Syria: American-Style Second Front
Dmitriy SEDOV | 21.11.2015 | FEATURED STORY

Syria: American-Style Second Front

The moment the prospect of dividing up the Syrian ‘trophy cake’ began to glimmer ahead, the whole world heard the bold statements by America’s leaders that the US and Turkey were going to fight the so-called Islamic State terrorists in Syria together and there was no time to lose. 

In the four and a half years of the Syrian war, the world has understood perfectly well that Washington does not consider the Islamic State fanatics to be an enemy to the US. As a consequence, the US Air Force has mostly been engaged in pleasure flights or imitated bombing campaigns up to now that have made absolutely no difference to the terrorists.

But then something unexpected happened: Russia expanded the operation of its Aerospace Forces to Syria. Russian strategic bombers equipped with cruise missiles began destroying the oil infrastructure and the convoys of oil tankers heading for Turkey. It is difficult to say how much time is needed before IS runs out of money, but probably not that much. And when this happens, Turkey can expect a meeting with the terrorist groups it has been patronising for so long.

It seems that because the meeting does not promise to be a happy one, the US and Turkey are about to begin military operations along the line of the Syrian-Turkish border. They need to take these areas under their control as quickly as possible and do something remarkable – they need to force IS groups to surrender and settle there in camps controlled by moderate opposition forces and Kurds. And to accomplish this, they need to capture the cities of Jarabulus, Azaz and Mari in the north-west of Syria. Moreover, the Americans and the Turks will only be carrying out airstrikes, while what is left of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Syrian Turkmens, the hastily assembled Euphrates Volcano group and certain Raqqa Revolutionaries Brigades will be engaged in an offensive against the militants. To give this raggle-taggle army some courage, the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman has departed from Norfolk and is making its way to Syria’s Mediterranean coast.

This plan, which is hardly outstanding in terms of military thinking, also has a purely political side: opposition groups will have their ‘own territory’, and therefore strong positions from which to take part in the political settlement process. The chances of a settlement are slim, however. Recently, members of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces passed on a letter to Reuters containing their response to the talks in Vienna. The letter says that the Vienna agreements do not rule out Bashar al-Assad’s participation in early presidential elections, and this is unacceptable to the National Coalition and makes achieving peace impossible. Opposition member Monzer Akbik has readily taken it upon himself to speak on behalf of all Syrians and states that: «The Syrian people have never accepted the dictatorship of Assad and they will not accept that it is reintroduced or reformulated in another way».

Monzer Akbik has let slip on a very important point: after IS is defeated, we will not take part in talks, but will receive territory. In other words, the US and Turkey are planning to form an enclave in northern Syria beyond the control of Damascus that will be made up of Kurdish regions and regions controlled by the anti-government opposition. This is contrary to the Vienna agreement, which unequivocally upholds the indivisibility of Syria. In Washington’s eyes, dividing up Syria is far and away more preferable than strengthening the positions of Moscow and Damascus.

Taking advantage of all the noise and commotion surrounding America’s impending attack, US Secretary of State John Kerry is striking while the iron is hot. «The formation of a new Syrian government could be completed in a few weeks», Kerry stated following a meeting with François Hollande. It seems that the head of the US State Department is trying to start the negotiation process with the promise of future US victories. Make concessions today or it would be worse tomorrow.

Whether it will be worse is uncertain, however. It is unclear if the US will manage to gain a foothold in the northern areas of Syria with the help of its motley ‘team’, which is still to prove itself capable of defeating the terrorists. Up to now, they have failed. If the US Air Force and the semi-mythical FSA are going to act as ineffectively as before, then the Kurds and the Syrian government army will take control there and Washington’s dreams will remain just that.

As a consequence, the Pentagon is feverishly putting together a plan for victory that will give territorial gains to Bashar al-Assad’s enemies. An attack on the IS capital of Al-Raqqah and the carpet bombing of IS positions by strategic aviation forces are being discussed with a vengeance. These notions of modern warfare are close to replicating the experiences of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is clear to military specialists where the Pentagon’s ideas have sprung from. The US Air Force is lacking the intelligence provided by ground troops to fine-tune targets on the ground. The satellite data of Russia’s aerospace forces, for example, are confirmed and adjusted by the Syrian army, since the enemy is extremely mobile. It is quite another matter to completely cover territories with free-fall bombs. What the percentage of civilian casualties will be, meanwhile, is seemingly unimportant. What is important is the military effect, and the ‘educational’ impact of America’s new-found resolve. Especially if you consider that there are almost 300,000 people living in Al-Raqqah... 

Yet the main intrigue of America’s plan lies elsewhere: the Russian Aerospace Forces, the Syrian army, Hezbollah and Iranian troops are all active in the north and especially the north-west of Syria. Forcing back IS groups little by little, they are moving towards the Turkish border, making America’s plans increasingly less likely.

Words regarding the coordination of military efforts with Russia are already flying out of John Kerry’s mouth. Will they be followed by deeds? Or will the world wait for a second Battle of the Bulge before it finally realises the value of America’s military genius?

Tags: ISIS   Middle East  Russia  US