Stop confusing Kurdistans! Syria’s leftists must turn home to Assad

February 22, 2018

by Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker Blog

Stop confusing Kurdistans! Syria’s leftists must turn home to Assad

As Assad-backed troops enter Afrin to fight Turkish invaders, the Syrian conflict has entered its decisive crossroads:

Will Northern Syria cooperate with Damascus, or not? This is the key to Syrian peace and territorial unity.

It’s also the question which will make or break claims that a Northern Syrian enclave which refuses to help expel uninvited Americans can somehow be a “leftist project”.

(I say it is a leftist project…IF they return to full cooperation with the Syrian government. I will detail my analysis of the political structure of “Rojava” in an upcoming article – this article only deals with immediate political concerns.)

No question can be answered, however, until I clarify some key facts about Northern Syria. Indeed, reporting about Northern Syria in the West is rife with the most fundamental errors, and the most egregiously false claims.

Firstly, the Kurds in Syria have only ever asked for autonomy, not independence.

People assume all Kurds are like Iraqi Kurds – separatists – but the Kurds in Syria want to stay within the Syrian state. This disavowal of independence is an undisputed, long-standing (if underreported) fact. Indeed, the arrival of pro-government forces in Afrin was met with celebrations – the “Arab Socialist Baath Party” is a nationalist one, it seems to have been forgotten. The fact that such celebrations could possibly raise some eyebrows only shows how terrible the West’s mainstream reporting is in Syria.

The second most important point is this: “Rojava”, “Syrian Kurdistan”, “Northern Syria” or the “Democratic Federation of Northern Syria” – whatever it is called – is among the most interesting (and newest) leftist projects in the world today.

For that reason alone, nobody is reporting on it honestly.

After all, the Western mainstream media has no governmental or private mandate to support the 99%…much less in a Muslim country…still less in an anti-Zionist country like Syria!

Rojava’s governmental culture is based around ethnic equality, collective unity, local emancipation and undoubtedly socialist-and-not-capitalist inspired democratic & economic ideals. Therefore…the capitalist-imperialist West totally ignores all of that and solely focuses on identity politics: thus, it’s always reported as just “the Kurds”.

That leads to the third important issue: foolishly lumping all the Kurds across Southwest Asia together, thereby assuming that there are no regional differences: For Western media it is as if Kurds walk around all day in a special “Kurdish daze”, so enamored with being Kurdish that the countries and local neighborhoods where they live have absolutely no effect on them or their worldview. Their “Kurdishness” is all-consuming, it seems! The theory underpinning this is identity politics: if you are Kurdish, then you must all think alike.

So it makes no difference if you grew up/lived in Saddam’s Iraq, modern Iran, Baathist Syria, or Istanbul: You are a Kurd and – as a Kurd – you can only possibly see things via the lens of your Kurdishness. But only the West proffers this absurd, one-dimensional view of the Kurds – not the Middle Easterners who live alongside them.

A fourth problem – an even larger one for those in Syria – is that the Kurds in Syria are not even “Kurds”!

What I mean is: Kurds are around ½ of the population of Northern Syria, but only compose around 1/3rd in some of the biggest areas of Rojava, such as Membij. There are Assyrians and Chaldeans – they are Christian. There are Sunni Arabs. There are Turkmen, who are not allied to Turkey and are Syrian patriots despite their name. There are Circassians, Armenians, Yazidis, Chechens and others. Hard as it is for non-Muslims to believe: All these people like each other, live & work together, intermarry and have done so for more than a millennia. You cannot even say that all the fighters in this area are Kurds, either, because the Syrian Democratic Forces forces – who helped rout ISIL – are majority non-Kurd.

But they are all Syrian – and they want it to stay that way.

This IS the case…even though Kurds in Iraq aimed for independence…and despite the Western anti-Assad propaganda.

Clearly, a major overhaul on the idea of “Kurd” is needed for many….

The Kurdish ‘Bad Century’ is relative to where they live

Anyone can have a bad century and finish as winners…look at the Chicago Cubs.

So in Northern Syria the “Kurds” are not even Kurdish nearly half the time, LOL, but let’s be like the West and look at the “Kurds” across their 4 main nations.

If we accept that “Kurdishness” is not all-consuming , we can see how the experiences of “Kurds” in Iraq (which also compose Assyrians, Chaldeans, Turkmen, etc.) – who lived under Saddam Hussein’s wars, were massacred by the anti-Iranian MKO homicidal cult, lived in a country forced to endure material shortages caused by US sanctions from 1990-2003, and who are enduring US invasion and occupation – are fundamentally different than the experiences of “Kurds” in Syria…where these things did not happen.

The experience of “Kurds” in Syria – which is bordered by the menacing, illegitimate state of Israel, which had a different political conception & practice of Baathism than Iraq (which provoked more enmity than cooperation between the two since 1966), which was invaded not by a “coalition of the willing” but radical terrorists, which is on the cusp of benefitting from the extraordinary national unity which can only be created by victoriously defeating foreign invaders – are fundamentally different than the experiences of “Kurds” in Iraq.

“Kurdishness” in Turkey is an vastly larger issue than Syria, because there are vastly more of them than in anywhere else.

“Kurdishness” in Iran is totally different than in any of the four primary Kurdish countries: they are more accepted there than any other country.

This is a result of the acceptance promoted by Iran’s modern, popular revolution of 1979 (by definition, you can’t have a “modern, popular revolution” based on racism/ethnic superiority). Indeed, Iran’s definitive cultural “female Iran-Iraq war experience” was the best-selling, award-winning story told by a Kurdish immigrant from Iraq to Iran – in the book“Da”, which means “mother” (not in Farsi). Such a thing could never happen in Turkey, obviously, nor Arab nationalist Syria and Iraq. This modern acceptance is why Iran is the only nation of the four where there is no chance of fomenting a Kurdish uprising in Iran: being Iranian and Kurdish is not any sort of contradiction – they are incorporated in the national self-conception about as much as any numeric minority can reasonably be, as the success of “Da” illustrates. And for this reason – which is called (Iranian Islamic socialist) “modern democracy” – there is no chance of any sort of a “Kurdish uprising” in Iran. Even amid this ongoing historical era of Kurdish militancy across the entire region, the PJAK Party (Iranian Kurdish separatists) gave up armed operations in Iran in 2011: it’s useless – Iran is different, and on the Kurdish question as well. Israel could spend a zillion usuriously-gained dollars on such a project and it would get nowhere…which is why they spend their time in the southeast (in Baluchestan with Jundallah).

And, to repeat, because this is so important: The people of Northern Syria have never, ever said they want anything but autonomy within Syria. This proves that Syrian “Kurds” are not Iraqi “Kurds”, where Barzani and their bid for independence have been neutralised…much to the dismay of the US & Israel.

An often ignored (or not known) point is that Iraqi “Kurds” had been wooed (or led astray) by the US for two decades via preferential economic, political, cultural and immigration policies. The US paid for a lot of goodwill over many years. In Syria – LOL, not at all. So, Syrian “Kurds” have not come into contact with the American ideology anywhere as much…and their ideology is necessarily different (despite the overpowering Kurdish daze they walk around in, LOL!)

Only by ignoring these realities can one assume the “Kurds” of both regions share the same political outlook in February 2018.

So, I hope we are bit less konfused on who the “Kurds” really are.

Now, because of the leftist nature of northern Syria, we must de-konfuse our notions of their political ideology.

But I’m going to postpone that to part two – let’s talk immediate politics.

