Wounded, a roaring lion looks westwards…
During the first days of October 2012, several events accumulated into what looks as a Syrian government rebound; one year and seven months after an Arab Spring spinoff-war begun, neither the rebels nor their Western masters have made any significant conquest. On the contrary, the Syrian government has become confident enough to make astonishing statements, which follow gains on the ground against the rebels. Due to the situation in the country, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad couldn’t reach the 67th UN General Assembly. Instead, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem delivered an astonishing speech, in which he said “What is worst of all is to see permanent members of the Security Council… now supporting terrorism in my country.” For those unable to understand the clue, he added sharp comments against the US, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The truth that until now was relegated to obscure websites was now openly uttered from the UN main podium: the West perpetrates terrorism. This astonishing confidence was a collateral corroboration of several Syrian government victories.
The picture accompanying the paragraph above is of the Old Market in Aleppo, which burned on September 28. The picture to the left of this one shows Syrian Army tanks on Aleppo’s streets. This is the country’s second largest city; located in Syria’s north, it is the country’s main commercial center. Its importance and closeness to Turkey made it an ideal target for the rebels; if conquering it, the Syrian government would lose much of its prestige and military flexibility. Yet, the rebels failed, at the cost of the almost complete destruction of this important UNESCO World Heritage Site. Moreover, their forces seem to be disintegrating. In the last week of September, Brigadier General Mustafa al-Sheikh, who heads the Free Syrian Army’s Military Council—in other words, the rebels—told the Associated Press that they were moving their headquarters from Turkey to Syria. They were hoping to relocate in Aleppo. Instead, they were relegated to the semi-desert countryside. Bashar al-Assad is laughing hard at this; any non-major city is not a proper military headquarter. Without Western help, the rebels will have no access to proper supplies, especially since many of its members are foreign mercenaries.
As of now, the Free Syria Army has no proper headquarters; moreover, its Military Council has failed to unify the rebel factions. The Khalid bin Walid Brigade in Homs, the Harmoush Battalion in the Jebel al-Zawiya Mountains, and the Omari Battalion in the Hawran Plain, are practically independent from the Free Syrian Army, and unlikely to respond to an organization which doesn’t control any significant ground. Other rebel groups do not maintain any contacts with the FSA, and are still active because Assad is concentrated on what he considers the main target: the FSA. Other rebels would be smashed after the FSA disappears as a fighting force.
Syria is not Libya; the West miscalculated the attack. The Syrian army is mighty; not taking into account American special weapons, it is stronger than the Israeli one. However, this wasn’t enough to stop a slightly-disguised Western attack on Syria. Strategic allies are keeping Syria afloat. The Syrian Army gets support from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran. Russia and China are constantly blocking resolutions against Syria at the UN Security Council. This means that neither the USA nor NATO will be able to attack directly. Moreover, Tarsus is one of Syria’s two main ports and the only Russian navy base in the Mediterranean Sea. Russia is unlikely to give up this strategic asset for the sake of the creation of a Western puppet-regime. In other words, the Western aggression is limited to providing military help to the rebels and mercenaries.
The limited Western strength was strongly shown on June 22, 2012, an American-made Phantom F-4 jet in service of the Turkish army was downed by Syrian air defense systems (see Gul’s Goal: Turkish F-4 downed by Syria). Subsequently, the plane crashed into the Mediterranean Sea. The event showed everybody that the very strong Syrian air defense system is fully operative. Syria owns one of the most sophisticated systems in the Middle East; it regularly upgrades it with Russian equipment.
The Western weakness has been reported also by mainstream American media. On September 4, 2012, The New York Times, reported “Iran has resumed shipping military equipment to Syria over Iraqi airspace.” the feat was done over Iraqi airspace, avoiding the larger routes used until now. The USA has lost influence in Iraq. The latter lacks an air force, thus its skies are open to others; just another example how violence backfires. The Americans have cleared the way for Iran. Iran looks too eager to help Syria. They are allies, Syria offers a comfy gate to the Mediterranean Sea, and a land link to the Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon. Iran understands that if Syria falls, it would be the next target; hence, it helps generously.
Assad may be a wounded lion by now (“Assad” means “Lion” in Arabic), but he is rebounding. Pretty soon, the mercenaries and rebels may disappear into the desert sands that vomited them in disgust one year and seven months ago. Afterwards, Syria will begin a lengthy restoration process. Bashar al-Assad learned a painful lesson.
Shortly after the war began, Israel intervened directly. June 5, 2011 – was commemorated the Naksa Day, on the 44th anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War. The events included demonstrations on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, mainly near the destroyed city of Quneitra and near the Druze village of Majdal Sham. The IDF killed at least 23 people in the rally. Official Syrian news agency SANA quoted Health Minister Wael al-Halki as saying the death toll included a woman and a child, adding that another 350 people suffered gunshot wounds. UN chief Ban Ki-moon said live Israeli fire had caused casualties and UN monitors were seeking to confirm facts. The IDF said that since all the casualties were on the Syrian side of the border it was unable to provide an exact count. Assad did nothing in the aftermath to defend his people, accepting the brutal murdering. At no moment, the unarmed pheasant on the Syrian side of the border posed any danger to Israel.
Apparently, this was a well-calculated Israeli provocation. Israel assumed that Syria won’t react due to the ongoing protests in the country. Back then they hadn’t yet deteriorated into a war. Israel was right. Bashar al-Assad didn’t react and the event triggered the intensification of the protests. Also Israel miscalculated. One year later, we may be witnessing the end of the war in Syria. Right after that, a wounded lion will sit next to the fence delimiting its southwestern border. This time, the lion will roar.