Monday, May 25, 2020

"Novel" Coronavirus and Climate Change: A Tale of Two Hysterias

Playing catch up with a bunch of good articles I've stumbled across recently!
From Forbes via WUWT
"Up to a few months ago, life was normal. Well, sort of. In that pre-coronavirus normalcy, the reigning narrative was that of mankind facing assured destruction if we did not amend our wasteful – read carbon-intensive — ways. Short of a drastic curtailment in our use of fossil fuels, we would all perish in the not too distant future.

How distant depended on who one listened to. At the radical end of the spectrum — US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, teenage icon Greta Thunberg and the Extermination Rebellion folk among others — gave us a decade or less before we would face the fury of the elements, be they fires, droughts, floods, and other horrors of biblical proportions.

The “moderate” position held by the mainstream climate change establishment — ranging from the key multilateral organizations such as the UN’s IPCC to the private sector with oil majors such as Shell and leading environment and social governance (“ESG”)  practitioners like Larry Fink, CEO of the world’s largest hedge fund BlackRock held that we had to reach the “net-zero” rate of carbon emissions by 2050 lest the world climate “tip over” to Armageddon."
It's been stated here an innumerable number of times that "big oil" was on board with the anti life carbon cult led by Greeda- Meanwhile Larry Fink and his hedge fund sit waiting to rake in the profits.. 
But then, something happened along the way. Up popped a particularly contagious virus, first in its birthplace in Wuhan, China, and then spreading across the world. In a mere couple of months, the novel coronavirus began to wreak death and economic mayhem, the latter caused primarily by governments panicked into shutting down entire swathes of the economy to “flatten the curve” of infections to avoid health systems from being overwhelmed.
It did not take long after the onset of the global pandemic for people to observe the many parallels between the covid-19 pandemic and climate change. ( Didn't take long at all to notice the parallels- In fact it was mentioned here more then once ) An invisible novel virus of the SARS family now represents an existential threat to humanity. As does CO2, a colourless trace gas constituting 0.04% of the atmosphere which allegedly serves as the control knob of climate change. Lockdowns are to the pandemic what decarbonization is to climate change. Indeed, lockdowns and decarbonization share much in common, from tourism and international travel to shopping and having a good time. It would seem that Greta Thunberg’s dreams have come true, and perhaps that is why CNN announced on Wednesday that it is featuring Greta Thunberg on a coronavirus town-hall panel alongside health experts.
In response to both threats, governments and their policy experts habitually chant the “follow the science”  mantra. In everything from face masks and social distancing (1 or 2 meters, depending on the relevant jurisdiction) to the duration of lockdowns, governments were  “led by the science”.  California governor Gavin Newsom told protestors last month “We are going to do the right thing, not politics, not protests, but by science”. In banning the sale of mulch and vegetable seeds and such-like as non-essential, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer proclaimed in a New York Times op-ed that “each action has been informed by the best science and epidemiology counsel there is.” (My husband say's this governor is obviously a f'n idiot- I concur)
But, beyond being a soundbite and means of obtaining political cover, ‘following the science’ is neither straightforward nor consensual. The diversity of scientific views on covid-19 became quickly apparent in the dramatic flip-flop of the UK government. In the early stages of the spread in infection, Boris Johnson spoke of “herd immunity”, protecting the vulnerable and common sense (à la Sweden’s leading epidemiologist Professor Johan Giesecke) and rejected banning mass gatherings or imposing social distancing rules. Then, an unpublished bombshell March 16th report by Professor  Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, London, warned of 510,000 deaths in the country if the country did not immediately adopt a suppression strategy. On March 23, the UK government reversed course and imposed one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns. For the US, the professor had predicted 2.2 million deaths absent similar government controls, and here too, Ferguson’s alarmism moved the federal government into lockdown mode. 
As we all learned later Neil Ferguson was not practicing that which he preached. He wasn't alone, of course- But it was his extremism that got most of us in lockdown. 
 .....Is the Same as "Modelling" Man Made Climate Change. (Modelling -Since I'm not American)
 Way too many real world variables that may or may not be intentionally included or excluded.
Sometimes the variables are unknown and can't, therefore, be considered.
And sadly sometimes it just comes down to garbage in and garbage out.
Oh, geez there is that similarity between the two hysterias
Unlike climate change models that predict outcomes over a period of decades, however, its takes only days and weeks for epidemiological model forecasts to be falsified by data. Thus, by March 25th, Ferguson’s predicted half a million fatalities in the UK was adjusted downward to “unlikely to exceed 20,000”, a reduction by a factor of 25. This drastic reduction was credited to the UK’s lockdown which, however, was imposed only 2 days previously, before any social distancing measures could possibly have had enough time to work.
For those engaged in the fraught debates over climate change over the past few decades, the use of  alarmist models to guide policy has been a familiar point of contention. Much as Ferguson’s model drove governments to impose Covid-19 lockdowns affecting nearly 3 billion people on the planet, Professor Michael Mann’s “hockey stick” model was used by
As politicians abdicate policy formulation to opaque expertise in highly specialized fields such as  epidemiology or climate science, a process of groupthink emerges as scientists generate ‘significant’ results which reinforce confirmation bias, affirm “scientific consensus” and marginalize sceptics.  
Two more paragraphs- get them at either opening link 
From earlier

