The US-led coalition, including the Kurdish armed units, lets militants of the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS) leave Raqqa instead of killing them, the commander of Russia’s force grouping in Syria, Sergey Surovikin, said on Saturday. Senior Kurdish officials have rejected the allegations as propaganda.
“Instead of eliminating terrorists guilty of killing hundreds and thousands of Syrian civilians, the US-led coalition together with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) enter into collusion with ringleaders of the ISIS, who give up the settlements they had seized without fighting and head to the provinces where the Syrian government forces are active,” Surovikin was quoted by the Tass agency as saying.
According to Surovikin, the command of the Russian force grouping in Syria sees in the Raqqa area militants leaving the city and its suburbs unhindered.
SDF officials have rejected the Russian allegations as propaganda, and say the fight within Raqqa is going on.
Timur Akhmetov, a Russian analyst on the Middle East, told ARA News: “Russia may be angry because all ISIS fighters in fact are driven into the territories that Russian-backed SAA [Syrian Arab Army] wants to liberate, so any agreement may complicate advance of Syrian [government] troops.”
“Any reaction by Russia on the developments in eastern Syria must be viewed from the perspective of the Russian strategic plans in Syria. Central part of these plans is restoration of the central government’s political and military capacities,” he said.
“This, in turn, would require reestablishment of unhindered access to the Iraqi border, which should serve as a life line for Damascus,” Akhmetov told ARA News on Saturday.
“Another major goal is restoration of control over oil fields, which should give the central government additional revenues and, by extent, bargaining power vis-a-vis opposition in any future settlement negotiations. American-supported New Syrian Army’s presence in Al-Tanf and Kurdish SDF’s control over Raqqa would worry Russia as it can pose a challenge to Russian strategic plans to strengthen Damascus,” he added.
On Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova said: “The Syrian Armed Forces have completed the first stage of a wide-ranging operation in the Syrian Desert. According to Syrian military sources, the Syrian government forces have approached the Iraqi border northeast of the Al-Tanaf border crossing point.”
“New realities are expected to provide the necessary conditions for the final rout of ISIS and al-Nusra in coordination and cooperation with their Iraqi partners. Perhaps, Syrian government forces could have achieved more impressive results in this area but that was hindered by USAF military operations,” she added.
In an exclusive interview with ARA News, Ilham Ahmed, the co-president of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), said: “This is about American-Russian competition. There is a fight in south Syria about who will liberate it, and there is a sort of competition between both powers about who will liberate Raqqa.”
“This message from Russia is propaganda and not true, Russia knows that the Syrian Democratic Forces are the only force that is fighting ISIS,” she said.
“The Assad regime and the Syrian army want to control Raqqa and make some kind of fights against ISIS there. But there is ISIS in other areas, and they can fight ISIS there, and not in Raqqa. If they continue to do this, this will hurt our operation against ISIS,” she told ARA News.