by Alexander Orlov, New Eastern Outlook:
The Russian Defense Ministry recently announced that the United States is training a new armed force at the former refugee camp in El Khaseq province, citing the Center for Syrian Reconciliation. It’s believed that this force will be used in an attempt to topple the the Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad. What is even more curious is that militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra are going to form the backbone of this military force. The Western coalition led by the United States carries on its attempt to utilize radical militant groups in Syria, in spite of repeated statements that it is supposedly engaged in the region to fight such militants. According to the details provided by the Center for Syrian Reconciliation, American special forces instructors are forming new armed units from previously dissociated groups of militants. Local residents report that the Western coalition has been using what used to be a refugee camp for six months to create a new armed force, bringing militants to El Khaseq from various parts of Syria. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, some 750 terrorists arrived from Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor, Abu Kamal and the territories to the east of the Euphrates. The newly formed backbone of the gang consists of more than 400 battle-hardened ISIS militants, who, due to the support of the United States left Raqqa last October with little effort. It is expected that soon this armed unit will be deployed in southern Syria to engage government forces. Earlier Russia’s media announced that the spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, Igor Konashenkov accused the Pentagon of lying to the international community regarding Washington’s plans to withdraw American forces from Syria. According to the head of the US Department of Defense, James Mattis, ISIS forces are defeated in Syria, but the war with them is not over yet.
It’s curious that as far as similar training camps for militant forces across Syria and beyond its borders are concerned, there’s well over a dozen, with a number of them operating in Jordan. Those camps are being used by various intelligence agencies, including Iranian, American, and even Turkish organizations. Each agency pursues its own objectives. This unfolds against the backdrop of the recent statement made by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Khmeimim military base regarding Moscow’s intended reduction of its military presence in Syria. In turn, Washington is busy preparing “its own” militants to fight Assad, taking advantage of what it hopes is a security vacuum once Russia withdraws. Moreover, Saudi Arabia and Israel make no secret of their plans to strike Iranian and Hezbollah forces in southern Syria simultaneously with launching a military operation into southern Lebanon. It is expected that Washington is going to support these actions by providing close air support to Saudi and Israeli forces in Syria. That is why militants of the so-called Free Syrian Army, formed by deserters from the Syrian army, were being trained in Jordan. The strikes inside Syrian territory are to be launched from several directions – from the area of the Golan Heights occupied by Israel, across the Lebanese border once Lebanon is infiltrated by Israeli forces, and across the Jordanian border. It’s curious that there’s no more that 60 miles to cover from the Jordanian-Syrian border to Damascus, and over a half of this territory is already occupied by armed opposition forces. It cannot be ruled out that pro-US SDF Kurdish forces will strike Damascus from the east, although this step can provoke outrage in Ankara which seeks to impede any form of Kurdish expansion in Syria. Spontaneous attacks may also be launched from refugee camps, where ISIS militants are being trained, as it’s been announced by Russia’s Ministry of Defense.
Should events start unfolding along this scenario with Russia’s air corps departing, Damascus is going to find itself trapped by its opponents. After all, the Free Syria Army have recently reached 30,000 in number. There’s another 25,000 ISIS militants are scattered along the Euphrates and hiding in Idlib. In the southwest, there’s another 10,000 anti-government militants prepared for action. As for Damascus, it has no more than 40,000 soldiers at its disposal supported with up to 40,000 Iranian soldiers and Shia militiamen from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. As for the Syrian Air Force, it has been seriously depleted by the ongoing conflict, while the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia maintain formidable air power. Moreover, Riyadh is building up a military coalition against Syria out of a long list of Arab countries, including the UAE, Jordan and Egypt. This leaves the Syrian government clearly at in a disadvantageous position together with Iran and Hezbollah.
In fact, the announcement made by the Russian Defense Ministry hardly contained any groundbreaking news, except for the announcement that those camps were recruiting militants. All states engaged in the Syrian conflict have been pursuing their own interests between 2011-2015, before the arrival of Russian forces. This struggle entailed the training of forces fighting as proxies for external players. Syria’s opponents were better funded, armed, and organized, able to make efficient use of a vast amount of foreign resources on hand. That is why the scales began tipping against Damascus three years ago. In 2015, Russia entered the war, breaking the back of anti-government militants, but this success does not automatically equate to victory. In fact, victory is a long way off for Damascus. What Moscow could do toward this end is destroy the black market economy created by anti-government forces, which could make the struggle against Damascus both extremely costly and highly unprofitable. War is a business, even if it’s a bloody one, and removing the profit from it removes the motive driving it.
In fact, the Soviet Union was fully aware of the fact that if one wants to have strong allied countries, a strong economic foundation was required for those allies to build upon. Back in the day a number of Arab, African and Asian nations would receive economic assistance in order to have sustainable military forces. Due to a variety of reasons this work hasn’t always been highly successful, but the advantages of such a strategy are simply undeniable. Modern Russia hasn’t spent a lot of time doing this largely due to the lack of a common ideology, since back in the Soviet days Moscow believed it was its duty to support national liberation movements aimed at achieving certain social benefits for a government and its people. But even today Moscow is trying to make its allies highly self-sufficient, but the problem is that without direct Russian support they are yet able to survive economically.
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