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US-Backed Kurds Agree To “Unconditional Talks” With Syrian Government After Pentagon-Turkey Deal

By Tyler Durden – Zero Hedge – 06/12/2018

We’ve long predicted that the US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces currently holding a vast chunk of land in Syria’s northeast with the help of American coalition air power will naturally drift toward striking a deal with Assad, as the two sides have throughout the war exercised some degree of quiet cooperation against ISIS, foreign jihadists, and Turkish expansionism.

In a huge weekend development which has gone largely unnoticed by mainstream media, the political wing of the US-trained and supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced it is open to entering into unprecedented direct negotiations with the Assad government over the future of the country.

The Syrian Democratic Council, or SDC, is the political arm of the powerful alliance of mostly Kurdish and Arab fighters that make up the SDF, and on Sunday declared willingness to enter into “unconditional talks” with the Syrian government. 

The London based international Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reports the following:

In a statement on Sunday, the SDC said it was committed to resolving Syria’s deadly conflict through dialogue, and would not “hesitate to agree to unconditional talks”.

“It is positive to see comments about a summit for Syrians, to pave the way to start a new page,” it said.

Leading SDC member Hekmat Habib told AFP that both the council and the SDF “are serious about opening the door to dialogue” with the regime.

“With the SDF’s control of 30 percent of Syria, and the regime’s control of swathes of the country, these are the only two forces who can sit at the negotiating table and formulate a solution to the Syrian crisis,” he said.

As Syria analyst Joshua Landis confirms, the surprise SDC announcement comes just days after a controversial deal reached between Turkey and the US for the withdrawal of Syrian Kurdish forces from Manbij.

Syrian Kurdish leaders were enraged by the agreement, announced over the weekend, which allows for US and Turkish forces to patrol the northern Syrian city — though the Syrian Kurdish SDF wrested the city from ISIS in a major 2016 offensive. Turkey has consistently demanded Kurdish withdrawal from Manbij after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan invaded northern Syria in his non-ironically named ‘Operation Olive Branch’ early this year, aimed primarily at annexing Afrin canton.

Increasingly, America’s incoherent policy regarding the Kurds and Syria more broadly has put the more than 2000 US troops occupying northeast Kurdish heavy regions of the country in the middle of a Kurdish-Turkey-Damascus final showdown for the future of Syria.

As we remarked after Mattis’ weekend comments stating his desire to keep troops in Syria, Syria looks to be going the way of other major US wars: an open-ended situation short of success in which officials simultaneously are unable to come up with a plan to “win,” but will resist any pullout so they never completely lose.

Both the Syrian government and Syrian Kurdish forces understand this well, and know that Syrians alone are the lasting stakeholders in the country — something increasingly obvious as the US appears to be handing over sovereign Syrian territory over to expansionist NATO ally Turkey.

A Syrian Kurdish SDC official further stated of weekend developments, “We are looking forward, in the next phase, to the departure of all military forces from Syria and the return to Syrian-Syrian dialogue” — in a reference to both Turkish and US occupying forces.

We predicted this almost year a year ago in our analysis of Pentagon goals in northern Syria as it became clearer that Assad and Russia were emerging victorious in the 6-year proxy war:

Though the US endgame continues to be the ultimate million dollar question in all of this, it appears at least for now that this endgame has something to do with the Pentagon forcing itself into a place of affecting the Syrian war’s outcome and final apportionment of power: the best case scenario for American power in the region being permanent US bases under a Syrian Kurdish federated zone with favored access to Syrian oil doled out by Kurdish partners, and we could now be witnessing the early phases of such negotiations. 

But if indeed the Kurds are cutting separate deals with Russia, a US exit from Syria could be forced sooner rather than later.

Notably, in a wide-ranging interview with RT News last month, President Assad issued an ultimatum to Syrian Kurdish militias backed by the US: “We’re going to deal with it by two options: the first one we started now opening doors for negotiations, because the majority of them [SDF] are Syrians. Supposedly they like their country, they don’t like to be puppets to any foreigners,” Assad said.

“If not, we’re going to resort … to liberating those areas by force. It’s our land, it’s our right, and it’s our duty to liberate it, and the Americans should leave. Somehow they’re going to leave,” Assad added while speaking to RT.

While it appears the Pentagon is now (predictably) selling out the Kurds to Turkey, Assad has consistently taken a pragmatic approach in dealing with the US-backed SDF, reminding them that no foreign supporters could possibly have Syrian best interests in mind: “either you have a country or you don’t have a country” he said in the RT interview of the foreign invasion of Syrian soil over the past years of war.

Should SDC-SDF and Syrian government negotiations come to full fruition, this could mark lasting peace and the final exit of foreign forces, American troops foremost among them.

June 13, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Is Putin Really Ready to “Ditch” Iran?

The Saker • Unz Review • June 7, 2018

The topic of Russian actions in Syria still continues to fascinate and provoke numerous polemics. This makes sense – the issue is exceedingly important on many levels, including pragmatic and moral ones, and today I want to stick strictly to the pragmatic level and set aside, just for a while, moral/ethical/spiritual considerations. Furthermore, I will also pretend, for argument’s sake, that the Kremlin is acting in unison, that there are no Atlantic Integrationists in the Russian government, no 5th column in the Kremlin and that there is no Zionist lobby exerting a great deal of influence in Russia. I will deal with these issues in the future as there is no doubt in my mind that time and events will prove how unfounded and politically-motivated these denials are in reality. But for the purpose of this analysis, we can pretend that all is well in the Kremlin and assume that Russia is fully sovereign and freely protecting her national interests.

So what do we know about what is going on in Syria?

I submit that it is obvious that Russia and Israel have made some kind of deal. That there is an understanding of some kind is admitted by both sides, but there is also clearly more happening here which is not spelled out in full. The Israelis, as always, are bragging about their total victory and posting articles like this one: “In Syria, Putin and Netanyahu Were on the Same Side All Along” with the subheading reading “Putin is ready to ditch Iran to keep Israel happy and save Assad’s victory.” Really?

The chaotic world of contradictory declarations and statements

Let’s look at that thesis from a purely logical point of view. First, what were the Israeli goals initially? As I have explained elsewhere, initially the Israelis had the following goals:

  1. Bring down a strong secular Arab state along with its political structure, armed forces, and security services.
  2. Create total chaos and horror in Syria justifying the creation of a “security zone” by Israel not only in the Golan but further north.
  3. Trigger a civil war in Lebanon by unleashing the Takfiri crazies against Hezbollah.
  4. Let the Takfiris and Hezbollah bleed each other to death, then create a “security zone”, but this time in Lebanon.
  5. Prevent the creation of a Shia axis Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon.
  6. Break up Syria along ethnic and religious lines.
  7. Create a Kurdistan which could then be used against Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran.
  8. Make it possible for Israel to become the uncontested power broker in the Middle-East and force the KSA, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and all others to have to go to Israel for any gas or oil pipeline project.
  9. Gradually isolate, threaten, subvert and eventually attack Iran with a wide regional coalition of forces.
  10. Eliminate all centers of Shia power in the Middle-East.

Now let’s stop right here and ask a very simple question: if Putin and Netanyahu were on the same side all along, what should Putin have done to aid the Israelis? I submit that the obvious and indisputable answer is: absolutely nothing. By the time the Russians initiated their (very limited but also very effective) intervention in Syria those plans were well under way towards full realization!

The undeniable truth is that Putin foiled the initial Israel plan for Syria.

In fact, Hezbollah and Iran had already intervened in Syria and were desperately “plugging holes” in a collapsing Syrian front. So, if anything, Putin has to be the one to be credited for forcing the Israelis to give up on their “plan A” and go to plan “B” which I described here and which can be summarized as follows:

Step one, use your propaganda machine and infiltrated agents to re-start the myth about an Iranian military nuclear program. (…) If Trump says that the JCPOA is a terrible deal, then this is so. Hey, we are living in the “post-Skripal” and “post-Douma” era – if some Anglo (or Jewish) leaders say “highly likely” then it behooves everybody to show instant “solidarity” lest they are accused of “anti-Semitism” or “fringe conspiracy theories” (you know the drill). So step one is the re-ignition ex nihilo of the Iranian military nuclear program canard. Step two is to declare that Israel is “existentially threatened” and (…) and let the dumb Americans fight the Iranians.

As I have explained it in great detail here, Russia does not have any moral obligation to protect anybody anywhere, not in the Middle-East and most definitely not Syria and/or Iran. I have also explained in great detail here why Putin also has a lot of pragmatic internal reasons for not getting Russia involved in a major war in the Middle-East.

Finally, as I have explained here, the Israelis are clearly baiting Iran by striking Iranian (or, more accurately, Iranian-linked or Iranian-supported) targets in Syria. They hope that Iran’s patience will come to an end and that the Iranians will retaliate with enough firepower to justify not only an attack on (relatively low value) Iranian-linked targets in Syria but on Iran proper, thus leading to a guaranteed Iranian retaliation on Israel and The Big Prize: a massive US attack on Iran.

Now let’s look at Russian actions once again. If Putin was “on the same side with Netanyahu all along”, he would be helping the Israelis do what they are doing, that is baiting the Iranians, right? But what did Putin really do?

