Of course, all these are only vivid political science metaphors designed to simplify and facilitate the understanding of the most complex geopolitical processes taking place in the most diverse painful points of the modern world. And also a tribute to a kind of tradition: the concept and the term "game" in the big (global) politics were introduced in the 19 century by the British or, as it is now fashionable to say, the Anglo-Saxons. By this kind of “game,” they understood the impact on events in a particular region in the interests of Britain, using all possible instruments to influence the situation. Actually, since then, little has changed in this regard, except that more or less significant powers are leading or trying to play such "games".
Modern Syria is, without a doubt, the most important geopolitical platform for today, where we have the most important geopolitical game at our very eyes, the outcome of which will largely determine the configuration of the future world.
Today, the vital or, as it is now customary to say, existential interests of two global players, Russia and the United States, as well as a number of regional players: Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel and some other countries that are less significant in terms of geopolitical weight, but , nevertheless, deeply involved in this great game and also hoping to win at least something in it or, at least, not to lose. And very soon, as the issues of regional recovery and development begin to emerge on the agenda, more and more serious players will start to join the big Syrian game, such as China or the European Union. Thus, the diverse interests of almost all more or less developed countries, which, moreover, have rather serious contradictions with each other, converge in this Arab-torn war-torn country.
But that's not all. 2013 to 2017 In the role of one of the global geopolitical players in the big Syrian game, there was an extremely specific and very dark and ominous force - the so-called "Islamic State" (ISIS or ISIL, prohibited in Russia), within which the supra-ethnic and supranational (supranational) ideology was formed and strengthened radical Islamic fundamentalism. To date, the IS is almost completely crushed and ceased to exist as a kind of integral system, but its ideology continues to exist and feed numerous armed groups throughout the Islamic world, including Syria. And to discount them in the big Syrian game is still clearly premature. In addition, most of these groups easily assume the role of mercenaries of the larger players in the region, acting in their interests in exchange for financial and other support. It is impossible not to mention the very significant Kurdish factor, which periodically declares itself as an independent force in this big game, which everyone else has to reckon with in one way or another.
The role of Russia in this global geopolitical battle due to its active involvement in the Syrian conflict itself, and in the global geopolitical context, is perhaps the most significant and noticeable. Our confrontation with the so-called collective West led by the United States is the main semantic core of the Syrian conflict. We, Russia, perhaps unexpectedly for the West, intervened in the process of systematically destroying Syria by the hands of the terrorist groups IG and Al-Nusra (banned in Russia), who in one way or another resorted to various Syrian political opposition Bashar al-Assad. The result of this intervention was the actual liquidation of the Islamic state, the revival of the Syrian army (CAA) and the withdrawal of the armed groups of most of the Syrian territory from the control of the oppositional Damascus.
All this radically changed the geopolitical situation in the region. The United States, with its decorative anti-terrorist coalition, had to urgently change its plans in order to save face. The tactics of conniving at the IG and somewhere in the secret, somewhere overt support of all anti-Assad forces, mostly frankly terrorist, were replaced by tactics of a real fight against ISIL in Iraq and in northern Syria using the Iraqi army and the Kurdish armed forces, respectively. As a result, practically the entire Syrian left bank of the Euphrates was under US control, where they immediately began to establish their military bases without prior arrangement. The plan for the dismemberment of Syria with the forced postponement of its “controlled chaos” plan until “better times” began to emerge more clearly.
This global geopolitical configuration, in which the main players are Russia and the United States, unwittingly pushed the local confrontations of the Middle Eastern states themselves and all sorts of religious-ethnic groups to a second, auxiliary plan. However, they still continue to be present in this conflict, fitting into its general pattern with their own specific pattern. That is why we are forced to play a geopolitical simultaneous game session on a variety of very different “boards” here. On some of them, Russia is forced to conduct a very active military-political and diplomatic game, on others - to pursue a wait-and-see policy, providing opportunities for future maneuvers.
The goal of all these actions on our part is to maximize the retention of this extremely important for the security of Russia region from internecine chaos, which is based on traditional interethnic and interreligious hostility, Islamic extremism and international terrorism, which flourished here after the US intervention in Iraq in 2003 year. At the same time, Russia is trying to proceed from the fact that everyone with whom we have to deal has its own, separate from others interests, which in one way or another must be taken into account, while leading our own game and defending our own national interests.
