Russia is Offering the US a Turkish “Olive Branch” in Afrin.

 

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Elijah J. Magnier | @ejmalrai

Turkey today launched the “Olive Branch” military operation against the Kurdish region of Afrin, north-west of Syria. The code name was released by the Turkish Chief of Staff who explained that the operation aims to prevent the spread of the People’s Protection Units and the Democratic Union Party along the Syrian borders with Turkey, which represented a menace to the Turkish national security. The US attitude towards the Kurds in Afrin was quite interesting, because the US General Vottel declared himself “not concerned about what is happening in the Kurdish enclave in the north-west of Syria” where Washington used the Kurds to attack ISIS. It is no longer surprising that the US look after its interests rather than its allies, as indeed happened in Kurdistan Iraq when Erbil declared its independence; it was promptly abandoned by the US.

But what are the details agreed before the beginning of the operation, allowing Turkey to venture into an area under the Russian control? And how did things get so far, pushing Turkey to venture into an area under Russian influence with military police, and following a clear threat from Damascus to shoot down any Turkish aircraft, with Russia strengthening its positions inside the city the day before the beginning of the Turkish operation “Olive Branch” against Afrin?

The Kurds fought under the guidance and control of US forces against ISIS in the north of Syria and suffered hundreds of dead from Manbaj to Dabak and even Raqqah. These joint US-Kurdish forces have also agreed with ISIS– following the total destruction of the city by the US Air Force – to secure the withdrawal of thousands of militants in exchange for leaving the ISIS capital, Raqqah, and delivering it without a fight. ISIS also agreed to leave the very rich energy field and other villages east of the Euphrates River to the US-Kurds forces. The Syrian army was trying to reach the oilfields when ISIS pulled out, and was offered a “buffer zone”  by the US along the borders as long as the militants limited their attacks towards Russian allies only (the Syrian army and its allies) and did not attack the Kurdish forces.

The US establishment declared its intention to stay in Syria despite the general defeat of ISIS (even if a pocket is still under the terrorist group’s control in the US-controlled area east of the Euphrates on the Syrian-Iraqi borders). The US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the aim of its forces was to limit the Iranian influence, giving contradictory statements about the defeat and non-defeat of ISIS in Syria. This position was clear enough to Russia, that the US was aiming to challenge the Russian presence and to stay in a country which was under Moscow’s protection.

Moreover the US excuse to occupy part of the north-east of Syria to – according to Tillerson’s statement -“prevent Iran from spreading its influence” is not convincing because Iran’s presence in Syria goes back to 1982 and its influence has increased directly due to the six years of war.

Turkey was upset by the widespread Kurdish presence along its borders and asked the US to withdraw all lethal weapons from the Kurds. Washington promised to do so but Turkey discovered later that the US promise had not been fulfilled and that the Kurds were in possession of laser guided anti-tank missiles and anti-air missiles, representing a direct threat to the Turkish, Syrian and Russian forces.

Turkey demanded that Russia and Iran, in direct contact with Damascus, allow its troops to help to put an end to the US plans in Syria, further weakening the Kurds. Damascus asked Russia and Iran to give the Kurds the possibility to take distance from Washington by accepting the presence of the Syrian Army in the cities of Manbij and Afrin in the place of the Turkish invasion.

Turkey, despite the gathering of Turkish forces along the borders and its announcement of the beginning of the military operation, waited for the Russian/Iranian green light. Russian officials met with other Kurds to lay down the serious Turkish intention and a way out of the critical situation by forwarding Damascus’s proposition- that was rejected by Afrin, whose Officer in Charge maintained his belief in US support, apparently unwilling or unable to learn from what happened to the Iraqi Kurds at Erbil).

An undisclosed understanding was reached where Ankara stops providing support to al-Qaeda and its allies in Idlib, and no longer considers the Syrian Army operation east of Idlib and towards the city itself as a violation of the de-escalation agreement reached in Sochi last year. On the other hand, Russia will pull out its contingent from the city and will not interfere with the Turkish army “Olive Branch” operation.

The Syrian leadership and its allies asked Russian air support to open a corridor towards the two surrounded cities of Al-Fawa and Kafriya, besieged since the long years of war. However, the Russian leadership rejected the demand and asked them – to the surprise of Damascus and its allies – to be patient, because the goal is not only to liberate Al-Fu’a and Kafriya, but also the entire city of Idlib. The Russian President Vladimir Putin is determined to fight al-Qaeda in Syria to strengthen his country’s position in the world to fight terrorism.

As reported last year, and now confirmed, the Kurds of Syria and Iraq by relying on America and its volatile promises have now become the biggest losers in the Middle East, thanks to America’s inexperienced leadership and lack of stable understanding (and therefore credibility) in world affairs. The actual US leadership seems to rely heavily on military power as a way to maintain its influence: they apparently do not possess that ability, especially important in the Middle East, to weave alliances and strengthen friendships.

What is happening now is a very serious blow to the United States by its Turkish ally, a fellow member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Turkey is using the “olive branch” to strike America’s Kurdish ally below the belt, a further blow supported by Russia against the inexperienced US, who have unwisely decided to play in Moscow’s Syrian courtyard. America has no allies in Syria except the Kurds of the north-east in Hasaka and Deir al-Zour. But these allies are about to suffer more partition. This will leave the US occupation forces very vulnerable in an extremely hostile environment.

