Qalamoun; the Battle Assad can’t afford to lose


“What will take place in Qalamoun in the coming days will pretty much dictate how the Syrian war will end”

Report by Dr. Ashraf Ezzat

Lebanese army commander gen, jean kahwagi.
Lebanese army commander gen, jean kahwagi.

“The Lebanese Army will not slip into any war inside the Syrian area of Qalamoun, where Hezbollah and the Syrian army are currently fighting jihadis” said Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi, commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces.

The Qalamun Mountains are the northeastern portion of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains, and they are located northwest of the Syrian capital Damascus, where they form the majority of the Lebanese – Syrian border.

Kahwagi assured security officials in a meeting Saturday that “the Lebanese Army is ready to confront any assault on Lebanese sovereignty. “Terrorism and Israel are two sides of the same coin” The Lebanese chief of army declared on May 6th, adding that the Army will not tolerate jihadi/Takfiri groups like ISIL or the Nusra Front to spread into Lebanon (Kahwagi was wise enough to recognize ISIL as another product of Mosaad/CIA)

Anyway, and due to the recent escalation of military offensives waged by a coalition of Islamist factions under the new umbrella name (Army of conquest) in Qalamoun , Syrian Spillover to Lebanon is perilously getting more likely than before.

Unofficially the number of dead in the Syrian War is 200,000, most of them civilians. About 6.5 million Syrian civilians have been forced to leave their homes and wander the country; another 3.5 million refugees have fled, mostly to neighboring countries (1.5 million in Lebanon).

Qalamoun mountains along the Lebanese-Syrian border.
Qalamoun mountains along the Lebanese-Syrian border.

Hezbollah and the Syrian Army have been engaged in fierce battle with Syrian rebels and jihadis (mainly Al Nussra front and Ahrar El Sham) near the eastern Lebanese/Syrian borders in the Qalamoun hills. The Qalamoun notorious rugged hills and roads (favored by smugglers) are practically the last natural barrier before reaching Damascus. That said, loosing Qalamoun battle could very well be the beginning of the end for Bashar El Assad.

In a desperate attempt to end the Syrian war the very culprits (Saudi, Turkish, Qatari, Israeli and American war mongers) who started this ugly war and humanitarian tragedy are trying to end it the same way they sparked it off; By arming and training Islamist terrorists.

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Nothing spared (Genocide and forced deportation) in this ugly war/conspiracy to ensure the installation of the Israeli/Qatari/Turkish Natural Gas line. The new pipeline (Assad has long opposed) will extend from the Arabian Gulf (mainly Doha) to Eastern Europe (bypassing the Russian bear and its strategic monopoly of supplying Europe with natural Gas).

Nevertheless, President Putin, against all odds and as a lone hero, is voluntarily walking against the tide and into the unknown.

Realizing that Assad’s coalition with Hezbollah (supported by Iran and Russia) is too formidable an opponent to take down by relying solely on the free Syrian army (coordinated from a Jordanian-based headquarters), a new tactic had to be implemented even if it meant dealing with the devil. The multiple belligerent (Al-Qaeda inspired/affiliated) Islamist/Terrorist militias were ordered to unite under one banner, if they would expect the US and Middle-Eastern partners to generously provide them with arms, intelligence, funds and proper training. Not to mention that the new alliance would give them a foreseeable superiority over the Islamic state militias.

Reaching that agreement and starting from last March 2015, all the terrorist/Takfiri militias (Ahrar ash-Sham, al-Nusra Front, Jund al-Aqsa, Liwa al Haqq, Jaysh al-Sunna, Ajnad al-Sham and Sham Legion) have been operating, especially in the still contested southern Syrian territories around Asaad’s stronghold in Damascus under the new umbrella of the ‘Army of conquest’.

The White House that has been raving and ranting about fighting global terrorism is wholeheartedly supporting and training  Al Qaeda affiliates in Syria (under the guise of aiding moderate opposition)

Well, if the newly formed Army of Conquest is the American idea of Moderate political opposition, I wonder what kind of horror would define the new American definition of Extremist factions. Unleashing the mad dogs of ISIL (trained by CIA and infiltrated by Mossad) is a taste of what’s to come.

