It was a hard and breathtaking moment for the people of Syria when US President Obama announced in August 2013 that the US was preparing a military strike against Syria. It seemed that the US was about to go to war against Syria on the false pretext of the Syrian government’s “alleged use of chemical weapons” against its own people. Obama even called it “the worst chemical weapons attack of the 21st century”.
The US plan however ran into a storm of opposition.
Russia and China had consistently opposed US attempts to obtain a UN Security Council Resolution to attack Syria, repeatedly exercising their power of veto in the Security Council to block US proposed Resolutions making threats and calling for sanctions against Syria. Both of these countries made absolutely clear that they adamantly opposed any repeat of the “Libyan scenario” – ie. the NATO war of aggression against Libya – in Syria.
Come August 2013 and these two countries – Russia and China – stood their ground. Both made it crystal clear that they strongly opposed Obama’s plan for a strike against Syria.
But back to Obama’s statement, what about the Syrians, did President Obama really care about them?
The truth is that by August 2013 the Syrian people had been suffering the ugly face of war for years. It is an ugly face hiding behind a US mask of fake concern for freedom in Syria and in a myriad of other third world countries. Throughout that war the US and its allies in Europe and the Arab Gulf states had backed those they call “Syrians rebels” but who are more properly called “NATO mercenaries” or even “Saudi Wahhabi butchers”.
In Syria Obama’s statement caused huge alarm. Some people – mindful of what had happened in Libya – decided to leave Syria to escape the bombing. Others decided to stay, trusting in the wisdom of their Government, the bravery of the Syrian Arab Army, and the support of Syria’s allies: Russia, China, Iran, and the Lebanese resistance.
That trust was rewarded! At the last moment, because of all the opposition, Obama’s planned attack had to be called off.
The Syrian street responded with huge marches, organised by the Syrian people, in which Syrians expressed their thanks to Russian President Putin for leading the opposition to the air strike by carrying placards and signboards filled with praise for him and for Russia. However, the US did not abandon its dream of invading Syria and it was in pursuit of that dream that shortly after the US-led so-called “anti-ISIS” coalition was formed.
ISIS or Daesh is of course simply the same armed gangs who have all along been behind the violence, destruction, suicide bombings, and assassinations in Syria. When it suited the West it called them “rebels”. Then, for propaganda purposes, they became “ISIS” or Daesh. It was just a different name for the same people.
This US-led “anti-ISIS” coalition operates on Syrian territory with no authorisation from the elected government of Syria. By doing so it grossly violates Syrian sovereignty. That is not just the view of the Syrian government. It is the view of Syrian people as well.
Besides who would trust a coalition made up of those same countries who have been organising the aggression against Syria ever since 2011? After all it is these countries who have been striving ever since 2011 to overthrow Syria’s secular elected government by relying on Wahhabi murderers and militants. In fact, from the moment the US and its allies began their pretended war against ISIS or Daesh, the balance of advantage on the battlefield began to move in Daesh’s favour. Thus during the period of the “anti-ISIS coalition’s” “war against Daesh”, Daesh actually expanded its territory, so that it extended all the way from Al- Ramadi in Iraq to Palmyra in Syria. Meanwhile elsewhere, on the northern front and in northwest Syria, Turkey opened its borders to its own trained mercenaries, who launched their own offensives there. The net result of all this fake “anti-ISIS” and “anti-terrorist” activity was a significant expansion of the territory controlled by Daesh and the terrorists and a significant loss of territory by the Syrian government.
As just one example of the West’s hypocrisy, on many occasions the US-led coalition dropped weapons for the “rebels” which ended up in the hands of the “terrorists” – including Daesh. This of course was said to be an “accident”. The reality – as everyone in Syria knows – is that there was no accident because the “terrorists” become the “rebels” whenever it suits the West to call them that. To get a true sense of the madness, consider that the US is giving arms and even money to “moderate” rebels in Syria. However these same people – called “moderates” when they are in Syria – suddenly become “ISIS terrorists” when they cross the border into Iraq.
The “anti-ISIS coalition’s” actions in fact showed that its true target was not ISIS or Daesh or the terrorists but the government and people of Syria. Thus its aircraft struck a thermal power plant in Aleppo – located in a residential neighbourhood – and bombed Syrian soldiers who were actually fighting Daesh, as happened for example in Deir Al-Zour. On another occasion the Syrian air defence force shot down a US drone flying over the Presidential palace in Latakia – where of course no ISIS or Daesh fighters were present. This drone was not of course “fighting ISIS”. It was spying on the Syrian government.
This was the situation that caused Russia to act decisively last summer to support Syria.