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THE SAKER: WHY IS PUTIN “ALLOWING” ISRAEL TO BOMB SYRIA?

South Front

18.01.2018

Written by The Saker; Originally appeared at The Unz Review

Informationclearinghouse recently posted an article by Darius Shahtahmasebi entitled “Israel Keeps Bombing Syria and Nobody Is Doing Anything About It”. Following this publication I received an email from a reader asking me the following question: “Putin permitting Israel to bomb Syria – why? I am confused by Putins actions – does Putin support the Zionist entity, on the quiet like. I would appreciate your feedback on this matter. Also – I have heard, but not been able to confirm, that the Russian Jewish immigrants to Occupied Palestines are the most ardent tormenters of the Palestinians – it takes quite some doing to get ahead of the likes of Netanyahu. Please comment“.  While in his article Darius Shahtahmasebi wonders why the world is not doing anything to stop the Israelis (“Why haven’t Iran, Syria, and/or Hezbollah in Lebanon responded directly?“), my reader is more specific and wonders why Putin (or Russia) specifically is not only “permitting” Israel to bomb Syria but even possibly “supporting” the Zionist Entity.

I often see that question in emails and in comments, so I wanted to address this issue today.

First, we need to look at some critical assumption implied by this question.  These assumptions are:

  1. That Russia can do something to stop the Israelis
  2. That Russia should (or even is morally obliged) to do something.

Let me begin by saying that I categorically disagree with both of these assumptions, especially the 2nd one.  Let’s take them one by one.

Assumption #1: Russia can stop the Israeli attacks on Syria

How?  I think that the list of options is fairly obvious here.  Russian options range from diplomatic action (such as private or public protests and condemnations, attempts to get a UNSC Resolution passed) to direct military action (shooting down Israeli aircraft, “painting” them with an engagement radar to try to scare them away or, at least, try to intercept Israeli missiles).

Trying to reason with the Israelis or get the to listen to the UN has been tried by many countries for decades and if there is one thing which is beyond doubt is that the Israelis don’t give a damn about what anybody has to say.  So talking to them is just a waste of oxygen.  What about threatening them?  Actually, I think that this could work, but at what risk and price?

First of all, while I always said that the IDF’s ground forces are pretty bad, this is not the case of their air forces.  In fact, their record is pretty good.  Now if you look at where the Russian air defenses are, you will see that they are all concentrated around Khmeimim and Tartus.  Yes, an S-400 has a very long range, but that range is dependent on many things including the size of the target, its radar-cross section, its electronic warfare capabilities, the presence of specialized EW aircraft, altitude, etc.  The Israelis are skilled pilots who are very risk averse so they are very careful about what they do.  Finally, the Israelis are very much aware of where the Russians are themselves and where there missiles are.  I think that it would be pretty safe to say that the Israelis make sure to keep a minimal safe distance between themselves and the Russians, if only to avoid any misunderstanding.   But let’s say that the Russians did have a chance to shoot down an Israeli aircraft – what would be the likely Israeli reaction to such a shooting?  In this article Darius Shahtahmasebi writes: “Is it because Israel reportedly has well over 200 nukes all “pointed at Iran,” and there is little Iran and its allies can do to take on such a threat?”  I don’t see the Israelis use nukes on Russian forces, however, that does in no way mean that the Russians when dealing with Israel should not consider the fact that Israel is a nuclear armed power ruled by racist megalomaniacs.  In practical terms this means this: “should Russia (or any other country) risk a military clash with Israel over a few destroyed trucks or a weapons and ammunition dump”?  I think that the obvious answer is clearly ‘no’.

While this is the kind of calculations the USA simply ignores (at least officially – hence all the saber-rattling against the DPRK), Russia is ruled by a sane and responsible man who cannot make it a habit of simply waltzing into a conflict hence the Russian decision not to retaliate in kind against the shooting down of the Russian SU-24 by the Turks.  If the Russians did not retaliate against the Turks shooting down one of their own aircraft, they sure ain’t gonna attack the Israelis when they attack a non-Russian target!

There are also simply factual issues to consider: even of some Russian air-defense systems are very advanced and could shoot down an X number of Israeli aircraft, they are nowhere near numerous enough to prevent the entire Israeli air force from saturating them.  In fact, both Israel and CENTCOM simply have such a numbers advantage over the relatively small Russian contingent that they both could over-run the Russian defenses, even if they would take losses in the process.

So yes, the Russian probably could stop one or a few Israeli attacks, but if the Israelis decided to engage in a sustained air campaign against targets in Syria there is nothing the Russians could do short of going to war with Israel.   So here again a very basic strategic principle fully applies: you never want to start an escalatory process you neither control nor can win.  Put simply this means: if the Russians shoot back – they lose and the Israelis win.  It’s really that simple and both sides know it (armchair strategist apparently don’t).

