One side effect of the China mediated peace deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran is improved relations between Syria and other Arab states. The Saudis have invited Bashir Assad, the Iran backed Syrian leader to the next Arab League meeting on May 19th. This one is being held in Saudi Arabia. In late 2021 Syria was invited to attend the March 2022 Arab League meeting of all 22 members. President Assad has been negotiating with Arab League members since 2017 about abandoning Iran and rejoining the league. Syrian membership was suspended in 2011 for its many sins. Assad went public about rejoining in late 2018 and has been speaking with other Arab League members more frequently ever since. Syria has obtained offers of assistance in rebuilding Syria as well as assisting Syria in becoming an active member of the Arab League once more.
In late 2011 Syria was suspended from the Arab League and many of the 21 other League members cut diplomatic relations or imposed sanctions. The Arab League was unable to do much more. By early 2013 the Arab League was still unable to muster enough unity to call for international (Western) intervention in Syria. The Arab League did that in 2011 for Libya and many Arabs considered it shameful that the Arab world could not handle the military intervention itself. Despite trillions of dollars in oil income and hundreds of millions of Arabs demanding something be done, the Arab League had to call on outsiders to save Libya from degenerating into an interminable bloodbath. That is what happened in Syria and many Arabs refused to accept responsibility and just blamed the West and Israel for the mess. Given that toxic atmosphere, Western nations, including NATO member Turkey, were reluctant to do what the Arabs wanted done but would not admit they cannot do it themselves. Iran and the Russians intervened in support of the Assads and the slaughter of pro-rebel civilians continued as did Assad efforts to force pro-rebel civilians out of Syria.
In 2020 the U.S. negotiated the Abraham Accords, which made it possible for Arab League members to establish diplomatic and other relations with Israel. The League sees Iran as a very dangerous foe and only the unity of all Arab states, including Israel, can deal with Iran. Arabs have long known that over half the Israeli population is ethnically Arab, the descendants of Middle Eastern Jews forced from Arab nations where they had lived for over a thousand years and most came to Israel. The Assads have accepted all this but must first formally renounce their alliance with Iran, or at least expel Iranian forces from Syria. In 2023 Iran made peace with Saudi Arabia and that provided Bashir Assad an opportunity to rejoin the Arab League without risking immediate assassination by the Iranians. So far it’s all talk. It remains to be seen whether Assad will perform the League’s required actions for rejoining, and what Iran will do to him if he does anything Iran disapproves of.
April 6, 2023: In the west, across the border in southern Lebanon an Iran-backed Palestinian faction fired 30 unguided rockets into Israel. The Iron Dome defense system intercepted 15 of the rockets that were headed for populated areas while the others landed in uninhabited territory. Iran sponsors Hamas in Gaza and gas smuggles in rockets and rocket components. Iran control Hezbollah in Lebanon has recruited local Palestinians to form an anti-Israel group and use Iranian-made rockets provided by Hezbollah to attack Israel. Hezbollah does not want to do this itself because Israel would retaliate against the many Hezbollah facilities in Lebanon. Israel retaliated for this rocket barrage with artillery fire against Iranian or pro-Iranian group targets near the border. For years Iran has threatened to unleash massive simultaneous rocket barrages from Gaza and Lebanon but was dissuaded by Israeli retaliation, which would include ground invasion and enormous damage on Hamas and Hezbollah facilities. Worse, the Lebanese government would become more hostile to the Hezbollah presence in Lebanon and the many anti-Hamas Palestinians in Gaza threaten to do the same.
April 4, 2023: In central Syria (Homs province) an Israeli airstrike hit the Al-Qusayr airport, which is near the Lebanon border and used by Hezbollah.
April 3, 2023: In the northwest (Idlib province) an American UAV missile attack killed Khalid Aydd Ahmad al-Jabouri, a senior planner of ISIL attacks in Europe. Attacks like this are more frequent in the last two years because ISIL has few friends or supporters among less fanatic Islamic terrorists (like HTS), the Turks, Kurdish militias or Syrian forces. That means lots of people available to provide details of individual ISIL leaders locations and movements. Iraqi intelligence also provided information about the ISIL leaders movements.
April 2, 2023: In the south (the Israeli border) Israel shot down an UAV that crossed into Israeli air space. The UAV apparently came from Syria.
Elsewhere in the south (Damascus) a car bomb went off outside the city near a military airport. There were no injuries. Earlier in the day there was an Israeli airstrike in the west Syrian city of Homs. Five Syrian soldiers were wounded. This was the third Israeli airstrike in the south in the last three days. Most of these attacks are against Iranian or Iran-backed personnel and facilities.
