Syria: The Departed Good Old Ways


October 18, 2022: Despite its problems at home, Iran continues to seek cooperation from the Turks, Syrians and Russians in getting Iranian IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) forces close enough to the Israeli border to make attacks possible. Currently no one is interested in cooperating. Iranian efforts in Syria and Lebanon are very low-budget and Iranian officers in charge of this have to make do with very little. Despite its lack of resources, Iran continues to be a major presence in Syria.

The Syrian Assad government, a long-time client of oil-rich Iran, managed to keep the Syrian economy going after a Syrian civil war began in 2012. Aid from Iran and Russia was substantial until recently, and there was a measure of security and prosperity in areas where the Assads regained control. No more. Without Russian and Iranian aid, the security and prosperity campaign is on hold. Russia and Iran have reduced their aid because of problems at home. This involves an anti-government revolution in Iran and Russian losses in Ukraine and from very heavy sanctions. The aid has declined sharply since 2014 when Iran supplied needed foreign currency and Russia helped the Assad government reconnect with the international banking system so the Assads could continue buying foreign goods. The best evidence of the performance of the Syrian economy is the strength of the Syrian currency. In 2014 the exchange rate for the Syrian pound was currently 140-150 pounds to the dollar. The exchange rate was 50 pounds to the dollar before the violence began in 2011. Currently it is 5,000 pounds to the dollar. The change in exchange rates also reflects the failure of the Assads to make much progress in the last few years. Aid from Russia and Iran had kept the Assad government and the Syrian Air Force going. For years Russian banks risked retaliation from the U.S. by helping the Syrian government get around sanctions. Access to foreign currency and foreign goods enabled the Assads to maintain the loyalty of some (about a third) of the population. The loss of Russian and Iranian support over the last few years was catastrophic because no one else stepped up to replace that aid.

The War Against Everyone. Especially ISIL

Nearly 40 percent of the war-related deaths in Syria are now occurring in the eastern deserts, where ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) continues to be a problem as they contest control of remote areas. So far this year, the fighting there has left about 360 dead, with 42 percent of the dead ISIL members. Only a few civilians have died, with the rest belonging to Assad troops and members of various Iran-backed militias. Most of the ISIL deaths are due to Russian airstrikes and Russian aerial surveillance.

Most of this occurs in the Badia Desert south of the Euphrates River Valley. ISIL and associated groups have long used the largely empty desert as a sanctuary. This desert area extends into nearby Jordan. Badia covers 500,000 square kilometers (200,000 square miles) and represents about half of Syria, 85 percent of Jordan, and smaller portions of Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The Badia desert was long been the scene of ISIL activity and fighting against and between Islamic terrorists. All these desert areas are thinly populated by Sunni Arabs who are inclined to tolerate or support ISIL as long as ISIL attacks were directed at military targets and not local civilians. An exception to this rule has ISIL waging an assassination campaign against Islamic clergy and staffs of religious schools who teach that Islamic terrorism is wrong.

ISIL is the largest source of deaths in Syria but not the only one. There are several other wars of deadly feuds going on. Iran is at war with Israel and suffers Israeli airstrikes and an occasional commando attack. Iran suffers most of the casualties in this conflict. Then there are the battles between Turkey and Islamic terrorists, Syrian Kurds and the Assad forces. Russia sometimes bombs Turkish forces (Syrians working for the Turks). Russia only has a few warplanes left in Syria, and these use unguided bombs. Russia considers Syria a place to give some of its pilots realistic practice carrying out airstrikes the old-fashioned way, without missiles or guided bombs. There’s no real threat to the Russian warplanes, unlike Ukraine where Russia continues to lose warplanes and pilots. Russia is also on the defensive with Israel because Russia can no longer do much to halt Iranian efforts to get forces close to the Israeli border. That means Israel is free to sell or donate some weapons to Ukraine. Currently what Ukraine wants most is Israeli tech developed to disable to destroy UAVs like the Iranian Shahed 136 cruise missile, which is basically a cheap UAV equipped to his stationary targets. Iran did a barter deal with Russia, providing over a thousand of these cruise missiles in exchange for dozens of the latest Russian fighter-bomber and air craft spare parts.

October 17, 2022: In the north (Aleppo Province) fighting resumed between HTS Islamic terrorists and Turkey0bcked militias. The fighting gas been going on since the 12th but was supposed to have halted yesterday when HTS and the Turkey-backed groups agreed to a ceasefire. Since HTS is a coalition of Islamic terror groups, there are often some factions that disagree when the coalition leadership agrees to something.

October 16, 2022: In the north (Aleppo Province) Russian airstrikes hit villages occupied by HTS Islamic terrorists.

October 15, 2022: In the northwest (Idlib province) efforts to get HTS (the dominant Islamic terrorist coalition in the province) to cooperate with the Turks have failed. Turkey proposed that HTS work with Turkey-backed Syrian militias to keep the peace so Turkey could move more Syrian refugees back to Syria. Turkey offered HTS sanctuary in Turkish controlled areas and a few HTS members would be allowed into Turkey. Reaching an agreement with HTS on the details proved difficult, so the fighting continues between HTS and Syrians working for the Turks.

