Syrian War Report – September 3, 2019: Russia Accuses U.S. Of Sabotaging Idlib Ceasefire
On September 1, the Russian Defense Ministry said that the recent US strike on Idlib province had “endangered the truce” in the area and “violated all previous arrangements.” The defense ministry noted that the air raid led to “multiple casualties and destruction”.
On August 31, CENTCOM announced that the US military “conducted a strike against al-Qaida in Syria leadership at a facility north of Idlib”. It claimed that the strike “will further degrade their ability to conduct future attacks and destabilize the region.”
The strike took place shortly after the start of a unilateral truce announced by the Syrian Armed Forces in the Idlib zone. Local sources say that the strike targeted a camp of the al-Qaeda-affilated militant group Ansar al-Tawhid. However, no casualties among the group’s top leadership or other prominent terrorist commanders operating in the area were reported.
Despite this, the situation in the Idlib zone remains relatively calm after the start of the ceasefire on August 31. Both pro-government forces and militants accuse each other of sporadic artillery strikes. Nonetheless, no notable clashes were reported.
Meanwhile, the US and Turkey already faced some difficulties in the implementation of the northeastern Syria ‘safe zone’ agreement. On August 31, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened that Turkey will apply its own plan of action, if Turkish soldiers are not allowed to control the safe-zone area. He said that Turkey has “no time and patience” and that it wants to actually create a safe-zone with own soldiers guarding it.
These remarks demonstrate a rift between the Turkish and US stance on the question. In northeastern Syria, Washington mostly relies on Kurdish separatist armed groups that Turkey sees as terrorist organizations. So, the sides have a quite different vision of how this safe zone should look.