Syria Feature: Joint Operations Room in Jordan Halted Rebel Assault on Key Regime Airbase

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Last week, we reported on the pause of a rebel offensive to take al-Thala airbase, one of the regime’s most important in Syria, following an advance through Daraa Province in the south.

After the capture of the Brigade 52 army base, the Southern Front coalition took nearby villages on Thursday and even entered part of al-Thala on the border of Suweida Province. However, 24 hours later, the force withdrew.

See Syria Daily, June 13: Rebels Pause Attacks on al-Thala Airbase in South

At the time, we wrote, “The exact reason for the pause is unclear.” Although the rebels faced airstrikes and ground resistance, including tanks, they did not appear to have been defeated inside al-Thala. Local sources told EA that the Southern Front was negotiating with leaders of the Druze community in Suweida, as Druze militia were fighting alongside regime forces.

Now the pro-opposition Syrian Mirror offers an explanation solving the mystery. Foreign officials in the joint operations room in Amman, Jordan, ordered the halt to the rebel operations.

The website says that the Southern Front offensive was begun without consultation with the operations room, which includes advisors from the US, European countries, and Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States.

The quick advance of the rebel forces took the operations room by surprise and caused immediate concern. Al-Thala, which includes advanced Su-24 warplanes, has been considered a “red line” because of the possible sensitivity of the Druze community to a rebel entry into Suweida.

The Free Syrian Army had issued a statement that it did not intend to advance further into Suweida, and would merely protect “liberated” villages near the airbase. However, this was not enough to appease the foreign advisors. After a heated debate with the Southern Front, the operations room said it was cutting fighters’ salaries.

Rebels further complied on Tuesday by announcing that operations “to crush the tyrants” had been halted near al-Thala. Negotiations to resume payment of salaries is believed to be underway.

One of a series of messages from the commander of the Jaish al-Yarmouk faction:

Rebels firing rockets at al-Thala earlier this week:

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37 COMMENTS

  1. Scott: Do you think or know whether the alleged killing of 23 Druze by JAN may have had effect on the whole operation? If the Foreign backers are so sensitive in ‘protecting’ minorities in Syria, then how can we expect them to support any offensive in Damascus and Latakia? Means the division of Syria will be in fact devised by the West then?

    • Beast,

      My understanding is that the operations room’s objection was a general one to any move on al-Thala, not a reaction to the specific development of the killings in Idlib Province.

      S.

    • Scott, thanks for bringing such news to us.

      Do you think the coalition will demand self-determination for the Druze?

      @Ali, the answer is hopefully yes. I don’t think anyone wants an offensive on Damascus. The destruction and blood letting will be monstrous.

      What we want is to trade Damascus for the coast. Alawites go to the coast, and get peace, in return for a peaceful transition in Damascus and Aleppo. Win-win for all. Only the core Jihadists will object to this plan.

  2. More direct evidence that the Western powers do not actually want the rebellion against the Assad dictatorship to be successful

    • De Mastura’s visit is the other side of that. The international community – i.e. the U.S. – is still sticking to the “Assad is part of the solution, not part of the problem” line.

    • It’s not evidence of anything but a tactical decision to prevent a strategic blunder. Your editorializing is ignorant of the situation.

      • Jon. We agree for once. Withdrawal had nothing to do withn ot wanting to win, and everything to do with keeping the Druze from actively switching to the regime’s side, which would outweigh any victory in Tha’lah. In return for rebel help later, Druze may agree to rebel’s taking the base.

        Do you still think Obama’s Iraq first is the right strategy, compared to Syria first/ Isn’t it obvious we can oust ISIS much more quickly in Syri and how that would then undermine ISIS in Iraq and and elsewhere? That’s surely in our interest.

        Wouldn’t allowing Assad’s ouster, with the US mainly assisting by a stand down order, help Obama get his Iran deal, mainly be alleviating fears that otherwise Iran will use the cash to massively intervene in Syria? The latter is defefintely not in out interest.

