US warns on danger of Idlib takeover

Author : Mircea Birca | Thursday, August 3, 2017
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The United States warned a takeover of rebel-held northwestern Idlib province by Syrian militants linked to a former Al Qaeda affiliate would have grave consequences and make it difficult to dissuade Russia from renewing bombing that recently stopped.

In an online letter posted late on Wednesday, the top State Department official in charge of Syria policy, Michael Ratney, said the recent offensive by Hayat Tahrir Al Sham, spearheaded by former Al Qaeda offshoot Nusra Front, had cemented its grip on the province and put “the future of northern Syria in big danger.”

“The north of Syria witnessed one of its biggest tragedies,” said Ratney who was behind secret talks in Amman with Moscow over the ceasefire in southwest Syria announced by US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in July.

It was the first such US-Russian effort under the Trump administration to end Syria’s civil war.

“In the event of the hegemony of Nusra Front on Idlib, it would be difficult for the United States to convince the international parties not to take the necessary military measures,” Ratney said.

“Everyone should know that Jolani and his gang are the ones who bear responsibility for the grave consequences that will befall Idlib,” said Ratney, referring to former Nusra head Abu Mohammad Al Jolani who effectively leads Hayat Tahrir Al Sham.

Ratney told rebel groups, who have been forced to work with the militants out of expediency or for self preservation, to steer away from the group before it was “too late.”

He said Washington would consider any organisation in Idlib province that was a front for the militants a part of Al Qaeda’s network.

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