Putin’s Grand Bargain to Israel: Can Israel Digest It?

Putin’s Grand Bargain to Israel: Can Israel Digest It?

Putin’s Grand Bargain to Israel: Can Israel Digest It?

“Israel is climbing up a high horse,” Alex Fishman (the veteran Israeli Defence Correspondent) wrote in the Hebrew daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, last month, “and is approaching with giant steps a ‘war of choice’: Without mincing words, it’s an initiated war in Lebanon.” In Fishman’s article, he notes: “Classical deterrence is when you threaten an enemy not to harm you in your territory, but here, Israel demands that the enemy refrain from doing something in its own territory, otherwise Israel will harm it. From a historical perspective and from the perspective of international legitimacy, the chances of this threat being accepted as valid, leading to the cessation of enemy activities in its own territory, are slim.”

Ben Caspit also wrote about a fair prospect of a “war of choice,” whilst a Haaretz editorial – explains Professor Idan Landau in an Israeli news blog – noted: “The Israeli government therefore owes Israeli citizens a precise, pertinent and persuasive explanation as to why a missile factory in Lebanon has changed the strategic balance to the extent that it requires going to war. It must present assessments to the Israeli public as to the expected number of casualties, damage to civilian infrastructure and the economic cost of going to war, as compared with the danger that construction of the missile factory constitutes.”

We live dangerous times in the Middle East today – both in the immediate present, and in the mid-term, too.

Last week saw the first ‘game changer’ that almost plunged the region into war: the downing of one of Israel’s most sophisticated aircraft – an F16i. But as Amos Harel notes, on this occasion: “Russian President Vladimir Putin put an end to the confrontation between Israel and Iran in Syria – and both sides accepted his decision … On Saturday afternoon, after the second wave of bombardments … senior Israeli officials were still taking a militant line, and it seemed as if Jerusalem was considering further military action. Discussion of that ended not long after a phone call between Putin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu” (emphasis added).

And that last statement represented the second ‘game changer’: In ‘good old days’, as Martin Indyk called it, it would have been to the US that Israel reflexively would have turned, but not this time. Israel asked President Putin to mediate. It seems that Israel believes that Mr Putin is now the ‘indispensable power’. And in terms of airspace in the north, he is. As Ronen Bergman wrote in the New York Times: “Israel will no longer be able to act in Syria without limitations”; and secondly, “if anyone was not yet aware of it, Russia is the dominant power in the region”.

So, what is all this about? Well for a start, it is not about a drone which may (or may not) have trespassed into what Israel calls Israel, or what Syria sees as ‘occupied Golan’. Let us ignore all that: or, think of it as ‘the butterfly wing effect’ in chaos theory, whose tiny wing changes ‘the world’, if you prefer. Ultimately however, these various warnings of impending war, precipitated out from the Syrian State’s success in defeating the jihadi insurgency mounted against it. This outcome has changed the regional balance of power – and we are witnessing states reacting to that strategic defeat.

Israel, having backed the losing side, wants to limit its losses. It fears the changes taking place across the northern tier of the region: Prime Minister Netanyahu has several times sought guarantees from President Putin that Iran and Hizbullah should not be allowed to gain any strategic advantage from Syria’s victory that might be to Israel’s disadvantage. But Putin, it seems clear, gave no guarantees. He told Netanyahu that whilst he recognised, and acknowledged Israel’s security interests, Russia had its interests, too – and also underlined that Iran was a “strategic partner” of Russia.

In practice, there is no effective Iranian or Hizbullah presence in any proximate vicinity to Israel (and indeed both Iran and Hizbullah have substantially pared their forces in Syria as a whole). But, it seems that Netanyahu wanted more: And to put leverage on Russia to guarantee a future Syria, free from any ‘Shi’a presence, Israel has been bombing Syria on almost a weekly basis, and issuing a series of war-like threats against Lebanon (on the pretext that Iran was constructing ‘sophisticated missile’ factories there), saying, in effect to President Putin, that if you do not give ironclad guarantees vis-à-vis a Syria free of Iran and Hizbullah, we will disrupt both countries.

Well, what happened is that Israel lost an F16: unexpectedly shot down by the Syrian air defences. The message is this: ‘Stability in Syria and Lebanon is a Russian interest. Whilst, we recognise Israel’s security interests, don’t mess with ours. If you want a war with Iran that is your business, and Russia will not be involved; but do not forget that Iran is, and remains our strategic partner’.

This is Putin’s Grand Bargain: Russia will assume a certain defined responsibility for Israel’s security, but not if Israel undertakes wars of choice against Iran and Hizbullah, or if it deliberately disrupts stability in the North (including Iraq). And no more gratuitous bombing raids in the north, intended to disrupt stability. But if Israel wants a war with Iran, then Russia will stand aloof.

Israel has now had a taste of President Putin’s ‘stick’: Your air superiority in the North has just been punctured by the Syrian air defences. You, Israel, will lose it completely were our Russian S400s air defences to be enabled: ‘Think it over’.

In case of doubt, consider this statement in 2017, by the Chief of Staff of the Russian Aerospace Forces, Major-General Sergey Meshcheryakov. He said: “Today, a unified, integrated air defense system has been set up in Syria. We have ensured the information and technical interlinkage of the Russian and Syrian air reconnaissance systems. All information on the situation in the air comes from Syrian radar stations to the control points of the Russian force grouping”.

Two things flow from this: First, that Russia knew exactly what was going on when the Israeli F16 met with a barrage of Syrian air defence missiles. As Alex Fishman, doyen of Israeli defence correspondents, noted (in Hebrew) Yediot Ahoronot on 11 February: “One of the [Israeli] planes was hit by the two barrages of 27 Syrian surface-to-air missiles… which is a huge achievement for the Syrian army, and embarrassing for the IAF, since the electronic warfare systems that envelope the plane were supposed to have provided protection from a barrage of missiles… The IAF is going to have to conduct an in-depth technical-intelligence inquiry to determine: are the Syrians in possession of systems that are capable of bypassing the Israeli warning and jamming systems? Have the Syrians developed a new technique that the IAF is unaware of? It was reported that the pilots did not radio in any alert that an enemy missile had locked onto their plane. In principle, they were supposed to report that. They might have been preoccupied. But there is also the more severe possibility that they were unaware of the missile that had locked onto them—which leads to the question of why they didn’t know, and only realized the severity of the damage after they had been hit and were forced to bail out.”

And the second: that subsequent Israeli claims that Syria was then punished by Israel through the destruction of 50% of her air defence system should be taken with a big pinch of salt. Recall what Meshcheryakov said: It was a fully integrated, unified Russian-Syrian system, which is to say it had a Russian flag flying over it. (And this initial Israeli claim has now been back-peddled by the IDF spokesman; see here).

Finally, Putin, in the wake of the F16 downing, told Israel to stop destabilising Syria. He said nothing about Syria’s drone patrolling the southern border (a regular Syrian practice for monitoring insurgent groups in the south).

The message is clear: Israel gets Russia’s limited security guarantees, but loses its freedom of action. Without air domination (which Russia already has seized), the assumed superiority over its neighbouring Arab states – which Israel long since has folded into its collective psyche – will see Israel’s wings clipped.

