U.S. ends arms supplies for Syrian rebels to improve relations with Russia

U.S. President Donald Trump has ended the CIA program to arm and train moderate groups of Syrian rebels who are fighting against the Bashar al-Assad regime, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday 19 July. According to the media, this is how the United States is attempting to improve relations with Russia. This concession shows an obvious dominance of Russia in Syria.

According to some analysts, the end of the support for rebels could, however, empower radical groups in Syria and undermine the credibility of the U.S. On the other hand, American weapons often ended in the hands of extremists. The decision to suspend the program was allegedly made before U.S. President Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed on a new cease-fire, which began to take effect in southwest Syria from Sunday 9 July, at the G20 summit in Hamburg. 

The seventh round of Syria peace talks in Geneva concluded on Friday 14 July with no breakthrough and the main focus of discussion remained on the fight against terrorism, not on political dialogue about a new constitution or political transition. In the Idlib region, heavy clashes have flared between rival insurgent groups, according to reports from Wednesday 19 July. The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham jihadist group allegedly attacked the positions of Ahrar al-Sham, a more moderate Islamist group linked to the main rebel factions. Islamist groups are dominant in this province, although groups from the so-called moderate Free Syrian Army (FSA) are also present. The Syrian army, supported by Iranian militias, made advances in the struggle against the Islamic state at the beginning of the week and captured several desert areas and oil fields in the southwest of the Raqqa province. In northwestern Syria, clashes between Turkish-backed rebels and Kurdish fighters were reported once again at the beginning of the week. This escalation of violence also follows the Syrian rebels' announcement this month that they are preparing, together with the Turkish military, for a new major offensive against Kurdish forces in northwestern Syria. Due to the end of its support for the anti-Assad rebels, it could be expected that the U.S. air campaign against the Islamic State, as well as its support of Kurdish fighters, will intensify.

About author: Dominika Jandová

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