It all began with a statement by Foreign Minister Lavrov who declared that all foreign forces must leave Syria. It is my understanding that no direct quote exists from Lavrov’s initial statement, only interpreted paraphrases. Lavrov also made some clarifying comments later, like this one. But let’s not get bogged down in trying to decide which was an off-the-cuff comment and which one was “official”, let us begin by noticing this: even before Lavrov’s comment on “all foreign forces” the same Lavrov also said that “all US forces must leave Syria after the defeat of the terrorist forces.“ May I also remind everybody here that Israel has been illegally occupying the Syrian Golan for years and that the IDF exactly fits into the definition of “foreign force in Syria”? It gets better, according to the Syrians and, frankly according to common sense and international law, the Syrians say that all foreign forces must leave Syria except those legally requested to stay by the Syrian government. So when the Russians say that all foreign forces including Iranians (assuming Lavrov really said that) must leave Syria they have absolutely no legal or other authority to impose that, short of a UNSC Resolution endorsing that demand. Considering that the Israelis and the USA don’t give a damn about international law or the UNSC, we might even see a day when such a resolution is passed, enforced on the Iranians only, and ignored by the Israelis. The trick here is that in reality there are rather few Iranian “forces” in Syria. There are many more “advisors” (which would not be considered a “force”) and many more pro-Iranian forces which are not really “Iranian” at all. There is also Hezbollah, but Hezbollah is not going nowhere, and they are Lebanese, not Iranian anyway. No doubt the Israelis would claim that Hezbollah is an “Iranian force” but that is basically nonsense. And just to add to the confusion, the Russians are now being cute and saying: “of course, the withdrawal of all non-Syrian forces must be carried out on a mutual basis, this should be a two-way street.“ I suggest that we can stop listing all the possible paraphrases and interpretations and agree that the Russians have created a holy (or unholy) mess with their statements. In fact, I would even submit that, what appears to be a holy (or unholy) mess, is a very deliberate and crafty ambiguity.

According to numerous Russian sources, all this rhetoric is about the southern part of Syria and the line of contact (it ain’t a border legally speaking) between Syria and Israel. The deals seem to be this: the pro-Iranian forces and Hezbollah get out of the south, and in exchange, the Israelis let the Syrians, backed by Russian airpower and “advisors” regain control of southern Syria but without any attempts to push the Israelis out of the Golan which they illegally occupy. Needless to say, the Syrians are also insisting that as part of the deal, US forces in southern Syria must pack and leave. But, frankly, unless the US plans to have tiny (and useless) US enclaves inside Syrian controlled territory I don’t see the point of them staying. Not only that, but the Jordanians seem to be part of this deal too. And here is the best part: there is some pretty good evidence that Hezbollah and Iran also are part of the deal. And, guess what? So are the Turks.

This sure looks like some kind of major regional deal has been hammered out by the Russians. And if that is really the case, then that would also explain the tense denials in Israel and Iran, followed by more confirmations (also here) And, just to make things even more confused, we now have Stoltenberg (of all people!) saying that NATO would not assist Israel in case of an Iranian attack which, considering that the NATO Secretary General has no power, that NATO is about 80%+ made up of the USA and that the US now has a permanent “tripwire” force inside Israel and could claim to be under attack, is utter nonsense, but still amusing to note as “adding to the chaos”.

And then there is the apparent Syrian plan to kick out the US from northern Syria which, predictably, Uncle Sam doesn’t like too much. So the two sides are talking again.

If all this looks to you like evidence for the thesis that “Putin and Netanyahu were on the same side all along”, then I wonder what it would take to convince you otherwise because to me this looks like one of three things:

  1. some kind of major regional deal has been made or
  2. some kind of major regional deal is in the process of being hammered out or
  3. some kind of major regional deal has been made but nobody trusts anybody else and everybody wants to make that deal better for itself

and, of course, everybody wants to save face by either denying it all or declaring victory, especially the AngloZionists.

So let’s ask the key question: is there any evidence at all that Putin and/or Assad is/are “ditching Iran”?

Away from the realm of declarations and statements and back to the world

Let’s begin with a simple question: What does Iran want above all else?

I submit that the overwhelming number one priority of Iran is to avoid a massive US attack on Iran.

Conversely, triggering such an attack on Iran is the number one objective of the Israelis. They are rather open about that too. The latest idea is to create a “military coalition against Iran” while trying to please NATO by joining anti-Russian exercises in Europe.

Not because of a non-existing Iranian nuclear program threatening Israel, but because Iran offers a most successful, and therefore dangerously competing, alternative civilizational model to both the AngloZionist Empire and the Saudi-Wahabi version of Islam. Furthermore, unlike (alas!) Russia, Iran dares to openly commit the “crime of crimes”, that is, to publicly denounce Israel as a genocidal, racist state whose policies are an affront to all of civilized mankind. Finally, Iran (again unlike Russia, alas!) is a truly sovereign state which has successfully dealt with its 5th columnists and which is not in the iron claws of IMF/WB/WTO/etc types (I wrote about that last week so I won’t repeat it here).

I also submit that Iran also has as a top priority to support all the oppressed people of the Middle-East. Resisting oppression and injustice is a Quranic imperative and I believe that in its Iranian interpretation this also extends to non-Shia Sunnis and even Christians and Jews, but since I know that this will trigger all sorts of angry accusations of being naive (or even a Shia propagandist) I will concede that helping the oppressed Shia in the region is probably more important to the Iranian leaders than helping all the other oppressed. In secular terms, this means that Iran will try to protect and assist the Shia in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon and I see absolutely nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, considering the amazing mercy shown by Hezbollah to the SLA in southern Lebanon in 2000, and the fact that currently, the Syrian security forces are acting with utmost restraint in the parts of Syria which have accepted the Russian deal (this even has some Russian analysts outright worried) I think that Iranian-backed forces liberating Syria from Daesh are the best thing which anybody could hope for.

Furthermore, the truth is that for all its other faults, the Ba’athist regime in Syria was tolerant of minorities and that Hezbollah has always been protective of absolutely all the Lebanese people regardless of confession or ethnicity (others might disagree with me, but having studied Hezbollah and Iran for several decades now I come to the conclusion that they, unlike most other political actors, are actually truthful when they state their intentions).

So who is the biggest threat to the Shia and, I would argue, to all the people of the Middle-East? The Takfiris of Daesh of course.

And what do all the variants of the possible “big regional deal” have in common? The elimination of Daesh & Co. from Syria.

So how is that against the Iranian interests?!

It isn’t, of course.

The truth is that I see absolutely no evidence at all for “Putin and Netanyahu working together all along”. What I do see is that some kind of deal is being worked out between numerous parties in which everybody is probably trying hard to cheat everybody else, Realpolitik at its worst and most cynical – yes. But hardly a betrayal of Iran by Russia.

What everybody seems to be doing is what blacksmith Vakula did in Gogol’s Christmas Story “The Night Before Christmas“: to trick the devil. In Russia, the devil is known as “лукавый” which does not just mean “evil” but also sly/wily/deceitful/wickedly clever. To try to trick the devil is a very, very dangerous and difficult task and I also find it morally very questionable. But in keeping up with our modern value-neutral “realistic” Zeitgeist, we can also debunk the “Putin betrays Iran” on purely cynical and “pragmatic” reasons with no need to appeal to any higher values at all.

For those who have not seen it yet, I highly recommend this (English subtitled) video of Ruslan Ostashko discussing what Israel can, or cannot, offer Russia and Putin:

Ostashko is absolutely right. The truth is that Israel, unlike Iran, has very little to offer Putin or Russia. This does not mean that Israel does not have influence over the Kremlin, it most definitely does, but that influence is all “stick”, no “carrot” (which is one of the conceptual flaws in the position of those who deny the existence of a Zionist 5th column in Russia – they are denying the existence of the “stick” while producing no “carrot” thus making Russian policies appear both contradictory and inexplicable: hence a need for all sorts of mental contortions to try to explain them).

But Israel’s “stick”, while undeniably big, is dwarfed by Iran’s “carrot”: not only immense resources and billions of Dollars/Rubles/Rials/Euros to be made in energy and weapons and also many sectors of the economy. There is also the fact that Iran is truly the number one regional power in the entire Middle-East: maybe not big enough to impose its will on all others, but definitely big enough to bring down any major plan or policy it does not approve of. Furthermore, now that the international sanctions against Iran have been officially lifted (the USA’s reneging on its signature notwithstanding), Iran can join and become an influential member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (along with, possibly, other Middle-Eastern countries). All this makes the Iranian “carrot” very attractive to Russia. There is also a conceptual Iranian “stick”: if Israel gets its way and Iran is massively and viciously attacked by the AngloZionist Empire, and either chaos or a severe crisis result, what would be the impact on Russia and her allies? And, while I don’t think for a second that this is possible, let’s say the Empire overthrows the Islamic Republic and puts a pro-AngloZionist regime in power in Tehran – what would that do to Russian national security? It would be an absolute nightmare, wouldn’t it?

Look at the relationship between Russia and Turkey before the coup attempt against Erdogan. Surely that relationship was much worse than the relationship currently enjoyed between the Islamic Republic and Russia, right? And yet, when the US attempted to topple Erdogan, what did Russia do? Russia gave Erdogan her fullest support and even, according to some rumors, physical protection during a few key hours. If Russia sided with Erdogan against the Empire, why would Russia not side with the Islamic Republic, even if we consider only arguments of Russian self-interest?