Can such a bargain be digested culturally in Israel? We must wait to see whether Israel’s leaders accept that they no longer enjoy air superiority over Lebanon or Syria; or whether, as the Israeli commentators warn in our introductory quotes, the Israeli political leadership will opt for a ‘war of choice’, in an attempt to pre-empt Israel’s final loss of its domination of the skies. There is, of course, a further option of running to Washington, in order to try to co-opt America into adopting the eviction of Iran from Syria – but our guess is that Putin has already quietly squared Trump with his plan beforehand. Who knows?

And would then a preventive war to try recuperate Israeli air superiority be feasible or realistic from the perspective of the Israeli Defence Forces? It’s a moot point. A third of Israelis are culturally, and ethnically, Russian, and many admire President Putin. Also, could Israel count, in such circumstances, on Russia not using its own highly sophisticated S400 air-defence missiles, stationed in Syria, in order to protect Russian servicemen stationed across Syria?

And the Israeli-Syrian-Lebanese tensions, in themselves, do not bring an end to the present clutch of risks associated with Syria. On the same weekend, Turkey lost a helicopter and its two crew, brought down by Kurdish forces in Afrin. Sentiment in Turkey against the YPG and PKK is heating up; nationalism and New Ottomanism is spiking; and America is being angrily portrayed as Turkey’s “strategic enemy”. President Erdogan asserts forcefully that Turkish forces will clear all the YPG/PKK forces from Afrin to the Euphrates, but an American general says that American troops will not budge from blocking Erdogan’s route, midway – at Manbij. Who will blink first? And, can this escalation continue without a major rupture to Turkish-US relations? (Erdogan has already noted that America’s defense budget for 2019 includes an allocation of $550 million for the YPG. What exactly does Americamean by that provision?).

Also, can a US military leadership, concerned to play-out a re-make of the Vietnam war – but with America winning this time (to show that the Vietnam outcome was a wholly unmerited defeat for the US forces) – accept to pull back from its aggressively imposed occupation of Syria, east of the Euphrates, and thus lose further credibility? Particularly when restoring US military credibility and leverage is the very mantra of the White House generals (and Trump)? Or, will the pursuit of US military ‘credibility’ degenerate into a game of ‘chicken’, mounted by US forces versus the Syrian Armed Forces – or even with Russia itself, which views the US occupation in Syria as inherently disturbing to the regional stability which Russia is trying to establish.

The ‘big picture’ competition between states for the future of Syria (and the region) – is open and visible. But who lay behind these other provocations, which could equally have led to escalation, and quite easily slipped the region towards conflict? Who provided the man portable surface-to-air missile that brought down the Russian SU25 fighter – and which ended, with the pilot, surrounded by jihadists, courageously preferring to kill himself with his own grenade, rather than be taken alive? Who ‘facilitated’ the insurgent group which fired the manpad? Who armed the Afrin Kurds with sophisticated anti-tank weapons (that have destroyed some twenty Turkish tanks)? Who provided the millions of dollars to engineer the tunnels and bunkers built by the Afrin Kurds, and who paid for the kitting out of its armed force?

And who was behind the swarm of drones, with explosives attached, sent to attack the main Russian airbase at Khmeimim? The drones were made to look outwardly like some simple home-made affair, which an insurgent force might cobble together, but since Russian electronic measures managed to take control and land six of them, the Russians were able to see that,internally, they were quite different: They contained sophisticated electronic counter-measures and GPS guidance systems within. In short, the rustic external was camouflage to its true sophistication, which likely represented the handiwork of a state agency. Who? Why? Was someone trying to set Russia and Turkey at each other’s throats?

We do not know. But it is plain enough that Syria is the crucible to powerful destructive forces which might advertently, or inadvertently, ignite Syria – and – potentially, the Middle East. And as the Israeli defence correspondent, Amos Harel, wrote, we have already this last weekend, “come a hair’s breadth from a slide into war”.



In Gaza

Published on Feb 15, 2018

 Independent journalist Eva Bartlett explains how the mainstream media lies about events in Syria.

Lulwa Kasawat:

“No one is listening Eva!! I told many people how the demonstrators under my house would scream and shout and the army would not respond, then they would throw rocks at them, and still they would not respond. One soldier got his head injured and blood burst and they rushed him away, but still they did not respond, until a shot was fired from the crowd, or elsewhere…and they the army rushed off and brought extra help.

Once it started from the other side again, it really started. Many a time the news (al Jazeera) would be stating that there is a big demonstration in Kudseiyeh (where I live) in the square (where my house overlooks) and that there is shooting and bombing of the army against innocent civilians, and I would look at the window and no sound and no gatherings. Shortly after, in an hour, some 15-20 young men, would gather chanting against the regime…but the army would not do anything, they wouldn’t even be there.

I went back to Syria when this started as I wanted to be with my family, so I stayed there from June 2011 to Sept 2012. My house was in Kudseiyeh and that is a troubled area, from the start, they were trying to get it in the equation, however the residents resisted despite all attempts. Then lots of outsiders came in, and they brainwashed the younger generation of that town, at one point I had to leave my house as it was very bad. The rebels kept shooting and telling everyone to flee because the army was going to bomb us.


*photo Lulwa Kawasat

I got a missile in my house, it came from below, up through the children’s bedroom, up through the roof. Thank God it did not explode. We weren’t there at the time but we have the shell. If it was the army it would have come from above. It is still unstable there. But they have signed a truce, which the rebels keep breaking…

-Channel 4 News’ Krishnan Guru Murthy refused to “get into history” over his lies, much less to acknowledge that the “moderates” he propagated about were Al-Nusra.
-MintPress Meets The Father Of Iconic Aleppo Boy, Who Says Media Lied About His Son, June 9, 2017, MintPress News
-Exploitation of children in propaganda war against Syria continues, Jun 19, 2017, RT.com
-Meet Aylan & Omran: Child victims used for Syrian war propaganda, June 12, 2017, RT Op-Edge
-Absurdities of Syrian war propaganda, Nov 2, 2017, RT Op Edge
-Deconstructing the NATO Narrative on Syria, Oct 10, 2015, Dissident Voice
-Syria Dispatch: Most Syrians Support Assad, Reject Phony Foreign ‘Revolution’, Mar 7, 2016, SOTT.net

-Western media ignoring reality on the ground in Syria: terrorism and anti-Syria sanctions which help terrorists, Mar 3, 2016, Russia Today

-The Children of Kafarya and Foua are Crying in the Dark, Sep 6, 2016, 21st Century Wire

-Western corporate media ‘disappears’ over 1.5 million Syrians and 4,000 doctors, Aug 14, 2016, SOTT.net

-UN covers up war crimes in Syria, citing U.S. backed Al-Qaeda propagandists, Oct 29, 2016, The Duran

-On Nov 3 2016 terrorist bombings, and Nov 4 terrorist shelling of humanitarian corridor. Aleppo: How US & Saudi-Backed Rebels Target ‘Every Syrian’, Nov 29, 2016, MintPressNews

-Liberated Homs Residents Challenge Notion of “Revolution”, Jul 8, 2014, Inter Press ServicesIn Gaza

-Madaya: Syria War Diary: Order Returns To Western Cities, Civilians Recount Horrors Of “Rebel” Rule, September 26th, 2017, Mint Press News

