Turkey Will Get a Chunk of Syria: An Advantage of Being in NATO

Source

July 14, 2019

by Eric Zuesse for The Saker Blog

The success of Turkey’s takeover of Syria’s most pro-jihadist province, Idlib, is making less and less likely that Syria will be able to continue maintaining Idlib as being a part of Syria. (This is something I had predicted, back on 14 September 2018, to be possible or even likely, and now it is actually happening.) On July 10th, Reuters headlined “Assad hits a wall in Syrian war as front lines harden”, and reported that, “More than two months of Russian-backed operations in and around Idlib province have yielded little or nothing for Assad’s side. It marks a rare case of a military campaign that has not gone his way since Russia intervened in 2015. While resisting government attacks, the insurgents have managed to carve out small advances of their own, drawing on ample stocks of guided anti-tank missiles that opposition and diplomatic sources say have been supplied by Turkey.” It continues:

Moscow has appeared keen to preserve its ties with Ankara even as its air force bombs in support of Assad: Turkey says Russia has intervened to stop attacks on Turkish forces from Syrian government-held territory. … The Idlib area is dominated by Tahrir al-Sham, the jihadists formerly known as the Nusra Front. [And before that, they were called Al Qaeda in Syria, but Western news-agencies, such as Reuters, prefer not to mention that fact, especially because the U.S. used_Nusra to train ‘our’ proxy boots-on-the-ground ‘moderate rebels’ in Syria to bring down Syria’s Government. Elsewhere, the Reuters article calls them ‘insurgents’.] Some 300,000 people fleeing bombardment have moved toward the Turkish border since April, prompting the United Nations to warn that Idlib was on the brink of a “humanitarian nightmare”.

For Ankara, the Syrian opposition’s last major state sponsor, preventing another major influx of Syrian refugees is of paramount importance: Turkey already hosts 3.6 million of them. …

A Russian private military contractor who was based near Idlib province told Reuters that rebel fighters there are far more professional and motivated than their adversary. Pro-government forces cannot win the battle for Idlib unless Moscow helps them on the ground, he said. …

Of course the regime [that’s the legitimate Government, but Western ‘news’-agencies such as Reuters call it ‘the regime’, and most of their audience don’t even recognize that their own intelligence has just been insulted by calling Syria’s Government a ‘regime’ while calling the invading regimes, Turkey and U.S., not that] has the desire to recover Idlib by force [as if the sovereign Government of Syria doesn’t have this right], but … without the Russians it can’t[those nasty Russians, who are defending Syria from U.S.-Saud-backed proxy-armies that are led mostly by Al Qaeda in Syria], because there are many militants and the Russians are completely committed to the Turks,” the source said.

Syria’s Government is fighting hard against jihadist forces in Idlib who meet Turkey’s standard of being ‘moderate rebels’ against Syria’s Government, but unless Russian forces there — which were invited in by Syria’s Government, instead of being invaders there like Turkey and the United States are — will commit far more forces for the defense of Syria (which seems increasingly unlikely), Turkey will win Idlib as being a part of Turkey.

Consequently, Turkey is already starting to build infrastructure even immediately to the north and east of Idlib in order to stake its claim to a yet larger portion of Syria than just Idlib. This might not have been part of the deal that was worked out by Russia’s Putin, Iran’s Rouhani, and Turkey’s Erdogan, in Tehran, on 9 September 2018, which agreement allowed Turkey only to take over — and only on a temporary basis — Idlib province, which is by far the most pro-jihadist (and the most anti-Assad) of Syria’s 14 provinces. Turkey was instead supposed to hold it only temporarily, but the exact terms of the Turkey-Russia-Iran agreement have never been publicly disclosed.

Until that 9 September 2018 Tehran conference, Idlib had been the province to which Syria’s Government was busing defeated jihadists who had surrendered instead of choosing to stay and die where they were. Syria’s Government had given its surrounded jihadists this final option, in order to reduce as much as possible the numbers of jihadists’ civilian hostages who would also likely be killed in an all-out bombing campaign there. So, the existing population of Idlib, which was already the most pro-jihadist in Syria, was now starting to overflow with the additional thousands of defeated jihadists who had chosen to surrender instead of to be immediately killed.

At that time, just prior to the Tehran conference — and this was actually the reason why the conference was held — the U.S. and its allies, and the U.N., were demanding that an all-out invasion of Idlib, which had been planned by the Governments of Syria and of Russia, must not take place, for ‘humanitarian’ reasons. There was all that ‘humanitarian’ concern (led by the United States) for the world’s biggest concentration of Nusra and Nusra-led jihadists — and for Syria’s most jihadist-supporting civilian population. So much ‘kindness’, such ‘admirable’ ‘humanitarianism’. Furthermore the U.S. Government was threatening to greatly increase its forces against Syria if that invasion by Syria and by Russia into Idlib (which is, after all, part of Syria — so, what business is it, even of the U.N., at all?) were to be carried out. The Tehran conference was meeting in order to resolve that emergency situation (mainly America’s threats of a possible war against Russia), so as to forestall this attack.

However, now that it’s clear that Erdogan will not  follow through on his generally understood promise that this would be only a temporary military occupation of Idlib, the question is: what can Syria and Russia and Iran do to keep Idlib inside Syria, and whether they even want to do so. If Syria loses those jihadists, then not only will it lose the perhaps hundred thousand surviving jihadists there — many of whom came from other countries in order to fight against Syria’s secular Government — but also will lose some of those Idlib natives, who were always against Syria’s secular Government. Since those people would no longer be voting against Bashar al-Assad, because they would become Turks, this would actually be a Syrian political advantage for Assad. Yet, he has been resisting it, in order to hold Syria together. He has always been committed to holding Syria together.

Turkey’s negotiating position is exceptionally strong, because Turkey now is riding the fence between the U.S. alliance, NATO (of which Turkey has been the only predominantly Muslim member ever since it joined in 1952), versus Russia. According to a major report in English from Iran’s Fars News Agency — which had translated from published Arab sources in many countries and which report hasn’t been denied by any of them — Russia had saved Erdogan’s life on 15 June 2016, when there was a coup-attempt to get rid of him. Headlining on 20 July, just five days after the failed coup, “Erdogan Warned of Incoming Coup by Russian Alert”, Fars said that,

Several Arab media outlets, including Rai Alyoum, quoted diplomatic sources in Ankara as saying that Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization, known locally as the MIT, received intel from its Russian counterpart that warned of an impending coup in the Muslim state.

The unnamed diplomats said the Russian army in the region had intercepted highly sensitive army exchanges and encoded radio messages showing that the Turkish army was readying to stage a coup against the administration in Ankara.

The exchanges included dispatch of several army choppers to President Erdogan’s resort hotel to arrest or kill the president.

In any case, after that event, Turkey’s foreign policies definitely switched away from being clearly U.S.-allied, to being on the fence and calculated purely to serve Turkey’s advantage, no longer tied, at all, to NATO or the U.S., and, in many important respects, very much contrary to the U.S. regime. In fact, Erdogan has been emphatic that this coup had been led by Fethullah Gulen, a billionaire Muslim cleric, formerly allied with Erdogan, who since moving to the U.S. in 1999 has been his bitter enemy. In fact, some of NATO’s forces in Turkey were participating in the attempted coup. However, Erdogan holds on tenaciously to that NATO membership, because it gives Turkey enormous leverage it can use in order to grab territory from Syria, which the U.S. regime wants Turkey to do.

Here is how Erdogan has clearlly committed Turkey to taking at least parts of Syria’s northeast:

On 6 June 2018, Reuters headlined “Turkish university to open campus in northern Syria” and reported that, “Turkey’s Harran University, in the southeastern province of Sanliurfa [Turkey], said it is preparing to open a faculty in Al-Bab [Syria] for students in towns under Turkish control. … The Turkish cabinet has also approved opening a vocational high school in Jarablus [Syria] affiliated with Gaziantep University, Turkey’s official gazette said on Tuesday.”

On 30 July 2018, Syria.LiveuaMap headlined “Turkey start[s] to build highways starting from Cobanbey-al-Bab to Jarablus-Manbij in Syria” — all of which is in the parts of Syria’s north that Turkey controls.

