By Ollie Richardson for Fort Russ
Arabic translated by Sufyan Jan
According to the statement made by the Russian Ministry of Defence on the 23rd May, 2016, the number of settlements joining the “process of reconciliation” is now 114, and the number of terrorist groups that have declared their commitment to the ceasefire is still 59. Russia finds itself trying to separate the wheat from the chaff, but the US is acting like a saboteur who wants the crop to remain where it is. Why does the US want to keep the Syrian fire stoked?
On the 23rd of May, 2016, reputable Middle East journalist Elijah J. Magnier reported:
- John Kerry told Sergey Lavrov that the US wants to end the war in Syria, but in a way where all the fronts become frozen.
- This is essentially buying time for an agreement to be made on a political solution between all the parties involved in the war.
It is obviously in the US’ interests to be engaged in an environment where they have ultimate control over various levers of pressure, which in this instance are groups from the seemingly infinite branches of the “FSA” pseudo-structure.
It has been evident from the onset of Russia’s involvement in the war that the US is not interested in a military solution, despite the fact that they could remove Daesh and Al Qaeda in 1 month if they really wanted to. A “political settlement” is another way of saying “Assad out, Wahhabism in”.
On what the US told Russia during high level talks, Magnier states:
- The US warned Russia against replicating what they did in Iraq, becoming ‘stuck in the mud’, because Washington will ensure the opposition can absorb any assault, and the countries supporting the opposition will send them arms, money, and manpower (like Russia and Iran did with Hezbollah and Iraqi Hashd forces) if they sense the opposition is losing the war.
- The US thinks that indefinitely upholding the ceasefire forces everyone to focus on ISIS and keep them within an encircled spacial position, which will render them useless.
It is very convenient for the US to have a boogeyman to place the cameras in front of, much like they did in Vietnam and Nicaragua. Only in this instance, it isn’t Communism that is being demonised, it is Bashar al-Assad and his allies (Iran, Hezbollah etc). The US’ ability to not only start a war, but also to shape and stoke it is often overlooked by concerned citizens.
If it was as simple as crushing a few Takfiris, Russia would have ended the war back in September 2015, but they are fighting two enemies at the same time – the proxies (“moderates”) AND the Pole (US). The latter put all their chips in the pot by invading Iraq, Afghan, Libya, and Syria in the space of 10+ years, and Russia is still learning the ropes of the 21st century Middle Eastern ring. Arming and training Hezbollah and Iraqi forces was a safe move that ensured that other external forces would not exert their influence in Syria in the same way they did prior.
To counter this, the US upped its support for “rebel group X”, even going as far as supplying them with MANPADs via their proxies in the gulf, and ensured that certain groups (Ahrar Al-Sham, Jaish Al-Islam etc) would be untouchable at the negotiations in Geneva. At this point in the war, ISIS are useful idiots who are easily manipulatable and displaced in accordance to the needs of the “opposition”.
Magnier further states that:
- The aim is to draw “demarcation lines” in Syria similar to those in the Lebanese civil war.
- There will be natural sporadic fighting along these lines, but the beginning of the end is close.
- There will be no winners with a political solution that neither provokes nor satisfies all involved.
- Pressure from Obama is enough to stop regional backers of the opposition from escalating the war, as with Russia’s influence over its allies.
- This joint understanding will be adhered to for many months, perhaps even years if the White House continues to follow Obama’s diktat.
Al Qaeda and ISIS both know that they must now be very strategic in Syria if they are to survive the daily bombardments by the 4+1, albeit with diminished intensity since the Russian “withdrawal”. The US opposition is no different, and are strategically placed in both Damascus and Aleppo to ensure that Russia can only go so far before John Kerry works his ‘magic’.
It goes without saying that Russia is really waiting for Obama to clear his desk, and hopefully to sort this mess out with Donald Trump. This transition will steer the US’ playbook in International Relations away from Idealism and towards Realism, where the US will not necessarily seek to install ‘democracy’ in every country situated near strategically valuable resources and logistical hubs.
The war in Syria must be thought of as a node in a network – whatever concessions the US or Russia makes in one conflict (Syria) can be compensated for in another (Ukraine). These “frozen conflicts” are very much a staple-point of fourth generation warfare – where the definition of ‘war’ needs a post-modern revision.
The article concludes:
- In-fighting between Jaish Al-Islam and Faylaq Al-Rahman (supported by Al-Nusra, Ajnad Al-Sham, and the Fustat army) is similar to squabbling in Lebanon “between Amal and the Palestinians, or the former and the progressive socialist party, or between the Palestinians and Al-Murabitun”.
- As an example: Mohammad Shahabuddin (Leader of Turkish backed Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki) declared war on Syrian Kurdish fighters “If they don’t withdraw from the recently occupied positions” following the YPG’s successful offensives in North Syria, which cut the main supply route, forcing a new reality in the region.
- Hezbollah has been pushed by high command in Lebanon to redeploy and withdraw a significant number of troops from the demarcation lines that are being drawn in real time. This is because nothing remains for them to do except secure the lifeline that ensure their continuity in Lebanon.
- Hezbollah’s leadership will not intrude in the Syrian policy, and will not influence the US/Russia agreement. As Damascus accepts the political agreement, Hezbollah will protect Damascus and the major cities on the Syria-Lebanon border.
- Two dilemmas persist: ISIS and Al-Nusra.
- Al-Nusra: all actors in Syria believe that the cease-fire will counter them, assuming they don’t disassociate themselves from Al-Qaeda and blend into the rest of the opposition groups. The civilian population will turn against Al-Nusra via the opposition.
- ISIS: Obama can only weaken them by uniting all the other allies, as they are the weakest link in Iraq and Syria and the wider region. The Syrian/Russian command advanced their troops towards the Al-Shaer oil fields and to advance in Deir Ezzor, but without attacking Raqqa, the liberation of Raqqa will be a collective effort.
- A new phase of the Syrian war has begun – de-escalation, but without it having to stop completely.
Russia has been seemingly quite reluctant to liberate Deir Ezzor, and has been more than happy to stay in Palmyra. However, this recently changed with the advance to the Shaer oil fields. Perhaps Russia thinks that now is a good time to make a move for Deir Ezzor now that it is known the US intends to assault Raqqa alongside the Kurds.
The feeling is that Russia wants to liberate Raqqa with the US as a symbolic gesture – to show that the US and Russia can work together in a multipolar system, and that the US ‘owes’ Russia for giving them the opportunity to save face and appear like the ‘good’ guys.
The word “de-escalate” should not be alien to Fort Russ readers – on September 30th, 2015, in an article entitled Kerry on live TV just publicly surrendered the US position on Syria to Russia, Joaquin Flores explained how the US had abandoned their original plan to fully decimate Syria after Putin, who had watched the US violate International Law time after time, decided enough was enough and laid down his plans at the UN.
It would appear that the US is keeping these areas of conflict, such as Ghouta, ticking over so that they can be used as leverage against Russia et al during diplomatic talks. The US can then use these lines as the blueprint for the future federalisation of Syria. In other words – the US uses mercenaries to occupy a space, and then will present the solution to their ‘obstructive’ existence.
Running parallel to this is the Iraqi Army operation to liberate Fallujah, where the US is supporting Abadi with air strikes. It is important to remember that it took the US 8 months to capture Fallujah in 2004, and even then it took 2 different offensives (the 1st one failed). For the US – things take as long as they need them to, as events always unfold in parallel, and never in series.