“The New Middle East” : Russian Style

By Andrew Korybko

The US’ plan to construct a “New Middle East”, announced during the failed 2006 Israeli War on Lebanon, has been totally offset by Russia’s game-changing anti-terrorist intervention in Syria. Although no formal details were ever officially provided as to what this “New Middle East” would look like, many caught on that it would likely follow the destructive contours of Ralph Peters’ “Blood Borders”, in which the entire region falls apart along ethnic and sectarian lines in a Yinon-esque scenario. In fact, the fulfillment of this strategy is one of the main reasons why the “Arab Spring” theater-wide Color Revolutions and the War on Syria were unleashed, but all of that is proving to be for naught now that Russia brilliantly flipped the initiative and has indisputably become the leading actor in the Mideast.

Moscow’s “Mideast Pivot” is geared towards restoring the principles of order in the region that Washington had so wantonly disregarded as it blindly sought to destroy the status quo and chaotically remake the Mideast according to its own desired vision. With the tables having dramatically been turned, however, it’s time to explore another vision of the future, albeit one in which Russia, not the US, plays the guiding role over events. This “New Middle East” is a lot different than the one the US had intended, and it eliminates just about every lever of influence that Washington had previously employed in attempting to keep the region servilely under its strategic command.

The article’s premise is predicated on the Coalition of the Righteous (Russia-Syria-Iraq-Iran) succeeding in its extermination campaign against ISIL, and Part I proceeds to describe the paradigm shift that the Allies have enacted through their actions. Part II is then broken up into two separate sections that uncover the wide-ranging geopolitical consequences of a coalition victory, with the first one discussing the Lebanon-to-Iran Resistance Arc and the second one detailing the resultant destabilization of Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Finally, in response to this historical defeat inflicted against unipolarity, the article concludes by forecasting the ways in which the US will seek geopolitical revenge against Russia for unseating it from its prized perch at the crossroads of Afro-Eurasia.

Out With The Old, In With The New

The Coalition of the Righteous (COR) has completely upended the previous US-led order in the Mideast, and not much of the strategic architecture that Washington created over the past two and a half decades is expected to remain by the time its campaign is concluded. Here are the most notable elements that define this paradigm shift:

Russian Leadership

First off, the most visible difference is that Russia has assumed the key role of setting the region’s agenda, and it’s Moscow, not Washington, that’s affecting the most tangible change in the Mideast. This development didn’t come out of nowhere, as despite the surprised reaction of many observers (especially Western ones), Russia had been steadily growing its regional clout for decades through the management of two ultra-strategic partnerships with Syria and Iran. The one with Iran is relatively new and mostly goes back to the early 2000s, but the relationship with Syria began in the early 1970s and is remarkably the only Soviet-era friendship to remain unscathed by Russia’s international drawdown in the 1990s. Through the simultaneous leveraging and strengthening of each of these bilateral partnerships, plus the unified strategic overlap between them (i.e. the Syrian-Iranian Strategic Partnership), a super nexus of interests has been established, thereby setting the strategic backdrop for the COR and the multilateral pushback against the US’ “New Middle East” of chaotic destruction. Unlike the US, Russia leads from the front, not from behind, and this fearless example has energized its coalition and raised the hopes of the entire multipolar world.

The Iraqi War Of Independence

One of the most prominent elements of the Russian-led “New Middle East” is the inclusion of Iraq in the COR, which can be read as nothing less than the country’s desire to liberate itself from American proxy domination and truly experience its first sense of independence since 2003. Most Iraqis, and especially their government (as can be inferred by their membership in the COR), are cognizant of the fact that the US had been using ISIL as its strategic wrecking ball for actualizing Ralph Peters’ “Blood Borders”, and whether Sunni, Shia, or Kurdish, they appear to have finally had enough. Over 13 years of full-on destruction and countless false promises are enough to make even the most stalwart pro-American forces falter in their loyalty, and the Iraqi experience is the most striking global example of the grave perils that befall all of America’s second-rate, non-Western ‘partners’. The Iraqi War of Independence, which is what its COR anti-ISIL campaign basically amounts to, powerfully demonstrates that even the most abused proxy states have the real potential to fight back, provided that the political will is there at the highest levels and that the population is truly fed up with the prior state of affairs.

Syria Comes Full Circle

Syria, the scene of the present global attention, ironically just so happens to be the first battleground of the New Cold War, and it makes for a certain sense of poetic justice that the most epic geopolitical resistance that the US has ever experienced is taking place right there. The Pentagon’s power ploy in wrestling full control of the region by means of the “Arab Spring” Color Revolutions was the opening salvo of the New Cold War, as the US had originally planned to carry the chaotic regime change momentum all the way to Central Asia the thenceforth to the Resistant & Defiant (R&D) states of Russia, China, and Iran. It goes without saying that all three of these actors understood the global power grab that the US was undertaking even if they were slow in coordinating their response, and had it not been for fierce and patriotic Syrian resistance to this scheme, it’s possible that they would have been in a much less advantageous and more disorganized position in confronting it today.

