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Lobelog often has rather incisive articles, yet this isn't one of
them. Of course its message that Assad's "victories" via "brute force"
are not a road to any kind of stable regime and that ISIS can maintain
a kind of low level insurgency in such a situation is entirely valid.

However, the claim that this massacre shows ISIS to be some kind of
threat to the regime is way off mark, and the claim that "by targeting
the Druze, who are concentrated in al-Suwayda governorate, IS might
succeed in creating a greater wedge between this religious minority
group and the regime, with the former losing confidence in the latter
to provide protection in territory that Assad’s forces took back from
rebel factions" - actually gets things back to front.

A better summary is in this article by Lina Khatib
https://www.chathamhouse.org/expert/comment/syrian-regime-using-isis-punish-civilians,
where she writes "the situation in Sweida says more about the Syrian
regime than about ISIS, and about how far the regime is willing to go
to pursue its goals at the expense of civilian lives."

An isolated ISIS-controlled pocket has been tucked into a corner in
southwest Daraa province for several years, wedged between rebel-held
Daraa on one side, and Israeli-occupied Daraa on the other. Both the
FSA/Southern Front rebels and Israel regularly attacked this ISIS
pocket, but the regime was content to leave it there as a wedge
against the Southern Front. Free Daraa stood between the ISIS pocket
and Druze-majority Suweida province. In all these years of
rebel-controlled Daraa, ISIS has never broken through towards Suweida.

And while the regime was attacking Daraa and seizing it from the FSA,
ISIS took the opportunity to also attack the FSA and seize territory,
under the regime's nose and with no reaction. It was only after the
full surrender of Free Daraa that the regime began attacking the ISIS
pocket.

A month or so earlier, the regime had evicted ISIS from the Yarmouk
Palestinian camp, south of Damascus. ISIS had invaded the camp in
2015, seizing it from the rebels (despite the camp being completely
sealed by a 3-year regime siege to date ...); following this the
regime left ISIS alone until it had subjugated the rebels in the rest
of Damascus region. During the regime attack on Yarmouk, it reached a
deal to transfer ISIS fighters out to the eastern desert border with
Jordan. *It was from this new eastern desert base* that ISIS was able
to launch this horrific attack against the Druze population in
Suweida.

But apart from this suspicious transfer, was it just incompetence that
prevented the victorious regime, which has reconquered the whole
southern region, from preventing an ISIS invasion of Suweida from
across the desert?

The local Suweida Druze would appear to be more suspicious than that,
or at least extremely angry. This anger "pushed residents to prevent
the governor of the province, Amer al Ashi, and representatives of the
government from attending the funeral"
(https://www.arabamericannews.com/2018/07/29/syrian-druze-bury-dead-as-anger-over-isis-attacks-grows/).

But why is the regime under suspicion of "using ISIS to punish
civilians" as Lina Khatib claims?

The Druze of Suweida have since the outset adopted a neutral position
in the war. They have refused to be conscripted into the regime army
to fight the rebels, and only agree to be part of the armed forced
defending their province. This has led to clashes with the regime over
the years. A powerful anti-regime movement, the Sheiks for Dignity,
arose and plays a prominent role. During the regime's attack on Daraa,
the Suweida Druze refused to take part, and when Assad troops who had
massively looted Daraa (and the Palestinian Yarmouk camp just
beforehand) tried to sell their loot in Suweida, they were forcefully
reject by the locals.

But with Assad's army hollowed out, there is a need to recruit more
troops. This became more acute due to the Russian-Israeli dealing over
the south; Israel gave the go-ahead for Assad's army to reconquer the
south up to the "border" of the Israeli-occupied Golan, while Russia
and Assad agreed that Iranian and Hezbollah troops would not be used
in the operation and would keep some 80 km away from the Golan fence.
As it was, many Iranian/Hezbollah troops still did take part, wearing
Assadist uniforms, but that was of little concern to Israel, as its
"conflict" with Iran is essentially of a symbolic nature in any case
(since they have never used their position in Syria to attack the
Israeli occupation in Golan, no-one is expecting them to begin); but
that absence of open Iranian symbolism also relied on their numbers
not being great.

But since the Iran-backed Shiite-jihadist international has been a
major component of Assad's hollowed out armed forces, the pressure to
conscript the recalcitrant Druze was greater.

Thus, while the lobelog article suggested that ISIS' aim was to try to
distance the Druze from the regime and make them distrust regime
"security" guarantees, the opposite theory is that, precisely because
the Druze are already distant from the regime, exposing them to ISIS
attack aims to force them to come more under regime "security" cover:

"Dr. Fayez al-Qantar from Suweida city claims the aim of such attacks
is to "forc(e) residents to join regime forces in order to intervene
and to be the step that will precede the elimination of the forces of
Al-Sheikh Al-Balaous (an anti-regime movement which has called on
young men in Suweida not to get involved in the Syrian crisis), and
then to put Suweida’s young men into the service of regime forces to
make them an alternative to Iranian withdrawal from Syria and partners
in shedding Syrian blood in Assad’s service.”
http://syrianobserver.com/EN/Features/34551/Assad_Forces_People_Suweida_Into_His_Ranks_Eliminate_Opposition/

It is hardly the first time that ISIS has been used as attack dogs for
the regime. In the north, late last year and early this year, ISIS
made a sudden appearance in northwest Hama and southern Idlib,
attacking the rebels in Idlib at the same moment the regime was
launching its huge offensive at the time. But this was not some great
coincidence; ISIS had been driven, root and branch, from Idlib and
Hama (and Latakia, most of Aleppo etc) in January 2014, by a
nationwide, coordinated rebel offensive. ISIS was only based in the
east of Syria, in Raqqa and Deir Ezzor, and the eastern reaches of
Hama and Homs provinces. To be able to reach northeast Hama/Idlib,
these ISIS troops had to traverse hundreds of miles of regime-held
territory. No prizes for guessing how they managed that.

Anyone who doubts the regime is cynical enough to use ISIS as its
attack dogs, even an attack as savage as this one was, has seriously
underestimated its level of sheer malevolence. A regime that has
eliminated hundreds of thousands if lives and destroyed every city in
its country just to maintain the power of a family oligarchy, is not
worried about a few hundred extra lives here and there.


On Tue, Aug 7, 2018 at 9:58 PM, Louis Proyect via Marxism
<marxism@lists.csbs.utah.edu> wrote:
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