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Damascus – from Elijah J. Magnier: @ejmalrai
Following the liberation of eastern Ghouta from the jihadists, and their departure to the northern city of Idlib under al-Qaeda and Turkish control, the city of Duma is now engaged in negotiations with the Russian side to find a way out for the militants of the “Army of Islam” (Jaish al-Islam). These militants fought against many jihadists and rebels and have therefore no remaining friends in the Syrian arena. However, this negotiation has become a tactical detail because the capital, Damascus, has become safe and is no longer exposed to daily shelling as was the case before the liberation of Ghouta.
The Yarmouk Camp and al-Hajar al-Aswad:
The elimination of the “Islamic State” group (ISIS) and the remnants of al-Qaeda in the Yarmouk camp and the nearby area of al-Hajar al-Aswad, south of Damascus, is also a tactical detail because there is no way out for these militants, trapped on all sides : the liberation of the area is not an issue.
The Syrian Steppe (al-Badiya):
In the Syrian steppes (al-Badiya), ISIS has still a pocket that the Syrian army is expecting to deal with this summer. This area is also totally besieged, ISIS can go nowhere and, while waiting, its willpower and morale are deteriorating and reaching a minimum level.
Idlib and al-Qaeda:
As for the city of Idlib where the various opposition and jihadist forces are multiplying, the latter remain in a permanent power struggle that eats at each other. They will not be able to manage the presence of different nationalities and creeds opposing each other in one city. Therefore, the role of Turkey will be crucial in manoeuvring control in this area and prevent infighting among jihadists or even eliminate those unwilling to submit to Ankara’s policy.
The Turkish occupation forces:
The Turkish presence in the north-west and north-central has become inevitable. A long term but very slow and inconsistent battle is expected between the Turkish and Syrian states. It is natural in the circumstances to expect a threat and counter-threat by both governments.
If Damascus decides to opt for war against Turkey, it must deal with this issue without counting on its allies. Neither Russia nor Iran want a military confrontation with the Turkish army.Syria has the right to demand the restoration of its territory through diplomatic means first and then put pressure on Ankara through its allies and friends. The use of military force as a solution could then be adopted by Damascus as a final attempt to regain its territory in extremis.
Russia may be tempted to intervene diplomatically and find a solution between Damascus and Ankara if indeed Moscow’s aim is that it expects its forces to co-exist with the Syrian Army in a peaceful Syria.
US occupation forces in Deir-Ezzour and al-Hasaka:
US forces remain in the north-east (almost 24% of the total Syrian territories under the US army’s control), with a large ISIS pocket protected by Washington at the present time “for undeclared reasons and objectives”. ISIS is deployed on the Syrian-Iraqi borders and conducts a « normal life » as they show in propaganda media adverts. Moreover, ISIS militants carry out insurgency attacks against the Syrian and the Iraqi Armies from both sides of the borders they are very familiar with.
It is most unlikely for the US forces to leave anytime soon unless forced to by insurgency attacks. They would want to avoid major casualties if and when the environment in which they exist becomes hostile.
Washington has proved it is capable of bearing losses, in Iraq. It remained despite the loss of about 4,500 troops and officers. As the ex-US Secretary of State James Baker said: ”America will go to war in the Middle East if necessary to control energy sources.”
Indeed, in Syria, there are energy resources (oil and gas) under US control which amount to about 13 percent of the total Syrian stock. In addition, the US presence makes it easier for Israel to use a US established airport in north-east Syria as a hub on the Syrian-Iraqi border.
The United States can also reshuffle the situation in Iraq, Syria and Turkey to threaten all these countries with a possible “Kurdish state” since the local Kurds are those protecting and acting like US proxies. Even though, it is an unlikely scenario and the Kurds are expected to be abandoned by the US forces at a certain point and left to their destiny sometime in the future.
However, the US goals in occupied Syrian territory go against all the bordering countries and this may influence the duration of the US presence. There is no doubt that the US occupation of Syrian territory is very disturbing to the anti-American axis and is considered as a “poisonous thorn” in the Levant.
On the other hand, the existence of ISIS has also become a small detail because it is besieged. It can move freely within the American enclave but cautiously toward its enemies: the Syrian and Iraqi armies. Therefore, it does not have any strategic horizon, especially since the Islamist card failed to change the Iraqi and the Syrian regimes. The “creative chaos” installed by the American establishment under the title of “The New Middle East” has also failed in its hoped for effect.
Daraa and Quneitra:
This does not mean Syria is liberated and that the control of the Syrian state extends over the entire Syrian territory. But there is an important battle coming up in the south of Syria in the Daraa and Quneitra provinces.
Why is this battle important, and more important than the pocket of ISIS in Yarmouk or the Syrian Steppe, or even more important than the city of Idlib, where Al Qaeda and other groups have gathered in the past two years?
The big dilemma remains for the two southern provinces: Daraa and Quneitra. These two provinces are on the border with Israel in the de-escalation zone agreed between the US, Jordan and the Russian.
But Damascus insists on liberating it with or without Russia’s approval. The Syrian government would also like to liberate that area which is under al-Qaeda, the rebels plus the one in the control of pro-ISIS militants of “Jaish Khaled bin Walid” .
And of course, as soon as we talk about the Syrian army liberating an al-Qaeda controlled territory, we can as usual expect an avalanche of accusations by the international media where the area will be portrayed as « lived in exclusively by over half a million civilians all defending their homes. »
This manipulation of and by the media has been going on since the battles for Qusseyr, Qalamoun, Aleppo, Madaya and finally the battle of Ghouta. Washington has instructed the CIA, the Pentagon and the US State Department to use civilian tools with Non Governmental Organisations to raise human rights concern only against those countries who have rejected US dominance. This has been the case since the first day Russia set foot in Syria in September 2015, when it was undermined until the situation of the ground turned in favour of the Syrian government, and this is when serious criticism and attacks began against Russia and against Damascus’s allies in Syria.
For these particular reasons, Daraa must be the priority for the Syrian government to solve. It must initiate the negotiation to clear all militants willing to be dumped in Idlib – the « trash bin » destination where all jihadists are sent to from all the liberated areas of Syria.
The US has lost the « extremist battle »- they were incapable of achieving the “regime change” objective in Syria. That was the awakening of the Russian bear from its long hibernation who realised how the US was trying to corner it. Moscow also relied on the Chinese dragon, which shares Russia’s goals to eliminate all extremists and jihadist terrorists in Syria.
Both Russia and China are now working closely to put an end to the uni-polar superpower and thus end US world dominance.
Proof read by: Maurice Brasher
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