For an excellent Iranian analysis of the Russia-Iran alliance, check out this article by Aram Mirzaei.

Conclusion

The simple truth is that regardless of declarations and political statements, China, Russia, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah are all dependent on each other and cannot afford to truly betray anybody lest the Empire take them out one by one. To use Franklin’s expression – they all must hang (i.e. stand) together or most assuredly they will all “hang separately”? That does not mean that they all love each other, or always share the same goals? They might also play against each other to some degree, and even try to get some sweet deal “on the side” with the AngloZionists (remember, Assad used to torture for the CIA!), but the facts on the ground and the correlation of forces in the Middle-East will limit the scope of such “mini-betrayals”, at least for the foreseeable future.

True, there is the Saudi factor to take into account. Unlike the Israelis, the Saudis are offering a lot of “carrot”. But the Saudis are way too arrogant, they are already messing with Russian interests not only in Syria, but also in Qatar, and their brand of Islam is truly a mortal danger for Russia. Right now the Atlantic Integrationists and Eurasian Sovereignists have achieved somewhat of an equilibrium in the Kremlin. One is trying to split the EU from the USA and make lots of money, while the other is left in charge of national security issues, especially towards the South, but this equilibrium is inherently unstable and would be immediately threatened by any meaningful AngloZionist attack. So yes, there is a Zionist Lobby in Russia and yes, it does act as a 5th column, but not, most emphatically no, it is not strong enough to completely disregard the financial interests of the Russian business elites or, even less so, fundamental Russian national security interests. That is the biggest difference between the USA and Russia: Russia, while only partially sovereign, is far from being an Israeli protectorate or colony. And as long as Russia retains her even partial sovereignty she will not “ditch” Iran, regardless of Israeli whining and threats.

My personal evaluation is that Putin is playing a very complex and potentially dangerous game. He is trying to trick not one, but many “devils,” all at the same time. Furthermore, if the US Americans have been недоговороспособны (“not agreement capable”) already since Obama, Trump and his Neocon masters have made that even worse. As for the Israelis, they would make Satan himself look honest and are ideologically incapable of honesty (or even decency). Frankly, I don’t trust Erdogan one bit and I don’t think that the Russians will ever trust him either. Call me naive, but I think that Assad has been changed by this war and even if he did, indeed, collaborate with the CIA in the past, I think that he will be a pretty good ally for Russia in the future. As for Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Hassan Nasrallah, I see them both as men of honor who will uphold any alliance they formally enter into (informal understandings and temporary mutual interests are a different deal). I also see them as brilliant and wise geostrategists: they fully realize that Iran and Hezbollah need Russia to survive. So Putin’s policy, while dangerous, is not doomed to failure at all: he is trying to save Syria from the AngloZionsts while avoiding a regional war. Time is on his side as Trump’s erratic (and that is putting it mildly) policies (or, really, lack thereof) are inflicting tremendous damage on the Empire on a daily basis (see Dmitri Orlov’s excellent analysis here).

I honestly don’t know if Putin’s dangerous strategy will work or not. I don’t think anybody else does either (except ignorant cheerleaders, of course). But I do know that even if the sight of Bibi Netanyahu in Moscow with a Saint George ribbon was nauseating to my conscience, this absolutely does not indicate that Netanyahu and Putin are working together or that Russia is “ditching Iran”. As always, the Israelis feel almighty and brazenly display their arrogance. Let them. Just remember the inevitable outcome from that kind of Zionist hubris in the past and wait for the inevitable “oy vey!“.

Finally, there is the single most important fact: the AngloZionist Empire and Russia remain at war, and have been so for at least four years or more. That war is still about 80% informational, 15% economic and 5% kinetic, but it is a very real war nonetheless, and it is escalating. As long as Russia will retain even partial sovereignty and as long as she will offer an alternative civilizational model, even an imperfect one, she will remain an existential threat to the Empire and the Empire will remain an existential threat for the entire Russian civilizational realm. While hugely important to Israel, the entire Iranian issue is just a sideshow to the transnational leaders of the Empire who see Russia and China as the real main competitors, especially when joined in a symbiotic relationship as they are today. Hence the crises in the Ukraine and on the Korean Peninsula, hence the constant warnings of a possible full-scale nuclear war (see Eric Zuesse latest article here or Paul Craig Roberts numerous article on his website; also check out Dan Glazebrook’s excellent analysis of Trump’s attempt to repeat the “Rambouillet ruse” in Korea here). Even if Putin succeeds in moving the EU closer to Russia and away from a (clearly insane) USA, and even if he succeeds in preventing the AngloZionists from directly attacking Iran, this will only further convince the AngloZionist leaders of the Empire that he, Putin, and Russia, are the ultimate evil which must be eliminated. Those who hope for some kind of modus vivendi between the Empire and Russia are kidding themselves, because the very nature of the Empire makes this impossible. Besides, as Orlov correctly pointed out – the Empire’s hegemony is collapsing, fast. The Empire’s propaganda machine denies and obfuscates this, and those who believe it don’t see it – but the leaders of the Empire all understand this, hence the escalation on all fronts which we have seen since the Neocons re-took power in the White House. If the Neocons continue on their current course, and I don’t see any indication whatsoever that they are reconsidering it, then the question is only when/where this will lead to a full-scale war first. Your guess is as good as mine.

June 7, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Syrian Kurds rally to demand Turkey withdrawal

Press TV – May 26, 2018

Hundreds have demonstrated in Syria’s northeastern city of Qamishli, in response to a call by Kurdish authorities for global protests against Turkey’s military presence in the flashpoint Afrin region.

Turkish forces and allied Syrian militants seized the northwest region of Afrin from Kurdish forces in March, after a two-month military offensive that prompted tens of thousands of people to flee.

Since then, thousands of people displaced from other parts of Syria — notably the Eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus — have been resettled in the emptied city.

Syria’s Kurds, who have built up their own autonomous administrations in the chaos of the country’s seven-year war, say that amounts to demographic change.

On Saturday, men and women marched through the Kurdish-controlled city of Qamishli to protest Turkey’s military presence.

They waved the yellow, green, and red flag that represents Kurdish part of Syria, as well as signs that read: “No to Turkish occupation.”

Ghassan Juli, a 38-year-old resident of Qamishli, described the Afrin developments as a “disaster.”

“Our people were forced out, and fighters from other areas were brought to live there,” he said.

Her head wrapped in a shawl that matched the Kurdish flag, Bahia Hassan said Afrin’s original residents were afraid to return because of fears of abduction or worse.

“Enough killing, enough kidnapping our boys! Enough killing women and children. We won’t accept this,” said the 45-year-old.

Syria’s Kurds control swathes of the country’s north, and many of those who fled to Afrin escaped into nearby Kurdish-held territory.

Around 135,000 stayed in Afrin, more than a third of them in the urban center that shares the same name, according to the United Nations.

Since war broke out in 2011, half of Syria’s population has been displaced, including more than five million outside the country and another six million internally.

May 26, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , | 1 Comment

Israeli Parliament Reportedly Considers Promoting Kurdish State

Sputnik – May 22, 2018

Israeli MPs have reportedly discussed a bill that outlines the means by which Israel may help Kurds build their state in Syria, Iraq and Turkey, which would support Tel Aviv. According to one of Israel’s radio stations, the bill had been submitted to the Knesset by two Israeli right-wing parties, namely Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu. The radio quoted Yoav Kish as saying that given the Kurdish minority living in the aforementioned countries, which are generally hostile to Israel, the proposed move would play into the hands of the Israeli state.

“There is a reason that Israel was the first to publicly congratulate moves toward Kurdish independence in northern Iraq,” Kish added.

Back in 2017, Israel became the only country to support the Kurdish plebiscite which endorsed the Kurds’ secession from Iraq – a development that was vigorously criticized around the world.

Back then, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Tel Aviv backed what he called “legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to attain a state of its own.” Alongside political backing, Israel was reportedly a major buyer of Kurdistan’s oil and the top investor in the region in 2017.

The Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum that took place on September 25 triggered changes in the region. More than 90 percent of the voters who took part in the plebiscite backed the independence from Baghdad. Iraqi authorities declared the referendum illegal, while Turkey and Iran vehemently criticized the plebiscite and threatened to impose tough sanctions on Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital Erbil.

Read more:

Tensions Rising Between Syrian Army, Kurds Amid Creation of US Bases – Reports

May 22, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Iran Signs Free Trade Agreement With Eurasian Economic Union

By Adam Garrie | EurasiaFuture | May 17, 2018

Iran has just signed an agreement to enter a three year provisional free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). According to EAEU official Tigran Sargsyan,

“The temporary agreement stipulates an effective dispute settlement mechanism, including arbitration… It also creates a joint committee of high-ranking officials and establishes a business dialogue”.

The EAEU’s current members are Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, while the bloc has existing free trade agreements with Vietnam, Uzbekistan and Moldova. Aside from Vietnam other ASEAN states including Indonesia and Thailand have been in early level discussions about the possibility of a free trade arrangement with the EAEU, while Serbia and Turkey have also considered joining.  Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak has said that Iran could become the sixth full member in the future. Today’s Iran-EAEU free trade agreement will function as a test to determine the viability of long term Iranian membership of the trading bloc. Novak stated,

“The move to enter into a temporary agreement making for a free trade zone to be set up between Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union, which is currently at an advanced stage, will obviously trigger further development of our bilateral trade and expansion of investment cooperation”.

