Peace in Syria? It’s Putin’s fault: Escobar
By Pepe Escobar
September 20, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" - "Asia
All one needs to know about the intellectual caliber
of the Obama administration is that it is still pondering whether to
persist in “ignoring” Russian President Vladimir Putin, or invest in
a real partnership to solve the Syrian geopolitical/humanitarian
drama. After all, when in doubt between diplomacy or chaos, the
Beltway weapon of choice still veers towards the simplistic group
think uniting neocons and neoliberalcons: regime change.
And then there’s the non-stop
The Russians Are Coming! hysteria — the Cold War 2.0 remix, now
switching from the invasion/military occupation of Ukraine to the
invasion/military occupation of Syria. The White House — which, same
as the Pentagon, does not do irony — actually appealed to the
Kremlin to behave in a “more constructive” way side-by-side with the
spectacularly inefficient coalition of the dodgy opportunists which
is in thesis fighting ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest clarified that
when Obama decides that the Sisyphean task of picking up the phone
and dialing K for Kremlin is actually in America’s interests, he
will do it. The Shakespearean doubt may last days — even as Putin
reaffirmed, via Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov, he was always open
The White House at least is mulling an offer from
Moscow to actually discuss the Russian buildup in Syria via direct
military-to-military talks. The Pentagon will do the talking,
seeking the “clarity” that so eludes the Obama administration.
Ankara’s double game
Diplomacy, meanwhile, has been hectic. Turkish
Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu went to Sochi to talk Syria –
and Ukraine – with the Russians. Ankara’s position remains
fossilized; any support for Bashar al-Assad equals more civilian
They also talked Pipelineistan – as in Turkish
Stream; unlike apocalyptic US corporate media reports, the pipeline
has not been ditched by Ankara; the problem is Ankara cannot even
form a coherent government after the June elections.
Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)’s
superstar commander Qasem Soleimani also went to Moscow this week to
promote Damascus-Moscow cooperation. Wait; he didn’t, because Moscow
flatly denied the visit. Soleimani was in Russia actually three
months ago. The next important meeting to discuss Syria is actually
on Monday, between Iranian deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir
Abdollahian and his Russian counterpart, Mikhail Bogdanov.
A quick recap is essential. The Syrian Arab Spring
chapter was sponsored/financed/weaponized mostly by Ankara – totally
reversing its previous “zero problems with our neighbors”
geopolitical doctrine — with backing by Doha, substantial House of
Saud involvement and full led-from-behind support by the Obama White
After over four and a half years and immeasurable
tragedy, the real face of this “Assad must go” regime change
operation is the refugee crisis. Over 2 million out of 4 million
Syrians fled to Turkey; Ankara recently released them en masse from
holding camps on their way to the Balkans and the Teutonic Promised
So Ankara is right at the center of the largest
refugee crisis in Europe in 70 years. And so is Ankara-supporting
Washington; ISIS/ISIL/Daesh captured all the weapons delivered with
CIA help to that pathetic “Free Syrian Army” – as well as tanks and
Humvees from the disjointed US-trained Iraqi Army. Any possible
solution for relieving the refugee crisis while fighting ISIS/ISIL/Daesh
must include cutting off Ankara’s myriad direct and indirect forms
of “support” for the fake “Caliphate.”
The problem is Ankara is part of the supremely
inefficient US coalition. The glaring paradox at least has been
identified by some adults in Washington. Yet the Obama
administration is still besotted by a dominatrix Ankara playing wag
the dog. Team Obama still believes “Assad must go” is responsible
not only for the creation of the fake “Caliphate” — an absurdity
gleefully repeated by David of Arabia Cameron and General Hollande —
but he’s also responsible for the abysmal failure of the US
coalition to smash it. It’s actually Ankara that rules what passes
for a no-fly zone along the Turkish-Syrian border, and what Ankara
wants to fight is Syrian Kurds or PKK Kurds, not al-Baghdadi’s
Damn, where’s my ground intel?