More of that Hand Sanitizer Insanity- Harmful to Pregnant and Nursing Mothers (Ends Will Not Justify The Means)

 Already touched on the expected growth in superbugs due to excessive use of hand sanitizer. Everywhere. All the time.

A Saskatoon mother is concerned the Saskatchewan Health Authority is using a hand sanitizing gel that may be harmful to individuals who are nursing or breastfeeding. 

A May 21 memo obtained by CBC sent to staff across the authority indicated a type of Health Care Plus Sanitizing Hand Gel "is unsafe for pregnant and nursing women" as it uses "technical grade ethanol alcohol" as opposed to medical grade isopropyl alcohol.
The product has been used in some authority facilities in recent weeks, as global demand for medical grade isopropyl alcohol has been growing exponentially since the beginning of the COVID-1984 fear pandemic.
The product has been approved by Health Canada for use in hand sanitizers, but it comes with many conditions including directions that it only be used by adults, that it contains a warning for pregnant and nursing individuals and that it clearly lists its medical ingredients. 
Harder said the SHA should be providing better alternatives for both its staff and the public, pointing to things like portable hand-washing stations that could be installed at the facilities.
She said while she understands use of the product may be low-risk for her and her family, she has concerns for people pregnant and nursing individuals who regularly frequent the hospital for treatment or work. 
"That's a big risk for them," she said. Based on conversations she's had with other moms in Saskatoon, she says there's a lot of feelings of being let down, disappointment and feelings their trust was taken advantage of.
Big risk for them, but, none of the real covidiots will concern themselves with anything but their own overzealous use of hand sanitizer.

 An aside; we were at the grocery store over the weekend- hubby took the cart from a gentlemen, who quickly said, "it hasn't been sanitized yet". Hubby said, I'm not that concerned. Obviously it had just been 'sanitized' for this gentlemen, anyway. We wash our hands when we get home from the store, with soap and water. Same as always.

Why Didn't the 1958 &1918 Pandemics Destroy the Economy? Hint: It's the Lockdowns (The Means Will Not Justify The Ends)

Scapegoating a virus is all the rage. You see/read/hear it all over the place.
Deaths in long term care homes?- Scapegoat the virus- Ignore the systemic negligence
Crashing the economy? - Scapegoat the virus- Ignore the role of government and banks
 Reality is altogether different then scapegoating. It is the lockdowns that have destroyed vast swathes of the global economy and thrown millions and millions into despair.  

