The Assad regime’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem (pictured) has declared that it will reoccupy southern Syria but left unclear how this will be done.
Moallem told a news conference in Damascus on Saturday, “We seek, initially, to solve this issue in the ways we have got used to working with, which are reconciliations.”
However, he did not refer to a defined military offensive if rebels and residents did not accept the “reconciliation”, i.e., surrender: “If it does not work, that’s a different conversation.”
Having taken all areas around Damascus this spring, the regime’s next objective has been to claim the southern area along the Jordanian border and near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
But Israel has warned that it will intervene if Hezbollah, Iranian units, and Iranian-support foreign militias are involved in an offensive. This has prompted Russia, which has had a working arrangement with the Israelis since September 2015, to say that all “non-Syrian forces” must leave the zone in Dara’a and Quneitra Provinces.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has pointed to a political process, in which the US would detach itself from rebels and Jordan would also help force a withdrawal; however, in recent days, reports have circulated of Russian-Israeli talks which would also endorse an offensive with Russian advisors alongside Assad regime forces and militia.
Moallem also insisted on Saturday that the US must withdraw from the Tanf base in eastern Syria, near the Iraqi and Jordanian borders.
Russia is also pressing for an American departure, which would open the way for the regime to put pressure on Kurdish-held areas of northern and eastern Syria. The Pentagon, which backs the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, has said that it is committed to remaining at Tanf — even though Donald Trump has made declarations about the US pulling out its personnel.
Moallem insisted that SDF must leave Raqqa city, which it took from the Islamic State along with much of the north and east. He said it “must be rebuilt and liberated” from any foreign presence.