A very interesting leftist political project…but not if they ally with the US

It was with great alarm that greeted the recent US declaration that they will keep 2,000 troops in Northern Syria – that news turned off many to the possibility that northern Syria could possibly be leftist.

And rightly so, but Washington’s plans are simply their desire – there has been no official political deal: Rojavan leaders insist their cooperation with the US is strictly military to fight ISIL. Indeed, they have grown up in Syria, which has been attacked by Israel…but now they are going to be allies?

Certainly, the downfall of Barzani in Iraq is a blow to US/Israeli imperialism – so…of course they are refocusing to Northern Syria. But that doesn’t mean they will get what they want!

Certainly, Northern Syria cannot allow a military base inside its borders. There can be no “Syrian Guantanamo” to permanently menace a newly-liberated Syria, like in Cuba.

Let’s keep a couple war realities in mind: It’s not as if Northern Syrians could have stopped the US from planting soldiers and using an airstrip – there has been a huge war, after all, with a well-heeled army called ISIL to stop.

Let’s also remember that the Northern Syrians work with everybody to fight ISIL in Northern Syria: Russia, the US, Damascus, Iran, Hezbollah – everyone but Turkey. (Obviously, the US both fights terrorism and supports it.)

Rojavans…it may be now or never to fight for Syrian unity

The invasion by Turkey means Northern Syrians have now reached the point of no return: to work with Turkey (and thus the US) is to betray the Syrian people which Rojavans have always claimed to want to be.

Therefore, Syria is on the verge of peace and total victory…or major civil war: It will be decided by inter-Syrian diplomacy. Negotiations have been ongoing between the two areas for years, of course, and they are no doubt in overdrive right now.

The fundamental problem is this:

Damascus has always rejected the idea of a federated state and autonomy for Northern Syria. Northern Syria has held their ground militarily, and Damascus has been too occupied with ISIL to demand cooperation…but it’s February 2018, and here we are.

So what will Damascus do, and what will Rojava do?

I am not a Syrian, and thus my opinion should be worth very little – the future of Syria is only for Syrians to decide – but to me it looks like this:

Rojavans may view siding with Damascus as a risk regarding the re-installation of some Arab Nationalist policies they dislike (Rojava has 3 official languages for a reason, for example)…but siding with the Americans is a guarantee of leftist betrayal, a guarantee of a failure and a guarantee of regional bloodshed for decades.

Maybe Rojava can expel ISIL on their own, but they cannot expel the US and Turkey without Damascus…and they must be expelled. How can these troops stay if Damascus and Rojavans cooperate? They cannot, whatever the Pentagon wants.

Therefore, at some point – a point quite soon – Rojavans will need to openly embrace Damascus, in the name of Syrian unity and in the realization of issues larger than their own interests and sacrifices.

On the other side, there is nothing stopping Damascus from making concessions to win over Rojava…and yet, one easily sees the government’s hesitance: Making major changes to Syria’s political structure seems to require the democratic approval of the entire nation via vote. The granting of wholesale structural changes for one-third of the country during wartime appears to lack democratic legitimacy.

Rojava is where most of Syria’s oil is located. Certainly, those funds cannot be made the complete “autonomous” property of Rojavans. One easily sees how “granting autonomy” is a major question that goes beyond just the decades-long elevation of Arab culture over the culture of Turkmen, Chaldeans, Kurds, etc.….

Of course, it should not be surprising that Assad’s view of Rojava never gets an airing…but given Rojava’s leftist bonafides, nobody ever talks about them at all either. “Keep ‘em konfused with just ‘Kurds’” is the media line….

To sum up my view of the immediate political situation: Unity requires faith – Northern Syrians need to trust their fellow citizens that their success has earned them good faith credit in Syria’s common future.

And, finally, what choice does Rojava have? Turkey will never accept them (this is the pretext for their invasion), nor Damascus, nor Iraq. The only ones who will are the US and Israel…and that is leftist?!?!

No…this is why I predict a reconciliation. The failure of Syrian-Syrian diplomacy at this juncture is…civil war.

And who wants that in Syria?

In an upcoming second article I will examine what is the “leftist ideology” of Rojava, and how these ideas might interact with Arab Socialist Baathism in a unified, free, victorious state of Syria.

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.

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Syrian War Report – February 21, 2018: Government Forces Entered Afrin

South Front

Over the last few days, the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army have captured over a dozen villages from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the Afrin area.

A complicated situation on the frontlines forced the YPG to at least temporarily forget “the US is our only ally” mantra and to start implementing what local sources describe as a Damascus-YPG deal that will allow deployment of government troops in the region.

On February 20, a column of the government-backed National Defense Forces (NDF) consisting of about 20 vehicles entered the YPG-held area and moved toward the city of Afrin. The column was within about 10km of the city when it came under Turkish fire. At least 2 NDF members were killed in the TAF strikes.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed that the column retreated after this incident. However, according to existing video evidence at least a part of the column reached Afrin city.

While 20 vehicles are not enough to reverse TAF gains in Afrin, the deployment of government forces in the area as well as Iranian and Russian diplomatic support can limit and even counter a major part of the Turkish military plans. Few hours before the column deployment Erdogan vowed to lay siege to the city of Afrin in three days time.

The situation remains tense. Many will depend on the terms and conditions of the YPG-Damascus deal.

On February 20, Eastern Ghouta militant groups conducted a massive shelling of the government-held areas of Damascus. The Russian center for reconciliation of the warring parties in Syria was among targets. The shelling killed at least seven civilians and wounded over 40 others. No casualties among the Russian personnel were reported.

No ground operation has yet started in Eastern Ghouta but the mainstream media is already full of reports about the so-called Assad forces attacking civilians there. These reports ignore that a large part of the pocket is controlled by groups, which have never respected the ceasefire – Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Ahrar al-Sham and Faylaq al-Rahman.

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واشنطن لحلفائها: فلنقسّم سوريا

