A vicious mortar assault on the Khmeimim airbase near Latakia on New Year’s Eve claimed the lives of two Russian servicemen and inflicted some minor damage on warplanes. But this murderous foray by an infiltration squad was of no military significance, being purely symbolic in intent, and a second attempt a week later fell flat on its face.
The 6 January attack, this time on the port of Tartus as well as Latakia again, was carried out by means of 13 drones. Thanks to the Russian electronic warfare and anti-aircraft defence systems, the incoming drones were hijacked and made safe.
The hidden hand of imperialism
Such attacks succeed only in exposing the true role of imperialism and its flunkeys. Russia’s defence ministry pointed out that drones of the type used in the failed 6 January attacks can only have come from a country with advanced technologies. Further, a high degree of expertise is required to operate the bomb release system, let alone to work out the target coordinates from the space surveillance data.
In this context, the defence ministry noted that a US navy Poseidon spyplane was flying between Khmeimim and Tartus for four hours around the time of the abortive drone attack. (US spy plane circled between Russian airbase and port facility during Syria drone attack, RT, 9 January 2018)
Moreover, the drones were launched from an area of Idlib governorate under the control of the Turkish-backed and supposedly ‘moderate’ force branded as the ‘Free Syrian Army’ (FSA), prompting Moscow to remind Ankara to keep its attack dogs under control and abide by Idlib’s de-escalation agreement to which Ankara has signed up. (Drone attack on Russian bases in Syria came from Turkish-backed rebels, RT, 10 January 2018)
However, it seems likely that Ankara’s primary intention in continuing to support of the ‘FSA’ is less concerned with attacking Russian forces than with containing the US-backed Kurdish SDF, currently being rebranded as a ‘border security force’ by the US and denounced by Erdogan as a “terrorist army”. (US-trained Border Security Force is a clear project to partition Syria, RT, 15 January 2018)
US plans for a vassal Kurdish state on Syrian soil (an area which just happens to be rich in hydrocarbons) are no more palatable to Ankara than to Damascus, and risk gratuitously deepening Turkey’s alienation from Nato without any guaranteed geopolitical compensation.
And it is most likely that both the ‘FSA’ and the SDF, with their respective backers, will soon enough see their annexationist dreams set to naught by the victorious Syrian Arab Army (SAA).
‘FSA’ shows its true colours
The battles raging around the Syrian army’s imminent liberation of the Abu al-Duhur airbase at Idlib, occupied since 2015 by al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra (aka HTS) thugs, have really been scraping the bottom of the jihadi barrel, with ‘FSA’ and every other ‘moderate’ terrorist grouping happy to throw in their lot with both of the terror gangs specifically excluded from the de-escalation ceasefire agreement.
So it was that at one point SAA forces, heavily engaged with fighting the al-Nusra occupiers of the airbase, found themselves simultaneously called on to repulse an attack from the rear by Daesh (‘Islamic State’) forces, in turn supported by the ‘FSA’ and all its allied scum, in gross contravention of the de-escalation agreement.
The Syrian army and its allies are more than capable of dealing with these last-ditch fanatics and mercenaries, having long since dealt with whole armies. As Staffan de Mistura, the UN’s special envoy to Syria, put it back in September: “For the opposition, the message is very clear. If they were planning to win the war, facts are proving that is not the case. So now it’s time to win the peace.” (Syria’s civil war is over and Assad has won, says the UN, The Week, 8 September 2017)
“Winning the peace”, if it is not to remain a pious phrase or, worse, a mere fig leaf to cover annexationist ambitions, can only mean the full implementation of the de-escalation measures agreed upon by Russia, Iran and Turkey at Sochi, and the restoration of full sovereignty to the Syrian homeland.
Syria will rebuild
As complete liberation nears, indications accumulate that the war is ending. One eyewitness noted recently: “In Damascus, signs that the war has been decided are everywhere. Unlike Beirut, whose war ended in 1990, and Baghdad, which endured the US invasion in 2003, the Syrian capital has restored electricity for 24 hours a day. The private generators that used to hum outside my favourite Damascene cafes have gone into storage.
“The biggest demonstration I’ve seen in Syria since 2012 was a gathering of thousands of people on 10 October to watch the Syria-Australia soccer match on a giant screen in Umayyad Square. Two weeks later, al-Assad received the soccer players, including two who had defected to the opposition but were now welcome at home.