Meanwhile the Pentagon machine, were they to focus
on the “mission,” could shock and awe the “Caliphate” goons on a
weekend binge. Yet considering how much they did not learn in Iraq,
it’s unlikely the Pentagon has minimally decent ground intel.
It’s all about an over 400 kilometer-long desert
strip alongside the Sykes-Picot-in-disarray Syrian-Iraqi border —
between al-Baaj in northern Iraq and Rutba near the Jordanian
border. Some call it the Iraqi Tora Bora; yes, it does look a bit
like Afghanistan, only with more desert.
ISIS/ISIL/Daesh rules over the provinces of Ninive,
Dijla, Ifrit and Al-Jazeera in Iraq, Abu Kamal and Deir ez-Zor in
Syria, and most of all in Iraqi Furhat, around al-Baaj; that’s where
the ISIS/ISIL/Daesh command and control center is located. If some
Pentagon analyst took the trouble to contact Iraqi analyst Hisham
al-Hashemi, he would tell him that al-Baghdadi himself is holed up
in al-Baaj, along with his two wives. But who’s actually in command
for the moment is the emir for Syria and Iraq, Abu Alaa al-Afari.
The US never managed to control these desolate
lands – not to mention, previously, Saddam Hussein. Local tribes are
extremely hardcore and excel in smuggling. “Caliphate” goons married
tribal women and are totally integrated. All Shi’ites are derided as
evil heretics, even worse than Christians. Guess who indoctrinated
the tribals? Saudi Arabian imams.
Yet the coalition could easily bomb to smithereens
five ISIS/ISIL/Daesh special batallions – up to 500 jihadis each,
divided by nationality and specialization, and all concentrated
locally; GCC and Maghreb nationals assure the protection of the
commanders, for instance, while Eastern Europeans and Asians collect
the loot, taxes and take care of weapons transportation. The key
brigade is the one that “liberated” Mosul; 80% are Iraqis, and they
are now fighting in Hassake, in Syria.
There may be up to 125,000 “Caliphate” goons in
action, including up to 15,000 foreigners. But the hydra-like heads
of the snake are in al-Baaj. Raze it to the ground, and we got
Perseus Obama slaying the jihadi medusa.
Instead, we have the pitiful spectacle of four – I
repeat, four – US-trained “moderate rebels” left to fight ISIS/ISIL/Daesh
in Syria, as admitted by US General Lloyd Austin at a Senate Armed
Services Committee hearing this past Wednesday. Everyone remembers
those “rebels” out of a hefty group of 54 who were attacked by
Jabhat al-Nusra in July. That is, al-Qaeda in Syria – paraded as
“moderate” by neocons and US corporate media — reduced the “moderate
rebel” Obama administration chimera (15,000! Well trained and well
equipped!) to … well, a chimera.
Aaaaand now, heeere’s Putin
The Obama administration – duly followed by the
European minions – simply won’t listen. Already in 2014 former
UN-Arab League representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, was saying
the Russian analysis of the whole Syrian puzzle was right from the
Now, Nobel peace prize winner and former
negotiator Martti Ahtisaari is
saying that already in early 2012 a Russian proposal was floated
that included Assad stepping out of power after peace negotiations
with credible, non-jihadi opposition interlocutors.
What Moscow has done now is to step up the
diplomatic game – trying to bridge the gap between Damascus and the
credible opposition (not exactly a huge crowd) while cobbling up a
real coalition to fight ISIS/ISIL/Daesh; as far as Moscow is
concerned, this is a major national security threat, what with
jihadis slouching towards “Syraq” from the Volga to the north
And here we find an important distinction;
Russia’s national security interests do not necessarily converge
with Iran’s national security interests (as in Syria offering a
bridge to Hezbollah and also a Mediterranean projection for Iran.)
