For all the negativity surrounding the agreement forged between the USA and Russia at the G20 summit in July to impose a ceasefire agreement for the Southwestern part of Syria close to the Israeli border, it has accomplished a few things that had been left in the shadows to ferment.
The first is that the agreement exposed the lie that both the US and Russia were sort of passive players in a chaotic conflict both were just trying to manage. The very fact that both super powers had the power to actually enforce such an agreement makes it clear that the two were behind the maelstrom of fighting from the beginning.
The second is that the control over the Quneitra and Daraa provinces given over to Russia and defacto Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran means that Israel’s ability to stay out of open conflict with Iran is over. The Israeli government has been content up until in now to use local rebels in battling regime forces, Hezbollah, and Iranian militias, but with the Russians in the neighborhood this strategy has been effectively terminated.
This means that Israel must take on Iran in Syria or risk becoming isolated while the Persians strengthen their hold over the region. The air attacks on various Iranian and Hezbollah installations in Syria make it apparent that Israel is willing to increase its operations there. Yet, there are significant factors that will mean that an Iranian counter-strike could be more imminent than thought.
The first is the Israel-US backed Kurdish independent state in Southern Kurdistan (situated in the KRG area of Northern Iraq). Iran sees this as a dagger pointed directly at the regime in Tehran as it not only breaks up its direct control of the region, but inspires the 15 million Iranian Kurds to agitate for independence.
The second is the increasing ease the Israeli airforce has in attacking Iranian targets in the Levant. While Putin may not be in agreement with Israel on the need to remove Iran from Syria, he appears to be willing to allow the IAF to attack when it feels necessary.
Therefore, Iran will not wait much longer to make a move against Israel or at the very least attempt to solidify its stranglehold over the Southern corridor in Syria as well as push Iraq into a direct war with the Kurdish Peshmerga. Iran has benefitted from the six years of instability in the region. With Israel’s ascendancy and Kurdish independence the Mullahs are looking to throw more chaos into the mix to ensure they can finish their solidification as the regions superpower.
In order to ensure this does not happen Israel must be willing to strike hard in Syria as well as push Washington to bolster a young but strategic Kurdistan.
“The plane was shot down and crashed in regime-controlled territory. We have no information on the pilot,” said Fares al-Munjed, communications head for the Ahmad al-Abdo Forces, a rebel group which operates in Syria’s southeast.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the plane was shot down.
In further violations of the truce, regime forces have continued to shoot in Daraa.
Although Russia seems intent on sending military police into the ceasefire areas, by the time they get situated the ceasefire may already be over. From the very beginning the regime and Iran were apprehensive about the ceasefire as the two have been on a roll. With the rebels fighting back, the ceasefire is essentially over.
Reports are streaming in that Syrian regime forces and its Iranian allies have already started violating the truce brokered between Trump and Putin at the G20 summit last week. This would mean the much vaunted truce lasted all of 24 hours.
The fighting continued near Daraa and the Sweida, two areas covered by the ceasefire. Below is a map of showing areas of control as the the ceasefire went into place.
With the ceasefire beginning to unravel even before the first Russian troops show up to monitor it, the question is how long before the Trump administration and Moscow decide to try to reorganize for another try. The regime and Iran will not stop while the wind is at their backs. They were closing in on capturing Daraa before the agreement and if they do now they will split two of the rebel areas in half and stand on the border of Jordan just a few kilometers from the Southern Golan.
Did Putin Outmaneuver Trump?
Despite Trump’s glowing victory speech after the agreement he “brokered” at the G20, it appears to be Putin that played the President Trump. Afterall, Putin knew full well that Syria and Iran would not rest until they at least took all of Daraa if not more. He also knew that his airforce was no longer needed to achieve Daraa’s conquest.
The question remains, will Trump admit he was out played? Or will he continue to spread the false notion that there is actually a ceasefire, when in fact there was none. The faster the Trump administration realizes that no deal can be made with the regime, Iran, or even their Russian backers, the faster he can stave off total defeat.
