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The Critical moment in Syria or Between chess and Russian roulette

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Since the war in Syria began in 2011, Syria have never been closer to peace or the more extensive war.

The Critical moment in Syria or Between chess and Russian roulette

Written by Aleksandar Pavić; published at Pravda, translated by Mario Andrijasevic exclusively for SouthFront

Saudis announce the possibility of ground intervention and a number of their F-15 fighters was already transferred to the Turkish base Incirlik. Turkey also announced the same, and beside that the Turkish artillery is even on more regular basis shelling Kurdish positions in northern Syria, including what is even more dangerous, the government Syirian forces. The French call for the “ground invasion” in Syria under the American leadership, without the participation of French troops of course. The English are carrying out a large military exercise in Jordan and now even bigger was announced by Saudis. Neo-conservative warmongers from the Washington Post and New York Times seek the establishment of “no-fly zone” over Syria, which would practically mean a direct clash with the Russians. Official Washington, in turn, play a warm-cold: does not exclude the possibility of a limited ground intervention, but at the same time head of the State Department Kerry intensifies the talks with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in Munich, in order to implement the cease-fire agreed on 12 February in the framework of the International Support Group for Syria, under the leadership of Russia, the US and the UN, and then the American and Russian presidents confirmed  over the telephone conversation their commitment to the peace process that began in Munich.

In particular, peace is closer because of the impressive success of total joint actions of the Russian Aviation and legitimate Syrian government forces which began 09.30.2015, which in the end, more than anything, has led the Americans to the negotiating table. But at the same time so is the more extensive war, and that’s all because of inadmissibility of Assad’s victory in Syria for his rivals in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Qatar – as well as for their main sponsor, the United States with which inevitably stands also the United Kingdom. After all, the British Foreign Secretary Hammond literally claims that “just one phone call” would be enough for the establishment of peace in Syria – in which Putin would call Assad and ask him to step down.

The current “peace” impulse is primarily a result of the success of the Syrian government forces with their operation for liberating Aleppo, once the most important economic centers in Syria. You do not need to pay attention to the usual western spin, hardened during the war in our country, under which it turns out that the “heroic” Aleppo is under siege by some kind of cruel government forces supported by the Russian air force which, according to the new incarnation of Jamie Shea, is targeting exclusively civilian targets. The truth is that Aleppo was attacked by the rebels in mid-2012 and that they managed to win about half of the city, but also to stretch forces loyal to the government and practically leave them in the encirclement. However, in recent weeks, government forces, with the help of Russian aviation, reversed the situation. Not only the rebel ring around Aleppo was broken, but rebel forces are now in the encirclement, because their supply lines are almost completely severed.

The return of Aleppo under the control of the legitimate government in Damascus would, for those who initiated the civil war in Syria, be a huge blow – some believe that this could decide the outcome of the war – while the position of Syrian President Assad would be sufficiently strengthened so that there would be no real demand anymore necessary for his unconditional departure from power. In recent days the government forces managed to cut a corridor through which the rebel forces in Aleppo received their supply from Turkey via Azaz in northern Syria, but that corridor was used not only by Turkey, but also the CIA. According to the New York Times, “The Russians cut off many roads, which were used by the CIA in its not-quite-so-secret operation of arming rebel groups, according to several current and former officials,” while well-informed Israel Shamir claims that at a recent meeting Kerry asked Lavrov six times not to touch the corridor that goes through Azaz – not only because of the interruption of the supply line, but also due to Turkish threats with intervention if their rebel-Islamist allies in Aleppo are cut off. After all, the current Turkish shelling of the Azaz area, as well as Turkey’s demands that the Kurdish forces leave the area, and last Davotoglu´s statement that Turks “will not allow the fall of Azaz” testify to the justification of Kerry´s predictions.

What else should you know about Aleppo? For example, that in the last three and a half years it has become a stronghold of jihadists from Central and even South and Southeast Asia as well as China and Russia. It is estimated that only in Aleppo is about 1,500 jihadists from Central Asia, including Chechens, Uzbeks and Tajiks, who are struggling within the terrorist organization al-Nusra. All together there is about 5,000 Central Asian fighters who fight in Syria under al-Nusra and the Islamic State, plus about 1,000 Uighurs, who are based in Idlib. It is also estimated that about 2,000 fighters from the Caucasus (Chechnya, Dagestan, and other parts) fight within the al-Nusra, and that they are concentrated in the provinces of Aleppo, Idlib and Latakia. Therefor it is no surprise that a large number of attacks by the Russian Aviation Administration is concentrated on these areas because there are the jihadists who would, sooner or later, try to return home and start a new fire. Even the heart of British intellectual and strategic establishment, Chatham House, expresses the understanding for the Russian fears and motives.

