As Presidents Trump and Putin are set to meet Monday in Helsinki, efforts toward winding down the proxy war in Syria will no doubt be high on the agenda.
We explained previously that the diplomatic cards for ending the war seem to have fallen into place as just days before the historic summit Netanyahu said in a stunning turnaround for Israeli policy fresh off his own visit with Putin in Moscow that "Israel does not object to President Bashar al-Assad’s regaining control over all of Syria" so long as Iranian forces are pushed back from the Israeli border, according to the New York Times.
And now according to a new bombshell report, US military commanders have conveyed to Syrian President Assad via Russian mediation that "we will pull out of al-Tanf and the North if Iran withdraws from Syria."
Middle East based chief international war correspondent for Al Rai Media, Elijah Magnier, is currently on the ground in Syria and has interviewed multiple high level officials involved.
Below is his dispatch on the back-channel "military to military" exchange that recently took place between US, Russian, and Syrian forces, including Assad's response to the American offer of a potential deal.
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A top decision maker in Syria has said “the US has sent a message to the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad that expresses the US establishment’s wishes. Under these wishes there is an Israeli goal compatible with Donald Trump’s objective to pull out its own forces from Syria with as little damage as possible. Trump would like to avoid the same fate that hit the US forces during Georges Bush’s era where thousands of US soldiers were killed in action”.
According to the source involved in overseeing the entire military operation for the last years of war in Syria, “President Assad was very clear in his answer to the US establishment. Syria – said Assad – is determined to liberate the entire Syrian territory regardless of the consequences. There is of course a price to be paid to obtain the liberation of north Syria which is occupied by both the US and Turkey, neither of whom were invited by the Syrian government: this price is worth it”.
The American message is clear: ”The US will leave al-Tanf crossing and abandon north-east Syria in al-Hasaka and Deirezzour as soon as possible. The only condition is for Russia and Syria to guarantee a total withdrawal of all Iranian forces from the Levant. The US is ready to leave the Kurds and let these continue their negotiation with Damascus. The US establishment will recognize Assad’s authority over Syria but Iran must leave”.
Assad responded: “Iranian forces and their allies came to Syria under an official request by the central government and will leave when this government asks the allied forces to leave, and only when all terrorists have been eradicated from the Levant”.
“You – said Assad – came to Syria without any permission and occupied our territory. It is therefore our duty to push you out by all means. You shall not obtain by negotiation and peace what you failed to obtain after seven years of war”.
#Syria #Tanf #Military— Americans4YPG (@Amercans4YPG) July 13, 2018
Former US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford wrote at the Middle East Institute this week that in Washington, policymakers in the administration plan to retain the Tanf base until Iran withdraws its fighters from Syria.https://t.co/WPJx8LOX6V
Russia played the role of postman for the exchange of the US-Assad messages. President Assad, however, informed the Americans that Iran is not interested in remaining in Syria once all terrorist Takfiris are killed and when its function is no longer required.
The bottom line is that Assad and his allies believe that the US-French-UK withdrawal from Syria would actually be an achievement.
Moreover, both Iran and Hezbollah consider their withdrawal both a fact and a necessity, once Assad is no longer in need of their contribution. However, there is still al-Qaeda in the Levant, and other jihadists in the north under Turkish control. Also, there is still ISIS in the north-east within the US-controlled area. All these can only be eliminated once the Syrian Army and its allies wage war against them.
From this point of view, the US proposed “deal” is feasible and is considered reasonable by Assad and his allies — but only once the very last US soldier has left Syria.
Russia will act as guarantor for its own allies, and these will commit to leave Syria once all jihadists no longer pose a threat to the central government.
Damascus and Tehran look at this “deal” positively but this does not mean they trust a US establishment led by a President who can unilaterally revoke his own signed deals, just as he did for the Iran Nuclear deal he signed with his allies. Moscow, Tehran and Damascus are aware that Trump cannot realistically keep his forces in Syria for very long, particularly since the south of Syria is about to be liberated.
Israel, of course, is trembling — so this source believes — at the idea that Iran could create a copy of the Lebanese Hezbollah in Syria because the menace will be much greater along a united but very long border from Naqoura (Lebanon) right through to the occupied Golan Heights.
But in the midst of all this, Assad considers the real war to be over: he now has to deal with only two countries rather than with hundreds of non-united, disparate groups. The Syrian President believes that Syria, as a multi-ethnic, secular and multi-cultural country, has triumphed: it has definitively won the battle against “regime change” and the partition of the Levant.