“Schools are open, displaced people no longer sleep outside in the parks and traffic is incessant. New nightclubs are opening, and young people flock to cinemas and restaurants.” (The Syrian civil war is decided by Charles Glass, Stratfor, 25 October 2017)
And as the displaced start to return and rebuild, reconstruction rises to the top of the agenda. How will this enormous and expensive ($250bn says de Mistura) task be faced? President Assad made it clear a year ago that the EU could have no role in the reconstruction of Syria unless it stopped bankrolling the terrorists, pointing out: “they cannot destroy and build at the same time”. (Assad says EU should have no role in Syria’s reconstruction, AP, 7 February 2017)
Yet even before the smoke of battle has cleared, we already hear voices of greed and fear raised in the west: greed at the prospect of grabbing a slice of profitable investment action, and fear that if the west fails to rise to the challenge, Russia, China and Iran will rally to Syria’s aid, to the detriment of imperialism’s standing in the middle east.
The EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, says brazenly that reconstruction aid is the last bit of leverage the west has over the political future of Syria. (Help Assad or leave cities in ruins? The politics of rebuilding Syria by Somini Sengupta, New York Times, 3 December 2017)
Syria is well aware of the cynical realpolitik underlying talk of ‘aid’ from this quarter, and will doubtless prove as robust in resisting such economic ‘leverage’ postwar as it has been in fighting the war itself.
Meanwhile, businesses hoping to invest in postwar Syria will need to fight their way through the dense thicket of sanctions imposed by their own governments, blocking Syria’s access to foreign banks and the use of the Swift global payment network, and fining any international financial institutions found in breach of sanctions.
How long European businesses will be prepared to stomach such arbitrary restraints on trade remains to be seen.
Syria does not stand alone
Meanwhile, whilst the warmongers tie themselves in knots working out how to ‘win the peace’, having so roundly lost the war, others stand ready to offer assistance on terms of equality.
According to Emad Kiyaei, from consultancy IGD Group in New York, Iran has already been working on reconstruction throughout the war. The commercial arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards gained experience in rebuilding Iran itself after the war with Iraq and has “vast engineering capabilities in post-war reconstruction”.
Iran does not see Syria as an object of exploitation (“a milking cow”). Rather, “it wants to keep Saudi Arabia out of Syria. As the situation stands now, the Saudis will not be able to crawl back into Syria for years.”
In short, Iran shows the same fraternal spirit in helping to rebuild Syria as it has shown in supporting the country throughout its war of national liberation.
Russia and China are also likely sources of assistance and trading partners. In October 2017, Russia announced its intention to provide financing for some electricity projects, and Syria is included in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, an ambitious infrastructure development project spanning Eurasia.
There are plans to produce China’s Dongfeng Motor cars in Homs. And China’s ambassador to Lebanon, without committing himself at this early stage, hinted: “Maybe after the Syrian crisis ends there will be linkages between Lebanon and the region.”
The Financial Times quoted a Lebanese source claiming that the strategic position of the port of Tripoli “puts Lebanon in a very strategic place in terms of hunting for opportunities in post-war Syria”. (After the war: Who’s going to pay for Syria’s reconstruction? by Paul Cochrane, Middle East Eye, 12 November 2017)
In the end, in peace as in the liberation war, it is the Syrian people themselves who will rebuild their own homeland, welcoming genuine support but reliant on their own efforts. They deserve the warmest solidarity of all progressive people.
Home to roost
Meanwhile, as the shattered jihadi armies flee Syria and Iraq, heading for Turkey and beyond, Europe and Britain are bracing themselves for another wave of terrorist outrages in their capital cities.
According to the Times, when Raqqa and Mosul fell, “thousands of jihadists fled to Turkey, among them at least 300 Britons”. An estimated total of 850 Britons travelled to join Daesh, the paper reports, of whom about half are already back in Britain and 130 are confirmed dead.
Further, “the CIA and MI6 were coordinating to track a cadre of foreign Isis fighters”, vigorously slamming the stable door shut after the horse had bolted. (300 British Isis fighters on the run in Turkey by Anthony Loyd, The Times, 27 December 2017)
There was no such enthusiasm for tracking down jihadis when they were employed by imperialism as proxies in the war of national oppression against Syria, where their reign of terror killed, maimed or displaced so many thousands of innocent Syrian citizens. The fate of Frankenstein at the hands of the monster he created is well known and is repeating itself in the capital cities of the west.
As the Times points out: “Although only three of the 40 attacks in Europe since 2015 have involved foreign terrorist fighters returning from Syria and Iraq, those incidents caused more than half the fatalities.”
The real war against terror is the one that Syria is in the process of winning.
Victory to the Syrian president, government, army and people!