On 23 May 2019, Gaziantep University posted an announcement of “The Global Syrian Refugee Crisis” conference to be held in Gaziantep, Turkey, on 14-18 October 2019, and also announced that: “The medium of instruction of our university is entirely English in %80 of faculties and Turkish in some faculties. However, after the ferocious civil war in Syria, we opened four departments (Engineering, Architecture, Administration and Theology) that teach in Arabic language. This was achieved by hiring Syrian academic staff in these programs which created opportunities for refugee students who want to continue their studies in Arabic.” So, it does seem to be Erdogan’s intention that directly across the border in Syria, this part of what has, until recently, been a part of Syria, is to be instead a part of Turkey. This would be the chief favorable outcome for the U.S. regime resulting from the Syrian portion of the CIA-planted “Arab Spring” rebellions in 2011.

On 27 May 2019, the Daily Sabah headlined “Turkey to Build New Faculties to Promote Higher Education in Northern Syria” and reported that

Gaziantep University, located in southern Turkey close to the Syrian border, decided to offer education for Syrians living in the northern part of the war-torn country, the areas that were liberated by Turkey’s two cross-border operations. … 

The university applied to Turkish education officials to set up four faculties in northern Syria’s al-Bab, Azaz and Mare districts, which is planned to focus on economics, business, teaching and engineering; some 2,700 prospective students have already taken proficiency exams. The faculties will be the second move by Gaziantep University as it previously opened a vocational school last year in Aleppo’s Jarablus district. While vocational education currently continues in five departments, the university is planning to expand it with four more and to provide education for 500 students.

In 2016, Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield and cleared about 2,000 kilometers of area in northern Syria, which was once dragged into darkness by the Daesh terrorist organization.

This seems to reflect Syria’s actual capitulation to Turkey, which henceforth is to control that area — permanently. The only question now is how large the seized area will turn out to be.

The first person, it seems, who recognized quickly the significance of this takeover was the tweeter “domihol” who on 28 May 2019 posted

Turkey is also throwing serious money at its seemingly permanent slice of Syria.

You don’t build universities just so Damascus can take it over soon.

Right below that is his:

I’m sorry to say – my prediction for Syria’s near and possibly medium term future still holds …

Dominic | دومينيك added,

[15 December 2018]  prediction:

TRUMP gets the oil & gas

ERDOGAN gets the water

PUTIN gets the “mission accomplished” moment …

9:49 AM – 28 May 2019

However, his predictions there (as is routine for tweets, which are good for communicating only bumper-stickers) are unsupported by anything. For example: Where is Turkey’s oil and gas? Is it actually anywhere near to the Turkish border? Here’s a map which shows where it is, and that’s certainly not near the Turkish border.

In addition, the U.S. regime is evidently preparing to assist Turkey’s takeover of parts of Syria, but focuses it specifically against Iran. On 24 May 2019, the U.S. State Department advertised a “Grant Opportunity” for NGOs to be “Supporting Local Governance and Civil Society in Syria” and are offering up to $75 million to each, in order to “Counter extremism and disinformation perpetuated by Iranian forces” and “End the presence of Iranian forces and proxies in Syria” and otherwise support America’s war against Iran. Perhaps the U.S. and Turkey have agreed that U.S. operations against Syria will continue in the Turk-seized areas after the U.S. occupation of the remaining parts of Syria has ended.

If Assad were to give a press conference now, the first question to ask would be: “Is Syria going to allow Turkish universities and highways to be built on Turk-seized Syrian territory?” Because, if the answer to that is anything like yes, then not only would it seem that Turkey has won against Syria and Russia and Iran, but so too has the U.S., whose fall-back position, ever since it first tried a coup in Syria in 1949, has been to at least break off a piece of Syria, when and if it failed to take the whole thing. The construction of a Turkish university, highway, and/or etc., in Syria, would be a huge apparent win for Donald Trump, but an even bigger apparent victory for Tayyip Erdogan, who now seems to be, yet again, a member of America’s alliance against Russia. (And Iran, too, would seem to be endangered by Syria’s apparent defeat in that part of Syria. But maybe not: is Turkey going to end altogether its alliance with the U.S.?)

Usually, successful aggression is impossible without allies, and the U.S., again, seems to have Turkey as one — and as an extremely important one (more important, perhaps, than ever before).

The U.S. Government wants to remove land from Syria’s Government. The Turkish Government wants to be the Government that actually takes it. So, U.S. and Turkey seem to have made a deal. Turkey took Syrian territory while promising (as the Qatar regime’s Al Jazeera headlined on 5 June 2018 — “YPG confirms withdrawal from Syria’s Manbij after Turkey-US deal”). Al Jazeera reported there that, “The Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) said its military advisers would leave the town of Manbij a day after Turkey and the United States said they reached an agreement on the armed group’s withdrawal.” Those two foreign invaders against Syria (Turkey and U.S.) came to this agreement in Washington DC, regarding their respective invasions: Turkish forces won’t conquer YPG (separatist-Kurd) forces in any part of Syria unless and until that part has already become instead a part of Turkey — swallowed-up by Turkey. The U.S. will be protecting those Kurds until the U.S. ends its military occupation of Syria. After that, those Kurds will be on their own.

Back on 10 January 2018, Elijah J. Magnier had commented,

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad also considers Turkey to be another occupying force in northern Syria. He would like to liberate the entire Syrian territory, which is not the case with Russia, which would prefer to end the war as soon as possible and undertake the work at the negotiating table.”

Magnier seems to have been correct: Russia appears not to be objecting to Turkey’s land-seizures in Syria. Therefore, Turkey is a “middle-man” between both U.S. and Russia — strategizing with both.

On 19 January 2018, Tony Cartalucci commented,

The Syrian government with support from its Russian, Iranian, and Lebanese allies has embarked on a major military operation to retake parts of Syria’s northern governorate of Idlib. As it does so, the US and its regional allies are rushing to position themselves to ensure the permanent partition of Syria is achieved.”

He continued (all of which has likewise subsequently been borne out):

It should be noted that Afrin is located between [Idlib and] territory Turkey is currently occupying. Turkish troops, should they seize Afrin [which they soon did], would effectively have expanded Turkey’s “Euphrates Shield” by 30 miles (53 km) and present an opportunity for its troops to link up with troops of Turkey’s “Idlib Shield.” This would create a large, singular buffer zone within which US-NATO forces could harbor militants driven back by Syria’s most recent offensive.

Depending on Turkey’s success, the zone could be expanded even further, even as far as including Idlib city itself[which happened in September of that year] – thus granting the US an opportunity to present it as a second Syrian “capital” much in the way Benghazi was used in Libya during US-led regime change there. There remains, however, the fact that Idlib is openly occupied and administered by Al Qaeda, making the proposal of transforming it into an “opposition capital” particularly dubious.

Meanwhile, the US itself continues its own uninvited, illegal occupation of Syrian territory east of the Euphrates, having previously justified the invasion and occupation of Syrian territory under the guise of fighting the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS). …

The US occupation of Syrian territory will be difficult for Damascus and its allies to contest without being drawn into a direct military confrontation. Turkey’s occupation may be easier to confound, but if sufficient political will exists to maintain it along with US backing, it could effectively result in a Golan Heights-style occupation of Syrian territory [by Turkey] that provides a long-term geopolitical pressure point versus Damascus for years to come.

And while US efforts to destroy Syria have fallen short, the US now permanently occupies territory within one of Iran’s closest and most important regional allies. Like a splinter under the skin turning septic, the US occupation will remain a constant potential source of wider infection both for Syria and the rest of the region.

Perhaps Cartalucci was the first person publicly to recognize what has been happening here.

On 8 February 2018, Russia’s RT bannered, “US-led coalition conducts ‘defensive’ airstrikes against Syrian forces”, and reported,

The US-led coalition has also firmly stressed its ‘non-negotiable right to act in self-defense,’ since its service members are embedded with the [anti-Syrian] ‘partners’ on ground in Syria. … ‘It’s very likely that the Americans have taken a course of dividing the country. They just gave up their assurances, given to us, that the only goal of their presence in Syria – without an invitation of the legitimate government – was to defeat Islamic State and the terrorists,’ Lavrov said.

