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Trump’s new strategy for Afghanistan is neither new, nor a strategy, nor Trump’s

A product not of consensus but of struggle.

Jim Jatras

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For some time it has been clear that the White House of President Donald Trump was convulsed with a struggle among various court factions vying for the Emperor’s ear. Crudely oversimplified, these are variously described as:

1. The military «Junta» (Generals McMaster, National Security Council; Mattis, Pentagon; and Kelly, White House Chief of Staff;

2. The Goldman-Sachs «Globalists» (preeminently First Daughter Ivanka and First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner);

3. The «Populist-Nationalists» («the two Steves» Bannon and Miller); and

4. The Regular Republicans who, to their credit, in 2016 chose to join the Trump populist movement over more conventionally «conservative» GOP candidates (Former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway).

It is understood that the first two factions were generally allied against the second two. Following Priebus’s ouster, the bellwether would be who got tossed out next: Bannon or McMaster. It was Bannon.

On August 18, with Bannon’s defenestration, it became clear that the Junta and the Globalists were firmly in charge. The only outliers left – besides somebody named Trump – are Conway and Miller. We’ll see how long they last. Any of them.

The immediate impact of the Junta/Globalist victory in the internal struggle was renewed sharp rhetoric against North Korea (Bannon’s suggestion the there was no acceptable military option may have been one proximate cause of his ejection) and, even more so, Trump’s speech on Afghanistan on August 21 in front of a military audience.

Before addressing the specifics, it’s important to note that his remarks not only signaled a humiliating defeat of Trumpism within Trump’s own administration but reflected the damage done by the vicious attacks he has suffered for speaking the truth about events in Charlottesville. His offense: to affirm that responsibility for violence lay not only with the «white nationalists» but also with the armed Antifa «protesters» bent on attacking them. In fact, to anyone with a fair mind watching the TV coverage, it was clear that the violence overwhelmingly came from the latter, abetted by the evidently deliberate decision of Virginia Governor and likely 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Terry McAuliffe to withdraw police separation of the two sides and herd the nationalists up against Antifa.

While not mentioning Charlottesville by name, the entire beginning section of Trump’s Afghanistan speech – his first prime time televised address to the nation as president – stuck to a politically correct script, ritually intoning that «there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry, and no tolerance for hate.» (In yet another zigzag, the very next night, at a rally with cheering supporters in Phoenix, Trump read back aloud his previous comments on Charlottesville and denounced Antifa. The media, notably CNN, dissolved in a deranged fit of rage.)

As to what he now plans for Afghanistan:

It’s not new, it’s same-old same-old: Aside from a few Trumpish rhetorical flourishes, it was a speech that could have been given by President Hillary Clinton or President Jeb Bush. In substance, it was a rehash of the failures of Barack Obama and George W. Bush. Only a few details changed. He will loosen rules of engagement for U.S. forces, which among other things will mean more dead Afghans and more Taliban recruits. He will boost troop numbers but won’t tell the enemy – or the American people – by how many; the number 4,000 has been kicked around, but who knows. Finally, no timetables will «guide our strategy», just «conditions on the ground», but what those conditions need to be for us to finally get out are not described either. Nor is there any clue as to how boosting American numbers to about 13,000 will accomplish what 100,000 couldn’t.

«We will ask our NATO allies and global partners to support our new strategy with additional troop and funding increases in line with our own», said the President.  «We are confident they will.» Pure fantasy. On the other hand, Trump completely ignored Afghanistan’s record opium production. Evidently promising to stamp that out would be just too fantastical.

It’s not a strategy, it’s just a policy: One of the problems with being entirely guided by military men is their tendency to focus on their tactical tradecraft. Hopefully that’s something they’re good at. But their knowledge and skill, though vitally important, doesn’t of itself constitute a strategy. Or put another way, professional military men can tell a policymaker how to accomplish what he wants, but they can’t tell him what he wants. The result is a policy composed of various tactics that don’t add up to much of anything except more of what we’ve seen since 2001.

