UNDERWHELMING TURKISH INVASION OF LIBYA

South Front

In early 2020, Libya became one of the main hot points in the Greater Middle East with stakes raised by Turkey’s decision to launch a military operation there.

On January 5, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey had sent troops to Libya to support the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA). No Turkish soldiers will reportedly participate in direct fighting. Instead, they will create an operation center and coordinate operations. Erdogan pointed that “right now”, there will be “different units serving as a combatant force.” He didn’t say who exactly these troops would be, but it is apparent that these are members of Turkish-backed Syrian militant groups and Turkey-linked private military contractors.

Ankara started an active deployment of members of pro-Turkish Syrian militant groups in Libya in December 2019. So far, over 600 Turkish-backed Syrian fighters have arrived. According to media reports, the officially dispatched Turkish troops included military advisers, technicians, electronic warfare and air defense specialists. Their total number is estimated at around 40-60 personnel.

A day after the Erdogan announcement, on January 6, the defense of the GNA collapsed in Sirte and the GNA’s rival, the Libyan National Army (LNA), took control of the town. Several pro-GNA units from Sirte publicly defected to the LNA with weapons and military equipment, including at least 6 armoured vehicles. With the loss of Sirte, only two large cities – Tripoli and Misrata – formally remained in the hands of the GNA. Misrata and its Brigades in fact remain a semi-independent actor operating under the GNA banner.

From January 7 to January 12, when the sides agreed on a temporary ceasefire proposed in a joint statement of the Turkish and Russian presidents, the LNA continued offensive operations against GNA forces near Tripoli and west of Sirte capturing several positions there. The GNA once again demonstrated that it is unable to take an upper hand in the battle against forces of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

The GNA formally requested “air, ground and sea” military support from Turkey on December 26th, 2019, in the framework of the military cooperation deal signed by the sides in November. On January 2, 2020, the Turkish Parliament approved the bill allowing troop deployment in Libya. This move did not change the situation strategically. Even before the formal approval, Ankara already was engaged in the conflict. It sent large quantities of weapons and military equipment, including “BMC Kirpi” armoured vehicles, deployed Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicles at airfields near Tripoli and Misrata, and sent operators and trainers in order to assist GNA forces.

Turkey could increase military supplies, deploy additional private military contractors, military advisers and special forces units, but it has no safe place to deploy own air group to provide the GNA with a direct air support like Russia did for pro-Assad forces in Syria. Approximately 90% of Libya is under the LNA control. Tripoli and Misrata airports are in a strike distance for the LNA. Tunisia, Algeria, Niger, Chad and Sudan refuse to play any direct role in the conflict, while the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is still too far away. Egypt, alongside with the UAE and Russia, is a supporter of the LNA. Therefore, deployment there is out of question.

Turkey operates no aircraft carriers. Its TCG Anadolu amphibious assault ship can be configured as a light aircraft carrier, but the warship isn’t in service yet. It is unclear how Ankara will be able to provide the GNA with an extensive air support without endangering its own aircraft by deploying them close to the combat zone.

Turkey could deploy a naval task force to support the GNA. Nonetheless, this move is risky, if one takes into account the hostile political environment, with Egypt, Cyprus, the UAE and Greece are strictly against any such actions. Additionally, this deployment will go against the interests of other NATO member states such as France and Italy that see the expansion of the Turkish influence as a direct threat to their vital economic interests, especially in the oil business. Warships near the Libyan coast will be put in jeopardy from modern anti-ship measures. Yemen’s Houthis repeatedly proved that missiles could be quite an effective tool to combat a technologically advanced enemy. In the worst-case scenario, the Turkish Navy can suffer notable losses, and the risk of this is too real to tangible to overlook.

Another unlikely option is a large-scale ground operation that will require an amphibious landing. Turkey has several landing ships, the biggest of which are the two Bayraktar-class amphibious warfare ships (displacement – 7,254 tons). There are also the Osman Gazi-class landing ship (3,700 tons), two Sarucabey-class landing ships (2,600 tons). Other landing ships, albeit active, are outdated. With 5 modern landing ships, any landing operation will endanger Turkish forces involved, keeping in mind the complex diplomatic environment and the LNA that will use all means and measures that it has to prevent such a scenario.

In these conditions, the most likely scenario of Turkey’s military operation was the following:

  • Deployment of a limited number of specialists;
  • Public employment of private military contractors’
  • Redeployment of members of pro-Turkish proxy groups from Syria to Libya;
  • Diplomatic and media campaign to secure Ankara’s vital interests and find a political solution that would prevent the LNA’s final push to capture Tripoli. Turkey sees the Libyan foothold and the memorandum on maritime boundaries signed with the GNA as the core factors needed to secure own national interests in the Eastern Mediterranean.

This is exactly what Ankara did. On January 8, Turkish and Russian Presidents released a joint statement in which they called for reaching cease-fire in Libya by midnight of January 12. The joint statement emphasized the worsening situation in Libya and its negative impact on “the security and stability of Libya’s wider neighborhood, the entire Mediterranean region, as well as the African continent, triggering irregular migration, further spread of weapons, terrorism and other criminal activities including illicit trafficking,” and called for the resumption of a political dialogue to settle the conflict. The LNA initially rejected the ceasefire initiative, but then accepted it. This signals that key LNA supporters agreed on the format proposed by the Turkish and Russian leaders. On January 13, the delegations of the GNA, the LNA, and Turkey arrived in Moscow for talks on a wider ceasefire deal. The deal was not reached and clashes near Tripoli resumed on January 14.

Russian and Turkish interests are deeply implicated. Some experts speculated the contradictions within the Libyan conflict could become a stone that will destroy the glass friendship between Ankara and Moscow. However, the joint Russian-Turkish diplomatic efforts demonstrate that the sides found a kind of understanding and possibly agreed on the division of spheres of influence. If the Moscow negotiations format allows de-escalating the situation and putting an end to the terrorism threat and violence in Libya, it will become another success of the practical approach employed by the both powers in their cooperation regarding the Middle East questions.

The 2011 NATO intervention led by France, Italy and the United States destroyed the Libyan statehood in order to get control of the country’s energy resources. Now, Egypt, the UAE, Russia and Turkey are driving France, Italy and the US out of Libya in order to put an end to the created chaos and secure own interests.

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Merkel trod on holy Ukrainian toes

January 14, 2020

Rostislav Ishenko, 13 Jan 2020

Translated by Nikolai

The visit by the Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel to Russia and her negotiations with Vladimir Putin were full of negative signals for Ukraine.

Merkel busily carved on the crossroad milestone:

– go right – lose your head;

– go left – lose your life;

– go straight – be forever lost;

– stay in place – death will reach you;

– turn back – you will not reach home.

The fact alone that Berlin and Moscow discussed virtually all pressing topics of the global agenda (including Syria, Libya and Iran) should have put Kiev on notice. After all, if these two countries have so many areas of common interest, Ukraine cannot count on exclusive German support. The contrary is rather probable – if Berlin can agree with Moscow on all other key points of the international agenda, then it can quite easily sacrifice Ukrainian interests in favor of full understanding.

In addition, the chancellor also discussed the Ukrainian problem in separate with the president of Russia. By all appearances, they did not spend a lot of time on this discussion. As a result, during the press conference they were brief and clear in announcing their united position – Ukraine must fulfill the Minsk agreements. During the last year, such statements became common, so I will remind that it was not so long ago (in 2018) that Berlin usually stated in such cases that it expects Russia to constructively work with the DNR/LNR, who in turn must fulfill the Minsk agreements. And in 2015-2017 Berlin (in chorus with Paris) demanded that the Minsk agreements were Russia’s responsibility to implement.

France and Germany went over to Moscow’s point of view sort of casually and discretely. Moreover, being more involved in the Ukrainian crisis, Berlin was more stoic than Paris.

