A recent article published on the Russian Pravda, which is certainly not just the result of grey propaganda, namely that kind of “grey” communication operations mixing truth and falsehood, may be useful to clarify what has really happened in Syria since 2011, the fatal and terrible year of the so-called “Arab springs”.
And even year of destabilization – against Iran and the Russian Federation – of the Greater Middle East.
Meanwhile, it is worth clarifying that said “springs” had evidently been prepared on the basis of Gene Sharp’s techniques and his “non-violent revolution”, with the addition of “rebels” parachuted by others.
This was certainly seen with the young people of Tahrir Square in Egypt, as well as with the Head of Google in Cairo, who enabled the protest to overcome the Internet blocks organized by Mukarak’s regime, while even at that time the Muslim Brotherhood militia protected the crowd from the Rais police attacks.
Moreover, at that time Gene Sharp’s books were explicitly recommended on the Muslim Brotherhood’s website in Egypt.
Summarized in very simple terms, Sharp’s theories and the theories of his Einstein Institute envisaged a series of mass actions which raised the political temperature and progressively isolated “the Tyrant”.
The idea that there only existed a “tyrant” to be toppled speaks volumes about the naïvety of these models, but the US theorists never relinquish their myths of the “noble savage”, namely the people, who is supposed to be manipulated by a single “wicked person”.
Firstly, Sharp thought there was the “conversion” of the peripheral members of the regime, then the destruction – again with the techniques he recommended – of the whole power system of the usual “Tyrant”, especially with the peaceful destabilization of the infrastructural and organizational links which kept his power alive, mainly through communication and information, or rather “misinformation”.
In the case of Syria, as Sharp’s recipes were not enough, as was also the case with Libya, there was – as also in the first phase of the French-British actions in front of the Benghazi coast – the violent action of “rebels “, based on the formula: “military infiltration + psychological warfare.”
In fact, the protests of March 2011 soon spread to several Syrian cities, precisely due to the contagion of the “Arab springs” – and it was by no mere coincidence that the revolt started from Deraa, a city very close to the Jordanian border, where US, British and Saudi instructors already operated.
We all remember that the protests began with the demolition of the Hafez al-Assad statue, as the end of the Iraqi regime had started with the demolition – again by US psyops connected with some local “rebels” – of the Saddam Hussein statue.
Obviously the very harsh repression by the Syrian Baathist regime started while the grey operations created – as it would also be the case for the uprising in Libya – local personages, previously unknown, operating under the label of “human rights defenders”, a concept completely unknown to the Arab world, regardless of its being secular or religious.
The news about the victims of repression (it happened also in Italy during the so called “Years of Lead”, the years of socio-political turmoil marked by a wave of terrorism) were emphasized, while there was a mobilization of the Al Jazeera networks, owned by the family of the Qatar’s Emir, traditionally linked to the funding for Al Qaeda, and Al Arabija, the satellite network located in the Emirates but owned by Saudi Arabia.
As is always the case now, many NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International – both accused by US sources of raising funds coming from Saudi Arabia – added to this clearly Sharp-styled “media bubble”.
As happened also in Libya, within the Syrian insurgency, there were already groups engaging in firefights artfully, as the US Field Manual 3-05.30 and the State Department’ manuals, with the Joint Publication 3-132, taught.
Moreover, King Abdullah of Jordan officially stated that the British operators of the Special Air Service (SAS) had got organized, on the Jordanian territory, to operate in Southern Syria with a mechanized battalion composed of unidentified “rebels”.
Again according to Pravda, at that juncture there was the need to “break up the militia group” to employ and then disperse Assad’ Syrian Arab Army.
The Syrian Forces, however, were not at all suitable for the jihad asymmetrical war. Conversely they had been conceived for a “final” confrontation with Israel and hence they were easily put in trouble by the “rebels”, trained by the “Brown Berets” (the Turkish Special Forces), the Saudis, the British SAS and, finally, by the Americans of the Delta Force – exactly the force that a future Head of the Italian intelligence SISDE had encircled by our Carabinieri forces in the Sigonella base.
After this useful digression, let us revert to the Iranian operations, and especially the Pasdaran operations in Syria.
The Iranian envoys in Syria included not only the Pasdaran elite brigades, but also the Afghan “volunteers” and other Shiite groups not officially recorded and filed as combatant structures, in addition to the Lebanese Hezbollah.
In this respect, it is worth recalling that the Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Javad Zarif has always denied, but only to the irrelevant EU authorities, any kind of Iranian boots on the ground operations on the Syrian soil.
The Iranian “Revolutionary Guards” brigades operating in Syria, however, are the Saberin units and the best-known Al Quds Force, both belonging to the Pasdaran, the “Revolutionary Guards”.
The Saberin units are basically the Iranian equivalent of the aforementioned British SAS.
But many Saberin leaders have already been killed.
Think of Farhad Hassounizadeh, killed in Southern Syria in 2015, or Abbas Abdollahi, killed in the Deraa Province in February 2015, or the over 300 Iranian soldiers who were killed – “several” soldiers, as the Iranian government said – in addition to the 13 “military advisers” to the Pasdaran who were killed, much more recently, in Khan Tuman, near Aleppo, by an alliance of jihadist groups linked to Jaish Al Nusra, the “front” which is the owner of Al-Qaeda in Syria, and Jaish Al Fatah, another Sunni jihadist organization acting as an “umbrella” organization for almost all the jihadist “rebels” operating around Aleppo.
A total of over 700 Iranian soldiers out of over 2,000 were killed in Syria, not to mention the Saberin units that formed the Iranian expeditionary force in the Syrian State.
Not to mention the old leader of the Hezbollah, Badreddine, killed earlier this May, an “assassination” for which the Iranians directly blamed the Israelis.
Furthermore, as many as 13 Shiite “militia groups” operate in Syria which, including the Pasdaran, total over 3,500 soldiers.
Therefore, over the last three years, 693 Iranians died in Syria, including the 13 ones killed in Aleppo recently.
Now, in all likelihood, after the Al Quds Brigade, it will be the turn of the Saberin, an IRGC brigade capable of carrying out OPFOR actions (OPposing FORce), as well as “hybrid” and asymmetric operations against the jihadists like those which led to the victory of the Russians in Crimea and in the part of Ukraine already de facto conquered by them.
With reference to the clash in Khan Touman, the battle of May 6 waged a few kilometers southwest of Aleppo on Road 5, the main highway to Damascus, this operation is likely to soon change the war in Syria.
Hence more Iranian soldiers in the region and maybe closer cooperation between Iran and Russia, but a probable victory for the jihadists which could cost Assad’ Syrian Arab Army exactly Aleppo, the “center of gravity” of the whole clash in the North.
And it is also the “gateway to Turkey”.
The available data points to an ambush organized against the Iranians (both Pasdaran and Hezbollah) by Jaysh Al Fatah, a group of Sunni “rebels” linked to the Al Nusra Front, which will probably conquer many of the ISIS positions, while the “Caliphate” is turning into an organization mainly operating outside the traditional borders of this war, namely Yemen, Sinai and, in the future, Jordan.
Due to the usual intelligence “gaps” on the ground, the leaders of the Pasdaran and the Hezbollah did not know that the Sunni “rebels” had acquired a supply of MILAN, the light anti-tank missiles manufactured in Europe, with a 2 kilometer range and a penetration rate of the armor of self-propelled units between 350 and 900 mm.
The MILAN missiles had been supplied by Turkey, but paid by Saudi Arabia.
Certainly it is a painful mystery how it is still possible to accept Turkey within NATO without President Erdogan being made accountable before the NATO Secretary-General for the Turkish operations in the Syrian war.
Clearly Turkey wages and fights a war against the Kurds, and sometimes not even by proxy, but the operations and the much-trumpeted “peace in Syria” are also in Turkey’s hands, faced with NATO’s empty gestures, as well as its all talk and no action.
Iran later admitted that 17 of their soldiers had been killed in the Khan Touman battle, and additional 22 soldiers had been injured, including 13 victims belonging to the 25th “Karbala” Division, usually stationed in Iran.
This was a clear sign of Iran’s overstretching.
Two brigade-Generals of the Iranian forces died.
Currently at least ten soldiers of the “Karbala” Division are prisoners of the Sunni jihadists.
Five of the seven soldiers were killed immediately, others – even though we do not know how many – were taken away from the clash region towards an unknown destination.
The Hezbollah also claimed that none of their soldiers was killed or emprisoned, but other sources revealed that at least 15 soldiers of the Lebanese “Party of God” were killed by the so-called “rebels”.
Other Iranian sources reveal that now the tension between the Iranian hierarchies for the material cost and human toll of their participation in the Syrian war is skyrocketing, with many leaders, even within the Pasdaran, who would like to limit the Iranian actions and involvement in Syria.
Moreover, it is not yet clear whether Rezaei, a historical leader of the Iranian IGRC, will replace or not General Qassam Soleimani, killed a few days ago, as Supreme Commander of Iran’s operations in Syria.
The fact is that the jihadist “rebels” receive significant amounts of advanced weapons from their regional Sunni allies, while the Pasdaran and the Hezbollah are forces better suited to guerrilla warfare and counterinsurgency, rather than being prepared for a showdown and clash at high technological, materials and military levels.
Even the Head of the Hezbollah in Syria, Mustafa Badar ad-Din, was killed by a surface-to-surface missile near the Damascus International Airport, which proves again the penetration of the various rebel “fronts” in the military and political Syrian fabric.
The Head of the Lebanese “Party of God”, however, firmly believes that Mustafa Bader al-Din was assassinated by the US Special Forces, and rather oddly, by the Russian ones.