While this is a good short-term development, notifying the end to what seemed to be an acute situation on the Syrian border, the message should be taken very superficially. The spillover into the Israeli side of the Golan was certainly nerve-wracking for the residents of Northern Israel, yet the fact that the IDF took great pains to focus their return fire on the Syrian regime should be a warning on just how close regime forces and their Iranian allies have come to once again claiming the Golan border.
The retaliation by the IDF against the Syrian regime in many ways goes far beyond the scope of Israel’s claimed focus of their relationship to the many sides in the Syrian civil war.
It is no accident that the IDF retaliated heavily on regime positions at the same moment the FSA was leading and offensive to cut through the road leading from Damascus to Daraa. The regime forces of Assad and his Iranian allies have yet to fully crush the resistance in Daraa and so the FSA was trying to break their supply lines.
For the first time Israel was willing to show Syria some of their hand in order to relay a message. “Quneitra is off-limits.” The Quneitra based division of the FSA is more and more becoming aligned with Israel. What started out as simple humanitarian gestures have morphed into an Israeli backed rebel militia.
With Hezbollah stationed oppositie Har Dov and routinely coming close to the base there, Israel can ill-afford to have the Syrian regime and Iran take up positions opposite the Eastern border of the Golan.
As the Trump administration weighs its next move against the Syrian regime, Israel is moving fast to push back againstAssad’s forces without fully entering the civil war.
The IDF has instructed farmers to stay out of open areas. Furthermore, the IDF has closed Highway 98, which runs near the Golan Heights border, due to exchanges of gunfire across the border in Syria.
Israel has gone out of its way to stay directly out of the Syrian Civil War. However, it has become clear that Israel has funneled supplies to militias friendly to the Jewish State in order to keep Syrian and Iranian forces far from the border. Israel Rising reported last week as Daraa falls to regime forces, the Syrian government and Iranian militias will put heavy pressure on the Free Syrian Army in the Golan area.
Late yesterday, US Coalition forces shot down an Iranian made UAV comandeered by the Syrian military.
“The armed pro-regime Shaheed-129 [unmanned aerial vehicle] was shot down by a U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle at approximately 12:30 a.m. after it displayed hostile intent and advanced on Coalition forces,” the coalition command said in a press release.
“The Coalition has made it clear to all parties publically [sic] and through the de-confliction line with Russian forces that the demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces toward Coalition and partner forces in Syria conducting legitimate counter-ISIS operations will not be tolerated,” it said.
The US and their allied partners in Syria still assume the deconfliction zones layed out with Russia have remained in affect. This stands in contrast with Russia’s own statement after the downing of the Syrian jet. Russia has made it clear that all foreign warplanes in Syrian airspace will be shot down.
Is There an Actual US Policy in Syria
With each passing day an incident it has become apparent that the US policy in Syria is non-existant. This is not to say they have nothing in the works, but they have been caught of-guard by the lightening speed movement of Russian backed pro-regime forces and Iranian Shiite Militias and are trying to push back.
With Daraa falling and regime forces using the Raqqa battle to push Eastward, the US and their coalition forces need find a fast way to push the regime back without causing the war to turn into something much larger. So far no remedy has been found.
David Gardner from the Financial Times said the following in an opinion piece about the situation:
“The limited initiatives to somewhat attenuate the Syrian disaster are almost all coming from Russia: a tripartite (and ineffective) ceasefire with Iran and Turkey; the “de-escalation zones” Moscow proposed in May, albeit in the four areas where the Assads still face strong challenges from rebels; even a constitutional blueprint to decentralise power in Syria. The US has come up with next to nothing. The common denominator in these three Russian initiatives may be — some western diplomats involved in Syria suggest — that President Vladimir Putin is groping towards an exit strategy from Syria. If so, nothing Mr Trump is engaged in looks likely to help him find one.”
