Oil Vey

April 15, 2018  /  Gilad Atzmon

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By Eve Mykytyn

The US led bombing raid on Syria on April 13th came at an odd time. The civil war in Syria has basically been won by Assad, and in response to the calming of tensions, President Trump said on April 4 that he intended to withdraw US troops from Syria.  Three days later, Assad allegedly used chemical weapons on Syrian civilians and from there talk of war began to be openly encouraged by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Almost immediately, some skepticism arose as to why Assad would use chemical weapons after the war was essentially won. US Secretary of Defense General Mattis was reduced to saying he ‘believed’ there had been a  chemical attack. In any case the rationale for bombing Syria on April 13 was weakened by the fact that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was due to arrive in Syria to examine the claim of chemical weapons use on April 14, the day after the US led bombing. Bombing in advance of the arrival of inspectors seems a bit like an attempt to cut off verification.

Another strange part of the narrative was how suddenly unified our ordinarily discordant US elected leaders were on the necessity of  bombing Syria. Certainly, the timing might have been useful for Trump, stealing headlines just as Comey’s tell all book came out, but then Trump’s presidency has, since its inception, run at a 3 scandal a day pace. Rather than covering up scandals, Trump seems instead to revel in the publicity. The Democrats, even the leaders of the so-called resistance, offered no resistance to the bombing plan other than to grumble about the potential future need for congressional approval. When both sides of our political spectrum converge on what seems to be an awful idea located in the middle east  it is hard not to suspect that Israel is somehow involved.

But why would Israel prefer a civil war next door, fought by Assad against shifting Islamic factions, some no doubt more hostile to Israel than Assad? I think I can point to a possible reason. During the ‘67 war, Israel took 2/3 of the Golan Heights from Syria. Although the UN and others still classify the land as ‘occupied,’ in 1981, Israel declared its control of the entire territory and the population of the Golan Heights is now at least half Israeli. While Israel has claimed that it took additional land in ’67 and after to act as a buffer zone around Israel, the resource rich Golan Heights have provided Israel with much more than a buffer zone. “In fact, the Golan Heights contributes a quenching one-third of Israel’s entire water supply.”

The Golan Heights has also provided Israel’s first major oil find. Afek Oil and Gas, a division of Genie Oil has obtained oil rights for the huge oil fields in the Golan Heights. The company crowed in a letter to investors that, “Billions of barrelsof Israeli oil had been tapped [in the Golan Heights.]”

Genie Oil has powerful political connections. Rupert Murdock, Vice President Cheney, Jacob Rothschild and Larry Summers are among its Board Members. The ex-chairman of Genie Energy’s former parent company, IDT Corp., is Ira Greenstein, a family friend of Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner. Greenstein currently works on the White House staff.

In 2017, US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke met with the far-right Israeli politician and head of Afek Oil, Efraim Etiam.  Etiam has called Israeli Arabs a “cancer” and said that “we will have to kill all [the Palestinians].” The meeting gave an apparent, and probably an actual  US seal of approval to Afek’s oil extraction from disputed territory that the international community has explicitly said does not belong to Israel.

So why does Israel prefer a civil war to peace so close to its water and oil bonanza? I would guess that Israel does not want a strong leader to challenge its right to the spoils of war. There appears to be a tentative coalition of Turkey, Russia, Iran and Syria. While no one since 1999 has seriously challenged Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights, Israel seems to prefer a  neighbour consumed with internal fighting to a strong Syria that may be part of a powerful coalition.

The UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) provides powerful evidence that Israel has undertaken to keep Syria is a state of conflict. UNDOF’s reports have shown the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’ to be quite democratic in handing out aid to armed rebel groups, including the official Al-Qqaeda affiliate in Syria. Israel has claimed the aid is ‘humanitarian,’ but that claim contrasts with Israel’s official stated policy to “let both sides bleed” in order to prolong the war for as long as possible so as to weaken Syria and its allies.

So, the US, the UK and France bombed Syria on the basis of an unproven claim of chemical warfare and, if the bombing raid proves successful, the only real practical outcome might be to prolong a brutal civil war in Syria so that Israel’s claim to water and oil rich land will be unlikely to be challenged.

 

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ماذا في قمة بوتين روحاني أردوغان؟

 

أبريل 4, 2018

ناصر قنديل

– لا تبدو القمة التي ستجمع الرؤساء فلاديمير بوتين وحسن روحاني ورجب أردوغان سهلة المراس مع قضايا تعبّر عن تموضع تركي مخالف للموقع الروسي الإيراني في سورية، التي تشكّل وفقاً لتصريحات المسؤولين الروس والأتراك والإيرانيين موضوع القمة الأوّل، ورغم أن هذا الخلاف ممتدّ منذ تشكّل لقاء أستانة، إلا أنه يبلغ المرحلة الأعقد هذه المرّة، لأنّ ما بين تشكّل مسار أستانة والقمة تراكمت حقائق قدرة الدولة السورية على تكرار نموذج حلب الذي جلب تركيا للإطار الثلاثي مع روسيا وإيران، وجاءت معارك الغوطة مؤخراً لتقول ما لم يكن في الحساب التركي وارداً بهذه السرعة وهذا الحجم، بحيث صار التصادم محتملاً وقريباً للتوقع بين الأداء التركي الذي يغلب عليه التوغّل العسكري المباشر في سورية، والدولة السورية الذاهبة لاستكمال استرداد جغرافيتها من أيدي الذين توزّعوها خلال سنوات الحرب، والأتراك يقفون في طليعتهم.

– منذ معارك حلب حتى معارك عفرين، كانت التسوية بين مفهومي روسيا وإيران من جهة، وتركيا من جهة أخرى، حول سورية ممكنة، فقد كان مهماً بالنسبة لروسيا وإيران انتقال المقاربة التركية للحرب في سورية من سقف إسقاط الدولة تحت شعار نصرة المعارضة، إلى سقف الأمن القومي التركي والقلق من قيام كيان كردي انفصالي يستثمر عليه الأميركيون من ضمن رؤيتهم لمفهوم الحلّ السياسي الذي تضمّنته وثيقة الخمسة التي قاموا برعايتها، ما يجعل تركيا كمتضرّر أوّل من هذا المشروع على خط الاشتباك المباشر مع المشروع الأميركي من جهة، وعنصر إنضاج للموقف الكردي نحو قبول معادلة التسوية السياسية تحت سقف دولة سورية موحّدة، من جهة مقابلة، وما يتيح لاحقاً مناقشة تركيا بمفهوم للحلّ السياسي يحقق لها أمنها القومي، وحرمان أنقرة من فرصة المجاهرة بطلب الوصاية على السوريين ومنحها أسوة بما يفعله حلفاء تركيا السابقون في الحرب على سورية بربط دعم الحلّ السياسي بمنحهم سلطة التدخل في تحديد طبيعة الحكم الذي يناسب سورية والسوريين.