-On the White Helmets:

-On the DPRK:

Interview With Christine Hong: What’s Happening on the Korean Peninsula, Feb 2018

Gregory Elich On The DPRK

“Eva Bartlett in North Korea – Going Behind the Media Iron Curtain”–The Taylor Report & 21st Century Wire

Interview With The Makers of “The Haircut (2017) A North Korean Adventure”

What We Saw in North Korea Goes against Everything Western Media Wants Us to Believe

Photo-Report: The North Korea Neither Trump Nor Western Media Wants The World To See,  October 20th, 2017, Mint Press News


IAF Cross-Border Raids in the Larger Picture of Hezbollah vs Israel

Illustrative image

Written by Dennis M. Nilsen exclusively for SouthFront

As has become worldwide news, on February 10 the Syrian Air Defense Forces succeeded in causing, directly or indirectly, the downing of an Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-16I.  The warplane comprised part of an eight-plane attack group returning from a raid on the Tiyas Military Airbase just west of Palmyra, launched in response to the shooting down of a drone over Israeli territory just beyond the Golan Heights.  An Apache attack helicopter of the IAF shot down what Israel claims was an Iranian drone launched from the Syrian airbase, and upon the demise of one of its F-16s the IAF launched further raids on Syrian and Iranian military targets in the vicinity of Damascus, including three air defense posts.  Syria claims its air defense thwarted the attacks, while the Iranian IRGC have refused to confirm the Israeli claims and, further, deny that they have set up military installations in Syria.  The Syrians and Iranians both claim that the drone was engaged in an operation against one of the several terrorist groups operating on the Syrian-Lebanese border.  Incidentally, the two Israeli pilots successfully ejected; while one is in serious condition in hospital, his partner walked away with minor injuries.  Casualties for their opponents have yet to be confirmed.

While Israeli consternation at the violation of its airspace is understandable, the fact that the IAF has done the very same to Syria on over 100 occasions since the beginning of the revolt against President Assad is getting lost in the media coverage.  This brings up the larger picture of the opposition between the US/Israel block and the Axis of Resistance.  The Zionists insist that the IRGC is taking advantage of the generally distracted state of Syria to move arms shipments to Hezbollah through the country and into the forward areas of that group in southern Lebanon, concerned as they have become at a pending Israeli attack to wipe them out.  They have further accused the Islamic Republic of building missile factories in southwest Syria near to Hezbollah-controlled areas in order to considerably cut the supply route distance.  However, the larger arsenal which Hezbollah possesses and which it continues to augment thanks to the IRGC only makes the Israelis that much more jittery over the existence of such a weapons cache just across their northern border.  Are both sides to blame here, or does the blame lay solely on one side?

Hezbollah formed in 1982 to oppose the secular Amal then engaged in the Lebanese Civil War.  Frustrated at the Shiite group’s refusal to seek an Islamic state and inspired by the recent revolution in Iran, a group of clerics actively sought the aid of the newly-established IRGC to form a military to pull away Shiite support from Amal and to organize a viable front to the South Lebanese Army, allied with the Israelis.  Though it has modified its militant stance considerably vis-à-vis internal Lebanese politics, Hezbollah continuously refuses to acknowledge the existence of the Zionist State and to stand against any compromise short of the full withdrawal of Israel to the 1948 borders (the Golan Heights, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) and the return of the Palestinian exiles.  Since these objectives have not been met, Hezbollah continues to exist in opposition to both Israeli policy and the Israeli state.

The considerable missile arsenal which it possesses (thanks to the IRGC) is officially proclaimed to stand collectively as a defensive weapon against a potential Israeli strike, although Israel and its chief ally the United States refuses good faith to Hezbollah and as a consequence refuses this doctrine.  With their backs to the sea, it is entirely reasonable for the Israelis to face the southern Lebanese border with a strong military presence and to constantly plan and exercises for another war with the group.  Further, because the Zionist State was formed without the acceptance of most of the Arab world, its leadership cannot afford to abide by the ruling of any international body, particularly the UN and its refusal to acknowledge the legality of Israeli occupation of the three above-named territories.  The result, impossible for Western mainstream media comprehension, is the existence of Israel as a rogue state, not only occupying land foreign to it but also allowing and (depending upon the party in power) actively encouraging the creation of settlements in those territories by militant members of Israeli society who claim their right to do so based not upon international law, but upon a very worldly interpretation of the Old Mosaic Dispensation.

This may very well serve as the historical background to Hezbollah’s and the larger Muslim animosity against the Zionist State, but the immediate blame which Israel must shoulder is the continued violation of Syrian airspace to strike at targets they rightly or wrongly believe to directly aid Hezbollah’s military capabilities.  Even if their military intelligence is correct about the targets they hit, such strikes must only occur with the permission of the Syrian Government and, lacking this, constitute de facto acts of war.  This latest incident merely showed Syria responding in kind and the IAF suffering the loss of an aircraft, which perplexedly drove an additional IAF raid to destroy as much of the Syrian air defense system as possible, which was merely carrying out its duty in the first place.

What of the Hezbollah missile arsenal in Lebanon?  If it does indeed constitute a threat to Israel, does the latter have the right to invade another country to prevent its augmentation?  Certainly not.  Saying yes, as many apologists in the West do, is like agreeing that Russia, mutatis mutandis, has the right to send weapons to the forces of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics to oppose the Ukrainian armed forces bent on subduing them.  The Ukrainian means of waging war have been nothing short of savage and so it is reasonable for the rebels to wish to arm themselves as much as possible to prevent injustice against themselves, their families and their property.  Is Hezbollah’s arsenal likewise a reasonable precaution against a repeat of the 2006 Israeli aerial campaign that destroyed most of Lebanon’s infrastructure, or a primarily offensive weapon for use against Israeli population centers?  Even if it is the latter, Hezbollah will not risk fomenting a war against the Zionist state unless provoked by the latter, and so the Israelis have no choice but to allow this build up.  But with the military they possess – including the multi-layered missile defense system – what do they really have to fear?  The fact that they are seeking to prevent it only adds fuel to the regional fire and further ostracizes them diplomatically.

As for Iran, if it is establishing missile manufacturing bases in Syria with that country’s permission explicitly to supply Hezbollah and to create a deterrent to another possible massive Israeli military action against Lebanon, or the West Bank or Gaza for that matter, what of it?  As is admitted by all the world save themselves, the Israelis possess a nuclear arsenal in addition to technology and a military far superior to any of its neighbors.  Distrusting the Zionist state as it does, how can Hezbollah be blamed for seeking to acquire the only deterrent to give the Israelis pause?  Israel seeks the destruction of that group and vice versa so how can the one be blamed any more than the other?  If the Israelis continue to act as they do, this will only prove to Hezbollah as well as to Syria and Iran that the former cannot be trusted and to the further build up an arsenal to be ready as a counter to any Israeli attacks.  Iran is free to choose its regional partners and for religious, ideological and strategic reasons, it has chosen Hezbollah.

Western commentators, especially those who espouse the right of NATO to move troops right up to Russia’s border and to conduct military exercises in the teeth of Putin’s veterans, should take pause before leveling charges against the Axis of Resistance.