One counter to Gardner’s assertion about Russia’s involvement is that Putin ever the chess player has been playing both sides in the war in order to create an underlying need to entrap the Americans in a quagmire not easily extricated.
While it is clear what happened over the weekend and late yesterday are ominous, they are more examples of an administration being handed a hot potato by its precedessor and not getting up to speed fast enough to handle it.
While Trump may not have moved fast enough to counter Syrian and Iranian advancement in Syria this is more of a product of clear indecisiveness in being ready to push back against the Russians in their desire to control the Levant.
The Russian backed Syrian offensive resumed today after a 48 hour ceasefire. Syrian government troops have already taken over various neighborhoods in Daraa, putting pressure on the American backed Free Syrian Army (FSA). It was reported that the FSA was given an ultimatum on Saturday to pull back. They didn’t so bombing resumed.
Daraa is crucial for a few reasons. If it falls entirely to the Syrian government, the Syrian Rebels and US led coalition will split in half. Even more dire is that the Daraa province buttresses the Golan Heights creating a corridor for Iranian militia to reach Israel. This will leave Israeli backed militia to fend off the more highly trained Iranians.
With the Wall Street Journal article making waves by connecting Israel’s humanitarian help to the strength of the Syrian rebels fighting the Assad regime, the above map makes it clear why the Israeli government feels it necessary to be bolstering these forces. Unlike the Lebanese Civil War, when Israel actually entered into the South of the country, the Netanyahu government would rather create a friendly buffer zone using humanitarian needs as a reason for helping the rebels. The situation though, may be deteriorating and require the IDF to enter the fray to hold off the Iranians from reaching their border.
If Daraa falls the US and Israel will have to make a decision to directly enter the war or build up a workable containment strategy. The next few days of the Daraa offensive will be crucial in determining the scope of both nations’ involvement.
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_btn title=”FOR $5/MONTH YOU CAN SUPPORT ORIT’S WRITING” color=”warning” size=”lg” align=”center” button_block=”true” link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fwww.paypal.com%2Fcgi-bin%2Fwebscr%3Fcmd%3D_s-xclick%26hosted_button_id%3DPBTQ2JVPQ3WJ2|||”][vc_column_text]The Syrian Central Command announced a cessation hostilities in Daraa that went into effect at 12pm on Saturday. The ceasefire is to last 48 hours. This last freeze in fighting comes just after a massive offensive by the Syrian army backed by the Lebanese Hezbollah and Russia which resulted in multiple civilian deaths.
With Daraa nearly back in government hands, quiet conversations are beginning in order to allow Syrian soldiers to once again patrol the Jordanian border. If this agreement goes through, the Syrian government’s control of the region East and South of Daraa would be cemented.
Syrian Golan Still Not In Assad’s Hands
With ISIS and Israeli supported rebels in tacit control of the Al-Qunaitra area and American special forces holding the Al-Tanf border crossing in Eastern Syria, the government’s control of the Daraa area was seen as vital in allowing Assad and Putin to push further East and win back more Syrian land. The Damascus-Daraa highway splits the two rebel areas in two, preventing them from strengthening their presence. This makes Israel’s role far more important in providing aid to the Free Syrian Army and various other militias close to its borders. They are the last shield against a complete Syrian and Iranian control of the Golan border area.
Meanwhile, news reports out of Syria have pointed to the YPG (Syrian Kurdish Army) being redeployed to Al-Tanf border crossing in Southern Syria to be used against Iranian militias and Syrian government troops.
“A security source confirmed that the Syrian Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) are expected to send forces to the Syrian al-Tanf area near the Iraqi border, in a bid to stop the advance of the Iranian-backed militia forces to the area,” Bas News claimed.
If the YPG is being moved to Southern Syria, an uptick in direct fighting against government backed troops and militias supported by the USA should be expected in the next few days.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row]