The "build back better" government with Joe Biden at the helm waited 40 days after inauguration to violate international law in Syria. On the 25 February, Biden launched missiles at the border between Syria and Iraq close to Al Bukamal under the pretext of retaliation for prior attacks on a US military occupation base well inside Iraq that allegedly killed one US contractor and injured five others.
According to John Kirby, Pentagon spokesperson, “two F-15E Strike Eagles dropped seven, precision-guided munitions, which totally destroyed nine facilities and partially destroyed two others, functionally destroying them”. The flimsy pretext for unlawful aggression against a sovereign nation disintegrates, however, when one understands that the attack on the US base in Iraq is around 500km from the area targeted by Biden, inside Syria.
Peter Ford, former UK Ambassador to Syria (2003-2006) told me that the attack demonstrated Biden’s caving in to pressure from the Washington neoconservatives. Ford told me:
Any truly strong leader would have ignored the Irbil incident and prevented recurrence by giving Iran an incentive not to take more chances by getting back to the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) negotiating table without delay. He would also have pressed on with the draw-down of US forces in Iraq, which are not actually assets but vulnerable liabilities - as shown by the Irbil attacks.
Ford went on to explain that “Iranian hardliners will draw the conclusion that Biden cannot be trusted not to crumble before domestic pressure and it is therefore not worth abandoning Iran’s nuclear cards”. In other words, the attack on Syria has made it more difficult for Biden to renew the Obama deal he has claimed to support. An early failure by Biden to stick to his declared policies only plays into the hands of the Washington war hawks whose eye is on the removal of Iran and Iranian influence from the region which only serves Israeli interests in the long run.
According to Syrian journalist, Kevork Almassian, Biden deliberately bombed the border crossing at Al Bukamal because it is a primary trade route for Iraq and Syria, largely under the protection of the Syrian Arab Army and the Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Unit/Forces (PMU), renowned for defeating ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The message being sent to Damascus is that the US will double-down on multi-spectrum pressure to achieve the compromises that will satisfy their need for victory against President Assad, effectively the surrender of the Syrian government as already described by Peter Ford “Joe Biden’s new policy on Syria is a poisoned chalice”
It is worth noting also that the US gave Russia a five minute warning before the attack which was a provocation in itself. Russian military is present in the north-east of Syria and is in control of the air-space unofficially but was given no time to react by the US. Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, said “Our military was warned 4 or 5 minutes in advance. Of course, even if we talk about de-conflict, as is customary in relations between Russian and American servicemen, this does not give anything".
Lavrov responded with a forceful condemnation of the attacks and of the illegal presence of US Coalition forces on Syrian territory both in the oil-rich north-east and the military base at Al Tanf close to the border with Jordan. Al Tanf has a 55km exclusion zone surrounding it where the US regularly conduct military exercises with illegal armed groups (including ISIS), proxies that are deployed to target Syrian and Russian military positions and convoys. Lavrov called out the US for the occupation of Syrian territory, the plundering of Syrian oil and support for extremist militias, in “flagrant violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254”.
Pentagon claims of 17 victims of the aggression are denied by local sources. According to Seyed Mohammed Marandi, Iranian academic and regional analyst, only one PMU fighter, Seyed Rahi al-Sharifi, was killed in the attack, while fighting ISIS on the border with Syria, hundreds of kilometers from the US occupation base. The irony should be pointed out that the US claims to be in Syria to fight ISIS.
The Pentagon are claiming the PMU are an Iranian proxy and therefore a legitimate target for US aggression or “self-defence” as it will be described. However a media interview of the former leader of the PMU, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, that I attended in Iraq, November 2017 presents a very different image of this military group that has almost single-handedly defeated ISIS in Iraq.
The PMU works closely with the Iraqi government to both defeat ISIS and to rebuild the country’s infrastructure after decades of violence orchestrated by the US neocolonialist occupation. Muhandis, himself, was an engineer not a soldier by trade. The PMU is an inclusive organisation, comprising Yazidi, Sunni and Shia Turkmen, Arab Sunni, Christians and Kurds. More than one third of their forces are Sunni Muslim.In 2020, former President Trump assassinated Muhandis alongside Qassem Soleimani, the iconic leader of the Iranian Quds forces also instrumental in the defeat of ISIS in the region.
Rather than de-escalating violence in the region, successive American administrations have ensured that Iraqi youth will join the very “Iranian” militia that the US is trying to eradicate from the Middle East. The expansionism of anti-imperialist sympathy is a direct result of US tyranny, lawlessness and belligerent foreign policy in the resistance-bloc nations.
