Spotlight: Feud among powers rises as Syria's last major battle looms

Source: Xinhua| 2018-08-31 00:17:00|Editor: Lu Hui
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DAMASCUS, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- As the Syrian army is close to launching a major offensive against the last major rebel stronghold in Syria, major powers' bickering increases, analysts said.

The United States, France, and Britain have recently renewed threats to launch strike at Syria, claiming the Syrian government forces are planning a chemical attack on the rebels in Idlib.

Last week, the three powers warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that "we remain resolved to act if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons again."

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton reportedly said that Washington is prepared to take strong military action against Syria if Damascus allegedly uses chemical weapons, noting that this time the response will be stronger than the previous one in April.

The U.S., together with Britain and France, launched a missile attack on Syrian military positions in April over alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian troops. At that time, they claimed they targeted the facilities involved in the manufacture of chemical weapons in Syria.

Syria and its major ally, Russia, have rejected such claims, saying that Washington is using such a pretext to push the rebels to stage a chemical attack to justify a U.S.-led strike on Syrian troops.

The Russian Ministry of Defense said recently that the U.S., Britain, and France intend to launch a new missile strike on Syria after the Syrian opposition forces make a provocation with use of chemical weapons in Idlib.

For this very purpose, the USS guided missile destroyer Sullivans arrived in the Persian Gulf a few days ago with 56 cruise missiles onboard.

Russia said eight containers with chlorine had been brought to Idlib by the rebels to make the provocation, charging that British special services are involved.

On Saturday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned "the Americans and their allies against taking new reckless steps in Syria."

Analysts said that Washington is inflaming the situation as it t fears that the possible recapture of Idlib by the Syrian army will end all cards of pressure on Damascus.

Maher Ihsan, a Syrian political expert, said the tide in Syria has been turned in favor of the Syrian government, which, after over seven years of war, has regained much of the rebel-held areas across the country with the help of Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah.

While U.S. President Donald Trump has talked more than once about the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, it will not happen overnight as Washington wants to secure its interests first, Ihsan said.

Analysts said that the U.S. will not withdraw before receiving the guarantees or seeing the actual withdrawal of Iranian military from Syria.

Then the U.S. wants guarantees that U.S. companies can have a share in the oil sector in areas in eastern Syria. Moreover, the U.S. wants full information obtained by the Syrian government about the foreign militants among the rebels and their whereabouts.

Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper recently revealed that a secret meeting took place in Damascus in July between Syrian security officials and a U.S. delegation, which put forwarded the three aforementioned demands as conditions for its withdrawal from Syria.

The Syrian side responded by saying that the U.S. entered Syria illegally and as long as they are still in Syria, they will be dealt with as a force of occupation, the report said.

The Syrian side also refused to promise to end Iran's presence in Syria, citing that the relationship between Syria and Iran as well as Hezbollah is strong and fixed.

Damascus also said that its priority in the post-war era is to cooperation with the allied and friendly countries instead of giving preferred treatment to companies of the countries that fought Syria.

For its part, Iran sent its defense minister, Amir Hatami, to Syria on Sunday to meet with Syrian officials. More importantly, the top Iranian official signed a deal with Syria on military cooperation.

In his interview with the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen TV, Hatami said that "the most important item in the military cooperation deal with Syria is the reconstruction of the Syrian army and defensive industries so that it could return to full capacity."

He noted that the axis of resistance, which comprises of Iran, Hezbollah and Syria, is always ready to respond to any attack on Syria.

As for Russia, Moscow has been holding talks with Turkey, a key patron of the rebel groups in Idlib, on resolving the situation there through separating the terror-designated groups, such as the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, from other militants, who could agree to reach reconciliation with the government.

On Wednesday, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during a joint press conference with his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir that "there should be a quick work to separate the opposition from terrorists and at the same time to prepare for an operation against the terrorists in Idlib."

He revealed a possible agreement has been reached between Turkey and Russia, saying "military men of Russia and Turkey are discussing how to translate what has been agreed upon politically on the ground."

For Turkey, the situation needs to be resolved without a major war in Idlib as it has interests there. This explains that there are reports that Ankara is pressuring the al-Qaida-linked groups to dissolve themselves.

Turkey's main interest in Syria is to secure its border from the Kurdish militias in northern Syria. The Kurdish-led groups have started negotiating with Damascus about the future of their areas in light of the deteriorating U.S. relations with Turkey.

Turkey is also reportedly wanting a share in the reconstruction process of Aleppo in northern Syria near Turkey.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif held talks on Wednesday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with Syria on the agenda of the talks.

Later, Zarif posted on Twitter after the meeting that the talks had been "fruitful."

Amid this international frenzy, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem visited Moscow on Thursday where he held talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.

He said in Moscow that Syria is at the last stage to end the crisis and liberate all areas from terrorism.

"The U.S., Britain, and France are unhappy to see that their schemes have failed in Syria that's why they want to attack Syria," he said, warning that the U.S. and its allies "must endure the catastrophic results of their aggression."

For his part, Lavrov said the U.S. and its Western allies intend to use the chemical weapons file as a pretext to attack the Syrian army.

He also charged that Washington is backing down on its pledge to withdraw from Syria under several pretexts.

"The U.S. side is trying to prevent the international community from helping Syria in the reconstruction process and the rebuilding of the Syrian economy," the top Russian diplomat said.