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Tuesday, 16 February 2016

“The Cold War” Over Syria…Will Remain Cold By Sami Koleib

Introduction by Ghassan Kadi
This is an article that has been translated from Arabic by Intibah and me. It was published on today's Assafir (Lebanese daily) by Sami Koleib. He is a renowned pro-Resistance Lebanese journliast. He has made great analyses over the last few years and Intibah and I had the pleasure of translating some of his work.
In this article, he is articulating his views about the outcome of the huffing and puffing of Turkey and Saudi Arabia in regard to their threats of launching ground military operations in Syria. A highly recommended read.


“The Cold War” Over Syria…Will Remain Cold
By Sami Koleib

Assafir Lebanese Daily, 15 February 2016

Translated by Ghassan and Intibah Kadi

For the Russia Prime Minister, Dimitry Medvedev to say that the world is entering a cold war, he is declaring the status quo..and confirming what’s already confirmed. But to say it from Munich, this is the same place from which President Vladimir Putin began to stand up against Washington in his famous speech nearly eight years ago. And, for Medvedev to mention the Russian Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 to stop an American invasion, is only a reminder of the new red lines for any land invasion perpetrated by the enemies of the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad in Syria’s north, and specifically to any Saudi-Turkish gamble with a NATO cover.  The cold war is realistically under way, what’s new in it this time is that it is the Syrian scorched ground that decides its destiny..and it seems that various contacts made in the last few hours have focussed on putting the situation under control and prioritising on fighting terrorism.

What’s worthy of noticing in what Medvedev has said, and he is the one who alternates Presidency and Prime Ministership with Putin since the duo decided to return Russia to the world centre stage, that there is no end to this cold war except through American-Russian agreement.. as for the others, they are simply pawns. Most probably, reason will prevail in as far as the American-Russian relationships are concerned, otherwise the cold war will heat up.  Contrary to all posturing, threats made, Putin and Obama continued to communicate, two days ago, just like John Kennedy and Nikita Kruschev did back in 1962.  According to reliable European sources, the Russian President asked his American counterpart to “harness” Turkey so it would stop its bombardment of Kurds and Syrian military targets, and also, to downscale the Saudi rhetoric about direct military involvement in Syria. The wording of Putin carried a clear warning to both countries if Washington did not make a move along these lines.

We should also note that the White House took the initiative to contact Moscow and made a statement saying that President Putin renewed his assertion to form a united front against terrorism..and that the defense ministers of both countries will intensify their coordination..the rest are just pawns! Barack Obama has no interest at all to bestow upon his successor a new war just before he leaves office and, after all, he is the one who forged an agreement with “the apex of the axis of evil”, Iran, and made peace with the “outlaw state”, Cuba, in his own neighbourhood.  Putin also does not have any interest to create economic burdens that a new arms race will inflict. 

So why is Medvedev making his warning?

The current problem of the United States is not with its adversaries, it is with its allies.  Saudi Arabia and Israel have been feeling marginalised ever since the nuclear deal. They both see the West marketing a new Iran. Turkey, on the other hand, sees that America is bolstering its alliance with the Kurds and now has become prepared to accept that Bashar Al Assad remains in power..and his recapture of northern Syria.  It is an aberration for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of a NATO member State, to say to America, the leader of NATO, that their policies have turned the region into a pool of blood.

Have regional powers become able to declare mutiny on America and drag it into war?

Of course not, they can not revolt, but they are capable of kindling many fires unless Washington smacks them into obedience..and this is exactly what it is going to do.
According to some sources, American and European discussions have been intensified with all relevant regional parties.  This is essential, especially that Tehran has offered two responses: the first of which is a warning saying that the response will be very harsh and may hit the heart of Saudi Arabia, and that the Saudi forces will suffer a huge defeat if it gets involved, and the second one is by extending the hand of friendship to Riyadh via the words of Foreign Minister Muhammad Jawwad Zarif, the star of Western media since the nuclear accord.  Zarif said, “by cooperating with our brothers in Saudi Arabia and Turkey, we can resolve all regional problems and issues”.

