By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - The U.S. on Wednesday slammed the Syrian regime and its allies' stated reasoning for their ongoing campaign in Idlib province, denying any sort of interest on their part in fighting terrorism
"The Assad regime’s interest in Idlib has nothing to do with fighting terrorists that are there, and everything to do with re-establishing control over territory and subjecting the civilian population there to the sort of brutality we’ve come to expect from that regime," Nathan Sales, the State Department's counterterrorism coordinator, told reporters.
"And the same goes for the Assad regime’s outside enablers. They’re not concerned about fighting terrorists. They’re concerned about re-establishing hegemony,” he added.
The Syrian regime, backed by Russian air power and Iranian troops, launched its campaign to re-take Idlib province from opposition groups in December.
The warring that has since transpired has displaced some 900,000 people, according to UN estimates.
Mark Lowcock, the UN's humanitarian chief, has described the situation in northwestern Syria as unprecedentedly "horrific."
"I haven't seen anything really as horrific as what's happening now in northwestern Syria. And people are out in the cold in the mud, babies are dying, and every day, we're getting reports of this violence," Lowcock told Anadolu Agency last week.
Idlib, near Turkey's southern border, falls within a de-escalation zone laid out in a deal between Turkey and Russia in late 2018.
The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the ceasefire, launching frequent attacks inside the territory, where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
David Schenker, the State Department's top official for the Middle East, told reporters that not only is the situation "atrocious," it is deliberate.
"This is intentional, and atrocities are being perpetrated. It’s an outrage,” he said alongside Sales.