A divided Syria: Hezbollah withdraws some forces 


Published here: هل انسحب «حزب الله» من سورية… «المُقسَّمة»؟

Damascus by Elijah J. Magnier – @ejmalrai

Hezbollah has decided to pull out its forces from several provinces in Syria and to keep others (by request of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad) related to the security of Lebanon and the struggle against Israel. However, this redeployment indicates one of the consequences of the Syrian war: the Levant will be divided and is likely to remain as such for many years to come. Put briefly it means that Turkish and US forces will remain as forces occupying Syrian territory.

Private sources inform that Hezbollah will pull out from al-Hasaka, Deir-ezzur, Raqqah, Aleppo, Idlib, Hama and Suweida provinces. Already Hezbollah was not present in Tartous but fought in Lattakia province when jihadists occupied Kesseb and rural Lattakia,pulling out later in the same year.

Hezbollah will maintain forces in the provinces of Damascus, Homs, Daraa and Quneitra. The aim is to protect Lebanon and prevent jihadists from crossing the borders.Its presence in the eastern mountains serves to protect its strategic missile capability related to a possible war against Israel. Also, Hezbollah has constructed on the Lebanese-Syrian borders cities, similar to one in Israel, to train its “Ridwan” special forces in case Israel decides to wage war on Lebanon. Hezbollah’s intention, in any future war dictated by Israel, is to move from being on the defensive to becoming an attacking force.

The war in Syria taught Hezbollah to learn new military doctrines and practices rather than limit itself to the defence of cities in the south of Lebanon since its first confrontation with Israel in the 80s. The engagement of Hezbollah in significant Syrian cities, in deserts, mountains, open space (and the use of other military tactics) offered Hezbollah an extensive and unique warfare experience, turning it into an organised “non-regular” army, the best in the Middle East.

In relation to the other provinces, i.e. Homs, Daraa and Quneitra, Hezbollah will keep a substantial presence, related to its struggle against Israel. Hezbollah will act as advisor to Syrian forces trained by the Lebanese group. Carrying Hezbollah’s experience gathered in Bosnia, Iraq and Syria, these national forces hold the doctrine and ideology that will permit them to stand against any aggressor, national, jihadist or foreign, and fight for existence, while combining classical and guerrilla warfare skills.

Eastern Ghouta:

The redeployment and withdrawal of Hezbollah forces doesn’t indicate the end of the consequences of the war in Syria. The battle in eastern Ghouta is only temporary, aiming to prevent the presidential elections and disturb the tranquillity of the capital Damascus, the main base of the Syrian government led by President Assad. This is the main reason why the international community and main stream media are giving an updraught to events in this area.

Ghouta is today divided into three parts and may well be divided into more parts if the jihadists decide to stay and keep exploiting local civilians as human shields.

Several heads of the local Ghouta tribes are in daily contact with jihadists and militants to convince these to let go of the civilians, wishing to keep their neutrality in this war.

It is obvious that Jihadists understand the international campaign in their favour and will soon realise that mainstream media will give up supporting jihadists, under a humanitarian label. Therefore, the presence of jihadists in the side of Damascus as a dagger threatening the capital (rockets fall indiscriminately on a daily basis) will no longer be viable, nor permitted.

The situation in Ghouta will end soon with a negotiated exit of all jihadists and their families: and this is when civilians – who are already manifesting inside Ghouta, caring less about the jihadists’ control, and asking for the Syrian army to take control of the area –will be able freely to decide to stay.

Turkey and the biggest losers in Syria: the Kurds

The Turkish forces and their local proxies are advancing in the northern Syrian enclave of Afrin after less than two months of military operation where the Kurdish fortifications are falling fast.

Although the supply line of the city of Afrin is still in place south of the enclave under the Syrian Army’s control, Turkey and its proxies are trying to surround Afrin city and cut the road south. The aim is to keep a certain distance from Tel Rifaat where the Syrian army is based.

By refusing to deliver the control of Afrin to the government of Damascus and with it the financial assets and all heavy artillery, the Kurds are losing the enclave: not only that, their policy is making them responsible for the loss of a big part of Syrian territory to Turkey. North of Syria could become another Cyprus if Turkey wishes: the annexed half of that island is still today, after decades,  under Turkish control.

It would be naïve to believe Turkey will pull out its forces from Syria once its objectives are reached. They are not limited to Afrin. On the contrary, Turkey is trying to convince Washington to pull out of Manbij and allow it (Turkey) to occupy it.

Media-leaked information about the intentions of the US, to reduce its presence at the Turkish Incirlik base – with no mention of the 50 nuclear bombs at the base stockpiled as part of the threat NATO is posing against Russia – indicates that the Turkish-US relationship is not at its happiest stage.

Russia would be happy to see the US-Turkish relationship deteriorate and for Turkey to join the anti-US camp. It is ready to make concessions in Syria by simply not standing against Ankara’s plans to expand its territory in Syria.

Damascus considers the US and the Kurds the most dangerous threat to the unity of Syria. The Kurds are ready to establish a relationship with the US and Israel, unwisely abandoning their national identity issues and their need to belong to a country. They are an ethnic group in search of an independent state.

However, the Turkish presence is considered by Damascus as an occupation of Syrian territory yet still one step below the greater US danger to Syria plus the capability of Washington to create havoc more widely in the Middle East.

The US forces in Syria:

Hezbollah is pulling out of al-Tanf bordering area with Iraq where the US forces maintain a military base and training camps, along with the UK and France. This pull-out is due to the conviction that the US will remain for a very long time in the Levant, and that the only way to remove this occupation is by local resistance.

The US will defend its presence in Syria to counter the Russian presence in the Middle East.It does not want to make room for Russia to be victorious in the Middle East through the Syrian door, demonstrably capable of achieving peace by military and diplomatic means.

America has created a stabilisation zone for its forces in the Syrian north-east, in Kurdish-controlled areas, where about 13 percent of the Syrian oil and gas is located. It represents an area four times the size of Lebanon, and 24 percent of Syrian territory.

America’s presence is a source of great concern not only for Syria but for Turkey and Iraq. US-controlled areas include ISIS’s areas of influence that Washington “protects” and maintains. From these areas, ISIS initiates attacks against the Syrian and Iraqi armies across the long border between the Levant and Mesopotamia.

Syria and its allies consider that America will remain, in order to maintain the conflict with its primary enemy, Russia. It is difficult to clash with it directly, this can only be done through its allies and its proxies on the ground (the Kurds) and by allowing free movement to ISIS.

There is no sign that America and its allies in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia) want peace and stability in the region. All indications are that America is fighting to maintain its power, dominance and influence and to prove that it is still the strongest.

America didn’t understand that – although it is indeed a superpower with great destructive power, with many friends and countries that fear it – there are other forces that are rallying around Russia, China and Iran. This new anti-US camp does not fear or even recognize the US dominant monarchy.

The US has enjoyed a privileged and unique position since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, right up to the awakening of the Russian monster after the war in Libya and its arrival in Syria in 2015, but this position is no longer tenable. The question remains: Can America accept that it is no longer the only superpower?

Proof read by: Maurice Brasher

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