And this begs a critical look at the second assumption:

Assumption #2: Russia has some moral duty to stop the Israeli attacks on Syria

This is the one which most baffles me.  Why in the world would anybody think that Russia owes anybody anywhereon the planet any type of protection?!  For starters, when is the last time somebody came to the help of Russia?  I don’t recall anybody in the Middle-East offering their support to Russia in Chechnia, Georgia or, for that matter, the Ukraine!  How many countries in the Middle-East have recognized South Ossetia or Abkhazia (and compare that with the Kosovo case!)?  Where was the Muslim or Arab “help” or “friendship” towards Russia when sanctions were imposed and the price of oil dropped?  Remind me – how exactly did Russia’s “friends” express their support for Russia over, say, the Donbass or Crimea?

Can somebody please explain to me why Russia has some moral obligation towards Syria or Iran or Hezbollah when not a single Muslim or Arab country has done anything to help the Syrian government fight against the Takfiris?  Where is the Arab League!?  Where is the Organization of Islamic Cooperation?!

Is it not a fact that Russia has done more in Syria than all the countries of the Arab League and the OIC combined?!

Where do the Arab and Muslims of the Middle-East get this sense of entitlement which tells them that a faraway country which struggles with plenty of political, economic and military problems of its own has to do more than the immediate neighbors of Syria do?!

Putin is the President of Russia and he is first and foremost accountable to the Russian people to whom he has to explain every Russian casualty and even every risk he takes.  It seems to me that he is absolutely right when he acts first and foremost in defense of the people who elected him and not anybody else.

By the way – Putin was very clear about why he was ordering a (very limited) Russian military intervention in Syria: to protect Russian national interests by, for example, killing crazy Takfiris in Syria so as not to have to fight then in the Caucasus and the rest of Russia.  At no time and in no way did any Russian official refer to any kind of obligation of Russia towards Syria or any other country in the region.  True, Russia did stand by President Assad, but that was not because of any obligation towards him or his country, but because the Russians always insisted that he was the legitimate President of Syria and that only the Syrian people had the right to replace (or keep) him.  And, of course, it is in the Russian national interest to show that, unlike the USA, Russia stands by her allies.  But none of that means that Russia is now responsible for the protection of the sovereignty of the Syrian airspace or territory.

As far as I am concerned, the only country which has done even more than Russia for Syria is Iran and, in lieu of gratitude the Arab countries “thank” the Iranians by conspiring against them with the USA and Israel.  Hassan Nasrallah is absolutely spot on when the calls all these countries traitors and collaborators of the AngloZionist Empire.

There is something deeply immoral and hypocritical in this constant whining that Russia should do more when in reality Russia and Iran are the only two countries doing something meaningful (and Hezbollah, of course!).

Now let me address a few typical questions:

Question #1: but aren’t Syria, Iran and Hezbollah Russian allies?

Yes and no.  Objectively – yes.  Formally – no.  What this means is that while these three entities do have some common objectives, they are also independent and they all have some objectives not shared by others.  Furthermore, they have no mutual defense treaty and this is why neither Syria, nor Iran nor Hezbollah retaliated against Turkey when the Turks shot down the Russian SU-24.  While some might disagree, I would argue that this absence of a formal mutual defense treaty is a very good thing if only because it prevents Russian or Iranian forces in Syria from becoming “tripwire” forces which, if attacked, would require an immediate response.  In a highly dangerous and explosive situation like the Middle-East the kind of flexibility provided by the absence any formal alliances is a big advantage for all parties involved.

Question #2 : does that mean that Russia is doing nothing or even supporting Israel?

Of course not!  In fact, Netanyahu even traveled to Moscow to make all sorts of threats and he returned home with nothing (Russian sources even report that the Israelis ended up shouting at their Russian counterparts).  Let’s restate here something which ought to be obvious to everybody: the Russian intervention in Syria was an absolute, total and unmitigated disaster for Israel (I explain that in detail in this article).  If the Russians had any kind of concern for Israelis interests they would never have intervened in Syria in the first place!  However, that refusal to let Israel dictate Russian policies in the Middle-East (or elsewhere) does not at all mean that Russia can simply ignore the very real power of the Israelis, not only because of their nukes, but also because of their de-facto control of the US government.

Question #3: so what is really going on between Russia and Israel?

As I have explained elsewhere, the relationship between Russia and Israel is a very complex and multi-layered one and nothing between those two countries is really black or white.  For one thing, there is a powerful pro-Israel lobby in Russia at which Putin has been chipping away over the years, but only in very small and incremental steps.  The key for Putin is to do what needs to be done to advance Russian interests but without triggering an internal or external political crisis.  This is why the Russians are doing certain things, but rather quietly.

First, they are re-vamping the aging Syrian air defenses not only with software updates, but also with newer hardware.  They are also, of course, training Syrian crews.  This does not mean that the Syrians could close their skies to Israeli aircraft, but that gradually the risks of striking Syria would go up and up with each passing month.  First, we would not notice this, but I am confident that a careful analysis of the types of targets the Israelis will strike will go down and further down in value meaning the Syrians will become more and more capable of defending their most important assets.

Second, it is pretty obvious that Russia, Iran and Hezbollah are working synergistically.  For example, the Russians and the Syrians have integrated their air defenses which means that now the Syrians can “see” much further than their own radars would allow them to.  Furthermore, consider the number of US cruise missiles which never made it to the Syrian air base Trump wanted to bomb: it is more or less admitted by now that this was the result of Russian EW countermeasures.

