22:33 GMT17 May 2021
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    At last week’s Valdai discussion group conference in Sochi, Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed that 700 civilians had been taken hostage in Syria's Deir-al Zor province after attacking a refugee camp in an area controlled by US-backed forces.

    Apparently around 130 families had been captured, with militants vowing to execute 10 people every day if their demands are not met by the Russian/Syrian side. The Russian President, who stated that US and European nationals had been amongst the captured, expressed his surprise that the story had not been picked up by the western media. The US meanwhile denies the validity of the story.

    Sputnik spoke to Professor Tim Anderson from the University of Sydney for some clarity as to what is really going on in Syria.

    Sputnik: Which side are we to believe when it comes to this story?

    Tim Anderson: The area indicated by the Russian President is an area controlled by the US military.

    The US and its proxies whether they were Daesh or the SDF did not allow the Syrian government to liberate a lot of that territory east of the Euphrates when the Syrian government liberated Deir-ez-Zor about this time last year.

    So those people are said to have been taken from a refugee camp south of Deir-ez-Zor to a town called Hajin which is very close to Al Bukamal down in the south east corner of Syria. That is area controlled by the US and so it’s embarrassing for them to admit the operations of Daesh in that area.

    Sputnik: That might explain why the story has not been picked up by the western mainstream media do you think?

    Tim Anderson: Yes, because the western media is really looking for permission throughout this war from the US government in particular for what they can and cannot say. It’s in a very close relationship.

    You see the same for the Daesh attacks in southern Syria on the town of As Suwayda some months ago – they still have some hostages from that attack – they killed 200 people there and they had come from an area of the desert that was over towards Al Tanf – which is an area also directly military occupied by US forces. 

    They have attacked Syrian and Syrian allied forces which had gone near that area. So effectively the US has created safe havens where terrorist groups, particularly Daesh, in the south and south east are using to hide in and come back and carry out raids still.

    Sputnik: So President Putin has said there needs to be much more cooperation between the Russian side and the US coalition when it comes to Syria. What would you say to that?

    Tim Anderson: Well it’s a diplomatic game Russia is carrying out to maintain the nice fiction that there’s not a real, genuine, strategic difference between the Russian and US forces in Syria.

    The fact is the US is still using its presence to divide Syria, to try to prevent the remaining areas from being liberated by the Syrian army and there are quite different objectives. Of course in diplomatic language he’s trying to use reason and appeal to the agreements which have been reached at the United Nations to eliminate the terrorist groups in particularly those allied to Daesh or Al-Nusra.

    And the US has gone along with that verbally but as I say they have deliberately set up bases and imposed their own military to forces which are supporting their proxy armies in Syria which by the way includes Daesh, as despite their denials we know it’s very clear that they are close allies in particular – Saudi Arabia has been financing Daesh from the beginning.

    Sputnik: Do you think we’re at a stage now where regime change is finally off the table for the US is it always going to be an end goal for them?

    Tim Anderson: They would like it but I think they’ve realized that it’s not possible and indeed the Syrian government has made significant progress with the support of Iran, Russia and some others – Hezbollah for example.

    So they current game has shifted to an attempt to dismember Syria to try to prevent Damascus from recovering its strength in the north east of Syria where there’s a stand off at the moment.

    Sputnik: Lieutenant General Savchenko says there are still problems with the ceasefire being broken in Idlib?

    Tim Anderson: That’s right, there’s very little progress.

    There is some progress but very little progress with the agreement that Russia reached with Turkey about establishing secure zones so that Al-Quaeda groups couldn’t shell Latakia and Aleppo – they’ve been continuing to do that and there’s been some extensions of the schedule given to Turkey to try to create some secure zones there.

    But Syria hasn’t given up on Idlib, and the problem has been that the US with its allies like Britain have threatened to bomb the Syrians if they even attempt to move into Idlib. Even the pretext of a false flag of chemical weapons has not been relied on at this stage. There are several indications that the US says that if the Syrians move on Idlib they will come in and bomb.

    And of course that is one of the main reasons why there was this delay imposed on the operation to liberate Idlib because Syria and Russia feared that there was going to be a much greater escalation with the threats from the NATO powers.

    Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Tim Anderson and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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