This is Why the Turkish Operation in Raqqa Will Serve Russian Interests

 

 Turkish armoured personnel carriers drive towards the border in Karkamis on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern Gaziantep province, Turkey, August 27, 2016

   If Turkey take part in an operation to liberate Raqqa it will play in the hands of Russia because Moscow’s primary goal in Syria is destroying the self-proclaimed Daesh caliphate, experts said.

Turkey is ready to join the United States to liberate the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the self-proclaimed Daesh caliphate.

“Raqqa is an important center for Daesh… [US President Barack] Obama particularly wants to do something together about Raqqa. We have told him that this is not a problem for us… What can be done there will become more concrete after talks,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told journalists Wednesday.

   He added that Turkey must show that it was present in the region and had no option of taking a step back on Syria and countering terrorism.

   Raqqa has been under control of terrorists since 2013. The Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian Army have made attempts to liberate the city but failed. However, the balance of power changed after Turkey launched the Euphrates Shield operation in northern Syria on August 24.

   Turkey’s involvement in Syria could be a turning point in the crisis as Ankara is becoming the key player for a ground operation against Daesh.

   It is reasonable to assume that in exchange for military support to liberate Raqqa Erdogan may demand from Washington a blank check to resolve the Kurdish problem. Preventing Kurdish autonomy is crucial for Ankara,” an article on the Russian analytical website Svobodnaya Pressa read.

   At the same time, for Washington, siding with Turkey would mean correcting its policy in Syria. The US has relied on Kurdish forces in Syria but now Turkey could become Washington’s main ally in Syria.

   As for Russia’s reaction to such a scenario, Moscow is unlikely to criticize Turkey because Ankara’s engagement in Syria could also serve Russia’s interests, experts say.

“Turkey normalized ties with Russia. And it seems like Moscow unofficially authorized Turkey’s participation in a local military campaign at the Syrian border,” Stanislav Tarasov, head of the Middle East-Caucasus think-tank, told Svobodnaya Pressa.

On the one hand, Turkish involvement in Syria can facilitate a solution against Daesh problem. On the other hand, it complicates the diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis, the analyst pointed out.

According to Tarasov, the operation has created problems for dialogue between Ankara, Washington and Moscow.

   “Turkey is part of a US-led international coalition. Erdogan may join forces with the US to liberate Raqqa. At the same time, Ankara and Washington understand that Russia has its interests too,” he said.

   The analyst also suggested that the Turkish operation in Syria will not deal a blow to Moscow’s and Washington’s positions in the region but poses the risk of dragging Turkey into a serious military conflict.

   “Turkey will not upset Russia’s plans if Turkish forces liberate Raqqa. Russia’s main goal in Syria is defeating Daesh terrorists. And the liberation of Raqqa would play into the hands of Moscow,” Mikhail Alexandrov, a military and political expert at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, pointed out.

   Moreover, Ankara restored ties with Moscow which means that Turkish control over Raqqa is a much better scenario than if Raqqa was liberated by the US, he added.

“Moscow would agree to this scenario. I can’t rule out that Erdogan and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin discussed it during their meeting in China,” he concluded.

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US, Turkey Not Likely to Liberate Raqqa Without Green Light From Russia, Iran

 

Syrian city Raqqa

 

   Commenting on the recent announcement of the Turkish president that “Ankara sees no problem” in joining forces with the US to free the Syrian city Raqqa from Daesh, Russian political analyst Boris Dolgov said that such an operation will be held only after consultations with Russia and Iran.

Ankara and Washington are discussing military action on Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, Daesh), Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told a group of journalists on his way back to Turkey from the G-20 summit in China, where he had a tête-à-tête meeting with US President Barack Obama,” Turkish Hurriyet Daily News reported on Wednesday morning.

   “Obama particularly wants to do something together [with us] about Raqqa. We have told him that this is not a problem for us,” it quotes the president as further elaborating.

   The Turkish leader said that Ankara has suggested the high-ranking soldiers of both parties could come together and discuss the issue.

   “What can be done there will become more concrete after talks,” he said. “What can be done on the issue is related to the US stance.”

   Commenting on the above announcement, Senior research fellow at the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Boris Dolgov noted that such an operation won’t be launched without previous consultations with Russia and Iran.

