Events have recently escalated in Syria, with Russia conducting airstrikes and Bashar al-Assad losing significant territory. After 4 years the people of Syria continue in their struggle for real change and continue to frustrate the al-Assad regime as well as regional and international powers. We received many questions on this recent escalation, and organised the questions into groups and posed them to our political analyst, Adnan Khan.
- What has led Russia to conduct the recent airstrikes in Syria, which is a clear escalation in the 4 year old conflict and unprecedented move for Russia?
Russia has intervened due to two major events that took place which indicated the Bashar al-Assad regime was on the verge of collapse. On 26th July 2015, Bashar al-Assad publicly acknowledged that he could no longer hold onto all of Syria because he physically no longer possessed the necessary troop numbers rather than armaments. As a result the regime suffered a major loss at the hands of Jaish al-Fatah 18 days later on August 11, 2015 on the northern Sahl al-Ghab plain, which lies between Latakia, Hama and the Idlib province and links the Idlib region to the mountains of Latakia, the bastion of the Syrian president’s Alawi community. The balance of power was on the verge of altering in Syria as the Alawi stronghold was within the rebels’ reach.
There are various aims that are served for Russia with its recent escalation in Syria. Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov has constantly reiterated that Russian strikes are all about terrorism in Syria and ISIS. Speaking at a press conference on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on the 1st October, Lavrov said, “The goal of our operation — in response to the request of President Assad and on the basis of the decision granted by the Russian parliament to the Russian President in accordance with the Russian constitution — the goal is terrorism and we are not supporting anyone against their own people. We fight terrorism.” The uprising in Syria has been ongoing for over 4 years and terrorism based upon the Russian definition has existed for all those years, but Russia never intervened.
The first and the most important reason why Russia has intervened is to preserve the Baathist regime, which is crumbling after 4 years of fighting due to defections, economic crisis and battle fatigue. In 2015 the al-Assad regime has seen defeats in Idlib, eastern Homs and Deraa, combined with renewed pressure in Aleppo and Deir el-Zour and the loss of gas fields to ISIS. These losses left the regime in a desperate position as it lost most of the country. Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Centre thinktank told the UK’s Guardian: “This is definitely the most strategically weak position the regime has found itself in since early 2013. What seems to be happening is a redrawing of the power map in Syria, with the regime seemingly more willing to cede territory outside of its most critically valuable zones.” The regime losses in the provincial capital of Idlib and the key city of Jisr al-Shughour in the northwest, back in March 2015, threatened to cut off regime forces in Aleppo and Idlib Provinces.
What changed the balance of power and necessitated foreign intervention was the rebels launching attacks on Latakia. Russia began moving its military into its Tartus base and Latakia in early September, as was highlighted by one military analyst: “By early September satellite and ground level photos showed more Russian personnel and military equipment in Syria. This increase in Russian military aid to Syria solves several problems for Russia. For one, it prevents the looming collapse of the Assad government, which has been losing territory at an accelerating rate in 2015 and is facing a collapse in morale among its forces and civilian supporters.”
The second reason for the Russian intervention was what would replace the crumbling regime of Bashar al-Assad. Russia’s Foreign Minister confirmed the establishment of Khilafah was a key concern (Russia recognises the ISIS Khilafah is not the true Khilafah), “We believe that such a composition of outside sponsors acting in a united way are in a position to assist Syrians in reaching agreement based on common objectives to prevent the creation of an extremist caliphate.” By most estimates the regime in Damascus controls less than 20% of the country’s territory, indicating how serious its losses are. For Bashar, the Russian intervention came just in the nick of time!
