Assad’s Tehran Visit Signals Iran’s Victory in Syria

March 9, 2019 (Tony Cartalucci – NEO) – For the first tiirme since war broke out in Syria in 2011, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad has travelled to Iran to meet Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

President Assad had only travelled outside of Syria on two other occasions during the war – both times to Russia.

The significance of the trip cannot be understated – it was a message sent to those who orchestrated the proxy war against Syria that Damascus has prevailed and instead of driving a wedge between it and its allies in Moscow and Tehran – it has only drawn these regional powers closer together.

The symbol of solidarity between Syria and Iran comes at a time when Washington finds itself vacillating between a full withdrawal from Syria, a redeployment to Iraq, or an attempt to drag out the conclusion of the Syrian conflict for as long as possible by keeping US forces there indefinitely.

The Washington Post in its article, “Syria’s Assad visits Iran in rare trip abroad,” would admit:

U.S. officials said Trump’s decision authorizing a small number of U.S. troops to stay is a key step in creating a larger multinational observer force that would monitor a so-called safe zone along Syria’s border with Turkey. The buffer zone is meant to prevent clashes between Turkey and U.S.-backed Kurdish forces. It is also aimed at preventing Assad’s forces and Iran-backed fighters from seizing more territory.

The US will also seek to preserve militants – many of which are openly aligned with designated terrorist organizations – still occupying the northern Syrian governorate of Idlib.

While the US has certainly failed in its goal of regime change in Syria and even as it appears weak and confused regarding its policy in Syria and the Middle East in general – its potential to prolong the Syrian conflict and leave the nation more or less permanently divided persists.

Iran is in Syria for Good 

President Assad’s visit to Iran was not only a symbolic gesture of gratitude for Iran’s role in helping Syria prevail over US aggression – it is also a clear sign that Iranian influence has only grown in Syria. Iranian-backed militias have spread across both Syria and Iraq to confront US and Persian Gulf-backed terrorists including various factions of Al Qaeda and the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) itself.

Washington’s gamble banked on what it had hoped would be a relatively quick regime change operation following along the same lines as the US-backed proxy war in Libya. The Syrian government was meant to fold quickly – the US appears not to have anticipated its resilience nor the eventual Russian military intervention in 2015. Washington may also not have anticipated the scale and efficacy of the commitment made by Tehran.

Instead of liquidating one of Iran’s allies thus further isolating Tehran ahead of US-backed regime change efforts aimed directly at Iran – the terrorist proxies the US and its regional partners sponsored in Syria served as impetus for Tehran to broaden and deepen the presence of its forces – including militias sponsored by Iran – across the region, and specifically in Syria and Iraq.

US policy papers predating the 2011 proxy war against Syria – including the RAND Corporation’s 2009 publication titled, “Dangerous But Not Omnipotent : Exploring the Reach and Limitations of Iranian Power in the Middle East,” noted that much of Iran’s domestic and regional policies revolved around self-defense.

The RAND paper itself would note:

Iran’s strategy is largely defensive, but with some offensive elements. Iran’s strategy of protecting the regime against internal threats, deterring aggression, safeguarding the homeland if aggression occurs, and extending influence is in large part a defensive one that also serves some aggressive tendencies when coupled with expressions of Iranian regional aspirations. It is in part a response to U.S. policy pronouncements and posture in the region, especially since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Iranian leadership takes very seriously the threat of invasion given the open discussion in the United States of regime change, speeches defining Iran as part of the “axis of evil,” and efforts by U.S. forces to secure base access in states surrounding Iran.

RAND also noted Iran’s preference for asymmetrical warfare over conventional military forces and the use of resistance militias across the region. The report would note:

Some of Iran’s asymmetric capabilities are threatening. Because of its inferior conventional military forces, Iran’s defense doctrine, particularly its ability to deter aggressors, relies heavily on asymmetric warfare. Iranian strategists favor guerilla efforts that offer superior mobility, fighting morale, and popular support (e.g., the Hezbollah model in Lebanon) to counter a technologically superior conventional power— namely, the United States.