Finally, the Russians are clearly “covering” for Hezbollah and Iran politically by refusing to consider them as pariahs which is what Israel and the USA have been demanding all along.  This is why Iran is treated as a key-player by the Russian sponsored peace process while the USA and Israel are not even invited.

So the truth of the matter is simple: the Russians will not directly oppose the Israelis, but what they will do is quietly strengthen Iran and Hezbollah, which is not only much safer but also much more effective.

Conclusion

We live in a screw-up and dysfunctional society which following decades of US domination conflates war and aggression with strength, which implicitly accepts the notion that a “great country” is one which goes on some kind of violent rampage on a regular basis and which always resorts to military force to retaliate against any attack.  I submit that the Russian and Iranian leaders are much more sophisticated then that.  The same goes for the Hezbollah leadership, by the way.  Remember when the Israelis (with the obvious complicity of some members of the Syrian regime, by the way) murdered Imad Mughniyeh?  Hezbollah promised to retaliate, but so far, almost a decade later, they have not (or, at least, not officially).  Some will say that Hezbollah’s threats were empty words – I totally disagree.  When Hassan Nasrallah promises something you can take it to the bank.  But Hezbollah leaders are sophisticated enough to retaliate when the time is right and on their own terms.  And think about the Iranians who since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 have been in the crosshairs of both the USA and Israel and who never gave either one of them the pretext to strike.

When you are much more powerful than your opponent you can be stupid and reply on brute, dumb force.  At least for the short to middle term.  Eventually, as we see with the USA today, this kind of aggressive stupidity backfires and ends up being counterproductive.  But when you are smaller, weaker or even just still in the process of recovering your potential strength you have to act with much more caution and sophistication.  This is why all the opponents of the AngloZionist Empire (including Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, Russia, China, Cuba, Venezuela) do their utmost to avoid using force against the AngloZionists even when it would be richly deserved.  The one exception to this rule is Kim Jong-un who has chosen a policy of hyperinflated threats which, while possibly effective (he seems to have outwitted Trump, at least so far) is also very dangerous and one which none of the Resistance countries want to have any part in.

The Russians, Iranians and Hezbollah are all “grown adults” (in political terms), and Assad is learning very fast, and they all understand that they are dealing with a “monkey with a hand grenade” (this fully applies to both Israeli and US leaders) which combines a nasty personality, a volatile temper,  a primitive brain and a hand grenade big enough to kill everybody in the room.  Their task is to incapacitate that monkey without having it pull the pin.  In the case of the Israeli strikes on Syria, the primary responsibility to respond in some manner would fall either on the target of the strikes (usually Hezbollah) or on the nation whose sovereignty was violated (Syria).  And both could, in theory, retaliate (by using tactical missiles for example).  Yet they chose not to, and that is the wise and correct approach.  As for the Russians, this is simply and plainly not their business.

Addendum 1:

One more thing.  Make no mistake – the Israeli (and US!) propensity to use force as a substitute for diplomacy is a sign of weakness, not of strength.  More, accurately, their use of force, or the threat of force, is the result of their diplomatic incompetence.  While to the unsophisticated mind the systematic use of force might appear as an expression of power, history shows that brute force can be defeated when challenged not directly, but by other means.  This is, by necessity, a slow process, much slower than a (mostly entirely theoretical) “quick victory”, but an ineluctable one nonetheless.  In purely theoretical terms, the use of force can roughly have any one of the following outcomes: defeat, stalemate, costly victory and a relatively painless victory.  That last one is exceedingly rare and the use of force mostly results in one of the other outcomes.  Sometimes the use of force is truly the only solution, but I submit that the wise political leader will only resort to it when all other options have failed and when vital interests are at stake.  In all  other situation a “bad peace is preferable to a good war”.

Addendum 2:

Contrary to the hallucinations of the Neocons, Russia is absolutely not a “resurgent USSR” and Putin has no desire whatsoever to rebuilt the Soviet Union.  Furthermore, there is no meaningful constituency in Russia for any such “imperial” plans (well, there are always some lunatics everywhere, but in Russia they are, thank God, a tiny powerless minority).  Furthermore, the new Russia is most definitely not an “anti-USA” in the sense of trying to counter every US imperial or hegemonic move.  This might be obvious to many, but I get so many questions about why Russia is not doing more to counter the USA in Africa, Latin America or Asia that I feel that it is, alas, still important to remind everybody of a basic principle of international law and common sense: problems in country X are for country X to deal with.  Russia has no more business than the USA in “solving” country X’s problems.  Furthermore, country X’s problems are usually best dealt with by country X’s immediate neighbors, not by megalomaniacal messianic superpowers who feel that they ought to “power project” because they are somehow “indispensable” or because “manifest destiny” has placed upon them the “responsibility” to “lead” the world.  All this terminology is just the expression of a pathological and delusional imperial mindset which has cost Russia and the Soviet Union an absolutely horrendous price in money, energy, resources and blood (for example, the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan was justified in terms of the “internationalist duty” of the Soviet Union and people to help a “brotherly nation”).  While this kind of nonsense is still 100% mainstream in the poor old USA, it is absolutely rejected in modern Russia.  For all the personal credibility of Putin with the Russian people, even he could not get away with trying to militarily intervene, nevemind police the whole planet, unless truly vital Russian interests were threatened (Crimea was such a very rare case).  Some will deplore this, I personally very much welcome it, but the truth is that “the Russians are *not* coming”.

