Russia's ongoing large-scale training exercises in the Mediterranean Sea, held by the country's navy and aerospace forces, support Syria against potential Western aggression, retired Brigadier General Ali Maqsud, a Syrian military strategy analyst, told Sputnik Arabic.
According to the analyst, Syria is being targeted by both regional and international forces. Currently, the Syrian Arab Army, backed by its allies, is advancing in southern Syria and preparing for an all-out Idlib operation.
Naturally, jihadists and their sponsors are dissatisfied with the developments on the ground, he highlighted, adding that they would do whatever it takes to prevent the government troops' offensive. Maqsud believes that the US and its Western allies are getting ready for a strike on Syria.
"Under these conditions, the true goal of the Russian drills in the Mediterranean Sea is to deal a blow to the impending aggression. The arrangement and conduct of the [military] exercises implies cooperation on the political and diplomatic levels between Russia and its allies. The result of these drills will be stability in the region," the retired brigadier general said, adding that the White Helmets and other rebel groups would not be able to carry out a chemical provocation in Syria.
According to Maqsud, the US has backpedaled on its initial offensive plan.
"The Americans have deployed radar defense systems in Al-Shaddadah, a town in al-Hasakah Governorate in the north of Syria. This system is meant to protect the base from air attacks. I think they are preparing to defend themselves," the analyst suggested.
It was earlier reported that the Russian military drills in the Mediterranean would involve 26 warships and submarines, as well as 34 combat aircraft including Tu-160 strategic bombers, Tu-142 and Il-38 anti-submarine warfare planes, Su-33 and Su-30SM fighter jets.
Earlier, the Trump administration had authorized two missile strikes on the Syrian Arab Army over alleged chemical incidents in Khan Sheikhoun and Douma, in the absence of any credible evidence of Damascus's involvement in the cases.
On August 25, the Russian Defense Ministry's spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, reported that the Tahrir al-Sham group, affiliated with al-Nusra Front* terrorists, was preparing a provocation in Idlib. Later, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem specified that the White Helmets, a group operating in the terrorist-held region, had smuggled canisters containing chlorine to the region.
The liberation of Idlib, which currently accommodates about 70,000 jihadi fighters and up to 3 million people, could significantly thwart terrorist activities in the region. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has signaled that Damascus attached great importance to the liberation of the province from terrorists.
However, it appears that the Syrian Army's counterterror effort does not fit into Washington's plans: On September 4, US President Donald Trump warned Damascus against executing the Idlib operation.
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria must not recklessly attack Idlib Province. The Russians and Iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. Don’t let that happen!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 3 сентября 2018 г.
The same day, the Kremlin emphasized that Idlib, being the last hotbed of terrorism, destabilizes the situation in Syria.
"The situation in Idlib continues to be a subject of particular concern to Moscow, Damascus, Ankara, and Tehran," presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday. "The fact is that there is a hotbed of terrorism there…. This undermines attempts to bring the situation to the track of political and diplomatic regulation."
*Al-Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra) is a terrorist group banned in Russia.
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