المجتمعون أعطوا أنفسهم مهلة عام لتنفيذ الخطة الأميركية (أ ف ب)
تغيّرت السياسة الأميركية في سوريا. بعد طول مراوحة في تحديد ما سيفعلونه بعد هزيمة «داعش»، قرر الأميركيون إطالة أمد الحرب بالبقاء خلف الضفة الشرقية للفرات، والعمل وفق خطة تفصيلية لتقسيم البلاد. وخلال الشهرين الماضيين، كانت الدبلوماسية الأميركية تعمل على اطلاع الحلفاء على تلك الخطة تمهيداً لإطلاقها ووضعها قيد التنفيذ. وفي هذا الإطار، حصلت «الأخبار» على برقية دبلوماسية صادرة عن سفارة بريطانيا في واشنطن، توجز الاستراتيجية الأميركية للوصول إلى تقسيم سوريا كما عرضها ديفيد ساترفيلد خلال اجتماع عقده في واشنطن في الحادي عشر من الشهر الماضي ممثلون عن مجموعة «سوريا» الأميركية
محمد بلوط, وليد شرارة
المشروع الأميركي التقسيمي في سوريا لم يعد في حيّز التحليلات، لا في دائرة التراشق الدبلوماسي الروسي مع واشنطن، وقد برز منها كلام وزير الخارجية سيرغي لافروف في الأيام الأخيرة عن أن واشنطن تخطّط للتقسيم. فبعد الضربة التي وجهتها المقاتلات الجوية والراجمات الأميركية، لقوات روسية وسورية رديفة، حاولت الأسبوع الماضي اجتياز «الحدود» فوق جسور عائمة من غرب الفرات إلى شرقه، عملت الولايات المتحدة على تثبيت خط فاصل بالنار بين «سوريتين»، غرب الفرات وشرقه.
لكن ما حدث لم يكن صاعقة في سماء صافية دبلوماسية أو ميدانية. المجزرة التي أوقعتها الطائرات الأميركية في مقاتلي شركة «فاغنر» «الرديفة» للجيش الروسي في سوريا رسمت الحدود ومستقبل ما وراء الفرات إلى الشرق، كما أعد لها الأميركيون منذ أسابيع. يأتي ذلك بعد أن نضجت في مجلس الأمن القومي الاستراتيجية الجديدة حول سوريا وأعلم الأميركيون حلفاءهم في «مجموعة سوريا»، قبل ستة أسابيع، أن الهدف المقبل هو فصل الشرق عن بقية الخريطة السورية، وأن البيت الأبيض خصّص أربعة مليارات دولار في العام الواحد لتمويل القوات التي ستعمل في المنطقة بالإضافة إلى تدريب قوة حرس الحدود المزمع إنشاؤها لتذويب الغلبة الكردية في قوات سوريا الديمقراطية شرق النهر، وتسهيل ابتداع معارضة سياسية شرق النهر تمثل المنطقة، وتمنع عودة الجيش السوري.
وفي برقية دبلوماسية من خمس صفحات، صادرة عن سفارة بريطانيا في واشنطن، حصلت عليها «الأخبار»، يوجز الدبلوماسي وخبير شؤون الشرق الأوسط في السفارة بنيامين نورمان لوزارة الخارجية البريطانية في لندن، الاستراتيجية الأميركية الجديدة للوصول الى تقسيم سوريا كما عرضها مساعد وزير الخارجية الأميركية لشؤون الشرق الأوسط، ديفيد ساترفيلد خلال اجتماع عقده في واشنطن في الحادي عشر من الشهر الماضي ممثلون عن «مجموعة سوريا» الأميركية.
حضر الاجتماع إلى جانب ساترفيلد، رئيس فريق سوريا في وزارة الخارجية البريطانية هيو كلاري، ورئيس قسم الشرق الأوسط وشمال أفريقيا في وزارة الخارجية الفرنسية جيروم بونافون. حليفان عربيان لواشنطن في خطتها التقسيمية حضرا الاجتماع: مستشار وزير الخارجية الأردني نواف وصفي التل، والمسؤول الأمني في وزارة الداخلية السعودي العميد جمال العقيل.
البرقية الموجزة تحدث فيها ساترفيلد بصراحة عن الهدف الذي ستعمل الولايات المتحدة على تحقيقه من الآن فصاعداً، وهو التقسيم وفصل الشرق السوري وشمال الشرق السوري عن البلاد. وقال ساترفيلد، كما جاء في الإيجاز البريطاني، إن الخطة التي يجب العمل عليها تتألف من خمس نقاط: تقسيم سوريا، تخريب سوتشي، استيعاب تركيا، وإصدار تعليمات إلى الوسيط الدولي ستيفان دي ميستورا لاستعادة جنيف، وتنفيذ ورقة من ثماني نقاط تتضمن الحل في سوريا كانت واشنطن قد قدمتها إلى الاجتماع الأخير للمعارضة السورية وممثلي الحكومة في فيينا في السادس والعشرين من الشهر الماضي. المجتمعون أعطوا أنفسهم مهلة عام لتنفيذ هذه الخطة عندما رحبوا، كما قالت الوثيقة، بالاقتراحات الأميركية «ودعوا إلى تحقيق تقدم ملموس في سوريا خلال عام ٢٠١٨، والرد على دعاية الانتصار الروسي».
ساترفيلد أبلغ الحاضرين أن الرئيس دونالد ترامب قرر الإبقاء على قوة عسكرية مهمة في سوريا، رغم هزيمة «داعش»، وأن الإدارة الأميركية خصصت أربعة مليارات دولار سنوياً لهذه العملية التي تقول مصادر غربية إنها ستنفق أيضاً منها على توسيع القواعد الأميركية في الأراضي التي يسيطر عليها الأكراد خصوصاً، في الرميلان في أقصى الشرق السوري، وفي عين العرب (كوباني)، على خط الحدود السورية ــ التركية. وقال إن الهدف من ذلك هو منع الإيرانيين من التمركز على المدى الطويل في سوريا، أو فرض أنفسهم في مسارات الحل السياسي. المجموعة قررت مواجهة الانفراد الروسي سياسياً في تحديد مستقبل النظام السياسي في سوريا عبر تقديم دعم مادي وسياسي لستيفان دي ميستورا لتصليب مسار جنيف، في مواجهة «سوتشي». الجميع رحّب بهذه الاقتراحات، مع التركيز على أخرى ميدانية وعملية لمواجهة «الرغبة الروسية بالتوصل إلى حل سياسي».
الأمم المتحدة ستلعب دوراً كبيراً في الخطة الأميركية لتقسيم سوريا. الأولوية ستعطى لتصليب مسار جنيف، إذ أبلغ الأميركيون الحاضرين أنهم لن يشاركوا من الآن فصاعداً في اجتماعات أستانا، وأنهم قد خفضوا تمثيلهم الدبلوماسي إلى أدنى مستوى، للعودة بالمسار السياسي إلى جنيف. محضر الاجتماع يقول إن الداعين إليه أقرّوا بأن جنيف قد فشل رغم الجهود التي بذلها ستيفان دي ميستورا لإنعاشه، وأبدوا تحفظاً على وقف إطلاق النار في سوريا في ظل الشروط الميدانية الحالية ومع تراجع المعارضة واعتبروا أنْ لا فائدة من إدخال اقتراح وقف إطلاق النار في مسار جنيف لأننا في الحقيقة «لا نملك القدرة على منع النظام من قضم الجيوب التي لا تزال المعارضة تحتفظ بها في إدلب والغوطة الشرقية» بحسب الملاحظات المدونة على الوثيقة.00 
الأميركيون في الطريق إلى التقسيم، لا يعبأون بفكرة الحكومة الانتقالية، ولا بتنفيذ الشق المتعلق بها كما نصّ عليها القرار الأممي ٢٢٥٤، إذ قال ساترفيلد للمجتمعين إننا «نصحنا المعارضة بعدم دعم فكرة الحكومة الانتقالية، وإن على المعارضة أن تتوقف عن التلويح بالحكومة الانتقالية في كل مناسبة». وبيّن الأميركيون أن الغاية من مبادراتهم الدبلوماسية هي الحفاظ على صورتهم «وإبداء مرونتهم وحركيتهم مع عدم المبالغة في توظيف المعارضة في هذه المفاوضات من دون التخلي عن هدفها النهائي والأساسي بتقسيم سوريا ورحيل الأسد». وأوضح الأميركيون للجميع أن «الخطة تقضي بالعمل على إنشاء مؤسسات وشروط لانتخابات لا يستطيع بشار الأسد الفوز فيها، لذلك لا يوجد مبرر بديهي لمنع الأسد من المشاركة في الانتخابات». المجتمعون أقروا استراتيجية تجاه روسيا باختبار نياتها للذهاب نحو توفير شروط ملائمة لإجراء انتخابات تحت إشراف الأمم المتحدة «وجرّ النظام إلى التفاوض على دستور جديد، وعدم الاكتفاء من الآن فصاعداً بالكلام المعسول لوزير الخارجية الروسي سيرغي لافروف». ساترفيلد قال: «إننا سنستفيد ايجابياً من هشاشة وضع فلاديمير بوتين في المرحلة الانتخابية من أجل دفع الروس إلى التخلي عن الرئيس الأسد عبر المزيد من الاجتماعات في مجلس الأمن، وأوسع حملة إعلامية ضده».
الأميركيون تقدموا خطوة نحو تكريس قناة دبلوماسية مع شرق الفرات والأكراد، عبر تعيين ويليام روبوك، سفيراً لدى «قوات سوريا الديمقراطية»، كما أبلغ ساترفيلد المجتمعين. كذلك قدموا اقتراحات تمنح المزيد من الاعتراف والوزن الدبلوماسي للأكراد في المسار التفاوضي من دون استفزاز الأتراك، وخصوصاً أن هؤلاء كانوا على اطلاع على الخطوات الأميركية في هذا الاتجاه، وهو ما برّر الأتراك به الهجوم على عفرين. واقترح الأميركيون، أيضاً، إغراق التمثيل الكردي في مفاوضات جنيف تحت اعلام «قوات سوريا الديمقراطية» وتشكيل وفد يمثل شرق الفرات عملياً للإطباق بواسطته ووفد المعارضة الائتلافية، على وفد الحكومة السورية، كما تقترح الوثيقة.