While many will see EAEU membership as a further means for Iran to create new economic partnerships away from regions whose financial and commercial structures are subservient to a hostile United States, in the long term, it means far more to Iran than a means of skirting increasingly ridiculous sanctions from Washington in the light of the US withdrawal from the JCPOA.

For Iran, EAEU membership represents a new opportunity to expand its economic horizons beyond its current Middle Eastern partners. In this sense, just as Iran has a long history of ‘thinking east’ in terms of economic connectivity and cultural exchange, today’s EAEU presents Tehran with a modern cooperative model to expand its peaceful economic interactions to greater Eurasia. Beyond this, with proposals to integrate Pakistan into the North-South Economic Corridor, Pakistan and Iran could cooperate in order to form two unique and mutually complimentary road corridors.

The North-South Transport Corridor is a joint initiative of nations who have built and continue to expand shipping and road links between South Asia, Northern Eurasia and Europe. The map below shows the basic route which begins with a shipping lane between India and Iran’s Chabahar Port on the Gulf of Oman, before travelling north through Iran to the Caucasus and into Russia, while also linking up with existing rail routes from Iran into Central Asia and west into Europe via Turkey.

While countries as diverse as Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan have embraced the North-South Corridor as a means of creating greater opportunities for economic enrichment through joint cooperative efforts, in India, the project has been sold as a rival to China’a One Belt–One Road. This has been the case even though the North-South Corridor is vastly more limited in its geographical expanse vis-a-vis the global Chinese project and perhaps even more crucially, the other partners in the North-South Transport Corridor do not share India’s zero-sum vision of the project.

In particular, India is keen to present the North-South Transport Corridor as a rival to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor linking China to the Indian ocean via a large road and rail network whose western terminus is Pakistan’s Gwadar port.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to Azerbaijan recently announced that his country is interested in linking up with existing routes along the North-South Transport Corridor. This gives Pakistan the opportunity to link the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with the North-South Transport Corridor, which would serve the long term strategic interests of the wider region, in terms of linking Pakistan’s Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea with Iran’s Chabahar Port on the Gulf of Oman.

Under such a scenario, goods from China would enter Pakistan via newly built road and rail routes and could then travel in one of two directions. First of all, goods could travel south through Pakistan to Gwadar where from there they could go in multiple directions including into Africa, Europe via the Suez Canal, or the wider Middle East via the Gulf of Oman/Chabahar and the Persian Gulf. Alternatively, goods could travel north into Central Asia and ultimately into Russia via Pakistan. This second option was proposed by geopolitical expert Andrew Korybko in early 2017 when he wrote,

“The enhanced trade relations that were mentioned above [see full piece] can only occur if Russia and Pakistan are connected to one another through CPEC, no matter how indirectly due to the geographic distance between them and Moscow’s reluctance to officially endorse this trade route in order to preserve its strategic “balancing act” with India. The second part of this conditional implies that the private sector needs to drive these two countries’ CPEC connectivity since the Russian state isn’t going to do so because of delicate political reasons, which thus allows one to envision three possible solutions, all of which are inclusive of one another and could in theory exist concurrently.

The most probable of the three is that Russia could connect to CPEC via the Central Asian state of Kazakhstan, which is already a member of the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union and through which a lot of bilateral trade already traverses. Furthermore, the Eurasian Land Bridge between East Asia and Western Europe is expected to pass through this international corridor as well, so it’ll probably be easiest for Russia and Pakistan to trade across this route by linking up at CPEC’s Urumqi hub in China’s Autonomous Region of Xinjiang.

Considering that Xinjiang’s capital city is located closer to Russia’s southern Siberian border than to CPEC’s terminal Arabian Sea port of Gwadar, there’s also the chance that a more direct north-south trade route could be established between Russia and Pakistan via this avenue. After all, Russia’s “Pivot to Asia” (which is officially referred to as “rebalancing” in Moscow’s political parlance) isn’t just international but also internal, and it aspires to develop resource-rich Siberia just as much as it aims to chart new international partnerships. With this in mind, there’s no reason why southern Siberia couldn’t one day be connected to CPEC via the nearby Urumqi juncture.

Lastly, Russia’s already building a North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) through Azerbaijan and Iran in order to facilitate trade with India, so the opportunity exists for it to simply use this route’s overland transport infrastructure to reach Pakistan in the event that the Iranian terminal port of Chabahar is ultimately linked with nearby Gwadar. Even if that doesn’t happen, then there’s still nothing preventing private Russian businessman from using Chabahar or even the more developed port of Bandar Abbas as their base of operations for conducting maritime trade with Gwadar or Karachi. This would in effect make India’s “brainchild” the ironic basis for Russian-Pakistani economic relations”.

Both Pakistan’s willingness to embrace the North-South Corridor, thereby integrating it into CPEC which itself forms a crucial artery of One Belt–One Road and Iran’s eagerness to become a member of the EAEU, could help to speed up the process of wider inter-connectivity between China’s Pacific Coast, the Middle East and Russia’s wider economic sphere in northern Eurasia.

If all of these existing links became inter-connected, one would see Gwadar taking on the adding function of becoming Central Asia and Russia’s gateway to the wider shipping routes of the Indian Ocean, while Chabahar would act as a parallel route for goods from both CPEC and the wider Indian Ocean, into the Caucasus, Russia or the Middle East.

Iran’s membership in the EAEU would help to expedite this process as the routes from Iran into Armenia and finally, into Russia would all constitute a single market. Were Turkey to join the EAEU, this would make transcaucasian trade into Turkey and the wider Mediterranean region all the more simple, as it would also allow Iran to act as a conduit between the Caucasus and Turkey, thus avoiding the politically prickly issue of direct trade from Armenia into Turkey. Turkey and Armenia’s mutually healthy relations with Iran, means that Tehran could be a physical arbiter of trade between two nations with historically (and currently) poor relations.

Over all, a strong and southward looking EAEU will help to strengthen both Iran-Pakistan relations through enhanced South Asian-Northern Eurasian trading networks, while also helping to facilitate the smooth transport of goods along One Belt–One Road from the Pacific into the Middle East, western Eurasia and further south into Africa along Indian Ocean maritime belts.

May 17, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chemical attack accusations ‘fake’: Assad interview

ALEXIS PAPACHELAS | Kathimerini | May 10, 2018

In an exclusive interview with Kathimerini, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied that the Syrian Army used chemical weapons against civilians, while taking aim at both Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Donald Trump.

Saying that Syria gave up its chemical arsenal in 2013, Assad said the

“Western narrative started after the victory of the Syrian Army, not before.”

He accused Erdogan of being “affiliated” with the Muslim Brotherhood Islamist movement and called Turkish troops “terrorists” over their intervention in Afrin.

As for Trump, who has called Assad an “animal,” the Syrian leader said it did not bother him “because I deal with the situation as a politician, as a president.”

Alexis Papachelas: There have been accusations from the US and the Europeans about the use of chemical weapons, and there was an attack after that. What is your response to that? Was there a chemical attack? Were you responsible for it?

President Bashar al-Assad: First of all, we don’t have a chemical arsenal since we gave it up in 2013, and the international agency for chemical weapons conducted investigations about this, and it’s clear or documented that we don’t have any. Second, even if we did have, we wouldn’t use them, for many different reasons. But let’s put these two points aside, let’s presume that this army has chemical weapons and it’s in the middle of the war; where should it be used? At the end of the battle? They should use it somewhere in the middle, or where the terrorists made an advancement, not where the army finished the battle and the terrorists gave up and said, “We are ready to leave the area,” and the army is fully in control of that area. So the Western narrative started after the victory of the Syrian Army, not before. When we finished the war, they said, “They used chemical weapons.”

Second, the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in a crammed area with a population like Douma – the supposed area, it’s called Douma and they talk about 45 victims – when you use WMD in such an area, you should have hundreds or maybe thousands of victims. Third, why do all the chemical weapons – the presumed or supposed chemical weapons – only kill children and women? They don’t kill militants. If you look at the videos, it’s completely fake. I mean, when you have chemical weapons, how could the doctors and nurses be safe, dealing with the chemical atmosphere without any protective clothes, without anything, just throwing water at the victims, and the victims become OK just because you washed them with water. So, it’s a farce, it’s a play, it’s a very primitive play, just to attack the Syrian Army, because… Why? That’s the most important part: When the terrorists lost, the US, France, the UK and their other allies who want to destabilize Syria lost one of their main cards, and that’s why they had to attack the Syrian Army, just to raise the morale of the terrorists and to prevent the Syrian Army from liberating more areas in Syria.

AP: Are you saying that there was a chemical attack and someone else is responsible, or that there was nothing there?

PBA: That’s the question, because the side who said – allegedly – that there was a chemical attack, had to prove that there was an attack. We have two scenarios: Either the terrorists had chemical weapons and they used them intentionally, or maybe there were explosions or something, or there was no attack at all, because in all the investigations in Douma, people said, “We didn’t have any chemical attack, we didn’t see any chemical gas or smell any,” and so on. So, we don’t have any indications about what happened. The Western narrative is about that, so that question should be directed at the Western officials who said there was an attack. We should ask them: Where is your concrete evidence about what happened? They only talk about reports. Reports could be allegations. Videos by the White Helmets – the White Helmets are funded by the British Foreign Office – and so on.