– مع تحرير الدولة السورية للغوطة والاحتلال التركي لعفرين، بلغ كلّ شيء سقفه إلى حدّ التصادم، وتبلورت النتائج التي ترسم معادلات الغد، وما عاد ممكناً تجاهلها، فمشروع الحرب الأصلي الذي شكلت تركيا قاعدته وركيزته الرئيسية لسنوات طوال حتى معارك حلب، وافترقت عن حلفائها وخصوصاً الأميركي والسعودي والإسرائيلي لتفضيلهم خيار التقسيم على خيار تسوية تعترف بالدولة السورية الموحّدة، طالما كان ثمن ذلك الاعتراف بأحادية الدور العسكري للجيش السوري، وبالمكانة الدستورية والسياسية للرئيس السوري، بينما وقفت تركيا في منتصف الطريق بين المشروعين الأميركي السعودي الإسرائيلي للتقسيم، والسوري الروسي الإيراني القائم على مفهوم دولة موحّدة برئيسها وجيشها، فتموضعت ضدّ مشروع التقسيم دون الانضمام لمشروع التسوية، وراهنت على فرض الوقائع لرسم مسارات تراكمية تحسّن وضعها دون امتلاك تصوّر شامل يحتوي قوى الحرب المتقابلة وأدوارها، ويقطع الصلة بالكيانات الإرهابية، ويقدّم رؤية واقعية لمناقشة سبل الحلّ السياسي لقيام دولة سورية موحّدة تتيح فرصة الخروج التركي من الجغرافيا السورية، وفقاً لما كانت نصائح الرئيس الروسي لنظيره التركي دائماً.

– مع لحظة تحرير الغوطة واحتلال عفرين، دخلت السياقات الثلاثة، الأميركي السعودي الإسرائيلي، والسوري الروسي الإيراني، وبينهما التركي، في ذروة الخيارات الصعبة، حيث تكفّل تحرير الغوطة بإبلاغ واشنطن والرياض وتل أبيب بنهاية لعبة التقسيم، ورهانات إسقاط الجيش والرئيس والدولة في سورية، وبدأت رسائل الإقرار بنتائج هذا التحوّل بالظهور أميركياً في كلام الرئيس دونالد ترامب عن انسحاب قريب من سورية، وإقرار ولي العهد السعودي بزوال زمن الرهان على إسقاط الرئيس السوري والتسليم ببقائه، والتهيّؤ الإسرائيلي لإقفال خط التدخل في سورية الذي تجسّد باللعب بدور وحدات فصل القوات الأممية «الأندوف» عبر طلب إعادة نشرها، ما جعل احتلال عفرين يظهر كركيزة بديلة لمشروع تقسيم آخر تقوده تركيا، وصار الحليفان الروسي والإيراني للمرة الأولى وجهاً لوجه أمام تركيا، التي تبدو موجودة بين سطور كلام ترامب عن ترك آخرين يتولّون الأمور، وتأتي القمة لتكون مرة أخرى مفترقاً خطيراً، سيقرّر ما إذا كانت تركيا ستعود إلى المربع الصعب الذي دخلته مع قيادتها لمعارك حلب حتى هزيمتها وتموضعها اللاحق، أم ستقرأ من معارك الغوطة ومن مواقف الآخرين، أنّ اللعبة تشارف على النهاية والخاسر الأكبر سيكون الذي يتأخر في التقاط التوقيت المناسب للخروج المشرّف.

– تسعى روسيا وإيران لمنح تركيا هذا التوقيت للخروج المشرّف، بربط دورها في سورية بتشجيع تسوية سياسية تضمن دوراً للجماعات العاملة تحت رايتها، والتسليم بأنّ انتشار الجيش السوري حتى الحدود يشكل ضماناً لأمنها القومي من مخاطر كيان كردي انفصالي، ودعوة القيادات الكردية لقراءة متأنية للمتغيّرات تضعهم شركاء كاملين في مفاوضات جنيف، وجعل الحديث عن الانسحاب الأميركي والتموضع الإسرائيلي خلف حدود الجولان المحتلّ، والتسليم السعودي بفشل مشروع التقسيم ومشروع إسقاط الرئيس السوري، مدخلاً لانطلاق عملية سياسية تحجز تركيا فيها مقعداً حاسماً كراع لدمج الجماعات المسلحة التي تجمّعت تحت وصايتها في هذه العملية، بدلاً من أن يكون كلّ ذلك فخاً نصبه حلفاء الأمس لتركيا ورئيسها، رهاناً على عنجهيته وسوء حساباته، لاحتلال المقعد الذي حجزه له الروس والإيرانيون، وإمساك مفاتيح التسوية بدلاً منه.

– على طاولة القمة معادلة السيادة السورية وضمان وحدة سورية، ستكون هي الأهمّ، كما صرّح معاون الرئيس الروسي، ولا بدّ أنّ أردوغان ومعاونيه قد قرأوا النص مرات عديدة قبل دخول القمة.

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الغوطة تكسر ظهر ترامب

 

الغوطة تكسر ظهر ترامب

مارس 30, 2018

ناصر قنديل

– لنبدأ من الحرب الدبلوماسية التي تستهدف روسيا بأمر عمليات، وتساءل لو كانت العلاقات السياسية مبنية بين الدول على القانون كما تدّعي لندن وواشنطن ومَن معهما لكان الطبيعي بعد حادث التسمّم لسيرغي سكريبال أن تتواصل الحكومات وأن تتقدم الدولة التي وقع الحادث على أراضيها وهي بريطانيا من الدولة التي تشكّ في تورطها وهي روسيا، والشخص المعني يحمل جنسيتها، للتعاون في تحقيق مشترك برعاية وشراكة منظمات أممية ذات اختصاص، وتبني على التجاوب وعدمه موقفها. وفي حال التجاوب تنتظر نتائج التحقيق قبل توجيه أي اتهام. بينما الذي حصل هو العكس. إن الاتهام صدر في يوم وقوع الحادث ذاته ومنذ ذلك اليوم تعتمد بريطانيا ودول الغرب وراءها إجراءات تصعيدية أقرب للحرب الدبلوماسية، بينما تتمسك موسكو يومياً بالدعوة للتحقيق، وتتهرّب بريطانيا، ما يجعل من حق موسكو القول إن الحادث يبدو مفبركاً أسوة بما جرى مع سورية في حادثتي الغوطة وخان شيخون.

