Take two: Turkiye’s election circus gets even crazier

May 26 2023

Photo Credit: The Cradle

The second round of Turkish presidential elections has drawn global attention for its increasingly bizarre alliances, outrageous propaganda, and personality politics. Ironically, not much is expected to change in its aftermath.

By Ceyda Karan

The political landscape in Turkiye has become increasingly convoluted after the 14 May presidential and parliamentary elections left the Turkish presidency up for grabs – with a critical, second round of polls to be held on Sunday.

As the main candidates who failed to secure the presidency in the first round prepare for the 28 May election, Turkiye’s patchwork system of political alliances has become more intricate, marked by polarizing debates on issues such as secularism, nationalism, Syrian refugees, and the Kurdish issue. In the very year that Turkiye celebrates the Republic’s 100th anniversary, the country’s political atmosphere has grown more uncertain than ever.

The official results of the first round of the presidential election saw incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the candidate of the People’s Alliance, obtain 49.5 percent of the vote, while main opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the candidate of the National Alliance, received 44.8 percent – both remaining under the 50+ percent threshold required for an outright win.

Muharrem Ince, who withdrew from the race at the last minute, secured 0.43 percent of the vote, and Sinan Ogan, the candidate of the secular nationalist ATA Alliance, received 5.17 percent.

The sequel no one asked for

The second round between Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu has essentially transformed the election into a referendum on the former’s 21-year rule. The public’s sentiment and perception have therefore become crucial in this contest.

Despite the parliamentary election’s official results being due on 19 May, the Supreme Election Board (YSK) has not yet released them, leading to some frantic domestic speculation on the reasons for this. Some observers have raised concerns about the possibility of fraudulent voters, as the number of voters is reportedly double the population growth rate. In normal circumstances, parliament should convene on the third day after the official results are published, and elected MPs should be sworn in.

However, Erdogan is purportedly stalling the swearing-in procedure because members of his alliance, the radical Islamist Kurdish movement HUDA PAR, refuse to utter the phrase “Turkish nation” during the ceremonial oath. This leaves Erdogan keen to defer the ceremony – and this drama – until after the 28 May presidential election.

In the lead up to Sunday’s polls, the main topics dominating Turkiye’s political discourse are distrust in the fairness of the election, Turkish citizenships granted to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nationals in exchange for top-dollar real estate purchases, and the wildly disparate numbers of refugees currently residing in the country (the government says less than 4 million; the opposition claims 13 million).

These highly polarizing issues have triggered a number of realignments within the two main alliances contesting the presidency.

This time it’s personal

Since the country’s 2017 referendum, in which parliamentary democracy was replaced by a Turkish-style presidential system that recognizes unsealed ballots as valid, electoral irregularities have become a recurring concern. And so the opposition is understandably apprehensive about potential “vote theft” and the security of ballots.  

Furthermore, the unusually high voter turnout rate of over 80 percent in Turkiye’s devastated earthquake-affected areas that claimed the lives of tens of thousands and caused mass migration, has raised questions.

In the southeastern region, which has a significant Kurdish population, Erdogan’s far-right, ultra-nationalist, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) coalition partner, made significant gains in the polls, sparking allegations of ballot manipulation. Similarly, suspicions arose due to the unchanging 5 percent vote share garnered by the third candidate and kingmaker, Sinan Ogan, throughout the vote count.

However, after an initial week of furious debates, these concerns have now been fully overshadowed by the impending second round of voting.

In fact, the parliamentary elections, where Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won 35.6 percent of the vote and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) secured 25.3 percent – and the subsequent uncertainty regarding the exact representation of the two parties and their allies – have been largely forgotten.

The presidential contest has taken center stage as the sole, focal political point of interest. And last-minute shifts and tweaks in the madcap alliances that make up the two leading coalitions are all the Turkish media talk about.

Switching slogans and alliances

Kilicdaroglu’s Millet (or Nation) Alliance, which leads the narrative for change (essentially, ousting Erdogan), has adopted patriotic slogans such as “Those who love their homeland should come to the ballot box” and “Let the gates of hell be closed.” Although he emphasized “unity” and objected to Erdogan’s polarizing politics in the first round of polls, Kilicdaroglu has adopted a more confrontational discourse in this second phase. Interestingly, he adopted the “hell” slogan from Sinan Ogan, a candidate who was eliminated in the first vote and who has since endorsed Erdogan ahead of the runoff vote.

Before 14 May, Ogan stated, “Maybe we won’t open the gates of heaven, but we will close the gates of hell.” The “hell” he referred to was the Erdogan government. While harshly criticizing Erdogan for his handling of Syrian refugees, Ogan also declared that Turkish nationalists – like himself – would never align themselves with the Islamist HUDA PAR. He even suggested that the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), representing Kurdish politics, would negotiate a deal with Erdogan in the second round.

But, ironically, it was Ogan who ended up striking a deal with Erdogan, announcing his support for the president on the grounds of maintaining “stability” in Turkiye. This, despite the fact that Ogan’s main condition regarding the repatriation of refugees appears not to have been met: Although a popular election issue, Erdogan has ruled out repatriating Syrian asylum seekers.

Winning over the nationalists

It remains uncertain how much of Ogan’s nationalist voter base will take to Erdogan. The ATA Alliance, to which he owes his candidacy, has become heavily divided in advance of the second polls. The foundation of the alliance consists of the far-right Zafer Party, in collaboration with some smaller political parties. Two days after Ogan threw his weight behind Erdogan, Zafer Party Leader Umit Ozdag announced his support for Kilicdaroglu.

Unlike Ogan, Ozdag says he has clinched a deal with his candidate – Kilicdaroglu – to repatriate Syrian refugees on the basis of international law and humanitarianism. Ozdag has also said they agreed that there would be zero compromise in the fight against the Kurdish PKK and terrorism.

A staunch nationalist, Ozdag frequently invokes Mustafa Kemal Ataturk – the much-revered founder of the Turkish Republic – rails against Erdogan’s role in accepting millions of Syrian refugees and selling Turkish citizenship in exchange for cash, and constantly warns about Turkiye’s “demographic threat.”

In part, this refers to the Erdogan administration’s distribution of Turkish citizenship to anyone who purchases real estate for $400,000, sharply increased rents caused by the influx of foreigners, and the perceived influence of these people (without any ties to Turkiye or knowledge of the Turkish language) on elections. All these issues feature heavily in the nationalist movement’s narrative and propaganda.

As an example, during the first round of elections, the Turkish public reacted strongly to a live broadcast on the private, pro-government A Haber news channel. In the aired footage, a Kuwaiti individual speaking Arabic into the microphone after casting his vote shocked Turkish viewers. The channel swiftly cut the broadcast and deleted the video.

Unprecedented election propaganda

But if this election can be distilled into a popularity referendum on Erdogan, the sitting Turkish president has some clear advantages over his opponent: He uses every state tool at his disposal and has a mainstream media loyal to him. While TV channels cover Erdogan’s statements and rallies around the clock, Kilicdaroglu has few opportunities to be nationally heard outside of opposition media outlets.

As a result, Erdogan has been particularly sloppy about his political rhetoric, making ludicrous claims and sometimes outright lies – without being duly checked by the media.

In a Trumpian boast during a rally in the earthquake-stricken province of Malatya, Erdogan boasted that the number of people who came to listen to him in the square was higher than the number of deaths caused by the 6 February earthquake.

While victims had cried out for urgent government assistance for days without a response – which Erdogan himself has admitted – he told rally crowds: “We mobilized all means from the first hours of the disaster.” There have been many such gaffes along the campaign trail this year, which finally culminated in a major media scandal over a faked video montage.

Erdogan accidentally admitted that a video montage shown by his team in public squares before the first round of votes had been faked. The edited footage depicted PKK leaders in the Qandil region of Iraq singing along to a song in Kilicdaroglu’s political ad. The intent of the video was clearly to link the latter to the PKK and terrorism.

The opposition reacted strongly to the slander, with Kilicdaroglu calling Erdogan a “montage fraudster” and filing a lawsuit for compensation. But because of the president’s iron grip on mainstream Turkish media, it is not known how many voters at those rallies are aware of the fakery.

The propaganda has progressed well beyond the video scandal. Fake brochures attributed to Kilicdaroglu, including bizarre campaign promises and praise for terrorism, have been detected and prosecuted along the way. There’s no telling how much of an effect these fake-news scandals will affect Sunday’s polls.

‘Unprincipled coalitions’

As the second round vote approaches, Professor Emin Gurses from Sakarya University, highlights the shallow opportunism of these Turkish elections, telling The Cradle:

“In Turkiye, there is an understanding that it is permissible to lie while doing politics. Voters voted for the candidate they know and recognize through trust. They [politicians] act to win the election. They don’t look at friend or foe.”

The last-minute alliance shifts may not even change anything. According to Gurses, Sinan Ogan has little to gain by backing Erdogan, and on the other side, even if a deal is struck with Ozdag, it will be challenging for Kilicdaroglu to close the 2.5 million-vote gap with Erdogan.

Meanwhile, columnist Mehmet Ali Guller from Cumhuriyet has highlighted the consequences of the 50+1 system in Turkiye, which he argues leads to unprincipled coalitions, with ideology, programs, and politics pushed to the background. Guller charges that there are no significant differences in the fundamental policies of both sides:

“There is no fundamental difference between the two options in terms of economic policies, it is in the details. And in terms of foreign policy, there is no fundamental difference between the two options, there are details. Because both options are essentially Atlanticist and NATOist.”

100 years on: It’s looking bleak

Regardless of the election outcome, Guller foresees an ongoing economic crisis that offers no short-term solution. He also notes that both Islamists and nationalists exist in the two main political coalitions, creating an ideological stalemate of sorts, and predicts that Turkiye will be forced to hold another election within the next five years.

If Kilicdaroglu wins, he may find himself governing the country using decrees inherited from his predecessor despite advocating for a return to parliamentary democracy, as his alliance will be in the minority in parliament.

In this “unprincipled” political environment, it is even plausible that Erdodan, the architect of the Turkish-style presidential system, may consider reverting to a “parliamentary system.” On the other hand, if Erdogan emerges victorious, an unprecedented economic crisis is expected, with Turkiye’s CDS rating surpassing 700 and the US dollar projected to reach at least 24 Turkish liras. 

In the upcoming local elections, Erdogan is likely to continue his right-wing populist campaign to reclaim cities like Istanbul, which he lost in 2019.

Because Turkiye requires at least $200 billion in resources, Erdogan’s foreign policy stance will be determined by economic opportunity, as he is not seen as a reliable partner by any country, on either side of the global divide. He is expected to continue his balancing act: putting the “migrant issue” before the EU; Syria and Ukraine before Russia; relations with Russia before the US, and using Turkiye’s presence in Syria as leverage over the Arab world, using these as bargaining chips to maximize his gains.

In any case, the outlook for the Republic of Turkiye, on its 100th anniversary, appears bleak.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

تركيا تفتح باب «العودة»: صيفٌ ساخن ينتظر إدلب

السبت 27 أيار 2023

علاء حلبي  

أعلنت تركيا تأسيس 12 مكتباً في 12 محافظة تركية لتسهيل عودة السوريين (أ ف ب)

في تطوّر هو الأوّل من نوعه منذ ستّة أشهر، نفّذت طائرات حربية غارات على مواقع لفصائل متشدّدة في منطقة جبل الزاوية قرب طريق «M4» (حلب – اللاذقية)، في وقت شهدت فيه نقاط التماس في ريف اللاذقية قصفاً متبادلاً بالمدفعية. وجاءت الغارات الجوّية التي طاولت، وفق مصادر ميدانية، مخازن أسلحة وغرف إدارة عمليات، في وقت تنتظر فيه تركيا تحديد موعد نهائي لعقد اجتماع على مستوى «الرباعية» (سوري – تركي – روسي – إيراني) لبحث مسوّدة تقوم لجان أمنية وعسكرية بإعدادها، حتى تكون بمثابة خريطة طريق (في حال تمّ التوافق عليها) لحلحلة المشاكل المعقّدة بين البلدَين.

وبينما سجّل الميدان السياسي اشتباكاً كلامياً غير مباشر بين أنقرة ودمشق، على خلفية تمسّك الأولى بوجودها العسكري على الأراضي السورية، وإصرار الثانية على وضع جدول واضح لخروج هذه القوات، زار وزيرا دفاع وداخلية تركيا، خلوصي أكار وسليمان صويلو، مناطق في الشمال السوري، في سياق الحملة الانتخابية للرئيس التركي، رجب طيب إردوغان. ووضع صويلو الحجرَ الأساسَ لقرية سكنية في مدينة جرابلس، في ريف حلب الشمالي الشرقي، ضمن مشروع «مدن الطوب»، معلناً، في كلمة بالمناسبة، تأسيس 12 مكتباً في 12 محافظة تركية لتسهيل عودة السوريين إلى بلادهم، والسكن في تلك المدن.

وفي ما يمكن اعتباره سابقة، أشار الوزير التركي إلى أن هذه المشاريع تأتي بالتعاون مع قطر، التي تقوم عبر مؤسّسات تابعة لها بتمويلها، علماً أن أنقرة دأبت على الترويج لكون ما تقوم به في الشمال السوري مموَّلاً من المنظّمات الإنسانية الدولية ومنظّمات المجتمع المدني التركي. وتعيد مصادر سورية معارِضة، الحديث الصريح عن الدور القطري، إلى سببيَن: الأوّل، انتخابي، بهدف تقديم تطمينات للناخبين الأتراك بأن «مدن الطوب» ليست من جيوبهم؛ والثاني، رغبة قطرية واضحة في العودة إلى المشهد السوري، بعد مرحلة عملت خلالها الدوحة من خلف تركيا التي كانت تتصدّر المشهد.

وضع صويلو الحجرَ الأساسَ لقرية سكنية في مدينة جرابلس

وتكشف المصادر، في حديث إلى «الأخبار»، أن اجتماعاً عُقد أخيراً، ضمّ مجموعة من قادة الفصائل المنتشرة في ريف حلب، وناقش تشكيل غرفة عمليات للتصدّي لـ«هيئة تحرير الشام» (جبهة النصرة سابقاً)، بعد تعثّر تشكيل هذه الغرفة أكثر من مرّة في أوقات سابقة، موضحةً أن هذه التحرّكات تأتي استجابة لإيعازات تركية سابقة بتشكيل هيكلية مؤسّساتية للفصائل لوقف الفوضى القائمة، وتمهيد الأرض لإعادة اللاجئين، بالإضافة إلى تشكيل هيكلية اقتصادية تقلّل، قدر الإمكان، من الاعتماد على التمويل التركي الذي بدأ ينضب. وكان الأتراك أبلغوا الفصائل، بشكل واضح، بأن عليهم أن يقتدوا بما فعله زعيم «تحرير الشام»، أبو محمد الجولاني، تحت طائلة تسليم الأخير قيادة ريف حلب، خصوصاً أنه بات يتمتّع بعلاقات وطيدة مع أطراف دولية عدّة، من بينها الولايات المتحدة التي يتبادل معها معلومات استخباراتية بشكل مستمرّ حول «جهاديين» تعمل واشنطن على التخلّص منهم، بالإضافة إلى علاقته مع قطر، ودول أخرى مِن مِثل فرنسا التي يعمل أخيراً على تفكيك آخر ما تبقّى من «جهاديّيها» الناشطين ضمن جماعة «الغرباء».

وبالعودة إلى التسخين الميداني على نقاط التماس في ريف إدلب وصولاً إلى ريف اللاذقية، والذي كان يرتبط بمحاولات الجولاني إثبات وجوده عبر عمليات خاطفة ينفّذها «انغماسيون»، فهو يأتي هذه المرّة بالتزامن مع عكوف أنقرة على إعداد مسوّدة لخريطة طريق مشتركة مع دمشق. وتتركّز تلك المسوّدة، وفق تسريبات عديدة، على الجانبَين الاقتصادي والإنساني في مرحلتها الأولى، حيث تسعى إلى فتح طرق الترانزيت، بما فيها معبر باب الهوى في إدلب، والذي يُعتبر البوّابة الكبرى لمرور الشاحنات، بالإضافة إلى تثبيت معابر دائمة لعودة السوريين إلى مناطق سيطرة الحكومة السورية، سواءٌ منهم اللاجئون في تركيا، أو النازحون في المخيمات العشوائية قرب الشريط الحدودي. وينذر هذا التزامن بتحوّلات ميدانية عديدة، سواء في إدلب التي تشكّل نقطة ارتكاز الخطّة التركية، أو في ريف حلب الذي حوّله الجولاني خلال الشهور الماضية إلى حديقة خلفية قد يلجأ إليها في حال التوافق التركي – السوري على إخراجه من إدلب بشكل كامل. أمّا في حال تَقرّر نفيه منها بشكل جزئي، فقد يدفعه ذلك إلى تقوية حضوره الميداني عبر قضم ريف حلب، وصولاً إلى معبر باب السلامة قرب أعزاز، والذي يمكن أن يشكّل بديلاً من باب الهوى.

مقالات ذات صلة

China’s Peace in West Asia

May 18, 2023

Source: Al Mayadeen English

By Janna Kadri 

The Chinese-brokered agreement emerged in retaliation to the US as the latter continues to wage a series of provocations aimed at destabilizing China’s domestic stability with regard to Taiwan.