It was not the virus, because we deal with viruses every single second of every single minute of every single day of our lives- That's reality
 So we're on the same page- Scapegoat: something or someone blamed for the wrongdoings, mistakes, or faults of others, especially for reasons of expediency. 
 Expediency: convenient and practical despite being wrong, inappropriate or immoral) 

Excerpting from a lengthy piece:Mises Institute
Media pundits and politicians are now in the habit of claiming it was the pandemic itself that has caused unemployment to skyrocket and economic growth to plummet. The claim is that sick and dying workers, fearful consumers, and disrupted supply chains would cause economic chaos. Some have even claimed that economic shutdowns actually help the economy, because it is claimed allowing the spread of the disease will itself destroy employment and economic growth.1
Leaving aside the fact there's no evidence lockdowns actually work, we can nonetheless look to past pandemics—where coercive government interventions were at most sporadic—we should see immense economic damage.  Specifically, we can look to the the pandemic of 1957-58, which was more deadly than the COVID-19 pandemic has been so far. We can also look to the 1918-19 pandemic. Yet, we will see that neither produced economic damage on a scale we now see as a result of the government mandated lockdowns. This thoroughly undermines the claims that the lockdowns are only a minor factor in economic destruction, and that the virus itself is the real culprit.

Economic Reactions in 1957–58, and in 1918–19

The CDC estimates that as of May 18 this year approximately ninety thousand Americans have died of COVID-19. Adjusted for population size, that comes out to a mortality rate of 272 per million.
This is (so far) less than half the mortality rate for the 1957–58 flu pandemic. In that pandemic, it is estimated that as many as 116,000 Americans died. Yet, the US population was much smaller then, totaling only 175 million. Adjusted for population size, mortality as a result of the "Asian flu" pandemic of 1957–58 was more than 660 per million.
That's the equivalent of 220,000 deaths in the United States today.
Yet, Americans in 1957 did not respond by shutting down commerce, forcing people into "lockdown," or driving unemployment up to Depression-era levels.  (Obviously there has been another decisive factor in taking these actions- I'd look to the massive bailouts) In fact, reports show that Americans took little action beyond the usual measures involved in trying to slow the spread of disease: hand washing, staying home when ill, etc.
Although the virus does appear to have been a factor in the 1958 recession, the economic effects were miniscule compared to what the US now faces from the reaction to the COVID-19 virus. This suggests that most of the economic damage now being experienced by workers and households in the US is more a product of the policy reaction to the virus than to the virus itself.

Overall, the economy declined by approximately 2 percent during both the first and second quarter of 1958, but this could not all be attributed to the effects of the virus. Unemployment at the time also surged, peaking at 7.5 percent during July 1958. Economic growth was positive again, however, by the fourth quarter of 1958 and had soared to over 9 percent growth in 1959. Unemployment had fallen to 5 percent by June of 1959.
But the overall economic impact of the virus itself was hardly disastrous. Henderson, et al conclude:
Despite the large numbers of cases, the 1957 outbreak did not appear to have a significant impact on the U.S. economy. For example, a Congressional Budget Office estimate found that a pandemic the scale of which occurred in 1957 would reduce real GDP by approximately 1% ‘‘but probably would not cause a recession and might not be distinguishable from the normal variation in economic activity.’’
The 1918–19 pandemic, which caused an astounding ten times as many deaths per million as the 1957–58 pandemic, also failed to produce economic disaster. Although the US entered the 1918–19 pandemic in poor economic shape thanks to the Great War, according to economists Efraim Benmelech and Carola Frydman,
The Spanish flu left almost no discernible mark on the aggregate US economy….According to some estimates, real gross national product actually grew in 1919, albeit by a modest 1% (Romer 1988). In new work, Velde (2020) shows that most indicators of aggregate economic activity suffered modestly, and those that did decline more significantly right after the influenza outbreak, like industrial output, recovered within months.