Similar words were echoed by the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubair in saying: “we are pleased to have good relationships with Iran, but they have to take serious steps and stop intervening in our affairs”, and as usual repeating his mantra that Assad will fall politically or militarily in the end. The pertinent point here is that the further north the Syrian Army moves, Saudi Arabia needs to repeat this mantra more often for domestic and regional reasons as well.

The statement that Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid Mouallem, made about the returning home of Saudis in coffins, is probably backed by joint Russian-Iranian determination to confront any foreign interference that has not been approved by both the Americans and the Russians under the clear mandate of fighting terrorism only.

Is it possible to slip into a wider war?

So far this seems unlikely, but however, some reliable sources argue that Saudi Arabia has made some plans for direct military action in Syria for a long time. Those plans were made before the big advances that the Syrian Army and its allies made in the north, but it had always felt that what the militants were doing was enough and that there was no need for that.  However, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are currently under great pressure and they are both looking for a role. What they seek is not essentially going into a war that Riyadh knows beforehand how much it is going to cost, what is sought however is to maintain a Saudi-Turkish role in what is planned for the future of Syria.

We should notice something very important: neither Turkey nor Saudi Arabia have thus far declared that they are embarking on their military intervention without a cover. They are both saying that this is all within an international plan to fight Daesh. For example, we see the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mouloud Jawish Oglu declaring that, “if there’s an anti-Daesh strategy then it becomes possible for Turkey and Saudi Arabia to launch a land operation”… The “if” the Jawish Oglu statement begins with is very pertinent.   In a similar manner Adel Jubair told CNN that, “Saudi Arabia is prepared to send special forces to join the coalition in a land operation in Syria”, in other words, taking part in a coalition under the auspices and direction of the United States.

The possible escalation is towards a wider war but not towards an all out war.

This is possible if one of these things happen: 

- if Saudi Arabia and Turkey get involved directly on the ground or in the air without an international cover.
-Putin made a clear warning two days ago, and Obama is quite unhappy about the Turkish bombardment of his Kurdish allies. Several American and European messages have been sent to Ankara in this regard.
-If Turkey shoots down Russian or Syrian planes over Syrian soil. But it seems that it would not dare do this any more.
-In the event of military confrontation between Israel and Iran, in either Syria or Lebanon, directly or via Hezbollah.
-If some intelligence apparatus commits a major assassination or a major explosion of significance.

What do Turkey and Saudi Arabia want?

Turkey and Saudi Arabia want for either the Syrian Army and its allies to stop moving north, and this has become impossible for them to achieve, or for them to get a role in future plans, as they both consider that the current period is very fortuitous for them to put pressure on American Democrats just before Presidential elections.  They will also accept to have forces in the “international coalition”, and this is what Assad has refused in his last interview in which he said that the war in the north aims for, “cutting the link between Turkey and Aleppo”… We can only imagine Erdogan’s face when he reads this statement, and as he is fighting an internal war with Kurds, and feels that things are falling out of his hands.
 
What will the allies of Assad do?

-Putin will continue to give the West both biscuits and tranquilizer pills, as his fighter jets are delivering fire on the enemies of Assad. He will continue doing this irrespective of what happens, for he and Assad are both saying that the current peace negotiations have nothing to do with fighting terrorism.

-Iran will intensify its direct involvement or indirectly via Hezbollah in the Syrian war, all the while making sugar-coated statements to the Saudis, knowing beforehand, that this will upset the Saudis more than calm them, such statements however make Iran look good in the eyes of the West and serve as a good cover up for military action.
 
With this complex regional and international Syrian scene, the main questions are the following: what is the true American position towards Assad?, how far did the American-Iranian agreement reach?, what is the level of American-Russian agreement about Syria?

It seems that [Druze Lebanese political leader] Walid Jumblatt has got the hint.  He said that the world will give Aleppo back to Assad in the name of peace.  Undoubtedly he would have wished that hint wasn’t there and that he didn’t pick it up. The time of trying to topple Assad is gone. Fighting terrorism takes precedence. Future terrorism is going to be bigger and stronger. French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls said it very clearly in Munich when he stated that the Syrian Army is its most important opponent. There is little doubt that it enjoys tacit American support to move north. Obama will not allow anyone to drag him into a wider war before he leaves the White House.

http://assafir.com/Article/474225

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