        • The most important thing is Tha’lah airbase is not currently usable by the regime as the rebels control the village right next to it (north of the airbase). Since the rebels have destroyed MiGs on the runway and Brigade 52 previously protected the base from the west side I would have to think the airbase was being utilized by the regime before.

    • Carl – nonsense. If al-Thala is considered Druze territory, and it certainly is in the province of Suweida, then it is up to the Druze as to how they want to treat it. The rebels have to be invited — they just can’t go in without authority and that is why the Druze started defending against the rebels – which is a horrible sign.

      Al-Thala will be liberated over time, as the regime collapses. And it is not clear if the regime is striking the rebels from this airbase. If so, then this is an internal Druze matter.

      The best way to liberate al-Thala is to come to a long term agreement with the Druze about the province of Suweida. This is a lot more productive than all the fighting and killing needed to take over al-Thala. Fighting over al-Thala just validates the Jihadist thesis.

      This has nothing to do with Western powers backing of the rebels. It just makes good political-constitutional sense.

  3. “The website says that the Southern Front offensive was begun without consultation with the operations room, which includes advisors from the US, European countries, and Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States. […]
    The Free Syrian Army had issued a statement that it did not intend to advance further into Suweida, and would merely protect “liberated” villages near the airbase. However, this was not enough to appease the foreign advisors. After a heated debate with the Southern Front, the operations room said it was cutting fighters’ salaries.”

    … You’ve got to be kidding me, right?
    It can’t be. So basically this is not even the people’s revolution anymore, and those foreign officials just want the revolution to serve THEIR interests?
    Instead of getting rid of Assad and kicking the Iranians out, this is going to make Syria nothing but another pawn for another imperialist side that doesn’t care about the people either?
    Disgusting. ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING. All the blood spilled in this fight for freedom will end up spilled in the interest of powers that don’t care about the people?
    I’m disgusted.
    I’m simply disgusted.

    I had already lost faith in the West, but now? Hell I just hate it now. They don’t care about the people and want to shape the Revolution to serve their interests. It’s disgusting. Oh, they deserve all the hate in the world. They deserve it.
    I don’t trust the West anymore.
    This is also war for true independance and freedom of choice; the Syrian people shall not bend to these new foreign “masters”.

    • Calm down comrade. If Syrian Mirror is right, that would make the Southern Front liars because they issued statements saying that they didn’t continue the offensive because they didn’t want to fight and destroy pro-regime Druze forces that became involved in the base’s defense. I don’t think the Southern Front are liars, I think Syrian Mirror is either wrong or BSing. One of the most persistent features of this revolution is the prevalence of conspiracy theories — Obama wants to keep Assad in power! Baghdadi is Assad’s puppet! Obama and Khameini are collaborating to destroy the FSA! — and unless there is some corroborating evidence about the role of the Jordanian operations room halting the Southern Front, I think we need to take the Southern Front at their word. Plus there’s the fact that there have been quite a few rumblings in the southern Druze community lately which lends credence to the Southern Front’s version of events rather than Syrian Mirror’s.

      That’s not to say that foreign powers haven’t or won’t stab free Syrians in the back before — they have and they will when it suits them — but their perfidy does not explain what happened in this case.

      • Foreign powers are not the prevalent forces in this conflict -although they would love all people to believe the opposite thing-.

        • The power that would most like to use the Syrian rebels is Saudi Arabia, which is anxious to damage Iran in any way it can.

        • BsAs – it is common knowledge that the west and Obama are doing very little to end the conflict. So why would the west want people to believe they are in charge? Why would they want to feed conspiracy theories?

        • without them supplying the rebels, they would be fighting with rocks and riding donkeys as transportation.

          thats why the foreign powers controling the rebels have the final word.

          • So totally unlike the Baathist who are so dependent on the Ayatollah that he has to pay Afghan refugees to fight for his stooge and he has given his officers the right to execute SAA and Shabiha who don’t cooperate in a manor exactly like the Germans had in the Italian Social Republic. I think you find the Baathists can’t wipe their ASSads unless Soliemani approves it.

