Both Russia and the US plan to capture Raqqa from the terrorists. The question is who will be there first.
Over the last few days, the 555th Brigade of the Syrian Arab Army’s 4th Mechanized Division, backed by pro-government militias, has continued to gain ground in northeast Syria. It has moved toward the Al-Raqqa Governorate’s strategic Tabaqa Military Airport.
On Friday, Syrian armed forces re-entered the governorate for the first time since August 2014. Back in 2014, Tabaqa Military Airport was seized by Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) and turned into the terrorists’ primary military base and training ground in Syria, according to the independent news source Arab al-Masdar.
Raqqa and a number of other east Syrian cities along the Euphrates still remain under Daesh control. Both Damascus and the US-led coalition consider defeating the terrorist group their primary goal.
On the other hand, the US-led coalition may create a Sunni state in northeast Syria and western Iraq, as Amb. John Bolton proposed in his November analysis for the New York Times.
On Friday US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter met with his counterpart from the United Arab Emirates in Brussels. After the meeting, Carter said that the UAE had agreed to deploy its special forces troops in Syria to assist Sunni Arab fighters on the ground to capture Raqqa, the Associated Press reported.
The information has been confirmed by geopolitical intelligence firm Stratfor, which provided satellite imagery of the Rmeilan airfield. Furthermore, it is known that the US Special Ops have been deployed in Syria.
The news is especially interesting in light of the recent Saudi vow to launch a ground operation in Syria with US backing.
Currently Damascus’ major objective is to preserve the unity and sovereignty of Syria. The loss of Raqqa would mean a devastating loss of the country’s eastern oil fields.
“A ground operation would involve all participants in a war. Therefore, the Americans and our Arab partners must consider well whether they want a permanent war. They are wrong if they think they could win this war quickly, especially in the Arab world where everybody fights against everybody,” Russian Prime Minister Medvedev stressed in an interview with Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper Thursday.