By Abdel Bari Atwan: –
February 9, 2018 The US is mistaken if it thinks it can turn the country into a new Afghanistan by By Abdel Bari Atwan al rai al youm
The Syrian government was right to describe as a war crime the raids carried out by US warplanes on its forces and allied fighters in Deir az-Zour province which resulted in a massacre in which 150 people were killed.
American forces were supposed to be in Syria and Iraq on the grounds of eliminating terrorism and specifically the Islamic State (IS). Why have they not left after that pretext expired? And what do they seek to achieve with these airstrikes?
The answer, quite simply, is to implement an American plan to partition Syria: to separate the east from the centre and west of the country, establish the foundations of a nascent Kurdish state, and site permanent military bases there as an alternative to Incirlik airbase in Turkey, where US warplanes are no longer welcome.
The US-led coalition admitted early on Thursday that it carried out airstrikes against “pro-regime forces” after they launched an “unjustified” attack on a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) base. This intervention to protect the mainly Kurdish SDF confirms the US’ desire to create an independent Kurdish entity east of the Euphrates that would be carved off from Syria, and to provide it with a protective umbrella and an army composed of 30,000 American-armed and trained troops.
This plan will never be acceptable to Syria, Iran, Turkey or Iraq. It will place the US and its allies in confrontation with these states, collectively and individually, and is likely to dominate the tripartite summit the leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran are to hold in Istanbul soon.
Syria is being targeted these days by a concerted American-Israeli scheme aimed at compensating for the setbacks sustained by the US and its allies in western and central Syria and also in Lebanon. Their escalation has taken several forms.
First, on Tuesday, Israeli warplanes overflying Lebanon launched five missiles at Syrian targets near Damascus, four of which were reportedly intercepted by Syrian air defences. The firing of missiles from a distance is due to the modernization and upgrading of these defences, which makes them more capable of downing overflying aircraft.
Secondly, the US’ reopening of the chemical weapons dossier, most recently by accusing the Syrian authorities — without evidence — of using chlorine gas in Eastern Ghouta. It has become customary for such accusations to be a prelude to US acts of aggression, as happened some months ago when Shueirat airbase was pounded with 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles on the pretext of retaliating for a chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province.
Third, the bombardment of Damascus and nearby areas with missiles and modern munitions fired by armed opposition forces from surrounding rural areas, with the aim of creating a climate of instability and insecurity in the capital.
Fourth, the US’ provision, either directly or indirectly, of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to Hay’at Tahrir ah-Sham (formerly the Nusra Front), which were used to down a Russian Sukhoi-25 jet over Idlib province. The clear intention was to send a message to the Syrian and Russian governments that their aircraft can no longer operate freely in Syrian airspace.
Fifth, Israel’s escalation against Lebanon, whether by building a wall along the border inside Lebanese territory in order to create a fait accompli, or by laying claim to offshore Lebanese gas-fields.
It is clear that the US has adopted the Kurds as its regional allies in order to use them as a card against the four countries — Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Syria. But its latest plan stands as much chance of success as its previous ones: in other words, virtually none. Washington will end up abandoning its newfound Kurdish allies just as it abandoned them and others in the past, and leaving them to face a painful fate.
US forces in Syria and Iraq will meanwhile become a legitimate target for these states, either directly or indirectly, in the foreseeable future. Resistance cells could be formed to fight them — just as they were in Iraq following the 2003 occupation, prompting the White House to take the decision to withdraw them in order to cut the material and human losses.
There are more than 6,000 American troops in Iraq and another 2,000 in Syria, and they will become valuable prey for the new resistance forces that are being readied for this purpose. It would not be surprising if Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces were to be one of the main components of this force, along with Turkish-backed Syrian opposition groups as has been the case in Afrin. After all, the former have become ‘unemployed’ since the recovery of Mosul, while the latter have a record of changing their objectives in accordance with Turkey’s directives.
The US has no friends in the region any longer other than a section of the Kurds. It has lost Turkey and Iraq in addition to Syria and Iran. It is sorely mistaken if it thinks it can turn Syria into a new Afghanistan, and defeat the four countries along with Russia by supplying armed groups with Stinger missiles. These are core regional powers, not occupying forces that can be ejected, and unlike the weak and isolated former Afghan regime, Syria is part of a formidable regional and international alliance.
US forces seem set to take the place of Islamic State as the target of fierce resistance in the region in the weeks and months to come. The sorcerer may yet become the victim of his own black magic. Just wait and see.