Syrian forces are rapidly escalating offensive against the armed opposition amid emergence of strong signals of support for the regime from Iran and Russia — which has accused the West of endorsing terrorism in the Levantine state.
After regaining control over most of Damascus, the forces have fanned out to flush out fighters from their remaining strongholds in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. State media is also reporting clashes in the countryside near the cities of Lattakia and Qamishli.
The opposition is claiming that troops have mounted a massive offensive in Aleppo, drawing thousands of soldiers from the border with Turkey. However, the heavy scale of the assault could not be independently confirmed.
Media reports had surfaced earlier that the Syrians had arrived at an understanding with the Democratic Union Party (PYD) — a Kurdish militant group — which allowed Damascus to free a large number of its troops from Kurdish strongholds, for deployments elsewhere.
As the forces advanced, they received some of the most explicit pledges of support in recent months from a broad spectrum of leadership in Iran, which includes the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). On Tuesday, IRGC commander Massoud Jazayeri said the “enemy is not able to change the political system in Syria; and the people of this country and the friends [of Syria] will not allow [the implementation of] such a plan.”
Gen. Jazayeri kept open-ended the possibility of Iran’s direct intervention in the crisis. “None of the friends of Syria and the resistance front have entered the scene yet, and if it happens, severe blows will be dealt to the enemy’s front,” he warned.
Earlier, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke with considerable passion in support of Syria, framing his backing for an ally, which, in his view, was squarely a part of the resistance that was engaged in combating a hegemonic combination of Israel and the U.S.
With the conflict deepening the divide between Russia and the U.S., Moscow is fast assuming the appearance of a committed Syrian ally. On Tuesday, a Russian naval flotilla, bound for the Syrian port of Tartus, entered the Mediterranean, said the Russian Defence Ministry.
The ships will perform “planned military manoeuvres”, he said. Analysts point out that the move would reiterate Moscow’s resolve at a time when the Assad regime is confronting its deepest crisis. In Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov blasted the U.S. for adopting a position on Syria that amounted to a full-fledged support for terrorism. Mr. Lavrov said Washington’s reaction to last week’s blasts in Damascus — which wiped out the top security leadership — amounted to downright justification of terrorism.
“This is direct endorsement of terrorism. How are we supposed to understand that?” asserted Mr. Lavrov after Washington’s representative to the U.N., Susan Rice said acts of terror in Syria were not surprising in the light of President Assad’s actions. “This is a sinister position, I cannot find words to express our attitude towards that,” said Mr. Lavrov.