The situation in Syria at the turn of 2016 – 2017 acquired an unexpected turn for the West. The capture of Aleppo, reached under the patronage of Russia and Turkey, an agreement on a truce (repeatedly violated by militants), preparation for negotiations in Astana canceled the efforts of Qatar and Saudi Arabia in the overthrow of President Al-Assad.
Talking about the formation of an “axis” on the basis of Iran, Turkey and Russia that has chances for long-term cooperation is naive, but the fact that Ankara has its own game with Moscow and Tehran, without informing Washington, is an extremely unpleasant fact for the outgoing Obama administration and his intelligence, which is trying to say at least something in the days before the team changes at the White House, so as not to look like a failure.
The Obama administration is looking for and at times finding opportunities at the end of its cadenza to make life as difficult as possible for all who the outgoing president considers to be personal enemies, including not only the leadership of Russia and Syria, but also Donald Trump who succeeds him. Washington’s policy toward Damascus is destructive, chaotic and unlikely to change before the new owner arrives at the White House. But its consequences, American analyst and the statements of first-line officials are all the more worthy of attention. This article is based on the materials of M. S. Khodynskaya-Golenischeva and Yu. B. Shcheglovina, prepared for IBI.
Kremlinologists confuse cards
American experts for the new year have prepared a report on the divergence of the position of Iran and Russia on the situation in Syria. According to them, the differences in approaches will not allow Moscow to get out of the crisis with the preparation of political tools to solve the problem. At the heart of these arguments is the idea that Russia in Syria is busy forming a new world order and returning to the ranks of world powers, and Iran is solving the problem of establishing regional leadership. In fact, the loss of Tehran in Syria means its defeat in competition with Riyadh. Iran’s relations with the Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiites depend on its position in the SAR. For him, the main thing is to keep the Alawites in power in Syria. The issue of arranging a theocracy on the Iranian agenda is not worth it, although the Iranians want to create a Shiite militia in Syria. For Moscow, reputational loss in case of defeat is the main thing. Both Iran and Russia are interested in winning in Syria, each according to its own reasons.
In the US, we are confident that Tehran will fight in Syria before victory, and Moscow is trying to find a reason to get out of the conflict. They believe that the US-Russia peace plan was foiled by Iranians. This is far from the truth. Iran and Russia understand the unreality of a purely military solution in Syria, and their dialogue with Turkey proves it. Iranians should not be considered fanatics - they suffer losses in Syria and pay for participation in the battles of their Lebanese and Iraqi Shiite allies. The fighting for Eastern Aleppo showed that only Shiite formations Damascus and Tehran cannot act effectively in different directions with a guarantee of success. The priority task of Iran is to fix the situation through including peace talks in Astana.
American experts write about the "secondary" Russian factor in Syria compared with Iran. Moscow, according to their version, is limited to diplomatic support and videoconferencing, and Iran bears the brunt of "on the ground." In fact, the Russian factor in Syria is of paramount importance, including to achieve the necessary level of military and diplomatic pressure, as well as the development of algorithms for the peaceful resolution of the crisis. Iran’s political and military weight is not the same. Therefore, the VKS RF in a month in Syria did what Iran did not do in two years.
CIA Director John Brennan accused the Russian leadership of playing by his own rules. “The US would never have done in any of these military conflicts what the Russians did in Syria regarding the ... scorched-earth policy they used, which led to the destruction and death of thousands and thousands of civilians," he said in an interview with Pi -bi es At the same time, American intelligence failed to help its government develop an algorithm for responding to the challenge in the form of the “Arab Spring” and failed to fight Islamist expansion in Iraq and Syria. The main blame for US policy lies on Barack Obama. But the head of intelligence is required to provide information in an unedited form, and Brennan sinned by “tweaking” the official rate. And he could not strengthen the personnel potential of the CIA to strengthen the intelligence agency.
The actions of Washington and Brennan, in particular, vividly illustrate one feature of the outgoing administration — it does not know how to lose. The statements of the director of the CIA - reflection offended. Everything he blames Moscow for was avoided thanks to a well-defined pattern of action. Russia in Syria has bypassed all the rakes that Americans attacked in conflicts in the Middle East over the past 30 years. Moscow managed to choose the optimal format of participation in military operations, to reverse the situation on the battlefield, avoiding a repetition of the Afghan option. Washington failed to demonstrate this, and then it was precisely questions of intelligence, which could not figure out the minimum force participation of Americans in conflicts and assess the loyal population base in the region, from which the evaluation criterion for the estimated participation format is formed.
Moscow in Syria did not use the scorched-earth tactics, preferring to influence the fixed points of the Sunni front. That proceeding from the policy of the Islamic State (IG) banned in Russia in relation to the Sunni population and the acquisition of its support was the optimal scheme of actions. The policy of the IG and Dzhebkhat an-Nusra (now Dzhebhat Fath ash-Sham) is based on the principle of economic and social autonomy of Sunni tribes with the guarantee of their protection. The strokes of the VKS were struck on the main item of their income - the export of oil. Power pressure was organized on the main logistics hubs of the anti-Assad forces: strong points, arsenals and communications. This undermined the base of support for jihadists by the tribes who lost their economic mechanisms of existence and security guarantees, which launched the process of peaceful settlement with them. Nothing like US intelligence could offer its leadership. In Syria, Moscow turned the mood of the Sunni elite, and not engaged in its total destruction.
