2 September 2018 — Moon of Alabama
Last week we looked at the upcoming campaign to liberate Idleb. The attack will commence only after the September 7 summit of the presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran in Tehran. Meanwhile the U.S. detailed its future role in the war on Syria.
The new U.S. aim in Syria is to hinder all potential progress in the reestablishing of government control as well as to obstruct any repair of the damage its war on Syria caused.
The semi-permanent U.S. occupation of north-east Syria will be used in a new (and futile) attempt to achieve the long held U.S. aim of regime change. Secretary of Defense Mattis declared as much in a recent press conference. Asked about Iran in Syria he said:
What are they doing in Syria in the first place, other than propping up someone who has committed mayhem and murder on his own people?
They have no business there. And our goal is to move the Syria civil war into the Geneva process so the Syrian people can establish a new government that is not led by Assad and give them a chance for a future that Assad has denied them, with — with overt Russian and Iranian support.
If Iran, a treaty ally invited by the legitimate Syrian government, has ‘no business’ in Syria what business does the uninvited U.S. invasion force have?
Asked about the prospect of U.S. troops in Syria Mattis said:
[L]et me give three points here. One, we have to destroy ISIS. The president’s been very clear that — that ISIS is to be taken out, so that’s got to happen. We also have to have trained local troops who can take over. We’re doing that training as we speak. As we uncover ground, the chairman’s got people assigned there specifically to train the locals. And third, we need the Geneva process, the U.N.-recognized process to start making traction towards solving this war.
Now, if the locals are able to keep the security, obviously during this time we might be reducing our troops commensurate with their ability to meet — deny ISIS a return, but it really comes down to finding a way to solve this problem of Assad’s making.
The claim that the U.S. is there to fight ISIS is a lie. ISIS is still active in two places in Syria. Both are under U.S. control.
On the east side of the Euphrates, near Al-Bukamal, ISIS holds several villages and the city of Hajin with originally some 40,000 inhabitants. The U.S. and its Kurdish controlled proxy force SDF stopped attacking those ISIS position in November 2017.
On June 6 Mattis announced that the attack on ISIS in Hajin had re-commenced but there was zero news of any fighting. Instead ISIS forces from Hajin crossed the Euphrates and attacked Syrian government positions. Further imminent attacks on ISIS in Hajin were announced by the U.S. proxy forces on July 13 and on August 14. None happened.
The U.S. claims that the SDF has 50,000 fighters. What are they doing?
Refugees from Hajin ask the same question and protest against the delays:
[H]undreds of displaced people in Bahra village, Gharanij town, and other areas east of Deir Ezzor went out in demonstrations demanding the SDF to start a military operation and control Hajin town and expel the “Islamic State” organization from it and the from entire east of Euphrates River, in order to return to their homes.
For ten month now ISIS sits unmolested in Hajin and the nearby areas. According to (pdf) the UN Sanctions Monitoring Team it is again extracting and selling oil and “earning millions of dollars per month”. ISIS attacks from Hajin on Syrian government forces west of the Euphrates continue.
The other ISIS concentration in Syria is around the al-Tanf border crossing between Syria and Iraq which is also under illegal U.S. control. The nearby Rukban refugee camp, with allegedly 50,000 inhabitants, is housing many ISIS families. Last week the Syrian army prevented an attack from the U.S. controlled area towards Palmyra:
“The militants’ objective was to conduct a series of terrorist attacks in the vicinity of the city of Palmyra and to ensure the passage of the main forces of about 300 militants to capture the city within the next week,” the [the Russian Reconciliation Center]’s report said.
According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the militants, captured by Syrian government forces, claimed that they had been trained and armed by American instructors in a camp near the US military base in al-Tanf.
The U.S. is not fighting ISIS in Syria. It is building semi-permanent bases, trains a large proxy force, and controls Syria’s oilfields. Its aim is still regime change, the same aim it had when it launched the war on Syria seven and a half years ago. To achieve that it will continue to sow as much chaos as possible.
As CIA and Pentagon mouthpiece David Ignatius wrote this week:
[T]he administration has stopped the dithering and indecision of the past 18 months and signaled that the United States has enduring interests in Syria, beyond killing Islamic State terrorists — and that it isn’t planning to withdraw its Special Operations forces from northeastern Syria anytime soon.
“Right now, our job is to help create quagmires [for Russia and the Syrian regime] until we get what we want,” says one administration official, explaining the effort to resist an Idlib onslaught. This approach involves reassuring the three key U.S. allies on Syria’s border — Israel, Turkey and Jordan — of continued American involvement. …
It is quote doubtful that Turkey or Jordan are happy to see continued U.S. meddling in Syria.
… U.S. goals in Syria have been sketched publicly by Pompeo and Mattis: withdrawal of all Iranian-commanded forces from the country, rather than just from a 50-mile buffer zone along the Israel border, as in the deal Russia arranged; and a political transition that can prevent Syria from becoming a terrorist base again and stabilize it enough that refugees can return to their homes. Pompeo and Mattis want more U.S. involvement in the Geneva deliberations on a political transition, too.
The U.S. is massively expanding its positions in north-east Syria. More than 1,600 trucks with new equipment arrived over the last month. The U.S. now has 18 bases in north-east Syria, 6 of which have their own landing strips. The media continue to claim the the U.S. has 2,000 soldiers in the north-east. The real number is more than double or triple of that. It is quite obvious that the U.S. is settling in with the intent to split the north-east from the rest of Syria, similar to what it did with the creation of a Kurdish entity in northern Iraq.