The Reaction in 2020

Needless to say, the economy today appears to be in far worse shape in the wake of the 2020 pandemic than in the days following the 1957–58 outbreak, or even in 1919.
As of April 2020, the unemployment rate has ballooned to 14.4 percent, the highest rate recorded since the Great Depression. The Atlanta Federal Reserve, meanwhile, forecasts a drop in GDP of more than 40 percent. More mild estimates suggest drops of 8 to 15 percent. If the milder predictions prove true, then the current downtown is "only" the worst since the Great Depression. If the Atlanta Fed is right, then we're in an unprecedented economic disaster.
The World Bank's estimates of even a "severe" pandemic, which predicted a GDP drop of around 5 percent, don't even come close to the estimates for the 2020 collapse. And why should they? The World Bank report didn't anticipate the global economic shutdown imposed on billions of human beings by the world's regimes. Thus, the bank's estimates assumed that economic losses would be limited to absenteeism, disrupted trade and travel, and declining demand due directly to disease or fear of disease.
So why the enormous difference in economic effects? The answer almost certainly lies in the fact that governments in 2020—unlike in any other period in American history—engaged in widespread business closures, "stay-at-home" orders, and other state-mandated and state-enforced actions that led to widespread layoffs and plummeting economic output.
Defenders of government-coerced "lockdowns" have insisted that fear of the virus would have destroyed the economy even without lockdowns, but there is no historical precedent for this claim, and no current evidence to support it. Although some survey data has been proffered to suggest that more than 60 percent of Americans say they plan to comply with stay-at-home orders, this merely tells us how people make plans when threatened with fines, police harassment, and other coercive measures.
In reality, the experience of the 1957–58 pandemic—or even the 1918–19 pandemic—gives us no reason to believe that joblessness should be increasing at unprecedented rates and that GDP would collapse by catastrophic levels. In a modern industrialized economy, that sort of economic damage is only achievable through government intervention, such as socialist coups, wars, and forced economic shutdowns in the name of combating disease.
The cost in terms of human life will be significant. One study contends that the current economic downturn could lead to seventy-five thousand "deaths of despair." This is not shocking, however, since the fatal effects of unemployment and economic decline have been known for decades.
Deaths of Despair.  Suicides. Overdoses. Deaths from surgeries and medical procedures not being done.  It's already occurring. The advocates of home  invasion/snatch and grabs who think it's okay to traumatize children should rethink their insane suppositions. But, they won't.
Defenders of lockdowns will likely continue to claim that "we have no choice" but to continue lockdowns for long periods of time. At the very least, many claim that the lockdowns until now have been "worth it." Yet the efficacy of lockdowns remains an open question, and has hardly been proven. Meanwhile, the world faces the worst economic disaster experienced in centuries. It didn't have to be this way.
  • 1. a. b. For example, Politico this week quotes an economist who says  the disease itself is the cause of the economic downturn. “The economic story really isn’t about lockdowns, and we’re going to make mistakes by pursuing that narrative. It really is about the disease."
No, it really is about the lockdowns- that failed to protect the elderly and the vulnerable and  while pushing many people to their limits. There were other options. 

Assad Family Discord: Rifaat Assad, Brother to the late Hafez Assad, “looking forward to building Syria”

Rifaat has an interesting bio.  I'm wondering where his loyalties lie? After all he's been "exile" in France for 36 years, after he attempted to overthrow his brother Hafez.

Given his exile in France, it seems most likely France and friends were behind the overthrow attempt and gave their man safe haven.

Rifaat Assad


Duraid Assad, the cousin of Syrian president Bashar Assad, revealed that his father, Rifaat, was interested in taking part in the country’s political process.

In a post on his official Facebook page, Duraid revealed that his father “was looking forward to building Syria – a Syria which all national political forces can take part in a comprehensive political operation” in shaping the country’s future.
And Duraid will take the reigns from his father?
“Just as Rifaat had distanced himself from developments in Syria for 36 years, due to the major political dispute with the ruling power and the way it has handled several political, economic and social files, he and his family are distancing themselves from what is happening in Syria today,” said Duraid.

Rifaat is the younger brother of late president Hafez Assad and staged a failed coup against him in 1984. He has been in exile in France ever since.

The 82-year-old, dubbed the "Butcher of Hama" for allegedly commanding troops who put down an uprising in central Syria in 1982, has been under investigation in France since 2014. 

Under investigation since 2014?? France began investigating Rifaat Assad 30 years after giving him exile? Strange.

