1,200sq km mountainous Heights after capturing it from Syria in the 1967 War. It subsequently expelled over 130,000 Syrians and destroyed the majority of the 340 towns and villages in the area, leaving only the villages of Majdal Shams, Ain Qinya, Masadi and Baqatha standing. Today there are approximately 26,000 Syrians living in the area, while around 600,000 of the Golan’s natives are outside, waiting to return.

U.S ally Jordan, which has been worried by the escalation, said it was engaged in intensive diplomacy with Washington and Moscow to preserve the zone and prevent a wider confrontation.

The loss of opposition-held southern Syria would deal a major blow to the rebel cause.

 

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