Syrian War Reaching End Game to Ultimate Benefit of Damascus: UK Expert
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – A London-based Middle East expert hailed recent advances of the Syrian army and its allied forces against foreign-backed Daesh (ISIS or ISIL) terrorists and said conflicts in the Arab country are coming to an end “to the ultimate benefit” of the Syrian government.
“As the war in Syria reaches an end game which seems to be to the ultimate benefit of the Syrian State, the US finds itself with little left to play for, except the scraps left for it by the Russian, Syrian and Iranian coalition destroying ISIL in the country,” Danny Makki, the co-founder of Syrian Youth in Britain, said in an interview with the Tasnim News Agency.
Danny Makki is a freelance journalist and commentator on the Syria conflict. He has an MA in Middle Eastern politics from SOAS University of London, specializing in Syria's relations with Russia and Iran.
Following is the full text of the interview:
Tasnim: It seems that recent advances of the Syrian army and its allied forces against foreign-backed terrorist groups like Daesh (known as ISIS or ISIL) in the Arab country have infuriated the Israeli regime. A senior Israeli official has issued a warning to Russia that the Israeli military will bomb Syrian President Bashar Assad's palace in Damascus if Russia allows Iran to make military advances in Syria, according to media reports. The official added another caution in the Al-Hayat al-Jadida newspaper that if regional changes don't take place in the current advance by Iran, Israel will act to scuttle the Syrian ceasefire deal recently concluded by the US and Russian governments. The warnings came during a recent meeting on the Black Sea between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin. In your opinion, what is the reason behind the Israeli officials' concerns?
Makki: Israel has taken a clear and conspicuous stance in the Syria conflict, that stance has entailed supporting armed anti-government groups along the border with Syria. Israel has backed these groups with logistical support and military means, mainly concerning communications equipment and medical assistance. There have been many documented cases of the Israeli military treating wounded militants and assisting those who are fighting against the Syrian state by giving them medical care and then sending back across the border to continue fighting.
Israel has continuously attacked Syrian army positions and convoys. On more than ten separate occasions, it has attacked Syrian forces fighting extremist groups in Qunaitra province, the most recent of which was five airstrikes in Al-Baath city, where the Syrian army was fending off an assault from the militants and they still attacked them, despite the fact that Al-Nusra Front, the Official Al-Qaeda branch in Syria, was part of the attacking force. On many occasions, fighting on the borders between the army and the militants would lead to projectiles going into the areas along the border, in which case Israel would always respond by attacking the Syrian military, regardless of what caused the clashes or the source of fire. Israel's main policy in Syria is to prolong the conflict and make sure the Syrian-Iranian alliance fails to gain geopolitical ground by winning the conflict in Syria.
Tasnim: As you may know, a US helicopter has recently transferred members of the Daesh terrorist group in Syria’s eastern province of Deir ez-Zor for the second time in a week, according to a UK-based monitoring group called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). The SOHR said the airlift was conducted in the town of al-Tabani. Measures taken by Washington up to now indicate that it has been seeking to destabilize the Arab country by arming and supporting the terrorists under the disguise of anti-terrorism coalition. What do you think about these developments?
Makki: The policy of the US towards Syria since the start of the crisis in 2011 has been damaging, both to the stability of the country and the region around it. Since the Russian intervention in September 2015, Washington has sought to sabotage and undermine the joint Russian, Syrian and Iranian efforts against terrorism. This has been done by politically dismissing these gains and these efforts and also through the military support of a wide array of non-governmental military forces on the ground who are fighting the Syrian Army. Either through loose coalitions of so-called Syrian moderate groups fighting the government, or the Syrian Democratic Forces, made up of majority Kurds fighting ISIL.
The US has lacked a real policy towards Syria or ISIL as of 2015, as it has refused to ally itself with the most powerful fighting force in the country (Syrian Army) and refused to join hands with those fighting ISIL across Syria, in essence the US has targeted Syrian forces on more than one occasion, including Deir ez-Zor, where the Syrian army was trapped in an enclave since 2014 and fending off an ISIL assault. The airstrikes on the Syrian army led to over 100 deaths and allowed ISIL to gain ground in a sensitive battlefield, this is the greatest example of the US's lack of will to truly fight ISIL and pool together with the major forces in the country to do so. So, as the war in Syria reaches an end game which seems to be to the ultimate benefit of the Syrian State, the US finds itself with little left to play for, except the scraps left for it by the Russian, Syrian and Iranian coalition destroying ISIL in the country.
Tasnim: Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Jaberi Ansari recently said that the next round of Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan’s capital city of Astana would be held in mid-September. What is your assessment about the previous rounds of the talks between Tehran, Moscow, and Ankara on the Syrian crisis? And what is your prediction about the result of the next round?
Makki: The recent talks in Astana only prove that the realist school of thought prevails in Syria, concessions by Turkey and other pro-militancy states have only been made after the military fall of the Aleppo and the severe rebel-infighting in Idlib. Without the military gains and the now obvious loss of the Syrian insurgency, the political stalemate would ensue. However, when taking into consideration the huge momentum of the Syrian army and its allies, in addition to the almost spent force of what’s left of the militants, the military changes dictate the political landscape of the country.
So in this regard, the military advances play a more significant role in the future political setting in Syria, and the losers on the military level, have little to negotiate with, seeing as the power they once brought to the table is steadily decreasing.