AP: In a tweet, US President Donald Trump described you as “animal Assad.” What is your response?

PBA: Actually, when you are president of a country, you have first of all to represent the morals of your people before representing your own morals. You are representing your country. Does this language represent the American culture? That is the question. This is very bad, and I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s a community in the world that has such language. Second, the good thing about Trump is that he expresses himself in a very transparent way, which is very good in that regard. Personally, I don’t care, because I deal with the situation as a politician, as a president. It doesn’t matter for me personally; what matters is whether something would affect me, would affect my country, our war, the terrorists, and the atmosphere that we are living in.

AP: He said “mission accomplished in Syria.” How do you feel about that?

PBA: I think maybe the only mission accomplished was when they helped ISIS escape from Raqqa, when they helped them, and it was proven by video, and under their cover. The leaders of ISIS escaped Raqqa, going toward Deir ez-Zor just to fight the Syrian Army. The other mission accomplished was when they attacked the Syrian Army at the end of 2016 in the area of Deir ez-Zor when ISIS was surrounding Deir ez-Zor, and the only force was the Syrian Army. The only force to defend that city from ISIS was the Syrian Army, and because of the Americans’ – and of course their allies’ – attack, Deir ez-Zor was on the brink of falling into the hands of ISIS. So, this is the only mission that was accomplished. If he’s talking about destroying Syria, of course that’s another mission accomplished. While if you talk about fighting terrorism, we all know very clearly that the only mission the United States has been carrying out in Syria is supporting the terrorists, regardless of their names, or the names of their factions.

AP: He also used such language with the North Korean leader, and now they’re going to meet. Could you potentially see yourself meeting with Trump? What would you tell him if you saw him face to face?

PBA: The first question you should ask is: What can you achieve? The other: What can we achieve with someone who says something before the campaign, and does the opposite after the campaign, who says something today, and does the opposite tomorrow, or maybe in the same day? So, it’s about consistency. Do they have the same frequency every day, or the same algorithm? So, I don’t think that in the meantime we can achieve anything with such an administration. A further reason is that we don’t think the president of that regime is in control. We all believe that the deep state, the real state, is in control, or is in control of every president, and that is nothing new. It has always been so in the United States, at least during the last 40 years, at least since Nixon, maybe before, but it’s becoming starker and starker, and the starkest case is Trump.

AP: When will you accomplish your mission, given the situation here in Syria now?

PBA: I have always said, without any interference, it will take less than a year to regain stability in Syria; I have no doubt about that. The other factor is how much support the terrorists receive, which is something I cannot tell you, because I cannot predict the future. But as long as it continues, time is not the main factor. The main factor is that someday, we’re going to end this conflict and we’re going to reunify Syria under the control of the government. When? I cannot say. I hope it’s going to be soon.

AP: There has been some criticism lately, because you apparently have a law that says that anybody who doesn’t claim their property within a month cannot come back. Is that a way to exclude some of the people who disagree with you?

PBA: No, we cannot dispossess anyone of their property by any law, because the constitution is very clear about the ownership of any Syrian citizen. This could be about the procedure. It’s not the first time we have had such a law just to replan the destroyed and the illegal areas, because you’re dealing with a mixture of destroyed and illegal suburbs in different parts of Syria. So, this law is not about dispossessing anyone. You cannot, I mean even if he’s a terrorist. Let’s say, if you want to dispossess someone, you need a verdict by the judicial system – you cannot make it happen by law. So, there’s either misinterpretation of that law, or an intention, let’s say, to create a new narrative about the Syrian government in order to rekindle the fire of public opinion in the West against the Syrian government. But about the law, even if you want a procedure, it’s about the local administration, it’s about the elected body in different areas, to implement that law, not the government.

AP: It is clear that your biggest allies in this fight are Russia and Iran. Are you worried they might play too important a role in the future of the country after this war is over?

PBA: If you talk about my allies as a president, they are the Syrian people. If you talk about Syria’s allies, of course they’re the Iranians and the Russians. They are our strongest allies, and of course China that supported us politically in the Security Council. As for them playing an important role in the future of the country, these countries respect Syria’s sovereignty and national decision making and provide support to insure them. Iran and Russia are the countries which respect Syria’s sovereignty the most.

AP: It’s been a few years since you visited Greece. Your father had a very close relation with some of the Greek political leaders. How have the relations been between Greece and Syria these days, and what kind of message would you like to send to the Greek people?

PBA: At the moment, there are no formal relations between Syria and Greece; the embassies are closed, so there are no relations. At the same time, Greece wasn’t aggressive towards what happened in Syria. It always supported a political solution, it never supported war or attacks against Syria. You didn’t play any role to support the terrorists, but at the same time, as a member – and an important member – of the EU, you couldn’t play any role, let’s say, in refraining the other countries from supporting the terrorists, violating the international law by attacking and besieging a sovereign country without any reason, without any mandate by the Security Council. So, we appreciate that Greece wasn’t aggressive, but at the same time, I think Greece has to play that role, because it’s part of our region. It is part of the EU geographically, but it’s a bridge between our region and the rest of Europe, and it’s going to be affected, and it has been affected by the refugee situation, and terrorism now has been affecting Europe for the last few years, and Greece is part of that continent. So, I think it’s normal for Greece to start to play its role in the EU in order to solve the problem in Syria and protect the international law.

AP: How about Turkey? Turkey invaded part of your country. You used to have a pretty good relationship with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. How is that relationship now after the Turkish invasion?

PBA: First of all, this is an aggression, this is an occupation. Any single Turkish soldier on Syrian soil represents occupation. That doesn’t mean the Turkish people are our enemies. Only a few days ago, a political delegation visited from Turkey. We have to distinguish between the Turks in general and Erdogan. Erdogan is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Maybe he’s not organized, but his affiliation is toward that ideology, I call it this dark ideology. And for him, because, like the West, when the terrorists lost control of different areas, and actually they couldn’t implement the agenda of Turkey or the West or Qatar or Saudi Arabia, somebody had to interfere. This is where the West interfered through the recent attacks on Syria, and this is where Erdogan was assigned by the West, mainly the United States, to interfere, to make the situation complicated, again because without this interference, the situation would have been resolved much faster. So, it’s not about personal relations. The core issue of the Muslim Brotherhood anywhere in the world is to use Islam in order to take control of the government in your country, and to create multiple governments with this kind of relationship, like a network of Muslim Brotherhoods, around the world.

AP: At an election campaign rally this week, he said that he’s going to order another incursion into Syria. How are you going to respond to that if it happens?

PBA: Actually, Erdogan has supported the terrorists since the very beginning of the war, but at that time, he could hide behind words like “protecting the Syrian people,” “supporting the Syrian people,” “supporting the refugees,” “we are against the killing,” and so on. He was able to appear as a humanitarian president, let’s say. Now, because of these circumstances, he has to take off the mask and show himself as the aggressor, and this is the good thing. So, there is no big difference between the head of the Turkish regime sending his troops to Syria and supporting the terrorists; this is his proxy. So, we’ve been fighting his army for seven years. The difference between now and then is the appearance; the core is the same. At that time, we couldn’t talk about occupation – we could talk about supporting terrorists – but this time we can talk about occupation, which is the announcement of Erdogan that he’s now violating the international law, and this could be the good part of him announcing this.

AP: But how can you respond to that?

PBA: First of all, we are fighting the terrorists, and as I said, the terrorists for us are his army, they are the American army, the Saudi army. Forget about the different factions and who is going to finance those factions; at the end of the day, they work for one agenda, and those different players obey one master: the American master. Erdogan is not implementing his own agenda; he’s only implementing the American agenda, and the same goes for the other countries in this war. So, first of all, you have to fight the terrorists. Second, when you take control of more areas, you have to fight any aggressor, any army. The Turkish, French, whoever, they are all enemies; as long as they came to Syria illegally, they are our enemies.

AP: Are you worried about a third world war starting here in Syria? I mean, you have the Israelis hitting the Iranians here in your own country. You have the Russians, you have the Americans. Are you concerned about that possibility?

PBA: No, for one reason: Because fortunately, you have a wise leadership in Russia, and they know that the agenda of the deep state in the United States is to create a conflict. Since Trump’s campaign, the main agenda was against Russia, create a conflict with Russia, humiliate Russia, undermine Russia, and so on. And we’re still in the same process under different titles or by different means. Because of the wisdom of the Russians, we can avoid this. Maybe it’s not a full-blown third world war, but it is a world war, maybe in a different way, not like the second and the first, maybe it’s not nuclear, but it’s definitely not a cold war; it’s something more than a cold war, less than a full-blown war. And I hope we don’t see any direct conflict between these superpowers, because that is where things are going to get out of control for the rest of the world.

AP: Now, there’s a very important question about whether Syria can be a unified, fully sovereign country again. Is that really possible after all that has happened?

