Reshaping the Middle East: Why the West Should Stop Its Interventions

Syria: the project of creating a” jungle state” instead gave birth to a powerful Resistance movement

Foreign intervention has pushed many Middle Eastern populations into poverty, at the same time making them more determined to confront and reject the global domination sought by the USA. The number of Middle Eastern countries and non-state actors opposed to the US coalition is relatively small and weak by comparison with the opposite camp, but they have nevertheless shaken the richer and strongest superpower together with its oil-rich Middle Eastern allies who were the investors and the instigators of recent wars. They have coalesced as a Resistance movement attracting global support, even in the face of unprecedented propaganda warfare in the mass media.

The soft power of the US coalition has been undermined domestically and abroad from the blatant deceit intrinsic in the project of supporting jihadist takfiri gangs to terrorize, rape and kill Christian, Sunni, secular, and other civilian populations while allegedly fighting a global war on Islamic terrorism.

The small countries targeted by the US coalition are theoretically and strategically important due to their vicinity to Israel. Notwithstanding the scarcity of their resources and their relatively small number of allies in comparison with the opposite camp, they have rejected any reconciliation on the terms offered by Israel.

Israel itself is progressively revealing more overt reconciliation and ties with oil-rich Arab countries: we see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strolling in Warsaw, discussing and shaking hands with Arab leaders. These are obviously not first meetings: recent years have shown a progressively warming rapport and openness between Israel and many Arab leaders.

These Middle East countries have long been supportive of Israel’s aggression against Lebanon and its inhabitants. And in the last decade, this support expanded to include a plot against the Palestinians, Syria and Iraq.

The US has exerted huge pressure on Syria since 2003, following the invasion of Iraq. During Secretary of State Colin Powell’s visit to Damascus in March 2003 he offered long-lasting governance to President Bashar al-Assad in exchange for submission: Assad was asked to sell out Hamas and Hezbollah, and thus join the road map for the “new Middle East”.

When Powell’s intimidation failed, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the US’s main Arab allies and the countries responsible for cash pay-outs to help the US establishment achieve its goals (and those of Israel), promised to inject untold gold and wealth into Syria.

Assad was not willing to comply with this US-Saudi influence and pressure. The influence belonged to the US; Saudi Arabia and Qatar stood behind, holding the moneybags. A war against the Syrian state became essential, and its objectives and prospective benefits immense.

In a few paragraphs, this is what the seven years of war in Syria were about:

The Palestinian cause was pushed to the periphery by the mushrooming of ISIS, a group that terrorised the Middle East and participated in the destruction of the region’s infrastructure, killing thousands of its people and draining its wealth. It was also responsible for numerous attacks around the globe, extending from the Middle East into Europe. ISIS didn’t attack Israel even though it was based on its borders under the name of “Jayesh Khaled Bin al-Waleed.” Nor did al-Qaeda attack Israel, although it also bordered Israel for years, enjoying Israeli intelligence support–and even medical care!

All this was done in order to destroy Syria: dividing the state into zones of influence, with Turkey taking a big chunk (Aleppo, Afrin, Idlib); the Kurds realising their dream by taking over Arab and Assyrian lands in the northeast to create a land of Rojava linked with Iraqi Kurdistan; Israel taking the Golan Heights permanently and creating a buffer zone by grabbing more territory in Quneitra; creating a failed state where jihadist and mercenary groups would fight each other endlessly for dominance; gathering all jihadists into their favourite and most sacred destination (Bilad al-Sham – The Levant) and sealing them into “Islamic Emirates”.

It also involved, strategically, stopping the flow of weapons from Iran through Damascus to Hezbollah in Lebanon; weakening the Iranian-Syrian-Iraqi-Lebanese “Axis of Resistance” by removing Syria from it; preparing for another war against Lebanon once Syria was wiped off the map; stealing Syria’s oil and gas resources on land and in the Mediterranean; building a gas pipeline from Qatar to Europe to cripple Russia’s economy; and finally removing Russia from the Levant together with its naval base on the coast.

At no point in the Syrian war was a single leader proposed to rule the country and replace Bashar al-Assad. The plan was to establish a zone of anarchy with no ruler; Syria was expected to become the jungle of the Middle East.

It was a plan bigger than Assad and much bigger than the Syrians. Hundreds of billions of dollars were invested by Middle Eastern countries – Saudi Arabia and Qatar – to kill Syrians, destroy their country and accomplish the above objectives. It was a crime against an entire population with the watchful complicity of the modern and “democratic” world.

