This column was written for the Unz Review: http://www.unz.com/tsaker/week-ten-of-the-russian-intervention-in-syria-the-assad-must-go-policy-leads-to-war-with-russia-iran-and-hezbollah/
The “news” that Israel and Turkey are systematically violating international law is hardly news at all. After all, we all know that Turkey has been regularly bombing the Kurds in Iraq and Syria, that Turkey still illegally occupies northern Cyprus just like the Israelis have been bombing Syria and Lebanon for decades and that they are still illegally occupying Palestine. The interesting development this week is that France, the UK and Germany have all officially decided to join these rogue states and act just like the Turks and Israelis by illegally intervening in Syria – in direct violation of international law – supposedly to fight Daesh. And even though Daesh is the official enemy, it “just so happens” that Syrian army positions were bombed by the USAF while the Israelis bombed Hezbollah missile depots. Apparently, the “Assad must go” policy is still the order of the day. In a way, one could argue that the West has now (re-)affirmed the principle that “might makes right” and that threats and violence are still the only “policy” of of the Empire in lieu of a legal, negotiated, policy. The problem with that is that the “other side” strongly feels that surrendering to the Empire’s demands is simply not an option.
The Russian warning:
In reality this has been going on for years. From the decision to bomb Serbia to the recent decision by the IMF to bail out the Ukraine in direct violation of IMF rules (which, apparently, shall now be re-written), the AngloZionist Empire has now been violating its own so-called “rules” and “principles” for decades against the background of a quasi-general indifference to the end of the international world order agreed upon after WWII. The big difference today is that the Empire’s reckless arrogance has now brought it in direct contact with the Russian Armed Forces which, apparently, are not willing to accept that kind of thuggery and who will fight back if attacked: in his annual address to expanded meeting of the Russian Federation Defense Ministry Board Putin has clearly indicated that the fact that Russia chose not to strike back at Turkey was a one time exception saying:
I want to warn those who might again try to organize any kind of provocation against our troops: we have taken additional measures to ensure the security of Russian troops and air base. It is reinforced by new air force squadrons and air defenses. All our strike aircraft are now flying with fighter cover. I order you to act very extreme resolve. Any targets that threaten Russia’s group or our terrestrial infrastructure is to be immediately destroyed.
What Putin is doing here is warning Turkey and, really all of NATO and the Empire that next time Russia will shoot back, immediately. This also shows that the authority shoot back has now been given to the Russian forces in Syria and that no top-level decision will have to be requested to return fire. It is true that this is not a first. The RAF was also given similar order in October already, but since the notion of antiquated Tornados shooting down a SU-30SM is rather far fetched (even if the British press insist that their 1970s-era aircraft are “and are capable of blasting any aircraft out of the sky”), the capability of the SU-30SMs and even the SU-34s to shoot down Western 4th generation aircraft is not in doubt. The Russians have the resolve and the means.
But will the West take the Russian warnings seriously?
The Israeli counter example:
The contrast between the NATO countries and Israel could, in this case, not be bigger. Bibi Netanyahu, by far the most intelligent actor in the AngloZionist Empire, immediately traveled to Moscow to sit down with his Russian counterparts to hammer out some kind of deal which would allow the Russians and Israelis to pursue their objectives without risking a shootout. When the first Russian Air Force incursion into the Israeli airspace occurred the Israelis handled it as a completely harmless event. Israeli Defense Minister Ya’alon declared:
“There was a slight intrusion a mile (1.6 kilometers) deep by a Russian plane from Syria into our airspace, but it was immediately resolved and the Russian plane returned towards Syria. It was apparently an error by the pilot who was flying near the Golan. Russian planes do not intend to attack us, which is why we must not automatically react and shoot them down when an error occurs”.
Later, an Ya’alon aide, General (res.) Amos Gilad, stated at a weekly event in Tel Aviv that Russian planes have occasionally crossed into Israeli airspace – but that the “very close cooperation between Russia and Israel” vis-a-vis operations in and around Syria had prevented any misunderstandings.
