Syria’s International Conference On Refugees Is A Masterclass In Balancing

12 NOVEMBER 2020

By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Syria

The kinetic phase of the Hybrid War of Terror on Syria has mostly drawn to a close, as evidenced by the milestone event of the country hosting an international conference on the return of refugees, which resulted in several significant outcomes that speak to the masterful execution of its “balancing” strategy and raise hope that the Arab Republic will eventually transform into the Eastern Mediterranean terminal point of China’s visionary W-CPEC+ corridor across Eurasia.

Strategically Disarming “Weapons Of Mass Migration”

Syria’s international conference on the return of refugees is a milestone event for the country’s war which shows that the kinetic phase of the Hybrid War of Terror against it has mostly drawn to a close. President Assad’s keynote speech saw the Syrian leader thanking his Russian and Iranian wartime allies for their help getting to this point and encouraging his compatriots abroad to finally return home. He claimed that some of their host countries are exploiting them for financial and other reasons, strongly hinting that they’re being used against their will as “Weapons of Mass Migration” like Ivy League scholar Kelly M. Greenhill earlier described such a phenomenon. In connection with that, President Assad condemned those states which continue to impose illegal sanctions against the Arab Republic, which has disincentivized some refugees from returning home and thus results in artificially perpetuating this historic humanitarian crisis that was initially sparked by their external war of regime change aggression against his people through terrorist means.

Syria’s “Balancing” Act

Thankfully, Syria can count on its Russian and Iranian wartime allies to help reconstruct the ruined country and thus facilitate the return of millions of refugees to their homeland. To this end, Russia promised to allocate $1 billion as well as open up a trade mission in Damascus while Iran suggested setting up an international fund for this purpose. Both countries seem poised to enter into a “friendly competition” with one another for reconstruction contracts and market space which can only work out to Syria’s ultimate benefit. The Arab Republic is therefore expected to retain its carefully calibrated “balancing” act between them, wisely doing its utmost to prevent the emergence of any complete dependence on either of them in the future. This strategy is consistent with what it’s always pursued over the decades and represents its masterful execution which too many other small- and medium-sized states previously attempted but to no avail. Even worse, many of Syria’s peers saw this strategy backfire on them, thus leading to either their ruin or full dependence on one partner.

Full credit goes to Syria’s world-class diplomats for being able to manage such a difficult policy with such success. Not only are they “balancing” between Russia and Iran, but they also managed to attract the important participation of other countries in their international refugee conference, most curious of which for some observers is Pakistan. Those who only casually follow Syrian affairs might have missed it, but Islamabad recently dispatched massive medical aid to the Arab Republic. This and its participation in the international conference show that the “global pivot state” (which the author previously referred to it as) is capable of bold foreign policy moves independent of its close American, Saudi, and Turkish partners. Pakistan, just like Syria, is also practicing its own “balancing” act between its aforementioned three traditional partners and its three newest ones of Russia, China, and Iran. In fact, it can be argued that Pakistan and Syria are in the process of synergizing their respective “balancing” strategies for the betterment of Eurasia.

Pakistan’s Serendipitous Chance In Syria”

To explain, not only is Syria “balancing” between Russia and Iran, but also between India and Pakistan too. Although Damascus and Delhi have a long history of close relations, Presidential Advisor Bouthaina Shabaan told the Hindustan Times in August 2017 that her country is becoming hesitant about India’s role in its reconstruction after Prime Minister Modi’s highly publicized trip to “Israel” where he did everything from sign intergovernmental deals solidifying their de-facto alliance to even walking barefoot with Netanyahu along the beach. The author realized at the time that this is “Pakistan’s Serendipitous Chance In Syria” whereby Islamabad could flex its anti-Zionist credentials to present itself as a much more credible partner than pro-Zionist Delhi in pursuit of strengthening the two state’s historic relations that reached their high point in 1974 after a Pakistani pilot flying a Syrian jet shot down an “Israeli” fighter flying over the occupied Golan Heights. Syria’s diplomats were evidently receptive to Pakistan’s outreaches, hence the steady improvement of ties.

