While the world focuses on the battle for the “last rebel stronghold” between the Syrian government and Turkish-backed militants, President Trump continues to brag that the US is only leaving troops in Syria to seize the country’s oil.
We have seen continued fighting in Syria as the government, which has the support of Russia, clashes with militants, backed by Turkey, near what has been deemed the “last rebel stronghold.”
Syria has announced that it has taken control of four more villages in the Idlib province, and its gains have allowed the government to reopen the M5 Highway, which has been under opposition control since 2012.
That highway is vital, as it connects Aleppo to Damascus, and it is also the same area where Turkey is looking to gain more control. At the same time, Turkey seized a town along the nearby M4, and it says its goal is to seize a strategic town along the M5 to stop the Syrian Government.
Turkey does not appear to be backing down from this conflict anytime soon, and it is largely fighting with proxies by arming so-called rebels in the region.
A delegation from Russia is expected to visit Turkey on Wednesday to discuss the situation. And there is a possibility that Presidents Putin and Erdogan will come face-to-face in a meeting on March 5.
While both sides have said they are willing to come to an agreement to stop the clashes, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said there will be no plans for a truce with the militants in Syria have waged war against the government.
“At the moment the positions of our colleagues wittingly or unwittingly are dominated with the aspirations to excuse the atrocities committed by radical and terrorist groups,” Lavrov said. “Otherwise it’s hard to explain the reassurances of possible truce agreements with bandits that are being given in the course of discussions of the situation in Idlib.”
Notably, Turkey is a member of NATO, and it has tried to reach out to the US for support, but so far Washington has only responded with strong rhetoric and warnings.
For years now, the US has played a major role in the Syrian conflict by arming and training different militant groups in the region, but the Trump Administration has claimed its focus is shifting to a different goal.
During a press conference in India, President Trump said, “We’ve done a great job. We’ve taken our soldiers essentially out of Syria, except for little hot spots… We’ve taken the oil, and the soldiers we have there are the ones guarding the oil. We have the oil.”
This is a claim we have heard from Trump a number of times, and it has been met with backlash from both Syria and Russia who say it is “illegal under international law,” but it is unclear yet if anything will be done to stop the US, as Congress never voted to send troops to Syria in the first place.