We will not engage in nation-building, said Trump, or tell Afghans how to live. This could mean no more nagging them over laws mandating the killing of apostates or about women’s rights. («Don’t throw acid in the face of little girls because they attend school. That’s not nice.») We weren’t doing much of that anyway, but now it’s official: Americans are fighting to make Afghanistan safe for Sharia. (Paradoxically, Trump was reportedly convinced that Afghanistan is not doomed to be a Hobbesian abode of savages by McMaster’s showing him a picture of mini-skirted Afghan female students from the 1970s. As Justin Raimondo points out, the good general surely neglected to mention the reason there are no more mini-skirts to be seen is because of our support, with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, for Osama bin Laden and his ilk. Mission accomplished!)

On the other hand, is it telling Afghans how to live when Trump promised to root out corruption? (What Americans are calling corruption is what in Afghanistan is usually just called «life.») Indeed, very little was said about what the Afghan government thinks about the «new» plan. But then again, we barely care what Seoul thinks about deploying the THAAD system in South Korea, so why should we ask the opinions of an Afghan government that wouldn’t last a week without American support? One is reminded of the Soviet-era quip that Afghanistan was the most peace-loving country in the world. Why? Because it doesn’t even interfere in its own internal affairs.

Regionally, Trump vowed to force Pakistan to stop providing safe haven for the Taliban (sure, that will work) and to get India more involved. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said that in addition to «putting the pressure on Pakistan» Washington would «put the pressure on India that they have to be part of the political solution.» Just like we «pressure» North Korea, or «pressure» China on Korea and the South China Sea, and «pressure» Russia on Syria, Ukraine, what have you. Pressure, pressure, pressure! Doesn’t anyone in Washington know how to talk with anyone to seek common interests? Why no mention of the three regional powers – Russia, China, and Iran – that like India (but unlike Pakistan) don’t want an Afghanistan ruled by Salafists? Now that could be a strategy.

It’s not Trump’s policy, it’s the Swamp’s: Trump pretty much let the cat out of the bag when he conceded that his first impulse was to get out of Afghanistan. (Interestingly the reflexively pro-war Washington Post and National Review published calls for the U.S. to withdraw our forces, saying Trump’s earlier instinct was right! Be prepared for them to rip out his liver when things turn out badly.) But then Trump talked with the big boys with the short haircuts who explained the facts of life to him. He seems to have bought the Swamp’s line that because Obama «hastily and mistakenly withdrew from Iraq» the result was ISIS. Nonsense. ISIS came into being because (a) we invaded Iraq in the first place and (b) for years Obama armed terrorists seeking to overthrow the government of Syria, continuing a policy in place since the 1980s Afghanistan war against the USSR. Given such assumptions, the most optimistic hope is for a «surge» like that in Iraq in 2007, which at least superficially stabilized Anbar province and Baghdad. Again, very optimistically, that could provide cover for us to withdraw our forces. More likely, given the fear of «hastily and mistakenly» withdrawing Obama-style, we will stay for an indefinite period amounting to a permanent occupation. After all, look how long we’ve been successfully stabilizing Germany, Japan, and South Korea!

The sad fact is that Trump almost certainly knows all this, at least on a gut level. What exactly the exact political alchemy is that has led him to this juncture is open for speculation. But what is not speculative is the grim fact that whether or not this is Trump’s policy, Afghanistan is now Trump’s war.

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Wayne Blow
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Wayne Blow

Start readying lots of body bags, eh Trumpy???? I trust none of your family members will ever have to make a showing in Afghanistan eh????

Terry Ross
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Terry Ross

Perhaps he could be given a John Kirby style warning:
“..Extremist groups will continue to exploit the vacuums that are there
in Syria Afghanistan to expand their operations, which could include attacks against Russian American interests, perhaps even Russian American cities. Russia The US will continue to send troops home in body bags, and will continue to lose resources, perhaps even aircraft”

Can you imagine the response of Western media if Maria Zakharova had said this?

samo war
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samo war

tramp is julius ceasar 2 ?

