Geopolitical Standoff In Post-ISIS Middle East

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As the ISIS terrorist group is collapsing in Syria and Iraq, the competition among powers involved in the conflict increases.

In March, Moscow and Astana become the main centers of the diplomatic activity with top leaders from Israel, Turkey, the UK and other powers discussing the issues confronting the Middle East. Ongoing events aim to shape the climate of international relations in the region after defeating ISIS. The key players’ conflicting agendas come head to head with each other.

Israel is concerned over the increased Iranian influence, and the growing military capabilities of Hezbollah. The Press Service of the Israeli Prime Minister confirmed that his working visit to Russia pursued two goals:

  1. To continue cooperation in order to avoid Israeli-Russian incidents and tensions in Syria;
  2. To demonstrate Israel’s disagreement on the military presence of Iran or its proxies at the northern Israeli border and in the Mediterranean. Israel will keep this stance no matter what result of any Syrian settlement.

Another problem for Israel, is the collapse of militant groups in Southern Syria. Both ISIS and so-called moderate rebels had not conducted operations against Israel during the Syrian war. Furthermore, militants fighting the Assad government were being treated in Israeli hospitals until early March. Some Syrian sources report that anti-Assad militant groups had been receiving military assistance from Israel. The Israeli military has repeatedly directed airstrikes against the Syrian army and Hezbollah. However, the ISIS military defeat pushed its members and ISIS-linked groups to adjust. Mounting pressure from the Syrian-Iranian-Russian coalition pushed militants to relocate to Lebanon and Jordan, to search for new patrons, sources of funds and bases. The Israeli leadership is concerned that these militants could join some anti-Israeli groups operating in Lebanon and the nearby areas. Thus, Israel faces major security threats at its borders in the areas of the Golan Heights and Galilee, but the strategic threats from Iran and Hezbollah are the main priority. In this case, Israel has full support from the US and the EU, as well as the UK, Turkey and the Gulf monarchies.

Netanyahu aimed to convince President Putin that Russia and Iran no longer share any common ground in Syria and proposed some alternatives to Moscow. The Israeli agenda is also heavily supported by the mainstream media and think-tanks, which push the narrative, on a constant basis, that some “hidden” tensions between Moscow and Tehran exist. These “analyses” attempt to showcase some differences in the approaches implemented by Russia and Iran as a major rift, but ignore the fact of close cooperation and joint mid-term goals over the course of the conflict.

While Turkey was providing general support to the Israeli efforts, its delegation, which also visited Moscow, pushed its own agenda. Ankara sees its military gains in northern Syria as a major success and wants to repeat this success on the diplomatic front. The Turkish leadership is specifically concerned with the following issues:

  1. Military operations by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) which are now de-facto backed up by the Syrian Arab Army and the Russian Defense Ministry. The Syrian and Russian military presence west of the YPG-held town of Manbij greatly complicates any prospective Turkish military actions against Kurdish forces there;
  2. Growing activity of the Russian military forces and their operations across Syria, especially at the contact line with the Turkish Armed Forces and pro-Turkish militant groups;
  3. Prospective operations against ISIS, particularly the upcoming advance on Raqqah;
  4. The Russian support for Syrian reconciliation, which would likely lead to at least the creation of a Kurdish cultural autonomy within Syria.

Strategically, Erdogan and his colleagues are concerned over the growing “de-facto” influence of Russia and Iran in the Middle East. In a similar vein, Turkey seeks to expand its own power in Syria and Iraq.

The maximum objectives of Turkish foreign policy in the region:

  1. To depose President Bashar al-Assad;
  2. To turn Syria into an Islamic parliamentary republic;
  3. To push a major pro-Turkish political block into the Syrian parliament (at least 30% of the seats);
  4. To form a coalition government led by a pro-Turkish prime minister, which will benefit to interests of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Israel;
  5. To expel Kurdish political entities and Kurds from the Syrian politic, in general;
  6. To re-launch the Qatar-Turkey pipeline project.

If Ankara is not able to achieve its maximum goals in Syria, it will try at least to set up a Turkish-controlled quasi-state in northern Syria. Then, Turkey will likely try to annex this area.