Many pretexts were given for the Syrian war. It was not only about regime change. It was about creating a jungle state. Think tanks, journalists, academics, ambassadors all joined the fiesta by collaborating in the slaughter of Syrians. Crocodile tears were shed over “humanitarian catastrophes” in Syria even as the poorest country in the Middle East, the Yemen, was and still is being slaughtered while the same mainstream media avert their gaze and conceal the nature of the conflict from the general public.

Anyone who understood the game, or even part of it, was called “Assadist”, a designation meant as an insult. The savage irony? This epithet “Assadist” was freely wielded by the US chattering class- who themselves have evidently never publicly counted and acknowledged the millions killed by the US political establishment over the centuries.

So, what has this global intervention brought about?

Russia has returned to the Levant after a long hibernation. Its essential role has been to stand against the US world hegemony without provoking, or even trying to provoke, a war with Washington. Moscow demonstrated its new weapons, opening markets for its military industry, and showed its military competence without falling into the many traps laid in the Levant during its active presence. It created the Astana agreement to bypass UN efforts to manipulate negotiations, and it isolated the war into several regions and compartments to deal with each part separately. Putin exhibited a shrewd military mind in dealing successfully with the “mother of all wars” in Syria. He ventured skilfully into US territory against its hegemonic goals, and he has created powerful and lasting strategic alliances with Turkey (a NATO member) and Iran.

Iran found fertile ground in Syria to consolidate the “Axis of the Resistance” when the country’s inhabitants (Christian, Sunni, Druse, secular people and other minorities) realised that the survival of their families and their country were at stake. It managed to rebuild Syria’s arsenal and succeeded in supplying Hezbollah with the most sophisticated weapons needed for a classic guerrilla-style war to stop Israel from attacking Lebanon. Assad is grateful for the loyalty of these partners who took the side of Syria even as the world was conspiring to destroy it.

Iran has adopted a new ideology: it is not an Islamic or a Christian ideology but a new one that emerged in the last seven years of war. It is the “Ideology of Resistance”, an ideology that goes beyond religion. This new ideology imposed itself even on clerical Iran and on Hezbollah who have abandonned any goal of exporting an Islamic Republic: instead they support any population ready to stand against the destructive US hegemony over the world.

For Iran, it is no longer a question of spreading Shiism or converting secular people, Sunni or Christians. The goal is for all to identify the real enemy and to stand against it. That is what the West’s intervention in the Middle East is creating. It has certainly succeeded in impoverishing the region: but it has also elicited pushback from a powerful front. This new front appears stronger and more effective than the forces unleashed by the hundreds of billions spent by the opposing coalition for the purpose of spreading destruction in order to ensure US dominance.


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المراوغة التركية وعصا السيادة السورية

فبراير 20, 2019

ناصر قنديل

– لم تتوقف تركيا في ظل حزب العدالة والتنمية من الترويج لمفهوم حق التعقب والتوغّل واستباحة مفهوم السيادة لدول الجوار تحت شعار أولوية الأمن القومي للدول على التزامها باحترام سيادة جيرانها. وسعت تركيا عبر ممارستها هذا التعقب والتوغل في كل من سورية والعراق إلى تكريس سقوط مبدأ السيادة كواحدة من ركائز العلاقات الدولية والقانون الدولي، وهو سعي ينسجم مع معايير الحرب الاستباقية القائمة على إطاحة مبدأ السيادة وهو ما شكل عنوان الحروب التي خاضتها واشنطن، فكان تموضع قواتها والتحالف الذي تقوده تحت عنوان الحرب على داعش في سورية دون السعي للتنسيق مع الدولة السورية والحصول على موافقتها، ليس فقط بداعي الاعتبارات السياسية المتصلة بطبيعة العلاقة المتأزمة مع الدولة السورية بل انسجاماً مع السعي لتكريس حق استباحة مفهوم السيادة ضمن منهجها لنظرية الحرب الاستباقية.

– منذ ظهور العولمة على الساحة الدولية كمنظومة سياسية اقتصادية جديدة، باعتبار التأثير المتبادل لدول العالم على بعضها ورفض الانعزال بينها ليس حدثاً دولياً جديداً. وهناك محاولات لا تتوقف عن التبشير بنهاية زمن السيادة الوطنية للدول، وتسخر من كل حديث عن مفهوم الاستقلال الوطني، والتسويق لنظرية مفادها أنه بموجب الإقرار بسقوط السيادة والاستقلال، فالدول الذكية هي التي تبادر بالتنازل عن سيادتها طوعاً للتموضع في حلف سياسي اقتصادي يلبي مصالحها، طالما أن معيار السيادة والاستقلال قد أصبح شيئاً من الماضي، وجاءت الحرب على سورية في جانب رئيسي منها محاولة لتسويق هذا المفهوم. فالشؤون الداخلية للدول لم تعد داخلية، والتدخل في شؤون الدول لم يعد انتهاكاً للقانون الدولي، والتموضع العسكري فوق أراضيها لا يحتاج موافقة صاحب الأرض، وصولاً إلى اعتبار استجلاب مئات آلاف المسلحين من أنحاء الدنيا والزجّ بهم في جغرافيا دولة ذات سيادة أمراً مشروعاً، وفي جانب رئيسي من مواجهتها خاضت سورية دفاعاً عن حقها وحقوق دول العالم المعرّضة والمهدّدة بانتهاك سيادتها، معركة رد الاعتبار لمفهوم السيادة والدولة الوطنية، والاستقلال الوطني والقرار الوطني المستقل.