The Rise of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Reveals a Harsh Truth

Bernard Haykal

23-01-2018 | 11:37

Many journalistic accounts of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Prince Mohammed bin Salman (often referred to as MBS), depict him as power-hungry and corrupt, and cite these two impulses for his behavior and policies.

When King Salman designated MBS as his heir in June 2017, MBS effectively became the most powerful man in the kingdom. And despite ill-advised purchases (including a yacht and a French chateau, which have cemented the impression of the crown prince’s greed), power consolidation and money alone cannot explain recent developments.

Saudi Crown Prince MBS

The fact is that MBS is trying to deal with a harsh truth about Saudi Arabia: The kingdom is economically and politically unsustainable, and is headed toward a disaster.

The crown prince inherited a sclerotic state with limited administrative capacity and an economy that is largely reliant on declining oil revenues. The country is burdened by a venal elite comprised of thousands of royals and hangers-on who operate with impunity and are a huge drain on the economy. It is saddled with a bloated public sector which employs 70 percent of working Saudis, and its military is incapable of defending the homeland despite billions spent on armaments. The nation’s religious elite prevents social change to maintain its dominance and privileges. And on the international front, Iran seeks to destroy the kingdom’s system of rule.

Additionally, there is almost no taxation in Saudi Arabia, and the government provides a generous system of entitlements that can only be maintained at ever higher oil prices. To top that off, women – the better educated and more motivated portion of the population – are largely left out of the workforce.

The system of rule up until MBS’s rise to power depended on an unwieldy process of consensus building between various royal factions that has proven incapable of reforming the system. For change to happen – and for the dynasty to survive – it became necessary for a leader to emerge who would disenfranchise large sections of the royal family, force the religious establishment to relinquish its monopoly on public morality and space, as well as lead a reform of the economy and the military.

But what has MBS accomplished so far? On the domestic front, he has emasculated the royal family and is in the process of ending their culture of immunity from legal and financial responsibility. The arrest of 11 Saudi royals on January 6th and several others in November during the anti-corruption drive should be understood in this vein.

In addition, the country is socially transforming, as the religious establishment and the “Islamist” opposition have been tamed through a combination of threats and imprisonments. Women will be driving soon in Saudi Arabia, cinemas will be opening, and weekend musical concerts are now held, attracting large throngs of young people who can be seen singing and dancing. MBS is trying to appeal to young Saudis, who form the majority of the population. His message is one of authoritarian nationalism, mixed with populism that seeks to displace a traditional Islamic hyper-conservatism – which the crown prince believes has choked the country and sapped its people of all dynamism and creativity.

Internationally, MBS can claim two important successes. First, he has resumed the strategic relationship with the United States (and the Trump administration, specifically) after relations between the two countries reached its nadir under President Barack Obama. Secondly, he has developed a strong relationship with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, evidenced by successive oil production agreements and the beginning of coordination between the two countries on the matter of Syria.

But the economy represents MBS’s Achilles’ heel. On one hand, the crown prince is keen to balance the fiscal budget, and to do so by ending the regime of subsidies and entitlements that represent a massive drain on the government’s finances. On the other hand, he also wants a bullish economy and for the private sector to become more dynamic and the principal generator of employment.

The difficulty lies in that the private sector’s performance has historically correlated with the scope of government spending. The government has pursued inconsistent economic reform policies, such as cutting energy subsidies, imposing a value-added tax on goods and services, and increasing allowances and salaries to government employees. The state’s administrative capacity must improve, along with better signaling of policies: Economic malaise has the potential of generating widespread displeasure among the population, especially because Saudis have placed very high expectations of MBS’s ability to improve their lives.

Ultimately, MBS wants to base his family’s legitimacy on the economic transformation of the country and its prosperity. He is not a political liberal. Rather, he is an authoritarian, and one who sees his consolidation of power as a necessary condition for the changes he wants to make in Saudi Arabia.

Source: WP, Edited by website team

The UK spends more of “defence” than any other EU country, more than Russia, but this UK General wants more

Britain’s top Army general begs for more cash so he can fight… guess who

RT | January 22, 2018

https://www.globalfirepower.com/defense-spending-budget.asp

 

Britain’s top Army general begs for more cash so he can fight… guess who

The Four Fighting In Efrain الأربعة الذين يتقاتلون في عفرين

الأربعة الذين يتقاتلون في عفرين

يناير 22, 2018

ناصر قنديل

– بعيداً من التوصيفات التحليلية والتركيبية التي تحاول رسم صورة مشهد حرب ذات أبعاد استراتيجية وتبحث لها عن أسماء ووظائف، تبدو الحرب الدائرة في عفرين ببساطة حرباً يشارك فيها مباشرة وغير مباشرة الجانب الأميركي الذي يدعم الجماعات الكردية، ويتخذها كغطاء لبقاء قواته في شمال سورية، ويؤسس عليها ما وصفه وزيرا خارجية ودفاع أميركا، باستراتيجية مواجهة الدورين الروسي والصيني في المنطقة، ومنع التمدّد أمام النفوذ الإيراني. ويبدو بحكم أهمية عفرين للجانب الكردي، وأهميتها المقابلة للجانب التركي، سيكون صعباً رغم كلام واشنطن عن وقوع عفرين خارج نطاق مناطق عمل قواتها، التهوين من نتائج هذه الحرب على قوة الأكراد من جهة، وقوة التغطية التي يقدمونها للدور الأميركي من جهة مقابلة. فالحرب ستكون وقريباً حرباً تركية كردية وجودية، وسيكون الأميركيون متأثرين بنتائجها حكماً، حتى لو نجحوا بالبقاء خارج التورّط بنيرانها.

