Members only: ‘Deconfliction zones’ in Syria restricted to US, UK, and rebel fighting forces
The US-led coalition has conducted strikes against pro-Syrian government forces near their training base in the border region of Al-Tanf, the third such attack in as many weeks.
Washington claims the attacks were defensive and in response to troops or military equipment entering a so-called 'deconfliction zone.' Others say the attacks are part of a US-led strategy to turn the assault not against ISIS but Syria.
Meanwhile, Moscow has rejected US justification for the attack, saying it does not recognize any 'deconfliction zone' declared by the US unilaterally. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated such zones were different from 'de-escalation zones,' which Russia, Turkey, and Iran are establishing with the full support of the United Nations Security Council and the government of Syria.
The airstrikes took place in Al-Tanf, an area of particular strategic importance.
Effectively 'unilateral zones'
Charles Shoebridge, Security Analyst
RT: The US says pro-government forces have entered a 'deconfliction zone' posing a threat, and that was an act of self-defense. What do you make of it?
Charles Shoebridge: These are self-declared zones of deconfliction. What they really mean there is that they are not allowing other people to enter these zones, notwithstanding that, this is part of a sovereign country, Syria. In other words, they are saying ‘deconfliction’ – what they mean is that conflicts are allowed, as well as military forces, as long as there are American, British and their rebel allies. They are not agreed on 'deconfliction zones.' Syria doesn’t agree with them. As we’ve just heard, Russia itself also, which of course has established de-escalation zones elsewhere in the country, hasn’t agreed to this.
Consequently, there are, as [Sergey] Lavrov, or his spokesman [yesterday] said, they are effectively unilateral zones. This third attack in three weeks will bolster the impression that many have had for some time that the true aim of the American and British Special Forces there and others ... is to train those as proxies to extend or rather perhaps recover lost American influence and indeed territory in this very crucial, from a geostrategic perspective, location.
After all, we know that America, particularly now under Donald Trump, was long suspected this would happen. It seems to be happening; Trump seems to be directing most of the American policy in the region once more and with renewed vigor against Iran. If you look at that in the perspective of the bigger picture there, it is easy to see what the longer-term objectives of American policy in this region might be, and denying it to Syrian forces for the foreseeable future. Notwithstanding, it must be said that the Americans themselves have repeatedly specifically stated that they are only there only temporarily. But that has been said in the past.
RT: From what you’ve said your forecast would be more conflict in that part of Syria, wouldn’t it? From Syria’s point of view, they are not swallowing anything that the Americans are saying at the moment. Syrians make it clear that Syria is theirs and they don’t like the US there.
CS: That is exactly right. America has effectively invaded this part of Syria, and it is an important part. They haven’t got any legitimacy in being there from a legal perspective. At least I am not aware of one. In the past America’s spokespeople have said: ‘No, there is a legal basis for being there, because the priority is to fight ISIS. ISIS is a prescribed organization. It threatens America and its allies, and the host state of Syria doesn’t have the capability, as indeed was true in the past. It doesn’t have control over large parts of its territory. Some would argue that is largely due to American policy in the region. Nonetheless, it doesn’t have control of its policy, so America has to take action.’
Clearly here you’re getting a situation where it is quite clear that Syria does have the capability to act in that region, because its forces are acting as a part of its own forces, whether there are militias or otherwise, but certainly with a blessing and approval of Damascus, are trying to operate in parts of Syria and are being prevented from doing so by US forces, who purportedly are there to fight ISIS, yet, increasingly seem to be turning on Syria itself, as indeed some predicted...
'Who is being offensive here?'
Jan Oberg, director, Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research
RT: It's the third strike by the US coalition in just three weeks on this key strategic area, all sides want to control it. This particular region of Syria is turning into a real flashpoint, isn’t it?
Jan Oberg: Yes, it is… I am kind of surprised, if anything can surprise us anymore, of the words which are being used here. First of all,'deconfliction zone' – what is that? The conflicts are still there. We’re seeing conflicts being worked on by violence and nothing but violence since 2011. Secondly, we just saw the Secretary of Defense [James Mattis] say he feels this was “offensive forces.” I would say: “Excuse me, who is offensive in this?” The Americans are in Syria without anybody having invited them to be there. And they seem to be both fighting ISIS and through allies supporting ISIS. They seem to be heavily involved in supporting terrorists historically, as well as Britain, as we have seen. Now, you’re asking me: who is offensive and who is defensive? According to Article 51 of the UN Charter, any country that is the object of, or a victim of international aggression has a right to self-defense. Now if the Americas are in Syria – they must expect to be shot at…
RT: It seems to be quite clear that a 'deconfliction zone' is being declared by America in another country, and that hasn’t been sanctioned by the government of that country. It’s a clear breach of international law, isn’t it? And there is no international discussion about this in particular.
JO: Those of us who are of free minds and free researchers and not paid by anyone to say something else, can say these things, and we’ll keep on saying this. If you find Assad the world’s or history’s worst dictator, let’s imagine that he is: nothing can defend morally or in terms of international law, what the West has done with its allies and terrorist-allied groups in Syria.
I’ve been to Aleppo, I’ve been to Damascus, I’ve seen the destruction. Even if this President was the worst man who walked on two legs on the Earth, you do not do this harm to a civilian people – the destruction of towns and infrastructure; to make 12 million people in need of humanitarian aid, and over six years 4,000 perhaps people have been killed.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.