– نجحت سورية في فرض قواعد الاشتباك التي رسمتها لحروبها بوجه كل أشكال الانتهاك والتطاول على السيادة السورية، وفرضت ردّ الاعتبار لمفهوم السيادة كركن من أركان قواعد حفظ الأمن والسلم الإقليمي والدولي، وقد جاء كلام الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد عن التمييز بين تعرّض البعد المادي للسيادة الوطنية للانتقاص خلال الحرب جغرافيا أو عملياً عبر التدخلات الأجنبية والهجمات الإرهابية، إلا أن الأهم هو عدم استعداد الدولة السورية لشرعنة هذا الانتهاك أو للصمت عنه، وإصرارها على التمسك بسيادتها، وبقرارها المستقل، وعندما بدأت الانتصارات التي تحققها سورية مدعومة من حلفائها تتحول مساراً ثابتاً في مسار معارك المواجهة في سياق الحرب، وصارت رقعة الجبهات الجغرافية تقترب من الحدود، كان على الذين اجتاحوا الحدود وضربوا عرض الحائط بمفهوم السيادة الاختيار بين مواجهة مفتوحة لا سقف لها ولا ضوابط ولا قواعد اشتباك، أو الانكفاء وراء قواعد رسمها القانون الدولي ترسم قواعد اشتباك وتشكل إطاراً للأمن الإقليمي والدولي، ومثلما كان هذا حال كيان الاحتلال الذي أعلن سلفاً سقوط اتفاق فك الاشتباك الموقع عام 1974 على جبهة الجولان وسلم مواقع المراقبين الدوليين لجماعات جبهة النصرة، معلناً أنه يأتمنها على حدوده الشمالية، وأنه يسعى لحزام أمني داخل الأراضي السورية، وجد قادة الكيان أنفسهم مجبرين على الاعتراف بأن العودة إلى اتفاق فك الاشتباك أقل الخيارات مرارة، بما فيه من اعتراف العودة للتعامل مع معادلة السيادة السورية، وبعدهم جرّب الأميركيون واستعصى عليهم البقاء دون الحصول على موافقة الدولة السورية فشكل انسحابهم إقراراً ضمنياً بتفوق مفهوم السيادة على مفاهيم العولمة وحق التعقب وحق التوغل، والحرب الاستباقية.

– جاء دور تركيا بعد طول مراوغة، حيث لا تزال محاولات التمرد على معادلة السيادة السورية وفرض منطق التوغل والاستباحة ضمن معادلة أولوية الأمن القومي على سيادة دول الجوار، فجاء كلام الرئيس الأسد العالي النبرة، رسالة ردع تبعتها شروحات مفيدة من الحلفاء عن مخاطر مواجهة سورية تركية بعد الانسحاب الأميركي من شرق سورية ما لم يتم الالتزام بمقتضيات السيادة السورية واعتبار اتفاق أضنة القائم أصلاً منذ العام 1998 إطاراً لقواعد اشتباك تصلح لتنظيم الوضع الحدودي بين سورية وتركيا، تضمن من جهة الأمن القومي التركي ومن جهة مقابلة السيادة الوطنية السورية، فكان النزول التركي عن الشجرة بصمت، عبّر عنه وزير الخارجية الروسية بإعلانه موافقة تركيا على اعتماد اتفاق أضنة كصيغة صالحة لتنظيم الوضع الحدودي مع سورية.

– المعركة الثقافية والفكرية التي خاضها الرئيس السوري دفاعاً عن مفهوم السيادة والقرار المستقل لا تقلّ شأناً عن قيمة المعركة التي خاضها دفاعاً عن سورية كجغرافيا وناس وعمران ومستقبل، وسيشهد العالم بفعل نتائج الحرب السورية صعود مفهوم الدولة الوطنية مجدداً على حساب محاولات الاستباحة التي تمّ تسويقها تحت شعار العولمة وسقوط الحدود بين الدول و«العالم قرية صغيرة».