Brennan’s claims that the US CIA knew about Russia's plans before entering the VKS into Syria did not correspond to reality. American intelligence could not calculate the actions of the Russian Federation in this direction. The United States failed to create in Syria a loyal force “on the ground,” although there were such opportunities at the very beginning of the crisis. As a result, Islamists with the help of KSA, Qatar and Turkey became the monopolist in resistance to the Assad regime. The sharp increase in jihadists in opposition was a miscalculation by the CIA. As a result, the Americans were forced to "catch up" so that Moscow would not become the "main peacemaker" in Syria. The result is poorly prepared, failed attacks on Raqqa and Mosul. Recalling Obama's complaints about “erroneous intelligence data in the Libyan direction, which led to a complete destabilization of the situation in this country,” we can evaluate the work of the CIA and its director.
Astana instead of Geneva
The American media synchronized with the news of the signing of an armistice agreement in Syria and threw in information about its "division into zones of influence of various countries, which include the United States, Russia, Iran and Turkey." Assad according to these sources remains the president of the country until the new elections. At the same time, it is clear that we will have to talk about Syria with the new leadership of the United States. The truce, joined by about 60 thousands of militants, as well as the surrender of Eastern Aleppo, is the result of a dialogue between the troika - Ankara, Moscow and Tehran, as well as Damascus and the leaders of pro-Turkish opposition groups. They proposed the “Astana” format, designed to change the discredited “Geneva” format. For the first time, the possibility of achieving a way out of a regional crisis without Washington and Brussels can be launched. The troika’s foreign ministers talk about their accession as a prospect when negotiations in Astana prove their effectiveness.
The fundamental moment that determines the fate of the “Astana” format is Turkey’s ability to guarantee respect for the truce and the extent of its impact on field commanders. If it is generally respected (absolute compliance will not work), it will mean that you can negotiate with Ankara about the future structure of Syria. So while the agreement is a verification of the real influence of partners, without which it is impossible to move forward. A truce fixes the stopping of hostilities within the boundaries of anti-Assad and government forces where they are now located. You can call them "areas of responsibility", but this is a big simplification. No one is going to draw boundaries, exchange territories and move armed forces loyal to themselves.
The same goes for the future of President Assad. This was not discussed in the armistice negotiations and was “out of the question”, as were many fundamental issues. Do not confuse tactics with strategy. Now it is important to achieve a cessation of hostilities. Everything else can be discussed on the basis of an important point that includes, among other things: the recognition by participants of the borders of national and strategic interests of each other in the Syrian sector. What the US and the EU were unable to reach in their Syrian diplomacy. Fortunately, the Russian-American negotiations on Syria broke down both because of internal squabbles in the Obama administration, and because the United States did not fully influence the opponents of Assad and their foreign sponsors. Turkey can affect a significant number of them.
There are many obstacles on the path of truce. First of all, pro-Saud groups and the IG, "moved" beyond the framework of negotiations. The delimitation of the "reconciled" with the "hawks" passed, with which Turkey agreed. An armed opposition that has not joined the truce will be counted among the terrorists, and its conditions will not apply to it. Ankara is trying to monopolize its influence on the opposition movement in the north of Syria, squeezing pro-Saud groups from the international legal field. In theory, both Moscow, and Tehran, and Ankara should conduct joint operations against the supporters of the IG and Dzhebhat an-Nusra, or not interfere with each other. Turkey gets a stronghold to resist the expansion of the Kurds. So the strengthening of their military support, which the US legitimized by the law on military aid to rebel groups in Syria, is Washington’s application for future participation in a new format of agreements.
In Syria, the situation on the ground is controlled by Russia, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Washington has influence only in the Kurdish enclave, and if Sunni troops decide to oust the Kurds from their positions, they will cope without much effort. Ankara is profitable to do after the "Forces of Democratic Syria" take Rakku. This will weaken Washington’s aid to the Kurds, since the propaganda task will be solved, and for any American administration, the main thing is that Turkey should be in US orbit. Kurds pushed into the background. As for Riyadh, it will either join in the new negotiation format, or have to fight with the prospect of deterioration of relations with Ankara and the loss of Idlib, where Dzhebhat al-Nusra is based. In the second case, the KSA drops out of the influential players in the Syrian sector, since it will not be able to create military forces in Jordan.
Suffering of kept women
Recall: the introduction of a cessation of hostilities in Syria was announced on December 29. The agreements reached in Ankara after two months of negotiations by the Russian military with Turkish mediation with the commanders of groups of opponents of the Assad regime. Immediately, statements appeared on the Internet in which both armed groups and representatives of “civil society” sounded the alarm about the situation in Wadi Barad, where the large reservoir of drinking water Ain al-Fiji is located, providing Damascus. At one time, this station was captured by the militants of “Dzhebhat an-Nusra”, and then the West was informed that it somehow came under the control of the “moderate opposition”.
