August 29, 2018 - 10:41 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Syria turned down an offer from the U.S. to withdraw their forces from Al Tanf, a U.S. base in the southeast and the East Euphrates zone in exchange for three concessions from the Assad government, Sputnik says, citing a report from Lebanese daily Al Akhbar.
Officials of "several U.S. intelligence and security agencies" reportedly landed in a private UAE plane at Damascus International Airport in late June. They then took off in a convoy towards the center of Damascus for a meeting with the head of Syria's national security office, Major General Ali Mamlouk.
The meeting reportedly lasted for four hours. The sides discussed multiple aspects of the seven-year war in the country before the Americans made their offer: a withdrawal of its troops from Al Tanf and the East Euphrates on three conditions, including a complete Iranian withdrawal, a share in Syria's oil spoils, and intelligence on terrorists.
"I find the report almost entirely credible," former UK Ambassador to Syria Peter Ford told Sputnik News.
The first condition was that Iran also withdraw fully from the country. Unlike the United States, Iran was invited by the Syrian government to help it fight Islamist insurrectionists and foreign proxies.
"Open sources were already reporting in June that the U.S. was offering to put Al Tanf in the mix of a deal concerning the conditions under which Washington would acquiesce in the Syrian government's campaign to recover the South," Ford told Sputnik News. "It was also being reported that those conditions included Iran's withdrawal from the south."
Israel has been warring with fighters in the south of Syria near the country's Golan Heights, which Israel illegally occupies.
Offering up Al Tanf "reflects the weakness of the U.S. position in Syria," Ford said. "In June the Americans knew they could not prevent the Syrian government's campaign to take back the south — what could they do, risk conflict with Russia and retaliation by Iran against Israel by large-scale sustained bombing of Syria without any pretext?" Ford wondered. Nonetheless, U.S. President Donald Trump couldn't appear weak to critics, and "hence the idea of striking a deal and throwing Al Tanf into the mix."
"Unfortunately for the Americans, the Syrians no doubt assessed Al Tanf as low value. To some degree Al Tanf is more a liability to the U.S. than an asset, containing as it does thousands of refugees living in pitiful conditions with hundreds of jihadis amongst them. Why should Syria pay a price to relieve the invader of a burden?" Ford posed.
"Looking forward, the lesson from this failed negotiation is that the Americans will no doubt come back at some point to suggest a similar deal with regard to the northeast, though again they will be holding a weak hand, because their position in the area is not tenable in the long term: they are already having the rug pulled from under their feet by the Kurds' negotiations with Damascus," he added. "In any case, the U.S. devalue their own land-based assets every time they use their battle fleet to attack Syria."