For the time being, one can only guess what the region is waiting for after the end of the war in Syria and what the parties are involved in, to one degree or another, involved in the conflict.
The situation in the Middle East continues to attract world media attention. The final phase of the civil war in Syria is accompanied by negotiations in Astana on de-escalation zones. The region is waiting for a referendum on the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan. President Donald Trump is developing a new US strategy for Afghanistan and Iran. The Qatari crisis and the civil war in Libya continue, where France and Italy are competing with each other. Events around the Ethiopian dam "Revival" on the Blue Nile make us talk about the approach of Africa's first water war. Against the backdrop of Arab and Islamic integration projects, the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Persian Gulf is close to disintegration. Competing with Iran, Saudi Arabia is bogged down in Yemen. Radicals are exploring Europe and are active in Southeast Asia ... Consider some of these plots, based on the materials of experts IBI D. A. Karpov and Yu. B. Shcheglovina.
USA: strategic news
President Trump is considering the proposed strategy of action against Iran, including against his policies in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, Reuters said, citing sources in the White House. He is invited to respond strongly to the influence of Iran on the events in Bahrain. The United States must actively respond to the actions of Iranian boats against the US Navy in the Persian Gulf and cut off supplies weapons for the Yemeni Housits and Palestinian factions in Gaza and Sinai. The introduction of economic sanctions against Iran is calculated, if it violates the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal of the year.
Increasing pressure on Tehran is designed to cope with its nuclear missile program, counteract cyber attacks and weaken support for Shiite militias. The initiative does not imply an escalation of the conflict in Syria - there the priority for the United States remains the fight against the "Islamic state". Trump's policy follows George W. Bush’s strategy and involves relying on old allies in the region (KSA, Egypt and Israel) with active use of military force. The difference between the strategy of Trump in a cautious attitude to the deployment of troops in a particular region of the world. Reliance on force to solve crisis situations remains.
The current US administration does not take into account the full range of foreign policy factors when making decisions. The former understood that it was unproductive to impose an embargo simultaneously on Russia and Iran. The deal on the Iranian nuclear program gave an outlet to European companies, unhappy with the curtailment of economic contacts with Russia under pressure from Washington and Brussels. Trump does not take this into account and is trying to start a trade war with China. As a result, the United States did not support either Brussels or the IAEA regarding attempts to revise the conditions of the Iranian nuclear program. Opportunities for Americans to block an international bloc are negligible. What Tehran does within the framework of the missile program is not subject to the restrictions imposed by the UN Security Council at the time.
Proposals for an aggressive response to Iranian influence in Iraq, Syria and Yemen are not based on the lack of US capacity to influence this process. In Syria and Iraq, it is impossible to influence the pro-Iranian Shiite militias, which are the basis of the spread of Iranian influence, the United States is limited there by a lack of footholds "on the ground." This is also true in Yemen, the invasion of which is fraught with engagement in a long-playing and difficult to predict local conflict. So the “aggressiveness” of Washington in the Iranian direction is currently limited by diplomatic and economic pressure, which is limited by Chinese, Russian and European economic interests in the Iranian market.
As for the new US strategy on Afghanistan, its basis is India’s increasing role there in opposition to Pakistan. In addition to activating the terrorists in Afghanistan against the forces of the United States and NATO, consultations of regional players began. On September 10, Afghan Foreign Minister Salahutdin Rabbani arrived in New Delhi for meetings with Prime Minister N. Modi and Foreign Minister of India S. Swaraj. In the economic sphere, a decision was made on the participation of Indian capital in 116 urban and rural projects in Afghanistan and an agreement on the participation of Indian specialists in the repair of X-NUMX Mi-11 helicopters from the Afghan air forces totaling $ 35 million.
India can take part in other programs for the repair of military equipment in Afghanistan. The US wants India to replace Russia there, but experts believe that the format of defense cooperation between Kabul and New Delhi will exhaust itself on this. The Indian leadership will not go to the direction of military advisers to Afghanistan due to the unpredictable reaction of Islamabad, including in Kashmir. In the meantime, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister H. Asif visited Iran, where he met on September 11 with President Rouhani and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, MD Zarif.
The schedule of the visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan - Moscow, Beijing and Ankara. Pakistan is expanding the anti-Kabul and anti-American alliance on the Afghan track, and Ankara will clearly support Islamabad because of the contradictions between the Turks and the Americans on the Kurdish issue in Syria. So the United States entered the regional confrontation with the risk of blocking all new American initiatives in the Afghan sector.
What does Qatar have in mind
Qatar's Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al-Thani spoke in favor of continuing support for the Syrian Free Army (FSA), one of the largest militant opposition armed groups in Syria, and criticized Special Envoy, UN Secretary-General for Syria Staffan de Mistura, who called on the armed opposition to “realize, that she did not win the war. ” The principal point of the program of Qatar and its ally Turkey in Syria is the strengthening of the “secular” SSA, which was originally pro-Turkish. Qatar in Syria supported the IS, and the Turks tried to create a force that could be represented in international formats. The decision to refuse to support the SSA was taken too hastily.
