– The explicit Turkish-Iranian bickering is unprecedented
– Turkey has lost Mosul but managed to occupy a part of Syria
– The Erdogan coup against his allies of yesterday is not new on his part
– Partition is now expected to hit: separated Northern and Southern Syria will be the result
– Damascus will support the Kurds and Arabs against Turkey if necessary: any push toward Manbij or Raqqah will be totally opposed.
Published here: alrai.li/tw5yf3s @AlraiMediaGroup
By Elijah J. Magnier – @EjmAlrai
Russia is prepared to face down Donald Trump’s policy in Syria as revealed by the reaction of the US President himself in sending US ground troops and establishing more than one safe zone in Bilad al-Sham. The safe zones may be not restricted to northern Syria but might reach the south as well. This indicates that the war in Syria is reaching its final phase where the various countries involved are committing their own men on the ground rather than hiding behind proxies, financing them to fight on their behalf for their respective interests. All the signs indicate the inevitable outcome the partition of Syria for many years to come, leading to a struggle and wars “without end” in the Middle East.
Top decision makers in the Syrian capital say “Russia realises today the gravity of the situation in Syria and that any political solution has not yet matured. Yesterday’s allies are turning against their previous agreements, changing significantly the course of events. This follows the explicit announcement by President Trump of his intentions towards Syria and the Turkish announcement whose support safe zones and send troops to Raqqah (thus dividing the north of Syria)”.
“Russia is looking at Syria more realistically today than ever before. The Kremlin, in the past year, allowed Iran to mediate the return of warmth to the Moscow-Ankara relationship following the downing of the Russian Sukhoi SU-24 on the Turkish-Syrian border in 2015. The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan tried to hide under the skirts of NATO. As expected, NATO High Command rejected any intervention against Russia, in order to avoid a clash in Syria with another superpower. Once again Iran intervened and convinced Russia of the necessity to bring the Turkish President to the negotiation table in Astana (Kazakhstan) as a partner, due to Ankara’s influence over both the rebels and the jihadists, convinced this would end the war in Syria”.
Both Moscow and Tehran – despite Damascus’s apparently sceptical approach – agreed it was time to close their eyes on Ankara’s years of support for “Islamic State” (allowing foreign fighters to join the terrorist group, and weapons, ammunition and necessities being tolerated to flow into Syria and Iraq in exchange for stolen oil and art treasures and regime change) and for Al-Qaeda – who permitted militants to benefit from medical, logistic and weapons support and to use the Turkish borders to attack the Syrian Army in any military campaigns, mainly the Kessab (rural Latakia) and Idlib attacks) – even though both organisations were considered to be terrorist groups by both Turkey and the US”.
According to the source, Iran didn’t take sufficiently into account the personality of the Turkish President and his “unstable friendships” with leaders in the Middle Eastern region. Indeed, both Erdogan and Bashar al-Assad were very close friends prior to 2011. Ankara was carrying the Palestinian cause, (confronting Israel in the Marmara crisis) and was acting as intermediary between Tel Aviv and Damascus for the return of the occupied Golan Heights.
It is clear that Russia is upset with Turkey’s new alignment with President Trump, which promotes the partition of Syria (with safe zones and a push towards Raqqah). It is for this reason that Moscow planned to cover the advance of the Syrian Army and to close the road on the Turkish forces and their proxies at the limit of al-Bab, ready to bomb Ankara’s soldiers and tanks if necessary. A new map is drawn now where Damascus will temporarily accept Turkish soldiers on its soil until the end of this war.
Damascus’ priority is to fight ISIS, al-Qaida and to disturb the Turkish-US plans in Syria. The Syrian Army will definitely support the Kurds and the Arabs in the northern area of Syria to make sure Ankara sinks into the Syrian quagmire and remains engaged in the long war. Any push of Ankara soldiers toward Manbij or Raqqah will not be tolerated neither by Moscow nor by Damascus.
There is real concern among the different decision makers operating in Syria about the forthcoming phase that is aiming to divide the country. When Trump speaks of “safe zones” it is another way of indicating that the US wants to establish a permanent base in Syria (US already have military bases at Al-Rmaylan (south east Syria), Tal Baidar, Mabrouki, Ain Eissa, Tel Abiyad and al-Hasaka with thousands of advisors). The visits of US officials, congressman and military commanders confirm there is more going on than meets the eye in the northern Kurdish Syrian area.
