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Publish Date : Tuesday 13 June 2017 - 07:40
Qatar Crisis May Benefit Syria
Qatar Crisis May Benefit Syria
Islam Times - Retired Syrian Major General Muhammed Abbas said that the Arab states row with Qatar may ultimately play into the hands of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
He said that the crisis may play into the hands of the Syrian government as many armed Syrian rebel groups received aid from Qatar and now will face certain difficulties.

This opinion was echoed by Russian political analyst and Middle Eastern expert, Karine Gevorgyan who pointed out that Syrian rebels sponsored by Riyadh and Doha have suspended actions against Assad forces.

She said: "Taking into account the complexity of the current situation in the Middle East, provocations are possible and combat actions may resume. Anti-Damascus groups sponsored by Saudi Arabia and Qatar have suspended their actions against the Syrian Army. But I can’t rule out that it was due to the Saudi-Qatar diplomatic crisis." 

General Muhammed Abbas said that the reason of Qatar's "witch hunt" is the fact that Doha doesn't want to finance US activity in the Middle East. He suggested that the problem escalated during the recent US President Donald Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia and that that Riyadh was probably asked to topple the Qatari government and replacing it with someone more loyal to US policies.

Meanwhile, a retired high-ranking Israeli intelligence official, Yakov Kedmi said that the overthrow of Qatar’s royal family and, possibly, even the elimination of Qatar's statehood through its annexation to Saudi Arabia could be the endgame for Saudi Arabia in the recent diplomatic conflict.

He said: "Even though the United States declared its neutrality, it is hard to believe that the developments of the recent days were not approved by Washington. I am not 100 percent sure what the main goal is. However, I think that it may be aimed, at a minimum, at changing Qatar's policy or overthrowing the royal family. As an extreme option, it could be aimed at the elimination of Qatar as an independent state and its annexation to Saudi Arabia.”

Meanwhile, Syrian government forces have gone from having almost no presence in central Syria to taking some 5,000 square kilometers in just four months since the offensive to retake Palmyra was launched in early February.

The Syrian army is now only 30km from Suknah but the taking of Suknah is expected to be slow because the terrain is difficult and easy to defend as the road to Suknah is dominated by highlands to its north. However after Suknah it would be plain sailing all the way to Deir Ezzor.

Elsewhere, the rebel pocket of eastern Qualamun is now wholly encircled by loyalist forces, and as it is not included in one of the four de-escalation zones and may not be able to link up with the US-trained rebels in the south, they may have to consider folding.

No part of Syria has seen a more dramatic change in favor of the Syrian government than central Syria where Russians and the Russian-trained "5th Assault Corps" have been the most active

A Russian Senator and intelligence veteran, Igor Morozov said that the US has not given up on seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad through a “color revolution” and replace him with a pro-American government.

He said that the US is preparing a large-scale operation, and added: "The United States is making efforts to seize the strategic initiative in Syria by carrying out a 'color revolution' with the assistance of the armed forces; [they] are preparing an attack on Damascus to oust the current Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and install a submissive leadership in [Syria's] government."

His statement came after the US coalition shot down a pro-Syrian government drone near the town of al-Tanf in southern Syria in a third attack by the US coalition against the pro-Syrian government forces.

The Chief of the Russian General Staff's Main Operational Directorate, Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoy said: "While declaring its aim as the fight against international terrorism, the coalition carries out strikes against Syrian troops, lets Daesh militants out of encirclement areas, thus, strengthening terrorist units near Palmyra and Deir Ezzor.”

He highlighted that the SAA's advance in the south of Syria was countered by the US-led coalition's aircraft, which violates the sovereign right of Damascus to guard its borders. He also believes that the US continues to destabilize the situation in Syria to undermine the agreements on the resolution of the crisis reached in Geneva and Astana.

Maxim Suchkov, a Valdai Discussion Club member and editor of Al-Monitor's Russia-Mideast coverage also believes that Washington aims to crack down against Bashar al-Assad and Tehran. However, according to the journalist, it may deepen the rift between the US and Russia in Syria.

"The problem is that the strikes were conducted in the 'de-escalation zone,' which undermines the Russian initiative, which Washington supported during the last telephone conversation between [Russian President Vladimir Putin] and [US President Donald] Trump," he said.

He also noted that some observers believe that the attacks of the US-led coalition were an attempt to exert some pressure on Russia regarding the formation of "safe zones" in the south of Syria.

In a recent telephone conversation with his American counterpart, the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed the need for the correct approach to the situation and demanded that the US stop targeting the positions of the Syrian Army.

They stressed the importance of boosting cooperation between Moscow and Washington as regards the Syrian issue and establishing the communication channels between the two countries to settle the crisis in Syria, especially through Astana and Geneva negotiations.

The drone downed by US F-15 fighters in southeastern Syria was presented by American media as a “pro-regime” drone, whereas it was actually an Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Shahed-129 fired as a part of a complicated ruse to dupe the US commanders while pro-Iranian forces surreptitiously advanced across the desert to the Syrian-Iraqi border.

The US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis and the US military command in Syria and Iraq were confident that by securing this perimeter, their forces would keep the pro-Iranian advance at bay and the border safe.

Hence, they drew a line in the Syrian Desert 55 km outside the Al-Tanf border crossing where the Syrian-Jordanian-Iraqi border triangle under the control of US, Western and Jordanian special forces, together with a US-trained Syrian rebel group.

When the hostile drone flew past this line, it was shot down but the Americans were reluctant to let the incident escalate into a major clash while the Iranians were smarting under the Daesh attacks in Tehran.

The incident was played down and on the following day, the Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said that “hostilities between the coalition and the pro-regime forces had been avoided thanks to Russian influence. He went on to say: “The calm we see today is largely due to their efforts.”

On the orders of the Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani, the drone was launched as a deliberate provocation and a diversion from the real action. It crossed the 55-km line ‘protecting’ the US-controlled border garrison when it was shot down. 

At this stage, the Russians entered the picture in an attempt to cool the situation and restore calm. While they were busy assuring the Americans that the Syrian army, Hezballah and its other pro-Iranian allies would not cross the 55-km line, General Qassem moved a large-scale force across the open desert up to a point just a few hundred meters from the American line.

As the Russian de-escalation diplomacy with the Americans wound down, Soleimani’s forces were found to have quietly reached new positions on both sides of the border.

He moved those forces to a point 56km north of Al-Tanf to a rendezvous with pro-Iranian Shia militias (PMU) which had come from southern Iraq that breached the Iraqi-Syrian border and established Iran’s strategic goal of opening up a land bridge between Iraq and Syria.

A second pro-Iranian force captured and cut off the roads from northern Syria to the southeastern town of Deir Ezzor, thereby segregating US and pro-American forces in the north from the American garrison in the south.

It is unclear if the Russians played a role in Iran’s underhand maneuver or whether they were also hoodwinked by Soleimani. 

However, the bottom line is that Syria’s neighbors, Israel and Jordan, face a new and distinctly troubling downturn in the strategic situation on their borders. 
Story Code: 645559