The goal of the United States is exactly the opposite. It derives from the overall global strategy of this world hegemon. Its essence is maximum marionetisation, that is, the formulation of a rigidly political-economic control of formally independent states around the world. Some of these countries deliberately and voluntarily assume the role of puppets in support of the main world power. Others are forced into this or that internal problems — economic or political. Those who oppose this American aspiration are subjected to targeted demonization through the global media, economic pressure, and political pressure through the activation of all kinds of opposition forces. For individual, particularly stubborn and uncompromising "customers" in the US arsenal there is a diverse set of color revolutions and military pressure, both on their own and by proxy. As a result of this kind of impact, the region is plunged into a process of socio-political degradation and self-destruction. To outsiders, all this looks like some kind of spontaneous chaos. But in reality, all this is the result of the purposeful efforts of the US special services to implement a well-developed concept of "controlled chaos", the ultimate goal of which is again American control over the relevant region, another puppet state - an "ally" in their political propaganda terminology.
At the junction of these two diametrically opposed geopolitical aspirations, a slide to a big global conflict is almost inevitable. That is what is happening now in Syria. Moreover, the situation is extremely complex and explosive. And, perhaps, the only deterrent in this explosive situation, saving the world from a global catastrophe, is the caution of the main players, Russia and the United States, who absolutely do not want to enter into direct military contact with each other using all available forces and means. Hence the need for a so-called hybrid standoff, and this is a proxy war (that is, a mediated war exclusively by someone else's hands, through the use of their "junior" allies and partners in a real military clash), information war, provocations, economic sanctions, etc., etc.
For us, the “junior” allies and partners are the armed forces of the Syrian Arab Republic on the ground, the Iranian units controlled by official Tehran and the troops of the Lebanese Hezbollah, also patronized by Iran. For the Americans, the Syrian opposition detachments of various degrees of Islamic-terrorist radicalism supported and directed by them, including the remnants of ISIL and Al-Nusrah, the Syrian Kurds, and also all members of their so-called coalition plus Israel. The latter, by the way, has its own accounts with Iran and Hezbollah, and this trio is ready to torment each other without looking at us or the United States. Approximately the same level of confrontation between the Syrian Kurds and Turkey. And between Israel and Syria, the bone in the throat is the unsolved problem of the Golan Heights. So the knot got tied up still. And, apparently, it is we, Russia, who will have to unravel it one way or another, if we want to achieve our strategic goals in this region.
At the moment, the four main areas of application of our military, diplomatic, humanitarian and other efforts are absolutely obvious - the kind of “boards” on which Russia will have to play its geopolitical games in the big Syrian game in the future. It:
1. Actually Syria, its state restoration and development - "Syrian board". Obviously, this is the main direction of our geopolitical efforts - the main geopolitical "board" in the Middle East region.
2. Israel, or rather, the inveterate Iran-Israel confrontation, as well as the equally invetend opposition between Syria and Israel in the Golan heights. Our goal here is to prevent the emergence and development of an armed conflict between Iran and Israel on Syrian territory and to restore normal relations between Israel and Syria - "Iranian-Israeli board."
3.Syrian Kurdistan and Turkey. That is, the Kurdish separatism and the Kurdish-Turkish confrontation, where we obviously have a sense in defiance of the United States, aimed at separating Syrian Kurdistan from Syria, to strive for some more or less compromise that suits everyone (and above all Syria and Turkey) to solve the problem of Syrian Kurds - "Kurdish-Turkish board".
4 Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates. Let us, for simplicity and schematism, combine them into one “Arabian geopolitical complex”. This is one of the shadow participants in the Syrian conflict as a sponsor of a number of terrorist groups aimed against Assad, the closest US ally in the region. We will inevitably have to deal with him, at least at the diplomatic level. And this is the fourth - "Arabian board."
By the way, the issue of drawing new proxy players into the Syrian conflict with the corresponding creation of a fundamentally new, much more complicated confrontational situation is also not removed from the agenda. This may well contribute to the US withdrawal from a nuclear deal with Iran, which recently, 8 May, said US President Donald Trump. The consequence of this could be the formation of an anti-Iranian coalition strike by the Americans with the involvement of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and some NATO allies of the United States, which, under certain provocative circumstances, Turkey could be included in. And if we take into account the fact that a very significant part of the Iranian armed forces are currently deployed in Syria, then the option of fomenting the initial stage of the anti-Iran conflict is possible here in the Syrian Arab Republic. This may lead to a new outbreak of the civil war in Syria and a radical change in all the paradigms of our geopolitical behavior in the great Syrian game. However, talking about it is still somewhat premature. Therefore, for the time being we will leave this highly undesirable situation both for us and for the world as a whole beyond our consideration, focusing on the four geopolitical “boards” indicated above.
