‘No surprise if Damascus approved Iraqi airstrikes against ISIS in Syria'
RT: Are you surprised by Iraq's move?
DG: The reports that I’ve seen have suggested that the Syrian government has given its full approval, consent and cooperation for these attacks, which would not be surprising if that does turn out to be the case. Because we’ve seen increasingly over the last few years development of the alliance between what’s sometimes called the 4+1 of Russia, Syria, Iran, and Iraq, plus Hezbollah in trying to defeat the NATO-backed death squads that have been operating in Syria and subsequently in Iraq. It will be no surprise if the Syrian government had okayed this. And this is just another development of the unity between these various forces in trying to scupper the West’s regime change plans in Syria and overall destabilization strategy for the entire region.
At the same time, the whole politics and the alliance system in that area is in flux. We’ve seen Turkey moving from being the number one proxy of NATO in its war against Syria, to this rapprochement with Russia to the extent where now Turkish-backed forces and Turkish soldiers are at war with their previous proxies of ISIS [Islamic State, formerly ISIL] within Syria. So, all of these alliances are in flux. Of course, the US will be working overtime to sabotage the developing alliance between Russia, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, as far as it can. We’ve already seen elements of that with Trump, on the one hand spitting invectives against Iran, ramping up the aggressive hostile rhetoric, with perhaps moves even towards an attack on Iran, whilst at the same time flattering Russia, Putin, and so on, in an attempt to divide those parties and ultimately buy Russian acquiescence for any future US or Israeli attack on Iran... The US will try to pursue its own interests and pull Iraq away from that alliance or use whatever leverages it has with the Iraqi government to try to sow divisions within that developing alliance. But my suspicion is, that this has been done with Syrian cooperation and this is further evidence of this developing unity between Russia, Iran, Iraq, and Syria.
RT: If they carried out these airstrikes independently, does that mean that would be a direct violation of international law and Syrian sovereignty?
DG: I don’t think it is too helpful to speculate at this point on what it would mean if some unproven eventuality turned out to be the case. I don’t think we should be feeding into any US attempts to sow division within the ranks of these countries before we know the full story. We do know who is violating Syrian sovereignty right now with their unapproved airstrikes, and that is the US and Britain and their allies. Personally, I don’t think we should feed into any divisive rhetoric about divisions between Syria, Iraq, and so on. I don’t think that is helpful at this stage.
'Was Washington informed?'
US intelligence has a significant presence in Iraq, as they do throughout the region. So, it seems unlikely that they had no foreknowledge, according to John Wight, political analyst.
RT: What do you make of Baghdad carrying out airstrikes on Syrian soil?
John Wight: At first, I was very worried that these airstrikes had been carried out without the coordination of the Syrian government in Damascus. Since then, however, we hear that such coordination did take place. So, these airstrikes are eminently welcome. They are also significant in terms of drawing both Baghdad and Damascus closer; both countries share a common border and a common enemy in the shape of ISIS.
The great and imponderable at this stage is the extent to which Washington had foreknowledge of these airstrikes. It seems lately that they did, given that the US is working closely with the Iraqis in the battle of Mosul, which is ongoing. This gives us cause to speculate whether we are seeing the first evidence of a shift in US policy towards the conflict in Syria and the region under the Trump administration.
You recall that Trump, throughout his election campaign and since, has said that he is pledged to defeating ISIS, and, in this regard, he intends to join forces with those who’re already engaged in that struggle. This, of course, is a logical step to take. So yes, a very, very welcome development, and it gives rise to the possibility that we’re seeing a shift in American policy towards the conflict.
RT: So, the US is said to be mulling over sending troops to fight against ISIS. Does that have the potential to change the situation on the ground?
JW: As I said, the Americans are embedded with Iraqi forces in the context of the ongoing battle to liberate Mosul. American intelligence have a significant presence in Iraq, as they do throughout the region. So, it seems unlikely that they had no foreknowledge. If they did have no foreknowledge, then this of course is significant in the context of the Iraqis asserting themselves and being able to forge such an alliance with their Syrian counterparts. Either way, it is a welcome development given that the Syrians were involved, they gave their consent, and there was a level of coordination. As you say, it has not been confirmed, but most reports are now coming out with this. We’ve heard reports that sources close to the Syrian Foreign Ministry have confirmed that these were coordinated airstrikes. In this regard, this can only be welcomed by everyone who is interested in seeing ISIS defeated and crushed in the region.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.