      • Nice to meet you here, DRSS. Didn’t expect to actually see you write here, it’s a nice surprise.
        I can only hope that you’re right. I just don’t want the Revolution to be betrayed by foreign interests, because it would mean that all this blood would have been spilled in vain. Granted, I got a bit carried away in my comment, but hearing this kind of things is really worrying. Let’s hope the Southern Front are the ones who are telling the truth, it’s the only thing we can do until things get cleared up.

        • Hm I guess you didn’t get my earlier message in this older thread then? http://eaworldview.com/2015/06/syria-analysis-how-victories-mean-growing-challenges-for-the-rebellion/

          Another thing, it makes no sense why the Jordan ops room would veto the take over of this air base. They’ve obviously approved the new offensive in Quneitra, they approved the seizure of the border crossing earlier this year, they approved the seizure of base 82, so why would they suddenly block an offensive on this particular air base? It makes no sense when you really stop and think about it.

          What I’m waiting on from these foreign powers is when are they going to follow-through on their promises to Etilaf president Khoja to give rebels anti-air weapons?

          • I just read your comment, thanks a lot for the link. It’s great, thanks a bunch. Now I have a better view of the current state of the Syrian left.

          • DRSS is the Syrian-Social-Nationalist Party facist because they do have that name and a swastika like logo.

            • Yes, the SSNP is a fascist hitlerite party and strong supporter of Assad and Hamas. And guess who has been seen with them, been photographed with them, and I believe may have praised them? Your own compatriot, Niall — hehehe from Glasgow — the Gorgeous One.

    • Syrian commie — this has nothing to do about “who controls whom” and “western imperialism” and so on. It makes a lot of political-constitutional sense to allow the Druze the independence and self-determination that they seek and deserve. Ultimately, the Druze have the right to live in their own canton in confederation with others, just like the Kurds do. The rebels have to honor their rights. Otherwise we are back to the Jihadist mode of operation (Idlib June 10).

      The rebels have their hands full building a civil society in Daraa and southern Syria. They need all the help they can get, and from the Druze too. There will be no civil society in southern Syria, unless the Druze cooperate, and that means they have to be granted self-determination. The rebels have no experience in state building — do they really want to build a state for the Druze in Suweida?

      See article 13(h) of the Syrian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: https://syriacharter.wordpress.com/

    • Syrian Commie, and DRSS, sorry to say but you are both wrong in the way you reason. You reason that if the west pulls any strings that it may have (such as threatening to cut paychecks or refuse to send arms) then that is a nefarious imperialist move, designed to control Syria, dominate the movement, and colonize the country, exploit its people and resources. That the west has nefarious interests that by definition have to be diametrically opposed to any revolutionary or democratic movement, in Syria or elsewhere.

      First off, you have to realize that Syria has little to offer the west. It doesn’t even have oil, just a tiny bit. No minerals that can’t be found in dozens of other places. And the infrastructure is so poor that developing any of what Syria has requires enormous amounts of capital. There is very little of interest in Syria for the US. They don’t want to see an Jihadist regime there attacking Israel or other neighbors, etc. But this is not the same as what you claim that the west want to colonize the place and exploit it and rule the people to get some kind of benefit out of that (what benefit?).

      All actors have interests. They try to influence the other parties. If you are supplying weapons and money, you bet you will make sure that you have some influence there and that you can shape the outcome. So the black and white method of thinking where the US may not influence events, even for the good cause of democracy and liberalism, and if it does, then it means the US wants to create a colony — is just bonkers.

      Have you ever thought maybe what the US wants may actually be good for Syrians? If the US says it wants peace and starts pulling strings to achieve peace, then does that mean you have to oppose that as some imperialist scheme, simply because foreign nations are asking for something even though it makes a lot of sense? It is about time to give up that knee-jerk anti-colonialism that we were overfed in our limited political discourse for so long.

