The air forces of the US-led coalition are working to undermine the anti-terrorist efforts of the Syrian government, Colonel General Sergey Surovikin of the Russian ground forces has said.
“Despite promoting the aim of fighting international terrorism, the coalition is striking the Syrian military, allowing IS militants to leave encircled areas unhindered, thus strengthening the terrorist groupings near Palmyra and Deir ez-Zor,” Surovikin said.
“The coalition air forces and the strongholds of the forces of New Syrian Army [now known as the Revolutionary Commando Army] have blocked the way of the government forces, tasked with defeating IS [Islamic State] groups,” he said at a briefing on Friday.“This is a violation of the sovereign right of Syria to protect it borders,” he said.
The statement comes after US warplanes stuck pro-government forces near At Tanf on Thursday, the third such incident in the space of several weeks.
“During their offensive, government troops met counteraction from the international coalition, led by the US,” Surovikin said, calling the US demand for Syrian forces not to approach the positions of the New Syrian army “absolutely groundless.”
According to Surovikin, the coalition warplanes and the strongholds of the New Syrian Army it’s backing have blocked the passage to pro-government forces which are fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists, and are setting up frontier outposts on the Iraqi border in the At Tanf area.
“This is a violation of the sovereign right of Syria to protect its borders,” he stressed.
The commander expressed hope that the US-led coalition would undertake measures to avoid further attacks on government forces and would “engage in a more substantial fight against Islamic State terrorists on the territory of Syria.”
The Pentagon said on Friday that Russia has been “very helpful” in calming the situation in the At Tanf area in the past 24 hours.
The Russian efforts helped communicate US concerns to pro-Syrian government forces after the Americans shot down their drone in the area on Thursday, according to Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis.
He also said the American military in Syria would only use force against the government troops in self-defense.
The spokesman for the Russian General Staff, Colonel-General Sergey Rudskoy, said that the fighting has come to a halt on most of the territory of Syria.
“There was a dramatic improvement in the situation after the signing of the memorandum on the creation of the de-escalation zones in Syria,” which took place in Astana, Kazakhstan in early May, he said.
“The civil war in Syria has practically stopped,” the spokesman said.
The de-escalation or safe zones in Syria, where no fighting is allowed for the warring sides, were established in Idlib province, north Homs province, the Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, and parts of the southern provinces of Daraa and Quneitra.
Surovikin added that the achievements in the peaceful resolution of the conflict allowed the Syrian government to “concentrate most of its efforts on the destruction of Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] in the eastern part of the country.”
“With the support of the Russian Air Force, significant progress has been done in all directions,” he said.
He reiterated that “that the government forces and the supporting Russian Air Force aren’t carrying out warfare against the Syrian opposition, but consistently moving towards eliminating IS, Jabhat al-Nusra, and affiliated terrorist groups.”
He added that IS “was also ousted from the Shaer gas field, which inflicted significant damage on the terrorists’ economic potential, depriving them of income from the illegal production of hydrocarbons.”
The Russian military are closely monitoring the situation around the jihadi stronghold of Raqqa, which is under siege from US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, Surovikin said.
Despite the claimed blockade in Raqqa, militants are “leaving the city unhindered,” athe commander noted.
“Instead of destroying the terrorists, guilty of the deaths hundreds and thousands of peaceful Syrian citizens, the US-led coalition colluded with Islamic State leaders, who surrender occupied settlements without fighting and are relocating to the provinces where Syrian government forces are active,” he said.
Surovikin added that all attempts by the militants to flee Raqqa are being “uncovered and prevented” by Syrian and Russian forces.
The “criminal” behavior of the US in Syria makes a wider Middle Eastern conflict possible, Daniel McAdams, the executive director at the Ron Paul institute has warned.
In an interview with RT, McAdams said he didn’t support Russian military accusations that the Americans were cooperating with Islamic State, but acknowledged that “what the US has done in At Tanf has benefited ISIS. I don’t know about collusion – you could say ‘indirect collusion.”
“It’s a problem of criminality on the part of the US government” that it “has set up a base in another country’s territory without their permission” and then attacked the Syrian forces fighting the terrorists own its soil, saying that it was self-defense, he said.
“We’re on dangerous territory here. The reason why the wider conflict is possible is, again, because of the US presence there,” McAdams added.