Under the auspices of China, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to restore diplomatic relations on March 10. At the time of the deal’s announcement, US President Joe Biden said better relations between “Israel” and their Arab neighbors are better for everybody rather than relations with Iran. Better for “everybody” depends on what is meant for everybody. If it means the US financial classes and their Arab and Zionist comprador in the region, then Biden is spot on. However, for the masses of the Arab World that experience declining living standards, whether by peace or war, the US-Israeli aggression against them will not stop. What must be understood is that the aggression is necessary for Western wealth-making because it extracts regional resources, which should otherwise better Arab social conditions, and ships them to US-European markets in order to feed exponential growth and profits.

Moreover, the aggression, whether military or ideological, is itself an industry in its own right, which fuels wealth accumulation. At a first-principle level, the policies that dominate the air-waves, all aim to foment wars. To extoll the virtues of the market, erect a cultural identity that aborts the potential of labor as a historical agent, and push down the throat of indebted states policies of privatization and private property, leaves little resources for the peoples of the region and delivers them into inter-communal strife. The case of Sudan is one such blatant example. The wars visited upon the Arabs drive away their resources and are therefore a must for the global financial class.

However, capital or the principal social relation governing the remaking of the global order is a two-pronged process. At first, capital is of the same class fabric, and it initially aims at oppressing workers everywhere. This capital against labor is a first contradiction. A second but not secondary contradiction is the inter-capitalist competition for power, which determines the shares of the various circles of capital. For instance, the US sits atop the capital pyramid and receives a fallout in rent depending on its power standing. It would not want lower suzerains to catch more of the rents. It sometimes sacrifices its bourgeois allies to grab their shares. Saudi Arabia was one such candidate readied to be sacrificed along with some sections of its ruling class.

With the rise of China, the global balance of forces shifted, and bourgeois classes disgruntled with the US’s avarice for rents saw a window of opportunity to save themselves. After years of war with Yemen at the behest of empire to secure the Mandeb straits, it was left weakened and alone. Sensing the danger of bourgeois fratricide, the Saudis intelligently decided to maneuver into a position backed by Chinese guarantees of security. China builds capacity and détente abroad, which are measures anathema to US imperialism whose goal is to destabilize in order to snatch resources.

For the US, War Masquerades as Peace

In efforts to normalize relations between “Israel” and the Arab world, the US brokered a series of agreements called The Abraham Accords. They propose a strategy of forging alliances with “Israel” to counterbalance the Axis of Resistance. They base the rationale for joining Arab and Israeli forces on an alleged Iranian threat. Already, these Arab ruling classes were extensions of and under the purview of the US-Israeli ruling classes. Their coming out is nothing less than a sign of weakness to reposition forces around a strengthening Axis of resistance.

These Abrahamic shenanigans provide new venues for class allies to enhance their own aggressive capabilities through the purchase of arms from “Israel”. “Israel”, by the way, is the largest exporter of arms per capita in the world. So far, “Israel” normalizes with Oman, Bahrain, the UAE, Morocco and Sudan, in addition to the earlier trophies of peace, Jordan and Egypt. It shares an informal relation with Saudi Arabia and Doha. It for instance conducts diamond trade in Doha while Saudi Arabia has recently opened its airspace for Israeli commercial airplanes.

The so-called Abraham Accords are an unthinkable ‘promise’ for peace without Palestine and the right of return. They supposedly foster incremental developments with the GCC by precluding even the lowly option of a two-state solution which was endorsed by the Arab Peace Initiative (API). Saudi Arabia maintained that its position remains solely expressed through its commitment to the API, wherein normalization with “Israel” would only be conceivable once the conditions listed in the Arab-brokered initiative are fulfilled. But the fact that UAE, Sudan, Morocco, and Bahrain normalized their relations with “Israel” is indicative of consent by Saudi Arabia. As observed by Israeli writer Henrique Zimmerman, the signatories of the Accords “would not have signed the agreement without the approval of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is the most influential country in the Arab world.” So what would have really prevented an alliance between “Israel” and Saudi Arabia?

In a previous article, I showed how the US failed to fulfill its security commitments toward Saudi Arabia. Whereas Saudi Arabia has boosted the US status as a world hegemon by denominating its oil in dollars, the US has failed to stick to its side of the bargain by ensuring that the Saudi Kingdom has all its security needs, foremost its regime, or ruling class security answered. Fearing the tightening grip of the Axis of resistance around it, normalization with “Israel” went out of the window, while China provided the face-saving arrangement with Iran.  

An agreement “Made in China”

Unlike the US, China needs peace to expand. The Chinese-brokered agreement emerged in retaliation to the US as the latter continues to wage a series of provocations aimed at destabilizing China’s domestic stability with regard to Taiwan. It is retaliatory because it presents a strategic threat to US interests and its hegemonic influence across the Arab region. It is also retaliatory because it threatens to undermine the petrodollar system upon which the dollar supremacy is based on. Since the Saudi-Iran agreement went into effect, it is only fair to characterize the scale of the changes that ensued following its implementation as unprecedented. Very much like a drop of water falling into a puddle, the agreement rippled across the region, bearing fruits in Yemen and Syria.

First are the developments that ensued between Yemen and Saudi Arabia. For eight years Yemen endured a US-sponsored war that has claimed the lives of nearly half a million people. On April 9, Saudi officials met with high-ranking officials from the Sanaa government for peace negotiations, and on April 14, the International Committee of the Red Cross announced that a massive prisoner exchange operation had kicked off. On April 29, senior member of the Ansar Allah political bureau Ali Al-Qahoum admitted that China played a pivotal role in the negotiations for restoring regional peace and warding off Western hegemony. Some challenges however remain with regards to US and UK interference in pushing for another escalation. Yet a positive outlook persist as officials from both sides mobilize efforts for dialogue. 

Secondly, there has been the push to re-integrate Syria into the Arab League through the collective efforts of several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, which has in spearheaded the move. The US and the UK had on the other hand reaffirmed their commitment to remain opposed to the restoring of ties with Damascus but they would continue to work with Arab states that rekindle diplomatic relations.  

Thirdly, there has been news of Saudi Arabia expressing an interest in holding talks with Hezbollah. Saudi Arabia was largely a precursor for designating Hezbollah as a terror organization both at the GCC level as well as in the Arab League. With a shift in policy that appears to be more driven from the Saudi side than from Iran, prospects for political stability in Lebanon are also looming. But the fact remains that Lebanon is sickened with a sectarianism fueled by geopolitical rents that easily plays into the hand of “Israel” and the US.

Fourthly, prospects for normalization with Hamas are likewise on the horizon as talks were recently held between Hamas and Saudi officials. On April 16, the two parties had met in Riyadh to hold discussions on the release of Hamas-affiliated individuals detained in Saudi jails. There are also hopes for relations to improve between Saudi Arabia and Iraq’s movement for resistance, the Kataib Hezbollah.

Finally, whether the deal restores relations between Turkey and Syria is still up to discussion. However, chances are they might broach the issue considering that the project of restoring peace in Syria is part of the wider Iran-Saudi deal agenda. Yet the presence of US troops in Syria remains problematic for two reasons: the first, US troops are stationed in Syria for the sole purpose of toppling the government of Bashar al-Assad. To loot Syria’s oil resources in the north is simply means towards that end; and secondly, because Saudi Arabia’s institutions are closely tied to the US, while the latter holds much leverage inside the Kingdom. As a key regional player, Saudi Arabia could exert pressure to restore Ankara-Damascus relations, but it is unclear how able it is to do so. 

What now?                      

The US has been setback by the China-sponsored peace. Its “rules-based” world order hangs by a thread, while its dollar supremacy wanes. Doubtless, the blow was hard for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who just a month prior to the Iran-Saudi deal said that “Israel” and Saudi Arabia were planning to join forces on the basis of a common goal of stopping Iran. By more sober analysis, normalizing with “Israel” for any regime in the region is an act of suicide, unless the march of history eliminates the working classes as subject of history.

After all the Israeli-Arab war is a war of capital against labor. The principal lesson learnt so far is that regional peace is global-relations-derived peace. The saddest part of this is that Arab progressive forces still prioritize internal demands for higher working-class wages over struggles against imperialism. Without Arab national security, there is no working-class living security.  While the region’s future and much of the Third World will depend on how China unseats the US hegemon, the Arab vanguard is fast asleep.

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تركيا والتجاذب بين الخيارات والهويات في الرئاسة

 الثلاثاء 16 أيار 2023

ناصر قنديل

قدّم مشهد الانتخابات الرئاسية التركية صورة شديدة التركيب والتعقيد بين عناصر تتشكّل منها كل مشاكل وأزمات المنطقة والعالم، وتدور حول أسئلة كبرى وتفصيلية، لتقول إن هناك توازناً هشاً بين معسكرين متداخلين، لا يمكن للمفاضلة بينهما أن تتم إلا بصعوبة عالية، بما يُعبّر عن غياب الخيارات الواضحة في تعبيرها عن مقاربة مشاكل الغد بلغة متجانسة؛ حيث يمثّل الرئيس أردوغان نموذج الإسلام السياسي القريب من الغرب ومفهوم الدولة المدنية، مقابل منافسه كمال كليجدار كممثل للعلمانية الأصولية المشبعة بروح الغرب والمعادية للدين؛ ويمثل أردوغان من موقعه في زعامة الأخوان المسلمين ضمن معسكر الإسلام السياسي نموذج العنف وشهوة البحث عن دور على حساب استقلال دول المنطقة، وصولاً للاستعداد لاستضافة عشرات آلاف الإرهابيين التكفيريين، وبالمقابل تصدير بعضهم الى حيث يلزم، تحت عباءة مشروع العثمانية الجديدة وحلم السلطنة الكامن والجاهز للظهور دائماً، ومقابله منافس يريد استعادة نموذج أتاتورك لدور إقليمي ينضبط بالأجندة الغربية، لكن دون خوض حروب وطموحات التوسع؛ ويمثل أردوغان مشروعاً استقلالياً يقف على مسافة المصالح المتحركة بين الشرق والغرب، من حرب أوكرانيا إلى حرب سورية، والبحث عن شراكات سياسية واقتصادية تأخذ بالاعتبار متغيرات العالم ومخاطر البقاء في المركب الغربي بقيادة أميركية متوحشة، يأنس اليها منافسه ويأخذ عليه التقرّب من روسيا، بينما في الاقتصاد قدّم أردوغان نموذج اقتصاد قوميّ عماد النهوض بالصناعة وإنتاج دور يستند الى عناصر القوة في الجغرافيا الاقتصادية، ويقابله منافس يتبنى الليبرالية الكاملة، حيث لا دور للدولة في الاقتصاد؛ وفيما يقدم أردوغان مثالاً قاسياً في التعامل مع الحريات الشخصية والاجتماعية والسياسية والاعلامية، يتباهى خصمه بالذهاب الى أبعد الحدود دفاعاً عنها وصولاً لتشريع المثلية.

يقول المشهد الانتخابي في الجولة الأولى إن الأتراك حائرون. وهذا معنى توزعهم بنسب متساوية تقريباً بين المتنافسين، في لحظة يطلق عليها علماء الاجتماع والفلاسفة، لحظة انعدام اليقين. ولعل تصويت ستة وخمسين مليون تركي من أصل ستين مليوناً يحق لهم الانتخاب، يدل على حجم الانخراط الذي تعيشه المجتمعات في محاولة البحث عن اليقين، وانقسام هؤلاء الى نصفين شبه متساويين، بين ثمانية وعشرين مليوناً في ضفة وخمسة وعشرين مليوناً في ضفة مقابلة، ومقابل الإثنين ثلاثة ملايين صوّتوا للمرشح القومي المتطرف، تعبير عن حال عدم اليقين، وعدم وضوح الخيارات بصورة حاسمة؛ وبالتدقيق في اتجاهات التصويت، سوف يتبين أن المدن الكبرى كانت صاحبة الصوت الحاسم لصالح خيارات كليجدار، مقابل تصويت الأرياف بنسب أعلى لصالح أردوغان. وهذا يعني أن الأرياف صوتت بدافع الميل لصالح الهوية القومية الإسلامية المتصالحة مع المنطقة، خصوصاً في ضوء مرارة التجربة مع محاولات الانضمام الى الاتحاد الأوروبي، والإطار العنصري الذي قابلت به أوروبا طلب تركيا ذات الغالبية الإسلامية للانضمام إليها، بخلفية الخشية على التكوين الديمغرافي الأوروبي والحرص على ما وصفه الخبراء بالنقاء المسيحي، كما صوّتت لصالح دور الدولة الاقتصادي في السكن والتعليم والصحة ودعم الزراعة والسياحة والصناعة، بينما تأثرت المدن بالتطلع نحو الاندماج بالغرب خصوصاً مع الضائقة الاقتصادية وتراجع القيمة الشرائية لليرة التركية، وتغليب الدولة التي بلا هوية على نموذج الهوية التي قدّمها أردوغان، والتصويت للحريات بأبعادها الإعلامية والشخصية والاجتماعية بنسختها الليبرالية، بما فيها المثلية، والرغبة بالخروج من التوترات والنزاعات والحروب.

تكشف الانتخابات الدور المؤثر لشريحة وازنة وقضية بارزة. الشريحة هي الشباب الذين يتمركزون في المدن، ويبدو أن غالبية كبيرة منهم لم تصوّت لصالح أردوغان، ولو على خلفية طلب التغيير تحت شعار “عشرون عاماً تكفي”، أما القضية التي تعاني منها المدن وحضرت في خلفية التصويت بقوة فهي قضية اللاجئين السوريين، التي يتحمّل أردوغان مسؤولية تفاقمها، من موقعه ودوره في الحرب على سورية، مقابل التزام منافسه بإعادتهم خلال سنتين، ولو اقتضى الأمر ترحيلهم. والواضح أن ضغط قضية النزوح السوري على سكان المدن اقتصادياً واجتماعياً على خلفية الأزمة التي تعصف بالاقتصاد التركي وارتفاع نسب البطالة والتنافس على الأعمال بين العمال الأتراك والعمال السوريين، وتحميل البرجوازية السورية بين اللاجئين مسؤوليّة ارتفاع بدلات الإيجار والبيع في السوق العقاري، والسيطرة على بعض المهن، فيما يبدو أردوغان متردداً في اتخاذ القرار الذي يجعله أقرب لتقديم حل عملي لقضية النزوح، حيث يمكن التوصل مع الدولة السورية بدعم روسي إيراني خليجي، لروزنامة تتضمّن الانسحاب التركي من سورية وعودة النازحين وتفكيك الكانتونات التقسيمية والجماعات الإرهابية شمال شرق وشمال غرب سورية بالتوازي خلال سنتين.

يمكن القول إن الدورة الثانية قد تمنح فرصاً أفضل لمنافس أردوغان، إلا إذا أشهر أردوغان ورقته الرابحة بشجاعة، وأعلن استعداده للالتزام بروزنامة متوازية لعودة النازحين والانسحاب من سورية، عبر قمة سورية تركية بمشاركة روسية وايرانية تعقد في الرياض أو أبو ظبي تعلن هذا الالتزام وتضع له جداوله الزمنية.

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بعد تعذر حصد أي من المرشحين الثلاثة الأغلبية المطلقة من الأصوات.. الانتخابات التركية تتجه إلى جولة ثانية
من سيكون الأقدر على زيادة رصيده الانتخابي في الجولة الثانية؟
 بايدن يقلل من أهمية هوية الفائز في تركيا

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Turkey’s runoff elections: a precognitive outcome?

May 15, 2021

Source: Al Mayadeen English

By Lea Akil 

The current political scene in Turkey is significant as neither the incumbent President or his opposition rival were able to secure a majority in the first round of elections, leading to a runoff.

Turkey’s runoff elections: a precognitive outcome? Designed by: Zainab Roumani.

Voter support for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fell below the majority required for him to secure reelection outright. This outcome has necessitated run-off elections on May 28.

Erdogan secured 49.51% and opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglo secured 44.88%. Divergent partial results emerged from Turkey’s presidential election earlier on Sunday. While the state-run news agency suggested that Erdogan would narrowly secure a victory, the private agency indicated that the contest was likely to proceed to a runoff.

In the upcoming second round, it is important to consider that Erdogan is expected to have an advantageous position over Kilicdaroglu due to his lead in the first round and the positive parliamentary results favoring the ruling coalition in contrast to the opposition.

The outcome came as a surprise and disappointment to the opposition, who had set high expectations for both the presidential and parliamentary elections. In the presidential race, the opposition was hopeful that even if they couldn’t secure victory in the first round, Kilicdaroglu would at least receive the highest number of votes.

Based on the results, it has become evident that Erdogan is leading by around four points over Kilicdaroglu in the first round. The parliamentary elections are also of great significance as the opposition had hoped to secure a majority in parliament, thereby assuming leadership. There has been an ongoing debate within opposition circles that even if Erdogan is not defeated in the presidential elections, simply gaining a majority in parliament would undermine his satisfaction of winning a new presidential term. It has become evident that the opposition is experiencing a crisis, not only in the parliamentary elections but also in achieving a presidential majority, as the ruling coalition has managed to secure a majority in parliament.

