Damascus wary as US launches air strike against ISIS in Syria
The US has launched its first drone strikes against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria – from a Turkish airbase. But while targeting IS, President Obama earlier authorized the use of air power to defend US-backed forces. US warplanes are authorized to target anyone threatening Pentagon-trained rebels – even Syrian state troops.
RT: What's the situation in Damascus now? Are you concerned about the latest airstrike?
Alaa Ibrahim: There is a great deal of contrast here in Damascus. Yesterday the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs Walid Muallem delivered a very optimistic statement saying that the Americans have actually notified the Syrian government of their intention to bring in their moderate rebels whom they have trained to fight IS – an indication that the Syrian government is relaxed and there is some level of coordination between the Syrian government and the US administration.
But the developments that we are seeing on the ground are not consistent with these statements, which make many people here in Damascus skeptical over the new developments, the new air raid launched from a Turkish air base. The fact that the US has authorized to use air power to protect rebels trained by the US to fight IS – even if they were attacked by the Syrian government. And the most interesting development that we have been hearing of for the past two days, but today we’ve seen concrete results, that various rebel factions operating in Northern Aleppo have started a redeployment process under which the factions with bad reputations or the infamous factions like Al-Nusra Front affiliate of Al-Qaeda in Syria will leave its posts to be replaced by other factions, such as Ahrar al-Sham and Al-Shamia Front.
There two factions are known to be close to the Turkish government, which indicates this could be the first step among many other steps in the plan that we have heard about in news reports. There will be a safe zone controlled by the rebels and protected by the US and Turkey and it was part of a deal that allowed Turkey to join the US-led coalition against IS. It seems that the implementation of this plan is starting on the ground.
RT: What are people saying about the airstrikes – do they believe that they are targeting IS jihadists or Assad’s troops?
AI: The Syrian government as I said [on Wednesday] seemed very optimistic and relaxed in the statements of its Foreign Minister. I’ve been speaking with sources inside the Syrian government and they seemed to be relaxed, they seemed under the impression that the new approach or the new initiative launched by Russia and President Putin for a regional coordination against terrorism could achieve great results and could help end the Syrian conflict. But again, basing from what we see on the ground, the situation is not reassuring at all for the Syrian government.
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