   The political analyst said that even though Washington and Ankara have a solid case for liberating the Daesh stronghold in the region, they may still have ulterior motives.

   In particular, he says, it might be an implementation of the “American scenario” of the solution to the Syrian crisis.

   “Both Raqqa and north of Syria are the territories of the sovereign state and if the above plan is going to be implemented, Raqqa will find itself under Turkish control,” he told in an interview with RIA Novosti.

   “Turkey, in turn, is leading the units of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), hence it would mean that part of Syria would then find itself under control of the FSA. And this would have far-reaching consequences,” the expert explained.

   Afterwards, Boris Dolgov said, using the presence of the FSA in the region, the US and Turkey might form an alternative leadership in the region and with its support lay down certain conditions to the country’s legitimate government.

   Dolgov is, however, convinced that it is premature to speculate on the launch of the operation.

   “This operation will inevitably preceded by consultations with Russia and Iran. Russian Airspace Forces now partially control Syrian air space, thus there is a clear need in consultations with the Russian military leadership,” he finally said.

Six Russian Tu-22M3 Bombers Attack Daesh Positions Near Raqqa

Tu-22M3 bomber

 

On Thursday, six Tu-22M3 long-range bombers which took off in Russia attacked Daesh in areas south-east, north and north-east of the city of Raqqa in Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

“On August 11, six Tu-22M3 long-range bombers which took off in Russia carried out a concentrated high-explosive ammunition attack on targets of the Daesh terrorist group in areas south-east, north and north-east of the city of Raqqa,” the statement said.

The aircraft destroyed ammo and oil depots, a chemical weapons factory and a major training filed dealing a heavy blow to the terrorists’ facilities and manpower.

Su-30SM and Su-35S jets were covering the bombers. After accomplishing the combat task all Russian planes returned safely to their airfields.”

Russia has been conducting a counterterrorist campaign in Syria since September 30, 2015, at President Bashar Assad’s request. On March 14, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Defense Ministry to withdraw the bulk of the Russian military contingent from Syria.

Syrian Army Fiercely Fighting Daesh Over Oil Field in Raqqa

Syrian Army soldiers take positions on the outskirts of Syria's Raqqa region on February 19, 2016

 

The Syrian government troops are fighting Daesh over an oil field near Tabqa in the west of Raqqa province, a source in Syrian militia told RIA Novosti on Monday.

BEIRUT      Since May, the Syrian army launched an offensive in the direction of Tabqa, which lies on the way to the city of Raqqa, the Syrian stronghold of the islamists, outlawed in many countries worldwide, including Russia and the United States.

“Fierce fighting near the oil field still continue. At night, parts of the Syrian army drove terrorists out of Ash Shola, but an intensive counterstrike forced them to regroup in the morning. The field is not yet completely liberated,” the source said.

Syria has been mired in civil war since 2011, with numerous opposition factions and Islamic extremist groups fighting government forces seeking to topple the government of President Bashar Assad.

Hurry Up! Obama Wants to Liberate Raqqa, Mosul Before Leaving Office

Kurdish Peshmerga forces keep watch in a village east of Mosul, Iraq, May 29, 2016.

 

President of the United States, Barack Obama has set a goal to liberate Raqqa and Mosul from Daesh before his presidential term expires in November. President Obama wants to go down in history as the destroyer of Daesh, a Kurdish political analyst said.

Operation Raqqa vs. Operation Mosul

“Operation Raqqa looks like Washington’s effort to regain ground after the liberation of Palmyra by the Syrian Army backed by Russian airstrikes. Before Obama leaves office he wants to be the liberator of Raqqa and Mosul,” prominent Kurdish analyst Ramazan Karim told RIA Novosti.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) started an operation to liberate Raqqa in May. The SDF mainly comprises the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). They are backed by aircraft of a US-led international coalition. Moreover, American, German and French military instructors and special forces are working in the region.Currently, the first stage of the operation is underway. The goal is cut off Raqqa from the Turkish border. Now, Kurdish forces are storming the town of Manbij. At the same time, the Syrian Army is advancing from the south on the province of Raqqa.

