Category Archives: Syria

Grinding towards peace in the Middle East

It’s early 2017 and there’s a chance for peace in Syria, but it’s complicated. One regional superpower and two regional powers in the Middle East – Russia, Turkey and Iran – have agreed a trilateral monitoring commission to monitor the Syrian ceasefire at Astana in Kazakhstan. The UN is in attendance, but the US absent, apart from the formality of the presence of the local US Ambassador.

Surely, this is a historic state of affairs, especially since the absence of the US isn’t the choice of the new isolationism of a Trump administration; it is outcome of the abject failure of Obama’s globalism in the face of Russian opportunism, long-term Iranian strategy, and the reaction by Turkey to its changed circumstances.

But the Middle East isn’t just Syria; another war grinds on in Yemen. However, the increasingly unwinnable nature of this conflict contributes at great cost to the Yemeni people to growing stability in the rest of the Middle East. Read full article here

A new security architecture for the northern Middle-East

Iran, Russia, and Turkey meet to shape a new peace arrangement in Syria, following the increasing absence of the Western powers from the Middle-East, as a result of their disastrous policies since the Iraq War. This has signalled, as I explained in July this year,  the trend towards the consolidation of an entirely new security architecture directed by the three major powers in the region. The Iranian sensibilities which have slowed down the evacuation of Aleppo, have been accommodated by Russia and Turkey not only from an immediate need to complete the evacuation, but also from an overall understanding that there are, despite everything, overall common interests.

The interconnected interests of the three powers effectively means that Western influences will be squeezed out of the region, despite the fact that the US is using the fight against DAESH/ISIL  to try to stay in the game. The Iranian backing of Shia militias, if they are contained and do not attempt to move into Tel A’far or into the countryside around Idlib, is increasingly seen by Turkey and Russia as a valid strategy by Iran to counter the unfortunate proclivity of Sunni jihadis to accept Western aid, which is given to them either directly or through Saudi Arabia despite the fact that they are demonised in the Western media.

The new security architecture is strengthened, not weakened, by the different approaches and occasionally sharp disagreements of the three powers over their local interests, simply because of the overall danger posed by the covert interference of Western powers. The most important example of this is Turkey’s acceptance of the Russian insistence on the permanence of the Assad régime (and Assad personally when it comes to the Iranians), which has come about because of the fact that Western intelligence agencies continue to back deep state operators in the country in order to sow terror even after their attempt to overthrow of the Turkish government failed.

Future US policy towards the region is complicated by the fact that Trump seeks an alliance with Russia while inconsistently demonising Iran and that Trump’s pro-Russian stance itself may fail to become effective as a result of the objections of the US deep state. As the Turkish government consolidates its gains after foiling the July 15 coup attempt, it is clear that rather than achieve the objective of turning Turkey into a client state that could be used to undermine and encircle Russia, the actions of the Western intelligence agencies have of late driven the two powers together. It doesn’t take much imagination to understand what the strategy of the Western intelligence-media conglomerate is, and it is precisely this Cold War mentality which increasingly cements the cooperation of the three rival powers in the northern Middle-East.

Qatar, a close ally of Turkey, has effectively underwritten the new political settlement in Syria, in view of its massive investment through Qatar Investment Authority and Glencore (in which it is majority investor) into Rosneft. It is this move in particular which encouraged Putin to stick his neck out to seek a peaceful resolution to the Syrian crisis at the planned summit in Astana, Kazakhstan. The rapprochement between Qatar and Russia will put pressure on Syrian rebels to change their attitude and accept a political settlement which includes Assad.

In fact, Russia had tried and failed to form alliances within Syrian rebels groups in the past to bolster its interests on the ground. Within the past twelve months it had resumed pursuing diplomatic efforts in this regard.

Thousands driving to Cilvegözü crossing in Hatay to meet refugees, as evacuation suspended

 

Hatay camp set up to house 50,000 refugees, but confusion reigns supreme as evacuation is suspended. It looks like 800 refugees in one convoy on its way to Idlib were held up by Shia militias. The Russians are trying to tell us, however, that the evacuation is complete. But as at 17.00 GMT there are still 40,000 people left in Aleppo including 3,000 fighters.

