Avalanche of events redefining the balance of power in the Middle East
By All-Born-Equal-Rights – Jul 25, 2015
How prescient was Sharmine Narwani when she wrote “Security Arc” forms amidst Mideast terror in December 2013! Now in mid-2015 what she described is developing before our eyes:
“… the Russian-brokered destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, a US-Iranian rapprochement, the diminished strategic value of Saudi Arabia and Israel, and a US withdrawal from Afghanistan will all contribute to changing regional dynamics considerably… Washington has suddenly gone from backing a mostly Sunni ‘rebellion’ in Syria to reaching out to Iran. This about-turn stems from the realization that the US has dangerously overplayed its geopolitical game and allowed religious militancy to swell past the point of no return. Neither Washington nor its NATO partners can reverse this trend unaided. Both failed miserably in the decade-long, superficial “war on terror,” which, if anything, helped sow further seeds of extremism. The US now understands that it needs the assistance of vested regional partners and rising powers that face a more imminent threat from militants – Iran, Russia, China, India, Syria, Iraq, – not just to fight extremism, but to cut off its source…in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan and other places.”
Below is the conclusion of Sharmine Narwani’s essay, written in December 2013, describing the security alliance emerging out of a stretch of countries from the Levant to the Persian Gulf: Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran:
Gravitating Toward The “Security” Priority
You can see the calculations changing in nations beyond the Security Arc already. Many keenly understand the vital role these four countries will have to play to stem militancy. All eyes right now are on Syria where the security situation is most precarious for the region – particularly in Egypt, Jordan and Turkey.
The latter three are the regional states most likely to support the Security Arc’s security objectives, albeit with reservations that accompany some fairly stark political differences.
Jordan, for example, has played “host” to an array of foreign special forces, troops, intelligence agencies and contractors, all focused on the task of bringing down the current Syrian government. But even its longtime financial dependency on Saudi Arabia is not worth the thousands of jihadis stationed on Jordanian territory, waiting to enter conflict zones. Arab media puts the number of Jordanian-origin jihadists inside the country at a horrifying 1,000. By contrast, the Europeans are terrified of even a handful of their own Islamist militants coming home.
According to a well-connected Lebanese source, around four months ago, Jordan, Syria and Iraq began quiet discussions (on separate bilateral tracks) about economic and security cooperation. The Jordanians initially balked at the security upgrade, but came around eventually. They’re not just worried about extremism, but about economic collapse too – either can set the other off. Worst of all would be complete irrelevance in a region undergoing rapid change. The Jordanians are not mavericks, and sandwiched as they are between Syria and Iraq, it is not hard to see their new direction.
Already, state security courts in Amman are imprisoning prominent Salafists and Jordanian fighters intent on crossing over into Syria. Jordan has shut down its border, enforced tight security around the Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees, and is likely to take further measures as relations with the Syrian government continue to improve.
The Turks have also taken measures to tighten up their borders – in practice. An internal battle still rages within its Islamist establishment where a hot-headed Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan cast his lot almost three years ago with the Syrian opposition. His intransigence on this issue has cost Turkey: armed militants have found refuge inside Turkey’s border with Syria, political violence has seeped into the country, Turkey’s popularity has plummeted in the Arab world across all sects, Erdogan’s own suppression of protest has marked him a hypocrite, and Kurdish “autonomy” in Syria raises ambitions for Kurds in neighboring Turkey.
The Turks will understand the security imperative, but the clincher will be the economic ones. Syria needs a lot of reconstruction and Iraq has oil wealth to spend once calm returns. Furthermore, a gas pipeline initiative stretching from Iran to the Mediterranean will altogether bypass Turkey – if it doesn’t play ball.
