by Yusuf Dhia-Allah (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 44, No. 12, Rabi' al-Thani, 1437)
The takfiri project in Syria is being folded, one village at a time as the Syrian army and National Defence Force (NDF) militias make steady progress against them. This has been made possible because of Russian air strikes, which were launched on September 30, 2015, as well as help from Hizbullah fighters. What the US and its coalition of 50 countries (or is it 60?) could not achieve in 18 months, Russia has achieved in less than four months (at a meeting in Paris on January 20, there were only seven countries present!).
The Syrian army’s most impressive gains began in Salma from where the takfiri terrorists were driven out on January 12. The terrorists held Salma, a small town in Latakia province, for more than three years. How did they manage to hold on to the town for so long will be explained shortly. Stories of imaginary “epic battles” were woven into legend glorifying the imaginary “prowess” of the takfiris. The reality is much more down to earth.
Close to the Turkish border that is only 13km away, and strategically located in the center of a triangle in the northeast of Syria, it connects the countryside of three provinces: Latakia, Idlib and Hama. Mt. Turkmen, still under the takfiris’ control, is also close by. It was in this area that Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet on November 24 occurred, resulting in the terrorists’ killing of the Russian pilot as well.
Its mountainous terrain and large number of trees enabled the terrorists to hold on to the area for three years. More crucial, however, were the underground tunnels from Turkey that facilitated the supply of weapons, men, and food to the terrorists. This was facilitated by the Turkish military, especially its intelligence agency, Milli Istihbarat Teskilati (MIT), which roughly translates as the National Intelligence Organization. Salma’s liberation is a major blow to the terrorists; it blocks their supply routes between Jisr al-Shughour and the Kurd Mountains as well as poses a threat to their control of Mt. Turkmen. Further, it opens the way for the Syrian army to launch operations against the terrorists in Idlib countryside that has also been under their control.
Salma also exposed the sordid role of Turkey in the war on Syria. Its close proximity to the Turkish border facilitated the digging of tunnels to smuggle in weapons and material from Turkey. Officially, Turkey was supposedly fighting the takfiri terrorists as part of the US-NATO coalition; in reality it was supplying them weapons and facilitating the smuggling of fighters. When Turkish journalists exposed the Turkish regime’s duplicity, they were arrested and put on trial for treason.
Were the Americans unaware of Turkish duplicity and of working hand-in-glove with the terrorists? The US itself was and is involved in supporting the terrorists. It uses the “moderate” label to hoodwink the ill-informed Americans about what Washington is up to in Syria. It is a logical consequence of the steady diet of drivel that is fed to Americans on Fox News and CNN on a daily basis. It is safe to assume that most Americans would not be able to point to Syria on a world map. They would also be unaware of the fact that Senator John McCain had met the self-proclaimed khalifah, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in May 2013 when he illegally entered Syria from Turkey. Is al-Baghdadi not the one heading the so-called Islamic State and the US and allies allegedly fighting them?
But back to Salma, whose liberation from the clutches of the takfiri terrorists may turn out to be as significant as the Russian bombing campaign against them. Not surprisingly, the US and its NATO allies as well as their corporate media went berserk over stories of “starving children” in Madaya who were blamed on Bashar al-Asad’s “wicked” policy of withholding food from the besieged town. The only problem with this story was that it was not true.
Even the BBC was hawking it. There is nothing more powerful than images of starving children to pull on people’s heartstrings. The images allegedly from Madaya were, however, those of children from Lebanon! This was akin to the BBC’s story about the Ghouta chemical attack and resultant massacre in August 2013. It showed an image of children allegedly killed by Syrian army’s Sarin gas attack.
There were two problems with that story: first, the photograph showing a row of dead children was from Iraq of April 2003 killed by an American air strike. Second, the composition of chemicals used was not known to be in possession of the Syrian army. This was confirmed by a British chemical lab analysis. Further, the photographer who worked for Getty Images exposed the allegation against the Syrian government. He protested to the BBC for falsely using a photograph from Iraq and claiming it was from Ghouta. It was only after this exposure that the so-called objective mouthpiece of the British foreign office issued a tepid apology over its mistake.
