Battle of the South: Syria is Now the Country of all Resistance Parties
By: Ibrahim al-Amin
Published Monday, February 16, 2015
In the first step in the battle for the liberation of southern Syria from the militants collaborating with Israel and the Jordanian regime, an armored force of the Syrian army accompanied by an infantry unit, alongside senior Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers, have advanced. On the other side, Syrian and Arab militants are positioned. They report to a war room based in Jordan supervised by US, French, and Saudi details as Israeli occupation forces are providing the necessary intelligence.
Damascus — A while ago, the full order of the battle on Syrian territories became clear. The battle for the national identity there is no longer confined to the Syrian national identity limited to Syria’s borders, but is also a battle for the national identities of Palestine, Lebanon, and even Jordan. In the latter, there is a fierce confrontation between an isolationist faction championing narrow-minded nationalism linked to Israel and the West politically, militarily, and financially, and a pro-resistance faction, which proves day after day that real independence requires defeating the occupation and its Western sponsors and Arab and local clients.
The battle in the Syrian south will clarify the picture for those who still do not want to understand. It will help explain what is even more important, namely the organic linkage between the parties of the resistance axis against the full integration among the elements and parties of the opposing axis.
This makes Syrians, be they citizens, officials, or leaders, act comfortably and speak very transparently about the full involvement of all the parties of the resistance axis in the battle. Syria is today not just the country of all Arabs but the country of all resistance parties. In Syria today, there is clarity, frankness, and firmness in relation to its belonging to the resistance axis, where the criterion is not related to who carries the identity of which country, but to who bears the resistance cause in his mind and heart.
The Damascus defensive line
On the southern front, it has become clear for the resistance axis that the efforts made by the other side throughout a year and a few months, were aimed at achieving qualitative breakthroughs in Deraa and Quneitra. This would then allow the armed groups to operate across the southern Damascus Countryside, and carry out formidable attacks while inching closer to Damascus, a few dozen kilometers away from the region in question.
The militants succeeded, for various political and military reasons, in achieving major advances that continued until the end of last year. The militant groups were now close to fully connecting the countrysides of Daraa and Quneitra with the area just south of the capital.
The militants were able to seize a series of interlinked hills that form a formidable line of attack against Damascus. As a result, the resistance axis was compelled to prepare an action plan, in a matter of weeks, during which the appropriate intelligence was gathered to learn the reality of the field and make military and logistical preparations.
After that, the resistance axis developed its battle plan, led by senior officers in the Syrian army, the resistance in Lebanon, and the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Shelling preceded a rapid advance in order to retake control of the main positions that would cut off what the other side sought to link together.
This was achieved in the first round of the offensive last week. Now, the resistance axis can say that a line of defense for Damascus has been secured, bearing in mind that the offensive is set to continue over the coming few days. This will allow — according to available information — more progress to further fortify the defensive line and establish command and control positions along its length before advancing towards more strategic positions — including some that directly overlook Israeli-occupied areas and areas where Jordanian, US, French, British, and Saudi intelligence services are known to be active.
According to the results so far, the larger implications are not limited to the Syrian south alone, but also impact the morale and abilities of the armed groups in the southern Damascus Countryside and regions of Ghouta. There are indications the offensive in the south would increase the odds for success in liberating these regions from the militants, bearing in mind that the latter are trying to regroup in preparation for the new wave of operations expected to be launched by the army and its allies.
The confusion of the Jordanian king
On the other hand, the war room in Jordan is in an unusual state of alert. The same can be said about the enemy forces in the Golan.
In Amman, the regime is reiterating the claim that is is not involved in what is happening. It has been sending out messages washing its hands clean of what is happening in southern Syria
According to high-level officials in Damascus, the Syrian leadership has been acting with wisdom, taking into account the fact that the government in Jordan has come under immense pressure from the West and some Arab states, but they say the leadership can no longer remain silent and accept the naive responses from the king’s government especially in relation to what is happening on the ground. Damascus reportedly sent multiple times detailed and documented information about what is taking place on Jordanian territory, including training and arming of militants, but Jordan denied this assertion. Even when training camps were named, the royal court replied by claiming the camps were for the Jordanian army.