US Coalition expansionism in north-east Syria
While Trump made noises about the withdrawal of US forces from Syria, the military footprint has remained firmly in place. The US occupation forces have taken control of the oil-region in north-east Syria which provides substantial revenue for their proxies, including the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who have hugely benefited from the trade of Syrian resources since they were power multiplied by the US and supported by Israel to ethnically cleanse and take control of areas of the Syrian north-east, now ubiquitously recognised by NATO-aligned media as the “autonomous region”.
The Kurdish contras perceived that Trump had sold them out causing them to flip back towards negotiations with Damascus. In Biden, the Kurdish separatists see renewed hope of their partitioning plans coming to fruition which, in turn, brings us full circle back to the Obama administration’s “Plan B- partitioning of Syria” policy in revenge for their military and political failure to topple the Syrian government.
The US is reported to be establishing a new military base in Iraq. This, despite demands from the Iraqi Parliament and people for the removal of the US military from the country, demands that became more forceful after Trump’s criminal assassination of Soleimani and Muhandis on Iraqi soil. On the 22nd February, local media reported “swarms of helicopter gunships and drones flying over Al Anbar” as the US was establishing its second military base in western Iraq close to where Syrian, Iraqi and Jordanian borders meet.
A new US occupation base was also established in the triangle of Syrian territory between Iraq, Turkey and Syria - the Ain Dewar region close to Hasaka in the north-east oil-rich territory. Since Biden’s inauguration local media has reported the influx of at least eleven substantial US military convoys bringing armoured vehicles, artillery, weapons, military and logistical equipment into Syria. This is not an army on the point of withdrawal, this is an army diggin in for the long haul.
ISIS expansion and re-emergence under Biden
On 2 March 2021, local sources reported that 25 ISIS terrorists had entered Syria from Iraq on the 28th February, shortly after Biden’s attack on Al Bukamal. The ISIS fighters headed to Al Sahl town in the southern countryside of Hasakah “under the protection of the US military”. The fighters were then transferred by US armoured vehicles to the US Al Bulgar base to the east of Al Shaddadi city, Hasaka countryside. From there, two US helicopters flew the ISIS militia to the US base in Al Shaddadi and then to the countryside of Deir Ezzor.
This US Coalition percolation of ISIS terrorists into Iraq from the holding camps in north-east Syria and back into Syria is not new and has been going on for some time, discussed in this article dated November 2019. The aim appears to be to create a “super ISIS” that can be injected into strategic areas of Syrian territory, in this case the Badia desert between Deir Ezzor and Homs (another oil-rich region) to carry out “swarming”, isolated attacks on Syrian Arab Army positions and installations. The purpose, to maintain military instability and insecurity and to jeopardise the meagre oil supply that is allowed to trickle through to the Syrian people, ensuring they remain in a state of misery and deprivation on all levels.
The coincidental increase in ISIS attacks in the region and their re-emergence as a regional threat just prior to, and after Biden’s inauguration provides some indication of Washington’s neoconservative game-plan. Reignite the ISIS activity in order to justify increased US Coalition military presence.
Not to be outdone, the UK, a powerful partner of the US against Syria, is apparently funding the expansion of ISIS holding camps in Hasakah, doubling their size to hold an estimated 10,000 ISIS fighters of all nationalities, including British and European. A considerable threat to the security of north-east Syria and Iraq and under the control of the US Coalition and SDF contras who are also not averse to exploiting the ISIS camps for their own corrupt gains. Strategic prison break-outs cannot be ruled out akin to “Operation breaking the walls”. This camp will give the US Coalition serious leverage and a means to blackmail the Russians and Damascus and to maintain pressure on Iraq and Iran. Meanwhile, foreign and regional ISIS fighters can be re-grouped, trained and equipped, effectively in secret.
If the UK and US were serious in their “war on terror”, the sensible thing would be to hand the policing of the ISIS fighters over to the Syrian state and their allies. However, that would inevitably result in the return of their own national terrorists to the mothership. Clearly that is not a desirable option when one remembers that the Supreme Court upheld the UK Foreign Office revocation of UK citizenship for ISIS bride, Shamima Begum, a few days ago.
UK government pushing for “aid” to Al Qaeda in Idlib
The decisions taken by members of the US-led Coalition of interventionism in Syria since Joe Biden came to power must not be analysed in isolation. The UK is working with the US to ensure an increased ISIS presence in north-east Syria.
At the same time, UK Ambassador Barbara Woodward at the UN Security Council briefing on Syria, 25th February 2021, claimed that “aid running through Bab al-Hawa has never been more important.”. Idlib, north-west Syria is controlled by Al Qaeda and various affiliated rebranded extremist militias. Bab Al Hawa is well known locally as a trading hub for Al Qaeda. Effectively, Woodward is advocating the provision of “aid” to sustain revenue streams for a terrorist group that runs Idlib like a military mafia trading operation, imprisoning, starving and persecuting Syrian civilians that do not comply with their tyranny and bleeding them dry to fund their Caliphatist ambitions backed by NATO-member-state, Turkey.