Egypt is likely to fall in line with the Security Arc for the simple reason that it now faces the same problems. Indebted as the interim military government may be to the petrodollars of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf state sponsors, Egypt will be entirely bankrupt if religious militancy takes hold, as it now threatens to do. Jihadists started flocking to the Sinai when former President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in February 2011, and have surged again since last summer when the military establishment returned to power. Furthermore, the recently overthrown Muslim Brotherhood (MB) government is still seething from what it views as an illegal coup, and there is a tendency to Salafism in the organization’s ranks. During the short MB-reign which endorsed Syrian rebels, thousands of Egyptians flocked to the fight in Syria. It is likely that a state governed or dominated by a secular military establishment will follow the Syrian example and implement heavy security solutions to break the back of extremists.
Whatever one’s political inclinations, there is little doubt that inaction against Salafist militants at this juncture will lead to the disintegration of states throughout the Mideast.
The most dangerous hubs today are Syria, followed by Iraq, because of their political and geographical centrality in the region, and the likelihood of smaller or weaker neighbors being swept into the chaos.
The fight against extremism will therefore start inside the Security Arc, and will receive immediate support from the BRICS states and non-aligned nations. The West may choose to play key roles behind the scenes instead of unsettling their regional allies – at least for a while. But as confrontation escalates, countries will have to “take clear sides” in this pivotal battle, both in the Mideast and outside. Expect opportunism to play a hand – there may be a point at which a “stalemate” may be desirable for some. Few will dare to support the extremists, however, so also anticipate some serious narrative shifts on ‘good-guys’ and ‘bad-guys’ in the Mideast.
This, now, is the real War on Terror. But this time it will be led from inside the Middle East, gain universal support and change the regional political balance of power for generations to come.
So concluded Gravitating Toward The “Security” Priority from “Security Arc” forms amidst Mideast terror written by Sharmine Narwani in December 2013 and first published by Al Akhbar English on 21 December 2013.
Now, in July 2015, the steadfast Syrian patriot Ghassan Kadi outlined on his Facebook page an avalanche of events that has redefined the balance of power onSyrian soil, namely and mainly:
- Erdogan’s loss in the Turkish legislative elections.
- Hezbollah’s advancements in the Qalamoun region of both Lebanon and Syria.
- Failure of Operation “Southern Storm” to take Soweida and Daraa.
- Advances of SAA and Hezbollah in the Zabadani region.
- Advances of the SAA in the Idlib region.
- Failure of Saudi Arabia to form an effective alliance against Yemen.
- Failure of Saudi Arabia to score a clear win in Yemen.
- The Iran nuclear deal, and much more.
Ghassan Kadi states that the 24-July-2015 article Thaw on the Horizon? Kerry Seeks Russia’s Help Fighting ISIL, at Sputnik International News, puts the whole picture in a very good perspective and from a highly reliable source. President of Turkey Tayyip Erdogan seems to have no choice but to change course. Not only has he lost his parliamentary majority in the latest round of elections, but ISIS is already hitting home with recent clashes with the Turkish army and terrorist attacks within Turkey. Even his staunchest of supporters would turn against him if he does not turn against ISIS.
Ghassan Kadi opines that he Saudis and Israelis are feeling let down and isolated. (They are securing new security cooperation agreements.) Erdogan is possibly deciding to stay in the game for his own survival, but there seems to be little doubt that his wings have been clipped.
Speaking to a think-tank in New York on Friday (24/07/2015), US Secretary of State John Kerry said he expected to talk with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Qatar in the coming weeks. After the success of the nuclear talks, the two will discuss how best to counter the militant group (ISIS/ISIL/Da’esh).”We have to change the dynamic in Syria,” Kerry told the Council on Foreign Relations, according to Reuters. “And that’s part of why we have been negotiating with Turkey in these last weeks and now have some shift in what the Turks are prepared to do, and there is also a shift in some of the things that we’re engaged in,” Kerry added.
While Russia and the United States haven’t exactly seen eye-to-eye on Syria, both nations are hoping to forge an alliance between regional governments to counter the common threat posed by IS… In the wake of the nuclear deal, Russia has also urged for Iran’s involvement in international anti-terror efforts.