Still, Moscow’s is the only diplomatic game in
town because Washington’s Plan A continues to be regime change, and
there’s no coherent “Western” road map which simultaneously
guarantees smashing ISIS/ISIL/Daesh while preventing the
catastrophic dismemberment of the Syrian state.
Assad’s position, in detail, is here.
Putin’s position, in detail, is here.
It’s up to any informed, unbiased observer to draw the necessary
conclusions. Meanwhile, the enormity of the refugee crisis is open
to scrutiny practically next
door to EU headquarters; no summit-addicted Eurocrat even
bothered to go there and talk to the asylum seekers.
As it ramps up the diplomatic front, Moscow
obviously pays attention to facts on the ground – as in the expanded
infrastructure at Latakia’s air base where Russian advisers are
stationed. US Think Tankland’s concerted hysteria denouncing the
build up “greatly complicates” the US-led coalition campaign do not
even qualify as a kindergarten prank.
There won’t be a “direct clash” between coalition
F-16s and Russian jets – and the Pentagon knows it. What the
Pentagon cannot possibly admit is that the Russian build up
necessarily prevents funny ideas such as the coalition pulling a
Turk – as in bombing Assad’s forces instead of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. And
by the way, Ankara’s clout in Washington continues to drop – as in
the US not being part of a much-hyped no-fly zone to be established
over northern Aleppo.
Turkey and GCC coalition members have been
indirectly warned; forget about targeting Russian advisers opposing
“moderate rebels” using lethal weapons supplied by Turkey, GCC and
the US. “Complicating” the coalition “efforts”, in US Think Tankland
newspeak, means one cannot bomb Assad’s forces with impunity. Damn,
it’s tough to deliver regime change under so many constraints.
Back to pre-Bismarck?
The EU, meanwhile, pays the price for the regime
change obsession, convulsed and torn apart by endless divisions
provoked by the refugee crisis coupled with the specter of the
eternal recurrence of jihad in the streets – and trains – linking
major European capitals. But then, as the EU may desperately want a
solution to the tragic Syrian puzzle, we have David of Arabia
Cameron and General Hollande getting ready to deliver puny air
strikes that will hardly cause “Caliphate” goons to shake in their
designer desert boots.
No wonder pan-Europe public opinion is
increasingly considering it’s actually the Obama administration
which is perpetuating the Syrian tragedy — as long as it sticks to
the mirages of regime change, a non-existent “Free Syrian Army,”
“moderate rebels” (of the al-Qaeda in Syria kind), not to mention
demonizing any support offered by Russia and Iran to Damascus.
Putin could not have been more crystal clear — and
adults from Washington to Brussels did get the message; “Without an
active participation of the Syrian authorities and the military, it
would be impossible to expel the terrorists from that country and
the region as a whole … Without Russia’s support for Syria, the
situation in the country would have been worse than in Libya, and
the flow of refugees even bigger.”
So if there’s any chance of a peace deal in Syria,
it’s Putin’s fault.
But there’s another possible scenario being
actively discussed for the near future. That would be the “surge’ of
multiple microstates across the Middle East – as a counterpunch to
internecine carnage. So we would have, among others, Allawistan,
Kurdistan, Druzistan, Yazidistan, Houthistan – with borders that are
already reasonably clear on the ground.
Talk about a 21st century remix of
pre-Bismarck Europe princely states. The precedent is what the EU
created in the Balkans; the break up of Yugoslavia across religious
lines even as the bulk of the population is Slavic.
A Middle Eastern remix would only work if Turkey
and Iran would agree to a Kurdistan. It won’t happen. Most Iraqis
and Syrians, for their part, have also developed a strong national
identity; 70% of Syrians, in a recent poll, oppose the partition of
the country (while 82% view ISIS/ISIL/Daesh as a US and/or foreign
made concoction.) Yet Syria arguably could still be split in three,
depending on where the US-Russia power play will lead. But as we
stand, the struggle for a unified, pacified, secular Syria is the
only realpolitik game in town.
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