The main "Syrian board"
In the central Syrian direction for us, our main efforts should clearly be aimed at military-diplomatic and humanitarian operations to restore Syrian statehood throughout Syria within its official borders, including all the territories not currently controlled by Damascus. And today there are as many of them - about 40% of the total area of the Syrian state in its generally recognized international borders.
Most of this territory in the north of Syria is controlled by the Kurds, supported by the United States, and hence the entire pro-American coalition. So far, this entire coalition is formally sharpened to fight the so-called Islamic State. However, now that, thanks to Russia's intervention, only a few isolated enclaves scattered throughout Syria have remained of him, the Western coalition is in urgent need of reformatting this apparently weakening ideological cover for its presence in Syria.
Now, most likely, the armed aggression of the United States and its allies against Syria to destroy its statehood will be carried out under the banner of the struggle against the "inhuman regime" Bashar al-Assad and "opposing the world community" of Iran, settled in Syria for the sake of the destruction of Israel. At the same time, the US will certainly try to somehow unite and structure all the remnants of terrorist groups and the motley Syrian opposition in Syria in order to breathe new life into them with money, weapons and the advisers and under the cover of the coalition air force to direct against the army of Assad. In parallel with the activation of the cumulative armed Syrian opposition, the United States will almost certainly try to draw into the conflict its closest allies in the region: Israel and Saudi Arabia, and possibly some of the NATO countries - most likely, the UK. For this, as well as for unleashing their own hands in the "holy" business for the Americans to set fire to war, most likely. a familiar and well-run reason will be used - provocation with chemical weapons. If the conflict is successfully inflamed, it will be inevitable that the participation of military specialists and individual units of both Russia and the United States with inevitable victims, with which both Russia and the United States will somehow have to accept, will be inevitable. The only way to prevent the global military confrontation of Russia and the United States from escaping in this situation can only be a mutual agreement not to subject military bases and fleets of Russia, the United States and Israel to missile and other strikes. The strategic goal of the United States in this new war will be, of course, the destruction of the Syrian state, the cardinal weakening of Iran and the complete ousting of Russia from the Middle East.
What, in this situation, can and should be our actions, our, so to speak, “game plan”?
Briefly and schematically, you can formulate it in the following main theses:
1. Consistently, as soon as possible, eliminate all remaining pockets of resistance to official Damascus within the territory controlled by it according to a pattern already worked out: compelling them to surrender their positions and heavy weapons and then remove all militants who do not want to lay down their weapons with their families in Idlib province and, partly, Alepo. As a result of the implementation of this plan, a clearly defined territory should appear, controlled by the Syrian authorities, without any terrorist enclaves.
2. To decide on the military-political status of all the outlying territories not controlled by Damascus (outside occupation, irreconcilable opposition, terrorists, separatists) with developing special plans for their return under the control of the Syrian authorities, individually for each marginal region, including direct and mediation negotiations with representatives of the relevant border states .
3. If necessary, as the situation develops, begin an intensive diplomatic "game" on all auxiliary "boards" - "Iran-Israel", "Kurdish-Turkish" and "Arabian".
4. In coordination with the Syrian authorities, to close, as far as possible, the entire airspace of Syria with an integrated echeloned air defense system, which excludes the uncontrolled unauthorized flight of any aircraft over its territory and the unpunished shelling of its territory, including from the airspace of neighboring states. At the same time, openly and publicly position this air defense system as Russian, deployed for a certain limited time in order to demonstration of the export capabilities of Russian weapons in real combat conditions. All our probable opponents should be officially notified of this in order to prevent possible incidents. The question of the future fate of this system after the end of the stated period should be decided depending on the military-political situation in Syria at that particular moment. Such an approach should be an attempt to speak in a language understandable to the West: nothing personal is just business, moreover, in a situation where the US is seeking to create a competitive advantage in the global arms market through sanctions against the Russian military industrial complex. And, of course, it will be necessary to periodically bring official polite apologies for each actual activation of this system of protection of the airspace of Syria with a call to no longer give anyone the reason for such activation.
5. To intensify the process of peaceful political settlement in Syria, begun in Astana and in Sochi, but already in Syrian territory with the provision of the necessary security guarantees to all real participants in this process. It should culminate in the popular adoption of a new Syrian constitution, appropriate elections under broad international control and the formation of new constitutional authorities.
6. Provide humanitarian and technical assistance to Syria in the aftermath of the civil war and terrorist intervention.
7. Develop and start implementing a long-term program of mutually beneficial economic cooperation with Syria, including with the participation of other interested countries and international corporations.
