by Ghassan Kadi
With all the different components of the “Anti-Syrian Cocktail”, the most lethal is undoubtedly the USA. We should therefore take a deeper look at the military hopes and gambles that the USA took, in desperate attempts, to be able to bomb Syria in order to understand why those several attempts have failed for more than two decades.
In Part 2, we saw how the USA was hoping to be able to bomb Syria in 1991 and later on in 2003 following the first and second wars on Iraq. In this part, we shall see how and why America has to date remained unable to achieve this objective.
We must always remember that the enemies of Syria who collaborated together to wage the war against her were, and continue to be, very diverse in their outlooks and objectives. They were only united by their hatred for Syria and the Assad Legacy that gave Syria independent decision-making and the national pride that comes with it.
The maverick who brought all those elements together was no doubt none but the Saudi Prince Bandar Bin Sultan. After all, he had good relationships with all of the other culprits. As a former long-term Saudi Ambassador in Washington, he had very strong American connections and became a personal friend of the Bush’s. He also had good relationships with the rest of the West and even with Israel. The Islamists were under his payroll, and automatically to him, this meant that they were going to remain under his belt. He bankrolled money to them as well as the anti-Syrian thugs of Lebanon in almost bottomless figures.
Whilst Saudi Arabia and Turkey were from the beginning of the “War On Syria” at odds, each seeking to be the rightful heir of Islamic leadership, and whilst Erdogan grew closer to Qatar which also wanted to rival Saudi Arabia for regional leadership (not so much religious leadership). The rivals Erdogan and Al-Saud put their differences aside and worked together for as long as it was convenient.
Erdogan was more than happy to use Qatari funds rather than his own.
The Islamists did not care who was sponsoring and arming them. They believed in the promise of a God-given victory, and embarked on the “War On Syria” with an “Inshallah” (ie God willing) attitude, hoping and believing that everything will work out fine at the end because God was on their side.
The other NATO nations including the UK, France as well as American allies from as far as Australia, just followed the American rhetoric and all became part of the 83-nation anti-Syrian alliance.
The Lebanese ultra-right wing Christian militia (The Lebanese Forces) had been sitting on the fence waiting to avenge the Syrian presence in Lebanon from 1976 till 2005 and the loss of the 1975-1989 Civil War. Via Saad Hariri, Bandar got the “Lebanese Forces” on his side.
Any military strategist with half a brain would have predicted that such a diverse alliance could not survive the ravages of time. Perhaps the architects of the alliance knew this and hoped for a swift victory; a victory they did not achieve.
If Obama kept one promise, it was about not putting boots on the ground outside the USA even though he had no trouble sending drones and other bombers to different nations. Whether or not this decision was based on financial pragmatism, at least he stuck to it.
Obama was not interested in putting boots on the ground in Syria either, and why should he? After all, his friend and ally Bandar was able to recruit tens of thousands of Jihadists who wanted to fight and die.
In 2011, the Americans were happy to let go of the prospect of physically invading Syria if a proxy war gave them the same result without putting a single American life at risk, and all the while, spending Saudi and Qatari money.
The widely reported sums of money that the US government spent into training fighters and providing some supplies, was just a drop in the ocean compared to what the Saudis and Qataris spent.
No boots on the ground was a policy America wanted to uphold in Syria, but it definitely sought a total and unconditional capitulation of the Syrian Government and the removal of Bashar Al-Assad as President.
The swift victory and toppling of the Assad “regime” did not happen as planned, and a few months into the war, the terrorists demanded NATO air support, and for this matter, America needed to seek a UNSC resolution to permit it to do so.
The long-awaited revenge was nearing. America sought a repeat of the Libyan scenario. The internationally-palatable pretext was to impose a no-fly-zone in Syria, and then to exceed the mandate to target the Syrian Government and President.
This time, not only Russia, but also China vetoed the UNSC resolution twice, on the 5th of October 2011 and then again on the 4th of February 2012. Russia, and China but more so Russia, made it very clear that they will not allow for Syria to be bombed by NATO like Libya was.
