Dr. Mordechai Kedar// The Syrian regime’s situation took a turn for the better when in May 2013, Hezbollah’s infantry entered the conflict in full force in an attempt to conquer the city of Al-Qusayr, located between the Jussieh border crossing that separates northeast Lebanon from Syria and the Syrian city of Homs. Al-Qusayr was of great importance to Hezbollah, because it is on the road that leads from northern Lebanon deep into Syrian territory and was the site of much arms, weapons, ammunition, communications equipment and cash smuggling that came from the port of Tripoli and the Sunnis of northern Lebanon and reached the rebel forces.
The Syrian army did not succeed in conquering al-Qusayr, so the Iranian Revolutionary Guard command decided to bring in Hezbollah to free the town from anti-Assad rebels headed by the Free Syrian Army and Jabhat al-Nusra. Hezbollah managed to win the tough battle that included house-to-house fighting, but it paid a hefty price with over one hundred of its fighters dead and at least double that number wounded. The rebels lost over two thousand fighters, of whom 1000 were killed and another 1000 taken prisoner by the Syrian Army while at least 2000 were wounded. The high number of rebel casualties is a result of the Syrian Air Force’s intensive use of barrel bombs.
Hezbollah continued to take part in freeing Homs from rebel control, helping Assad hold his ground by ensuring that the Allawite area and its seaports remained accessible from Damascus. At that time, those fighting Hezbollah were mainly the Free Syrian Army and Ja;bhat al-Nusra.
In 2014, however, Islamic State made its appearance, and in June 2014 it began fighting heavily in Syria, conquering large swaths of land in the eastern, thinly-populated part of the country. Islamic State’s tactics were to use a large motorized force of 4X4 vehicles plus heavier tanks and troop carriers that it had taken as booty in Iraq to attack small towns, villages and army posts. Only rarely would Islamic State mass its forces in order to engage in static trench warfare, as it did in Kobane on the Syrian-Turkish border, because in that type of battle it had no advantage over those protecting the city.
As a result, Islamic State has developed a most useful tactic – it simply surrounds places that are difficult to conquer, such as eastern Syria’s regional city, Dir-a-zur, laying siege to them and blocking overland supply routes. This minimizes casualties for Islamic State and allows it to achieve significant territorial and psychological successes at a relatively small price.
Another important detail of Islamic State’s strategy is its efforts to gain control over border passes, thereby stopping overland traffic between Syria and its neighbors – Iraq, Turkey and Jordan – and resulting in a partial siege of Assad’s regime. Up until this week, Lebanon was the only country whose border crossings were still in Assad’s hands.
That ended when advance forces of Islamic State infiltrated westward to the area south of Homs this week, surrounded al-Qusayr and overran Hezbollah positions guarding the Jussiah crossing that joins Homs with northern Lebanon. Hezbollah lost tens of fighters in the short battle that took place in an area where it did not expect to be attacked.
Islamic State chalked up several gains: it isolated Damascus, cutting it off from the Alawite coastal area, surrounded the cities of al-Qusayr and Homs, gained control of an important border crossing and surprised the Hezbollah in what it sees as a strategic victory, as Hezbollah will now have to transfer fighters from Syria back to Lebanon in order to protect the country and its Shiites.
Surrounding al-Qusayr and Homs is a ringing slap in the face to Hezbollah which lost two hundred of its fighters to free these cities, and now is forced to see all that effort obliterated, since that is not able to stop the determined IS forces on their westward route to Lebanon. For the past three years, Hassan Nasrallah has been claiming that Hezbollah fought in Syria in order to survive in Lebanon, but it looks as though its involvement in Syria has not brought about the hoped-for results. The opposite is true, it increased the Sunni rebels’ motivation – Islamic State and Jebhat al-Nusra – to take revenge on Hezbollah in its own strongholds, that is, in Lebanon.
Hezbollah may also retreat from Zabadani, a city on the road from Beirut to Damascus, clearing the way for a possible retaking of the city by the rebels or Islamic State.
