The US Military Gets Off the Sidelines In Raqqa

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“The American interception of the strategic initiative in the fight against terrorists can create the real prerequisites for the collapse of Syria”, said Vladimir Mukhin, a Russian columnist of “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” in his recent analytical review.

Over the weekend, Kurdish forces and their allies from the US lead coalition launched a strategic offensive in Raqqa, tacit capital of ISIS. On Saturday evening it became known that the advancing troops are just 35 kilometers north of the city. The terrorist militants withdrew from their positions in the area without a fight. There is a possibility that the coalition led by the Pentagon will take over Raqqa. This means that very soon the strategic initiative in the fight against ISIS in the Middle East will go from Russia to the United States.

On Friday, Pentagon spokesperson Michelle Baldanza, reported that the US is not going to free Raqqa together with Russia. This statement was made after Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Moscow offered to Washington to begin joint operations from 25th of May, planning air strikes on terrorists. According to Shoigu, Russia reserves the right to unilaterally strike militants not adhered to a truce. By the way, it does now. And, apparently, the proposals of the head of the Russian Ministry of Defense are associated with the desire to intensify this process. It is no secret that the recent attacks of militants in the western and central parts of Syria have intensified. On a number of strategic directions, they moved to the counterattack. And almost all the actions of the Syrian government and the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation are now associated with the support and monitoring of the process and the organization of the armistice scrappy defense against many stalking terrorist groups.

The Americans, on the contrary, are maintaining the peace plan in Syria, focusing on the military training of the moderate opposition, and now, with their help organizing a general attack on Raqqa, as they had previously stated more than once. The seriousness of these actions is not in doubt. According to Kurdish media, on Saturday the commander of United States Central Command General Joseph Votel visited Syria. Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, Brett McGurk did not hide at the same time that “General Votel was in Syria, preparing an offensive on Raqqa.” Gen. Votel visited several places, including the city of Cobán and Al-Qamishli, located near the Turkish border. Did he contact with the Russian military commanders on this issue, not reported. Meanwhile it is known that Al-Qamishli has a military airfield, which is controlled by Syrian government forces. The media reported that the Russian military specialists participated in this airfield modernization.

According to Kurdish sources, US in Syria have its own infrastructure. They wrote that near Al-Qamishli, in the city district Ramaylan (Hasaka province), Americans are preparing aircraft bridgeheads to support the Syrian rebels fighting ISIS. Apparently, the Americans are having their headquarters in this area to direct an offensive operation in Raqqa.

The mainstream Russian media is silent about the successful attack of US-led coalition forces on Raqqa. At the same time, a number of Internet portals are reporting that for the storming of the city, military equipment and twenty thousand well trained by American instructors fighters from the opposition group Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) being transferred to this area. It is a lot, considering that in itself Raqqa, according to experts, there are not more than 10-15 thousand of ISIS militants. Main SDF core constitute the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), moreover, in this association, according to Kurdish media, also included the ethnic armed groups of Arabs, Turkomans, Armenians and Assyrians.

As the press-service of the Syrian SDF announced, militiamen seized several villages on the way to Raqqa, among them – Al Hisa, Ein Issa and others. It is also reported that the impact of the coalition drones regularly inflict air strikes on enemy concentration places. And Raqqa, which is located in the desert, can be a good target for the attacking forces. Apparently, there are no doubts in quality training of the attackers. Six months ago the Pentagon reported that about 100 US Special Forces in eastern Syria are training the militias against ISIS. Now they are beginning to act, and it seems quite effectively.

Terrorists’ families already began departing Raqqa. It is reported that they are moving in the direction of the city of Deir ez-Zor, also captured by terrorists. There are reports that the prisoners in the ISIS capital are released. ISIS also banned residents from leaving the city. Of course, all this will create considerable difficulty in the storming of city with three hundred thousand populations kept in their homes. Hence, realizing such situation, US-led coalition has dropped flyers over the Islamic State-held city of Raqqa for the first time suggesting urgency in fleeing civilians to avoid unnecessary casualties, as opposition forces prepare to retake the jihadists’ stronghold. If this is not done, and the Americans dare to storm the city, many victims cannot be avoided.

But this is unlikely to stop the forces of the coalition, aimed at the assault. Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for the US-led coalition, said: “ISIS understands that their days are increasingly numbered. We are going to continue to keep this pressure on them, and we expect to see them collapse eventually.” North Syrian Kurdistan, where the Americans settled, rich in oil and gas. The regional authorities are unlikely to comply with official Damascus. After all, the US has long urged Russia to abandon support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Yesterday, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon heeds this call. At the economic forum in Qatar, he called on the warring parties to immediately cease fire in Syria and to start negotiations in the country on the transfer of political power to other democratic institutions.

“It is unlikely that the UN Secretary General is a Washington lobbyist. However, the renunciation of Assad from power in a situation where Syria is controlled by various political forces and states, can lead to its disintegration,” – said military expert Yury Netkachev. He believes that in the near future Moscow will find an adequate political and military action to support the legitimate government in Damascus and save the country from splitting “by the Libyan or Iraqi scenario.”

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author and are not not necessarily either shared or endorsed by iPatriot.com.

Leon Lunsky

Retired marketing professional consulting on effective Business Development, Sales & Marketing and Customer Relationship Management. Extensive 30-year engineering and entrepreneurial experience in Latvia and Russia, and over 20 years of broad engineering and marketing involvement with an international engineering corporation in USA.

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