Syria’s Allies Skeptical of US Intentions Behind Claims of Troop Withdrawal

MOSCOW, December 21. /TASS/. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday he doubted that Syrian peace process participants regret the withdrawal of US forces from the country’s territory.

“I would rather disagree with the statement that some of participants of this process regret the withdrawal of the US military from Syria,” the Kremlin official said in the “Big Game” broadcast, aired by Russia’s Channel One on Thursday night. “The American presence on the Syrian soil is not conductive to attaining the goals of a political and diplomatic solution.”

“We are all aware of the situation in certain sectors [of Syria] controlled by the United States, where a humanitarian disaster is taking place, terrorist groups are arming and re-arming, new militants are being trained and local residents have no opportunity to get medical assistance or simply leave the area. I’m speaking about the region adjacent to the borders with Jordan and Iraq,” Peskov continued.

He described US President Donald Trump’s latest Twitter posts on the matter as “curious.”

“We are all aware of yesterday’s Twitter message by the US president, which says that the United States is withdrawing from Syria and a new phase will begin. We still have no idea of what kind of phase it would be. But President Trump has posted a new Twitter and it is quite curious: Trump says that most likely, Russians, Syrians and others don’t want the United States to leave Syria, because now they will have to fight the Islamic State themselves,” Peskov said.

“This message is quite curious, because, as [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin and Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov have already said, the US military presence and combat operations of US planes on the Syrian territory do not correspond to the international law. Moreover, they contradict the international law and are illegal from the point of view of the international law,” he added.

“President Putin has publicly confirmed the information that when the Israelis asked to pull back Iranian military forces from the border, Russia, together with its Iranian partners, did so, and the Iranians retreated almost 100 km away from the borderline. In return to those actions, the US forces were to leave certain areas of Syria, this was their promise. This promise was not fulfilled,” Peskov added.

“Besides, we all know that Americans are withdrawing from somewhere all the time, and US presidents are regularly making such announcements,” he continued. “They have been withdrawing from Afghanistan for many years, and, as a result, a vast part of this country’s territory is now controlled by the Taliban [radical movement, outlawed in Russia]. We know that the area of poppy plantations, used to produce drugs later channeled to our country and Western Europe, keeps increasing. We are also aware of the complicated situation in Iraq, where the US is still present. So, let’s wait and see together whether the Americans will really leave the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic,” he said.

Russia not inclined to exaggerate US role in IS defeat in Syria

MOSCOW, December 21. /TASS/. Russia is not inclined to exaggerate the role of the United States in the defeat of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization in Syria, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday.

“We are not inclined to exaggerate the role of the United States in the defeat of the IS (outlawed in Russia) in Syria,” Peskov said.

It is unclear for Moscow up to now “how, when, where and in which way the Americans are leaving Syria,” the Kremlin spokesman said.

Also, it is unclear for Moscow what the next phase of the developments in Syria will be, Peskov noted.

Russian Diplomat comments on Pentagon chief’s resignation

MOSCOW, December 21. /TASS/. US Defense Secretary James Mattis’s resignation stems directly from US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria, Russian Special Presidential Envoy for the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told reporters on Friday.

“We need to see how this decision will be implemented because Defense Secretary James Mattis’s resignation has so far been the only direct consequence,” he said in response to a question about the consequences of the US troop pullout from Syria.

On Thursday, Trump wrote on Twitter that Mattis would retire at the end of February, adding that “a new secretary of defense will be named shortly.” Mattis said in his resignation letter that he was resigning because of a difference of views between himself and the US president.

On December 19, Trump ordered a full withdrawal of US troops from Syria. “After historic victories against ISIS, it’s time to bring our great young people home!” he said. Washington launched a military operation against the Islamic State group in Iraq in June 2014 and in Syria in September 2014. More than 2,000 US troops are currently deployed to Syria.