The Sunni stranglehold over the Alawite sect in Syria, Assad’s regime, the Shiites of Lebanon and the Hezbollah militias is growing tighter, with the voices of those under siege calling out for aid to their patrons in Tehran and Moscow. That is the reason for the feverish efforts of politicians in those two countries this week, attempting to find a solution of some kind to the war in Syria before Assad, his people and the Lebanon Shiites fall under the knives of Islamic State. As time passes, the chances of finding a solution are less and less realistic, especially since the rebels and Islamic State are already picturing the blood gushing from the necks of their opponents, the Shiites of Lebanon.
The fate of the Druze, Christians and Alawites in Lebanon will be no better than the fate of the Shiites, and Lebanon – once called the Switzerland of the Middle East – may soon become its Hell on earth.
Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iraq must join forces with regard to Hezbollah’s rocket stores, because if and when they fall into the hands of Islamic State, they will in all probability be launched against each one of those countries. Iran, the main supplier of these missiles, will take revenge on whoever allows Islamic State to carry out its plans against the Lebanese Shiites.
The Ayatollahs of Iran, whose regime is the main chess piece in the Middle East, will put the billions it receives as a result of the Iranian Nuclear Agreement to good use in order to get back at anyone who supported, aided and helped the Sunni militias in Syria, starting with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the Emirates, Turkey and Israel. That makes it imperative for anyone who cares about the future of the Middle East to put an end to this scenario’s possible occurrence before it is too late. The chaos that Iran has wrought in Yemen is exactly what it will do in Lebanon, if given the chance.
The problem is not only the nuclear arms it possesses, it is the Iranian regime itself, its way of thinking, its belief system and behavior. The world must strangle this regime in every possible way, exactly as it has to strangle the threat of Islamic State. The hope that Iran will do the world’s dirty work and destroy Islamic State is unfounded, nothing but a pipe dream. The world must unite against both Iran and Islamic State, before they present it with an unconventional challenge.
Islamic State, while fighting its opponents, also has to deal with internal problems. This week it was reported that sixteen of its fighters were infected with AIDS as a result of the “Marriage Jihad” they held with two Moroccan volunteers who brought the virus with them. The Saudi doctor and two Yazidi nurses who discovered the presence of the disease publicized it, causing a panic among Islamic State forces. The doctor and nurses were put to death after it was discovered that the Moroccan women had escaped to Turkey when the reports went public. Islamic State decided to give those who had contracted AIDS suicide missions in order to stop the spread of the disease and to see to it that their blood is spilled among Islamic State’s enemies, infecting them as well. That is Islamic State’s method of waging biological warfare.
This week, it became known that Islamic State’s weapons engineers have begun filling katyusha rockets with chlorine gas. This became clear when one of the rockets exploded near its launching pad and the gas it gave off killed the fighters who had launched it. This does not come as a surprise – two weeks ago the first reports surfaced claiming that Islamic State is using mustard gas in rockets and missiles. The gas supplies may have been taken from Syrian army supply depots in Alspira and Aleppo and it is quite possible that Syrian army deserters know how to use them. Only a month ago, an attempt by persons connected to Islamic State to pour barrels of poison into the Kosovo capital Pristina’s reservoirs was foiled and its perpetrators captured, preventing the deaths of the 200,000 residents of that city. Can Islamic State wage a chemical war? It seems likely.
In northern Syria, with its Kurdish majority, a new women’s unit of Assyrian Christians has been formed and has been provided with intensive military training in preparation for all types of warfare. This unit will be sent to fight Islamic State bearing in mind that Islamic State fighters believe that if they are killed by a woman they will not receive the reward awaiting them in Paradise. As a result, as soon as they know they are surrounded by women’s army units, they usually flee. This is why the Kurdish women fighters shout loudly and bloodcurdlingly when they think they are approaching a place that has Islamic State forces. It seems likely that the Assyrian women will do the same, using psychological warfare against Islamic State. For its part, Islamic State continues its own psychological warfare by spreading horrendous videos showing the butchering of its enemies; selling the daughters of infidels as slaves is also intended to demoralize its opponents.
In conclusion: Islamic State is engaging in biological warfare, chemical warfare and psychological warfare, another reason to define it as a terror state and not just a terror organization. Before its fighters get their hands on radioactive materials which they will use unhesitatingly against their enemies, it might be a good idea to remember that every hospital trashcan contains radioactive materials from its x-ray department and putting together a “dirty bomb” using these materials is really easy. May G-d help us all.