Syria, Russia Scramble to Retake Territory Lost to ISIS
The Syrian ceasefire formally ended today, with the Syrian military announcing it was no longer sustainable amid growing rebel strikes. This was seen as all but inevitable since Saturday, when a botched US airstrike killed 83 Syrian soldiers and allowed ISIS to advance into crucial area around the Deir Ezzor Airport.
The ceasefire was already fraying, and the US airstrike effectively obliged Syria and Russia to launch renewed airstrikes against ISIS in the area around Deir Ezzor, if only to try to reclaim some of the territory the US strike cost them around the vital airport.
The truce began last Monday evening, and was a rousing success for the first few days, with no civilian deaths for several days, giving the country a rare period of calm after several years of war. There were some skirmishes reported later in the week, however, and then the US strike, by far the deadliest incident of the week, set off a powderkeg.
US officials are still trying to deal with the narrative surrounding the calamitous attacks, with Australian, British, and Danish warplanes now believed to have participated in some 20 minutes of strikes against the Syrian military base.
US officials are also speculating that the soldiers killed might have also been a battalion of former prisoners, saying that might’ve explained why they “looked like ISIS” to US officials. This is not confirmed, and appears to just be random US comments.
Either way, the attacks dramatically weakened Syrian defenses in the area, and ISIS was quick to take advantage. It also sparked a new row between the US and Russia, as US officials responded to Russia’s call for an emergency UN Security Council meeting with angry condemnation.
The US had sought to avoid UN Security Council oversight of the truce in the first place, with the council forced to cancel a previously planned meeting on the ceasefire because the US refused to allow the terms of the deal to be publicly discussed. Much of the truce was a secret for its entire duration. They accused Russia of trying to “score points” by complaining about the airstrikes.
It’s hard to see that another ceasefire would be attempted any time soon, with Russia still irked by the way this one ended, and US officials seem eager to shift focus back toward complaining about the Syrian government.