These militias would end up playing a significant role in neutralizing both asymmetrical forces sponsored by the US and its regional partners, as well as conventional military forces deployed by the US and Europe in both Syria and Iraq. It is clear that US policymakers were aware of Iran’s capabilities – and either ignored them or believed their own plans had sufficiently accounted for them.

Iran’s significant and long-term investments in sponsoring resistance forces including Hezbollah and Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) across the Middle East coupled with Russia’s significant conventional military capabilities left little chance for success for US-sponsored militants – with Russia’s role in Syria preventing a more muscular conventional military response from the US when its proxy forces began to crumble.

The US and its regional partners – particularly Israel – have expressed a determination to dislodge the growing Iranian presence their own proxy war on Syria necessitated. However, despite repeated Israeli airstrikes on Syrian territory – it is clear that such airstrikes alone will accomplish very little and in the long-term even signals weakness that will only further rally Iran’s allies, justify their continued expansion across the region, and further broaden and deepen their positions well beyond Iran’s own borders – making a US-led regime change war against Iran itself a more remote possibility than ever.
America’s Flagging Unipolar Order 

The US faces an ignominious retreat from the Middle East – as well as from other areas around the globe. Its refusal to shift from its 20th century unipolar hegemonic ambitions to a constructive 21st century multipolar player may be closing permanently windows of opportunity that will cost it significantly as others displace its influence and reach in regions like the Middle East.

Russia and Iran are clearly benefactors of Washington’s stubbornness. But as Russia and Iran have both repeatedly expressed a desire for more constructive relations with the United States – perhaps policymakers in Washington believe they can risk pursuing destructive hegemonic ambitions to carve out or coerce from the region the best position possible in the Middle East before coming to the table to negotiate.

More likely though – the world is witnessing a 21st century rendition of the British Empire’s withdrawal from around the globe, stubbornly being thrown out of one corner of its realm after the other until relegated as Washington’s subordinate. For Washington, there is no other Western power for it to hand the torch of Western imperialism over to. Once it is evicted from around the globe, it will struggle to find a relevant or more constructive role to play in these regions ever again.

By virtue of Washington’s shortsightedness and its inability to adapt to the world as it really is versus how Washington desires it to be – Washington has proven itself unfit to lead the “international order” it presumes dominion over.

In a global order predicated on “might makes right,” Washington is now faced with the reality of no longer being mightiest, and thus no longer “right.”

Iran’s patient and measured resistance has proven capable of challenging and rolling back American hegemony in the Middle East and serving the ultimate goal of Tehran’s asymmetrical strategy – the defense of Iran itself.

While the prospect of US war with Iran can never be fully ruled out, it is a possibility that appears to be fading into the distance as US power wanes regionally and globally. But a flagging empire is a desperate empire. While the days of US regime change wars burning a path of destruction across the Middle East appear to be over, continued patience and persistence must be maintained by Syria and its Russian and Iranian allies to ensure the victories they are celebrating today endure and are expanded upon well into the future.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”.
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Saudi Stops Funding Terror in Syria as The Arab League Prepares to Resume Ties With Damascus: The Time Is Not Yet Ripe for Retaking Idlib

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By Elijah J. Magnier
Source

The October 15 deadline agreed to by Turkey, Russia and Iran for Turkey to evacuate all heavy weapons and jihadist groups along a 15-20 km demilitarised demarcation line around Idlib and its rural area, including rural Latakia, has come and gone. Nevertheless, despite serious Turkish pressure on jihadists to leave Syria or move out of the demilitarised zone to spare Idlib an imminent attack by the Syrian Army and Russia, jihadists remain in their barracks. All the same, Damascus and Moscow consider the time unpropitious for a large attack on the city. Thus, a further delay has been accorded to Turkey to continue its efforts. Any attack on Idlib, the first US line of defence in Syria, has been postponed.

