Russia has put out another wave of statements in their campaign for US withdrawal from Syria.
State outlet Sputnik, citing Hezbollah’s al-Manar, proclaimed that the Americans have established “new military bases” in Hasakah and eastern Deir ez-Zor Provinces, with a 10-truck convoy of arms and ammunition. It asserted that local men have been “detained” for military training.
Moscow — led by declarations from Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov — is trying to split Washington from its backing of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who have taken much of the north and east from the Islamic State since October 2015. An American departure would open the way for pro-Assad forces to take over the territory, including many of Syria’s oil and gas fields.
The campaign appeared to be on the verge of success in the past six months with statements from Donald Trump calling for withdrawal, but the US President has been checked by the Pentagon, which has said it will increase rather than decrease deployments. However, Trump has frozen money for stabilization efforts in the Kurdish-held areas, as well as support for the Syrian civil defense organization The White Helmets.
The Russians also suffered a military setback in February when they tried to seize areas east of the Euphrates River, near a gas complex. An estimated 200 Russian “private contractors” of the Wagner Group were killed when the pro-Assad force was hit by US warplanes defending the SDF.
An attempt by pro-Assad forces last week to seize villages in western Deir ez-Zor briefly succeeded, but the troops withdrew when the SDF sent reinforcements and the US-led coalition threatened bombing.
Defense Ministry Propaganda
Russia’s Defense Ministry put out another line of attack against the Americans on Friday, with spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov asserting — without evidence — that the US is blocking assistance from international organizations to the Rukban displaced persons camp near the Iraq and Jordan borders, the al-Tanf area near a SDF-US base, and the city of Raqqa:
Despite the earlier made hopeful statements, US representatives continue to block any deliveries of humanitarian aid to the Rukban refugee camp where about 50,000 Syrians need help, most of them women, elderly people and children.
The US regional command refuses to guarantee safe entry for UN and ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] aid convoys, insisting that all products, water and necessities should be transferred only to militant gangs controlled by Americans….The humanitarian situation also remains difficult in Syria’s Raqqa, which turned into a ghost city after the carpet bombing by the international coalition.
The UN and Red Cross have made no statement indicating American obstacles. Instead, high-level UN officials spoke earlier this week of the threat to displaced persons in areas such as Idlib Province in northwest Syria from pro-Assad operations, which include Russian airstrikes.