Zelensky, when striving for the “Normandy format” meeting, was clearly counting on that he would be accommodated (as a young, popular “new formation politician” as he was called in Ukraine) and allowed to at least partially rework the Minsk agreements, or even better – declare them null and void and begin prolonged, tedious and pointless negotiations on the new format for regulation of the crisis. It was not a coincidence that right after the meeting in Paris the Ukrainian media and diplomats attempted to propose their own version for the translation of Merkel’s words at the press conference and tried to attribute to the federal chancellor a statement supposedly saying that the Minsk agreements are not dogma and can be modernized. They broadcasted this so often and with such certainty, that they even convinced some Russian experts, who began to accept Merkel’s phrase as “ambiguous”.

And so now, the German leader says unequivocally that the Minsk agreements must be implemented without any modernization, that Russia and Germany, in fact, have the same view on this topic. The caringly constructed concept of zelensky diplomacy comes crashing down. The people at home can be still indoctrinated about the “great leap forward” achieved. But the concurring and unequivocal position of Berlin and Moscow means that there will not be a new meeting in Berlin in the “Normandy format” without corresponding steps made by Kiev (doing their homework, as they were told in Paris). Pity for Zelensky, who was so convincing in Paris, saying how he already did everything he could and that he is prevented from moving forward by evil radicals, so everyone should just “understand and forgive” him and get busy reconsidering the “Minsk” in the interests of Kiev.

This is a fiasco. Now, the minister of foreign affairs of Ukraine Vadim Pristaiko and company have to think on how to rationalize before the people taking it all in and frozen in expectations of further diplomatic breakthroughs that the April “Normandy format” meeting is cancelled or postponed to an unclear date. Remember, Kiev already voiced a wealth of demands for the “modernization” of the Minsk agreements, which they were planning on stating and pressing in Berlin. And the April meeting was presented by Ukrainian propaganda as 100% arranged. Mind you, April is very soon: February 23rd, March 8th, then the May holidays are already near – April will arrive suddenly.

Something has to be done and decided with this. But what? The fact is, it is very hard to move Merkel from a position taken in advance. However, if she did change her mind, it is even harder to bring her back around.

Well, Merkel changed her mind, seriously and decisively. This is indicated by another topic discussed by the two leaders. I think no one was surprised upon hearing at the press conference that the chiefs of the two countries discussed the fate of the Nord Stream II gas pipeline. At this time Merkel again stated that the pipeline will be finished despite American sanctions. Putin in turn stated the probable timetable for the end of works: end of this year – first half of next year. This means that during 2022 the gas pipeline must reach its design capacity no matter what.

I will note that for the first time the federal chancellor did not say anything about the Ukrainian transit. This can be because the transit agreement has been signed. However, it has been signed only for five years. And by the end of 2022, when Nord Stream II reaches peak flowrate, three of these years will already have passed. Previously, in 2016, 2017, 2018 and in 2019 Merkel each time packed up the startup of Nord Stream II with the preservation of the Ukrainian transit. She was not talking about prolonging it for five years but about guaranteeing significant transit volumes through the Ukrainian gas transmission network (GTN).

In principle, Gazprom is interested in preserving the transit through the Ukrainian GTN (as is the GTN itself, which actually should be transferred under Gazprom’s control). First, demand for gas in Europe is rising, and the marine “Streams” are just not being built fast enough. Second, it is always better to use available infrastructure than build a new one. Third, Gazprom does not endeavor to move away from the Ukrainian monopoly on transit only to create a German or Turkish one. Of course, this does not mean that Gazprom is ready to start pumping 80-100 bln m3 yearly through the Ukrainian GTN, but it could quite do 30-40 bln.

However, Gazprom is not willing to tolerate Ukraine’s provocative behavior, who has been motivating “substantiated” (“market”) transit costs with its own need for cash and trying to block Gazprom from building gas pipelines going around its territory. Until now, this was a problem for Gazprom and Russia. However, after the frankly anti-European sanctions from the USA that were meant to put the brakes (if not stop completely) on the building of Nord Stream II, the position of Germany changed in a similar, almost unnoticed fashion, since Germany had determined this pipeline as one of the most important infrastructure projects both in concerning European energy safety and German economy.   

Statements by Berlin on the subject of Nord Stream II are now completely lacking mentions of the need to consider Kiev’s interests and provide guarantees of loading the Ukrainian GTN. It seems, the hard pro-American position accepted by Ukraine on this issue decidedly convinced Germany that Kiev is ready to completely irrationally make decisions that are harmful not only to itself (which is not a concern for Berlin), but also to Germany (which is a very strong concern) in order to protect the strategic interests of Washington.

As in the issue of the Minsk agreements, the positions of Moscow and Berlin are united and coordinated as never before concerning Nord Stream II. The fact that Ukraine is taking a pro-American orientation on this issue in only an additional push for Berlin to distance itself from Kiev. Especially since Germany has experience in dealing with Poland. The latter realized that the multi-billion giveaways from EU funds (mostly filled by German money) will soon end and started talking about receiving reparations for World War II (luckily they are not yet demanding Poland be returned to its borders of the times of Bolesław I the Brave and compensations from Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Ukraine and Belarus for a millennium of “unlawful ownership” of “immemorial polish lands”).

All in all, Merkel’s visit to Russia does not bode anything good for Kiev. Rather it’s all bad. It seems, German politicians have finally understood the simple truth –support Ukraine or not, but you have to plan your future in such a way that the Ukrainian factor influences it as little as possible, or even better – does not influence it at all.

Source – https://ukraina.ru/opinion/20200113/1026284231.html

MILITARY AND POLITICAL TRENDS OF 2019 THAT WILL SHAPE 2020

South Front

In the year 2019 the world was marked with a number of emerging and developing crises. The threat of terrorism, conflicts in the Middle East, expanding instability in South America, never-ending military, political and humanitarian crises in Africa and Asia, expansion of NATO, insecurity inside the European Union, sanction wars and sharpening conflicts between key international players. One more factor that shaped the international situation throughout the year was the further collapse of the existing system of international treaties. The most widely known examples of this tendency are the collapse of the INF and the US announcement of plans to withdraw from the New START. Meanwhile, the deterioration of diplomatic mechanisms between key regional and global actors is much wider than these two particular cases. It includes such fields as NATO-Russia relations, the US posture towards Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights, unsuccessful attempts to rescue vestiges of the Iran nuclear deal, as well as recent setbacks in the diplomatic formats created to de-escalate the Korean conflict.

One of the regions of greatest concern in the world, is the Middle East. The main destabilizing factors are the remaining terrorist threat from al-Qaeda and ISIS, the crises in Libya, Syria and Iraq, the ongoing Saudi invasion of Yemen, the deepening Israeli-Arab conflict, and a threat of open military confrontation involving the US and Iran in the Persian Gulf. These factors are further complicated by social and economic instability in several regional countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and even Iran.

After the defeat of ISIS, the war in Syria entered a low intensity phase. However, it appears that the conflict is nowhere near its end and the country remains a point of instability in the region.

ISIS cells are still active in the country. The announced US troop withdrawal appeared to be only an ordinary PR stunt as US forces only changed their main areas of presence to the oil-rich areas in northeastern Syria. Washington exploits its control over Syrian resources and influence on the leadership of the Syrian Kurds in order to effect the course of the conflict. The Trump administration sees Syria as one of the battlegrounds in the fight against the so-called Iranian threat.

The province of Idlib and its surrounding areas remain the key stronghold of radical militant groups in Syria. Over the past years, anti-government armed groups suffered a series of defeats across the country and withdrew towards northwestern Syria. The decision of the Syrian Army to allow encircled militants to withdraw towards Idlib enabled the rescue of thousands of civilians, who were being used by them as human shields in such areas as Aleppo city and Eastern Ghouta. At the same time, this increased significantly the already high concentration of militants in Greater Idlib turning it into a hotbed of radicalism and terrorism. The ensuing attempts to separate the radicals from the so-called moderate opposition and then to neutralize them, which took place within the framework of the Astana format involving Turkey, Syria, Iran and Russia, made no progress.