 


المشاركون في الاجتماع
 ــ بنيامين نورمان، معدّ محضر الاجتماع المرسل إلى وزارة الخارجية البريطانية، خبير الشؤون السياسة الخارجية والأمنية للشرق الأوسط في السفارة البريطانية – واشنطن.
ــ هيو كلاري، رئيس فريق سوريا في وزارة الخارجية البريطانية.
ــ جيروم بونافون، رئيس قسم الشرق الأوسط وشمال أفريقيا في وزارة الخارجية الفرنسية.
– ديفيد ساترفيلد، مساعد وزارة الخارجية الأميركية للشرق الأوسط.
ــ نواف وصفي التل، مستشار وزير الخارجية الأردني.
ــ العميد جمال العقيل، مسؤول أمني سعودي.

 


مقدمة الوثيقة
الاجتماع الأول لمجموعة العمل الأميركية المصغَّرة حول سوريا بعد مباركة الرئيس دونالد ترامب لوجود مديد للقوات الأميركية في هذا البلد. اتُّفق على توفير دعم فوري لستيفان دي ميستورا لموازنة الجهود الروسية، ولإعادة تفعيل مسار جنيف بنيوياً، بإعادة التفاوض في القضايا الانسانية، والسجناء… ستقدم المجموعة المصغرة اقتراحات بشأن الدستور السوري والانتخابات، وإفهام روسيا ما هو منتظر من التزامات من قبل (الرئيس بشار) الأسد في الجولة المقبلة للمفاوضات التي ستعقد في فيينا في السادس والعشرين من كانون الثاني. سيلتقي الوزراء على الاجتماع في باريس في الثالث والعشرين من شهر كانون الثاني، للاتفاق على هذه المقاربة ورمي القفاز في وجه الروس. وسيلقي تيلرسون خطاباً أساسياً حول سوريا الأسبوع المقبل.

تعليقات كاتب الوثيقة
النقطة ١٨: حقق هذا الاجتماع تقدّماً وفق المعايير السورية. أعادت الولايات المتحدة تأكيد زعامتها وفق ما تصبو إليه، وهو ما سيجهر به تيلرسون في خطاب له بشأن سوريا في معهد هوفر. كرر ساترفيلد التزام الولايات المتحدة المسار السياسي، وفي اجتماعات منفصلة (مع براين هوك). كان واضحاً أن تيلرسون سيساهم في دفع العربة إلى الأمام.
النقطة ١٩: لدينا الآن خطة متينة للأسابيع الثلاثة القادمة. مع ذلك جرى نقاش في كيفية الاستمرار بالضغط على روسيا، وحتى مضاعفتها إذا لم يستجيبوا لطلباتنا المتعلقة بالنظام السوري كما نأمل. ينبغي أن نواصل ما قد بدأناه في هذه المجال، بالتركيز على الوضع الإنساني الرهيب والتواطؤ الروسي مع عمليات القصف ضد المدنيين.
النقطة ٢٠: (مخاطباً ساترفيلد) شكراً جزيلاً لكما أنت وهيو لحضوركما هذا الاجتماع. عبّرت الولايات المتحدة عن امتنانها لجهودنا ودعمنا في الاشهر التي خلت، بعد أن بلورت استراتيجيتها، إنه يوم عمل جيد.
أفضل التحيات
بنيامين نورمان. شؤون السياسة الخارجية والأمنية. السفارة البريطانية، واشنطن.

Qualitative transformations in the Russian position تحوّلات نوعية في الموقف الروسي

 Qualitative transformations in the Russian position

Written by Nasser Kandil,

فبراير 21, 2018

Since the Russian military positioning in the face of the war on Syria at the end of September 2015, it was clear for Moscow and its allies in the axis of resistance that there are differences in the four aspects that rule the deep alliance, which based on the protection of Syria from the threat of terrorism, division, and chaos. These differences are related to the interests and the deep visions of the two teams in the region to the extent that they considered the winning in Syria an existential issue for the two teams, and that the cohesion of this alliance is a compulsory way for this winning. Therefore this consensus led to the decision of the Russian positioning which was followed by shifts through which the two teams succeeded in managing these differences smoothly and quietly.

The four differences are first, the Kurdish position and Moscow’s trust in its ability to lure the Kurdish leaderships to the project of the political solution sponsored by Moscow. Second, the Turkish position and the ability to lure it to a partnership in the political solution that grants it a special role instead of the losing bet on supporting the axis of war. Third, the Israeli position and the Russian bet on neutralizing Israel from the alliance of sabotaging the projects of the political solution in Syria sponsored by Russia, under the title that Russia through its presence in Syria is not an additional party in the balances of the axis of resistance in its open battle with Israel, since this conflict can be managed away from affecting the project of combating the terrorism in Syria, the prevention of its division, and recovering it supported by Russian guarantees to Israel and to the axis of resistance. The forth difference is related to the American position and the Russian bet on attracting Washington to a political settlement in Syria that forms a way for ending the dispute and paves the way for a negotiating path that led previously to the understanding on the Iranian nuclear program with Iran, and can lead to solution in the disputing files between Washington and Tehran.

Within two years the axis of the resistance waged its confrontations with these four titles in a way that did not embarrass Russia and did not affect the alliance with it. The battle of Aleppo occurred after a war of attrition that lasted for months fought by Turkey under the title of armistice, while Turkey was conspiring until Moscow was convinced to wage that battle fiercely and decisively. Furthermore, the axis of the resistance endured the American and Israeli provocations and the development of the Kurdish separation situation, but it was restraint supported by three constants; first, the cost of the disparity with Moscow is higher than the gains of this disparity in these titles, second, the achievements of these titles are doubtful without Russia. Third, the facts will prove whether Moscow’s bet was right or no, in this case, Moscow will reposition with new visions and policies.

The understanding between the axis of resistance and Russia has been drawn on a basis of continuing the war of liberation of the Syrian geography without neglecting the Russian initiatives to attract the Kurds and the Turks and to neutralize the Americans and the Israelis, but without the allowance of any provocation to lead to a side confrontation that stops the military path of determination on one hand, and confuses Russia on the other hand. The recent facts led to transformations in the positions and maybe because Russia discovered the correctness of the resistance axis’s reading, but most importantly it became clear for Russia that America has resolved its choice; that its confrontation is with Russia, in other words; to prevent the growing of its international and regional presence as the American strategy stated publicly and as the American statements and the practices said in order to raise the importance of staying in Syria rather than the political solution in it. In contrast, the facts showed that the Kurdish dependence on Washington is bigger than to be attracted by the Russian temptations for the political solution, and the constitutional formulas that meet the aspirations of the Kurdish leaderships, furthermore, Turkey’s ambitions to grasp a part of the Syrian geography exceeds its desire to ensure the Turkish national security from the threat of the Kurdish entity. Israel does not wage in Syria its battle only, but the battle of America to disrupt the political solution led by Russia, it turned into a main party in the war of weakening the status of Russia.

