[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”no” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]A[/dropcap]ll the carnage and the refugee problem could have been avoided three years ago in this 4-year war in Syria. The civil war in Syria has yielded 4 million refugees and 8 million displaced persons. Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari submitted a Russian plan to the US coalition that would have given President Bashar Assad an “elegant” exit if he agreed to step down in 2012.1 The US coalition thought that Assad was on his way out so they did not agree with the plan. Some writers noted derisively that Assad was on his way of being mayor of Latakia province, his home base. But Assad is still in power. Since 2011, he had several setbacks: he lost almost half of Syrian territory to the rebels, in the north-west, south-west and centre of Syria.
But Russian entry in the war turned the tables. At first, Russia said that it was supplying weapons according to contracts made in the past. In September 2015, Russia felt that if Assad falls, IS would take over Syria and establish a Caliphate. Russia therefore modernised Syrian weaponry, rebuilt an airfield near Latakia by widening its runways, and increasing its air traffic and defense systems.2 The airport has 24 jet fighters, and if Syria approves, the Russians will send more. To prevent the break-up of Syria, Russia is also modernising the naval base of Tartus. 3 Developments in Syria have led to the formation of a Russian-Syrian army, and Iranian-backed Hezbollah, coalition. The Russians want the US to join this coalition to defeat IS, though with or without the US, Russia is determined to defeat IS.4 Russia also has China’s support. China has been carrying out naval exercises with Russia on safety, sea replacement, escort missions, and live fire, in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean in May, 2015.5 On September 21, 2015, China sent a warship to the Syrian coast.6 This means that the theatrics of the world’s two rival coalitions, the West and Eurasian, is being played out in Syria: NATO vs Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
The US admits that Russian arms in Syria are impressive and Israel is beginning to feel nervous. Russia has the multi-purpose Su-30 CM fighter aircraft, Pantsir-Si mobile missile complexes, Mi-24 attack helicopters, Sukhoi Su-24 M bombers six MIG-31 jet fighters and, for the first time, it provides satellite information to the Syrian army. The Russian coalition has recorded some gains: IS has withdrawn from Palmyra. The Syrian Army has destroyed 40 insurgents at Homs. Many IS fighters, 500 on September 20, 2015, have laid down their American weapons and surrendered.7 Russia has established bases in different parts of Syria, from which they would attack IS. Russian Marine Brigade 810 with the Syrian Army and Hezbollah have recovered Kweiris airbase, east of Aleppo. The base was defended by Chechen Abu Omar al-Shistani (27 years old) of Pankisi, Georgia, who inadvertently was trained by the Americans. The immediate, Syrian goal is to recover control of Highway 5 linking the capital with the second largest city, Aleppo.
The US admits that Russian arms in Syria are impressive and Israel is beginning to feel nervous.
German leader Angela Merkel now admits that the Syrian crisis cannot be solved without Assad.8 Israeli leader Benyamin Netanyahu displayed his concern by taking his army leaders to Moscow and negotiating a deal with the Russians. Israel wanted Syrian skies to be free from intervention since Israel attacks Syria for Iran’s arms going to Hesbollah and for bombs that are targeting Israel.9 Putin was pleased that Netanyahu consulted him about coordination of electro-magnetic surveillance, sea operations, and a hotline between army commanders, but from events that followed, Putin was going to fulfil his mission without concerns for Israel. This meeting with Putin in Moscow was a turning point since Israel could no longer call the shots in Syria without some serious repercussions.10 Avigdor Eskin, a conservative Russian emigrant to Israel, who is gaining much influence, said that the creation of a Joint Military Group with Russia and Israel was a revolutionary and historic event, that Ukraine’s policy of joining the West was a mistake, that Assad should be backed since his replacement would be more dangerous, and that Israel should be protected by Russia – a revolutionary idea. Relations with Syria would be “neutral.”11
The respected Financial Times said that henceforth, “the US cannot ignore Russia as a global player.”12 A Stratfor military analyst Sim Tack noted that “Russia had become the main peace-maker in the region.”13 It is not difficult to find support for both these views. Russia just celebrated the opening of the largest mosque in Europe, the Moscow Cathedral Mosque, which is more than a symbol of friendship with the Muslim world. There are pockets of Russians, however, who reject the changing complexion of Russian society.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”no” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]S[/dropcap]ince the US has a strategy of destabilising Russia’s Near Abroad, weak Muslim countries are depending on Russian protection. To cite one example, President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon said that IS orchestrated a recent coup using fighters from neighboring countries. Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kazakhstan, noted that as the US withdrew its forces from Afghanistan, the Taliban regained its positions. Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyztan therefore asked for Russian protection at the latest meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) at Dushanbe. Chief of the department of projects of CIS members at the Institute of Political Studies Alexei Bychkov said that Russia would increase its troops on Afghanistan’s border, and “push its boundaries as far as possible, just like it was during World War II.”14 Bychkov’s statement meant that Russia was being forced by circumstances to recreate Soviet borders. That is a significant turn of events when one considers events in Ukraine too.