Once again, America found itself unable to bomb Syria. America realized that it had to wait and try again with a different approach and justification.
In the beginning of the war, the terrorists infiltrated the areas they eventually controlled. In the early days, they hardly ever took control of any area in battle. It was all done in stealth after months and perhaps years of preparation. Suddenly, the Syrian Government realized that many areas had fallen out of its control.
This was how they initially gained control Homs, Idlib, Aleppo and all other regions without a single bullet fired. The fighting was done in the course of driving them out. The only area in which the terrorists did advance was in the far-east, but that was after the rise of ISIS in 2013. In any event, those areas are virtual deserts with very low population density.
Russia did not only thwart two American attempts for UNSC resolutions to impose a “no-fly-zone”, but later on gave America a much clearer message about the redline nature of Syria. This was an incident that was not at all reported on Western news at the time. It was first published on Al-Manar; the official media voice of Hezbollah.
It must be said that with all the stories, rumours and misinformation that have been spread around throughout the “War On Syria”, Al-Manar has been a benchmark of credibility.
In order of reliability, there are four Arabic media outlets that have been reporting and “leaking” news. Al-Manar had been the most reliable, followed by the Lebanese daily Assafir, then the Lebanese online daily Al-Akhbar, and Al-Mayadin.
Al-Manar has broken many news, and in our role as pro-Syrian activists, Intibah (my wife) and myself have taken upon ourselves the task of translating some key Arabic reports and relevant articles for the English-speaking world.
One of those stories was about the “secret visit” of Bandar to Moscow and his attempts to both bribe and threaten President Putin. Our translation of the story was initially snubbed until it became widely accepted as public knowledge.
Another big story, perhaps the biggest of them all, was a translation of an Al-Manar/Al-Akhbar report that explained the events following the false flag chemical weapons attack that accused the Syrian Army of using chemical weapons in East Ghouta.
As the Islamists began to lose ability to hold ground they took by stealth, especially after the fall of the strategic town of Al-Qusayr in July 2013, the need for American air support became extremely vital and much more so than the time when a UNSC resolution was sought. America knew that any justification was going to be vetoed by Russia.
The justification for intervention therefore had to be very substantial and convincing; a scenario worthy of a false flag, and that false flag was the East Ghouta chemical attack.
Let’s recap those nail-biting days of August 2013. A chemical attack on Syrian civilians was conjured up by Bandar with the help of Mossad. The Syrian Army was accused of the massacre. Photos of dead children were reminiscent of the chemical massacres of Saddam against the Kurds. The Western media news became fixated on the subject, replaying it repeatedly in order to generate a global wave of anti-Assad hostility.
With the anti-Assad media warfare at its peak, Assad was finally elevated in the eyes of the West to the same level of hatred that Saddam “enjoyed” a decade earlier. For the USA, it was THE big opportunity it had been waiting for, and for so long, in order to justify bombing the hell out of Damascus with or without a UNSC mandate. America was finally ready to blast Syria with an unprecedented ferocity that would reflect its hatred, anger and the impatience it exercised in the waiting process.
But again, this was not to happen.
After missing out on being able to bomb Syria in February 1991, in April 2003 (after the invasions of Iraq), and again in October 2011 and February 2012 (after the UNSC Russian/Chinese Vetoes), America was still unable to bomb Syria even after the whole Eastern Ghouta kerfuffle of August 2013.
In fact, in September 2013, America did attack Syria, but this attack ended as soon as it started. When Al-Manar/Al-Akhbar published the news and we translated it into English (1), it was widely discounted. It is still not taken very seriously by everyone, but all evidence on the ground and the changes in the stands of America and its European allies are all indicative that this story holds ground.
America fired two missiles at Syria over the Mediterranean. They were spotted by Russia, and one missile was intercepted and destroyed, and the other was hacked into and diverted into the sea.
Russian diplomacy was quick to report the action of its military to the Americans in an attempt to keep this story hush hush, to prevent further escalation, and to avoid needless embarrassment.