The Erdogan government is ready to allow more latitude in order to achieve its goals in Syria. Turkish leadership has prepared a bundle agreement which it believes should be of benefit to Russia. However, this looks questionable, because Turkey does depend on Russia economically, while the reverse is not true. This is especially clear in the energy and tourism sectors.

The formal results of the Russian-Turkish talks showed that the sides were not able to reach a broad agreement. Erdogan even admitted that the Turkish Stream gas pipeline and Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, the two main energy projects, are still in question. The main Turkish economic achievement was that the Russian Government authorized import of oranges, tangerines, peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots and blackthorns from Turkey and repealed a ban on visas for Turkish guest workers.

Putin and Erdogan also praised the two nations’ cooperation over the Syrian conflict. However, the recent Turkish offensive actions against the Syrian army and Kurdish forces west of Manbij were likely the main reason that the talks did not yield significant progress.

While Saud Arabia and Qatar continue providing financial support to terrorist groups operating in Syria, the main tool of the Saudi Arabian influence is Jabhat Al-Nusra, renamed  Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, and then to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Today they have almost no independent agenda in Syria.  Both Gulf nations are fomenters of violence against the Assad government, and concerned over growing Iranian influence in the region. Growing Iranian influence often leads to the growth of protest sentiments among the oppressed Shia minorities of both nations. The crisis is further fueled by the failure of the Saudi-led intervention into Yemen where the Saudi coalition cannot deliver a devastating blow to the Houthi-Saleh alliance, which is partly backed by Tehran. This has led to enormous military expenditures and the demoralization of the kingdom’s military forces. The rift among the members of the Saudi-led alliance also plays an important role in the current situation. Thus, on a regional level, Saudi Arabia and Qatar act as de-facto allies of Israel. This reality undermines their fraudulent, yet often asserted role as the true defenders of the Arab population in the region.

The security situation is also complicated in Jordan. The high popularity of radical Islamic ideologies and the high number of refugees in the area are the main factors causing the instability.

The administration of US President Donald Trump has decided to intensify military deployments in crisis zones across the Greater Middle East. The Pentagon sent troops and equipment to Syria in order to intensify operations against ISIS. The US Special Forces and the Marines are actively participating in the anti-ISIS operation in western Mosul. Meanwhile, the US contingent is set to be reinforced in Afghanistan. These actions show that the Trump administration has shifted its course from the failed Obama policies aimed to train the so-called “local forces”, to a direct-action approach. This will lead to a deeper involvement of US military forces in operations in crises zones around the world. This approach will likely lead to a relatively fast victory over ISIS in Raqqah and Mosul, but will not resolve the main reason of the conflict – tensions among various local fractions fueled by the activity of various sponsors of “terrorism for democracy”.

Meanwhile, the US State Department declared that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and all factions which merged into it are now considered by the US as a terrorist group. This statement is similar to the position of the Russian-Syrian-Iranian alliance over this “moderate opposition faction” operating in the Syrian province of Idlib. At the same time, the course of the Trump administration is aimed at expanding and strengthening US ties with Saudi Arabia.

In light of these realities, the collapse of ISIS may not mean the end of the Middle East crisis and the region could face another crisis by the end of 2017.

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  • chris chuba

    It’s funny in a sad way. Israel is constantly complaining about how Hamas gets outside support to foment violence within Israel, fair enough. Yet Israel sees nothing wrong with supporting similar groups to topple a govt in a neighboring country. What has Syria under the current Assad ever done to Israel?

    Israel not only supports Al Qaeda groups within Syria but even uses their air force to bomb the Syrian army and I even recall that they shot down a Syrian Jet near the Golan Heights that posed no threat to them. Does Syria assist Hezbollah? To some minor extent they allow Iran to arm Hezbollah but so what. Hezbollah has not fought Israel for 10yrs and it was Israel that invaded Lebanon. True, Hezbollah was trying to abduct Israeli soldiers but that was to get leverage to release detainees from Israel’s 1996 invasion of Lebanon. I’m not here to litigate the Israeli / Hezbollah conflict but just point out that Hezbollah never made gratuitous terrorist attacks against Israel. They are more or less a rational actor and trying to destroy Hezbollah does not justify burning down Syria and Lebanon.