These are the conclusions reached by Russia; it drew the path of the new stage entitled deepening the alliance with the axis of resistance and grants it strategic aspects that surpass the coordination and the cooperation under the ceiling of the recovery of Syria and the ensuring of its unity and sovereignty. The joint Russian administration with the resistance axis starts from a common view of the axes and the rules of engagement. On the basis of this new equation of the alliance, the time which the Syrian President has long waited for to build networks of air defense has come and was the decision of dropping the Israeli warplane, knowing that further similar steps will take place soon. The Israelis and the Americans have to take into consideration that the path of resolving will continue in the field more forcefully, and the response to the provocations will be greater too, even if the cost is an open confrontation waged by the axis of resistance and supported indirectly by Russia. The Turks and the Kurds must take into consideration that there will be no consolation prizes. The only available title to avoid the worst is to spread the authority of the Syrian country in the areas of the Turkish and the Kurdish control.

Translated by Lina Shehadeh,

تحوّلات نوعية في الموقف الروسي

فبراير 20, 2018

ناصر قنديل

– منذ التموضع العسكري لروسيا في وجه الحرب على سورية نهاية شهر أيلول عام 2015 كان واضحاً لموسكو وحلفائها في محور المقاومة، أنّ ثمة تباينات على أربعة محاور تحكم التحالف العميق القائم على حماية سورية من خطر الإرهاب والتقسيم والفوضى، من منطلقات تطال المصالح والرؤى العميقة للفريقين للسياسة في المنطقة، لدرجة التشارك في اعتبار الفوز في معركة سورية قضية وجودية للفريقين، ومعها اليقين بأنّ تماسك التحالف بينهما هو ممرّ إلزامي لهذا الفوز، وانبثق عن هذا التوافق على المشتركات الوجودية والمصيرية وتحديد التباينات والتوافق على إدارتها، قرار التموضع الروسي وما تلاه من تحوّلات نجح خلالها الفريقان بإدارة ناعمة وهادئة للتباينات.

– محاور التباين توزّعت حول عناوين الموقف الكردي وثقة موسكو بالقدرة على استمالة قياداته إلى مشروع الحلّ السياسي الذي ترعاه موسكو، والموقف التركي وإمكانية جذبه لشراكة في الحلّ السياسي تمنحه دوراً مميّزاً بديلاً عن رهان خاسر في الوقوف في محور الحرب. وثالث هذه المحاور هو الموقف الإسرائيلي والرهان الروسي على تحييد «إسرائيل» من حلف تخريب مشاريع الحلّ السياسي في سورية التي ترعاها روسيا، تحت عنوان أنّ روسيا بوجودها في سورية ليست إضافة لموازين قوى محور المقاومة في معركته المفتوحة مع «إسرائيل»، وأنّ بالمستطاع إدارة هذا الصراع، بعيداً عن التأثير على مشروع ضرب الإرهاب في سورية ومنع تقسيمها وإعادة العافية لمشروع الدولة فيها بضمانات روسية لـ«إسرائيل»، وضمانات موازية لمحور المقاومة. أما المحور الرابع للتباينات فيطال الموقف الأميركي ورهان روسيا على جذب واشنطن لتسوية سياسية في سورية تشكّل ربط نزاع وباباً لمسار تفاوضي أثمر الاتفاق على الملف النووي مع إيران، ويمكن له بعد حلّ سياسي في سورية أن يثمر في ملفات خلافية أخرى بين واشنطن وطهران.

– خلال عامين خاض محور المقاومة مواجهاته مع هذه العناوين الأربعة بما لا يُحرج روسيا، ولا يؤذي الحلف معها، فانتظرت معركة حلب شهوراً من حرب استنزاف خاضتها تركيا، تحت عنوان الهدنة، وهي تراوغ وتمارس الخداع، حتى اقتنعت موسكو بخوض المعركة، وخاضتها بكلّ شراسة واستقامة وحزم، وتحمّل محور المقاومة استفزازات أميركية وإسرائيلية وتبلور حالة تقسيمية كردية، وهو يمارس ضبط النفس، لكن بقناعة حاسمة بثلاثة ثوابت: الأول أنّ كلفة التباين مع موسكو أغلى من مكاسب هذا التباين في هذه العناوين. ثانيها أنّ المكاسب في هذه العناوين مشكوك في بلوغها دون روسيا، وثالثها أن لا بدّ للوقائع من أن تقول في وقت ليس ببعيد، ما إذا كان رهان موسكو سيصيب. وفي هذه الحالة المهم هو «أكل العنب وليس قتل الناطور»، وإلا فإنّ موسكو ستعيد التموضع عند رؤى وسياسات جديدة.

– رسم التفاهم بين محور المقاومة وروسيا على قاعدة مواصلة الحرب لتحرير الجغرافيا السورية وإبقاء الباب مفتوحاً للمبادرات الروسية، لجذب الأكراد والأتراك، وتحييد الأميركيين والإسرائيليين، دون السماح لأيّ استفزاز بأن يؤدي للانزلاق نحو مواجهة جانبية ستوقف مسار الحسم العسكري من جهة، وتُربك روسيا من جهة مقابلة، حتى جاءت وقائع الشهور الأخيرة، وقالت سواء لتحوّلات في المواقف والوقائع فرضت جديداً، أو لأنّ روسيا اكشتفت صواب قراءة محور المقاومة، أو لكليهما، لكن المهمّ أنه صار واضحاً لروسيا، أنّ أميركا حسمت خيارها بأنّ مواجهتها في الأصل مع روسيا لمنع تنامي حضورها الدولي والإقليمي، كما قالت الاستراتيجية الأميركية المعلنة، وكما قالت التصريحات والممارسات الأميركية لجهة رفع أهمية البقاء في سورية على السعي للحلّ السياسي فيها. وفي المقابل قالت الوقائع إنّ التبعية الكردية لواشنطن أكبر من أن تفكّها الإغراءات الروسية بالحلّ السياسي، وصيغ دستورية تراعي تطلعات القيادات الكردية، وأنّ مطامع تركيا باقتطاع جزء من الجغرافيا السورية يتفوّق على الرغبة بضمان الأمن القومي التركي من خطر كيان كردي، وأنّ «إسرائيل» لا تخوض في سورية معركتها فقط، بل معركة أميركا لتخريب الحلّ السياسي الذي تقوده روسيا، وأنها تحوّلت للذراع الرئيسية في حرب إضعاف مكانة روسيا.