All of this, likewise, has since been borne out. Key was the September 2018 Tehran summit of Erdogan, Putin and Rouhani (Syria not even being represented there), to decide how to handle Syria’s most pro-jihadist province: Idlib. (It’s even more jihadist than Raqqah, where ISIS was headquartered, and which is the second-most-jihadist.)

On 9 September 2018, the Turkish-Government-controlled (and this also means anti-Syrian) Daily Sabah newspaper bannered “The outcome of the Tehran summit” and reported that:

We know for a fact that Erdoğan’s goal was to prevent the Russians and the Assad regime from carrying out a comprehensive operation in Idlib. In this sense, he got what he wanted. At the joint press conference, the Russian president announced that the three countries, at the request of President Erdoğan, urged all parties to lay down their arms. As such, it became possible to prevent another humanitarian disaster, a new influx of refugees, the collapse of the Astana process [which Putin had established to replace the U.N.’s peace process immediately after Obama bombed on 17 September 2016 Syria’s Army at Deir Ezzor, thus violating the ceasefire agreement that his Secretary of State John Kerry had just signed with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on 9 September 2016and the radicalization of moderate opposition, who would have moved closer to the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) [Al Qaeda in Syria]. At the same time, a clear distinction was made between ‘terrorists’ and opposition groups. At the same time, there is no doubt that the Iranian president’s proposal to remove the United States from the east of the Euphrates river was in line with Erdoğan’s own agenda.

Actually, however, the truthfulness of that last sentence is still very much in doubt.

The ultra-reliable Al Masdar News reported on 10 September 2018 that

Russia and Iran have already informed Turkey that they will not accept any jihadist factions inside of Idlib; however, the latter is attempting to convince Moscow and Tehran to avoid carrying out the attack in favor of Ankara clearing these groups.”

Putin and Rouhani accepted Erdogan’s promise there (of “Ankara clearing those groups”), and consequently allowed Turkey’s troops to handle Idlib. But, evidently, Erdogan had been lying about that. He didn’t eliminate the jihadists — he has instead been protecting them (except that his forces attack the Kurdish-independence forces against Syria’s Government, the anti-Assad fighters whom Erdogan authentically has been obsessed to kill).

The very next day, on September 11th, Paul Mansfield at Syria News headlined “Erdogan Buys Time for Terrorists at the Tehran Summit” and he observed that

The Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah released the components of Turkey’s plan for Idlib. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out it effectively means annexing Syrian territory, entrenching Turkish proxy Free Syrian Army forces, while falsely legitimizing their presence through a trilateral agreement, one made (it should be mentioned) without the presence of the country it concerns: Syria.

On 18 September 2018, another of the Turkish regime’s major newspapers, Yeni Safak, headlined “Turkey tells 50,000 FSA fighters to be ready for deployment as tensions rise in Idlib” and reported that,

As the Assad regime and Russian warplanes viciously attack the last opposition-held stronghold of Syria’s Idlib, Turkey ramped up its military reinforcements in northern Syria and instructed over 50,000 Free Syrian Army (FSA) [that being the Turkish-led anti-Assadfighters stationed in Afrin, Azaz, Jarabulus, al-Bab and al-Rai to ‘be ready for military deployment.’”

This anti-Syrian report continued, “The Bashar al-Assad regime recently announced plans to launch a major military offensive in Idlib, which is controlled by various armed opposition groups.” It didn’t mention that those “armed opposition groups” were the members of Al Qaeda-led forces defeated elsewhere in Syria who had chosen to be bused by the Syrian Government into the most pro-jihadist Syrian province, Idlib, instead of to be outright shot to death on-the-spot by Syrian troops, where they had been fighting. Such crucial information was left out of Western news-reports.

It went on: “An attack on Syria’s Idlib, the last opposition-held stronghold, would be a massacre,” and (since this newspaper reflected Erdogan’s anti-Assad, meaning anti-Syrian, viewpoint) it alleged that “Russia and Assad regime target civilians” instead of try to exterminate jihadists — especially now in Idlib itself, to which Syria’s Government had, indeed, been busing the surviving defeated jihadists. (As was previously noted, the only alternative that Syria’s Government had had regarding those hold-out fighters would have been simply to go in and slaughter not only them but the human shields behind whom they were fighting, which would have enormously increased the civilian casualties, which the ‘barbaric’ Assad-led Government was always trying to avoid doing. So: that’s how and why so many of the Al Qaeda-led forces came to be collected inside Idlib to begin with.)

NOTE:

Erdogan might be a double-agent here. But how could Turkey be building infrastructure in Syria and not be permanently taking that land? All of those “seems to be” could be wrong, but it’s hard to see how Syria’s Government could accept any such blatant grab of land away from their nation. I had written on 14 September 2018 about Erdogan’s duplicity, headlining “U.S. Protects Al Qaeda in Syria, Proven”:

Erdogan is in both camps — America’s and Russia’s — and playing each side against the other, for what he wants. But he could turn out to be the biggest loser from ‘his’ success here.

If he exterminates Idlib’s jihadists, then the U.S. side will condemn him for it. But if he instead frees those jihadists to return to their home-countries, then both sides will condemn him for having done so.

The biggest apparent ‘winner’ from all this, Erdogan, could thus turn out to be the biggest real loser from it. And the biggest apparent ‘loser’ from it, Assad, could turn out to be the biggest real winner from it.

Then, three days later, on September 17th, I argued that the big winners from this will probably be Putin, Erdogan, Rouhani, and Assad. The headline of that was “Putin and Erdogan Plan Syria-Idlib DMZ as I Recommended”, and the basic case was presented that this would turn out to be only a feint on Erdogan’s part, and that he and Putin and Rouhani (and Assad) would all benefit from this feint by Erdogan, and take home the win. It still could be that. But only Erdogan himself probably knows. And who can read his mind? The main sign I would look at is whether Putin and Rouhani just ignore, as much as possible, Turkey’s ‘seizures’ of Idlib and of the most-jihadist parts of Aleppo province bordering Idlib to Idlib’s immediate east. (For example, this fundamentalist-Sunni family from Sweida — which is perhaps the most pro-jihadist southern province — migrated during the war to Al-Bab, which is Turk-controlled.) If Putin and Rouhani ignore Turkey’s solidification of its control over those areas of northwestern Syria, then this is how the U.S. side and proxy forces — jihadists and Kurdish fanatics — might lose in Syria, and be forced out of there. This Turkish ‘win’ would entail a loss for both the U.S. and its proxy-forces, especially the Kurds. But it would also entail Syria’s loss of the areas that were always the greatest thorn in Assad’s side. In that case, America’s former proxy-forces in northwest Syria — Al Qaeda’s surviving Syrian forces, plus the separatist Kurdish forces — would henceforth be under Erdogan’s control. If Putin, Rouhani and Assad won’t object to that, then the main loser could be the U.S. regime, which would cede to Erdogan not only America’s last holdout in Syria but also all of its proxy-forces in Syria, henceforth to be totally subject to whatever Erdogan has in mind for them. However, the biggest losers could still be the Turkish and the American regimes. But that would be true only if the surrounded U.S. forces in Syria’s northeast become forced out. If the U.S. occupation stays in Syria, then the U.S. and Turkey will have taken all of northern Syria. But no oil or gas is there, either. (It’s south of there.) What, consequently, is this war even about, any longer? Is it about contending national leaders who refuse to acknowledge defeat? Is that now the only real reason for all of this ongoing death, and destruction? Is it just pure ego?

If Turkey quits NATO, then the biggest loser from the end-part of the Syrian war would be the U.S. and its allies. But, of course, the biggest losers from the entire war are the Syrian people. There’s no doubt, whatsoever, about that.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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Syrian army units repel foreign terrorists’ large-scale attack in Hama

Created on Friday, 12 July 2019 16:19

HAMA, IDLEB, (ST)_ Syrian army units have repelled a large-scale attack launched by terrorist groups on Hmamiyat town axis in the northern countryside of Hama where many terrorists were killed and injured.

According to the Syrian news agency (SANA), the attack was launched by foreign terrorists and a fierce clash erupted between them and the Syrian army units.

“Armored cars and vehicles for terrorists were destroyed,” SANA said, asserting that the terrorist attackers were inflicted heavy losses.