The counterpart on Russia side was just as obvious, if not officially admitted: when the Israelis bombed a Hezbollah weapons depot near Damascus the Russians “looked the other way”. Considering that almost at the same time Hezbollah operatives were risking their lives to rescue a downed Russian airman, this kind of deal is of less than exemplary morality, but Hezbollah people are also realists: just look at the way they put up with Assad even while he was torturing people for the CIA (the infamous “rendition” program) or when Imad Mughniyeh was murdered with obvious complicity of high-ranking members of the Assad regime). The leaders of Hezbollah understand what is happening here: like it or not, but Russia and Israel do have a “special relationship” which, while hardly a love fest, does include a unique combination of hard realism, often bordering on cynicism, and a mutual recognition that neither side wants an overt conflict. In this case, the Israelis were told in no uncertain terms that the Russian intervention to save the Syria from Daesh was not negotiable, but that Russia does not intend to protect Hezbollah from Israeli actions as long as these actions do not threaten the Russian objectives in Syria. Being a realist, Netanyahu took the deal.
Though there was some confusion about this, it is my understanding that while the Russians have deployed S-400 in Syria, there is also some evidence that the Syrians were finally given at least some S-300 batteries and that they might have used them against the Israelis on at least one occasion. What is absolutely certain is that under international law the Syrians will have the right to shoot at any US, French, German, Turkish or other aircraft flying in Syrian airspace and that if that happens the countries in violation of international law will not have a legitimate self-defense argument to make. By extension, this also means that Russia does also have the right to shoot down any aircraft or land or sea based weapons system targeting Russian aircraft. Unfortunately, western politicians and propagandists (aka “journalists”) are going to extraordinary lengths to avoid ever even mentioning these facts. And if somebody dares to actually ask the right question, western officials have a fit. This is exactly what happened recently between RT reporter Gayane Chichakyan and State Department spokesman John Kirby. See for yourself:
The Iranian warning:
Russia is not the only country which has been repeatedly warning the West about the dangers of remaining stuck in a “Assad must go” policy: Iran has also repeated such warnings. The latest one came directly from the foreign policy advisor to the leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, Ali Akbar Velayati, who openly stated that Bashar al-Assad is Syria’s lawful president and that “Iran considers him as its redline”. Velayati also said that “only Syrian people, who elected Assad, are entitled to decide the future of their country (…) and no foreign country will be allowed to interfere in Syria’s internal affairs”. Furthermore, another senior Iranian official, Iran’s Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, said that “Russia does not need prior agreement to use Iranian airspace to bomb sites in Syria” – in other words, such an agreement has already been negotiated. Considering that Larijani and Velayati are amongst the most influential and authoritative officials in Iran, one can only conclude that the Iranians are openly declaring that they are fully backing the Russian efforts in Syria. And that, in turn, means that Iran will send as many “boots on the ground” as needed to prevent Daesh from taking Damascus. This is the other crucial factor which the West is desperately trying not to think about.
The western narrative currently tries to show that it is Russia (and only Russia) which is keeping Assad in power. But this is completely false. The reality is that both Hezbollah and Iran are fully committed to preventing Daesh from overthrowing the Syrian government and their commitment has gone way further than words: Hezbollah has send hundreds of its best fighters to Syria and Iran has committed thousands of soldiers, mostly of the al-Quds Brigade, to the war in Syria. What this level of determination shows is that, just like Russia, Iran and Hezbollah have concluded that their vital, existential, interests are at risk and that they have no choice than to take the fight to Daesh. I believe that this assessment is absolutely correct.
So this is the key question here: do the deep state elites which run the US Empire understand that neither Russia, nor Iran or Hezbollah believe that they can back down and accept a Daesh victory in Syria? Do the western leader realize that Russia, Iran and Hezbollah cannot let the Empire overthrow Assad? Is there anybody out there who does not realize that the “Assad must go policy” implies a war against Russia, Iran and Hezbollah? The only way to avoid a war is to finally give up, even if that is initially denied publicly, on the “Assad must go” policy.