Syrian President Bashar al-Assad mocked President Donald Trump for failing to retake ISIS’s capital of Raqqa, Voice of America reports.
Assad claimed he would support any real initiative to retake the city from ISIS but said he saw no real effort on the part of the U.S.
“What we hear is only allegations about liberating Raqqa. We’ve been hearing that for nearly a year now, or less than a year, but nothing happened on the ground,” Assad declared. He continued, “It’s not clear who is going to liberate Raqqa…It’s not clear yet.”
Assad, along with his Russian and Iranian allies, frequently claim they are fighting terrorists in order to justify their brutal military campaign.
Contrary to Assad’s claims, the U.S. has dramatically scaled up its resources inside Syria in support of the effort to retake Raqqa. Nearly 1,000 U.S. Marines and special operators are on the ground supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the main U.S.-backed force tasked with retaking the city. The campaign to retake the city may, however, be held up by concerns from NATO ally Turkey.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, fresh off the heels of a vote that dramatically amplified his power, strongly objects to elements with the SDF. Many SDF fighters are members of Kurdish militias, which Turkey regards as much as an existential threat to its existence as ISIS. Erdogan’s victory likely means he will be able to make greater demands of the U.S. while formulating its strategy against ISIS.
Meanwhile, ISIS is increasing its hold on the city in anticipation of the assault. ISIS terrorists are reportedly forcing Raqqa civilians to dress the same to deter U.S. airstrikes, have drawn a tarp over the streets to cover their movements, and encircled the entire city in land mines. The group is even forcing civilians to camp in the streets.
“They tell people … it is a battle against Islam, all nations are attacking us and the Prophet says we should be united,” one resident told the AP. He continued, “They are putting psychological pressure on residents.”
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