Written by Nikolay Nikolaev; Originally appeared at A-specto, translated by Borislav exclusively for SouthFront
The military initiative passed into the hands of the Syrian army. There’s an attempt to divert the jihadists from Iraq to Syria
The past days brought a greater dynamism in the Syrian crisis. The accusations against Russia for the bombings in Aleppo by the Western Allies, the new stage of the Turkish operation “Euphratean shield”, the assault on the Iraqi city of Mosul, along with the unexpected recognition of the status of Crimea by Syria, and the subsequent telephone conversation between Putin and Assad – all this has a strategic military and geopolitical explanation.
The new Russian bases
Long week began with two military and political agreements between Syria and Russia connected with building permanent military air and naval bases, at Hmeymim airport as well as in the Mediterranean port of Tartus. So far, Russia declared its involvement in the Syrian conflict to be limited to countering the extremist organization “Islamic State.” With the air strike by a US-led coalition over the regular Syrian Army, in which according to anecdotal data were killed Russian soldiers, the “proxy” war transformed into a direct confrontation between the US and Russia. The hints of American “hawks” that they are preparing military action against the Syrian government, and the subsequent answer by the official representative of the Russian army Igor Konashenkov, that the military is ready to shoot down American planes, only highlight the critical point in the relationship. While the Western “mainstream” puts the audience to sleep, the danger of escalation between the US and Russia is real. The deployment of regular air and naval units, strengthens the Russian positions in Syria against any external attack. The deployment of antiaircraft systems and missile defenses, the positioning of attack aviation and the focus on the Eastern Mediterranean naval units, led by the aircraft carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov” cemented Russian influence in the region.
The attack by the United States against Moscow through the southern flak is bypassed, and the Pentagon definitely lost their influence in the Caucasus. With the exception of southwestern Turkey’s 500-600 mile radius of Izmir, other areas of the country are beyond the military and strategic control of Washington and fall under the scope of Russian military forces. The NATO Air Force base in Incirlik is cut off, which can justify the veracity of rumors about the transfer of American nuclear weapons to Romania. Incirlik falls within the air defense systems S-400. It is not excluded that Bulgarian Military Minister Nenchev will get to fulfill his childhood dream to shelter US nuclear bombs in our country.
Events are moving at a speed reminiscent of pre-war preparation. On October 11, Russia and Armenia signed a military agreement, which created a united regional air defense system in the Caucasus region. Azerbaijani interest is not violated because the system does not include Nagorno-Karabakh. Something particularly interesting happened. A few days later the country’s president Ilham Aliyev made a key statement that the two decades ongoing crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh can be resolved and the region could get autonomous status. Even if this does not happen, it is obvious that Azerbaijan is deepening its military-political cooperation with Russia and Eurasian pole.
Turkey begins to behave as a neutral and even allied to Moscow country with every passing day. Last week, the spokesman of the Turkish Head of State, Ibrahim Cullen announced that Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin discussed the possible formation of a common missile defense system. It seems that between Moscow and Ankara there were secret political-military talks even before the attempted coup. The last foothold from which US military power can be projected through Turkey against Russia, remains the Air Force Base in Izmir, and to a certain extend the material supply base of the 6th Fleet in Aksaz. In 2013 the United States had to close the base in Izmir, but they were apparently losing ground in Incirlik, and that discouraged them. A week after the attempted coup against Erdogan, near the base in Izmir an unprecedented fire broke out that threatened to engulf the site. The United States is slowly but methodically pushed out from the region.
The current picture – the Syrian Armed Forces take the military initiative
The question is why are Western allies not moved by the hundreds of thousands and even millions of civilians dying in wars in Iraq, Libya and Syria, but the military pressure from Russia and the government forces of Damascus over the eastern districts of Aleppo causes them to talk about sanctions? On Wednesday, the Syrian human rights network (Syrian network for human rights – SNHR ) published a report according to which, as a result of the bombing by the US-led coalition against 28 targets, there were 649 civilians killed, among which 244 children and 132 women. Obviously the West’s outrage is not connected with human rights.
Iranian news agency FARS News, citing data from Syrian government forces and “Hezbollah” fighters, states that “Fatah al-Islam” fighting in Aleppo receives logistical support from American special forces and naval forces based in the Mediterranean. The Pentagon has never denied the presence of its troops in Koba and the province of Hasakah. After the encirclement of Aleppo and the launch of the cleansing operation of the city, sources close to the Russian General Staff report that about 200 American and Western trainers and special forces have fallen in a “bag”. Obviously, the Russian bombings liquidate not only jihadis. The danger that American soldiers will become prisoners of war is real.