Saudis are seen as their main inspiration and financiers for spreading jihadism. For example, the issue of Indian military magazine in September 2014, an Indian general directly accused Saudi Arabia of Wahhabism and using it as an instrument for domination over India and, in general, the production of new jihadists. Similar thoughts has a former Malaysian diplomat Dennis Ignatius who warns of the danger of “Saudiism” in South East Asia, indicating for example, Malaysia, sometimes moderate, secular and democratic country which has now become a hotbed for extremists demanding the introduction of Sharia and publicly speaking of “cutting off the limbs and head, stoning, and even crucifying people. ” Bluntly, Ignatius estimates that “the Saudi-Wahhabi axis became the biggest threat to world peace and stability.” And the most dynamic litter of Wahhabism is today’s Syria, or better said rebel forces supported by the US, Turkey and their Wahhabi allies.

As pointed out by an expert from Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Christine Lin, one of the main points of the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization held in July 2015, was just “a threat to the Syrian instability and Islamic extremism.” This was followed by the November visit of the Chinese military delegation to India – the highest level in the past ten years – to discuss anti-terrorism and soon after, from the Chinese military leadership were heard the thoughts about the next Chinese war which might start far from China’s borders.

And – what is the essence of the current peace impulse, except the convulsive efforts of the Western powers to somehow preserve these, more proven trumps to preserve Syrian hotbed of jihad / Wahhabism / extremism, or at least to buy some time for its consolidation or, if necessary, relocation to other places (Libya, the Caucasus, to the Asian center and the east). Because these trumps have become seriously endangered with the joint Syrian-Russian action, but also because the courageous struggle of the Syrian Kurds, which led Erdogan´s Turkey to the brink of hysteria and complete loss of mental capacity. And it is not just Aleppo which is a thorn to Turkey, the United States, the Saudis and the rest of the team – there is a risk that the Assad forces liberate Raqqa before they do, and then the game really would be practically over. Therefore, except from the Turkish direction, there could be the way to Raqqa from the northeast and southeast direction, where Saudis could look for a straight line for some serious ground intervention – without asking the legal authorities in Damascus, of course.

From the above-described, it is clear that one side does not want a sincere peace, but it uses peace only as a break, as a means of defense against tactical speeding rivals. Therefore, one can say that in the Syrian scene there are now parallel parties of Russian roulette and chess, with a huge stake. Neither side cannot afford to decisive defeat. Syria is fighting for survival as a state, but Russia is not fighting just to help Syria in this, but in general, fighting against chaos, extremism and aggression, and to the general principle of preserving the sovereignty and territorial integrity.

And its rivals? For breaking Syria for Qatar gas pipeline through part of Syrian territory that they control, recruitment and training of new jihadists for some future “democratic revolution” in other places, for a radical reshaping of the Middle Eastern borders, the dominance of Sunni over Shiites, for Wahhabism to win over the rest of Islam, the new migrant tsunami to Europe. It is essentially for the darkness.

Something that would look like at least as a temporary peace could only occur if, if not the power of reason, then at least the instinct of self-preservation would prevail on this “dark side”. Any sign of such power on the horizon?

Or, to put things like this. Can Erdogan agree to something less than the federalization of Syria, or the actual creation of “Sunnistan”, assembled from parts of northeastern Syria and western Iraq, as recently proposed by former US diplomat John Bolton? Would that not be yet again just a terrorist breeding ground that the Russians and Chinese do not want to see, and against whom are they fighting? How would Assad respond to this? Or Iran? Can Erdogan agree to connect the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, to create a de facto Kurdistan on Turkey’s borders? Can Kurds accept less than what they fought for? Can the Saudis accept Assad’s victory? Can Anglo-Americans accept Russia’s victory? Can the Russians give up their ally, to let them lose the fruit of several months of perfect air campaign which has re-legitimized them as a superpower, to annul the principle for which they were willing to wage war far from its borders? If the US-Turkey-Saudi intervention really starts without calling the Syrian authorities, can Assad and Russia pretend not to see it, in order to avoid a radical escalation of the conflict? Thinking about the answers to these and similar questions will give us also a lot to say about the nature of the Syrian game: chess or the Russian roulette, that is who plays one game and who the other? And the answer will have implications, and already has them, far beyond the Syrian borders.

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