The final reason for the Russian intervention is its own domestic politics. Russia’s economy is in crisis ever since oil prices fell to below the $95 a barrel breakeven point for Russia to balance its domestic budget. And when western sanctions targeted Russia’s energy industry, the fall in oil prices is exacerbating the financial problems of energy firms. Rosneft, one of Russia’s largest energy firms that requires large-scale assistance from the government in order to remain financially stable in the face of a $42 billion debt due over the next two years. The government was forced to intervene when the ruble fell, spending heavily to keep it from plummeting further. In the past two years, its foreign currency reserves have fallen by some $157 billion. Sanctions, a volatile currency, the crisis in Ukraine and low oil prices have all led to a decline in foreign investment in a variety of Russia’s economic sectors while disrupting or reducing the operations of foreign firms in Russia. With so many problems domestically a foreign adventure is a good way to not just restore some national pride but also deflect the Russian people’s attention.
- The US has criticised Russia for intervening in Syria, has Russia outmanoeuvred the US?
The US has verbally criticised the Russia intervention, due to it leading to extremism and the lack of a political solution alongside its military strikes. US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said Russia “risks escalating the civil war in Syria – and with it, the very extremism and instability that Moscow claims to be concerned about. That approach is tantamount… to pouring gasoline on the fire.” All of this is rhetoric in reality, as the US has known for some time that Russia was going to intervene in Syria and it backed the intervention.
Russia conducted an unprecedented number of meetings during June, July and August with all the players in the Syria conflict. Throughout these meetings Russia has played a leading role as it came up with an initiative for Syria. Sergei Lavrov confirmed Russia’s proposal was that all anti-ISIS forces, including the Syrian army, the Iraqi army, and the Kurds, pool their efforts. Lavrov confirmed on August 11: “They all must be united, and the regional players must use their influence with the groups on the ground to make such unification as efficient as possible. Without pooling efforts of all those who confront terrorists on the ground, the US-led coalition’s airstrikes wouldn’t bring the desired results and the Islamic State wouldn’t be defeated.” Obama confirmed the US had no problem with Russia’s intervention: “The United States is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict,” Obama declared, even if “we must recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the prewar status quo.”
The US position on this Russian initiative was that it was not against it and viewed it as in line with its political aims in Syria. CIA Director John Brennan told a meeting of intelligence and security professionals in Washington on September 10: “Russia has been very candid. There is some additional people and stuff that is on its way to Syria.” This clearly shows the US was fully aware of Russia’s upcoming intervention. Brennan also said one reason for the influx of troops and supplies is to support the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a long-time ally, which has suffered a series of setbacks in its battle against Syrian rebels. Brennen explained that Russia’s other concern is the growth of ISIS. “We share one of those objectives,” Brennan said, noting he has spoken with Russian counterparts about potentially working together to counter ISIS. When Russian forces went into Ukraine, Kerry, Obama and every US official condemned Russia repeatedly, moved NATO troops and launched a programme of sanctions to change Russia’s behaviour. In Syria the US did no such actions, which shows it was fine with Russia’s moves, as they are in line with the US aim of maintaining the Assad regime, which Russian officials repeated was the purpose of its intervention.
Russia’s actions are not against US interests, but in line with them. In Syria the US and Russia are working together, despite their rhetoric to the contrary. Therefore Russia has not outmanoeuvred the US.
- It appears the US and Russia are at odds over the future of Bashar al-Assad, has this intervention by Russia saved al-Assad?
In Syria, both the US and Russia are in agreement the regime needs to remain at all costs. Back in 2011 Hilary Clinton made the US position very clear: “There are deep concerns about what is going on inside Syria, and we are pushing hard for the government of Syria to live up to its own stated commitment to reforms. What I do know is that they have an opportunity still to bring about a reform agenda. Nobody believed Qaddafi would do that. People do believe there is a possible path forward with Syria. So we’re going to continue joining with all of our allies to keep pressing very hard on that.” Then in 2012 US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, qualified the US position: “I think it’s important when Assad leaves – and he will leave – to try to preserve stability in that country. And the best way to preserve that kind of stability is to maintain as much of the military, the police, as you can, along with the security forces, and hope that they will transition to a democratic form of government. That’s a key.” For the US maintaining the regime is its aim, with or without al-Assad.
