The Beginning and the End

How will Syrian opposition leaders justify the tragic situation in which they have placed their supporters?

By Abdel Bari Atwan

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah was not far off the mark when he declared last week that the situation in the region is proceeding in a manner that is favourable to the resistance, starting from Syria and ending in Yemen.

In Syria, the army is continuing its rapid advance on the southern front, restoring the central state’s sovereignty over many villages and positions in the provinces of Deraa and Suweida. In Yemen, the UAE, which is directing the battles in Hodeida, announced a ‘temporary cessation’ of its military operations aimed at occupying Yemen’s main port, supposedly to give UN envoy Martin Griffith a chance to facilitate an ‘unconditional’ handover of the city. Reports that fighters in the Bosra ash-Sham district of Deraa governorate have agreed to a settlement with the Syrian government that will allow the army to enter the town without a fight confirm this trend.

A Russian military delegation is back in Deraa to resume the negotiations that collapsed when representatives of the armed opposition rejected the conditions put to them earlier: basically, that they should lay down their arms in return for an amnesty for their members, other than those involved in war crimes. This suggests that the armed factions are ready to accept most, if not all, of these conditions, having run out of alternative options and been abandoned by their Arab, American and Israeli backers.

Jordan and the Israeli occupation state were the two main parties that backed ‘some’ of the armed opposition factions. Jordan set up training camps for their members on its territory. It hosted the Military Operations Centre (MOC) that brought together American, Saudi, Jordanian and other intelligence officers whose task was to oversee the war in Syria, while Israel provided these factions with intelligence, humanitarian and medical support. But now, both Jordan and Israel have sealed their borders completely to both civilians and fighters seeking refuge from the battles.

Jordan justified its position by arguing that economic and security considerations do not allow it to host more than the 1.5 million Syrian refugees it has already admitted. It is following in the footsteps of Turkey, which was the first to close its borders and start shooting at would-be infiltrators, killing many in the process. It wants to send 3.5 million refugees currently in its territory back to the parts of northern Syria that are fully or partially under its military occupation such as Afrin, al-Bab, Jarablus, and perhaps Idlib at a later stage.

Israel, for its part, used to express sympathy for some of the armed and unarmed Syrian opposition factions. It hosted some of their leaders on its TV programmes and at conferences and forums, and launched more than one hundred bombing raids against defence-related sites and military bases within Syria. But it has now once again demonstrated its opportunism and racist cynicism by sealing its borders and refusing to receive a single Syrian refugee, including some whom it had earlier admitted and who had sung praises about its generosity and humanitarian character. On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that his country ‘will not permit Syrian civilians fleeing the war to enter Israel, but will continue to provide them with humanitarian aid, only inside Syria’s borders.’

We do not know how the leaders of some of the armed or unarmed Syrian opposition factions will justify the tragic situation in which they have placed their supporters, or the fact that they have been ditched by their American, Arab and even Israeli allies, who promised to protect them, and to topple the Syrian regime within a few months and establish a ‘virtuous’ Syrian state on its ruins.

What we do know is that these allies, headed by the US – which is now turning away and has officially informed these factions that it will not act in their defence – have admitted defeat and decided to withdraw from this dossier and cut their losses. They have left their supporters and allies who counted on them to face their fate alone, and accept the Syrian state and its Russian ally’s terms that are tantamount to total surrender. That may have been what Nasrallah had in mind when he spoke.

The ‘Syrian revolution’ began in Deraa, and it seems that this same city will witness one of the most important chapåters of its tragic end, after seven long years of lies, disinformation, and deception from its allies, whose priority was never to support it, but rather to destroy and dismember Syria, as they did in Iraq and Libya and are currently doing in Yemen.

The writing on the wall was clear, in big, bold letters. But some chose to disregard it, despite their exceptional reading abilities, and place all their eggs in the basket of the US and its Arab allies. They are continuing to posture and refuse to acknowledge the truth, let alone apologise.