There Is No Escaping Syria’s Partition Under the New American Administration

Translated by Captain Ahab


Written by Elijah J. Magnier

The words exchanged by Russian and the US foreign ministers at the Security Council clearly indicate that each superpower country lives in a separate world with completely dissimilar objectives in Syria.

In the US Obama is astutely drawing up its strategy in Syria to divide the Levant following the path and policy of the George W. Bush administration and its mantra of “a new Middle East order”, but from a different angle. What spoils the implementation of the US policy is the arrival of Russia with all its military apparatus forcing only a delay on the inevitable partition plan of Syria.

From talking to the many contacts I enjoy among the various decision makers in Syria of all parties involved and allies of Damascus, it is clear that Russia accepts – although Damascus won’t declare it – the control over the “useful Syria” (unless unforeseen elements intervene) pushing Russia and Iran to inject innumerable ground forces ready to face any other country, especially the US, with the aim of stopping the ongoing partition process.  The alternative would have been to accept a fait accompli and control the reconquered territory, consolidate it, freezing the military situation for many years to come.

To the details and the field:

The US and Russia agreed on a seven days cease-fire during which humanitarian convoys would be allowed into besieged areas by both the belligerents. It was also agreed that the US vetted rebel groups would detached themselves from classified terrorist groups, i.e. al-Qaeda (Jabhat Fateh al-Sham), Jund al-Aqsa and “the Islamic state” (ISIS). Simultaneously, all parties around the Aleppo Castello road will pull out by 3500 meters, allowing humanitarian control under the supervision of the Russian forces. And finally, both Russia and the US agreed to form a joint operations room, exchanging intelligence on terrorist disavowed terrorist disagreed groups, carrying out coordinated attacks against these. In exchange, the Syrian Air Force will be grounded. 

But what happened and why did the agreement failed?

1. It is almost impossible to secure a seven consecutive day total cease-fire on all fronts without a breach. Al-Qaeda, excluded from the ceasefire deal, has no interest in seeing it working. Its forces, along with US vetted group of Ahrar al-Sham and Beit al-Maqdes attacked the Syrian forces south of Syria, at al Hader, supported by the Israeli Air Force. Twenty-one artillery positions were destroyed by the Israel Air Force hours before the attack along the Golan border.

2. More than 23 groups and organisations, including Jihadist groups, other so-called “moderate rebels” and US vetted and financed groups rejected the ceasefire and announced they would not separate from those designated as terrorists by their sponsors: the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. Therefore, military collaboration between the US and Russia is highly unlikely in Syria any time in the near future.

3. Washington and its allies attacked for the first time the Syrian Army forces stationed at the strategic mount of Athriya, (facing ISIS) for the first time. The position attacked is the first line of defense protecting the Deir-ezzour airport, an umbilical cord for the military and civilians besieged in the city for a long time. This bombing resulted in: the death of 83 officers and soldiers and dozens of wounded, but above all, the loss of the strategic position to ISIS whose forces attacked on the same day and managed to gain control. In fact, ISIS brought down a jet the day after, in a effort to support the Syrian Army ground forces in recovering this same position from ISIS. Now, the Syrian forces can only supply the force defending the city and the civilians only by helicopter and during the night.

Yes, its is true, the US recognised and officially apologised for the so-called “mistake”, said sorry and declared itself ready to “compensate the Syrian government for the losses”. This is an important step of recognition by Washington to the government of Damascus. But the question remains: why on earth did the US and coalition allies decided to offer air support, for the first time in five and a half years of war, to the besieged Syrian Army and the city of Deir-ezzour, and committing such a catastrophic strategic mistake? This question remains unanswered by the US and those members of coalition who supported the US bombing.

Nevertheless, decision-makers have a different view of the event. No-one believes the US “mistake” or story of the event. The loss of Jabal Tharda was not followed by a correction of the mistake. The US and coalition jets did not return the next day to bomb ISIS. The real message behind the attack – as explained by my sources – is the advance of the Iraqi forces toward Jazirat al-Anbar, Baghdadi and Jazirat Hit, coming closer to their next target in ‘Ana, Rawa, in order to reach al-Qaim on the Iraqi-Syrian borders. If the Iraqi forces reached the border, ISIS would be caught between the two fires of Iraq and the Syrian forces, allowing a possible breach from al-Qaem and Albu Kamal toward Deir-ezzour. That would close any ISIS supply line from Iraq toward Raqqah, via Deir-ezzour and al-Badiyah.

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Damascus forces and its allies have no intention of heading toward Raqqah, the ISIS stronghold. Those in power and on high ranking officers on the ground have the same response: “whoever wants to go to Raqqah and attack ISIS is most welcome. It is not our intention to take back Raqqah anytime soon”.

