In another move to grab control of the Syrian arena, the Kremlin marked the start of the US-Russian brokered ceasefire in Syria on Sept 12 with a push for the United States to dissolve the war room that has been running anti-Assad operations from a venue north of the Jordanian capital Amman. debkafile’s military and intelligence sources report that the demand was handed down from the Russian presidential office and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
The US Central Command Forward Command in Jordan has for three years run the command and communications functions of select rebel ground operations against Bashar Assad, especially insofar as US special operations units and air force were involved.
Jordanian, Saudi, Israeli, Qatari and United Arab Emirates officers serve alongside American commanders.
This forward command has evolved, according to our sources, into the nerve center of the military campaigns waged by this coalition against the Syrian army and its allies in southern Syria and also against the Islamic State in southeastern Syria and parts of western Iraq.
In January 2016, President Vladimir Putin had the Saudis talk King Abdullah into establishing a Russian-Jordanian forward command outside Amman alongside the American war room. His pretext was the necessity to avert accidental collisions between the Russian and Jordanian warplanes operating in Syrian air space.
But over the past months, the Russian-led command center has gradually nudged the US war room into an inferior role in the control of ongoing operations.
Last week, in the course of the marathon talks on a Syrian truce held by US Secretary of State John Kelly and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva, the American delegation was suddenly confronted with a demand to shut down the Centcom forward command in Jordan and reassign the US officers staffing it to the Russian-Jordanian command center.
Although taken aback, the US delegation in Geneva did not immediately reject the demand, but agreed to give it due consideration provided that the 10-day truce in Syria holds up and can be extended.
If President Barack Obama submits to Moscow’s demand, our sources point out, it would mean curtains for Israeli, Saudi, Qatar and Emirate officers participation in the Amman command. They would be sent home and their governments would find themselves out in the cold in relation to coordinated Russia-US and Jordanian operations in Syria.
According to debkafile’s intelligence sources, Israel and Gulf Arab military chiefs have concluded that Moscow’s move has the opposite goal of a ceasefire, and is in fact designed to clear the way for a major Russian-Syrian operation to seize Daraa, the main town of southern Syria, and drive all anti–Assad forces out of this region.
Since most of the rebel groups in control of the South are backed by Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Emirates, their expulsion would eliminate those nations’ influence and involvement in that part of Syria and sever their operational links with the United States.
This theory gained substance from the Syria ruler’s declaration Monday at the Daraya mosque:
"The Syrian state is determined to recover every area from the terrorists," Assad said in an interview broadcast by state media. He made no mention of the ceasefire agreement going into effect that day, but said the army would continue its work "without hesitation, regardless of any internal or external circumstances".