Doha and Ankara considered that in the face of Washington’s refusal to support the SSA, it was necessary to rely on the IS and armed groups of the Ahrar al-Sham type. The latter was supposed to bring together Islamists and devour the pro-Saudi “Dzhebhat an-Nusra”. Doha and Ankara, acting in alliance with Riyadh, argued that it was impossible to legitimize Dzhebhat al-Nusra because of its association with al-Qaeda. However, these maneuvers failed. The IG project against the background of the successes of the antiterrorist coalitions in Mosul, Raqqah and Deir ez-Zor has exhausted itself. There are no prospects for the overthrow by military means of Bashar al-Assad. Saudi reinforcement in Idlib against the background of the Russian-Saudi rapprochement, the split in Ahrar al-Sham and its takeover of Dzhebhat an-Nusroy due to Riyadh’s financial injections are the reality of the current moment.
Doha proposes in response to dramatically increase funding for the Syrian opposition groups under its control. As the main recipient of such assistance is designated SSA. Qatar and Turkey have decided to bet on the "secular segment" of the opposition in opposition to pro-Saud Islamists. This means a war between pro-Qatar and pro-Turkish groups, on the one hand, and Dzhebhat an-Nusroy, on the other. The main arena of this struggle will be Idlib. Moscow faces a tense phase of activity in Syria against the backdrop of the struggle of these fronts for their maximum easing. The crisis in relations between Qatar and the Arab Quartet is extremely beneficial in this context. At the same time, the main logistical support to pro-Saud groups goes through Turkey, which makes it possible to block it.
The disadvantage of the Turkish-Qatari project is its cost. Qatar in Syria will have to start from scratch. However, he was forced to spend, according to Moody's, 38,5 billion dollars to support its economy since the beginning of the conflict with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. This is about 23 percent of its gross domestic product. Qatar faces challenges in the financial, economic and social fields due to restrictions imposed by Arab countries in the tourism business, commerce and banking. As a result of the conflict, only in June and July about 30 billions of dollars were withdrawn from the banks of the emirate abroad. The country did not receive funds from the neighboring Gulf states supporting the sanctions against Doha. At the same time, Qatar independently covers domestic expenses and does not borrow funds on the international financial market.
Russia, Turkey and Iran, as guarantors of the truce in Syria, announced the creation of four de-escalation zones. 15 of September was announced by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Kairat Abdrakhmanov at the plenary meeting of the international meeting in Astana on resolving the situation in Syria. We note in this connection that Iran has entered the joint coordinating committee, which actually replaces the previously existing Russian-Turkish armistice monitoring mission, which makes it an official part of the negotiation process between the Syrian regime and the opposition. All groups of the armed opposition had previously opposed this, since it was the consolidated position of its sponsors in the person of Qatar of Turkey and KSA. The current state of affairs is the official concession of Turkey and Qatar and the unofficial one - the KSA, despite the discontent of the United States, which was ignored by all of them. The recognition of Iran as one of the main forces in the Syrian conflict is an important outcome of the negotiations. Following the US for KSA and Turkey meant the uncontrolled growth of Tehran’s expansion, and the inclusion of Iran in the coordination committee structures the presence of Iranians in Syria, which gives opposition sponsors an understanding of Iran’s responsibility zones and the boundaries of their presence in Syria with the commitment of Moscow and Tehran not to violate them.
Giving officially recognized status to de-escalation zones by the parties to the conflict is a fixation of the disproportion of their forces for today. There are several local hotbeds of tension in the face of the armed groups of the IG and Dzhebhat al-Nusra, but the main zones of peaceful coexistence of previously belligerent parties have been identified. A new stage in the Syrian conflict is an experiment in the search for a general algorithm for getting out of local wars. It consists in freezing the conflict by creating zones of presence of opposition forces while simultaneously launching the mechanism of informal tribal and economic diplomacy between groups of the population in these enclaves and in the rest of the country. The forces of the sponsors in this case play the role of peacekeepers and forces of delimitation. The main focus is on the channels of public diplomacy and the ability of society to restore disrupted economic and social ties. Hence the importance of creating local committees for national reconciliation as a mechanism for such diplomacy.
Progress in negotiations on more global issues will depend directly on the success of this process. In Syria, while the time for this has not come, for the beginning of the parties to the conflict and the population should learn to live in conditions of a truce and establish trade and economic ties. The process is not easy and it is fraught with both luck and fiasco. Hence, the six-month probationary period established in the Astana agreement. However, if this mechanism works, it will be the first example of the implementation in practice of the principle that the Americans are talking about - solving the problems inside the country by the forces of the country's elites. So far, they themselves have not been able to do this in any zone of local conflicts in which the USA is present. It is even more indicative that Russia, which, in fact, set the conflicting parties at the negotiating table in Astana, seems to succeed.