As an outcome, Russia brokered the Syrian chemical weapons disposal deal as a face-saver for America, so that America did not seem like it backed down about bombing Syria.
So once again, America missed out on bombing Syria, and for the fifth time.
With the event over the Mediterranean, America knew that a confrontation with Syria was going to mean a confrontation with Russia.
The crisis in Ukraine that followed was Russia’s punishment (as some put it) over what Russia had done in Syria. But the relentless and determined Putin continued to make it harder for America to intimidate him into submission as time went by.
What is ironic is that even some friends of Syria are unaware of the fact that America has actually been unable to bomb Syria for over two decades. The rhetoric of impending American strikes on Syria never seems to stop.
It must be clearly stated that not unless some serious changes take place, and unless America no longer cares about avoiding a confrontation with Russia, it will remain unable to bomb Syria. Strong as this statement sounds, it is in fact an under-statement when we factor in Hezbollah as will be discussed later.
In the above analysis, we are ignoring two major pertinent factors.
Firstly, we need to remember that ISIS has broken loose and that it has been leading its own destiny for over a year. When America formed the coalition to launch airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, the prime aim was ISIS; not the Syrian government.
When I put this argument forward more than a year ago, and when I emphasized that America is not this time using ISIS as a pretext to hit Syria, the argument was staunchly opposed. More than a year later, we clearly see that America has not used this “opportunity” to attack Syria. However, articles predicting an imminent American attack never stop flowing.
Secondly, there is clear evidence that Syria has given tacit support to strikes against ISIS, and that the USA informs the Syrian government in advance where and when those strikes are going to be made. What President Assad said to RT in his recent interview does not contradict with the above.
Some argue that the raids provide ISIS with support and are used to drop supplies. This argument cannot seriously carry weight. Firstly, you don’t use fighter jets to drop supplies. Secondly, the road of supplies has been open via Turkey and accessible to trucks and there is no need to use air drops. There have been some unconfirmed stories of dropping supplies, but if true, it is possible that those were intended for loyal Kurds and accidentally fell into ISIS hands. Incidents like these, including friendly fire, are not uncommon on the battle ground.
With that said, no one is claiming that America is yet serious about fighting ISIS, and this has been said before and needs to be said again. The only effective way to fight ISIS militarily is to cut off its supply lines first, and then to work in conjunction with the Syrian Army. This is not happening as we know, but what is of pertinence here is that all the speculation about America using the opportunity of striking ISIS to strike Syria is a figment of the imagination of ill-informed analysts, mainly Western. Such concerns and fears are not resonating in the Levant or its media.
The protagonists of this theory are failing to explain the logical role of the coalition. If the fighter jets are not bombing ISIS as they claim, and we know that they are not bombing Damascus or any government institution, so what is it exactly that they are doing then?
If Al-Manar is not reporting it and discussing it, it is not worth considering. This is what I have learned over the last four and a half years.
So just to keep the records straight, it is good to count again how many times has America failed to use any given opportunity in order to bomb Syria. The first was in 1991, then in 2003, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
And speaking of Al-Manar, we must stop to remember Hezbollah and add its weight to the above argument and strategic equation.
The Russian role has been extremely significant in avoiding an all-out American attack on Syria. But it has not been the sole factor.
The other perhaps most important factors that have protected Syria from American attacks are Hezbollah and ironically, Israel. The presence of Israel as a southern “neighbour” of both Syria and Lebanon has fortuitously turned, in this instance, into a blessing in disguise by virtue of reprisal-based deterrence.
The attrition guerrilla-style war that Hezbollah waged against Israel from 1982 leading up to the defeat of the latter and its retreat from Lebanon in 2000 has put Hezbollah in the rank of organizations with highly effective guerilla-style warfare, no more.
However, the ensuing 2006 July Israel-Hezbollah war lifted Hezbollah to a whole new echelon. Not only was Hezbollah able to defeat Israeli forces in ground battle, not only it sank a frigate, but its missiles were able to reach deep into Israel, leaving no corner within Israel safe.
