Syria – by Elijah J. Magnier: @ejmalrai
Russia is imposing new rules of engagement (ROE) on both Israel and the US in Syria, reflecting the way it preserves its national interests in the Levant and beyond the Middle East, mainly in Ukraine, where the US has decided to provide lethal weapons to the local authority and is aiming to attract Kiev to become part of NATO, a move considered by Moscow to be hostile.
Moscow’s answer was clearly stated by the Russian Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov, who said that “Russian advisers, trainers, intelligence service officers, artillery personnel, and all other various Russian military units have been integrated into every single Syrian combat troops, brigades, units, and even small battalions”. Gerasimov stressed that “all military and combat plans are agreed in partnership with the Syrian army. We are on the ground, working together for common strategic objectives and a common plan”. Thus, the Russian politico-military player knows how to send his messages throughout the Syrian southern front every time the US moves against Moscow’s interests in other parts of the world.
Russia, through its Chief of Staff (Russian), recognises that the Syrian military operations are not unilateral Syrian decisions – with its ground forces and those of its partners, i.e. Iran, Hezbollah and other Iraqi and allies–but are also a product of Russian evaluation and planning. Thus, the liberation of Beit Jinn – the last stronghold of the militants in the western Ghouta and at the foot of the southern mountain of Jabal al Sheikh (Mount Hermon) confining the Israeli positions – is also a Russian decision.
The liberation of Beit Jinn from al Qaeda and their Syrian allies – supported, equipped and financed by Israel since 2015 – helped the Syrian army to break the imaginary Israeli “buffer zone”. Israel aimed to prevent Hezbollah and Iran from reaching the area to avoid contact with its forces. Following the US President Donald Trump’s decision to supply Ukraine with anti-tank laser missiles, adopting a more aggressive stand towards Russia, Moscow decided to move also on the Syrian front, widening the differences between Russia and the US.
The Syrian army, along with Hezbollah Ridwan Special Forces, carried out the ground attack on Beit Jinn and succeeded in recovering the surrounding hills and the city itself following a request by al-Qaeda to surrender (around 300 militants) and evacuated the area before the final assault to the northern city of Idlib and others to the southern city of Daraa. Thus, the Russian-Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah forces’ coordination on the Syrian-Israeli front is designed to prevent any Israeli military intervention in defence of its proxies (al-Qaeda and its allies in the south of Syria Ittihad Qu’wat Jabal al-Sheikh). Russia is imposing a new rule of engagement on Israel: any Israeli attack may endanger a Russian or several Russian officers working side by side with the Syrian army, as the Russian Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov revealed. Israel won’t be able to bypass the new Russian equation because, if Israel hits the attacking forces, it may put Tel Aviv in conflict with a superpower, Russia, and draw it into the Hezbollah/Iran – Israeli conflict.
The Russian-Iranian-Syrian strike comes at a time when Israel is providing artillery and intelligence support for al-Qaeda and its allies in Beit Jinn. By recovering the area and the highlands around it, Russia is administering the first direct slap to US’s main ally (Israel) in the Middle East. Israel has long feared Iran and Hezbollah’s presence at its borders and did everything to stop the Syrian Army from reaching the Shebaa farms occupied by Israel, as is the case today following the liberation of Beit Jinn. However, there are still areas under indirect Israeli influence in occupied southern Syria (under al-Qaeda and its allies’ control), such as Quneitra area and the surrounding villages (Tarangah, Jab’bat al-Khashab, and Ain al-Baydah).
The US president redirected the compass of the “resistance” towards Jerusalem after years of negligence, damaged by the Takfiri organisations (ISIS and Al Qaeda) when these decided to target Muslims and non-Muslims in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and other parts of the Islamic world. When Trump “recognised” Jerusalem as being the capital of Israel, he united and focussed other ideologies organised under the aegis of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Syria (Syrian nationals) towards the Syrian-Israeli border and towards every occupied Syrian territory and Palestine.
The Syrian war failed in its objective to change the Syrian regime and produced groups who have benefitted from Iranian training (and ideology) and the Lebanese Hezbollah’s outstanding combat experience since 1982 to date. These are (to name but a few): “Hezbollah Syria”, “Al-Redha forces”, “Al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi Brigade”, “Imam al-Baqir Brigade”, “Qamar Bani Hashem (Al-Abbas bin Ali)”, “Islamic Resistance Force 313”, “Zeyn El Abidine Brigade”, “Saraya Al-Waad”,“the Raad Al-Mahdi brigade”, “Al-Hussein Brigade”, “Al-Ghalaboon”, and other similar groups spread across the Syrian map.
Iran’s biggest achievement in the outcome of the Syrian war is the new Syrian combat doctrine, which has changed from being a regular classical army to fighting with an ideology which will protect the country from the Takfiri’s return to the Levant and will stand against Israel. They will also be directed to fight for the recovery of all occupied territory by Turkey and the US, in the north of Syria, if these decide to stay despite Damascus’s demand for these to leave.
It is clear that the rules of the game in Syria have changed. They will continue to evolve to meet evolving interests: internal and regional changes, and development. For certain, a new resistance has been born from these six long years of war, and is ready to serve its own objectives- and also those of Syria, Iran, and Russia.