by Waseem Shehzad (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 48, No. 11, Jumada' al-Ula', 1441)
When the proxy-war on Iran was launched throughout Syria in 2011, most Muslims influenced by the propaganda of the corporate media and Western political establishment immediately adopted their narrative. In the early stages of the conflict, the misunderstanding of events in Syria influenced even some committed Muslims. People working for Crescent International in different parts of the world urged the editorial board to adopt a “pro-revolution” stance. Following intense discussions among Crescent’s editorial staff, it was decided to stick to our own understanding and not go with the flow. This prudence was based on the lessons learned from the 1980s events in Syria.
In April 2011, Crescent International presented the following analysis, “While one must applaud the courage and dedication of the youth and other segments of society in the Islamic East for rising up against their tyrannical rulers, there is still a long way to go before they will taste true freedom. This will not come about by espousing nationalistic slogans or accepting servitude to the West, regardless of how much they may hate their present rulers. The ruling oligarchies in the West are not their friends; they are nobody’s friends, not even their own people whom they oppress and exploit. No amount of wishful thinking can change this reality.”
By May 2011, US, Israeli and Saudi involvement in Syria was evident and it was clear to all those involved with Crescent International’s work that the uprising in Syria was not organic. The same month, Crescent International published the statement of Dr. Haytham al-Manna‘, a long-time opposition figure in Syria and spokesman for the Arab Commission for Human Rights, who confirmed in discussions with al-Manar television that he was offered a lucrative deal at a meeting in Paris to facilitate an armed insurrection in Dar‘a, his hometown. Not surprisingly, this is where the Syrian “crisis” began.
By 2012, Dr. al-Manna‘ was very vocal about why he did not support the “uprising” in Syria. While his opposition to the Zionist project was dismissed through the Qatari- and UAE-backed media outlets as marginal and not rooted in Islamic thought, the murder of Shaykh Ramadan al-Buti in 2013, by NATO proxy-forces camouflaged as the Syrian opposition, made it clear that the “opposition” was hell-bent on dismantling the Syrian state.
Researching the war, Sharmine Narwani, the well-informed Lebanese writer, reported, “The UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria issued its first report two months later, in March, stating that 2,569 Syrian security forces had been killed in the first year. Right there we know that half of the dead were neither civilians nor with the opposition. Half of the Syrian dead were security forces, which also informed us that the opposition was, in fact, armed, organized, and very, very lethal.”
As the proxy-war in Syria continued to evolve, it was evident that an “uprising” directly and openly supported by the US, Israel, the UAE and Saudi regimes could in no way be beneficial to Muslims and the wider region. Thus, Crescent’s overall assessment from early on about events in Syria was proved correct with time. The Syrian government was not sectarian, the “uprising” lacked Islamic credentials and it was launched to create a sectarian war among Muslims and break the alliance between Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas, and Syria in order to benefit Israel. This reality was summed up by Israel’s defence minister Moshe Yaalon in 2016 when he stated, “In Syria, if the choice is between Iran and the Islamic State, I choose the Islamic State.”
Currently, the takfiri forces that still control small pockets of Syrian territory do not present a serious threat to the Syrian state or the anti-Zionist axis of resistance. However, they are not sustained in Syria without reason; they are kept as a leverage of destabilization.
Overall, the Zionists and NATO powers have failed to achieve their military and political objectives in Syria. Looking at the long-term scenario, Islamic Iran and Hizbullah have converted the crisis in Syria into an opportunity. Thus, today, the Syrian state is dependent on these two powerful forces. This is of strategic benefit for the long-term prospect of the struggle for the liberation of Palestine.
Before the war, al-Asad’s government was on the same level as Iran and Hizbullah. Since 2011, the resistance alliance has become dominant while Syria has been considerably weakened by war. Why is this a positive development? The Syrian government was never fully committed to the resistance front. It is part of the resistance axis not entirely by choice, but due to past and present circumstances of the Muslim East. The Syrian government’s primary objective is to remain in power. Exerting pressure on or converting the Golan Heights into a pressure point against Israel and neocolonialism is not part of its strategic objective.
Nevertheless, al-Asad cannot prevent Iran and Hizbullah from exerting pressure on Israel. Damascus lacks political and security leverage vis-à-vis Iran and Hizbullah. Its primary card in keeping the Golan front quiet is to rely on Russia. This, however, is not an optimal policy choice for Syria or Russia. Without Iranian advisors and Hizbullah’s ground forces, the Russian air force and its bombastic political statements will have limited impact on the ground. Moscow is unlikely to send the required number of ground troops to Syria if Iran and Hizbullah decide to draw down their participation.
Some may argue that Iran and Hizbullah can’t afford to scale down their presence because they need the logistical corridor and political support of Syria. This is only partly correct. If Iran and Hizbullah simply focus on keeping the logistical corridor open, the situation for Russia and the Syrian government would become considerably difficult.
Thousands of takfiri fighters from Russia and countries of the former Soviet Union will have large swathes of territory under their control. Thus, they will have greater access to military and logistical resources and naturally head back to Russia for a rematch of the second Chechen war. Iran’s scale back in Syria will hit Moscow where it has historically hurt the most, its southern underbelly, the Caucasus.
Just as it was strategically crucial for Iran and Hizbullah to not allow the collapse of the Syrian state under the Saudi-US-Israeli proxy war, it is equally important for them to convert Syria into a strategic point of pressure on Israel.
Tehran knows that one of the key deterrents for NATO and its surrogates to launch a war against Iran is the potential damage it can inflict on Israel. The greater the potential to inflict damage on Israel, the less likely the possibility that the US and its surrogates would launch a war against Iran. Thus, Iran and Hizbullah will continue to establish their military and political presence in Syria as leverage against Israel.
There is little that Moscow and Damascus can do to prevent this from happening. This is something the Zionist entity also recognizes. Early last month, the Jerusalem Post quoting a Zionist military official wrote that Iran “hasn’t stopped and they won’t stop. They are patient and they want to continue.”
Given these developments, it is evident that in 2020 the war in Syria will subside considerably and the Syrian state will move toward becoming more functional. Imperialist-Zionist destabilization attempts will not end but the fact that the Salafi-Wahhabi militias failed to present a functioning alternative to the Syrian government has demoralized many of their foot soldiers and backers. Thus, NATO powers will lack the required cannon fodder to continue the war.
Destabilization of Syria and the wider region was possible mainly due to the “local” mask provided to NATO powers through the Salafi-Wahhabi chronicle, a narrative that is now defeated and stands discredited.