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South Front

On February 13, the Syrian Air Force conducted a series of airstrikes on ISIS hideouts in the area of Kiribat al-Hosn in the Damascus desert. The airstrikes reportedly came in response to a recent increase in the activity of ISIS cells in this area.

The Damascus desert as well as the desert areas near the US-occupied al-Tanf zone are still a safe haven for a few hundred ISIS-linked militants. Just last week, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) eliminated a group of 6 ISIS members involved in a reconnaissance operation near the administrative border of al-Suwayda province.

The situation in the desert area may deteriorate even further if the SAA and its allies do not employ the measures needed to neutralize this threat.

Meanwhile, reports appeared that the SAA has sent reinforcements to southern Syria. The reason for the deployment givem by some pro-government outlets is the reinforcement of SAA positions near the Golan Heights, where Israeli strikes recently took place. However, the very same forces can be used to secure the countryside of al-Suwayda in the event of the growing ISIS threat from the desert.

In the Idlib de-escalation zone, the SAA conducted one of the most intense shellings of militant positions since the start of the year. According to pro-opposition sources, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its allies came under fire in al-Lataminah, Lahaya, Maarkaba, al-Buwaydah, Qalaat al-Madiq, al-Hwaiz, al-Twinah and al-Hurriyah in northern Hama as well as Sukayk, Khan Shaykhun and al-Tamanah in southern Idlib.

The Syrian state media said that the strikes were a response to violations of the ceasefire regime by militant groups. In turn, militants accused the Assad government of violating the de-escalation deal.

It should be noted that Russia has recently toughened its attitude towards the de-escalation zone issue. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov officially stated that that the Idlib agreement is only a temporary measure and “no agreement suggests the endless preservation of this terrorist nest in Syrian territory”.

The US-led coalition is working to establish a permanent military base in southwestern Iraq, near the country’s border with both Syria and Jordan, the Iraqi al-Maalomah news outlet reported on February 13 citing a source in the province of al-Anbar. This would not be the first attempt of the US military to fortify its presence in this part of the country. In November 2018, a commander of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units revealed that the coalition had tried to occupy the H3 airbase, known as Abu Rida al-Baldaui, in western al-Anbar.

These actions are a part of the wider effort to establish an infrastructure allowing the US military to control key highways linking Syria and Iraq. On February 3, US President Donald Trump openly declared that despite the Syria withdrawal, US forces will remain in Iraq in order to watch Iran.

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“Israeli” Aggression on Syria: Shells, Missiles Hit Quneitra

By Staff

A Syrian military source announced on Sunday that the “Israeli” enemy targeted Tal al-Douhor in Jabata al-Khashab, Tal al-Deria and Talet Khaled with a number of shells.

The source added that at 19.50 p.m., “Israeli” drones launched 4 missiles on Quneitra hospital and one of the points affiliated to the security guard forces, affirming that the damages were limited to materials.

Earlier, SANA reporter said that the “Israeli” occupation launched aggression with shells on Quneitra, and the damages were limited to material ones.

The reporter added that the “Israeli” aggression has targeted the destroyed Hospital of Quneitra with a number of tank shells and one of the observation centers in Jabata al-Khashab.

Air defenses of the Syrian Arab army, on January 20th, intercepted an “Israeli” air aggression that targeted the southern area, preventing it from achieving its targets.

Netanyahu Confirms New Strikes On Syria As IDF Remains Silent

Netanyahu Confirms New Strikes On Syria As IDF Remains Silent

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On February 12th, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that Israel struck Hezbollah targets in Syria on the previous day.

This is in direct contrast with the position of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), who have provided no comment or details on any such incident in the Syrian Golan Heights.

According to Haaretz, “senior defense officials say the decision not to respond to the reports on the strike stemmed from the desire to renew the policy of ambiguity of recent years.”

“We operate every day, including yesterday, against Iran and its attempts to entrench itself in the region,” Netanyahu said as he was leaving for the anti-Iran Warsaw Conference, organized by Poland and the US.

Syrian state outlet SANA reported that on February 11th, the IDF targeted Tal al-Douhor in Jabata al-Khashab, Tal al-Deria and Talet Khaled with a number of shells.

Furthermore, the military source claimed that Israeli drones launched 4 missiles on Quneitra hospital and one of the points affiliated to the security guard forces, affirming that the damages were limited to materials.

On the previous day, SANA also reported that IDF shelled Quneitra. Israeli tank shells hit a demolished hospital and an observation post in Syria’s southern Quneitra province near the border with Israel,

The incident also resulted in only material damage.

