By Aram Mirzaei for The Saker Blog
August was an eventful month for the Syrian Army and its allies as the battle for northwestern Syria saw a breakthrough after months of static frontline movements. Just like in the previous 3 years, the month of August has been one accompanied by important victories for Damascus. The Syrian Army managed to break through the jihadist lines at the Khan Sheikhoun front and from there steamrolled through the entire frontline, eventually encircling and trapping the jihadist militants in a pocket in northern Hama. Despite counteroffensives launched by Tahrir Al-Sham and their allies from the “Rouse the believers” operations room, the SAA managed to hold on to the newly liberated areas.
With this development, Hama city and Christian towns such as Mhardeh are now safe from the encroaching jihadist threat. This offensive should be expanded now that the Syrian Army still has the initiative, especially with the jihadist morale still shaken by the loss of their doorway into Hama. It is important for Damascus to clear out the remainder of the Latakia province as well as western Aleppo since both these areas are heavily populated and hold strategic value. If Latakia and Aleppo are cleared, then the jihadist threat will be contained to a single province in the country, leaving them pretty much besieged in Idlib as Ankara’s support seems to be fading, as evident by their passiveness during the Syrian Army’s August offensive.
Since the conclusion of the offensive, with a new ceasefire having been declared and expired, the Syrian Army is said to be amassing troops near the Al-Ghaab front in a potential move to completely kick the jihadists out of Hama and thereby finally paving the way for the liberation of Jisr Al-Shughour. This news seems to have been expected by the Jihadists as the Jaysh Al-Izza terrorist outfit has already begun making preparations for the upcoming battle, reportedly sending over 2000 men to the Western Hama countryside. The Syrian Army would do well to be careful here as the key hilltop town of Kabani, overlooking Jisr Al-Shughour still hasn’t been liberated.
Meanwhile, last weekend saw more than half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production go down in flames as the Saudi Aramco oilfields and refineries came under heavy drone attacks. The attacks caused the greatest drop in oil production in history, prompting oil prices to jump 19 percent. If oil prices rise further, the world will inch closer to a global recession, which, among other things, could cost Trump his reelection. Immediately after the attacks, the Yemeni Houthis issued a statement where they took responsibility for the attacks with the movement’s spokesperson General Yahya Sare’e adding that 10 drones were deployed against the sites at Khurais and Abqaiq. “This was one of the largest operations which our forces have carried out deep inside Saudi Arabia. It came after careful intelligence and cooperation with honorable and free people inside Saudi Arabia,” he said without elaboration.
Washington was quick to dismiss the Houthi claim of responsibility when Trump said that Washington has “reason to believe that we know the culprit,” noting that Washington is “locked and loaded depending on verification” and is waiting to “hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack.” The same response was voiced by Pompeo and Lindsey Graham who called for Washington to strike Iran in an attempt to “break the regime’s back”.
Surely Washington understands how embarrassing this debacle is for them. The Saudis have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on purchasing US military equipment and weapons. Equipment and weapons that Washington has spent quite some time claiming is superior to anything else the world has to offer. Last week, a Saudi prince took to twitter and claimed that Saudi Arabia could “destroy Iran in 8 hours”, adding that Iran’s military technology belong to the “museum”.
That same claimed superior weaponry failed to stop a single attack that took out half of the kingdom’s oil production. This makes me wonder if they’re laying the blame on Iran in order to cover up the even greater embarrassment, that American and Saudi military forces and their networks of advanced air defenses never detected the Yemeni drones that were launched on Saturday to strike oil facilities deep inside Saudi Arabia, proving futile the billions of dollars that the Riyadh regime has spent on them to protect its territories. What message does this send to US vassals around the world? In an attempt to downplay the uselessness of the Patriot system, Pompeo, sounding surprised by the vastness of the operation, said: “This is an attack of a scale we’ve just not seen before.”
Really? Never seen before? So the thousands of drone strikes that Washington has launched across the Islamic world is something that they’ve never seen before?
In any case, Pompeo immediately traveled to Riyadh to assure Washington’s vassals that everything is under control, and to discuss “potential responses”, calling the incident “an act of war”. By now, this blame game has become routine, Washington keeps using the same miserable strategy of intimidation, thinking it will work at the 500th attempt.
So here we are again, another dubious incident in which Tehran is held responsible, without any evidence presented. Of course, Tehran didn’t just stand idly by while Washington made these threats, both Ayatollah Khamenei and foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif issued separate responses, vehemently denying Iran’s role in the attack and warning that any attack on Iran would spark an all out war. Khamenei also went on to talk about the importance of not falling for the failed US maximum pressure campaign, which this is all about. Speaking on Tuesday, Khamenei said entering talks with the US under the current circumstances would be tantamount to surrendering to Washington’s pressure campaign. “Negotiating would mean Washington imposing its demands on Tehran. It would also be a manifestation of the victory of America’s maximum pressure campaign,” he noted.
Thus, the Islamic Republic has correctly calculated that Washington’s maximum pressure campaign is nothing but a bluff to intimidate Iran into entering negotiations. Khamenei said “I had already said that America’s objective of [pursuing] talks is to impose [its demands], but they have become so insolent that they even speak about this openly.”
“The US regime is after making its domestic rivals and the Europeans accept this as a definitive policy that maximum pressure is the only way to confront Iran,” added Ayatollah Khamenei. “Their objective in [offering to hold] talks is to prove to everyone that the policy of maximum pressure has yielded results, and that Iranian authorities were forced to come to the negotiating table despite what they said.”
The most probable conclusion is that there won’t be a war. Washington knows very well that it cannot afford a regional war, especially not now when Washington has been exposed for not being able to defend its vassals. If indeed Iran was behind this attack, then one can imagine that if a single drone strike took out half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production, imagine what an all-out war would result in for Washington and its vassals. The consequences of this debacle can be very severe for Washington in the future as Moscow has already offered the Arab states to purchase Russian weaponry instead, slowly outmanoeuvring Washington as was the case with Turkey and the S-400 deal. It is a real pathetic mess that Washington has got itself into. Washington’s own allies won’t even back their lies. “We are not aware of any information that points to Iran,” Japan’s Defense Minister Taro Kono told reporters at a briefing on Wednesday.
“We believe the Houthis carried out the attack based on the statement claiming responsibility,” he added, referring to the Yemeni group incorporated into the armed forces fighting back a Saudi-led war on Yemen.
Washington’s list of options grows thin, the US better retract its words, repent and return to the nuclear accord that it has violated or see itself fall even further into decay as Washington’s days of being the sole unipolar power that everyone used to fear are quickly fading away.