Constantine
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Constantine

That was one of the best articles by Jatras.

bluewater
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bluewater

THE REAL REASON WE ARE IN AFGHANISTAN ……. Ronald Bernard – “Have Our Hearts Turned to Stone?” The truth is painful. It is hard to listen to. Ronald Bernard is a former Dutch banker who confirms everything we have been saying about the Illuminati. They are depraved psychopaths who follow a perverse Luciferian creed much as a devout Christianfollows Christ’s example. Unfortunately they run the world, or at least the West. Apart from satanic ritual sacrifice, they are engaged in ARMS, DRUGS and HUMAN TRAFFICKING, including sex and organ trafficking. Here are some of the “highlights” of his latest video… Read more »

bluewater
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bluewater

Afghanistan has the largest resource of Lithium in the world which is needed for your SMARTPHONES and Electronics…. US Department of Defense’s estimates have put Afghanistan’s untapped wealth of gold, copper, uranium and other rare-earth minerals at well around $1 trillion to $3 trillion,plus the largest resource of lithium in the world,as well as heroin. The BBC has promoted lithium in drinking water! Most people know that lithium acts as a powerful mind control drug, to make people compliant. Most people know that it is a long standing psych ward staple. I guess people had an awareness of lithium serving… Read more »

Nancyrcockerham
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Nancyrcockerham

Google is paying 97$ per hour! work for few hours and have longer with friends & family!
On tuesday I got a Smart new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had.. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
:!ap112d:
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GeorgeG
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GeorgeG

The factional line-up in the US looks to me like an irrelevant dichotomy, and probably always was. I keep Vladmir Putin’s quip in mind: I know what the American stratgegy is, and I will explain it,… after I retire.” From the standpoint of American factional cliffhanger fights, this must be a funny statement, because the Americans don’t (or didn’t) seem to have a strategy at all, but Putin says he knows what *the* American strategy is. The hostility or opposition beween the two major grpups falls apart when one considers that Steve Bannon is no anti-imperialist, not with his “maniacal”… Read more »

Daisy Adler
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Daisy Adler

Breaking News!

New Zealand decided to support more the war in Afghanistan, by increasing its contingent there with 33%!
Thus, the number of New Zealenders will pass from 10 to 13!

Terry J Wall
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Terry J Wall

As General Rommel was heard to say during WWII: Give me a Brigade of New Zealanders and I could conquer the world. Bit optimistic I suspect, but like the Russians, you don’t want to piss them off.

Daisy Adler
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Daisy Adler

13 make hardly a “brigade”.

Herbert Dorsey
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Herbert Dorsey

The Afghan people were better off under the communist rule of the 1970s. When Trilateralist Jimmy Carter O.K.ed the CIA training of anti-communist terrorist in Afghanistan, he opened the terrorist can of worms that has affected the world ever since. As Laverov has stated, The U.S. changes Presidents, but the policy remains the same. By now, most informed people understand that Afghanistan had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, which was an inside job or false flag operation to whip up support for a never-ending war on terror where ever the MIC people desire. And, the CIA conveniently supplies… Read more »

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BREXIT storm deepens, as parliamentary coup may be forming against May and Corbyn

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 166.

Alex Christoforou

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Emboldened by Theresa May’s lack of leadership and will to deliver the Brexit that UK citizens voted for in a democratic referendum, remain MPs are now mobilizing to do the EU’s bidding in forcing Britain to nullify the Brexit process and eventually stay a part of the European Union.

After yesterday’s thumping of May’s Brexit plan in parliament, The Times’ Matthew Parris is now openly floating the idea that “it’s time for parliament to wrest control from the zombies, stating that “Theresa May isn’t any good” and “Jeremy Corbyn is equally useless”…

There exists no leadership in either the government or the opposition capable of taking us through this mess. No hidden strengths, no unexpected qualities; no whizzbang new thinking, no magic. Forget May. Forget Corbyn. Salvation is not coming from these directions.
So it’s up to parliament. MPs are coming to understand that they have to act. It has been stealing on parliamentarians for months now and close contacts between leading members of both parties have been made and have been deepening.
From within the Commons a shadow executive must emerge, and is beginning to. Labour’s Yvette Cooper talks to the Tories’ Dominic Grieve. Around them is a cluster of senior parliamentarians who are getting used to talking.
A common purpose unites them: rescuing the country from a no-deal Brexit that only a small minority actually want. Whether this is to be done by seeking a better deal than May’s or by a new referendum, or both, they need to find a way soon. An “indicative” vote of the House of Commons may help guide them.
And however speedily the House can find its leadership and direction, it’s hard to imagine this can be done without an extension to the Article 50 negotiating period.
Overwhelmingly, the conclusion to be drawn from last night’s vote is that parliament must wrest control from a zombie prime minister, a zombie cabinet and a zombie opposition. I heard in May’s response to the result the hint of the straw at which she may now clutch: a Labour-style Brexit under a Tory nominal prime minister. I would be amazed if her party would accept it.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the turbulent and uncertain road ahead in the Brexit saga as a March deadline looms.