Who is doing what in Syria and why

February 10, 2018

by Ghassan Kadi for The Saker Blog

It seems that every time a chapter in the war on Syria comes to an end, a new factor surfaces. Just like the 1975-1989 civil war in Lebanon before it, and which started off with a clash between the PLO and the Lebanese rightwing Phalangist militia and then ended up with an Israeli invasion and its aftermath, the war on Syria is now a totally different war from the one that started seven years ago.

With other players gone or having their roles changed, the only persisting player is the Syrian Army of course, fighting here for the integrity and sovereignty of Syria. We cannot include its allies, because even its allies have changed.

There is much speculation about recent events, a lot of war and fear-mongering, but if all elements of the current powers on the ground are dissected and analyzed, it becomes very easy to see what is going on and who is doing what.

Before we try to understand who is doing what and why, let us first identify who are the main players on the ground and behind the scenes; past and present. This is a short list:

  1. Syria of course
  2. Saudi Arabia
  3. Qatar
  4. Kurds
  5. Turkey
  6. Iran
  7. Hezbollah
  8. Israel
  9. the USA
  10.  Russia

Notwithstanding the inevitable continuing role and presence of Syria and popular national Syrian allied forces in the war against her, we must acknowledge that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have already played their role and walked away as losers. For the sake of historic documentation, this had to be mentioned even though they do not have much of an influence and clout at all at present.

Kurds are playing a role that cannot be discussed without acknowledging the role they played between 2011 and 2015/16. Kurdish fighters, separatists or otherwise, have upheld Syrian border integrity in Syria’s north from as early as 2011 when the Syrian Army had no allies on the ground. And even though the Syrian Army and Kurdish fighters did not fight physically within the same trench, the Kurds fought fiercely in the north, holding their ground, against Turkish-facilitated incursions and against ISIS later on.

However, as Kurdish separatist movements were established and as they were not preemptively contained under the roof of Damascus, something had to give.

Kurds who are separatists will do anything and make deals with anyone to make their dream come true. History has shown that they are prepared to join hands with America and even Israel.

It must be acknowledged however that Kurds who are not separatists, and there is no way of telling their percentage any more than there is a way of telling the percentage of those who are, do not seem to have much of a voice in their community. Furthermore, seemingly there isn’t an all-inclusive nationally-endorsed rationale where they can address their concerns against those who are separatists and in a manner that can allay their fears and apprehensions as a minority group in such a way that would quell their desire for independence.

Turkey’s role has been changing with the tides in the last seven years. From wanting to topple the Syrian Government and Erdogan praying at the Omayyad Mosque as the conqueror of Damascus, Erdogan is now in a much more humble damage-control mode hoping to at least be able to prevent the formation of a Kurdish state south of his borders. The turn of events in the war, and the bargain plea reconciliation he has had with Russia after Turkey downed a Russian Su-24 in Nov 2015 has put Erdogan in that position. But Erdogan, the compulsive Islamist and nationalist, will always try to look for opportunities to turn and stab anyone in the back because his dreams of a great Turkey-based Muslim sultanate are bigger than any deal and treaty he signs with anyone.

That said, Erdogan will not settle for any outcome that will mean the establishment of a Kurdish state. Unless the tides change in his favour, it is highly unlikely that he will change course and demand more.

In effect, the war in northern Syria is more or less totally separate from the one heating up in the south with Israel.

Iran: The Syrian theatre has brought Iran physically closer to Israel in a manner that opened up a new border line that is bigger than the one Hezbollah has in Southern Lebanon. Israel does not have the reciprocal privilege. That said, whilst Israeli presence is not officially recognized in states like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, there is little doubt that the Eastern coast of the Persian/Arabian Gulf is under Israeli direct or indirect control in more ways than one.

That said, it must be remembered that Iran’s issue with Israel is doctrinal and not territorial.

In brief, Iran’s military presence in Syria is in adherence to the common defense treaty it has with Syria, but it is also aimed at protecting Iran’s own interests and establishing military presence and rocket-launching capabilities that are only a few kilometers from major Israeli cities in comparison to the one thousand or so kilometers that separate Israel from Iran, or at best a couple of hundred that separate the east coast of the Persian/Arab Gulf from Iran’s southern cities.

Given that Iran is not a nuclear power and Israel is, based on the above, any conventional military confrontation with Israel will put Iran in a position of advantage.

Iran’s status in Syria can be either seen as offensive or defensive vis-à-vis Israel. Most likely, it is defensive, and Iran is unlikely to use its Syrian-based positions to initiate an unprovoked attack on Israel given Israel’s nuclear deterrence.

Hezbollah: In more ways than one, ideologically-speaking, Hezbollah is an extension of Iran. But strategically-speaking, Hezbollah is a part of the Lebanese political process. Moreover, Hezbollah’s issue with Israel is both doctrinal, and territorial.

Hezbollah went into Syria to defend Syria of course, but in defending Syria, Hezbollah was defending itself and Lebanon.

The supply lines for Hezbollah came from Syria, and this is no secret. But even if Hezbollah had to establish alternative routes after seven years of war, Hezbollah remains dependent on Syria for ensuring the depth of its survival and ability to fight. Even if Hezbollah went further and managed to establish its own military manufacturing base, and this is not unlikely, it remains entwined with Syria at levels that are essential for its survival and continuity.

Ideologically, Hezbollah is perhaps closer to Iran than any other ally, but strategically, it cannot be closer to any other ally more than Syria. To expect Hezbollah to yield to pressure and withdraw from Syria prematurely is tantamount to expecting North Korea to surrender its nuclear arsenal.

Israel: It wouldn’t be surprising to say that the post-Kissinger USA has left Israel feeling secure and privileged to the extent that it was able to coerce the world’s single superpower to rubber-stamp what suited it; even if it was against the interests of that superpower.

However, with all the support America gave Israel, Israel was not able to find peace, real lasting peace. Military superiority and peace are two different things, and America was able to provide Israel with the former, but not the latter.

But even that military superiority that meant once upon a time that Israel was untouchable has been eroded. The rise of Hezbollah to power in a manner that enabled it to bomb “Haifa and beyond” in July 2006 has sent shivers down the spines of Israeli military strategists.

Israel now has no idea what to expect if and when another military escalation ensues with Hezbollah and it is bracing for the worst.

Given the latest confrontations with the Syrian air defenses, Israel seems to be in a similar position in not knowing what to expect from Syria either.

The USA: In all what the USA has done in supporting the initial Saudi/Qatari/Turkish attack in the war on Syria, it achieved nothing more than defeat after defeat.

If there was ever a time during the last seven years for America to launch a major attack on Syria, it would have been done on the pretext of a chemical weapon attack allegedly perpetrated by the Syrian Army on Eastern Ghouta, but Obama did not take the Saudi-orchestrated bait. If Obama took a single and somber decision for which he will be positively remembered once all the dust has settled, it will have to be his decision not to attack Syria in early September 2013.

But Trump’s America inherited a Syria in which America has no presence or influence. The ailing nation cannot be seen to be standing still doing nothing about this.

Russia: Discussing the role of Russia was left till the end because to emphasize once again, as per previous articles, that the role of Russian diplomacy is becoming increasingly important in Syria and the Levant in general.

