Writer and political analyst Pepe Escobar assessed the prospects of the assault on Raqqa, and Syria’s future, on Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear program.
“It’s completely absurd to think about taking over Raqqa, especially in the sense that we already have a heady mix in the battle of Mosul,” Escobar commented, referring to the recent announcement by Steve Townsend, the commander of US forces in Iraq and Syria, who vowed an “urgent” offensive in Syria.
The move by the Pentagon comes in the wake of an upcoming reshuffle in US military brass, the analyst said, citing that current US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter will likely resign in three months. At the same time, spokespersons claiming to represent Daesh have announced that attacks outside the Middle East are in the planning stages. Still, the timing of the new offensive may not be opportune, Escobar asserted, as the seizure of Raqqa could take months.
At the same time, the Pentagon is “ambiguous” about what forces will be fighting alongside the Americans, Escobar noted. In an interview with CBS, Defense Secretary Carter mentioned Kurdish YPG and specific Arab factions as being the lead forces to launch an assault on Daesh in Raqqa. Escobar believes that, in Syria, the US can only count on YPG and what remains of the Free Syrian Army, at least the part that has not yet been absorbed by al-Qaeda.
“There are hundreds of fighters that won’t be capable to retake Raqqa,” Escobar suggested, adding that the only side that has the manpower to succeed in Raqqa is the Syrian Arab Army.
“It’s completely crazy when the head of the Pentagon is telling the world that they are going to reconquer Raqqa, which is inside of the Syrian territory and is officially controlled by Damascus,” he said. “They are going to do it with a bunch of expat troops and infiltrated forces, and that is absurd.”
“Washington doesn’t want to jeopardize fractured relations with Erdogan,” Escobar claimed. “At the same time they support the Peshmerga in Iraq. They cannot, though, openly support YPG and not enrage Turkey.”
Ankara wants to create a ‘safe zone’ along its border with Syria to prevent Syrian Kurds from uniting three Kurdish cantons that would serve to initiate a new Syrian Kurdistan.
“How could they [Turks] contribute to the battle for Raqqa if they will be fighting against Kurds? It’s impossible,” Escobar asserted, adding, “We will have two different battles: a battle to reconquer Raqqa and a battle between YPG and Turks along the borders.”
“Syria is already dismembered, in fact,” Escobar stated. “The whole of Eastern Syria is in turmoil, with Daesh fighters scattered across it. That suits the American purpose – keep Damascus in check and interfere with its sovereignty on its own territory.”
A Salafist principality would be out of the control of Damascus, and suitable for sustaining managed chaos in the region for the foreseeable future.