US-Led Anti-IS Coalition Falling Short: Canada PM

US-Led Anti-IS Coalition Falling Short: Canada PMUS-Led Anti-IS Coalition Falling Short: Canada PM

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Monday the US-led coalition’s campaign against Islamic State militant group was not doing as well as had been hoped in Syria and parts of Iraq.

“The intervention has had the effect of largely stopping the advance of IS, particularly in the north of Iraq and to some degree in other parts of Iraq and Syria, not maybe as much as we’d liked,” Harper told reporters during an event on Canada’s election campaign, Reuters reported.

Harper said Canada, one of the nations helping Iraq to fight the extremist group, would need “a long and sustained strategy” with its international partners against IS, which controls large parts of northern and western Iraq.

“To protect our country, we are going to have to have a long and sustained strategy and work with our international partners and that is what we are doing,” Harper said, accusing his political rivals of being too soft in the fight against terror.

Polls show Harper’s ruling Conservatives Party is trailing the left-leaning New Democrats, who have promised to withdraw Canada’s forces from the coalition.

Around 70 Canadian special forces troops are working with Kurdish peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq. Six Canadian fighter bombers are also attacking Islamic State positions in Iraq and Syria.

 IS Closing in on Damascus

The Islamic State group fought Syrian rebel forces in a Damascus neighborhood on Monday, bringing the militants closer than ever to the center of the capital, a monitoring group said.

The militants fought street battles against rebels in Asali, part of the capital’s southern Qadam district, after seizing two streets in the neighborhood over the weekend, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Most of the clashes took place between IS and the Islamic Union of Ajnad Al-Sham, a coalition of rebel groups based in Damascus, though IS also clashed with Jaish Al-Islam in the Al-Hajar Al-Aswad neighborhood.

Abdurahman Harkoush, a Syrian journalist close to rebel sources, said the IS was in control of Asali district and that fighting was ongoing.

“IS presence was restricted to Al-Hajar Al-Aswad district, but it invaded Yarmouk Camp in May and took parts of it … A few days ago it took Asali.

“This is the closest IS has ever been to the heart of Damascus,” observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

A Syrian military official confirmed the clashes and said he was “very happy that they are fighting,” adding that the military is “ready to react if they try to advance into government-held territory.”

Abdel Rahman also said the “fierce street battles” had forced civilians to flee the area.

IS has used Al-Hajar Al-Aswad as a base for attacks on the capital. From there, it tried to seize the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in April, but was pushed back.

That same month, IS kidnapped two opposition fighters from Qadam and beheaded them in Al-Hajar Al-Aswad.

  Russian Jets to Combat IS

Russian fighter jets are reportedly expected to begin arriving in Syria in the coming days and attack IS positions in the war-ravaged country.

In a report in Ynetnews citing western diplomats, a Russian force has already arrived in Syria and set up camp in a government-held airbase. The base is said to be in an area surrounding Damascus and will serve as a Russian forward operating base.

In the next few weeks, thousands of Russian military personnel are set to touch down in Syria, including advisors, instructors, logistics personnel, technical personnel, members of the aerial protection division and the pilots who will operate the aircraft, according to the report.

Past reports have stated that the Russians were in talks to sell the Syrians a package of MiG-29 fighter jets and Yak-130 trainer jets, which can also be served as warplanes.