– الطرف الثاني المنخرط في هذه الحرب هو الجماعات المسلحة التي تعمل في شمال سورية تحت العباءة التركية، والتي تضم آلاف المسلحين الإسلاميين الذين رفعوا راية جبهة النصرة مرة وفيلق الرحمن مرة وأحرار الشام مرة والجيش الحر مرات. ومن الواضح أن الجهد البري في الحرب التي يخوضها الأتراك يقع على عاتق هذه الجماعات، التي تقول إن من أولى نتائج حشودها للشراكة في حرب عفرين كان سرعة خسارتها مواقعها في ريف إدلب، وهو ما سيتكرّر في معارك إدلب المستمرة، وبحكم حجم التعبئة الوجودية التي تقوم بها الجماعات الكردية من جهة، وخبراتها القتالية ونوعية تسليحها من جهة مقابلة، فسيكون لحرب عفرين دور تدميري لقدرات قتالية حقيقية للجماعات المسلحة التي يشغلها الأتراك بديلاً عن جيشهم في الميدان، وسيكون طبيعياً أن تنتهي هذه الحرب، وقد فقد الأتراك الشريك السوري الذي كانوا يستعدون لدخول المعادلة السياسية السورية بواسطته، أو خسر هذا الشريك الكثير من عناصر قوته.

– الطرف الثالث الذي يشكّل عنوان الحرب هو الجماعات الكردية نفسها. وهي تدرك أن العناد والحال المعنوية، بعد الدعم الأميركي المعلن والمبالغات بحجم التسليح والقدرات من جهة، والنصر على داعش من جهة أخرى، ليسا وحدهما سبب الطابع الوجودي لهذه الحرب. فالقيادة الكردية تدرك أن حربها مع الأتراك هي التي ستقول كلمة الفصل حول مستقبل تطلعهم لكيان كردي أو لفدرالية، أو لتفرض عليهم نتائجها ما هو أقل من ذلك بكثير، ولذلك فإن الجانب الكردي سيرمي بثقله للفوز بالصمود في عفرين، بالقدر الذي يحتاج لفرض معادلة الكيان المستقلّ أو الفدرالية، ولن ينهزم وينسحب إلا وقد بلغ حد القبول بالاستسلام، بما يعنيه التخلي عن حلم الكيان أو الفدرالية، سواء لحساب تفاهم مع الدولة السورية ينتهي بحماية المناطق الكردية أو ينتهي لحساب الانسحاب من الحرب كلها.

– الطرف الرابع الشريك هو الذي بادر لشن الحرب، وهو تركيا، التي شعرت مع نهاية داعش وتقدّم الجيش السوري بدعم روسي إيراني في إدلب أنها ما لم تبادر لفرض معادلة جديدة مع الأكراد فستفرض عليها معادلة معاكسة بقوة الدعم الأميركي والتفهم الروسي الذي يلقاه الأكراد، ولذلك سيضطر الأتراك لرفع أهمية الحرب إلى درجة عالية ويضعون ثقلهم السياسي والدبلوماسي والعسكري للفوز بها، لكنهم سيجدون أنفسهم أمام كتل صلبة قادرة على الصمود، وأمام جدار سياسي ليس سهلاً تخطيه، ما سيجعل الحرب استنزافاً عسكرياً سياسياً لمكانة تركيا ودورها ومصادر قوتها.

– الأطراف الأربعة المنخرطون في الحرب تشاركوا بأعمال ومواقف عدائية بحق سورية، ولم يتوانوا عن تبادل المواقع والتعاون والتقاتل لحسابات تنتهك مصالح سورية وسيادتها ووحدتها، ولذلك تبدو الحرب عقاباً يقدمه التاريخ والجغرافيا لكل الذين عبثوا بأمن سورية، ويحق لسورية أن تكتفي بموقف مبدئي وتترك التاريخ والجغرافيا يتصرفان، لأن الحصيلة ستكون بالتأكيد لصالح سورية، التي ستشكل في نهاية حرب الاستنزاف الراهنة خشبة الخلاص التي يحتاج الجميع الاحتماء بتوليها أمن الحدود السورية وأمن المناطق السورية، ولن يجد أحد مبرراً لبقاء قواته فوق الأراضي السورية.

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US Loses Key Ally in South Asia: Screwed Up in Muslim World

US Loses Key Ally in South Asia: Screwed Up in Muslim World

ALEX GORKA | 22.01.2018 | WORLD / ASIA PACIFIC

US Loses Key Ally in South Asia: Screwed Up in Muslim World

So, the US has lost another major ally. President Trump does not shy away from openly chiding Pakistan in his tweets using harsh words. On January 1, he said Pakistan was a “safe haven to the terrorists”. National Security Advisor HR McMaster chimed in saying Pakistan would become North Korea if it does not stop nuclear blackmail. Nikki Haley, US permanent representative to the UN, believes that “Pakistan has played a double game for years.” According to her, Pakistan is involved in state-sponsored terrorism. This is the reason why the United States withholds $255m of military aid. In addition, Washington suspended some $900 million in Coalition Support Funds. For comparison, the entire defense budget of Pakistan amounts to roughly $8 billion. So, the US deprived the country of more than one tenth of its defense expenditure.