Russia has not only provided political cover for the Damascus regime but also provided financial, economic, military and intelligence support to ensure it is not removed.
The differences that are continually cited between Russia and the US over Syria are mere statements that do not translate into any action. This was something recognised by one of America’s popular news and reporting websites, the Daily Beast: “Putin knows that the U.S. may be tacitly OK with seeing Russia directly safeguard “state institutions” in Damascus- i.e., the Syrian army and the security services responsible for the bulk of the country’s carnage—especially as the so-called Islamic State widely known as ISIS creeps ever closer to the capital. He need only read U.S. newspapers, which cite anonymous White House officials objectively supporting Assad’s longevity, to glean as much.”
It should also be remembered that no regime is ever one person and no one person is ever a whole government. Even Vladimir Putin of Russia, despite his power, he shares power with the security class in Russia and has various centres of power. Russia and the US are in agreement in preserving the regime in Damascus, it is irrelevant whether Bashar al-Assad is leading it or not. This difference is merely for narrative purposes to cover their real intentions.
- What is the tactical situation on the ground in Syria?
The situation on the ground is the al-Assad regime struggling to starve off rebel advances due to chronic structural problems. As matters stand the al-Assad regime, according to IHS Jane’s Information Group in August 2015, controls a mere 17% of Syrian territory (although the majority of population is within this area), whilst the rebels have seized 83% of the country. So Bashar al-Assad is only controlling an area the size of Belgium.
Today, al-Assad’s army is no longer capable of large-scale ground operations and is unable to win large areas of territory quickly. Bashar al-Assad has been left focusing on shoring up defence of the capital city Damascus and a strip of territory along the Mediterranean coast. The strategy is to defend the Alawi heartland. Beyond this area the regime has all but given up defending the remainder of the country as it no longer has the forces to even make a challenge for territories further from Damascus.
Hezbollah, like the Syrian regime, has suffered large losses and its intervention in Syria has now become increasingly unpopular among Hezbollah members and even more unpopular with the Lebanese in general. Hezbollah leaders have been warning Iran that Hezbollah operations in Syria were causing serious damage to the unity and effectiveness of the group in general. Once it became clear, Russia would be intervening in Syria the group’s leadership has announced those fighting alongside Syrian troops will shift to a defensive posture. Bashar al-Assad was informed by the group’s leadership that it will no longer help him with offensives against rebel groups and confine its participation to fighting Syrian rebels, especially al Qaeda and ISIS attempts to get into Lebanon.
The regime lost the northwestern capital of Idlib, which has the same name as the province and has seen the regime struggling to reverse this throughout 2015. Rebel forces in March scored a major victory over the forces of Bashar al-Assad removing the regime from a second provincial capital, this was arguably the biggest rebel victory since the fall of al-Raqqa in March 2013. Despite differences between the rebel groups, these differences were put aside as they established an operations room, a cohesive plan of attack, and ultimately executed the plan. The assault on the provincial capital included the use of multiple vehicle-borne improvised explosives to target key parts of the city’s outer ring; it then went on to include multi-directional attacks to exploit the gaps created by the bombings in the regime’s positions. This was a complex strategy that ultimately cut through the regime’s entrenched position in the city. The leadership of this successful operation was handed to Dr. Abdullah Muhaysinee, the Saudi born and educated cleric who can be found seemingly at most of the major battle fronts. His leadership was respected but rarely was the leadership of the different groups in the hands of Islamically educated commander. This attack showed rebel groups have become competent in the use of heavy weaponry and complex, multifaceted operations. Armored vehicles that were earlier seized from government bases were combined with tanks into larger armored formations to carry out aggressive attacks with close infantry support. These tactics in addition to the effective use of artillery fire and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices were central to rebel success against well-defended enemy positions. The days have gone where such armored vehicles were used for defensive operations but now they are being used by multiple groups in complex operations for offensive strikes. Due to problems in replenishing munitions and weapons platforms, al-Assad’s forces were able to score a number of victories by bleeding the rebels into stalemates that required tactical withdrawals. But with the regime having to battle across the length and breadth of the country, it has struggled with this strategy when rebel groups have concentrated forces for offensive operations.