– هذه الخلاصات التي صارت على الطاولة الروسية، رسمت الأساس لمرحلة جديدة، عنوانها تعميق التحالف بين موسكو ومحور المقاومة، ومنحه أبعاداً استراتيجية تفوق التنسيق والتعاون تحت سقف استعادة سورية عافيتها، وضمان وحدتها وسيادتها، فقد صارت الإدارة الروسية المشتركة مع محور المقاومة تنطلق من تشخيص مشترك لمحاور الاشتباك وقواعد الاشتباك. ومن هذه المعادلة الجديدة للتحالف جاء التوقيت الذي أعدّ الرئيس السوري طويلاً لملاقاته ببناء شبكات الدفاع الجوي، فكانت لحظة القرار بإسقاط الطائرة الإسرائيلية، ومثلها كانت خطوات أخرى وسيكون المزيد، الذي يجب أن يضعه الإسرائيليون والأميركيون من جهة، ضمن حساباتهم، فسياق الحسم سيتواصل في الميدان بقوة أكثر، لكن الردّ على الاستفزازات سيكون أيضاً بقوة أكبر، ولو كان الثمن مواجهة مفتوحة يخوضها محور المقاومة بدعم روسيا، ولو من الصفوف الخلفية، كما يجب على الأتراك والأكراد أخذه بالحساب من جهة أخرى، فلا جوائز ترضية لأحد، والعنوان الوحيد المتاح لتفادي الأسوأ هو بسط سلطة الدولة السورية في مناطق السيطرة التركية ومناطق السيطرة الكردية.

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The Saker: Escalation In Syria – How Far Can The Russians Be Pushed?

16.02.2018

Written by The Saker; Originally appeared at The Unz Review

Events in Syria have recently clearly taken a turn for the worse and there is an increasing amount of evidence that the Russian task force in Syria is being targeted by a systematic campaign of “harassing attacks”.

First, there was the (relatively successful) drone and mortar attack on the Russian Aerospace base in Khmeimin. Then there was the shooting down of a Russian SU-25 over the city of Maasran in the Idlib province. Now we hear of Russian casualties in the US raid on a Syrian column (along with widely exaggerated claims of “hundreds” of killed Russians). In the first case, Russian officials did openly voice their strong suspicion that the attack was if not planned and executed by the USA, then at least coordinated with the US forces in the vicinity. In the case of the downing of the SU-25, no overt accusations have been made, but many experts have stated that the altitude at which the SU-25 was hit strongly suggests a rather modern MANPAD of a type not typically seen in Syria (the not so subtle hint being here that these were US Stingers sent to the Kurds by the USA). As for the latest attack on the Syrian column, what is under discussion is not who did it but rather what kind of Russian personnel was involved, Russian military or private contractors (the latter is a much more likely explanation since the Syrian column had no air-cover whatsoever). Taken separately, none of these incidents mean very much but taken together they might be indicative of a new US strategy in Syria: to punish the Russians as much as possible short of an overt US attack on Russian forces. To me this hypothesis seems plausible for the following reasons:

First, the USA and Israel are still reeling in humiliation and impotent rage over their defeat in Syria: Assad is still in power, Daesh is more or less defeated, the Russians were successful not only their military operations against Daesh but also in their campaign to bring as many “good terrorists” to the negotiating table as possible. With the completion of a successful conference on Syria in Russia and the general agreement of all parties to begin working on a new constitution, there was a real danger of peace breaking out, something the AngloZionist are absolutely determined to oppose (check out this apparently hacked document which, if genuine, clearly states the US policy not to allow the Russian to get anything done).

Second, both Trump and Netanyahu have promised to bring in lots of “victories” to prove how manly and strong they are (as compared to the sissies which preceded them). Starting an overt war against Russian would definitely be a “proof of manhood”, but a much too dangerous one. Killing Russians “on the margins”, so to speak, either with plausible deniability or, alternatively, killing Russians private contractors is much safer and thus far more tempting option.

Third, there are presidential elections coming up in Russia and the US Americans are still desperately holding on to their sophomoric notion that if they create trouble for Putin (sanctions or body bags from Syria) they can somehow negatively impact his popularity in Russia (in reality they achieve the opposite effect, but they are too dull and ignorant to realize that).

Last but not least, since the AngloZionist have long lost the ability to actually getting anything done, their logical fall-back position is not let anybody else succeed either. This is the main purpose of the entire US deployment in northern Syria: to create trouble for Turkey, Iran, Syria and, of course, Russia.

The bottom line is this: since the US Americans have declared that they will (illegally) stay in Syria until the situation “stabilizes” they now must do everything their power to destabilize Syria. Yes, there is a kind of a perverse logic to all that…

For Russia, all this bad news could be summed up in the following manner: while Russia did defeat Daesh in Syria she is still far from having defeated the AngloZionists in the Middle-East. The good news is, however, that Russia does have options to deal with this situation.

Step one: encouraging the Turks

There is a counter-intuitive but in many ways an ideal solution for Russia to counter the US invasion of Syria: involve the Turks. How? Not by attacking the US forces directly, but by attacking the Kurdish militias the US Americans are currently “hiding” behind (at least politically). Think of it, while the US (or Israel) will have no second thoughts whatsoever before striking Syrian or Iranian forces, actually striking Turkish forces would carry an immense political risk: following the US-backed coup attempt against Erdogan and, just to add insult to injury, the US backing for the creation of a “mini-Kurdistsan” both in Iraq and in Syria, US-Turkish relations are at an all-time low and it would not take much to push the Turks over the edge with potentially cataclysmic consequences for the US, EU, NATO, CENTCOM, Israel and all the AngloZionist interests in the region. Truly, there is no overstating the strategic importance of Turkey for Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle-East, and the US Americans know that. From this flows a very real if little understood consequence: the Turkish armed forces in Syria basically enjoy what I would call a “political immunity” from any US attacks, that is to say that (almost) no matter what the Turks do, the US would (almost) never consider actually openly using force against them simply because the consequence of, say, a USAF strike on a Turkish army column would be too serious to contemplate.

In fact, I believe that the US-Turkish relationship is so bad and so one-sided that I see a Turkish attack on a Kurdish (or “good terrorist”) column/position with embedded US Special Forces far more likely than a US attack on a Turkish army column. This might sound counter-intuitive, but let’s say the Turks did attack a Kurdish (or “good terrorist”) column/position with US personnel and that US servicemen would die as the result. What would/could the US do? Retaliate in kind? No way! Not only is the notion of the US attacking a fellow NATO country member is quite unthinkable, it would most likely be followed by a Turkish demand that the US/NATO completely withdraw from Turkey’s territory and airspace. In theory, the US could ask the Israelis to do their dirty job for them, but the Israelis are not stupid (even if they are crazy) and they won’t have much interest in starting a shooting war with Turkey over what is a US-created problem in a “mini-Kurdistan”, lest any hallowed “Jewish blood” be shed for some basically worthless goyim.

No, if the Turks actually killed US servicemen there would be protests and a flurry of “consultations” and other symbolic actions, but beyond that, the US would take the losses and do nothing about it. As for Erdogan, his popularity at home would only soar even higher. What all this means in practical terms is that if there is one actor which can seriously disrupt the US operations in northern Syria, or even force the US to withdraw, it is Turkey. That kind of capability also gives Turkey a lot of bargaining power with Russia and Iran which I am sure Erdogan will carefully use to his own benefit. So far Erdogan has only threatened to deliver an “Ottoman slap” to the USA and Secretary of State Tillerson is traveling to Ankara to try to avert a disaster, but the Turkish instance that the USA chose either the Turkish or the Kurdish side in the conflict very severely limits the chances of any real breakthrough (the Israel lobby being 100% behind the Kurds). One should never say never, but I submit that it would take something of a miracle at this point to really salvage the US-Turkish relationship. Russia can try to capitalize on this dynamic.