In return, Islamabad has suspended all military and intelligence cooperation with Washington. Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said his country was no longer a US ally. Nevertheless, the supply lines for NATO forces in Afghanistan would not be closed.

The relationship has always been extremely complex and turbulent. It was rather a marriage of convenience than an alliance. Mistrust and suspicion have always clouded the bilateral ties.

It’s not the problem of fighting terrorism. The US itself has been many times rebuked for clandestinely backing terrorist groups. The United States has taken an extremely hostile stance toward Iran – the country which enjoys friendly relations with Pakistan. There are many reasons for that. Good relations with Iran help Pakistan to avoid unrest in its common border region predominantly populated by ethnic Baluchis. Despite being a Sunni Muslim country, Pakistan does not belong to the Saudi Arabia-led anti-Iran coalition. It does not go against Iran’s interests. For instance, it does not oppose the Iran’s involvement in Yemen.

Islamabad has been increasingly looking to China recently while turning away from the United States. The two powers have historically maintained good neighborly relations. Pakistan pins great hopes on the $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a to boost Pakistan’s economy. The CPEC is part of China’s One Belt One Road initiative expanding across the entire world. Special economic zones are part of the plans.

Pakistan’s strategically located Arabian Sea port of Gwadar, located 180 nautical miles from the Strait of Hormuz, features prominently in the CPEC. A network of road, rail and pipelines will be built to link Xinjiang in far-western China to Pakistan’s port. Chinese naval ships will be anchored at Gwadar to provide security and protect sea lanes, if need be. A joint task force of four to six ships will be deployed, with Chinese Marines guarding the port area.

China’s authorization to Pakistan to produce all kinds of missiles as well as main battle tanks is being discussed. Beijing wants to scale up its defense cooperation with Islamabad in near future. Its assistance to Islamabad’s nuclear program has been critical. China has become more important for Pakistan than America. It is seen by Islamabad as a real friend unlike the US, which was described by Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif as“a friend who always betrays.”

The relations between Moscow and Islamabad have never been better. Military cooperation is thriving. “Druzhba” military exercise is held annually to boost interaction between the armed forces. It’s not the only joint training event held regularly. Pakistan is considering the possibility of purchasing more weapons from Russia, including Su-35 fighter jets.

Talks on the construction of the ‘North-South’ gas pipeline (from Karachi to Lahore), with the Russian investment of $2 billion, are underway. Pakistan can provide a convenient international route to Russian goods via the CPEC.

Last year, Pakistan joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as a full-fledged member. The SCO membership presupposes security cooperation in Central Asia and regular summits allowing the leaders of Russia and Pakistan to meet on regular basis. The organization is on the way to set up an economic integration union, including the creation of a free trade zone, bank and a development fund. Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that linking the SCO with the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), of which Russia is a leading member, the China’s One Road, One Belt and the economic projects implemented by Association of Southeast Asian Nations could build the foundation for a larger Eurasian partnership.” Pakistan has approved a Russian request for using the Gwadar Port and is interested in joining a free trade agreement with the EEU.

Too many serious problems beset the US-Turkey relationship to call Ankara an ally of Washington. Iraq is gradually moving away from the United States to diversify its foreign policy priorities. The decision to recognize Jerusalem has deteriorated the relationship with Jordan. There are other examples of the US credibility undermined in the Muslim world. Now America has lost Pakistan, the fifth-most populous nation with a population exceeding 210 million people. This is a part of a broader picture as the US influence in the region is diminishing globally while the clout of Russia and China is growing.

الحرب الناعمة والمقايضة السورية الأخيرة الحرب الناعمة والمقايضة السورية الأخيرة

د. رائد المصري


بات واجباً على الجميع اليوم الانخراط في حرب جديدة بدأها ومنذ زمن المحتلّ «الإسرائيلي» وداعمه الأميركي وأدواته الداخليين في لبنان، بعد فقدانه زمام المبادرة وعنصر المفاجأة التي شكّل الإرهاب الإسلامي والتكفيري المتطرّف عمودها الصلب في تدمير بنى الدولة العربية عموماً، ولبنان على وجه الخصوص، وبعد أن عجزت جيوشه التكفيرية في حربها بالوكالة، انتقلت لتخوض غمارها بالأصالة عن الأدوات، وإليكم الأمثلة عن لبنان وسورية في هذا الإطار…

في لبنان تنكشّف كلّ يوم نغمة عمالة جديدة في الأوساط الفنية والمسرح والإخراج والأفلام الهوليوودية. ويبدو أنّ البعض في هذا البلد قد استمْرأ واستساغ المضْغ في علكة التطبيع وأنْسنة الصهاينة و«إسرائيل» من الجانب الحقوقي والإنساني، مع كثرة ممثّليهم وجمعياتهم، والمتسكّعين في أزقة شوارع الحمرا والمسْترزقين على أبواب السفارات الغربية والحالمين بالإقامة الدائمة في دول الغرب تيمّناً بالحرية والديمقراطية…

وعليه وجب إيجاد الحلول لهؤلاء سواء من حيث يدرون أو لا يدرون ولمّهم عن قارعة الطريق أولاً ومكافحة المروّجين والمطبّعين مع الكيان الصهيوني، سواء بطريقة مباشرة أو غير مباشرة، من خلال إلقاء الحرم الوطني على كلّ من تساوره نفسه للترويج لمنتج «إسرائيلي» أو رأي صهيوني أو فيلم سخّر صاحبه أمواله لما يسمّى دولة «إسرائيل» لتقتل شعبنا وتفتك بنا كلّما أتيحت لها الفرصة.