The terrorists had got the cars and the sophisticated weapons from the Turkish regime and they pushed foreign suicide bombers  to start the attack in order to capture Hmamiyat hill, but the army units foiled their plan and repelled the attack.

Recently, Local sources affirmed that the Turkish regime provided al-Nusra Front terrorists and affiliated groups with armored cars and anti-missiles weapons in order to attack Syrian army posts  to break through army’s frontlines.

Moreover, Syrian army units continued to target terrorist groups’ movements and hideouts in Ariha and Ma’arret al-No’aman areas in the southern countryside of Idleb, killing and injuring many terrorists.

Basma Qaddour

Military Situation In Northwestern Syria On July 13, 2019 (Map Update)

MILITARY SITUATION IN NORTHWESTERN SYRIA ON JULY 13, 2019 (MAP UPDATE)

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Shifting Alliances: Is Turkey Now “Officially” an Ally of Russia? Acquires Russia’s S-400. Exit from NATO Imminent?

Global Research, July 13, 2019

Turkey is taking delivery of Russia’s S 400 missile defence system. What this signifies is that Turkey and Russia are now “officially” allies. The first shipment of the S-400 landed in Ankara on July 12, according to Turkey’s Ministry of Defense. (see image below)

Two more shipments are due, with the third delivery of “over 120 anti-aircraft missiles of various types… [scheduled] tentatively at the end of the summer, by sea.” 

Reports confirm that the “Turkish S-400 operators will travel to Russia for training in July and August. About 20 Turkish servicemen underwent training at a Russian training center in May and June, …”(CNN, July 12, 2019)

How will the US respond?

In all likelihood, Erdogan’s presidency will be the object of an attempted regime change, not to mention ongoing financial reprisals directed against the Turkish Lira as well as economic sanctions. 

Bloomberg screenshot

What is unfolding is an all out crisis in the structure of military alliances. Turkey cannot reasonably retain its NATO membership while at the same time entering into a military cooperation agreement with the Russian Federation. 

Reminiscent of World War I, shifting alliances and the structure of military coalitions are crucial determinants of history.

Today’s military alliances, including “cross-cutting coalitions” between “Great Powers” are markedly different and exceedingly more complex than those pertaining to World War I. (i.e  the confrontation between “The Triple Entente” and “the Triple Alliance”).

Turkey’s de facto exit from NATO points to a historical shift in the structure of military alliances which could potentially contribute to weakening US hegemony in the Middle East as well as creating conditions which could lead to a breakup of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

NATO constitutes a formidable military force composed of 29 member states, which is largely controlled by the Pentagon. It is a military coalition and an instrument of modern warfare. It constitutes a threat to global security and World peace. 

Divisions within the Atlantic Alliance could take the form of one or more member states deciding to “Exit NATO”. Inevitably an NATO-Exit movement would weaken the unfolding consensus imposed by our governments which at the this juncture in our history consists in threatening to wage a pre-emptive war against Iran and the Russian Federation.  

Sleeping with the Enemy

While Turkey is still “officially” a member of NATO, president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (right) has for the last two years been developing “friendly relations” with two of America’s staunchest enemies, namely Iran and Russia.

US-Turkey military cooperation (including US air force bases in Turkey) dates back to the Cold War.

Turkey by a long shot has the largest conventional forces (after the US) within NATO outpacing France, Britain and Germany,

#NATOExit

Broadly speaking, the US-Turkey rift and its implications for the Atlantic Alliance have sofar been ignored or trivialized by the media.

NATO is potentially in a shambles. The delivery of the S-400 almost a year ahead of schedule will contribute to further destabilising the structure of  military alliances to the detriment of Washington.

Turkey is also an ally of Iran. Inevitably, Turkey’s possession of the S-400 will affect ongoing US war plans directed against Iran (which will also be acquiring the s-400).

Does this mean that Turkey which is a NATO member state will withdraw from the integrated US-NATO-Israel air defense system? Such a decision is tantamount to NATOExit.

Moreover, Turkey’s long-standing alliance with Israel is no longer functional. In turn, The US-Turkey-Israel “Triple Alliance” is defunct.

In 1993, Israel and Turkey signed a Memorandum of Understanding leading to the creation of (Israeli-Turkish) “joint committees” to handle so-called regional threats. Under the terms of the Memorandum, Turkey and Israel agreed “to cooperate in gathering intelligence on Syria, Iran, and Iraq and to meet regularly to share assessments pertaining to terrorism and these countries’ military capabilities.”

Image on the right: Sharon and Erdogan in 2004

The triple alliance was also coupled with a 2005 NATO-Israeli military cooperation agreement which included “many areas of common interest, such as the fight against terrorism and joint military exercises.”  These military cooperation ties with NATO were viewed by the Israeli military as a means to “enhance Israel’s deterrence capability regarding potential enemies threatening it, mainly Iran and Syria.”

The “triple alliance” linking the US, Israel and Turkey was coordinated by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was an integrated and coordinated military command structure pertaining to the broader Middle East. It was based on close bilateral US military ties respectively with Israel and Turkey, coupled with a strong bilateral military relationship between Tel Aviv and Ankara. In this regard, Israel and Turkey were close partners with the US in planned aerial attacks on Iran since 2005. (See Michel Chossudovsky, May 2005). Needless to say, that triple alliance is defunct.

With Turkey siding with Iran and Russia, it would be “suicide” for US-Israel to even consider waging aerial attacks on Iran.

Moreover, the NATO-Israel 2005 military cooperation agreement which relied heavily on the role of Turkey is dysfunctional. What this means is that US-Israeli threats directed against Iran are no longer supported by Turkey which has entered into an alliance of convenience with Iran.

The broader Realignment of Military alliances

The shift in military alliances is not limited to Turkey. Following the rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is in disarray with Qatar siding with Iran and Turkey against Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Qatar is of utmost strategic significance because it shares with Iran the world’s largest maritime gas fields in the Persian Gulf. (see map below)

The Al-Udeid military base near Doha is America’s largest military base in the Middle East, which hosts US Central Command’s forward headquarters in the Middle East. In turn, Turkey has now established its own military facility in Qatar.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

A profound shift in geopolitical alliances is also occurring in South Asia with the instatement in 2017 of both India and Pakistan as full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).  Inevitably, this historic shift constitutes a blow against Washington, which has defense and trade agreements with both Pakistan and India. “While India remains firmly aligned with Washington, America’s political stranglehold on Pakistan (through military and intelligence agreements) has been weakened as a result of Pakistan’s trade and investment deals with China.”  (Michel Chossudovsky, August 1, 2017)

In other words, this enlargement of the SCO weakens America’s hegemonic ambitions in both South Asia and the broader Eurasian region. It has a bearing on energy pipeline routes, transport corridors, borders and mutual security and maritime rights.

Pakistan is the gateway to Afghanistan and Central Asia, where US influence has been weakened to the benefit of China, Iran and Turkey. China is involved in major investments in mining, not to mention the development of transport routes which seek the integration of Afghanistan into Western China.

Where does Turkey fit in? Turkey is increasingly part of the Eurasian project dominated by China and Russia. In 2017-18, Erdogan had several meetings with both president Xi-Jinping and Vladimir Putin. Turkey is currently a dialogue partner of the SCO.

The Antiwar Movement: #NATOExit People’s Movement

Of crucial significance, the crisis within NATO constitutes a historic opportunity to develop a #NATOExit people’s movement across Europe and North America, a people’s movement pressuring governments to withdraw from the Atlantic Alliance, a movement to eventually dismantle and abolish the military and political apparatus of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Image right; logo of the No Guerra No Nato Florence Movement to Exit NATO

Part of this updated article was taken from an earlier text by the author.

Sultan shines in the court of the Dragon King

Sultan shines in the court of the Dragon King

by Pepe Escobar : Posted with permission

July 10, 2019

The graphiSultan shines in the court of the Dragon Kingc image of Turkey pivoting away from NATO towards the Russia-China strategic partnership was provided, in more ways than one, by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing right after the G20 in Osaka.

Turkey is a key hub in the emerging New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative. Erdogan is a master at selling Turkey as the ultimate East-West crossroads. He has also expressed much interest in joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), led by Russia-China, whose annual summit took place in Bishkek a few days before Osaka.