The attacks were a response to Iran, according to Netanyahu.

“Iran is issuing threats against us. On the fortieth anniversary of their revolution, they threatened to destroy Tel Aviv and Haifa. I said that they won’t succeed and if they try, it will be the last anniversary they celebrate,” Netanyahu noted

The IDF is “operating through a lot of different means and elements against their [Tehran and its allies’] attempts to arm up on nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and entrench themselves in Syria”, Netanyahu stressed.

Netanyahu also noted that Israel’s relations with countries in the Middle East “are very good. With all of them except for Syria.” Clearly forgetting to mention Iran.

“Descriptions according to which we are disconnected [from countries around us] are the opposite of the reality. Relations are tightening. Not everything is out in the open but some of it is,” he added.

Earlier in February, Secretary of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani warned that if Israel continues to attack Syria, “specific measures will be taken to contain it and to respond decisively and symmetrically”.

In addition to that, in late January, second-in-command of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Brigadier General Hossein Salami told reporters in Tehran that “Our strategy is [to wipe] Israel [off] the world’s political geography and Israel seems to be approaching this reality by its mischiefs.”


Netanyahu Rival Speaks of Possible West Bank Withdrawal

Benny Gantz

 February 6, 2019

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main rival in an April election has raised the possibility of pulling back from the occupied West Bank, in remarks published Wednesday that drew right-wing criticism.

Benny Gantz, the former armed forces chief of staff, spoke positively of IsraelI pullout from the Gaza Strip in 2005, in his first interview since launching his election campaign last week.

The Gaza withdrawal had been “approved by the Israeli government and implemented by the army and settlers in a painful but good way”, he told the Yediot Aharonot newspaper.

“(One should) learn from it and apply it to other places,” he said.

Gantz did not explicitly mention the West Bank in his remarks and refrained from outlining the conditions for any pullback from the Palestinian territory.

The 59-year-old launched his campaign on January 29 in a speech promising to keep the strategic Jordan Valley area of the occupied West Bank under Israeli rule, along with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and east Al-Quds (Jerusalem).

Although he did not say so in the interview, Gantz could support a withdrawal from wildcat outposts that are not approved by the Israeli occupation authorities.

Gantz’s comments drew criticism from right-wing parties.

“We told you Benny Gantz would form a leftist government with the help of” MPs of the Arab-led Joint List who hold 13 seats in parliament, said a spokesman for Likud.

His remarks were also attacked by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads a newly founded ultra-nationalist formation that favors the partial annexation of the West Bank.

“Gantz has thrown off the mask and overtaken Avi Gabbay (of the centre-left Labour party)… and wants to expel Jews from their homes through a unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria (the West Bank),” Bennett said.

Since founding his party, Gantz has emerged as the most serious challenger to Netanyahu, who has been prime minister since 2009 as well as between 1996-1999.

Source: AFP

israel Admitted Arming anti-Assad Syrian Rebels (terrorists). Big Mistake

Israel Admitted Arming anti-Assad Syrian Rebels. Big Mistake
By Daniel J. Levy

Pay to play

In his final days as the Israel Defense Forces’ Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot confirmed, on the record, that Israel had directly supported anti-Assad Syrian rebel factions in the Golan Heights by arming them.

This revelation marks a direct break from Israel’s previous media policy on such matters. Until now, Israel has insisted it has only provided humanitarian aid to civilians (through field hospitals on the Golan Heights and in permanent healthcare facilities in northern Israel), and has consistently denied or refused to comment on any other assistance.

In short, none other than Israel’s most (until recently) senior serving soldier has admitted that up until his statement, his country’s officially stated position on the Syrian civil war was built on the lie of non-intervention.

As uncomfortable as this may initially seem, though, it is unsurprising. Israel has a long history of conducting unconventional warfare. That form of combat is defined by the U.S. government’s National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 as “activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt or overthrow an occupying power or government by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary or guerrilla force in a denied area” in the pursuit of various security-related strategic objectives.

While the United States and Iran are both practitioners of unconventional warfare par excellence, they primarily tend to do so with obvious and longer-term strategic allies, i.e. the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance fighters in Afghanistan, and various Shia militias in post-2003 Iraq.

In contrast, Israel has always shown a remarkable willingness to form short-term tactical partnerships with forces and entities explicitly hostile to its very existence, as long as that alliance is able to offer some kind of security-related benefits.

The best example of this is Israel’s decision to arm Tehran during the Iran-Iraq War, despite the Islamic Republic of Iran’s strong anti-Zionist rhetoric and foreign policy. During the 1980s, Iraq remained Jerusalem’s primary conventional (and arguably existential) military threat. Aiding Tehran to continue fighting an attritional war against Baghdad reduced the risk the latter posed against Israel.

