RAQQA, Syria (North Press) – A Russian political analyst stated on Thursday that the recent visit of the commander of the Syrian government’s special forces Suhail al-Hassan to the countryside of Raqqa comes in a proactive context for any move by the Turkish forces.
The purpose of the visit
In an interview with North Press, Russian political analyst Denis Kurkodinov said that the goal of al-Hassan’s visit was to examine the combat readiness of his forces and to try to negotiate with local tribes to fully open the city to the government forces and push the SDF out.
On its Telegram channel, Russian news agency ANNA published on Monday photos that it said were of commander Suhail al-Hassan with his fighters in the desert of the western countryside of Raqqa, without naming the area he visited.
“The SDF is not the only party fighting to be alone in Raqqa - there are also Syrian government forces, Turkish forces, ISIS, and Russia,” Kurkodinov said.
Known as al-Nimr (The Tiger), Suhail al-Hassan is known directly for his military affiliation with Russia, and his visits have long been linked to signs of Russian movement.
After the conference held earlier this month with Turkey and Iran, Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated that “northeastern Syria is a priority in combating international terrorism.”
Expanding the war zone
“In fact, according to the results of the July 1 conference between Russia, Turkey, and Iran, Ankara is seeking to expand the war zone by sending its forces to Raqqa to drive out its competitors, the first of which is the SDF,” Kurkodinov said.
“The region has an important role in preparing for any possible attack by Syrian government forces against the sites of Turkish-backed armed opposition groups located near Tel Abyad,” he added.
He stated that the move of the Turkish-backed armed groups in Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ain) and Tel Abyad (Gre Spi), including Levant Front, constitutes an obstacle to the progress of government forces towards northeastern Syria.
Kurkodinov said that operations by Turkish artillery units and Turkish-backed armed groups, which targeted four locations belonging to government forces near the town of Ein Issa this month, are of great concern to Damascus.
On July 5, Turkish-backed armed opposition groups targeted the village of Hoshan, west of Ein Issa, in addition to sites where Syrian government forces are stationed in the city.
Local sources told North Press at the time that armed opposition groups are targeting the villages of the western countryside of Tel Abyad and the village of Hoshan, 6 km west of Ein Issa, with artillery.
On the strategic importance of Raqqa, Kurkodinov said: “This region is rich in oil. That is why many countries, including Russia, are seeking to control this oil, which is very important in the context of the global economic crisis.”
A new hotbed of tension
Kurkodinov noted that this means that a new regional hotbed of tension exists in northeastern Syria. If the SDF started to resist, and if the Turkish and Syrian government forces launch an offensive, then Raqqa will become a new center of the conflict and a problem for the entire international community, and its intensity will surpass even the Idlib-related problems.
At the recent Astana summit, the three presidents of Russia, Turkey, and Iran expressed their refusal to illegally seize Syrian oil and hand over the oil revenues to other parties.
“However, Turkish strikes lead to heavy civilian losses and the destruction of the infrastructure, while Damascus does not intend to bear this, on the basis that Raqqa is of strategic importance, as it is located at the intersection of trade routes. In addition to this, the SDF, led by Mazloum Abdi, does not intend to leave Raqqa,” Kurkodinov said.
Early this month, Mazloum Abdi held a working meeting with leaders of the Raqqa tribes.
During his meeting with a delegation of Arab tribal leaders in Raqqa on Saturday in the city of Hasakah, Abdi said: “ISIS movement intensified after the Turkish attacks on the cities of Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ain) and Tel Abyad (Gre Spi).”
“We will soon carry out a security campaign along the Euphrates River in the areas around Deir ez-Zor to pursue ISIS sleeper cells to completely end their threat and dispel the fears of the local population,” he added.
Kurkodinov quoted Mazloum Abdi as saying that “An armed formation of his forces does not intend to abandon its positions in Raqqa, and it is ready to defend its lands with weapons.”