8. To develop and begin to implement a long-term educational program for the broad study of the Russian language and culture, the training of necessary specialists, including in the territory of the Russian Federation. Provide guaranteed reception throughout Syria of at least two Russian television channels with simultaneous translation, not counting "RT" in Arabic. And also to promote the development of national Syrian television. In every way to develop all other ties between Syria and Russia.
Literally, a visit to Moscow by Israeli Prime Minister B. Netanyahu, timed to coincide with the celebration of Victory Day, which, by the way, has been officially celebrated in Israel this year, has just passed. Netanyahu negotiated with Putin, about which so far little is known for certain. And almost at the same time, on the night of May 10, Israel launched a rocket attack on Syrian territory, sort of "in response to the shelling of the Golan Heights by Iranian armed forces from the territory of Syria." It was especially emphasized in the report on this incident that the Israeli side notified the command of the Russian military contingent on the basis of Hamim about this reciprocal action. There is a clear attempt to exert military-political pressure on Russia, and at the same time, though independently from each other, both by Iran and Israel, in order to force us to withdraw from interference in the Iran-Israel conflict on Syrian territory. It’s not clear yet what our position of principle and, accordingly, concrete actions within this confrontation will be, but one thing is absolutely obvious: for us, in principle, an unacceptably armed confrontation with Israel, if only because a great number of our compatriots live there, including and veterans of World War II and their descendants. On the other hand, we can not tolerate the continuation of the current situation with the air raids on the Syrian Israeli air force. Therefore, it is obvious that all our efforts should be aimed at finding a mutually acceptable way out of this situation.
In my opinion, the most natural position for us in this geopolitical party could be the most pronounced peacemaking. That is, we should make an effort to secure the breeding of all the warring parties on the border between Syria and Israel, which is actually established at the moment, having stood on it as peacekeepers, at the same time leading the mediation talks on a long-term resolution of the situation.
Within the framework of this logic, it seems quite appropriate to consider and, possibly, adopt in whole or in part the following plan:
1. To develop and carry out an operation to liquidate the armed formations on the border with Israel to the Syrian government, notifying Tel Aviv of this and, possibly, coordinating with it certain, especially significant for him moments of this operation. (This, of course, is about the non-participation of Iranian units and Hezbollah in this operation and the prevention of fire contact with Israeli units on the Golan Heights.)
2. In coordination with official Damascus, create a Russian peacekeeping base on the actual border with Israel in the region of Quneitra, whose task should be to contain possible provocations from both the Syrian and Israeli sides. The Russian peacekeepers should have at their disposal the necessary means of air defense, technical intelligence and special forces to respond to provocations.
3. Since the Russian peacekeeping contingent is to be deployed on Damascus-controlled territory, Israel must be faced with this accomplished fact and, so to speak, forced to peace. Of course, it is necessary to conduct with him constant military-diplomatic negotiations, calling for restraint under the Russian guarantees of non-aggression by anyone from Syria. Naturally, it will also be necessary to convince Israel to agree with the demonstrative deployment of the Russian echeloned air defense system covering the entire airspace of Syria, as already mentioned above.
4. At the same time, we will have to conduct a similar set of negotiations with Iran and with the command of its units in Syria.
5. As the situation in the region stabilizes, it will be necessary to undertake certain mediatory efforts to organize negotiations between Syria and Israel on the fate of the Golan Heights and to restore normal interstate relations between Israel and Syria. After the successful completion of this process, by mutual agreement of the parties, the Russian peacekeeping base in Quneitra can be curtailed.
This is another very difficult area of application of our military diplomatic efforts. Their goal could be to try to convince the Syrian Kurds and the official Damascus to come to an agreement and, possibly, a temporary, for a specific time, constitutional autonomy of the Syrian Kurdistan within the framework of the Syrian federation. This term must be at least 10 — 15 years and secured by the relevant agreement of the parties. Ideologically, it could be a kind of delay in the final resolution of the Kurdish problem in the north of Syria, in order to move away from the antagonism of the civil war and gradually take the path of mutual understanding and cooperation.
Taking the initial position of such a strategic ideology would allow finding a possible way out of the current impasse created after the victory over the IG due to the divergent positions of all the interested parties: the United States, Turkey, and the Syrian Kurds proper. official Damascus, well, and, accordingly, Russia.
For the United States, it is extremely important to preserve its face of the "hegemon" and the real presence in Syria after the end of the war. The gradual squeezing of Americans from Syria or, more precisely, from Syrian Kurdistan, by partisan methods, and even more so by any legal means, can be perceived both in the world and in the USA as a defeat from Russia. This is unacceptable for them. Therefore, in order to mitigate the situation, it is necessary to envisage the option of preserving some US military bases in Syria and their legitimization on certain conditions. (For example, on condition of official recognition by the United States of Bashar al-Assad’s right to continue his political activities.)