“We can develop anti-terror cooperation with Iran, first of all, in the Middle East region,” the Russian Foreign Ministry’s challenges and threats department director Ilya Rogachev told RIA Novosti on Monday (20/07/2015). “The notorious international terrorist organization known as Islamic State can be and has to be the object of our cooperation with Iran,” he added. (source)
After all the demonisation of Vladimir Putin and Basshar Al-Assad that has created such a negative view of these remarkable men of out time, the disconnect that Westerners are going to experience over the next few months while we watch our leaders attempt to backtrack on their past policies may be reduced by considering an article that Ghassan Kadi wrote everal years ago defending Basshar Al-Assad and the Assad legacy:
The Syria that Hafez Al-Assad inherited was poor and corrupt. It had little infrastructure, under developed agriculture and industries, and to top it off, it was in a state of war with Israel.
What contributed to the Syrian/Lebanese schism was that Syria had an autocratic political regime, and Lebanon was a tax haven that had a political system which was very close to a Western style democracy.
As Lebanon was getting richer and more open to the world, Syria was getting poorer and more closed up. Crossing the borders from Lebanon into Syria became similar to crossing the borders from San Diego USA to Tijuana Mexico.
Nation-building was paramount on Assad’s agenda. For this to happen, very strict austerity measures had to be put in place. And here is something that the West cannot understand. To put such austerity measures into action, a leader cannot be democratically elected. Democratically-elected leaders are not able to implement severe measures without losing the next elections. The continuity of strict nation-building projects demands either dictatorship or bipartisanism which is virtually impossible to find in a place where party politics dictate that any thing can be used as a political weapon.
By the mid 70’s, Lebanon’s golden age was coming to an end. The Western style democracy soon turned into anarchy, and the country succumbed to a long and bitter civil war that had a strong sectarian foundation.
In the 70’s, as Lebanon was breaking loose and as its people were adopting the law of militia groups, the Syrians were ruled by an iron fist that did not tolerate any sectarian divisions and any form of political freedom that would mimic the neighboring chaotic Lebanon.
The wheel of fate started to turn the other way, and this time, it was in the favour of Syria.
All the while Lebanese youths were going off to get military training in sectarian militia camps and were fed with sectarian prejudice, Syrian youths were conscripted in the national secular army and given lessons in patriotism.
Whilst Lebanese militia groups were kidnapping, maiming, torturing and killing other Lebanese on sectarian grounds, it became illegal in Syria to even ask another citizen about his/her religion, with a mandatory jail sentence in place.
The Lebanese citizen grew up believing that he/she can live his/her own way under his/her own law. The Syrian citizen grew up knowing that there is law and order and severe punishments would ensue if those laws are broken.
The Syrian regime gained its dictatorial notoriety by implementing very strict rules of law and order, and whilst the one-party rule meant a continued grab of power by the Baath Party, it also meant that Syria would not slump into a Lebanese-style multi-party anarchy.
The Syrian Intelligence (Moukhabarat) became a very powerful organization. Styled like the KGB, it did not leave any chance for dissent.
In the late 70’s and early 80’s, the Syrian Moslem Brotherhood began to stir anti-Assad passion among the Sunnis. They regarded Assad (an Alawite) as an infidel. They ambushed and killed several top ranking Alawite military personnel and Syria was about to follow the footsteps of Lebanon in its civil war.
Assad crushed the revolt ruthlessly. In an unprecedented move, the Syrian army attacked the brotherhood in a mosque where the rebels thought they would be safe.
Those rebels were not peaceful democracy campaigners. They were an armed bunch of murderers with a fundamentalist Sunni agenda; similar to what is now known as Al-Qaeda.
One of the biggest challenges that Hafez Al-Assad had to confront was his home-grown corruption. His own brother, Rafaat Al-Assad, established a state within a state. He was a corrupt officer surrounded by a bunch of thugs and looters. Rafaat was exiled to France where he could not cause any trouble.
Assad managed to rid himself of many of the corrupt officers and officials but he never was able to do this fully. Corruption is a universal “disease’ and Syria is not immune.
Needless to say that the brutality of the Moukhabarat was invariably unjust and many innocent people were incarcerated and some were allegedly never seen again.
