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The Liberation of Idlib – Last Major Jihadist Stronghold in Syria – Will Proceed A Pace, Regardless of a Washington Cruise Missile Bombing Campaign

September 11, 2018

Elimination of Last Jihadist Stronghold Underway

As the liberation of Idlib Province in Syria, last major refuge for jihadist scoundrels, is about to be launched, Syria has come back into the news. In order to better control the narrative, YouTube has eliminated all news from Syrian government sites – as if that would change the outcome -, cruise missile U.S. warships are positioning themselves off of the Syrian coast, accusations of the old canard (repeated proven to have been false) of Syrian government use of chemical weapons, pretext for a U.S. strike, are in the air as is the speculation of possible Russian military responses to such an attack.

Attempting to deconstruct the mainstream narrative, I want to present a different narrative of the events unfolding, for consideration. Here is how I see the situation:

Trump – under pressure from military folks, AIPAC, Saudis – will create another false flag operation claiming Assad’s use of chemical weapons and will launch some missiles in the region of Idlib, last major stronghold for jihadist elements in Syria. This will do nothing to change the balance of power on the ground or prevent Syrian forces from liberating the town and region (although the bombing might delay it some). Syrian government with Russia air support will destroy the jihadist stronghold.

The irrelevancy of such attacks being the case, there are some arguments – credible to my thinking – that such cruise missile attacks are an attempt to create a “quadmire” for the Syrian state, Russia and Iran such as Vietnam was for the U.S. and Afghanistan was for the Soviets. Other argue that such attacks are a last ditch effort to  o deny Assad (and Putin) a victory. And that the missiles will target Bechir al Assad himself in an effort to “decapitate” the Syrian state.

Neither Turkey nor Israel will do anything to stop the Idlib offensive, their ruling circles having accepted “the new normal” – a single, unified Syrian state. Copycatting the US, Israel might bomb two… But in the end this show of force is a show of weakness. Turkey has switched sides and in exchange for getting some construction contracts through either Iran nor Russia, will help with the Syrian reconstruction in the Idlib area doing so under the false impression that it will retain some kind of foothold in the Syrian regions near its border.

The liberation (and that is what it is) of Idlib will be a very messy affair since the Turks have not been able to work out any agreement with the jihadists, estimated to be 20,000-40,000 fighters’ strong, to separate themselves from the civilian population, in which ISIS and the like intend to hide. (Exact numbers are hard to come by. One publication, The Economist – 09-08-2018 – put the figure of jihadist fighters even higher at 70,000 – other sources are even higher at 100,000) Rather than placing the blame for the civilian deaths sure to follow where it belongs – on the Saudis, Israelis, Turks and ultimately on Washington for the likely civilian bloodshed about to take place, the media here will cry foul against the mean Assad government and of course Putin, because Putin is responsible for all evils.

Of course given a White House in which the likes Mike Pompeo is Secretary of State and James “Mad Dog” Mattis is Secretary of Defense – considered the more rational elements near the president – the best laid plans for limited engagement could go awry. Although I might be missing something – I often do – I seriously doubt that beyond dumb, destructive and strategically meaningless missile attacks that the Trump Administration will send in U.S. troops. although we might see some U.S.-Russian sparring in the skies, upping the ante for confrontation. In the end it will not amount to anything.

What is left for Washington in Syria is a U.S. base in Syria’s eastern region near the Iraqi border where some 4000 U.S. troops remain. It is a way station for jihadi stragglers to be sent on other sacred missions (Afghanistan, Horn of Africa, Maghreb – your guess is as good as mine). As that U.S. military base is surrounded by both Syrian and Iraq military forces, an isolated island in a sea of growing hostility, it is unlikely that it will be able to last for long.

All the talk of “humanitarian intervention is just a cynical coating on Washington’s interventionalist political strategy (Iraq, Libya, Syria (where it finally failed) – and was exposed to the entire world, minus some misguided elements in the USA. What has been missing from discussions on Syria (here and elsewhere) is the U.S. goal of  permanently partitioning the country either de jure or de facto. It is this strategy that met its Waterloo in Syria and as such is a major strategic American defeat, the dimensions of which are yet to be determined. Israel and the Saudis also suffered (some) political setbacks in Syria as the regional balance of power has shifted a few notches away from where it was in 2011.

Should the situation unfold as suggested, Syrian national integrity could be largely stabilized by the end of the year, the worst elements of the nightmare of these last years drawn to an end  and the long road of national reconstruction begun.



2 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill conklin permalink
    September 11, 2018 9:04 am

    Thanks for the good article Rob does this mean that Syria will basically go back to the territory it was before the war? And if Syria is rebuilt what would keep it from being bombed again by Israel and the United States

    • September 11, 2018 2:09 pm

      Yes, Syrian territorial integrity will return to what it was prior to the war; there are two pockets of jihadists left – the Iblid one that, unless I am missing something, will be in the next days the target of a Syrian army military offensive with Russian air support and a U.S. military enclave in the east of Syria near the Iraqi border, which is used, among other things as a jihadist transit point. Without U.S. ground troops, the Idlib jihadi enclave will fall. Period. The future of the U.S. enclave is less certain as it represents Wasnington’s last outpost to interfere militarily in Syria…but its options are limited and as the momentum grows in neighboring Iraq to see an end to the U.S. military presence there, considerable pressure will be put on Washington to close shop (although it might be a while). Strong anti-American pressures are growing in Iraq and in Syria it is generally known that Washington orchestrated (through proxies) all this jihadi nonsense.

      As for Israel bombing Syria…I imagine they will continue…possibly not. And as Syria now has more advanced anti-aircraft weapons from Russia those bombing raids will be a little trickier for Tel Aviv. Israel had hoped to convince Russia to push Iran to withdraw from Syria and from zones close to the Israeli (well the Israel Occupied Syrian territories – Golan)…but the Russians, Iranians and Syrians have all refused. All this has been a strategic set back for Israel who had counted on strengthening its hand in the region by partitioning and thus weakening the Syrian state. Didn’t happen and has backfired to a certain degree.

      Cheers, Bill

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