U.S.-backed Syrian Rebels Declare New Offensive Against Daesh

Civilians in Syria have paid a heavy price during the four-and-a-half year armed conflict which shows little sign of abating soon. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

BEIRUT, Oct 31 (Reuters)  A U.S.-backed Syrian rebel alliance on Saturday announced a fresh offensive against Daesh in the northeast province of Hasaka, a day after the United States said it would send special forces to advise insurgents fighting the jihadists.

“Today … we announce the start of the liberation of the southern countryside of Hasaka province,” a spokesman for the Democratic Forces of Syria said in a video statement posted on Youtube and also reported by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war.

The Democratic Forces of Syria is an alliance formed earlier this month including Syrian Arab groups and a U.S.-backed Kurdish militia.

The United States has waged an air campaign against the  militant group while also backing some non-jihadist rebel groups against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia has engaged in air strikes with the aim of keeping Assad in power.

Moscow’s intervention in the Syrian conflict will have the unintended consequences of drawing Russia into a quagmire and alienating Sunni Muslims across the region, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Saturday.

“The quagmire will spread and deepen, drawing Russia further in. Russia will be seen as being in league with Assad, Hezbollah, Iran, alienating millions of Sunnis in Syria, the region and indeed in Russia itself,” Blinken said at an security conference in Manama.

Syria‘s civil war has aggravated sectarian tensions in the region, with Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia and some Iraqi militias, all Shi’ite, backing Assad against rebel groups that are overwhelmingly Sunni.

Addressing the Manama Dialogue regional security conference in Bahrain, Blinken said U.S. engagement in the Middle East, while deeper than ever, was broad and went beyond the military aspect, adding that there was no military solution to Syria‘s war.

On Friday, the United States disclosed plans to station its first ground troops in Syria for the war against Islamic State.

Washington has sought to reassure Gulf allies that its reluctance to actively participate in military efforts to push Assad from power does not mean it is turning its back on the region or on its traditional Arab partners.

The United States has supported a Riyadh-led Arab coalition fighting in Yemen to prevent the Iran-allied Houthi militia gaining control of Saudi Arabia’s southern neighbour.

On Yemen, citizens in dire need there could not afford to wait longer for peace, and it was incumbent “on all concerned” to allow humanitarian aid to reach all who required it.



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