French President Emmanuel Macron kept his word. On April 1-2, French troops moved into northern Syria. This is the first time France deployed substantial forces there to turn Paris into a new actor actively involved in the war. The troops advanced toward Manbij and Remelin to join American allies and did it hastily.
The move was made at the time Ankara warned about the plans to control this territory with Russia, Turkey and Iran working together to define Syria’s future. It significantly changes the situation and makes ask questions about the goals pursued by the US and France and the prospects for war and peace in the conflict-torn country. Summing up the recent events leads to the conclusion that the US and France have a hidden agenda to expand the conflict, wreak havoc and stymie the Russia-led peace efforts.
The news about French deployment came just before the April 4 Russia-Turkey-Iran summit in Ankara stated the goal to "speed up their efforts to ensure calm on the ground" in Syria. On April 3, US President Donald Trump said he would “decide very quickly” to remove forces from that country. The statement was made right after about 300 US Marines accompanied by armored vehicles and engineering equipment were moving toward Manbij as reinforcements to repel possible Turkish inroads. The construction of two bases in Syria’s northern Manbij region is underway.
The Marines have already launched daily patrols along the Sajur River, a tributary that feeds the Euphrates River from sources in Turkey, with observation posts built to monitor the area. This is unheard of – two leading states of the North Atlantic Alliance blocked the other NATO member’s land access to Manbij! On April 3, CNN reported that plans to send reinforcements have been discussed for several days before Trump's remarks on leaving Syria soon.
The US also wasted no time to press Iraq into sending its 5th Army Division to Sinjar province and line the forces on the Iraqi-Syrian border to obstruct the possible advance of Turkish army from Syria into Iraq.
Obviously, the US is trying to partition Syria while creating a quasi-state on the eastern bank of the Euphrates and up to the Iraqi border. In Deir-ez-Zor, the US-led coalition resists the restoration of Syrian government institutions. It makes one think that the words about “leaving soon” may be nothing more than wishful thinking or an attempt to baffle those who are trying to predict further steps America will take.
The list of goals includes controlling the oil fields and chunks of the territory. Donald Trump wants Saudi Arabia to pay for US operations in Syria and it probably will. If the decision to leave were taken, he wouldn’t raise the question. According to the president, Saudi Arabia is interested in America staying in Syria.
That’s what the US “rocking from side to side” foreign policy is like. Rex Tillerson is fired to make the world know about it from tweets. The US wants to leave Syria but will stay if Saudi Arabia pays. Donald Trump invited the Russian leader to visit him in Washington against the background of Russia diplomats expelled and the consulate office in Seattle closed. Is it being short-sighted or far-sighted? Is this swinging back and forth a well-thought over policy or no policy at all? Is it done on purpose to keep everyone guessing with no predictions possible? You never know. Donald Trump once denounced Saudi Arabia as extremist and then sold a huge package of weapons to call the kingdom a great friend and close ally against Iran.
The Syrian forces are preparing an offensive in the Daraa - Quneira - Suweida area in the south while denuding other fronts. The territory is huge and the terrain is hard to cross. There are at least 25 heights to fire at advancing forces from. The Free Syrian Army and other rebel groups are much more numerous than the ones being defeated in Eastern Ghuta. Their defenses are strong. Unlike in other places, the rebel forces can easily get logistical support from Jordan. That’s where the US and Saudi Arabia can contribute greatly. Israel has been involved in such activities since 2015. It took roughly six months to liberate Eastern Ghuta, with an active phase to dislodge rebel fighters launched in mid-March. It’s easy to surmise that it will take at least a year, may be much more, to liberate the area in question.
A conflict is easy to provoke. The operations of Syria’s government forces aimed at cutting off supplies coming from Jordan could be presented as an act of aggression against the Hashemite Kingdom. Chemical substances could be transported from Jordan to stage another provocation used as a pretext to attack Syria.
The operation could become a war of attrition to make Syria concentrate more and more of its forces in one place at the expense of other battlefields. They will be stuck there for a considerable period of time. That’s when the US-coalition will be in good position to attack anywhere it wants using the base of Al-Tanf as a springboard. Manbij as well as the Al-Tabka air base located to the south of Raqqa are perfect places for launching an offensive to drive Syria out from Aleppo. Then the country will plunge again into an “all-against-all” fight.
The efforts applied so far by Russia, Turkey and Syria will go down the drain. This time the US will not be alone to have substantial presence on the ground. It’s hard to imagine that the French forces arrived in Syria could be anything but the start of broader NATO presence with other members of the bloc to follow the French example. Russian military personnel and NATO soldiers will be looking at each other through the sights of guns. This scenario will be fraught with a great risk of international military conflict and a real tragedy for Syrian people but those who are provoking it don’t care.