Something to be thankful about today. Leaders of Russia, Syria, Iran, Turkey, and other countries are now converging in Sochi, Russia. The hope is to convene a conference that will lead to a political settlement in Syria now that ISIS has been defeated. Take a look at the following video showing Assad’s rather triumphant arrival on November 21. Watch as he meets not only Vladimir Putin but also some of the Russian military leaders who did so much to make this moment possible. The video was posted by Inessa Sinchougova, who also supplies the English subtitles:
From Sinchougova’s post at Fort Russ:
Russian President Vladimir Putin met his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad in Sochi on 21st November 2017. The last time Assad visited Russia was at the beginning of the Russian campaign in Syria in 2015.
According to the Syrian president, in two years of the Russian campaign the successes achieved have been evident and many residents of the country were able to return to their homes. He noted that thanks to Russia, Syria was saved as a state.
The Chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, Valeri Gerasimov, said conditions have been created for the return of refugees to Syria, during the trilateral meeting with his Turkish and Iranian counterparts in Sochi. “The main thing is that the sovereignty, the territorial integrity of the country has been preserved, the civil war was stopped, conditions were created for the restoration of peaceful life and refugees’ return,” said Gerasimov.
President Putin similarly told his Czech counterpart, Milos Zeman, that “over 98% of the territory of Syria is under the control of Syrian government troops, during their meeting in Sochi. Zeman congratulated Russia for its role in the outcome in Syria, saying: “you have won in Syria, because he [Assad] now controls almost the entire Syrian territory.”
The Russian military campaign in Syria began in late 2015, by invitation of the Syrian government. Meanwhile, the Western coalition was carrying out military activity there almost two whole years beforehand, illegally. Under the guise of fighting ISIS, they were simultaneously targeting Assad’s government forces, as well as letting ISIS spread like wildfire.
The Sochi conference is aimed at reaching a working agreement between Russia, Iran, and Turkey that will lead to peace in Syria. The West and its allies, particularly Israel and Saudi Arabia, seem to be doing everything possible to upset the apple cart. The New York Times published a cranky report yesterday complaining that the supposedly noble endeavors of UN envoy Staffan de Mistura “have now been overshadowed by Russia’s actions” while at the same time portraying Assad as “a war criminal.”
Meanwhile, SouthFront has posted a report saying that Hezbollah forces are now on high combat alert in case of an attack by Israel. Here is an excerpt from their report:
The situation in the Middle East is developing. The expected conflict between the resistance axis, primarily Hezbollah, and the Saudi-Israeli block is the current center of attention.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Iran wants to deploy its troops in Syria on a permanent basis “with the declared intent of using Syria as a base from which to destroy Israel” and threatened that if Tel Aviv fails to receive the international support, it is ready to act “alone.” “Iran will not get nuclear weapons. It will not turn Syria into a military base against Israel,” he said.
Deputy Chairman of Hezbollah’s Executive Council Sheikh Nabil Qaouq said his group is ready for any military scenario amid indications that Saudi Arabia is pushing the Israeli regime to launch a new military operation against Lebanon. He said “The resistance movement is prepared to confront anything. It is fully capable of securing victories and repelling any aggressor.” Hezbollah troops have been brought to the highest combat-readiness level, according to media reports.
Speaking to the Saudi newspaper Elaph, Israel’s military chief Gen Gadi Eisenkot called Iran the “biggest threat to the region” and said Israel is ready to share intelligence with “moderate” Arab states like Saudi Arabia in order to “deal with” Tehran.
The statement was followed on November 19 by an emergency meeting in Cairo between Saudi Arabia and other Arab foreign ministers, calling for a united front to counter Iran and Hezbollah. The emergency Arab foreign ministers’ meeting was convened at the request of Saudi Arabia with support from the UAE, Bahrain, and Kuwait to discuss means of confronting Iran. In a declaration after the meeting, the Arab League accused Hezbollah of “supporting terrorism and extremist groups in Arab countries with advanced weapons and ballistic missiles.”
In a post on November 17 I noted that “Israel is throwing a temper tantrum over the presence of Iranian troops in Syria,” and this is probably not surprising–for Israel and the US both are watching six long years of regime change efforts go up in smoke. This alone has the potential for making the situation volatile in the extreme, and it’s not hard to imagine some sort of “incident” being deliberately provoked, possibly by Israel or Saudi Arabia, aimed at drawing the US into a war with Iran.
The officials meeting in Sochi doubtless are taking note of all this, though–at least outwardly–they don’t seem too perturbed about it. You can go here to read a Kremlin press release on a joint statement by Putin, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, and President Recep Erdogan of Turkey, that was released yesterday.
“The main pillars of ISIS have been destroyed,” Iranian President Rouhani observed—while Putin pretty much said the same thing in so many words: “Large-scale military operations against terrorist gangs in Syria are coming to an end.”
Hopefully they will come to an end…permanently…and peace will prevail in Syria.
One final thing…at a press briefing on November 20, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders asked reporters to preface their questions by saying what they are thankful for. You can go here to watch a video of the briefing. Some expressed thanks for their families, for their jobs, their colleagues, one or two expressed thanks for the First Amendment, and one expressed thanks to his wife “for saying yes on the fourth request.” But interestingly enough, not a single one expressed thanks for the defeat of ISIS, and perhaps even more significantly, no one expressed thanks that we have avoided a war with Russia.