MAINSTREAM media concentration on the US-backed, mainly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) efforts to capture the Islamic State (Isis) capital Raqqa obscure events elsewhere in Syria.
Fighting in Raqqa mirrors the battle by Iraqi forces to retake Mosul from the Isis death cult in the scale of destruction and civilian casualties.
US aerial bombing, artillery barrages and the desperate resort by Isis to widespread use of suicide bombers, whether on foot or in vehicles, have ramped up civilian casualty numbers.
While the brave Kurdish fighters of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) — the cutting edge of the SDF — stick to their task in Raqqa, the Syrian army, with its Lebanese, Palestinian, Afghan, Iraqi and Iranian allies has also had success against Isis, various al-Qaida affiliates and other terrorist groups.
Joint action by the Syrian army and Hezbollah has gained ground and subsequently imposed a truce in the Qalamoun mountains that straddle the SyriaLebanon border.
Disarmed fighters from Hetesh, the alliance formed by often renamed al-Qaida affiliate Nusra Front and various Western-backed groups, will be transferred to Idlib province, which has witnessed fierce fighting for supremacy among the divided terrorist opposition.
Previous government concentration on heavily populated western areas, including Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Hama and Sweida provinces has assisted the return of large numbers of displaced civilians to their homes.
Government forces have in recent months pushed eastward through desert and mountainous areas, often rich in oil and gas reserves, to corner Isis in its last stronghold, the province of Deir Ezzor, bordering Iraq.
The provincial capital of the same name has been under siege by Isis for over two years, but Iraq’s military advances over the border have weakened the capacity of Isis to replace fighters and supplies this year.
The war against Isis, al-Qaida and a plethora of outfits claiming to be religiously motivated and backed by the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other regional powers is far from over, but light is visible in the tunnel.
“The people of Syria must decide their own future” is the mantra of those interfering illegally in the hostilities directed and fuelled from outside the country.
Current disagreements between Qatar and its erstwhile Saudi, Egyptian, Emirati and Bahraini allies, may distract these sponsors of jihadist extremism, but Washington’s position will be crucial.
It may be more accurate to refer to Washington’s positions, since they vary on occasion.
There are positive developments such as those linked to the meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin during the G20 summit, at which, according to the Russian Defence Ministry, both sides confirmed their commitment to “the sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity of Syria as well as the political process aimed at definitive solution to the conflict.”
This reflects Trump’s decision to end the covert CIA destabilisation programme and his denunciation of the Washington Post for having “fabricated the facts on my ending massive, dangerous and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad.”
The US president has also said that he will leave military decisions to his generals, which may explain yesterday’s bombing of civilians in Deir Ezzor or establishment of 10 US military bases and outposts in areas of northern Syria liberated by YPG and viewed by some Kurdish representatives as their future state.
Balkanisation of Syria, especially under outside forces’ tutelage, is a guarantee of ongoing conflict and must not supersede commitments to Syria’s “sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity.