A complex strategic game is underway between Russia, Iran, Syria and, consequently, between Assad’ supporters and the other actors of the current Syrian war balance.
Firstly, note must be taken of the statements made by the Secretary of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani who, on January 15 last, said that “the fragmentation of regional areas in the Middle East will anyway pave the way for the Takfiri forces (i.e. the “Infidels”) on all Islamic territories”. He also added, with an interesting nuance, that this runs counter to the interests of the whole Islamic world” – and hence Iran.
In other words, Shamkhani, who speaks in the name and on behalf of the Supreme Leadership Authority and Supreme Leader, Rahbar Khamenei, means two things: he means that Iran will fight for the integrity of Syria, and within its old borders, and that Iran is anyway ready to fight against the Takfiri, namely the “apostates”, both in the Shiite and in the Sunni world.
Iran has no interest in setting a “democracy” fire to the Middle East, as conversely was the case for the United States with the notorious “Arab Springs” and the creation of the so-called “Caliphate” between Iraq and Syria.
Furthermore, in Iran, the Shiite fight against the Sunni Takfirism entails some future clash with Saudi Arabia, although Shamkhani has been clear in saying that what he states does not even regard Saudi Arabia’s regime.
Shamkhani added: “The fall of the ruling Saudi Royal Family does not mean that it would be replaced by a new regime better adapted to the needs.” It is better to control and protect, at a very high political cost, rather than creating strategic void conditions which would be uncontrollable.
Once again, the “Arab springs” lesson has been fully understood and learnt by the Middle East powers.
Moreover Iran insists on the fact it does not want to destabilize anyone – and the same holds true for Russia itself, which has even invited Saudi Arabia in the future conference for the New Middle East.
For all those who are winning the war in Syria the essential strategic aim is to maintain the current system, with the United States losing and – hopefully now reluctantly – linked to Saudi Arabia.
Furthermore, the Americans still have a lukewarm attitude – as in Obama’s perspective – vis-à-vis Israel, the only right card they were not able to play and which will finally be played by the current Trump Presidency.
And we expect so not just in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, on Monday 15 last, Bashar al-Assad’ Syrian Arab Army launched an effective attack on the military emplacements and installations of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the new franchise of the Al-Nusra Front, the Syrian group of al-Qaeda operating in the region along with the jihad of Harakat Harar al-Sham, another contentious union of small jihadist groups.
Since yesterday the 42nd Brigade of the 4th Mechanized Division of Assad’s forces has been repeatedly hitting al-Fijah areas, in the Wadi Barada region, in an emplacement that the jihadist forces not signatories to the agreement held and refused to leave, according to the letter of the Treaty signed on December 30, 2016 in Astana.
Wadi had been recently held by the Free Syrian Army, the main operator of the West’s “blind kittens”.
Fateh al-Sham is even supposed of having killed a mediator of the peace treaty.
Looking at the Chiefs of Staff’s maps and documents, Wadi Barada is the point linking Central Syria’s water needs and the closure of the Syrian, Russian and Iranian front on Damascus, of which Wadi is the primary gateway.
Bashar al-Assad’s and the Lebanese Hezb’ollah forces are still at work – liberating Wadi means to ensure the survival of Damascus and to open the way to Idlib.
Meanwhile, Russia and Bashar al-Assad’ Syrian Arab Army keep on bombing Isis-Daesh emplacements between Maskanah and the Deir Hafer plain.
We are in Aleppo’s Eastern region, which is also central to put an end to the war. The Russian and Syrian bombings are targeted to destroy the main road for the supplies of the so-called “Caliphate”, going from Raqqa to East Aleppo.
According to internal military sources, Russia even supported and protected the Turkish control area north of Al Bab, by throwing bombs in air raids.
Furthermore, again according to Syrian sources, the Russian Air Force has already created its own fixed structure, which should support and cover the Syrian ground offensive precisely in the Deir Hafer region.
As expected, Russia is using the truce of December 30 last to strengthen its positions in Syria.
Rumours are rife that there is a plan to strengthen the naval base of Tartus, in the Mediterranean, and that the Russian air forces will be increased in the Humaynim base.
Furthermore, in another crucial point of the war in Syria, reliable Russian sources inform us that Bashar al-Assad’s forces are advancing in East Ghouta, in the region of Damascus, and hitting jihadist positions in Autaya and Nashabiyan, areas where Jaysh al-Islam operated.
Bashar al-Assad’ Syrians had the support of some agents of the Iranian intelligence services and, above all, of a hit squad of Free Palestine Movement which, in the current Syrian war, is usually armed precisely by Iran.
Another battle that helps to understand the war is the one in Deir Ezzor, where Daesh-Isis is operating massively.
Obviously if the “Caliphate” loses Deir Ezzor, Bashar al-Assad’s forces and Russia will have all clear way to Raqqa.
For the time being, Bashar al-Assad’ Syrians are taking back some significant military positions and installations, such as the helicopter fields that Daesh/Isis had previously regained, while the so-called “Caliphate” definitely wants to keep Deir Ezzor airport, which is the axis of Isis jihadists’ territorial resilience to protect Raqqa, which is still their “capital city”.
In essence, the crisis points of the current war in Syria are the offensives of Assad’s Damascus forces towards Deir Ezzor and Palmyra, as well as the “Caliphate” response in the Deir Ezzor region.
Among other things, there is also the already mentioned issue of Wadi Barada and Ghouta East. If the operations in Wadi Barada are successful for the Syrian forces, the way to Beit Jinín, the crucial area running between Damascus and the Golan Heights, will be open for Assad’s Army.
This is an essential point for Israel’s involvement in the war that no one wants and is definitely not in Israel’s plans.
In the coming days, the role played by Turkey in East Aleppo will be very decisive, because the Turkish forces should conquer Al Bab, the current lowest point of the “Islamic State” military force and possibly the key for breaking it up and destroying it definitely.
These are the forces on the ground but, at cultural and political levels, we are witnessing a new and largely unexpected phenomenon.
One of today’s active forces is what we could define new totalitarian Islamism, which obviously include the so-called “Islamic State”, but also all the jihadism operating in the Middle East, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s old network, which is at the origin of the current chaos.
These are forces which, apart from the so-called “Caliphate”, are fighting for greater and more decisive political presence in all their Sunni or non-Sunni penetration areas.
Furthermore there is Iran, which does not want to create the all too familiar “Shiite camp” and is not interested in doing so, but supports its interests in Syria, Yemen, the Unites Arab Emirates and the wide minorities of “the Party of Ali” throughout the Fertile Crescent.
As stated by the Iranian leader mentioned at the beginning of this article, for the time being Iran does not want to wage war, but the Shiite Iran is seeking stability so as to later negotiate with the existing powers in the region from a position of strength.
We are reminded of the recent statement made by a commander of the Pasdaran, namely the Iranian “Revolutionary Guards”, informing us of the fact that his army structure already controlled four Arab capital cities, namely Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sana’a.
Hence Turkey is basically distant from NATO policies in the Middle East – if it were ever close to them – and Russia has gained, on the ground, the decisive support of the Atlantic Alliance’ second military force.
Iran will continue to play its “Shiite International” card, but without abrupt or dangerous operations, which could isolate it from Russia, its inevitable global ally, and from the “Sunni camp”, which has a vested interest in bringing the conflict with Iran closer.
Up to a certain extent, however.
No one, in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, wants military confrontation with Iran, considering that their Shiite minorities are now active on their own territory.
As Shamkhani said, the very resilience of their States would be in danger.
Furthermore Russia will remain in Syria until three key strategic goals are reached: the elimination of every US jihadist or non-jihadist proxy; the creation of a series of alliances, also with Donald Trump’s United States, so as to monitor truces and Syria’s internal stability under Bashar al-Assad; finally, the agreement with Turkey for its areas of interest in the Syrian and Iraqi territory.
Furthermore there is also the control of Iran’s ambitions and designs which, in Russia’s opinion, must only be regional and designed to protect its borders.
Russia does not want to build its Shiite “Saudi Arabia” to which it should be linked in a region where strategic autonomy is the essential factor for those who know how to wage war and hence how to make peace.
This is what is happening, while the European Union pretends to exist and the widest regime change of our time is taking place not in Syria, but in the United States.
GIANCARLO ELIA VALORI
Honorable de l’Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France