The US State Department has warned Syria against launching an offensive against terrorist positions in southern Syria. The statement claims that the American military will respond if Syrian forces launch an operation aimed at restoring the legitimate government’s control over the rebel-held areas, including the territory in southwestern Syria between Daraa and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Washington is issuing orders to a nation whose leadership never invited America in in the first place! The very idea that another country would tell the internationally recognized Syrian government that it cannot take steps to establish control over parts of its own national territory is odd and preposterous by any measure.
State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said Washington would respond with “firm and appropriate measures.” But does the US have any legal grounds for responding with any measures at all? What is it actually doing in Syria? And wait a minute … President Trump recently solemnly promised to leave! Indeed, there is no justification for the US military presence, especially after the Islamic State ceased to be a factor influencing the events there, once that force had been reduced to insignificance. It would have been totally routed a long time ago if America had not intervened, allowing the remnants of the militant group to survive. Wasn’t it President Trump who said many times that the only justification for the US presence in Syria was the need to fight the Islamic State and nobody else? Wasn’t it he who happily declared the final victory over the terrorist group? That mission has been accomplished and yet… the US is still there, issuing warnings and instructions that others must comply with or else.
The statement calls on Moscow to use its influence with the Syrian government to prevent the liberation of the captured areas in accordance with last year’s de-escalation agreement between Russia, the US, and Jordan. Moscow has also called on Washington not to destabilize Syria with missile and air strikes and to do something about the humanitarian catastrophe in southwestern Syria, but is anyone listening? Last month, Russian President Putin said in a statement that any cooperation with the US in Syria had been suspended after the April attacks, which the Russian government viewed as an act of aggression against a sovereign state. It was not Moscow who started the whole thing, rendering all previous arrangements null and void. Assistant Secretary of State Wess Mitchell told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on April 18 that Washington was ready for an armed clash with Russia in Syria. This statement did not go unnoticed in Moscow.
Although it is a guarantor of the de-escalation zone in southwest Syria, what has the US done to prevent the rebels from attacking Syrian forces and staging all kinds of provocations?
What about the 12,000-strong Southern Front that has amassed in southern Syria preparing for an assault on Syrian forces? Is that not a violation of the agreement in regard to the de-escalation zone? They plan to capture Daraa and turn it into the capital of a would-be quasi-state supported by the US and Israel. A false-flag chemical attack cannot be ruled out. The militants have some experience staging such provocations. The logistics for this force involve crossing the Jordanian-Syrian border under the guise of providing humanitarian assistance. Has any de-escalation agreement given a green light to such activities?
The situation could have been discussed during the recent Astana meeting, but the US was conspicuously absent while encouraging military preparations in the province of Deir ez-Zor.
The US warning coincides with the news that the US is going to recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. And any “foreign” presence there — such as Iranian, for instance — would be viewed as a threat to Israel’s sovereignty, and of course America would be ready to help its old friend and ally. The Heights are Syrian land. They were captured during the 1967 war and illegally annexed by Israel in 1981. That move has not been recognized internationally but the US is ready to defy the rest of the world. It’s not the first time. The embassy in Israel was moved to Jerusalem, the Iran deal was unilaterally torn up — the list of examples illustrating US scorn for international opinion can go on.
Despite its stated intentions to leave, the US warning shows that it will stay in Syria for a long time and its future plans have little to do with the Islamic State. The goal is the partition of Syria, with large swaths of its territory remaining under America’s control, including the Daraa province. The US absence at the Astana meeting confirmed its plan to stymie the ongoing Russia-led peace efforts in favor of seeing Syria divided and using other venues for peace talks in order to diminish Russia’s influence, isolate the Assad government, and squeeze Iran out. Step by step, America’s uninvited intervention in Syria is exacerbating the situation, increasing the risk of a wider conflict. If this plan to create a quasi-state in southern Syria goes through, this will be the beginning of the reshaping of the Middle East in accordance with Washington’s vision for the world at its best.