To put all of the above into a realistic perspective, there is a potential war brewing in southern Syria, a war that has little to do with the one raging in the north, and only Russia has the potential of dealing with the conflict.

There is no speck of doubt in my mind that Russia has a Middle East peace plan.

There is no doubt in my mind that Russia wants to catapult America out of its role as the Middle East peace talk negotiator; a role that it played for more than four decades now without any scores on the board.

It must be remembered that despite all the concessions PLO leaders gave Israel, America was unable to provide any peace to Palestine, and not even to Israel for that matter. It is highly likely that even Israel is growing tired of America’s elusive promises of peace; and the peace Israel was promised was based on quashing the axis of resistance and establishing toothless puppet Arab regimes that dance to America’s tune, and who would normalize relationships with Israel and not pose any threat at all, not now, not in the future.

So Russia is strengthening her position in the Middle East in preparation for the opportune moment to elevate herself to be accepted by all parties concerned as the single arbitrator who is capable of negotiating an all-inclusive deal.

The rest is simply posturing.

The recent escalation between Syria and Israel is not a prelude for a bigger war. Nobody wants a war; not right now, as they are all aware of the damage that can be inflicted upon them.

Israel keeps testing the waters, testing Syria’s air defense capabilities, and above all, testing Russia’s resolve and determination to create a true balance of power in the Middle East.

Some Arabs would be disappointed that Russia would not allow the total destruction of Israel, but Russia has never promised this. On the other hand however, Russia is pushing Israel to be realistic, and has never promised Israel total and unconditional support like the USA did since the days of Kissinger.

Unless Israel can safeguard itself against Hezbollah rockets, and which it can’t, it will never initiate an all-out war with either Syria, Hezbollah, or both; not forgetting the Iranian presence on the ground in Syria, just outside Israel’s borders.

Israel has to either accept that the rules of the game have changed, or risk an escalation that will inflict huge damage on its infrastructure and civilians. The recent downing of an Israeli F-16 by Syrian air defenses and the subsequent call Netanyahu made to Russian President Putin is a clear indication that Israel is not happy with the fact that Russian arm supplies to Syria are changing the balance of power.

An astute look at recent events can only propose that Russia is trying to drag Israel into peace talks that are based on a regional balance of power, but Israel is not convinced yet that it has to do this anymore than it is convinced that it has lost its military upper hand. On the other hand, Russia will find it very difficult to convince Syria, Hezbollah and Iran that they should have any peace at all with Israel. All the while, America realizes that it has no presence in the war in the south, and is using the Kurdish pretext to have “a” presence in the north in order not to miss out on being party to any settlement. Erdogan is doing his bit to prevent the creation of a Kurdish state in Syria. Other than that he has no role to play in the potential brewing conflict in the south. At the end, America will stab the Kurds in the back like it did many times earlier, the Kurdish aspirations for independence will be pushed back for many decades, and the real focus will be on the south, on Russia’s yet undeclared role and plan for a Middle East peace plan.

The Coming War on Lebanon: Israel, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Prepare “Long-Planned Middle East War”

Global Research, February 13, 2018

This previously published article (December 2017) on Global Research reveals the well-calculated plan of the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia on inciting a “civil war” in Lebanon to defeat Hezbollah. 

Israel – seemingly leading the squad with the green signal from Washington – has just fabricated yet another grounds for war. 


Washington’s plan to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has ultimately failed. Now Lebanon seems to be in the cross-hairs with tensions between Israel and Hezbollah on the same level that led to the 2006 Lebanon war. There is also the possibility that a new offensive against Syria that might take place as Washington maintains its troop levels in the devastated country caused by ISIS and other terrorists groups they supported. Various reports suggests that the Pentagon may reveal that there are close to 2,000 U.S. troops stationed in Syria even though ISIS has been defeated. So why is Washington staying in Syria? Will there be another attempt to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the near future? Most likely, yes. Adding the Trump administration’s continued hostilities towards Iran, the drumbeats of a new war in the Middle East is loud and clear.

Israel, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have one main objective at the moment and that is to destabilize Lebanon and attempt to defeat Hezbollah before they prepare for another offensive in Syria to remove Assad from power. Before they declare an all-out war on Iran, they must neutralize their allies, Hezbollah and Syria which is by far an extremely difficult task to accomplish.

The Israeli government knows that it cannot defeat Hezbollah without sacrificing both its military and civilian populations. Israel needs the U.S. military for added support if their objective is to somewhat succeed. Israel and the U.S. can continue its support of ISIS and other terrorist groups to create a new civil war in Lebanon through false-flag terror operations which in a strategic sense, can lead to an internal civil war. Can Hezbollah and the Lebanese military prevent terrorist groups from entering its territory? So far they have been successful in defeating ISIS on the Lebanon-Syria border, and will most likely be successful in preventing a new U.S.-supported terrorist haven in Lebanon. Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri who originally resigned from his post while visiting the Saudi Kingdom, then suspending his resignation is a sign that a political crisis has been set in motion. So what happens next?

The Curse: Lebanon’s Natural Resources and the Greater Israel Project

In the case of a devastating war on Lebanon, with a civil war intact, Israel would surely attempt to take control over Lebanon’s natural resources. Since Trump got in the White House, Israel has expanded its Jewish settlements through land seizures throughout Palestine at unprecedented levels and with the occupation of the Golan Heights (a Syrian territory), they already control a portion of oil, gas and vital water supplies. Lebanon would be a huge bonus. In 2013, Lebanese Energy Minister Gebran Bassilestimated that Lebanon has around 96 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves and 865 million barrels of oil offshore. With Lebanon’s political chaos and Israel preparing for a long-term war with Hezbollah, all leads to Israel Shahak’s ‘The Zionist Plan for the Middle East’ which states the intended goal for the fragmentation of Lebanon and other adversaries in the Middle East:

3) This is not a new idea, nor does it surface for the first time in Zionist strategic thinking. Indeed, fragmenting all Arab states into smaller units has been a recurrent theme. This theme has been documented on a very modest scale in the AAUG publication, Israel’s Sacred Terrorism (1980), by Livia Rokach. Based on the memoirs of Moshe Sharett, former Prime Minister of Israel, Rokach’s study documents, in convincing detail, the Zionist plan as it applies to Lebanon and as it was prepared in the mid-fifties.

4) The first massive Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1978 bore this plan out to the minutest detail. The second and more barbaric and encompassing Israeli invasion of Lebanon on June 6, 1982, aims to effect certain parts of this plan which hopes to see not only Lebanon, but Syria and Jordan as well, in fragments. This ought to make mockery of Israeli public claims regarding their desire for a strong and independent Lebanese central government. More accurately, they want a Lebanese central government that sanctions their regional imperialist designs by signing a peace treaty with them. They also seek acquiescence in their designs by the Syrian, Iraqi, Jordanian and other Arab governments as well as by the Palestinian people. What they want and what they are planning for is not an Arab world, but a world of Arab fragments that is ready to succumb to Israeli hegemony. Hence, Oded Yinon in his essay, “A Strategy for Israel in the 1980’s,” talks about “far-reaching opportunities for the first time since 1967” that are created by the “very stormy situation [that] surrounds Israel” 

Israel is gearing up for a long and devastating war against Hezbollah, an Iranian-ally who is . based in Lebanon’s southern region to deter Israel’s expansionist ideas. As Saudi Arabia (Israel’s closest ally in the region) continues its immoral and devastating war on Yemen, it is raising tensions with Iran. According to Thomas L. Freidman’s article ‘Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring, At Last’ praising who he calls “M.B.S.” or Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman for his reformist policies. According to Friedman 

“Iran’s “supreme leader is the new Hitler of the Middle East,” said M.B.S. “But we learned from Europe that appeasement doesn’t work. We don’t want the new Hitler in Iran to repeat what happened in Europe in the Middle East.”