The Winding Road To W-CPEC+

It’s not just nostalgia for their Old Cold War-era ties nor their shared hatred of “Israel” that’s bringing them closer together nowadays, but pro-Chinese Silk Road pragmatism. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the flagship project of China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), and its western branch corridor (W-CPEC+) through Iran has the chance of not only reaching Russia by running parallel with the stalled North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) across Azerbaijan but can also extend as far as Syria via Iraq. China is the little-discussed third economic force apart from Russia and Iran which is engaged in a “friendly competition” with its partners to develop Syria, and the improvement of Syrian-Pakistani relations as is presently happening could result in W-CPEC+ extending from the Pacific Ocean to the Eastern Mediterranean through Iran, Iraq, and Syria, all of which are allied with one another. It’ll of course take a lot of political will from all sides — not least of all Pakistan — to see this ambitious vision through, but if successful, then it could revolutionize Mideast geopolitics.

All five countries — China, Pakistan, Iran, Russia, and Syria — would benefit from this outcome. The People’s Republic is the world’s second-largest economy and actively eyeing more positions in the Eastern Mediterranean to complement its prospective ones in “Israel”, albeit via more geopolitically reliable mainland routes than the maritime ones connecting it to the self-professed “Jewish State”. Pakistan has an interest in bolstering its credential as the “global pivot state” by having CPEC serve as the platform for integrating Eurasia more closely together. Iran, which is desperately seeking all manner of sanctions relief, is reportedly negotiating a gargantuan economic agreement with China and would certainly benefit by facilitating more East-West trade through its territory. As for Russia, its recent control over Tartus means that it could profit from any Syrian export of Chinese products through that port. As for the Arab Republic itself, its expected benefit is that this vision would accelerate its reconstruction and allow it to finally actualize its pre-war “Five Seas Strategy”.

Concluding Thoughts

All told, Syria’s international conference on the return of refugees was about much more than just its titular topic. Reading between the lines of the details that have since been revealed about this milestone event, it was actually a masterclass in Syria’s “balancing” strategy. The Arab Republic proved that its diplomats are among the most highly skilled in the world after successfully “balancing” between Russia and Iran, as well as India and Pakistan, all with the aim of fulfilling its visionary “Five Seas Strategy” which some argue was partially responsible for provoking the Hybrid War of Terror that’s been viciously waged against it for almost an entire decade already. In the best-case scenario, Syria will eventually serve as the Eastern Mediterranean terminal point of the W-CPEC+ corridor connecting that strategic body of water with the Pacific Ocean via a several-country-long mainland commercial corridor. The successful fulfillment of this vision would revolutionize not only Mideast geopolitics, but also Eurasian geopolitics as a whole, which thus makes it an urgent priority for all.

البحار الخمسة والانسحاب الأميركيّ والإسرائيليّ من أذربيجان أولاً

ناصر قنديل

تتقاطع المعطيّات التاريخية مع الأسباب الوطنية والأتنية والعرقية والقومية في نزاعات العالم الجديد، بعد نهاية الحرب الباردة، مع مصالح النفط والغاز ومصادرهما والأنابيب الناقلة لهما، والممرات المائية للناقلات التي تحمل هذه الموارد من مصادرها إلى أسواق العالم، مع التبدّلات التي تصيب موازين القوى العالمية وتصادم الاستراتيجيات، لتتشكّل مشاهد الحروب الصغيرة – الكبيرة، الممتدّة على مساحة العالم والمتركزة في مناطق تتوزّع بين أحواض البحار الخمسة، التي شكلت عنوان مشروع يحمل اسم الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد، تحت عنوان الدعوة لمنظومة إقليمية تضم الدول التي تشاطئ البحار، الأبيض المتوسط والأحمر والأسود وقزوين وعُمان وتقع مناطق القوقاز والمشرق وتركيا وإيران وروسيا والخليج في قلبها، ووفقاً لبعض قراء الاستراتيجيات أن الحرب الاستباقية على سورية التي قادتها واشنطن جاءت لمنع قيام هذه المنظومة الإقليميّة، التي تستند دعوة الأسد لقيامها إلى استقرائه بدء مرحلة فراغ استراتيجي ستخيم عليها في ضوء الفشل الأميركي في حربي العراق وأفغانستان، فجاءت الحرب على قاعدة الإنكار الأميركي للتسليم بالفراغ وإغلاقاً لباب البحث بالبدائل إقليمية.

