By Eric Draitser
Source: FaceBook
I strongly disagree with the article: [“Syrian Regime is going down in flames” appeared in New Eastern Outlook]…
I don’t think this article has a full grasp of the complexity of the situation, and I think it puts far too much faith in the cohesion of the terrorist alliances. I would raise a couple of key points:

1. The battle in Qalamoun is strategically very significant. Not only is it an attempt to corner a significant portion of the terrorists and cut off their long-time safe havens on the Lebanese side as “refugees,” but perhaps most importantly, it is cutting the terrorist elements in two in the mountains, in terrain that will make any significant breakout nearly impossible. Not only does this mean a strategic victory for Syria’s armed forces, it allows breathing room for Hezbollah elements to regroup, continue resupplying and reinforcing their contingents, and generally buys them time. Making inroads in this direction means a genuine push towards West Bekaa and the other regions populated largely with Sunni elements loyal to the terrorists. It is essentially taking the fight away from Syria’s softer defenses, and putting it right back in the lap of the terrorists. This is critical because it is about initiative…whoever has the initiative has the upper hand.

2. Much depends on the situation of recruitment and training in Turkey, Jordan, and Libya. This is essential. It is far beyond just the bases at Adana or elsewhere in Turkey. It is now also about Libya which has a very high per capita terrorists recruitment rate. Couple that with the horror of what Libya has become will undoubtedly drive many young, desperate men to join the ranks of terror organizations that can pay their families. If the terrorists are going to lose their haven in Bekaa, then that means they’ll be all the more dependent on the Turkey-Jordan connections. This is important.

3. I believe there is a misunderstanding of US policy in the author’s analysis. I think Obama is perfectly willing to let this conflict fester in a more or less status quo scenario until he leaves office so as not to exacerbate the conflict and leave office without it staining his legacy. And there is simply no way that the Saudis and Turks are able to do anything on their own…all they are able to do is provide the weapons and fighters, they don’t have the political capital to be able to sway public opinion in favor of aggressive action, that would require US leadership. I’m not sure that’s in the cards at the moment.

4. It is very irresponsible in my view to assume that whatever conflicts may or may not exist within the military/intelligence bureaucracy in Damascus necessarily amount to an irreparable split. I recall back in 2013 when the defense ministry building was bombed and multiple ministers were killed. I recall the propagandists at the Washington Post rejoicing as if this was the crowning victory and that it meant the government would flee Damascus. It only strengthened the resolve of Assad and his close confidants. I don’t see whatever conflicts there may be as being anything more than conflicts – certainly not death knells of the government.

5. There is a huuuuge underestimation of the importance of battle-hardened veterans vs green combat rookies. The idea that because the Saudi degenerates and Turkish filth are scrounging up some poor sods to come to Syria and fight and die, that somehow this is going to change the calculus on the ground. I don’t believe it. Most of them are fighting for money, they’re fighting for promises, they’re fighting out of stupidity. The Syrian heroes are fighting for their homes, their towns, their families. This should not be underestimated. After 4 years of combat, these soldiers are not going to lay down for a bunch of rats from Libya, Chechnya, Kosovo, Afghanistan, etc.

6. There is only one way in which the calculus on the ground in Syria truly changes, and that is the implementation of a No Fly Zone and “humanitarian corridors” and this will not happen without a massive change in the position of Russia and China which, to this point, seems unlikely. The Syrian military knew they were not simply going to be allowed to destroy the terrorists and win this war outright, they knew a counteroffensive was coming. And oif this is it, then it is weaker than I thought it might be.

7. There is another flawed interpretation in this analysis that, from what I can tell, totally skews how the author is understanding this battle in Qalamoun. This was NOT initiated by the terrorists, but by the SAA; they have the initiative, they have the numbers, they have the strategic position, and they have the luxury of time. The SAA is playing for status quo more or less in the North, concentrating forces in South-West, this tells us quite a lot about how important this region is for Damascus. A victory here would send the terrorists on their heels, as it would give Damascus a chance to destroy the entire command and control structure of these terror groups from the Lebanese border.

8. The article treats Iran as one monolithic entity politically, which it most certainly is not. There is the neoliberal capitalist faction led by Rouhani and the more anti-imperialist side led by Khamenei. From what I hear, Khamenei is not happy at all with the negotiations process and is unlikely to simply dump Syria for the illusory goal of detente with the West. From a principle standpoint he won’t do it, and even from a purely practical standpoint too.

Eric Draitser is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City, he is the founder of and OP-ed columnist for RT, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.