In the northeast (Hasaka province) ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) gunmen ambushed an SDF patrol, killing one of the Kurdish SDF men and wounding three others. So far this year, there have been 44 ISIL attacks in eastern Syria that left 32 people dead and many more wounded. Some of the attacks consisted of roadside bombs.
April 1, 2023: In the north (Aleppo and Idlib provinces) fighting between Syrian troops and Islamic terror group HTS continues. 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.
In central Syria (Homs province) an Israeli airstrike hit the T4 airbase., in retaliation for a recent Iranian UAV that tried to cross the border into Israel but was detected and destroyed. The targets at T4 were Iranian training areas and weapons warehouses. Five Syrian soldiers were killed and many more wounded. Air-to-surface missiles are used and some are intercepted by Syrian S-200 SAMs (Surface-to-Air missiles) that have less success against Israeli fighters that are equipped with countermeasures and pilots who know how to avoid the SAMs. The T4 airbase, near the ancient ruins of Palmyra, has been hit at least three times a year since 2018. T4 is the largest airbase in Syria and Iran has constantly built new structures for storing weapons and housing personnel, usually to replace buildings destroyed by the air strikes. T4 is where Iran moved its UAV operations in 2018 after its original UAV base in Syria was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike. Some of the Israeli attacks are against Hezbollah, a large Iran-backed Shia militia in southern Lebanon.
March 30, 2023: In the south (Damascus) Israeli airstrikes hit intelligence headquarters operated by Iran and Hezbollah
March 27, 2023: in the southwest (Rif Dimashq province) a bomb planted in the car of an army colonel went off near where he worked as a weapon development engineer. Israel was suspected.
March 23, 2023: In the northeast (Hasaka province) an Iran backed Iraqi group called the Al-Ghaliboun Brigade launched an attack on an American base, using an explosive carrying UAV. The attack killed an American contractor, wounded another and wounded five American soldiers. The Americans retaliated with air strikes on bases used by the IRGC and known anti-American groups in Syria. The Iraqi government has tried to shut down Iran-backed Iraqi militias but some still operate, especially along the Iraqi border.
March 20, 2023: It was twenty years ago today that the Saddam Hussein government, a longtime foe of Syria and Iran, was defeated and replaced by a democracy that could not initially deal with continuing resistance from the Sunni minority that Saddam belonged to. Iran expanded its influence in Iraq and supported attacks on Iraqi Sunni Arabs. The Sunnis were using Islamic terrorism to justify its continuing violence and in 2014 this led to the creation of ISIL in Syria by Iraqis, many who used to work for the Saddam government.
March 19, 2023: In the south (Damascus) a car bomb killed a senior member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. This group is based in Gaza but Syria has long provided sanctuary for such groups as long as they do no violence in Syria. The car-bomb was blamed on Israel, which has used similar tactics in the past.
March 8, 2023: It’s no coincidence that the least corrupt nations are the most successful. The most corrupt nations (currently Yemen, Venezuela, South Sudan, Syria and Somalia) are the poorest and often mired in civil war or chronic violence. The least corrupt nations (currently Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Norway and Singapore) are peaceful and prosperous.
This problem is most acute in Somalia, which explains why the latest annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index showed that Somalia is the most corrupt nation in the world. Somalia continued to be as corrupt as it has been during the last decade, with a corruption score of 12, which is why Somalia is stuck at the bottom of the list. Transparency International measures corruption on a 1 (most corrupt) to 100 (not corrupt) scale. The nations with the lowest scores are currently Syria (score of 13), South Sudan (13) and Somalia (12). The least corrupt nation is currently Denmark, with a CPI of 90, followed by Finland and New Zealand, each with 87.
While the Middle East has a lot of corruption, there are exceptions. In the Persian Gulf the UAE (United Arab Emirates) is the last corrupt nation in the region, followed by Israel. Both Somalia and UAE’s corruption score have not changed much since the 2011 Arab Spring revolution when it was 8 for Somalia and 68 for the UAE. The UAE achieved the most favorable corruption score in the region because it has long depended on foreign trade to survive and to make money in that business you must be known as an honest trading partner. The UAE is also different in that it is a federation of formerly independent “emirates” that realized the wisdom of joining forces. Laws and customs vary somewhat among the emirates and some are more gangster than others. Overall, the UAE is a place where foreigners feel comfortable doing business. The UAE has also partnered with Turkey to provide foreign aid to Somalia. This has proved very difficult to carry out and Somalia is not a place most foreigners want to do business in. Somalia is also a federation of seven (including separatist Somaliland and Puntland in the far north) clan-dominated regions that have never achieved the degree of unity and prosperity of the UAE.