Russia has strategic reasons for increasing its role in the Middle East. If it can control the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, China blocks the Red Sea, and Iran, the Gulf at Hormuz, the flow of oil out of the area can be controlled and the whole region can be constrained. In addition, Russia, China and Turkey have their own problems with extremists in the Caucasus, Uyguristan and Eastern Turkey respectively, so that it is better to nip in the bud their kind of “extremism.”
The US coalition has an Israeli-centric view of the Syrian crisis. Ex-General Wesley Clarke said that NATO’s plan was “to take out seven Middle Eastern countries in five years starting with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and finally Iran.”15 This coincided with Israel’s strategy of adopting the Westphalian model for the region. The Russians called it the Theory of Chaos which we are noticing currently. Saddam Hussein, an ally of the US, was overthrown after he tried to weaken Iran in a decade-long war. Syria and Iran were next on the list, while the US coalition is facilitating the independence of the Kurds and the break-up of Iraq. The Shia Iraqis who are in power are indirectly assisting in this dismantling plan by ostracising the Sunnis from power sharing. In Syria, France has for the first time in the current turmoil started bombing IS targets, and declared that it would not support Assad leading an interim government, in case there was a political solution in Syria. Hollande’s view contradicted Merkel’s, which stated that peace could not be achieved in Syria without Assad. No foreign country is entitled to interfere in Syria, without the Syrian Government’s permission; Russia is there at Assad’s behest.
Norman Bailey,16 of Chatham House Rules which was first published in Israeli Globes, hoped that the map of the Middle East would be redrawn before Iran’s June 30, nuclear deadline. But this did not happen, as planned.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”no” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]I[/dropcap]n 1979, at a Bilderberg meeting in Austria, Bernard Lewis17 explained how to Balkanize the Middle East and counter Muslim Fundamentalism. To foster nationalistic upheavals, one had to propagate hatred for Muslim groups, Balkanize countries, especially large ones, and increase the promotion of fundamentalism among different cultural groups. Among those affected in the Middle East would be Lebanese Maronites, Kurds, Druze, Baluchis, Azerbaijani Turks, Syrian Alawites, Copts of Ethiopia, and Sudanese mystical sects.
President Obama was not going to put boots on the ground in Syria, but he was prepared to sell arms to the rich Middle Eastern sheikhs. Obama was called a super salesman as he outsold Bush in arms by $30 billion. The Middle East was one of the top five growing markets for arms: Oman increased its purchases in 2015 by 115%, while the Republic of Saudi Arabia (RSA) increased by 300%.