      The Coalition I believe is saying don’t attack the Druze. It is not good for the Syrian revolution and it is bad for all parties. It is win-lose (the losers being the Druze) and not win-win. That you have to respect the Druze and you just don’t go and attack their villages and government installations. In particular that a big part of the Druze have declared independence from Assad, in effect. These are tremendously good reasons for the US to say don’t attack al-Thala and try to enforce this. But you take that as a sign of imperialism and a drive to dominate – for nefarious reasons that you never elaborate.

      Sorry, but reason has failed you. You have put ideology way ahead of reason. Democracy is the only form of government where the people can “resist” foreign domination. As long as the US wants democracy in Syria, you are wrong to assume that the US plans to colonize (whatever that means) Syria or that the US has certain interests there that will cost Syrians dearly. And democracy dictates that the Druze have a right to self-determination.

    • @A Syrian commie who cares about the people: Have you ever lived in a communist utopia? (only 5 left) Try North Korea or Laos you could work on a collective farm.
      Good luck comrade.

      • @Bill Anderson : I could write a whole essay about how “communist” states (quite a paradox here) that were created in the wake of WW2 are a disgrace to what thousands of people of the left all around the world died for, that is true: equality and real freedom, but I honestly don’t have the time for that.

  4. Speaking as a core jihadist…there is no plan to object to. As long as there is sufficient ammunition and weapons, the rebel formations will grow and grow in numbers. The only reason people went home before was that you can’t fight if there are no bullets. The turning point was the appearance of TOW rockets. Even the US knows that the soldiers of the rebellion are trustworthy now because they filmed every shot. (They know also that they are good shots.)

    The rebellion did pretty good on captured ammunition. Now they have enough for months without capturing any. The governments that have taken responsibility for helping are not going to cut off that help because of an order from the US. The length of Assad’s life can be measured by the range of a simple mortar shell.

    As far as the battle of Damascus is concerned…the Druze will stand aside, they are already doing so by preventing their sons from going to war, unless they are kidnapped and we know Assad now does this to try to get men. Hezbollah and the Alawite community are almost in revolt over their losses. And there is no deal, no exchange. That is why the rebellion has opened one new front after another, and why they are now able to fight both Assad and Daesh at the same time.

    The SAA is already in the process of committing battlefield suicide in order to gain back a measure of their lost honor, lost to the racist Iranians who treat Alawites the way Alawites treated ordinary decent people. The Assadists are hoist on their own petard. For years it was enough for them that they lived while everyone else died. Now it’s not just that they have to die – to die in battle, to be hanged, to live as a ghost at The Hague is all the same – but they have to kiss Iranian boots as they go. Have you not noticed that the death rate of SAA officers is up twenty fold?

    Personally, I think Latakia and the entire coast will fall first, and then there will be no exchange. The airport will fall, and then Assad will be strangled, and finally his head cut off. He needs to stop cutting his hair so there will be something for the headman to grab and hold up.

    You think the destruction of Damascus will be any more terrible than that of Homs or Aleppo? You are right, because in the end Assad’s dungeons will vomit up their inhuman secrets and the torturers’ faces will be seen. Even North Korea and Iran don’t have such a record. Hitler just killed the Jews, he didn’t exercise his personal perversions on their bodies.

    The regime will surrender. I take it that the 50,000 troops Suleimani threatened are not available. If they were it would not matter. And as far as Obama is concerned, it does not really matter now whether Iran signs a deal or not. They are not going to get their money for years. Khamenei will die of chagrin. Their insane little empire will be a memory, so much the better for people in Iran, whose government gives religion a bad name.

    At some point it is necessary to say that Assad himself has committed suicide. He and his torturers made sure every Syrian knew that you could surrender, but you could not survive. To surrender to Assad has always meant death, so why surrender? The Western image-machine grinds on prattling about negotiation when there is only surrender.