PBA: It depends on what the criteria of being unified or not is. The main factor to have a unified country is to have unification in the minds of the people, and vice versa. When those people look at each other as foreigners, they cannot live with each other, and that is where you’re going to have division. Now, let’s talk about facts and reality – not my opinion, I can tell you no, it’s not going to be divided, and of course we’re not going to accept that, but it’s not about my will or about my rhetoric, to say we’re going to be unified; it’s about the reality.

The reality, now, if you look at Syria during the crisis, not only today, since the very beginning, you see all the different spectrums of the Syrian society living with each other, and better than before. These relationships are better than before, maybe because of the effect of the war. If you look at the areas under the control of the terrorists, this is where you can see one color of the Syrian society, which is a very, very, very narrow color. If you want to talk about division, you have to see the line, the separation line between either ethnicities or sects or religions, something you don’t see. So, in reality, there’s no division till this moment; you only have areas under the control of the terrorists. But what led to that speculation? Because the United States is doing its utmost to give that control, especially now in the eastern part of Syria, to those terrorists in order to give the impression that Syria cannot be unified again. But it’s going to be unified; I don’t have any doubt about that.

AP: But why would the US do that if you’re fighting the same enemy: Islamic terrorism?

PBA: Because the US usually has an agenda and it has goals. If it cannot achieve its goals, it resorts to something different, which is to create chaos. Create chaos until the whole atmosphere changes, maybe because the different parties will give up, and they will give in to their goals, and this is where they can implement their goals again, or maybe they change their goals, but if they cannot achieve it, it’s better to weaken every party and create conflict, and this is not unique to Syria. This has been their policy for decades now in every area of this world.

AP: Looking back, do you feel you’ve made any mistakes in dealing with this crisis and the civil war, when it started?

PBA: If I don’t make mistakes, I’m not human; maybe on a daily basis sometimes. The more you work, the more complicate the situation, the more mistakes you are likely to make. But how do you protect yourself as much as possible from committing mistakes? First of all, you consult the largest proportion of the people, not only the institutions, including the parliament, syndicates, and so on, but also the largest number of people, or the largest part of society, to participate in every decision.

While if you talk about the way I behaved toward, or the way I led, let’s say, the government or the state during the war, the main pillars of the state’s policy were to fight terrorism – and I don’t think that fighting terrorism was wrong, to respond to the political initiatives from different parties externally and internally regardless of their intentions, to make a dialogue with everyone – including the militants, and finally to make reconciliation. So, about the pillars of our policy, I think the reality has proven that we were right. As for the details, of course, you always have mistakes.

AP: How much is it going to cost to reconstruct this country, and who is going to pay for that?

PBA: Hundreds of billions, the minimum is 200 billion, and according to some estimates it’s about 400 billion dollars. Why is it not precise? Because some areas are still under the control of the terrorists, so we couldn’t estimate precisely what the figure is. So, this is plus or minus, let’s say.

AP: There has been a lot of speculation. For example, people say in order for a political solution to be viable, you might have to sacrifice yourself for the good of the country. Is that something that has crossed your mind?

PBA: The main part of my future, as a politician, is two things: my will and the will of the Syrian people. Of course, the will of the Syrian people is more important than my will, my desire to be in that position or to help my country or to play a political role, because if I have that desire and will and I don’t have the public support, I can do nothing. After seven years of me being in that position, if I don’t have the majority of the Syrian people’s support, how could I hold it for more than seven years now, with all this animosity from the strongest and the richest countries? Who supports me? If the Syrian people are against me, how can I stay? So, when I feel that the Syrian people do not want me to stay anymore, of course I have to leave without any hesitation.

AP: A lot of blood has been spilt. Can you see yourself sitting across from the opposition and sharing power in some way?

PBA: When you talk about blood, you have to talk about who spilt that blood. I was president before the war for 10 years. Had I been killing the Syrian people for 10 years? No, definitely not. So, the conflict started because somebody, first of all part of the West, supported those terrorists, and they bear the responsibility for this war. So first of all the West, who provided military and financial support and political cover, and who stood against the Syrian people, who impoverished the Syrian people and created a better atmosphere for the terrorists to kill more Syrian people. So, part of the West, mainly France, UK, and US, and also Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Turkey are responsible for this part. Of course blood has been spilt – it’s a war – but who’s responsible? Those who are responsible should be held accountable.

May 13, 2018 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Trump’s Syria withdrawal plan: Arab occupational force and Arabs will pay for it – report

RT | April 17, 2018

Washington reportedly wants Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar to replace the US in terms of troop deployments and funding in “stabilizing northeastern Syria,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

The US currently has two major points of military presence on the ground in Syria: one on the border with Jordan in the south and one in northeastern Syria in an area controlled by the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Force (SDF). President Donald Trump announced plans to withdraw American troops from Syria, apparently dismayed by the cost of the operation. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Trump administration wants to shift the burden of occupying northeastern Syria – which is touted as an effort to stabilize the area by the newspaper – to Arab countries.

The WSJ says John Bolton, Trump’s new national security adviser, called Abbas Kamel, Egypt’s acting intelligence chief, to see if the Arab nation with the largest standing army was willing to contribute to the planned changing of guard. Washington also asked Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to contribute billions of dollars into a buildup in northern Syria and asked to send troops as well.

“The mission of the regional force would be to work with the local Kurdish and Arab fighters the US has been supporting to ensure Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS] cannot make a comeback and preclude Iranian-backed forces from moving into former Islamic State territory, US officials say,” according to the newspaper.

The plan is apparently meant as an easy way out for America, which found itself in a perilous situation in Syria, having troops there with no legal ground and balancing amid countering goals and interests. For instance, Washington’s NATO partner Turkey sees America’s Syrian Kurd allies as terrorists and a legitimate target for military action.

However, having the Americans replaced with other foreign troops would entail challenges, too. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are otherwise preoccupied with their stalled military involvement in Yemen and may find it politically awkward to deploy troops alongside Qatar, a nation they accuse of supporting terrorism and of being close to Iran.

Egypt’s troops are busy fighting against jihadist groups in the Sinai Peninsula in the east and securing the lengthy desert border with Libya in the west. Both regions became major security threats after the events of the Arab Spring, during which Libya was reduced with the help of NATO to a patchwork of warring militant groups. Egypt suffered several years of political turmoil and a military coup, after which the supporters of Muslim Brotherhood found themselves under government pressure again.

The willingness of the Kurds to accept foreign Arab troops is far from certain. With some Syrian Kurds already feeling betrayed by the US over Washington’s failure to protect them from Turkey, getting a foreign Arab force deployed near their lands may be too much to swallow. Especially since some of the Islamist groups that the Kurds fought against during the seven-year war were funded and armed by the same Arab countries.

The WSJ also points out that cost reduction expected by the replacement may not be as big as the Trump administration hopes. The Arab expeditionary force would still require air support, logistical supply and possibly at least some presence of US troops among their ranks.

April 17, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trump opens a Pandora’s box in Middle East

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | April 15, 2018

There is no triumphalism in the US, Britain or France over the missile strike in Syria on Friday. The mood is rather defensive. Indeed, evidence is still lacking on the alleged chemical attacks in Douma, which was the alibi for the missile strike. There are no tall claims, either, as regards the effectiveness of the missile strike in military terms.

On the contrary, Damascus is in upbeat mood. April 14 has been declared a day of celebrations. After all, the Syrian forces single-handedly faced the Western assault. The Russian reports underscore that the Syrian air defence system was highly effective. The Defence Ministry said in Moscow on Saturday that there haven’t been any Syrian casualties. Moscow attests that the Syrians shot down as many as 71 missiles out of the total 103 fired by the US, UK and France. Neither Washington nor London or Paris has so far contradicted the Russian assessment.

President Donald Trump is the solitary voice crowing about the missile attack. He tweeted bombastically:

  • So proud of our great Military which will soon be, after the spending of fully approved dollars, the finest that our Country has ever had. There won’t be anything, or anyone, even close!

But Trump was grandstanding in front of the domestic audience and avoided making any specific claims about the success of the strike by his “smart” missiles. In sum, this has been a theatrical show.

The military balance in Syria now comes into play. For the Syrian regime, this is baptism under fire. Only recently, the Syrians had shot down an Israeli jet. Now they have scored a 70% hit on Friday.

The Syrians are equipped with Soviet-era air defence systems developed in the 1960s. What if the Russians upgrade the systems? This is exactly what the head of Russian General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate Colonel-General Sergei Rudskoi hinted in Moscow on Saturday:

“A few years ago, taking into account a pressing request from some of our partners, we abandoned the supplies of the S-300 missile systems to Syria. Considering the latest developments, we deem it possible to get back to discussing this issue, not only in relation to Syria, but to other countries as well.”

No doubt, it will be a game changer if Russia equips the Syrian army with deterrent power to inflict unaffordable costs on potential aggressors. Iran has shown how such a strategy can work when it helped Hezbollah in Lebanon to acquire deterrence against Israel.

