Putin extends diplomatic initiatives as Syrian Army reconquers Deraa

Absent US support, most fighters sign the reconciliation agreement, hardliners accept ticket out

Surrendering soldiers at Deraa
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Antoine de Lacoste in Boulevard Voltaire

Since the Americans withdrew their support for Islamist rebels in Daraa province, most of them chose the path of negotiation as soon as the Syrian army unleashed its offensive.

It is, of course, the Russians who are organizing the discussions, but the beginnings have not been easy. Contrary to the usual scenario, the transfer of Islamist fighters with families and small arms to Idlib, in the north-west of the country, was not accepted from the outset by the Russian negotiators. One day, it will be necessary to win back this province and it is useless to strengthen it when it is possible to do otherwise.

This was not the case in Ghouta for example, located in urban areas. The province of Deraa, with the exception of the city of the same name, is mostly rural. Moreover, many villages have surrendered since the beginning of the offensive, unwilling to face the shelling of Russian aviation. The most determined Islamists then retreated to Deraa, not without murdering village officials in several places who had negotiated with the Russians. The Western press has obviously not relayed this information.

Urged to finish, the Russians finally gave in and promised a transfer to Idlib for those who refused the “reconciliation agreement” traditionally proposed in recent months by the Syrian government.

In exchange for this Russian concession, the most important border post with Jordan, that of Nassib, was evacuated without a fight by the Islamists. They had conquered it in 2015.

At present, the Syrian army completely surrounds the city of Deraa, and the outcome seems close. Then will remain a major unknown: the Golan Heights.

That’s why the Israelis are watching the situation very closely. Admittedly, they, too, abandoned the insurgents they had helped for a long time, but not to the point of letting the Syrian army get too close to the Golan it conquered in 1967 and annexed in 1981; annexation that has not been recognized by the international community (without generating any sanctions, rest assured) and even less by Syria, whose land it is.

Of course, the Syrians have no intention of reconqering the Golan, but they would at least take back from the Islamists what they lost.

“The most determined Islamists then retreated to Deraa, not without murdering village officials in several places who had negotiated with the Russians. The Western press has obviously not relayed this information.”

The Syrian situation was, of course, at the heart of the talks between Putin and Netanyahu at their July 11 meeting in Moscow. The Israeli Prime Minister has, among other things, very formally asked Russia to send the Iranians out of Syria. During their meeting, it is funny to note that the Russian air force bombed Islamic positions near the Golan while the Israeli air force attacked Syrian positions not far from there … We love each other, but in a macho mode!

Subsequently, Putin will meet Emmanuel Macron and especially Donald Trump. The Syrian file will, one suspects, largely evoked.

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