News agencies have been publishing some curious news stories. «The US believes that an offensive by Syrian government forces in Aleppo province could adversely affect the intra-Syrian talks due to begin in Geneva», said the United States’ Permanent Representative to the UN, Samantha Power.
Following a UN Security Council meeting held behind closed doors, Power told journalists that the US was «very alarmed» at such an offensive. As she explained, it «would be devastating, for the people of Aleppo of course, but also to this intricate process where the cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access and political negotiations are all related to one another».
This was then followed by a demand for Russia to put pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to force him to «get the regime back with the program».
The battle around Aleppo is intensifying, which cannot but lead to an increase in the number of civilian casualties, yet Samantha Power’s statement carries little concern for the humanitarian situation in the area of conflict. The US Permanent Representative makes a connection between humanitarian access and the difficult political negotiations in Geneva.
But are ISIS representatives involved in the Geneva talks? In Aleppo, the final round of the bitter struggle against ISIS is being played out. It threatens serious consequences for the city and the surrounding populated areas, but the ‘moderate opposition’ is not taking part in this fighting alongside ISIS. So how could the talks be derailed exactly?
If the point at issue is the growing number of civilian casualties, then why does the offensive need to be stopped? What would be the point of a break? The possibility of a respite for the ISIS groups surrounding the area and the chance for them to bolster their numbers with new recruits?
One cannot also help but wonder why the demands to stop the offensive came after Syrian forces had managed to repel a massive counterattack by militants planning to break through the encirclement. This episode of the war was truly dramatic. The militants had initially managed to regain control of a strategic road that provided supplies for the Syrian troops into Aleppo, as well as the road used to supply Aleppo with food, fuel and other essential items. It was seized on 9 April by the groups Jabhat al-Nusra and Jund al-Aqsa, together with Ahrar ash-Sham, the 13th Division of the Free Syrian Army, Failaq Ash-Sham and Ajnad ash-Sham.
However, the militants were driven back by Hezbollah troops, along with the Iraqi military organisation Harakat al-Nujaba, the 154th Brigade of the 4th Mechanised Division of the Syrian Army, and soldiers from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
In a sense, the battle for Aleppo was symbolic. The fighting took place between international terrorist forces and the international forces of states opposing them. And as soon as the trap for the IS militants had snapped shut, Washington immediately began sounding the alarm: stop the offensive, it is too brutal for this war!
Against the backdrop of such concern, the US’ indifference to the militants’ use of chemical weapons seems rather strange. While suspicions that Damascus was using this weapon of mass destruction at the very start of the conflict provoked a huge anti-Syrian campaign, things are looking very different now. There were frequent reports throughout 2015 that the militants were able to produce chemical weapons and were regularly using them on the battlefield. This was officially declared in February 2016 by CIA Director John Brennan. Furthermore, Brennan believes that chlorine and mustard gas manufactured by the militants could end up in Europe.
Washington’s reaction to this threat is fairly half-hearted, however. It seems that Samantha Power is not that worried about the humanitarian aspect of ISIS militants using chemical weapons, despite the fact that chemical weapons are the most indiscriminate of all the weapons being used in the war.
What exactly Washington is hoping to achieve in the Syrian conflict is anyone’s guess.