An interesting aspect after the Idlib victory was the numerous reports of assistance provided to the rebel forces from ordinary Syrians during the fight in Idlib. Many families, for various reasons, stayed behind in their homes while the fighting was intense. The rebel groups seemed to be welcomed by the people on the heels of their victory. Immediately the rebel leadership announced that the non-Muslim inhabitants will not be required to pay Jizya (a tax that is paid by non-Muslims), as the rebel leadership cannot currently guarantee security. This is in stark contrast to reports of ISIS demanding Jizya immediately from their residents, detaining the women and taking some of them as slaves and making a slaughter in the town square on the heels of their successes and broadcasting it on youtube.
This victory spurred on the rebel forces to take the remainder of the Idlib province and launch attacks on northwest Hama and launch attacks on Latakia due to taking parts of the Sahl al-Ghab plain. The villages and towns across this belt have been lost and won multiple times by the rebels, but with the shrinkage in Assad’s army, the regime has struggled to maintain the occupation of the villages that it gained back.
The al-Assad forces are crumbling and the Russian intervention will allow them to receive more weapons, equipment and jets which gives them a new lease to continue the fight. Without this intervention a major battle would have been taking place in downtown Latakia today.
- What is the current strength of the Bashar al-Assad regime, can it survive?
Bashar al-Assad’s regime is crumbling after facing-off for 4 years against the rebel forces across the length and breadth of the country. Bashar al-Assad lacks the capability to win back the whole country. Bashar long ago gave up in reclaiming the north of the country and the east of the country, which is largely unpopulated. What has allowed the regime to continue has been the external support it has received. Iran immediately helped al-Assad with economic aid, sent its senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps along with Hezbollah. Russia continued providing al-Assad with munitions and spare parts for the Syrian army, but none of this has been able to break the back of the rebel forces and al-Assad had to accept a war of attrition at best. This meant despite all the resources, military equipment and air superiority and despite possessing a degree of capability well beyond the enemy the regime was fighting, ultimately it has failed to defeat them.
Al-Assad’s military was his trump card in the conflict. It allowed the regime to lay sieges on towns, conduct massacres and conduct air attacks. Syrian bombs and missiles not only killed tens of thousands of civilians, but also helped ground forces take most of decimated cities like Homs. Hezbollah’s intervention supported the recapture of territory near the Lebanese border and the Qalamoun region north of Damascus. Iranian-trained Syrian militia filled in the gaps of a weakened Army as the war turned from months to years. The “Starve or Surrender” sieges near the capital forced some opposition forces to cease fire.
As the war dragged on the Syrian military capability declined significantly due to deaths, defections and military defeats. By some estimates the army has shrunk from an original 300,000 personnel to 150,000 today. The military situation was so bad Bashar al-Assad had no choice but to address this with his Alawite supporters. The Syrian president acknowledged that his regime has suffered significant military defeats. In a speech in Damascus in May 2015, al-Assad for the first time replaced his “victory” rhetoric with a more sober assessment: “Today we are fighting a war, not a battle. War is not one battle, but a series of many battles. It is the nature of battles there will be advances and retreats, victories and losses, ups and downs.”
Assad’s regime can only win in the long-term if it has enough reliable soldiers and local support. The Syrian air force can retaliate for losses of territory, as they have done with Idlib and Jisr al-Shughour with barrel bombs, chemical weapons and indiscriminate bombing raids. However, bombings alone cannot reclaim territory. The Syrian military is having problems putting enough men on the battlefield and some of its best units are trapped south of Idlib. Hezbollah, after suffering losses, is refusing to provide fighters and Iran is now occupied and focused on maintaining its position in Iraq with the government unable to maintain basic security beyond Baghdad.