It appears that it is the Lebanese Hezbolla which is standing in the way of the proper completion of the evacuation, and that there is serious tension between Russia and Iran as a result. It is difficult to see how Russia can plan a peace conference in Kazakhstan between the different sides in the conflict, given Iran’s ongoing ideological-religious project taking advantage of the US interregnum, repopulating strategic areas in Syria, and ethnically cleansing Sunnis.

The Russians inherit a wasteland and the Saudis… the whirlwind

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, just over 10,000 people in Syria were killed by Russian airstrikes between 30 September 2015 and 30 October this year, of whom 2,861 were members of the Islamic State (IS) group, 3,079 fighters from rebel and Islamic factions, 2,565 males over the age of 18,1,013 children under the age of eighteen and 584 women.

Upon the fall of Aleppo, planned by the Russians for the US interregnum, David Hearst tells us: “From these figures alone, and there are others, it is clear that Russia has waged total war on an unprotected population in rebel-held areas. War on its people, its hospitals, and its markets, just like it did in Grozny 16 years ago. Its actions differ little from those of the Syrian army. Like all colonial powers, the Russian Federation has arrogated on itself the choice of deciding which Syrians live and which die. And if they are in rebel-held areas, they all die together. But that is not what worries Lavrov. Privately, Lavrov, like Pyrrhus before him, fears what victory looks like. What does “inhabited Syria”, the phrase I used earlier, actually mean, when victory has been declared? A pile of rubble, one ruined city after another, whose citizens will be totally dependent on aid for years to come?”

For years now we have watched as the Neanderthal Assad régime battled the Syrian rebels whose jihadi elements were funded by the even more retrograde Australopithecine Saudi régime, which will reap the whirlwind from its duplicitous intervention in this destructive civil war.

In two audio recordings widely circulated across social media, Michel Kilo, a Christian opposition thinker, equated Saudi Arabia to Israel and demanded that Riyadh fulfill its promises towards the Syrian opposition. He says of Saudi Arabia that “it has committed a crime against the Syrian people. Our brothers in Saudi Arabia are neither capable of drawing up a plan, nor are they able to lead a comeback against the campaign that is being waged against Arab and Islamic societies. They live just because they have money… but eventually they will see what’s coming for them. They are below the level of politics… democracy does not suit them, nor does an Islamic governance system.”

“This havoc will eventually end up destroying them [the Saudis],” he continued. “If events in our country do not come to an end, they [terrorists] will move towards them in multiples, because they are the ones with the money.I swear on the lives of my own children we shall not leave the Gulf intact. We shall dismantle it stone by stone. You are destroying the best country in the Islamic and Arab worlds, a country whose name is Syria.”

 

Britain seems now to have more invested in imperialism than the US

Just like NATO, fearful of losing US support for their desire to return to a Cold War-era, began beating the anti-war drums after the US election, Britain’s government is upset about Trump’s peaceful outlook on Russia in Syria.

In what seems like a significant foreign policy split, officials in Britain admitted that they will have some “very difficult” conversations with the President-elect in coming months over his approach to Russia.

This comes after Mr Trump used his first interviews since winning the US election to indicate that he will withdraw support for rebels in Syria and thank Vladimir Putin for sending him a “beautiful” letter.

Mr Trump said that he will instead join forces with Russia and focus on defeating DAESH/ISIL. He has previously said it would be “nice” if the US and Russia could work together to “knock the hell out of ISIL”.

His views are in stark contrast with those of Theresa May, who has accused President Assad’s regime of perpetrating “atrocious violence” and said that the long-term future of Syria must be “without Assad”.

Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, has accused Russia of perpetrating war crimes over the deaths of hundreds of civilians.

The dramatic shift in US policy has prompted significant concern in the Foreign Office, and Britain will use the next three months before Mr Trump enters the White House to try to convince him of the importance of removing President Assad.

The Telegraph tells us that Mr Johnson is expected to fly to the US within weeks to meet with senior figures in Mr Trump’s administration and make clear that Britain believes that Mr Assad must go.