والأمثلة كثيرة تُساق على ذلك، آخرها كان الكشف عن محاولة اغتيال مسؤول في حركة حماس بتفجيرٍ في مدينة صيدا جنوب لبنان والأصابع الصهيونية واضحة من دون أدنى شك أو ريب، لمن يريد تبْرئة الصهاينة عن أفعالهم الوحشية، لأنها أيضاً نغمة جديدة وعلكة أحبّها البعض بالابتعاد عن توجيه أصابع الاتّهام للعدو الصهيوني في كلّ عمليات الاغتيال التي نفّذها في سورية ولبنان وراح ضحيّتها الكثير من القادة الشهداء الأبطال.

وسيقف الشعب اللبناني من الآن فصاعداً بالمرصاد لكلّ محاولة تطبيعية لينفّذ حكمه خلف القضاء وخلف أجهزته الأمنية الساهرة، أو عبر الاعتصامات والتظاهرات أمام دور السينما والمسارح المطبّعة لمنعها من النشر وإفساد الأجيال الناشئة وتخفيض مناعتها الوطنية وقوّتها الذاتية والحقيقية في بناء الأوطان، وليس كمن يريده المطبّعون والانهزاميون والعملاء الذين يشعرون بالنقص الشخصي والذاتي وبانبهارهم أمام القوة الأميركية والغربية والصهيونية ليبرّروا عمالتهم وانهزامهم التاريخي…

وبالحديث عن بدء الحرب بالوكالة وانتقالها للأصيل بدلاً من الوكيل في سورية، يبدو أنّها المقايضة الأخيرة لما يجري على ساحة هذا البلد الصامد منذ سبع سنوات، إذ أدركت الولايات المتحدة أنّها باتت عاجزة عن امتلاك أيّ أوراق تعيق وتفتّت وتدمّر بنى وأوصال الدولة السورية، فقرّرت الاستمرار قدر الإمكان في استنزاف محور المقاومة والإعلان عن إقامة قواعد عسكرية ثابتة شرق الفرات ودعم «قوات سورية الديمقراطية» كفصيل مسلّح في وجه الجيش السوري، في محاولة لتكريس واقع تقسيمي وإقامة حزام الدولة الكردية في شمال وشرق سورية، وذلك تأديباً للدولة السورية وحلفائها ولتركيا بعد شقّها عصا الطاعة الأميركية.

أمام هذا الواقع ومؤتمر سوتشي على الأبواب وبالاتفاق مع الأتراك الذين أصابتهم فوبيا الدولة الكردية وحزامها المسلح على الحدود، تمّ الاتفاق مع الروسي بالبدء في عملية عسكرية تركية في منطقة عفرين مقابل غضّ الطرْف التركي عن إتمام مهمة محور المقاومة في إدلب وتطهيرها من النصرة وتوابعها، وتيسيراً لعملية سوتشي في الحلّ السياسي التي قبل بها الأتراك شريطة أن يضرب «قوات سورية الديمقراطية» في محاولة لتحقيق إنجاز تركي داخلي يحفظ ماء الوجه ولا يخرج أردوغان خالي الوفاض من معاركه، وبدلاً من أن يواجه الجيش السوري وحلفاؤه القوات المسلحة الكردية لكونها من أبناء سورية وتربطهم علاقات جيدة مع الروس. فيكون الحاصل النهائي ربحاً صافياً للدولة السورية ولحلفائها: بمنع إقامة حزام كردي وفق الإرادة الأميركية التقسيمية، وتعطي للأتراك ربحاً ومكسباً من جيبهم في مواجهة المسلحين الأكراد ووأْد مشروعهم. وهي مصلحة سورية بالدرجة الأولى، وكذلك الانتهاء عملياً من تنظيم القاعدة أو النصرة في إدلب وعودتها الى حضن الدولة، ومن ثم أخيراً نجاح مؤتمر سوتشي عبر التنسيق الإيراني الروسي التركي وضمّه لكلّ الفصائل المسلحة التي قبلت بالحلّ السياسي، ومنها «الجيش الحر» الذي يشكّل العنوان الأساس في عملية «غصن الزيتون» الجارية في شمال سورية وعفرين من قبل الأتراك…

إذن انتقل المستعمر عملياً من أدوات التوظيف في الاستخدام ليدخل مباشرة في صراع وتصفيات بين حلفائه، نشهد آخر فصولها العسكرية في سورية وبداية عودتها بالحرب الناعمة واستخدام أدوات التطبيع والعمالة في كلّ يوم بحلة جديدة ولباس ناعم…

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