– الهستيريا الغربية الدبلوماسية إذن تريد القول لموسكو إن هناك غضباً شديداً لدى الغرب كله، وإن الأمور لن تمر بسلام، لكن الموضوع ليس سكريبال الذي تمّ تسميمه لاستعمال الحادث لإيصال الرسالة، والموضوع لا يحتاج لبحث وتنقيب. فالتصعيد الغربي الدبلوماسي على روسيا كانت ساحته مجلس الأمن الدولي، وصولاً للتهديد الأميركي بالتدخل العسكري، والرد الروسي بالجهوزية لمواجهة كل التحديات بما فيها الرد على الصواريخ الأميركية التي ستستهدف سورية باستهداف منصات إطلاقها، كما قال رئيس الأركان الروسي، والموضوع هو تحرير الجيش السوري بتغطية روسية نارية منطقة الغوطة قرب دمشق، بما وصفته تقارير أميركية وإسرائيلية وأوروبية بالحدث العسكري المفاجئ، لجهة سرعة الحسم وقدرة الإنجاز. بينما التوقعات الأميركية مبنية على معارك تمتدّ لشهور دون أن تنتهي بالحسم، ليصير السؤال: هل الغوطة بهذه الأهمية؟

– الجواب قدّمه الإسرائيليون فمجرد نجاح الجيش السوري في الغوطة كان كافياً لتتقدم «إسرائيل» بطلب للأمم المتحدة بإعادة نشر وحدات الأندوف على خط فصل القوات في الجولان المحتل، بعدما كانت قد قامت بتسليم مواقعها لجبهة النصرة واعتبرتها حزاماً أمنياً يحمي احتلال الجولان. ما يعني القناعة الإسرائيلية أن حرب الغوطة هي التي تقول الكلمة الفصل حول مستقبل سورية. وكان الرئيس السوري في تعريفه أهمية الغوطة أثناء جولته على مواقع الجيش وجموع النازحين، أن الغوطة التي تقف على كتف العاصمة بثقل سكاني ووجود مسلّح مجهّز وقادر على إلحاق الأذى بدمشق أهم استثمار للغرب ومشغلي الجماعات المسلحة. ويُضاف لذلك توسّط الغوطة بين دمشق والمناطق السورية الأخرى في حمص وحماة وحلب والساحل ودير الزور، والأهم توسّطها بين الحدود اللبنانية والحدود العراقية من دون أن تفصلها عنهما مناطق سكنية. فالجبال الجرداء هنا والبادية هناك، ووراء الحدودين فرص تواصل، عبر لبنان مع حلفاء لأميركا وعبر حدود العراق الأردن قاعدة التنف، والتواصل يعني إنجاز تقسيم سورية.

– تحرير الغوطة كمفاجأة عسكرية لانهيار أهم تجمع لمسلحين يحملون راية سورية ويمنحون قدراً من المصداقية لوصفة معارضة مسلحة، والمفاجأة بخروج الأهالي الذين يفترض أنهم البيئة الحاضنة الأشد تماسكاً وراء الجماعات المسلحة في تظاهرات مؤيّدة للدولة السورية ورئيسها، حسما مستقبل الحرب في سورية، وروسيا التي حمت هذا الانتصار وقدمت له أسباب القوة أسقطت كل آمال الغرب، وفي الطليعة واشنطن، بالاستثمار على إطالة أمد الحرب في سورية، فخرج الرئيس الأميركي دونالد Vترامب يقول بسطر واحد أمس، ملخص حاصل معارك الغوطة، «سنغادر سورية قريباً جداً وسنترك الجهات الأخرى تهتم بالأمر».

– الخروج الأميركي كقرار ليس مفاجئاً، وترك الأكراد والأتراك يقلّعون أشواكهم بأيديهم هو أفضل الخيارات الأميركية الراهنة، قبل أن تسوء الأمور أكثر، فكل تورّط أميركي بالبقاء لمواجهة مع الدولة السورية عدا عما سيرتّبه من مواجهة مع روسيا وإيران تخرج إلى الميدان، سيعني المخاطرة بتعرّض القواعد الأميركية في سورية والعراق لعمليات استهداف صاروخية وغير صاروخية، وبعدما كان الربط بين الوجود في سورية والعراق مصلحة أميركية، صار الفصل بينهما هو المصلحة الأميركية.

– الخروج الأميركي من سورية الذي بشّر به كخيار، السفير الأميركي السابق في سورية روبرت فورد بقوله إن الأميركيين يجب أن يتهيأوا ليحزموا حقائبهم تمهيداً للرحيل، سيعني الإخلال السريع بالتوازن العسكري بين الأتراك والأكراد، وتسريع تفاهم الأكراد مع الدولة السورية وتسليمها مناطق سيطرتهم، ليصير الأتراك وجهاً لوجه مع الدولة السورية المدعومة من حليفيها الروسي والإيراني، بعد سقوط ذريعة القلق من كيان كردي لن يكون موجوداً حينها.

– الغوطة أخطر معارك سورية، ولذلك كسرت ظهر ترامب.

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غراهام من تل أبيب: قلقون من تكامل حزب الله والجيش السوري

 يحيى دبوق

حملت زيارة وفد من أعضاء الكونغرس الأميركي لتل أبيب، وجولته شمالاً على الحدود اللبنانية والسورية، إضافة إلى التصريحات والموقف اللافتة الصادرة عنه، إشارات دالة على إقرار فشل المقاربة الإسرائيلية الأميركية الرامية إلى منع تنامي القدرة الردعية لحزب الله في وجه إسرائيل، الأمر الذي يدفعهما إلى أن يتطلعا لبلورة خيارات بديلة وطموحة جداً، يؤمل منها ردع حزب الله، بعيداً عن لبنان وتعقيدات مواجهة تهديداته.