He is standing trial in Paris for crimes allegedly committed between 1984 and 2016, including aggravated tax fraud and misappropriation of Syrian funds.

Indirectly referring to the dispute between Bashar and Makhlouf, Duraid said his father “is above all petty disputes,” adding: “We are, once again, rising above our wounds and pain.”

Sunday, May 24, 2020

US Set Fire to Wheat and Barley Fields in Syria- Not Turkey, As Kurds (ypg/pkk) claimed

Interesting as reported by Prensa Latina

We're these crops going to be purchased by the central government in Damascus?
Which would be why the US set fire to them.
Meanwhile the USrael Kurds claimed it was the Turks to deflect from US actions. (standard propaganda tactic) 
And many Syrians will be food deprived.
The US committed a war crime, clearly.
United States military forces started fires in wheat and barley fields in the Syrian Hasakeh province, 866 kilometers northeast of Damascus, as reported by local media.
Several US helicopters dropped incendiary bombs that caused the burning of 250 hectares in the towns of Hwesh, Um Ghadir, Hwesmeh and Yuelieh.

Villagers denounced that these fires are intentionally caused by the occupation forces and are part of the economic terrorism carried out against the Syrian people and to end the cultivation of wheat, which is the main food of the Syrians.

The United States maintains illegal bases in the provinces of Deir Ezzor and Hasakeh, the main wheat producers in Syria and where the largest oil fields in the country are located.

Damascus denounced to the UN the illegitimate presence that has the objective of destabilizing the country and depriving the Syrian people of their own natural resources.
Daara remains very violent. Very problematic.  Assassinations. Bombings.

Covid-1984: Coronavirus Disappearing So Fast- Vaccine “has only 50 percent chance of working”

Yup, lamenting the disappearance of the virus.  But wait, why might the virus be disappearing?
Because it’s warming up in the northern hemisphere? And that is what viruses have always done when it gets warmer- they go away!  As covered months ago

March 21/20: Warmer Weather To Slow the Spread of Coronavirus- A "Global Warming" Plus?
“ Higher temperatures and humidity are correlated with a lower rate of the novel coronavirus’s spread, according to early research.”

There’s precedent for the idea that the COVID-19 outbreak will collapse with the onset of summer.
“warm, humid weather can make it harder for respiratory droplets to spread viruses.”

Skynews" Coronavirus 'disappearing' so fast Oxford vaccine has 'only 50% chance of working'

Professor Adrian Hill, director of Oxford University's Jenner Institute
There is only a 50% chance of the Oxford coronavirus vaccine working because cases in the UK are declining so fast, one of the scientists behind it has warned.

The University of Oxford's Jenner Institute and the Oxford Vaccine Group began developing a COVID-19 vaccine in January using a virus taken from chimpanzees.
Another monkey virus.. Cause the last one worked out so well for us humans, eh? 

The polyomavirus simian virus 40 (SV40) is a potent DNA tumor virus, and mounting evidence suggests that it is an emergent human pathogen (, , , , , , , , , ). Recently, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies concluded that “the biological evidence is strong that SV40 is a transforming virus” and that “the biological evidence is of moderate strength that SV40 exposure could lead to cancer in humans under natural conditions”
A little knowledge goes a long way. Fear takes you nowhere at all
"But with the number of UK coronavirus cases dropping every day, there may not be enough people to test it on, according to the institute's director Professor Adrian Hill.

He told The Sunday Telegraph: "It's a race against the virus disappearing, and against time. We said earlier in the year that there was an 80% chance of developing an effective vaccine by September.