But why is this the USA’s first line of defence in Syria? Simply because Syria has been freed and only the regions of the northern cities of Idlib and al-Hasaka (and a small part of Deir-ezzour east of the Euphrates) are still occupied.

In September, Russia, Iran and Syria decided to liberate the entire Syrian territory, starting from Idlib and ending in al-Hasaka where the US occupation forces are based and unwilling to leave anytime soon. This is why Washington sees Idlib as its first line of defence and this is why the US wanted to hit Syria under a false pretext of the “use of chemical weapons” to prevent the liberation of Idlib by Damascus forces. Moscow and Damascus understood US intentions and decided to call off all military preparations in order to prevent a US attack on Syria. The date set for a wide scale attack on Idlib was abrogated; Syria and its allies decided to stand down and give Turkey the opportunity to try and stand in between the belligerents. This decision helped avoid a possible confrontation between the two superpowers, Russia and the US, with their militaries facing each other down in the Levant.

Meanwhile, Syria’s allies prepared three lines of defence: the first facing Tal el-Eiss, the second at “the apartment 3000” and the third at the entrance of the city of Aleppo. They had received solid intelligence that al-Qaeda and other jihadists had gathered around 10,000 men and were preparing to launch an attack against Aleppo. The Russian-Turkish deal stopped the imminent attack. Turkey was given an extension and an unspecified span of time to control Idlib. Syria and its allies will wait for the most opportune moment to attack the city if the US backs down from war in Syria and circumstances become more congenial.

Sources close to decision makers in Syria said: “There is no doubt the entire Syrian territory will return to the control of the Syrian government, including Idlib and al-Hasaka. The Qunietra and Nasib crossing between Syria and Jordan has reopened. Soon the borders between Syria and Iraq will re-open now that there is a new prime minister in Iraq”.

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“The Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari visited Syria not only to reopen the border crossing between the two countries but also to bring Syria back to the Arab League. Iraq believes that Saudi Arabia and its allies are no longer willing to continue the war in Syria and they have stopped financing jihadists and rebels. Syria will deal with the two occupiers (Turkey and the US) and end this war”, said the source.

The first step is expected to be made official by Amman, willing to resume its pre-2011 relationship with Damascus by sending its diplomats to Syria in the coming days. According to the source, “the Jordanian step has been approved by the Gulf and western countries in the hope of detaching Syria from Iran”.

“Those who open their borders and airports to jihadists from all over the world to come and fight in Syria, and those who emptied their prisons to send all inmates to establish a terrorist platform in the Levant to create a fail state have decided to change their policy and re-establish diplomatic ties with Damascus. We don’t oppose this move but we won’t forget because we have paid a very heavy price due to these “old friends” who destroyed our country”, said the source.

“There is no doubt,” – continues the source – “that the number of allied troops has been dramatically reduced in Syria. Iran has reduced its costs and reduced to a minimum the presence of its allies on the ground (Afghan, Iraqi, Pakistani and other). However, no one can force Iran to leave the Levant in exchange for financial support to rebuild the country. Only idiots believe we can exchange the relationship between Syria and Iran for tens or hundreds of billions or sell the Golan Heights for any price. The Syrian-Iranian strategic bond is much stronger than what people can imagine”.

Middle Eastern leaders and the Arab League are prepared to receive back among them the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad as they acknowledge that the regime change operation has failed. Turkey has been given more time and the liberation of Idlib has been postponed. The jihadists and rebels are not yet convinced that the war is over and haven’t yet realized that no country will supply them with weapons any longer. They are only buying time and their fate is sealed. In al-Hasaka Kurdish militants will come to understand that the US forces can’t stay for long. The US base at al-Tanaf will be abandoned mainly because the al-Rukban refugee camp – 80,000 to 90,000 refugees supplied by the US and surrounded by the Syrian and Iraqi armies – has become a burden and because the al-Bu Kamal crossing will reopen soon. It is time for the Kurds to understand that they can only survive by coming to terms with Damascus.

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