The Trump administration’s continued support of the Saudi Monarchy which negotiated an arms deal worth billions to take place has only emboldened the Saudi government to take an aggressive stand towards its adversaries in the Middle East namely, Iran.

Lebanon Prepares for Another War

On November 21st, Reuters’ published an article titled ‘Lebanon army chief warns of Israel threat amid political crisis’based on Lebanon’s Army Chief warning his troops to be on high alert concerning Israel’s aggressive behavior along the Southern border. It was reported that 

“Lebanon’s army chief told his soldiers on Tuesday to be extra vigilant to prevent unrest during political turmoil after the prime minister quit, and accused Israel of “aggressive” intentions across the southern frontier” despite Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s return to Lebanon and decided to put his resignation on hold.

Commander-General-Joseph-Aoun (Source: The National)

The army’s Twitter account quoted the Lebanese Army’s Commander General Joseph Aoun who said that

“Troops should be ready to “thwart any attempt to exploit the current circumstances for stirring strife” and that “the exceptional political situation that Lebanon is going through requires you to exercise the highest levels of awareness.”

Israel understands that a defeat against Hezbollah and the Lebanese military will be absolutely difficult to accomplish, therefore preparations to engage the Hezbollah this time will be an effort to create as much damage as possible and reduce their military capabilities, maybe in time for U.S. troops to enter the war through Syria and coordinate targets with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). As I mentioned earlier, and may I add, with an interesting choice of words, a report published by Reuters on November 24th suggests that the Pentagon might announce how many troops they have in Syria:

Two U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Pentagon could, as early as Monday, publicly announce that there are slightly more than 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria. They said there was always a possibility that last minute changes in schedules could delay an announcement. That is not an increase in troop numbers, just a more accurate count, as the numbers often fluctuate

A War That No One Will Win 

The Council of Foreign Relations (CFR), an establishment think-tank based in New York City published an article on July 30th of this year by Neocon warmonger Eliot Abrams who was a deputy assistant and deputy national security adviser for President George W. Bush titled ‘The Next Israel-Hezbollah Conflict’ admits that “the next war is a war that will not be “won” by Israel or Hezbollah.” Abrams said that “Israel’s realistic war aims will not match the damage it will suffer—and the damage it will necessarily inflict” in reference to a strategic assessment ‘by Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies titled ‘Political and Military Contours of the Next Conflict with Hezbollah’ by Gideon Sa’ar, an Israeli politician and a former Likud member of the Knesset and Ron Tira, a strategist, Israeli Air Force officer and a pilot highlights what Israel’s realistic goals should be:

Israel’s objectives in a future conflict will be derived first and foremost from what it wants to achieve in the distinct context (such as, for example, preventing Hezbollah’s buildup of certain qualitative edge capabilities or preventing deployment of high quality Iranian weapon systems in Syria), but a review of the fundamental data reveals a few “generic” objectives that could be applicable in many contexts: postponing the following conflict, shaping the rules for the routine times that will follow the conflict, increasing deterrence with respect to Hezbollah and third parties, undermining the attractiveness of Hezbollah’s war paradigm (use of rockets and missiles hidden among the civilian population), preserving Israel’s relations with its allies, and creating the conditions to reduce Iranian involvement in the post-war reconstruction of Lebanon, as well as imposing new and enforceable restrictions on the freedom of access of the Iran-Alawite-Hezbollah axis

The strategic assessment mentioned what realistic goals Israel can achieve when the conflict takes place according to the assessment:

There is only a limited range of “positive” and achievable objectives that Israel can hope to attain from Hezbollah and from Lebanon. While the purpose of an armed conflict is always political, in many contexts it is hard to find a political objective that is both meaningful and achievable at a reasonable cost, and that is the reason for the basic lack of value that can be found in an Israel- Hezbollah military conflict 

The reason according to Mr. Abrams’s conclusion that an Israeli defeat over Hezbollah is impossible is because of Russia’s presence in the region:

That’s because Russia cannot be expelled, Lebanon will remain roughly half-Shia, and Hezbollah will survive—as will its relationship with Iran. After the war, the best assumption would be that Hezbollah will rebuild, as it did after 2006. But Hezbollah would achieve nothing positive in such a conflict, suffering immense damage and bringing immense destruction upon Lebanon. Its only possible “gain” is the damage it would inflict on Israel. In a way this is the only “good news”

Israel’s Economy During Wartime

David Rosenberg’s opinion piece ‘Israel’s Next War: We Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet’ on the 2014 Israel-Gaza Conflict in the Israel-based news source Haaretz explains the consequences of war and how it effects Israel’s economy. Rosenberg said that

 “In 2014, the missile war wasn’t a threat so much as a spectacle, as Israelis watched Iron Dome missiles bring down Qassam rockets, to applause. Score one for the home team.”

However, Rosenberg claims that the next war with Hezbollah will be different, in fact it will effect Israel’s economy in several ways:

The next war isn’t going to look like that. The round figure everyone uses for Hezbollah’s missile arsenal is 100,000. That is a suspiciously round figure and is probably wrong, but no one disputes that the Shiite militia is well-armed, and more importantly, many of its missiles carry much more powerful warheads and are much more accurate than they were in 2006. Hezbollah’s arsenal includes attack drones and coast-to-sea missiles, too. For its part, Israel is also better prepared. Iron Dome, which is designed to bring down short-range rockets, has been complemented by the introduction of the David’s Sling and Arrow systems, designed to intercept long-range rockets and ballistic missiles, respectively. 

But against an onslaught of thousands of missiles, no Domes, Slings or Arrows will be able to provide the kind of defense Israelis have grown used to. Israel’s infrastructure and economic activity are vulnerable to even a limited missile attack from Hezbollah. Geographically, Israel is a small country with no hinterland, which means facilities for electric power and water are concentrated in small areas. More than a quarter of electric power is generated at just two sites. Natural gas is produced at a single offshore field and delivered via a single pipeline. A large portion of our exports derive from a single industrial plant. A prolonged missile war will almost certainly bring business to a halt

Israel’s economy will shrink within a short-time period according to Rosenberg:

In the worst-case scenario, a post-war Israel would no longer be seen by global investors and businesses as a safe place to put their money and do deals. Imagine Startup Nation without the constant flow of cross-border capital and mergers and acquisitions. The fantasyland of the last 11 years would disappear in a matter of days or weeks

Rosenberg is correct. For example, during the 2014 Israel-Gaza Conflict, Israel was faced with economic uncertainties. The Times of Israel published an article during the conflict with an appropriate title ‘War depresses people, economy; strong shekel harmful’ clarified what experts said on how the economy would be effected during a “drawn-out” conflict:

Experts temper the pessimism by noting that in the past, the Israeli economy has been resilient. If the current conflict is resolved quickly, there may be little cause for concern. On the other hand, a drawn out conflict in Gaza may cause investors to worry about the country’s stability and could cause long term damage to Israel’s reputation and position as a key player in the global economy. 

