Russian Ministry of Defense Spokesman Igor Konashenkov accused the United States of being “the main obstacle to completing the annihilation of ISIS in Syria” at a press briefing on Wednesday.
“The main obstacle to completing the annihilation of ISIS in Syria seems to be not the fighting ability of the terrorists themselves but the support and dalliance with their American colleagues,” said Konashenkov, as reported by Russian media and transcribed by Newsweek.
This is not a new allegation from the Russians. It was thrown out by the Ministry of Defense again this week because Syrian regime forces made an incursion into the “deconfliction zone” around the U.S. military base at At Tanf, prompting American officials to make a hotline call to the Russians.
After the Syrian forces withdrew, Russia claimed Islamic State fighters are launching attacks against Syrian positions from inside the deconfliction zone. In his press conference on Wednesday, Konashenkov went even further and insinuated U.S. forces must be sharing aerial reconnaissance data with ISIS fighters because only such surveillance would allow the attackers to target the precise location of Syrian military checkpoints.
“If the U.S. side views such operations as unforeseen ‘accidents,’ Russian aviation in Syria is ready to begin the complete eradication of all such ‘accidents’ in the zone under their control,” Konashenkov said.
The U.S. military categorically denied these claims and said it remains wholly focused on defeating the Islamic State. “We are hyper-aware of what is inside At Tanf and near our forces,” said spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon of the U.S. Army.
American officials have in turn accused the Syrian regime of seeking to force the U.S.-led coalition out of At Tanf so that Iran can finish building its much-desired military highway to the Mediterranean coast.