    • carlo

      israel and american behavior is so bad as was stalin or hitler.
      now is the moment of stop every involvement in middle east of america.
      and if iran get nuclear bomb (as nord corea) I see this thing as defense versus terrorism versus sionists, versus americans.
      and if russia give nuclear bombs to siaria also, I see the thing as deterrent versus american and israelian sionist politic.
      all around the world there is only violence to take power from american direction.
      for europeans it’s time to leave nato, leave american friendship because is the right thing to do. save peace and freedom of people of the world

      • Alex

        Stalin was a saint compared to Hitler or the others you mentioned there.

        • Kell
          • Alex

            You really should watch what you are typing to other people on the net, you retard.

          • Red Tick Alert

            Someone stated once (here I think) that trolls use a number of different methods, one of them being to just sway a decent discussion away and basically make the thread a non-entity. That is what this “Alex” has done and we all fell for it – yes me included.

            Hindsight is a wonderful thing isn’t it ?.

        • Real Anti-Racist Action

          Stalin wiped out 45,000,000 people, may millions of his own. Stalin was Georgian, and he hated Russians.
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFA8A7RcnSM

          • Alex

            All those deaths are the result of two groups fighting each other, the group that has won imprisoned the others, and the people who sparked and fueled the conflict are the western elite.

          • carlo

            also tito was croat, but in jugoslavia was serbian power……..which kill million of croat, musulman, italians, germans…..

        • carlo

          in fact stalin was the worst violent and bad person ever seen, and if there wasn’t germany russia at the time want to catch the world under revolution, communism for all….. at any cost!
          stalin was a mass murderer and criminal mind, worst than Hitler , the best criminal ever seen in modern times, ( with some american dictators, as bush, as obama, as the person that kill JFK to catch power)

          • Alex

            Yeah yeah , those western sources do tell you that, Russia wanted to everyone to become communist, lol, the western powers are the ones who sponsored the revolution in Russia and the wars between the white and red movement and the war between sovjet union and nazi germany, you ignorant comments make me laugh.

        • Red Tick Alert

          You are so wrong there.

          • Alex

            no. i am not :)

      • Mr. Perfect

        You’re an idiot. America would decimate Iran and Russia

        • carlo

          do you understand? have you read? I think not……
          and if here there is an idiot, is the person which reply even read and understand….

        • Rodney Loder

          Drones only go so far, look at Erdogan marshalling the left to great effect, and those same players are anti israel, on the traditional right anti globalist pro Nationalist are 100% behind Assad, US can’t put an army in the field the left would solidify and the Nationalists would be right behind them, and a Yes vote in three weeks will eliminate the Kurds love in with Trump, your probably very young and don’t know US politics, I agree with you about carlo, Stalin said about the Hitler comparison that Hitler had zero ownership of the means of production and the Soviet Union had accomplished 100% , this fight could go either way, and so can I.

        • carlo

          I am idiot, you are a nonsens man. and . . . . america would . . . . and how the dog barks a lot, but who bites, and sinks his teeths, never talk too much, and never out of turn… as you and your shit of country. Please keep informed your people of what truthly america does and did all around the world and how much civilian people killed ….. japan nuke included, your country deserves to be wiped off the face of the earth, including your villagers. the world is the world is now tired of American crimes, which are many, and unspeakable unpunished (so far), but it could be the beginning that finally someone decides, there are many people in the world now who stood by the side of right, now they are all hoping that the Americans finally understand what happens in the world thanks to the arrogance American murderer the world is now tired of American crimes, which are many, and unspeakable unpunished (so far), but it could be the beginning that finally someone decides, there are many people in the world now who stood by the side of the right, now they are all hoping that the Americans finally understand what happens in the world thanks to the arrogance American murderer, and finally understand. Amercan can’t be the home of freedom if continues to control wherever wants.