Russian, Syria and its allies strongly believe that the US is not in alliance with ISIS. Nevertheless, the Americans behave with ISIS like a shepherds with their sheep, rolling a stone towards a group off animals so as to push these towards the left or the right and force the entire group to head in the desired direction. Take the example of the first ceasefire established between Russia and the US: when the Syrian Army headed, after Palmyra, toward al-Tabaqa, three divisions of the Army were invested in the attack, closing up on ISIS and at Tabaqa airport, all this during an agreed ceasefire. Suddenly, a new front was initiated by rebels and jihadists around Aleppo and in rural Homs, breaking this ceasefire and forcing the Army to suspend its attack. It pull out its forces and headed towards more vital fronts.

Decision makers believe, rightly or wrongly, that ISIS should overpower the Syrian Army and its allies in Deir-ezzour, and take control of the city to prevent the Iraqis from supporting the Syrian regular forces and their allies. Moreover, if ISIS took control of Deir-ezzour, the US and allies would attack ISIS, with the consent of the world, and would recover Deir-ezzour and Raqqah afterwards, all this under the heading of “combatting Terrorism”. That would permit the partition of northern of Syria.

4. Russia realised that the US was trying to gain time during the second ceasefire, so as to take the glory of being the provider of “humanitarian aids” gaining political kudos for supporting the besieged civilians of Syria. Whereas Russia is looking, in the western eyes, as if it is incapable of managing the balance between the military and the political-humanitarian aspects of an ongoing war.Russia is today aware that the US wants to score points without giving anything in exchange, either on the political arena or on the ground, and is exerting no influence over its allies to split from those the US consider terrorists.

Thus, in the final stage of what was indeed perceived as a comedy and not a ceasefire, the humanitarian convoy was hit in rebel-controlled area close to Aleppo. The US managed to salve public opinion by saying sorry for the killing of 83 soldiers and officers and wounding 100 more and for offering on a golden plate a strategic position to ISIS! Russia showed exasperation and refused to play the game. Secretary John Kerry looked victorious during his speech at the UN council and everybody forgot about the allegedly mistaken, the gift to ISIS, the sudden presence of the US and coalition forces close to Deir-ezzour airport, the non-withdrawal of jihadist and rebels from the Castello Road as had been agreed. The communiqué of the 23 groups committed to distance themselves from Al-Qaeda and the jihadists and the attention was directed towards the “atrocity and inhuman bombing of a humanitarian convoy”.

Damascus allies ask the following question: “What makes Russia give the US concessions without anything in return, gaining time for rebels and jihadists to regroup? and bearing in mind that Al-Qaeda is a sporadic enemy of the US, outside of Syria.

5. According to high-ranking sources, the objective today is to control “useful Syria”. This is Latakia, Tartus, Homs, Hama, Aleppo and Damascus. Decision makers would accept the loss of oil and important agriculture in the north to the US and to the Kurds. There is oil at the coast and in the water opposite Latakia. Turkey is looking after its interests in the north, but most unlikely will face insurgency on the longer term. As long as Turkey respects the deal and does not approach the Syrian Army front, the situation will remain under control. Otherwise, Russia will be forced to respond to any Turkish push outside Syrian Army territory.

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According to sources, Russia will not prevent the Syrian Air Force from striking its enemies and won’t be grounded (as Secretary Kerry has suggested would happen) as long as the Syrian opposition and the jihadists are in a row and a common position. It seems that Russia will not accept anymore a free of charge ceasefire and will resume the military operation around Aleppo. The Russian Kuznetsov aircraft carrier will be soon opposite the Syrian coasts. The Kremlin ordered one of its best and most advanced aircraft to spy over Syria and is ready to use its strategic Kalibr missiles in the coming round of violence expected to resume soon. Russia will use Kalibr to surprise the US and avoid informing it (which they should do according to the regulated airspace agreement) of its objective and targets. To conclude, the level of mistrust between the two superpowers has reached its highest level so far.

US Secretary of State Kerry says at the UN Security Council “Al Qaeda is our enemy”. Russia is asking: “What did you do against your enemy except supply it indirectly with weapons, allowing men and finances to reach it, and accepting that your vetted groups to join it in the same trenches?”. Damascus believes that any new US administration, whoever the next president will be, will avoid starting a direct war against Russia in Syria. The war will remain a war between proxies on both sides. Hillary Clinton, if she becomes president, understands that the Kremlin is determined to protect its interests in the Levant; and that the war in Syria concerns Russia directly because it demonstrates success or failure in the Middle East. The US will do its best to see Russia and Iran drown in Syria and will not accept that the US administration has failed to reach its goal. The only possibility is to divide Syria (like Berlin in the second World War) because nobody is allowed to win. The partition would create a western part for the US proxies, and an eastern part where Damascus and its allies will have to continue dealing with the jihadists and the insurgency and where a lack of instability will prevail.

