April 26, 2018

Syria: A Trap for the Kremlin

Vadym Volokhov

April 21, 2018, experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were finally let to the Syrian city of Douma, where they collected samples to be analyzed in order to verify the information about the chemical attack on the city on the 7th April 2018. The samples collected will be transported to the OPCW Laboratory in Rijswijk and then dispatched for analysis to the OPCW’s designated labs. “Based on the analysis of the sample results as well other information and materials collected by the team, the FFM will compile their report for submission to the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention for their consideration”, the OPCW said.

April 21, 2018, experts from the OPCW were finally let to the Syrian city of Douma
April 21, 2018, experts from the OPCW were finally let to the Syrian city of Douma

According to the information from humanitarian organizations and opposition to B. Assad's regime, on the night of April 7, 2018, a helicopter dropped a barrel bomb with poisonous substances on the city of Douma, which resulted in the deaths of dozens of people, hundreds had to turn to hospitals. Most affected civilians were women and children.

Russia and Syria categorically deny the information about a chemical attack, calling it “staging”. Besides, Moscow immediately initiated sending of the OPCW experts to Douma, who arrived, but got into the city only after more than a week of waiting for permission from the Syrian authorities. Meanwhile, the city was open to Russian journalists who were preparing television reports.

Western countries, extremely surprised with this situation, openly expressed suspicion that Russia, Syria and Iran were ready to go to the scandal, but not let international experts work in the area of the chemical attack before all traces of chemicals were destroyed.

 

Against this background, one can't help noticing Moscow's steps to stop the escalation of relations with Washington. Thus, the Russian Ambassador to the United States met with US National Security Advisor John Bolton, and US President D. Trump suspended the introduction of a new sanctions package promised by him earlier. V. Putin met with the top military command of the Russian Armed Forces, and the level of anti-American rhetoric has significantly dropped.

One can't help noticing Moscow's steps to stop
the escalation of relations with Washington

The United States intends to make maximum use of the situation created by Moscow and Damascus and prepare the legal framework for recognizing Russia as a “sponsor of international terrorism”, which will create fundamentally new conditions for the White House and it will be able to impose new sanctions against organizations and individuals, blaming or even announcing them suspected of supporting terrorism.

Interfering with the work of a group of international experts from the OPCW in Syria may indicate that both Russia and Iran have influential people, political groups who disadvantage from dialogue between Moscow and Washington. Russia's leaving Syria is very disadvantageous for them, they benefit from keeping Russia “hooked” and preventing the final collapse of the “three countries alliance”, since Ankara has actually left it.

Why Iran? The matter is that in the Douma region Russian planes participated in massive air strikes on everything staring into their face: hospitals, residential areas, militants' positions, etc. The ground operation, including artillery strikes and bombardment with barrel bombs from helicopters, was conducted by pro-Iranian forces, and therefore they did know about chemicals being used.

 

It would be appropriate to return to the question: who benefits from what?

Moscow benefits from maintaining B. Assad's regime, as this will allow to preserve the Russian Navy's sea-base in Tartus, the Khmeimim airfield in Latakia and Russia's influence in that region of the world.

It is very important for Ankara to resolve the Kurds issue — which it successfully did in the Afrin enclave in the North of Syria.

Washington needs to destroy the “Islamic state” and prevent a rapid increase in Iran's influence in Mashriq (Mashriq — a Middle Eastern region to the east of Israel) and to destroy the “Shiite Corridor” created by Tehran, which allows the latter to virtually freely transfer its forces and weapons to Lebanon through the territory of Iraq and Syria.

Since Russia is not interested in central and eastern districts of Syria, Tehran quickly took them under its control with the help of Shiite armed formations (Iranians, Lebanese, Iraqis and Afghani). In those areas, they are sweeping territories from Sunnis, forcing them to leave their homes in search of a safe place. The result of Tehran's efforts is more than half the territory of Syria under Iranian control.

 

Tehran has won most of all in the war in Syria
Tehran has won most of all in the war in Syria

Today, the situation is such that Tehran has won most of all in the war in Syria and it will be almost impossible to drive it from there. Iran has actually become larger through the territories of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. That is why the Lebanese Hezbollah has ceased to be isolated and feels more confident as part of Iran's forces. At this, it is extremely important for Tehran not to let Russia go to concessions to the West and leave Syria, but instead to create such a situation for the Kremlin from which there would be no retreat.

So we have come to the question of how Iran managed to draw Russia into the Syrian war? What is the reasons that made or provoked Moscow to take such a step? There is one and only answer possible — the greed of the regime of oligarchs.

