South Syria’s escalation tests Biden readiness to intervene in Middle East: The Times

QAMSHLI, Syria (North Press) – A new front has opened in the other “forever war”, in Syria, that is once again testing President Biden’s willingness to intervene in the Middle East, the British newspaper The Times said, on August 2.  

The newspaper referred to the military escalation and the events in Daraa city, south Syria, which were followed by an agreement between Iran and Hezbollah on importing fuel form Tehran.

For more than two months, Daraa has been witnessing a state of tension amid clashes and government bombardment of the city accompanied by the Iranian-backed factions on the backdrop of imposing a siege on Daraa amid failed attempts to reach an agreement brokered by Russia.

The newspaper pointed out the presence of a common denominator that links the escalation of the government forces in the south and the fuel crisis in Lebanon with the foreign policy of the American President Joe Biden.

“The fight in south Syria coincided with an unexpected contact with Assad regime which is, theoretically, the most important communication since the US imposed Caesar Act on the regime, which is through the US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea who proposed to solve fuel crisis in Lebanon,” the Times said.

According to the proposal, some sanctions will be removed in order to transfer the natural gas from Egypt to Lebanon through gas pipelines located between Jordan and south Syria.

Parts of the pipelines in Syria needs restoration, as they pass through Daraa towards north of Homs to Tripoli city north of Lebanon, according to the Times. 

“Neither Shea nor any other American official gave an explanation of the idea and who was behind it,” the Times added.

“The clear explanation of the US proposal is to prevent Iran from rescuing Lebanon, where the Iranians pledged to transport fuel through oil tankers in coordination with their Lebanese ally, Hezbollah.”

On August 1, the US Senator Chris Murphy announced from Beirut that his country “is actively working to solve the fuel crisis in Lebanon” and added, “Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, it is creating destruction in the region and is a cancer that is spreading in Lebanon.”

On August 19, the leader of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group, Hassan Nasrallah, said that vessels carrying Iranian fuel will be setting sail soon followed by others to ease fuel shortages in Lebanon.

Bassam Barbandi, a defected Syrian diplomat, told the newspaper that he believes that the Iranians “want to control the gas pipeline to prevent the US allies from using it as a strategic tool as they consider Iraq, Syria and Lebanon influential countries in the Middle East.”

“The gas pipeline passes through Daraa, and therefore Iran’s takeover of Daraa means strangling the pipeline, which means the dominance of the Iranian military and energy sector,” Barbandi added.  

“The ceasefire agreement in Daraa, which was reached a few days ago, granted the regime more dominance over the city which was enjoying a kind of independency.”

In April, the Russian President special envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev, said that Iranian forces are operating less than 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the Israeli border.

At the time, Lavrentiev said, “we have reached an agreement with the Iranians providing that some units will stay 75 to 80 kilometers from the Syrian-Israeli border.

Reporting by Mu’az al-Hamad