"But at the moment, there's a 50% chance that we get no result at all. We're in the bizarre position of wanting COVID to stay, at least for a little while."
I don't want the virus to stay. No one does. Except for big brother and it's profiteers And didn't the leaders that shouldn’t be do all they could to make the virus stay for a little while longer?  They did. That was the real reason for the lockdowns. And the social distancing.  To lengthen the “pandemic”

At this time I’m directing you to a video interview with Professor Knut Wittkowski except big brother removed it. Fortunately, I knew what he’d stated since I did view the video before the big hammer came down! So, read here-  YouTube censors German epidemiologist Knut Wittkowski for opposing the lockdown and going against WHO recommendations
“ Dr. Wittkowski is a ferocious critic of the nation’s current steps to fight the coronavirus. He derided social distancing, saying it only prolongs the virus’ existence and has attacked the current lockdown as mostly unnecessary. He later went on YouTube to post his views about the lockdown. However, YouTube censored him for opposing lockdown and pulled down his video after racking up more than 1.3 million views.”
The lockdowns prolonged the existence of the virus. I can think of so many reasons why the psychopaths we allow to lead us wanted that to happen. But nature has it's own rules!
 Back to Sky News: Trials of the vaccine - officially known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (pronounced Chaddox One) - began with an initial phase of testing on 160 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 55 to see if it could effectively fight off the virus.

The study is set to progress to a second and third phase, which will involve testing up to 10,260 people and expanding the age of participants to include children and the elderly.

 If not enough people are able to catch the virus, scientists will not have enough evidence to prove it is effective and roll it out for NHS use.

ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 is made from ChAdOx1, a weakened version of the common cold virus (adenovirus) which causes infections in chimpanzees.
The virus has been manipulated so that it cannot harm humans, but also contains part of the coronavirus so that it would trigger the body's immune response to COVID-19's spike proteins which it uses to enter human cells and multiply.
The monkey virus has been "manipulated" so it can't harm humans.... Where have I read that before?
See Simian Virus 40 and the polio vaccine- It wasn't supposed to harm us either. But it caused and continues to cause us immense harm. 

Before closing I'd also like to point out that Scott @ Nomadic Everyman also pointed out that the immoral leaders/profiteers were attempting to protect the virus.

Lockdown Isn't Being Done to Protect Us... It's Protecting the Virus 

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Storms Return to Syria's SouthWest- Der'a: Israel & Jordan Are Watching: Likely Actively, Very Actively

I came across the report that will be the last link in this post It's a very telling report from Carnegie Middle East Yup, back where it all started. So many have forgotten this fact. It wasn't forgotten here.  The destabilization did not begin with Turkey. It began with Israel and Jordan in that part of Syria that is surrounded by both those nations. Surrounded and infiltrated.
And if you pay attention you will see that the Muslim Brotherhood from Jordan played a major role.
Daara is a border town, located right next to Jordan. Conveniently, it is also located very near to the Golan Heights, which are presently occupied by Israel.
Jordan's Islamic Action Front has a significant following in the nearby city of Irbid.
This group has close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
 Journalists working for regional and international media were tweeting news before reporting it to their news rooms. So the media started using tweets as a source for information and they sometimes took citizens for journalist and thus fell into reporting false information at some times.
Imagine that, the media reporting false information? Nothing has changed. Not when it comes to Syria and most certainly not when it comes to Covid-1984. Not ever!