الوفد الأميركي المشكل من أعضاء كونغرس من الحزبين، الجمهوري والديمقراطي، برئاسة السيناتور الجمهوري البارز ليندسي غراهام، التقى في القدس المحتلة رئيس الحكومة الإسرائيلية، بنيامين نتنياهو، ليخرج لاحقاً من اللقاء منفعلاً نتيجة المعطيات التي عرضت أمامه حول تنامي القدرات العسكرية لحزب الله، قياساً بما كان عليه في الماضي. غراهام الذي تحدث باسم الوفد، أكد ضرورة اتباع مقاربة جديدة في مواجهة «تهديد حزب الله»، ناعياً كل المقاربة التي اتُّبِعت ضد المقاومة ومنع تعاظمها في وجه إسرائيل.

بحسب غراهام: «نريد أن نرى سياسة أميركية تتركز على أن أي هجوم واسع النطاق يشنه حزب الله على إسرائيل انطلاقاً من الأراضي اللبنانية، فإننا سنحمّل إيران المسؤولية عنه، وليس فقط حزب الله».

ولفت غراهام إلى أن القدرة الصاروخية لحزب الله، وكذلك القدرة على ردع تفعيلها في مواجهة إسرائيل، يمكن مقارنتها بالأزمة التي شغلت أميركا في ستينيات القرن الماضي، بما يعرف بأزمة الصواريخ الكوبية. وقال إن «السياسة الواجب اتباعها في مواجهة إيران يجب أن تكون مستنسخة عن سياسة الرئيس جون كينيدي خلال أزمة الصواريخ الكوبية عام 1962، عندما أوضح أن أي اعتداء على الولايات المتحدة من كوبا، سيُعَدّ هجوماً من الاتحاد السوفياتي».

أما عن الخيارات البديلة، وتحديداً ما يتعلق بالدور المأمول أن تضطلع به اليونيفيل في مواجهة حزب الله، بعد الأمل المعبّر عنه من واشنطن وتل أبيب في أعقاب «تعزيز مهمة» القوة الدولية قبل أشهر، نعى غراهام اليونيفيل والمهمة الموكلة إليها، إذ قال: «فشلت هذه القوة فشلاً ذريعاً ومثيراً للشفقة» في منع ما قال إنه «إرهاب حزب الله من جنوب لبنان». وأضاف: «هذه القوة فشلت أيضاً في منع انتشار الصواريخ في الجنوب اللبناني، الأمر الذي تحول إلى كابوس لحلفائنا الإسرائيليين».

تنامي القدرات الصاروخية، كما عرضت على الوفد الأميركي، في لقائه بنتنياهو، دفع غراهام إلى إطلاق وعود جديدة، مع الإعراب عن الأمل في أن تساهم في تحسين القدرة الدفاعية الإسرائيلية، وقال: «فور عودتي سأعمل على دفع تمويل إضافي لتطوير منظومات دفاعية في مواجهة التهديدات الصاروخية لإسرائيل».

وتوجه الوفد برفقة وفد عسكري إسرائيلي رفيع المستوى، إلى الحدود الشمالية لفلسطين المحتلة مع لبنان وسوريا، وتلقى من نائب رئيس أركان الجيش الإسرائيلي، افيف كوخافي، ما وصفه الإعلام العبري بـ«إحاطة معلوماتية» حول الحدود الشمالية وميزان القوى فيها والتطورات الميدانية التي شهدتها أخيراً.

وفي أعقاب «الإحاطة»، قال غراهام إنه بات «الآن، أكثر قلقاً من أي وقت مضى، وتحديداً من التكامل الحاصل بين قوات حزب الله والجيش السوري».

يمكنكم متابعة الكاتب عبر تويتر | YeDbouk@

مقالات أخرى ليحيى دبوق

Russia clips israel’s wings

Putin’s Grand Bargain to Israel: Can Israel Digest It?

Israel has now had a taste of President Putin’s ‘stick’: Your air superiority in the North has just been punctured by the Syrian air defences. You, Israel, will lose it completely were our Russian S400s air defences to be enabled: ‘Think it over’.

by Alastair CROOKE

“Israel is climbing up a high horse,” Alex Fishman (the veteran Israeli Defence Correspondent) wrote in the Hebrew daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, last month, “and is approaching with giant steps a ‘war of choice’: Without mincing words, it’s an initiated war in Lebanon.” In Fishman’s article, he notes: “Classical deterrence is when you threaten an enemy not to harm you in your territory, but here, Israel demands that the enemy refrain from doing something in its own territory, otherwise Israel will harm it. From a historical perspective and from the perspective of international legitimacy, the chances of this threat being accepted as valid, leading to the cessation of enemy activities in its own territory, are slim.”

Ben Caspit also wrote about a fair prospect of a “war of choice,” whilst a Haaretz editorial – explains Professor Idan Landau in an Israeli news blog – noted: “The Israeli government therefore owes Israeli citizens a precise, pertinent and persuasive explanation as to why a missile factory in Lebanon has changed the strategic balance to the extent that it requires going to war. It must present assessments to the Israeli public as to the expected number of casualties, damage to civilian infrastructure and the economic cost of going to war, as compared with the danger that construction of the missile factory constitutes.”

We live in dangerous times in the Middle East today – both in the immediate present, and in the mid-term, too.

Last week saw the first ‘game changer’ that almost plunged the region into war: the downing of one of Israel’s most sophisticated aircraft – an F16i. But as Amos Harel notes, on this occasion:

“Russian President Vladimir Putin put an end to the confrontation between Israel and Iran in Syria – and both sides accepted his decision … On Saturday afternoon, after the second wave of bombardments … senior Israeli officials were still taking a militant line, and it seemed as if Jerusalem was considering further military action. Discussion of that ended not long after a phone call between Putin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu” (emphasis added).

And that last statement represented the second ‘game changer’: In ‘good old days’, as Martin Indyk called it, it would have been to the US that Israel reflexively would have turned, but not this time. Israel asked President Putin to mediate. It seems that Israel believes that Mr Putin is now the ‘indispensable power’. And in terms of airspace in the north, he is.

As Ronen Bergman wrote in the New York Times: “Israel will no longer be able to act in Syria without limitations”; and secondly, “if anyone was not yet aware of it, Russia is the dominant power in the region”.

So, what is all this about? Well for a start, it is not about a drone which may (or may not) have trespassed into what Israel calls Israel, or what Syria sees as ‘occupied Golan’. Let us ignore all that: or, think of it as ‘the butterfly wing effect’ in chaos theory, whose tiny wing changes ‘the world’, if you prefer.