The main weakness of this entire concept is, of course, that the USA is still powerful enough, including inside Turkey, and it would be very dangerous for Erdogan to try to openly confront and defy Uncle Sam. So far, Erdogan has been acting boldly and in overt defiance of the USA, but he also understands the risks of going too far and for him to even consider taking such risks there have to be prospects of major benefits from him. Here the Russians have two basic options: either to promise the Turks something very inciting or to somehow further deteriorate the current relationship between the US and Turkey. The good news here is that Russian efforts to drive a wedge between the US and Turkey are be greatly assisted by the US support for Israel, Kurds, and Gulenists.

The other obvious risk is that any anti-Kurdish operation can turn into yet another partition of Syria, this time by the Turks. However, the reality is that the Turks can’t really stay for too long in Syria, especially not if Russia and Iran oppose this. There is also the issue of international law which is much easier for the USA to ignore than for the Turks.

For all these reasons using the Turks to put pressure on the USA has its limitations. Still, if the Turks continue to insist that the USA stop supporting the Kurds, or if they continue putting military pressure on the Kurdish militias, then the entire US concept of a US-backed “mini-Kurdistan” collapses and, with it, the entire US partition plan for Syria.

So far, the Iraqis have quickly dealt with the US-sponsored “mini-Kurdistan” in Iraq and the Turks are now taking the necessary steps to deal with the US-sponsored “mini-Kurdistan” in Syria at which point *their* problem will be solved. The Turks are not interested in helping Assad or, for that matter, Putin and they don’t care what happens to Syria as long as *their* Kurdish problem is under control. This means that the Syrians, Russians, and Iranians should not place too much hope on the Turks turning against the USA unless, of course, the correct circumstances are created. Only the future will tell whether the Russians and the Iranians will be able to help to create such circumstances.

Step two: saturating Syria with mobile modern short/middle range air defenses

Right now nobody knows what kind of air-defense systems the Russians have been delivering to the Syrians over the past couple of years, but that is clearly the way to go for the Russians: delivering as many modern and mobile air defense systems to the Syrians. While this would be expensive, the best solution here would be to deliver as many Pantsir-S1 mobile Gun/SAM systems and 9K333 Verba MANPADs as possible to the Syrians and the Iranians. The combination of these two systems would immensely complicate any kind of air operations for the US Americans and Israelis, especially since there would be no practical way of reliably predicting the location from which they could operate. And since both the USA and Israel are operating in the Syrian skies in total violation of international law while the Syrian armed forces would be protecting their own sovereign airspace, such a delivery of air-defense systems by Russia to Syria would be impeccably legal. Best of all, it would be absolutely impossible for the AngloZionist to know who actually shot at them since these weapon systems are mobile and easy to conceal. Just like in Korea, Vietnam or Lebanon, Russian crews could even be sent to operate the Syrian air defense systems and there would be no way for anybody to prove that “the Russians did it” when US and Israeli aircraft would start falling out of the skies. The Russians would enjoy what the CIA calls “plausible deniability”. The US Americans and Israelis would, of course, turn against the weaker party, the Syrians, but that other than feeling good that would not really make a difference on the ground as the Syrians skies would not become safer for US or Israelis air forces.

The other option for the Russians would be to offer upgrades (software and missile) to the existing Syrian air defense systems, especially their road-mobile 2K12 Kub and 9K37 Buk systems. Such upgrades, especially if combined with enough deployed Pantsirs and Verbas would be a nightmare for both the US Americans and the Israelis. The Turks would not care much since they are already basically flying with the full approval of the Russians anyway, and neither would the Iranians who, as far as I know, have no air operations in Syria.

One objection to this plan would be that two can play this game and that there is nothing preventing the USA from sending even more advanced MANPADs to their “good terrorist” allies, but that argument entirely misses the point: if both sides do the same thing, the side which is most dependent on air operations (the USA) stands to lose much more than the side which has the advantage on the ground (the Russians). Furthermore, by sending MANPADs to Syria, the USA is alienating a putative ally, Turkey, whereas if Russia sends MANPADs and other SAMs to Syria the only one who will be complaining will be the Israelis. When that happens, the Russians will have a simple and truthful reply: we did not start this game, your US allies did, you can go and thank them for this mess.

The main problem in Syria is the fact that the US and the Israelis are currently operating in the Syrian skies with total impunity. If this changes, this will be a slow and gradual process. First, there would be a few isolated losses (like the Israeli F-16 recently), then we would see that the location of US and/or Israeli airstrikes would gradually shit from urban centers and central command posts to smaller, more isolated targets (such as vehicle columns). This would indicate an awareness that the most lucrative targets are already too well defended. Eventually, the number of air sorties would be gradually replaced by cruise and ballistic missiles strikes. Underlying it all would be a shift from offensive air operations to force protection which, in turn, would give the Syrians, Iranians, and Hezbollah a much easier environment to operate in. But the necessary first step for any of that to happen would be to dramatically increase the capability of Syrian air defenses.

Hezbollah has, for decades, very successfully operated under a total Israelis air supremacy and their experience of this kind of operations would be invaluable to the Syrians until they sufficiently built up their air defense capabilities.

Conclusion: is counter-escalation really the only option?

Frankly, I am starting to believe that the Empire has decided to attempt upon a partial “reconquista” of Syria, even Macron is making some noises about striking the Syrians to “punish” them for their use of (non-existing) chemical weapons. At the very least, the USA wants to make the Russians pay as high a price as possible for their role in Syria. Further US goals in Syria include:

  • The imposition of a de-facto partition of Syria by taking under control the Syrian territory east of the Euphrates river (we could call that “plan C version 3.0”)
  • The theft of the gas fields located in northeastern Syria
  • The creation of a US-controlled staging area from which Kurdish, good terrorist and bad terrorist operations can be planned and executed
  • The sabotaging of any Russian-backed peace negotiations
  • The support for Israeli operations against Iranian and Hezbollah forces in Lebanon and Syria
  • Engaging in regular attacks against Syrian forces attempting to liberate their country from foreign invaders
  • Presenting the invasion and occupation of Syria as one of the “victories” promised by Trump to the MIC and the Israel lobby

So far the Russian response to this developing strategy has been a rather a passive one and the current escalation strongly suggests that a new approach might be needed. The shooting down of the Israeli F-16 is a good first step, but much more needs to be done to dramatically increase the costs the Empire will have to pay for is policies towards Syria. The increase in the number of Russian commentators and analysts demanding a stronger reaction to the current provocations might be a sign that something is in the making.

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استراتيجية محور المقاومة لصناعة الحرب والتسويات

فبراير 19, 2018

ناصر قنديل

– تبدو استراتيجية واشنطن وتل أبيب المبنية على قرار ربط نزاع يمنع التسويات ويثبّت تجميد موازين القوى ويقطع الطريق على محور المقاومة لمواصلة خطّته على محورين رئيسيين، إكمال سيطرة الدولة السورية على كامل جغرافيتها، وتأمين اتصال راسخ ومستقر بين طهران وبيروت مروراً بدمشق وبغداد، مستندة إلى قراءة ما تسمّيانه العجز المتبادل عن تحمل كلفة المواجهة المباشرة والشاملة، بين جبهتي المواجهة. فاليقين لدى واشنطن وتل أبيب معلن، أن محور المقاومة وعلى رأسه إيران ومن خلفه روسيا لا يريد التورّط بالحرب بمثل ما لا تريد واشنطن وتل أبيب، لذلك تتواصل الاستفزازات ويتصاعد تخطّي الخطوط المحرجة في التصادم، ورفع النبرة، لوضع محور المقاومة بين خياري قبول ما تسمّيه واشنطن وتل أبيب قبول قواعد الاشتباك الجديدة، أو الذهاب للحرب. وقواعد الاشتباك الجديدة تعني ارتضاء إطلاق اليد «الإسرائيلية» في سورية، والتعايش مع كانتون كردي بحماية أميركية شرق الفرات، وكانتون سعودي قرب دمشق، وآخر أردني «إسرائيلي» جنوباً ورابع تركي شمالاً. وفي لبنان دخول التفاوض مع «إسرائيل» حول الخطوط الحدودية البرية والبحرية، والتفاوض مع واشنطن حول مكانة وسلاح حزب الله، والتساكن مع صيغة هشة للحدود السورية العراقية يتناوب المحوران عليها في السيطرة وفي القنص، وصولاً لأغلبيات مائعة في البرلمانيين العراقي واللبناني، لا يملك فيها أي من المحورين أغلبية ثابتة تتيح التحكم بالخيارات الإقليمية لكل من الدولتين. وفي الحصيلة تحوّل قرار اعتبار القدس عاصمة لـ«إسرائيل» أمراً واقعاً لا بدّ من التعايش معه.

