Presence of US Troops in Eastern Syria is 'De Facto Partition', Russian Foreign Ministry Says
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned Tuesday that the continued presence of American troops in eastern Syria amounts to a de facto partition of the country.
"One of the main reasons for the instability and continuation of the conflict in Syria is the illegal presence of the United States in the country," Ryabkov told RT Arabic on Tuesday.
"I think that in their arsenal there is a scenario of a de facto partition of Syria. We are against this and are acting in accordance with the existing resolutions of the UN Security Council, which has confirmed the territorial integrity of Syria," he added.
US troops have been deployed to Syria since late 2015, when then-US President Barack Obama began deploying US Special Forces units to support Kurdish militias fighting Daesh*, although US and allied air forces had been bombing Daesh positions since the year prior. Greater numbers of US troops arrived in subsequent years after Daesh was forced out of Iraq, and US forces in Syria's Deir-ez-Zor Governorate began building large facilities for a more permanent presence near the country's primary oil fields.
In 2018, then-US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US intended to keep troops in eastern Syria until its goals of forcing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power and training a large proxy force of Kurds and other ethnic minorities in the region who were oppressed by Daesh rule. However, he also said the US intended to stay in order to keep Iran's position in Syria weak, a very open-ended mission goal.
Roughly 900 US troops remain in Syria, officially serving as advisors to the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces.
Iran, unlike the United States, was invited to send forces into Syria by the Syrian government to assist in the fight against Daesh and other terrorist forces allied to al-Qaeda, such as the al-Nusra Front, now known as Hay'at Tahrir ash-Sham*. Many of those groups, hailed by Washington as "moderate rebels," also received funding, training, and material support from the United States, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel, among other states.
Ryabkov's comments come hours after Assad traveled to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. At their meeting, Putin similarly pointed to the presence of US and Turkish forces in Syria "without your consent" and against international law, which "does not give you the opportunity to make maximum efforts to consolidate the country, in order to move along the path of its restoration at a pace that would be possible if the entire territory was controlled by the legitimate government."
Since US President Joe Biden took office in January, he has ordered two sets of airstrikes in eastern Syria, both of which ostensibly attacked Shiite militias the US claimed were responsible for attacking US forces in Iraq. The US has claimed the militias are controlled by Iran - claims both the militias and Tehran have denied.
However, Biden also claimed just last month in a bizarre gaffe that the US had no troops in Syria.
In late July, as the US was preparing for its final withdrawal from Afghanistan and began pulling back on its presence in Iraq, some also wondered if the US would withdraw from Syria, as well. However, a senior administration official told Politico their mission has "been quite successful, and that's something that we'll continue."
*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS), al-Qaeda, and al-Nusra are a terrorist organisations outlawed in Russia and many other states
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