In terms of alliances, analysts indicate that there has been a significant shift for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) since it formed a coalition with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in the middle of the previous decade. They argue that it is because the AKP is no longer able to reach power and govern independently; it is in need of forming a government.

Why is the current political scene important?

For the first time, the AKP and Erdogan are participating in elections under critical circumstances. This includes the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that claimed the lives of 50,000 people, caused over $100 billion in damages, and raised significant concerns regarding the government’s handling of the crisis. However, it is cruicial to mention that 8 out of 10 provinces that were severely devastated by the earthquake voted Erdogan, and the numbers surpassed expectations. 

For example, in Hatay Antakya, one of the earthquake stricken regions of Turkey, the voter turnout was 53.9% in favor of Erdogan with only 42.56% for Kilicdaroglo. In the epicenter of the devestating earthquake, Kahramanmaras, Erdogan was leading the polls with around 71.11% of the votes. 

Furthermore, the current inflation rate stands at 45%, having reached 80% just a few months ago. These economic conditions are exerting immense pressure on Erdogan.

Moreover, for the first time in modern Turkish history, the majority of opposition parties have come together in a unified front to challenge and overthrow Erdogan’s rule.

Emphasizing these crucial points, it can be concluded that Erdogan’s accomplishment in the presidential elections is a significant victory. He successfully thwarted the opposition’s attempt to secure the presidency in the first round.

Erdogan in the second round, what to expect? 

Erdogan is now expected to be successful in the second round and here’s why. Strengthening this argument, the first reason is of psychological significance as Erdogan surpassed Kilicdaroglu by a margin of four points. Furthermore, the ruling coalition’s achievement of a parliamentary majority serves as another crucial factor. In the event of a runoff election, Erdogan will have the opportunity to appeal to undecided and unaligned voters who prioritize political stability when making their voting choices.

Erdogan will assert that he alone possesses the ability to uphold political stability and prevent a potential clash between the executive presidency and the legislative institution. With the ruling coalition’s current dominance in the legislative power, Erdogan will emphasize that this is a critical aspect to be considered. By highlighting his role in preserving the harmony between the branches of government, he aims to reassure voters that he is the best candidate to ensure a stable and functioning political system. 

That said, the division within the Good Party in response to Kilicdaroglu’s alliance with the HDP serves as a significant motivation for voters in their search for political stability. The opposition party’s decision to form a coalition with the HDP has created a rift among its members and supporters. This division raises concerns about the party’s coherence and its ability to provide a stable and united front against Erdogan’s ruling coalition. In light of these circumstances, voters who prioritize political stability may lean towards Erdogan, viewing him as a more reliable option in comparison to the opposition.

Nationalist votes tip the balance 

Following Muharrem Ince’s withdrawal, Sinan Ogan emerged as a prominent figure and showcased unexpected strength in the polls. However, in the event of a runoff round, Ogan’s support base would likely be divided into two factions. This division could potentially weaken the opposition’s collective strength and impact their ability to challenge Erdogan. The fragmented support for Ogan would present a challenge for the opposition in uniting their voter base and rallying behind a single candidate.

The first part consists of a small, solid bloc that accounts for around 1.5% to 2% of the votes. The second part, which is more significant, includes the nationalist votes that shifted their support away from the Good Party due to Kilicdaroglu’s alliance with the HDP. These nationalist votes have now aligned themselves with the ATA-Alliance after Ince’s withdrawal.

Earlier today, Ogan said that he will announce who he will vote for, within a day or two, depending on negotiations and consultations. He stressed that his decision is based on “red lines,” such as fighting terrorism, moving away from political parties supported by terrorist parties, and the return of Syrian refugees. He considered that the opposition “made a mistake somewhere,” because they failed to win the elections despite all the factors, which he considers are enough to cost Erdogan another term. 

It is worth stressing that before this statement, ATA Alliance Presidential Candidate Sinan Oğan denied that the Nation Alliance said it would support Kilicdaroglo only if HDP was excluded from the political system, after an interview with Der Spiegel. 

The key factor influencing the voting behavior of the nationalist bloc in the runoff round will primarily be the nationalist ideology criterion. The nationalist voters will consider the candidates’ stances and policies regarding nationalist issues, including issues related to national identity, sovereignty, and the protection of national interests. Their decision will be driven by their alignment with the candidate who they perceive as most committed to promoting and advancing nationalist values and goals.

The nationalist bloc opposes Erdogan and expresses criticism towards the government’s policies, including economic policies. However, their main concern lies with Kilicdaroglu due to his alliance with the HDP. They perceive the HDP as a political front for the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Given this perspective, the nationalist bloc may lean towards supporting Erdogan in the presidential elections, as they view him as a candidate who aligns more closely with their nationalist values and is less associated with the HDP and its alleged connections to the PKK. Even if the nationalist bloc in the opposition alliance decides to remain neutral in the runoff round, analysts suggest it is impossible for them to vote for Kilicdaroglu. 

In a case where they also don’t vote for Erdogan, the voter behavior is not expected to change drastically. Analysts suggest that if voters choose not to vote for either candidate, Erdogan will still benefit as long as he maintains a 4-point lead over Kilicdaroglu. It is worth emphasizing that the matter of winning the parliamentary elections is crucial and will have an impact on the presidential elections in the runoff round. Erdogan will be able to address the bloc of undecided voters who want to see political stability in Turkey, which they associate with economic recovery.

During the runoff round, undecided voters could conclude that electing Kilicdaroglu could trigger a power struggle between the legislative and executive branches. Since the legislative power is currently dominated by the ruling coalition and the executive power is controlled by the opposition, a political impasse is very likely. Based on that, analysts argue that the best scenario for Kilicdaroglu in the runoff round is if the nationalist votes don’t vote for Erdogan, since it is not likely for them to give their votes to Kilicdaroglu. In this case, Erdogan will be able to maintain what he achieved in the first round.

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The Qatar-Syria stand off: Enemies to the end

For various reasons related to political leverage, regional grandstanding, and outright animosity, Qatar is likely to remain the last Arab state to return to Syria.

May 05 2023

Photo Credit: The Cradle

ByThe Cradle’s Syria Correspondent

While most Arab countries have already moved to reestablish relations with the Syrian government – in line with a regional and international recognition of the failure to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad after a dozen years – some Arab states, led by Qatar, are out of sync, opposing rapprochement with Damascus.

Doha’s ongoing refusal to normalize ties with Damascus raises many questions, especially as it contradicts the trend of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, under Saudi leadership, to restore relations with Syria to their pre-war levels.

It also contradicts the attempts of Qatar’s only regional strategic ally, Turkiye, to resolve its differences with Damascus, abandon its decade-long enmity with Syria, in a Russian-mediated effort to solve a wide range of problems between the two neighbors. The most prominent of these issues is the removal of Turkish troops from northern Syrian territories, the crisis of Syrian refugees and displaced civilians on both sides of the border, and the growing capabilities of US-backed, secessionist Kurds leading a “self-administration” project inside large swathes of eastern and northern Syria, which Turkiye sees as a threat to its soft underbelly.

Today, Qatar appears to be virtually the only Arab regional state actively toeing the rejectionist position of the US and EU in refusing to open up to the government in Damascus.

The Qatari betrayal of Syria

With the ascension of President Assad to power in 2000, Syrian-Qatari relations witnessed a significant improvement, reaching a climax with Israel’s July 2006 war on Lebanon and then its 2008 war on the Gaza Strip.

Qatar’s public posture appeared firmly supportive of both the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance, and Doha became a major funder of the post-war reconstruction of areas destroyed by Israeli attacks. This coincided with the improvement of relations between Qatar and Hamas, the Palestinian resistance’s most prominent faction.

Between 2000 and 2011, relations between Doha and Damascus strengthened outside of the conventional political arena. Assad and former Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani struck up a personal relationship, and the latter paid numerous visits to Damascus.

With the 2011 outbreak of unrest in Syria, signs of a clear and unexpected Qatari shift began via Al-Jazeera – Doha’s most prominent media outlet – and its biased, often inciteful coverage of events in Syria. Sequentially, the political stances of Qatar, Hamas, and Turkiye began to change, with Doha and Ankara pressing for Damascus to alter its position on the banned Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood – designated a terrorist organization – and to include it in governance.

When Damascus completely rejected the Qatari and Turkish demands, the unrest in Syria turned from civil disobedience to armed assault, which began to expand rapidly throughout the country. Turkiye opened its borders to foreign fighters from all over the world, with Arab states of the Persian Gulf funding – initially led by Qatar – amounting to billions of dollars, according to the Financial Times.

As the war on Syria expanded, a US-led alliance was formed to train Syrian fighters, and two command centers were established, “MOC” (Military Operations Command) in Jordan, and “MOM” (Müşterek Operasyon Merkezi) in Turkiye.

The task of overthrowing the Syrian government was transferred to Riyadh, led by former intelligence chief Bandar Bin Sultan, who demanded a budget of $2 trillion, according to Bin Jassim. With the growing emergence of “jihadi” terrorist organizations, led by ISIS and the Nusra Front, Syrian authorities lost control over massive swathes of territory and a partial blockade was imposed on Damascus.

The Syrian war entered a new phase in 2015, after Russian military forces intervened at the request of Damascus. Less than a month later, the US launched an “international coalition” to militarily intervene in Syria under the pretext of fighting ISIS. This changed the contours of the war map. With the help of foreign allied forces, including Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah, the Syrian government regained control of much of the country, and established the ‘Astana process’ with Russia, Turkiye, and Iran to demilitarize areas outside of US and Kurdish separatist control.

Qatar’s continued Syrian role

Despite an ostensible decline in Qatar’s role in the Syrian war, Doha has not followed in the footsteps of most Gulf countries, who recognized their efforts to unseat Assad had failed. Even the Saudis, who played an oversized role in the assault against Damascus, dialed down their rhetoric against Syria in recent years, and have now moved to reconcile with Assad and his government.

Instead, Qatar’s adversarial footprint in Syria has continued unabated. It maintains its relationships with various Syrian opposition factions, including the Al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front (which controls Idlib and areas in the countryside of Aleppo), and has transformed the Syrian embassy in Doha into an operations room for adversaries of Syria.

Syrian opposition sources tell The Cradle that Doha continues its ties with all the armed factions in northern Syria, including the Levant Front, the National Army – which it co-funds with Turkiye – and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

These relationships guarantee Doha – which has pumped billions of dollars into the Syrian war – a desirable modicum of influence in northern and northwestern Syria. The Qataris have bet heavily on the jihadist factions there; these militias are less expensive to maintain because of their efficiencies in self-financing and on the battlefield. Furthermore, the jihadi groups have ultimately proven to be more loyal to Qatar’s interests, especially Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the former Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria.

Likewise, the presence of more than a million Syrians in hundreds of encampments near the Turkish border provides Doha – which has financed the construction of towns for the displaced in this region – with additional leverage to be used on Damascus when the moment arises.

This partially explains the reasons for Qatar’s continued refusal to restore relations with Damascus and approve the return of Syria to the Arab League. Doha seeks to exert leverage and extract a price from the Assad government in any future Syrian solution. But there are several other factors that impact Qatari intransigence on the Syrian issue:

First, Qatar currently hosts the largest US Central Command (CENTCOM) military base in West Asia, and Washington outright rejects any and all rapprochement initiatives with Damascus.

Second, is Assad’s refusal to normalize relations with Turkiye pending a wholesale withdrawal of Turkish military forces from occupied Syrian territories. So long as Syrian-Turkish differences remain unresolved, Doha will not move to improve its own ties with Damascus.

Third, is Syria’s own refusal to normalize relations with Qatar without the latter paying a substantial price for its role in inciting, expanding, and militarizing the conflict. Qatar is a small, wealthy emirate, far from Syria’s borders. Unlike other regional supporters of opposition militias – such as Saudi Arabia, Turkiye, and the UAE, who exercise substantial regional influence – Qatar has little value for Damascus other than the outsized wealth it can contribute to Syria’s reconstruction.

However, these deeply-embedded Syrian-Qatari differences do not preclude Syria’s return to the Arab League fold, from which it was suspended in 2011. Qatar cannot afford to exercise a veto on Syria’s return all by itself, nor will the organization tolerate being held up on this critical inter-Arab issue solely based on Doha’s stubborn refusal.

On 7 May, Arab foreign ministers will meet in Cairo specifically to discuss Syria’s Arab League restitution. Arab diplomatic sources inform The Cradle that the mere convening of the League Council at this extraordinary political level means that there is an agreement to endorse the Syrian return. They say that the council is likely to discuss two proposals: The first, submitted by Saudi Arabia, will require Qatar to abstain from voting, and the second is for Syria to initially return to the League as an “observer,” with the provision that it regains its full membership next year.

As for Kuwait and Morocco, which also ostensibly reject Syria’s return, the diplomatic sources reveal that Saudi Arabia has managed to persuade them not to oppose its proposal, which will make it easier for Doha “not to oppose what the member states of the Arab League are unanimously agreed upon.”

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.


Arab LeagueBashar al-AssadHayat Tahrir al ShamNusra FrontQatarSaudi ArabiaSyriaSyrian normalizationTurkeyTurkiye

Iran and Syria Call for End of Western Economic Domination, Withdrawal of All Foreign Troops from the Region

May 04, 2023 

by Peoples Dispatch

Both the countries signed numerous agreements to boost their economic cooperation and called it a joint effort to face the impact of unilateral sanctions imposed by the US and its allies on their economies

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad signed a host of agreements in Damascus. Photo: SANA

The Syrian and Iranian presidents met in Damascus and announced their resolve to work for greater regional stability. They stressed that the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the region was necessary for this purpose. They emphasized that their mutual cooperation in the economic field is intended to be a strategic move to counter the impact of illegal unilateral sanctions imposed by the US and some of its allies.

The countries signed a long-term comprehensive strategic cooperation agreement during the state visit of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to Damascus on Wednesday, May 3. They also signed long-term cooperation agreements in various economic areas such as agriculture, oil, transport, and others. 

Raisi is the first Iranian president to visit the country in the last 13 years. He was accompanied by his foreign, economic, and transport ministers, and the chief of Iran’s central bank.  

After the meeting, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claimed that the various economic projects agreed upon between Iran and Syria would help “mitigate the impacts of sanctions” and aid in liberating “international economics from Western hegemony.” He also emphasized that both countries agreed that it has been an old colonial tactic to “undermine the stability of countries and divide them.” However, countries in the region need to take advantage of the improving relations to find common grounds for peace and prosperity, Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported.  

Regional stability 

Assad was referring to the recent rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran after years of tension and hostility. Following the rapprochement, the peace talks in Yemen have made headway. Saudi Arabia has also discarded its decade long anti-Syria policy and has taken diplomatic steps to restore Syria’s membership to the Arab League from which it was suspended in 2011.   

He also thanked Raisi for playing a significant role in the ongoing quadripartite meeting in Moscow. The representatives of Russia, Iran, Syria and Turkey participated in the last meeting held on April 25. The forum is primarily discussing ways to normalize relations between Syria and Turkey. Syria has emphasized that its focus is on the withdrawal of all occupying forces from its territory and halting of all international support to terrorism in the country. 

It was with the help of Iran and Russia that the Syrian government was able to restore its control over most of the country’s territory after almost 12 years of war. However, Turkish and US forces still occupy significant parts of territory in Syria’s north-west and east, respectively. Both of them also support different anti-Assad forces in the country.

President Raisi praised the people of Syria for their steadfastness and for withstanding terrorism and international attempts to divide and destroy the country for over a decade. He said, “we [Iran] are in the process of developing our relations with countries of the region and we will seek to expand them without the presence of foreigners.” 

Raisi noted that the presence of foreigners in the region brings conflicts and instability and asked the US forces to leave the region immediately. He emphasized that Syrian sovereignty over all its territory must be respected.   

ما لا ينتبه له الكثيرون بين سورية وإيران مع زيارة رئيسي

 الإثنين 1 أيار 2023

ناصر قنديل

تمثّل زيارة الرئيس الإيراني السيد إبراهيم رئيسي أول زيارة لرئيس إيراني لسورية منذ الأزمة التي عصفت بسورية والحرب التي شنّت عليها قبل اثنتي عشرة سنة، وكانت آخر زيارة لرئيس إيراني الى دمشق قد قام بها الرئيس أحمدي نجاد، وخرجت منها الصورة الشهيرة التي تجمعه بالرئيس السوري بشار الأسد وقائد المقاومة الأمين العام لحزب الله السيد حسن نصرالله، والتي اعتبرها البعض أحد أسباب الحرب الأميركية الإسرائيلية على سورية، بصفتها أول إعلان عن تشكيل نواة لمحور المقاومة. ومع زيارة الرئيس رئيسي تنتشر تعليقات وتحليلات ومواقف تتحدّث عن فرضية ضغوط إيرانية على سورية للتنازل عن شروطها لعقد لقاء قمة يجمع الرئيس الأسد بالرئيس التركي رجب أردوغان.