The Summer-Fall advance of the Syrian Army in northern Hama and southern Idlib led to the liberation of a large area from the militants. Nevertheless, strategically, the situation is still the same. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly the official branch of al-Qaeda in Syria, controls most of the area. Turkish-backed ‘moderate militants’ act shoulder to shoulder with terrorist groups.

Turkey is keen to prevent any possible advances of the government forces in Idlib. Therefore it supports further diplomatic cooperation with Russia and Iran to promote a ‘non-military’ solution of the issue. However it does not seem to have enough influence with the Idlib militant groups, in particular HTS, to impose a ceasefire on them at the present time. Ankara could take control of the situation, but it would need a year or two that it does not have. Therefore, a new round of military escalation in the Idlib zone seems to be only a matter of time.

Syria’s northeast is also a source of tensions. Turkey seized a chunk of territory between Ras al-Ayn and Tell Abyad in the framework of its Operation Peace Spring. The large-scale Turkish advance on Kurdish armed groups was halted by the Turkish-Russian ‘safe zone’ agreement and now the Syrian Army and the Russian Military Police are working to separate Kurdish rebels from Turkish proxies and to stabilize Syria’s northeast. If this is successfully done and the Assad government reaches a political deal with Kurdish leaders, conditions for further peaceful settlement of the conflict in this part of the country will be created. It should be noted that Damascus has been contributing extraordinary efforts to restore the infrastructure in areas liberated from terrorists by force or returned under its control by diplomatic means. In the eyes of the local population, these actions have an obvious advantage over approaches of other actors controlling various parts of Syria.

Israel is another actor pursuing an active policy in the region. It seeks to influence processes which could affect, what the leadership sees as, interests of the state. Israel justifies aggressive actions in Syria by claiming to be surrounded by irreconcilable enemies, foremost Iran and Hezbollah, who try to destroy Israel or at least diminish its security. Tel Aviv makes all efforts to ensure that, in the immediate vicinity of its borders, there would be no force, non-state actors, or states whose international and informational activities or military actions might damage Israeli interests. This, according to the Israeli vision, should ensure the physical security of the entire territory currently under the control of Israel and its population.

The start of the Syrian war became a gift for Israel. It was strong enough to repel direct military aggression by any terrorist organization, but got a chance to use the chaos to propel its own interests. Nonetheless, the rigid stance of the Israeli leadership which became used to employing chaos and civil conflicts in the surrounding countries as the most effective strategy for ensuring the interests of the state, was delivered a blow. Israel missed the moment when it had a chance to intervene in the conflict as a kind of peacemaker, at least on the level of formal rhetoric, and, with US help, settle the conflict to protect its own interests. Instead, leaders of Israel and the Obama administration sabotaged all Russian peace efforts in the first years of the Russian military operation and by 2019, Tel Aviv had found itself excluded from the list of power brokers in the Syrian settlement. Hezbollah and Iran, on the other hand, strengthened their position in the country after they, in alliance with Damascus and Russia, won the war on the major part of Syrian territory, and Iran through the Astana format forged a tactical alliance with Turkey.

Iran and Hezbollah used the preliminary outcome of the conflict in Syria, and the war on ISIS in general, to defend their own security and to expand their influence across the region.  The so-called Shia crescent turned from being a myth exploited by Western diplomats and mainstream media into a reality. Iran and Hezbollah appeared to be reliable partners for their regional allies even in the most complicated situations.

Russia’s strategic goal is the prevention of radical Islamists from coming to power. Russia showed itself ready to enter dialogue with the moderate part of the Syrian opposition. Its leadership even demonstrated that it is ready to accept the interests of other actors, the US, Israel, Kurdish groups, Turkey, Iran, and Hezbollah, if this would help in reaching a final deal to settle the conflict.

Summing up the developments of 2019, one might expect that the current low-intensity state of the Syrian conflict would continue for years. However, several factors and developments could instigate the renewal of full-fledged hostilities:

  • A sudden demise or forceful removal of President Bashar al-Assad could create a situation of uncertainty within the patriotic component of the Syrian leadership;
  • Changes within the Russian political system or issues inside Russia which could lead to full or partial withdrawal of support to the Syrian government and withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria;
  • A major war in the Middle East which would turn the entire region into a battlefield. In the current situation, such a war could only start by escalation between the US-Israeli-led bloc and Iran.

The Persian Gulf and the Saudi-Yemen battleground are also sources of regional instability. In the second half of 2019, the situation there was marked by increased chances of open military confrontation between the US-Israeli-Saudi bloc and Iran. Drone shoot-downs, oil tanker detentions, open military buildups, and wartime-like rhetoric became something common or at least not very surprising. The US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel point to Iran as the main instigator of tensions.

Iran and its allies deny responsibility for the escalation reasonably noting that their actions were a response to aggressive moves by the US-Israeli-Saudi axis. From this point of view, Iran’s decision to limit its commitments to the already collapsed Nuclear Deal, high level of military activity in the Persian Gulf, shoot down of the US Global Hawk spy drone, and increased support to regional Shia groups are logical steps to deter US—led aggression and to solidify its own position in the region. Iran’s main goal is to demonstrate that an open military conflict with it will have a devastating impact to the states which decide to attack it, as well as to the global economy.

The US sanctions war, public diplomatic support of rioters, and the Trump administration’s commitment to flexing military muscle only strengthen Tehran’s confidence that this approach is right.

As to Yemen’s Houthis, who demonstrated an unexpected success in delivering retaliatory strikes to Saudi Arabia, they would continue to pursue their main goal – achieving a victory in the conflict with Saudi Arabia or forcing the Kingdom to accept the peace deal on favorable terms. To achieve this, they need to deliver maximum damage to Saudi Arabia’s economy through strikes on its key military and infrastructure objects. In this case, surprising missile and drone strikes on different targets across Saudi Arabia have already demonstrated their effectiveness.

The September 14 strike on Saudi oil infrastructure that put out of commission half of the Saudi oil output became only the first sign of future challenges that Riyadh may face in case of further military confrontation.

The unsuccessful invasion of Yemen and the confrontation with Iran are not the only problems for Saudi Arabia. The interests and vision of the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East have been in conflict for a long time. Nonetheless, this tendency became especially obvious in 2019. The decline of influence of the House of Saud in the region and inside Saudi Arabia itself led to logical attempts of other regional players to gain a leading position in the Arabian Peninsula. The main challenger is the UAE and the House of Maktoum.

Contradictions between Saudi Arabia and the UAE turned into an open military confrontation between their proxies in Yemen. Since August 29th, Saudi Arabia has provided no symmetric answer to the UAE military action against its proxies. It seems that the Saudi leadership has no will or distinct political vision of how it should react in this situation. Additionally, the Saudi military is bogged down in a bloody conflict in Yemen and struggles to defend its own borders from Houthi attacks.

The UAE already gained an upper hand in the standoff with Saudi Arabia in the economic field. This provided motivation for further actions towards expanding its influence in the region.

During the year, Turkey, under the leadership of President Recep Erdogan, continued strengthening its regional positions. It expanded its own influence in Libya and Syria, strengthened its ties with Iran, Qatar, and Russia, obtained the S-400, entered a final phase in the TurkStream project, and even increased controversial drilling activity in the Eastern Mediterranean. Simultaneously, Ankara defended its national interests -repelling pressure from the United States and getting off with removal from the F-35 program only. Meanwhile, Turkish actions should not be seen as a some tectonic shift in its foreign policy or a signal of ‘great friendship’ with Russia or Iran.

