There are worrying signs that the UN brokered ceasefire worked out between the non-Daesh/IS and non al Qaeda/Jabhat al-Nusra on one side and the Syrian government backed by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah may be breaking down. The so-called moderates, backed by the west, are still working with Al Qaeda/Jabhat al-Nusra forces and have attacked the Syrian government forces in the Aleppo region.
The Wall Street Journal has now reported moves by CIA and Pentagon to give these rebels anti-aircraft missiles or Manpads, endangering not only Russian and Syrian aircraft, but also all civilian aircrafts in the region. If the past is any indication, more than 50% of all western supplied equipment end up inevitably with Al Qaeda/Nusra or Daesh/IS hands and this does not auger for the world, as this region is a major air corridor for civilian air traffic.
Image Courtesy: turcopolier.typepad.com
While the Syrian government’s offensive against the Daesh/IS continues, the operations are now shifting from the eastern theatre back to Aleppo. Military commentators have noted that the Syrian army focuses on one theatre at a time. Part of their march towards Palmyra was also to secure the supply lines to Aleppo, constantly under threat from Daesh/IS and al Qaeda attacks. Having secured their supply lines and won a major victory against Daesh/IS, they are back to Aleppo.
Aleppo is obviously the major target of the rebel forces, with Daesh/IS in the east and al Qaeda/Nusra in the west. Having lifted the Daesh/IS siege of the Kuweiris Airbase earlier, the Syrian forces are now moving against al Qaeda, who still occupy parts Aleppo. They have nearly encircled a major part of the rebel forces in Aleppo, and this should see almost the entire Aleppo city coming under government forces soon.
The US and its allies have been arming and supporting the so-called moderate rebels, who at best are al Qaeda lite in Syria. They have funnelled money, arms and equipment to these forces, a bulk of which has landed up in the hands of al Qaeda or the IS. The ceasefire was an opportunity for the western backed rebel forces to distance themselves from the al Qaeda/Nusra and Daesh/IS forces, which are outside the UN ceasefire.
The question from the beginning is, whether the western backed rebels would see the UN organised ceasefire as a means to recuperate and rearm, or a genuine one in which they would reach an accommodation with the Syrian government? Recent events indicate that while the rebels in the southern front bordering Jordan are quiet and interested in peace, the rebels in the Aleppo area, including Jaish al Islam, the Saudi proxy, remain very much a part of the al Qaeda/ Nusra alliance.
This is where the US offer to arm the “rebels” with anti-tank weapons and Manpads become dangerous. The intent may be to pressure the Syrian government to offer more concessions; instead, it provides a perverse incentive to the rebels to be more intransigent and get better arms.
Turkey is also playing its own military game in the northern border of Syria. They have backed “Turkmen” or proxy Turkish fighters, with a smattering of Chechens, Uighurs, in order to capture a part of northern Syrian territory in the Aza- Jarabulus corridor. This is the Turkish response to the Kurdish forces and its allies taking control of much of northern Syria, which borders Kurdish southern Turkey. The Daesh/IS forces initially lost some territory to the Turkish backed forces, but in a counter attack, seem to have beaten them back. TheTurkish backed forces clearly do not have the mettle that the Kurdish YPG has, or what the Syrian government forces are exhibiting. The Kurdish YPG and its allies in the north seem to be tacitly cooperating with the Syrian government forces, at least near Aleppo.
It is decision time for the US and its allies. Do they continue to back the so-called rebel forces in Syria, which are now clearly in alliance with al Qaeda/Nusra? Or will they step back and let the Syrian government complete the job of defeating al Qaeda – first in Aleppo, later in the Idlib sector? Remember, the US has declared a “Global War on Terror” against al Qaeda? Will they be willing to work for a secular and a possibly federal Syria, or continue to sing the song “Assad must go” for peace to return? Will the western media drop the myth that Daesh/IS is the product of the Assad regime and recognise its umbilical links with Turkey and Saudi Arabia?
These are the key questions to be answered in Syria, and how they are answered will determine how the region shapes in the future.
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