Residents of Madaya have confirmed to reporters that there was no shortage of food in the town. The terrorists’ warehouses were full of food that they had forcibly taken from UN trucks. The terrorists and their families were well fed; and they sold food to residents at exorbitant prices to make money. Those who could not afford to buy at these rates — and that was the majority — were left to starve. It must also be borne in mind that the Syrian army was not the only one besieging the town; several terrorist groups had also besieged it. While the Syrian army allowed UN trucks to enter the town, the terrorists looted whatever they wanted from the food convoys.
As a result of Syrian army successes, especially in Salma, there is widespread relief and jubilation among the residents of Latakia. The Syrian government is using a two-pronged approach. On the one hand the army is engaged in cleansing the country of terrorists — local or mercenary — and on the other a reconciliation process is underway whereby Syrian rebels can lay down their arms in return for amnesty, provided they do not indulge in further acts of violence. In some areas, local truces are also being negotiated allowing the terrorists as well as their families to leave and also take some weapons. Most of them are heading for al-Raqqa, the terrorists’ “capital.”
Other areas in the army’s sight are Jisr al-Shughour, Idlib, Aleppo and al-Raqqa. According to latest reports from Syria, the Syrian army is now making steady progress toward Aleppo. It has already liberated al-Baab, a town about 35km from Aleppo City centre and close to the Turkish border, cleansing it of the terrorists. When the Syrian army closed in, the terrorists’ Turkish handlers told them to abandon al-Baab and head for the city of al-Raqqa.
Turkish intelligence and army personnel realized that al-Baab will soon fall since the Syrian army had liberated the southern satellite villages of al-Multaffa, al-‘Abboudiyya, al-‘Aajou-ziyya, Rasm Sirhaan and Sirhaan Farms opening the way to al-Baab. Elsewhere in the country as well, the Syrian army was making steady progress, pointing to the endgame of the imposed war on Syria. Al-Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist outfits with fancy names are also under pressure and on the run. Not surprisingly, they are begging the Americans to provide them more heavy weapons so that they can continue the mayhem.
The Americans have realized that with Russian air strikes against takfiri strongholds, the Syrian army has been able to liberate huge swathes of territory and hold on to it. That is why the Americans are so keen to arrange local ceasefires and truces to save their assets for battle another day.
This brings us to the talks between the Syrian government and opposition forces that were to be held in Geneva on January 25 but were postponed due to disagreement between Russia and America over the composition of the opposition delegation. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his American counterpart John Kerry met on January 24 and Bloomberg News reported that they had reached some kind of a compromise. The main stumbling block was the Americans’ and Saudis’ insistence on including such terrorist outfits as Jaysh al-Islam in the talks. Russia, Syria, and Iran are opposed to this but Geneva may have been superseded by events on the ground and if and when the talks are convened, they would be a sideshow.
If the Syrian army is able to liberate Aleppo, the country’s commercial capital and most important city after Damascus, it will have dramatic consequences for the nearly five-year-long war. It will not only boost the morale of the Syrian army and government, but also totally demoralize the terrorists and their enablers. That will spell the death of the takfiri project in Syria.
It must, however, be borne in mind that the imperialists and their allies will not give up so easily. Both the Turks and the Saudis are acting totally irrationally. The Saudi Bedouins were always known to be idiotic and have acted in a disruptive manner regardless of the consequences. Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan has also joined the irrationality bandwagon because his policies against Syria have failed at every level. While the Saudis do not have the ability to send their own troops to fight in Syria — they can only produce terrorists but they are on the run now — the Turkish army is a different matter.
Will Erdogan make the monumental blunder of sending his own army into Syria? If he were to do that, the entire region will go up in flames and Turkey itself may be engulfed in civil war. One hopes that Erdogan has not lost all his marbles and that there are people around him that can knock some sense into him.