Syria’s Endgame Can Get Ugly Really Fast

Photo: Agence France-Presse/Aris Messinis

While the Syrian troops carry on their liberation of Damascus’ suburbs from radical militants with the support of Iranian troops and the Shia militia detachments, the United States and Saudi Arabia are planning to take advantage of Ankara’s tacit consent of Turkey and launch a decisive blow against the forces of Bashar al-Assad. The demand that the sitting foreign minister of Saudi Arabia issued to Qatar, urging the latter to launch a military against Syria is just a part of a multinational military operation in the making that is going to to rely on the ground forces the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. We’re facing a situation with the entry of the so-called Arab coalition forces led by Saudi Arabia into the Syrian territories illegally occupied by the United States becomes highly probable. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has recently expressed its readiness to send its troops to Syria within the framework of the so-called International Coalition to replace American troops deployed there acting on the request of Donald Trump.

It’s safe to state that the plan aimed at Balkanization of Syria is in full swing. From the realistic point of view, the Saudi-led forces only need to obtain a formal consent of the US to launch an invasion, while Washington is engaged in all kinds of unnecessary political maneuvers, holding consultations with the Kurdish SDF forces that it has been sponsoring for a long while now. Thus, the US tries to formally recognize the authority that these forces are supposed to enjoy in the US-occupied territories. If Russia spares no effort in mention that it came to Syria on the invitation of the legitimately recognized government in Damascus, the Pentagon hasn’t had such a luxury, so it wants to obtain a believable pretext by recognizing the SDF as a governmental power in the territory of Eastern Syria. This means that their consent will also be a factor aimed at legitimizing the military occupation of the GCC forces.

By the way, Turkish troops are also actively engaged in the formation of local self-governed bodies in the territories that Ankara occupies. And even though their structure is far more complicated that the one formed by the SDF, the process is clearly moving forward, and in the foreseeable future, Turkey will also try to use the same pretext to try and justify its military presence in the northern parts of Syria as if it was acting on the request of legitimately looking authorities of the border areas with Turkey.

A great many of Arab media sources report that consultations are being held with leaders of the SDF. As a matter of fact, representatives of the United States are indeed holding talks with the Kurdish People’s Self-Defense Forces, the dominant force in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) over the nature of the future occupation of their territories by a number of Arab states on the pretext that they will be defending those lands from the almost destroyed ISIS terrorist group, and it seems that the Kurdish leader Aldar Khalil believes that this occupation is a viable solution to the now unclear terrorist threat. However, he refused to disclose the contents of these negotiations, as well as the areas of possible deployment of the Arab forces or their nationality, but he recognized them as part of the international US-led coalition. Kurdish sources would report that local militiamen had a meeting with representatives of the Arab states in Ayn Issa, a town within the Tell Abyad District of the Raqqa Governorate.

In this light the advancements made by the pro-Assad forces and his Iranian allies aimed at liberating Syrian territories still hell by militants are of little concern for anyone, as those militants are not affiliated with the states that aimed at occupying various parts of Syria. They do not represent the interests of the US-led coalition or those of Turkey. Moreover, in the process of this liberation Syrian Armed Forces are suffering tangible losses. On April 24, yet another attempt of breakthrough in the Yarmouk area failed, resulting in another 30 Syrian soldiers killed, including those from the elite Tiger Forces and the Hezbollah, who had been redeployed to this area from Kalamoon due to the fact that Palestinians were leaving their positions en masse.

Naturally, the incursion of the Arab forces will significantly strengthen the ground presence of the US-led coalition, and one is safe to assume that Arab forces will try to push Iranian forces out of Syria and seal all land routes connecting Syria and Iran. The next phase of the war will have be aimed at directly colliding with the Iranian proxy forces and Iranian military detachments in Syria. While the ultimate goal is visible – the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad.

Under these conditions, Russia is trying to strengthen the air defense presence in the Syrian Arab Republic, so they can provide an adequate response to a missile strike that the Pentagon may launch against the sensitive infrastructure objects of the Syrian Armed Forces. That’s why the delivery of Russia’s advanced S-300 systems to Damascus is now being discussed by everyone, which causes uncontrolled irritation in Israel. However, Israeli officials made it clear that the Israeli Air Force will only launch strikes against those S-300 systems deployed in Syria only if they are going to attempt downing Israeli military jets. But you cannot win the Syrian war with air defense systems alone. They are quite capable of significantly weakening the effectiveness of US missile and bomb strikes, but the outcome determined by land engagements. In addition, if the Syrian air defense forces are going to begin intercepting America’s Tomahawks an combat aircraft effectively, Washington is quite capable of bringing its entire military machine to the region, taking advantage of both its aircraft groups and the Al Udeid base in Qatar, that remains the largest in the region.

It seems that the end of the Syrian conflict is approaching. Almost all players have grown tired of it, including the US and Russia. Syria has become the strongest factor of irritation in Moscow’s relations with Washington and Tel Aviv, and against the backdrop of Washington’s attempts to make anti-Russian sanctions even harder, Moscow doesn’t seem determined to go all in on it. Especially against the backdrop of the events in Armenia and because of ever increasing hostilities in Eastern Ukraine. Everyone understands that there will be no nuclear conflict between Moscow and Washington over Syria, no matter how intense nuclear rhetorics can get.

As for Saudi Arabia, it needs to get out of the Yemeni trap it got itself into and address the situation inside the country in the light of the recent strange events in Riyadh that look exiled like an attempted military coup from within. It’s clear that by pushing Qatar into the abyss of the Syrian war, the Saudi royal family wants Syrian and Iranian forces to destroy all Qatari troops, as there is no more that six thousand servicemen serving Doha. Once those soldiers are dead, Riyadh will be able to get rid of Al Thani regime it hates so much, who, since the sitting Qatari emir has been courting Iran, while preventing Saudi Arabia and the UAE from advancing their agenda in the Persian Gulf. The main goal of the Arabian monarchies shared by both the US and Israel is to destroy Iran through any means possible since it represents the principal rival of the Sunni Arab regimes in the region. And, apparently, Riyadh has received Trump’s consent for overthrowing the ruling Qatari family. It’s clear that Saudi Arabia is far more important for the US in its future struggle against Iran than a tiny gas-driven emitate this is too ambitious for its own good.

By Peter Lvov, Ph.D in political science, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.


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