Syrian opposition break up on timing of Assad army offensive

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Jan 13, 2021

ALEPPO, Syria — News unfold just lately amongst common and army quarters within the metropolis of al-Bab within the northeastern countryside of Aleppo in regards to the Syrian regime and its Russian-backed allies launching a army assault within the space, stirring nervousness and controversy amongst residents of the town, which is managed by the Turkish-backed armed opposition. 

The regime has been mobilizing reinforcements within the areas near al-Bab for the reason that starting of January amid issues amongst locals that they could be a part of the army buildup that portends a future army operation aimed toward controlling the strategic metropolis of al-Bab.

Recent statements by Mustafa Sejari, director of the political bureau of the Mutasim Brigade, a Free Syrian Army (FSA) faction, additional infected the issues of al-Bab residents in a tweet on Jan. 2 when he mentioned, “We warn the international community and the Group of Friends of the Syrian People of possible Russian aggression against the Syrian city of al-Bab. We call on political forces and opposition institutions to take action to bring in military support for the [FSA].”

He added, “The [Bashar] al-Assad regime and its allies do not believe in the political solution and are preparing for military action and a new aggression.”

The anticipated aggression over the town sparked debate amongst opposition ranks. Some warned of the risks and repercussions of such army operations. Other FSA leaders refuted the chance of such aggression whereas underestimating the seriousness of the threats. In an try and allay the fears of the town’s residents, they additional denied the potential of any army motion deliberate by the regime and its allies in opposition to al-Bab.

The spokesman for the Turkish-backed FSA, Maj. Yusuf Hamoud, instructed Al-Monitor, “We have not monitored any real military indications of an imminent battle that the Syrian regime might launch in the city of al-Bab, nor are there any new enemy troops mobilized on these fronts. The news circulating about the withdrawal of some factions from some deployment points on this front is not correct. The factions are in constant readiness for all possibilities, especially since our backstabbing enemy does not honor any pledge or agreement.”

Al-Monitor additionally met with Sejari. “The warnings we issued regarding the [expected] military operation by the regime and its allies on the city of al-Bab aim to draw the attention of the international community and political opposition institutions so that they assume their duties. They must exert efforts to protect the residents of this city and prevent the enemy from implementing its plans.”

He warned that hiding data and information in regards to the regime and Russia’s plans relating to the town of al-Bab shall be disastrous. “The failure to take any action and insisting on denying these threats under the pretext of reassuring the city’s residents will not help.”

Sejari argued that al-Bab, from the Russian perspective, is exterior the scope of any settlement with Turkey and is slightly among the many checklist of potential Russian army targets. “The city, which has strategic importance, is also a major target for terrorist groups. At the domestic level, it is still subject to conflict between [opposition] factions’ forces, which caused a lack of centralized security and continuing chaos.”

Al-Bab, the most important metropolis within the Euphrates Shield area, is witnessing ongoing safety chaos, with occasional assassinations and bombings. Large numbers of refugees and displaced individuals from totally different Syrian areas had flocked to the town following Operation Euphrates Shield launched by the Turkish military in opposition to the Islamic State in August 2016 and after the Syrian opposition captured it in 2017.

The deputy head of the political bureau of the FSA-affiliated Al-Salam Brigade, Hisham Eskif, instructed Al-Monitor that threats to the town of al-Bab have to be addressed severely. He referred to as for a army alert to counter and stop any sudden motion by the regime.

“The fact that the city of al-Bab is located on the M4 highway is one of the most important reasons why the regime and its allies are interested in it,” Eskif mentioned. “Controlling it is part of the plan that Russia intends to implement, which is to control the main roads in Syria and keep the opposition away from them.”

The M4 worldwide highway extends from Hasakah in northeastern Syria by means of Ain Issa within the north of Raqqa and Manbij within the northeast of Aleppo, all the way in which to the town of al-Bab till it reaches Aleppo and the town of Latakia on the Mediterranean coast.

The metropolis thus holds strategic significance for Russia and the regime, similar to different cities on the identical highway. They had made a number of makes an attempt to grab Jericho and Jisr al-Shughour, south of Idlib, and Ain Issa, north of Raqqa, and to oust the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces from Ain Issa beneath the pretext of stopping the opposition and the Turkish military from controlling them.

Al-Farouk Abu Bakr, a army commander within the FSA-affiliated Mutasim Brigade, instructed Al-Monitor, “Russia sees the city of al-Bab as an area outside the scope of its understandings and agreements concluded with Turkey. Thus, a military operation aimed to control it if necessary is not unlikely. I believe that the alleged threat should be taken seriously, not denied.”

In this context, Al-Monitor met Mohamad Bukaie, a lecturer in political sciences at opposition universities within the countryside of Aleppo. “I do not think the regime and its allies will launch any military operation against al-Bab at the present time. The city has a symbolic meaning for Turkey and is deemed one of the most important and largest cities in the Euphrates Shield area. Turkey has been providing the city with services and repairing schools. It will not easily abandon it.”

For his half, Mohammed Adeeb, a researcher in Islamic teams primarily based within the northern countryside of Aleppo, instructed Al-Monitor, “The regime and Russia lack their typical excuses this time to launch a military operation against al-Bab, even if it is important to them as the city is not governed by militant organizations. It is controlled by moderate factions and is subject to Turkish administration. Therefore, the possibility of launching a military operation is unlikely, at least for the time being.”