The armed opposition is waging a regional war on Syria under the cover of three Anfals [al-Anfal is the name of the Syrian opposition’s military campaign] with Turkish-Jordanian-Saudi backing and Israeli facilitation. The “big Anfal,” led by Abu Musa al-Chichani, Sham al-Islam and its supporters, and Jabhat al-Nusra, from which branched Sada al-Anfal, is working to re-impose a blockade on the Wadi al-Daif military camp, control the entire southern countryside of Idlib and cut the Damascus-Aleppo highway between Khan Shaikhoun and Maarat al-Naaman.
Ikhwat al-Anfal is another side of the Anfal triangle. In the Quneitra countryside, Ikhwat al-Anfal deployed units from Ajnad al-Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat Ahrar Suria, and achieved a major breakthrough in the strategic western Tel al-Ahmar, one of the most important hills in rural Quneitra.
The Anfal triangle points to a growing regional involvement in the Syrian war. Without Turkish-Jordanian intelligence-security depth, the Syrian armed opposition cannot coordinate large offensive operations. Meanwhile, Hezbollah fighters and the Syrian army are in the process of amputating Qalamoun from the deployment map of the armed opposition and depriving them of the supply bases in the Lebanese Bekaa Valley through a series of corridors in the eastern Lebanon mountains. The army and Hezbollah are also securing the northern flank of western Damascus and its countryside.
At risk of being halted are virtually all relevant and important military operations, especially those by the Syrian armed opposition in areas that are no longer enjoying strategic depth or supply lines to some operation rooms in Antakya or Amman.
For weeks, strategic operations have been limited to areas near Turkey, Jordan and the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. In the north, the Anfal operations rely on logistical and security support from the Turkish military. Without the Turkish supply line between Jabal al-Turkmen and Kassab, it would be impossible for the operation rooms led by the Chechens in northern Syria, who coordinate with Turkish intelligence, to advance toward the last border crossing between Syria and Turkey.
The opposition says that Anfal’s basic objectives have not yet been achieved and that those objectives are not just about Kassab. But time is no longer on their side after the developments of the last few hours. The Syrian army has taken control of Post 45 after two weeks of hit-and-run operations. The army and the opposition are bringing in reinforcements to complete the progress toward Kassab. The army can hit anywhere on the strategic Tallat al-Nisr hill, on whose slopes the opposition is positioned. The opposition still controls Nab al-Murr, Mamarr al-Nabain, Kassab and the village of Samra.
The opposition has failed to form a pincer around the northern Latakia countryside through the “Mother of the Believers” operation involving the Islamic Front and the Jamal Maarouf group in Jabhat Thuwwar Suria.
Israel’s dealings with the Syrian armed opposition in the occupied Golan Heights and the Quneitra countryside has so far been limited to humanitarian support. Israel recently established a center to receive the injured in the Samakh plain on the banks of the Sea of Galilee in order to send some of the injured to Israeli hospitals. But the seven-kilometer buffer zone has allowed armed opposition groups freedom of movement, made it possible to bring in fighters from Jordan, and strengthened the supply lines extending over a large part of the 80-kilometer cease-fire line.
The fall of western Tel al-Ahmar, just five kilometers from the separation of forces line in the Golan Heights, is significant for two reasons. One, it overlooks, along with eastern Tel al-Ahmar, which faces a similar battle, the Quneitra countryside. It also connects the south Quneitra countryside with the western Daraa countryside and opens up the southern front to forces advancing from Jordan across the separation of forces line, and brings the southern front back to the fore at a time when the offensive in the north is stalled and Anfal, in all its branches, is failing, and the army is being forced to redeploy and reduce its operations in Qalamoun, Homs and Aleppo.
The regional escalation across the Turkish and Jordanian borders is a substitute for the United States opting out of a large-scale military operation against Syria. The US National Security Council told the Syrian opposition that the United Staets will not intervene against Damascus nor will it give the opposition quality weapons during the current administration. US Secretary of State John Kerry made comments that put a ceiling on any intervention. His comments were aimed at sending a political signal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Speaking in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 8 about President Barack Obama’s plan to strike Syria after accusing it of using chemical weapons in Ghouta on Aug. 21, Kerry said that the strike, if carried out, would not have changed anything in the course of events. He pointed out that the strike would have been very limited and aimed at preventing Assad from delivering more chemical weapons to his forces. “It would not have had a devastating impact by which he had to recalculate, because it wasn’t going to last that long. Here we were going to have one or two days to degrade and send a message,” he said. But, he noted, “we came up with a better solution,” explaining that an agreement was reached with Moscow whereby Syria’s chemical weapons are being shipped out of the country.
Kerry said that Washington has increased its aid to the Syrian opposition but said nothing about the nature of the aid. He predicted that the war will end through a political agreement, not a foreign military strike.