America’s Proxy in Syria

Tuesday, 27 November, 2018 - 08:45

America’s Proxy in Syria

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Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.
A report by Asharq al-Awsat mentions in full detail that the new American step in Syria against Iran’s militias and forces is to establish local militias to fight them. Expanding the confrontation in Syria comes at the same time as the new round of sanctions on the supreme leader’s regime is implemented, and it’s an advanced step against the Russian missiles, which obstructed the Israeli air force.

30,000 Kurdish Syrians are being recruited, armed and trained within the Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD) east of the Euphrates. Most of them are Kurds and there are also some Arabs. Hence, the Euphrates River became the new separating border, as west of the river there are Assad’s forces and their allies, Iran and Russia, and east of the river there are US forces and their allies.

The Americans do not hide their aims as in addition to fighting ISIS, they are trying to restrict Iranian forces, the Quds Brigade and its militias, and improve their negotiating situation regarding Syria’s governance.

The Russians’ act of bringing in S-300 surface-to-air missiles succeeded in protecting the Iranian presence on Syrian territories from Israeli shelling, but it harmed the former agreement of adopting the Assad regime in governing Syria and ending the civil war. The Russians’ insistence to protect the Iranians made the Americans resort to expanding the role of Syria’s Kurds to confront ISIS, Iran, the regime and even the Turks.

The Kurds are saying they have 60,000 fighters on the ground and 30,000 other fighters being trained by the Americans. These numbers seem exaggerated. QSD’s announced mission is confronting ISIS and the Iranians but since most of the militias consist of Kurds, the Turks stand against them and against those who support them. The Turks have become politically closer to the camp of the Assad regime, the Iranians and Russians in order to prevent the Kurds from being a force that’s close to their southern borders, even if they are Syrian Kurds. This further complicates the situation and makes it more mysterious. This is what the Turkish defense minister angrily said as he noted “the Americans are further complicating an already complicated situation.”

The truth is the Americans are doing what others did. The Kurds had cooperated with Damascus, and the Iranians cooperated with them to threaten the Turks. Ankara’s government submitted to Tehran, Russia and Damascus and altered its stances accordingly. The Americans are now establishing Syrian Kurdish militias as a striking force against several parties and this revives the hopes of the Syrian opposition that it has an opportunity to resume its fighting activities after it has lost most of what it gained of villages and territories during the civil war.
The Americans are also imitating Iran. They are resorting to proxies; militias that do the job instead of them, just like the Iranians did more than four years ago when they hired Lebanese, Iraqi, Afghani and Pakistani militias to fight on their behalf in Syria. The Americans, who learnt the lesson in Iraq and Afghanistan, are trying to do the same and have begun relying on local recruits. The concept of proxy militias strengthened the Kurds’ victories against ISIS.

The American side’s abstention from cooperating with the Russians in the new round of negotiations among the Syrian parties aims to push Moscow to deal with the new policy, which is not ending the war and not having Assad govern the entire of Syria unless they get the Iranians and their militias out of Syria.

Truth is Moscow’s story that it neither has influence over the Assad regime nor the capability to get the Iranians out does not convince anyone. Without the Russian air force, the Syrian regime forces and the Iranian forces cannot keep new territories, and without the S-300 missiles, Israeli airstrikes will kill more of the Iranian regime forces. The Russians want the Iranians to stay on the ground to strengthen their political negotiations and achieve full victory at the end of the Syrian war. However, due to the Americans’ militarization on the east of the Euphrates, they, through QSD, control vast Syrian areas, from Iraq’s borders in the south to Turkey’s border in the north, hence the Russians have to choose between victory without the Iranians or resuming the war through them.

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