Daily dose 25.10.2019 – Turning tides in the Middle East

A comment by Rainer Rupp.

Talk to everybody instead of shooting. To stick strictly to international law and, if necessary, with infinite patience, to seek diplomatic solutions that are acceptable to all concerned. This is what distinguishes Russian diplomacy under the leadership of Sergei Lavrov, the extraordinary Foreign Minister. Together with President Vladimir Putin, they form an unbeatable team. Due to their success, Russia has now won the highest recognition and respect in the crisis region of the Middle East from friends and above all from former opponents. The visit of the Russian President to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates at the beginning of last week (14.10.19) bears witness to this. Both countries are traditional US allies who have so far rejected Russia.

At the same time, the faction of warmongers from the Washington Club of would-be world rulers had to watch this development powerlessly but furiously from the sidelines. In view of the new geopolitical realities and new military technical capacities, whether in the Gulf of Persia or in Syria, the only “diplomatic” instrument known to the American war hawk, namely threats with bombs and missiles, has largely lost its effect.

Although Russia talks to everyone, it does not pursue an unscrupulous opportunist policy that is always aimed solely at its own advantage.

Moscow, for example, despite its good relations with Israel, has always condemned its air attacks on Syrian territory and called for restraint. Russia has also strongly condemned Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf states for their war in Yemen and their threats against Iran. Ultimately, Russian foreign policy is principled and consistently adheres to international law. It remains true to its strategic obligations towards nations with which Russia has historical ties, such as Syria.

Russia’s pragmatic policy of “talking to all” ensures good relations with a large number of states, although several of these states are either alienated from each other or bitterly hostile. Thus Putin was warmly welcomed by the Sunni potentates in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. This is despite the fact that Russia is expanding its close alliance with the Saudi “mortal enemy”, Shiite Iran, and despite the fact that Russia is a reliable ally of the Syrian government, for whose overthrow the Saudis have so far also spent a lot of money.

Only against this background can we understand what happened after the surprising withdrawal of US military units from the Syrian Kurdish territories. What actually seemed impossible, namely to bring on board a successful mediation between the Turkish and Syrian governments, which remained hostile enemies, and at the same time the Kurdish leadership, which was hostile to Erdogan and Assad, succeeded brilliantly due to Russian diplomacy. At the same time, Russia was recognised by all sides as a guarantor of compliance with the agreement. This includes enormous confidence in the integrity of Russian politics and in the assertiveness of its main players Putin and Lavrov.

On the other hand, the prestige of the USA, which has been falling for several years, now seems to have entered the phase of free fall. The “civil war-like” conditions in the US Congress between Democrats and Republicans are largely responsible for this, although the highly emotional hatred of the Democrats against Trump fuels the mood even further. This has made reasonable US policy increasingly impossible in recent years. And to take the whole thing to extremes, since his order to withdraw Syria, Trump has been accused by the establishment of US warlords of betraying the US’s “foreign policy consensus”. – If one thinks this accusation through to its conclusion, then it means that the “US foreign policy consensus” consists of nothing other than the endless wars of the neo-liberal globalists with whom they want to force the world under the US control.

But Trump’s declared policy, which was already his campaign promise, is to put an end to the “stupid, endless wars” that the US has been waging around the world for decades. In previous attempts to implement this policy, he has always been undermined by the Pentagon, the CIA and his own staff in the White House. Already in April 2018 he had ordered the withdrawal from Syria, only to be told by his people that this was not possible for all sorts of reasons, such as endangering the endangered security of US soldiers.

At the latest after Trump had made his preferences for US policy in the Middle East clear in this way 18 months ago, it would have been time for his staff in the White House and for the ministries to work out a plan for the orderly military and political withdrawal of the USA from Syria, a plan which corresponds in word and spirit to the demands of the president. Nothing of the sort happened. Instead, Trump was treated like a stupid child by his own people.

But Trump’s remarks and behavior indicated that over time he became quite aware that his own people were working against him behind his back. The longer this lasted, the more likely it became that Trump would give the order for immediate withdrawal at the next opportunity, which would logically end in political chaos in Washington. This is exactly what has now happened and the establishment, as expected, is blaming Trump for the chaos.

The triggering moment was that a Turkish artillery shell exploded right at the start of the Turkish offensive not far from a US base camp in the Kurdish region. When Trump heard about it, he gave the immediate order for the US withdrawal, not only from the Kurdish territories, but from all over Syria, into which the US army had already penetrated before his term of office in violation of international law. The outcry of the warring party in Washington about the damage Trump had done to US credibility was huge. Nevertheless, Trump’s reference to the fact that he had prevented US war victims in Syria with his withdrawal order, and that the USA should no longer wage war for other governments in distant countries, should not only have been well received by the war-weary US population, but also by the US soldiers, with whom he is very popular.

Like in an echo chamber, the warlords in Europe, especially in Berlin, joined in the Washington lament about Trump, which had empowered Erdogan to massacre the Kurds. But neither in the USA, nor in the Middle East, nor in Sochi, where Erdogan and Putin on Tuesday worked hard to achieve a peaceful solution, was there any interest in taking note of the hard-nosed German politicians who absolutely want to assume global responsibility.