Nevertheless, when Hafez Al-Assad died in 2000, Syria had been transformed. The country became a safe haven, a secular model, and a politically stable country with a growing economy and a good foundation of an infrastructure.
When Basshar Al-Assad took over the presidency, he fast tracked the process of reform. The tough austerity measures of his father’s era had already paid dividend and were eased. Imports were allowed to flow in as the economy was able to afford them. The internet and mobile phones became a part of Syrian life. The country prospered as private enterprise regained its position in the thriving economy. And last but not least, some political freedom was allowed. Parties such as the Lebanese-rooted Syrian National Socialist Party and the Communist Party, to name some, were given the freedom to operate. The political freedom that Basshar was not to tolerate was the one that had sectarian agendas and/or the one that would call for armed revolt.
Any person who denies that Basshar Al-Assad had embarked on the journey of reform from the day he took office is either ill-informed, or deliberately twisting the truth.
Ironically, the reforms that the West demands of Assad are already getting introduced one at a time. They cannot be rushed in simply because this is what the USA and France demand today.
If anything, France’s biggest promise to the peoples of Lebanon and Syria was to keep them segregated. (Commander of the French Army of the Levant) General Gouraud made this very clear after his troops savagely massacred the outnumbered and ill-equipped Syrian army led by the gallant Youself Al Azmeh in Maysaloun in 1920. This same general is notoriously renowned for stepping his foot on the tomb of Salladin in Damascus saying “we have returned”. It was France which bombed Damascus and its famous Hamidiyye Souk. For the French FM Alain Juppe to make claims today that France cares about Syria and Syrian people is quite laughable.
Basshar’s biggest failing is that he did not do a house cleaning like his father did. Basshar is surrounded by a huge number of very good men and women working with him to serve Syria. However, there is a handful of bad apples around him that need to be plucked out. He knows well who they are and they should be on his priority list after restoring peace and order in Syria.
With his failings and short-comings, Basshar Al-Assad and the Assad legacy have created a prosperous and stable Syria, introduced many political and economic reforms, and domestically stood up against sectarianism and fundamentalism, while on the regional arena stood up single-handedly against the American/Israeli plots. (source)
Around the world attention was focused on Saturday 16 July 2016 upon what first appeared to be an attempted coup by a dissident group within the Turkish military. In a 22 July 2016 update, Alexander Mercouris wrote: « It is simply not true – as many still say – that only a small number of junior officers were involved. On the contrary senior generals were involved both in Istanbul and Ankara, with the senior commanders of the troops located near both cities ordering their troops onto their streets. » News agencies reported later in the day of the coup that it failed, and it appeared there was quite a lot going on beneath the surface of this story.
Alexander Mercouris also wrote: « apart from one report of an F16 fighter shooting down a rebel helicopter, there is no evidence that any part of the Turkish military rallied to the government’s support or that a single military unit came to the government’s defence during the coup. The coup was not actively opposed or suppressed by the military. All the military units caught on film during the coup – including the tanks in the streets, the air forces jets flying over Istanbul and Ankara, the troops blocking the Bosphorus bridges and occupying Takshim Square, and the helicopter gunships which attacked the parliament building – supported the coup. The coup failed because confronted by angry crowds of civilians, the troops in many of the units involved in the coup eventually refused to obey the orders of the coup plotters and abandoned the coup.
Geopolitical analyst Andrew Korybko believes the coup was US-directed and Gulen-inspired, so he expects the aftermath of the coup to be American-improvised Hybrid War challenges – a renewed Kurdish insurgency, left-wing terrorism, a Color Revolution, Daesh attacks, maritime proxy hostility via Greece, engineered provocations with Turkey’s other neighbors, a civil war, and/or another feeble coup attempt — in order to throw the progressively Islamifying and Muslim Brotherhood-inspired state into such chaos that it becomes impossible for its new multipolar partners (Russia, China and Iran) to make any substantial use of its territory in their joint quest to dismantle the unipolar world order.
