Defying “The Vulture Consensus” on Syria

*Tim Anderson graphic

Interesting FB discussion, prompted by Eric Draitser ( ) sharing an article [Syrian Regime is Going Down in Flames] and asking, particularly from Syrians, for feedback. He gave his own critque of the artilce afterwards.

Max Syrian (a Syrian analyst living IN Damascus, also an NDF soldier):

1- Mr. Lvov starts his whole article on the arguable idea that what’s going on in Syria is a “civil war”, when only an ignorant person wouldn’t know that what’s happening (military-wise) is a war between Syrian Army (and allies, local and not) one one side, and multinational death squads coming from more than 80 countries around the world, getting direct support from Turkey, KSA and Qatar, and indirect support from NATO (U.S.A mainly).

2- Mr. Lvov claims that the Syrian regime in Damascus seems to be “crumbling”, and offers no actual evidence to support that theory, while at the same time he clearly states that the Syrian Army is scoring one victory after another.

3- Mr. Lvov’s “signs of the actual collapse of the Syrian state” are no where to be found in the article, but who cares? a Ph.D says so, you listen and believe!

4- Mr. Lvov speaks of Syria’s dependence on its allies from abroad, which is “on the ground” not true. As a Syrian citizen, living in Syria, and being in the National Defense Forces myself, I see the opposite: more people inside Syria are showing more support to the Army after what they’ve seen from the other sides (FSA, Al-Nusra, ISIS.. etc), while the support from Iran, Iraq and Hizbullah remains strong. The only explanation I can think of for Mr. Lvov’s idea is that he had no idea how strong said support was from the beginning, or that he can see soldiers in Syria that we Syrians can’t see.

5- Mr. Lvov’s claim that the Central government in Syria is having more difficulties containing numerous offensives on several fronts is supported as he says by the fall of Idlib and Jisr al-Shughour in the north and successes the “rebels” scored in the south, while actually, these two “examples” have proven to be wrong for such a conclusion, as Jisr al-Shughour had fallen before, and the Syrian Army gained control on it again. Same happened to different areas in the south.

6- While Mr. Lvov speaks of the fall of Idlib and Jisr al-Shughour, he fails to mention the victory of Syrian Army (and allies) in Qalamoun, which closes any support terrorists can get through illegal passages between Syria and Lebanon, which in turn strengthens the military situation in middle-Syria, giving the central government more strength.

7- Like many other uninformed (at best) writers, Mr. Lvov’s speaks of “depleting human resources”, assuming that Alawites are the Army, which is an absolute mistake assuming good intentions and a very vicious propaganda line at worst. The Syrian Army has no sect actually: there are Alawite, Sunni, Druze, Christian and other sects in the Army, and this statement does not speak of “numerous cases”, the Syrian Army is a minor reflection of Syrian society, and for each name of a “Soldier on the ground” from the Alawite sect that Mr. Lvov can come up with, I can come up with 3 names of soldiers from other sects. Such theories have been proven wrong on the ground long ago, and it really doesn’t make sense for an informed person to use them.

8- You’d expect an Elite writer like Dr. Lvov to avoid the childish rumors reflecting the death of Syrian Officer Rustom Ghazali, and his quarrel with Officer Shihadeh–making it look like the Syrian Elite are quarreling over Iranian/Russian advisers, which in turn weakens the government. Regardless of what he says/thinks, all Syrian officers can have any opinion regarding anything, but they all (with no exception) agree that we need our allies, under our terms (set by the general commander of the Army, President Bashar Assad and his military advisers).

9- Mr. Lvov’s claim of Iran trying to create a local analogue of the revolutionary guards using the Syrian paramilitary, and Syrian elites standing against it, then now fighting over it, reflects a complete ignorance of what’s going on. Being in NDF for two years, I haven’t had the slightest hint that suggests any similar move by Iran. Unless Mr. Lvov has served/is serving in a similar paramilitary force and has seen otherwise, this claim has no grounds in reality, and all it does is repeating Main Stream Media propaganda.

10- Mr. Lvov Jumps then into sci-fi-like assumptions based on “Israeli intelligence reports”, like how President Assad will abandon Damascus, and move his forces to Lattakia… and then goes on further to assume Iranian reactions to such imaginary situation based on ignoring 35+ years of Western political and financial war against Iran. When a researcher looks at Iran’s policies, he/she will find consistency on not bargaining principles for any reason, especially when it comes to compromising to the west.

11- Mr. Lvov speaks of unifying extremist criminals in entities like “Jaish al-Fatah” and considers it a successful move against the government, ignoring every social and civil aspect of that move, like partial groups forming it are already fighting with each other, let alone the failure of the experience in Qalamooun Heights between Syria and Lebanon. Mr Lvov also seems to fail to mention that the main reason for the advance “Jaish al-Fatah” has accomplished in the north wasn’t their “ability to coordinate different groups during the battles for Idlib and Hama”, as much as it was the unprecedented support they had from Turkey. For example: using over 800 Tow anti-tank missiles, to the extent that they used such missiles on lairs of a single machine gun that’s worth less than 10% of the value of the missile; another example would be the Turkish disruption of Syrian Army communication prior to the battle of Idleb and Jisr Al-Shoughour, and the examples are countless.