The structural problems al-Assad faces is replenishing his armed forces in this battle of attrition. Bashar al-Assad’s support base at most is 12% of the population, for every soldier that defects, dies or loses a limb and therefore cannot fight needs to be replaced from his extremely small support base. The longer the war persists this support base will only shrink at a faster rate. This problem was originally dealt with through the creation of the National Defence Force (NDF) to fil in the cracks in the army, then al-Assad needed Hezbollah and then the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from Iran. As the army lost more personnel it resorted to Iraqi Shi’ah militias and then Afghan Shi’ah mercenaries to support to fill the cracks. The common issue throughout the whole conflict and the future is Bashar will always need help to fill the cracks in his army, which is constantly shrinking. The Druze community have stepped away from the regime in recent months and are no longer willing for their young men to leave their region in Syria – Suweida, to fight across Syrian territory for the al-Assad regime. On top of all this, the Alawi community has been exhausted, there are fewer and fewer men left who can fight.
As matters stand there just are not enough to troops to complement Assad’s air superiority and take back territory. This is why it has always needed external support, and will need this for the foreseeable future to survive.
The economic situation is even more precarious, Syria’s economy has more than halved in the four years of war, with oil production dwindling, inflation surging and the currency near collapse. With so much turmoil in the country, including the presence of ISIS battling for control, the population has shrunk nearly 17%, from 21 million to about 17.5 million, due to refugees fleeing. But al-Assad needs to keep his supporters fed and ensure they have enough energy to keep themselves warm.
As shortages of food and essential goods are becoming become more serious, cracks have begun to appear within his support base.
The al-Assad regime has only survived due to external support, as long as the Damascus regime is seen as a necessity to protect western interests this supply line will continue to prop up al-Assad.
- It has been over a year since the ISIS declaration of Caliphate, what is their role in the conflict?
The emergence of ISIS only complicated the uprising in Syria and has in no way aided it. ISIS emerged when the rebels were launching attacks on Damascus itself, the country’s capital. The al-Assad regime was relying on a handful of battalions and was completely reliant upon Iranian aid and support to survive the uprising. The Islamic nature of the uprising was also very clear, the rebel groups overwhelmingly called for the replacement of the regime with something Islamic. In this context ISIS emerged and completely derailed the uprising. The ISIS conquest of Mosul in June 2014 kick started their expansion. From Iraq, ISIS expanded into Syria and entered into a protracted battle with every rebel group. They took over many areas in North Syria which were already under rebel control. Janes intelligence, the prestigious global security firm confirmed in 2014 that 64% of verifiable ISIS attacks in Syria targeted other rebel groups. Just 13% of ISIS attacks during the same period targeted al-Assad’s forces.
What is now very clear is the US has not made any serious attempt in destroying ISIS. ISIS freely traverse the Iraq-Syria border in their conveys and armored carriers, no US airstrikes have taken place against this border area. Despite their expansion over large tracts of territory and somehow defeating opposition that outnumber them by factors of 30, the US does nothing until ISIS is close to the Baghdad or Damascus regime. The role of the US Air Force has baffled many Iraqis and Syrians. American and allied warplanes are equipped with the most precise aerial arsenal ever fielded, but in the battle for Ramadi the US conducted a mere 19 airstrikes. Maj. Muhammed al-Dulaimi, an Iraqi officer in Anbar Province confirmed: “The US airstrikes in Anbar didn’t enable our security forces to resist and confront the ISIS attacks. We lost large territories in Anbar because of the inefficiency of the US-led coalition airstrikes.” The international alliance is not providing enough support compared with ISIS’ capabilities. Even the ISIS held a military parade to celebrate its victory in Ramadi, which included showcasing the US military equipment it had acquired, saw no airstrikes take place. US Air Force air drops of military equipment has gone straight into ISIS hands, one too many times.
ISIS is weakening the rebel groups against the al-Assad regime by forcing them into a protracted struggle that would deplete their resources and motivation. The ISIS view of their way or the highway, for the moment, suits the US and explains why the US is taking very little action against ISIS.