    And the rebellion will be more merciful in accepting the regime’s surrender than many here could imagine. It is humorous to see how prattlers talk about their fear of the rebels, will they massacre their enemies, will they turn into animals in the street. The rebellion is still accepting defections, from people who risk their lives to escape (and I mean SAA soldiers). As for JAN, can anyone give me a list of their terrorist acts over the last two years? I don’t mean the occasional excess that cannot be prevented in any war (compare the US soldiers in Iraq, much worse). I mean, if JAN are as horrible as everyone says, surely they have stolen, killed, taken hostages, etc., outside their participation in the war? Terrorists never take a day off, just ask the Daeshi.

    The stories that come out after Assad dies or flees will make every one of us hang our heads in shame. On that day the clever repartee will stop for a while. Every war strategy Assad uses – bombing civilians, bombing habitations, bombing bakeries, hospitals, mosques and schools, burning food crops, destroying fuel and water supplies – these are all not just war crimes but crimes against humanity. All the Western countries and the UN will have to come to Syria on their knees to apologize for saying “never again” and then letting it happen because they were too cowardly to explain the truth to their own people.

    • The secret police cannot surrender they always fight to the death because they will be killed if captured or worse yet-they be left alone with their ex-torture victims. When the US Rainbow Division liberated the Dachau KZ they massacred the guards, or let the inmate kill them, one unlucky SS-KZ man was shovelled to death. The commandant was made to lie a pile of corpse while the Americans made the local Germans walk past and spit on him before he was killed. That same fate awaits the members of the Air Force Intelligence Directorate.

    • All the Western countries and the UN will have to come to Syria on their knees to apologize for saying “never again” and then letting it happen because they were too cowardly to explain the truth to their own people.

      I believe you are discounting the role of those tendencies who are ideologically anti-interventionist, because they believe intervention means domination and colonialism.

      Did an apology come forth for Bosnia? The stop-war and postcolonial leftist who actively opposed intervention in Bosnia for years and claimed that WWIII will start if NATO bombed the Serb militias — did they ever come and acknowledge that they delayed western intervention resulting in tens of thousands of innocents getting killed? That they were wrong when they said US is after Bosnian oil and pipelines and wishes to colonize Russia? Did they ever acknowledge that the west found a solution for that area? For East Timor?

      The reason “never again” happens over and over is because of the useless leftwing crowds (generally state-subsidized students and Marxist professors, unemployable former students with useless degrees, or radicals now working for government in jobs that produce very little) who claim that an intervention means colonialism, imperialism, and exploiting raw materials belonging to poor nations. That killing and dying in total political ignorance and backwardness is preferable to liberal democracy and human rights that is imposed by the west.

      So please do not blame those of us who consistently championed human rights everywhere. Blame those who say no human rights is violated unless it is the west doing the violation (leashing a few prisoners naked in Abu Ghraib, CIA waterboarding, detention of terrorists in Guantanamo, etc.). For these people, many of whom run NGOs like Amnesty International, if Assad drops a barrel bomb (some are not convinced that he does), it is not so much a violation of human rights or a crime against humanity, but more a “blowback” due to western foreign policy in that region — and they say stopping Assad is secondary as it is not the root cause.

      This is what a good part of the “public intellectuals” on Prospect Magazine’s top 100 PI list believe in (Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Klein, etc.). It is not fair to blame western nations as a whole.

    • It’s pretty likely. The RMC based in Jordan has done the brunt work of organizing the rebels in the South and keeping them supplied. I’m not sure about the extent of Western involvement in the RMC, but it’s all plausible. The training videos produced by the Southern Front bear all the hallmarks of Western, particularly British style training.

      All the assumptions and editorializing based off these likely facts, though, are really off the mark, as usual.

  5. on the other hand the rebels could have been beaten back by superior forces, with the druze militias coming to aid the airbase the rebels were also probably outnumbered.

    But it was a “tactical retreat” which in translation means, we are being beaten back by a superior force in the local theater.

    Not soo smug as in Idlib are we Dr. Lucas

  6. All that’s happening in Syria is a Zionist attack on a sovereign country to protect Israel in the future because Assad is not a puppet , the outcome will be devastating to America and the gulf and their mercenaries

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