The myth of the undefeatable Israeli army was finally and irreversibly broken. This has created a whole new balance of power in which Israel needs to think more than twice before it enters into any new military gamble that directly or indirectly involves Hezbollah.
Nearly a decade later, Hezbollah has a much larger missile arsenal in terms of count and lethality. Hezbollah now has drones, and guided smart bombs, and has proven their effectiveness in the battle of Qalamoun against ISIS. As a matter of fact, Hezbollah drones have been spotted as far as southern Israel. Furthermore, in any upcoming confrontation with Hezbollah, Israel is fearful that underground tunnels will enable Hezbollah fighters to infiltrate into the Galilee.
America knows well that any serious attack on Damascus will automatically mean that Israel will be showered by hundreds and thousands of rockets, not only by Hezbollah, but also by the Syrian Army which has been sitting tight on its even larger arsenal of rockets. No place in Israel will be left safe.
Israeli ground to air anti-missile defences (ie Patriot Missiles and the like) will be rendered useless when confronting an endless barrage of rockets. The so-called “Iron Dome” shield was not even able to shield Israel from the limited number of rockets fired from just Gaza. In an all-out war with both Hezbollah and Syria, the anti-rocket defence systems will utterly fail.
So to complete a previously made statement, we must say that unless some serious changes take place, and unless America no longer cares about avoiding a confrontation with Russia, and unless it stops caring about protecting Israel, it will remain unable to bomb Syria.
One does not need to be very cynical to say that America may be foolish and/or desperate enough to risk a confrontation with Russia, but it will not dare put Israel in harm’s way. That imminent loss that Israel will suffer will be the direct and unequivocal outcome of any American attack on Damascus, and for as long as either Syria or Hezbollah has missiles to fire at Israel, this is not going to change.
For as long as the Israel lobby is very powerful within America, and for as long as it is able to dictate that Israeli life comes before American life, America will not risk Israeli life by bombing Syria. But here’s the ironic opposite side of this relationship. If hypothetically-speaking America one day finally realizes that its support to Israel is very costly and needless and decides to dump the Israel lobby and liberate itself from its web, then why would America still want to bomb Syria if the initial objective of bombing it had always been to give Israel long-term security?
In the meantime, pundits and cynics remain fearful and apprehensive, watching and trying to read in between the lines in order to be able to predict when will America attack Syria. They can see the American motives for a strike, but they do not see the deterrents that stand in the way. In all likelihood, this is fortunately an attack that America cannot and will not embark upon, not now, and not in the foreseeable future.
With the recent escalations in Russia’s role, all cards are on the table, and the possibility of direct Russian military involvement is looking increasingly plausible. It seems that Russia’s patience with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf is wearing thin and that Russia has decided to tip the events in a manner to coerce the Gulfies to accept the status quo.
Any speculations and analysis of Russia’s upcoming role can easily turn obsolete overnight as events are moving very rapidly. In any event, it is highly unlikely that Russia would be risking an escalation with the USA. Russian foreign policy makers do not make the short-sightedness brash decisions like their American counterparts do. The most likely scenario is that the USA will sit back and observe what Russia will be doing. On one hand, America hopes that Russia will help Syria crush ISIS, but they will need some win, albeit a diplomatic one.
America will therefore most likely continue with its rhetoric in regard to its demands for the demise of President Assad. It will continue to make threats and insinuate that the military option will always be open, but in reality, it has become a lame duck.
With the Greenback teetering and propped up by “financial easing” (ie printing money), America’s priorities may soon change and focus on other hot zones and/or domestic matters.
As the Greenback sways, one cannot help but remember the nursery rhyme of the ten green bottles sitting on the wall. And even though Foreign Secretary Kerry continues to reiterate that President Assad must go without being able to suggest or enforce any alternative, then we can perhaps safely say that unless America takes that foolish gamble and decides to confront Russia in Syria, then the biggest of all green bottles has in practical terms fallen off the Syrian wall.
In the next and probably final part of this series, we will take a closer look at the dismantling of the “Anti-Syrian Cocktail” and how the green bottles have fallen one by one.