The Syrian government has the right to retake all of Syria, but none of the countries that supported terrorists there want them to return to their own countries, investigative journalist Rick Sterling told RT.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Moscow and Damascus of escalating the Syrian conflict by seeking to clear terrorist groups from Idlib province. He said the civilian population will end up as victims of any offensive.
Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Idlib was the last terrorist stronghold in Syria and should be liberated.
RT: According to the UN, there are up to 10,000 terrorists in Idlib. The US says it’s in Syria to fight terrorism, why would it oppose an offensive here?
Rick Sterling: Because elements within the US – and NATO, for that matter – want to prolong the conflict. We’ve seen a pattern from the past – whether it was East Aleppo or East Ghouta, or more recently in Daraa – the number of civilians is hugely exaggerated. And at the end of the day, it turns out they were far fewer and they immediately rush into the safety of the government-controlled zones. The humanitarian corridors that are being set up by Syria with Russian assistance is a very positive sign. And it is kind of hypocritical for Mike Pompeo to criticize Syria for trying to expel terrorists from its own territory.
RT: Mike Pompeo insists a campaign against Idlib will escalate the conflict. But, what alternative does Washington suggest?
RS: I suppose they basically want the Syrian government to let the terrorists stay in Idlib province. We can just imagine what Mike Pompeo would say if there were thousands of terrorists in Oregon and Washington, states in the US. They wouldn’t have any patience at all for that. The situation is complicated right now. It is difficult because… there are thousands of foreign fighters there. These are trained terrorists with a lot of battle experience. And they have been supported by the West and the Gulf, including Turkey. And none of the countries that have supported the terrorists want them to come back to their own countries, of course. So, that is adding a new element to the conflict now which didn’t exist before because previously the terrorists were taken from the zones they were in, whether it was Aleppo, or Daraa in the south, and taken to Idlib. Now, we’ve got the Syrian government saying they are going to retake all of Syria – which is their right under international law and the UN – but what is going to happen with the terrorists?
RT: We hear periodic talk about closer US-Russian cooperation in Syria. Is it possible that the US and Russia could come to an agreement on how to handle the situation in Idlib?
RS: That is definitely to be hoped for. Unfortunately, there is a policy fight within the US administration that has been going on for years. Really, it goes back to a fight under Barack Obama over what policy to carry out and how directly to intervene in the conflict. And that continues. Just two weeks at the end of March and early April, President Trump said the US was going to be getting out of Syria very soon. And very soon after that we had a chemical weapons incident, and then the US attacked Syria without any proof or evidence that Syria was responsible for it. And that is the danger now, of course. Just last week, we had John Bolton in Israel hinting that if there is a chemical weapons incident in Syria that the US would attack again. Even though the most recent findings from the organization for the prohibition of chemical weapons found that there was no evidence that sarin gas was used in that April attack. The situation is really dangerous and complicated right now. I hope that the coming meeting on September 7 between Russia, Turkey, and Iran can bear some fruit. And also that Turkey rather than Russia and Syria can really get the humanitarian corridors operating effectively.