After President Donald Trump ordered the bombing of a Syrian airbase in response to a chemical weapons attack the U.S. government has pinned on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (though some have questioned that), Assad has criticized the U.S. about Raqqa, according to Voice of America.
Assad calls out the U.S. over Raqqa. Assad taunted the U.S. about the fact that it has not liberated the city of Raqqa, which ISIS has taken as their capital.
Assad claimed that he would support an initiative to retake the city, but that he saw no actual movement in that direction.
“What we hear is only allegations about liberating Raqqa. We’ve been hearing that for nearly a year now, or less than a year, but nothing happened on the ground,” Assad said. “It’s not clear who is going to liberate Raqqa…It’s not clear yet.”
What’s going on? The Daily Caller reported:
Contrary to Assad’s claims, the U.S. has dramatically scaled up its resources inside Syria in support of the effort to retake Raqqa. Nearly 1,000 U.S. Marines and special operators are on the ground supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the main U.S.-backed force tasked with retaking the city. The campaign to retake the city may, however, be held up by concerns from NATO ally Turkey.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, fresh off the heels of a vote that dramatically amplified his power, strongly objects to elements with the SDF. Many SDF fighters are members of Kurdish militias, which Turkey regards as much as an existential threat to its existence as ISIS. Erdogan’s victory likely means he will be able to make greater demands of the U.S. while formulating its strategy against ISIS.
Meanwhile, ISIS is increasing its hold on the city in anticipation of the assault. ISIS terrorists are reportedly forcing Raqqa civilians to dress the same to deter U.S. airstrikes, have drawn a tarp over the streets to cover their movements, and encircled the entire city in land mines. The group is even forcing civilians to camp in the streets.
“They tell people … it is a battle against Islam, all nations are attacking us and the Prophet says we should be united,” a resident explained to the AP and added, “They are putting psychological pressure on residents.”
Delays. As VOA pointed out, over the past several months, the start date to oust ISIS from Raqqa has been pushed back several times.