Syria’s sacrifices stopped the tidal wave of terror from slamming into the R&D states, and Russia’s gratitude was expressed through its 2013 diplomatic intervention in staving off an American bombing campaign against the country. This bought the R&D states a bit more time to prepare before the next imminent onslaught, but it unwittingly provoked the US into moving forward its regime change plans for Ukraine and deploying them a year ahead of schedule. This vengeful attempt was meant to ‘punish’ Russia for the global embarrassment that it inflicted on the US in Syria, and it’s what most people mistakenly think set off the New Cold War, overlooking that it was Syria, not Ukraine, where the first battle was fought. Incidentally, everything has come full circle, and the most important stage of the New Cold War is presently being played out in Syria, as the COR smashes the terroristic instruments of unipolar hegemony and midwifes the birth of the multipolar world order, and more than likely, it won’t limit its successes to the Mideast either.

Chasing Evil

The largest uncertainty facing American strategists is exactly how far the COR will geographically go in fighting back against global terrorism. The present focus is obviously on the Syrian-Iraqi theater, but after the conclusion of that campaign, one must realistically ponder whether the Allies could repeat their success in Libya or Afghanistan, pending of course an official request from those countries’ leaders. Of corroborating note, it’s hugely significant that shortly after the COR’s anti-terrorist intervention in Syria, Kerry urgently pleaded with Libya’s leaders (both de-jure and de-facto) to form a government as soon as possible so as to stop ISIL from taking further hold of the country. One could venture to guess that the US is seriously worried about the possibility that an expanded COR, this time including Egypt (which has selectively intervened in Libya in the past), could intervene in the failed state in order to root out the Pentagon’s proxy forces and save the country from following The New York Times’ “Blood Borders”-like scenario of trilateral state fragmentation.

Concerning Afghanistan, if ISIL ever manages to establish a destabilizing enough foothold there, it’s possible that Kabul, having been witness to the efficiency of the COR’s anti-terrorist airstrikes in Syria, could request similar assistance in dislodging the terrorist group. If that happened, then it would be the final nail in the US’ Central-South Asian coffin of chaos, as Afghanistan would thus be signaling the beginning of its own War of Independence in removing the US’ presence. With the proxies go the patron, so it’s expected that as soon as the terrorists are extinguished from Libya and Afghanistan (potentially with COR assistance), the US will also be shown the door as well and these two states can finally regain the sovereignty that they had earlier lost.

Additionally, as a tangent of the Afghan scenario, if some type of terrorist threat emanating from the country was directed towards Central Asia (most realistically Tajikistan), it’s unquestionable that Russian-led COR-CSTO airstrikes will immediately be used to stop it. Likewise, Uzbekistan might even entertain the possibility of requesting multilateral Russian-involved assistance if a similar incident happens along its borders and spirals out of control, but only, of course, in very specific circumstances and if absolutely necessary for its survival. The problem in this operational Central-South Asian theater, however, is if a multitude of threats emerges simultaneously, which in that case could prove overwhelming for Russia’s military-strategic planners and will be addressed in Part IV of the article.

Crushing The US’ Pillars Of Power

Not counting Israel (which is in a special category of its own), US influence over the Mideast had rested on two primary pillars of power, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, but this construction is now crumbling as Russia returns to the region. In a twist of geopolitical fate, what the US had previously assumed to be the most stable countries in the region are now the two on the greatest verge of destabilization, and ironically, the two which the US had tried the most to destabilize (Syria and Iraq) are now the ones which look to have one of the most stable futures. Addressing the former, Erdogan’s bumbling miscalculations have returned Turkey to a state of de-facto civil war, while Saudi Arabia’s disastrous War on Yemen has given rise to a ‘rogue royal’s’ plan for regime change (to say nothing about the separate threats of ISIL and an Eastern Province revolt).

Looking at Syria and Iraq, one of the COR’s geopolitical intentions is to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its members, and the elimination of ISIL goes a far way in accomplishing that goal. Furthermore, concerning the previous fears of Kurdish separatism, it’s safe to say that Russia’s military assistance to the group has quelled this sentiment and endeared Moscow with acertain degree of influence in Erbil, which could of course be used to temper any secessionist thoughts that would play out to the US’ strategic advantage. With the Kurdish issue being dealt with, and the Wahhabist terrorists on the run, Syria and Iraq have a lot more to look forward to in their futures than civil war-struck Turkey and (royally and domestically) divided Saudi Arabia do, and this has of course weakened American grand strategy in the Mideast unlike any other series of events that has come before it and will be fleshed out more in Part II.