The creation of a monitoring mechanism for zones and the presence of Ankara as one of their sponsors leads the struggle in these zones for the right to dominate the forces of the armed opposition between KSA and Turkey to a new level. These countries, one through representation in armed opposition groups, the other as an official sponsor, went to the conflict-freezing scheme proposed in Astana, which was dictated by their idea of establishing their dominance in these zones. And this turns one or another side into one of the leading players in the Syrian conflict. Only then can we talk about the preservation of the Saudi presence in Syria.
This caused a war between pro-Saud and pro-Turkish groups in Idlib, the outcome of which will determine the alignment of forces in other de-escalation zones, except perhaps the southern one. In this case, the situation develops according to the principle of "Divide and rule". Fortunately, the position of Riyadh is vulnerable from an international point of view: no one recognizes Saudi clients in the person of “Dzhebhat an-Nusra” as a full-fledged member of the negotiation process. But the liquidation of “Dzhebhat an-Nustra” by the hands of the Turks or its weakening is on the agenda and the agreement in Astana is a de facto stimulating process.
We are waiting for the referendum
Against the background of international disputes over the upcoming referendum on the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, the internal Kurdish confrontation continues. On September 12, the Iraqi parliament, without waiting for the outcome of the alleged consultations in Baghdad between the government and the leadership of the Kurdish autonomy, initiated by Prime Minister H. al-Abadi, expressed disagreement with the idea of holding such a will in principle. Erbil responded quickly: Iraqi Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani called on the Iraqi Council of Representatives (Parliament) to reconsider the resolution on the referendum on the independence of the autonomous region. Barzani stressed that the deputies of the Iraqi parliament "cannot break the will of the people of Kurdistan". Thus, he rejected the decision taken by the parliament of the country.
Against the referendum were the Arab League and the UN, the Arab neighbors of Iraq, Turkey, Iran, as well as the Russian Federation and the United States, which Barzani and his supporters are targeting. Washington proposed to postpone the referendum, declaring it inappropriate now. The head of the MIT Turkish intelligence service, H. Fidan, and the head of the special forces "Quds" of the Iranian IRGC, General K. Suleymani, must arrive in Erbil to convince Barzani to compromise. In addition, Fidan intends to discuss with his Kurdish counterpart Masroor Barzani the nature of his consultations with the head of the military wing of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Kemal Bayuk, who came to Erbil to consult with the head of the Iraqi Kurdistan intelligence service. Ankara received an extremely unpleasant signal for Turkey that an alliance is planned between these two forces.
It becomes apparent in the framework of the referendum and the interest of the clan Barzani in supporting this idea of the PKK and its affiliates represented by the Party of the Democratic Union (PDS) in Syria. This means that the referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan will automatically lead to the holding of similar plebiscites in Syria and the prospects for the formation of semi-state autonomy there, followed by joining an independent Kurdish state. Such a scenario is able to create a serious and constant threat for Ankara, especially given the neutral position of Washington within the framework of the priority of solving a more important task - the creation in the person of the Kurds of reliable support in the north of Syria. In the end, no one has canceled the war between Ankara and the PKK and the truce between them broken by President R. T. Erdogan can hardly be restored in the foreseeable future.
Not everything is clear with the balance of power within the Kurdish autonomy. In Erbil, negotiations between the delegations of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (KDP), the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Gorran to reach a compromise on the seven points of the preliminary conditions for reaching an agreement on the support of the three main Kurdish parties to the idea of a referendum continue very difficultly. This support should be realized in the form of convening a parliament of Iraqi Kurdistan, which has been suspended for two years due to the position of the Gorran leadership, which has been boycotting its work. The absence of parliamentary approval of the idea of a referendum and, most importantly, the approval at the legislative level of its results most seriously disavows the very idea of holding it for the world community.
Experts agree that the parties have advanced to a preliminary agreement, which makes the question of convening a new session of parliament a definite matter. The same experts agree: if this happens, it will be an indicator that the question of holding a referendum between the three main parties has been resolved. This does not mean the cessation of further discussions, but they will be transferred to the parliamentary format. It should be noted that “Gorran” managed to insist that Barzani and his closest relatives would not run for senior positions in the autonomy. There are still unresolved questions about the salaries of civil servants, the harmonization of the law on presidential elections, new models of the distribution of revenues from the export of hydrocarbons.
The withdrawal of Gorran from the very idea of holding a referendum is possible within the framework of blocking with the position of such political parties as the Kurdistan Islamic Party. The latter categorically rejects the idea of holding a referendum. This may happen at the last moment due to the fact that the parties may not agree on the final terms of the agreement: the issue of hydrocarbon trading and profit distribution remains an insurmountable obstacle, or as a result of international players from Iran and Turkey working with Gorran. Moreover, if the referendum takes place, its results will remain on paper and it is doomed to remain a propaganda fact due to the non-recognition of its and its results by the international community. The formation of the budget of Iraqi Kurdistan by blocking the export of hydrocarbons by Baghdad could cause an economic collapse in autonomy. Erbil's hopes of reliance on foreign investment in the event of such a development are naive due to legal risks.
Between war and possible peace
- Eugene Satanovskiy