For Turkey, it is extremely important to establish a reliable barrier between the Syrian and Turkish Kurds. Otherwise, the likelihood of the emergence of Kurdish autonomy, and even more so an independent Kurdish state, will actually threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey. Naturally, this is also unacceptable for her. Consequently, an agreement should be reached between the Syrian Kurds and the Syrian government on the control of the entire Syrian-Turkish border exclusively by Syrian border guards.
For the Kurds, it is important to establish their ethno-territorial identity, that is, to acquire the internal Syrian and international recognition of themselves as a people historically living in the north of Syria on their ancestral lands, and also to receive the constitutional right to territorial self-government and political autonomy.
We, Russia, in any case, need to establish much closer ties with the leadership of Syrian Kurdistan, in every way facilitate the recognition by official Damascus of the autonomy of Syrian Kurds, in general, the constitutional federalization of Syria and the establishment of political, economic and cultural ties between Syrian Kurds and the rest of Syria.
Today, Saudi Arabia and other oil and gas producing countries of the Arabian Peninsula, or, as they are also called, the Gulf monarchies, do not take part in the Syrian conflict, at least directly, directly. However, a number of experts do not exclude such a possibility in the near future, especially now that the United States has sharply aggravated its relations with Iran, having left the so-called nuclear deal. Of particular concern in this regard are the possible actions of Saudi Arabia, which is in tough competition with Iran for domination in the Islamic world.
In my opinion, however, weighty reasons for such concern are not enough. Saudi Arabia has enough of its problems in the conflict with Yemen, an increase in tensions with Iran in the Persian Gulf is clearly coming. Getting into such a situation even in the Syrian conflict seems extremely unwise even under the pressure of its main patron and ally - the United States. After all, if military action suddenly unfolds in the Persian Gulf, then all the Arabian monarchies will find themselves in a very difficult economic situation.
Therefore, it seems to me, our strategic plan for the game on the “Arabian board” should be of a pronounced economic connotation.
The main essence of this plan should be the full encouragement of our opponents in this direction to reformat their participation in sponsoring various kinds of opposition-terrorist formations in Syria to co-finance our major economic projects in this Arab state after the end of all hostilities.
And here it would not hurt us to realize more deeply, perhaps, the enormous economic importance of Syria in the future picture of the Middle Eastern world. It is possible that the most powerful dominant of this picture will be the industrialization of the Southern Mediterranean, that is, the entire Arab north of Africa. This is the most natural way to save Europe from the wave of African economic refugees, which, if not to take adequate geopolitical and geo-economic measures, sooner or later, like a tsunami, will wash away all European identity.
Industrialization of North Africa, and in the form of the traditional 20 century resource industrialization, Unlike intellectual (digital) industrialization 21 century, rapidly developing in the most advanced countries today, is also inevitable because the African continent currently has the lowest, perhaps, standard of living, and hence the cheapest labor resources. And this means that transferring the most labor-intensive production there is practically no alternative. In other words, this is exactly the region that will need a huge amount of energy and other resources in the foreseeable future, even in addition to Libyan oil. And here it is Syria that may turn out to be the main springboard for economic penetration into this promising region, both for us and for the Arabian monarchies, as, indeed, for Iraq and for Iran. Only a common economic benefit based on common security can finally bring peace and prosperity to the Middle East.
In this, playing our geopolitical party on the “Arabian board”, we should convince our opponents, tempting them with the most advantageous construction prospects, for example, trans-Syrian, trans-Arabian and trans-aravian oil and gas pipelines with access to the Mediterranean coast, and the corresponding port terminals, oil refineries and gas-reducing enterprises in Syria, etc. etc.
Summarizing all the above, it is necessary to emphasize: our entry into the armed conflict in Syria in 2015 in order to inflict maximum damage to the terrorist "Islamic state" and thereby save Syria from complete destruction as a fully-fledged independent state, was also an entry into the big Syrian game. Already now, in the course of this "game", we have acquired much greater terrorist security, and, of course, much greater influence throughout the Middle East, as well as strategically extremely important military bases in Syria, which allow us to control the situation throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, thereby greatly strengthening its global security, geopolitical significance and authority.
It should be noted and how cool during this "game" the real combat readiness of our armed forces has increased. Never before have we felt ourselves in such a high degree of military security, despite all the defiantly threatening and provocative actions towards us by NATO.
But the game is far from over. It continues, and we, of course, must continue our natural participation in this game, clearly aware of and firmly defending our geopolitical national interests in it.