بعد دراسات ومشاورات عميقة ومكثفة وممتدة لأسابيع قرّرت قيادة محور المقاومة رفض التعايش مع الاستراتيجية الأميركية «الإسرائيلية» الجديدة، ولو كانت الكلفة الذهاب للحرب، وصارحت القيادة الروسية بما توصلت إليه، بانتظار سماع الموقف الروسي النهائي، الذي لم يختلف جوهرياً عن الخلاصة النهائية لمحور المقاومة، بتشخيص طبيعة الاستراتيجية الأميركية وأهدافها، واعتبارها إضعاف روسيا في طليعة الاستهدافات. وكان القرار الروسي واضحاً بعدم الدخول على خط المواجهة الميدانية مباشرة منعاً لانزلاق سريع نحو مواجهة أوسع وحفاظاً على خطوط التراجع أمام الأميركيين، لكن مع تقديم الدعم اللازم لمحور المقاومة والتوافق على ضمّ «إسرائيل» لعنوان المواجهة كأداة للاستراتيجية الأميركية الجديدة.

– ترى قيادة محور المقاومة أن الخاصرتين الرخوتين في المحور الأميركي «الإسرائيلي» تتمثل في تصاعد الاشتباك التركي الكردي، شمال سورية، وأن هذا التحدّي الذي يواجه محور واشنطن تل أبيب أعقد من بقائه تحت السيطرة، ويقدّم فرصة جذب وشدّ لمحور المقاومة، لوضع الأكراد بين مطرقة التهديد التركي والتخلّي الأميركي، في عنوان مصير عفرين، مدينة نصف المليون كردي، والتي لا كيان كردي ولا معنويات كردية، إذا دخلها الأتراك، للوصل لتفاهم يضمن نقل عفرين لسلطة الدولة السورية، وفتح الطريق لمضمون جديد في العلاقة مع الأكراد يضعهم مناصفة بين العباءة الأميركية وعباءة محور المقاومة، وعلى ضفة موازية اعتماد لغة العصا والجزرة مع الأتراك لدفعهم لنقلة جديدة تشبه ما حصل بعد تحرير حلب وولادة مسار أستانة.

– تنطلق قيادة محور المقاومة من القناعة بتفوق قواها الميدانية على قدرة «إسرائيل» في الحرب الشاملة، ولكن أيضاً في المواجهات التكتيكية، ولذلك فإن التغيير الذي تريد واشنطن وتل أبيب فرضه في رسم قواعد اشتباك جديدة، يتيح لمحور المقاومة أن يحوّلها فرصاً لفرض قواعد جديدة معاكسة. وعناوين القوة هنا هي الدولة السورية والدولة اللبنانية، واحدة عسكرياً والثانية سياسياً، ولذلك كانت الإدارة الشجاعة والذكية للرئيس بشار الأسد لمعركة الأجواء السورية في مرحلة أولى وإسقاط طائرة الـ«إف 16» وهي تقصف من الأجواء اللبنانية في المرحلة الأخيرة، وكانت إدارة الرئيسين ميشال عون ونبيه بري وجذب الرئيس سعد الحريري إلى معسكرهما، لإدارة ذكية وشجاعة للمفاوضات مع وزير الخارجية الأميركية حول الثروة النفطية، ولذلك كان الموقف الحازم والمحسوب للسيد حسن نصرالله بتهديد «إسرائيل» بثروتها النفطية، ولكن تحت عباءة الدولة اللبنانية.

– تقوم قيادة محور المقاومة بحسابات دقيقة للمشهد العراقي وكيفية إدارة توازناته، سواء على أبواب الانتخابات، والخيارات الحكومية، ومصير الوجود الأميركي في العراق، ومستقبل الحدود السورية العراقية، قبل أن ترسم صورة السياسات التفصيلية مع الشركاء العراقيين، لكنها تدرك هذه المرة أهمية الخيارات الاقتصادية الاستراتيجية وحاجة شعوب بلدان المواجهة لتلمّس عائدات الانتصارات. وتطرح على هذا الصعيد سلة خطوات تتصل بمساهمة الشركاء في المحور برفع منسوب الاهتمام بالشؤون المعيشية للناس على جدول أعمالهم، لكنها تتضمن مشاريع استراتيجية كبرى اقتصادياً، يتقدّمها البحث الجدي بفتح الأسواق الإيرانية والعراقية والسورية واللبنانية على بعضها بعضاً، والبحث بخطط ربط نوعية لموارد الطاقة في النفط والغاز والكهرباء، وشبكات للنقل الجديدة تربط العواصم وتسهّل تنقل الأفراد والبضائع.

– تبقى القضية الفلسطينية والصراع في فلسطين أولوية قيادة محور المقاومة، وإذا كانت الوجهة العامة هي رفع درجة التصعيد بوجه كل تصعيد ضمن لعبة حافة الهاوية، اختباراً لقدرة واشنطن وتل أبيب في الذهاب للحرب، فإن محور المقاومة صار جاهزاً لمثل هذه الفرضية، ويتصرف على قاعدة أنها واقعة بعد كل جولة مواجهة، فإن الخشية من ذهاب «إسرائيل» للحرب على غزة يواكبها قرار أن الحرب قد تبدأ في جبهة، لكنها ستشمل الجبهات كلها، بحيث يكون على واشنطن وتل أبيب الاختيار بين الحرب الشاملة أو التعايش مع حقائق معاكسة للرغبات عنوانها، التسليم بالخروج من سورية وأبواب التسويات مفتوحة للراغبين، والتعايش مع ميزان الردع مع لبنان وليكن العنوان الدولة اللبنانية، ومع سيطرة محور المقاومة على الحدود السورية العراقية تحت عنوان تعاون سوري عراقي لمواجهة بقايا داعش، وصولاً للتعايش مع مشروع الانتفاضة والمقاومة في فلسطين.

– محور المقاومة رسم استراتيجيته وستظهر التكتيكات تباعاً بصيغة كمائن سياسية وعسكرية يكتشفها الأميركي و«الإسرائيلي» والسعودي تباعاً، في كل عملية تسخين يظنونها محسوبة وتأتي نتائجها عكسية، وأبواب متاحة للتسويات تحت سقوف واضحة ولو بعناوين سهلة الابتلاع.

– تتجه عيون محور المقاومة صوب اليمن لمعرفة حدود القدرة الأميركية «الإسرائيلية» بتحمل أكلاف الحرب العبثية السعودية، وقياس القدرة السعودية على مواصلة حرب الاستنزاف.

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

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

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

“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 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 recognised, 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 recognise 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.

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”.

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