الانسحابات الأميركية من أوزباكستان، والتي على الطريق من أفغانستان، والموعود بها من كل من سورية والعراق، تجعل الفراغ الاستراتيجي أمراً واقعاً، بالتزامن مع استرداد روسيا زمام المبادرة في مناطق النزاع الواقعة ضمن المدى التاريخي للاتحاد السوفياتي، وفي محيطها الأبعد لأمنها القومي، انطلاقا من حسمها العسكري مع جورجيا، عبر اجتياح أوسيتيا الجنوبية عام 2008، وصولاً لحسم أمر شبه جزيرة القرم وشرق أوكرانيا، عام 2014، وصولاً للتموضع العسكري المباشر في سورية عام 2015، وبالتوازي مع ذلك ظهور إيران كقوة إقليمية صاعدة بعد حضورها في الحرب على سورية من جهة وفوزها بالاتفاق النووي من جهة مقابلة، وتبلور دورها كقوة داعمة لقوى صاعدة في لبنان والعراق واليمن وفلسطين، وظهور تركيا كقوة إقليميّة تملك مشروعاً لفرض حضورها كشريك إقليمي، سواء تحت سقف الانضواء في حلف الأطلسي أو من خارجه وعلى حساب حلفاء فيه، أو بمواجهة بعض الحلفاء الأعضاء البارزين فيه كفرنسا، ما يعني عملياً أن مشروع المنظومة الإقليمية التي تحدث عنها الرئيس بشار الأسد منذ عام 2009، عادت لتشكل إطاراً يملأ الفراغ الاستراتيجي الناجم عن الانكفاء الأميركي، رغم الإنكار، لكن بدلاً من أن يتم ذلك على البارد وبوعي استباقي، فهي تتم الآن على الساخن وبدفع أثمان باهظة، وربما تكون مغامرات ورعونة الرئيس التركي المسؤول الرئيسي عن تضييع فرصة الخيار الاستباقي السلمي وحلول الخيار الدموي مكانه.

تشبه الحرب بين اذربيجان وأرمينيا في كثير من وجوهها الجيوسياسية، الحرب على سورية، حيث تحضر ثروات وأنابيب النفط والغاز، وحيث تحضر التجاذبات الإقليمية والدولية. ففي أذربيجان أقرب القواعد الأميركية لحدود روسيا في آسيا، وأقرب تمركز إسرائيلي لإيران، وترابط تاريخي وجغرافي لمنطقة النزاع بكل من روسيا وإيران وتركيا، ومصالح أوروبية حاضرة بتدفق موارد الطاقة، وخصوصاً خط تاناب الذي يزود أوروبا بغاز بحر قزوين والممتد على مسافة 3500 كلم عابراً الأراضي التركية. والحل الذي ينهي الحرب الممتدة الجذور إلى صراعات الهويات التاريخية والتنازع الحدودي، لا يمكن أن يجد فرصته إلا عندما تتبلور توازنات متفق عليها ومسلم بها لموقع الصراع في الخرائط الجيوسياسية والعسكرية على الصعيدين الإقليمي والدولي. وهذا لن يتحقق من دون الانسحاب الأميركي والإسرائيلي من أذربيجان، وتموضع تركيا خارج المشروع الأطلسي للضغط على روسيا اسوة بما فعلته في سورية من قبل، ليتم تظهير إطار للحل السياسي وفق قواعد شبيهة بمسار أستانة الروسي الإيراني التركي.

كما كان تأخير مسار منظومة البحار الخمسة بفعل رعونة وغرور وخطأ رهانات وحسابات الرئيس التركي، سيتأخر الحال في ناغورني قره باغ حتى تنضج تركيا لصالح تكرار ما فعلته في سورية بانضوائها ضمن ثلاثية روسية تركية إيرانية، سيتكفل وجودها بتخفيض التوتر من جهة، وبتسريع القناعة الأذربيجانية بضرورة تسريع انسحاب أميركي إسرائيلي من أراضيها، كشرط لجهوزيتها لنزع الفتائل الإقليمية والدولية من النزاع، والمفارقة اللافتة في هذا الصراع أن إيران المتهمة ببناء هلال شيعي أو أكثر والتي ترتبط بالانتماء للمذهب الشيعي مع أكثر من 85% من الآذريين، فيما ينتسب 20% من الإيرانيين للعرق الآذري الذي يشكل القومية الثانية بعد الفارسية بين مكوّنات الشعب الإيراني، تجد نفسها أقرب لأرمينيا المسيحيّة، بينما تجد تركيا التي تخوض معركة زعامة سنة العالم الإسلامي مع أذربيجان الشيعية، ما يكفي لفهم كيفية تموضع الدول في السياسات والحروب، وفقاً للاستراتيجيات العليا والمصالح الكبرى، فيما لا تشكل القومية والمذهبية إلا الغطاء أو الذريعة عندما تنسجم مع المصالح العليا، فحيث تنوجد أميركا و«إسرائيل» يستحيل أن تجد إيران حليفاً كما يصعب أن تجد تركيا عدواً.