During the last few days of battles, the Islamist Jihadis were forced to withdraw and the Hezbollah-backed Syrian troops took over large hills in the Qalamoun area. But the Islamist takfiris will be back, with an army of conquest, to take Qalamoun. Make no mistake about that. (Destroying Hezbollah’s outposts along the Lebanese borders with Syria and Israel is one of Tel Aviv’s priorities)

There were conflicting statements this week as to whether Hezbollah would proceed with an offensive in Qalamoun. (The Nusra and Ahrar El Sham who are currently resettling near the Lebanese village of Arsal also gearing up for a major and decisive offensive)

In March Iran organized major operations in Syria’s north and south, the main goal being to cut off islamist militias’ supply lines to Syria and Jordan. Both offensives miserably failed, and were followed by major Jihadis’ gains, so that resupply lines into Syria have now been secured.

The reversals completely altered the stakes for Hezbollah, and for the Syrian army whose role would be key in a battle for Qalamoun. Hezbollah cannot take military action in the area without a guarantee of victory, since a further defeat in light of those in northern and southern Syria would be disastrous. Yet such a victory is far from assured, for several reasons.

First, Qalamoun does not lend itself to unambiguous /guaranteed outcomes. It’s a vast, rough landscape extremely difficult to control, which is why it has always been a hot-bed for long history of trafficking.

Second, Hezbollah’s partner in such a venture is a demoralized and exhausted Syrian army, whose combat effectiveness has steadily deteriorated over the last two years (an objective the Israelis have been working on from the beginning of this false flag war in Syria)

More than 80 percent of the Syrian army’s missile arsenal has been used against rebel/Jihadis’ targets. There is almost no artillery aimed at Israel in the Golan itself. Syria cannot conduct military maneuvers in Israeli territory. The chemical threat has been largely removed. Therefore, the balance between Israel and the country that was its fiercest enemy for four decades has changed for the advantage of the Zionist state.

Syrian Army is now hardly in control of what is called Lesser Syria – the capital, Damascus, and the corridor connecting it to the major city of Aleppo and the Alawite region in the northwest.

Syrian army forces are seen in the Qalamoun mountains north of Damascus
Syrian army forces are seen in the Qalamoun mountains north of Damascus

Meanwhile, Hezbollah has no confidence in the Syrian army, and even less that they would prevent Jihadis’ reinforcements from other areas. Not to mention that corruption is rampant in the Syrian ranks and as the tide turns in Syria this is bound to increase as units begin planning for a future without President Assad. Such bleakness could facilitate Jihadis’ efforts to buy their way through Syrian lines to Qalamoun, possibly creating a situation where Hezbollah will send its fighters into a (suicidal) meat grinder.

We have quite possibly reached a new stage in Syria. The countries backing the opponents of Assad (Takfiris and terrorists) have unified their efforts, and it seems to be working. Their most likely strategy is to pursue and consolidate their battlefield gains and push Iran into accepting a compromise at the expense of Assad. This would presumably allow a managed transition away from Assad’s rule.

Yet if Assad’s enemies in Syria make more significant gains, then his allies in Tehran may not have much of a choice but to reach a compromise. That is why their natural instinct would be to claw back territory, relying primarily on Hezbollah, to improve Assad’s bargaining hand in the future.

In that context a battle for Qalamoun takes on especial military importance. That’s also why it is strategically vital for Hezbellah and Syrian Army to get it done right in Qalamoun

That is why if an attack doesn’t take place in the coming weeks, it is not because it will not be strategically important anymore; it will be because Hezbollah and Assad’s army are not quite able to win Qalamoun, and hence the whole Syria war, decisively.

And if that’s the case then the actual influence of Iran and Hezbollah’s effectiveness in Syria will be exposed, and therefore their ability to keep Assad in the Presidential Palace will be reduced. But to admit this will be difficult for some in Iran

We are getting closer to a game-changing moment in Iran. A nuclear deal would free (much needed)  cash to bolster Assad in Syria, but all that would do is delay his demise, so fatigued and depleted are the Syrian regime and army. Hezbollah must consider the risks of going down with Assad’s ship  ( As a lot of reports and analysis predict)

What will take place in Qalamoun in the coming days will pretty much dictate how the Syrian war will end.  The stakes are high, and there’s a lot hanging in the balance as we approach this foreboding Qalamoun battle.



Lebanese Daily Star – Israeli Haaretz – Ayman Jawad (Expert on Islamist militancy) – Syrian Perspective – Al Jazeera English.

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