Damascus, allies see risks in Mosul campaign
Laila Bassam, Tom Perry, Reuters, Oct 18 2016
BEIRUT/AMMAN – The Syrian army and its allies see a risk that Daesh will regroup in eastern Syria as it is forced from the Iraqi city of Mosul, posing new risks for Assad. Both the Syrian army and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah have warned of what they have called a Pindo plan to open a path of retreat for Daesh from Iraq into Syria. A Pentagon spox called the claim “ludicrous.” The Iraqi government launched the campaign this week. Iraqi government and Kurdish forces on Tuesday announced progress in the first 24 hours of the offensive, backed by air and ground support from the coalition. A senior non-Syrian boxtop in the alliance fighting in support of Assad told Reuters:
The arrival of large numbers of extra Daesh in Syria from Iraq would present new dangers to Syrian territory in Deir al-Zor, to Palmyra and to other areas further west. Daesh would also be able to reinforce Raqqa, its main other urban center after Mosul. There is a danger that Iraq will witness a victory and Syria a crisis: a victory in Iraq will be at the expense of a new crisis in Syria.
Though it has lost ground in Syria, Daesh still controls parts of the east, including nearly all of Deir al-Zor province, which borders Iraq. In a statement on Tuesday, the Syrian army command in Damascus said Washington and Riyadh had drawn up a plan whereby roads would be secured to allow the militants to create “new battleground realities” in eastern Syria. The army statement said:
Any attempt to cross the border is an attack on the sovereignty of Syria… and would be dealt with all forces available.
Pentagon spox Maj A Rankine-Galloway said the assertion was not correct. In fact, he said:
These claims are ludicrous.
The assault on Mosul has been in preparation since July. French FM Ayrault said that with militants likely to retreat to their Syrian bastion Raqqa, it was vital to seriously consider how to also retake that city. He said:
We can’t let Daesh reconstitute itself or strengthen to create an even more dangerous hub. We have to prepare ourselves.