The Middle East’s New Post-Regime Change Future

Image result for The Middle East’s New Post-Regime Change Future

Matthew Ehret
November 1, 2019

With the transformation of the rules of the “Great Game” in the Middle East emerging out of President Trump’s recent Syrian surprise pullout and Putin’s brilliant manoeuvres since 2015, a sweeping set of development/reconstruction programs led by China now have a chance to become hegemonic across the formerly hopeless, terrorist-infested region.

The fact that the Arab states of the Middle East were targeted for destruction by western geopoliticians over the last 40 years is not un-connected to the region’s historic role as “cross-roads of civilizations” which were once the bridge between East and West along the ancient Silk Road (c. 250 BC). Today’s New Silk Road has brought 150 countries into a multipolar model of cooperation and civilization-building which necessitates a stabilized Middle East in order to function.

When asking “how could a reconstruction of the Middle East be possible after so many years of hell” I was pleasantly surprised to discover that both great projects once derailed have been given new life with the new prospects for peace and also new projects never before dreamed possible have been created as part of the New Silk Road (Aka: One Belt One Road).

Just to get a sense of this incredible potential that is keeping western oligarchs up at night, I want to quickly review just a few of the greatest China-led reconstruction projects which are now taking hold in four of the most decimated areas of the Middle East: Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan.

Iraq Joins the New Silk Road

After decades of foreign manipulation, the Iraqi government was able to declare victory over Da’esh in 2017- just 3 years after the western-sponsored insurgents had gained control of one third of the territory. This new stability created by Russia’s intervention into Syria, unleashed a vast potential for China-led reconstruction to not only re-build the war-torn nation, but launch it into the 21st century.

In September 2019, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdu-Mahdi announced Iraq’s participation in the New Silk Road standing alongside Xi Jinping in Beijing. Mahdi said: “Iraq has gone through war and civil strife and is grateful to China for its valuable support… Iraq is willing to work in the ‘One Belt One Road’ framework”.  President Xi then said: “China would like, from a new starting point together with Iraq, to push for the China-Iraq Strategic Partnership”.

Part of this Strategic Partnership involves an Oil for Reconstruction program which will see Chinese firms exchange infrastructure-building for oil (100 000 barrels/day to be exact). Already Iraq is China’s 2nd largest supplier of overseas oil while China has become Iraq’s #1 trade partner. Abdul Hussein al-Hanin (Advisor to the Prime Minister) explained that rather than giving money for Iraqi oil, China would build its projects defined by 3 priorities which al-Hanin said “first is building and modernizing the highways and internal roads with their sewage systems. Second is the construction of schools, hospitals and residential and industrial cities, and third is the construction of railways, ports, airports and other projects”. Atop the list of “other projects” include water treatment systems and power plants.

While Iraq’s economy is dependant on oil (making up 65% of its GDP, 100% of its export revenue), China’s New Silk Road focuses upon diversifying Iraq into a more complex full spectrum economy which is vital to enhance its sovereignty.

While great strides have been made towards a new system, anti-government protests threaten to disrupt this program having left 100 dead and thousands wounded since they began in July 2018.

A New Hope for Syria

The wounds Syria has inflicted since the crisis erupted in 2011 will take generations to heal, with over half a million deaths, a loss of 5.6 million civilians who have fled the country and approximately 6.1 million displaced within Syria itself. China has made clear its intentions to bring the BRI to Syria as fast as possible since 2017 with Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang saying:

“Too many people in the Middle East are suffering at the brutal hands of terrorists. We support regional countries in forming synergy, consolidating the momentum of anti-terrorism and striving to restore regional stability and order. We support countries in the region in exploring a development path suited to their national conditions and are ready to share governance experience and jointly build the Belt and Road and promote peace and stability through common development.”

After committing $23 billion in aid in 2018, BRI projects in Syria have taken many forms which can now begin as a viable peace process is finally underway, including East-West rail and road connections between Asia and Europe passing through Iran, to Iraq and into Syria where goods can be sent to the Basra Port in Iraq, the Syrian ports of Latakia and Tartus on the Mediterranean as well as the incredibly important Port of Tripoli in Lebanon called a “pearl on the New Silk Road” by the Chinese.