CENTOM integrates Israel
Another development under Biden’s administration is the reported integration of Israel into CENTCOM, reported in the Israeli media towards the end of February. According to Israel Hayom:
“The move formalizes regular military exercises among the US, Israel and Arab states, which is "crucial for developing effective theater missile defenses, as well as boosting readiness and interoperability in cyber, counterterrorism, special operations, and maritime security."
Effectively this move by Washington is further evidence of the ramping up of “pre-emptive defensive” aggression ostensibly against Iran but with Syria as the main arena for this military hostility. It signals the official normalisation of relations between Israel and “pragmatic” Sunni Islam nations like the United Arab Emirates, recently described by journalist, Sharmine Narwani, as the “global hub for conflict gold” used to fund terrorists and thugs - “pragmatic” is a euphemism for mercenary Arab petro-dollar states who are largely responsible for the terrorists that are being used globally as proxies by the neocolonialist US alliance.
This anti-Iran alliance is being established in preparation to “defend” Israel against the threat of “Iranian or Iranian proxy” belligerence. This cartel of criminal states will also be deployed against Syria on the basis that Iranian proxies are operating on Syrian territory. The fact that those “proxies” are fighting the terrorist forces that the US Coalition has used to invade and decimate Syria is omitted from the narrative by Coalition-member-states and their aligned media.
Biden’s hypocrisy and war-hungry actions
Many on social media pointed out the hypocrisy of the Biden administration who had previously been sharply critical of Trump’s unlawful aggression against Syria. Some analysts highlighted the irony of the Pentagon’s claim that bombing Syria would miraculously “de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq” and others sowed doubt on the veracity of Biden’s intentions to return to negotiations with Iran over the nuclear deal.
Biden also came under fire at home over his reneging on the $ 15 minimum wage deal while “picking a fight in Syria”. US progressives were left feeling betrayed that Biden’s priorities were to obey his neoconservative handlers over fulfilling his domestic promises. Some tried to save face by pointing out that, at least Biden violated international law “quietly” without the Twitter bellicosity associated with Trump.
The end result - provocation and setting the scene for war
Russia’s reaction to the Biden attacks was one of frustration and impatience. The Russian message has been changing lately to one of general irritability at the US continued mission creep in Syria which is impinging further on joint Syrian and Russian military authority in the north-east. During a press conference in early February, after a meeting with the Jordanian Foreign Minister, Lavrov said:
“I understand those who think that Russia could be more aggressive in reacting to the openly high-handed, unseemly rhetoric from Western leaders. In our diplomatic and political culture, we are not used to resorting to thuggish rhetoric. We are polite people and are used to achieving our goals in a civil and civilised manner. As we say: “God is not in power but in truth.” We also have a good proverb that should be remembered: “Honey is sweet, but the bee stings.” Those who take our polite manners for a sign of weakness are making a big mistake.” (Emphasis added)
Peter Ford’s interpretation of recent events in Syria is that it reveals weakness not strength from the US/UK-led globalist coalition. That may well be true but a desperate cornered animal is always the most dangerous and the most unpredictable. We may well be seeing the death throes of US supremacy in the region but we still have a long and painful road to travel before the world can be transformed into a multi-polar one with more pragmatic, constructive-rather-than-destructive global powers at the helm. “Syria will no doubt continue to be the cockpit in which regional rivalries play out” Ford told us in his latest update on the situation in Syria.
On the day of Biden’s attacks, historian and journalist, Marcus Papadopoulos, said:
It did not take long at all for Biden to commit his first international crime as president, given that America militarily attacked Syria a few hours ago. Perhaps he can explain to the world why he did not order the American military to, instead, strike Al-Qaeda in Idlib.
Nothing the US Coalition does in Syria makes sense to a rational, justice-oriented mind regardless of whether it is a Democrat or Republican in power because as journalist Finian Cunningham says:
Ultimately, however, American power in the Middle East is unstable and unsustainable. It is predicated on provoking tensions and conflict. Biden of all people should know that. He spent nearly 50 years as a politician involved in promoting the deadly interests of US empire in the Middle East.
Under Biden we have arrived at the endgame and for Syria this will mean an increase in US aggression, land grab and terrorist-proxy attacks, a doubling down on economic pressure and legal attacks against President Assad with Syrian elections looming in April/May 2021. The US is a sore loser and Syria and her allies are bracing for a new war on multiple fronts while the rest of the world is distracted by the Covid-19 “pandemic”.