Similarly, throughout the civil war in Yemen in the 1960s, Israel covertly supported the royalist Houthi forces fighting Egyptian-backed republicans. Given Egypt’s very heavy military footprint in Yemen at the time (as many as a third of all Egyptian troops were deployed to the country during this period), Israelis reasoned that this military attrition would undermine their fighting capacity closer to home, which was arguably proven by Egypt’s lacklustre performance in the Six Day War.

Although technically not unconventional warfare, Israel long and openly backed the South Lebanon Army, giving it years of experience in arming, training, and mentoring a partner indigenous force.

More recently, though, Israel’s policy of supporting certain anti-Assad rebel groups remains consistent with past precedents of with whom and why it engages in unconventional warfare. Israel’s most pressing strategic concern and potential threat in Syria is an Iranian encroachment onto its northern border, either directly, or through an experienced and dangerous proxy such as Hezbollah, key to the Assad regime’s survival.

For a number of reasons, Israel committing troops to overt large-scale operations in Syria to prevent this is simply unfeasible. To this end, identifying and subsequently supporting a local partner capable of helping Israel achieve this strategic goal is far more sensible, and realistic.

Open source details of Israel’s project to support anti-Assad rebel groups are sparse, and have been since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war.

Reports of this first arose towards the end of 2014, and one described how United Nations officials had witnessed Syrian rebels transferring injured patients to Israel, as well as “IDF soldiers on the Israeli side handing over two boxes to armed Syrian opposition members on the Syrian side.” The same report also stated that UN observers said they saw “two IDF soldiers on the eastern side of the border fence opening the gate and letting two people enter Israel.”

Since then, a steady stream of similar reports continued to detail Israeli contacts with the Syrian rebels, with the best being written and researched by Elizabeth Tsurkov. In February, 2014 she wrote an outstanding feature for War On The Rocks, where she identified Liwaa’ Fursan al-Jolan and Firqat Ahrar Nawa as two groups benefiting from Israeli support, named Iyad Moro as “Israel’s contact person in Beit Jann,” and stated that weaponry, munitions, and cash were Israel’s main form of military aid.

She also describes how Israel has supported its allied groups in fighting local affiliates of Islamic State with drone strikes and high-precision missile attacks, strongly suggesting, in my view, the presence of embedded Israeli liaison officers of some kind.

A 2017 report published by the United Nations describes how IDF personnel were observed passing supplies over the Syrian border to unidentified armed individuals approaching them with convoys of mules, and although Israel claims that these engagements were humanitarian in nature, this fails to explain the presence of weaponry amongst the unidentified individuals receiving supplies from them.

Writing for Foreign Policy in September 2018, Tsurkov again detailed how Israel was supporting the Syrian rebel factions, stating that material support came in the form of “assault rifles, machine guns, mortar launchers and transport vehicles,” which were delivered “through three gates connecting the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to Syria – the same crossings Israel used to deliver humanitarian aid to residents of southern Syria suffering from years of civil war.” She also dates this support to have begun way back in 2013.

The one part of Israel’s involvement in the Syrian Civil War which has been enthusiastically publicised, though, has been its ongoing humanitarian operations in the Golan. Dubbed “Operation Good Neighbor,” this was established in June 2016, and its stated aim is to “provide humanitarian aid to as many people as possible while maintaining Israel’s policy of non-involvement in the conflict.”

Quite clearly, this is – at least in parts – a lie, as even since before its official commencement, Israel was seemingly engaging with and supporting various anti-Assad factions.

Although Operation Good Neighbor patently did undertake significant humanitarian efforts in southern Syria for desperate Syrian civilians (including providing free medical treatment, infrastructure support, and civilian aid such as food and fuel), it has long been my personal belief that it was primarily a smokescreen for Israel’s covert unconventional warfare efforts in the country.

Although it may be argued that deniability was initially necessary to protect Israel’s Syrian beneficiaries who could not be seen to be working with Jerusalem for any number of reasons (such as the likely detrimental impact this would have on their local reputation if not lives), this does not justify Israel’s outright lying on the subject. Instead, it could have mimicked the altogether more sensible approach of the British government towards United Kingdom Special Forces, which is simply to restate their position of not commenting, confirming, or denying any potentially relevant information or assertions.

Israel is generous in its provision of humanitarian aid to the less fortunate, but I find it impossible to believe that its efforts in Syria were primarily guided by altruism when a strategic objective as important as preventing Iran and its proxies gaining a toehold on its northern border was at stake.