Turkish foreign policy demonstrates that Ankara is not seeking to make ‘friends’ with other regional and global powers. Turkey’s foreign policy is mobile and variable, and always designed to defend the interests of Turkey as a regional leader and the key state of the Turkic world.

Developments in Libya were marked by the strengthening of the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and backed by the UAE, Egypt, and to some extent Russia. The LNA consolidated control of most of the country and launched an advance on its capital of Tripoli, controlled by the Government of National Accord. The LNA describes its main goal as the creation of the unified government and the defeat of terrorism. In its own turn, the Government of National Accord is backed by Turkey, Qatar, the USA and some European states. It controls a small part of the country, and, in terms of military force, relies on various militias and even radical armed groups linked with al-Qaeda. Ankara signed with the Tripoli government a memorandum on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean Sea. Thus, it sees the GNA survival as a factor which would allow it to justify its further economic and security expansion in the region. This clash of interests sets conditions for an escalation of the Libyan conflict in 2020.

Egypt was mostly stable. The country’s army and security forces contained the terrorism threat on the Sinai Peninsula and successfully prevented attempts of radical groups to destabilize the country.

By the end of the year, the Greater Middle East had appeared in a twilight zone lying before a new loop of the seemingly never-ending Great Game. The next round of the geopolitical standoff will likely take place in a larger region including the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Consistently, the stakes will grow involving more resources of states and nations in geopolitical roulette.

The threat that faces Central Asia is particularly severe since the two sets of actors have asymmetrical objectives. Russia and China are rather interested in the political stability and economic success of the region which they view as essential to their own political and security objectives. It is not in the interest of either country to have half a dozen failed states in their immediate political neighborhood, riven by political, economic, and religious conflicts threatening to spread to their own territories. In addition to being a massive security burden to Russia and China, it would threaten the development of their joint Eurasian integration projects and, moreover, attract so much political attention that the foreign policy objectives of both countries would be hamstrung. The effect would be comparable to that of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on the US political and military establishment. The monetary price of these wars, the sheer political distraction, wear and demoralization of the armed forces, and the unfortunately frequent killings of civilians amount to a non-tenable cost to the warring party, not to mention damage to US international “soft power” wrought by scandals associated with Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and “black sites”. Even now, shock-waves in the US military hierarchy continue to be felt regarding the court-martialed senior-ranking US Navy “SEAL” commando charged for the wanton killing of civilians in Northern Iraq during the US military’s anti-ISIS operations.

By contrast, this dismal scenario would be enough to satisfy the US foreign policy establishment which, at the moment, is wholly dominated by “hawks” determined to assure the continuation of US hegemony.  Preventing the emergence of a multi-polar international system by weakening China and Russia is their desire.  This sets the stage for another round of great power rivalry in Central Asia. While the pattern is roughly the same as during the 19th and late 20th centuries—one or more Anglo-Saxon powers seeking to diminish the power of Russia and/or China—the geography of the battlefield is considerably larger for it encompasses the entirety of post-Soviet Central Asian republics.  Also included is China’s province of Xinjiang which has suddenly attracted considerable Western attention, manifested, as usual, by concern for “human rights” in the region.  Historically, such “concern” usually precedes some form of aggressive action. Therefore the two sets of great power actors—the US and other interested Western powers on the one hand, with Russia and China on the other—are locked in a standoff in the region.

The key security problem is militancy and the spread of terrorism. The US and its NATO partners remain unable to achieve a military victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Taliban reached a level of influence in the region, turning it into a rightful party to any negotiations involving the United States. Nonetheless, it is unlikely that a fully-fledged peace deal can be reached between the sides. The Taliban’s main demand is the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country. For Washington, conceding to this would amount to public humiliation and a forceful need to admit that the superpower lost a war to the Taliban. Washington can achieve a military victory in Afghanistan only by drastically increasing its forces in the country. This will go contrary to Trump’s publicly declared goal – to limit US participation in conflicts all around the world. Therefore, the stalemate will continue with the Taliban and the US sitting at the negotiating table in Qatar, while Taliban forces slowly take control of more and more territory in Afghanistan.

Besides fighting the US-backed government, in some parts of the country, the Taliban even conducts operations against ISIS in order to prevent this group from spreading further. Despite this, around 5,000 ISIS militants operate in Afghanistan’s north, near the border with Tajikistan. Member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization are concerned that ISIS militants are preparing to shift their focus to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, and Russia. The terrorists are infiltrating CIS states, incorporating with organized crime, creating clandestine cells, brainwashing and recruiting new supporters, chiefly the socially handicapped youth and migrants, [and] training them to carry out terrorist activities. The worsening situation in Central Asia contributes to the spread of radical ideas. Now the main threat of destabilization of the entire Central Asian region comes from Tajikistan. This state is the main target of militants deployed in northern Afghanistan.

Destabilization of Central Asia and the rise of ISIS both contribute to achievement of US geopolitical goals. The scenario could devastate Russia’s influence in the region, undermine security of key Russian regional ally, Kazakhstan, and damage the interests of China. The Chinese, Kazakh, and Russian political leadership understand these risks and engage in joint efforts to prevent this scenario.

In the event of further destabilization of Central Asia, ISIS sleeper cells across the region could be activated and a new ISIS self-proclaimed Caliphate could appear on the territory of northern Afghanistan and southern Tajikistan. Russia and China would not benefit from such a development. In the case of China, such instability could expand to its Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, while in Russia the main targets could be the Northern Caucasus and large cities with high numbers of migrant laborers from Central Asian states.

Armenia now together with Georgia became the center of a US soft power campaign to instigate anti-Russian hysteria in the Caucasus. Ethnic groups in this region are traditionally addicted to US mainstream propaganda. On the other hand, the importance of the South Caucasus for Russia decreased notably because of the strong foothold it gained in the Middle East. 2020 is looking to be another economically complicated year for Georgia and Armenia.

Throughout 2019, China consolidated its position as a global power and the main challenger of the United States. From the military point of view, China successfully turned the South China Sea into an anti-access and area-denial zone controlled by its own military and moved forward with its ambitious modernization program which includes the expansion of China’s maritime, airlift, and amphibious capabilities. The balance of power in the Asia-Pacific has in fact shifted and the Chinese Armed Forces are now the main power-broker in the region. China appeared strong enough to fight back against US economic and diplomatic pressure and to repel the Trump Administration’s attempts to impose Washington’s will upon Beijing. Despite economic war with the United States, China’s GDP growth in 2019 is expected to be about 6%, while the yuan exchange rate and the SSE Composite Index demonstrate stability. The United States also tried to pressure China through supporting instability in Hong Kong and by boosting defense aid to Taiwan. However, in both cases, the situation appears to still be within Beijing’s comfort zone.

An interesting consequence of US-led pressure on China is that Washington’s actions provided an impetus for development of Chinese-Russian cooperation. In 2019, Moscow and Beijing further strengthened their ties and cooperation in the economic and military spheres and demonstrated notable unity in their actions on the international scene as in Africa and in the Arctic for example.

As to Russia itself, during the year, it achieved several foreign policy victories.

  • The de-facto diplomatic victory in Syria;
  • Resumption of dialogue with the new Ukrainian regime and the reanimation of the Normandy format negotiations;
  • Improvement of relations with some large European players, like France, Italy, and even Germany;
  • Implementation of the Nord Stream 2 project despite opposition from the US-led bloc;
  • Implementation of the Turkish Stream project with Turkey;
  • Strengthening of the Russian economy in comparison with previous years and the rubble’s stability despite pressure from sanctions. Growth of the Russian GDP for 2019 is expected to be 1.2%, while the Russia Trading System Index demonstrated notable growth from around 1,100 points at the start of the year to around 1,500 by year’s end.

