Russian airstrikes crushed U.S.-backed rebels Tuesday as forces loyal to the Syrian government moved on the ground to take back Syrian town Sheikh Miskeen.
This is one of the most significant defeats the rebels have suffered to date because Miskeen is located near an important supply route connecting Jordan and Damascus, the capital of Syria, The Washington Post reports. Rebels used Miskeen as a central point for bringing in U.S. weapons and funds.
It took pro-government forces a month to break the rebels down, and Russian airstrikes gave Syrian forces the extra edge. The defeat is a clear example of a foreign power stomping on America’s proxy war.
The nearly five-year-long civil war is now turning decisively in favor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
A British official complained it’s now obvious Russia never intended to primarily target the Islamic State, and is more interested in seeing the Assad regime survive.
“By continuing to support the regime in its bombardment of the moderate opposition, Russia risks damaging the already fragile process of intra-Syrian negotiations,” Gareth Bayley, the British special representative for Syria said, according to The Washington Post. Western countries, unlike Russia, often try to distinguish between moderate and extreme opposition to Assad.
The rebels are now in a much more arduous position, which was apparent during a recent meeting of opposition groups in Saudi Arabia. Rebels need peace talks more than Assad, but in the meantime, they are still debating whether to even participate Friday in Geneva.
Although the United Nations sent out invitations to rebel groups Tuesday, these groups have yet to accept. The reason for delay in acceptance is because the opposition wants Assad to agree to certain preconditions, namely a guarantee in humanitarian aid and a halt to airstrikes on civilians.
A Syrian official over the weekend said the Assad regime would not make a single concession, but Secretary of State John Kerry brushed off rhetoric from both Assad and rebel groups as nothing more than bluster. In the case of Assad, Kerry noted Syria’s main backers, Russia and Iran, have said they’re willing to make concessions, so Syrian grandstanding is irrelevant.
If negotiations fail and no political solution is forthcoming, Vice President Joe Biden said Saturday the U.S. is prepared to deploy military force. Following Biden’s remarks, a U.S. official clarified that military force would only be used against ISIS. Nevertheless, the U.S. still plans to support rebel groups. How much that support matters at this point is unknown given the success of the Russian airstrikes.
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