12- Coming to the incredible statement: “These activities are carried out behind Washington’s back”… such a statement should get the Nobel Award for defending U.S.A in the media, proven by Washington’s concern with creating a “moderate Army”. The article hits you with that idea as if you’re an 8 year old. Assuming such “moderate” Syrian fighters do exist, and they do oppose the government (mass-surrenders all over the country suggests otherwise), how long does it take to “build an army”? Does anybody really think that the U.S is so busy in a 5-years plan, going oblivious to KSA, Turkey and Qatar’s actions? Washington doesn’t seem to know about their actions while Dr. Lvov himself and half the population of earth know?

13- Dr. Lvov comes with his last assumption about U.S. cooperation with Tehran and Syria to contain ISIS, while both official statements and on-the-ground actions say otherwise (the Syrian Army alone caused more damage to ISIS than the whole U.S-led coalition since the day it started operating in both Syria and Iraq). Such cooperation doesn’t go beyond coordinating in the air to prevent any direct military confrontation between Syrian Army and coalition forces.

14- Dr. Lvov ends his piece of art with demanding Russian/Iranian support to President Assad (meaning Syria if we consider this an innocent mistake)…which has been happening for 4 years now. Stating the obvious doesn’t really go well with Ph.D in Political science.

I don’t think the article has a full grasp of the complexity of the situation, and I think it puts far too much faith in the cohesion of the terrorist alliances. I would raise a couple of key points:

1. The battle in Qalamoun is strategically very significant. Not only is it an attempt to corner a significant portion of the terrorists and cut off their long-time safe havens on the Lebanese side as “refugees,” but perhaps most importantly, it is cutting the terrorist elements in two in the mountains, in terrain that will make any significant breakout nearly impossible. Not only does this mean a strategic victory for Syria’s armed forces, it allows breathing room for Hezbollah elements to regroup, continue resupplying and reinforcing their contingents, and generally buys them time. Making inroads in this direction means a genuine push towards West Bekaa and the other regions populated largely with Sunni elements loyal to the terrorists. It is essentially taking the fight away from Syria’s softer defenses, and putting it right back in the lap of the terrorists. This is critical because it is about initiative…whoever has the initiative has the upper hand.

2. Much depends on the situation of recruitment and training in Turkey, Jordan, and Libya. This is essential. It is far beyond just the bases at Adana or elsewhere in Turkey. It is now also about Libya which has a very high per capita terrorists recruitment rate. Couple that with the horror of what Libya has become will undoubtedly drive many young, desperate men to join the ranks of terror organizations that can pay their families. If the terrorists are going to lose their haven in Bekaa, then that means they’ll be all the more dependent on the Turkey-Jordan connections. This is important.

3. I believe there is a misunderstanding of US policy in the author’s analysis. I think Obama is perfectly willing to let this conflict fester in a more or less status quo scenario until he leaves office so as not to exacerbate the conflict and leave office without it staining his legacy. And there is simply no way that the Saudis and Turks are able to do anything on their own…all they are able to do is provide the weapons and fighters, they don’t have the political capital to be able to sway public opinion in favor of aggressive action, that would require US leadership. I’m not sure that’s in the cards at the moment.

4. It is very irresponsible in my view to assume that whatever conflicts may or may not exist within the military/intelligence bureaucracy in Damascus necessarily amount to an irreparable split. I recall back in 2013 when the defense ministry building was bombed and multiple ministers were killed. I recall the propagandists at the Washington Post rejoicing as if this was the crowning victory and that it meant the government would flee Damascus. It only strengthened the resolve of Assad and his close confidants. I don’t see whatever conflicts there may be as being anything more than conflicts – certainly not death knells of the government.

5. There is a huuuuge underestimation of the importance of battle-hardened veterans vs green combat rookies. The idea that because the Saudi degenerates and Turkish filth are scrounging up some poor sods to come to Syria and fight and die, that somehow this is going to change the calculus on the ground. I don’t believe it. Most of them are fighting for money, they’re fighting for promises, they’re fighting out of stupidity. The Syrian heroes are fighting for their homes, their towns, their families. This should not be underestimated. After 4 years of combat, these soldiers are not going to lay down for a bunch of rats from Libya, Chechnya, Kosovo, Afghanistan, etc.

6. There is only one way in which the calculus on the ground in Syria truly changes, and that is the implementation of a No Fly Zone and “humanitarian corridors” and this will not happen without a massive change in the position of Russia and China which, to this point, seems unlikely. The Syrian military knew they were not simply going to be allowed to destroy the terrorists and win this war outright, they knew a counteroffensive was coming. And if this is it, then it is weaker than I thought it might be.

7. There is another flawed interpretation in this analysis that, from what I can tell, totally skews how the author is understanding this battle in Qalamoun. This was NOT initiated by the terrorists, but by the SAA; they have the initiative, they have the numbers, they have the strategic position, and they have the luxury of time. The SAA is playing for status quo more or less in the North, concentrating forces in South-West, this tells us quite a lot about how important this region is for Damascus. A victory here would send the terrorists on their heels, as it would give Damascus a chance to destroy the entire command and control structure of these terror groups from the Lebanese border.

8. The article treats Iran as one monolithic entity politically, which it most certainly is not. There is the neoliberal capitalist faction led by Rouhani and the more anti-imperialist side led by Khamenei. From what I hear, Khamenei is not happy at all with the negotiations process and is unlikely to simply dump Syria for the illusory goal of detente with the West. From a principle standpoint he won’t do it, and even from a purely practical standpoint too.

I have many more points I could add, but I’ll leave it there for now.

3 thoughts on “Defying “The Vulture Consensus” on Syria

  1. Again, thank you for pointing to info that let’s us look beyond the media consensus.

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