Since the Middle East was buying so many weapons, Israel had to have qualitative ones. So, Israel received $1.19b worth of 250 AIM-120 c Advanced Medium Range air to air missiles and 50 BLU-113 bunker busters which could penetrate 7m of concrete, 3000 Hellfire anti-armour missiles, and B-52 bombers, reported Australian Paul McGeough.18
After Gaddafi was deposed, NATO established a rat line, which meant sending arms clandestinely from Libya to Syria.19 From 1956 to 1990s, the CIA, MI6, SIS and N16, established secret coordinated networks for political terrorism in Europe during the Cold War. This operation was called Gladio.20 NATO’s Secretary Jens Stoltenberg said that he activated a modern Gladio, which consisted of 6 integrated units with 40 officers each in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Lithuania’s ex-Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius, however, noted that Russian military exercises were larger than her opponent’s.21
The supply and sale of arms to Ukraine and the Middle East helped create war-like conditions in both areas. The Arab royal kingdoms had the money to buy arms, but were incapable of fighting on their own. They found that their Muslim soldiers were reluctant to kill Muslims, though some Pakistanis offered to be mercenaries. The United Arab Emirates, for instance, relied on Eric Prince, founder of Blackwater, a private American army that relied on Colombian and South African recruits. Blackwater charged $529b for the service. Saudi Arabia was good at “soft targets” like Houthis in Yemen and Bedouins in Sinai.22
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”no” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]A[/dropcap] destabilized Middle East led to the refugee crisis in Europe. At first Europe welcomed them on the grounds that they would contribute to growth and for humanitarian reasons. Germany was prepared to take in 800K, Sweden 90K, and France 60K. But Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban argued successfully that higher growth was a myth. France saw a rift between Berlin and Paris, two cities that led Europe. The Schengen Agreement, which was signed in 1985 and which took a decade to be implemented partially, was proving to be onerous.23 The Finns imposed a two-year “solidarity tax” on the rich (above €72,300) to cope with the settlement of its refugees. Right wing parties in Europe, the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), the Hungarian Jobbak, the Belgian Vlaams Belang, the Bulgarian Attack, the German National Democratic Party (NPD), Golden Dawn of Greece, the Northern League of Italy, and the Order and Justice Party of Lithuania (TT) and relatively poorer East European countries opposed tolerance of refugees.24 On one day, Croatia saw 65K within its borders. While European institutions were being tested, the chairman of NATO Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey was concerned but had no answers to the problem.
Despite these problems, members of the US coalition want to stick together. “Now is not the time to retreat from the battle against the Islamic State,” said Canada’s Maclean’s.25 Ex-Prime Minister of Australia Tony Abbott said that, “we think that Assad must go.”26 The Americans think so too and, with France, will not accept Assad in an interim government.27 On the other hand, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the Syrian Government, meaning Assad, is the only one that can defeat IS.28
Since the Russian coalition is already making tremendous gains in Syria, Assad should be in a strong position to dictate terms. Pentagon’s argument that massive Russian troops are there to take over when Assad is deposed does not hold water. Russia’s diplomacy seems guided by principles: Tajik Rahmon was told that Russia would not interfere with its domestic policy but would be given help in defense and foreign policy; the same would apply to Syria. Russia’s relationship with Syria goes back to Assad’s father. Besides, if Russia betrayed Syria, other Muslim countries would not trust Russia. The fact that Saudi Arabia has invested in Russia and sought Russian help to build 5 nuclear reactors shows Russia’s growing prestige in the Muslim world and that Iran will not be the only Muslim nuclear power in the Middle East. Russia’s aggressive role in the Middle East is the major turning point in Syria; the saturation of refugees in Europe is a minor turning point, an off-shoot.
Other turning points include the spread of nuclear countries in the Middle East; Ukraine willing to sell Cossack-owned Crimea, to the Russians for $50 billion; the vision of Russia having Soviet boundaries; Europe more divided than ever; China under the threat of sanctions; and, France taking the initiative among the US coalition to attack the IS.
Another turning point is that the Turkish Army is back in control of defense. Erdogan had tried to control the Army and several leaders were imprisoned. But in September, 2015, President Erdogan ratified Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s decree that responsibility for nationwide counter-terrorism was with the Army. The governors of 81 provinces had to take note. Hopefully, Ataturk’s values will prevail as the Army was the guardian of them. Erdogan had to change because the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (H.D.P.) surged in the polls. Turkey regards the PKK more of a problem than IS, since the former is fighting to secede.29 But the IS has been in Turkey’s gunsights, off and on.
Yet another turning point took place in Palestine. Once the UN had flown the Palestinian flag, it showed that Palestine was recognised as a State. Its leader Mahmoud Abbas made a “u”-turn by announcing that his country would no longer be bound by the Oslo Peace Accords, otherwise known as the “peace process.” Israel’s leader Netanyahu was shocked as he told the UN that this declaration was “deceitful.”30 Without this dramatic change, Abbas would have received a fraction of the 1967 borders and he would be obliged to accept Israel as a state, not as an illegal “occupier.”
Yet another turning point took place in Palestine. Once the UN had flown the Palestinian flag, it showed that Palestine was recognised as a State.
