By Elijah J. Magnier : @ejmalrai
The last-minute coordination and contacts between Russia and the US limited an outbreak of all-out war, with devastating and unknown consequences, in the Middle East. But will it be possible to avoid it? And for how long?
The US plan was to hit Syria, cripple its military capability and effectively to destroy it completely. The Syrian allies were aware of this plan and had prepared for a general retaliation on various fronts. This preparation was done with the knowledge of Russia, willing to support behind the scenes when the time came and conditional on how far the war would go.
Washington, as is usual, informed Moscow of its plan of attack against Syria and its allies (with the exception of the deployment of the Russian forces) whose objective was to destroy as much as possible of Syria and its allies’ military infrastructure in the Levant.
Israel was also informed and put its military apparatus on alert to prepare forretaliation. However, the US-Israel military and political leadership believed Iran and its allies would be in a state of shock, unwilling and unable to respond to the doubtless superior American firepower.
Sources within Syria’s allies believe that the Israeli attack against the T4 military base earlier this month was intended to be a test of the Iranian capability and readiness to retaliate against attack. That attack took the life of 7 Iranian officers operating at the base. Israel avoided a strong operation against Iran and wanted a test of reaction to a limited direct hit. The main headquarters of the Iranian military command and control is well-known to be located in more than one building annexed to Damascus’s airport. This is where every single weapon, ammunition, forces, communication, kitchen and logistics for the entire Syrian territory is coordinated.
So the Israeli attack was testing the Iranian reaction prior to a general hit, seemingly planned way ahead between Washington and Tel Aviv, and where countries of the Middle East were to be informed of it without the timing and proportion being detailed. The US establishment was waiting for the proper opportunity and pretext (an excuse to offer the world) to strike, i.e. a “chemical attack”. The Syrian Jihadists have become expert from 7 years’ experience in staging all kind of attacks with the help of western professionals. This is déjà vu: in 1982, Israel started a general invasion of Lebanon only three days after the shooting of Shlomo Argov, the Israeli Ambassador to London.
The lack of immediate Iranian response was taken into consideration by both Tel Aviv and Washington, without necessarily being taken as a solid indicator of the Iranian reaction to a wider hit on Syria, or as evidence of the future reaction of the Iranian and Hezbollah leadership to an attack on the many military bases spread throughout the Levant. However, this time it would have been the US (a superpower with immense and overwhelming fire power) hitting Iran, Hezbollah and the Syrian Army, and not Israel. Iran’s style of response is indeed usually indirect and takes place through its allies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq or Yemen.
Nevertheless, when Russia was informed of the initial US plan of attack, it naturally informed the partners in arms who have been operating together in the Levant to defeat the Jihadists and effect the return of the Syrian government’s control over its entire territory.
Iran took immediate measures by clearing all military bases and inviting its allies in Syria to act promptly and consequently. Intensive meetings took place in Lebanon, Syria and Iran to coordinate a simultaneous counter attack to be launched after the first wave of firepower from the US and its allies.
Iran didn’t make any effort to hide its military preparations: targets were set against all US military bases in the Middle East and against the US’s closest Arab allies. Syria, Iran and Hezbollah coordinated the preparation of immediate counter attack on that same evening which would unleash hundreds of missiles against selected objectives. This war plan, ready and updated, was presented to Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah. During the course of his leadership he has always looked into the minute details of every single movement of officers, plans of defence and indeed all military plans related to warfare preparation. The Secretary General of Hezbollah is thus not only a political leader but the effective commander of his organised-irregular, well equipped army. So the Syrian command and Hezbollah turned their missiles towards one single objective: Israel.
Iraqi allies of the “axis of the resistance” were also ready to participate and take on their share in Iraq, responding against the US military presence in Mesopotamia. That plan of action was completed, and several operational rooms were set up to coordinate responses.
Iran informed Russia of its intentions: the “axis” would prefer to avoid all-out war if possible but was ready to fight its second war of existence. The first war had been in Syria and Iraq against the very powerful Takferee groups expanding in the Levant before moving to other nearby countries (Lebanon and Iran), as well as others as yet unrelated to the “axis of the resistance”.
Iran and Hezbollah made no effort to hide their war preparations. On the contrary, aware of the satellites and the continuous presence of Israeli-US drones, some missiles were “taken out of their former strategic locations” to show the seriousness of current intentions.
The “axis of the resistance” was fully aware of the enemy force it was planned to face, with an immense and destructive capability beyond imagination. However, the axis had nothing to lose. The 2006 war experience showed that, although Israel had and still has superior firepower and military capability, Hezbollah could still force the end of war- without an air force, but with its short, medium and long-range rockets and missiles. Today Hezbollah is equipped with missiles with even greater precision and has a large bouquet of sensitive targets in its bank of objectives.
Iran and its allies considered that the slightest lack of response to an American attack meant a possible war on Lebanon to destroy Hezbollah’s capability, another war on Iran, and the total destruction of Syria’s capabilities, allowing the Jihadists the upper hand once more. Over 150,000 militants and jihadists are today under Turkish and US control in the north of Syria and at al-Tanf and can be used again to attack the Syrian army. It should be noted that also the Iraqi government won’t dare to stand against any US future request to stay in Iraq and establish many military bases.
The intention to wage war on Syria and its allies was very clear: the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was supposed to start its investigation into the allegedchemical attack in Duma on Sunday morning at 10 am, one day after the US/UK/France’s sudden attack. But for this trio it was “attack now or never”. Any possible report from an international investigation team contradicting the US assertion and accusation would have taken away the pretext Washington needed to start its attack.
It has never been the US intention to hit Russia, as reportedrecently. US General Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmedthat his forces were in “communication with the Russians, associated with this operation before the targets were struck. This is normal airspace deconfliction, and these procedures are in place for all our operations in Syria”. Thus, the US informed Russia, which informed Syria, to clear all locations in the US bank of objectives, and to deploy anti-air missiles to hunt down as many incoming missiles as possible. Russia announced that 103 missiles were fired against Syria, of which 71 were claimed to be intercepted with the old Soviet missiles. Of course, even Israel’s Patriot, Iron Dome and David’s Sling interception missile systems cannot guarantee more than 70% positive results.
The “axis of the Resistance” decided to take the gloves off and use all available means, including a return to the 80s era but where, this time round, every single westerner from the countries involved in attacking Syria, Iran and Hezbollah becomes a potential target, along with their respective military bases around the globe. The situation looked very ugly for everyone. Those starting this kind of war hold the timing to begin it, but not when to end it.
Is the danger of an unlimited conflagration over? Not entirely. It was a “small” event in Sarajevo in 1914 that triggered the First World War and Syria is still a well-placed candidate to be this kind of hair-trigger. The only way out of this dangerous situation seems to be in the hands of Donald Trump to implement what he promised to do: pull his forces out of Syria.
Proof read by: Maurice Brasher
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