The Russia-Syrian relationship is not a new. Russia is traditionally an ally of Syria. In turn the Syrian people and its elected government trust Russia.
The Syrian government asked for Russia’s support and help as the balance on the battlefield tipped in favour of Daesh and the terrorists as a result of the actions of the US-led coalition. Russia acted on this request. In doing so it acted in accordance with the wishes of the people of Syria.
Here it is important to say that Syria has an elected government. Syria is not an autocratic monarchy like Saudi Arabia. The request the elected government of Syria made to Russia asking Russia for help was made by the government the Syrian people had elected. It was a request made on behalf of the Syrian people by their democratically elected government and was overwhelmingly supported by them.
That the Syrian people supported their government’s decision to ask Russia for help – and Russia’s decision to respond positively to this request – was again confirmed by the response of the Syrian people, who made known their gratitude to Russia in large demonstrations during which they carried placards and shouted slogans thanking Russia. The Russian action in fact was for the people of Syria a huge relief. For far too long Syria has had to fight alone against foreign backed fighters and a superpower military coalition, relying only on its own weapons and its small – though heroic – army.
Russia coordinated its actions with the Syrian and Iranian governments, providing air cover to support the ground operation of the brave Syrian Arab Army and its ally Hezbollah. The Russian pilots got accurate coordinates about terrorist sites from the Syrian army. After all who knows better the location of these sites than the brave Syrian soldiers who have been fighting the terrorists since 2011?
In October, 2015, Russia started its air operation alongside the Syrian Arab Army, and in just four months the balance shifted again, with Syria recovering territory and the terrorists – including Daesh – losing it. Contrast that with how the US-led “anti-ISIS” coalition was unable to stop the advance of Daesh in two years.
This shift of the situation on the battlefield upset the US and its allies. Despite their flowery talk of “war against terrorism” it was absolutely not what they wanted. So – having pursued war relentlessly for 5 years – they suddenly discovered an interest in a “political solution”. All of a sudden the call went up for negotiations in Geneva, with the Saudi delegation now demanding a ceasefire!
None of this of course has any truth or sincerity behind it. It was all merely a dodge to stop the Syrian army backed by the Russian air force from destroying the terrorists whilst buying time to resupply the terrorists with more weapons and more “rebels” smuggled into Syria from across the Turkish border.
During the period of the Russian operation most of the Turkish border – the main gateway for the terrorists into Syria and the main route the terrorists use for their supply lines – was in fact secured. Russia paid a price for this when one of its aircraft was treacherously shot down by the Turkish air force, with one of its pilots brutally murdered as he bailed out as a result of ground fire from Turkish-backed forces in the area (all this according to Russia’s state-run news agency RIA Novosti).
Russia also helped the Syrian army break the siege of Aleppo and liberate most of the countryside around the city. The Syrian army – backed by the Russians – also achieved great advances in Latakia, eventually liberating its countryside, thereby securing the whole province. There have also been important advances around Damascus, whilst the cities of Homs and Hama have been cleared of terrorists, and Palmyra has of course been liberated.
When people in Syria hear the sound of Russian jets, that for them is the sound of peace not war. It gives Syrians a feeling of safety. Even Syrian children say “Don’t worry, those are President Putin’s jets.” Even the mere presence of a Russian air base in Tartous province reassures Syrians. It tells them the Russians are there to defend them.
The airbase of course is equally important to Russia. It secures Russia’s presence in the region which might otherwise fall entirely under US control.
One would never of course know any of this from the Western media. There the story is one of Russia bombing Syrian civilians non-stop. This often comes touched up with fake pictures of old bombings dating from long before the Russians ever came to Syria. What makes these claims particularly insulting – both to the Russians but also even more to the Syrian people – is that many of these pictures of old bombings actually show the results of crimes committed by the very same terrorists (or “rebels”) the West is backing.
By contrast with all this false and noisy chatter about Russian bombing of Syrian civilians, actual air strikes by the US-led coalition against Syrians go either completely unreported or are simply lied about.
When Syrians meet Russians by chance, say in a pharmacy or on the street, as now happens very often, they welcome them as friends and as brothers in arms. By contrast no-one in Syria would ever want to meet an American soldier. There is no one in Syria who can forget their intervention in Iraq and Libya, their crimes against the Iraqi and Libyan people, and of course their bloody role in Syria. Unlike Russians, Americans are absolutely not welcome.
Over the last 5 years Syrians have paid a heavy price for their refusal to be a tool in the hands of the US and Israel. Despite all our suffering we remain committed to the Resistance Axis of which Syria is the key link. We support our President Bashar Al-Assad who leads us in that struggle.
The author is a Syrian journalist from Latakia who writes under the name Syrian Afra’a.