By Elijah J. Magnier – @ejmalrai
Russia has decided to engage in a dialogue with Israel for the return of the southern part of Syria under the control of the central government in Damascus despite the US-Russia-Israel-Jordan de-confliction deal agreed months ago. Moscow is still negotiating details of the deal with Damascus and Tehran to make sure its main allies won’t reject it and impose on Israel their own will.
Well informed sources following up the details of the Moscow-Tel Aviv negotiation informed me that some details are not yet fully mature due to Israel’s fear of the return of Syrian allies (Iran and Hezbollah) to the Syrian-Israel borders, better known as the 1974 demarcation line agreed following the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
According to these sources, the decision has been made to eliminate the presence of ISIS where around 1,500 militants are present in 8 main villages in the Quneitra border area with Jordan, Israel and Syria, under the name of Jaish Khaled Bin al-Waleed. These will also have the possibility to be transported by buses to the north where, close to al-Sukhna, there is still an ISIS pocket fully surrounded by the Syrian Army and its allies which is, at this moment, the theatre of ongoing military operations to eliminate what remained of the terrorist group. Another ISIS pocket is still active under the US occupation forces’ protection in Deir-Ezzour and al-Hasaka provinces north-east Syria.
Russia has passed on Damascus’s determination to regain control of the south and its intentions that its forces – with or without Israel’s approval – will liberate it from jihadists and their allies. Therefore, it is to Israel’s advantage to go along with the Russian mediation rather than have no deal at all. Actually, if Israel rejects the Russian deal, it will be faced with Iran and Hezbollah’s return to the south, ready to recover the occupied Golan Heights.
Despite Israeli military superiority, the “Axis of the Resistance” (Iran, Syria and Hezbollah) has already imposed the “Golan Rule Of Engagement (ROE)” on Israel where any Israeli attack against the Syrian or Iranian forces deployed in the Levant will be faced with missiles fired at the Golan Heights and much beyond, as the Leader of Hezbollah Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned recently. The Israeli attacks against Hezbollah arms transports or warehouses dedicated to Lebanon are excluded from the “Golan ROE” equation for the time being.
Thus, the message has reached Israeli ears: the Syrian Army goes to the south to free the territory- either with a deal, or without a deal. The mere idea of the Russia-Israel deal has its origins in Moscow and not Damascus or Tehran. The Russian patron would like to end the Syrian military war and fight a political war with compromises, where there are no absolute winners or losers but parties with more or less damages, or reduced victory.
Russian Minister Sergei Lavrov said“all non-Syrian forces must withdraw from Syria’s entire southern border with Israel as soon as possible”. This statement has many facets: there is al-Qaeda with Jordanian, Palestinian and foreign fighters in the south of Syria. There are also foreign fighters, along with locals, fighting among the ranks of ISIS (Khaled Bin al-Waleed). On the other side, there are no Iranian or Hezbollah or other allies present in the south.
Iran and Hezbollah trained and equipped over 16 local Syrian resistance groups, including the “Syrian Hezbollah,” during the 7 years of war imposed on Syria. These groups reside in every Syrian city, including the south and the north, are well armed and have benefitted from the acquisition of Hezbollah’s experience in its struggle against Israel. Therefore, these would certainly be directed towards Israel one day when the war ends, and also towards the US, British and French forces if their occupation persists in the north of the Levant.
Lavrov’s statement is also paving the way towards a solution for the north of Syria, after resolving the question of the south. If the southern model succeeds with little damage for all parties, Russia will ask for the implementation of this model against the thousands of US and European forces still present, and therefore will force these to pull out of the country.
According to the sources, the Russian-Israeli dialogue is now going through the fine details: Israel requested a 40 km security zone and then 15 km but both proposals were rejected by Damascus. Israel moved towards specifying the type of weapons Syria intends to keep in the southern area. Damascus believes its missiles can reach anywhere in Israel if fired from the south, from Damascus or from the Syrian-Lebanese chain of mountains. Therefore the Israeli request is naïve in the eyes of Damascus and Tehran.
The” Axis of the Resistance” is determined to retake the south. If the Syrian central government’s forces manage to liberate Daraa, Quneitra and surrounding, it is a victory for Syria, Iran and Hezbollah. Damascus’s allies have no interest in being present physically on the borders with Israel because the local Syrians –like Hezbollah’s forces – are more than enough to liberate their own territory and impose the same ideology and motivation as the “Axis”.
A few details are still in the way, but the overall deal is almost done: the Syrian Army will liberate the south, recover the territory from all jihadists (and pro-Israeli forces) and re-open the Naseeb commercial crossing with Jordan.
The final touches in the Syrian war in the south will then draw attention and shift towards the situation in the north, which is more complicated and difficult. That will require more than Putin’s Judo-Master skills to break its complexity. It is time for the Kurds to wake up.
Proof read by: Maurice Brasher
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