In fact, the Jerusalem Post newspaper has highlighted the Russian general’s remark. The paper notes that if Moscow carries out the threat, “Israel’s air superiority is at risk of being challenged in one of its most difficult arenas… And it could be just a matter of time before an Israeli pilot is killed.” The JP report adds,

  • Syrian air defenses are largely Soviet-era systems, comprised of SA-2s, SA-5s and SA-6s, as well as more sophisticated tactical surface-to-air missiles such as the SA-17 and SA-22 systems. The most up-to-date system that Moscow has supplied to the Syrian regime is the short range Pantsir S-1, which has shot down drones and missiles that have flown over Syria.
  • The advanced S-300 would be a major upgrade to Syrian air defenses and pose a threat to Israeli jets as the long-range missile defense system can track objects like aircraft and ballistic missiles over a range of 300 kilometers.
  • The system’s engagement radar, which can guide up to 12 missiles simultaneously, helps guide the missiles toward the target. With two missiles per target, each launcher vehicle can engage up to six targets at once.

Col.-Gen. Rudskoi chose his words carefully by hinting that Russia could also supply countries other than Syria (eg., Venezuela, North Korea, Lebanon, Iraq, etc.) The remark stems from President Vladimir Putin’s hugely significant statement on Saturday regarding US attack on Syria when he said, inter alia: “The current escalation around Syria is destructive for the entire system of international relations. History will set things right…”

Trump’s impetuosity to attack Syria is in defiance of the international system and it may open a Pandora’s box. Ironically, Israel, as “frontline state”, has the highest stakes if the unwritten understanding between the US and Russia unravels. (Moscow had collaborated with the Barack Obama administration and Israel to slow down the supply of S-300 missiles to Iran.) Equally, Turkey will have to think twice before venturing into further land grab in Syria if Damascus regains control of its air space.

The Israeli think tank The Institute for National Security Studies had done a very informative paper in 2013 entitled Syria, Russia, and the S-300: Military and Technical Background. Read it here.

April 15, 2018 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Winners and losers in Trump’s Syria attack

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | April 14, 2018

The US President Donald Trump’s mind took a fourth U-turn in almost as many days on Friday since he began speaking about his decision to withdraw the American forces from Syria and leave it to “others” to handle the endgame in the conflict. He swung to the extreme threatening a rain of missiles on Syria, only to back-track a day later to hint there might not be any attack at all, and finally to announce a joint US-UK-France attack on Friday.

If the former US Deputy Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, an experienced career diplomat, got the impression that POTUS was playing a video game, it comes as no surprise. Indeed, the most striking thing about the US strike on Syria is its futility of purpose beyond a symbolic value to impress the domestic constituency that POTUS is a forceful decision-maker, who unlike his predecessor Barack Obama, lays down ‘red lines’ and follows up.

Actually, it is a cowardly stance. Trump hastened to strike just hours before the investigation by the team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was due to begin in Douma – as if time was running out to act with impunity. Clearly, Trump felt the compulsion to be seen acting. He had no authorization from the Congress nor did he secure a mandate from the UN Security Council to launch aggression against a UN member country.

The indignation and outrage in the statement by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will be widely shared by the world community:

“There’s an obligation, particularly when dealing with matters of peace and security, to act consistently with the Charter of the United Nations and with international law in general. The UN Charter is very clear on these issues.

“The Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. I call on the members of the Security Council to unite and exercise that responsibility. I urge all Member States to show restraint in these dangerous circumstances and to avoid any acts that could escalate the situation and worsen the suffering of the Syrian people.”

Both the constitutionality of Trump’s decision and the legality of the US attack under international law is highly questionable. However, the extenuating fact is that historically, the domestic public opinion rallies behind the POTUS when the US is at war abroad. For Trump’s crumbling presidency, that is an over-riding consideration today.

On the other hand, the attack on Syria was carefully choreographed. Paris has disclosed that Moscow was informed in advance. Indeed, “deconfliction” procedures were under discussion between the Pentagon and Russian Defence Ministry for the past 2-3 days. The attack clinically targeted alleged chemical weapon [sic] sites in three cities in Syria – Damascus, Hom and Hama. No military bases or assets were attacked. The missiles scrupulously avoided locations where there could be Russian personnel. Care was taken to avoid “collateral damage”. In fact, there has been no reported casualty. On the whole, it is as if a riveting fireworks show has been conducted.

The Syrians claim they shot down a number of incoming missiles. But like in the Sherlock Holmes story, the dog didn’t bark – not a single move has been reported by Russia to intercept the incoming missiles. Moscow simply watched a brawl unfold between the US, UK and France on one side and the Syrian regime on the other. Moscow instead turned on its propaganda apparatus to take the maximum advantage of the senseless, almost bizarre missile attack. If the OPCW team turns in a ‘Nil’ report from Douma shortly, Russian propaganda can be trusted to go for Trump’s jugular veins.

The US attack will not create any new facts on the ground. The comprehensive victory of the Syrian regime of President Bashar Al-Assad in the 7-year conflict is becoming an irreversible reality. Arguably, this could be the last waltz of the western interventionist powers in Syria who had hoped to overthrow the regime and failed miserably. In the absence of a coherent US strategy toward Syria, this latest attack may even stoke the fires of Syrian nationalism.

Russia has spoken of “serious consequences”, without elaborating. Will Russia escalate the situation? Seems unlikely. It is hard to see a Russian reaction on the ground – although Moscow is watchful that the western strategy ultimately threatens the Russian presence in Syria. Much depends on the next western move. The NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is expected in Ankara on Monday.

In a strongly-worded statement, President Vladimir Putin has warned that the “escalation in Syria is destructive for the entire system of international relations. History will set things right, and Washington already bears the heavy responsibility for the bloody outrage in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Syria.” Russia proposes to convene an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council “to discuss the aggressive actions by the US and its allies,” Putin said.

Of course, new regional alignments will become inevitable. Turkey and Israel have backed the US attack. (here) The Turks’ bazaari instincts are legion and President Recep Erdogan senses an historic opportunity to project Turkish power into Syria and realize his “neo-Ottoman” dream. Trust him to overreach.

Israel is a bit down due to the messy confrontation at the Gaza border; or else, it would have jumped into the fray. Israel’s best bet will be that the US keeps an open-ended military presence in a Syria that is balkanized and weak and is in no position to reclaim the lost territory in the Golan Heights that are under Israeli occupation since 1967.

All eyes are on Iran. But Tehran will not speak its mind. Tehran’s eyes are cast on the May 12 deadline when Trump must decide on the sanctions waiver to the July 2015 nuclear deal. The big question now is whether Trump would tear up the Iran nuclear deal in the present circumstances when the US needs the support of its European allies.

Syria constitutes Iran’s defence line. Significantly, even as Trump was ratcheting up rhetoric against Syria, the powerful Iranian statesman Ali Akbar Velayati, advisor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei landed in Damascus on Wednesday, met President Assad and toured Douma, the alleged site of the chemical attack. It was a defiant gesture and act of solidarity with Assad.

Tehran has hinted at “regional consequences.” But Iran’s style will be to avoid direct conflict with the US and opt instead to intensify its political work and consolidate its wide networking with various groups on the ground, which systematically keep undermining the US presence in Syria and Iraq. No doubt, Iran will intensify the politics of “resistance” against Israel.

The Russia-Iran partnership in Syria is steadily morphing into an alliance, which is in mutual interests. The defeat of the US-Israeli-Saudi containment strategy against Iran may turn out to be the most significant and enduring outcome of this US attack on Syria.

April 14, 2018 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Turkey: France’s buildup in Syria will amount to ‘invasion’

Press TV – April 8, 2018

Turkey which has deployed troops to northern Syria says if France steps up its military presence in the Arab country, it will amount to an “invasion.”

“If France takes any steps regarding its military presence in northern Syria, this would be an illegitimate step that would go against international law and in fact, it would be an invasion,” Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli said Saturday.

Turkey sent troops to the northern Syrian region of Afrin on January 20 to force out Kurdish militants, known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it suspects of having ties with anti-Ankara separatists.

France, which has criticized Ankara over the offensive, operates in Syria as part of the so-called US coalition.

French President Emmanuel Macron hosted a delegation of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has the YPG as its backbone, at the Elysee Palace on March 29.

On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan railed against Paris. “France, you are abetting terrorism, supporting it by then hosting them at the Elysee Palace,” he said.

“Especially, if they intend to support terror group elements or give direct or indirect protection with armed forces, this would be a really calamitous step,” Canikli said during a visit to the northeastern province of Giresun.

After the Paris meeting, Kurdish officials said France was planning to send new troops to the city of Manbij, also in northern Syria.

Paris has also threatened to attack Syria if it was established that Damascus had deployed chemical weapons in its military operation, an accusation strongly rejected by the Syrian government.

Turkey, which has pushed the YPG out of Afrin, has also threatened to extend its operation to Manbij, which hosts American forces.

Ankara has further locked horns with Washington on several occasions over the latter’s providing arms, training, and logistical support to the Kurds.

April 8, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

France Joins Syria Fight: Goals and Consequences

French Armed Forces, armed with FAMAS F1 assault rifles, participate in the Memorial Day ceremony at the LaFayette Escadrille Monument in Paris, France.
By Peter KORZUN | Strategic Culture Foundation | 05.04.2018

French President Emmanuel Macron kept his word. On April 1-2, French troops moved into northern Syria. This is the first time France deployed substantial forces there to turn Paris into a new actor actively involved in the war. The troops advanced toward Manbij and Remelin to join American allies and did it hastily.

