DAMASCUS, SYRIA (6:50 PM) – The Russian Ministry of Defence has called the United States campaign against ISIS merely a ‘simulation’ rather than a real war effort, citing the reduction of US coalition airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq as evidence. This statement was made by the Ministry’s spokesman General Igor Konashenkov on Tuesday.
For the past weeks, the Syrian Arab Army, backed by Russian air support, has been in intense combat for the unofficial ISIS “capital” city of Al-Mayadeen, in the Deir Ezzor Governorate of Syria. Despite punishing airstrikes and major advances by the Syrian army, ISIS continues to keep a hold over much of the city. Adding to this, the Russian Defence Ministry claims that the terrorist organisation still receives supplies and reinforcements coming mainly from Iraq, where ISIS still holds territory in the border provinces of Al Anbar and Nineveh.
“The ongoing fueling of terrorists from Iraq raises serious questions about the real objectives of anti-terrorist operations conducted in the region by the US and the so-called ‘international coalition’ jets,” General Konashenkov declared.
Russia has recently become ever more suspicious of US intentions in the region, especially since the US-backed armed group known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has made extensive gains in the Deir Ezzor Governorate in recent weeks, and has occupied much of former ISIS capital Raqqa. This, together with the fact that the US is supposedly conducting military strikes against ISIS in Iraq, makes the apparently rather easy reinforcements and supplying of ISIS forces in Syria all the more strange.
General Konashenkov continued by stating that he wonders whether the US is in fact planning “to complicate as much as possible” the Syrian-Russian offensive to the east of the Euphrates river. Alternatively, the spokesman said that Russia wonders if perhaps the US is willingly letting terrorists escape from Iraq and move to Syria rather than fighting them head-on.
According to Konashenkov, intelligence reports have it that “daily attempts” to transport “foreign mercenaries” on “armoured vehicles [and] pick-up trucks with large-caliber weapons” are taking place moving towards the Deir Ezzor frontline.
“The US-led coalition, which is simulating the fight against ISIS, primarily in Iraq, sees all this but continues to supposedly actively fight against ISIS, for some reason in Syria,” the General claimed, stressing that ISIS is currently holding far more land in Iraq, where the US has an official military presence, than it does in Syria.
Despite this, the US airstrikes on Iraqi ISIS bases have reduced significantly in recent weeks, something the open database of the US-led coalition Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve confirms. The fact that the US has reduced airstrikes on the Iraqi side of the border at the exact moment that Syria is carrying out an important offensive, is very suspicious according to the Russian Ministry of Defence.
“The timing of this decrease in intensity of [the US-led] strikes in Iraq, in a strange way, coincided with the transfer of ISIS [militants] to Deir Ezzor from the border areas of Iraq, who are now trying to gain a foothold on the eastern bank of the Euphrates,” Konashenkov said.
The joint Syrian and Russian offensive to liberate the ISIS “capital” of Al-Mayadeen and the rest of Deir Ezzor has made great progress in the past week. Syrian forces are reported to have encircled most of the ISIS positions in Al-Mayadeen, and are backed up by greatly expanded Russian aerial support. In the past week alone, Russian fighter bombers have made as many as 150 sorties per day, carrying out precision strikes against ISIS convoys of weapons and reinforcements. The Russian Ministry of Defence claims that most of the terrorists’ economical infrastructure has been destroyed, including the majority of ISIS-held oil extraction plants and refineries in the region.