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12 Dec, 2016 16:32

‘Decamped from Mosul ISIS fighters in Syria perfect for US narrative’

‘Decamped from Mosul ISIS fighters in Syria perfect for US narrative’

One doesn’t need to be a genius to guess why the US-led coalition, which has very powerful surveillance tools, failed to pick up the 4,000 ISIS jihadists making their way to Palmyra, says Peter Ford, the former UK ambassador to Syria.

Thousands of ISIS fighters are trying to recapture the ancient city of Palmyra which was liberated by Russian and Syrian forces in March. Syrian troops have started a major counter-offensive.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the Syrian army with Russian air support managed to repel several attacks on Palmyra, killing up to 300 jihadists.

READ MORE: Peace in Syria - it's the last thing the US wants

RT: Reacting to the reports in Palmyra, the French foreign minister has accused Russia of losing that city and swapping it for Aleppo. How appropriate is that statement?

Peter Ford: It is a gross distortion. And what is actually interesting is that the American-led coalition, which has very powerful surveillance tools, failed apparently to pick up the 4,000 ISIS jihadists making their way to Palmyra with all the equipment and trucks. Failed to pick these up and didn’t lift a finger to try to stop it happening. Now we can only speculate why they did that, but I don’t think you have to be genius to work out that there are plans to decamp the ISIS rebels from Mosul into eastern Syria. This will play into the American narrative that Assad can’t control the countryside in Syria and that he is not a good ally in the fight against ISIS. In fact, the opposite is the case. Once the 50,000 Syrian government forces who are currently engaged in Aleppo are released from those duties, then they can turn their attention to ISIS.

Ray Finch, UKIP MEP, told RT: “The fact is, this is ISIS’ last chance. It is a diversionary tactic; they’ve swept in while all the business is going on elsewhere. And it is going to be basically their last holdouts. They know Palmyra is an archeologically sensitive city, so they want to drag some attention onto it and say: “Look, we are still here.” But in the end they are going to go.”

RT: Russia's military says the bulk of ISIS's reinforcements came from Mosul. What's your assessment on how the terrorists have managed to regroup?

PF: There has been a trickle over an extended period, and there has also been a flow from Raqqa itself. ISIS was preparing a bolt hole for the eventuality that they will lose Raqqa and they will transfer their capital to Palmyra. It may be in the back of their minds. And the American strategy plays into this. We can forecast a scenario where Mosul is on the verge of falling to the Iraqi US-backed forces, and safe passage is arranged for ISIS fighters. Where would they go? Of course, they will be dumped on Syria – the ideal outcome from the Obama administration point of view.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.