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Iraqi soldiers greeted the civilians of Mosul with torture – Syrian soldiers greet libreated Deir-ez-Zor with open arms and compassion

The inclusive Ba’athist political programme has helped save Syria from the fate of Iraq.

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As the Syrian Arab Army, flanked by the Russian Aerospace Forces and military specialists continue to liberate Dier ez-Zor, one of the most interesting developments is something that hasn’t happened.

Earlier this year when Iraqi forces along with the US retook the city of Mosul from ISIS, what transpired for the innocent civilians of the long besieged Iraqi city was less of a liberation than a process of trading the monster of ISIS for the brutality of Iraqi forces.

During the operations and aftermath of freeing Mosul from ISIS occupation, many Iraqi soldiers stood accused of torturing civilians as well as murdering them in cold blood.

While there can never be any excuse for such behaviour which violates multiple protocols of international law, the reality is that after years of violence between Sunni and Shi’a Iraqis which fomented in the aftermath of the Anglo-American occupation of the country, the divide and conquer strategies of the invaders served to imprint a lasting scar on a country that under Ba’athist rule was peaceful, united and one which saw Shi’as, Sunnis and Christians working in the government and civil service.

Syria’s Ba’athist government operates on the same principle of inclusiveness. In Syria, due to the steadfast leadership of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party, people think of themselves as Syrians rather than as part of a politically charged religious sect.

In Iraq this is no longer the case. After years of brutal foreign occupation which saw former Sunni Ba’athists become marginalised and abandoned, Sunni majority regions of Iraq became fertile ground for the Slafist ideology of al-Qaeda which later metamorphosed into ISIS.

As a result of being marginalised after 2003, some Sunnis did turn to al-Qaeda as the only perceived hope of materially improving their extremely poor condition. The majority of Sunni Iraqis however, opposed al-Qaeda as Iraq also had under the Arab Socialist Ba’ath party. Such innocent civilians became men, women and children without a country, in spite of being in their own home.

Such people were caught between the rock of a Shi’a government in Baghdad and extremist Wahhabist ISIS war lords in their cities and regions.

This is not to say that the Iraqi government which does have many noble individuals in it, is at all comparable with ISIS. ISIS is unique in its wickedness, but the marginalisation of Sunnis in ISIS held areas was perversely ‘rewarded’ but overwhelmingly Shi’a Iraqi soldiers who blamed entire Sunni populations on the plague of ISIS.

As a result, Sunnis who suffered first at the hands of the Americans and then ISIS, suffered a third time at the hands of fellow Iraqis.

As I previously wrote in The Duran,

“America and Britain’s illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 was a disaster from which Iraq has not recovered. After the imperialist invaders illegally deposed the legitimate government of Iraq, the occupiers then conspired to totally disenfranchise anyone seen as tied to the government, even when in actual fact such people were often not connected to the government.

This quickly spilled into a divide and conquer technique wherein the imperialists sought to turn Shi’a against Sunni in a country that had always had some lingering tensions, although the Ba’ath Party did wonders in minimising these tensions, as Ba’athism is an explicitly anti-sectarian ideology both in theory and practice.

The inane so-called ‘de-Ba’athification’ process that the occupiers executed was little more than a social genocide of Iraqi Sunnis. At the same time, Shi’a Iraqis were equally enraged at the illegal conquering of their nation, although for different reasons. At the same time, Christian Iraqis were subject to a total genocide. Those who survived fled, often to Ba’athist Syria where they were welcomed without hesitation by the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Even in the years of Saddam Hussein’s often fraught Presidency, the government and civil service of Iraq saw Sunnis, Shia’s and Christians of all major denominations in positions of distinction and importance.

