Syrian former general slams Israel for “repeated attacks”

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Retired Syrian “military strategist” and Major General Muhammad Abbas slammed Israel’s “repeated attacks” in an interview with Iranian media on Wednesday. “The Zionist regime is carrying out repeated attacks on Syria under the pretext of targeting the Lebanese national resistance, Hezbollah, or Iranian advisors and experts based in Syria.”

The comments come after Syrian regime media has blamed Israel for airstrikes near Damascus, Palmyra, Homs and the border with Lebanon in recent weeks. “[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is constantly using the pretext to send messages to various parties,” he claimed. He argued that Israel’s strikes were related to domestic Israeli politics and attempts by Netanyahu to position himself as the “most capable person to lead the Zionist regime at this stage and to implement policies that guarantee the security of this regime in the future.” It was not clear from this whether this was his assessment or his assessment of Netanyahu’s view. He discussed the recent coalition agreement with Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz and suggested the airstrikes came in that context.
The Syrian military expert told Tasnim News in Iran that the current tensions with Israel are in fact part of a wider plot by “Turkish occupiers in the north and American occupiers.” This is a reference to the Turkish invasion and control of parts of northern Syria and the US role in eastern Syria and the Tanf base near the Jordanian border. “A joint operation room is leading the war against Syria. It is in this US Operations Room that [Israel, the US and Turkey] take advantage of the US presence to dominate Syria’s geostrategic positions, because Syria is the gateway to the Mediterranean Sea and the gateway to China, Iran and Russia.” The reference to an “operations room,” is due to the fact that the regime has claimed there is “Military Operations Command” that was established in Jordan in 2013 to support the Syrian rebels. The US ended support for the Syrian rebels in 2018.

His asserted that Syria is a “strategic pillar in the resistance to the Zionist regime because Syria can help the Lebanese resistance [Hezbollah] and the Palestinians resistance.” This is a talking point that Syria’s Assad regime has used for decades, especially to speak to western audiences when trying to pose as an “anti-imperialist” regime that is fighting against “Zionism and colonialism.” The Syrian general therefore made these comments in the tradition of Syrian regime propaganda. The “resistance” talking point is also part of Tehran’s regional outlook where it claims its “axis of resistance,” which includes Hezbollah, the Houthis and the Syrian regime, are “resisting” the US and Israel. In the general’s perspective the regime is fighting “Zionist-American aggression.” However he views it now through the lens of a “US-Turkey Joint Operations Room and the Zionist regime commanded by Washington, but it is managed by the Zionist enemy and its implementation with Turkey.” Damascus thus views the US, Turkey and Israel working in concert. He argues that Israeli strikes often coincide with Turkish “aggression.” Turkey and the Syrian regime clashed in February in Idlib province and both Turkey and Syrian regime soldiers were killed.

The Syrian regime’s view that Israel is part of a conspiracy to weaken Syria is not a new talking point. It has now added Turkey into this worldview, arguing that both Israel and Turkey are working to “disintegrate” Syria and turn it into a series of small statelets to re-shape the region based on Ankara’s vision and perspective. “Turkey’s vision is to establish a “Turanian Seljuk Ottoman state with the Muslim Brotherhood combined with the ideology of Talmudic loyalty under the auspices of the Greater Middle East or New Middle East which will lead to US dominance of the region.” Bizarrely, the general believes that Israel is now part of a project to resurrect a New Ottoman Empire from North Africa to Singapore. It appears that the Syrian regime view in this interview can’t figure out whether it is Washington, Jerusalem or Ankara who are trying to dominate the region. It blends conspiracy theories that link all three, asserting basically that the US is involved in a George Bush era attempt to reshape the Middle East, combined with Turkish nationalism, the Muslim Brotherhood, which Turkey supports, and “Zionist” aggression. For Syria, resisting all three of these powerful countries has become a narrative of heroism. It largely ignores the fact that neither the US, Turkey or Israel want to control Damascus and that the regime’s survival is predicated on Iranian and Russian support.

The former general told the Iranians that the Syrian regime has now resisted Israel’s attacks for ten years and also prevented its overthrow at the hands of the Syrian rebels. “Our united people and loyal friends in Iran, Russia and China.” It is interesting he adds China to the list of friends of Syria. “These countries stand on the side of the fight against terrorism,” he says.

Of particular interest, the Syrian former general asserts that today the “joint operations” that the US, Israel and Turkey are conducting is part of a wider regional war that stretches from Gaza to Beirut, Tehran, Baghdad and Sana’a in Yemen. “The simultaneous attacks by the US, Turkey and the Zionist regime on Syria are designed to pave the way for aggression against the Hashd al-Sha’abi in Iraq.” That is why airstrikes target areas where Iranian advisors may be in Syria, he noted. The Hashd or PMU is  group of paramilitaries in Iraq, many of them linked to Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Some of them, such as Kataib Hezbollah, have sent fighters to Syria. Numerous airstrikes have targeted this pro-Iranian corridor of bases that stretch from the Iraq-Syria border to Lebanon. By noting the importance of the Hashd, the Syrian has acknowledged its role. Qais Khazali, a leader of a PMU affiliate, went to Lebanon in 2017 and bragged about threatening Israel alongside Hezbollah. Airstrikes hit a Kataib Hezbollah office in Albukamal, Syria in June 2018.

According to the interview a large scale attack is being planned on Syria by the US and its allies. The plans are designed to destabilize the region and the Syrian regime will continue to “resist” this instability.

In contrast to the Syrian former general’s views, Israel argues that Iranian entrenchment in Syria has led to instability and has said Iranian forces should leave Syria. The US has also asserted that Iranian forces and their affiliates should leave Syria.

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