- What role are the Kurdish groups playing?
The Kurds in Syria and the region gained considerable media coverage due to the battle for Kobani, the northern Syrian town bordering Turkey, which they eventually wrestled from ISIS in January 2015. Ever since the Syrian uprising began, the Kurds of Northern Syria saw the opportunity to establish an autonomous region, which they have long called Rojava. Syrian Kurds are concentrated in three main regions in northern Syria along the Turkish border. What made this possible was the al-Assad regime withdrawing from the northeast in 2012. The fight in Northern Syria beyond the areas of Der a Zour and Aleppo, is led by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is the Syrian branch of the Turkish Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), who have been at war with Turkey since the 1970s. Its armed wing, the People’s Protection units (YPG), operate in the Al-Hasaka and the Afrin region of Aleppo and contain the bulk of Syrian-Kurdish populated areas. Looking to also expand Iraq’s Kurdistan region into Syria, the Kurds in the region established an umbrella governmental body known as the Kurdish Supreme Committee (which exists alongside the Kurdish National Council) which is sponsored by Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government.
The fundamental issue for the Kurds whether it is Syria or Iraq is to have their own nation, with full autonomy, at whatever cost. The Kurds have always been used by western powers to serve their own aims with promises of statehood, only to be thrown aside when western interests have been achieved. The Kurds worked with the British Empire during World War I in leading a revolt against the Ottoman Khilafah in return for their own state, only for Britain to exile the Kurdish leader Mahmood Al-Hafeed, after he had achieved British interests of destroying the Ottoman Khilafah. The US made similar promises to the Kurds in Iraq, the Kurds sided with the US which enabled America to occupy Iraq. Whilst a regional government exists in Northern Iraq today, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in no way represents an answer to the Kurdish question as it is an artificial state which depends upon Turkish finance and exists to keep Iraq ethnically divided. Both the US and British Empire exploited the Kurds for their own strategic objectives.
Whilst the Kurds have been battling ISIS in Syria and Iraq, they have been receiving training from America’s CIA, a Syrian Kurdish official has told Al Jazeera that the government of President Bashar al-Assad could be a partner if it commits itself to a democratic future. The al-Assad government has long provided financial and weapons support to the Kurds. Ali Haidar, the Syrian Reconciliation Minister, confirmed, “We have been providing all possible military assistance for the Kurdish forces in order to empower them against terror.”
Once again the Kurds are being used by other powers to achieve their interests and divide the Ummah.
- Where does the Western agenda in Syria currently stand?
US President Barak Obama outlined in his State of the Union Address in January 2015 that he doesn’t want to send a large ground force into Syria as the US did in Iraq but to utilise the regional nations and other players to achieve its aims in Syria. The long wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq have left the US public with little stomach for another protracted war. So the US strategy through Obama’s tenure has been to utilise the Muslims in the region in order to achieve its aim of diluting the demands for real change. This is why, ever since the uprising began in 2011, the US has sent very limited military resources into Syria which have generally been directed at limited fighting, training and carrying out some air attacks.
America’s political solution rested upon the Geneva 1 and Geneva 2 negotiations, where it gathered a number of individuals, who were mostly dissidents and they would be treated as representatives of the rebel forces and they would be viewed as the leaders of the opposition. Despite numerous meetings, conferences and summits these individuals who were initially the Syrian National Council, then the Syria National Coalition and today its title has expanded to National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. This Opposition has been trying to act as a transitional government, with government posts distributed amongst its various members. But this Opposition has been a complete failure, as it in reality consisted of individuals with absolutely no influence over anyone or any piece of Syria. The coalition has trotted around the world meeting US, British, French and Turkish officials, but they have no support, following or any respect by those who are bracing it out against the forces of al-Assad, as they travel around the world.