ما لا ينتبه له الكثيرون أن الحديث يدور عن دولتين تلاقى نظام الحكم في كل منهما على بناء جسر استراتيجيّ لا يهتزّ منذ قرابة خمسة وأربعين عاماً، هي عمر انتصار الثورة الإسلامية في إيران وارتباط سورية معها بهذا التحالف الاستراتيجي، الذي وجدت فيه سورية تعويضاً عن خروج مصر مع اتفاقيات كامب ديفيد من الصراع مع كيان الاحتلال. وقد لا تكون في العام دولتان يحكمهما نظام مستقر بقيادة لون سياسي واحد يحافظ على إدارته للدولة خلال مثل هذه المدة الطويلة وترتبطان بعلاقة مشابهة، ونجحتا خلال هذه المدة الطويلة بتجاوز محطات شديدة الصعوبة واحتواء حروب وضغوط وحصار، فوقفتا معاً وراء المقاومة في لبنان حتى انتصارها عام 2000، وانتصرتا معها في حرب تموز 2006 ومثلها مع المقاومة في فلسطين حتى تحرير غزة عام 2005 وانتصرتا معها في حرب 2008، وتحملتا معاً أعباء دعم المقاومة في العراق لاستنزاف الاحتلال الأميركي وإجباره على الانسحاب عام 2011، وكانت التجربة الأهم والأعظم لهما في الانتصار على الحرب الكونية التي تعرّضت لها سورية، والنصر الأهم فيها كان على تنظيم داعش، في سورية والعراق، وصولاً الى إنتاج تحالف ثلاثي سوري إيراني روسي كان له الأثر الفاصل مع قوى المقاومة في فرض مسار من الانتصارات انطلاقاً من معارك حلب وصولاً الى الغوطة والجنوب والشمال في معارك دير الزور والبوكمال. وينطلق السوريون والإيرانيون من هذا الإرث العظيم لمناقشة كيفية مواصلة الطريق حتى تستعيد سورية عافيتها السياسية والاقتصادية، بصفتها، الركن الواقف على خط الأعاصير لهذا الحلف، فهي شرفة الحلف على المتوسط وهي جبهته على حدود فلسطين المحتلة، والتعافي السياسي هو بسط الدولة لكامل سيادتها على حدودها كما كانت عام 2011، والتعافي الاقتصادي هو استعادة الثورات النفطيّة التي تمكن الدولة من تشغيل اقتصادها انطلاقاً من إعادة الحياة لقطاع الكهرباء بكامل جهوزيته.

تدرك إيران بعمق أكثر من غيرها أن أي مطالبة لسورية بالتهاون في التوصيف والموقف من الاحتلال التركي، سوف يعني ثلاث نتائج مباشرة، الأولى هي توفير الغطاء لبقاء الاحتلال الأميركي، والثانية هي مزيد من التصلب لدى الجماعات الكردية المسلحة بخلفية الاستثمار على بقاء الاحتلال الأميركي، والثالثة هي فتح الطريق لإضعاف مشروع الدولة السورية، ما يعني فتح الطريق لاستعادة الجماعات الإرهابية التي يتقاسم الأميركيون والأتراك رعايتها بعض الروح التي فقدتها، وعودتها الى التوسّع خصوصاً في المناطق الرمادية كحال صحراء تدمر؛ بينما التمسك بدعم الموقف السوري بالمطالبة بموقف سياسي تركي واضح لجهة الالتزام بالانسحاب من الأراضي السورية، فسوف يعني إشعار الأميركيين بأن عليهم المسارعة بالانسحاب قبل أن يصبح احتلالهم مكشوفا بلا غطاء مع بدء جدولة الانسحاب التركي، وسوف يعني إشعار الجماعات الكردية ان الأميركي لن يبقى في سورية وأن لا ملاذ لها إلا العودة الى الدولة السورية والتفاوض معها على حلول سياسية. وهذا سوف يعني إشعار الجماعات الإرهابية بأنها باتت بلا غطاء وأن اي تحرك طائش سوف يُسرع بنهايتها، وهذا يعني تزعزع الكانتونات الانفصالية شمال شرق وشمال غرب سورية، وتلك هي وصفة التعافي التي تريدها إيران كما تريدها روسيا لسورية.

عشية زيارة الرئيس بشار الأسد الى موسكو قيل وكتب الكثير عن فرضية مشابهة لضغوط روسية على سورية للتخلي عن شروطها، لكن الحصيلة كانت أن اللقاء الذي جمع الرئيس الأسد بالرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين لم يستهلك سوى دقائق معدودة لحسم هذا الأمر بتبني وجهة نظر الأسد، الذي أعاد تأكيدها عبر منابر الإعلام الروسي من موسكو.

– قمة رئيسي والأسد سوف تخرج سياسياً بما يعزّز موقع سورية واقتصادياً بما ينعش اقتصادها.

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Al Mayadeen launches its special coverage of Turkish elections

May 1, 2023

Source: Al Mayadeen Net

By Al Mayadeen English 

Al Mayadeen begins its special coverage to follow up on Turkey’s elections.

Supporters of the Republican People’s Party, CHP, wave Turkish flags, and one with a portrait of Kemal Ataturk, right, as they celebrate after preliminary results of the local elections were announced in Ankara, Turkey, April 1, 2019. (AP)

An MP fpr the Justice and Development Party, Iffet Polat, told Al Mayadeen that her party’s goal is to focus on winning these elections, adding that she was hopeful this goal would be achieved.

Presidential elections are scheduled to take place in Turkey on May 14, 2023. Voters will elect a new president for a term of five years.

During a special coverage that Al Mayadeen began Monday, Polat indicated that she is confident “the outcome of the presidential elections being decided in the first round in favor of the head of the Justice and Development PartyRecep Tayyip Erdogan,” adding that the AKP was able to achieve much for the people of Turkey.

Al Mayadeen’s correspondent Omar Kayed explained that the electoral campaign battles in Turkey are neck and neck in Ankara, as it is a crucial region for several reasons. Firstly it is the capital and the seat of decision-making. Second, because it is the area with the second-largest number of parliamentary seats. And lastly, because the city has been in the grip of the AKP since the party’s foundation. 

Last Thursday, voting in the general elections for Parliamentary and Presidential opened to Turkish nationals abroad. 

An opinion poll published by the American Al-Monitor website showed a statistical tie between Turkish President Rcep Tayyip Erdogan and his main opponent, opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is facing the biggest challenge to his 20-year rule due to economic issues and the high cost of living, not to mention that victims of the earthquake are reconsidering where their loyalties lie after the disaster struck.

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The Leaked Plan to Attack Russians in Syria Revealed

APRIL 27, 2023

Posted by INTERNATIONALIST 360°  Steven Sahiounie

The war in Ukraine was planned to extend to Syria.  Leaked secret documents revealed the Ukrainian military were planning to attack Russian troops stationed in Syria in an effort to distract Russia and cause losses and casualties far from the battlefield in eastern Europe.

Jack Teixeira, a young member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, was arrested by the FBI in the investigation of leaked classified military intelligence which were viewed on the Discord chat platform.

Among the documents were details of the planning and assessment of attacks on Russian military capabilities in Syria, to be carried out by the US military partner there, the SDF.

The SDF control the northeast quarter of Syria and the troops are made up of about one-third Kurds and two-thirds Arab tribal members.  The Kurdish semi-autonomous region in Syria was created by the US alliance with the Communist administration of the Kurds under Ilham Ahmed and General Mazloum Abdi.

The area the US-Kurdish alliance controls is not populated by a majority of Kurds, but the Kurds do represent a sizable ethnic population. Once they became financially and militarily supported by the US, the Kurds were able to carry out a program of ethnic cleansing which displaced the original inhabitants from their homes, lands and businesses.

The SDF working alongside the US occupation forces in Syria were planned to be supplied with drones and other equipment to attack the Russian troops in Syria.  The Russian airbase on the coast in Latakia was cited to be attacked as well as other areas.

The Ukrainian military intelligence had planned the attacks in Syria, using the US allied paramilitary force the SDF, for the purpose of opening a second front in the war with Russia.  The planning strategized that Russia would be distracted by attacks on its forces in Syria, and become weaker in their military capabilities.

Ukrainian President Zelensky, a former TV comedienne, cancelled the operations while still in the planning stages.

The Russian military was invited into Syria in October 2015, when the terrorist group Jibhat al-Nusra was at its height and threatened to over-run the coastal region. After the Russian military arrived in Syria, the Russian forces alongside the Syrian Arab Army were successful in pushing the terrorists back.  Today, the central government in Damascus controls almost all of Syria with the exception of the Kurdish region previously described, and the small province of Idlib in the north west which is under the occupation of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the current name of Jibhat al-Nusra.  Mohammed al-Julani is in control of Idlib.  He started off in Iraq with Al Qaeda, then was sent to Syria by the leader of ISIS, and finally is holding about 3 million civilian hostage in Idlib, while being supplied with humanitarian aid by the US, UN, EU and other charities.

The Russian presence in Syria today can be termed a peace-keeping mission. They still attack ISIS and terrorist positions, but most of their presence is in holding the peace between the Kurds and their sworn enemy, Turkey.  If it was not for the Russian military presence in Syria, Turkey would have invaded even further into the Kurdish region, and there could have been massacres.

Russia has a working relationship with Syria, Iran and Turkey and has been negotiating for a peaceful settlement to the Syrian crisis.

Turkey had been an US ally, but has felt betrayed by the US support of the Kurdish paramilitary SDF, which consists of the core military group YPG, which is aligned with the PKK, a terrorist group responsible for about 30,000 deaths over decades.

Had the Ukrainian plan to attack Russians in Syria been carried out, the response could have been a joint Turkish-Russian military operation against the Kurds, which could have resulted in US military deaths or injuries, and would likely have ended with the US occupation forces withdrawal to Iraq.

If Zelensky hadn’t stopped the plans, Syria could have regained the north east quarter from the Kurds, and Turkey could have vanquished the SDF and YPG.  That would then leave Idlib and the terrorists sitting on the border without their US supporters.  It could have resulted in Idlib’s terrorist occupiers fleeing under cover of darkness, and the 3 million hostages being set free after more than a decade of captivity.

Under the plan, the SDF asked for protection that they would not be revealed as the source of the planned attacks on the Russian military in Syria, and instead make it appear that the US protected terrorists holding Idlib would be blamed.

Turkey has military troops occupying Idlib, and should the plan have been carried out, Russia could have attacked Idlib as the source of the planned attacks, and this would have been a direct confrontation between Turkey and Russia on Syria soil.

The US may have ordered Zelensky to halt the planned attacks on Russians in Syria.  Washington, DC. is insisting to remain occupying bases in Syria to prevent Syria from access to its energy resources, and thus preventing Syria from recovery from the US-NATO attack on Syria beginning in 2011.  The US has failed in their plan to install an American puppet in Syria, but they were successful in making sure they have a compliant and easily manipulated leader in Ukraine.

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Leaks show Ukraine sought to target Russia in Syria via Kurdish SDF

April 22, 2023

Source: Al Mayadeen English

By Myriam Charabaty 

Newly leaked documents reveal a rather likely alliance between Ukraine and the Syrian Democratic Forces, which under the patronage of the US made plans, as early as 2018, to attack Russian troops in Syria, while think tanks have written of such a scenario as early as 2014.

Leaked documents reveal Ukraine had an interest in targeting Russia in Syria proving the geopolitical grounds drove the collective West’s war on Syria.

The publication of allegedly leaked Pentagon documents indicated that the Ukrainian military intelligence officials planned, in numbers and tactics, to take advantage of what Sputnik called the “long-time US proxy against Russian forces in Syria” to attack Russian forces in Syria. An act that might have severe ramifications for multiple parties in the war-torn Arab country.

The Washington Post, in their report on the leaked files, highlighted that the Ukrainian plan would have been an “introduction of a new battlefield” located “thousands of miles from the war in Ukraine” which appeared to be designed to “impose costs and casualties on Russia and its Wagner paramilitary group.”

According to the leaks, the Syria operation would have provided Ukraine with “deniability options” given that the Russian positions that would be targeted were previously attacked by US-backed and Turkish-backed militias fighting the Syrian government on Syrian territories.

Understanding the document, credibility, rhetoric

It is worth noting that the documents bore the mark HCS-P, which stands for HUMINT Control System – Product. In other words, the documents are part of the final report, which is the product of the raw operational intelligence compiled over a time period.

WashPo claimed to have exclusively obtained the document which was not reported on during the frenzy of the Ukraine documents leaked by Jack Teixeira.

In 2015, the Russian military intervened in Syria, following an official government request by the host country, and it was in line with that intervention that Russia deployed personnel and equipment to the Syrian territories and established fortified bases. 

In 2014, before Russia’s intervention, and just after the color revolution in Ukraine, which tipped the scale in favor of the collective West, the Carnegie Middle East Center (a US think tank) argued that both Russia and the collective West had a greater interest in maintaining security in Ukraine than in Syria, but that Syria is a geostrategic location which can offer high-risk/high-reward bargains.

In that regard, they wrote, “Leaders in Moscow, Brussels, Berlin, and Washington may well end up using their political leverage in Syria as a bargaining chip to gain concessions where they think it really matters—that is, in Ukraine.”

Understanding the choice

Planning for the attack, the WashPo report read, was halted by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in December 2022, however, the plan considered “training operatives of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).” 

The SDF, which is classified by Sputnik as a US proxy, was described by the Washington Post as “the main partner of US troops in Syria.”

The Kurdish forces controlled northeastern Syria under the excuse of Syrian Kurdistan, which allegedly gave the group legitimacy as it breached Syria’s territorial integrity and threatened its sovereignty, which proved to be favorable for the US.

As such, the decision to launch strikes against Russia through the SDF would consolidate the “deniability option” by making the attack appear to be attributed to a “front, defunct or active non-state groups.”

According to a new publication by the Levantine Research Unit of the Emirates Policy Center, a UAE think tank, the Kurdish Autonomous Administration, of which the SDF is an integral and major group, understood that any political and tactical trajectory that undermined “US influence in Syria” would inevitably “deal with a major and potentially final blow to the Kurdish national project in Syria.”

This comes to show the integral relationship not only between the SDF and the US vis-a-vis their often shared bases, as reported by The Washington Post, but also shows that the existence of a “Kurdish national project” is founded on the presence of US influence in Syria. That influence was regarded by the Syrian government as a flagrant occupation of Syrian territories, coupled with the looting Syria’s oil riches.

The strategy: SDF, Ukraine, US & Turkey

Interestingly, the leaked documents show that the Ukrainian military intelligence officers leaned more toward targeting Russian forces through the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). They considered that such attacks could be “small”, or containable, allowing Ukraine to limit its strikes against the Wagner Group.

Ukrainian intelligence officers argued that the trained SDF operatives would conduct “unspecified ‘direct action’ activities along with UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] attacks,” the leaked documents read.

SDF spokesperson Farhad Shami denied that claim, telling WashPo “The documents that you are talking about regarding our forces are not real; our forces have never been a side in the Russian-Ukrainian war.”

Opposite to what Shami said, the leaked documents stated, according to The Washington Post, that the SDF sought “training, air defense systems, and a guarantee that its role would be kept secret in exchange for supporting Ukrainian operations” and established a clear condition forbidding any strikes against Russian position within the SDF-controlled region.

Significantly, the documents revealed that Turkey was also aware of the planned potential attack, despite no clear proof of the extent of Ankara’s knowledge on the matter. However, The Washington Post reported that Turkey had suggested the Ukrainians stage their attacks away from regions controlled by Turkey-backed militias. To “avoid potential blowback,” Ankara proposed the attacks emerge from the Kurdish-controlled region.

It is also worth noting that Turkey believes the SDF to be an enemy, in the sense that it considered its “core military element, the People’s Protection Units or YPG, to be a terrorist group,” the Washington Post wrote.

That being said, it is arguable that it would not make sense that Turkey would agree to Ukraine arming an enemy of the state. However, according to a former US official that worked in the region who had spoken to the Washington Post, Turkey considered the elimination of “the military capability and leadership of the SDF” to be a “goal.”

In that context, the former official argued, “If Turkey were to be greeted with such a plan, it would be in their interest to bait the Ukraine-SDF alliance into drawing the wrath of Russia.”

In turn, the leaked product recognized that the attacks being planned by Ukraine could “complicate” US operations in eastern Syria in light of the fact that Russia could, as a result of any attack, guard Syrian airspace “more aggressively” and move its air defense weapons.

In that regard, the leak cited, according to the Washington Post, a “previously undisclosed Nov. 27 incident” wherein “a Russian SA-22 air defense system based in eastern Syria fired on a U.S. MQ-9 drone.”

Tactic: Location, weaponry, options

A campaign of “notional” covert operations by the Ukrainian intelligence was also revealed by the leaked documents. The product ranked the attacks based on which operations would result in more aggressive Russian retaliations, and which would be the most costly for Russia in terms of damage.

The documents considered that any attack on fortified “priority” Russian facilities near Damascus and the Syrian coast would be very costly for Russia and equally very dangerous for the executing coalition.

The lower risk and lower cost position would be “Russia-affiliated petroleum infrastructure” in central Syria. The leaked files depicted those targets as “poorly protected,” and as such, any attack on these locations would impose “modest costs”, particularly on Russia’s Wagner group.

The product also depicted an escalation graph according to the Washington Post. The highest on the graph was an attack on a “key Russian facility.” Alongside the escalation-rating graph was another graphic, dated 2018, outlining an attack on Latakia’s Bassel Al-Assad Airport. The suggested airport significantly shares facilities with the Hmeimim Air Base, which is considered to be Russia’s primary military base in Syria.

