Western mainstream media is once again putting Idlib at the center of their coverage, with emotive and hugely exaggerated headlines like “Bombed as they flee: A million Syrians try to escape Assad’s onslaught” — however with no mention that a US designated terrorist organization, al-Qaeda’s Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, has for years brutally held Idlib territory, suppressing the civilian population.
With the Syrian Army and its Russian allied force now again feeling US pressure over the ongoing offensive, the Kremlin has hit back, slamming the US for its occupation and resource plunder of Syria.
Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu while on a state visit to Rome on Tuesday charged American forces with a “shameless, impudent pillage of the wealth,” according to Russian state sources.
“The oil fields… are controlled by the US. There’s shameless, impudent pillage of the wealth that belongs to Syria and the Syrian people taking place,” Shoigu said.
He pointed out that this resource theft combined with an extreme US sanctions regimen is creating horrific conditions among the civilian populace facing freezing winter temperatures. “Most of the people, who are now suffering in Syria, are in need of heat, hot water and electricity, which — as we understand it — come from hydrocarbons that are forbidden to be supplied there,” the minister said further.
Over the past two weeks US and Russian convoys have had dangerous run-ins in Syria’s northeast anytime Russian forces get too close to Syrian oil fields. Though no exchanges of fire have resulted, the two superpowers’ militaries are coming dangerously close to engaging in a major incident.
Meanwhile in separate statements a top Syrian official has confirmed that Russia is helping the Syrian state and its people to counter the West’s economic blockade.
Syria’s ambassador to Russia, Riyad Haddad, said at an event hosted in Siberia that “Russia together with the Syrians is fighting the economic blockade imposed by Western powers and is also providing our people with all kinds of support and humanitarian assistance.”
Over the past months President Trump has articulated in a provocatively blunt manner that US troops will remain in Syria “to secure the oil”. There’s been nothing in the way of a timetable or specified goal in terms of when the mission might be ‘accomplished’ or the troops might come home.
And last Saturday President Trump held a much anticipated phone call with his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan at a moment tensions continue soaring over Idlib, and after a week of direct confrontations between the Syrian and Turkish armies left scores dead and wounded on either side.
The two leaders condemned the Syrian Army advance into Idlib, calling the military offensive with Russian support “unacceptable”. This after last week the US dispatched special envoy for the region James Jeffrey to Ankara, where the diplomat verbalized full support to “our NATO ally Turkey”.
President #Assad's message to #Erdogan;
"The battle to liberate #Aleppo countryside & #Idlib will continue regardless of some empty sound bubbles coming from the north, and the battle for liberating all #Syrian soil, crushing terrorism, and achieving stability will also continue" pic.twitter.com/msZilXc7mU
— Wissam Sliman (@WissamSlimanSy) February 17, 2020
“Stressing that the regime’s most recent attacks are unacceptable, the president and Trump exchanged views on ways to end the crisis in Idlib without further delay,” the Turkish presidency said in a statement.
At the start of this week the Russian Defense and Foreign ministries expressed they will not heed the US call to halt the offensive, reaffirming that Russian forces are assisting in a legitimate counter-terror operation.