Syrian protests and US strategy in Lebanon
Since the beginning of the summer, more and more reports began to appear in the media about the activation of the United States in the Syrian direction. Incidents in the air with Russian aircraft began to occur one after another, and additional American units with light armored vehicles were deployed across the Euphrates. The total increase in the contingent amounted to 2,5 thousand military personnel, which is quite decent by local standards.
Characteristically, now friction in the air occurs not only with drones, but also with F-35 fighters. This is a small but important detail, since the United States has not previously conducted such “tests” for its equipment. In past years, F/A-18 and F-22 operated there from them. Blows were exchanged several times between American and pro-Iranian forces, and Israel increased strikes on the warehouses of pro-Iranian formations.
It is logical that when a series of civil clashes and protests began in the summer, especially in southwestern Syria, observers attributed this to the return of the United States to the methods and practices of color revolutions. Unrest has actually become a frequent phenomenon, given the period of two years of relative calm and the general conciliatory trend of the Arabian monarchies with Damascus and Tehran.
There is no doubt that such methods and programs are working again - just look at how various offices have become more active, "studying" human rights in Syria from the western side.
But in fact, the roots of the situation are somewhat deeper.
Some time ago, the author made two materials: “Why Lebanon's finances have become the object of US scrutiny" and "On the growing risks of a crisis in Lebanon". The subjects of the articles have been US activation in the field of control over dollar flows in the region and consideration of the technology and interrelations with which different players take these flows out of the view of US regulators.
The US decided to take care of the financial sphere of Lebanon, as well as Iraq, not just for the sake of an abstract putting things in order. This is part of the strategic concept, where all the "correct" ones should be gathered in one place, Turkey is docked to the EU, and all the "wrong" ones - Syria, the Lebanese Hezbollah and Iran - are forced out of the new Middle East bloc.
Disconnecting the wrong players from dollar flows, players who perfectly use the internal channels of money movement, but, more importantly, the American payment systems themselves, is a non-trivial and ambitious task for the United States.
Especially taking into account the fact that the Arabian monarchies not only turned a blind eye to this, but also joined in the normalization of relations between official Damascus and tribal Arab associations of Trans-Euphrates. Actually, the transfer of an additional American contingent is designed to slow down these processes.
The financing of Syria can be divided into two large and not very overlapping parts - the public sector, which pays a very small state salary and social programs, but the infrastructure is literally restored from ruins, and the private sector.
The influx of money into the public sector is ensured under sanctions by small regional trade, trade with Russia, the supply of oil and oil products, as well as grain and flour from Iran (however, it is no secret that a significant part of Iranian purchases from us is intended specifically for Damascus), small Arabian (UAE), Chinese and Iranian tranches.
In the private sphere, everything is much more interesting, and for this let’s look at some numbers.
The average salary until recently was 120-150 dollars at a rate of 5 Syrian lira (until this summer).
At the same time, the official rates are 90–110 thousand Syrian liras. You can imagine what this means if you consider that a kilogram of simple rice cereal cost approximately 9 thousand, and the distant analogue of shawarma cost 5 thousand.
Rates that are multiples of $200 are considered good in the country, $350-400 are great, and $1 or more can get “not just everyone”, you have to work in the right place and be connected by good family ties.
How do they survive in Syria, especially how do they return former refugees (albeit in a very limited number so far)? And most importantly - where do they get the difference between official and real income?
For this, the dear reader needs to remember our domestic history early 1990s. Compare official rates and what they lived on. Here is the same, to put it in a florid language, "two-loop" economy worked then in our country, it works today in Syria.
The government is forced to look at these internal market affairs with understanding, since all available funds are invested in infrastructure - there will be no infrastructure, there will be no country, but people need to live.
And a special system of Middle Eastern money transfers, pawnshops and depositories, as it helped the Syrians in past difficult years, so it helps now, but its main source is in Lebanon, where a significant part of the same second economic circuit is the monetary system of the Hezbollah movement. This is precisely the second monetary system, and not just a shadow transfer of cash from hand to hand. Its details are just described in one of the previous articles.
What happened in the middle of this summer?
Interesting fresh material was posted by A. Kochneva, who lives permanently in Lebanon (this is the same journalist who was kidnapped by Syrian militants in 2015). She just cited the August prices in Damascus and the fresh rate of the Syrian lira. The exchange rate is 13 thousand per dollar, and the same rice of inexpensive varieties is already worth 14 thousand. Salaries in lira, of course, remained at the same level. They may be raised, but very gradually.
Protests went through the cities, and Druze communities also joined them. But, it is clear that it was not exchange rate fluctuations as such or price increases that triggered protests, price fluctuations are not new, but the fact that dollar cash, with which the population on the second circuit covered their real needs through Lebanese and Iraqi channels, regional small trade, has become dry up. Dollars have become less not so much in the state, but in the private sector.
In Russia, they periodically wrote about the situation in Syria this year, but for some reason, Lebanon completely dropped out of the reviews, even more was said about US financial restrictions on Iraq, although Iraq is ranked second here relative to Lebanon. But without analyzing the situation in Lebanon, it is absolutely impossible to understand the problems in Syria, and the activation of the United States in Lebanon is connected with their current Indo-Arabian strategy (which, by the way, is also not mentioned in our country for some reason).