Discussion of a North South route connecting transport routs through Syria to Lebanon, Israel and Egypt into Africa are now underway and the timing of the chaotic anti-government protests in Lebanon makes one wonder if western meddling is behind it.

Many of the beautiful possibilities for Syrian reconstruction were laid out in great detail in a 2016 Schiller Institute video entitled Project Phoenix which has circulated widely across the Arab world.

Assad’s Five Seas Strategy Revived

Little known in the western world, President Bashar al-Assad had already advanced this vision as early as 2004 when he first announced his “Five Seas Strategy”. In an August 1, 2009 interview, President Assad described his program beautifully:

“Once the economic space between Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran becomes integrated, we would link the Mediterranean, Caspian, Black Sea, and the [Persian] Gulf . . . we aren’t just important in the Middle East. . . Once we link these four seas, we become the unavoidable intersection of the whole world in investment, transport, and more.”

Going beyond mere words, President Assad had led delegations signing agreements with Turkey, Romania, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon to begin Five Seas projects. This was done at a moment that President Qadaffi was well underway building the Great Manmade River as the largest water project in history alongside a coalition of nations of Sudan and Egypt.

In a powerful report Extending the New Silk Road to West Asia and Africa, BRI expert Hussein Askary wrote:

“Through the BRI, China is offering the rest of the world its know-how, experience and technology, backed by a $3 trillion financial arsenal. This is a great opportunity for West Asia and Africa to realize the dreams of the post-World War II independence era, dreams that have unfortunately been sabotaged for decades. The dramatic deficit in infrastructure both nationally and inter-regionally in West Asia and Africa can, ironically, be considered in this new light as a great opportunity.”

It is now becoming obvious, that the Syrian project that was derailed in 2011 can now get back on track.

Yemen as Keystone of the Maritime Silk Road

The four year Saudi war on Yemen has been a humanitarian disaster of our times. However in spite of insurmountable odds, the Yemenis have managed to not only defend themselves but have pulled off one of the most brilliant military flanking maneuvers in history crippling the Saudi economy on September 29th. This victory has both forced the Saudis to eat yet-another mouthful of humble pie and created a breathing space for a serious discussion for Yemen’s reconstruction through participation in the New Silk Road. Sitting upon the entry of the Gulf of Aden with the Red Sea, Yemen is today as it was 2000 years ago: a vital node in both Maritime Silk Road and the land-based Silk Road connecting Asia with Africa and Europe.

Already several Yemeni organizations have been created endorsing this vision led by the Yemeni Advisory Office for Coordination with the BRICS, Yemeni Youth BRICS Cabinet and the New Silk Road Party which has gained the support of leading government officials since their founding by Yemeni poet/statesman Fouad al-Ghaffari in 2016. Courageous efforts such as these have resulted in the government’s signing an MOU to join the BRI in June 2019.

A word on Turkey and Afghanistan

The Middle Corridor linking Turkey to Georgia and Azerbaijan via rail and to China via Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan was hailed by Erdogan to “be at the heart of the Belt and Road Initiative.” In July 2019, Erdogan said the BRI “has emerged as the greatest development project of the 21st century”. After citing the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge over the Bosporus, Eurasian tunnel and Marmaray system across the Dardanelles and its vast high speed rail, Erdogan continued by saying: “Turkey shares China’s vision when it comes to serving world peace, preserving global security, stability, promoting multilateralism… the world seeks a new multipolar balance today”. It is no secret that Turkey has come to the realization that its destiny relies on China, whose trade rose from $230 million in 1990 to a staggering $28 billion in 2017!

President Trump’s efforts to bring the Taliban to the discussion table with the Afghan government of Ahmadzai have resulted in a renewed potential for China’s desire to extend the $57 billion China-Pakistan-Economic Corridor (CPEC) into Kabul. While this diplomatic opportunity is very fragile, it is the closest the region has yet come to a viable resolution to the post 2001 insanity (including the replacement of its opium-based economy towards a viable full spectrum nation).

It goes without saying that the entire Arab world is looking at a new future of hope and development through the combined efforts of Russia and China. The USA, under Trump’s efforts to undo the decades of Gordian Knots in the Middle East have resulted in the most absurd campaign from republican and democratic tools in Washington to impeach the president. Obviously, a US-Russia-China alliance would be a wonderful blessing for the world, but for this to occur, the matter of the deep state infestation of America must first be dealt with.

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