Through the month, Russian MFA has been claiming “positive momentum” in the military and political situation in Syria, including successes in key battles in Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor. The main thrust of the Syrian Army, with Russian cover, is to link up with its besieged garrison of about 10,000 troops in Deir ez-Zor. Besides liberating this town, it would prevent the ISIS fleeing from Raqqa and Mosul from establishing a new base in Deir ez-Zor.
The veteran journalist Robert Fisk has written that the Russians and Americans may have quietly agreed that the Syrian Democratic Force – a US-backed collection of Kurds and Arab fighters – would take Raqqa, while the Syrian Army focussed on Deir ez-Zor. This is consistent with Russian MFA’s briefings, which describe the successes of the SDF in advancing towards Raqqa and confirm that a 4,000-strong Tribal Army formation, fighting alongside the SDF in Raqqa, has been actively supporting Syrian army operations at the junction of Raqqa and Aleppo provinces.
At the same time, Russia expressed “outrage” at the US shooting down of a Syrian Air Force jet over western Syria. Its Ministry of Defence called off (yet again) the deconfliction arrangement with the Americans and declared that it would target all air activity over Western Syria. Some back channels may be moderating these public postures.
Russia has announced that the next meeting of the Russia-Turkey-Iran Astana process will be held on July 4-5. It was reported by Russian MFA that Secretary Tillerson telephoned FM Lavrov on June 26 to discuss the Syria political process, including the forthcoming Astana meeting.
June 30, 2017