Tying Israel’s Hands

The US, Israeli and Arab allies are abandoning their protégés in southern Syria

By Abdel Bari Atwan

Unable to intervene to protect the armed factions facing an overwhelming Syrian army assault in south-western Syria, the Israeli military opted instead to fire  missiles at Damascus International Airport, on the perennial pretext of targeting arms depots belonging to Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

The Israelis had no trouble deciphering the message delivered by the Russian warplanes that went into action against Nusra Front and Islamic State (IS) positions in the area: namely that the campaign to restore government control over southern Syria was not only launched with a Russian green light, but with active Russian participation too.

The Israeli leadership had threatened to confront any southward advance by the Syrian army and affirmed that it would support the armed groups in the area and provide them with a powerful defensive umbrella. But it realised it could not deliver on these promises because of the risk of ending up in a confrontation with the Russians as well as the Syrian army.

The US meanwhile lived up to its long tradition of abandoning its allies and leaving them to face their bleak fate alone. It sent  a clear and frank message to the leaders of the Syrian factions, in unambiguous language,  informing them that it would not intervene militarily to protect them, and that they would have to face the Syrian tiger on their own and bear the consequences of their decisions. This despite the fact that US forces are deployed at the Tanaf military base on the Syrian-Iraqi-Jordanian border just a few hundred kilometres away. It was natural for the Israelis to take the same stance as the Americans.

The Syrian armed factions failed to appreciate that they were mere tools being used by the Americans in the context of their plans to dismember the region and weaken the countries that stand in the trench of the resistance axis. When these plans unravelled they decided to withdraw quietly without shedding a single tear, let alone a drop of blood, in defence of those who had banked on them and believed they were reliable allies.

US President Donald Trump was as clear and candid as can be when he complained that his country had received nothing in return for the tens of billions of dollars it has spent in Syria. That is why it decided to give up and withdraw and leave the vacuum to be filled by the Arab Gulf governments that signed up to Washington’s failed schemes in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. But these governments are incapable of complying with this American demand. They have been burned by the flames of the war in Yemen in which they have been unable to make any progress for the past three years, and their television channels now treat developments in the Syrian crisis as a side-issue.

We wonder: Where are the Syrian National Coalition, the Higher Negotiations Committee, the National Council and all the other Gulf-backed Syrian opposition groupings and leaders? Where is the Geneva process, or the Astana process, and whatever happened to the ‘Friends of the Syrian People’ group?

The Syrian people have been subjected to the biggest con-trick in history, be it ancient or modern, at the hands of the US and its Arab allies, as well as some Syrians who subscribed to this American conspiracy – whether with good intentions or with malice aforethought.

Southern Syria will inevitably return to the fold of the motherland, just as other  cities and areas did, and just as the remaining districts and enclaves will. It is only a matter of timing and priorities. But this does not mean the Syrian state reverting to past practices, and resuming the same behaviour that partly prepared the climate and provided pretexts for this conspiracy over the course of many years.

Israel is terrified, as we have repeatedly maintained, and is lashing out here and there to conceal its failure, its growing state of confusion and the tightening of the noose around it. It carried out more than 100 airstrikes against Syria over the past five years, but Syria remained steadfast and bided its time, fighting on 70 fronts simultaneously so not bothered about one or ten additional airstrikes. Those who laugh last laugh longest.