In defiance of a 30-day ceasefire resolution by the UN Security Council, Tehran said on Sunday that pro-Damascus forces would continue military operations against a rebel-held enclave near the Syrian capital, Tasnim News Agency, an outlet affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) reported. “Some Damascus areas which are controlled by terrorists are not part of the ceasefire,” Major General Mohammad Bagheri, the chief of staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, emphasized. “And clearing-up operations in these areas will continue,” he added. The top Iranian military official criticized the UN resolution although attacks by pro-Damascus forces in have killed scores of civilians in Eastern Ghouta recently. “As in the past, those who do not want peace and security in Syria, when they saw the Syrian Army and government want to cleanse the outskirts of Damascus, raised the flag of ceasefire again so that they can support the terrorists,” Bagheri said. He emphasized that mopping-up operations around Damascus is necessary to remove security threats to the Syrian capital.
Comment: On Saturday, the UN Security Council voted unanimously in favor of a resolution demanding a 30-day truce to allow for humanitarian aid to Eastern Ghouta. The vote came after pro-government forces killed more than 500 people, mostly civilians, during one week of bombardments in the rebel-held enclave. In a clear defiance of the UN resolution, the Syrian Army and Iranian-led forces continued air and ground assaults on the besieged region on Sunday. Local residents said Syrian warplanes truck some towns in Eastern Ghouta over the weekend.
In addition to the UN resolution, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin over the phone to urge the Russian leader to help implement the ceasefire. But continued government military operations in the region show that Moscow either is complicit in the ongoing massacre in Eastern Ghouta or lacks sufficient leverage with Damascus and Tehran to force the latter two partners to halt the operations. Bagheri’s remarks also indicate that Iran and its militia proxies will continue ground operations against rebel groups in Eastern Ghouta in defiance of the UN resolution. The resolution does not cover militants from ISIS and al Qaeda-linked groups, but Tehran and Damascus call all rebel groups “terrorist” including moderation opposition forces. About half a million people are trapped in Eastern Ghouta, which has been under government siege for nearly five years now.