The diplomatic tensions emerged as a flotilla of Russian warships which passed through the English Channel has now arrived off the coast of Syria ahead of a major offensive against ISIL.

In other developments:

  • Sir Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, warned that European members of NATO have become “too dependent” on the support of the US after Mr Trump accused them of failing to pull their weight.
  • Mrs May will on Monday highlight the importance of globalisation to international security in an ever-changing World. She will also compare the US election to Brexit and say that that the West must recognise the concerns of people who have “seen their communities changed” by migration.
  • Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, met with members of Donald Trump’s inner circle at Trump Tower in New York after saying Theresa May must “mend fences” with the President Elect.
  • Marie Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right Front National, praised President Putin for “defending the interests of his own country” as she criticised US and European aggression towards Russia.
  • Mr Johnson boycotted a “crisis” meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels to discuss how Europe will deal with the aftermath of the US election.
  • Mr Trump said on Twitter yesterday: “This will prove to be a great time in the lives of all Americans. We will unite and we will win, win, win!”

In his very first interview Mr Trump told the Wall Street Journal that his administration will prioritise defeating DAESH/ISIL in Syria rather than removing President Assad.

He told the Wall Street Journal: “I’ve had an opposite view of many people regarding Syria. My attitude was you’re fighting Syria, Syria is fighting ISIS, and you have to get rid of ISIS.

“Russia is now totally aligned with Syria, and now you have Iran, which is becoming powerful, because of us, is aligned with Syria. Now we’re backing rebels against Syria, and we have no idea who these people are.”

He added that if the US attacks President Assad’s regime “we end up fighting Russia”.

Arabs pull out of Syrian Democratic Forces: the deceit is now plain to see

Jason Ditz writes

There has been an attempt to brand the invasion of Raqqa as a broad-based coalition, as opposed to just a Kurdish invasion of the ISIS capital. This deceit appears to be crumbling as  Thuwar ar-Raqqa, the main Arab group involved in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) invasion, formally withdrawing from the group today.

The SDF is overwhelmingly just the Kurdish YPG with a handful of tiny affiliates, created mainly to allow them to argue invasions of ISIS territory don’t amount to an expansion of Syrian Kurdistan. The Thuwar ar-Raqqa would’ve been particularly useful to that effect, as a local force within Raqqa.

The group however, is arguing that the Kurdish forces had reneged on an agreement on the Raqqa invasion, in which the Kurdish YPG would let them “lead” the operation, and retain control of the city afterward. Instead, they say the US  and the YPG have moved to sideline them.

Now they say they aren’t going to participate in the invasion at all, and that the so-called “SDF” forces attacking Raqqa are exclusively the Kurdish YPG. This is likely to add to concern about Kurdish territory expansion, particularly by Turkey

Syria’s “Voice of Conscience” Has a Message for the West

Murtaza Husain and Marwan Hisham interview leftist opposition figure Yasin al-Haj Saleh now living in Turkey and ask the question:

What did you expect from the left in its response to the Syrian revolution?

Saleh: It came to me as a shock, actually, that most of them have sided with Bashar al-Assad. I don’t expect much out of the international left, but I thought they would understand our situation and see us as a people who were struggling against a very despotic, very corrupt, and very sectarian regime. I thought they would see us and side with us. What I found, unfortunately, is that most people on the left know absolutely nothing about Syria. They know nothing of its history, political economy, or contemporary circumstances, and they don’t see us.

Read full interview here

RIP US Hegemony

The last post below projects the end of US dominance over the Middle-East. Now even part of the Syrian opposition is being converted to the concept of aiding the Russian aim of re-establishing a multi-polar world.

As the US rushes towards an attack on Mosul pushing from behind the Iraqi government, Obama and the Democratic establishment hope for a quick victory to ensure Clinton’s success at the polls. However, like all of the short-sighted measures of US foreign policy, the wide licence given to the Iraqi government, including the chiding of the Turks in their wish to be part of the Mosul settlement, is simply reinforcing Iran in Iraq, as well as in Syria through the deployment of Iraqi Shia militias.