By Jim W. Dean
Tuesday August 1st was the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the Syrian Arab Army. It came as no surprise that the occasion was used as a reflective moment for all the Syrian people who have been through a War on Terror that became a War of Terror against the Syrian people.
The US coalition likes to brag that 70 nations joined their effort. Shame on them all. Any intelligence agent worthy of the name could see right through that sham, that the CIA plan did not work to implode the Syrian Army via a coup and then install a puppet government. After that failure, the Balkanization effort was ramped up with a full-scale proxy-terrorist assault.
Western countries all knew that boots on the ground with body bags being flown back home would trigger a big anti-war response, but the deaths of nameless jihadis with a seemingly endless supply available seemed the “smart” play, war on the cheap with disposable soldiers. Although these countries can all claim sovereign immunity, that will never change our knowing they were all guilty of aiding and abetting state-sponsored terrorism.
The last month has seen a shift in the progress of the war that even the most stalwart anti-Assad powers, like the Saudis, can no longer deny. Neither the “militants’” war nor the joint one with the terrorist brigades that followed, with all the military power of the US coalition and the money of the Gulf State terror-supporters, could defeat the Syrians and their allies.
They all fought like their lives were at stake, because they were. If the terror war against Syria had been successful, the tactic would have been used against new targets by the alleged US defenders of freedom and democracy and their Gulf State comrades in crime. As the saying went, in America during WW1, “Better to fight them over there.” This went down in history as part of the public selling-point of WW1. Russia and Iran realized that Syria and Iraq were the front lines of a terror war that would eventually reach their cities if not defeated.
The shift toward victory began with a ceasefire agreement that did not include a member of the past ceasefires, the US. That was the key to its success. The US deviously used all the past ceasefires to regroup and rearm its mixed “militant” and terrorist proxies, who changed group affiliations as often as their underwear.
A one- or two-week ceasefire was always followed by a new jihadi offensive, and sometimes even with US air support, as happened in Deir Ezzor, when US coalition planes flew airstrikes against the SAA that allowed ISIS to seize key positions there. When the Russians called the US on the hotline, no one was there.
The last gasp of the ISIS war on Syria peeked when Palmyra was retaken by ISIS in a campaign that took Western command and general staff training to have pulled off, and then the Hama offensive. Both were beaten back with heavy losses on both sides. But that was the second tipping point after Aleppo was liberated; and the PR lies of Western media about that battle were laid bare for all the world to see.
The next big Syrian push combined all the good lessons they had learned in the past, like continuing the amnesty and relocation program to move jihadi fighters from the Damascus front, where they had been tying down a lot of SAA forces, to Idlib, a war theatre that enjoyed the full support of the Turkish supply chain over its borders. As a result, more Syrian forces were able to be shifted to other fronts where jihadis had been living in low combat areas, and the Syrians could pick them off or force them to retreat one by one.
The Syrian Tiger forces surprised us all when they broke free from the city-siege warfare tactics and, with low losses, cleared eastern Aleppo province at the battle of Maskana, west of Lake Assad. They moved quickly southeast around the southern flank of the US-backed SDF forces in the Taqba Airport areas, attempting to block them from seizing control of the South Raqqa oil field region, a national resource that Damascus desperately needed to fund rebuilding the country.
The SDF was tied down with hard fighting against ISIS for the city, and that bought the SAA time to bring the logistics together to support the long supply lines needed for continuing their advance. The Tiger Forces paused at Resafa until reinforcements allowed them to begin taking back the oil wells and clearing the major supply line needed, the Ithriya highway.
This left a pocket of ISIS forces that had been straddling and threatening the Khanasir highway, the main supply road for Aleppo, but it was also cleared in the following week, giving the SAA safe lines of supply and communications to their rear, a combat tactic that is being repeated.
With secure supply lines, the Tiger Forces pushed into south central Raqqa province, capturing oil fields on an almost daily basis, both westward and south, and then stopped. We know now a deconfliction agreement was being reached that would allow the SAA to move right up to the southern side of the SDF forces south of the Euphrates river, which they subsequently did; and they are now in Deir Ezzor province.
We also learned that during the pause, the SAA was collecting soldiers from other units that were from the south Raqqa tribes, eventually totaling 4000, as they would have detailed familiarity with the area and be more motivated fighters.
Meanwhile the SAA eastern front pushing out from Palmyra was going slowly. Syrian and allied forces had been recapturing the SE desert area bordering Jordan, with sporadic combat with US-backed militants. One SAA push further north made it to the Iraqi border, cutting US proxy force’s line of attack north to Al-Bakumal on the Iraqi border, to threaten Deir-Ezzor from the rear.
The last big break came when the US, Russia and Syria stitched together a deconfliction agreement in the south Damascus area. There were some difficulties at first, but it seems to be holding. Then news broke that the CIA had been ordered to cut off all support for opposition groups that were not fighting ISIS. This came after the meeting between Putin and Trump in Hamburg, where such arrangements would have been agreed.
We now have the last city on the Palmyra road to Deir-Ezzor under SAA fire at Sukhna, with the Tiger Forces on the Euphrates only half that distance away, so the Syrian coalition will be able to make a two-pronged advance, splitting ISIS’ defenses.
Meanwhile back in Idlib province, Assad’s gamble paid off in relocating all of the different jihadi groups into that one area on the bet that they would start fighting each other in competition for warlord loot. That has happened; the irony is that HTS, the former Al-Qaeda group, seems to have won, but it is not on the amnesty list, so the SAA can deal with it after the other fronts are cleared.
Syria may still be Balkanized in the Kurdish north, as it has the oil resources to survive financially, but probably only with US forces screening them from an angry Mr. Erdogan. He seem to be biding his time to deal with them later, depending on how the Syrian political settlement talks go. But we got a curve ball thrown at us on that scenario at the Aspen Security Forum recently.
Special Operations Command Chief, Army General Raymond Thomas was asked if the US would stay in Syria after ISIS was defeated, to possibly support the Kurds militarily. His response shocked everyone.
“We are operating in the sovereign country of Syria. The Russians, their stalwarts, their back-stoppers, have already uninvited the Turks from Syria. We’re a bad day away from the Russians saying, ‘Why are you still in Syria, US?’
“It has come up in the form of some close calls there, but it will be hard – I defer to the lawyers in the crowd and others in terms of international law, on the basis for us staying there other than our CT [counterterrorism] writ. We went there for all the righteous reasons, but if the Russians play that card, we may want to stay and have no ability [legally] to do it.”
I must admit I may be the most shocked of all, and will be watching to see if the good general suffers any repercussions from this truthful remark. The flip side to it is Putin just signed the formal Russian legislative papers on the 50-year rights to its current bases in Syria, with an automatic 25-year extension clause.
This was a great day for the founding anniversary of the SAA. God bless them all, the living and the dead, and their families who have suffered with them. And may those guilty of the crimes against them get their just due, in this world or the next.