The move was made at the time Ankara warned about the plans to control this territory with Russia, Turkey and Iran working together to define Syria’s future. It significantly changes the situation and makes one ask questions about the goals pursued by the US and France and the prospects for war and peace in the conflict-torn country. Summing up the recent events leads to the conclusion that the US and France have a hidden agenda to expand the conflict, wreak havoc and stymie the Russia-led peace efforts.

The news about French deployment came just before the April 4 Russia-Turkey-Iran summit in Ankara stated the goal to “speed up their efforts to ensure calm on the ground” in Syria. On April 3, US President Donald Trump said he would “decide very quickly” to remove forces from that country. The statement was made right after about 300 US Marines accompanied by armored vehicles and engineering equipment were moving toward Manbij as reinforcements to repel possible Turkish inroads. The construction of two bases in Syria’s northern Manbij region is underway.

The Marines have already launched daily patrols along the Sajur River, a tributary that feeds the Euphrates River from sources in Turkey, with observation posts built to monitor the area. This is unheard of – two leading states of the North Atlantic Alliance blocked the other NATO member’s land access to Manbij! On April 3, CNN reported that plans to send reinforcements have been discussed for several days before Trump’s remarks on leaving Syria soon.

The US also wasted no time to press Iraq into sending its 5th Army Division to Sinjar province and line the forces on the Iraqi-Syrian border to obstruct the possible advance of Turkish army from Syria into Iraq.

Obviously, the US is trying to partition Syria while creating a quasi-state on the eastern bank of the Euphrates and up to the Iraqi border. In Deir-ez-Zor, the US-led coalition resists the restoration of Syrian government institutions. It makes one think that the words about “leaving soon” may be nothing more than wishful thinking or an attempt to baffle those who are trying to predict further steps America will take.

The list of goals includes controlling the oil fields and chunks of the territory. Donald Trump wants Saudi Arabia to pay for US operations in Syria and it probably will. If the decision to leave were taken, he wouldn’t raise the question. According to the president, Saudi Arabia is interested in America staying in Syria.

That’s what the US “rocking from side to side” foreign policy is like. Rex Tillerson is fired to make the world know about it from tweets. The US wants to leave Syria but will stay if Saudi Arabia pays. Donald Trump invited the Russian leader to visit him in Washington against the background of Russia diplomats expelled and the consulate office in Seattle closed. Is it being short-sighted or far-sighted? Is this swinging back and forth a well-thought over policy or no policy at all? Is it done on purpose to keep everyone guessing with no predictions possible? You never know. Donald Trump once denounced Saudi Arabia as extremist and then sold a huge package of weapons while calling the kingdom a great friend and close ally against Iran.

The Syrian forces are preparing an offensive in the Daraa – Quneira – Suweida area in the south while denuding other fronts. The territory is huge and the terrain is hard to cross. There are at least 25 heights to fire at advancing forces from. The Free Syrian Army and other rebel groups are much more numerous than the ones being defeated in Eastern Ghuta. Their defenses are strong. Unlike in other places, the rebel forces can easily get logistical support from Jordan. That’s where the US and Saudi Arabia can contribute greatly. Israel has been involved in such activities since 2015. It took roughly six months to liberate Eastern Ghuta, with an active phase to dislodge rebel fighters launched in mid-March. It’s easy to surmise that it will take at least a year, may be much more, to liberate the area in question.

A conflict is easy to provoke. The operations of Syria’s government forces aimed at cutting off supplies coming from Jordan could be presented as an act of aggression against the Hashemite Kingdom. Chemical substances could be transported from Jordan to stage another provocation used as a pretext to attack Syria.

The operation could become a war of attrition to make Syria concentrate more and more of its forces in one place at the expense of other battlefields. They will be stuck there for a considerable period of time. That’s when the US-coalition will be in good position to attack anywhere it wants using the base of Al-Tanf as a springboard. Manbij as well as the Al-Tabka air base located to the south of Raqqa are perfect places for launching an offensive to drive Syria out from Aleppo. Then the country will plunge again into an “all-against-all” fight.

The efforts applied so far by Russia, Turkey and Syria will go down the drain. This time the US will not be alone to have substantial presence on the ground. It’s hard to imagine that the French forces arrived in Syria could be anything but the start of broader NATO presence with other members of the bloc to follow the French example. Russian military personnel and NATO soldiers will be looking at each other through the sights of guns. This scenario will be fraught with a great risk of international military conflict and a real tragedy for Syrian people but those who are provoking it don’t care.

April 5, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Trump challenges the Russian-Turkish-Iranian alliance

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | April 5, 2018

Three is company. But if the trilateral dialogue format in international diplomacy seldom produces concrete results, that is because it cannot be sequestered from external influences. Besides, the three participants are bound to have specific interests and priorities. The long-awaited Turkey-Russia-Iran trilateral summit in Ankara on April 4 has been no exception.

The summit didn’t end as a damp squib but its outcome has been measly. Three reasons can be attributed to this. First and foremost, the US President Donald Trump might have been responsible.

The Ankara summit’s main agenda was Syria, but Trump’s “very-soon” remark in Ohio last Thursday introduced a strategic ambiguity into the Syrian situation. And he deepened the ambiguity further on the eve of the summit by stating on Tuesday at a meeting at the White House that he wanted to immediately withdraw US forces from the war-torn country, arguing that the US had already won the battle against the Islamic State.

Trump said, “I want to get out — I want to bring our troops back home. It’s time. We were very successful against ISIS.” Trump literally barged into the Istanbul tent and hijacked the mind of the three presidents.

What is the Syria that Erdogan, Putin and Rouhani would discuss – a Syria with open-ended US military presence or a Syria denuded of the Americans? That is now the big question.

Pentagon and White House split on what to do?

Even then, it is very unclear whether Trump himself is free to make up his mind. A former British ambassador to Syria Peter Ford framed the paradigm this way: “I have a feeling that there are divided counsels within the Pentagon, definitely in the White House (regarding US troop removal from Syria). Trump sincerely wants to get out since it’s what he campaigned on, but whether he’ll be allowed to by elements of the ‘deep state’ is the question.”

The good thing is that there could be elements within the Pentagon who too aren’t necessarily happy about an open-ended military presence in Syria without a clear-cut objective. The military mind cannot focus well when there are gnawing doubts.

Second, the disclosure (by the Kremlin first) that Trump has invited Putin to the White House has opened a vista of new possibilities. What if a joint Russian-American peace initiative in Syria gets revived? Trump now becomes a “stakeholder” in a Syrian settlement.

On the contrary, if the trilateral Russian-Turkish-Iranian dialogue on Syria (known as the Astana process) has gravitas today, it is mainly due to the Trump administration’s retrenchment from the Syrian peace process. The dalliance that the Obama administration (secretary of state John Kelly) kept going with the Kremlin (foreign minister Sergey Lavrov) has petered out and what remains today is the military-to-military “deconfliction” mechanism between the US and Russia to ensure that they don’t shoot at each other in Syria.

But, if Trump and Putin breathe new life into a Russian-American joint enterprise to choreograph a Syrian settlement, the Astana process gets relegated to the backburner. Participants at the Ankara summit agreed to hold the next meeting in Astana in mid-May, but much water might flow under the bridge by then.

Decision on Iran deal due by May 12

Third and finally, the fate of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) remains the “known unknown.” Trump is due to make a decision on the Iran nuclear deal by May 12. And the geopolitics of the Middle East could change dramatically, depending on what he decides to do – especially if Trump were to pull the US out of the JCPOA.

The conventional wisdom is that changes at the US State Department and the National Security Council presage a more hawkish US foreign policy toward Iran. But there are weighty arguments too as to why Trump may not sound the death knell of the JCPOA and opt instead to simply give the nuclear deal a fresh lease of life, as he has done twice already.

To be sure, depending on the state of play in US-Iranian relations, the geopolitics of the Middle East could change and Syria is the theatre where this could see visible impacts in the near-term. So it was notable that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani didn’t go for Trump’s jugular at the Ankara summit. Iran also refrained from pushing any fresh initiatives and seemed more or less happy with a passive role – biding its time and brooding, as it were.

Given the above, what did the summit actually achieve? For a start, trilateral dialogue is always primarily a statement. What emerges from yesterday’s summit on the Bosporus is that the western influence in Syria (and the Levant) is inexorably on the wane. The summit underscored that the three countries intend to reinforce their influence in Syria.

Having said that, while the summit flagged the intention of the three countries to deepen cooperation, they also have divergent goals. For instance, the Turkish priority was that Russia and Iran continued to acquiesce with its military operation. Erdogan stated at the joint press conference, “Turkey will not stop until all regions under PYD/PKK (Kurdish militia) control, including Manbij, are secured… Turkey values Russia and Iran’s solidarity with its Afrin operation, we will establish grounds for peace in Afrin.” Rouhani and Russian President Vladimir Putin neither nodded agreement nor dissented.

The single most important outcome of the summit where all three countries have shared interest is in their forceful affirmation of the unity and territorial integrity of Syria and their rejection of “all attempts to create new realities on the ground under the pretext of combatting terrorism.”

The bottom line is that Russia, Turkey and Iran have a strong convergence of interests in the termination of the US military presence in Syria. Paradoxically, here again the Trump factor comes in. Their brittle alliance faces an existential threat if Trump somehow realizes his dream of bringing the US troops in Syria back home “where they belong.”

April 5, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | 1 Comment