Syria has dropped out of the news headlines of late. This means, not that nothing is happening there, but that what is happening is so hugely unwelcome to those in control of our media that a veil has had to be drawn over it. Because what is happening is that, slowly but surely, the independent, secular, progressive Arab nation of Syria is advancing towards its own liberation from the tyranny of proxy-war jihadi gangs imposed on the country by the hidden hand of imperialism.
Over recent weeks the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has been pushing steadily forward against Daesh (aka Islamic State) in the north east of the country, with the aim of rounding up the jihadis infesting the eastern area of the Homs governorate and then moving on to the liberation of the cities of Deir Ezzor and Raqqa.
The operation to encircle and neutralise Daesh forces in the eastern end of Homs governorate culminated in the first week of August in the liberation of al-Sukhna, the last major town in the region in thrall to Daesh. Al-Sukhna is 30 miles east of Palmyra, which was liberated in March, and marks another milestone in the sweep of lingering Daesh ‘strongholds’ heading eastward.
And as news was coming in about the liberation of al-Sukhna, details also emerged about a daring Russian/Syrian airborne landing operation in el-Kder, between the provinces of Homs and Raqqa. As reported by RT, “At first, Syrian rocket systems and Russian helicopters opened fire on IS positions, destroying a number of armoured vehicles used by the terrorists. Syrian government troops then landed near the settlements of Khirbet Mikman and El-Kder, moving along a dry river bed before securing a nearby hill and beginning the assault of the village. ‘In a short battle, the Syrian commandos under the personal leadership of General Suheil al-Hassan destroyed the militants’ headquarters and depots, hit two tanks and three armoured vehicles. The landing party kept the positions until reinforcements came to the area on the morning of August 12’ the Russian defense ministry said.” This bold operation delivered 60 square kilometres into army hands, and, taken in concert with the other gains, opens up the route to the relief of Deir Ezzor. (‘Syrian forces take 3 more towns en route to Deir Ezzor’, RT, 14 August 2017)
The campaign to relieve Deir Ezzor, now on the verge of liberation, has been hard fought, and not helped by the repeated US air raids in the area, supposedly against Daesh but claiming many civilian victims, with one such attack reportedly striking a hospital. Daesh put up some fierce last-ditch resistance at the end of July, succeeding briefly in mounting a suicide-bombing counter-attack against the SAA’s crack Tiger Forces near Ghan Al-ali and Shinan, costing the army forty lives. Thankfully the Tiger Forces, working together with local Raqqawi tribes, were able to free the troops who had been cut off, push Daesh back and resume the painstaking advance toward Deir Ezzor.
That city, home to thousands of loyal Syrians, has been encircled and under cruel siege by Daesh since July 2014. The people there have no access to electricity so are obliged to burn wood for cooking and heating. For food and other necessities they rely on humanitarian air-drops. And on top of all that they are subjected to shelling by Daesh, leaving much of the city in ruins. Yet in spite of all these privations, the city has held out, and now watches with bated breath as the SAA, with air cover from Syrian and Russian planes, closes in on Daesh.
On 15 August the SAA clashed with Daesh near the city’s airport, whilst Syrian jets hit Daesh groupings in three nearby villages. Local reports speak of Daesh jihadis fleeing from the Syrian advance. As we go to press the liberation of Deir Ezzor still hangs in the balance, but we would not wish to disagree with US envoy to the coalition Brett McGuirk when he states that “Syrian Army forces are determined to break the siege of Deir Ezzor. I think it is a decent assumption that over time they will probably succeed in that mission, but how much farther they go from there, that is something that remains to be seen.” Quite so (‘Coalition to discuss with Russia further operations after Deir Ezzor liberation’, Sputnik News, 4 August 2017).
