NATO CANNOT STRIKE SYRIA:
By Ghassan Kadi
23 July 2015
Ever since the “War on Syria” started more than four years ago, there has been times during which concerns were raised about an imminent NATO strike on Syria.
From the early beginnings, a comprehensive analysis of the pros and cons of such an attack clearly indicated that it was not only not imminent but far from the realm of reality. Syria is neither Serbia, nor Iraq or Libya.
“Fortunately” perhaps Syria has got common borders with Israel and a huge arsenal of short, middle and long range missiles that can hit targets as far as Rome. Any attack on Syria in which Syria sees itself fighting an existential battle would mean that the Commander-in-Chief, President Assad, would be more prepared to shower Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the gulf states with precision, long range missiles that would rain on their heads like an endless barrage.
America knew well that any direct strike of its own on Syrian soil and Syrian sovereignty was going to be very costly for its pampered pet Israel. This is why the prospect of bombing Damascus was not on the agenda of the United States in 2011. After all, back then, the “Anti-Syrian Cocktail” had amassed trained and equipped a huge army to fight the legitimate army of Syria. With porous borders from Turkey and Jordan, porosity that was sanctioned by the governments of those states, tens of thousands of Jihadi fighters, with their hardware of different size and capability were poured into Syria.
Even though the “Anti-Syrian Cocktail” was not able to generate a State-sanctioned influx of fighters and weapons out of Lebanon, the pro-Hariri forces were quick to take control of the Syrian border areas all the way from Arsal to Tal Kalakh and beyond , facilitating a similar porosity under the watchful eye of the Lebanese government and the inability of Hezbollah to stop this politically and diplomatically.
All up, during the first few months of the “War on Syria”, the conspirators were hoping for and banking on a quick, easy win. For America to risk a Syrian retaliation on Israel by directly getting involved seemed too risky and unwarranted.
In the above gain versus risk assessment of NATO striking Syria and the analysis above, another big factor plays in which makes it even harder for America to take any chance that puts the security of Israel at risk; the Hezbollah factor. Hezbollah does not need to wait for an all-out war between Syria and Israel let alone a confrontation between Syria and NATO for it to unleash its rocket arsenal on Israel.
Furthermore, an all-out confrontation between Hezbollah and Israel does not have to involve Syria at all and history proves this. In risk-assessment therefore, Hezbollah is a loose cannon that no one can ignore or dismiss.
Protected only by its own army and the deterrence of its rocket power and that of Hezbollah, Syria was able to fend off a NATO attack for more than two years.
By the summer of 2013 Prince Bandar and his American allies realised that their plan was not working. They had to upscale the “War on Syria” in order to topple its President Bashar al Assad. They had to come up with a big story, they had to get international acceptance and justification so, they conjured up the chemical attack on East Ghouta. The risk of Syrian and Hezbollah retaliation on Israel and its regional allies was still imminent as it was back in 2011, but the enemies of Syria wre getting desperate and perhaps planning and hoping to be able to score a very quick, massive and disabling strike on Syria in a way that, if any retaliation takes place it would be short-lived and the Israel losses would be minimal.
President Putin drew his Red Line when NATO on the orders of Obama, launched two missiles from a base in Spain towards Damascus. One of their missiles was taken down by a Russian surface-to-air missile and the second one was hacked and made to divert its course and plunged into the Mediterranean. The two superpowers, on Russian directive, spoke behind the scenes and America realised that it had no option other than making a u-turn and changing its tactics with Syria. The chemical weapons deal was struck as a face-saving exercise for America and America opened up the dialogue over nuclear talks with Iran.
When Intibah and I bright this story to the English-speaking world, it was taken with great cynicism by many. Later on, it became widely accepted but in Russia and the Levant it has been common knowledge since day one.
In terms of strategic significance, the in-force entry of Russia into this Levantine military dialogue has signalled many changes. For starters, it meant the end of single world polarity, and as far as the progress of the attack on Syria is concerned, it meant a much lesser preparedness for NATO to attack Syria in comparison to 2011.