Sunni Iraqis were consequently driven to any ideology, any movement and ultimately any group that could give them some sort of agency in the new post-Sunni Iraq. Many such people were for the first time in their previously secular existence, driven to the ideology of al-Qaeda. As foreign al-Qaeda fighters flooded into a country that had under the Ba’ath party been among the most anti-al-Qaeda places on earth, many local Sunnis joined their ranks for the sad reason that their ranks were among the only that would have them.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq was born. Eventually al-Qaeda in Iraq would become the Islamic State of Iraq. Shortly thereafter they broadened their horizons and sought to expand becoming the Islamic State of Iraq and The Levant. This in turn formally became the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and finally today it calls itself The Islamic State, though it is sill generally known in English speaking countries by the acronym ISIS.

The fact that Sunni Iraqis are still being tortured, still being associated with terrorists even when they are not associated with terrorism, still being treated with suspicion, means that the divide and conquer attitude which the imperialist powers instilled on a once united Iraqi nation, are still omnipresent in today’s Iraq.

So long as the conditions which allowed ISIS to foment are present in Iraq, so long will the threat of ISIS, irrespective of what it might call itself in the future, continue to haunt Iraq.

The reason that the Syrian situation is vastly more hopeful is that the situation in Syria was very different. In Syria, the Ba’ath Party has remained in power and continues to unite the vast majority of the nation against sectarianism of all kinds. In Syria, the majority of ISIS fighters and other Salafist terrorists are foreign fighters. In Iraq this is also largely thought to be the case, but the difference is that in Iraq ISIS seized an opportunity which many locals, at least for a time, thought was the only way to escape oppression from both militarised Shi’a forces as well as from the omnipresent and barbaric forces of western imperialism. 

In Iraq, Sunni citizens had many enemies, they were surrounded on all fronts. ISIS flamed these tensions to their own perverse advantage. By contrast, in Syria, the Syrian identity of all citizens was never taken away and as a result, Salafism was never given the chance to foment organically as it partly did in Iraq.

In Iraq, ISIS took advantage of broken hearts and broken dreams–broken bones and broken lives. In Syria, they merely took advantage of a pours border.

The situation in Iraq is not promising. It is not just Iraqi Kurds who will almost certainly separate from the rest of the country in a formal sense in September of this year, but the Sunni/Shi’a divide in the country is still very real as it has been since the time of the 2003 invasion. This does not bode well for Iraqi unity. By contrast, real Syrians have never been and are not now divided on such lines.

Iraqi Sunnis are once again left with nothing, Iraqi Shi’as now see Iran as their only salvation as their only real chance to throw off the poisonous influence of the imperialist west.

Iraq is hardly a nation any more and it hasn’t been since 2003. I doubt it ever will be again. While Iran remains a stabilising factor in the region and Syria now looks set to weather the storm, Iraq has started to win the war against ISIS in the short term. However, Iraq has lost the war to ISIS in the longer term, a war which is part of the same conflict started by America and Britain”.

In Deir ez-Zor, a majority Sunni city which for three years has been besieged by ISIS, the story could not be more different. Fellow Syrians have embraced soldiers of the Syrian Arab Army and the Syria along with Russia has been providing much needed food and medicine to the citizens of Deir ez-Zor.

The following photos of civilians in Deir ez-Zor welcoming a return to normalcy could not be more different than the images from Iraq’s ‘liberation’ of Mosul.

What this indicates is that while western occupation allowed Iraq to sink into a swamp of sectarianism, the Arab Socialist Ba’ath party of Syria has maintained a government and armed forces that are multi-religious and even multi-ethnic. The emphasis on national unity, on Arab nationalism as opposed to religious extremism or neo-colonialism and a constitutional definition of equality between all men and women, has allowed all peoples of Syria to be Syrian first and foremost.

In Iraq, this is no longer the case and while some progress is being made, the torture that Sunni civilians received at the hands of Iraqi’s army personnel, is demonstrative of the fact that there is a great deal of work still to do to bring Iraq back from the oblivion it has faced since 2003.

In 2003, the Iraqi Army did not resist the invasion from the US and UK, but the Syrian Arab Army has resisted the multi-front invasion from proxies loyal to countries as diverse as the United States, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Britain, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, as well as local Kurdish militants and local Sunni extremists.

