By Mike Whitney and cross-posted from Counterpunch.org
“Washington’s strategic objectives in Iraq and Syria are not those of “fighting terrorism,” but rather consolidating US hegemony over the oil-rich Middle East and preparing for war against the principal obstacles to this objective, Iran and Russia. For US imperialism, undisputed control over both the Persian Gulf and Central Asia would provide the means to cut off energy supplies to its global rival, China.”
— Bill Van Auken, World Socialist Web Site
On June 10, the Syrian Army blitzed across an arid stretch of countryside in southeastern Syria to reach the Iraqi border for the first time in three years. The move, which caught US war-planners off guard, prevents US-backed rebels from moving north from al Tanf to join the fight against ISIS in Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. More important, the move makes it impossible for Washington to achieve its broader strategic objective of consolidating its territorial gains into a contiguous landmass along the Euphrates River. Washington wants to control the eastern part of the country so it can continue its attacks on the regime while overseeing the construction of gas pipelines from Qatar to Turkey. The prospects of that plan succeeding are now greatly in doubt due to the surprise advance of the SAA.
Aside from the humiliation of being caught flat-footed by a Syrian Army that has been battered by 6 consecutive years of war, Washington has allowed loyalist troops to seize a swath of land that splits US proxies on the ground and establishes a critical land corridor connecting Damascus to Baghdad to Tehran, a Shia superhighway that allows for the transport of commercial goods, people and weapons from east to west. Washington wanted to avoid that linkage at all cost, but simply wasn’t prepared to respond. Now any attempt to reverse the situation will involve crossing SAA lines which increases the probability of a direct confrontation with Russia. This is why it is essential to pay attention to events on the ground as they take place. The US and Russia are basically cheek-to-jowl on a topsy-turvy battlefield where any miscalculation could have grave consequences.
This latest move by the Syria Army has only added to Washington’s frustration. Ever since Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the creation of four “de-escalation zones” on May 5, the so called Axis of Resistance (Russia, Syria, Iran and Hezbollah) has been marching eastward along three parallel tracks with the clear intention of liberating cities captured by ISIS and reestablishing Syria’s sovereign borders. It’s been a hard-fought slog, but the progress has been steady and ISIS has been pushed back or beaten wherever they’ve been met.
At the present pace, the fight against ISIS could be over in a matter of months, but that doesn’t mean the hostilities will end. No one really knows whether the Turks, the Kurds or the US-backed militias will agree to withdraw from the territories they’ve captured during the war, but the general consensus seems to be that they won’t. In fact, the US has actually accelerated its operations in order to grab as much land as possible before ISIS is defeated…