Shifting sands, and betrayal at the highest level is now crystallizing, as hints of a possible parliamentary coup against May and Corbyn is being floated as a possible solution to the impasse that will ultimately steer the UK back under EU control, and cancel the Brexit referendum.

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Via Straits Times

The words “humiliated” and “crushed” featured prominently in British newspaper headlines following Parliament’s massive rejection of a divorce deal with the European Union on Tuesday (Jan 15).

Dailies said Prime Minister Theresa May’s grip on power was waning after the huge vote against the agreement struck between her government and Brussels, as she prepared to fight a no-confidence motion on Wednesday.

“May humiliated by 230 votes,” The Daily Mirror tabloid said.

The Daily Telegraph wrote: “Humiliation for Prime Minister as MPs overwhelmingly reject deal and Labour tables no confidence vote.”

The broadsheet’s parliamentary sketchwriter Michael Deacon said Mrs May had somehow defied the odds by making a historic event an anticlimax.

“Her speech had all the brio of a mouldy gym sock,” he wrote.

“She sounded as winningly persuasive as a mother snapping at her children to eat up their cabbage or go to bed hungry.”

The vote itself “was as if Agatha Christie has allowed Miss Marple to solve the murder half way through and spend the rest of the novel pottering about in the garden”.

‘ZOMBIE PM’

The Times columnist Matthew Parris said it was time for senior MPs to take over the Brexit process.

“There exists no leadership in either the government or the opposition capable of taking us through this mess,” he wrote following the vote.

“Theresa May isn’t any good; she doesn’t have a fiendish, secret strategy; she’s careless with the truth and will say anything to get her through another week. She doesn’t know what to do.

“Overwhelmingly, the conclusion to be drawn… is that Parliament must wrest control from a zombie Prime Minister, a zombie Cabinet and a zombie opposition.”

The Daily Mail said the defeat left Mrs May’s power “hanging by a thread”, calling it a “devastating result, which threatens to plunge the Brexit process into chaos”.

The Sun, Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper, said: “Crushed PM dares MPs to vote for general election after record Brexit defeat.”

“The crushing defeat – which saw 118 Tories turn against the PM – is the worst since the advent of full democracy and suggests Mrs May will never win enough support for her strategy,” said the tabloid.

The Financial Times newspaper ran a headline reading: “May’s defeat spells trouble for the EU’s Brexit approach.”

“Huge loss leaves PM in race against time,” the broadsheet said.

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Ukraine’s Cult of Stepan Bandera: Not a Detail, but a Cornerstone

Unlike Poroshenko with his aerial bombings of the Russian-speaking Donbass in 2014 and 2015, Bandera killed the “wrong” victims, the representatives of those nations that are valued even by the modern Western media.

Dmitry Babich

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Authored by Dmitry Babich via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


During the recent years of the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine, there has been one issue where the Western mainstream press simply cannot fully ignore or reject the Russian arguments. This issue concerns the life and actions of Stepan Bandera (1909-1959) and his followers from what is known as the “Banderite” faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN, a far-right organization that took terrorist actions against Polish and Soviet officials from the 1920s to the 1950s and which is now legally protected from any criticism in Ukraine).