Syria has resisted all of this with a unified front, guided by the ideas implicit in Ba’athism.

Ba’athism has won because Syria has won and inversely, Syria has won because Ba’athism has remained the guiding force of modern Syria’s political system and civic philosophy.

It is for this reason why Syria’s recover from the conflict will be materially difficult, but in many other ways, Syria has already avoided the pitfalls that continue to plague post-2003 Iraq.

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JNDillard
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JNDillard

I am not as pessimistic as Mr. Garrie regarding Iraq. Yes, I believe that the Kurds are going to have their referendum and create a Kurdistan out of northern Iraq, a place that will become a puppet state of the US and Israelis and which will be a continuing source of terrorism for Iran, Shiite Iraq, Syria, and of course Turkey. The Syrian Kurds will either bow to Syrian rule, leave or be defeated. However, in the long run the financial benefits of the emerging One Belt One Road, in which Iran and Syria will definitely play important roles, will… Read more »

samo war
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samo war
Simon
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Simon

Completely agree. Syrian people trust and welcome the SAA because it is THEIR army, and secondly (incidentally) it is also mostly Sunni, much like them.
Sectarianism in Iraq however is out of control. Mosul is ruined, and the Shia Government will not care to rebuild it beyond a few token projects. It will only become a nest of vipers once again.

Also include Assad’s enlightened policy of amnesty. They don’t have that in Iraq. It makes a big difference.

Patrick Woolley
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Patrick Woolley

Iran also helped stoke sectarian tensions within Iraq as well as the Americans and British.

Patrick Woolley
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Patrick Woolley

You are correct though in saying that Assad’s lack of sectarianism and his secularism has allowed his position to remain tenable. A country where the population is made of a majority of Sunnis most certainly would’ve turned on him with mass armed uprisings by now if this was not the case. In fact, the only reason Iraq wasn’t completely taken over by Isis is because the Sunni population is only a minority. Isis managed to take over all the areas where the Sunni population is the majority – and this isn’t a coincidence. Such was the sectarianism of the Shi’ite… Read more »

sathearn
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sathearn

I’d like to know more about how Iran is “substituting Shi’ite civilians for Sunni civilians along Syria’s western border with Lebanon and Israel.” Aren’t Shia only ~3% of Syria’s overall population? So I wonder where are they getting such settlers? Also, “substituting” seems like a strong word – as if they are both encouraging Shia to settle there and pressuring Sunnis to leave the area. I have seen Shia-takeover rhetoric with regard to Aleppo that seems patently false – though I am open to the possibility that this charge may have some truth in some places. It seems more likely… Read more »

sathearn
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sathearn

Readers of Garrie’s article may also be interested a piece Andrew Illingworth at al-Masdar posted today, about the city of al-Qa’im, where the Sunni population is said to be largely aligned with ISIS, unlike other predominantly Sunni places in both Iraq and Syria: https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/brutal-battle-isis-iraq-yet-happen-town-even-us-not-conquer/

Pave Way IV
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Pave Way IV

“…Many such people were for the first time in their previously secular existence, driven to the ideology of al-Qaeda…” Al-Qaeda is NOT an ideology Al-Qaeda is Saudi Wahhabism – they were driven to it because Saudi Wahhabism blames all the ills of the world on Muslims disobeying authority (theirs) and the demons of western influence and the ‘Iranian’ Shia. Al Qaeda’s solution was for ‘good’ Muslims to obey al Qaeda and kill westerners and Shia. al-Nusra is Saudi Wahhabism. Al Nusra’s solution to remedy all the ills of the world was for all ‘good’ Muslims to obey al Nusra and… Read more »

nshah
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nshah

Wahbabism itself is an ideology and not even a sect of sunnis..
These inbreed Bedouins bastards are just like their Khazars cousins claiming to be Jews..! They’ll claim whatever suits them.. be it race or religion @ sect..! There’re only 4 sect of sunnis accepted the rest are either claimed or parts/branches of the original 4.. but not wahbabism (babi=swine)

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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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