US Strategy in Syria can lead to a major war with Iran and possibly Russia


The downing of a Syrian government fighter jet by an American warplane operating over Syria on June the 18th, followed by the shooting down of an Iranian drone a few days later, is pushing the West closer to a major war with Iran and possibly Russia. These are not accidents. There is an obvious US strategy behind them that has not changed from the Obama days and in a way follows from the declaration of war on the world after September 11, 2001. Many will remember how the neocon Project for a New American Century in its key 2000 planning document, 'Rebuilding America's Defenses' advocated absolute military dominance by the United States. Its famous phrase that only 'a new Pearl Harbour' would expedite the necessary strategic changes, came true a year later with the 9/11 attacks. Since then, the US has led the West deeper into a never-ending global war, and the situation in Syria today can only be understood from that perspective. 


Within the broader framework of a war on the world, launched by the US and with the EU trodding cluelessly after it, American actions in Syria appear to be inspired primarily by the need to break the 'Shi'ite belt' that runs from Hezbollah in Lebanon, via the Assad regime in Syria and the equally pro-Iranian government of Iraq, to Iran proper.

In the entourage of Donald Trump, the forces intent on forcing a conflict with Iran have the upper hand. Even the relatively sane Rex Tillerson, the ex-Exxon CEO, now Secretary of State, has openly advocated regime change there. Israel shares the preoccupation with Iran also from the immediate project of finally defeating Hezbollah, and the Saudi monarchy is equally obsessed by the heretics across the Persian Gulf. Hence also the conflict with Qatar, which shares a large oil and gas field with Iran. After Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia and given that he is completely in the fold of the most hard-line Israeli warmongers, a confrontation with Iran is a matter of time.

This is what makes the latest American actions so dangerous. After the downing of the Syrian Su-22 fighter jet, Russia, as Syria's main ally, suspended the direct line with the American military and announced it would consider uninvited planes in the country's airspace as targets. As a result Australia has withdrawn its planes to avoid being drawn into the war that is coming closer by the day. But other US 'allies' from the hapless NATO bloc are remaining. According to the Iranian Fars news agency, near the Syrian al-Tanf border crossing with Jordan, US advisors have been reinforced by German, British, Czech, Norwegian and Dutch military personnel for a planned move towards Deir Ezzor (Deir Az Zor, Dayr az-Zawr) on the Euphrates river in the east of Syria.

The Syrian regime, currently on the offensive, aims to relieve the 10,000 or so government troops which have been besieged there by ISIS for four years now.


The US and its regional and NATO allies are intent on preventing this. That this has been a long-standing strategy can be traced back to repeated attacks on Syrian government forces.

In December 2015, US jets attacked positions of the Syrian 7th division near Deir Ezzor, killing four soldiers and wounding many more. Then in September 2016, US warplanes attacked Syrian positions around Deir Ezzor again, this time killing 62 troops and wounding more than a hundred. Immediately after the air strikes, ISIS units overran the Syrian basis, provoking accusations that the Americans had coordinated with the jihadists directly or through intermediaries. The air field of Deir Ezzor as a result was no longer accessible for flying in the necessary goods for the troops and the people in the enclave.


This attack and its implications for the enclosed Syrian government forces and the civilian population led Russia to suspend the direct line with the US military that had been established to prevent accidents in the air. Russian military had been frantically trying to use this link to stop the attack, but the US side claimed later that nobody was at the phone because they did not expect incoming calls. In spite of this obviously fake excuse the Russians later restored the direct line, but now we must fear it has been suspended for a much longer time, if not indefinitely.

ISIS are about to lose their 'capitals' of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq, mostly at the hands of the Kurds, and signs are that they intend to seize Deir Ezzor, at the heart of the largest contiguous territory controlled by them, as a substitute capital. The US 'coalition' apparently prefers this outcome to the Syrian army succeeding in its effort to relieve the enclosed troops and add 10,000 men to their forces. It is one of those moments where it is obvious, as Robert Fisk writes, that the West effectively sides with the jihadists against the Assad regime. Never mind that on occasion ISIS jihadists also strike in European cities, especially when in election time, forces less intent on following American instructions appear on the ascendant.

Trump, Netanyahu and the Saudi king, Salman, supporting ISIS and its terror network, thus are poised for a conflict with Iran where free elections have just confirmed the conciliatory Rouhani government in power.

Although the shooting down of the Syrian jet is hardly mentioned in the Western media, we have entered a new phase in the war on the world waged by the United States and hapless allies since 9/11.

Or should we by now be speaking of World War III?

Kees van der Pijl

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