Much of the U.S. position in north-east Syria depends on the outcome of the current government formation in Iraq. Pro- and anti-U.S. factions are in fierce competition. Without a friendly Iraqi government the U.S. contingent in Syria is isolated and cut off from land supplies.
The U.S. is warning that any attack on Idleb “will escalate the crisis in Syria and the region”. The former British ambassador to Syria Peter Ford fears that France, the UK and the U.S. (FUKUS) will repeat a Suez crisis. They will use the pretext of a “chemical attack”, staged by the White Helmets propaganda group, to launch a large bombing attack against Syria. But like the attack on the Suez Canal 62 years ago such an operation would be in vane:
Suez was a fiasco. While militarily it was a mitigated success, politically it achieved the opposite of what was planned. Nasser emerged stronger than ever.
Will history repeat itself? Assad has only to survive physically a few days’ barrage (if he is wise, he will repair to the Russian base near Latakia for the duration) to emerge just as Nasser emerged from Suez, bloodied but unbowed. Eden’s career was over when he resigned two months after the armistice in Egypt.
(Peter Ford was recently interviewed (vid) by Syria Girl.)
Russia is well aware of the U.S. intent to create chaos:
A senior Kremlin official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that American officials “want to play spoiler big time.
They are disgusted that we’ve gotten an upper hand in dealing with this crisis and now they want to put spokes in every wheel we are trying to make roll.”
The Kremlin source added, “Conversations with Turks aren’t going easy but we are optimistic in that both parties are genuinely inclined to find a mutually acceptable solution. Another outside military escalation in Syria now will be seen as a clear intent to hamper this process. Frankly, it’s irritating and exhausting that
every time there’s a need for a needle to fix certain fine things there comes a guy with an ax saying he’s going to fix it altogether.”
The U.S. is not only spoiling the military operations against the terrorists in Syria. It is trying to hamper any reconstruction and the return of refugees. Reconstruction is made more difficult by the devious sanction regime of the U.S. and EU. But like other problems these will be overcome. It is the U.S. and the EU that will lose the business opportunities while Russian, Chinese and other countries companies will thrive on them.
‘Western’ media continue to support their governments’ line. AFP Beirut office, notorious for pro-Jihadist reporting by its freelancers within al-Qaeda territory, is providing another example. The UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) recently held a conference about reconstruction in Syrian and provided an estimate of the economic war a damage. The AFP headline is: Cost Of Syria War Destruction At $388 Billion, Says UN
ESCWA said the “volume of destruction in physical capital and its sectoral distribution” had been estimated at more than $388 billion.
It said the figure did not include “human losses resulting from deaths or the loss of human competences and skilled labour due to displacement, which were considered the most important enablers of the Syrian economy.”
As that figure seems way too high, a look at that passage in the original ESCWA press release is advisable:
Discussions focused on estimations related to the volume of destruction in physical capital and its sectoral distribution, which according to ESCWA experts reached over $388 billion US dollars,
while the actual physical cost of destruction was close to 120 billion dollars.
These figures do not include human losses resulting from deaths or the loss of human competences and skilled labor due to displacement, which were considered the most important enablers of the Syrian economy.
AFP left out the half sentence which describes the actual physical damage, $120 billion. The other $268 billion ESCWA cites are an estimate of lost opportunities and not realized profits. They simply never happened. When the AFP leaves out that half sentence it is exaggerating the damage and advances the ‘western’ claim that Syria needs ‘western’ money to rehabilitate itself.
One news item on the upcoming Idleb campaign is encouraging.
Turkey gave up on convincing Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which rules most of Idleb province, to dissolve. It finally admitted so on Friday when it blacklisted HTS as an al-Qaeda affiliated terror group. With this move Turkey is giving a green light for the Syrian/Russian operation in Idleb.
Like the U.S. Turkey is eager to hold onto as much of Syria as it can. But Syria does not welcome occupiers. In Azaz city, near the Turkish-Syrian border, people held a sit-in against the Turkish controlled local administration. The protests were dissolved by a bomb exploding next to them. In Afrin district, taken by the Turkish forces a few month ago, daily guerrilla attacks against the occupiers continue. In Qamishli city in the U.S./SDF held Hasakah province Syrian Arab Christians protested after the Kurds shut down two Christian schools. Local IED attacks against Kurdish SDF forces around Raqqa occur every other day.
The U.S. wants to create a quagmire in Syria. By doing so it will likely find itself in one. That is what happened to Turkey:
Seven years into the war in Syria, as Turkey struggles to shield itself from the destabilizing spillover of regional turmoil, Erdoğan’s bet on the Arab world looks increasingly like a losing one. A Syria at war has become the graveyard for any dreams of the neo-Ottoman grandeur he may have nurtured.
The U.S. is allegedly drawing up a target list for a large scale strike on Syria after a staged chemical incident. But has anyone thought about the U.S. forces in al-Tanf or in north-eastern Syria? If the U.S. strikes at the Syrian government in Damascus and elsewhere, all gloves will come off. Can the relatively few U.S. soldiers strewn over many small bases survive an all out attack by the Syrian missile and air forces? How would the U.S. react when a few hundred of its soldiers get killed? Could the then following escalation be limited to Syria? Can Israel survive a Hizbullah missile strike on its industrial centers?
The wish to “create quagmires” can easily get out of hand and the U.S. may very soon find itself in a pretty deep one.
Do Trump, Mattis or Pompeo really want to carry that burden?