WASHINGTON: The United States has accused the Assad regime of abetting Isil jihadists in Syria in a "cynical" double game to prolong its survival.
The accusation by the US State Department came after both Isil and the Syrian Air Force attacked rebel positions in northern Aleppo, prompting cries from opposition groups that Damascus had been giving air support to the extremists. "With these latest reports, not only has [Assad] once again demonstrated that he does not want to use his forces to root out Isil's safe haven in Syria, but really on the contrary, is actively seeking to bolster their position for his own cynical reasons," said Marie Harf, a spokesman for the State Department.
Since the start of the Syrian uprising, the regime has referred to its rebel opponents as hardline jihadists in a strategy to both deter the West from helping them and consolidate support from the country's frightened minority sects.
Even as Isil makes advances against it, Damascus has continued to focus its bombing raids against the weaker, more moderate elements of the insurgency.
"We have long seen that the regime avoids Isil lines, in complete contradiction to the regime's claims publicly to be fighting Isil," Ms Harf told journalists.
Yesterday, members of the US-led international coalition gathered in Paris for talks to revive faltering efforts to defeat the jihadists in Iraq and in Syria.
Since their dramatic sweep into Iraq with the capture of the city of Mosul a year ago, Isil has continued to grow in size and strength. While the jihadist group has suffered setbacks, with coalition air strikes killing or wounding key leaders, some 4,100 bombing raids have not stalled Isil's broader advance.
The jihadists on Monday closed the gates of a dam in Ramadi city - their latest conquest in Iraq - cutting water supplies to Khaldiyah and Habbaniyah, some of the last government-held towns in Anbar province.
Haider al-Abadi, Iraq's prime minister, yesterday blamed the international community for the slow progress against Isil, telling representatives from the 22 countries in Paris that they had failed to sufficiently arm Baghdad
The US government sought to assure Mr Abadi, promising an increase in military support. Britain was also keen to emphasis its role in the fight against Isil, stressing that it has given the "second -biggest air strike contribution" in the coalition.
Despite the show of unity in Paris, there was no substantial change to the overall strategy for defeating Isil, which includes first training new Iraqi troops.