by Aram Mirzaei for The Saker Blog
Three months have passed since the Sochi agreement on the so called Idlib demilitarized zone. The terms of the deal were that all jihadist rebels labelled as terrorists by all parties to the deal were to be evacuated out of the area. This responsibility would lie with Turkey due to Ankara’s clout among the jihadists. But so far there are no signs of jihadists leaving. As a matter of fact things are looking very much similar to the so called ceasefires brokered by Washington and Moscow, where jihadists used the ceasefires to rearm and regroup, only to launch new attacks and kill more Syrian soldiers and civilians the very next day. Let’s not also forget last months chemical weapons attack on Aleppo by the jihadist rebels. Ankara has essentially done nothing to prevent these jihadists from conducting daily attacks across the so called demilitarized zone and have on numerous occasions been called out by the Syrian government for their failure to implement the deal.
It could be argued that these ceasefires have always served to benefit at least one side of the warring parties, acting more like pauses for each side to lick their wounds and/or rotate troops. In the past, Washington used them to save their beleaguered jihadist proxies in Aleppo as the Syrian Army and their allies were about to break the deadlock after 4 years of battle.
But Moscow and Damascus have also used these ceasefires to their own advantage. When the Turkish-Iranian-Russian brokered ceasefire of last year was implemented, the Syrian Army were given a golden opportunity to move their troops and focus completely on the Islamic State threat, allowing the Syrian Army to recapture swathes of territory. This latest ceasefire came as a result of Ankara’s urging. The situation before the Sochi agreement was very tense, with the Astana process in danger as Syria and her allies were preparing themselves for a final blow on the last jihadist strongholds in the northern parts of the country, a move that Turkey has vehemently rejected and vowed to stop.
At the same time, Washington and its cohorts were preparing a new false flag chemical attack in Idlib to blame on Syrian government forces, creating another pretext for defending their beloved jihadists. As the situation was getting out of hand quickly, with Ankara even plotting to assist Washington with strikes against Damascus, Moscow saw no choice but to put the planned offensive on hold and enter the Sochi agreement with Ankara.
At that moment, it was the right decision for Moscow to make. Things were getting out of hand and needed to be de-escalated. But the poor way this agreement has been handled by Ankara must have the people over in Moscow thinking what their next move should be. Should they give the green light for a new Syrian Army offensive and risk confronting Turkish forces or has Ankara been bluffing all the way to the negotiations table?
Israel steps out of line
The costly mistake that the Zionist regime in Tel Aviv committed on September 17, when they caused the downing of an Il-20 ELINT reconnaissance plane, killing all 15 Russian servicemen on board, changed the situation on the ground. Thinking that it was business as usual, this act of aggression did not come without consequences for Syria’s enemies as this prompted Moscow to arm Syria with the fearsome S-300 missile system. Since then, Zionist warplanes have not entered Syria to attack Syrian and allied forces despite both Tel Aviv and Washington’s initial dismissal of the S-300 system as a non-threat to their air forces.
This begs the question; if the S-300 is a non-threat to their “superior aircraft”, then why have they been so vocal about their opposition to Moscow supplying the S-300 to Iran and Syria? If this system is so useless as they portray it, what does Washington have to fear? Indeed supplying the S-300 missile system to Syria has to be considered as greatly improving Syria’s ability to defend her airspace more efficiently. Should Israel attack Syria once more, they better be prepared to face a more powerful air defence this time.
With the air threat reduced (and Israeli warplanes in danger), Washington is intensifying its presence on the ground. Recently several US representatives, including Mike Pompeo have made it abundantly clear that Washington will remain in Syria until “Iranian forces have withdrawn”, which essentially means until regime change has been achieved. But getting “Iranian forces” out of Syria might not be Washington’s only headache.
A new front is about to be opened
Meanwhile Ankara is mobilizing its forces for a new operation aimed at the US-backed “Syrian Democratic Forces”. Responding to this escalation, Washington intensifies its presence in the north-eastern parts of Syria too.
If one is to believe the latest reports, Ankara has mobilized 14000 “rebels” for an operation in SDF territory. Defense Department spokesperson Cmdr. Sean Robertson was quick to condemn this move.
“Unilateral military action into northeast Syria by any party, particularly as US personnel may be present or in the vicinity, is of grave concern,” Robertson said on Wednesday when asked about Turkey’s announcement. “We would find any such actions unacceptable… coordination and consultation between the US and Turkey is the only approach to address issues of security concern in this area.”
It remains to be seen what Ankara will make of this US threat and how Washington would respond if Ankara starts the operation. Anarchy still rules large parts of Syria. With no end to the ruthless fighting in sight, what does the year 2019 hold for Syria?