By Elijah J. Magnier: @ejmalrai
The Middle East is preparing for a new “clash” involving Israel and the United States following President Donald Trump’s decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel. This time, however, a new resistance is about to be formed, united by the words of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, but this time, these words are pronounced by Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah: “To Jerusalem we are marching, martyrs by the millions”.
Trump’s decision clearly rebuffed the peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis, taking a clear position and denying the historical belonging of the Capital of Palestine. Nasrallah’s words came on the eve of the summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference only few Islamic and Arab state leaders were present) that was held in Istanbul on Wednesday, to deal with the new, upcoming situation in Palestine, following the end of the “Islamic State” (ISIS) tsunami. The phenomenon of ISIS spread death and caused millions of persons to be displaced in the Middle East, following long years of war in Iraq and Syria.
Iraq has ended the occupation of ISIS since 2014 of one third of its territory and declared total victory. Even handily, in nearby Syria, the Russian President Vladimir Putin announced “mission accomplished” from Hmeymeem Russian base, on the Syrian coast. Putin repeated the very same words that had been written on a huge panel behind Georges Bush when, in 2003, he declared the victory of the US forces occupying Iraq. Nevertheless, for the US in Iraq, the mission was very far from accomplished.
Russia imposed areas of non-engagement and de-escalation in various Syrian cities to stop the war and allow peaceful negotiation to take place. It has agreed with the United States to give it the “right of presence” east of the Euphrates River, and agreed with Turkey on its presence in the north of the country as a buffer zone preventing a Kurdish state and becoming the protector of the northern city of Idlib.
Moreover, in the south of Syria, Israel has understood that Moscow would not be part of the conflict involving the “axis of the resistance” (Syria – Iran – Hezbollah) and will not offer air support to the Syrian army and its allies if these are planning to progress in the direction of the borders, because this is a Syrian sovereign affair. Also, Putin rejected categorically any European or American call to remove the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The international community has had to bow to Moscow’s determination to support its ally in Syria.
In two-and-a-half years, Russia achieved its goals: it had never imagined breaking into the world arena in such a way from the Bilad al-Sham Gate. Moscow made a gigantic return as a real superpower, much more powerful than in the last three decades, taking intelligent advantage of ‘Uncle Sam’s foreign policy mistakes’. America abandoned its allies in Syria and almost lost its Turkish ally. All the US was able to do was to stop the military operations east of the Euphrates River, preventing the Syrian Army and its allies from crossing towards the then ISIS controlled area.
Actually, the US has not only declared itself as an unwanted occupation force in north-eastern Syria, it is acting as a protective force for what remains of ISIS east of the Euphrates. This is an area in which ISIS seems to operate freely as long as its guns are aimed at the Syrian army and its allies, rather than towards the US and its “temporary allies”, the Kurds of al-Hasakah.
Syria’s allies are expected to reduce their military presence by more than half in Syria since the military confrontation is now confined to areas in al-Badia (Syria’s steppe), rural Hama, Deraa and its countryside and around the Syrian-Israeli border. This means that the danger against the capital, Damascus, and the Syrian cities controlled by the government has been removed. Limited clashes, assassinations, car bombs, or unexpected raids are possible here and there, causing damage without any strategic gain to the insurgents.
In the midst of the new situation and the significant reduction in the pace of war, everyone has been wondering about the fate of the thousands of Hezbollah fighters who have contributed to help restore keeping the Syrian government in place. Without a specific military objective, these militants are likely to return to Lebanon and maintain a high level of military readiness in order to prevent Israel from attacking Lebanon.
So, President Trump launched his ‘political bomb’ towards the Arab world, thinking that no one country would bother to support the Palestinian cause. Analysts and the media also wrongly believed that the Palestinian cause was now history. Trump has contributed a boost to the “axis of the Resistance” and allowed more incomers to join its new cause. As has been the case in these last years, Iran does not need to have a complex strategy in the Middle East to prevail: the mistakes of others themselves (US and Saudi Arabia on top of the list) provide rewards, gains, and increased influence.
Actually, Trump has now offered new opportunities, on a golden plate, to restore Iran and Hezbollah’s image, which they may have damaged during the long Arab world Syrian war. Thousands of jihadists and militants were killed on the battle field where opposite ideologies met and fought for death or victory. This deep wound seems not impossible to put behind today because there is a new cause.
Jerusalem has become the hot cause carried by Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. He is using the words of Yasser Arafat to tickle the feeling of Arabs and especially Palestinians of all religions. Nasrallah is embarrassing all those, mainly Saudi Arabia, Bahrein and the United Arab Emirates, who are lagging behind or supporting Trump or not willing to stand by Jerusalem. Those countries believed it was possible to twist the Palestinians’ arms, they who fought in Syria against Damascus and that Palestinians will be left orphans by country and group in the Middle East, including the “axis of the Resistance”.
In fact, Iran has taken a Trump-like arrogant step. The commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps – Jerusalem Brigade – General Qassim Soleimani, (responsible for the liberation of Jerusalem and the support of liberation movements throughout the world) has come forward to stand with Palestine. Soleimani declared his absolute military support for the “Al-Quds Brigades” of the “Palestinian Islamic Jihad” and the “Qassam Brigades” of Hamas. Nasrallah also announced he wants a unified strategy with a joint plan and general solidarity of all (anti-US) ‘resistance groups’ to liberate Jerusalem. Remarkably, he also asked everyone to put differences aside (unwittingly not excluding jihadist movements) to move towards this new goal. And Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan did not hesitate for a moment to take the initiative to restore his Islamic leadership, damaged by the way he intervened in the Syrian war. The Turkish President is carrying the banner of Jerusalem again, reinstating some of the spark that he has lost in the past years and stealing the lead from Saudi Arabia.
Jerusalem is becoming the new compass of jihadists and on al-Quds’ walls belligerent groups are expected to erase or postpone their infighting and join efforts to force Donald Trump to revoke his decision. Otherwise, a third intifada may be on its way to bring back Palestine to the forefront of events.