Ultimately however, these various warnings of impending war, precipitated out from the Syrian State’s success in defeating the jihadi insurgency mounted against it. This outcome has changed the regional balance of power – and we are witnessing states reacting to that strategic defeat.

Israel, having backed the losing side, wants to limit its losses. It fears the changes taking place across the northern tier of the region: Prime Minister Netanyahu has several times sought guarantees from President Putin that Iran and Hizbullah should not be allowed to gain any strategic advantage from Syria’s victory that might be to Israel’s disadvantage. But Putin, it seems clear, gave no guarantees. He told Netanyahu that whilst he recognized, and acknowledged Israel’s security interests, Russia had its interests, too – and also underlined that Iran was a “strategic partner” of Russia.

In practice, there is no effective Iranian or Hizbullah presence in any proximate vicinity to Israel (and indeed both Iran and Hizbullah have substantially pared their forces in Syria as a whole). But, it seems that Netanyahu wanted more: And to put leverage on Russia to guarantee a future Syria, free from any ‘Shi’a presence, Israel has been bombing Syria on almost a weekly basis, and issuing a series of war-like threats against Lebanon (on the pretext that Iran was constructing ‘sophisticated missile’ factories there), saying, in effect to President Putin, that if you do not give ironclad guarantees vis-à-vis a Syria free of Iran and Hizbullah, we will disrupt both countries.

Well, what happened is that Israel lost an F16: unexpectedly shot down by the Syrian air defences. The message is this: ‘Stability in Syria and Lebanon is a Russian interest. Whilst, we recognize Israel’s security interests, don’t mess with ours. If you want a war with Iran that is your business, and Russia will not be involved; but do not forget that Iran is, and remains our strategic partner’.

This is Putin’s Grand Bargain: Russia will assume a certain defined responsibility for Israel’s security, but not if Israel undertakes wars of choice against Iran and Hizbullah, or if it deliberately disrupts stability in the North (including Iraq). And no more gratuitous bombing raids in the north, intended to disrupt stability. But if Israel wants a war with Iran, then Russia will stand aloof.

Israeli F 16 shot down by Syrian air defenses

Israel has now had a taste of President Putin’s ‘stick’: Your air superiority in the North has just been punctured by the Syrian air defences. You, Israel, will lose it completely were our Russian S400s air defences to be enabled: ‘Think it over’.

In case of doubt, consider this statement in 2017, by the Chief of Staff of the Russian Aerospace Forces, Major-General Sergey Meshcheryakov. He said:

“Today, a unified, integrated air defense system has been set up in Syria. We have ensured the information and technical interlinkage of the Russian and Syrian air reconnaissance systems. All information on the situation in the air comes from Syrian radar stations to the control points of the Russian force grouping”.

Two things flow from this:

First, that Russia knew exactly what was going on when the Israeli F16 met with a barrage of Syrian air defence missiles. As Alex Fishman, doyen of Israeli defence correspondents, noted (in Hebrew) Yediot Ahoronot on 11 February: “One of the [Israeli] planes was hit by the two barrages of 27 Syrian surface-to-air missiles… which is a huge achievement for the Syrian army, and embarrassing for the IAF, since the electronic warfare systems that envelope the plane were supposed to have provided protection from a barrage of missiles… The IAF is going to have to conduct an in-depth technical-intelligence inquiry to determine: are the Syrians in possession of systems that are capable of bypassing the Israeli warning and jamming systems? Have the Syrians developed a new technique that the IAF is unaware of? It was reported that the pilots did not radio in any alert that an enemy missile had locked onto their plane. In principle, they were supposed to report that. They might have been preoccupied. But there is also the more severe possibility that they were unaware of the missile that had locked onto them—which leads to the question of why they didn’t know, and only realized the severity of the damage after they had been hit and were forced to bail out.”

And the second: that subsequent Israeli claims that Syria was then punished by Israel through the destruction of 50% of her air defence system should be taken with a big pinch of salt. Recall what Meshcheryakov said: It was a fully integrated, unified Russian-Syrian system, which is to say it had a Russian flag flying over it. (And this initial Israeli claim has now been back-peddled by the IDF spokesman; see here).

Finally, Putin, in the wake of the F16 downing, told Israel to stop destabilising Syria. He said nothing about Syria’s drone patrolling the southern border (a regular Syrian practice for monitoring insurgent groups in the south).

The message is clear: Israel gets Russia’s limited security guarantees, but loses its freedom of action. Without air domination (which Russia already has seized), the assumed superiority over its neighbouring Arab states – which Israel long since has folded into its collective psyche – will see Israel’s wings clipped.

Can such a bargain be digested culturally in Israel? We must wait to see whether Israel’s leaders accept that they no longer enjoy air superiority over Lebanon or Syria; or whether, as the Israeli commentators warn in our introductory quotes, the Israeli political leadership will opt for a ‘war of choice’, in an attempt to pre-empt Israel’s final loss of its domination of the skies. There is, of course, a further option of running to Washington, in order to try to co-opt America into adopting the eviction of Iran from Syria – but our guess is that Putin has already quietly squared Trump with his plan beforehand. Who knows?

And would then a preventive war to try recuperate Israeli air superiority be feasible or realistic from the perspective of the Israeli Defence Forces? It’s a moot point. A third of Israelis are culturally, and ethnically, Russian, and many admire President Putin. Also, could Israel count, in such circumstances, on Russia not using its own highly sophisticated S400 air-defence missiles, stationed in Syria, in order to protect Russian servicemen stationed across Syria?

And the Israeli-Syrian-Lebanese tensions, in themselves, do not bring an end to the present clutch of risks associated with Syria. On the same weekend, Turkey lost a helicopter and its two crew, brought down by Kurdish forces in Afrin. Sentiment in Turkey against the YPG and PKK is heating up; nationalism and New Ottomanism is spiking; and America is being angrily portrayed as Turkey’s “strategic enemy”. President Erdogan asserts forcefully that Turkish forces will clear all the YPG/PKK forces from Afrin to the Euphrates, but an American general says that American troops will not budge from blocking Erdogan’s route, midway – at Manbij. Who will blink first? And, can this escalation continue without a major rupture to Turkish-US relations? (Erdogan has already noted that America’s defense budget for 2019 includes an allocation of $550 million for the YPG. What exactly does Americamean by that provision?).