The salient accomplishment of the Russian authorities is that no large terrorist attack took place in the country. At the same time, the internal situation was marked by some negative tendencies. There was an apparent political, media, and social campaign to undermine Chinese-Russian cooperation. This campaign, run by pro-Western and liberal media, became an indicator of the progress in Chinese-Russian relations. Additionally, Russia was rocked by a series of emergencies, corruption scandals linked with law enforcement, the plundering of government funding allocated to the settlement of emergency situations, the space industry, and other similar cases. A number of Russian mid-level officials made statements revealing their real, rent-seeking stance towards the Russian population. Another problem was the deepening social stratification of the population. Most of the citizens experienced a decrease in their real disposable income, while elites continued concentrating margin funds gained through Russia’s successful actions in the economy and on the international level. These factors, as well as fatigue with the stubborn resistance of entrenched elites to being dislodged, caused conditions for political instability in big cities. Liberal and pro-Western media and pro-Western organizations exploited this in an attempt to destabilize the country.

Militarization of Japan has given the US a foothold in its campaign against China, Russia, and North Korea. The Japan Self-Defense Forces were turned into a fully-fledged military a long time ago. Japanese diplomatic rhetoric demonstrates that official Tokyo is preparing for a possible new conflict in the region and that it will fight to further expand its zone of influence. The Japanese stance on the Kuril Islands territorial dispute with Russia is an example of this approach. Tokyo rejected a Russian proposal for joint economic management of four islands and nearby waters, while formally the islands will remain within Russian jurisdiction -at least for the coming years. Japan demands the full transfer of islands a term which is unacceptable to Russia from a military and political point of view. The social and economic situation in Japan was in a relatively stable, but guarded state.

Denuclearization talks between the United States and North Korea reached a stalemate after the North Korean leadership claimed that Washington was in no hurry to provide Pyongyang with acceptable terms and conditions of a possible nuclear deal. The example of the US unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran also played a role. The positive point is that tensions on the Korean Peninsula de-escalated anyway because the sides sat down at the negotiation table. Chances of the open military conflict involving North Korea and the United States remain low.

In February 2019, the Indian-Pakistani conflict over the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir put the greater region on the brink of a large war with potential for the use of nuclear weapons. However, both India and Pakistan demonstrated reasonable restraint and prevented further escalation despite an open confrontation between their militaries which took place at the same moment. Meanwhile, the February escalation demonstrated the growing power of Pakistan. In the coming years, look to Jammu and Kashmir as a point of constant instability and military tensions, with very little chance that the sides will find a comprehensive political solution to their differences.

The threat of terrorism is another destabilizing factor in the region. In 2019, ISIS cells made several attempts to strengthen and expand their presence in such countries as Malaysia and Indonesia. Law enforcement agencies of both countries are well aware of this threat and contribute constant and active efforts to combat this terrorism and radicalism. It should be noted that Malaysia is in conflict with the Euro-Atlantic elites because of its independent foreign policy course. For example, its government repeatedly questioned the mainstream MH17 narrative and officially slammed the JIT investigation as politicized and nontransparent. So, the leadership of the country is forced to be in a state of permanent readiness to repel clandestine and public attempts to bring it into line with the mainstream agenda.

While the European Union is, theoretically, the world’s biggest economy using the world’s second most popular currency in international transactions, it remains to be seen whether, in the future, it will evolve into a genuine component of a multi-polar international system or become a satellite in someone else’s—most likely US—orbit. There still remain many obstacles toward achieving a certain “critical mass” of power and unity. While individual EU member states, most notably Germany and France, are capable of independent action in the international system, individually they are too weak to influence the actions of the United States, China, or even Russia. In the past, individual European powers relied on overseas colonial empires to achieve great power status. In the 21st century, European greatness can only be achieved through eliminating not just economic but also political barriers on the continent. At present, European leaders are presented with both incentives and obstacles to such integration, though one may readily discern a number of potential future paths toward future integration.

Continued European integration would demand an agreement on how to transfer national sovereignty to some as yet undefined and untested set of European political institutions which would not only guarantee individual rights but, more importantly from the point of view of national elites, preserve the relative influence of individual EU member states even after they forfeited their sovereignty. Even if the Euro-skeptics were not such a powerful presence in EU’s politics, it would still be an insurmountable task for even the most visionary and driven group of political leaders. Such a leap is only possible if the number of EU states making it is small, and their level of mutual integration is already high.

The post-2008 Euro zone crisis does appear to have communicated the non-sustainability of the current EU integration approach, hence the recent appearance of “two-speeds Europe” concept which actually originated as a warning against the threat of EU bifurcation into well integrated “core“ and a less integrated “periphery”. In practical terms it would mean “core” countries, definitely including Germany, France, and possibly the Benelux Union, would abandon the current policy of throwing money at the less well developed EU member states and, instead, focus on forging “a more perfect Union” consisting of this far more homogeneous and smaller set of countries occupying territories that, over a thousand years ago, formed what used to be known as the Carolingian Empire. Like US territories of the 19th century, EU states outside of the core would have to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” to earn membership in the core, which would require them to adopt, wholesale, the core’s political institutions.

The deepening disproportion of EU member state economies, and therefore sharpening economic disputes, are the main factor of instability in Europe. The long-delayed withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the union, which is finally expected to take place in 2020, might trigger an escalation of internal tensions over economic issues which might blow up the EU from the inside. Other cornerstones of European instability are the extraordinary growth of organized crime, street crime, radicalism, and terrorism, most of which were caused by uncontrolled illegal migration and the inability of the European bureaucracy to cut off the flows of illegal migrants, integrate non-radicalized people into European society, and detect all radicals and terrorists that infiltrate Europe with migrants.

The situation is further complicated by the conflict in Ukraine and the destruction of international security treaties, such as the US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and its planned withdrawal from the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty). These developments go amid constant military and political hysteria of micro-states and Poland instigated by the Euro-Atlantic elites. The EU bureaucracy is using this state of hysteria and ramping up speculations about a supposed military threat from Russia and an economic and political threat from China to distract the public and draw attention away from the real problems.

The return of Russia as the diplomatic and military great power to Africa marked a new round of the geo-economic standoff in the region. The apparent Russian-Chinese cooperation is steadily pushing French and British out of what they describe as their traditional sphere of influence. While, in terms of economic strength, Russia cannot compete with China, it does have a wide range of military and diplomatic means and measures with which to influence the region. So, Beijing and Moscow seem to have reached a non-public deal on a “division of labor”. China focuses on implementation of its economic projects, while Russia contributes military and diplomatic efforts to stabilize the security situation, obtaining revenue for its military and security assistance. Moscow plays a second violin role in getting these guaranteed zones of influence. Terrorism is one of the main threats to the region. The Chinese-Russian cooperation did not go without a response from their Western counterparts that justified their propaganda and diplomatic opposition to Beijing-Moscow cooperation by describing Chinese investments as “debt-traps” and the Russian military presence as “destabilizing”. In 2019, Africa entered into a new round of great powers rivalry.

The intensification of US “soft power” and meddling efforts, social, economic tensions, activities of non-state actors, and organized criminal networks became the main factors of instability in South America. Venezuela and Bolivia were targeted by US-backed coups. While the Venezuelan government, with help from China and Russia, succeeded in repelling the coup attempt, Bolivia was plunged into a violent civil conflict after the pro-US government seized power. Chile remained in a state of social economic crisis which repeatedly triggered wide-scale anti-government riots. Its pro-US government remained in power, mainly, because there was no foreign ‘democratic superpower’ to instigate the regime change campaign. Actions of the government of Colombia, one of the key US regional allies, undermined the existing peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and forced at least a part of the former FARC members to take up arms once again. If repressions, killings, and clandestine operations aimed at the FARC members committed to the peace continue, they may lead to a resumption of FARC-led guerrilla warfare against the central government. The crisis developing in Mexico is a result of the growth of the drug cartels-related violence and economic tensions with the United States. The right-wing Bolsonaro government put Brazil on track with the US foreign policy course to the extent that, the country worked with Washington against Venezuela, claiming that it should not turn into ‘another Cuba’. A deep economic crisis in Argentina opened the road to power for a new left-centric president, Alberto Fernandez. Washington considers South America as its own geopolitical backyard and sees any non pro-US, or just national-oriented government, as a threat to its vital interests. In 2020, the US meddling campaign will likely escalate and expand, throwing the region into a new round of instability and triggering an expected resistance from South American states. An example of this is the situation in Bolivia. Regardless of the actions of ousted President Evo Morales, the situation in the country will continue escalating. The inability of the pro-US government to deliver positive changes and its simultaneous actions to destroy all the economic achievements of the Morales period might cause Bolivia to descend into poverty and chaos causing unrest and possibly, a civil war.