March 7, 2023: In the north (Aleppo) an Israeli airstrike put the Aleppo airport out of service. This was apparently part of the effort to disrupt shipments of weapons to Syria and Lebanon.
March 6, 2023: Turkey summoned the U.S. ambassador to express its disagreement with a trip to northeast Syria U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley made March 4. Milley visited a U.S. military mission located in territory controlled by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF is a key ally of the U.S.-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State in Syria. Turkey contends the SDF is really part of the Syrian Kurd People's Protection Units (YPG). Turkey insists the YPG is a wing of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Turkey regards the PKK and YPG as terrorist organizations.
March 5, 2023: Syria benefits from Iran and Russia becoming closer allies. This includes Russian plans to provide Iran with S400 air defense systems and cooperating with Iran in Syria, where Israeli air strikes have prevented Iran from launching attacks into Israel. At the same time Israel is improving its relationship with Ukraine. This is influenced by its worsening relationship with Russia because of Russia’s closer relationship with Iran. Israel has been sending economic aid to Ukraine but not weapons. So far. Russia is obsessed with conquering Ukraine and failing to do so while suffering enormous losses. and losing. At the same time, Iran remains obsessed with destroying Israel, but failing to do so even after decades of effort. Iran has been supplying Russia with UAVs designed to operate as cruise missiles. A lot of other military equipment has been sent to Russia. In Return Russia is supplying Iran with two dozen modern jet fighters and whatever it has available but doesn’t need in Ukraine. Russia is also delivering to Iran any captured Western weapons in Ukraine. This includes anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.
March 3, 2023: The Israeli domestic intelligence service (Shin Bet, similar to the British MI5) revealed that it had arrested four members of a Hamas terrorist cell (group) that had received training in Syria and Turkey before returning to the West Bank, where they were arrested.
March 1, 2023: In the south (Quneitra and Daraa provinces), Israeli aircraft dropped thousands of leaflets warning Syrians to not cooperate with Hezbollah members who operate intelligence networks and seek to recruit Syrians to work with Hezbollah to network of pro-Iran operatives who would help Iran establish a military presence on the border and attack Israel. The leaflets pointed out that Israeli air and artillery strikes often hit Hezbollah operations near the border. For several years Israel has been increasingly active in attacking their hostile operatives near the border. Since the 1980s the Lebanese Hezbollah Shia militia has been supported financially and with weapons by Iran. That led to the Iranian 2011 order that sent Hezbollah forces into Syria to protect the Shia Assad government and later to take control of the Syrian side of the Israeli border and work with Iranian troops to launch attacks on Israel. Israeli efforts to prevent Iranian forces from operating close to the Israeli border or gaining support from the border population in the border provinces of Quneitra, Daraa and Suwayda have increased. Total population of these provinces in 2011 was 1.4 million but only about 20 percent of that was on or near the border. After the 2011 Civil War began much of the Sunni population fled. How much remains on the border is unclear but is apparently at least 100,000. Only Quentera and Daraa border Israel. Israel has occupied most of Quentera province since the 1967 War and the Israeli controlled area is mostly the Golan Heights. This is the high ground overlooking northern Israel and the Syrians made a major and ultimately failed effort in the 1973 War to retake Golan. Control of the Daraa border with Israel was sought by Iranian forces but Russian and Syrian troops blocked many of the Iranian efforts and are now pushing away Iranian-backed forces already there.
At the G20 meeting in New Delhi, India, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. The diplomats discussed diplomatic efforts to “normalize” relations between Turkey and Syria’s Assad dictatorship.
February 28, 2023: Relief agencies now estimate the February 6 earthquake killed 6,000 people in Syria. The total dead in Turkey has now risen to 46,000 (February 6 quake). There is serious damage to infrastructure in both countries. The February 20 quake injured around 150 people in Syria. The February 20 quake killed at least three people in Turkey and injured around 200. At least three people remain missing.
February 22, 2023: Syria backs Russia in its invasion of Ukraine. Other nations that support the Russian invasion have a lot in common with Russia as they tend to be aggressive and warlike dictatorships or those with ideological or economic reasons to back Russia. These supporters also include Belarus, Eritrea, India, Iran, Mali, Myanmar, Nicaragua, North Korea and China. All these supporters agree that the West is a problem for them and Russia. Even before the 2022 invasion, Russia insisted that its operations in Ukraine were part of an effort to defend Russia from growing NATO efforts to destroy Russia.