A second “safe zone” could indeed be the triangle Jarablus- al Ra’I- Azaz- alBab, occupied by Turkey. This Turkish triangle was possible only when Turkey expressed its fear of the “terrorist attacks” which jeopardised its national security. It was also a convenient plan as seen by both Moscow and Damascus for disrupting the Obama US administration plan to form a new Kurdish “state”, similar to Kurdistan Iraq, from al-Malikiya to Afrin. Nevertheless, Erdogan’s new aggressive position towards Iran and Damascus is therefore reshuffling the cards: once again Turkey is considered hostile. In the eyes of Damascus Tehran and Moscow, Erdogan is no longer a trustworthy ally, he chooses to join the US policy in Syria, wanting to have his share and not be cut out.
The third ‘safe zone” is the south of Syria, along the Jordanian- Israeli borders. The area is under the control of ISIS (Khaled bin al-waleed) and al-Qaeda along with other rebels and jihadists. The US could participate with Gulf money in a military campaign in that area under the banner of fighting terrorism. It fits perfectly well with the “buffer zone” Israel was intending to establish few years ago. In fact, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would “never return the Golan Heights to Syria”. In establishing a new “buffer (or safe) zone”, Damascus will have to negotiate the return of this newly occupied land rather than the Golan. This plan would prevent the Lebanese Hezbollah from operating in the Golan area, particularly as its Secretary General Sayed Hassan Nasrallah considers that his war against Israel starts from Naqoura (the Lebanese southern borders with Israel) and extends to the Golan Heights.
“It cannot be excluded that Trump and Netanyahu want to bring Jordan into the Syrian swamp to keep Israel in the shadows. The US President is unaware that creating a buffer zone offers the perfect reason-d’être to Iran, Hezbollah and the newly formed “Syrian resistance” for carrying out attacks on Israel, and on whoever occupies the new southern area if that is the plan. A “Syrian resistance” mirroring Hezbollah was created a few years ago, equipped in the same Hezbollah fashion and trained to face Israel once the war settles down”, said the source.
For such a plan to be effective it is necessary to get rid of President Assad, not through the ballot where he can easily win, but by any other possible means. Moreover, it is also necessary to hit the Lebanese Hezbollah and Iran, militarily for the first and economically the latter, in order to paralyse any attempt to disrupt such a plan. Already Trump started off by accusing Iran of “sponsoring terrorism”, followed by Turkey who also accused Iran of being responsible for terrorism in the Middle East and for attempting to establish “Shia states in Iraq and Syria”. The preparation of a bigger plan seems to be on its way. The exchange of accusations and hostile statements between Turkey and Iran has reached an unprecedented level of escalation.
It is obvious that Erdogan is pulling out of his deal with Russia and Tehran. In Astana 1, Turkey sent a high level delegation to the peace talks. In Astana 2, the Turkish delegation was late, the meeting was postponed for a day and the level of authoritative representation was downgraded. The Turkish President failed to achieve any benefit or control in Iraq, and therefore he is playing the Syrian card, where his ambition and plans to annex further territory are clearer today than ever before. This could be either a blessing or a curse for Turkey in the long term, unless Moscow were to agree on an apparent status quo, including the partition of Syria, and engage itself in market-place bargaining with President Trump, accepting the US, Turkish and Jordanian presence in one territory that used to be called Bilad al-Sham.
“The US abandoned its friends, including Erdogan during the coup d’état in 2016 when Iran and Moscow fully supported him. Friends of America, i.e. the Tunisian President Zein al-Abideen bin Ali, the Egyptian Hosni Mubarak and the Libyan Moammar Gheddafi, were all dropped because “the US establishes business relationships not friendship”. When the time comes, this newly formed alliance (US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia) will fall to the advantage of the Axis of the Resistance”, the source believes.
It is very difficult to predict Erdogan’s future policy, just as it is impossible to predict what will happen to Syria in the next year. Different armies have gone down into the battlefield with their own soldiers (US, Turkey and Iran). It is apparently no longer a mystery what the US will do because its plan has been clearly announced and implemented. But it is crucial to know how Russia will react: is it going to buy and sell, or take a stand against everybody, facing everyone in Syria?
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