Syria’s Daraa battle proved that there is a deep agreement between Russia, Israel and the US regarding South Syria. This agreement has allowed troops affiliated with Iran to participate in the battle that aims to reach the Jordanian borders and reopen the Nasib border crossing. They managed to participate by dressing Iranian Revolutionary Guard members and other members of Lebanese and Iraqi militias the military uniform of the Syrian army, which now lacks human resources.
This agreement, which Jordan that is concerned over not hosting more Syrian refugees does not seem far from, is based on new arrangements that divide South Syria into two areas. One of them is called southwest Syria, and this is where Iranian militias are allowed to operate to support the remaining Assad forces under Russia’s aerial cover, which has destroyed towns and neighborhoods on the heads of women, children and civilians. This has left the opposition there with one option, which is reaching settlements that apparently serve the interest of the Syrian regime.
Russia combines between the beneficial and the enjoyable while managing this game. The beneficial is represented in providing personnel to the regime via the sectarian militias affiliated with Iran while the enjoyable is in going far in cooperating with Israel and working on achieving a deal with the Trump administrationKhairallah Khairallah
The Israeli stance in Syria
In brief, there is a game being played in South Syria. One of the game rules is not to come near Israel which believes that the issue of the Syrian Golan that’s been occupied since 1967 is a finalized issue; hence the separation between one area and another in South Syria. They have also prohibited anyone from coming near the southwestern area and the Golan front. This front has always been the reason behind the presence of the current Syrian regime ever since Hafez al-Assad was minister of defense during the 1967 war.
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The Trump-Putin summit will be held on July 16 right after the World Cup, which Russia is hosting and which it used to enhance its global status. As we wait for this summit, it seems the only truth that has actually surfaced is Israel’s frank announcement that it is sticking by the Syrian regime. This does not mean ending the strikes that target Iranian posts in Syria.
On the contrary, there were still strikes in the past few weeks while Iranian-linked militias were sacrificing victims to serve the Syrian regime that believes it emerged victorious from the Daraa battle. Meanwhile, Russia proved that it’s the only party capable of managing a game that’s extremely complicated. This game is based on an agreement with Israel and the Trump administration before anything else, and on using Iranian militias to secure the shortage of personnel in the Syrian army.
Russia combines between the beneficial and the enjoyable while managing this game. The beneficial is represented in providing personnel to the regime via the sectarian militias affiliated with Iran while the enjoyable is in going far in cooperating with Israel and working on achieving a deal with the Trump administration which, as it’s well-known, does not reject any of the Hebrew State’s requests.
Can one say the Syrian regime has a future? Before engaging in the issue of the future of the Syrian regime, which has been carrying out what is required from it, i.e. divide Syria and displace the largest number of citizens, we must note that Iran which sought to be the party with the first and final word in Damascus has been the victim of the idea that it can use others to achieve its aims.
Yes, Iran can use Lebanese sectarian militias as a tool. It can use Iraqi militias to serve its ambitions. However, this is one thing and using Russia to save Bashar al-Assad is something else. Vladimir Putin saved Assad when he sent his fighter jets to Khmeimim in late September 2015. He did not make this move before getting a green light from Iran. It’s no secret that before Russian bombers were sent to the Khmeimim base that’s located on the Syrian coast near Latakia, General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Brigade of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, visited Moscow.
The importance of Daraa
Everything has a price in the Syrian war. There is a price which Iran must pay in exchange for Russian intervention. This price includes acknowledging Israel’s interest on one hand and the deep relation between it and Russia on another. Israel passes through Russia before Iran.
What’s more important than all this is the future of Russian-American relations. The Russians know, before anyone else, that if it the US hadn’t directly informed the opposition that it must surrender in Daraa and it must not rely on any help from Washington, the battle in the southwest would not been a simple walk in the park.
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What Russia, Iran and the Syrian regime ignore is that Daraa and its surroundings will not be a bite that’s easy to swallow on the long run. Daraa is where the Syrian revolution erupted. Daraa is where the regime which Hafez al-Assad established was first shook and from where he began relying on Sunnis in the countryside. Hafez al-Assad really hated the Sunnis in larger cities. At the same time, he was concerned in covering his regime’s Alawism with the Sunnis in the countryside and with the minorities, like Christians and Ishmaelites.
It will be difficult to imagine the regime’s future in an area like Daraa where familial ties still dominate over everything else. There is a tribal society in Daraa and its surrounding, and this society has extensions towards Jordan as well. Most families in this area have branches in Jordan. These families are not only known for the ties between them, but also for the revenge customs.
The regime will flash the signs of victory in Daraa. This victory against the Syrians was achieved thanks to the Iranian militias, the Russian aerial shelling and American and Israeli collusion.
A victory has been achieved against citizens in Daraa. There is no horizon for this victory, which only resembles victories that were achieved during the Cold War via Soviet tanks against eastern European countries. What is left of the Soviet occupation of countries like Hungary, Poland, East Germany, Romania, Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia which has now become two states?
Who remembers that the tanks which were sent from Moscow crushed the Budapest uprising in 1956 and the Prague Spring in 1968 and that they suppressed the revolution of the Polish people in the 1980s? These are only few examples that show there are limits to what a tank or a jet can do. There is simply a regime that has ended in Syria. The regime will not rise again regardless of all the Russian planes and Iranian militias and despite the American and Israeli support provided to Bashar al-Assad during the Daraa battle.
Something broke in Syria, and it is the regime whose main problem is that it can destroy the Syria we’ve known but it cannot eliminate the entire Syrian people even if Israel combines all contradictions for it and provides it with all it needs in terms of American coverage.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Khairallah Khairallah is an Arab columnist who was formerly Annahar's foreign editor (1976-1988) and Al-Hayat's managing editor (1988-1998).