The Party of God base near the Damascus Airport was top secret – hence, within the balance of factors between the various forces on the field, Russia is probably trying to favor only the Iranians at the Hezbollah expense.
Maybe an unwanted ally, but necessary for the quality and quantity of the Iranian engagement in Syria.
Moreover, no military tank, group of people or other entity can enter the airport in the Syrian capital without an explicit and careful recognition or permission by the Russian Special Forces, which initially did not report the fact to Assad’ Syrian Arab Army or to the Iranians, let alone the “Party of God”, which was informed by third parties.
It must also be added that, days earlier, the United States had deployed their Special Forces, with attack helicopters, in the Ramelan base, in Northern Syria, near the Kurdish city of Hasakah.
It is a choice that, probably in agreement with Russia, enables the US Central Command for Operations in the Middle East (CENTCOM) to strike anywhere in Syria.
Hence, is Moscow thinking of a backroom deal with the United States so as to soon finish the “work” in Syria, in exchange for the US guarantee that Alawistan, with their bases of Tartus and Latakia, will remain untouched?
Moreover, the leader of the Hezbollah in Syria attended the meetings with Bashar el Assad regularly, although – precisely for his final assignment in Syria, but as early as 2013 – he had been designated as “international terrorist” by the United States and the international organizations related to them.
Or, in his future plan of irrenounceable “Greater Syria” in the Lebanon, Bashar does not want to have particularly powerful Hezbollah, to whom to pay a price for their participation in the Syria’s “liberation” from the Sunni jihad?
The Head of the Lebanese “Party of God”, Hassan Nasrallah – who probably made the mistake of naïvety – viewed the base in the Damascus airport as absolutely top secret, but forgetting that at least three intelligence services cooperated with the Hezbollah and that, after some aerial reconnaissance, the United States – experts of Electronic Intelligence and other similar technologies – could easily identify the Hezbollah command.
Obviously the supreme leader of the “Party of God” knows all too well that hitting the Lebanese leader means also striking at the heart of Bashar el Assad’ Syrian Arab Army.
Moreover the commander killed, Bader Ad-Din, had already planned to evacuate the Hezbollah militiamen from the various war fronts still open inside Syria, so as to concentrate them only on the Syrian-Lebanese front.
A threat which has obviously not been taken lightly by Assad, the ophthalmologist who was trained in London and is proving to be even more shrewder than his father Hafez.
Bader’s action, however, could not please Assad and it might have favored his assassination, regardless of who materially perpetrated it.
Furthermore there are unchecked reports whereby Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Iraqi Shiite leader, met secretly, shortly before the assassination of Ad-Din – and it is worth recalling that Muqtada controls, with the Iranian support, much of the “green Zone” in Baghdad and many of the militiamen who have recently become members of the Iraqi Parliament – the Iranians and the Shiite leaders in Beirut (especially Nasrallah himself) to send Hezbollah forces directly to Iraq and, hence, inevitably dismantle and strip the real Syrian front of its defenses.
At the funeral of the “Party of God” General, in Beirut, the signals to Iran (and to Russia) were clear in the sense that they could not try to get away with it, as usual, by accusing the United States.
Hence, on the pro-Alawi front, some cracks and difficulties of understanding are starting to appear, which make us realize that now everyone is waging and fighting “their” war in Syria.
Bashar still wants to reunite the country and Iran thinks it cannot bear some costs, even in relation to the expected advantages and benefits. Russia wants to take quick action, because it has other open fronts with the West and does not want to manage too many of them at the same time. Iran wants its Shiite universe and is not interested in Syria only; the United States want to fight together some “jihad”, support their Saudi allies in the region against Iran and contain Russia.
Moreover, after the funeral-rites, the “Party of God” maintained that (unidentified) Syrian “rebels” had killed Ad-Din, with a salvo of artillery.
A patently false motivation which, however, shows that, for the Hezbollah, there is no strategic reason to still remain in Syria.
Hence a war which will probably be destined to create a Sunni Syrian area, protected by Saudi Arabia, with a para-Shiite “buffer region” constituted by Bashar El Assad; a decidedly pro-Russian Alawistan in the Mediterranean; an Iran which, thanks to a reduced operational burden of its actions in Syria, builds the great Shiite empire along its borders; and finally the United States which, as usual, submit to the wishes (and money) of the Saudis, their only true ally in the region, precisely when they are obviously walking out of the Greater Middle East.
Europe, as usual, will stand by idly without even understanding what is happening.
Giancarlo Elia Valori * (@GEliaValori)
* Presidente della merchant bank “La centrale Finanziaria Generale S.p.A.”
– Presidente della “Cattedra sugli studi della pace, la sicurezza e lo sviluppo internazionale presso la Facoltà di relazioni internazionali della Peking University, nonché “professore straordinario” di economia e politica internazionale nello stesso Ateneo
– Honorable dell’Académie des Sciences dell’Institut de France