- Why the Russian dial-back on Iran in Syria?
Submitted by Steve Brown…
As we’ve reported here before, the situation in Syria is heating up with HTS and related terror groups breaking out from Idlib, and Hama. The source for HTS arms and supplies is still unclear, but US arms have historically been provided to takfiri terrorists in the region by the UAE, Saudia, Israel, and Turkey.
According to the Mar 27, 2016 article by Bulos, Hennigan, and Bennett:
‘President Obama this month authorized a new Pentagon plan to train and arm Syrian rebel fighters, relaunching a program that was suspended in the fall after a string of embarrassing setbacks which included recruits being ambushed and handing over much of their U.S.-issued ammunition and trucks to an Al Qaeda affiliate.’
And there is absolutely no indication that the US supply of arms to terrorist groups in Syria (by proxy) has changed one whit since 2016. Even so, as if Empire by Terror were not enough, consider that the US and Israel have taken a new multi-lateral aim at regime change in Syria… involving Russia.
In recent high-level talks between Russia, Israel, and the USA in Jerusalem, the main topic was, of course, Syria. While Israeli bluster on the outcome of those talks may be somewhat inflated, reports that Russia caved to the US on sanctions to allow Israel a free hand to confront Iran in Syria appear to be proven by the recent Israeli air strikes on Damascus.
While the major media portrayed the Jerusalem Syria talks as being largely uneventful, the inactionable puffery of YNET news gives a contrarian view on what really happened.
Ynet reported on June 4th, 2019: “Russia expels pro-Iranian militias from Tartus port ahead of Russian-American-Israeli summit” and, “Iran tried to convince Russia to cooperate with them at the Latakia port, which is run by the Russian Navy. The Russians categorically refused.”
According to these sources, here is the deal: ‘Israel and the US will commit to recognizing the legitimacy of the Assad regime, the US is expected to remove some of the economic sanctions imposed on Russia and in return, Russia will limit Iranian activity in Syria.’
Such a ‘deal’ is of course a big change to Russian policy, since the Russian leadership typically allows Iran a free hand (and air cover) to support Assad and fight takfiri terror, so long as Iranian operations do not interfere with the Russian Federation’s. Thus, for Russia to dial back on its understanding with Iran in Syria, seems almost unbelievable. And yet …
The frequency of Israeli attacks in and around Damascus seems unprecedented, even by the precedent of Israel’s ongoing war with Syria since 1948. For Russia to allow these Israeli strikes poses a serious dilemma for all informed opinion.
The western powers — in an unholy and unintended alliance with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan — have created the perfect storm in Syria since 2011, to accompany all the others whether in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan or Yemen.
So, the above ‘deal’ with the US and Israel appears to provide an end game for Russia to avoid the imminent quagmire in Syria that it must face — a quagmire that the Russian leadership fully wishes to avoid. But do we know that such a ‘deal’ truly exists?
In spite of Russian foreign policy setbacks inspired by US adventures, the Russian leadership has shown great restraint and patience, apparently hoping that pragmatism and common sense will one day prevail in Washington. But of course, that is a forlorn hope and will not occur, as the Russian leadership must certainly be aware.
So, why the Russian dial-back on Iran in Syria? US sanctions are beginning to bite? Or perhaps some large trade agreement has been promised to Vladimir Putin by Trump? That such an offer by the US would be verifiable or believable is of course in the realm of fantasy. To say that, “the US is expected to remove some of the economic sanctions imposed on Russia” has no meaning.
The US Congress and political establishment will not permit or allow any reduction in US sanctions on Russia. And, no ‘great new Russian trade deal’ will be allowed with the US, either, by the US political establishment.
So all that remains is … Israel and US support for the Ukraine. Even though the Russian central bank has close ties to Israel and the Russian currency has been under pressure since 2015, US and Israeli support for Ukraine aggression in the east may be the most significant poker chip here.
In other words, the US will press the new Zelensky regime to recognize the Donbass if Russia will give a free hand to Israel versus Iran in Syria, with other concessions mixed in. All speculation, of course, and a very risky game for Russia to play … but Russia must wish to avoid that Syrian quagmire!
The proof is in the pudding however, and the recent Israeli attacks in Syria may be a temporary phenomenon. Should the Israeli attacks continue or escalate, we will be witness to a very dangerous escalation in tensions with Iran… as vetted by both the United States and Russia.
The US relationship with North Korea (where North Korea is perhaps considered to be more of a ‘rogue regime’ than Iran) juxtaposes oddly with the US relationship with Iran. There are two main differences between North Korea and Iran, where the US and Israel are concerned.
One difference is that Israel has little interest in curbing North Korean nuclear ambitions, regardless of the limited heated rhetoric and hostility that prima facie exists between the two nations.
Certainly, less Hezbollah, Hamas and other proxies, North Korea is not the same caliber threat to Israel that Iran is, if Iran truly is a threat at all. The foregoing means that the vast diaspora and Israeli influence machine present in the US views North Korea as more of a bizarre side show, than as a real menace.
The other difference is that North Korea is a nuclear power, while Iran is not. The lesson clearly is this, that if you do possess weapons of mass destruction the United States will shake your hand; whereas if not, the US will make threats of extinction.
Steve Brown is the author of “Iraq: the Road to War” (Sourcewatch) editor of “Bush Administration War Crimes in Iraq” (Sourcewatch) “Trump’s Limited Hangout” and “Federal Reserve: Out-sourcing the Monetary System to the Money Trust Oligarchs Since 1913”; Steve is an antiwar activist, an historian of the US monetary system, and editor of Novus Confidential investigative reports.