Israeli Professor Eyal Zisser thinks Bashar Assad has cause to celebrate. His report on Syria’s enhanced position, vis-à-vis the U.S., is here.
Both the Taliban, which has taken over Afghanistan, and the regrouped ISIS forces that have just made their presence known in Afghanistan, with the Taliban’s blessing, might encourage those in the Syrian opposition who are Islamic hardliners. For these arch-Sunnis, Assad’s Alawites are not real Muslims at all but, as Shi’a, regarded as “Rafidite dogs,” the worst kind of Infidels. That’s a worry for Assad, but what is more important for him is the humiliation of the Americans as a result of their chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. And Prof. Zisser says there will be more retreats in the Middle East to come – including the removal of the last American forces that remain in Syria.
…In the shadow of Lebanon’s deep economic crisis, and in light of the drastic oil and gas shortages disrupting everyday life in the country, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, together with his allies in Tehran, launched a brilliant public relations campaign. The Iranians, mediated by Hezbollah, will send oil to Lebanon. In doing so, they will demonstrate who truly cares for the Lebanese people in their hour of need, help Hezbollah, and also gain another foothold on Israel’s northern front. Nasrallah even bothered to issue threats, which seemed to fall on attentive and even slightly alarmed ears in Israel, whereby if Iranian oil tankers are attacked he will consider it a violation of Lebanese sovereignty and respond in kind….
It’s true: the offer of Hezbollah to supply Lebanon with desperately-needed oil from Iran, will win both the terror group, and Iran, gratitude from the Lebanese. Hezbollah, and Iran, in coming to the rescue of the Lebanese with supplies of oil, will make many Lebanese overlook Hezbollah’s responsibility for the blast at the Port of Beirut on Aug. 4,2020, and overlook, too, the role of Hezbollah in the past, dragging Lebanon into wars with Israel that the Lebanese did not want, and acting as enforcers – by violently suppressing peaceful demonstrators against the ruling regime – for a political elite that has rightly been charged with mismanagement and corruption that have brought Lebanon to its present economic condition. All these may be overlooked by Lebanese relieved and happy to receive, through Hezbollah’s good offices, life-saving shipments of oil from Iran.
The Americans wanted to offer Lebanon an alternative source of energy so that Beirut need not accept the offer by Nasrallah to deliver Iranian oil to the Lebanese. Washington arranged a deal whereby natural gas from Egypt would flow through Jordan, and end up in Lebanon.
The problem is that the road [the gas pipelines] from Egypt and Jordan goes through Syria, and to seal such a deal, the blessing of the Syrian president is required. This blessing was happily given – in exchange for American promises that Washington won’t continue to object to his rule and intends to pull its troops from the country as soon as possible. This path, incidentally, also means the Americans will essentially have abandoned their Kurdish allies in Syria’s north – who helped them fight ISIS – to the Damascus regime. The Americans are apparently determined to prove they have no friends, only interests – and when the latter trump the former, the friendship is over.
Bashar Assad has given his nihil obstat to the Egypt-Jordan-Lebanon gas line, but in return for permitting the pipeline to pass through his country into Lebanon, he has exacted, according to Prof. Zisser, an American promise not to continue to object to his rule, but to accept the fact that Assad has won the ten-year civil war. Further, Zisser says, when the Americans do pull out their last remaining troops from Syria – there are only 900 left — that will leave our Kurdish allies, who were such loyal and effective allies in the fight against ISIS, in northern Syria without any support; they are now threatened by Erdogan’s Turkish troops, and by Assad’s Alawite-led Arab army, both of whom want to suppress the Kurdish peshmerga.
Consequently, as stated, Assad’s birthday was indeed a happy one. Not only has he survived his country’s brutal, bloody civil war, in which he slaughtered hundreds of thousands of his own people, some with gas, but now even the Americans have recognized his victory and are ready to “get back to business” with him. In Washington and in Israel, officials hope post-war Assad is maybe a “new” Assad, more attentive and cautious, perhaps even willing to make unrealistic deals – for example, booting Iran from Syria in exchange for American support. Hopes such as these, however, are destined to crash and shatter on the shores of reality. In the meantime, until the gas and electricity start flowing from Jordan and Egypt, Damascus has declared Syria’s willingness to help Iran deliver the oil to Lebanon through its territory. After all, why dance at one wedding when you can dance at a few?
The belief that Assad would ever turn on Iran, which has been his most valuable militarily ally throughout the decade of civil war, is fanciful. Bashar Assad is not going to “boot Iran from Syria,” as some dreamy souls in Washington think might happen; he knows that, unlike the U.S., Iran sticks by its friends, and besides, it is doubtful that even if he wanted to, he would dare try to expel Iranian forces from Syria. And what kind of financial support for Syria would American taxpayers be willing to offer Syria, when since 2011 they have heard all the stories of Assad’s atrocities? And having spent – wasted — several trillion dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they would be deeply unhappy if more American money were now sent to another Muslim country, and its monstrous regime.