In parallel, against hell and high water – from threats of sanctions by the US Congress to NATO warnings – Erdogan never budged from Ankara’s decision to buy Russian S-400 defense missile systems, a $2.5-billion contract according to Rostec’s Sergei Chemezov.

The S-400s start to be shipped to Turkey as early as this week. According to Turkish Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar, their deployment should start by October. Much to Washington’s ire, Turkey is the first NATO member state to buy S-400s.

Xi, as he welcomed Erdogan in Beijing, stressed the message he crafted together with Putin in their previous meetings in St Petersburg, Bishkek and Osaka: China and Turkey should “uphold a multilateral world order with the United Nations at its core, a system based on international law.”

Erdogan, for his part, turned up the charm – from publishing an op-ed in the Global Times extolling a common vision of the future to laying it out in some detail. His target is to consolidate Chinese investment in multiple areas in Turkey, directly or indirectly related to Belt and Road.

BEIJING, CHINA – JULY 02: President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) walk past the honor guards during an official welcoming ceremony at Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China on July 02, 2019. Volkan Furuncu / Anadolu Agency

Addressing the extremely sensitive Uighur dossier head on, Erdogan deftly executed a pirouette. He eschewed accusations from his own Foreign Ministry that “torture and political brainwashing” were practiced in Uighur detention camps and would rather comment that Uighurs “live happily” in China. “It is a fact that the peoples of China’s Xinjiang region live happily in China’s development and prosperity. Turkey does not permit any person to incite disharmony in the Turkey-China relationship.”

This is even more startling considering that Erdogan himself, in the past decade, had accused Beijing of genocide. And in a famous 2015 case, hundreds of Uighurs about to be deported from Thailand back to China ended up, after much fanfare, being resettled in Turkey.

New geopolitical caravan

Erdogan seems to have finally realized that the New Silk Roads are the 2.0 digital version of the Ancient Silk Roads whose caravans linked the Middle Kingdom, via trade, to multiple lands of Islam – from Indonesia to Turkey and from Iran to Pakistan.

Before the 16th century, the main line of communication across Eurasia was not maritime, but the chain of steppes and deserts from Sahara to Mongolia, as Arnold Toynbee wonderfully observed. Walking the line we would find merchants, missionaries, travelers, scholars, all the way to Turko-Mongols from Central Asia migrating to the Middle East and the Mediterranean. They all formed the stuff of interconnection and cultural exchange between Europe and Asia – way beyond geographical discontinuity.

Arguably Erdogan is now able to read the new tea leaves. The Russia-China strategic partnership – directly involved in linking Belt and Road with the Eurasia Economic Union and also the International North-South Transportation Corridor – considers Turkey and Iran as absolutely indispensable key hubs for the ongoing, multi-layered Eurasia integration process.

A new Turkey-Iran-Qatar geopolitical and economic axis is slowly but surely evolving in Southwest Asia, ever more linked to Russia-China. The thrust is Eurasia integration, visible for instance via a frenzy of railroad building designed to link the New Silk Roads, and the Russia-Iran transportation corridor, to the Eastern Mediterranean and the Red Sea and, eastwards, the Iran-Pakistan corridor to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, one of Belt and Road’s highlights.

This is all being supported by interlocking transportation cooperation agreements involving Turkey-Iran-Qatar and Iran-Iraq-Syria.

The end result not only consolidates Iran as a key Belt and Road connectivity hub and China’s strategic partner, but also by contiguity Turkey – the bridge to Europe.

As Xinjiang is the key hub in Western China connecting to multiple Belt and Road corridors, Erdogan had to find a middle ground – in the process minimizing, to a great extent, waves of disinformation and Western-peddled Sinophobia. Applying Xi Jinping thought, one would say Erdogan opted for privileging cultural understanding and people-to-people exchanges over an ideological battle.

The flags of China and Turkey flutter in Beijing during Erdogan’s visit to China on July 2. Photo: Wang Xin/ ImagineChina / AFP

Ready to mediate

In conjunction with his success at the court of the Dragon King, Erdogan now feels emboldened enough to offer his services as mediator between Tehran and the Trump administration – picking up on a suggestion he made to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the G20.

Erdogan would not have made that offer if it had not been discussed previously with Russia and China – which, crucially, are member signatories of the Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA).

It’s easy to see how Russia and China should consider Turkey the perfect mediator: a neighbor of Iran, the proverbial bridge between East and West, and a NATO member. Turkey is certainly much more representative than the EU-3 (France, UK, Germany).

Trump seems to want – or at least gives the impression of imposing – a JCPOA 2.0, without an Obama signature. The Russia-China partnership could easily call his bluff, after clearing it with Tehran, by offering a new negotiating table including Turkey. Even if the ineffective – in every sense – EU-3 remained, there would be real counterbalance in the form of Russia, China and Turkey.

Out of all these important moves in the geopolitical chessboard, one motivation stands out among top players: Eurasian integration cannot significantly progress without challenging the Trumpian sanction obsession.

سورية واستراتيجية استكمال التحرير والتطهير

يوليو 9, 2019

العميد د. أمين محمد حطيط

في خريف العام الفائت كان المراقبون جميعاً ينتظرون إطلاق عملية تحرير إدلب على يد الجيش السوري وحلفائه ويتوقعون دعماً نارياً روسياً ملائماً لهذه العملية المعقدة والتي يعترضها الكثير من العوائق والصعوبات الناتجة عن ظروف شتى عملانية وسياسية واستراتيجية وحتى ديمغرافية.

لكن روسيا التي وقفت على هذه العقبات وما يرافقها أيضاً من مخاطر التدخل الأميركي والغربي ومع ما تستلزمه من تضحيات وحاجة إلى تحشيد قدر كبير من القوى والطاقات للتنفيذ، روسيا هذه رأت ان تبحث في خيار أخر يؤمّن تحقيق الغاية السورية من جهة، ولا يمسّ بالسعي الروسي إلى تهيئة الظروف المسهّلة لاستعادة دورها الدولي في عداد الصف الأول من القوى الدولية الفاعلة من جهة أخرى.

وقد رمى الخيار الروسي إلى تجنّب التحرير بالعمل العسكري الصاخب والوصول اليه بعملية متدرّجة مركبة تعتمد على تركيا في بعض وجوهها دون إسقاط الدور المركزي للجيش العربي السوري، ولأجل ذلك استبقت روسيا إطلاق عملية تحرير إدلب بعقد اتفاق سوتشي مع تركيا، الاتفاق الذي شاءته بديلاً مرحلياً للعمل العسكري وتوطئة له في نهاية المطاف لكن في ظروف وبيئة مختلفة.

هنا أدركت تركيا حاجة روسيا إليها لتجنّب العمل العسكري، فأبرمت الاتفاق مع نية الانقلاب عليه او إفراغه من مضمونه منذ لحظة توقيعه، ورغم انّ روسيا أدركت هذا الانقلاب والغدر التركي فإنها ولأسباب ذاتية وإقليمية ودولية امتنعت عن مواجهة تركيا وراهنت على إمكانية إعادتها إلى الاتفاق بالقدر المتيسّر لانّ لروسيا مصالح استراتيجية مع تركيا ترى انّ عدم تحقيقها الآن قد يعني استحالة تحقيقها مطلقاً في المستقبل.

فروسيا تدرك انّ فشل تركيا في مشروعها الإقليمي العام المتضمّن سيطرة الإخوان المسلمين بقيادتها على كامل المنطقة، وانّ برودة العلاقة مع الغرب الأوروبي حتى وجفافها انْ لم نقل أكثر، وانّ شبه العزلة الإقليمية التي تعاني منها تركيا نتيجة تشكل العداوات التي تصبغ علاقاتها مع كلّ دول المنطقة إلا القليل منها قطر مثلاً روسيا تدرك ظروف تركيا هذه وتتصوّر أنها اللحظة المناسبة لجذب تركيا اليها وتجميد موقعها في الحلف الأطلسي وتحييدها في الصراع بين الشرق والغرب، أهداف إذا تحققت تكون قد أحدثت انقلاباً استراتيجياً في العلاقات الدولية ومستقبل النظام العالمي برمّته، انقلاب يكون طبعاً لصالح روسيا على حساب أوروبا وأميركا.

