Russia and Syria pound terrorists

by our Arab Affairs correspondent

RUSSIAN and Syrian jets are pounding the terrorists in Aleppo and throughout the country following the collapse of the ceasefire that ended after US war-planes launched a deadly attack on Syrian Arab Army positions in the besieged town of Deir ez Zor last weekend. Islamic State (ISIS) fire has downed a Syrian war-plane north of Damascus but the pilot was rescued. And an alleged humanitarian aid convoy was destroyed in an attack that the rebels blame on the Russians but the Kremlin says they did it themselves.

The ceasefire lasted barely a week. In fact the Syrian army was the only force that observed the truce brokered by Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and his American counter-part, John Kerry, after marathon talks in Geneva. After hundreds of ceasefire breaches the Syrian Government formally declared that the truce was over, ordering its troops to resume the offensive against the rebel-held enclave in Aleppo and driving the terror gangs out of villages that they had seized during the lull.

On 17th September two American F-16 fighter jets and two A-10 ground attack aircraft launched airstrikes against Syrian troops besieged by ISIS in the strategically important city of Deir ez Zor. At least 82 Syrian troops were killed and more than 100 wounded in the attack on 17th September, which also destroyed three tanks, three infantry fighting vehicles, an anti-aircraft gun and at least four mortars. Following the attack ISIS gunmen stormed the Syrian position on the Jabal Thardeh hill. They are now able to harass the airport of Deir Ezzor, the only supply line for the ISIS besieged city and the 150,000 plus civilians living there under government protection.

The Russian United Nations envoy, Vitaly Churkin, said that the timing of the air raid was “highly suspicious,” adding that “some aspects of the situation suggest that it could have well been a provocation.” US imperialism has brushed these concerns away with a mealy-mouthed apology, saying only that the attack was unintentional.

Some Russians accept the American claim that their pilots believed they were attacking ISIS positions when they hit the Syrians. Others think the real motive was to give air-cover to the advancing ISIS militia and yet others believe it was ordered by the war party in the Pentagon and within the America’s ruling circles to deliberately sabotage the Russian—American agreement to end the fighting in Syria.

The American atrocity was rapidly followed by the night-time destruction of an aid convoy bound for the rebel-held enclave in Aleppo on Monday, killing 21 people and destroying 18 of the 21 lorries. The Americans and their rebel friends immediately said the Syrians or the Russians had done it. But, as the Russian foreign minister pointed out, the Syrian Arab Airforce can only carry out operations in daylight and Russian jets do not operate in the area. The Russian Defence Ministry announced that it had studied film of the attack and said that neither Russian nor Syrian government munitions had hit the aid convoy. The ministry has repeatedly stated that Russia launches its airstrikes with advance air surveillance and careful verification of data provided by the Syrian military. The analysis of the attack footage revealed no signs of bombs, suggesting that fire traces resulted from the offensive launched by Jabhat Fatah al Sham, a former affiliate of Al Qaida.

This week Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said there was “very little” hope that the Russian—US week-long ceasefire in Syria will resume. But Peskov said that there were two conditions to resume the truce: “It is very simple: the terrorists need to stop attacking the Syrian armed forces. And of course it would not hurt if our US colleagues did not accidentally bomb Syrians.” Or as one anti-imperialist blogger put it: “The Russian and Syrian air-forces will soon go back to work. Any soldiers of the US ‘coalition’ in Syria should watch out for those planes. If the US and its allies can make ‘mistakes’ like in Deir Ezzor, others may also show imperfections in their operations.”