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19/09/2020

Strategika 51

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Israel Expands Strikes in Syria after Deal with Russia on Iran..? – By Steve Brown

The western powers — in an unholy and unintended alliance with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan — have created the perfect storm in Syria since 2011, to accompany all the others whether in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and Yemen.

The situation in Syria remains exceedingly complex, with belligerents and interested parties fighting it out… especially in the volatile Northwest region of the country.  That’s where anti-government militants allied to ISIS and al Qaedahave been boxed-in with millions of civilians, with nowhere to go.  RecentlyHTS and related terror groupsbroke out from Idlib, and Hama in a fresh round of anti-government attacks.

It is unclear how HTS is being armed and supplied in Syria, but US arms have historically been provided to takfiri terrorists in the region by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Turkey. And there is absolutely no indication that the US supply of arms to terrorist groups in Syria (by proxy) has changed one whit since 2016.

Even so, as if Empire by Terror were not enough, consider that the US and Israel have taken a new multi-lateral aim at regime change in Syria… involving Russia. In recent high-level talks about Syria between Russia, Israel, and the USA in Jerusalem, the main topic was Iran’s military presence in Syria. Reports that Russia caved to the US on sanctions to allow Israel a free hand to confront Iran in Syria,only appear in the Israeli press, and as announced by Netanyahu.

However, Middle East sources portray the high-level superpower talks on Syria as being uneventful, or that Russia refused to substantively cooperate on confronting Iran in Syria.

But according to Ibrahim Hamidi, Syrian journalist for al Hayat, and other sources, here is the deal: “Israel and the US will commit to recognizing the legitimacy of the Assad regime, the US is expected to remove some of the economic sanctions imposed on Russia and in return, Russia will limit Iranian activity in Syria.”

If true, such a ‘deal’ would signify a big change to Russian policy; the Russian leadership typically allows Iran a free hand (and air cover) to support Assad and fight takfiri terror, so long as Iranian operations do not interfere with the Russian Federation’s.  Thus, for Russia to dial back on its understanding with Iran in Syria, would be a significant change to the shifting tapestry of war in Syria.

To assess that change, we must first consider the frequency of Israeliattacks in and around Damascus. Those recent attacks seem unprecedented, even by the standard of Israel’s ongoing war with Syria since 1948. For Russia to allow Israeli strikes on alleged Iranian positions in Syria, poses thequestion as to whether Russian support for Iran in Syria is waning.

But there is another scenario, in whichIsrael launched the attacks (on supposed Iranian positions in Syria) as a simple matter of provocation, to allow Israel to claim that Russian S-300’s in Syria are ineffective.  However, for Israel to provoke Russia in this way is highly unlikely, despite western media hysteria devoted to this topic.  

Russia seeks good relations with Israel, to maintain a delicate balance of power in the Middle East, and for financial and foreign trade reasons. And there is evidence to show that Israel seeks good relations with Russia too, at least for strategic reasons.

Another element seldom addressed anywhere is that Russia does not want to be bogged down militarily in Syria forever, and seeks an end to its military presence there, leaving a stable Syrian government in power.

Any potential Syria withdrawal ‘deal’ brokeredby Israel and the US must guarantee a peaceful withdrawal of all forces from Syria, and some sort of armistice between Israel and Syria. That’s not going to happen.  And complicating any such deal on Syria is the situation in eastern Ukraine, only marginally reported in the west.

Since the US political establishment will not allow any reduction in US sanctions on Russia, one opportunity for Russia could be US assistance with the Ukraine. In other words, the US will press the new Zelensky regime to recognize the Donbassand end US support for Ukraine aggression in the Donbass region, in exchange for 

Russia promoting an Iranian withdrawal from Syria. All speculation, of course, and a very risky game for Russia to play, since the US has proven itself to be an exceedingly unreliable and treacherous partner.

The proof is in the pudding however, and the recent Israeli attacks in Syria may only be a temporary grandstand phenomenon.  Should the Israeli attacks continue or escalate, then we will be witness to a very dangerous escalation in multi-lateral tensions with Iran.

Steve Brown

Steve Brown is the author of « Iraq: the Road to War » (Sourcewatch) editor of « Bush Administration War Crimes in Iraq » (Sourcewatch) « Trump’s Limited Hangout » and « Federal Reserve: Out-sourcing the Monetary System to the Money Trust Oligarchs Since 1913 »; Steve is an antiwar activist, an historian of the US monetary system, and editor of Novus Confidential investigative reports.

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