A "senior official" of the military alliance between Iran, Russia, and Syria that is currently waging a ground offensive in Aleppo boasted about subverting U.S. diplomacy in a recent interview with an U.S. newspaper.
The official told the Wall Street Journal that military forces from Iran, Russia, and Syria would use a recent ceasefire deal brokered by world powers—including the United States—not to take steps towards a peaceful resolution of the Syrian war, but to consolidate their military gains.
The Journal reported:
"These allies are together in the same command center, working, planning and coordinating their operations in the battlefield," said a senior official in the Iran-Russia-Syrian regime military alliance. "Retaking Aleppo will restore the regime’s strength and control over Syria; toppling the regime is now a thing of the past." A cease-fire as proposed by world powers in Munich last week, he said, would simply be a pause for the Iran-led ground forces to consolidate recent territorial gains.
Thousands of fighters organized by Iran—including Hezbollah, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and Shia fighters from Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries—have launched the assault on Aleppo alongside Syrian army forces. Emboldened by Russian airstrikes, the fighters have been able to advance on Syria’s largest city.
There is some doubt regarding whether the ceasefire will be implemented at all. The deal was established by global powers on Friday, though neither Assad nor the Syrian opposition formally signed off on it. The deal was supposed to allow humanitarian aid to be sent to Syria and commence peace negotiations. The United States hoped that the ceasefire would be implemented in a week’s time.
Hours before the ceasefire was announced, Assad vowed to retake Syria in its entirety in an interview published by AFP.
Iran has put billions of dollars toward backing Assad, and Russia has launched a military intervention in Syria to back the Assad regime under the guise of fighting terrorist groups.
While the Obama administration has long said that Assad must be removed from power, the United States has softened that stance since 2011, when the Syrian civil war began. Secretary of State John Kerry said in December that the administration was not seeking a "regime change" in Syria following a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"The United States and our partners are not seeking so-called regime change," Kerry said then, indicating that world powers were focused on achieving a peace process in which "Syrians will be making decisions for the future of Syria."
Both Russia and Iran have resisted any effort to oust Assad.