For the evacuation of civilians from the eastern parts of Aleppo are open six humanitarian corridors. Russia and the Syrian government ensure the safe withdrawal of armed formations on the other two corridors, but according to the command of the Syrian army, terrorists hinder evacuation by taking civilians hostage and opening fire on columns of those who are leaving. Some of the groups have already announced that they will not leave Aleppo. Obviously the western patrons of the militants have no desire to give up on the second largest Syrian city. The leaders of the former branch of “Al Qaeda” in Syria – “Al-Nusra Front” already answered negatively to a UN proposal to leave the east of Aleppo. With the forthcoming liberation of the city, the US-backed Sunni units will be pushed out and limited to the area of Idlib province. To the south in the vicinity of Hama and Homs, and around Damascus, militants are suffering loses and are losing the initiative. After their defeat caused by government forces, several thousand militants, together with their families moved from the vicinity of Damascus (Al-Kabul and Moadamiya) into Idlib province.
With the capture of Aleppo, war through foreign hands comes to an end, paving the risk of direct confrontation between the US and Russian backed government of Syria. Will we proceed to the Pentagon realization of the classified plan “B”? Washington has never hidden the main task of their policy in Syria – the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has repeatedly urged the US State Department to implement the agreements and to distinguish between “moderate opposition” and terrorists. This is not done for a simple reason – Washington relies on the extremists. “We have reason to think that from the outset, their plan was to spare “Al-Nusra Front” and preserve in case they proceed to plan “B” to remove the Assad goverment” said Lavrov.
About the existence of a plan “B”, the US openly spoke in the first half of the year. The exact words of Secretary of State John Kerry were: “If the Russians and the Iranians are not set for serious diplomatic work, we will have to go to plan “B”, which may be more confrontational and could end in the dismemberment of Syria. The consequences for the region – to Jordan, to Lebanon, to Europe – will be stunning for them as well as our (American) interests in the field of national security.”
“A confrontational” option and “staggering” consequences for the region and for Europe, can only mean US military intervention. With the liberation of Aleppo, the world will move one step closer to the moment when Washington will face the Rubicon.
It is not excluded that as a last option before such a risky move, the strategists at the Pentagon will use the terrorist organization “Islamic State” for its purposes. Some circumstantial evidence confirm this. We may give a pass on the election speech of Donald Trump in which he accused the former secretary of state Hillary Clinton to have “created the Islamic state”. But the fact is that the bombing by American aircraft over Syrian forces in Deir ez-Zor, which recently broke the agreement reached between Obama and Putin, helped jihadists begin their offensive. According to the Syrian military, after the air strikes, the terrorists begun an offensive toward positions in Jabal Tarda. The military stated that a such a planned offensive, synchronized with the air strikes could not be done without coordination between aviation and ground parts of the “Islamic State”.
Deir ez-Zor is located at the crossroads linking the northern and eastern regions of Syrian territories conquered by jihadists in the lower reaches of the Euphrates and near Mosul. The strategic importance of the city on the western bank of the Euphrates is key. The airport controlled by government forces, allows the transportation of military equipment and air strikes, and makes it impossible to transfer significant Islamists troops to Rakka and Aleppo. It seems this is the goal the Pentagon. With the battle for the liberation of Mosul, there is an attempt to redirect the main forces of jihadists to fight against the government of Bashar Assad. According to the Syrian army, as quoted by AP, aircraft of the US-led coalition are securing roads and safe corridors to Syria to allow terrorists to regroup and create “new military realities” in eastern Syria.
In August the United States gave 2 billion dollars as “humanitarian aid” to residents living in Mosul, controlled by the “Islamic State”. The beneficiaries, however, proved to be mainly former Baathists (military in Saddam Hussein’s army) who are fighting on the side of the jihadists. With their assistance the city has been infiltrated by Iraqi militias, Kurds and Western special forces. A little later, in Mosul and the neighboring town of al-Kayyara, a revolt started against the “Islamic State”, coinciding with the beginning of the offensive. For now attempt to divert the jihadists to Syria have failed to achieve this goal.
Meanwhile, another “player” in the crisis – Turkey, carried out by military means its plan to create a buffer zone in northern Syria. In the settlements captured during operation “Euphrates shield” Sunni refugees from camps in Turkey were settled, often at the expense of the Kurdish population. Last week a full-scale clash began between Turkish troops and Kurdish armed formations on a broad front of 600 kilometers between the town of Kashima and Idlib. Turkey, which sees as its main interest in the conflict the prevention of a Kurdish quasi-state formation in northern Syria, seeks to push Kurdish forces east of the Euphrates River. Peace is not yet on the horizon in the bloody Syrian conflict.