لهذه الأسباب رأت روسيا انّ مسايرة تركيا او ممالأتها وغضّ النظر عن تراجعها في تنفيذ الاتفاقات حول إدلب وسواها في سورية هو أمر متسامَح به إذا تمّ النظر اليه من باب المصالح الاستراتيجية الروسية الكبرى التي يحققها هذا التسامح او التساهل، وفي الوقت نفسه رأت تركيا انّ بإمكانها استثمار الحاجة الروسية تلك إلى الحدّ الأقصى من أجل منع عملية تحرير إدلب ومنحها الوقت اللازم لفرض مشروعها الخاص او تحقيق أكبر قدر من المكاسب في سورية، مكاسب تعوّل عليها لحجب أو تخفيف مفاعيل فشلها الاستراتيجي الإقليمي العام الذي لم يبق لها تقريب سوى الميدان التونسي محلاً لتحقيق الربح والميدان الليبي محلاً للمناورة.

في ظلّ هذا الوضع، ومع توجه الإرهابيين في إدلب وبدعم تركي لجرّ الجيش السوري إلى حرب استنزاف في أرياف حماة وحلب وإدلب، لحرفه عن عملية التحرير وإشغاله عن الخطة العدوانية التركية، اتخذت سورية قراراً ترجمت به استقلالية القرار السوري وعملت وفقاً لجدول الأولويات العسكرية السورية مع مراعاتها للإمكانات الميدانية والظروف الإقليمية والدولية، واعتمدت في ذلك استراتيجية مطوّرة تقوم على مقومات أربعة هي:

1 ـ الحركة الدائمة والمتواصلة والمدروسة في الميدان وتجنّب الوقوع في فخ حرب الاستنزاف كما تجنّب إعطاء الذرائع للقوى المعادية ومكوّنات معسكر العدوان بقيادة أميركية، الذرائع التي تستغلّ من أجل العدوان المباشر على قوات وتشكيلات ومراكز الجيش العربي السوري.

2 ـ اقتياد التجمّعات الإرهابية إلى حرب تستنزفها وتضعفها وتشتّت قواها وتدمّر مراكزها النارية والقيادية بما يمنعها عن شنّ عمليات عسكرية واسعة تمكّنها من احتلال أرض وإفساد أمنها.

3 ـ تحرير الأرض بالقضم المتتابع المتدرّج وإنتاج بيئة عملانية ملائمة لإطلاق عملية التحرير الإلزامية النهائية التي لا يمكن إغفالها في مسيرة استعادة إدلب إلى حضن الدولة والوصول إلى الحدود الدولية مع تركيا بعد إجهاض المشروع التركي في سورية.

4 ـ تحييد القدر الأكبر من المدنيين في المنطقة وإتاحة الفرص لهم للانتقال إلى مناطق آمنة وتجنيبهم مخاطر الحرب.

لقد انطلقت سورية في تنفيذ خطتها تلك مع علمها الكامل باهتمامات الآخرين ومصالحهم، ووقوفها على وجهتي النظر القائمتين حول تحرير إدلب… وجهة النظر الداعية إلى الحلول السياسية مع ضغط عسكري ووجهة النظر الرامية إلى العمل العسكري المنتج لحلول سياسية، في مواجهة خطط معسكر العدوان المتمثلة في الاستراتيجية الأميركية الرامية إلى إطالة أمد الصراع ومنع تحرير إدلب وشرقي الفرات في الوقت الراهن، والخطة التركية الرامية إلى إنشاء مناطق نفوذ في الأرض السورية تحت تسميات متعدّدة تتقاطع كلها عند فكرة السيطرة التركية الميدانية على قطاع من الأرض يمكن تركيا من التأثير في القرار السوري المركزي.

لكن سورية التي عرفت كيف تخوض المواجهة وأخذت بعين النظر ما يشتمل عليه الميدان والإقليم من مؤثرات، واختارت ما يناسبها، حيث أثبتت الوقائع القائمة أنها نجحت في خيارها الاستراتيجي وحققت حتى الآن مكاسب لا بأس بها تستطيع ان تبني عليها خلال الأسابيع المقبلة لتتوسّع في عملية التحرير بالقضم المتتابع، وتفكيك فصائل الإرهاب وإعاقة لا بل منع المشروع التركي من تحقيق أهدافه، ويبدو أنّ هناك محطة مهمة في شهر آب المقبل تتمثل في الاجتماع الثلاثي الروسي الإيراني التركي، اجتماع قد يعوّل عليه من أجل مزيد من كشف الخطط التركية العدوانية وللتأكيد على انّ الوقت شارف على النفاذ ولن يكون بوسع تركيا أن تناور بشكل إضافي.

وعليه نرى وربطاً بين ملفي تحرير ما تبقى في سورية، وإنقاد الاتفاق النووي الإيراني، نرى انّ مطلع أيلول المقبل سيكون تاريخاً للخيارات الاستراتيجية الهامة، فإما تكيّف دولي مع إرادة سورية في التحرير وإيرانية في ممارسة الحقوق الوطنية المتصلة بملفها النووي ورفض الحرب الاقتصادية، أو تصعيد ومواجهة ستكون منطقة إدلب محلاً لها لانطلاق التحرير عسكرياً، مع احتمال احتكاك محدود مسيطر عليه بين إيران ومن يستهدفها يكون الخليج بشكل خاص ميدانه الأكثر احتمالاً وبهذا سيؤكد مجدّداً نجاح الصبر الاستراتيجي الذي مارسته إيران في استراتيجية النقطة نقطة ومارسته سورية باستراتيجية القضم المتتابع.

أستاذ جامعي ـ باحث استراتيجي

A Major Conventional War Against Iran Is an Impossibility. Crisis within the US Command Structure

Global Research, July 08, 2019

In this article, we examine America’s war strategies, including its ability to launch an all out theater war against the Islamic Republic on Iran.

A follow-up article will focus on the History of US War Plans against Iran as well as the complexities underlying the Structure of Military Alliances. 

**

Under present conditions, an Iraq style all out Blitzkrieg involving the simultaneous deployment of ground, air and naval  forces is an impossibility. 

For several reasons. US hegemony in the Middle East has been weakened largely as a result of the evolving structure of military alliances.

The US does not have the ability to carry out such a project.

There are two main factors which determine America’s military agenda in relation to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

1. Iran’s Military

There is the issue of Iran’s military capabilities (ground forces, navy, air force, missile defense), namely its ability to effectively resist and respond to an all out conventional war involving the deployment of US and Allied forces. Within the realm of conventional warfare,  Iran has sizeable military capabilities. Iran is to acquire Russia’s S400 state of the art air defense system.

Iran is ranked as “a major military power” in the Middle East, with an estimated 534,000 active personnel in the army, navy, air force and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It has advanced ballistic missile capabilities as well as national defense industry. In the case of a US air attack, Iran would target US military facilities in the Persian Gulf.

2. Evolving Structure of Military Alliances

The second consideration has to do with the evolving structure of military alliances (2003-2019) which is largely to the detriment of the United States.

Several of America’s staunchest allies are sleeping with the enemy.

Countries which have borders with Iran including Turkey and Pakistan have military cooperation agreements with Iran. While this in itself excludes the possibility of a ground war, it also affects the planning of US and allied naval and air operations.

Until recently both Turkey (NATO heavyweight) and Pakistan were among America’s faithful allies, hosting US military bases.

From a broader military standpoint, Turkey is actively cooperating with both Iran and Russia. Moreover, Ankara will be acquiring in 2020 Russia’s state of the art S-400 air defense systemwhile de facto opting out from the integrated US-NATO-Israel air defense system.

Needless to say the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is in crisis. Turkey’s exit from NATO is almost de facto. America can no longer rely on its staunchest allies. Moreover, US and Turkish supported militia are fighting one another in Syria.

Iraq has also indicated that it will not cooperate with the US in the case of a ground war against Iran.

Under present conditions, none of Iran’s neigbouring states including Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Armenia would allow US-Allied ground forces to transit through their territory.

In recent developments, Azerbaijan which in the wake of the Cold War became a US ally as well as a member of NATO’s partnership for peace has changed sides. The earlier US-Azeri military cooperation agreements are virtually defunct including the post-Soviet GUAM military alliance (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova).