Notably, in 2018 that very air base was targeted by a “swarm” of UAVs that news outlets reported on, saying that “Syrian opposition UAVs” were “used” in the attack.

The documents, according to the Washington Post report, highlighted “the departure point and flight path of the UAV from a location in Idlib governorate around 50 kilometers northeast of the air base and illustrates how it flew over the air base itself.” The departure point closely correlates to the location from which Russia said the drones took off.

Moreover, the leaked product also offered potential options. It denoted that the Russian naval base on the Syrian coastal city of Tartus could have been attacked using Uncrewed Surface Vessels (USV). 

The lower-risk location exhibited on the escalation graph was an “oil and gas infrastructure” located in central Syria. A photograph, dated January 5, was attached to that option, and indicated that the target was set for the “Wagner-associated Jihar gas plant,” which is located in Syria’s Palmyra.

On the photograph, The Washington Post revealed, there were weaponry options categorized into “Group 1 or 2 UAVs.” These categories are likely in reference to the US Department of Defense ranking system which, the news outlet, argued was based on the “size, weight and speed of its unmanned aerial vehicles from lowest to highest.”

Furthermore, the document also mentioned potential strikes on Wagner positions as one of the lowest-risk objectives for Russian escalation. A shot depicts parked vehicles and facilities at a Wagner facility near the Syrian town of Al-Furqlus.

What happened?

The leaked HCS-P marked document revealed that in November, potential logistical barriers to achieving their targets have been identified by Ukrainian military intelligence officers. 

According to the documents, the officers noted complications such as “issues with intra-Kurdish border controls and establishing a base of operations.”

Based on WashPo, the involved officers discovered, by December 29, that the Ukrainian President had “halted their planning”. The outlet explained that the document does not reveal any clear and concise reason as to why the operations were halted, however, it assessed a “variety of reasons”.

On one end, the Washington Post wrote that what resulted in that decision could have been tied to US pressure, as well as Kiev’s limited supply of drones. Moreover, the media outlet said one possibility could have also been that President Volodomyr Zelensky doubted that any of the outlined attacks would succeed in helping Kiev reach its goals. 
On the other hand, it was written that the documents explained that the “comparative success” of operations conducted within Russia could have played a role in the decision-making process, leading up to the halt of operations in Syria. 

In turn, the documents argued that there is a very low probability that Kiev would “revive the plans” without a green light from both the US and Turkey. Additionally, it was noted that in the event that the plans do get revived and the SDF conducts an attack on behalf of Ukraine, then the attack would likely “incur a Russian response targeting U.S. interests in the region if support for an operation is attributed to the United States.”

US influence in Syria cannot handle another blow

Reports have recently shown that even US and Western analysts believed that the US has failed to “establish deterrence” in Syria and Iraq, which led a number of US officials to urge Pentagon to withdraw US troops from the region.

Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, had earlier posted on Twitter “Warmongers in both parties say keeping troops in Syria is necessary to preserve the balance of power. That is simply not true. If they believe that, they should say it directly to the parents of Americans in Syria who have to sleep there tonight and guard oil fields against Iranian drones. We need to bring our troops home.”

In parallel, it is noteworthy to remind that Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, the chief of staff of Iran’s Armed Forces, underlined that Iran’s goal to expel US troops from the region will continue until achieved.

Moreover, Bagheri pointed out that Operation Martyr Soleimani, wherein Iran targeted the Ain Al-Assad occupation base in Iraq days after the US assassinated martyr Qassem Soleimani, was the first retaliatory measure that was able to tear down US hegemony in the region in move unseen in the past 70 years.

Significantly, Bagheri warned that the operation was just the beginning of the strategy of Iran and the Axis of Resistance to expel US forces from the region, stressing that this goal will be pursued until achieved.

At a time when Syria has succeeded in resisting the global war against its Arab identity and defending its existence, and Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s legitimate position has once again been acknowledged by Arab and global leaders, the US influence in Syria is threatened to dwindle and eventually vanish.

With Syria and Turkey’s rapprochement and the Kurdistan Autonomous Administration affirming adherence to Syria’s “territorial integrity,” the SDF has become significantly less likely to bargain their fate in favor of the US and Ukraine.

The West has lost its war in Syria, despite the long-lasting damage it has created, and the region has established its unwillingness to serve as a pawn in any proxy war that goes against its intrinsic and existential interests amid a changing global political order and geopolitical landscape.

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Syria Rising from the Ashes of Twelve Years of Hybrid War


Vanessa Beeley

I talk with Syrian journalist and analyst Kevork Almassian about the recent seismic events in Syria starting with the earthquake on February 6th and culminating in some unexpected and positive geopolitical shifts towards a new Pan-Arabism in the region.

We discuss what the US, UK and Israel can do to prevent normalisation of trade and economic relations between Syria and former US/UK/Israel-allies in the destabilisation project that began in 2011. The US occupation will end sooner or later and while Israel flexes its military muscles for war it knows it is faced with an unprecedented Resistance unity and military prowess in the region that threatens its existence. Turkey is painting itself into a very tight corner – which way will it turn, East or West? All these questions are discussed in depth.

لا دخان أبيض من موسكو | أنقرة – دمشق: تطبيعٌ متعثّر

 الأربعاء 5 نيسان 2023

(أ ف ب )

علاء حلبي

لم يَخرج اللقاء الرباعي الذي عُقد على مستوى نواب وزراء خارجية كلّ من سوريا وتركيا وروسيا وإيران، بأيّ جديد يُذكر، وسط إصرار سوري واضح على التمسُّك بثلاثة بنود رئيسة تعدّها دمشق «ثوابت أساسية» لأيّ انفتاح محتمل على الجارة الشمالية، تتضمن: جدولاً معلناً لانسحاب القوات التركية من الشمال السوري، وعدم التدخل في الشؤون الداخلية السورية، والتعاون في مجال مكافحة الإرهاب. غير أن هذه المطالب قوبلت، دائماً، بمماطلة تركية مقرونة بوعود شفهية بانسحاب مشروطٍ بمتغيّرات دولية، ما يعني تالياً تعثّر جولة المفاوضات الأولى ضمن الإطار الرباعي، على رغم استعجال موسكو في إعلان بدء التحضير للقاء سيجري، في وقتٍ لاحق، على مستوى وزراء الخارجية

بعد تأجيل اللقاء الذي كان مقرّراً في شباط الماضي، نتيجة الزلزال الذي ضرب تركيا وسوريا بدايةً، ورفْض الأخيرة الانخراط في المسار قبل أن تتحدّد أرضية واضحة تفضي إلى انسحاب القوات التركية من المناطق التي تنتشر فيها شمال البلاد، عُقد اللقاء الرباعي على مستوى نواب وزراء خارجية كلّ من سوريا وتركيا وروسيا وإيران؛ علماً أنه كان من المفترض أن يجري على مستوى وزراء الخارجية، قبل أن يخفّض مستوى التمثيل، كخطوة أولى يمكن أن تمهّد للقاءات على مستويات أعلى، غير أن مخرجات اللقاء لا تُظهر أيّ تقدُّم يُعتدُّ به.

المسار الذي أعلنت دمشق سابقاً رفضه، من دون وضع أجندة واضحة له، يمثّل انسحاب القوات التركية هدفها النهائي، عادت للانخراط فيه بفعل ضغوط إيرانية وروسية، وعلى أُسس «واضحة ومعلَنة» تدور جميعها في فلك تحويل الوعود الشفهية التركية بسحب القوات، إلى جدول أعمال مكتوب وواضح، على أن تلعب كلّ من طهران وموسكو دور الضامن لتنفيذه، وذلك بالتوازي مع الاتفاق على تنفيذ خطوات مشتركة من شأنها حلّ أزمة اللاجئين، والتعاون في مجال ضبط الحدود. وتلك نقاط تشي تصريحات نائب وزير الخارجية السوري، أيمن سوسان، الذي رأَس وفد بلاده، بأنه لا محلّ لها على أرض الواقع، بعد عقْد ثلاثة اجتماعات على مدى يومَين (اجتماعان سوري – روسي وسوري – إيراني، وثالث رباعي). وإذ أشار سوسان، في الكلمة التي ألقاها خلال الاجتماع الرباعي، إلى أن «التوصيف القانوني للوجود العسكري غير الشرعي على الأراضي السورية سواء في شمال شرقي سوريا (قواعد التحالف الذي تقوده واشنطن)، أو في شمال غربها (القواعد التركية)، ومِن قِبَل أيٍّ كان، واضح للغاية (…) ينتهك أحكام القانون الدولي، ويخالف مقاصد ومبادئ ميثاق الأمم المتحدة، كما يتعارض مع علاقات حسن الجوار والمبادئ الناظمة للعلاقات السلمية بين الدول، ومع كلّ قرارات مجلس الأمن ذات الصلّة بسوريا»، فهو فتح الباب أيضاً أمام تعاون كبير مع الجارة الشمالية، لا سيما في مسألتَي المخاطر الأمنية واللاجئين. وأوضح أن «وجود أيّ خطر إرهابي يَفرض عمليّاً وقانونيّاً التعاون والتنسيق مع الدولة المعنيّة لمواجهته (…) يمكن التعاون في موضوع عودة اللاجئين السوريين من تركيا إلى أماكن إقامتهم الأصلية في سوريا، وهذا الأمر يتطلّب العمل على توفير المتطلّبات والبيئة اللازمة لذلك، بما فيها تحقيق الأمن والاستقرار عبر بسْط سلطة الدولة على أراضيها وتهيئة البنى التحتية والتمويل اللازم، والجانب السوري مستعدّ لاتخاذ الإجراءات التي تقع على عاتقه بناءً على ذلك». وفي كلمته، أعاد رئيس الوفد السوري التذكير بوعود تركية سابقة بسحب قوّاتها من الأراضي السورية، والتزامها بحلحلة ملفّ إدلب، وهو ما لم تفِ به، قائلاً: «لم نرَ حتى الآن أيّ مؤشرات إيجابية بخصوص انسحاب القوات التركية من سوريا، أو بخصوص محاربة الإرهاب والقضاء عليه في شمال غربي سوريا، وبالأخصّ في منطقة إدلب، وإعادة بسط سلطة الدولة على هذه المنطقة، لا بل إن تركيا لم تلتزم حتى بالتفاهمات التي تمّ التوصل إليها في إطار أستانا أو مع الجانب الروسي»، فاتحاً الباب أمام تعاون جدّي تكون هذه المرة موسكو وطهران شريكتين فيه، ضمن خطّة تتضمّن انسحاباً دقيقاً للقوات التركية من إدلب، واستعادة الجيش السوري السيطرة عليها بشكل سلس.

بدأت «هيئة تحرير الشام» إشعال الشمال السوري بمعارك على جبهات عدّة

الاجتماع الذي جاء بعد يوم من عقْد الوفد السوري لقاءات ثنائية مع الجانبَين الروسي والإيراني، أعادت خلالهما دمشق التشديد على ثبات مواقفها، تحوّل بمجمله إلى طاولة لطرْح الأفكار، حيث قام كلّ وفد بتقديم ما لديه، على أن يتمّ تحديد موعد للقاء آخر، أَعلنت الخارجية الروسية أنه سيكون على مستوى وزراء الخارجية، موضحةً أن المشاركين في الاجتماع الرباعي عرضوا مواقفهم بصورة مباشرة وصريحة واتّفقوا على مواصلة الاتصالات، وأن المشاورات بحثت مسائل الإعداد للقاء بين وزراء خارجية هذه الدول. وتضع المخرجات الضئيلة للاجتماع، وتمسُّك دمشق بثوابتها، الانتقال إلى خطوة لاحقة أكبر على عاتق أنقرة، التي باتت بحاجة ماسة إلى هذا الانفتاح لتعزيز حظوظ الرئيس رجب طيب إردوغان في الفوز، لا سيما وأن الملفّ السوري يلعب دوراً حاسماً فيها. وبطبيعة الحال، تدرك الحكومة التركية هذه النقطة، إذ أعلنت في مرّات عدة سابقة نيّتها سحْب قوّاتها من سوريا، وهو ما لا تنظر إليه دمشق بتفاؤل نتيجة تجارب سابقة غيّرت أنقرة خلالها مواقفها ونكثت بعهودها، ما يفسر أيضاً إصرار الحكومة السورية على الخروج ببيان مكتوب تضمنه إيران وروسيا، ويتضمّن تنفيذ التعهّدات، ويمنع حكومة «حزب العدالة والتنمية» من الالتفاف عليها، كما يضمن أن تكون هذه التعهّدات صادرة عن الدولة التركية، أيّاً كانت نتيجة الانتخابات الرئاسية.

اللقاء الذي جاء بدفع روسي واضح، يهدف، بمحصلته، إلى تحقيق قفزة على طريق حلّ الأزمة السورية، وفق المسار الروسي، وبوساطة إيرانية، يمكن النظر إليه على أنه خطوة أولى صغيرة، نجحت فيها موسكو وطهران في رفع مستوى التواصل بين سوريا وتركيا، من المستوى الأمني والعسكري إلى المستوى السياسي، على أمل أن تحقّق قفزات أوسع في المرحلة المقبلة. ويحتاج ما تقدَّم إلى مباحثات دقيقة بين الأطراف الأربعة، نتيجة تغوّل الدور التركي في الحرب السورية طيلة السنوات الـ12 الماضية وتشعّبه، بشكل يعيد الأوضاع إلى ما كانت عليه قبل اندلاع الحرب. ويعني هذا، في حال التوافق على مسألة إدلب والشمال السوري، الانتقال إلى مرحلة لاحقة يشكّل فيها التخلّص من الوجود الأميركي هدفاً مشتركاً للأطراف الأربعة.

ميدانياً، وبينما كانت الوفود الأربعة تعقد جلستها المطوّلة في موسكو، بدأت «هيئة تحرير الشام»، التي تستشعر ارتفاع الخطر مع كل خطوة تقرّب وجهات النظر السورية – التركية، إشعال الشمال السوري بمعارك على جبهات عدّة، آخرها إعزاز التي تَشهد اشتباكات عنيفة بين فصائل تابعة لـ«الجيش الوطني»، وأخرى بايعت زعيم «الهيئة»، أبي محمد الجولاني، تضمّ كتائب تابعة لـ«فريق ملهم التطوعي» الذي يتمتّع بعلاقات قوية مع رجل «القاعدة» السابق. ويؤكد هذا المسار مواصلة «تحرير الشام» تنفيذ مخطّطها لقضم الشمال، وصولاً إلى معبر «باب السلامة» مع تركيا في إعزاز، والمعابر التي تصل مواقع سيطرة الفصائل في ريف حلب مع مناطق سيطرة «قسد»، وأبرزها معبر «الحمران» في جرابلس، حيث تشهد مواقع سيطرة الفصائل في ريفَي حلب الشرقي والشمالي حالة استنفار كبيرة، وسط معارك تزداد كثافتها بشكل يومي قد تنتهي بفرض «الجولاني» نفسه «أميراً» على ريف حلب، تمهيداً لأيّ تطوّرات قد تجبره على التخلّي عن إدلب.

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China, Brazil announce de-dollarization of mutual trade

30 Mar 2023

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen English 

The two BRICS partners strike a deal to ditch USD with the aim of easing financial transactions between the two countries and reducing trade costs.

Industry representatives from China and Brazil in a panel discussion at the Brazil-China Business Seminar (CCIIP)

China and Brazil struck a deal to ditch the US dollar in their bilateral transactions, which is expected to reduce investment costs and develop economic ties between the two countries, the Brazilian government stated on Wednesday.

The agreement between the Asian superpower and Latin America’s largest economy – the mutual top trading partners –  is a new financial and political strike against the green banknotes as more countries, with the growing geopolitical and economical influence of the East, are paving the way to distance themselves from the US politically-oriented currency.

Read more: De-dollarization: Slowly but surely

Earlier in January, both nations reached a preliminary deal on the matter that was finalized in a Brazil-China Business Seminar in China on Wednesday, which Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was scheduled to take part in but failed to attend due to emergency health issues.

Read more: Future of global economy belongs to SCO, BRICS: Iran Econ Minister

“The expectation is that this will reduce costs… promote even greater bilateral trade and facilitate investment,” Brazil’s Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (ApexBrasil) said.

In 2022, trade volume between the economic giants hit a historic record of over $150.5 billion in bilateral trade.

China’s Bank of Communications BBM (one of the country’s top five banks) and industrial and Commercial Bank of China will oversee the execution of the deal, officials stated.

Earlier this month, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said if the US defaults on its debt, this would result in a massive loss of confidence in the US dollar, eventually leading to the loss of its status as the world’s global reserve currency – striking major market fears over the future of the world’s safe haven currency.

Ditching USD roadmap

China and Brazil are two of the five founders of the BRICS bloc, which accounts for around 30% of the global gross output.

Last January, South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor announced that the BRICS club of emerging economies seeks to discover a way of bypassing the dollar to create a fairer payment system that would not be skewed toward wealthy countries.

“We have always been concerned at the fact that there is a dominance of the dollar and that we do need to look at an alternative,” he said then.