Most of the Syrian militiamen on the Turkish payroll are affiliated with the SIG (Syrian Interim Government). Turkey has, since 2013, supported the SIG, providing it with sanctuary in Turkey and adopting its military arm, the FSA (Free Syrian Army), as a paid and equipped auxiliary of the Turkish Army. In 2018 FSA was officially renamed the SNA (Syrian National Army) to better reflect their future role as defender of the SIG administered Safe Zone. Financial support for SIG is much less than for the SNA and some of that financial support comes from the United States. The families of SNA mercenaries are among the Syrian refugees most willing to return to Syria and settle in the Safe Zone. Turkey expects that will eventually encourage more refugees to settle. For the Kurds this is unwelcome because most of the refugees are Sunni Arab Syrians while the native population of Hasaka province is largely Kurd and other non-Arab minorities.

In the south (Damascus) another Israeli airstrike damaged a weapons storage site near the airport outside the city. This warehouse contained Iranian missiles delivered by air. Large explosions of these missiles took place right after the airstrike. Five Syrian soldiers and two members of Iran-backed militias were killed. There were also a lot of wounded. Most of the casualties were the result of munitions in the storage area detonating.

October 13, 2022: In the south (outside Damascus) someone placed a bomb aboard a bus carrying Syrian soldiers belonging to the and 4th Infantry Division. The subsequent explosion killed 18 soldiers and wounded 27 others. No one took credit for the attack. The two most likely suspects were Iran (via one of their Syrian militias) or factions in the Syrian government who are feuding with the commander of the 4th Division.

October 12, 2022: In southern Syria (Daraa province) a Syrian soldier was killed by unidentified gunmen. There has been a lot of similar violence in Daraa, with over 360 dead so far this year. The violence is mainly against Syrian army personnel. This level of violence remained fairly constant for three years until 2022. This is part of the undeclared war between Iranian and Syrian forces going on there since 2018. Anonymous assassins use pistols and hidden bombs to kill those who work, or worked for government forces or Russia and Syria backed local militias. There are also attacks against former members of ISIL and other militant groups. These victims had accepted amnesty. Russian and Assad forces openly force Iran-backed groups and individuals out of the area. There is no open violence because Iran, Syria and Russia are still officially allies. Israel sometimes fires on Iranian forces operating in Daraa, especially near the Israeli border. Israel also shares intel with Russia and Syria about Syrian officers who are secretly working for Iran. The Iranians pay well, and in dollars. Israel will sometimes release evidence of this to the media, so that Iranians back home have another reason to oppose Iranian foreign wars. Negotiations have been underway between Iran and Russia/Syria since 2020 but have not made much progress. The covert Iranian violence is just another incentive for Syria to get the Iranian agents out of the area. In 2022 much of the violence is from other groups, some of them criminal gangs retaliating against those who refuse to pay for protection from the violence. Daraa is the most violent province but similar violence continues in many parts of Syria.

October 11, 2022: In the northwest (Latakia province) Russian aircraft carried out airstrikes on Islamic terrorists in the northern portion of the province near the border with Idlib province. The Syrian Army is trying to clear the area of Islamic terrorists if only because these rebels often try to attack the main Russian airbase in Latakia province. To the east (Aleppo province) Turks fired over 30 shells and rockets at Syrian soldiers and Kurdish SDF militiamen who are occupying two villages the Turks want to control.

October 10, 2022: In Gaza (between Egypt and Israel) Iran backed Hamas, which runs Gaza, announced that it had resumed diplomatic relations with Syria. These diplomatic links had been severed in 2012, as the Syrian civil war got underway. Syria had long provided sanctuary for Hamas leaders but that ended when many of the Palestinian refugees living in Syria sided with the rebels trying to overthrow the Assad government. The rebels lost, in part because of massive aid from Iran. Hamas has also become a recipient of Iranian aid.

October 7, 2022: Thousands of Syrians are stuck in Libya. Turkey’s Libyan operations are proving to be more and more of a liability. Turkey seems aware of this as well. Most of their Syrian Arab mercenaries in Tripoli have not been paid for six months. Turkey is paying the Syrian leaders of the mercenaries to keep them under control. This includes allowing leaders to be flown back to Syria to deal with family affairs, like the death of a parent. The Syrian mercs have been in Libya for two years, which is longer than they signed up for.

October 5, 2022: In the north (Aleppo province) two days of fighting between two rival Turkish-backed HTS factions left thirteen dead, most of them HTS members but also three civilian bystanders. This fighting compelled thousands of civilians to flee their homes and seek temporary shelter elsewhere.

September 22, 2022: In Syria Turkey continues trying to achieve control of a 30-kilometer-deep (into Syria) border strip along the length of its Syrian border. The Syrian Assad government and autonomous Syrian Kurds agree that this border strip is a bad idea.

September 18, 2022: Turkish forces struck Syrian Army and Syrian Kurd positions near the Syrian border town of Kobane. At least three Syrian Army soldiers were killed.

In the south, near the Israeli Golan Heights border, four Syrian men approached the border and threw several objects towards a road along the border used by Israeli patrol. The objects turned out to be explosives, including a landmine. Israeli troops entered Syria and went after the four men. One was shot and captured. A helicopter evacuated him to an Israeli hospital. The other three Syrians got away.




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