The Syrian army’s successful liberation of Eastern Ghouta and Yarmouk from jihadi terrorists has meant the return to their homes of thousands of displaced citizens. It has also meant that the army is now freed up to tackle the remaining obstacles on the path to the full liberation of the Syrian homeland, the biggest of which is the US itself. As Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov observed wryly, “All the remaining pockets of resistance of ISIS terrorists in Syria are only in areas controlled by the United States” (‘All remaining ISIS resistance zones in Syria are in US-controlled areas’, RT, 10 June 2018).
As it dawns on imperialism that the defeat of its jihadi proxies removes at a stroke the whole official reason for its being in the country, it is thrown into a panic. US Defence Secretary Jim ‘mad dog’ Mattis tells us that the US “must avoid leaving a vacuum in Syria that can be exploited by the Assad regime” (ibid). Translated into plain speech, this means that imperialism dreads the day when, having defeated the terrorist enemy, the Syrian government moves forward to complete the work of unifying the country without awaiting the approval of the West, leaving imperialism to fume on the sidelines. Hence the urgency of staking out areas of US colonisation within which jihadi remnants may hope to recuperate.
Refugee camps hijacked by terrorists
This desperate game plan has not gone unnoticed. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov recently turned the spotlight on the US military base on the Jordanian border. “We have plenty of reports about strange things happening in the Al-Tanf area. This area has no particular military value in terms of fighting terrorism. And in practical terms, we see a rise of presence in the region of militant groups, including those we believe to be connected with Islamic State in this or that way, including in the Rukban refugee camp” (‘ISIS-linked militants show up in Syrian refugee camp under US control’, RT, 28 May 2018).
The West pretends a humanitarian interest in such camps, but has blocked access to Rukban, including for humanitarian convoys, which suggests that its real interest is more to do with promoting an enclave within which jihadist groups hostile to Syria’s legitimate government can rest up and recuperate before returning to the fray.
The most blatant use of a refugee camp as a launchpad for terrorism was in the case of Yarmouk to the south of Damascus. The recent liberation of Yarmouk from control by Islamic State ended a long nightmare for the Palestinian population as well as the citizens of Damascus whom the jihadis targeted. The subversion of Yarmouk followed a well-worn pattern. First, in 2012, the supposedly ‘moderate’ Free Syrian Army (FSA), abetted by a minority of the population, seized control of the camp. Then other groups moved in, including al Qaeda. Finally Daesh piled in, wiped out all opposing factions and unleashed a reign of terror. Many Palestinians were evicted from their homes, imprisoned, tortured or executed. Yarmouk was transformed into an armed camp. Everything was looted and all foodstuffs were commandeered by Daesh.
Courageous resistance to this tyranny was led by the militias of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC). Finally, once the Syrian army had uprooted the terrorists from neighbouring Hajar al-Aswad, it was able to join with the loyal Palestinian militias in sweeping out the last of the terrorists (see: ‘On the liberation of the Yarmouk refugee camp from ISIS. Syrian and Palestinian struggles indivisible’ by Ken Stone, Global Research, 30 May 2018). Along with the liberation of Eastern Ghouta, the relief of Yarmouk camp after so many years represents a most significant achievement, putting another nail in the coffin of the proxy war.
The similar role of many refugee camps on the Turkish border is well known. And Israel has used the illegally occupied Golan Heights as another launchpad for terror attacks on Syria, running field hospitals there to patch up wounded terrorists and send them back to fight. It will be remembered that in November 2017 International Development Secretary Priti Patel inadvertently drew attention to this when she paid a ministerial visit to one such hospital, embarrassing the Foreign Office and losing her job in the process.
But Israel too is staring defeat in the face. Asked recently what he made of the threats issuing from Tel Aviv promising to topple the government by force, President Assad simply pointed to the long and bloody track record of Israeli aggression, noting that the heightened hysterical terms in which the threats were couched indicated a new degree of panic now that Israel could no longer count upon its tacit jihadi allies. He told his RT interviewer:
“The Israelis have been assassinating, killing, occupying for decades now, for around seven decades, in this region, but usually they do all this without threatening. Now, why do they threaten in this way? This is panic, this is a kind of hysterical feeling because they are losing the ‘dear ones,’ the dear ones Al-Nusra and ISIS, that’s why Israel is panicking recently, and we understand their feeling” (for this and other references to the RT interview, see ‘US “losing its cards” in Syria: Highlights of RT‘s interview with Bashar Assad’, 1 June 2018).
These are now all last-ditch efforts by imperialism to buy a little more time, drag out the war a little longer and try by hook or by crook, by one shaky alliance or another, to hang on to some area of influence now that Syria has all but won the war that Western intrigue forced upon her.
Pompeo’s Manbij ‘roadmap’
The joint announcement on 4 June by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu of a new ‘roadmap’ concerning the fate of the northern Syrian city of Manbij raises as many questions as it answers. Like neighbouring Afrin, Manbij was taken from Daesh by the Kurdish-led SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces). Unlike Afrin though, where the SDF were hung out to dry by Washington, left to fend for themselves and expelled in the Turkish assault that followed, the SDF defenders of Manbij were backed militarily by the US, much to Ankara’s disgust. But now, in what appears to be a green light to Turkey to try to establish some kind of protectorate in northern Syria, the new ‘roadmap’ is supposed to accomplish the staged withdrawal of SDF from Manbij.
Exactly how this will pan out depends whether you listen to Ankara or Washington, however. According to Cavusoglu, all Kurdish forces in northern Syria will be disarmed, including everywhere east of the Euphrates. By his account, top brass from Turkey and the US are to meet shortly to plan implementation. This will unfold in three stages, coming to fruition in less than six months. No such concrete plans have been spelt out by Pompeo or his aides, though, and an anonymous US official involved in the negotiations told the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet that “the implementation stage would not be easy and its timeline would depend very much on developments in the field” (cited by Al-Monitor, ‘US, Turkey agree on Manbij road map’ by Semih Idiz, 6 June 2018).
SDF: a shaky alliance
One “development in the field” that might give Pompeo and Co pause for thought is the claim that the SDF has come to an agreement with the Syrian government over the sharing of Syria’s oil wealth. According to Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu, the YPG (the mainstay of the SDF) will give 100 barrels of oil from the Omar oil field (one of the largest in the country) to Damascus in return for 75 barrels of refined fuel. Omar was captured by the SDF in October 2017. If true, such evidence of cooperation with Damascus feeds into Washington’s worst nightmares (see: ‘Syrian government, SDF reach agreement on Omar oil field’, South Front, 4 June 2018).
By flirting with Erdogan’s Greater Ottoman ambitions, Washington runs the risk of (a) raising expectations it cannot deliver on, and (b) alienating the SDF to the extent that they throw in their lot with Damascus. President Assad has made it clear in his recent RT interview that this avenue remains open.
“We’re going to use two methods to deal with the SDF: The first one, we started opening doors for negotiations – because the majority of them are Syrians. And supposedly they like their country, they don’t like being puppets to any foreigners – that’s what we suppose…We all don’t trust the Americans, [so] the one option is to live with each other as Syrians.”
But he also made it plain that the choice is a stark one, because, if negotiations fail, the Syrian army will not hesitate to liberate areas occupied by the SDF, “with the Americans or without the Americans”.
Standing firm against all the plots and intrigues by which imperialism hopes to cheat the Syrian people of their victory, Assad affirmed, “This is our land, it’s our right, it’s our duty to liberate [these occupied areas], and the Americans should leave. Somehow, they’re going to leave.”
Victory to the Syrian President, Government, Army and people!