Russia applauds US troop withdrawal from Syria

President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria is finding approval from Russia, which partnered with Iran to provide military support to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. 

 "A milestone story which might evolve from this decision is a real prospect for a political solution,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Wednesday.

 The results of the decision could be felt promptly at a strategically-significant border crossing in southeastern Syria, the diplomat suggested.

 U.S. forces have maintained a camp called At Tanf, which helped prevent Iranian ground forces from establishing a “land bridge” through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon. 

Russia has threatened to attack this base in recent months, alleging that the United States is sheltering terrorists. 

 "Hope emerges that this location on the Syrian map will follow the example of Aleppo and other Syrian towns and villages which begin getting back to peaceful life," Zakharova told local media, in remarks quoted by state-run TASS.

 “Once Americans were there, there was no such hope.” 

 Aleppo was one of the most important rebel strongholds, but Assad recaptured it in December 2016 with the aid of Russian airstrikes.

 Zakharova received that encouragement the same week that western officials are trying to press the Assad regime to begin negotiations over a long-term political settlement.

 Ambassador James Jeffrey, who returned to the State Department in August to lead this effort as special envoy for Syria, emphasized the importance of this week in the ongoing talks. 

 “We’re very close to a potential breakthrough or a breakdown this week,” Jeffrey told the Atlantic Council on Monday. 

Zakharova predicted that the withdrawal would make it easier for Russia to dictate to western powers which members of the Syrian opposition are allowed to participate in the negotiations. 

 "Yesterday a statement was approved in Geneva after a session of the foreign ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey, and the list of persons who may become part of the Constitutional Committee was relayed," she said.

 "Against the background of what we hear from the White House at the moment, this initiative that is to be put into practice by the UN, has fairly good prospects." 

 That diplomatic context contributed to Republican frustration with the decision. 

“History will look at that as one of the stupidest strategic moves before a negotiation,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., told the Washington Post.

 “In order to have a successful diplomatic outcome, you have to have a military option and a military presence.”

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