It is absolutely no coincidence that the intensification of financial control measures that the United States began in Lebanon, i.e., limiting Hezbollah’s participation in Lebanese official politics to the maximum extent possible for the United States, coincided with protests in Syria and simultaneously with armed clashes in Lebanon. It was this summer that there were outbreaks of violence in Palestinian camps, the most famous of which was the fighting in Ein al-Hilweh.
The skirmishers were affiliated with Al-Qaeda cells (banned in the Russian Federation) groups. The synergy of actions in this direction with Israel is undoubted, but this is precisely the synergy of the efforts of a private Israeli strategy with a regional American one.
The representatives of Fatah, against whom these actions were directed, are not, for obvious reasons, close to Hezbollah, but the addressee here is no longer even the movement itself, but the official Lebanese government, which today also acts synergistically with Hezbollah.
But in fact, it moves many government contracts through its structures, which is equal to financing not only itself, but also private trade in the same Syria.
Lebanon is now in a severe financial crisis, which is precisely connected with the lack of liquidity in the banking system, while Hezbollah has been doing surprisingly well until recently. The United States decided to break this link with the Lebanese executive power, simultaneously engaging in the rehabilitation of the entire system of money transfers in the region.
The media pays more attention to the movement of the American army in Syria and incidents in the air, the protests are covered to varying degrees, but the protests are a consequence of changing US approaches to the region, and army activity is only a small part of the mosaic.
In fact, Washington has long understood that the situation cannot be changed in its favor by force, but Syria itself is not some kind of strategic goal.
Washington's bet on controlling financial flows in this region is interesting in its ambition. If you look at the situation from the American bell tower, then the approach is essentially correct - instead of cutting down the branches, they decided to pour pesticides on the roots of the tree.
And the problem here is that the roots of this financial system are so intertwined between all regional states that there is a chance to affect those areas that are a priority for the States themselves, such as Yemen, or neutral, like Jordan. The United States has always been distinguished by large-scale and well-thought-out strategies, which ultimately collapsed due to problems in local control. From the outside, the “strategy container” looked ideal, but the bottom usually turned out to be like a sieve.
So far we see that regulations for systems like Western Union and activity in terms of demands on Lebanese big business and politicians are having some success.
There are also results for the United States in terms of strengthening military contingents - it has become easier for them to control the transportation of goods from Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, which has already caused an exchange of blows with pro-Iranian formations.
As we can see, a difficult (although much more difficult) time has come in Syria, when Damascus and its allies will have to launch additional channels for pumping and collecting dollars for the population.
But how the United States will be able to implement the strategy as a whole depends on too many factors. Thus, Saudi Arabia is in no hurry to join the Indo-Arabian concept. She is either joining BRICS, or is going to think about it before January 1, she seems to agree to strengthening the American presence in the Persian Gulf, but is very active in terms of normalizing relations with Iran.
And without the participation of Riyadh, a return to a full-fledged confrontation between the trans-Euphratic Arab tribal unions and the government of B. Assad is impossible, respectively, and the new contingent will not give the effectiveness that Washington is waiting for.
The second problem that the United States is unlikely to adequately resolve is the peculiarities of the Middle East political process as such.
It is interesting that the United States has always tried to present this region as a place of tyranny and dictatorship, tribal archaic, but in Lebanon alone, more than fifty political parties and movements officially operate. If we take Yemen, Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan, Syria, then there will be more than three hundred of them. And all of them are active and participate in political life. Somewhere they are joined with national, ethnic and tribal factors, but somewhere they are not.
This is such a peculiar legacy of the Cold War, after which many movements of anarchist, socialist, religious, nationalist persuasion remained in the Middle East, and even in various combinations, like pan-Arab socialism.
It is actually very difficult to swing such a political patchwork quilt and it is quite difficult to repeat the Arab Spring even with the proven technologies of color revolutions - a lot of factors must coincide.
The same Druze communities, about which the Western media write as alleged drivers of the summer protest, are considered “anchorites” - they did not welcome either official Damascus, or radical Islamists, or civil activists of the “Arab Spring” in Suweida. But they did not interfere with Damascus, they did not hit in the back at a critical moment.
Now they are writing about the fact that the Druze have risen against, but the protests are not massive, and in the Druze communities themselves there are political movements allied with the Baath, there are anarchist socialists, etc. The hero of Syria, General I. Zahreddin, who kept him from ISIS for three years ( prohibited in the Russian Federation) in a complete siege, the city of Deir es-Zor on the Euphrates, was a Druze, like many officers of the army of B. Assad.
Explosion of civil strife in Syria in 2011–2012 Basically, it had not so much social problems (although they were considerable), but a factor of large-scale drought, which shifted tens of thousands of people from their traditional places of residence.
Nevertheless, we see that the United States has so far been able to achieve certain results by playing one round. And having achieved them, they, no doubt, will continue to put pressure on them not just with demonstration actions in Syria, but with much less media-hyped, but much more effective actions in Lebanon.
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