Chronologically, it all was like this. Since 2011, when V. Putin stated that B. Assad was not a friend and not an ally, Russia had gradually and quickly wound up its presence in Syria, reduced the embassy, and closed the apparatus of military advisers and instructors. By 2013, the vacuum which remained after Russia, was quickly and tightly filled by Iran. Iran and its IRGC quickly tamed all the Assad's elite, took control of the Republican Guard, the Syrian Air Force and the whole of intelligence. In the wake of the collapse of the Syrian Armed Forces, it was Iran that began replacing the Syrian Armed Forces with its own forces, formations of Shiite armed units, and groups of mercenaries from all countries of the Middle East. But Tehran needed a strong ally, besides, it needed to somehow “make busy” Turkey to unleash Iran's hands.

December 2014. The idea of the “Turkish Stream” is born. Turkey, having received gas, becomes a transit hub and a gas operator for European countries. Russian gas flows through three threads via Turkey to Europe. But this did not happen. Already in April 2015 there were some difficulties with the implementation of the project. Iran rushed to help. There was a plan to provide “brotherly help to the Syrian people”. It is believed that this is part of Major General of the IRGC, Commander of its “Quds” Force Qasem Soleimani's plan.

Note:

Qasem Soleimani (nickname “Shadow”) was born on March 11, 1957 in Rabor county, Kerman province. A military leader, Major General, since 2000 — the Commander of the “Quds” Special Force — a part of the IRGC, primarily responsible for military and covert operations outside of Iran.

“Quds”, led by Q. Soleimani, provides military support to the Hamas and Hezbollah factions in Palestine and Lebanon, and also played an important role in shaping the political situation in Iraq after the American troop' withdrawal from there. Since 2012, Q. Soleimani allegedly has helped the government of B. Assad to reverse the course of the civil war in Syria and to recapture strategic cities and territories from insurgent groups. Q. Soleimani also participates in helping the Iraqi government fight against terrorists of the “Islamic state”.

Inside of Iran, Q. Soleimani is considered a national hero, about whom documentaries and feature films are being made, songs are being written and to whom achievements are being dedicated. Among politicians, he is considered an outstanding strategist and organizer of special operations, as well as the creator of a broad network of agents in the Middle East, based on Shiite communities. He is the most influential and powerful figure in the Middle East, despite the fact that “no one has heard anything about him”.

Already in July 2015, Moscow began preparing, and in August it announced the deployment of its forces in Syria. But without Iran's help, Russia could no longer enter Syria. Iran offered its support and assistance.

Possibly, that was exactly what Iran sought and General Soleimani forecasted in his plan. Perhaps he planned the following: Russia brings its own aviation contingent, which together with Syrian and Iranian troops will defeat the Syrian moderate opposition in northern Syria, will come up to the Syrian-Turkish border, into the Kurdish Afrin enclave. Then, Russia and Iran involve the Kurds in the fight against the ISIS, and Turkey, in exchange for eliminating danger from its border, gives Russia permission for the construction of the “Turkish Stream”. For Russia, this is a great deal of money, the supply of gas to Europe bypassing Ukraine and a “lifelong” friendship with Turkey and Iran, creation of a “union” and getting a mask of a Syrian peacemaker.

But the problems with the implementation of the plan began almost immediately. The offensive of the Syrian government troops, together with the Iranian formations, supported by Russian aviation, in autumn 2015 actually failed. There was not enough force, and Moscow, having started to bring a land component to Syria, was completely drawn into the war.

Thus, Iran has resolved its task — it has drawn Russia to Syria, has received even if a problematic but an ally, and now for Tehran the main task is not to let Moscow make an agreement with the USA behind Iran's back and leave Syria. And the most interesting thing about this situation is that the “Turkish Stream” remains extremely questionable, and Moscow may not even get one “gas pipe”…

 

Saudi Arabia has initiated creation of a contingent of Arab forces for actions in Syria
Saudi Arabia has initiated creation of a contingent of Arab forces for actions in Syria

Recently, another news has become known: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has initiated creation of a contingent of Arab forces from the KSA, the UAE, and possibly Qatar. In the future, Egypt and Jordan will join them.

The Al Bayan newspaper has reported on these plans of Saudi Arabia, citing the statement by Adel al-Jubeir, Foreign Minister of the KSA. If such a contingent is created, then its strength will exceed the Iranian forces and Washington will be able to solve three problems at one go:

  1. Transferring the Kurds under the control of the Arabs, which will fully satisfy Ankara.
  2. Turkey remains the key USA's ally in the region, and comes out of a coalition with Iran and Russia.
  3. Washington retains the role of coordinator.

 

Thus, Turkey has successfully resolved its issues with the Kurds in northern Syria. Russia has got drawn into the war and lost almost everything it was counting on. Iran has become a winner: it has created a “corridor” that allows to transfer significant resources from Iran through the territories of Iraq and Syria to Lebanon, and it also has involved Russia in the Syrian civil war, ensuring its interests. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has become Israel's “friend”, having united efforts in the struggle against Tehran.