THE “WRONG” AND “RIGHT” VICTIMS

Because Bandera was born on January 1, 1909, celebrations of his birthday have become disgusting New Year’s rituals in Ukraine in recent years, with thousands participating in Nazi-style torch-lit marches that include shouted protests against “Putin’s Russia” and rants such as, “Jews out!” which are heard by everyone except the police. This New Year was no exception, since the current Ukrainian government under President Petro Poroshenko (who publicly identified himself as a Banderite after taking office in 2014) officially added Bandera’s 110th birthday to the list of Ukraine’s most important anniversaries. This time, there were several quiet voices of condemnation heard in Poland, Israel, and even the US. Why? In truth, torches, masks, political murders, and mob attacks against “pro-Russian” public figures are nothing new in post-Maidan Ukraine. And these things usually pose no problem for the mainstream press of the US and its allies. So, why is Bandera an exception?

The answer is ethnic, as awful as that may sound. Unlike Poroshenko with his aerial bombings of the Russian-speaking Donbass in 2014 and 2015, Bandera killed the “wrong” victims, the representatives of those nations that are valued even by the modern Western media, with its double and triple standards. In the 1930s Bandera killed Polish officials, in the 1940s his people killed civilian Jews and Polish peasants, and these are groups whose plight even the New York Times cannot ignore today. If Bandera’s infamous slogan “Death to enemies!” had been directed only against “disloyal” Russians and anti-Banderite Ukrainians (the groups currently persecuted by Poroshenko), Bandera would have been no different from his modern admirers in the Ukrainian government. But Bandera’s followers from the OUN decimated the Jewish population of Lvov and Kiev in 1941, trying to curry favor with the advancing Germans. And between 1943 and 1944, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), taking its orders from Bandera’s OUN officers, ethnically cleansed his native Western Ukraine of ethnic Poles, killing from 70,000-100,000 of them (the infamous “slaughter of Volhynia”). The aim was to create an “ethnically pure” Ukraine before the arrival of the Red Army in late 1944. Documents published by the Polish historian Grzegorz Motyka indicate that Bandera and the OUN hoped that the Red Army would soon be replaced by Anglo-American domination. “His strategy was to clean up the house before the arrival of the real master,” Motyka concludes in his book.

THE LADY OF THE RADA VS. ISRAEL’S PRESIDENT

The American domination took another 70 years, but it did come. And now the Banderites’ (and Poroshenko’s) only historic disagreement with the West is over the infamous “ethnic cleansing,” to which Bandera’s “glorious heroes” subjected Ukraine in 1941-1944. When Israeli President Reuven Rivlin dared to raise the issue during his visit to Ukraine in 2016, he got a scolding from the vice speaker of the Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada), Irina Gerashchenko: “The Israeli president allowed himself some incorrect and undiplomatic words about the OUN’s tragic history,” Gerashchenko said at the time. “It was highly inappropriate, especially now, when Ukraine is fighting for its independence.” Gerashchenko forgot to mention the fact that Babi Yar, the burial site of some 30,000 Jews killed by German and Ukrainian Nazis in Kiev in 1941, was vandalized nine times between 2015 and 2016, according to data provided by the Ukrainian Jewish Committee.

WHY THE WEST WANTS TO FORGET, BUT CANNOT

In the immediate aftermath of the Maidan coup in 2014, the mainstream press was ready to forget even that, since an honest account of Bandera’s activities between 1939 and 1959 could rekindle memories of the undesirable parallels to the “resistance to Russian occupation” by Poroshenko’s army in the Donbass in 2014 and 2015. Between the summer of 2014 and the winter of 2015, about 10,000 people died there, victims of the aircraft and tanks sent by Poroshenko (just months earlier, the US and the EU had been unable to abide the use of truncheons by the police of the ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych). At the time, the NYT called Bandera the “Ukrainian nationalists’ hero.” Obviously, the NYT’s authors were taking their cues from the Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum, with her Banderite headline, “Nationalism is exactly what Ukraine Needs” in the once-glorious New Republic.

But here the mainstream press tried to kill off a memory that will never die — the memory of how Hitler’s East European Nazi allies participated in the destruction of the region’s Jewish population in the early 1940s. This was something not even Anne Applebaum could make people forget.