America tried to play the Ukraine card. Obama thought that Putin would be easy to distract and manipulate. He was wrong on both counts. Certainly, the Ukraine card was not only intended to test Russia’s resolve on Syria. America had a much bigger fish to fry in the Ukraine with the ultimate objective of destabilising Russia, isolating her and tightening the military noose around her by turning Ukraine into a NATO state and base for its forces. Strategically Ukraine is Russia’s main gate to the Black Sea and this is why Putin was quick to re-unite Crimea with Russia; and this is exactly how this action is described in Russia, one of re-unification rather than takeover or annexation. A close look at the northern side of the Black Sea clearly shows the strategic importance of Crimea and how re-uniting it with Russia turns Crimea into a virtual landlocked state despite its long coast line. In re-unifying Crimea, Putin neutralised Ukraine strategically and disempowered it without having to fire a single shot and without having to involve Russian troops in the eastern regions of Ukraine even though Russian Ukrainians are paying the price of the Nazi-like brutality of the Ukrainian regime and, this must be very painful for Putin to watch, but, apart from a major escalation there is no other alternative. The EU/NATO intervention in Ukraine has backfired because now the BRICS alliance has fast-tracked so many alliances and initiatives that pre-Ukraine crisis diplomacy would not have allowed or made possible.
Part of that resolve is Russia’s support to Syria. It has been bolstered not weakened.
So let us recap a little here. The alliance of Syria and Hezbollah alone was able to stave off a NATO attack on Damascus for two years from March 2011 to August 2013. With Russia coming onto the scene, the Russian bear stood right behind Syria and made it much more difficult if not impossible for NATO to strike Damascus without grave consequences.
A year ago or so when the USA formed a coalition to strike ISIS on Iraqi and Syrian soils, scaremongers of different denominations predicted yet another imminent NATO strike on Syria’s sovereignty. The fact that Syria’s government gave tacit support to those strikes did not mean much to the mob who wanted to hail yet another grave danger. When the argument predicting a no strike scenario was raised, it was not widely accepted and in fact opposed very vehemently and even rudely.
NATO however missed on its third opportunity to bomb Damascus, not because it does not want to, but because it cannot. But, it is getting much better for Syria.
Iran had always been an ally of both Syria and Hezbollah. To call it an ally of Hezbollah is perhaps an understatement. Despite all the economic sanctions against Iran and obvious problems Iran has had with liquidity, it did not waver from its commitments to both Syria and Hezbollah. With the lifting of sanctions, Iran is not only now in a better financial position but its strategic regional role has been upgraded. Some analysts such as Sharmine Narwani and Paul Craig Roberts predict that the USA will be scaling down its direct military presence in the Levant because it wants to focus more on Russia and China on the one hand, and, because perhaps it is beginning to consider a regional solution to ISIS. Here we have to remember that whilst America helped create ISIS, the monster has overgrown its role and America probably is coming to the realisation that only local boots on the ground will be able to deal with it militarily and ideologically. It will take a lot on the part of America to see this new direction coming to reality but, the manner in which America was enthusiastic about striking a nuclear deal with Iran for no real obvious reason is possibly indicative of the above analysis.
Whatever America’s intentions with the Iranian deal are, the deal definitively gives Iran more clout, financially and strategically. Iran will be capitalising on its new hard found position. With tens of billions, perhaps hundreds, of frozen assets being released the most likely scenario is that Iran is going to play a bigger role in both Syria/Lebanon and Yemen. Part of that role will be in upgrading the different forms of support it is currently providing Syria and Hezbollah. This will enhance their positions militarily, strategically and financially. Ultimately, this will make it even more impossible for NATO to strike Syria without grave consequences befalling upon Israel and the GCC countries.
In brief, whilst the deterrent fire-power of Syria and Hezbollah alone was able to thwart any dreams of a NATO led attack on Syria from 2011 to 2013, and whilst this fire-power is still as strong as it was, if not stronger, the Syria-Hezbollah alliance now has two allies who have been empowered by recent developments and failures in American diplomacy. When Russia gave the tacit support for implementing the no-fly zone in Libya, diplomacy back then included acts of politeness and trust to some degree. America has thrown diplomacy and all what comes with it out of the window. Syria and its allies no longer feel that they need to smile and show a pretty face. Their knives are sharpened and they are not shying away from brandishing their blades and using them where it hurts.
If NATO found it difficult to plan a strike on Syria in 2011 and 2013, this difficulty has changed into a venture that will have zero chances of success. It is now a strategic impossibility.