When it comes to the element of surprise, it would seem that Donald Trump has nothing on Vladimir Putin. Russia’s backing of so-called safe zones in Syria, to become active this evening, has shocked many.
However, many others see the Astana Memorandum establishing these zones as a masterful move in the wider geo-political chess game.
It should surprise no one that the jihadist militant groups present at Astana stormed out in rage during the signing of the safe zone Memorandum which they object to.
These groups claimed that the safe zones challenge Syrian territorial integrity which in this instance is simply coded language for the fact that the jihadists maintain their ambition of conquering all of Syria and turning it into a brutal Salifist state along the lines of Saudi Arabia.
However, today the Kurdish PYD, the effective political arm of the Kurdish YPG militia which dominates the US backed SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces), said the same thing of the Memorandum.
This may strike many as odd. It is well known that Kurdish political aims for Syria are federalisation in which Kurdish areas would receive further autonomous status on top of that which has all ready been attained.
Other Kurds are more open in their desire to form a Kurdish state on Syrian territory.
It therefore is curious that a group which openly advocates for federalisation should oppose a Memorandum whose detractors say could pave the way for federalisation.
I for one do not see the Memorandum as paving the way for federalisation. Instead, it appears to be a means for Russia and Iran with Syria’s approval and Turkey’s signature to help police and patrol the existing ceasefire. Disarming jihadists would appear to be a key goal of the Memorandum.
A spokesman for the Kurdish PYD called the Memorandum a “sectarian partition” which he then called a “crime”.
The reality of the Memorandum is that it will help Syria and her allies to consolidate the all ready self-evident path to victory against all the forces which want to destroy Syria including Turkey and the United States.
Turkey has been boxed into a corner for the time being and the United States is so isolated from the deal, they have quietly accepted it knowing that they have no real say in a process that has moved on without American participation.
Syria’s unity is helped by the Memorandum in spite of received wisdom to the contrary. One circumstantial piece of proof for this is that both those who wish to conquer Syria (the jihadists) and those who want to federalise Syria (the Kurds) vehenently oppose it.