Its timing is interesting and telling as well. Operation Good Neighbor was formally put in place just months after the Assad regime began its Russian-backed counter-offensive against the rebel factions, and ceased when the rebels were pushed out of southern Syria in September 2018.

But it’s not as if that September there were no longer civilians who could benefit from Israeli humanitarian aid, but an absence of partners to whom Israel could feasibly directly dispatch arms and other supplies. Although Israel did participate in the rescue of a number of White Helmets, this was done in a relatively passive manner (allowing their convoy to drive to Jordan through Israeli territory), and also artfully avoided escalating any kind of conflict with the Assad’s forces and associated foreign allies.

Popular opinion – both in Israel and amongst Diaspora Jews – was loud and clear about the ethical necessity of protecting Syrian civilians (especially from historically-resonant gas attacks). But it’s unlikely this pressure swung Israel to intervene in Syria. Israel already had a strong interest in keeping Iran and its proxies out southern Syria, and that would have remained the case, irrespective of gas attacks against civilians.

Although Israel has gone to great lengths to conceal its efforts at unconventional warfare within the Syrian civil war, it need not have. Its activities are consistent with its previous efforts at promoting strategic objectives through sometimes unlikely, if not counter-intuitive, regional partners.

Perhaps the reason why Eisenkot admitted that this support was taking place was because he knew that it could not be concealed forever, not least since the fall of the smokescreen provided by Operation Good Neighbor. But the manner in which Israel operated may have longer-term consequences.

Israel is unlikely to change how it operates in the future, but may very well find future potential tactical partners less than willing to cooperate with it. In both southern Lebanon and now Syria, Israel’s former partners have found themselves exposed to dangers borne out of collaboration, and seemingly abandoned.

With that kind of history and record, it is likely that unless they find themselves in desperate straits, future potential partners will think twice before accepting support from, and working with, Israel.

For years, Israel has religiously adhered to the official party line that the country’s policy was non-intervention, and this has now been exposed as a lie. Such a loss of public credibility may significantly inhibit its abilities to conduct influence operations in the future.

Daniel J. Levy is a graduate of the Universities of Leeds and Oxford, where his academic research focused on Iranian proxies in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine. He lives in the UK and is the Founding Director of The Ortakoy Security Group. Twitter: @danielhalevy

This article was originally published by Haaretz

سورية وتركيا… والنقاش حول قبول اتفاقية أضنة

يناير 29, 2019

ناصر قنديل

– قبل سنتين ماضيتين لم يكن بتصور أحد أن تبلغ الدولة السورية في مشروع بسط سيطرتها على هذه النسبة من الجغرافيا التي كانت تحت سيادة الدولة السورية وجيشها عام 2011، ولا أن تكون القوى الدولية والإقليمية التي تنازع الدولة السورية على هذه السيطرة، تنكفئ وينسحب بعضها، ويبحث البعض الآخر عن مخارج تجنبه المزيد من الخسائر. وتكفي نظرة منصفة نحو ما قبل سنتين لرؤية كيف كان حال المواقف الأميركية والتركية والإسرائيلية في مناخ التصعيد والتهديد، وكيف كانت مواقف القيادات الكردية، والجماعات المسلحة المنتشرة من حلب إلى الغوطة والجنوب ودير الزور بما فيها تلك التي يشغلها الأتراك والخليجيون وتلك التابعة لداعش وجبهة النصرة تبني إماراتها المدنية والعسكرية على حساب وحدة وسيادة سورية، وكيف تسلل مفهوم الفدرالية والحكم الذاتي إلى مفردات الحل السياسي، وصولاً لتحوله مشروعاً للحل الأمني في حلب على لسان المبعوث الأممي ستيفان دي ميستورا.

– اليوم صورة مختلفة كلياً، الدولة السورية تسيطر على كل الجغرافيا التي كانت تحت سيطرتها عام 2011 باستثناء الشريط الشمالي الذي يتوزّعه، من جهة الأميركيون والجماعات الكردية المسلحة، ومن جهة موازية الأتراك وجبهة النصرة وبعض الجماعات التي تشغلها تركيا، وبات واضحاً أن مساراً يتصل بمستقبل هذه المناطق سينقلها إلى السيادة السورية، في مناخ بات ثابتاً أنه محكوم بمعادلتي الانسحاب الأميركي، والانفتاح الكردي على حل سياسي مع الدولة السورية من جهة. ومن جهة مقابلة الانخراط التركي في تفاوض مع الدولة السورية تحت عنوان اتفاق أضنة الموقع عام 1998 لضمان الوضع على الحدود بين تركيا وسورية، والاتجاه للحسم العسكري مع جبهة النصرة، وسقوط الجماعات التي تشغلها تركيا بين فكي الخيار التركي السياسي أو خيار النصرة العسكري.

