.
.
.
.

Damascus in the midst of the ‘game of the nations’

Ghassan Imam

Published: Updated:

I have not seen my city Damascus since I left it in the 1970s. The details of its neighborhoods, however, are still engraved in my memory. I still remember the Abbasid Square and the Barzeh and Qabdoun suburbs where there are currently battles between Syrian Sunni groups and Shiite militias led by commanders of the Iranian invasion of Syria.

The Syrian regime launched the battle more than a month ago. Its air force heavily shelled the neighborhoods of Qaboun and Barzeh where poor people work in neighboring factories. The Iranian intelligence controls the air force which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad lost control. Therefore, it was not him behind the firing of anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli air force jets which shelled convoys transferring arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

What’s the aim of shelling religious organizations in control of the Barazeh and Qaboun heights? The tactical aim is to fully secure the Damascus-Aleppo road. The strategic aim is to displace these organizations and their families – including al-Nusra Front which controls these two suburbs – to the western-northern Edleb governorate and allow the families of Shiite groups to reside there. They want to do exactly what they did before when they isolated and besieged groups and their families in the south, west and southeast of the Damascus countryside.

To accomplish their aim of invading Barazeh and Qaboun, the regime and Iran are planning to occupy Damascus’ eastern countryside, Jawbar, Harasta and Duma, which comprises a solid fort that groups sometimes use to shell Damascus and particularly the Christian al-Qasaa neighborhood and the al-Adawi neighborhood which is linked to the significant Abbasid Junction.

Battle in the suburbs

However, all of Damascus’ residents are worried due to the ongoing battle in the city’s eastern and northeastern suburbs. The confrontation may destroy Damascus, just like what happened to Aleppo.

Millions of Damascenes and refugees know well that air force jets will not hesitate to shell the capital if al-Nusra Front and organizations allied with it succeed at sneaking through the Abbasid junction to the city’s neighborhoods and streets thus making it impossible for the Alawites and Iranians to regain control of them.

The problem of Sunni organizations in Damascus and other Syrian areas lies in the fact that they overlap with ISIS and al-Qaeda organizations which are are well-trained and more accepting of death in the battlefield.

Perhaps, al-Nusra Front’s expansion of the Damascus battle aims to destroy the Geneva talks which do not concern it. At the same time, it does not want organizations allied with it to reach any agreements with the regime.

Damascus is like other Syrian cities. Most of its residents belong to the middle class. They don’t care about the regime’s survival as much as they are afraid of Islamized organizations’ domination over political life once they reach an agreement with the regime.

In both cases, it is democracy which will be the greatest casualty.

The negotiating organizations have kicked off the battle in Hama’s countryside and it’s clear that the aim is to block the road between Damascus and Aleppo and force the regime to make concessions to the political and armed opposition in order to survive – knowing that the regime succeeded at including the item “fighting terrorism” in the talks. Perhaps, it means combating Iranian violence in Syria.

Ghassan Imam


The negotiating organizations have kicked off the battle in Hama’s countryside and it’s clear that the aim is to block the road between Damascus and Aleppo and force the regime to make concessions to the political and armed opposition in order to survive – knowing that the regime succeeded at including the item “fighting terrorism” in the talks. Perhaps, it means combating Iranian violence in Syria.

Where is the “game of the nations” in the Damascus’ battle? Russia continues to fight alongside the Syrian regime and Iran in such matchless stupidity! It brutally shells east of Damascus countryside, Qaboun and Barazeh ,which are packed with civilians because it wants to prevent the groups fighting it from attaining any strategic depth for their battle in Damascus.

Russia looks at its battle in Damascus as based on its confrontation with the ‘rebellious’ Sunni organizations in Caucasus and with the opposition inside Russia (20 million Tatars) and in the Crimean front which it restored from Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin thinks that Arabs’ sympathy with the Sunnis in Caucasus and the Tatars compels him to support the Assad regime and keep silent over Iran’s involvement in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon. It is no secret that the rebels in Caucasus have some sort of presence with religious organizations fighting in Iraq and Syria.

Russia is even heading in the direction of supporting Kurdish militias – in the Kurdish Workers’ Party in Turkey and Syria – in order to compete with the US, which established two military bases in Hasakah, in northeastern Syria, and in Manbij, in Aleppo’s northern countryside.

Trump has not yet revealed his entire plan about Syria. However, what we can tell from his participation in undermining ISIS in Mosul is that it is clear that his first goal in Syria is to eliminate ISIS in Raqqah and Deir az-Zour. Like former President Barack Obama, he is using Kurdish militias and prefers them over Turkey which voiced its readiness to assume the Kurds’ role in the Raqqah battle.

Syria’s Kurds imply to the Assad regime that they want to participate in the battle against ISIS. This means America agrees to ripping the Assad regime out of Iran’s control as Tehran seems far away from the Raqqah battle.

Mosul battle

Iran is also interested in settling Shiite militias fighting in Syria and in tightening control over Iraq after Iraqi militias affiliated with it participated in the Mosul battle.

We must note that the Iraqi government did not provide enough residential areas for the hundreds of thousands of Sunnis fleeing from ISIS in Mosul. Some media sources estimated that nearly 4,000 Sunni civilians were killed by Iraq’s shelling of west Mosul.

Assad has not militarily defied Israel in Golan or in Syrian airspace. Therefore, Israel’s threat to destroy the Syrian air defense missiles’ network is in fact directed at Putin who supplied Assad with this network. Will Putin remain silent? Will he let these missiles to be used to pursue Israeli jets? What will he do if Israel destroys the Syrian air defense network?

Up until now, Turkey has been acting on behalf of Arabs in Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is upset with Trump because the latter prefers to cooperate with his Kurdish rivals. Therefore, the Turkish president has to humor Putin to spite the US.

Meanwhile, Putin is extremely cheerful as he follows up on Erdogan’s argument with Germany and the Netherlands.

This article is also available in Arabic.
_______________________
Ghassan Imam is a Syrian journalist and writer.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.