Bilateral military and intelligence agreements between Iran and Azerbaijan were signed in December 2018. In turn, Iran collaborates extensively with Turkmenistan. With regard to Afghanistan, the internal situation with the Taliban controlling a large part of Afghan territory, would not favor a large scale deployment of US and allied ground forces on the Iran-Afghan border.

The Gulf of Oman

With the 2017 split up of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Oman appears to be aligned with Iran. Under these circumstances, the transit of US war ships to the headquarters of the US Fifth fleet in Bahrain not to mention the conduct of naval operations in the Persian Gulf are potentially in jeopardy. (For details see our analysis below)

Visibly, the policy of strategic encirclement against Iran formulated in the wake of the Iraq war (2003) is no longer functional. Iran has friendly relations with neighbouring countries, which previously were within the US sphere of influence.

Under these conditions, a major conventional theater war by the US involving the deployment of ground forces would be suicide.

This does not mean, however, that war will not take place. In some regards, with the advances in military technologies, an Iraq-style war is obsolete.

We are nonetheless at a dangerous crossroads. Other diabolical forms of military intervention directed against Iran are currently on the drawing board of the Pentagon. These include:

  • various forms of “limited warfare”, ie. targeted missile attacks,
  • US and Allied support of terrorist paramilitary groups
  • so-called “bloody nose operations” (including the use of tactical nuclear weapons),
  • acts of political destabilization and color revolutions
  • false flag attacks and military threats,
  • sabotage, confiscation of financial assets, extensive economic sanctions,
  • electromagnetic and climatic warfare, environmental modification techniques (ENMOD)
  • cyberwarfare
  • chemical and biological warfare.

US Central Command Forward Headquarters Located in Enemy Territory

Another consideration has to do with the crisis within the US Command structure.

USCENTCOM is the theater-level Combatant Command for all operations in the broader Middle East region extending from Afghanistan to North Africa. It is the most important Combat Command of the Unified Command structure. It has led and coordinated several major Middle East war theaters including Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003). It is also involved in Syria.

In the case of a war with Iran, operations in the Middle East would be coordinated by US Central Command with headquarters in Tampa, Florida in permanent liaison with its forward command headquarters in Qatar.

In late June 2019, after Iran shot down a U.S. drone President Trump “called off the swiftly planned military strikes on Iran” while intimating in his tweet that “any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force.”

US Central Command (CENTCOM), confirmed the deployment of the US Air Force F-22 stealth fighters to the al-Udeid airbase in Qatar, intended to “defend American forces and interests” in the region against Iran. (See Michael Welch, Persian Peril, Global Research, June 30, 2019). Sounds scary?

“The base is technically Qatari property playing host to the forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command.” With 11,000 US military personnel, it is described as “one of the U.S. military’s most enduring and most strategically positioned operations on the planet”   (Washington Times). Al-Udeid also hosts the US Air Force’s 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, considered to be “America’s most vital overseas air command”.

What both the media and military analysts fail to acknowledge is that US CENTCOM’s forward Middle East headquarters at the al-Udeid military base close to Doha de facto “lies in enemy territory”

Since the May 2017 split of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Qatar has become a staunch ally of both Iran and Turkey (which is also an ally of Iran). While they have no “official” military cooperation agreement with Iran, they share in joint ownership with Iran the largest Worldwide maritime gas fields.

The split of the GCC has led to a shift in military alliances: In May 2017 Saudi Arabia blocked Qatar’s only land border. In turn Saudi Arabia as well as the UAE have blocked air transportation as well as commercial maritime shipments to Doha.

What is unfolding since May 2017 is a shift in Qatar’s trade routes with the establishment of bilateral agreements with Iran, Turkey as well as Pakistan. In this regard, Russia, Iran, and Qatar provide over half of the world’s known gas reserves.

The Al-Udeid base near Doha is America’s largest military base in the Middle East. In turn, Turkey has now established its own military facility in Qatar. Turkey is no longer an ally of the US. Their proxy forces in Syria are fighting US supported militia.  Turkey is now aligned with Russia and Iran. Ankara has now confirmed that it will be acquiring Russia’s S-400 missile air defense system which requires military cooperation with Moscow.

Qatar is swarming with Iranian businessmen, security personnel and experts in the oil and gas industry (with possible links to Iran intelligence?), not to mention the presence of Russian and Chinese personnel.

Question. How on earth can you launch a war on Iran from the territory of a close ally of Iran?

From a strategic point of view it does not make sense. And this is but the tip of the iceberg.

Notwithstanding the rhetoric underlying the official US-Qatar military relationship, The Atlantic Council, a think tank with close ties to both the Pentagon and NATO, confirms that Qatar is now a firm ally of both Iran and Turkey:

Put simply, for Qatar to maintain its independence, Doha will have essentially no choice but to maintain its strong partnership with Turkey, which has been an important ally from the perspective of military support and food security, as well as Iran. The odds are good that Iranian-Qatari ties will continue to strengthen even if Tehran and Doha agree to disagree on certain issues … On June 15 [2019], President Hassan Rouhani emphasizedthat improving relations with Qatar is a high priority for Iranian policymakers. … Rouhani told the Qatari emir that “stability and security of regional countries are intertwined” and Qatar’s head of state, in turn, stressed that Doha seeks a stronger partnership with the Islamic Republic. (Atlantic Council, June 2019, emphasis added)

What this latest statement by the Atlantic Council suggests is while Qatar hosts USCENTCOM’s forward headquarters, Iran and Qatar are (unofficially) collaborating in the area of “security” (i e. intelligence and military cooperation).

Sloppy military planning, sloppy US foreign policy? sloppy intelligence?

Trump’s statement confirms that they are planning to launch the war against Iran from their forward US Centcom headquarters at the Al Udeid military base, located in enemy territory. Is it rhetoric or sheer stupidity?

The Split of the GCC

The split of the GCC has resulted in the creation of a so-called Iran-Turkey-Qatar axis which has contributed to weakening US hegemony in the Middle East. While Turkey has entered into a military cooperation with Russia, Pakistan is allied with China. And Pakistan has become a major partner of Qatar.

Following the rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is in disarray with Qatar siding with Iran and Turkey against Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Qatar is of utmost strategic significance because it shares with Iran the world’s largest maritime gas fields in the Persian Gulf. (see map above). Moreover, since the GCC split-up Kuwait is no longer aligned Saudi Arabia. It nonetheless maintains a close relationship with Washington. Kuwait hosts seven active US military facilities, the most important of which is Camp Doha.

Needless to say, the May 2017 split of the GCC has undermined Trump’s resolve to create an “Arab NATO” (overseen by Saudi Arabia) directed against Iran. This project is virtually defunct, following Egypt’s withdrawal in April 2019.

The Gulf of Oman 

In the case of a war with Iran, naval operations would in part be conducted by the US Fifth Fleet out of Bahrain. The Fifth Fleet is under the command of US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT). (NAVCENT’s area of responsibility consists of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea).

With the split up of the GCC, Oman is now firmly aligned with Iran. Under these circumstances, the transit of US war ships to the headquarters of the US Fifth fleet in Bahrain not to mention the conduct of naval operations in the Persian Gulf would potentially be in jeopardy.

The strait of Hormuz which constitutes the entry point to the Persian Gulf from the Gulf of Oman is controlled by Iran and the Sultanate of Oman. The width of the strait at one point is of the order of 39km. All major vessels must transit through Iran and/or Oman territorial waters, under so-called customary transit passage provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

More generally, the structure of alliances is in jeopardy. The US cannot reasonably wage a full-fledged conventional theatre war on Iran without the support of its longstanding allies which are now “sleeping with the enemy”.

Trump’s Fractured “Arab NATO”. History of the Split up of the GCC. 

Amidst the collapse of  America’s sphere of influence in the Middle East, Trump’s Make America Great Again (MAGA) consisted at the outset of his presidency in an improvised attempt to rebuild the structure of military alliances. What the Trump administration had in mind was the formation of a Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), or  “Arab NATO”. This US-sponsored blueprint was slated to include Egypt and Jordan together with the six member states of the GCC.