Recently, a handful of medium-sized economies aimed to join the bloc: Argentina, Algeria, Iran, Indonesia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. 

The gigantic bloc announced a few days ago that it will establish a “geological platform” that aims to allow the BRICS member states to coordinate in regard to their mineral reserves and extraction methods in light of the increasing demand for natural resources. 


واشنطن بعد شلل باريس وتل أبيب وتموضع أنقرة والرياض

الأربعاء 29 آذار 2023

ناصر قنديل

تشكّل متابعة ومراقبة مصادر القوة والضعف في السياسات الأميركية عنصر الثقل في استقراء المشهد الدولي، واستطراداً المشهد الإقليمي للمنطقة المرتبط عضوياً بما يجري من تغييرات متسارعة في موازين القوى على الساحة الدولية، حيث لا يبدو أن هناك فرصة للتشكيك بجدية وصدقية التحديات التي يمثلها الصعود الصيني الروسي المتسارع والمرتكز على عناصر لا تبدو قابلة للتغيير بعد استنفاد وسائل الضغط التقليدية، سواء عبر العقوبات المصرفية، التي تحوّلت الى مصدر استنزاف في مجال الطاقة لقدرة الدول الغربية على الصمود، وتهدّد بانفجار أوروبا، بينما أنتجت أساساً للتكامل الصيني الروسي اقتصادياً، وبالتوازي تحولت حرب الاستنزاف المفتوحة عبر أوكرانيا وسباق التسلح المفتوح في شرق آسيا، إلى مصادر استنزاف عكسيّة حيث تنفد المخزونات التسليحية في الغرب، وتحتفظ روسيا والصين بزمام المبادرة كل في مداه الحيويّ.

الأزمة المصرفية التي أطلت برأسها من مصرف سيليكون فالي وتحوّلت الى عدوى بدأت تعصف بمصارف كبرى أميركية وأوروبية، ليست مجرد أمر تقني عابر، ولا مكاناً للعلاجات التقنية في القدرة على أكثر من تأجيل الانفجار الآتي من خلال النتائج المترتبة على رفع أسعار الفوائد في كل دول الغرب، بالتوازي مع ارتفاع المديونية الحكومية وتجاوزها معدلات قياسية في ظل تراجع الواردات الحكومية بسبب الركود الاقتصادي، وما ينتج حكماً عن هذين العاملين من خلق بيئة مالية لها نتيجة وحيدة هي موت الاستثمار، بسبب العجز عن الحصول على التمويل ومتاعب سداد القروض، وتراجع الإنتاج، والذهاب الى تسييل الأسهم والأصول وسحب الودائع، وهذه مسارات مستمرّة ومتمادية وتفعل فعلها وتنتج المزيد من الاختناقات التي تبدأ بخروج الشركات الأضعف والمصارف الأضعف من الأسواق، ويليها مَن يقف وراءها في السلسلة وصولاً للحظة الحرجة التي تنتج معادلة الدومينو.

التراجع في حضور الدولار في الأسواق العالمية يشكل تحدياً موازياً للأزمة المصرفية، حيث تسببت العقوبات مع الاتساع والعمق الذي احتلته في الساحة المالية العالمية، سبباً لتراجع الثقة بالنظام المالي والإدارة الأميركية له وهي إدارة مستندة الى مكانة الدولار المهيمنة، والنتيجة الطبيعيّة للعقوبات من جهة، وتراجع الثقة بنظام الدولار المهيمن من جهة موازية، انسحاب أسواق وودائع من الدولرة، وهنا يبدو واضحاً أن الصين تتجه الى تعزيز مكانة عملتها اليوان كعملة موازية ورديفة للدولار في مبادلاتها التجارية. وهذا هو ما تقوله الاتفاقات الروسية الصينية، وما تبشر به الاتفاقيات الصينية السعودية، وبالتوازي الاستعدادات التي تجري على ساحة مجموعة بريكس وخصوصاً في أميركا اللاتينية بقيادة البرازيل الذي يزور رئيسها الصين، لإطلاق عملة رديفة تعتمدها دول بريكس في مبادلاتها التجارية والمالية وحفظ ثرواتها. وهذه البيئة المالية الجديدة الوافدة تزيد عناصر الضعف الأميركي بمثل ما تعزز وضعية المنافسين الصاعدين الى الساحة الدولية.

في قلب هذه العناصر المأزومة المتنامية تشهد واشنطن أزمات عاصفة في أربع ساحات حساسة في صناعة مصادر قوتها، تل أبيب تحت تأثير موجات انقسام حاد يهدّد وفق رئيس الكيان بحرب أهلية، وسط تراجع مشروع التطبيع، وتصاعد المقاومة الفلسطينية، ونمو حضور ومعادلات محور المقاومة، دون وجود أفق لتجاوز هذا المأزق الخانق، وفي باريس التي تشكل قلب الرهان الأميركي في أوروبا التقليدية أزمة تخرج عن السيطرة، وسط شارع ملتهب وحكم عاجز عن إنتاج الحلول الوسط، وسط اقتصاد نازف ودولة عاجزة عن تمويل نفقاتها مثقلة بالديون حتى أذنيها، وبالتوازي تموضع إقليمي لأكبر حليفين لواشنطن خارج السياق التقليدي، بعيداً عن الرؤى والسياسات الأميركية، تركيا تصغي لموسكو وطهران أكثر مما تصغي لواشنطن، خصوصاً في الملف الأهم في الإقليم المتصل بسورية، والسعودية اللاعب الأهم في سوق الطاقة والمصدر المتبقي لتأمين موارد الطاقة اللازمة لأوروبا مع توقف سلاسل التوريد الروسية، تذهب سريعاً لتقديم تفاهماتها مع موسكو وبكين على مطالب واشنطن، وتختار بكين راعياً لاتفاق مفاجئ لـ واشنطن مع طهران وانفتاح على دمشق بعكس النصائح والطلبات الأميركية.

من لا ينتبه الى أن القبضة الأميركية تفقد الكثير من عناصر القوة للقبض على المنطقة، وحصرية رسم السياسات فيها، ولا يلاحظ أن التراجع الأميركي استراتيجيّ وليس تكتيكياً، وأن معادلة المنطقة ومنها لبنان، تصبح سعودية إيرانية سورية تركية روسية صينية، آسيوية في جوهرها، أكثر مما هي أطلسية متوسطية، لديه مشكلة في النظر أو في الفهم، أو في كليهما.

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Turkey Continues to be a Tool of NATO


Turkey NATO

Turkey has been a part of NATO since February of 1952. And it took more than two years for this country to join the North Atlantic military alliance, which it was allowed to do only after meeting the US political requirements, which included rejecting Atatürk’s one-party political system in favor of democratizing the electoral process and establishing a multi-party system, as well as liberalizing trade relations and strengthening the position of pro-Western capital.

Between 1945 and 1952, the United States and the United Kingdom both succeeded in preventing Turkey from losing territory to the Soviet Union after Stalin recognized Turkey’s neutrality as hostile towards the USSR during WW II and made territorial demands to Ankara concerning the status of the Black Sea straits and the fate of a portion of western Armenia (Kars, Ardahan, Artvin, and Ararat). According to the officials from the Embassy of Turkey in Moscow (especially Mustafa Kunt and Berksun Hasan), the “nuclear umbrella” of the West was what gave confidence to Turkey and kept the mentioned lands within Turkey’s boundaries. Stalin did not dare to strike Turkey, and in Potsdam, the USSR took Poland instead of Turkey in its zone of interest.

As a result, Turkey’s eastern territories and western straits were “rescued” by the leaders of the Anglo-Saxon world twice in the twentieth century (after World Wars I and II). All of this, along with the strategic value of its location at the juncture of continents and access to the sea made Turkey eligible for membership in NATO. Naturally, decades of membership in the North Atlantic Alliance, on the one hand, guaranteed Turkey’s security, but on the other, deprived it of key elements of independence from the foreign policy dictate of the USA.

During the 1974 Cypriot crisis, Turkey felt the full force of “American democracy,” for it was the United States, dissatisfied with Archbishop Makarios’ independent policy and pro-communist passion that actually authorized the landing of a Turkish sea assault in the northern part of the island and its occupation (“Operation Attila”). However, Turkey was subjected to a US military embargo that lasted until 1978 and was lifted during President Jimmy Carter’s administration.

During the Cold War, Turkey was an outpost of the United States and NATO on the southeastern flank against the USSR and the Warsaw Pact because of its geographical proximity to, and historical contradictions with, Russia. In February 1986, US Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger said, “Turkey, with land and sea borders with the USSR and Bulgaria, occupies a key position on the Soviet Union’s path to the Mediterranean and is an outpost of NATO’s southern flank.” The US and NATO placed on Turkish territory about 60 various military installations and bases. These include Incirlik Air Base located not far from the city of Adana, the radio and electronic surveillance centers in Sinop and Anadolu Kavağı (Bosporus Strait), NATO Joint Staff at South-eastern part of South-European Theater in Izmir, the US 6th Fleet ships that refuel in Turkish sea ports, etc.

The United States’ operational interests in Turkey slightly changed after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War as it became clear that Russia no longer posed a military threat to NATO’s interests in general and Turkey’s interests in particular. Instead, the United States was more interested in enlarging its sphere of influence in the Middle East and the Black Sea basin. Although still important to NATO, Turkey has lost some of its appeal as an “anchor” on the southern border of the theater, where there was no other option, particularly in the wake of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 and the dissolution of the regional military alliance CENTO. By including the nations of the Black Sea (Bulgaria and Romania) in NATO, actively collaborating with Georgia and Ukraine, as well as entering Iraq and a portion of Syria, the USA has increased its sphere of influence in the aforementioned regions.

Turkish citizens remember the United States and NATO for four coups d’etat in the second half of the twentieth century (1960, 1971, 1980, and 1997), when Turkish leaders’ enthusiasm for an independent foreign policy led to their demise and the military leadership of the General Staff of the Armed Forces took power. A similar US attempt to depose the “unwanted and unmanageable President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan” failed miserably in July 2016. Erdoğan’s life was saved in large part due to the Russian Russian Foreign Intelligence’s informational assistance during those crisis days.

Washington has always taken a radical stance toward its military and political allies and partners whenever local leaders deviate from the US course. To that end, the CIA Directorate of Covert Operations has a covert unit that conducts active measures to eliminate undesirable politicians and forces, Operation Gladio.

A mistrust crisis erupted between Washington and Ankara in 2003, when the Turkish Parliament refused to allow the Fourth United States Army to pass through Turkish territory to occupy Iraq. Since 2009, when Ahmet Davutoğlu’s Strategic Depth Doctrine (indeed, a declaration of a new, neo-Ottomanist foreign policy strategy) was published, Turkey under Recep Erdoğan has gradually started to pursue a foreign policy distinct from that of the United States, focusing on contemporary Turkic states in the post-Soviet space in order to strengthen its independence and revive its status as a major power. Naturally, this strategy could not please the USA and was of concern to a number of other states bordering Turkey.

The development of mutually beneficial relations with Russia (including not only economic and trade, but also military and technical cooperation) and Erdoğan’s policy of making Turkey a key transit state for the export of energy resources from the Middle East and the former Soviet Union to Europe drew criticism from the United States. As a result, Washington imposed military restrictions on Ankara once more, specifically by declining to give Turkey its Patriot air defense systems, F-35 or F-16 fighter jets. Turkey’s relations with the United States in the run-up to the 2023 general elections and the approaching 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey have been strained.

President Erdoğan started to conduct active peacekeeping diplomacy to end hostilities after the deterioration of Russian-Ukrainian relations and the beginning of the special operation by the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine in 2022. Turkey declined to participate in anti-Russian sanctions not approved by the UN. Moreover, Ankara initially opposed Finland and Sweden to join NATO due to their support of pro-Kurdish forces linked to the PKK.

Sadly, the tragedy of the catastrophic earthquake in southeast Turkey, which claimed more than 49,000 lives and left behind massive devastation (the damage is proverbially estimated at $100 billion) has presented the Turkish leadership with a difficult choice. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is in need of additional funding and lucrative loans for reconstruction work. He has been the target of scathing pre-election criticism from his rivals, and is aware of how the United States is contributing to Turkey’s current predicament. Yet, Erdoğan (like his forerunners) is very adaptable and centered on Turkish interests.

Erdoğan has consented to Finland’s membership in NATO in light of the country’s acknowledged economic issues and in an endeavor to revive a strong (great) Turkey. This poses new issues and tensions for Russia in the northwest and will necessitate more work along the 1,330 km border with Finland. The interests of high confidence and strategic collaboration between Turkey and Russia are hardly served by President Erdoğan’s stance on this topic, as well as other concerns (such as the status of Crimea or competition in the regions of the South Caucasus and Central Asia).

Turkey, as a NATO member, clearly serves as an effective tool and instrument of the United States and the North Atlantic Alliance in the post-Soviet southeastern regions. Active military and technical cooperation between Turkey and Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan is being developed. The importance of Turkish command and combat equipment on Azerbaijan’s side during the second Karabakh war is well known, and Turkish-Azerbaijani military exercises have become routine. With the formation of the Organization of Turkic States in November 2021, a number of politicians in Turkey make statements about plans to create a new military bloc called “The Turan Army” from time to time.

All of these processes cannot contribute to Eurasian peace and security, and are causing concern in a number of countries bordering Turkey, as well as undermining trust between Moscow and Ankara. The latter is actively pursued by Washington.

Naturally, Turkish citizens have the sovereign right to elect a new Turkish leader and a new parliament. In all areas of interstate relations, Russia seeks a fruitful and mutually beneficial partnership with Turkey (including in economics, culture, politics, defense and security). However, in Russia, NATO’s expansion into the southeastern regions of the post-Soviet space on “Turkey’s shoulders” is unlikely to be viewed positively.

It is worth reminding Turks that Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine was not so much a result of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, but of NATO’s desire to include nationalist Ukraine in its ranks and create a belt of instability around the Russian Federation. Today, Turkey bases its military operations in Iraq and Syria on concerns about its own security, ostensibly to combat Kurdish separatism (though what do Iraqi or Syrian Kurds have to do with Turkish separatism?). Russia, too, has its own set of interests and “red lines” near its borders. If Turks advocate neo-Ottomanism, why can’t Russians defend the Russian world and the Russian state’s interests in their historical interest and presence?

Russia poses no military threat to Turkey’s security, either alone or as part of a bloc. Accordingly, Moscow can expect Ankara to take a similar approach. Attempts by the West, represented by the United States and the United Kingdom, to continue the historical tradition of using Turkey as a tool of anti-Russian strategy will be met with opposition from both Russia and the countries targeted by this NATO policy.

Aleksandr SVARANTS, PhD in political science, professor, exclusively for the online journal “New Eastern Outlook.

8 US Army Troops and 2 CIA Agents Killed, Others Injured in Syria



The Syrian Resistance supported by its allied forces bombed illegal US military bases in northern Syria inflicting direct casualties among the US Army oil thieves and ‘American contractors’ aka CIA agents, the bombing comes after the US Army, in its desire to change the rules of engagement, dared to believe it had the right of retaliation against a previous bombing that was a retaliation in itself for the Israel bombing of Aleppo International Airport a day earlier.

As its custom, the US war ministry aka the Pentagon, and its propagandists will always minimize their casualties, deny them completely if they can get away with it, and later on, report the casualties as results of accidents or during training, at the same time they will maximize the casualties among their foes, invent them if needed to boost the morale among their personnel and their families 6000 miles away from the battlefronts.

As the exchange of fire is settled, for now, first, we will start with multiple local sources confirming the killing of at least 8 US Army oil thieves and 2 ‘American contractors’ who I will refer to as CIA agents unless the US commander in chief personally can officially prove otherwise.

In our earlier report, the toll was 1 CIA agent killed, another wounded in addition to 5 US Army oil thieves wounded as well. This was the result of bombing the illegal US military air base in Kharab Al Jief in Hasakah province, northeast of Syria.

The sequence of events started when Israel bombed Aleppo International Airport for the second time this month in the early hours of dawn on Wednesday, March 22, 2023.

The rule of engagement set by the Syrian Resistance is whenever Israel bombs any site in Syria, the US Army will be bombed in retaliation. The US Army in addition to stealing Syrian oil and food, helps Israel bomb Syria, Israel’s very existence depends on the US taxpayers, the US military, and the US political protection.

In retaliation to the Israeli bombing of Aleppo International Airport, a war crime by all laws, the Syrian Resistance within the set rules of engagement (its own version of the rules-based national order) bombed the illegal US Army air base in Kharab al Jier in Hasakah province.

Because the US Army wanted to break this rule of engagement in its quest to escalate its war crimes in Syria further, and because they sustained casualties, the US Army in their illegal military base in the Al Tanf area fired missiles or drones against two warehouses in a southern suburb of the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor, the warehouses used to distribute supplies for the needy Syrians suffering from the NATO member state Turkey cutting the water of the Euphrates, the shortage in fuel to farm their lands because of the US Army stealing their oil, and the shortage of wheat, Syria’s main food staple, because the US Army and its Kurdish SDF separatist terrorists steal the Syrian wheat and burn the wheat fields they cannot steal.