Russia – who believes this is what the US is planning – is fully aware of the complexity of this war. But is it by the same token acknowledging and accepting the US’s statecraft and policy towards the jihadists in Syria? Only time will tell.


The following is a translation of an older article by Elijah J. Magnier, written on the 23rd May 2016. It explains how the demarcation lines are already being formed in Syria, ready for the eventual partition.

Translated by Captain Ahab

Written by Elijah J. Magnier

• The military solution is over, what remains are scattered internal fighting.

•   The battle against ISIS continues until Deir Ezzor; Russia will participate in it.

A source within the high command in Syria said to Al-Rai that Secretary of State John Kerry informed his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in no uncertain terms that “the US wants to end the war in Syria, that is to freeze the situation on all fronts until a political solution can be agreed upon by all actors who are involved in the Syria”.

The source goes on to say “the US advised the Russians to not drown in the Syrian quagmire as the US had in Iraq, because Washington will ensure the opposition can withstand any assault, and that the countries supporting the opposition are prepared to send in arms, money, and men – as Russia and Iran have been doing (Hezbollah,Iraqi Hashd forces) – if they feel the opposition are losing the war. And so the US thinks that upholding the ceasefire indefinitely will force everyone to focus their efforts on ISIS and to keep the organization within a surrounded geographic position which will them toothless”.

The source adds, “Drawing demarcation lines in Syria similar to the Lebanese civil war that endured for many years is the aim. Sporadically there would be fighting along those lines, and so it is natural for a battle to be fought here and there, and for the military situation to deteriorate from time to time, and for one side to try to gain something from the other, but the beginning of the end is here for the Syrian war, the political solution will have no victors, but a solution that will neither satisfy or provoke either side. Noting that the American pressure – with the current administration – is enough to hold regional backers of the opposition from escalating the war, the same goes for Russia’s influence over its allies which means that the Russia/American understanding will be adhered to for many months maybe even years if the American administration continues on the route drawn by Obama”.

It is natural that this agreement will cause squabbling between allies. For example in Ghouta, over 500 fighters lie dead because of the fighting between Jaish Al-Islam and Faylaq Al-Rahman that is supported by Al-Nusra and Ajnad Al-Sham and the Fustat army (without the participation of Ahrar Al-Sham). Ghouta is divided in two an eastern and western part where brothers in arms compete against each other, similar to what use to happen in Lebanon between Amal and the Palestinians, or between the former and the progressive socialist party, or between the Palestinians and “Al-Murabetoon” etc. Thus freezing the fight against Damascus is cause enough to have these factions kill each other “because political parties are armed a turf war ensue between the war lords themselves”.

As an illustration, Shahabuddin (Leader of Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki who are supported by Ankara) declared war on the Syrian Kurdish fighters “If they don’t withdraw from the recently occupied positions” following the YPG’s successful offensive on several areas in the North of Syria subsequently cutting the main supply route(Castello road) and others forcing a new reality in the region.

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The current situation is what pushed Hezbollah to redeploy and withdraw a significant number of their forces from the demarcation lines that are being drawn as we speak, the decision was made from the high command in Lebanon given that the offensive has been put on ice, for now at least, nothing remains for them but to secure the life line that ensure their continuity in Lebanon.

Hezbollah’s leadership refuse to intrude in Syrian policy, and will not influence in any way the American/Russian agreement they will simply sit this one out. And so the decision was made to withdraw from the demarcated areas. And because of Damascus’s acceptance of the political agreement Hezbollah will play a role in protecting Damascus, and the major cities along with the Syrian-Lebanese border, they will not insert themselves among state actors, having stabilized the regime and the regime replacing their offensive with a defensive strategy.

Two dilemmas persist: ISIS and Al-Nusra. As for Al-Nusra, all actors in Syria believe that the ceasefire is enough to turn the tables on them, if they don’t disassociate themselves  from Al-Qaeda and melt into the rest of the opposition groups. However if Al-Nusra doesn’t change its position vis-a-vis Al-Qaeda then the civilian population will be turned against them by the opposition themselves.

Now we must turn to the elephant in the room ISIS it is only natural that they will be the perfect target for all. And it is also likely that Obama whatever short time he has left in the presidency will not be able to eradicate them. Though he can weaken them by uniting all the other forces against them, given that they have become the weakest link in Iraq and Syria and the wider region. In Syria the Syrian/Russian command decided to advance their troops towards the Al-Shaer oil fields and to break the deadlock in Deir Ezzor, but without attacking Raqqa, the liberation of Raqqa will be a collective effort.

And so a new phase in the Syrian war has begun, we are heading towards the de-escalation of the fighting and destruction, without it having to stop completely. Regional forces are leaving the scene for the lords of war, though the Syrian people are yet to decide their fate.

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