Also, can a US military leadership, concerned to play-out a re-make of the Vietnam war – but with America winning this time (to show that the Vietnam outcome was a wholly unmerited defeat for the US forces) – accept to pull back from its aggressively imposed occupation of Syria, east of the Euphrates, and thus lose further credibility? Particularly when restoring US military credibility and leverage is the very mantra of the White House generals (and Trump)? Or, will the pursuit of US military ‘credibility’ degenerate into a game of ‘chicken’, mounted by US forces versus the Syrian Armed Forces – or even with Russia itself, which views the US occupation in Syria as inherently disturbing to the regional stability which Russia is trying to establish.

The ‘big picture’ competition between states for the future of Syria (and the region) – is open and visible. But who lay behind these other provocations, which could equally have led to escalation, and quite easily slipped the region towards conflict? Who provided the man portable surface-to-air missile that brought down the Russian SU25 fighter – and which ended, with the pilot, surrounded by jihadists, courageously preferring to kill himself with his own grenade, rather than be taken alive? Who ‘facilitated’ the insurgent group which fired the manpad? Who armed the Afrin Kurds with sophisticated anti-tank weapons (that have destroyed some twenty Turkish tanks)? Who provided the millions of dollars to engineer the tunnels and bunkers built by the Afrin Kurds, and who paid for the kitting out of its armed force?

And who was behind the swarm of drones, with explosives attached, sent to attack the main Russian airbase at Khmeimim? The drones were made to look outwardly like some simple home-made affair, which an insurgent force might cobble together, but since Russian electronic measures managed to take control and land six of them, the Russians were able to see that,internally, they were quite different: They contained sophisticated electronic counter-measures and GPS guidance systems within. In short, the rustic external was camouflage to its true sophistication, which likely represented the handiwork of a state agency. Who? Why? Was someone trying to set Russia and Turkey at each other’s throats?

We do not know. But it is plain enough that Syria is the crucible to powerful destructive forces which might advertently, or inadvertently, ignite Syria – and – potentially, the Middle East. And as the Israeli defence correspondent, Amos Harel, wrote, we have already this last weekend, “come a hair’s breadth from a slide into war”.


Alastair CROOKE is Former British diplomat, founder and director of the Beirut-based Conflicts Forum.

President Putin’s views on Iran, Israel and United States politics

 

 

IAF CROSS-BORDER RAIDS IN THE LARGER PICTURE OF HEZBOLLAH VS ISRAEL

IAF Cross-Border Raids in the Larger Picture of Hezbollah vs Israel

Illustrative image

Written by Dennis M. Nilsen exclusively for SouthFront

As has become worldwide news, on February 10 the Syrian Air Defense Forces succeeded in causing, directly or indirectly, the downing of an Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-16I.  The warplane comprised part of an eight-plane attack group returning from a raid on the Tiyas Military Airbase just west of Palmyra, launched in response to the shooting down of a drone over Israeli territory just beyond the Golan Heights.  An Apache attack helicopter of the IAF shot down what Israel claims was an Iranian drone launched from the Syrian airbase, and upon the demise of one of its F-16s the IAF launched further raids on Syrian and Iranian military targets in the vicinity of Damascus, including three air defense posts.  Syria claims its air defense thwarted the attacks, while the Iranian IRGC have refused to confirm the Israeli claims and, further, deny that they have set up military installations in Syria.  The Syrians and Iranians both claim that the drone was engaged in an operation against one of the several terrorist groups operating on the Syrian-Lebanese border.  Incidentally, the two Israeli pilots successfully ejected; while one is in serious condition in hospital, his partner walked away with minor injuries.  Casualties for their opponents have yet to be confirmed.

While Israeli consternation at the violation of its airspace is understandable, the fact that the IAF has done the very same to Syria on over 100 occasions since the beginning of the revolt against President Assad is getting lost in the media coverage.  This brings up the larger picture of the opposition between the US/Israel block and the Axis of Resistance.  The Zionists insist that the IRGC is taking advantage of the generally distracted state of Syria to move arms shipments to Hezbollah through the country and into the forward areas of that group in southern Lebanon, concerned as they have become at a pending Israeli attack to wipe them out.  They have further accused the Islamic Republic of building missile factories in southwest Syria near to Hezbollah-controlled areas in order to considerably cut the supply route distance.  However, the larger arsenal which Hezbollah possesses and which it continues to augment thanks to the IRGC only makes the Israelis that much more jittery over the existence of such a weapons cache just across their northern border.  Are both sides to blame here, or does the blame lay solely on one side?

Hezbollah formed in 1982 to oppose the secular Amal then engaged in the Lebanese Civil War.  Frustrated at the Shiite group’s refusal to seek an Islamic state and inspired by the recent revolution in Iran, a group of clerics actively sought the aid of the newly-established IRGC to form a military to pull away Shiite support from Amal and to organize a viable front to the South Lebanese Army, allied with the Israelis.  Though it has modified its militant stance considerably vis-à-vis internal Lebanese politics, Hezbollah continuously refuses to acknowledge the existence of the Zionist State and to stand against any compromise short of the full withdrawal of Israel to the 1948 borders (the Golan Heights, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) and the return of the Palestinian exiles.  Since these objectives have not been met, Hezbollah continues to exist in opposition to both Israeli policy and the Israeli state.

The considerable missile arsenal which it possesses (thanks to the IRGC) is officially proclaimed to stand collectively as a defensive weapon against a potential Israeli strike, although Israel and its chief ally the United States refuses good faith to Hezbollah and as a consequence refuses this doctrine.  With their backs to the sea, it is entirely reasonable for the Israelis to face the southern Lebanese border with a strong military presence and to constantly plan and exercises for another war with the group.  Further, because the Zionist State was formed without the acceptance of most of the Arab world, its leadership cannot afford to abide by the ruling of any international body, particularly the UN and its refusal to acknowledge the legality of Israeli occupation of the three above-named territories.  The result, impossible for Western mainstream media comprehension, is the existence of Israel as a rogue state, not only occupying land foreign to it but also allowing and (depending upon the party in power) actively encouraging the creation of settlements in those territories by militant members of Israeli society who claim their right to do so based not upon international law, but upon a very worldly interpretation of the Old Mosaic Dispensation.