During 2019, the world superpower, led by the administration of President Donald Trump, provided a consistent policy designed to defend the interests of US domestic industry and the United States as a national state by any means possible. This included economic and diplomatic pressure campaigns against both US geopolitical competitors and allies. The most widely known Trump administration move of this kind was the tariff war with China. However, at the same time, Washington contributed notable efforts in almost all regions around the globe. For example, the United States opposed Chinese economic projects in Africa, Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in Europe, tried to limit exports of the Russian defense industry, pressured NATO member states who did not want to spend enough on defense, and proposed that US allies pay more for the honor and privilege of provided “protection”. Additionally, Trump pressured the Federal Reserve Board of Governors into lowering interest rates and announced plans to lower interest rates even further to weaken the dollar in order to boost national industry and increase its product availability on the global market. These plans caused strong resistance from international corporations and global capitalists because this move may undermine the current global financial system based upon a strong US dollar. This straightforward approach demonstrated that Trump and his team were ready to do everything needed to protect US security and economic interests as they see them. Meanwhile, it alienated some “traditional allies”, as in the case of Turkey which decided to acquire Russian S-400s, and escalated the conflict between the Trump Administration and the globalists. The expected US GDP growth in 2019 is 2.2%. The expected production growth of 3.9% reflects the policy aimed at supporting the real sector. In terms of foreign policy, the White House attempted to rationalize US military presence in conflict zones around the world. Despite this, the unprecedented level of support to Israel, confrontation with Iran, China, and Russia, militarization of Europe, coups and meddling into the internal affairs of sovereign states remain as the main markers of US foreign policy. Nevertheless, the main threat to United States stability originates not from Iranians, Russians, or Chinese, but rather from internal issues. The constant hysteria in mainstream media, the attempt to impeach Donald Trump, and the radicalization of different social and political groups contributes to destabilization of the country ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

The year 2019 was marked by a number of dangerous developments. In spite of this, it could have been much more dangerous and violent. Political leadership by key actors demonstrated their conditional wisdom by avoiding a number of open military conflicts, all of which had chances to erupt in the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, South America, and even Europe. A new war in the Persian Gulf, US military conflict with North Korea, an India-Pakistan war -none of these were started.  A peaceful transfer of power from Petro Poroshenko to Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine allowed for the avoidance of a military escalation in eastern Europe. China and the United States showed their restraint despite tensions in the Asia-Pacific, including the Hong Kong issue. A new global economic crisis, expected for some time by many experts, did not happen. The lack of global economic shocks or new regional wars in 2019 does not mean that knots straining relations among leading world powers were loosened or solved. These knots will remain a constant source of tension on the international level until they are removed within the framework of diplomatic mechanisms or cut as a result of a large military conflict or a series of smaller military conflicts.

Chances seem high that 2020 will become the year when a match will be set to the wick of the international powder keg, or that it will be the last relatively calm year in the first quarter of the 21st century. The collapse of international defense treaties and de-escalation mechanisms, as well as accumulating contradictions and conflicts among world nations give rise to an especial concern.

هل تعوض تركيا في ليبيا ما فاتها في سورية؟

ديسمبر 31, 2019

العميد د. أمين محمد حطيط _

لعبت تركيا منذ انطلاق الحرب الكونية ضد سورية، دور رأس الحربة في العدوان طامحة إلى اتخاذ سورية بوابة تدخل منها إلى كامل المنطقة العربية لإعادة إنتاج الدولة العثمانية البائدة وإعادة الروح إلى موقع خليفة المسلمين الذي طمح أردوغان بأن يلبس عباءته ويعتمّ بعمامته، متكئاً على تنظيم الإخوان المسلمين المعروف النشأة والسلوك والارتباط منذ أن ابتدع قبل قرن من الزمن.

ظن أردوغان ان حلمه الذي حشدت له قوى ناهزت الـ 260 ألف إرهابي، تقاطروا من 80 دولة، ممكن التحقق بأهون السبل وبأقصر المهل حتى ان غروره دفعه لتحديد مهلة 3 أشهر للتنفيذ، رآها كافية لأن تفتح له أبواب المسجد الأموي في دمشق ليؤمّ الصلاة فيه باعتباره “أمير المؤمنين” العائد إلى حكم المنطقة كما كان قبل الحرب العالمية الأولى. وبنى أردوغان كل حساباته وعقد الصداقات والتحالفات واتخذ مواقع العداء من الأطراف على أساس أن هذا الحلم محقق لا محالة وفقاً لهذا التخطيط.

لقد تصرّف أردوغان في الميدان مصدقاً نفسه بأنه بات فعلاً ولي أمر الشعب السوري وبأنه صاحب الولاية العامة على سورية وكل شؤونها، وسمح لنفسه بأن يوجه الأوامر للحكومة السورية ويضع الخطط لتنظيم حياة السوريين الذين حملهم على ترك بيوتهم واللجوء إلى مخيمات أعدّها مسبقاً في تركيا ثم شرع بالتعامل مع السوريين الذين وقعوا في فخه او قبضته او وصلت يده إليهم باعتبارهم رعايا للدولة العثمانية المستعادة واعتمد حيالهم سياسة التتريك والسلخ عن أصولهم وجذورهم سعياً لتكريس مفهوم رعايا السلطان الجديد بصددهم.

بالمقابل صمدت سورية وواجهت بصلابة العدوان الكوني الذي تنفذه تركيا وآخرون بدعم إقليمي ودولي، فشكل الرد الدفاعي السوري سداً منيعاً بوجه الأحلام التركية، حيث وجهت سورية وحلفاؤها الركلة ثم الصفعة، تعقبها ركله فصفعة لقوى العدوان. فأسقطت الحلم التركي على أبواب حلب التي سرق اردوغان معاملها وعلى أبواب دمشق التي زنّرها أردوغان بحزام إرهابي إجرامي خانق، ما ألزم أردوغان بالانكفاء إلى الحدود والتحصن في إدلب ومنطقتها إلى عفرين التي احتلها ثم راح يطرح المشاريع للشمال السوري من منطقة منزوعة السلاح إلى منطقة حظر جوي إلى منطقة آمنة إلى منطقة سلام إلى غيرها من التسميات التي جعلها عنواناً لمشاريعه العدوانية.

هنا وفي لحظة تعثر تركيا في سورية وانفضاض العدد الأكبر من تجمع أعداء سورية الدوليين، مدّت روسيا وإيران اليد إلى تركيا رغبة منهما بأن تراجع مواقفها وتوقف عدوانها على سورية ما يخفف من حجم متطلبات كسر العدوان على سورية وتقصير الوقت اللازم لاجتثاث الإرهاب منها وخفض الثمن اللازم لذلك. وهنا ننوه بان اليد الروسية – الإيرانية لم تمد إلى تركيا جهلاً بحقيقة الأهداف والسلوكيات التركية، بل كانت أملاً أن تراجع تركيا مواقفها بعد النتائج السلبية التي حصدتها وبالتالي فرصة لإخراج تركيا من مأزق مؤكد أدخلت نفسها فيه، في مقابل تحقيق مصلحة سورية مؤكدة تتمثل بالمحافظة على أمنها واستقلالها ووحدة أراضيها وسيادتها عليها. بهذه الخلفية تكوّنت منظومة أستانة الثلاثية لرعاية حل المسألة السورية.