Another blow against jihadi terror was struck by allied Hizbollah forces in July when they swept al Qaeda terrorists from their mountain nests on the Lebanese/Syrian border, near the Lebanese town of Arsal which has also given shelter to 40,000 Syrian refugees in a string of camps. According to the New York Times, “Syrian rebels and jihadists have taken advantage of the area’s rugged geography to set up bases, attack the Lebanese Army and capture prisoners from the Lebanese security services.” Now Hizbollah has turned the tables. The NYT reports through gritted teeth that “Hizbollah’s clout was clear during a tour of the Arsal area that it organized for journalists over the weekend, the second such outing it has offered this year to some of Lebanon’s most sensitive border areas. During the daylong tour, reporters were driven through Hizbollah bases scattered in the mountains, some equipped with shelters for fighters, armored vehicles, high-tech surveillance equipment and missile technology. Hizbollah officials walked reporters through a cave complex they said the group had seized from Al Qaeda, complete with a kitchen, pit latrines, sleeping quarters and cells they said had recently held Lebanese prisoners” (Ben Hubbard, ‘Militants and refugees return to Syria cease-fire deal’, New York Times, 2 August 2017).
Following Hizbollah’s successful rout of the terrorist nests and subsequent ceasefire deal, it was able on 2 August to organise the repatriation of more than 7,700 Syrians in 113 buses. This decisive action by Hizbollah, achieving the double aim of removing a festering sore from the Syria/Lebanon border and the humanitarian repatriation of thousands of Syrians back to their homeland, demonstrated once again that it is Syria and her allies that are serious about facilitating and implementing local ceasefire deals and putting Syria back together again. Such deals can be made to stick only when negotiated from a position of strength. It is the steady advance of the patriotic forces that makes such ‘de-escalation’ arrangements possible.
In mid-August, in a welcome debut, the Lebanese army itself entered the fray directly, striking Daesh positions on the border near the Zamrani crossing and reinforcing positions in the mountains to prevent the rats from moving back in. The Lebanese national news agency reported that “the shelling with heavy artillery has destroyed a number of tanks and fortifications, amid the reinforcement of positions in the ‘Arsal Mountains to prevent any infiltration of terrorists” (Leith Fadel, ‘Lebanese Army unleashes vicious attack on ISIL border points’, Al Masdar News, 16 August 2017).
These actions, as well as bolstering Lebanon’s own security, are of great assistance to the Syrian national resistance struggle, and underline once more the way in which Syria’s heroic struggle has acted as a stimulus for all anti-imperialist forces in the region.
Winning the war, preparing for peace
In a statement at the end of July, the Russian ambassador to Britain, Dr Alexander Yakovenko recalled how Russia, Iran and Turkey launched a plan in the Kazakh capital Astana to set up de-escalation zones throughout Syria, and how subsequently on 7 June the US, Jordan and Russia had agreed to stand guarantor for such a zone in the south west of the country. He went on to enumerate the ways in which Russia had since then walked the walk, establishing the conditions to secure the national ceasefire between SAA and armed opposition and facilitating the signing of ceasefires with representatives of 508 towns and villages, bringing the total number of reconciled inhabited areas up to 2,043. On the humanitarian front, the ambassador pointed out that over June and July Russia had carried out more than 190 humanitarian missions, with 475 tons of food airlifted to Deir Ezzor alone. Too diplomatic to refer to the failure of the US to make its mark in this regard, the ambassador just kept his tongue firmly in his cheek, saying “we expect our Western colleagues to make a real contribution to these efforts to bring lasting peace to Syria” (‘Russia’s efforts in Syria: We invite all to join’, RT, 29 July 2017).
Whilst the US imperialists continue to play games, ditching the CIA jihadi training programme with one hand and buying themselves a substitute proxy army, the Kurdish-led SDF, with the other, thereby criminally extending and complicating the horrors of a war which they cannot win but dare not abandon, Syria is quietly going about her work of national liberation. Though her achievements may go unheralded in the imperialist media, we may be sure that they are recognised and rejoiced in by all progressive forces in the world.
Victory to the Syrian president, government, army and people!