In just over a month after government forces launched operation Damascus Steel to liberate the east Ghouta area, militants have been ousted from around 70 percent of the pocket, with a number of transfer, surrender and reconciliation deals speeding up the rate of territorial gains.
Most of these deals have successfully been negotiated with assistance from the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria, but, despite their inevitable defeat, thousands of militants have refused such deals and are insistent on remaining in the capital.
The US administration’s threats of launching an attack against Syrian government forces is arguably one of the main reasons why some militant groups are turning down transfer deals from Damascus to Idlib province.
“It is not the path we prefer, but it is a path we have demonstrated we will take, and we are prepared to take again. When the international community consistently fails to act, there are times when states are compelled to take their own action,” US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told the UN Security Council (UNSC) earlier this month.
By threatening to attack the Syrian Army, the US is discouraging militants from negotiating with the government to leave the area, and is therefore indirectly increasing civilian casualties and worsening the suffering of East Ghouta’s residents.
The potential attacks – which are largely threatened in retaliation to any alleged chemical attack – also encourage militants to launch false flag chemical provocations to draw in external military support.
Despite unverified reports of the US planning to attack the Syrian Army near the al-Tanf base and other areas along the Syria-Iraq border, it’s very unlikely that they will launch a nationwide military operation – such as a ground invasion, or even a no-fly zone – which would tip the balance in the militants’ favor.
A number of European nations have made similar threats, which also discourage militants from agreeing to reconciliation deals, thus prolonging the conflict and increasing civilian casualties.
It’s ironic that militants in Syria are effectively pinning all their hopes of winning the conflict on the US, as many opposition figures accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of being an American puppet in the infant years of the crisis.
In any case, the remaining militants are likely to eventually agree to transfer deals as they continue to suffer setbacks on the battlefield, and realize that the US won’t be coming to their aid, largely due to Russia’s military presence in the Arab state.
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