لقد كانت أستانة ثم سوتشي، فرصة لتركيا لتخرج من مأزقها السوري، لا بل كانت فرصة لحجب الوجه العدواني الإجرامي البشع لأردوغان عبر تقديم تركيا عضواً في منظومة الأمن والسلام في المنطقة إلى جانب روسيا وأيران. لكن المطامع التركية والأحلام الخبيثة لدى أردوغان دفعته إلى اعتماد السياسة الزئبقية المتقلبة والمتنقلة بين صفتين صفة الراعي للسلام والأمن في المنطقة من خلال عضويته في مثلث استانة وصفة المعتدي صاحب المشروع التركي الخاص في سورية وهي الصفة الغالبة التي تتقدم أي اعتبار آخر. وامتهنت تركيا سياسة الكذب والانقلاب على التعهدات والنكول بالاتفاقات التي كانت تلتزم بموجبها بشيء ما ضد الإرهاب لدفع عجلة استعادة الأمن إلى سورية. وكان المشروع التركي الخاص هو المتقدم دائماً لا بل ان الخبث التركي دفع أردوغان إلى حد تسخير اتفاقات استانة وسوتشي في سبيل كسب الوقت والحؤول دون الجيش العربي السوري وتحرير إدلب. لعبة لعبها أردوغان منذ أيلول 2018 حيث كسب خلالها أكثر من 15 شهراً تأخيراً لانطلاق معركة تحرير إدلب من 65 الف إرهابي من السوريين والأجانب.

لقد استفاد أردوغان من هذا التأخير وأطلق عدوانه في شمال سورية تحت تسمية “نبع السلام” لإقامة المنطقة الآمنة، حسب زعمه وليتمكن من إنشاء حزام تركي بعمق 35 كلم وعرض 460 كلم داخل الأرض السورية، ليحدث فيه تغييراً ديمغرافياً ويفرض عليه تتريكاً يمكنه من اقتطاعه وإلحاقه بتركيا، ممنياً النفس أيضا بان يمنع سورية من تحرير منطقة إدلب ليضمها لاحقاً بالصيغ نفسها ما يمكنه من وضع اليد على مساحة إجمالية تزيد عن 25 ألف كلم2 أي مقدار 1/7 من الأراضي السورية.

لكن سورية ودفاعاً عن أراضيها وحماية لشعبها عملت على خطين في مواجهة الخطة التركية، فاندفعت قواتها إلى شرقي الفرات، حيث خططت تركيا لإنشاء المنطقة الآمنة تزامناً مع إعلان أميركا سحب جنودها من المنطقة، واستطاع الجيش السوري أن يجهض الخطة التركية بوصوله إلى الحدود مع تركيا في أكثر من نقطة ولم يتمكن الأتراك من احتلال أكثر من 4500 كلم2 من أصل 14000 خططوا لاحتلالها ثم، كانت المواجهات الميدانية التي تمكن من القول بأن عملية “نبع السلام” العدوانية التركية لم تنجح ولن تحقق أهدافها.

أما على الاتجاه الغربي فقد اطلقت سورية عملية تحرير إدلب مدعومة من روسيا وايران متجاوزة كل الكذب التركي والخداع الأردوغاني، انطلقت سورية للتحرير بالقوة بعد ان كانت وجهت رسائل ميدانية متتالية منذ مطلع العام 2018 ثم صيف 2018 حيث انتهت إلى تحرير خان شيخون. ثم كانت الرسالة السياسية العسكرية الأهم بزيارة الرئيس بشار الأسد إلى المنطقة ووقوفه على مشارف إدلب متعهداً بالتحرير التام والقريب، رسائل توخت سورية منها إفهام تركيا ان حبل الكذب قصير وان إدلب ستحرر بالقوة ان لم تنفذ تركيا تعهدها بإخراج الإرهابيين منها على مراحل نظمها اتفاق سوتشي بعد قرارات استانة.. وبهذا أحرج أردوغان على الاتجاهين الشرقي والغربي وكان وضعه في الغربي أصعب، نظراً لوجود 65 الف إرهابي سيكون مضطرا لتلقي نصفهم على الأقل في حال أنجزت سورية تحرير المنطقة وسيحار في وجهة استعمالهم ومصيرهم.

هنا وكعادته لجأ أردوغان إلى فتح باب عدوان جديد ضد دولة عربية أخرى، فكان اختياره لليبيا التي يؤمل ان يستغل حكومة السراج الإخوانية التي تقوم في طرابلس الغرب وأن يعدها بالدعم العسكري مقابل عقود إذعان توقعها معه في موضوع الحماية والثروة النفطية والغازية والمنطقة الاقتصادية الخاصة بها.

لقد اتجه أردوغان إلى ليبيا بعد سقوط حلمه في سورية، وبدأ بنقل الإرهابيين اليها من سورية في مهمة بالغة الخطورة والتعقيد حيث ستكون ليبيا اذا نجح مشروع أردوغان الجديد، ستكون محل تجميع الإرهابيين بقيادة تركية وسيشكل هؤلاء قوة ضاربة تتقدم الجيش التركي عندها يستطيع أردوغان ان يضغط بهم على كل من مصر والجزائر ويضمن الإمساك بقرار تونس والمغرب حيث الحكومات الإخوانية، وابتعد أردوغان كثيراً في حلمه هذه المرة واعتقد انه من ليبيا وبإرهابيين ينقلهم من سورية سيحكم الدول العربية في أفريقيا حيث يبدو انه أعاد النظر في لائحة الأولويات لديه، فبدل أن ينطلق من سورية للسيطرة على بلاد العرب في آسيا وأفريقيا يبدو انه قرر التمركز في ليبيا والتوجه منها شرقاً إلى مصر وغرباً إلى المغرب العربي فيضمن السيطرة ويتحكم بالغاز وأنابيبه معاً.

إنها أضغاث أحلام أردوغان التي لا نرى لها في ارض الواقع قابلية للتحقق في ظل وجود تكتل دولي منسق او ظرفي يواجهها خاصة بوجود الجهوزية المصرية والرفض الأوروبي والممانعة الروسية فضلاً عما ينتظره في الدول العربية ذاتها. لكن رغم الفشل المنتظر يبقى من شأن هذا الخطة التركية الإجرامية إثارة الفوضى وتسعير الصراع في المنطقة خدمة للمشروع الصهيوأميركي وخاصة ان مثل هذا الصراع سيمكن إسرائيل من التغلغل أكثر والدخول طرفاً او مكوناً في هذا الحلف او ذاك لتثبيت نفسها في المنطقة كقوة إقليمية قائدة فيكون أردوغان الفاشل في مشاريعه ناجحاً كالعادة في خدمة إسرائيل حليفته الاستراتيجية.

  • أستاذ جامعي وباحث استراتيجي.

SYRIAN ARMY PREPARES FOR OPERATION IN ALEPPO, TURKISH PROXIES MOVE TO LIBYA: WAR REPORT

South Front

The Syrian Army is preparing for a ground operation against radical militants in western Aleppo, sources close to the Damascus government claim. According to reports, the Syrian military was preparing for this operation during the past two months.

The operation in western Aleppo will complement the recent advance in southeast Idlib. Both of them are aimed at reopening the M5 highway that passes though western Syria.

Earlier in December, government forces liberated over 40 towns and villages in southeast Aleppo deploying in a striking distance from the militant-held city of Maarat al-Numan. The Syrian Army halted the advance in late December once again giving so-called moderate rebels a chance to separate from al-Qaeda-linked terrorists. Nonetheless, this move found no understanding among Idlib armed groups.