In his articles in the American press, the director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, Eduard Dolinsky, tried to explain to the American public that Bandera’s cult is not an isolated, unpleasant phenomenon: Stepan Bandera never acted alone, he represented a crudely nationalist ideology. Unfortunately, this ideology reigns triumphant in modern Ukraine behind the “liberal” façade displayed for the West. For example, Dolinsky notes that Poroshenko’s hypocritical speeches memorializing Jewish victims can be heard next to, say, a memorial to OUN activist Ivan Rogach, whose newspaper called Jews “the greatest enemy of the people” in 1941. “The Ukrainian leadership set itself on the course of rehabilitating anti-Semitism and introducing censorship of history,” concludes the official statement of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human-rights group, famous for its work to bring Nazi criminals to justice.

THE RUSSIAN QUESTION BEHIND THE JEWISH ONE

If the West cannot afford to be completely silent about Bandera’s participation in the Holocaust, it is willingly ignoring another huge injustice that is inseparable from Bandera’s cult in modern Ukraine — the erasure of the Russian and anti-Banderite component of Ukraine’s historic memory. In 2017, Kiev’s Vatutin Avenue was renamed Bandera Avenue, resulting in an outcry in Russia and complete silence in the West. This avenue, a major thoroughfare in the Ukrainian capital, had originally been named in honor of General Nikolai Vatutin, who liberated Kiev from Nazi occupation in 1943 and died in a shootout with the OUN’s guerillas in 1944. At the time, there was no question about where America’s sympathies lay: the fight against Hitler was not yet over, and Vatutin, born in 1901 to a peasant family living immediately adjacent to the future Russian-Ukrainian border, was a useful ally for the United States. Will Bandera and his modern followers be a good replacement? Only someone with Poroshenko’s plans for Ukraine or with Anne Applebaum’s views on history could agree.

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Entering a Major Regional Re-set – The Syria Outcome Will Haunt Those Who Started This War

It should be obvious now that we are entering a major regional re-set.

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Authored by Alastair Crooke via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The Middle East is metamorphosing. New fault-lines are emerging, yet Trump’s foreign policy ‘hawks’ still try to stage ‘old movies’ in a new ‘theatre’.

The ‘old movie’ is for the US to ‘stand up’ Sunni, Arab states, and lead them towards confronting ‘bad actor’ Iran. ‘Team Bolton’ is reverting back to the old 1996 Clean Break script – as if nothing has changed. State Department officials have been briefing that Secretary Pompeo’s address in Cairo on Thursday was “ slated to tell his audience (although he may not name the former president), that Obama misled the people of the Middle East about the true source of terrorism, including what contributed to the rise of the Islamic State. Pompeo will insist that Iran, a country Obama tried to engage, is the real terrorist culprit. The speech’s drafts also have Pompeo suggesting that Iran could learn from the Saudis about human rights, and the rule of law.”

Well, at least that speech should raise a chuckle around the region. In practice however, the regional fault-line has moved on: It is no longer so much Iran. GCC States have a new agenda, and are now far more concerned to contain Turkey, and to put a halt to Turkish influence spreading throughout the Levant. GCC states fear that President Erdogan, given the emotional and psychological wave of antipathy unleashed by the Khashoggi murder, may be mobilising newly re-energised Muslim Brotherhood, Gulf networks. The aim being to leverage present Gulf economic woes, and the general hollowing out of any broader GCC ‘vision’, in order to undercut the rigid Gulf ‘Arab system’ (tribal monarchy). The Brotherhood favours a soft Islamist reform of the Gulf monarchies – along lines, such as that once advocated by Jamal Khashoggi .

Turkey’s leadership in any case is convinced that it was the UAE (MbZ specifically) that was the author behind the Kurdish buffer being constructed, and mini-state ‘plot’ against Turkey – in conjunction with Israel and the US. Understandably, Gulf states now fear possible Turkish retribution for their weaponising of Kurdish aspirations in this way.

And Turkey is seen (by GCC States) as already working in close co-ordination with fellow Muslim Brotherhood patron and GCC member, Qatar, to divide the collapsing Council. This prefigures a new round to the MB versus Saudi Wahhabism spat for the soul of Sunni Islam.

GGC states therefore, are hoping to stand-up a ‘front’ to balance Turkey in the Levant. And to this end, they are trying to recruit President Assad back into the Arab fold (which is to say, into the Arab League), and to have him act, jointly with them, as an Arab counter to Turkey.