– في قلب هذه اللحظة تُطرح في التداول دعوة للنقاش حول اتفاقية أضنة، التي يريد البعض ربطها بنصوص مفترضة تتضمنها تمنح الأتراك ما يُسمّى بحق التعقب داخل الأراضي السورية، أو توحي بالقبول السوري بتجاهل مصير لواء الإسكندرون. ويعتبر هذا البعض أن العودة للاتفاقية مساس بسيادة ووحدة سورية، داعياً لرفض اعتبار السير بمندرجاتها انتصاراً لسورية. وتصويب النقاش هنا يبدأ من رفض الدخول في فرضيات ما تنص عليه الاتفاقية. فهي بالتعريف المتفق عليه، اتفاق حدودي بين الدولة السورية والدولة التركية كان ينظم الوضع بين الدولتين عبر الحدود قبل العام 2011، وبالتالي بمعزل عن تفاصيل مضامينها، يجب الإقرار بحقيقتين: الأولى أنها اتفاقية تعبر عن قرار سيادي سوري جرى اتخاذه في ظروف ليست من نتاج الحرب وما رتبته من انتهاك تركي لسيادة سورية ومن تهديد لوحدتها، وبالتالي القبول بأحكامها ليس ثمناً تؤديه سورية لقاء التراجع التركي عن هذين الانتهاك والتهديد، خصوصاً أن الدولة السورية حتى عشية الحرب عليها عام 2011 لم تطلب تعديل أحكام الاتفاقية أو تصرح باعتبار أحكامها مساساً بوحدة سورية وسيادتها. أما أن يكون طموح البعض هو تحسين شروط ممارسة السيادة وصيانة الوحدة، فهذا أمر مشروع، لكنه ليس على صلة بمعادلات خروج سورية بالانتصار على الحرب التي شنت عليها، والتي يتحقق النصر عليها بالعودة إلى ما كان عليه الحال قبلها.

– في حالة موازية ومشابهة ترتبط سورية عبر حدود الجولان باتفاقية فك الاشتباك بينها وبين إسرائيل والموقعة منذ العام 1974، ونظراً لحسابات القيادة السورية لا يزال الغموض يكتنف موقف الدولة السورية من العودة إلى هذه الاتفاقية التي يشكل القبول الإسرائيلي بالعودة إليها تسليماً بالنصر السوري، على الحرب التي كانت «إسرائيل» أحد محركاتها وشركائها منذ العام 2011، ولذلك تشكل الدعوة لرفض العودة إلى اتفاق فك الاشتباك ضغطاً معنوياً غير مشروع على الدولة السورية، بينما تدير القيادة السورية المعركة السياسية والعسكرية على هذه الجبهة بكل تعقيداتها بذكاء يأخذ بالاعتبار أن فك الاشتباك معطوف على التزام إسرائيلي بالانسحاب من الجولان تريد «إسرائيل» التملص منه، وفي مناخ تصاعد العدوانية الإسرائيلية عبر الغارات التي لم تتوقف على الأراضي السورية، دون أن يعني ذلك أنه عندما ترتئي الدولة السورية العودة لاتفاق فك الاشتباك، بعد نجاحها في منحه الأبعاد التي تطمئنها لمفهوم سيادتها ووحدة اراضيها بقياس ما كان عليه الحال قبل العام 2011، يمكن أو يحق لأحد الطعن بسلامة موقفها.

– في الحالين العودة إلى ما كانت عليه الأوضاع عشية الحرب عام 2011 هو ترجمة مفهوم النصر على الحرب، من دون أن يعني هذا أن ما كان عشية الحرب لا يتضمن احتلالاً تركياً للواء الإسكندرون، واحتلالاً إسرائيلياً للجولان، لكن توقيت وسياق التصدي لمهام تحريرها ملف مستقل عن ملف الانتصار على الحرب، التي يشارك سورية في التصدي لها حلفاء تنتهي مهمتهم عند تحقيق الانتصار على الحرب والعودة إلى ما كان عليه الحال قبلها. وفي قلب هذا النقاش يستحق القول إنه إن كان لسورية فرصة فتح أحد الملفين، احتلال الجولان واحتلال لواء الإسكندرون، فلن تكون فرصة فتحهما معاً، ومنطقي أن تكون الأولوية لفتح ملف احتلال الجولان إن تيسّر ذلك، وفقاً لحسابات الدولة السورية، وقراءتها للمعادلات المحيطة بحربها، وليس لضغوط معنوية غير محقة يوجهها محبّون ومخلصون في توقيت خاطئ.

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