A lengthy, well-researched BBC report has confirmed that US-Kurdish forces in Syria allowed the last remaining 250 ISIS fighters in the battle for Raqqa, and 3500 ISIS family members, free passage to ISIS-held eastern Syria.
Actually the Americans claim they were “not part of the deal” but that is nonsense. Fact is, even if they were not the ones conducting the negotiations, they did not veto it, object to it publicly, or strike the evacuating ISIS forces.
In fact, seeing how in May the trigger-happy Americans bombed ISIS evacuating Tabqa after a similar ISIS-Kurdish deal, it is inconceivable that ISIS would have agreed to a second deal without getting explicit assurances from the Kurds that this time the Americans won’t take advantage of it.
So if anything Americans should be congratulated here for beginning to understand it doesn’t pay to break safe passage deals, or to corner an enemy in a heavily-built up area, with no escape routes, but plenty of hostages. Congratulations cowboys!
Instead the reaction of the Syrians and Russians has been to shout this is further proof of US and ISIS working together.
This is also understandable, the Syrians, the Russians, and the Americans are involved in a bitter propaganda war. Nuance does not necessarily make for more effective propaganda. Besides this was exactly the American reaction to Syrian-ISIS deals so why wouldn’t they return the favor?
The reality however, is that not forcing your enemy to fight to the last man in a urban setting is just the smart way to fight. In fact, the Syrian army has made the greatest number of such deals, including with ISIS.
So much so that the green buses involved in these transfers have become famous by now, and are invoked with glee by government supporters when taunting rebel sympathizers.
Recall that over 5,000 al-Qaeda and allied rebel fighters and family members were bused out from encircled eastern Aleppo in December, 2016 in the biggest evacuation deal of the war.
Moreover in August some 400 ISIS fighters and family members were allowed to evacuate from a pocket on the Lebanese-Syrian border across the entire stretch of government-held Syria into ISIS-held Deir Ezzor province in the east.
It would be hypocritical to claim a similar evacuation where the US-Kurdish coalition allowed ISIS in Raqqa points to collusion between the two. The real problems with it lie elsewhere. The first one being, why is the US, uninvited and in breach of international law, in Syria in the first place?
And the second one; the fact that when Syria agreed the earlier evacuation deal with ISIS from Lebanon the US claimed this was evidence of Syria being soft on ISIS, and repeatedly bombed the people in the convoy, and frustrated its movements across Syria. This from a country which had supplied battlefield allies of ISIS before 2014. (And whose country is it anyway?)
Yet, when its Kurdish proxies allow ISIS to retreat in a similar fashion the US says nothing, and its bombers stay grounded. That’s understandable. While the US-Kurdish forces were bogged down in the fighting for Raqqa, the Syrian army was making good progress in the race for the Euphrates.
To get back in the race the US-augmented Kurdish militias had to wrap up Raqqa quickly. But it doesn’t make it any less hypocritical.
On the other hand, there is no reason to lower your IQ by 20 points and believe that suddenly evacuation deals indicate collusion with ISIS, just because it is the US-Kurds rather than the Russians-Syrians making them, either. The truth is bad enough as it is, there is no need to cast doubt on the long list of Empire’s real wrongdoings in Syria by adding silly ones that don’t stand up to scrutiny. Even Russia’s Lavrov agrees.