France’s optimism on Raqqah recapture far from reality: Russia

March 26, 2017 2:27 pm

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov (Photo by AP)

has rejected the US-led coalition’s “rosy forecasts” on surrounding and swiftly retaking the Syrian city of from Daesh, saying any such victory could only be achieved through concerted cooperation among all parties fighting terror in the Arab state.
Igor Konashenkov, the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, was reacting on Saturday to comments by French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who claimed the “very hard but essential” battle for Raqqah was just days away.
Le Drian had said Friday, “Today, one can say that Raqqah is encircled, that the battle for Raqqa will start in the coming days.”
Konashenkov further said Le Drian’s “optimism” has “no relation to reality or the situation on the ground.”

“It is clear to any military specialist that the liberation of Raqqah will not be a walk in the park for the international coalition,” said the Russian official, adding that the duration and success of a Raqqah battle would depend on coordination among “all the forces fighting international terrorism in .”

Raqqah was one of the first major cities that fell to Daesh in 2013, when the terror group emerged in Syria. The northern city serves as the extremist group’s operational command headquarters.
France is a partner in the US-led coalition purportedly fighting the Daesh terror group in Syria and neighboring Iraq.
Players on the Raqqah scene
Syrian government troops, backed up by Russian airpower, have been pushing against Daesh from the west of Raqqah, where up to 4,000 Takfiri terrorists are estimated to be based.
In a separate operation, which began in November 2016, US-backed Kurdish and Arab forces, called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), have been squeezing the terror group from the north.
In their latest gains against Daesh around Raqqah, the SDF forces managed to retake the military airport south of the Tabaq town.
The US has also deployed hundreds of troops to northern Syria to “support “ SDF forces. AFP cited a Pentagon official as saying last week that an additional 1,000 military personnel could be dispatched to the area in the future.
Another party on the Raqqah front is the Turkish military, which is helping a separate group of militants in northern Syria. Ankara and the Washington-led alliance are at odds over the role of Kurdish militias in the Raqqah offensive.
The Turkish and Western military presence in Syria comes without the consent of the central government in Damascus, which slams the uncoordinated intervention as illegitimate and a violation of its sovereignty.
On Friday, Syria’s UN ambassador and chief negotiator in peace talks, Bashar al-Ja’afari, said “those who are truly fighting Daesh are the Syrian Arab army with the help of our allies from Russia and Iran,” adding that “arming factions in Syria and encouraging them to challenge the authority of the state does not serve the fight against terrorism.”
Coalition failure in Mosul
Elsewhere in his remarks, Konashenkov drew attention to the anti-Daesh front in neighboring Iraq, where government forces are trying to liberate the northern city of Mosul, Daesh’s last urban stronghold, in the Arab state.

“Similar rosy forecasts on encircling and the quick victory of the coalition in Iraq’s Mosul have already turned into considerable losses in the Iraqi forces and a growing humanitarian catastrophe,” the Russian military official warned.

The comments come days after reports said over 230 civilians, including women and children, were killed under collapsed buildings in Mosul due to a mid-March US airstrike, which triggered a massive explosion in a residential neighborhood there.
The US and its coalition allies have been widely criticized by both Syria and Iraq for falling short of their announced objectives in their so-called anti-Daesh offensive.
The US military is also suspected of helping Daesh extremists by airdropping weapons in territories held by them in the face of advances by government forces. 
According to monitoring group Airwars, at least 2,463 civilians have been killed in US-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since the start of operations in 2014.

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