  • Thegr8rambino

    Why the hell does US keep supporting Saudis and Israel? There will never be peace in the region if we keep being friends with these enablers and agitators. And who gives a shit if they are “concerned” with Russian and Iranian influence in the region, I would rather those two nations control the entire Mideast than the Saudi/Israeli/Turkish flunkies

    • Alex

      It’s their way of keeping the competition down

      • Thegr8rambino

        What competition?

        • Alex

          Obviously the countries that threathen their hegemony.

          • Thegr8rambino

            I hope they succeed in those threats lol

    • Mr. Perfect

      Because it benefits the U.S? Ever hear of something called natural resources? The U.S happens to use the most natural resources in the world.

      • Thegr8rambino

        They are not the only country with those resources, you know!

    • Brad Isherwood

      After Nixon put the USD on oil……the bed was made for Saudi/US.
      Back then….Technology had not risen to challenge oil.
      Oil and nat/gas was a game of aquire, …regulate….and keep off market.
      I built front end oil nat/gas process worldwide, …my last contract was NATCO
      Out of Houston TX.
      USD and what few nations are not under the Thumb of IMF/World Bank/Rothschild
      Central bank.
      US Congress forbid American consortium build for Iran…or Venezuela.
      Tada.!..build it in another Country….then ship it finished to bypass Congress.

      Before Electronics and Office was outsource……Oil Nat/Gas was…

      I built Frac Modules for Iran….just before Gulf War 1 : )

      LOL….BP oil went into Russia thinking they would buy up concessions on the cheap
      After Yeltsin. ..
      BP lost millions as regional Jewish Oligarchs burned them and left them nothing by way of
      Resource acquisition.

      Buyer beware : )

    • Alican Elmas

      Turkey can be close friend with Iran if they stop supporting Apoist Kurds who use suicide bombers like ISIS.

      • Thegr8rambino

        if who stops supporting apoist kurds?

  • Nigel Maund

    Good summary of the issues and likely outcome! Very messy and getting worse!

  • Mr. Perfect

    ISIS never existed. Those flags were mass produced for PR, just like their toyota trucks, black uniforms, and camouflage. The reality is that ISIS was a cover for FSA crimes, and those “terrorists” that opened fire on foreign soldiers were really villagers defending their homes. The beheading videos, executions, etc are all fake and created by the CIA/MOSSAD/etc.

  • Alican Elmas

    Suppression, invasion of American during Iraq war and Battle of Fallujah created ISIS terrorists. Would Russian killings and bombings have the same impacts in Syria? USA and Russia is together doing terrible things in the region. There wont be any people in the future for revenge…They will kill them all sadly this is the strategy. I say to poor syrian people, do not stay in Syria. They are gonna kill you all.

  • Brad Isherwood

    https://www.rt.com/op-edge/381243-iran-mosul-iraq-us-trump/

    “the US and its allies and partners in the region and beyond must not only understand Iran’s regional strategy and influence but also develop a coherent strategy of their own with which to confront them. Considering the religious, economic, political and diplomatic power of the two sides, it is simply unacceptable for the US and its allies to allow even such progress as it has [already] made in these realms.”

  • Rodney Loder

    In memory of Comrade Stalin, let me complete this thread with his victory and our betrayal of ourselves and Christianity as a Global Religion, alas Markets will always only ever be speculation, a derisory content for anything other than crude forms of social expression, but even so, Russia will be preserved by Orthodoxy,- and it’s resources,​- while the rest of the World is strangled by Over Population Climate Change and the outsourced means of production, that’s what Islam is the final hour.
    Israel won’t engage in Syria because Trump hasn’t got an army to come to their aid, and Russia would command the moral high ground in a Missile Tech War,- the Hippie left and Nationalist right would unite,- furthermore
    Erdogan isn’t after a Qatari gas hub oh, ! wait, ! he is that’s why the BH was only strong in Turkey and Qatar, outside of Egypt, don’t forget King Abdullah even kicked Qatar out of the GCC because of it, speculators at it again, let’s all worship pope john Paul for giving us this war and denounce Stalin for winning the Big War, a true gentleman and a scholar was Comrade Stalin (pbuH) amen.