The point here is obvious: President Assad is closely allied to Iran – and so is Moscow and Turkey. To be fashionably Iranophobic – as Pompeo might wish the GCC to be – simply would spoil the GCC’s anti-Turkey ‘play’. Syria indeed may be (justly) skeptical of Turkey’s actions and intent in Syria, but from President Assad’s perspective, Iran and Russia are absolutely crucial to the managing of an erratic Turkey. Turkey does represent an existential Syrian concern. And trying to lever President Assad – or Lebanon or Turkey – away from Iran, would be absurd. It won’t happen. And the GCC states have enough nous to understand this now (after their stinging defeat in Syria). The Gulf anti-Iranian stance has had ‘the burner’ turned sharply down, (except when their need is to stroke US feathers).

They can see clearly that the Master of Ceremonies in the Levant – putting together the new regional ‘order’ – is not Mr Bolton, but Moscow, with Tehran (and occasionally Ankara), playing their equal part ‘from behind the curtain’.

Presumably, America’s intelligence services know, (and Gulf states certainly are aware), that in any case, Iranian forces are almost all gone from Syria (though of course Syria’s ‘Iranian connection’ remains as firm, as ever) – even as Pompeo and Israel say the precisely the opposite: that they are pushing-back hard at the ‘threatening’ Iranian military ‘footprint’ in Syria. Few in the region will believe it.

The second notable emerging regional fault line then, evidently is the one that is opening between Turkey and the US and Israel. Turkey ‘gets it’: Erdogan ‘gets it’ very clearly: that Washington now deeply distrusts him, suspects that Turkey is accelerating into Moscow and Beijing’s orbit, and that DC would be happy to see him gone – and a more NATO-friendly leader installed in his stead.

And it must be clear to Washington too ‘why’ Turkey would be heading ‘East’. Erdogan precisely needs Russia and Iran to act as MCs to moderate his difficult relations with Damascus for the future. Erdogan needs Russia and Iran even more, to broker a suitable political solution to the Kurds in Syria. He needs China too, to support his economy.

And Erdogan is fully aware that Israel (more than Gulf States) still hankers after the old Ben Gurion ideal of an ethnic Kurdish state – allied with Israel, and sitting atop major oil resources – to be inserted at the very pivot to south-west and central Asia: And at Turkey’s vulnerable underbelly.

The Israeli’s articulated their support for a Kurdish state quite plainly at the time of Barzani’s failed independence initiative in Iraq. But Erdogan simply, unmistakably, has said to this ‘never’ (to Bolton, this week). Nonetheless, Ankara still needs Russian and Iranian collaboration to allow Bolton to ‘climb down his tree’ of a Kurdish mini-state in Syria. He needs Russia to broker a Syrian-led buffer, vice an American-Kurdish tourniquet, strapped around his southern border.

It is unlikely however, that despite the real threat that America’s arming of the Kurds poses to Turkey, that Erdogan really wants to invade Syria – though he threatens it – and though John Bolton’s ‘conditions’ may end by leaving Turkey no option, but to do it. Since, for sure, Erdogan understands that a messy Turkish invasion of Syria would send the delicately balanced Turkish Lire into free-fall.

Still … Turkey, Syria, Iran and Russia now all want America gone from Syria. And for a moment, it seemed it might proceed smoothly after Trump had acquiesced to Erdogan’s arguments, during their celebrated telephone call. But then – Senator Lindsay Graham demurred (against the backdrop of massed howls of anguish issuing from the Beltway foreign policy think-tanks). Bolton did the walk-back, by making US withdrawal from Syria contingent on conditions (ones seemingly designed not to be met) and not tied any specific timeline. President Erdogan was not amused.

It should be obvious now that we are entering a major regional re-set: The US is leaving Syria. Bolton’s attempted withdrawal-reversal has been rebuffed. And the US, in any event, forfeited the confidence of the Kurds in consequence to the original Trump statement. The Kurds now are orientated toward Damascus and Russia is mediating a settlement.

It may take a while, but the US is going. Kurdish forces (other than those linked with the PKK) are likely to be assimilated into the Syrian army, and the ‘buffer’ will not be directed against Turkey, but will be a mix of Syrian army and Kurdish elements – under Syrian command – but whose overall conduct towards Turkey will be invigilated by Russia. And the Syrian army will, in due time, clear Idlib from a resurgent al-Qaida (HTS).