The reckless attempt of the German Defence Minister A.K. Knarrenbauer to send German soldiers to the crisis zone between the Turkish and Syrian military in the border area only to keep the Russians away from there seemed almost desperate. This attempt to attract attention was so ridiculously incompetent that any further comment is unnecessary. Especially since this train had long since departed, as the agreement between Russia and Turkey, signed on 22 October 2019 in the Russian Black Sea city of Sochi by the Turkish head of state Erdogan and Putin, shows. Lets look at the 10 points memorandum between Putin and Erdogan about Syria:

“President of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin agreed on the following points:

  1. The two sides reiterate their commitment to the preservation of the political unity and territorial integrity of Syria and the protection of national security of Turkey. (Author’s note: Turkey has thus recognised that a separate state or separation from Syrian territories is excluded.)
  2. They emphasise their determination to combat terrorism in all forms and manifestations and to disrupt separatist agendas in the Syrian territory. (Author’s note: “Terrorism in all its manifestations” may include Kurdish groups. However, this would also include the Free Syrian Army FSA groups, which are close to al-Qa’ida and have so far been pampered by the Turks.)
  3. In this framework, the established status quo in the current Operation Peace Spring area covering Tel Abyad and [Ras al-Ain] with a depth of 32km (20 miles) will be preserved.
  4. Both sides reaffirm the importance of the Adana Agreement. The Russian Federation will facilitate the implementation of the Adana Agreement in the current circumstances. (Note: In the Adana Agreement of 1998, Syria undertook to stop Syrian support for the PKK. At the same time, Turkish security forces had been granted the right to enter Syrian territory to a depth of 5 km in case of “imminent danger”. This commitment to Turkey is therefore being renewed here.)
  5. Starting 12.00 noon of October 23, 2019, Russian military police and Syrian border guards will enter the Syrian side of the Turkish-Syrian border, outside the area of Operation Peace Spring, to facilitate the removal of YPG elements and their weapons to the depth of 30km (19 miles) from the Turkish-Syrian border, which should be finalized in 150 hours. At that moment, joint Russian-Turkish patrols will start in the west and the east of the area of Operation Peace Spring with a depth of 10km (six miles), except Qamishli city.
  6. All YPG elements and their weapons will be removed from Manbij and Tal Rifat.
  7. Both sides will take necessary measures to prevent infiltrations of terrorist elements.
  8. Joint efforts will be launched to facilitate the return of refugees in a safe and voluntary manner. (So no Turkish forced settlement of Syrian-Arab refugees in the Kurdish area.)
  9. A joint monitoring and verification mechanism will be established to oversee and coordinate the implementation of this memorandum.
  10. The two sides will continue to work to find a lasting political solution to the Syrian conflict within Astana Mechanism and will support the activity of the Constitutional Committee.”(Note: in the so-called “Astana format”, Russia, Turkey and Iran are working to resolve the Syrian conflict.)

If this agreement holds, then it will radiate as a diplomatic masterpiece unparalleled into the whole world and further strengthen Russia’s reputation.

But Trump also deserves recognition. Even if many readers do not like Trump as a personality or even despise him, the results speak for themselves. In less than a week two of the main war participants (Russia and Turkey), with Russia negotiating with the Syrian leadership, have concluded a historic deal that could heal the festering wound on the Syrian-Kurdish border and pave the way for an end to the war. Otherwise there would have been no peace in Syria as long as the USA had occupied the area east of the Euphrates.

This decisive change in US policy towards peace in Syria was brought about solely by Trump. No matter how you judge Trump’s personality, that is a great achievement for which Trump deserves recognition.

He prevailed against his administration and ended the occupation of parts of Syria in violation of international law with his order to withdraw from Syria. This was the prerequisite for creating a win-win-win-win-win situation for the five war parties involved, based on the diplomatic preparations of the Russians: Erdogan was able to prevent an independent Kurdish state on the Turkish border with links to the PKK. Trump was able to keep another of his election promises, namely to bring US troops home from endless foreign deployments. Syria regained territorial control over the Northeast and the important economic resources of the area. Russia consolidated its global reputation and gained additional influence in the Middle East.

However, the fifth “win situation”, that of the Kurds, has some downsides. However, if the Kurds are satisfied with the status of partial autonomy, they can look forward to a peaceful future as part of the Syrian Republic. But many Kurds, especially the Kurds from Northeast Syria, who live in a safe foreign country, and their mostly left-wing friends do not see it that way. Their short dream of an independent, socialist, Kurdish people’s democracy in the north-eastern Syrian Rojava region, however, was too good to be true. For this “Kurdish People’s Republic” was to be financed with oil sources stolen by the Syrian state, which the Kurds had conquered with American aid in Syrian-Arab regions. At the same time, the existence of this “Kurdish People’s Republic” would have been entirely dependent on the permanent presence of US troops to defend this “socialist entity,” both against all attempts by the legitimate Assad government to win back its oil wells and lost territory, and against Turkish incursions to stop PKK support.

On this insane construction the Kurdish leadership and its leftist friends abroad have built their hopes and expectations. It was clear from the beginning that this would not work in the long run. But now they alone join in the treason cries of the Western warlords in NATO and Washington. And especially for Rojava supporters abroad, not only is Trump the traitor, but in furious wrap-around blows they now blame the Russians for the end of their dreams.

Curiously, in their highly transfigured view of Rojava, the left wing of the West even accuse the Russians of violating international law because of the Sochi Agreement with Turkey, which the agreement (see the wording of the text above) absolutely does not do. Nevertheless, on 24 Oct 2019, the left-wing Swiss website “Info-Sperber” titled “Syria’s fate is sealed”, with subtitle: “After Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin also blesses the Turkish invasion of Syria – and violates international law just as grossly”.

According to Kremlin spokesman Dimitri Peskov, the Russians will not force the Kurds to do anything. If the Kurdish formations do not withdraw their weapons in accordance with the Sochi agreement, “the Syrian government’s border troops and the Russian military police will withdraw instead,” the Kremlin spokesman said last Wednesday. According to Peskov, the remaining Kurdish units would then be flattened by the Turkish army.


Thanks to the author for the right to publish.


Picture reference: Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock


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