A rich and vulnerable Baltic state, Norway, provides another turning point. Admiral Bruun Hanssen, the new Defense Chief said in an interview that his country had to spend $30 billion over two decades on defense owing to terrorism, cyber-warfare and Putin’s annexation of Crimea. The destruction in Syria illustrated what could happen if Russia attacked.
[This blog is dedicated to Dr. Khaled al Assad, Antiques scholar of Palmyra, Syria.]
- John Hall, “Could the Syrian war have ended peacefully THREE YEARS ago?” dailymail.co.uk, September 16, 2015.
- “Syrian army reversals spook Kremlin into hasty military build-up,” themoscowtimes.com, September 18, 2015.
- “Syrian military using new weapons from Russia – military source,” themoscowtimes.com, September 17, 2015.
- Henry Meyer, “Putin preparing to strike IS ‘with or without US’,” smh.com.au, September 24, 2015.
- Li Bo, “Are Chinese/Russian military exercises an effort to offset US primacy?”voanews.com, May 22, 2015.
- Kurt Ninmo, “Arab News Source reports China sent warship to Syria,” infowars.com, September 23, 2015.
- “Russian Army starts destroying Islamic State in Syria,” pravda.ru, September 23, 2015.
- “Merkel admits Syrian conflict cannot be resolved without Bashar Assad,” rt.com, September 24, 2015.
- Itamar Eichner, “Netanyahu: Putin meeting crucial to avoiding misunderstandings at northern border,” ynetnews.com, 21.9.15.
- Aaron Heller, “After Netanyahu meeting-Putin meeting, Israel military says it is coordinating with Russia on Syria,” usnews.com, September 24, 2015.
- Estelle Winters, “Ukraine was a mistake for the US and the West – Israeli publicist,” sputniknews.com, August 7, 2015.
- “Financial Times: Russia comes back as a global player on world stage,” pravda.ru, September 25, 2015.
- “Foreign Affairs: Russia out-games the West in the Middle East,” pravda.ru, September 18, 2015.
- Lyuba Lulko, “Russia to increase its military presence in Central Asia,” pravda.ru, September 16, 2015.
- General Wesley Clark, “Wars were planned: 7 countries in 5 years starting with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and finishing off with Iran.” Metbank.org, May 19, 2013; see also Globalresearch.ca, July 12, 2014.
- Norman bailey, “The Middle East map may be redrawn before Iran’s June 30 nuclear deadline,” atimes.com, May 6, 2015.
- Commentator Kashur, “Balkanization of the Middle East,” arabnews.com. August 29, 2015.
- Paul McGeough, “Obama the Super salesman pours fuel on a Middle East in flames,” smh.com.au, September 11, 2015.
- “USA and UK masterminded rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” pravda.ru, September 18, 2015.
- “Operation Gladio,” Wikipedia.org, May, 2014.
- AFP, “NATO activates six command units on eastern flank with Russia,” AFP.com, September 1, 2015.
- Bruce Riedel, a White House adviser and CIA analyst, “RSA wants from Obama ‘unquestioning and complete political support’ for their war and its enormous carnage.”
- Lyuba Lulko, “Europe in fair train to eliminate Schengen Area,” pravda.ru, August 21, 2015.
- Lyuba Lulko, “France to start European rebellion against USA,” pravda.ru, September 9, 2015.
- Maclean’s, September 28, 2015.
- David Wroe, “Defense Minister Kevin Andrews admits clearer Middle East strategy needed,” smh.com.au, September 11, 2015.
- Angela Charlton, “France fires first airstrikes on extremists in Syria, President’s office says,” ca.news.yahoo, September 15, 2015.
- Josef Federman & Vlaimir Isachenkov, “Russian troops arriving in Syria, Israel says,” smh.com.au, September 11, 2015.
- Halil M. Karaveli, “Turkey’s military rulers,” nytimes.com, September 11, 2015.
- Editorial Board, “Mahmoud Abbas gives up on peace,” nytimes.com, October 1, 2015.
- PM Modi should nationalize all assets of Adani Group and then auction it for sale: Subramanian Swamy - February 8, 2023
- Communist lawyers attempt to block the swearing-in ceremony of Justice Victoria Gowri falls flat - February 7, 2023
- After fully installing S-400 for China in 2021, a Russian envoy says delivery of the same missiles to India will be soon - February 6, 2023