If this is the case then Israel would find itself Janus-like facing West and East at the same time. Russia and Israel have many reasons to clash on foreign policy. They differ considerably on Syria, not only regarding the conflict there. Russia’s support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad disturbs Israel in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, firstly because Israel annexed the Golan Heights which is internationally recognised as Syrian territory; secondly Russia has delivered S-300 air-defense systems to Israel’s number-one enemy Iran, and thirdly Israel staunchly opposes the nuclear deal and the lifting of sanctions from Iran, to which Moscow has contributed considerably.
However, as Maria Dubovikova writes, Russia has a record of establishing stable relations with counterparts from conflicting camps. This makes Moscow a negotiator whose assistance is significant in Israeli-Palestinian talks. Netanyahu’s visit on 7 June 2016 was followed by that of the Palestinian and Jordanian foreign ministers (source). Israeli diplomats and geopolitical strategists have not contradicted the growing belief amongst Saudi and Turkish geopolitical strategists that the United States cannot be relied upon for unquestioning support for their governments.
For Russia, its relationship with Israel is important for precautions against accidental clashes of military assets, as well as to maintain a back-channel link with military chiefs in the West. Israel has a significant concentration of former Russian compatriots and Russian-speaking citizens. Given that Russia is now using these as a form of soft power, Israel fills a role as a back channel for communication with Washington policy makers who have been demonizing Russia.
Israel’s growing friendship with Russia enables it to force concessions and preferential treatment from its Western allies, as a form of blackmail. Netanyahu’s statement in Moscow that Russia is a global power, while Israel is a regional one, reflects Israel’s desire to use its close ties with Moscow to pursue its geopolitical goals in the region. This includes an Israeli delusion that it can get Russia to agree to US-Israeli exploitation of Golan Heights oil and gas despite Syrian and Iranian antagonism towards Zionist Israel.
ONE BELT ONE ROAD
Israel is yet a long way from accepting that it would have to become like Syria, a secular state ruling over a religiously diverse population, or to successfully negotiate a peace with Syria in order to succeed in joint regional projects like exploitation of Mediterranean gas and oil fields on the Golan Heights. Over five years into the NATO-jihadist war to smash apart Syria according to Israel’s Yinon Plan and Syria still stands, now with the backing of Russia as well as Iran.
Even when NATO and the Gulf states finally give up on regime change in Syria, and even when Israel finally gives up attempting to balkanize the surrounding Arab states, direct Israeli-Syrian negotiations would never happen without Israel first coming to an arrangement with Palestine along the lines of the Arab Peace Initiative that would also have the endorsement of Iran, because Iran and Syria, like Russia, put values before interests.
China and Iran intend to extend the Yiwu-Tehran rail component of the overland « One Belt One Road » initiative. Iran, for its part, is intent on becoming a regional rail hub, seeing Chinese trains continue on to Europe via its territory. Tehran also has the potential to link up with the trans-Caspian transit route being touted by Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine as another way to Europe. With these new developments Israel may well have to reassess whether its present ideology is in its own interests.
In the disproportionate conflict where Israel remains an occupying force that controls Palestinian lives against their will, Israel has never felt sufficient pressure to negotiate a solution of mutual benefit with Palestinians. There has been a greater lure to keep the the illegally annexed ancient city of Jerusalem under exclusive “Jewish” sovereignty (actually “Zionist” sovereignty, but Israel does not distinguish the political ideology from the religion), and maintain a brutal unsustainable occupation on the rest of the occupied territories.
But pragmatic self-interest might end up trumping present Anglo-Zionist ideology and change the whole Middle East from being a US-Europe resource quarry and part of the NATO military bulwark isolating Russia and China from Europe into a link to the rising economy of China.
According to the Bank of Russia, new Chinese loans to the non-financial sector and households in Russia in 2014 totaled almost four times as much as Russia’s next biggest lender. China and Russia have been sharing political interests ever since the NATO intervention in Libya in 2011, as noted by professor Goldstein, citing Chinese geostrategists. And then the Arab Spring as well as the Ukrainian crisis have accelerated the rapprochement process. The combination of economic rebalance towards China due to Western sanctions, together with the West’s intensifying military threat on Russia’s borders and in Korea and the South China Sea, may yet prove sufficient to solidify a geopolitically significant Eurasian counterpoise.