As a result of the bombing of the two warehouses, an unknown number of people were killed, sources say between 2 and 5, and several others were wounded. The warehouses are supervised by the Iranian Consular Center in Damascus which issued a statement strongly condemning the US aggression and vowing to respond.

The promise to respond took half an hour to materialize, a missile attack targeted the illegal US military bases in Syria’s largest oil field Al Omar and Syria’s largest gas field Conoco which alone has received 20 missiles, both in eastern Deir Ezzor countryside. Multiple sounds of explosions were heard all over the region.

To save face, and again to try to change the rule of engagement, the US Army fired missiles against a Syrian Resistance post which drew a massive exchange of missiles between the Syrian Resistance and their allies across Deir Ezzor province, and the illegal US Army bases in the region.

At least one heavy missile struck the US Army occupying the Conoco Gas field resulting in a fire in the base and reports of several US Army personnel killed.

Iranian kamikaze (suicide) drones - file photo - مسيرات انتحارية ايرانية الصنع
Iranian Kamikaze drones joined in barbecuing US Army oil thieves

The illegal US Army base in the Youth Camp in Deir Ezzor came under a missile attack.

Soon after the first US Army attack occurred, the Syrian Arab Army went on alert and readied its missiles to join if needed.

Simultaneously, when the news of US soldiers and CIA agents being killed in Syria, the missile units of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps IRGC in western Iran also went on alert and were readied to join if needed.

The US Commander in Chief, one demented so-called Joe Biden claimed in a comment that he was in his cognitive powers to order his troops in Syria to ‘swiftly retaliate against the attack’ by what he called ‘Iranian-backed militias’.

During the exchange of fire, a former US official in hiding issued a statement ridiculing the handling of Biden’s junta of the situation and calling for a direct wide-scale confrontation. The US former official named Mike Pompeo said that ‘the US forces were attacked 78 times since 2021, and the Biden’s administration (junta) retaliated against only 3 of them.’

There’s a reward on the head of Pompeo by the Iranian IRGC for his role in killing Iran’s most revered general and the head of the IRGC General Qasim Soleimani while on a diplomatic peace mission in a 3rd country, near Baghdad International Airport. A heinous cheap war crime that sent this Pompeo into bunkers with expensive beefed-up security on the account of the US taxpayers. Sometimes, living in fear is worse than killing.

The escalations calmed down after the US Army stopped responding to the incoming missiles, hopefully, they understood that their role is to get bombed when Israel bombs Syria and not respond, firstly, they are aggressors, their presence in Syria is illegal and considered occupation, they help terrorist groups against the Syrian people, they steal Syrian oil and food, and they are a cause of instability in the region, they have NO right to self-defense, their only right is to accept the role of cannon fodders for the Zionist Joe Biden and his Greater Israel project.

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الدور الروسي في مواجهة مشروع أميركا الجديد

 الخميس 23 آذار 2023

أمل أبو زيد  

(أ ف ب )

يوم تحدّث فوكوياما، منذ ثلاثين سنة، نيابة عن العقل السياسي لدولة واشنطن العميقة، عن مفهوم «»، لم يكن يقصد مجرد نقاش عقلاني سلمي هادئ بين نهجين فكريين فلسفيين وحسب. ذلك أن الأحداث المتلاحقة على مستوى العالم لم تتأخّر في التأكيد بشكل يومي أن المقصود هو انتصار معسكر على آخر، وسيطرة كاملة لهذا المعسكر على العالم، جيوسياسياً واقتصادياً وعسكرياً وثقافياً وتكنولوجياً. وهو المشهد الذي وصفه سيد البيت الأبيض يومها بـ«النظام العالمي الجديد».

هذا النظام، كان، في الفكرة والواقع، نظاماً إمبراطورياً، إذ يكفي للدلالة على ذلك أن رؤية فوكوياما لم تكن إلّا استلهاماً لزمن نابليون بعد معركة إيينا. غير أن المشكلة بدأت عندما راح سيّد هذا العالم الجديد يتصرّف بشكل لا ينسجم مع المسؤولية العالمية الجديدة. وعلى مدى نحو ربع قرن تقريباً، سُجِّل عدم احترام لمبادئ الشرعية الدولية، لا بل خروج صريح عن أطر مؤسّساتها، وعدم احترام لمبدأ سياسة الدول ووحدة أراضيها، وصولاً إلى شنّ حروب من خارج الشرعية الدولية، استهدفت دولاً وسلامة أراضيها ووحدتها وشعوبها.

هذه السلوكيات السياسية والعسكرية، ترافقت مع سلوكيات مماثلة على الصعيد الاقتصادي والتنموي والتجاري على مستوى العالم، بما كرّس نهج الهيمنة وسياسات النفوذ العالمية، فضلاً عن محاولة تركيز ثروات الأرض في قبضة طرف واحد، ما فاقم الفجوة التنموية بين المناطق والبلدان والقارات، وأدّى إلى زيادة مشاعر الحرمان والغُبن لدى أكثرية شعوب الأرض.

بعد عشرين سنة من هذه السياسات، انطلقت في الشرق الأوسط، بمصادفة غريبة وبشكل متزامن، عاصفة ما سُمّي «الربيع العربي»، الذي ظهر فعلياً أنه كان محاولة لإسقاط كل النظام القائم وتبديل كل دولة بأنظمة جديدة قائمة على شرعية دينية ما. حتى أن الرئيس الأميركي السابق، باراك أوباما، كان صريحاً أكثر من اللزوم في كلامه عن شعوب الشرق الأوسط في خطابه الشهير في جامعة القاهرة عام 2009، وبعدها في «عقيدة أوباما»، وصولاً إلى الصدفة الأكثر غرابة في صدور الأمر الرئاسي عنه في آب 2010 والذي يتكلم صراحة عن تغيير مشهد الشرق الأوسط قبل أسابيع قليلة من اندلاع أولى عواصف الربيع العربي بدءاً من تونس في كانون الأول من العام 2010.

في الجهة المقابلة من الشرق الأوسط، بدأت السياسات الأميركية تركّز على عنوان واضح: نحن ذاهبون إلى إعادة تشكيل نظام سيطرتنا العالمي الجديد باحتواء الصين، وبالتالي على الدول الأخرى، من أوروبا كلها، وروسيا وتركيا، وصولاً إلى جنوب شرقي آسيا والدول المشاطئة لبحر الصين، أن تكون مجرّد أحجار قرميد في أيدينا لبناء السور الأميركي العظيم حول التنين الصيني لترويضه وإخضاعه… وكل الباقي تفاصيل.

أمام هذا الواقع، وبعدما تأكّدت روسيا من دوافع السياسات الأميركية ومساراتها، خصوصاً في ما يتعلق بما تمّ تحضيره ضدّها انطلاقاً من دولة أوكرانيا، بدأت روسيا العمل مع شركائها وحلفائها باتجاه تشكّل نظام عالمي جديد للخروج من الزعامة الأحادية والدفع باتجاه عالم متعدّد الأقطاب. وما التطورات العسكرية الجارية في أوكرانيا إلّا دليل واضح على عملية الانتقال إلى معادلة دولية مختلفة أدّت إلى خلط أوراق العلاقات التجارية والتحالفات الدولية وإلى قيام سياسات ومحاور اقتصادية ومالية جديدة من شأنها أن تخلص إلى توازن قوى إقليمي ودولي، والأخذ في الاعتبار المصالح المشروعة لكل اللاعبين على المسرح الدولي، وتخلق قواعد جديدة لحل الصراعات والنزاعات الدولية.

إنّ الأزمة الحالية مع أوكرانيا، ومع المعسكر الغربي بأكمله، هي فرصة نادرة وسانحة وفريدة لكي يتمكّن الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين، من إثبات حضوره على الساحة الدولية

إنّ الأزمة الحالية مع أوكرانيا، ومع المعسكر الغربي بأكمله، هي فرصة نادرة وسانحة وفريدة لكي يتمكّن الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين، من إثبات حضوره على الساحة الدولية وسط التصاعد المتنامي للقوة الصينية، وهيمنة أميركا على المشهد الحالي، مع إدراكه بأن هذا العالم الجديد لديه سمات وعلامات فارقة، أهمها:

-أولاً: تحوّل روسيا نحو الشرق. هذا التحوّل لم يأخذ أشكاله الواضحة إلا منذ عشر سنوات تقريباً، وأَخَذَ البُعدين الاقتصادي والجيوسياسي، بعد إعادة دمج شبه جزيرة القرم، ما وضع حداً، على الأقل في ذلك الوقت، لتوسيع التحالفات الغربية، مثل حلف شمال الأطلسي، في المناطق التي تعتبرها روسيا حيوية لأمنها القومي. وترافق تحوّل روسيا نحو الشرق، وتحوّل الصين غرباً نحو أوروبا من خلال «مبادرة الحزام وطريق الحرير»، مع تغيير أكثر أهمية في نظام العلاقات الدولية بأكمله، أي نهاية هيمنة الغرب التي امتدّت لفترة 500 عام بما في ذلك النظام الليبرالي المهيمن في السنوات السبعين الماضية.

-ثانياً: الكثير من المتغيّرات ستحدّد شكل العالم الجديد. قد نشهد نشوء أوراسيا الكبرى. وهذا المفهوم وُلد في روسيا وشمل منذ البداية أوروبا أو جزءاً منها جغرافياً. وقد تصبح أوراسيا مركز الاقتصاد والسياسة والثقافة، وليس أوروبا كما كانت الحال خلال الخمسة قرون الماضية.

-ثالثاً: إن استراتيجية «التوجّه شرقاً» التي اعتمدتها موسكو رداً على القيود الغربية غير المسبوقة ومحاولات عزلها، دفعت في اتجاه علاقات شراكة استراتيجية روسية-صينية، وليس نموذج «تحالف». وهذا يُسهم في استقرار العلاقات بينهما ويعطيهما مساحة كاملة من التعاون من دون أن يلزم أي جانب بإدخال تعديلات كبرى على سياسته.

-رابعاً: إنّ الحضور الروسي في الشرق الأوسط، وتحديداً منذ تواجدها في سوريا عام 2015، أفسح لها المجال في التقدّم على واجهة التأثير الدولي في المنطقة، وتطوير حضورها ودورها وعلاقاتها، ولا سيما مع دول الخليج التي أطلقت معها حواراً استراتيجياً ومبادرة لضمان الأمن في الخليج. فإلى جانب المجابهة الأميركية-الإيرانية، والسعودية-الإيرانية، هناك العداء الإيراني-الإسرائيلي، والصراع السني-الشيعي، والصراع العربي-الإسرائيلي، إذ إن روسيا تبقى اللاعب الوحيد القادر على مخاطبة الجميع والدفع في اتجاه حلّ للنزاعات الإقليمية.

وبالفعل، هناك توجّه روسي جديد في منطقة الشرق الأوسط يهدف إلى تأمين النموّ الاقتصادي المتسارع لها، وهي مدركة لفوائد إعادة تفعيل العلاقات التاريخية مع عدد من دول المنطقة وتطويرها، وأيضاً لضرورة توظيف كل قدراتها بهدف دعم تحركاتها وتحقيق أهدافها، ومن أهمها وأبرزها ديبلوماسية القمة والوساطة، مع اختلاف فاعليتها من قضية إلى أخرى.

-خامساً: الملف النووي الإيراني الذي كان واحداً من أبرز الضحايا السياسية للحرب في أوكرانيا. فقد بدا واضحاً أن فرصة إحياء الاتفاق النووي التي لاحت في عام 2021، تبدّدت في عام 2022 بسبب الحرب وتأثيرها على مسألتين؛ الأولى تتعلق بالتغيير الحاصل في موقف إيران التي لم تعد على عجلة من أمرها بعدما تغيرت المعطيات الجيوسياسية والاقتصادية بفعل حرب أوكرانيا. فإيران تبيع نفطها وبرنامجها النووي يتقدّم، في حين أن قدرة أميركا والدول الغربية على استخدام السلاح الاقتصادي تتراجع. والثانية، تتعلق بالأزمة المستجدة والمتفاقمة بين إيران والتحالف الأميركي-الأوروبي الذي يسعى لمعاقبة إيران بسبب دعمها لروسيا في الحرب وتزويدها بمسيّرات وصواريخ، بحسب زعمهم، وبسبب إسهامها في تعزيز المحور الشرقي وبناء النظام العالمي الجديد عبر المشاغبة على أميركا وسياساتها في المنطقة.

-سادساً: دور تركيا المتعاظم في المنطقة، إذ إن الرئيس التركي رجب طيب إردوغان كان أول وأكبر المستفيدين من الحرب التي أعطته دوراً محورياً هو دور الوسيط بين روسيا وأوكرانيا، وبين روسيا والولايات المتحدة بدرجة أقل، مثبتاً قدرة فائقة على السير بين توازناتٍ وتناقضاتٍ دقيقة، إضافة إلى «تصفير» مشكلاته مع دول المنطقة، وتهدئة الحرارة في العلاقات التركية مع دول الخليج وأيضاً مع إسرائيل.

-سابعاً: دور السعودية المتنامي في المنطقة، إذ أدرك ولي العهد السعودي محمد بن سلمان كيف يستغلّ الحرب والمتغيّرات الجيوسياسية والاقتصادية في العالم ليحوّلها إلى فرصة لإظهار أهمية السعودية ومكانتها وشخصيتها، ودفع الولايات المتحدة على الأخذ في الاعتبار مصالح السعودية السياسية والاقتصادية، بعدما اتّسمت السياسة الأميركية بالتخبّط والتردّد وعدم الوضوح.

ويرى ابن سلمان أن الحرب في أوكرانيا هي فرصة لتصحيح المسار ولا يجوز تفويتها. وبدافع التحوّط الاستراتيجي هو ينسج منذ فترة انزياحاً جدياً نحو تنويع الشراكات مع الصين وروسيا والهند، ويعتبر أن الاصطفاف الدولي المطلوب هو استحقاق كبير يجب تحويله إلى فرصة وجعل الثمن كبيراً. ومن غير الجائز، برأيه، التسرّع والهرولة المجانية في اتجاه الغرب، خصوصاً أن النفط لا يزال قيمة أساسية في المعادلات التجارية والسياسية. ثم إنّ الحرب نفسها خلقت مساراً مختلفاً عن المرسوم في عالم الطاقة، ورفعت الأسعار وعادت بالفائدة على الخزينة السعودية.

بعد مرور سنة على معارك أوكرانيا، تجد أوروبا صعوبة في متابعة مسارها، لأنها أصبحت تعاني من الانكماش الاقتصادي والتجاري والموجة التضخمية الناتجة من ارتفاع أسعار الطاقة والغذاء، وهي تقف عاجزة عن القيام بأي خطوة إيجابية تجاه روسيا، ما أدّى إلى هبوط سعر اليورو والجنيه الاسترليني وإلى إقفال شركات وهجرة الاستثمارات.

ويتعيّن على أوروبا أن تقرّر إذا كانت تريد القيام بدور نشط في بناء شراكة جديدة، أم أن هذه الشراكة ستُبنى من دونها، ثم ضدّها، ومن دون مراعاة مصالحها. واستطراداً، على أوروبا التوقّف عن الانزلاق أكثر في الأزمة الحضارية والتخلّي عن محاولات الاتّحاد ضدّ الأعداء الوهميين مثل روسيا أو الصين.

في عام 1991، انتهت حقبة الحرب الباردة التي بدأت بعد انتهاء الحرب العالمية الثانية، وثمّة بوادر واضحة تؤشّر إلى احتمال بدء مرحلة جديدة وبناء نظام عالمي جديد انطلاقاً مما يجري في أوكرانيا، لتصبح عام 2022 بداية حقبة جديدة وخطّاً زمنياً فاصلاً بين مرحلتين وعالمين.

إنّ كل أزمة تحمل في طياتها فرصة للحلّ. وهذه الأزمة الغربية الحالية في إدارة العالم التي نعيشها اليوم، وخصوصاً في الفوضى التي خلّفتها على مستوى أوروبا والشرق الأوسط، حملت فرصة واضحة؛ وهي التي تجسّدت في خروج كل القوى الأساسية على الهيمنة الأميركية وبروز اتجاه جديد لديها لإعادة تشكيل نظام منطقتها بشكل أكثر استقلالية وتوازناً. وهو ما نشهده اليوم في العلاقات التركية-الأميركية وحتى السعودية-الأميركية، وصولاً إلى الكباش الكبير بين واشنطن وطهران وموسكو. نظام جديد يجب أن يقوم على أسس واضحة، أهمها؛ أولاً، إعادة الأهمية لمفهوم الاستقرار في هذه المنطقة الحيوية للعالم. وثانياً، إعادة الأولوية لضرورة اعتماد سياسات تنموية صحيحة تستثمر ثروات هذه المنطقة لمصلحة مجتمعاتها وشعوبها. وهذا يقتضي قيام أُطر تعاون بين هذه الدول بعيدة كلياً عن مفاهيم الهيمنة والنفوذ والتدخّل في الدول.
أخيراً، ومنذ عشرة أعوام، بدت واشنطن وكأنها تقول لعالمنا الممتدّ على ضفّتي المتوسط، وصولاً إلى أوروبا والشرق الأوسط الواسع: أنتم جسرٌ، وظيفته الوحيدة هي وصولنا إلى الصين… ولا وظيفة أو قيمة أخرى لكم. وفيما هذا العالم يحاول أن يقول لواشنطن: نحن قلب العالم، في مصادر طاقته وممرّات تجارته وحركة شعوبه وسكانه وهجراته ولا يمكن للأطراف أن تقتل القلب أو تقتطعه من جسدها، وتتوهّم أنها يمكن أن تظلّ على قيد الحياة.

