According to John Bolton, in a recent ABC News interview, the US demands the immediate withdrawal of all Iranian advisors and troops from Syria. He also insisted that US troops should remain in Syria until all Iranian influence is wiped out, not just in Syria, but in the Middle East. What Bolton is really saying is that the Trump administration plans to continue to raise the bar of unreasonable demands to justify the indefinite presence of American troops, not just in Syria, but in the entire region, in the serve of its larger geopolitical goals.
It is unlikely that President Assad would agree to these terms as events outside Syria are beyond his control and a reduction of Iranian influence in the region would be against Syria’s best interest, given that Iran is a major ally of Assad.
In fact, the Syrian government would only consider such a deal feasible if the US would withdraw its forces prior to a pull-out of Iranian forces since the US presence prevents the Syrian Army and its allies from waging war against ISIS not just in the northeast but on its southern border with Jordan. According to some media sources, Trump would “allow” Damascus, supported by Russian air power, to regain its territory along its borders with Jordan, Israel and Iraq. In return, President Putin and Assad would agree to establish an extended demilitarized zone along these same borders, off-limits to any Iranian forces. That would set the scene for Trump’s already announced desire to extract US forces out of Syria before October and the US-mid-term elections.
According to Pepe Escobar, writing in Asia Times, the CIA and the Pentagon are not exactly enthusiastic about Trump’s alleged Syria gambit. For assorted neocons and powerful factions of the industrial-military, surveillance complex, their “Assad must go” demand cannot be traded off. “As if there is something to trade,” says Escobar. “Syria cannot be “offered to Russia” because Russia is already the major player in deciding what happens in Syria, not only militarily, but in conjunction with Iran and another regional power, Turkey.”
Was this something that was discussed in Helsinki between Trump and Putin?
At the heart of the matter is Syria’s territorial integrity and the legitimacy of the Assad government. Russia, Iran and Turkey support this. The US-led NATO and the Gulf Cooperation alliance are against it especially since they are the ones, over the last seven years, who have financed and supported various Al-Qaeda groups that the West insists on calling “moderate rebels,” as if any al-Qaeda group could ever be defined as “moderate.”
To accomplish such an ambitious goal in the northeast, the Assad government would have to liberate its own territory back from the Americans who insist on holding onto this important piece of real estate not, as they contend, to fight ISIS et al, but to keep their greedy hands on that oil and gas rich area of Syria. I discuss this in depth in Damascus Street, my newest work of fiction.
While in the south, in Daraa, where the conflict began some seven years ago, the reasons are as sinister for this area, just across the border with Jordan, is a very convenient crossroads of weapons smuggling destined for the ISIS hordes still fighting for control of that part of Syria on behalf of the US and its allies.
As it stands, the main narrative in US media is that “regime forces,” meaning those loyal to the Syrian government, and therefore the “bad guys,” have unleashed air strikes and barrel bombs over rebel-held sections of southern Syria creating a humanitarian crisis.
The battle for southern Syria, and the decision by the Assad government to initiate it, while disregarding regional opposition, is one of the most complicated battles undertaken by the Syrian Army and its allies since the beginning of the conflict. The end of the battle and a victory for the Syrian Army would allow the commercial land route between Syria, Lebanon and Jordan to be liberated, thereby allowing the transport of goods safely to the rest of the Gulf. While this is paramount for the financial well-being of Syria, it is equally important that Syria wrestle back its territorial integrity from the various ISIS groups who have been financed, trained and armed for years by the CIA and the British Special Forces in Jordan.
Are these issues that Putin and Trump can reasonably agree on, or must they continue to bend to the demands of Israel and its regional ally, Saudi Arabia?
There is no doubt that Israel has specific regional priorities and that the US implements them most of the time, even when they go against American interests. As of now Israel’s aim is to prevent the central government in Damascus from regaining control of the Syrian territory occupied by ISIS and their allies.
Who will the winners be in this deadly regional game? Will Putin be able to convince Trump to do the right thing and withdraw American troops from all of Syria, or will Israel and the warmonger neocons prevail, as they so often do?
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