Syria: Demoted To The Minor Leagues


November 18, 2022: Israel may now be able to change some of its policies towards Russia, Iran and Ukraine because there is a new Israeli government with a more flexible foreign policy. Meanwhile Ukraine revealed that Israel had agreed to provide Ukraine with military communications systems and other support equipment but still refuses to supply weapons. Ukraine downplays the role Russia is playing in Syria to keep Iranian forces away from the Israeli border. While most Israelis support Ukraine, they also support keeping Israel safe from Iranian attacks. Many Israeli and Arabs throughout the region were hoping that two months of protests in Iran would topple the current religious dictatorship but that has not happened. At the same time, despite increasing violence against the protestors and the use of lethal force, the protests continue. Over 300 protestors have been killed so far and the use of more lethal force against protestors has not stopped the demonstrators, who are appealing to the police to side with them against the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), the heavily armed and fanatic force created to protect the religious dictatorship that has ruled Iran since the 1980s. Anti-government demonstrations have become more frequent in the last twenty years and that means most Iranians are not only demanding an end to the dictatorship, but are increasingly willing to die trying. That’s what overthrew the monarchy in 1979. That revolution was hijacked by the Iranian political parties. In effect, the 1979 revolution isn’t over yet. If the rebels succeed it would mean a change on Iranian policies towards Israel, other Arab states and the West.

Last month, Israeli defense officials said that Israel had destroyed the Iranian ability to move weapons from Iran to Syria by land, air or sea. Part of the reason for that is Iran is more involved with supplying Russia with those weapons. While Russia and Iran have become allies in Ukraine, both have reduced their operations in Syria. 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. Iran is undergoing a sustained outbreak of anti-government protests back home while Russia is suffering major military losses in Ukraine. Both nations are subject to more economic sanctions because of their troublemaking. 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 campaigns are on hold. Russian and Iranian aid has declined sharply since 2014, when Iran supplied needed foreign currency and Russia helped the Assad government reconnect with the international banking system. 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. The loss of Russian and Iranian support over the last few years was catastrophic because no one else stepped up to replace that aid.

November 17, 2022: In the east (Deir Ezzor province) Iran-backed militias fired several rockets at the U.S. base at the al Omar oilfield. The American base has been there since 2018. The Assads want the oilfield but the Americans are backing Kurdish efforts to hold on to al Omar and the valuable oil it can produce. The Americans can call in airstrikes or use artillery to defeat any attack on the base. That has happened a few times but is now rare because everyone has easier targets to go after.

November 16, 2022: The Syrian Christians have suffered the most losses of any minority since 2011, While the Assad government (Alawite Shia) have always treated the non-Sunni Arab minorities (mainly Christians and Druze) well and considered them allies, many of these non-Moslem Syrians have fled because most Sunni Islamic terrorist rebels consider it a religious duty to persecute these non-Moslems. Since 2011 nearly two-thirds of the dead have been civilians largely because of a deliberate government policy of attacking pro-rebel civilians to force them out of the country (or at least the combat zone). Since 2011 about half of all Syrians have been forced to flee their homes to escape the fighting, especially the government air and artillery attacks on civilians. The Assad government was responsible for nearly 80 percent of the civilian deaths. The most damage has been done to non-Moslem communities. In 2011 Christians were about ten percent of the population but since then 80 percent of the Christians have been killed or driven from the country. Those who remain have formed militias and are often seen fighting alongside the Kurds.

November 9, 2022: In the east (Deir Ezzor province), a convoy of 22 Iranian operated fuel trucks was hit by a UAV air strike shortly after crossing into Syria from Iraq. At least ten people were killed, all of them Iranian. No one took credit for the attack and that leaves Israel, which has been using such UAV attacks in Syria against Iranian forces. The trucks were headed for Lebanon.

November 6, 2022: In the northwest (Idlib province) Russian warplanes bombed several refugee camps because it was believed these camps had become a major refuge for Islamic terrorists planning attacks on Russian bases on the Syrian coast. This sort of attack on refugee camps is another war crime for Russia, which is compiling quite a list in Syria and Ukraine.

October 28, 2022: Turkey will reorganize the Syrian National Army (SNA). The SNA was initially formed from 28 Free Syrian Army groups. It has since added another 13 groups. “Groups” is a diplomatic way of saying factions. Frequently, fighting erupts between SNA factions. In a recent clash at an SNA camp, eight people were killed and at least 47 wounded. The defense officials indicated reorganization will include an effective command, control and administrative structure. Turkey provides the SNA with logistics support, training advisers and intelligence.

October 27, 2022: In the south (Damascus) another Israeli airstrike damaged a weapons storage site near the airport outside the city that contained Iranian missiles delivered by air. Large explosions of these missiles took place right after the airstrike. Four Hezbollah gunmen dead. Was the third attack against targets near Damascus in the last week. It was also the 30th Israeli airstrike on Syrian targets this year. Most of the attacks were against Iranian assets.

October 24, 2022: In the south (Damascus) another Israeli airstrike damaged a weapons storage site near the airport outside the city that contained Iranian missiles delivered by air.

In the north (Turkish border) Turkish security personnel are accused of arresting and deporting hundreds of male Syrian refugees between February and July 2022. The men and boys were driven to the Syria-Turkey border and forced at gunpoint to cross into Syria

October 23, 2022: The war in Ukraine is having an impact on Syria. Israel has quietly provided Ukraine with details of how it defeated Shahed 136s launched from Lebanon. This includes details of AUDs (Anti-UAV Defenses) Israel has developed. Iran has used these UAVs against Israel, which has developed optical and radar sensors that can detect them quickly so they can be shot down at their border with Syria or Lebanon. While Israel is criticized by Ukraine, and many Israelis, for not supplying Ukraine with weapons to fight the Russians, the two countries maintain diplomatic relations and Israel has quietly shared information with Ukraine about Russian weapons and cooperation with Iran in Syria. Ukraine apparently does the same for Israel about what Iran is up to in Ukraine. Israel is increasingly open about support for Ukraine and the covert aid now includes help with defeating the Iranian cruise missiles Russia has obtained. Iran is at war with Israel and suffers Israeli airstrikes and an occasional commando attack. 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 hit 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. Iran expects Russia to be more helpful in Syria, where Russia already has an understanding with Israel that involves Russia not interfering with Israeli airstrikes on Iranian targets. In return Israel does not supply Ukraine with weapons. Most Israelis support the Ukrainians but they also recognize the threat from Iranians in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza. Russia and Iran are still negotiating on this issue because Russia does not want to lose all its economic, military and diplomatic links with Israel.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close