Russia, Iran and Syria respond to Trump’s Threats

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The UK-based Arabic language daily, al-Arabi al-Jadid (a secular, left-leaning newspaper helmed by Azmi Bishara from Qatar) reports on the responses of Syria and its allies to sabre-rattling from Trump and from the UK and France.

A key advisor to Ali Khamenei, Iran’s clerical leader, is in Syria to take stock after the military success in retaking the East Ghouta neighborhood near Damascus from Salafi Jihadi rebels. The latter part of that campaign, last Saturday, allegedly involved the use by the Bashar al-Assad government of a barrel bomb loaded with chlorine and a nerve agent, which killed some 70 persons, mostly noncombatants and including children. The gas attack has provoked Donald Trump and the governments of Theresa May in the UK and Emmanuel Macron in France to plan for a possible punitive set of air strikes on Syrian air force facilities.

The Iranian adviser, Ali Akbar Velayati, said in a news conference with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad that Syria is more prepared than in the past to face what is coming. He charged that the United States directed the launching of the civil war in Syria and took part in it extensively. (The first part of this allegation is not true; the Syrian uprising of 2011 was indigenous, not a CIA covert operation. Once the regime turned it into a civil war by using massive military force on civilian, peaceful protesters, the US did give some billions in aid via Saudi Arabia to some 40 “vetted” guerrilla groups it said were unconnected to al-Qaeda or extremism. The US role appears to have been much larger than the press reported at the time, but Russian and Iranian investments clearly outweighed it in the end in any case.) What’s left of the Iranian Revolution of 1979 is now a mere handmaiden of secular Baath dictators and neo-imperialist Russian oligarchs.

Velayati dismissed Trump, whom many in the Middle East had initially admired on his election, as having become a mere laughingstock.

Bashar al-Assad in his remarks warned that a Western strike on his country would accomplish nothing but to destabilize regional security. He complained that every victory Syria gained was met with Western cries and movements in hopes of altering the course of events. They are the ones, he said, who are harming international peace and security.

Meanwhile, a Russian spokesman confirmed that Russian and US military officers were using intensively the “deconfliction” telephone line to ensure that no step is taken that would spark conflict between the two powers.

BBC monitoring paraphrases a column by Alexander Atasuntsev and others at the liberal business daily RBC . He quotes retired Col. Andrei Payusov as predicting that any US strikes on Syria would be “superficial” and affect only “minor” targets announced in advance. He complained that this sort of US showboating aims at trying to reverse its weakening position in the Middle East brought about by Russian successes. He said that the US would choose targets and bases where there was no chance of hitting Russian troops. Other Russian experts quoted in the article, however, could not rule out the possibility of a clash between the United States and the Russian Federation in Syria.

Now that’s scary.

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Bonus video:

Sky News: “Russia warns it will protect its people in Syria”

Posted in Featured,Syria | 6 Responses | Print |

6 Responses

  1. Good Morning Professor,

    I wanted to retract a comment I left on one of your earlier posts, concerning the Red Crescent and them denying an attack. It seems this was a false narrative, with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent’s Lebanon branch say they are unaware of any statement, and that the Red Crescent was not operational in Douma as of the date of the attack. It was not my intention to spread a false story. So I apologize, though I still contend that the media reporting of the story is being done with a certitude that should not be, and that the media seems all to happy to promote an escalation of war.

  2. There is no little evidence that the US (and UK) had been angling for regime change in Syria years before 2011. While it is possible to regard the civil movement of 2011 as the beginning of the present situation, it could equally be dated from the provision of those billions in aid via Saudi Arabia to some 40 “vetted” guerrilla groups. Without external intervention, and whatever the level of regime reaction to the unarmed civil protest, the outcome would have had no way of evolving into two nuclear powers pawing the ground and glaring at each other. Indeed, Russia didn’t even get directly involved for four further years by which time the mess had actually become a potential threat to its own security. Israel and others may well have been happy with intervention but hardly because of any excessive use of force by Assad in quelling Syrian domestic political protest, any more than Phillip II invaded and pillaged Mexico solely to spread the word of Christ and arrest a propensity for human sacrifice. Different purposes need not be mutually exclusive, and are often pursued the one without reference to, or under cover of, the other.

  3. Sounds like the parties concerned are setting up a harmless “shooting artificial fish in a barrel” exercise. Seems better to me than an attack that ends up adding more corpses to the huge tally, while accomplishing nothing.

  4. I can hardly wait for ‘The West’ to fairly balance its threats and attacks against Syria by militarily showing target-rich Israel that it means business when it comes to Israel decolonizing its illegal and thieving West Bank settlements and killing innumerable thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians through the years, including hundreds if not thousands of children and also the recent and ongoing coldblooded murders of peacefully protesting civilians, and because of Israel’s grotesquely violent systematic and specific oppressions and de facto and in-fact imprisonment of Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank, including no freedom of movement nor any citizenship rights whatsoever, and because of Israel’s sadistic strategy of economic impoverishment of an otherwise industrious, intelligent, and entrepreneurial Palestinian population. Fair is fair, right? Of course, no people should be bombed in Syria or Israel. But the utter myopic and hypocritical banality of evil that is ‘The West’ in so many ways has become far too hard to tolerate and never has or will be acceptable.

  5. In the end, it was nothing with nothing.

    The US and its allies blasted a few chemical sites but hardly inflicted enough damage to undermine Assad or weaken the grip of his Ba’athist bullies. The regime can still drop barrel bombs full of chemicals on rebel forces and the US won’t be able to do a damned thing about it.

    The Russians turned out to be paper tigers. Putin and his henchmen talk a good game but they aren’t a match militarily or economically for the West. The attacks against Syria were calibrated and minor.

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