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Damascus by Elijah J. Magnier: @ejmalrai
For the first time since he is in office, the US President Donald Trump has launched a clear threat in the direction of his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin saying “he will pay a price”. This menace is related to the claim that the Syrian army had launched a chemical attack against the city of Duma, in eastern Ghouta, the last stronghold of Saudi Arabia’s proxies close to Damascus.
Trump is maybe thinking of bombing the Syrian Army positions spread throughout the Syrian geography, or perhaps even the Al-Muhajereen President’s palace in Damascus- of course, without necessarily saying when and where his army will strike.
On the other side, Russia is saying it won’t stand still and will respond to any threat against its soldiers. Indeed, Russian officers are deployed in every single Syrian unit on the ground and in command and control headquarters in the Levant, coordinating and participating in attacks against jihadists since September 2015. Therefore, it is almost certain that any direct hit against the Syrian Army will cause Russian casualties.
Such an act of war may trigger a Russian response by President Putin who will certainly not want to look weak in front of Russian politicians, the Russian military and in front of his own people. Russia has just returned to the international arena, not only as a country in possession of nuclear weapons, but also as a country trying to create a world balance and put an end to the US unilateral dominance that Washington enjoyed since the Perestroika in 1991.
But how could the US benefit from military action in Syria?
The mainstream media, the think tank generously financed and nourished by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrein, Trump’s team and the intelligence community- are all asking the US President to go to war in Syria to change the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and replace it with “freedom fighters” that the same Donald Trump is very familiar with and has specifically criticised.
These rely on a video by activists close to the jihadists, claiming civilians were killed by a chemical attack on the city of Duma, which has gone viral on social media.
The world chooses to believe mainstream media reporting the content of this video without proof or reference to any verified sources or neutral investigation by any reliable and international investigation committee. The lies of mainstream media during the war in Syria are too numerous to count, amplified by a journalism motivated by the “regime change” agenda, rather than by accurately reporting verifiable events.
It was perfectly possible for the world to send an international investigation team, since the jihadists of “Jaish al-Islam” have been talking for a long time with the Russians, who are coordinating the exit of these to the north of Syria. Nonetheless, this option seems unavailable and remains unused. The US thirst for waging war and seeing blood flow may not be realisable if the jihadists’ version of the “incident” were seen to be untrue.
What is more plausible is the fact that the US is not after Assad’s head to cut off, but after Putin’s hands, to cut him off from his new dominance over the Levant. Moreover, what the US would like to see ending is Russia offering the possibility of rejecting US supremacy to Middle Eastern countries (and others in far continents to reject US supremacy).
The other problem the US finds difficult to digest is the fact that both Assad and Putin have won the war with the help of Iran, and that the US failed to change the regime, and did not protect its Kurdish allies in Afrin. It was unable to stop its NATO partner, Turkey, from striking alliances with Russia and Iran.
Moreover, the Jihadists (al-Qaeda and the “Islamic State” ISIS) card failed to achieve their objective to replacing a secular Syrian regime with a bloody radical Islamic regime. These Takferee were willing to eliminate the presence of all minorities (Christian, Shia, Allawite and others) and cover the Middle East with black banners. Transforming the Middle East into a sectarian arena and creating failed states like in Libya was not possible to reproduce in the Levant, thanks to the strategies pursued by Russia and Iran.
So as a winner, it would be foolish for Assad to use chemical attacks and turn the entire world against him when he is about to celebrate his total victory over Ghouta. The city of Duma was not only surrounded but thousands of Jihadists had already left.
Negotiations failed last week only because these Jihadists in Duma were buying time and were asked to hold on until the world intervened in their favour. They have presented many excuses to their Russian interlocutor asking that:
- 1000 of these would remain in the city and take up the police role.
- The $900 million they have accumulated throughout the years from taxes and donations should be transported outside Ghouta by those exiting to the north of Syria.
- No Syrian intelligence services be allowed to be in Duma.
All these demands were rejected by the Russian and the Syrian government, who finally understood that the jihadists were waiting for something, a hope: a chemical attack! This is why Russia and Damascus ordered the military to resume the pressure. Today over 165,000 jihadists and civilians left eastern Ghouta and the remaining twenty to thirty thousands are expected to leave in the coming days.
So Damascus will be totally cleared and no force on the ground – as the US four star general Joseph Votel said – can make a change on the ground in Syria or defeat /change the regime. Therefore, there will be no one who could take advantage of the consequences of a possible US attack on Syria in the coming days.
Furthermore, a possible US war in the Middle East would cost hundreds of billions of dollars to Trump, he who is digging into the Saudi and Emirates’ pockets to take every single penny, for any excuse.
It is not a matter of cost or a question of human principle because Saudi Arabia, with US, France and UK support, has been killing tens of thousands of Yemenites for 3 years without blinking an eyelid, under the gaze of the world.
It is absolutely not a matter of “chemical attack”, because Russia warned the world about this staged excuse Jihadists were preparing, weeks before it was announced to the world in Duma. When it comes to human casualties, the US, responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths as a result of the embargo on Iraq (and indeed in many other US “adventures”), clearly has almost zero sensitivity, considering these casualties as collateral damage.
So what can hundreds of tomahawks do against the empty Presidential Palace? Are these going to create a difference on the ground? Will bombing Syrian Army airports and military bases defeat Assad? No, it will only increase the number of those killed. The Syrian war casualties are close to 400,000 men, women and children. If the number becomes 401 or 405 or 410,000 to achieve……. There is no answer here but one: to slap the face of Putin and make him look weak, a head of state incapable of defending his friends and allies.
So the aim is to create a balance in the existing equation to embarrass Russia. The US has no friends, only “common interests”, whereas ‘rising Russia’ is striking alliances yet feels impotent to react faced with an American decision to strike Moscow’s ally.
Yes, all these possibilities exist. But these other possibilities are much more dangerous:
- What if Syria decides to react by bombing Israel with dozens of missiles? Damascus already has an excuse to retaliate against the Israeli violation of its air space this week and the bombing of a military air base at the T4 in rural Homs, killing 8 Syrian and 7 Iranian officers. Iran, at the Syrian government’s request, supports the Syrian Army in its fight against jihadists.
- What if US destroys the Syrian air force? Not a huge change because Russia overwhelms the sky above Syria and is running the show against the Jihadists. It would be an opportunity for the Syrian Air Force to get more modern jets.
- What if Russia decides to react and hit back at all sources firing against Syria? What if Russia executes its menace and stands against the US? Are the American people ready to die for a country only few would manage to find on the world map? Are Americans ready to receive their children in plastic bags just because Moscow’s influence in the Levant is increasing and therefore bothering Washington?
This is a very dangerous game Trump is venturing into with his head hidden in the sand, without weighing all the possible consequences. The two superpower countries are walking on the edge of the abyss. Will both the US and Russia fall into it or will Trump stand down, pull out of this game with his tail between his legs, accept his defeat and try to find another less dangerous arena than the Levant to face Russia? Could it be that Trump is gathering larger coalition, to make sure Russia can’t respond against several nations, and therefore avoid a wider war? The coming days will carry the answer for the world.
Proof read by: Maurice Brasher
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