The first statement was made on behalf of the armed groups - the signatories of the agreements in Ankara. It said that because of the violation of the truce by the “regime and its allies,” the detachments freeze all consultations on the cessation of hostilities and the preparation of inter-Syrian talks in Astana. The second was released by the Free Syrian Army. The SSA criticizes the “regime” and the Lebanese “Hezbollah” for the “barbaric military campaign” in Wadi Barad, assures of the absence of the Dzhebkhat al-Nusra and IG headquarters there and threatens to thwart the truce. The third came out on behalf of the “civil society institutions”, in which they speak of the aggression of the regime and Hezbollah in Wadi Barad, complain that the local population was brought to the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe as a result of the bombings, and accuse the Syrian military of destroying Ain al-Fiji and depriving the people of Damascus drinking water.
What exactly was the reason for the almost simultaneous statements and how could this affect the cessation of hostilities and the preparation for the inter-Syrian negotiations in Astana? Obviously, the statements mentioned are the “revenge” of the states left behind in the December 29 agreements: Qatar, the USA, Great Britain, France and KSA. Just look at the country affiliation of the curators of the structures on whose behalf it was announced that consultations on the negotiations in Astana and the cessation of hostilities had been suspended.
In the case of “Feylak Rahman”, “Dzhebhat Ahl ash-Sham”, “Dzhebhat ash-Shamiya” and “Feylak ash-Sham” is Qatar. For “Firka Sultan Murad”, “Jaish Idlib al-Khurr”, “Jaish en-Nasser” and “Firka Ulya al-Sahiliya” - Qatar and the USA. Tajammu Fastkam Kama Umirt patronize the US and KSA. "Jaish al-Izz" - USA. Jaish al-Islam - Saudi Arabia. Finally, Sukur ash-Sham - Qatar, KSA and the USA. At the same time, it is clear that most of the groups are funded from Doha, which was not enthusiastic about the cease-fire agreements reached in Ankara and was vexed by Turkey’s active involvement in the drafting of agreements. This is consistent with the Qatari government’s statement that Doha will continue to arm the Syrian opposition regardless of the actions of other players. Qatar is clearly played up by the Americans.
Notable is the country’s origin of the sponsors of the structures that signed the statement condemning the actions of the Syrian government and Hezbollah in Wadi Barad on behalf of “civil society”. For Relief Corps in Wadi Barada, Media Corps in Wadi Barada, Civil Defense in Wadi Barada and the Institution of Barada al-Kheir, this is the United Kingdom. For Medical in Wadi Barada - France. The “local council” and the “institute of humanitarian aid” in Wadi Barad are also oriented toward the West, whose representatives also signed a statement. At the same time, it is worth paying attention to the fact that neither regional nor Western countries want open confrontation with Moscow. Russia does not explicitly mention in any of the statements (only in the context of the requirements for the “guarantor” of agreements in Ankara, that is, Russia, to calm their customers).
The “Friends of Syria” clearly used the actions of the government forces and Hezbollah in Wadi Barad as a reason for the attacks. It is clear that Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United States, France and the United Kingdom, which did not participate in the drafting of agreements in Ankara, are trying to thwart the implementation of the armistice agreements and negotiations in Astana by organizing demarches of the structures under their control. Doha, Riyadh and Washington sent armed groups to the statement, and Paris and London organized an information campaign of the “civil society of Wadi Barad” in the image and likeness of Aleppo. Recall that in the course of the antiterrorist campaign of the Syrian army with the support of the Russian Aerospace Forces to liberate Eastern Aleppo from jihadists with the help of “activists” controlled by the West, the “humanitarian” aspects of the situation in the city were unwound.
It is clear that the countries that at one time formed the “anti-Assad coalition” will try to thwart the cessation of hostilities, although for different reasons. The team of outgoing President Obama is out of jealousy and revenge. Qatar because the truce contradicts the idea of promoting an Islamist project in the region. France and the United Kingdom - from resentment that they were ignored in the development of agreements on a truce and the convening of negotiations in Astana. Let us leave aside the question of the financial interest of Washington, London and Paris in overthrowing Assad as a result of lobbying for Riyadh and Doha.
It is noticeable that the actions of regional and western opponents of Assad in Syria are convulsive, and their cohesion is short-lived. With the arrival of the Trump administration, Washington’s unconditional support for anti-government groups in this country will most likely change. Without Turkish territory as a “rear base” of militants, Doha is unlikely to succeed in disrupting an armistice agreement, so much will depend on Ankara’s position.
As for Paris and London and the structures of “civil society” that they control, they can be ignored. If the armed groups observe the cessation of hostilities, they will forget about the “activists”. As happened in Aleppo and will happen in any city of Syria, around which the media campaign will be promoted.
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