India and Pakistan signed a Memorandum of Obligations on June 24, formally joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The SCO is a political, economic and military alliance composed of six member states, including Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The decision to commence the process of inclusion of India and Pakistan as member states in the organization was made during the July 2016 SCO summit in the Russian city of Ufa. Eurasia is getting integrated as the EU is falling apart!
The SCO is not an alliance or a union, as its members feel that the time for ‘unions’ has passed (what is happening with the EU or NATO is very obvious today). The SCO an attempt to build a new, modern model of relations between countries, which are united by geography, but divided by a number of distinct features which these countries wish to maintain, rather than be leveled by some strict rules and standards.
An enterprising extension of the Yiwu-Tehran rail link into a hub will catapult the SCO right into the Middle East. It’s a model that can contain and relate historical adversaries like China and Russia, India and Pakistan; and why not Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Turkey, if they all gain mutual benefit in the One Belt One Road?
18 July 2016, by Ghassan Kadi
The dust has not even began to settle yet, but there are markers that indicate that we are about to see a huge shift in Middle Eastern politics, conflicts and alliances.
We are now hearing formal Turkish statements accusing the USA of plotting the recent failed coup attempt. Turkey has even imposed a lockdown on Incirlik airbase, a NATO airbase, in which America stock piles nuclear weapons, and has even cut off power supplies to the base. This is tantamount to declaring mutiny on NATO. When Erdogan said that the coup was a “gift from God” to cleanse the army, he might as well have also said that it was a gift from God for him to show his resentment to the USA.
We also hear of counter-rumours that Erdogan has staged the failed coup in order to cleanse the military from elements that are not loyal to him. Whilst this scenario cannot either be confirmed or discounted, Erdogan is not mincing either his words or his actions with his NATO boss the USA.
It is important to note here that in the last few weeks, Erdogan and Netanyahu made up, and furthermore, the Turkish-Russian relationship was normalized. Erdogan has been seen to be making a turn, and perhaps a U-turn in regard to his policies in Syria, but for what ends?
For anyone to make a decisive win in Syria, the city of Aleppo holds the key. Whoever takes full control of Aleppo will win the war. The Syrian-Russian coalition has the upper hand to win the battle of Aleppo, but at what civilian cost? The other way to win it is to bring Erdogan down to his knees; and this seems to be what has happened. If Erdogan seals Turkey’s borders, the terrorists will be doomed.
If we were to connect the above main dots, ignoring many other minor dots which do not need to be discussed individually, we can only see a Middle Eastern Russian-brokered masterplan coming to fruition.
What puts Russia in the position to be able to muster such a plan is the fact that Russia is highly respected and is on fairly good terms with all major players. After mending relationships with Turkey, Russia is now on very good terms not only with Turkey, but also with Syria, Israel and Iran. The foolhardy foreign American policies in the Middle East have turned America into a force that cannot be trusted even by its own allies.
Putin is adamant on fighting terrorism. Whether he is able to do this or not is another story, but strategically speaking, he knows well that the military fight against terrorism cannot be won, let alone properly conducted, if other players in the region are in a state of conflict.
According to this analysis, we are on the verge of seeing a Russian plan unfolding, a plan that will not only form a foundation for ending the “War On Syria”, but also one that will seek an Arab/Israeli settlement.
The plan will have to be based on a win-win situation for all parties involved. The Saudis (and Qataris) will be the only losers. They will probably be left out in the cold and hung to dry. No one really wants to or needs to appease them any longer. Their clout is shrinking, and so are their resources. If anything, the war on terror, if it takes form under a Russian umbrella, may need to confront Al-Saud’s sponsorship to the spread of religious radicalism.
The avalanche of events has started, and as the USA is being shown the exit door by its closest allies, Russia is coming in as the only power that has the ability of resolving long standing @!$%#ling issues and cleaning up America’s mess.
(This article was started on the morning of 16th July 2016, but was added to over several days as events developed. The final editing was on 24th July 2016)