The Defeat Of The Reverse Brzezinski

The COR’s carefully delegated application of force in Syria – Russian support remains limited to air missions, the Syrian Arab Army and Kurdish militias take care of the full ground component – presents a disciplined way to prevent the temptation of mission creep, the core of the Reverse Brzezinski. If Russia and Iran can avoid this strategic pitfall, then they’d have nullified one of the US’ most innovative policies and won themselves much-needed breathing room for addressing future regional security threats. The more one reflects upon it, the more it becomes clear that the key to beating the Reverse Brzezinski is to assemble the proper coalition of forces for intervening in the “quagmire” zone. If either Great Power attempted to do so on its own and without self-restraint, then it’s chances of falling for the dupe would have greatly increased, but in the current case of Syria (and soon to be, Iraq), they’ve proven themselves more than able to patiently and multilaterally address the situation and steer clear of the US’ trap. If they can maintain this state of mind and inclusive operational behavior going forward (and there’s no reason to think that they can’t), as well as carry these lessons over to any forthcoming Reverse Brzezinski scenarios such as theSouth Caucasus or Central Asia, then the US’ formerly flexible strategy of entrapment would become a lot more rigid and much less likely to be employed in the future.

The Resistance Arc Is Reborn

The author wrote about this scenario twice, once back in January and the other earlier last month (but published this week), and it deals with the geopolitical resurrection of the Resistance Arc between Iran, Iraq, and Syria. The earliest forecast suggested that Iran could play a stabilizing role in convincing the Kurds to abandon their secessionist desires, while the latest one built upon that idea by highlighting the crucial role that a pro-Resistance Kurdish entity (whether independent or still part of Iraq) would play in fulfilling this scenario. Also, the most recent analysis postulates that with all three entities having the common denomination of Republicanism (be it Secular or Islamic), there’s a certain ideological synergy between them that makes their cooperation all the more natural, and can also lead to the inclusion of Lebanon if it ever truly stabilizes. The COR can thus be seen as the second iteration of the Resistance-Republic Arc, but this time much more strengthened in its geopolitical standing as a result of the Russian Federation’s formal incorporation. In the context of the New Cold War, this makes the coalition the number one military enemy of the US, since it’s the only force that is literally fighting back against its proxies and dedicated to sweeping them and their puppet masters completely out of the geo-pivotal Mideast region.

Kurdistan Makes Its Choice

Continuing with the theme of the Kurds’ criticality to any Resistance Arc recreation in the Mideast, it needs to be directly stated that their leaders have made a clear choice in favor of the COR. By going from unipolar clients to multipolar allies, the Kurds have played a major role in ensuring the viability of the coalition and securing its internal unity in the face of terrorist aggression against it. Russia was the kingmaker in having this happen, as its focused diplomatic efforts over the past two months are largely responsible for the Kurdish Pivot. Without this having occurred, then the geopolitical danger of a pro-American Kurdish client state rising out of the coalition’s anti-terrorist campaign would have hung over the multipolar world like the ultimate Damocles’ Sword. Therefore, the Kurds certainly deserve their fair share of credit and should be saluted for bravely rejecting the US’ vision for them and transferring their trust to the COR instead. Washington can’t in the least bit be happy about this, but it’s mostly unable to do anything about it because its Turkish attack dog is mired in an escalating civil war at home and not at all in a position to project large amounts of punitive force across the border (with its latest small-scaleground and air raids being the most it can realistically do for now).

Iran’s Internal Debate Is Over

The signing of the Iranian nuclear agreement temporarily revealed the internal divisions among the country’s elite, with Western-slurred “hard-liners” decryingit as being full of too many concessions while the so-called “moderates” praised it for its pragmatism. Going further, Iran entered into a brief period of political schizophrenia, courting Western investment at the same time that Ayatollah Khamenei reaffirmed that his country’s stance towards the US remains unchanged. This confusing dichotomy led the author and others to wonder whether or not Western-friendly “moderate” forces had succeeded in secretly assuming power behind the scenes and hijacking Iran’s geopolitical orientation. While some level of political differences still most surely exist in Iran’s upper echelons, the country’s participation in the COR firmly indicates that the “hard-liners” (in reality, the forces that are the most geopolitically pragmatic in Iran) are still calling the shots, which is a huge relief for the multipolar world. Venturing to explain how they pulled out on top, it’s very likely that F. William Engdahl’sexplanation of Russia’s embedded military and technical influence strategically overriding any of the West’s economic temptations is the most accurate reason, and while questions still remain about the impact that Iran’s forthcoming return to the global energy market will have for Russia, that too is likely to have already been addressed by both parties.