Washington announced an operation to liberate Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in early-March. According to some military analysts, before the liberation of Mosul, Iraqi forces would liberate Fallujah. Then, the army and Kurdish troops would deploy to Mosul.”They cannot liberate Mosul so far. There are tensions between Baghdad and Kurds as well as in the Iraqi government. There is the issue of dividing Mosul after the liberation. Mosul is a stumbling block between Kurds, Sunni, and Shiites, but also between Iran, Turkey and the US and other Western countries,” the analyst said.

According to him, the main question is not the liberation of Mosul but who will reap the fruits of this victory.

“I think that the liberation of Mosul would be postponed. The situation in Raqqa is not that complicated so its liberation would be successful,” Karim suggested.

Russia, the US, Kurds

According to the analyst, in order to liberate Raqqa, the US was ready for a compromise and formed a tactical alliance with the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the largest and most powerful Kurdish group.

“Previously, relations between Washington and PYD were not close. But amid rapprochement between PYD and Moscow, Washington was concerned. The US promised to open a PYD office in Washington. Then, a Pentagon representative visited Kobani and the US and PYD agreed on an operation in Raqqa,” Karim said.

Russia’s Role in Fighting Daesh

According to the analyst, previously the US planned the fight against Daesh as long-term but had to adjust the plan after Russia became involved.
“Kurdish forces are very capable, and the US leads an aerial coalition. I think the liberation of Raqqa will be successful,” he said.At the same time, he stressed that it is impossible to “completely defeat” terrorism in Syria without Russia.

“Iraqi and Syrian Kurds have underscored that cooperation between Russia and the US would make the fight against Daesh more efficient. Russia’s actions against are more effective than what the US is doing. If you take a look at a Daesh map you will see that after Russia involved the territory began to shrink and its numbers began to decrease,” Karim concluded.

 

‘We Are Coming’: Syrian Army Showers Daesh With Warning Leaflets in Raqqa

Soldiers of the Syrian Army. File photo

 

The Syrian Army and its allied forces, with support from Russian air support and the Syrian Air Force, made advances in the direction of Al-Thawrah in Raqqa province, a source in the Syrian Army told Sputnik.

The source said that the troops advanced by 5 km from Al-Thawrah after a series of successful assaults on Daesh terrorists.

The militants were getting support from fighters coming from Salamiyah in the province of Hama.

“The Syrian Army eliminated 15 militants along with their field commander, as well as destroyed their military vehicles,” the source told Sputnik.

Moreover, the Syrian military aircraft dropped leaflets over Raqqa and the surrounding area, in which the country’s military command for the last time offered the terrorists a chance to lay down their arms and surrender to the troops.The leaflet consists of two pages and has the following text:

On the first page it says, “This will be the end of each terrorist who will go armed against the army and people.”

Leaflets
Leaflets

Immediately below this text there is an image of dead militants.

Under the photo of dead terrorists written in big bold letters is the following: “We are coming.”

At the end, there is a signature of the high command of the Syrian Armed Forces.

On the second page there is a written appeal:

“Militant! The moment of truth is here. The world is changing rapidly. The Army is advancing. Think about it, waiting can cost you your life. Do not hesitate; hurry to surrender your arms, to save your live and your future.”

Leaflets
Leaflets

 

At the end, there is the same signature of the high command of the Syrian Armed Forces.

Earlier in June, the Syrian army entered the Raqqa province after advancing in a major offensive against Daesh militants.

The Syrian government has had no presence in Raqqa since August 2014. Liberating the city, where some believe Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is living, has long been seen as key to crippling the terrorist organization.

 

Syrian Army Moves Closer to Al-Tabqa City Near Daesh-Held Raqqa – General

Syrian Army. File photo

 

The Syrian army is only 11 miles away from the city of Al-Tabqah in the Raqqa province and is pressing offensive against the IS stronghold, a Syrian brigadier general told Sputnik.

DAMASCUS (Sputnik) — The advance is complicated by the rising dust storm, the military said. The army has seized control of several strategic positions on the highway to Raqqa, the Daesh (Islamic state) capital in Syria since 2014.Al-Tabqah lies some 34 miles west of Raqqa. The Syrian general told Sputnik that the advancing troops were able to kill an unidentified number of Daesh militants and pushed them deeper into the province.

“A group of Daesh militants got disoriented by a dust storm, so the army tracked and eliminated them,” the general said, adding Syrian troops suffered no casualties.