Some time ago it was widely believed that Aleppo was the key target for turning the tide of war in Syria. Now the Syrian military seems to reconsider its plans. It has decided to liberate the de facto Islamic State (IS) capital Raqqa – the big city under full militant control and a major base of operations for the terrorist group.It can and must be done. The recent Palmyra liberation by Russia-supported Syria forces is an inspiring example.
On June 3, the Syrian army backed by Russian air strikes launched a prolonged, full-scale offensive to oust IS from Raqqa, nearing a region where US-backed militias have also attacked the jihadist group. Thousands of the Syrian Army’s most experienced troops amassed at the town of Ithriya (in southern Aleppo). The Russian Aerospace Forces delivered strikes to hit IS-held territory in eastern areas of Hama province near the province of Raqqa, where the Syrian army was advancing.
The move is prompted by inefficiency of US-led coalition forces, which are also involved in the combat actions to make IS militants flee.
On the 25th of May, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by US air-strikes, began a military operation to recapture large chunks of territory from IS in northern Raqqa. They have been making loud statements about the operation to free the province and its capital, but no achievement to brag about has been achieved so far. The reports are coming about the fighting near Manbij – a crucial swathe of northern Syria, which is located 71 miles (114 kilometers) from Raqqa and nearly 70 km north-east of Aleppo.The distance is closer to Aleppo than Raqqa – the final objective. It’s anybody’s guess if the advance to Manbijis relevant. Anyway, there is no tangible progress. The town is still in the militants’ hands. The impression is that there is something very wrong with the coordination of efforts and the US-sponsored SDF coalition has no definite plan in Syria.
The same thing applies to the US-led coalition in Iraq. After more than a week of operations aimed at retaking Fallujah, which lies just 50km west of Baghdad, the Iraqi army– made up of the military, police and Shia units, and backed by air power from a US-led coalition – has been unable to reach the city centre.Since the start of the operation on May 22-23, Iraqi commanders have claimed to have killed dozens of IS fighters but remain hesitant about releasing their own casualty figures.
The Mosul offensive (2016), which is also called Operation Conquest or Operation Fatah, is a joint effort by the Iraqi government forces with allied militias, Iraqi Kurdistan, limited American ground forces, and US and allied air support. It began on March 24. Around 4,000 soldiers from two brigades of the US-trained 15th Division of the Iraqi army, including Sunni tribal fighters, are involved in the operation that has brought no results. Just think about it – no gains in about 10 weeks! And the US-led forces have the advantage of unopposed air supremacy! Indeed, this operation can hardly be seen as an example of effectiveness and military prowess. What a stark difference if you compare the offensives mentioned above with the Russia-supported Syrian troops’ operation to liberate Palmyra in March! The mission was a great success accomplished in just 2 weeks and 4 days!
The gist of the problem is that there are two coalitions involved in combat actions to pursue the same mission – the liberation of Raqqa from IS terrorists. The group is attacked by the pro-US coalition on the one hand, and the Syrian regular army supported by Russian aviation, on the other. In a way it is reminiscent of the offensive both sides carried out against Nazi Germany during World War II. The difference is that those days there was a formal alliance between the Soviet Union and the Western allies, and that's not the case in Syria now.
It’s ridiculous that the two coalitions don’t cooperate, or at least coordinate, their actions.
Suggestions of military cooperation between the United States and Russia against the Islamic State have circulated repeatedly since the two governments agreed early this year to head a diplomatic committee pushing for a political solution to the civil war. The US has consistently refused to join forces with Russia in Syria ever since Moscow launched its campaign of air strikes in September last year.
Before the US-led coalition’s offensive to free Raqqa started, Russia had reiterated that it was ready to coordinate with US and Kurdish forces.
“Raqqa is one of the aims of the anti-terrorist coalition, just like Iraq’s Mosul,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. “We are confident that these cities could have been liberated more effectively and faster if our military officials would have started coordinating their actions much earlier.”
The United States will not need any Russian support to take Raqqa from IS, and will only work with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the US State Department spokesman said in response to comments made by the Russian Foreign Minister.
Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters, “We do not collaborate or coordinate with the Russians on any operations in Syria. We don’t have military-to-military relations with Russia.”
The US rejection of Russia’s proposal is an example of double standards policy and irresponsibility. All the statements about the desire to achieve peace in Syria appear to be nothing but empty words. Looks like the Russia-supported operations of Syrian army are the only hope for the war-torn country. If the government forces succeed, the Syrian people and the world will clearly see who does real business and lends a helping hand in times of trouble and who mainly limits its activities to highfalutin statements never translating words into deeds.