The Friendship Pipeline Returns

One of the geopolitical dividends that the War on Syria was supposed to reap for the West and its regional allies was the unviability of the Iran-Iraq-Syria Friendship Pipeline, but with order soon to return to the latter two states, it’s very probable that the project will actually be revived. This is even more so as Western Europe continues to look for a non-Russian energy alternative, especially now that the Turkish-Kurdish War has raised serious questions about the security of the TANAP and TAP lines. Thus, a geo-energy reversal appears to be taking place, one in which TANAP and TAP look unviable while the Friendship Pipeline seems realistic. The windfall of transit revenue that Iraq and Syria would receive for hosting the pipeline could greatly assist with their post-war reconstruction efforts, thus making it a natural economic choice for their leaderships (aside from the loyal commitment that each of them already have in resurrecting the fraternal project). Assuming that the opportunity arises for its physical creation (which is very possible considering that the COR will succeed), this begs the question about how such a large influx of gas on the global market would impact on Russia’s grand energy strategy.

The issue of massive Iranian gas exports threatens to potentially split Russia and Iran in the future more than any other, but in all likelihood, it seems as though Moscow has already thought this through in advance and reached some sort of understanding with Tehran. After all, it’s logical to conclude that once Iraq and Syria return to full stability, Iran would naturally take the lead in suggesting the recreation of the Friendship Pipeline, even more so in the context of the post-sanctions environment it will be in by that time. The pipeline won’t be built right away, of course, and this gives Russia time to flex out its response, which is predicted to be the continued trend of lessening its budgetary dependency on energy exports and diversifying more towards the Asian marketplace. Pair this with the fact that the Friendship Pipeline will export LNG, which thus gives it a very narrow consumer base concentrated mostly in Western Europe, and one can realize how it won’t directly threaten the demand for Russia’s geo-critical Balkan Stream pipeline, thereby avoiding the potential for an unfriendly energy competition between the two Allies. On a final note about this topic, Russia is also primed for expanding its real-sector economic relations via a broad South Eurasian Pivot (which touches into East Africa, too), meaning that its prior relative dependence on energy exports (typically misrepresented, at that) will take on even less of an importance than before as the country engages in new, innovative, and geographically wider methods of spreading its influence.

The Lebanese Lifeline

The Russian military intervention in Syria has relieved the pro-government ground forces of enormous pressure, and it’s thus made it much easier for them to operate. This opens up the possibility that Hezbollah’s fighters there are no longer needed in the same capacity as before, and could thus return to Lebanon to potentially deal with the domestic crisis there without having much of a negative on-the-ground consequence for the Syrian Arab Army right now. One shouldn’t misunderstand the author at this juncture – Hezbollah played an enormously important role in supporting Damascus in its anti-terrorist missions – but it’s just that Lebanon, the epicenter of the movement, is now facing its own existential crisis that might necessitate the organization playing a key role there in some way or another. Had Russia not directly intervened in Syria, then it would have been much more difficult for the Syrian Arab Army to manage the frontlines had Hezbollah needed to abruptly pull most of its forces out of the country for whatever unexpected reason. Now, however, no such military vulnerability exists in the same sense as it previously did, thus giving Hezbollah more freedom of military maneuverability to save Lebanon without having to make the painful decision of choosing between helping its homeland or Syria.

Hezbollah’s flexibility in now being able to more conveniently transfer units from Syria back to Lebanon will likely help it in better managing the country’s crisis if it escalates and such a need arises. Complementarily to this, Russia has also just announced that it will provide an unspecified amount of military equipment to Lebanon’s armed forces and law enforcement agencies to assist with their anti-ISIL efforts. This stroke of strategic genius will help the country counter any terrorist threat that spills over its borders during the forthcoming Russian-Syrian Liberation Offensive, and it will also serve to bolster the state in repelling any destructive Color Revolution-like Islamist takeover. The lifeline that Russia has thus extended to the Lebanese state might be sufficient enough not only to finally bring some semblance of stability to it, but also to make it a member of the COR. If the latter comes to be, then the Resistance Arc would continue to consolidate itself as the Republican Arc, further highlighting the ideological differences between it and the unipolar-affiliated monarchies to the south. Additionally, Lebanon’s incorporation into the Alliance would help it shake off the influence ofpro-Saudi infiltrators that have snuck the Kingdom’s influence into the country and its institutions over the past decade.

To be continued…

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