Sunday, 13 August 2017

How Assad And Iran Are Enabled To Win The War In Syria

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 'Despite a cease-fire agreement for southern Syria that was brokered by the Trump administration and Russia, the Iranian-backed, pro-Assad coalition continues to capture areas in the border region with Jordan, the Sunni Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported Friday.

 This happened despite the presence of a Russian observer force which is supposed to safeguard the cease-fire and prevent the presence of Iranian proxies in the border regions in southern Syria.

 “The Syrian regime-linked Team 15, in addition to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, have already reached the Syrian-Jordanian borders and control the areas of Bi’r Saboun-Tal Assada, reaching the entire Abu Sharshouh border crossing and border posts,” the newspaper Asharq al-Awsat wrote, citing a report by an unknown German news agency.

 The report was confirmed by the Syrian Observatory For Human Rights, which reported the pro-Assad coalition’s new advances ended the presence of rebel groups along the Jordanian border in the Syrian Suweida Province, which is home to a large Druze community.

 “With this advancement, the factions are now left with no external access east and southeast of Syria, except for a border strip on the southeast border of the Damascus countryside with Jordan, in addition to a border strip with Iraq extending over the provinces of Damascus countryside and Homs, which includes al-Tanf border crossing between Syria and Iraq,” according to the SOHR.

 The Asharq al-Awsat report will no doubt raise concerns in Israel about the encroachment of Iranian-backed forces on the border area at the Golan Heights.

 Israel strongly opposed the cease-fire arrangement, which aimed to establish de-conflicting zones along the Israeli and Jordanian border with Syria.

 Last month, Israeli officials held secret talks about the cease-fire plan with their American and Russian counterparts in an unknown European capital and the Jordanian capital of Amman.

 During these talks, Israel presented the U.S. and Russia with numerous objections to the agreement, claiming the two regional superpowers were not paying enough attention to the Iranian attempts to use the chaos in Syria for advancing its imperialistic aspirations, which include the “liberation” of the Israel Golan Heights.

 The U.S. and Russia see the cease-fire as a means to neutralize the threat of the Jihadist organizations Islamic State and the former Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, which control much of the border region along the Israel and Jordanian border.

 High-ranking Israeli diplomats, however, told their American and Russian counterparts they should consider the situation from a long-term strategic perspective and focus on the emerging Iranian threat in Syria.

 The Israelis reportedly demanded that the agreement include a provision banning the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and their local Shiite proxies like Hezbollah from entering a 15-mile-wide buffer zone along the Israeli border, but to no avail.

 The government in Jerusalem was shocked to find out the draft version of the agreement ignored almost all of Israel’s reservations and even contradicted Israel’s position on the issues discussed in Amman and the European capital.

 Israeli officials later revealed that the agreement didn’t even mention Iran or Hezbollah and said the draft text led Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to publicly voice his opposition to the agreement July 16 while visiting Paris.

 The Israeli PM the agreement not only condones, but effectively perpetuates, Iran’s presence in Syria.

 Netanyahu’s criticism led Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to reassure Israel over its security concerns, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson later announced the U.S. would not continue its cooperation with Russia in Syria if the Iranian backed-forces wouldn’t be expelled from the country.

 “The direct presence of Iranian military forces inside of Syria, they must leave and go home, whether those are Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces or whether those are paid militias, foreign fighters, that Iran has brought into Syria in this battle,” Tillerson told reporters in Washington last week.

 The message may have come too late, however.

 By concentrating too much on the threat Islamic State poses for the West and the U.S. in particular, the previous and current U.S. administrations enabled the rise of Iran in Iraq and Syria.

 For example, the U.S. is currently helping the Iranians cleansing the Syrian-Lebanon border region from Sunni Islamist rebels and their families by assistingthe Lebanese army, which has been turned into an Iranian proxy. The U.S. is also not confronting Hezbollah, which is Iran’s major ally in the attempt to turn Syria in a new client state of the Islamic Republic.

 The lack of a clear American anti-Iran policy in Iraq and Syria “worries Israel … because it casts doubt over the depth of American commitment, the ability of the Americans to deliver, or the relevance of the ‘Art of the Deal’ to the Middle East and international politics,” wrote Yossi Kupperwasser, former Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence, wrote last week.

 The Trump administration, however, is plagued by internal division on the strategically important issue of Iran and its hegemonic drive in the Middle East.

 Tillerson and most of Trump’s advisers on issues related to Iran appear to have adopted a strategy of non-confrontation toward Iran and its regional allies. Trump, meanwhile, indicates he wants to confront Iran over its lack of adhering to what Trump calls the “spirit” of the nuclear deal.

 On Thursday, for example, the president told reporters at his golf retreat in New Jersey that Iran “wasn’t living up to the spirit of the agreement,” and warned for serious consequences.

 “I think you’ll see some very strong things taking place if they don’t get themselves in compliance,” the president said after he made clear the nuclear deal had enabled Iran to push its destabilizing agenda for the Middle East.

 The State Department, however, sings a different tune when it comes to the developments in Syria and the cooperation between dictator Bashar al-Assad and the Iranians. Brett McGurk the U.S. envoy for the war in Iraq and Syria, said last week that soft power must be used to oust Assad, who has become Iran’s straw man in the devastated country.'

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