Assad trifft Putin: Was bedeutet die Befreiung von Darʿā für Syrien und die Region?

14 Sep. 2021 20:18

Final control of Darʿā province will trigger a shift in power not just in Syria but across the region. While Syria continues to take decisive action against terrorists and occupiers, Iran and Israel are now heading on a new collision course after retaking Darʿā.

von Seyed Alireza Mousavi

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad paid a visit to Moscow on Monday and met for talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Putin reiterated Russian support for the legitimate government in Damascus to recapture the territories still occupied by terrorists and foreign forces (such as the US).

Assad visits Moscow - Putin criticizes illegal foreign military presence in Syria

Against the background of this meeting, the Syrian army, with the mediation of Russia, recently recaptured the Darʿā al-Balad district from the Islamists. The city of Darʿā, the capital of the province of the same name on the border with Jordan, has been the scene of fierce fighting between the so-called rebels and the regular Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in recent weeks.

The liberation of Darʿā is of great importance as the city has long been a center of the so-called rebels or terrorists. It was there that the rebellion against the Syrian state, which was essentially kicked up from outside in 2011 and charged with brutal violence, began. Darʿā was therefore called the cradle of the “revolution” by the so-called rebels and was a de-escalation zone under the protection of the USA until the summer of 2018. The province was recaptured by the Syrian army in July 2018. In contrast to other areas in which the government forces were able to prevail again, there was no clear ceasefire agreement and no subsequent evacuation of the jihadists to the northern province of Idlib near the Turkish border.

Syria: Armistice in Darʿā agreed under Russia's mediationSyria: Armistice in Darʿā agreed under Russia's mediation

The rebels kept some areas under their control, including the southern part of the provincial capital, Darʿā al-Balad, where they effectively took the citizens hostage. At the time, Russia had moved the government in Damascus to a reconciliation agreement, including overseeing the recruitment of rebels from Darʿā for a new local protection force known as the Fifth Corps.

As part of a ceasefire agreement brokered by Moscow, the Syrian army, accompanied by Russian military police, recently succeeded in penetrating the district of Darʿā, which has been controlled by the rebels since 2018. According to the new agreement, the rebels have to lay down their weapons, and those of the terrorists who do not want to hand over the weapons to the Syrian authorities should leave the city in an orderly manner in the direction of Idlib.

Final control of Darʿā province will trigger a shift in power not just in Syria but across the region. The complete liberation of the city and the ensuing agreement ended a stalemate in southwest Syria and paved the way for the Syrian army to recapture the last stronghold of the jihadist militias and terrorist groups in the north of the country.

Lavrov after meeting with Lapid in Moscow: Russia supports Syria in protecting its sovereigntyLavrov after meeting with Lapid in Moscow: Russia supports Syria in protecting its sovereignty

The emerging new balance of power in the southwest Syrian province of Darʿā is also decisive from a geopolitical point of view, because Darʿā borders on the disputed Golan Heights. The province on the Jordanian border is one of the most important locations for networking Iran’s allies in the region. From there, Tehran is able to encircle Israel by stationing its elite troops and passing on armaments to the Lebanese Hezbollah. In the city of Abu Kamal on the border with Iraq, which Iran sees as a strategically important border crossing in Syria, Iranian military officials have long since positioned themselves and prepared for a possible large-scale military confrontation with Israel. The expansion of the so-called Shiite Crescent, a land connection from Tehran via Baghdad and Damascus to Beirut, is completed with the possible Iranian military presence in Darʿā on the border with Jordan.

From the Israeli perspective, the main obstacle to consolidating the Iranian project so far has been the Russian presence in the Darʿā region. The Eighth Brigade, supported by Russia – a subdivision of the Fifth Corps – was in fact long under Russian command in Darʿā. However, the recent offensive by the Syrian army to liberate the city made it clear that Russia should continue to occupy Syrian territory and maintain the status quo by the militias no longer wants to tolerate in view of Israeli concerns about its “security” in Darʿā.

Terrorist congratulations from Idlib to the Taliban - but what is the Taliban's view of the IS offshoot?Terrorist congratulations from Idlib to the Taliban - but what is the Taliban's view of the IS offshoot?

The Darʿā offensive was led by the 4th Division of the Syrian Army. The majority of them are Alawi and are made up of professional soldiers. The 4th Division is de facto commanded by Maher Assad, a brother of the President who has good contacts with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The liberation of Darʿā al-Balad was basically due to the decision of the Russians, as they abandoned the ambiguity in Darʿā and made it clear that Russia would support further operations by the Syrian government if the so-called rebel fighters did not comply with the demands of the government in Damascus.

While Russia and Iran have intervened in Syria at the invitation of the Syrian government to help the Syrians fight terrorism, the two states have different priorities, among other things. While the Russians primarily want Syria to be able to reintegrate into the world community quickly, the Iranians are more likely to keep the country as the main corridor for the so-called axis of resistance against Israel.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated last week after meeting his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid that Moscow was opposed to making Syria the site of confrontation between third countries. Nevertheless, Russia’s top diplomat stuck to Russia’s strategy in Syria that Moscow was obliged to help Syria defend its sovereignty.

With the liberation of Darʿā through the mediation of Russia, the Syrian state comes one step closer to regaining its full sovereignty. The retaking of Darʿā will also lead to a shift in the power structure in the region, as Iran and Israel are in fact heading towards a new collision course in the region after the lifting of the stalemate in Darʿā province.

RT DE strives for a wide range of opinions. Guest contributions and opinion articles do not have to reflect the editorial team’s point of view.

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