Of course, it is no longer possible for Syria or the parties of the resistance axis to remain silent vis-a-vis the Jordanian government’s actions, especially since what happened over the past few weeks in parallel with the military offensive, established that Jordan is involved beyond being a mere “corridor,” and that it rather is a full partner in the attack on Syria. “Foolish ambitions” emerged on the Jordanian side, represented in the dream to control Houran through full sponsorship of the armed groups there and direct intervention in that area.
Although the voices opposed to the policies of the king do not reach the level of an internal confrontation in Jordan, the course of events could turn over time into direct pressure on the government and people, because the decision of the resistance axis is not tactical. It is not based on the assumption that others are neutral, but on the contrary, the resistance axis, which does not seek a confrontation for the time being with any party outside the area of confrontations, is acting on the basis that the militant groups will receive additional sponsorship in this phase and the next one.
This sponsorship comes jointly from the war room in Jordan, the king’s regime, and the Israeli enemy. Subsequently, the resistance axis will not back down from its plan in that region, and will take into account how best to deal with the parties trying to put pressure on Damascus though the armed groups.
Israel concerned: What should be done?
On the part of the enemy, there is an additional level of concern, which is related to the strategic security of its entity. The occupation forces are sensing that a new strategic situation is emerging a few kilometers from the areas where they are deployed.
In effect, this did not start with the most recent military offensive, but started a while ago. The Israeli attack in Quneitra against Hezbollah operatives and an Iranian general put it to the test.
The resistance response in the Shebaa farms, and then the declaration by Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah that all existing rules of engagement are null and void, were followed by the present offensive in the south. All this is meant to tell the enemy that the resistance axis will not sit idly by vis-a-vis the attempt to create new facts on the ground in that area, and that the resistance will not accept any fait accompli even by the militant groups.
The resistance axis, which moved its forces into that region, is acting on the basis that there is a strong possibility the enemy would be involved in a new foolish act, imposing a particular sets of challenges on all sides. These challengers could reignite the front between Israel and opposing forces in the north.
What is new and what Israel knows and fears, is that the north is no longer a set of separate geographical and military zones, but a single contiguous front with close military, political, and security coordination.
In this context, the action taken by the resistance axis forces in the area could be seen as an operational indication the resistance understands the context of the existing battle which is expected to become more heated with the enemy there. This context does not resemble at all what existed along the border with Lebanon between 2000 and 2006, or the one that existed between 2006 and December 28, 2014.
Rather, it is a context where there is full operational readiness to confront any Israeli movement, be it direct or by proxy through its agents in the armed groups. The confrontation in question will not be bound by traditional constraints that Israel was familiar with throughout the past four decades along its northern borders.
The new major challenge for the occupation forces is how to deal with developments on the field in that area, and how this relates to the rules of engagement that emerged post-1973.
Previously, and throughout the past two years, Israel defended fiercely the buffer zone. With the withdrawal of the UNDOF peacekeeping force, Israel proceeded to impose its equations of deterrence vis-a-vis the movements of the Syrian army. Each time the airplanes of the Syrian army approached a 4-km zone, or artillery pieces were moved outside the parameters set forth by the armistice agreement, the enemy took direct military action. Israel downed a Syrian military plane and two reconnaissance planes operated by the Syrian army and the resistance over that area. Israeli forces also shelled Syrian artillery emplacements in the area.
The question now is: How will Israel act in the event the field confrontation requires the Syrian army and its allies to advance with heavy equipment and infantry to the area near the border with the occupied Golan, where the militants operate? Will the enemy attack these forces? Will the enemy consider the possibility of an immediate response from the resistance forces? Is the enemy ready for a confrontation that may seem contained at first, but that no one can predict how it would evolve?
Ibrahim al-Amin is the Editor-in-Chief of Al-Akhbar.
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar English's editorial policy. If you would like to submit a thoughtful response to one of our opinion pieces, send your contribution to our submissions editor.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.