This may very well serve as the historical background to Hezbollah’s and the larger Muslim animosity against the Zionist State, but the immediate blame which Israel must shoulder is the continued violation of Syrian airspace to strike at targets they rightly or wrongly believe to directly aid Hezbollah’s military capabilities.  Even if their military intelligence is correct about the targets they hit, such strikes must only occur with the permission of the Syrian Government and, lacking this, constitute de facto acts of war.  This latest incident merely showed Syria responding in kind and the IAF suffering the loss of an aircraft, which perplexedly drove an additional IAF raid to destroy as much of the Syrian air defense system as possible, which was merely carrying out its duty in the first place.

What of the Hezbollah missile arsenal in Lebanon?  If it does indeed constitute a threat to Israel, does the latter have the right to invade another country to prevent its augmentation?  Certainly not.  Saying yes, as many apologists in the West do, is like agreeing that Russia, mutatis mutandis, has the right to send weapons to the forces of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics to oppose the Ukrainian armed forces bent on subduing them.  The Ukrainian means of waging war have been nothing short of savage and so it is reasonable for the rebels to wish to arm themselves as much as possible to prevent injustice against themselves, their families and their property.  Is Hezbollah’s arsenal likewise a reasonable precaution against a repeat of the 2006 Israeli aerial campaign that destroyed most of Lebanon’s infrastructure, or a primarily offensive weapon for use against Israeli population centers?  Even if it is the latter, Hezbollah will not risk fomenting a war against the Zionist state unless provoked by the latter, and so the Israelis have no choice but to allow this build up.  But with the military they possess – including the multi-layered missile defense system – what do they really have to fear?  The fact that they are seeking to prevent it only adds fuel to the regional fire and further ostracizes them diplomatically.

As for Iran, if it is establishing missile manufacturing bases in Syria with that country’s permission explicitly to supply Hezbollah and to create a deterrent to another possible massive Israeli military action against Lebanon, or the West Bank or Gaza for that matter, what of it?  As is admitted by all the world save themselves, the Israelis possess a nuclear arsenal in addition to technology and a military far superior to any of its neighbors.  Distrusting the Zionist state as it does, how can Hezbollah be blamed for seeking to acquire the only deterrent to give the Israelis pause?  Israel seeks the destruction of that group and vice versa so how can the one be blamed any more than the other?  If the Israelis continue to act as they do, this will only prove to Hezbollah as well as to Syria and Iran that the former cannot be trusted and to the further build up an arsenal to be ready as a counter to any Israeli attacks.  Iran is free to choose its regional partners and for religious, ideological and strategic reasons, it has chosen Hezbollah.

Western commentators, especially those who espouse the right of NATO to move troops right up to Russia’s border and to conduct military exercises in the teeth of Putin’s veterans, should take pause before leveling charges against the Axis of Resistance.

Who is doing what in Syria and why

February 10, 2018

by Ghassan Kadi for The Saker Blog

It seems that every time a chapter in the war on Syria comes to an end, a new factor surfaces. Just like the 1975-1989 civil war in Lebanon before it, and which started off with a clash between the PLO and the Lebanese rightwing Phalangist militia and then ended up with an Israeli invasion and its aftermath, the war on Syria is now a totally different war from the one that started seven years ago.

With other players gone or having their roles changed, the only persisting player is the Syrian Army of course, fighting here for the integrity and sovereignty of Syria. We cannot include its allies, because even its allies have changed.

There is much speculation about recent events, a lot of war and fear-mongering, but if all elements of the current powers on the ground are dissected and analyzed, it becomes very easy to see what is going on and who is doing what.

Before we try to understand who is doing what and why, let us first identify who are the main players on the ground and behind the scenes; past and present. This is a short list:

  1. Syria of course
  2. Saudi Arabia
  3. Qatar
  4. Kurds
  5. Turkey
  6. Iran
  7. Hezbollah
  8. Israel
  9. the USA
  10.  Russia

Notwithstanding the inevitable continuing role and presence of Syria and popular national Syrian allied forces in the war against her, we must acknowledge that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have already played their role and walked away as losers. For the sake of historic documentation, this had to be mentioned even though they do not have much of an influence and clout at all at present.

Kurds are playing a role that cannot be discussed without acknowledging the role they played between 2011 and 2015/16. Kurdish fighters, separatists or otherwise, have upheld Syrian border integrity in Syria’s north from as early as 2011 when the Syrian Army had no allies on the ground. And even though the Syrian Army and Kurdish fighters did not fight physically within the same trench, the Kurds fought fiercely in the north, holding their ground, against Turkish-facilitated incursions and against ISIS later on.

However, as Kurdish separatist movements were established and as they were not preemptively contained under the roof of Damascus, something had to give.

Kurds who are separatists will do anything and make deals with anyone to make their dream come true. History has shown that they are prepared to join hands with America and even Israel.

It must be acknowledged however that Kurds who are not separatists, and there is no way of telling their percentage any more than there is a way of telling the percentage of those who are, do not seem to have much of a voice in their community. Furthermore, seemingly there isn’t an all-inclusive nationally-endorsed rationale where they can address their concerns against those who are separatists and in a manner that can allay their fears and apprehensions as a minority group in such a way that would quell their desire for independence.

Turkey’s role has been changing with the tides in the last seven years. From wanting to topple the Syrian Government and Erdogan praying at the Omayyad Mosque as the conqueror of Damascus, Erdogan is now in a much more humble damage-control mode hoping to at least be able to prevent the formation of a Kurdish state south of his borders. The turn of events in the war, and the bargain plea reconciliation he has had with Russia after Turkey downed a Russian Su-24 in Nov 2015 has put Erdogan in that position. But Erdogan, the compulsive Islamist and nationalist, will always try to look for opportunities to turn and stab anyone in the back because his dreams of a great Turkey-based Muslim sultanate are bigger than any deal and treaty he signs with anyone.

That said, Erdogan will not settle for any outcome that will mean the establishment of a Kurdish state. Unless the tides change in his favour, it is highly unlikely that he will change course and demand more.

In effect, the war in northern Syria is more or less totally separate from the one heating up in the south with Israel.

Iran: The Syrian theatre has brought Iran physically closer to Israel in a manner that opened up a new border line that is bigger than the one Hezbollah has in Southern Lebanon. Israel does not have the reciprocal privilege. That said, whilst Israeli presence is not officially recognized in states like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, there is little doubt that the Eastern coast of the Persian/Arabian Gulf is under Israeli direct or indirect control in more ways than one.

That said, it must be remembered that Iran’s issue with Israel is doctrinal and not territorial.