The draft of the MESA Alliance had been prepared in Washington prior to Trump’s historic May 2017 visit to Saudi Arabia, meeting up with King Salman, leaders of the GCC as well as “more than 50 high-ranking officials from the Arab and Islamic worlds in an unprecedented US-Islamic summit.”

The Riyadh Declaration, issued at the conclusion of the summit on May 21, 2017, announced the intention to establish MESA in Riyadh.” (Arab News, February 19, 2019). The stated mandate of the “Arab NATO”  was to “to combat Iranian hegemony” in the Middle East.

Two days later on May 23, 2017 following this historic meeting, Saudi Arabia ordered the blockade of Qatar, called for an embargo and suspension of diplomatic relations with Doha, on the grounds that The Emir of Qatar was allegedly collaborating with Tehran.

What was the hidden agenda? No doubt it had already been decided upon in Riyadh on April 21 with the tacit approval of US officials.

The  plan was to exclude Qatar from the proposed MESA Alliance and the GCC, while maintaining the GCC intact.

What happened was that the Saudi embargo imposed on Qatar (with the unofficial approval of Washington) was conducive to the fracture of the GCC with Oman and Kuwait siding with Qatar. In other words,  the GCC was split down the middle. Saudi Arabia was weakened and the “Arab NATO” blueprint was defunct from the very outset.


May 21, 2017: US-Islamic Summit in Riyadh

May 23, 2017: The blockade and embargo of Qatar

June 5, 2019: Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt sever diplomatic relations, cut off land, air and sea transportation with Qatar  accusing it of  supporting Iran.


Flash forward to mid-April 2019: Trump is back in Riyadh: This time the Saudi Monarchy was entrusted by Washington to formally launching the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) (first formulated in 2017) despite the fact that three of the invited GCC member states, namely Kuwait, Oman and Qatar are committed to the normalization of relations with Iran. In turn, the Egyptian government of President Sisi decided to boycott the Riyadh summit and withdraw from the “Arab NATO” proposal. Cairo also clarified its position vis a vis Iran. Egypt firmly objected to Trump’s plan because it “would increase tensions with Iran”.

Trump’s objective was to create an “Arab Block”. What he got in return was a truncated MESA “Arab Block” made up of a fractured GCC with Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Jordan, without Egypt. Kuwait and Oman officially took a neutral stance, whereas Qatar sided with the enemy, thereby further jeopardizing America’s sphere of influence in the Persian Gulf.

An utter geopolitical failure. What kind of alliance is that.

And US Central Command’s Forward headquarters is still located in Qatar despite the fact that two years earlier on May 23, 2017, the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, was accused of collaborating with Iran.

It is unclear who gave the order to impose the embargo on Qatar. Saudi Arabia would not have taken that decision without consulting Washington. Visibly, Washington’s intent was to create an Arab NATO Alliance (An Arab Block) directed against Iran to do the dirty work for us.

Trump and the Emir of Qatar, UN General Assembly, October 2017, White House photo

The rest is history, the Pentagon decided to maintain US Central Command’s forward headquarters in Qatar, which happens to be Iran’s closest ally and partner.

A foreign policy blunder? Establishing your “official” headquarters in enemy territory, while “unofficially” redeploying part of the war planes, military personnel and command functions to other locations (e.g. in Saudi Arabia).

No press reports, no questions in the US Congress. Nobody seemed to have noticed that Trump’s war on Iran, if it were to be carried out, would be conducted from the territory of Iran’s closest ally.

An impossibility?

***

Part II of this essay focuses on the history and contradictions of US war preparations directed against Iran starting in 1995 as well as the evolution of military alliances.

*

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Nobody is Talking about the Sanctions against Syria!

 

Panama registered Grace 1 oil tanker carrying crude oil en route to Syria seized by Britain Pirates near occupied Gibraltar
Panama registered Grace 1 oil tanker carrying crude oil en route to Syria seized by Britain Pirates near occupied Gibraltar

In the News Coverage of the British Theft of Iranian Oil Tanker, Nobody is Talking about the Sanctions against Syria.

In the news: The smart US regime discovered an oil shipment heading from Iran to Syria and ordered their British ever-loyal servants to steal a large Iranian oil tanker carrying oil to Syria and crossing half of the world around Africa to avoid sabotage by other US satellite entities in the normal route it would take around Saudi and the blocking of the Suez Canal by the Egyptians.

Also in the news: The justification of this broad daylight piracy is that the targeted country, Syria, is under EU sanctions.

Side note: Calling themselves ‘British Royal Marines’ does not give them any legitimacy for any act of piracy around the world.

Not in the news: The draconian US and EU sanctions against Syria.

I’m trying to find where the pundits covering this news and their ‘professional’ guests are not addressing the main reason behind this story which is why Syria is under this complete blockade that it cannot purchase any single drop of oil for its 18 million inhabitants inside the country to generate electric power, to bake their bread, to harvest their crops, to fuel their cars, their heaters, to run their hospitals and factories, to live?

I’m also not aware of any other country under such severe sanctions and complete blockade by the US and its lackeys on one side, and the silent accomplices from the non-US camp. North Korea, the demonized country in the US media is allowed to import 500,000 barrels, Gaza Strip under the Israeli blockade manages to get in the minimum for their power generating station. Cuba and Venezuela, both under the US embargo, neither is suffering similar blockade.

Even ISIS, yes, ISIS the worst terrorist organization known to humankind after the Jewish Stern, Irgun and Haganah gangs in Palestine, ISIS were allowed to export the oil they stole from Syrian oilfields through NATO member state Turkey to Israel!!!

After a media photo-op, ISIS changed flags with SDF, both work for the US, and now the SDF is occupying Syria’s rich oil fields in northeast of the country. It’s a double embargo one from the Humanitarian Bastards in the West and their regional stooges, and the other by the Kurds from inside the country under the protection of the US itself.

Dr. Bashar Jaafari, Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations repeated more than once in his statements at the UNSC meetings discussing the ‘humanitarian situation’ in Syria that the Syrian Ministry of Health is not allowed to purchase threads used by surgeons to sew open wounds in medical-surgical operations…

One of the main obstacles impeding the return of the Syrian displaced refugees from neighboring countries is the total embargo against Syria by the ugly criers for the humanitarian suffering in Syria. For them, it’s fine that the Syrian refugee families live in miserable inhumane conditions in the shelters in the Rukban Concentration Camp run by the US or those living in tents provided by the host countries, in order to use them for political pressure against Syria.

Suffering of Displaced Syrians in the Rukban Concentration Camp

Suffering of Displaced Syrians in the Rukban Concentration Camp

Suffering of Displaced Syrians in the Rukban Concentration Camp

Rukban

Rukban Concentration Camp for Syrian Displaced Refugees

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon in Horrible Conditions

Syrian refugees in Lebanon were placed in horrible conditions

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon – Horrible Conditions

US-based high-tech companies are allowed to cooperate with China, the US-self created enemy, but are not allowed to have Syria as a country of origin for their users in the drop-down menu as if the oldest inhabited country in the world does not exist.

US-based high tech companies removed Syria from their systems
Where did Syria go?

No financial transactions are allowed to go to Syria even by Syrian expats to their families and from their families to them like in the case of Syrian students studying in the West.

To top it up, US-sponsored Kurdish separatist militias the SDF and their notorious security forces Asayish are burning wheat fields for Syrian farmers after years of drought and terror and after Erdogan, the Turkish pariah and Caliph wannabe stole the wheat from its silos before destroying the silos itself. He also stole thousands of Syrian factories from Aleppo, Idlib, Deir Ezzor and Raqqa with the help of the FSA forces with its heart-eating commanders.

Kurdish PYD Asayish SDF Torching Wheat Farms in Qamishli, northeast of Syria
US-sponsored Kurdish militia burning wheat fields in Qamishli

Iran is under the US sanctions and the US regime wants to bring their exports to nil but has been extending the waivers for a number of countries. The reason in the stealing of the oil tanker stated by the British pirates was: Syria, where the oil is intended to, is under EU sanctions which prohibits the country from buying oil. Has nothing to do with Iran.

The importance of the lately announced 8 years delayed Iran – Iraq – Syria railway project cannot be further emphasized than in this incident and the US sponsoring of various terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq, including ISIS, just to block the land connection between these three neighboring counties.


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