Thousands Protest Assad Plan To Attack Last Syrian Rebel Stronghold

Aaron Brown
September 9, 2018

The attacks come amid repeated warnings from the USA against an all-out assault by Syria's Russian-backed forces to retake Idlib, the last major area held by the armed opposition in Syria.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (l.), Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (c.), and President Vladimir Putin of Russian Federation arrive at a news conference following their summit in Tehran, Sept. 7, 2018, in which they addressed the much-anticipated military offensive to retake the last Syrian rebel bastion of Idlib.

Seized from government forces in 2015, Idlib and adjacent areas form the final major chunk of Syrian territory are still under opposition control, home to some three million people, with around half of them displaced from other parts of the country, according to the United Nations.

As the conflict approaches its endgame, Iran, Turkey and Russian Federation are seeking to safeguard their own interests after investing heavily militarily and diplomatically in Syria.

Despite his having expressed his desire to get US troops out of Syria only months ago, a report published Friday in The Washington Post claims that President Donald Trump is allegedly "on board" with a new "indefinite military and diplomatic effort in Syria".

It is the last stronghold of the rebels and jihadists who have fought the Syrian authorities for the past seven years.

"In addition to the Syrian regime, these commanders, these units, will be held accountable by the global community" if there is major offensive with mass civilian casualties, Pierce warned.

After Friday's talks, the UN envoy for Syria told the UN Security Council there were indications that the three leaders intend to continue talking to avoid a catastrophe.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan during their meeting in Tehran, Iran, Sept. 7, 2018.

"Russian contacts and persons close to the [Syrian] regime tell me that the difficulty of taking Idlib is exaggerated". At least one person was killed and several others wounded.

Turkish media estimate that 60,000 Sunni jihadists are in Idlib, some 15,000 of them non-Arab foreign fighters.

People in Idlib are demanding that regime troops back down. Assad and Russian Federation continue to launch airstrikes in the Idlib province. Tehran and Moscow have helped Assad turn the course of the war against an array of opponents ranging from Western-backed rebels to the Islamist militants, while Turkey is a leading opposition supporter and has troops in the country. And on Thursday, the man Pompeo chose to be his point-man on getting the Geneva process back on track, veteran diplomat James Jeffrey, reiterated Trump's message, saying the United States would use all the "tools" it has to respond to a chemical attack. But as Sam Heller, a senior analyst on non-state armed actors at the International Crisis Group, noted, "Despite US official rhetoric, the United States still only seems to have drawn a line at the use of chemical weapons, which - it's clear - would prompt US military action".

Progressive anti-war activists and commentators warned throughout the Obama years and during Trump's presidency that the USA strategy in Syria was a slippery slope that would inevitably lead to ever-increasing engagement in a complex conflict and fuel perpetual war.

Erdogan's efforts to reverse this played out live with the leaders and their delegations assembled around a giant white table as the press cameras continued, inexplicably, to roll.

"The Trump administration is really at a Hail Mary moment", said Nicholas Heras, a Syria analyst and fellow at the Center for New American Security.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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