In brief, Iran’s military presence in Syria is in adherence to the common defense treaty it has with Syria, but it is also aimed at protecting Iran’s own interests and establishing military presence and rocket-launching capabilities that are only a few kilometers from major Israeli cities in comparison to the one thousand or so kilometers that separate Israel from Iran, or at best a couple of hundred that separate the east coast of the Persian/Arab Gulf from Iran’s southern cities.

Given that Iran is not a nuclear power and Israel is, based on the above, any conventional military confrontation with Israel will put Iran in a position of advantage.

Iran’s status in Syria can be either seen as offensive or defensive vis-à-vis Israel. Most likely, it is defensive, and Iran is unlikely to use its Syrian-based positions to initiate an unprovoked attack on Israel given Israel’s nuclear deterrence.

Hezbollah: In more ways than one, ideologically-speaking, Hezbollah is an extension of Iran. But strategically-speaking, Hezbollah is a part of the Lebanese political process. Moreover, Hezbollah’s issue with Israel is both doctrinal, and territorial.

Hezbollah went into Syria to defend Syria of course, but in defending Syria, Hezbollah was defending itself and Lebanon.

The supply lines for Hezbollah came from Syria, and this is no secret. But even if Hezbollah had to establish alternative routes after seven years of war, Hezbollah remains dependent on Syria for ensuring the depth of its survival and ability to fight. Even if Hezbollah went further and managed to establish its own military manufacturing base, and this is not unlikely, it remains entwined with Syria at levels that are essential for its survival and continuity.

Ideologically, Hezbollah is perhaps closer to Iran than any other ally, but strategically, it cannot be closer to any other ally more than Syria. To expect Hezbollah to yield to pressure and withdraw from Syria prematurely is tantamount to expecting North Korea to surrender its nuclear arsenal.

Israel: It wouldn’t be surprising to say that the post-Kissinger USA has left Israel feeling secure and privileged to the extent that it was able to coerce the world’s single superpower to rubber-stamp what suited it; even if it was against the interests of that superpower.

However, with all the support America gave Israel, Israel was not able to find peace, real lasting peace. Military superiority and peace are two different things, and America was able to provide Israel with the former, but not the latter.

But even that military superiority that meant once upon a time that Israel was untouchable has been eroded. The rise of Hezbollah to power in a manner that enabled it to bomb “Haifa and beyond” in July 2006 has sent shivers down the spines of Israeli military strategists.

Israel now has no idea what to expect if and when another military escalation ensues with Hezbollah and it is bracing for the worst.

Given the latest confrontations with the Syrian air defenses, Israel seems to be in a similar position in not knowing what to expect from Syria either.

The USA: In all what the USA has done in supporting the initial Saudi/Qatari/Turkish attack in the war on Syria, it achieved nothing more than defeat after defeat.

If there was ever a time during the last seven years for America to launch a major attack on Syria, it would have been done on the pretext of a chemical weapon attack allegedly perpetrated by the Syrian Army on Eastern Ghouta, but Obama did not take the Saudi-orchestrated bait. If Obama took a single and somber decision for which he will be positively remembered once all the dust has settled, it will have to be his decision not to attack Syria in early September 2013.

But Trump’s America inherited a Syria in which America has no presence or influence. The ailing nation cannot be seen to be standing still doing nothing about this.

Russia: Discussing the role of Russia was left till the end because to emphasize once again, as per previous articles, that the role of Russian diplomacy is becoming increasingly important in Syria and the Levant in general.

To put all of the above into a realistic perspective, there is a potential war brewing in southern Syria, a war that has little to do with the one raging in the north, and only Russia has the potential of dealing with the conflict.

There is no speck of doubt in my mind that Russia has a Middle East peace plan.

There is no doubt in my mind that Russia wants to catapult America out of its role as the Middle East peace talk negotiator; a role that it played for more than four decades now without any scores on the board.

It must be remembered that despite all the concessions PLO leaders gave Israel, America was unable to provide any peace to Palestine, and not even to Israel for that matter. It is highly likely that even Israel is growing tired of America’s elusive promises of peace; and the peace Israel was promised was based on quashing the axis of resistance and establishing toothless puppet Arab regimes that dance to America’s tune, and who would normalize relationships with Israel and not pose any threat at all, not now, not in the future.

So Russia is strengthening her position in the Middle East in preparation for the opportune moment to elevate herself to be accepted by all parties concerned as the single arbitrator who is capable of negotiating an all-inclusive deal.

The rest is simply posturing.

The recent escalation between Syria and Israel is not a prelude for a bigger war. Nobody wants a war; not right now, as they are all aware of the damage that can be inflicted upon them.

Israel keeps testing the waters, testing Syria’s air defense capabilities, and above all, testing Russia’s resolve and determination to create a true balance of power in the Middle East.

Some Arabs would be disappointed that Russia would not allow the total destruction of Israel, but Russia has never promised this. On the other hand however, Russia is pushing Israel to be realistic, and has never promised Israel total and unconditional support like the USA did since the days of Kissinger.

Unless Israel can safeguard itself against Hezbollah rockets, and which it can’t, it will never initiate an all-out war with either Syria, Hezbollah, or both; not forgetting the Iranian presence on the ground in Syria, just outside Israel’s borders.

Israel has to either accept that the rules of the game have changed, or risk an escalation that will inflict huge damage on its infrastructure and civilians. The recent downing of an Israeli F-16 by Syrian air defenses and the subsequent call Netanyahu made to Russian President Putin is a clear indication that Israel is not happy with the fact that Russian arm supplies to Syria are changing the balance of power.

An astute look at recent events can only propose that Russia is trying to drag Israel into peace talks that are based on a regional balance of power, but Israel is not convinced yet that it has to do this anymore than it is convinced that it has lost its military upper hand. On the other hand, Russia will find it very difficult to convince Syria, Hezbollah and Iran that they should have any peace at all with Israel. All the while, America realizes that it has no presence in the war in the south, and is using the Kurdish pretext to have “a” presence in the north in order not to miss out on being party to any settlement. Erdogan is doing his bit to prevent the creation of a Kurdish state in Syria. Other than that he has no role to play in the potential brewing conflict in the south. At the end, America will stab the Kurds in the back like it did many times earlier, the Kurdish aspirations for independence will be pushed back for many decades, and the real focus will be on the south, on Russia’s yet undeclared role and plan for a Middle East peace plan.

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