“Our key concerns are the openness of the Israeli economy and our ability to be a key player in the global markets,” Zvi Eckstein, former deputy governor of the Bank of Israel and dean of the School of Economics at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, noted in an interview with The Times of Israel. “It’s really still a key uncertainty how the conflict will end up,” said Eckstein. “Most people predict we will get back to the same relatively stable geopolitical situation as we were in early July, and if so, I would say the economy would rebound back later next year. But if not, the threat to Israel’s economy would be quite devastating”

That conflict was against a weaker adversary, Hamas. For starters, a war with Hezbollah, Lebanon and Syria however would have a negative impact on Israel’s tourism industry where it receives more than 3 million tourists (mainly from the U.S. and Europe) per year. Israel’s level of production will also take a hit. The Street published an interesting article ‘How Is Israel’s Economy Affected by the Current War?’ explains what happened to Israel’s economy during the 2014 Israel-Gaza Conflict:

The Israeli economy suffers directly from reductions in productivity every time missile alert sirens send the country’s residents into bomb shelters. The economic costs of the war are estimated upwards of $2.9 billion, and already the war has soaked up 1.2% of the GDP. In the event that quiet prevails after a ceasefire is reached, the Israeli economy is resilient enough to withstand the costs of this operation.

History reflects that the Israeli economy surged at a rate of 6% prior to the 2006 Lebanon war and then slowed down to 2.9% prior to this current conflict. The tourism sector is going to be particularly hard hit, and if a third intifada ensues the economic costs for Israel could be crippling. Since a big chunk of Israel’s workforce is enlisted in the IDF, productivity declines are widespread and costs are mounting. The IMA (Israel Manufacturers Association) has already listed a figure of $240 million in losses as a result of the war effort

Another War, Another Tragedy

Related image

Israel, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. want to permanently eliminate the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah alliance and to achieve that goal, Lebanon will have to become another Libya causing more chaos in an already volatile situation. The only beneficiaries in this coming war is Israel and the U.S. if of course, they are victorious. The U.S. and their allies would re-establish themselves as the hegemonic power in the Middle East with absolute control over the natural resources including oil, gas and water. Israel would also expand and conquer more territory for Greater Israel. Saudi Arabia would remain a vassal state with more political leverage over its neighbors.

And if Saudi Arabia foolishly decided to go to war with Iran, the House of Saud will inevitably collapse since Iran is much more stronger, militarily speaking. Washington plans to keep its military presence in Syria is a signal that removing Assad from power is still on the agenda. Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Trump administration (decertifying the Iran Nuclear Deal with the intention to eventually kill the deal) is a recipe for a planned long-term conflict. Israel’s economy would suffer a major setback if they were to launch an attack against Hezbollah. Besides the fact that a war against Hezbollah would mean that missiles would constantly strike within Israel, creating a massive amount of stress on Israeli citizens and a downturn of the economy would only add another dimension to the wide-reaching full-scale war. Israel hopes that Hezbollah will be temporally neutralized until the U.S. congress and the Trump Administration jointly approve another military and economic aid package worth billions in time to continue its wars. Then there is the possibility of a joint U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israeli orchestrated attack on Syria to remove Assad from power to ultimately isolate Iran, but with Russia and China backing Iran, it would be a no-win situation.  The biggest loser in all of its foreign policy blunders is the U.S. Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Israel’s plan to launch more aggressive wars against its neighbors to further an expansionist objective would come at a great cost to Israeli citizens as their economy sinks into the rabbit hole and with the threat of incoming missiles from southern Lebanon makes it that much more worst. Lebanon and to an extent Israel will be once again devastated by a new war. For both sides of the border, it is a formula for disastrous consequences.

This article was originally published by Silent Crow News.

Featured image is from the author.

US Massacre Of Syrian Troops Threatens To Unleash Wider War

By Bill Van Auken

February 09, 2018 “Information Clearing House” – US warplanes and artillery batteries carried out an unprovoked massacre of up to 100 pro-government troops in the northeastern province of Deir Ezzor Wednesday, signaling the initiation of a new and far more dangerous stage in the more than three-year-old direct US military intervention in Syria.

The Syrian government denounced the attack as a “war crime” and “direct support to terrorism,” insisting that its forces came under US attack as they were carrying out an operation against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) elements between the villages of Khasham and al-Tabiya on the eastern side of the Euphrates River.

While the Pentagon proudly claimed to have killed 100 pro-government fighters, Damascus allowed that the US strikes claimed “the lives of dozens, injuring many others and causing massive damage in the area.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, meanwhile, said it had confirmed only 20 dead among the pro-government forces.

Whatever the precise number of casualties—the Pentagon’s figures are suspect given that the bombings and artillery barrages were not followed up by any ground attack—the incident marks a major escalation of US aggression against Syria, eclipsing the firing of 59 US cruise missiles last April in response to an unsubstantiated allegation of a chemical weapons attack in Idlib province.

The only previous US attack resulting in comparable bloodshed was the September 17, 2016 US airstrike against a Syrian army position near the Deir Ezzor airport, which killed 62 soldiers and wounded some 100 more. The Pentagon claimed that attack was the result of an “unintentional, regrettable error.”

This time around, the US military said that it was exercising its “inherent right of self-defense” in attacking the forces of a government whose territory American troops are occupying without either its consent or any mandate from the United Nations.

The official story from the Pentagon is that a column of 500 pro-government fighters, including tanks and artillery, had attempted to take control of territory east of the Euphrates River that had been seized by the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the US proxy ground force that is overwhelmingly dominated by the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia. It accused the government forces of launching “an unprovoked attack on a well-established SDF position,” where US Special Forces “advisors” who direct the Kurdish fighters were deployed.

Pentagon officials speaking on condition of anonymity told the media that they believed Russian military contractors operating with the Syrian government forces were among the dead.

The Russian Defense Ministry reported that it had no military personnel in the area. It also said it was aware only of 25 Syrian militia members having been wounded in the US strikes.

Russia’s Defense Ministry added in a statement that the American attack once “again showed that the US is maintaining its illegal presence in Syria not to fight the Daesh group [ISIS], but to seize and hold Syrian economic assets.”

The area where the fighting took place is a center of Syria’s oil and gas fields. The village of al-Tabiya is the site of the Conoco gas plant, which was previously run by ConocoPhillips until the energy corporation turned it over to the Syrian government in 2005. After the area fell under ISIS control, the Islamist militia used gas and oil exports to secure much of its financing.

Washington is determined to deny the Syrian government control over these resources and to that end has sought to carve out a US zone of control covering roughly 30 percent of the country, while cutting off its borders with Turkey and Iraq.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry raised pointed questions about the US version of events, particularly the vast disparity between the claim of 100 Syrian government troops killed and, on the other side, a total of one SDF fighter wounded.

“First of all, how could a 500-strong unit attack a headquarters with tank and artillery support and, as a result, inflict an injury on one counter-attacker?” asked Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova. “How could those who were in that headquarters remain in those conditions for the half hour or more needed to call in and ensure air support?”