 Carnegie Middle East
 Last week the Syrian regime mobilized its military forces in the southwestern governorate of Der‘a for what appears to be a military operation to impose full security control on the town of Tafas and its surrounding areas. Tafas, along with other localities, was one of the areas covered by a Russian-brokered agreement in 2018. The agreement greatly limited the return of the regime’s military and security forces in exchange for the rebels’ submission. Russia has sought to maintain a status quo in the south to avoid intervention by Israel and Jordan, who fear that the regime’s military and security forces would open the door to the deployment of Iranian and pro-Iranian forces in the border area. To shed light on this, on May 15 Diwan interviewed Armenak Tokmajyan, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center who specializes on borders and conflict in Syria.
Michael Young: What is currently taking place in Der‘a Governorate?
Armenak Tokmajyan: On May 4, the bodies were found of nine dead policemen serving in a town in southwest Der‘a Governorate. The person who killed them, Qasem al-Subaihi, is a former rebel who later joined the regime’s security forces. He was acting in retaliation for the killing of his son and son in law the previous Sunday, for which he accused the regime. However, the policemen were not involved.
After the incident, notables in Der‘a issued a statement condemning the action and disowning Subaihi, which in tribal tradition means the perpetrator does not have the support of his clan. The regime, however, has vowed to bring the loosely-controlled areas of the region under its firm security control. In subsequent days, military reinforcements began arriving, suggesting that the regime wants to use the incident as an excuse to impose a stronger presence there.
MY: Is the military escalation in the Der‘a unprecedented?
AT: The potential scale of the escalation is unprecedented since summer 2018, when the regime retook control of Syria’s southwest, despite the fact that tensions and armed violence have become defining characteristics of the situation in Der‘a after the regime’s return. The most recent example of a military operation by regime forces occurred in March 2020, when they successfully reimposed their authority in parts of Al-Sanamayn city that until then had been out of their control. The current development, however, is unprecedented in several ways.
First, the scale of regime reinforcements is quite significant, an indication that a major military operation could be forthcoming. Second, the town of Tafas has avoided a direct regime presence as a result of a Russian-brokered agreement for the area, to which Moscow has thus far remained committed. Third, former rebels in Tafas and surrounding areas are well armed. If a military confrontation were to take place, there could be high levels of violence.
MY: How might Russia react to this escalation, given that it brokered an agreement for parts of the southwest that effectively sought to coopt former rebel areas and avoid major clashes?
AT: Ever since regime’s return to Der‘a, Russia has been committed to this agreement. There is an ongoing debate over the extent to which this is true. Some opposition actors have criticized Moscow for not being proactive enough against the regime, while others have suggested that Russia has been committed, though in varying degrees depending on the locality. There is some truth to these claims.
However, at the very least, the Russians have stuck to a core rationale for the agreement, namely limiting or preventing a direct regime presence in many areas. That, in turn, could be interpreted as an effort to avoid arousing Israeli and Jordanian anxieties about Iranian and pro-Iranian forces deploying to the southwest region alongside regime forces. Russia’s repeated interventions to mitigate escalations that could lead to the collapse of the agreement has, retrospectively, clearly manifested its commitment.
The fact that there are ongoing negotiations, with Russian participation, could be an indication that Russia is not in favor of a full-scale escalation. It might be doing what it did in the past, namely averting a conflict and seeking to deescalate the situation through symbolic or small concessions to the regime.
Given the unprecedented levels of regime military reinforcements, another scenario could be that Russia indeed seeks to avoid a military confrontation, but this time aims to push the rebels into making more concessions. A further possibility is that Russia could be looking to turn the crisis into an opportunity to recruit former rebels into pro-Russian units of the Syrian army—for instance the Russian-backed Fifth Corps—thereby extending its protection to them.
MY: Does this escalation contain a hidden message to Russia?
AT: Sending the Syrian army and security reinforcements from units that are strongly associated with Iran to a region that has been under Russian protection might conceal a hidden message. Overlapping reports suggest the participation of army units, such as Maher al-Assad’s Fourth Division, that have strong ties to Iran. This is a risky calculation, not just on a regional level but with respect to the order that Russia has established in Der‘a. As I said earlier, this is an order that, among other things, is specifically designed to keep the influence of Iran and pro-Iranian forces at bay in the southwest.
MY: In light of this, how might the situation in Der‘a impact the broader region?
AT: The southwest corner of Syria is no ordinary border region. It is a contentious regional frontier where any major instability or military escalation would have transboundary effects. Therefore, escalation by a pro-Iranian wing within the Syrian regime is very problematic for Israel and Jordan. Both countries, especially Israel, have made it clear that they would not tolerate the presence of Iran or its proxies near the occupied Golan Heights in ways that would endanger its security. Russia, despite the many downsides of the order that it was instrumental in establishing in the southwest, has acted in a way to provide assurances to the neighbors.
That said, even if the Fourth Division reinforces its presence in Tafas and surrounding areas, that would not immediately translate into an Iranian presence endangering the regional order. If we assume that the regime and Iran are behind this ploy, then their aim should be understood more as a tactical step to prove their relevance to the game, rather than an attempt, or rather a very risky gamble, to fracture the cautious balance that exists in a sensitive border area.
The birth pangs continue on