On December 28, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its Turkish-backed allies launched a large attack on Syrian Army positions in the recently-liberated towns of Al-Teh and Jarjanaz. However, they failed to break the army defense. At least two suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices launched by militants were destroyed before they were able to reach army positions.

Turkey is redeploying large groups of members of its proxy groups in Syria to Libya in order to support the pro-Turkish Government of National Accord (GNA) that is involved in the battle for Tripoli against the Libyan National Army (LNA). Videos from the ground show that Turkish-backed Syrian militants are already involved in the fighting on the ground. One of the groups involved in this operation is the al-Mu’tasim Division based in Syria’s northern Aleppo.

The deployment of Turkish-backed Syrian groups in Libya is another confirmation that the so-called Syrian opposition is just a batch of mercenaries and radicals that do not link their future with the territory of Syria and the Syrian state.

Erdogan Recycles Terrorists from Syria to Libya and Idlib Front Update

December 26, 2019

Arabi Souri

Syrian Arab Army - Hasakah - Idlib - Turkey - Erdogan - Trump - Putin - Russia - USA

Libya is the next destination for the anti-Islamic Wahhabi and Muslim Brotherhood terrorists loyal to the Turkish pariah Erdogan, meanwhile, the Syrian Arab Army gives the terrorists 24 hours to leave Maraat Noman.

Erdogan is now shifting to North Africa, there’s oil and there’s a new task assigned to the Zionist stooge: Cut off the road for China, keep Europe under check, and weaken Russia in that part of the world.

Mad at the Russian President Putin who didn’t notify him of the swift Syrian Arab Army operation in southeastern Idlib, Erdogan lashing out at Russia and trying his luck with the remnant of the international Muslim Brotherhood organization elsewhere. The terrorists who came to Syria and became part of the ‘Syrian Moderate Opposition’ will now be recycled into ‘Libyan Moderate Opposition.’

The Syrian leadership has waited more than 1 year and 1 month before deciding to implement the Astana Agreement by force, the agreement signed between Erdogan and Putin should have secured the vital arteries of M5 and M4 and reopened them between Aleppo and northeast Syria and the coastal side, and also with the southern provinces of Damascus and Daraa through Homs and Hama. These highways are literally the artery of the Syrian economy.

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad decided to not give Erdogan any further excuse after the latter started his military invasion into the northern parts of Syria. In a message to the Syrian Arab Army units positioned in southern Idlib, Dr. Assad gave them order to deploy north and northeast: ‘Every inch of Syria should be liberated.’

Assad to SAA: You’re Ready to Clean Idlib from Terror

After swiftly penetrating the territories and cleaning more than 40 villages and towns from al-Qaeda Levant (aka HTS and Nusra Front), the SAA is on the outskirts of the strategic town of Ma’rat al-Numan.

The Syrian Arab Army gave the terrorists in control of the city a 24 hours ultimatum to ‘leave or will never’. Tomorrow is a new day.

The following report by the Syrian Ikhbariya news channel briefs the situation and also mentions the airlifting of Trump forces from northeast Syria to northern Iraq:

The following report by the Syrian Ikhbariya news channel briefs the situation and also mentions the airlifting of Trump forces from northeast Syria to northern Iraq:The video is also available on BitChute: https://www.bitchute.com/video/Zgi4xEYdJCf7/

Transcript of the English translation of the above report:

The Turkish occupation forces withdrew groups of their terrorist organizations from the northern countryside of Hasakeh in preparation for their transfer to Libya, these forces continue to withdraw groups of their mercenaries from Ras al-Ain and its surroundings in the northern countryside of Hasakeh at the rate of approximately 60 terrorists from each terrorist group to send the terrorists to Libya through Turkish territory to get them into the battles that are taking place there.

The Turkish occupation forces have moved about 100 terrorists from Jaysh Al-Islam organization from their areas of deployment in the northern countryside of Hasakeh, to use them in the battles in Idlib’s southern countryside, in an attempt to support the terrorist organizations that have collapsed in front of the Syrian Arab Army.

On another front, two US coalition helicopters landed at the illegal Kharab al-Jir airport in al-Malikia countryside near the Iraqi border and withdrew US officers towards northern Iraq.

Since the beginning of the Turkish aggression on Syrian territory, the United States occupation forces transported hundreds of their soldiers and military equipment from several areas of Syria to Iraq through illegal corridors and airports.

End of the transcript.

At first, NATO invaded Libya and destroyed the state there turning it into a hub to export anti-Islamic Wahhabi and Muslim Brotherhood takfiri terrorists, it used the terrorists in a number of countries notably in Syria. Now after their defeat in Syria, it’s not possible to move on the previous plan and deploy them into Iran, that failed with the Iranians foiling the ‘protests’ plot there, and in Iraq which turned out more difficult than expected, and in Lebanon where the Hezb Allah – President Aoun’s alliance turned the tide against the plotter.

The only vulnerable place where the US can still stretch its last muscles is back to North Africa, where it can endanger the Mediterranean and cause endless worries for the EU, the AU, AL, and the rest of the world. (EU: European Union, AU: African Union, AL: what’s left of the Arab League). Not to serve any interests of the US or its people, on the contrary, it’s creating endless enemies for them while impoverishing them, it’s to serve the same old project: Greater Israel.

The ropes jumper who played Europe and Russia is a faithful servant for those who appointed him in a project they still think is viable, Erdogan also still thinks he can have a place in it. The mystery remains: Why did Putin save Erdogan from a confirmed end in 2016?

TURKISH-BASED ‘SYRIAN GOVERNMENT’ THREATENS DAMASCUS WITH MILITARY ACTION, WAR REPORT

South Front

Late on December 23, the Turkish-based “Syrian Interim Government” (an entity funded by Turkey in an attempt to legalize its actions in Syria) threatened the real Syrian government with a military action.

In a released statement, it claimed that forces that participated in Turkey’s Olive Branch and Euphrates Shield operations are now moving to Greater Idlib in order to support their counterparts in repelling an attack by “regime forces, Russia and Iranian militias”.

It remains unclear what “forces” the barely existing “defense ministry” is planning to send to Idlib because Turkish-backed militant groups are already supporting al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in the battle against the Syrian Army. The Turkish-backed coalition of militant groups, the National Front for Liberation, has always been a useful partner for al-Qaeda in Idlib.

On December 24, united forces of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the National Front for Liberation and several other militant groups launched a counter-attack in an attempt to retake the town of Jarjnaz from the Syrian Army and its allies.

Clashes between militants and government forces erupted near Jarjnaz itself and the villages of Ghadfa and Abud Dawha. Militants used at least one suicide vehicle borne improvised explosive device.

Pro-militant sources that “rebels” destroyed several pieces of military equipment belonging to the army and captured an armoured vehicle and a battle tank. The fighting in the area continued on December 25.

On December 24, a Turkish delegation visited Moscow to discuss the situation in Syria and Libya, as well as the existing bilateral cooperation. Taking into account that Turkey’s soft reaction to the encirclement of its observation post in Surman and the lack of Turkish Army attempts to establish more observation posts to stop the Syrian Army advance, it seems that Ankara once again sold its Idlib proxies to Russia.

GOVERNMENT FORCES REPEL ANOTHER MILITANT ATTACK ON JARJNAZ, CAPTURE ARMOURED VEHICLE (PHOTOS)

Click to see the full-size image

On December 25, the Syrian Army repelled another attack by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham on the town of Jarjnaz in southern Idlib. According to photos released online, government forces captured at least one armoured vehicle belonging to militants.

The situation on the frontline near Jarjnaz remains tense with the Syrian Army is preparing to develop its operation and storm the militant stronghold of Maarat al-Numan.

Click to see the full-size image
Click to see the full-size image

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