On the same day Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claimed his fighters would retake the entire country “without hesitation,”unnamed American defense officials revealed to the Daily Beast that the same Iraqi militias who were previously fighting ISIL alongside the U.S. are now actively collaborating with Russian and Iranian forces to “crush” American-backed rebels in Aleppo. According to the report:
“At least three Shia militias involved in successful battles against ISIS in Iraq — the Badr Brigade, Kata’ib Hezbollah, and the League of the Righteous — have acknowledged taking casualties in fighting in south and southeast Aleppo province. U.S. defense officials confirmed to The Daily Beast that they believe ‘at least one’ unit of the Badr Brigade is fighting in southern Aleppo alongside other Iraqi militia groups. Those groups are backed by Russian airpower and Iranian troops — and all of whom are bolstering President Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Arab Army.”
Telling of the complex quagmire, the report indicates the same Shia militias fighting with the U.S. to maintain its installed government in Iraq are battling against the U.S.-backed forces — including those armed by the CIA — by bolstering Russian and Iranian efforts to bring control of the Syrian city back to Assad.
Of course, Saudi Arabia recently entered the Syrian theater under the premise of fighting ISIL, though as Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir reiterated on Friday, according to Al-Jazeera, “Unless and until there is a change in Syria, Daesh [IS, ISIS, ISIL] will not be defeated in Syria.” Reinforcing, to a degree, the U.S. stated purpose in Syria of deposing Assad, he added,“When Assad goes, the fertile environment which Daesh operates in Syria will be removed.”
As part of a tentative agreement among the major players in the Syrian imbroglio, including the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Iran, there will be a cessation of hostilities which was set to begin yesterday — though that arrangement excludes ISIL and Jabhat al-Nusra, and shortly after negotiations, Russian airstrikes reportedly continued in Homs in earnest.
As Phillip Smyth of the University of Maryland, who studies Shia militias, said, “It is clear Iran is routing as many fighters as possible to Syria, particularly on the Aleppo front,” reported the Daily Beast.
Though murky politics and shifting or seeming contradictory alliances persist in Syria, it’s clear the conflict is intensifying. On Thursday, Assad said such a mix of regional fighters indicates “the solution will take a long time and will incur a heavy price.”