“How, within such a short period of time, could a decision have been made to open massive fire for effect on Syrian armed forces?” she continued. “To clarify all these questions, and to get a full picture of what happened, relevant information is now being gathered, both through our military experts and through the Foreign Ministry.”

Despite the words of protest from Moscow, the Pentagon reported that it had used its “deconfliction line” with the Russian military to provide advance notice of its strike on the Syrian government forces and remained in contact during and after the attack. “We had a very productive conversation,” said Pentagon spokesperson Dana White. “…we told them, they knew what was happening. They agreed not to attack Coalition forces. So, from that respect, it was successful.”

The attack on Deir Ezzor is part of a steady ratcheting up of the multisided conflict in Syria, provoked overwhelmingly by Washington’s announced decision to maintain a permanent US military occupation of the country and pursue a “post-ISIS” policy centered on the original US objectives of Syrian regime change and rolling back Iranian and Russian influence in the region. Until launching the anti-ISIS campaign in 2014, Washington had sought the ouster of the government of President Bashar al-Assad by means of supporting and arming the Al Qaeda-linked militias out of which ISIS itself emerged. This sparked the bloody seven-year-long war that has claimed the lives of some 350,000 Syrians, while displacing millions of others.

Since invading the country over three years ago, the US military has relied primarily on the Kurdish YPG as its proxy ground force, but it also continues to arm and train Islamist militia groups. During the US-backed siege of Raqqa and other formerly ISIS-occupied towns, the US military and its Kurdish proxies organized the evacuation of large numbers of ISIS fighters and their redeployment to Deir Ezzor in order to turn them against the Syrian government forces advancing on the province’s strategically vital oil and gas fields.

To the west, the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish-controlled enclave of Afrin, which came in response to US plans to organize a 30,000-strong “border security force” based largely on the Kurdish YPG and create what Ankara sees as a de facto Kurdish state on its border, threatens to escalate into a direct conflict between the US and Turkey, ostensible NATO allies.

On Wednesday, the top US commander in Syria and Iraq, Lt. Gen. Paul Funk, visited Manbij, the Syrian city on the western side of the Euphrates that has been occupied by the YPG and its US Special Forces handlers. The visit came just one day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded that the American forces withdraw from Manbij, vowing that the Turkish military would extend its offensive into the city.

Asked if he was worried about the Turkish threat, Gen. Funk responded, “It’s not in my job description to worry; my job is to fight.”

Meanwhile, both the US and French governments have issued condemnations of Damascus over bombings in Idlib province and Eastern Ghouta, as well as unverified allegations of using chlorine gas against civilian populations. The State Department issued a statement saying that the bombings “must stop now.”

The hypocritical Western media, which went largely silent as the US killed tens of thousands of civilians and razed entire cities to the ground in last year’s sieges of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, has suddenly woken up to report the civilian casualties resulting from the bombardments by Syrian and Russian warplanes. Once again they are churning out propaganda to prepare for a military escalation that has the potential of triggering a direct military confrontation between the world’s two major nuclear powers, the US and Russia.

This article was originally published by “WSWS” –

Copyright © 1998-2018 World Socialist Web Site

US Forces Leave Iraq: Military Presence Failed to Produce Desired Results

US Forces Leave Iraq: Military Presence Failed to Produce Desired Results

US Forces Leave Iraq: Military Presence Failed to Produce Desired Results

The US-led coalition is drawing down or “adjusting” its military presence in Iraq. With ISIS on the ropes, the remaining forces will refocus on “policing, border control, and military capacity building.” A senior official close to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has been reported to say that 60 percent of the US troops will be withdrawn. About 4,000 US personnel will remain as part of a training mission. There were 8,892 US troops in Iraq as of late September. The American soldiers are being shipped to Afghanistan, where  roughly 14,000 troops are already stationed.

It’s conspicuous that the move is taking place against the backdrop of the upcoming May elections in Iraq. The American withdrawal will boost the chances of the US-friendly prime minister, Haider al-Abadi. But rebuilding the country is a large order for that cash-strapped government. Much of the nation is in ruins. The US-led coalition has not done much to propel the process of reconstruction.

So, the contingent in Afghanistan will receive reinforcements. However, the situation hasn’t budged an inch since 2001. The Taliban movement has gained ground recently and is now active in 70 percent of the countryAccording to Randall Schriver, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, the war in Afghanistan costs $45 billion annually. Republican Sen. Rand Paul has said that tens of billions are “just being thrown down a hatch in that country. All attempts to reboot the operation have ended in failure. Despite that, there seems to be no prospect of pulling the plug on the failed policy.

But fighting terrorists seems to be no longer the prime mission with  the focus now shifting to Russia and China.

What will be the outcome of this reduction in US forces? Iraq is preparing an operation to clear the mountainous area near the Iranian border where some anti-government armed groups are still active. The Iraqi government needs it to be secure before it starts transporting its oil from Kirkuk. According to Reuters, Iraq and Iran have agreed to swap up to 60,000 barrels per day of crude produced in Kirkuk for Iranian oil, which will be sent to southern Iraq. The oil is going to be transported by truck and the deal will boost Iran’s regional influence.

Last December, the Iraqi government announced plans to build a new 350-kilometer (220-mile) Kirkuk-Ceyhan (Turkey) oil pipeline to carry up to one million barrels a day. If that pans out, Turkey will see its regional influence grow. About the same time, Iraq reached a deal with China’s state-run Zhenhua Oil to develop the southern section of the East Baghdad oil field, which is believed to hold eight billion barrels. As one can see, Iraq’s leaders are wise enough not to put all their eggs into one basket.

Iraq has recently been turning to Russia for oil deals, military assistance, and nation building. Military cooperation between the two countries has been on the rise. The bilateral contacts indicate the Iraqi government’s desire to expand that relationship.

And the United States? It should be noted that the US troops are hardly safer in Iraq than in Afghanistan. The US had no serious political plan when Iraq was invaded in 2003 and there is no such thing as an Iraq policy now. It is one of those wars that never end. It’s easy to get in, but next to impossible to get out. Look around, it’s not difficult to find conflicts like that in many places today, such as Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria, you name it.

The US military presence around the world is mushrooming. Around 200,000 US troops are stationed in over 170 countries with no great victories to boast of. America is gradually pulling out of Iraq with no glory. The US is not popular in that country. Many Iraqis left the country after the US invasion, because of the massive security problems. Nor is America indispensable there. The Iraqi war was a costly military adventure that has produced many almost unsolvable problems.

In the same way, Washington may get involved in real fighting in Syria. For instance, with no proof to back up the allegation, the US insists that Syria’s government is using chemical weapons. The White House says Damascus would “pay a heavy price” if it were to carry out such an attack. Strikes against Syrian military infrastructure could lead to casualties among Iranian, Turkish, or Russian military personnel. That could also trigger a response.

In Iraq, a clash between US military and pro-Iranian militias can never be ruled out. Huge sums of money are being spent to force America to balance on the brink of conflict in faraway countries and risk its soldiers’ lives without any results to brag about. It makes one question the wisdom of a policy that calls for a military presence in so many places simultaneously. America has a lot to lose and nothing to gain.

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