The Geneva negotiations are to end what the West calls the civil war, which requires the handpicked opposition to negotiate with the al-Assad regime. The terms of this agreement are to ensure a transitional government includes elements of the al-Assad regime. So the US plans to maintain the regime through its handpicked opposition going into government and sharing power with the al-Assad regime. This is one of the main reasons why this opposition has little credibility.
This strategy has not worked and the revolutionaries in Syria have continued their fight and made significant progress. To tackle this the US announced in early 2015 to directly train and equip forces fighting on the ground in Syria. The aim here was to halt the gains the rebel forces were making, in order to make negotiations, though the Geneva accords was the better option and also to halt the revolutionary rebels who are working for real change. The train and equip program included training around 5000 rebel fighters. Turkey agreed to host the program as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. But this new Syrian force was a disastrous failure, with two “classes” of rebels sent to Syria, numbering around 125 in all, and accomplishing nothing. The first class was 54 people, and were quickly routed by Jabhut al-Nusra. Incredibly, that was probably less of a failure than the second class, which saw roughly 70 fighters show up in Syria from Turkey and more or less immediately give all their US-made weapons and vehicles to Jabhut al-Nusra. The US was so embarrassed that the the Pentagon insisted they had never trained this second class.
After 4 years, the West has struggled to build an opposition that could take leadership over the other sincere groups and hijack the uprising. So it should not be surprising that foreign intervention of the Russians sought was needed to halt the direction matters in Syria were heading.
- Where do all these leave the prospects for real change and the potential establishment of Khilafah?
The Islamic nature of the uprising has been a constant feature in Syria and this is why there is a global propaganda battle over Syria in terms of calling it terrorism and pushing al-Assad as a better option then ISIS. Walid Al-Moallem in a press conference in June 2013 confirmed what was at stake in the country and the region, he said, “We know that those who plan evil for Syria and those who demand the establishment of the Islamic Khilafah state will not stop at the borders of Syria. So what we are currently doing is even defending Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.” The Syrian regime and the West under to cover of terrorism and ISIS all now what the implications are if the regime in Damascus falls.
Unlike the other Arab Spring nations, which if not in civil war have all gone back to the pre-Arab Spring governments and systems in Syria the Islamic aspect has remained strong and this is the real fear of the west in terms of the impact this is already having across the Muslim world and the implications of the Ummah were to succeed. The Syria outcome is on such a knife edge that after loathing him for so many years, the Jewish entity’s issues are falling over themselves to maintain Bashar al-Assad. The Haaretz reported in early 2013, quoting an Israeli intelligence official: “Better the devil we know than the demons we can only imagine if Syria falls into chaos, and the extremists from across the Arab world gain a foothold there.”
All the stakeholders are very clear on what is taking place in Syria and what the implications are if the people succeed. This is why they have in reality propped up Bashar al-Assad by doing little physical actions against and hid this with lots of rhetoric. But the longer this battle in Syria continues it works to the strength of the people of Syria as the regime will have to constantly find new soldiers and fighters from a support base that doesn’t want to send its sons to go and die. If another few years pass, Bashar’s regime will be weaker than it is today and the West may consider a military intervention as the only viable alternative to an end to the Syrian uprising. But this would be to the rebels’ strength as they have shown that they are formidable opponents in insurgent tactics, which has bled the army dry.
In conclusion despite the numerous wars the US has won or managed to extricate itself from, even it knows this battle is very different. On this occasion the US is dealing with a people who Allah سبحانه وتعالى blessed in the Qur’an and His Messenger ﷺ blessed in numerous hadiths.
Imam Ahmad and Tirmidhi narrated in their respected collections on the authority of Zaid ibn Thabit that the Prophet ﷺ said, سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يقول: « يا طوبى للشام! يا طوبى للشام ! يا طوبى للشام»!قالوا: يا رسول الله وبم ذلك ؟ قال: «تلك ملائكة الله باسطوا أجنحتها على الشام» “How blessed is al-Sham? The companions around asked, ‘Why is that?’ The Messenger ﷺ replied, ‘I see the angels of Allah spreading their wings over al-Sham.’”