هذا هو جوهر الصراع اليوم… وعلى نتيجته يتوقف مصير كل العالم لعقود كثيرة مقبلة.

* نائب سابق، ومستشار الرئيس ميشال عون للشؤون الروسية

Syria: A State that Withstood a Global War and Emerged Victorious (Part I)

 March 21, 2023

Illustrative photo prepared by Al-Manar Website on the 12th anniversary of the war in Syria.

Somaya Ali

Translated by Areej Fatima Husseini

“No external factor enables a government or an army to stabilize, unless this government and this army enjoy a popular support that safeguard them.”

Egypt’s former Assistant Foreign Minister Hussein Al-Haridi in a recent interview

The pre-planned war in Syria has spanned twelve years and is still ongoing. It is well known that this warfare is not limited to battlegrounds but rather takes various economic, social, and political forms, in a bid to deplete President Bashar Al-Assad’s government. Surprisingly, all of these endeavors, however, were futile.

The Gloomy Tunnel

The arrest of two men in Daraa in March 2011 and the eventual outbreak of sporadic demonstrations in several regions, formed the full-fledged launch of a bloody scenario or even a global war that later appeared that it has been previously plotted. That was at a time when the entire region was experiencing “revolutions” dubbed as the “Arab Spring.”

It has been clear that all intents and schemes including the normalization of ties with the Zionist enemy- through subduing all resistance movements- as well as compensating for the defeat in Iraq, pass through Syria.

Soon after, Western powers, led by the United States, joined Arab countries in raising slogans such as “the freedom of the Syrian people” and “human rights in Syria.” Such moves were aimed at overthrowing the Syrian government’s legitimacy, neglecting thousands of Syrians who protested in support of President Al Assad.

In June 2012, world powers assembled in Geneva to declare “the necessity of a political transition.”

This declaration was only a pretext for escalating the demonstrations into a major military clash, resulting in the formation of organizations such as the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) and the ” Jaysh al-Islam” (Army of Islam). These organizations comprised Syrians as well as a significant number of mercenaries from other Arab and Western countries, all with diverse backgrounds and agendas, who flocked to attack Damascus.

Since then, Syria has entered a dark tunnel: the country’s unity and sovereignty have been shattered, with almost all areas divided into pro and anti-regime factions. The emergence of Takfiri factions such as “Jabhat Al-Nusra” and “Ahrar Al-Sham” on the battlefield heightened the tensions.

Then in January 2014, the ISIL terrorist group took control of Raqqa and set out to govern vast areas of Syria and Iraq. Backed by regional and Western governments, these organizations have committed the most heinous terrorist acts against the Syrian people, as well as looting riches and systematically destroying the country’s infrastructure.

In addition to the military conflict, fierce media campaigns have intensified, relying on false flag chemical attacks in a bid to defame the Syrian government while disregarding the crimes committed by so-called “opposition factions.”

Syria Battles Bravely

Amid this reality, the Syrian state and its army stood firmly to protect the governing system and fortify Damascus, which had become a target for terrorists. The fall of the capital would have dealt President Assad a tremendous blow.

In September 2014, the US directly engaged in the struggle, organizing a coalition and assisting Kurdish factions under the pretext of eradicating “ISIL” in northern Syria. Later in 2015, and under the request of the Syrian government, Russia joined the war in a bid to aid Damascus in counter-terror operations.

This was a crucial turning point in the warfare, along with Iran’s and Hezbollah’s key roles in the battlefield and victories in more than one strategic battle, such as the clashes of Qusayr and Aleppo.

This video diplays scene of the couter-terror operations in Syria.

Such turning point reflected on Damascus’ recontrol of swathes of the Syrian territory, as well as keeping the threat of terror away from the capital and Aleppo. This was in addition to preventing Turkey, which aided the armed groups, from reaching its aim of dominating that region and eventually beating “ISIL” in the Syrian Badiya battles.

At the time when the military developments were unfolding in Syria, there was a political course emerging. Hence, when Russia, Iran, and the Syrian Army imposed a new status quo in the battlefield, the “Astana Talks” was established. The peace process came after the West and the UN yielded no substantive progress in the negotiations between the government and the so-called opposition, which remained split and withdrew the battlefield in favor of terrorist organizations.

Wary of Kurdish presence in Syria’s north, Turkey joined, afterwards, the Astana Talks as a guarantor state. This political process, which culminated in several rounds, concluded in a settlement, primarily brokered by the Russians and Turks in September 2018. The settlement involved Idlib and the northwest, which has been under terrorist control, resulting in a halt to fighting on those fronts.

Syria’s Outlook in 2020

On the eve of 2020, the Syrian state maintained control, as it had not done for the past nine years, except in the north, where the conflict created a kind of status quo represented by the limited presence of the US forces through several military bases. Undoubtedly, those bases were later utilized as a springboard for stealing oil and wheat. Also, there was a limited Turkish presence in the area under the pretext of countering the so-called Kurdish expansion.

On the other hand, the Israeli enemy found no means to voice concern over the failure of its allies and the victory of its foes. Thereupon, it occasionally breaches Syria’s airspace and launches strikes.

Despite this scenario in the country’s north, almost 12 years of war did not affect Syria’s Arabian identity, as the idea of its federalization had been buried.

This war has resulted in creating a powerful “Axis of Resistance” that extends from Iran through Iraq to Syria, then to Lebanon and Palestine. Consequently, Washington unleashed an economic warfare through the “Caesar” sanctions, depleting the Syrians who stood by their government.

In mid-2020, the Coronavirus pandemic spread all over the world, resulting in a stalemate in the Syria negotiations. Yet, the sanctions remained the most prominent feature in Syrians’ diaries.

Then in 2022, when the pandemic subsided, the war between Russia and the West in Ukraine commenced, casting a shadow across the entire world. The impasse was broken here by multiple communications reaching the gates of the presidential palace in Damascus, indicating what may be dubbed the “great turning point.” So, what happened, and what were the causes and effects?

To be continued in Part II.

Source: Al-Manar Website

Russian-Turkish ‘co-opetition’ from Syria to Nagorno-Karabakh

March 17 2023

At a time when conflicts are increasingly interconnected, and provide tactical levers to assert pressure elsewhere, the competition between Russia-Iran and Turkiye in Syria and the South Caucasus is destined to overlap.

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Yeghia Tashjian

Despite their robust diplomatic relations, Turkiye has been in direct competition with Russia and Iran in two major Asian conflict zones, Syria and Nagarno-Karabakh, tying together the fates of the Levant and the South Caucasus in any future resolution.

While Ankara seeks to establish its authority over northern Syria and advance Turkic hegemony in key Caucasian states like Azerbaijan for geopolitical advantage, Moscow and Tehran’s goals in these two theaters are to reduce US influence and promote long-term economic interdependence between regional and local states that will stabilize and enrich the region.

Despite these differences, there has been a flurry of meetings between senior Syrian and Turkish officials, with Russia hosting direct dialogues between their respective defense ministers and intelligence agency chiefs.

The desire to garner pre-election voter favor by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the devastating earthquakes that struck the Turkish-Syrian border towns, have played a role in facilitating the recent rapprochement between Ankara and Damascus.

However, it is unlikely that there will be full diplomatic normalization anytime soon due to the status of Idlib, the militant stronghold in northern Syria currently controlled by Turkiye and its proxies. Russia currently appears to favor maintaining the status quo in Idlib until rapprochement talks advance further.

Leveraging conflicts against each other

The resolution of the Syrian crisis depends on the outcome of regional developments, international disputes, and ongoing diplomatic struggles between Ankara and Moscow as they seek to consolidate or expand their influence in different regions, including in Syria and the South Caucasus.

The two conflicts, particularly the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan, share some similarities. Both regions are characterized by significant ethnic and religious diversity, are heavily influenced by regional powers Russia, Iran, and Turkiye, and are in the strategic sights of global superpowers such as China and the US. As a result, the two conflicts have become internationalized, and local actors are unable to reach a resolution without external guarantees.

The South Caucasus is composed of three states – Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan – each with a different foreign policy orientation. Georgia is committed to partnering with Euro-Atlantic and European institutions, while Armenia is a member of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) military alliance.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan and Turkiye are military allies that share similar worldviews, to the extent that Ankara’s decision to support one of the conflicting parties in Ukraine may prompt Baku to adopt a similar stance. Such is today’s increasing connection between local and international conflict – largely because major powers have inserted themselves into these regional disputes.

In addition, instability in the South Caucasus – a strategic geography for future trade routes that will empower Asia’s new hegemons – could create challenges that will impact trade and economic relations between regional states and their neighbors.

Recent developments indicate that Moscow believes its current troop deployment in Nagorno-Karabakh is sufficient to secure Russia’s long-term interests in Baku. However, this position is constantly challenged by Turkiye-backed Azerbaijan, especially following the signing of the Shushi Declaration on June 2021.

Azerbaijan: A major non-Nato ally

The declaration aimed to strengthen military, security, and diplomatic ties between the two Turkic countries and has led to Ankara’s regional ascension at Moscow’s expense. The Shushi Declaration has solidified Azerbaijan’s military and security relations with key NATO member Turkiye, with Baku reforming its army and increasing its special forces units using NATO standards.

According to Ahmad Alili from the Baku-based Caucasus Policy Analysis Center, Azerbaijan has transformed into a “major non-NATO ally” for Turkiye, similar to the role of Israel, Egypt, and Japan for the US:

“With Georgia having publicly declared NATO and EU aspirations, and Azerbaijan having closer military and diplomatic links with NATO member Turkiye, the region loses its ‘Russian backyard’ status and becomes a ‘Russian-Turkish’ playground.”

This development has prompted Moscow to increase its soft pressure over Baku and sign an “allied declaration” in February 2022 to solidify its political presence in the region. In the process, however, Armenia has found itself encircled by Turkiye and Azerbaijan without any land connection to Russia and thus, pushed into a corner.

Russian and Turkish ‘frenmity’  

Though Ankara and Moscow have an understanding of each other’s red lines in Syria, Turkiye’s aspiration to play a greater role in the South Caucasus has put its relationship with Russia to the test.

The 2020 outbreak of the second Nagorno-Karabakh war provided Turkiye with a unique opportunity to expand its influence in its immediate neighborhood – which has remained, since 1828, in Moscow’s sphere of national interest. To challenge Russia, Turkiye provided full active military and diplomatic support to Azerbaijan in its war against Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.

During the war, both Moscow and Ankara played tit-for-tat against each other. Observers noticed that while Russia was rather defensive in its own South Caucasus “backyard,” it was prepared to go on the offensive in Syria by bombing Turkish and Turkiye-backed rebel positions in Idlib.

By exerting pressure on Ankara in the Syrian theater, Moscow was attempting to balance its vulnerabilities and put Turkiye on notice over their other competitions. It didn’t seem to work. Turkiye made an offensive play in Russia’s own backyard, inaugurating, in November 2020, the connection of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) to the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP), which enables Caspian Sea gas to reach southern Europe through Turkiye, bypassing Russia.

This project is crucial for Ankara as it transforms Turkiye from an importer to a transit route for gas. The geopolitical nature of this project aims to decrease Europe’s gas dependency on Moscow.

Not seeing eye-to-eye

On the diplomatic front, Turkiye has attempted to launch an “Astana style” deconfliction process for Nagorno-Karabakh. However, Moscow has not been keen to engage on a purely bilateral track with Ankara in its post-Soviet regions, as this runs the risk of legitimizing Turkiye’s intervention and presence in Russia’s backyard.

For this reason, Maxim Suchkov, a Moscow-based expert at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), explains that Russia chose not to directly intervene in the war, taking a “watch and see approach,” which distressed its Armenian ally to no end.

Suchkov noted that if Azerbaijan had managed to occupy Stepanakert, the Nagorno-Karabakh capital, Turkiye’s gambit would have paid off, and its influence in the region would only accelerate. But this would have led to the ethnic cleansing of Armenians and to Yerevan blaming Moscow for its inaction – and by losing its only regional military ally, Russia would have potentially lost the whole region. Instead, Russia tried to satisfy Baku while not completely alienating Yerevan, which was crushed during Baku’s autumn 2020 blitzkrieg.

Consequently, the 10 November, 2020 trilateral statement brokered by Russia that ended the Nagorno-Karabakh war did not favor Turkiye’s aspirations. Despite pushing for a complete Azerbaijani victory – or at least the deployment of Turkish peacekeepers alongside Russian forces – Ankara’s requests were denied.

Regardless, Turkiye has managed to become an active player in shaping the new geopolitical landscape of the region. While Russia has expressed dissatisfaction with Turkish intervention in its traditional sphere of influence and has established some “red lines,” it has also been forced to recognize Turkiye as a junior player in the region, though parity in the post-conflict regional order still remains in Moscow’s favor.

Post-2020 regional order

However, the ongoing military conflict in Ukraine has had a significant impact on the balance of power in the South Caucasus. As hostilities between the west and Russia continue to spike, the region has become a new confrontation zone, with Azerbaijan and Armenia both seeking to secure their vital interests under cover of the Great Power competition.

While Yerevan’s immediate interest is to protect the safety of the local Armenian population in Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan seeks to resolve the Karabakh issue through brute force, which, if successful, could greatly reduce Moscow’s regional clout, particularly as its peacekeeper mandate is set to expire in 2025.

Despite the 2020 trilateral statement, it appears that a long-lasting peace is still far off. A prime example of the many differences that remain unresolved between Yerevan and Baku is their contrasting interpretation of the statement’s ninth article.

Azerbaijan insists that Armenia must provide a “corridor” through Syunik (southern Armenia) to connect the Azerbaijani mainland to the Nakhichevan exclave, which Baku calls the “Zangezur corridor.”

Armenia rejects this claim, arguing that the article only references the restoration of communication channels (such as highways and railways), with both sides able to access and utilize the routes. But Baku has raised the stakes by threatening to block the Lachin corridor if Armenia does not provide access to the Syunik corridor. Yerevan, in turn, maintains that the status of the Lachin corridor should not be linked to the opening of these communication channels.

Iran’s red line

This has prompted neighboring Iran to make a “comeback” to the South Caucasus, by warning that any territorial changes to the Armenian-Iranian border would constitute a red line for Tehran. Iran believes that such changes could threaten its own geopolitical interests, which include its stake in the strategic Moscow-Tehran-New Delhi-backed International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC).

With Azerbaijan’s brutal blockade of the Lachin corridor – the only land route connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia – Russian troops remain the sole guarantors of the security of Karabakh Armenians. But contrary to what many analysts have predicted, the defeat of Armenia in the 2020 war has not diminished Russian influence in Armenia.

In fact, Russia has gained even more influence there, despite Yerevan’s growing frustration with Moscow’s inability to deter Azerbaijani attacks on sovereign Armenian territory. Baku officials have exacerbated matters by stating that they are not in favor of renewing the Russian peacekeeping mandate in 2025, and will instead push for the “reintegration” of the region into Azerbaijan.

If Baku succeeds in its objective and engages in demographic engineering in the region – forcing Armenians to leave Nagorno-Karabakh – there will no longer be a justification for Russian presence in the region, and Moscow will lose its leverage over the entire South Caucasus.

A Nagorno-Karabakh scenario in Syria?

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has highlighted Moscow’s success in preserving its influence in the region, despite Turkiye’s attempt to shrink Russian clout. However, the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, and its uncertain outcome, is also playing out in the South Caucasus.

As the world shifts from a US-led unipolar order to multipolarity, Azerbaijan and Armenia, like many other nations in conflict, are having to make strategic decisions on whether they align their interests with Russia or the west. Neutrality – when the major power stakes are this high – is unlikely to serve the vital interests of either country.

As such, mounting pressure on Erdogan to consolidate his power in Turkiye’s upcoming elections may force him to make concessions to one axis over the other. Such a move could have a significant impact on Baku and may lead to these “brotherly” nations ending up in opposing global camps.

Furthermore, the possibility of the US withdrawing its troops from northeastern Syria, coupled with the unclear political future of Syrian Kurds, their parallel economy, and autonomous governing structures, creates a risk of a sub-regional power vacuum.

This could push Turkiye and Russia towards managing or enhancing their cooperative rivalry, though it remains to be seen whether Russia can strike a game-changing deal between the Kurds and Damascus – which could gain Moscow leverage with Ankara in the South Caucasus.

The Ukraine war could present an obstacle to Russian diplomatic initiatives. Russia’s reluctance to counter Azerbaijan’s incursions and ceasefire violations after getting mired in the Ukraine war suggests that Moscow may not be up to the task of brokering a Nagorno-Karabakh-style peacekeeping scenario for Syria’s Kurds.

Hence, the Syrian crisis may remain frozen until relations between Ankara and Damascus are normalized – or Turkiye threatens further military attacks. The outcome of the Turkish elections on 14 May 2023 will undoubtedly play a significant role in this regard, both in Syria and the South Caucasus.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

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