The Arab states are returning to their embassies in Damascus – partly out of fear that the whipsaw of American policy, its radical polarisation, and its proclivity to be wholly or partially ‘walked-back’ by the Deep State – might leave the Gulf unexpectedly ‘orphaned’ at any time. In effect, the GCC states are ‘hedging’ against this risk by trying to reconnect a bifurcated Arab sphere, and to give it a new ‘purpose’ and credibility – as a balance against Turkey, Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood (Syria’s old nemesis).

And yet – there remains still another layer to this calculus, as described by veteran Middle East journalist, Elijah Magnier:

“Indeed the Levant is returning to the centre of Middle East and world attention in a stronger position than in 2011. Syria has advanced precision missiles that can hit any building in Israel. Assad also has an air defence system he would have never dreamed of before 2011 – thanks to Israel’s continuous violation of its airspace, and its defiance of Russian authority. Hezbollah has constructed bases for its long and medium range precision missiles in the mountains and has created a bond with Syria that it could never have established – if not for the war. Iran has established a strategic brotherhood with Syria, thanks to its role in defeating the regime change plan.

NATO’s support for the growth of ISIS has created a bond between Syria and Iraq that no Muslim or Baathist link could ever have created: Iraq has a “carte blanche” to bomb ISIS locations in Syria without the consent of the Syrian leadership, and the Iraqi security forces can walk into Syria anytime they see fit to fight ISIS. The anti-Israel axis has never been stronger than it is today. That is the result of 2011-2018 war imposed on Syria”.

Yes. This is the third of the newly emergent fault-lines: that of Israel on the one hand, and the emerging reality in the Syrian north, on the other – a shadow that has returned to haunt the original instigators of the ‘war’ to undermine Syria. PM Netanyahu since has put all the Israeli eggs into the Trump family ‘basket’. It was Netanyahu’s relationship with Trump which was presented in Israel as being the true ‘Deal of the Century’ (and not the Palestinian one). Yet when Bibi complained forcefully about US withdrawal from Syria (leaving Syria vulnerable, Netanyahu asserts, to an Iranian insertion of smart missiles), Trump nonchalantly replied that the US gives Israel $ 4.5 billion per year – “You’ll be all right”, Trump riposted.

It was seen in Israel as an extraordinary slap to the PM’s face. But Israelis cannot avoid, but to acknowledge, some responsibility for creating precisely the circumstances of which they now loudly complain.

Bottom line: Things have not gone according to plan: America is not shaping the new Levantine ‘order’ – Moscow is. And Israel’s continual, blatant disregard of Russia’s own interests in the Levant, firstly infuriated, and finally has provoked the Russian high command into declaring the northern Middle East a putative no-fly zone for Israel. This represents a major strategic reversal for Netanyahu (and the US).

And finally, it is this repeating pattern of statements being made by the US President on foreign policy that are then almost casually contradicted, or ‘conditioned’, by some or other part of the US bureaucracy, that poses to the region (and beyond) the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question. The pattern clearly is one of an isolated President, with officials emptying his statements of executive authority (until subsequently endorsed, or denied, by the US bureaucracy). It is making Trump almost irrelevant (in terms of the setting of foreign policy).

Is this then a stealth process – knowingly contrived – incrementally to remove Trump from power? A hollowing out of his Presidential prerogatives (leaving him only as a disruptive Twitterer) – achieved, without all the disruption and mess, of formally removing him from office? We shall see.

And what next? Well, as Simon Henderson observes, no one is sure – everyone is left wondering:

“What’s up with Secretary Pompeo’s extended tour of the Middle East? The short answer is that he is trying to sell/explain President Trump’s “we are leaving Syria” policy to America’s friends … Amman, Jordan; Cairo, Egypt; Manama, Bahrain; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE); Doha, Qatar; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Muscat, Oman; Kuwait City, Kuwait. Wow, even with his own jet and no immigration hassles, that’s an exhausting itinerary … The fact that there now are eight stops in eight days, probably reflects the amount of explaining that needs to be done.”

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