Yakov Kedmi, the ex-director of the Israeli special services “Nativ”, reflects on how Russia's participation in the Middle East conflict affected the situation in the world, in an exclusive interview with Mark Sorkin for the Military-Industrial Courier.
- Two months have passed since the beginning of the operation of the Russian Aerospace Force of the Russian Federation in Syria Do you think, Jacob Iosifovich, did the real political situation in the world begin to change at all - in Syria, around it, in the Middle East, in Europe? Are there any consequences?
- If we talk about the political result that appeared after the beginning of active Russian participation in the Syrian conflict, then we can note several directions.
“The whole Arab world from Algeria and Morocco sees in Russia a country that is not only necessary, but also desirable to be considered”
The first thing is that the issue of solving the Syrian conflict has finally come to real norms. When everyone has already come to terms with the fact that the Syrian troops will be settled with the help of the Russian military situation in Syria, and the political solution will be implemented in parallel with this on the basis that Russia demanded at the very beginning of the conflict - the establishment of a single independent secular Syria. Quite unexpectedly for many, but the issue is almost resolved. This was agreed in Vienna on a joint communique. All parties for the formation of a unified independent non-religious Syria.
The second requirement, which was put forward by all those who started this conflict: the immediate destruction of Assad, is forgotten. The only thing they want to knock out of Russia is a guarantee that Assad will not participate in the next elections. The fact that Syria will hold elections on the basis of a new constitution after all Islamist terrorist organizations are suppressed, and before that there will be a joint government with Assad’s participation, everyone has already agreed to this.
Russia, in accordance with its principles, does not intend to make such promises and firmly stands on the position that the Syrian people in future elections under the auspices of the UN will determine the future power in Syria. And they all agreed on that too.
But there are additional elements in this.
The first of them is such that one “small” state that had not participated in the decisions in the Middle East, China, will take part in the next meeting in Vienna. That is, the Syrian conflict has ceased to be a conflict between Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United States, Qatar and the Gulf principalities for the establishment of the desired regime in Syria.
Today, the question of what will happen in Syria is at the international discussion. Both China, Russia, Iran and Egypt adhere to more or less the same approach in resolving the Syrian conflict. It should be noted that Egypt is the largest and most powerful Arab state. At the same time, he is the strongest Arab supporter of Assad and his power. That is, the conflict is already completely in a different plane, with other main players, when the main base leads to the restoration of the Syrian state as it should be and how the Syrians will define it. It will be at the same time after the new election by the President of Syria, Assad or another person, it does not matter.
The mantra on the elimination of Assad continue to repeat one of the founders of the civil war in Syria. They went under the slogan to remove Assad at any cost. Now they are forced to agree with Assad, so the situation in the Middle East with regard to Syria is completely different than it was the day before Russia introduced its Aerospace Forces.
The second element - the entire Middle East begins to take a different direction.
First, what is happening in Iraq is a statement by the country's leader that if Russia succeeds in suppressing ISIS in Syria, Baghdad is ready to ask Moscow for help. These are not just words. Thus, Russia's participation in what is happening in the Middle East is now a fait accompli.
Moreover, the Europeans, although they are ashamed to talk about this, see in Russia's participation the first and main step in stabilizing the situation in Syria. Russia is the only one who can stop the influx of refugees from the Middle East to Europe. And even Madame Merkel admitted it. An orderly and stable situation in Syria, and then in Iraq, with one or another Russian participation, will lead to the stabilization of the Middle East and an end to the flow of refugees from the region.
This will not stop immigrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Africa, but the main flow from the Middle East, Syria and Iraq will stop. I want to note that a million refugees have already returned to Syrian territory, some of them were liberated there from the Islamists and the opposition.
Another serious moment - Russia and Saudi Arabia exchanged lists and began discussions about who should be considered a legitimate opposition, and who should not. The fact that all religious organizations that started this war will be recognized as illegitimate not only by Syrian troops, not only Russia, but also by all those involved in the conflict, means the beginning of the end of these groups, primarily in the Middle East, in Iraq.
Recently, a landmark event occurred: Iraqi Kurds launched an offensive against ISIS. This strengthens the position of the Kurds, despite their internal differences. But Russia's intervention in Syria deprived Turkey of the possibility of bombing the Syrian Kurds. They probably will not be able to do the same with Iraqi Kurds. Kurds are becoming increasingly active participants in events in the Middle East, which has never happened.
Stabilization of the Middle East is even more important. China’s participation in this issue suggests that the whole world order established after the collapse of the USSR, when only one country decided which regime would be in a particular state, ended. It ended with the beginning of Russia's participation in the Syrian conflict and the involvement of China in the Middle East situation. There will be no more such excesses and shame as Yugoslavia, Iraq, Syria and Libya.
- Along with the mantra that Assad should leave, after Russia's intervention in the Syrian problem, another mantra arose. Allegedly, Russia led the struggle of the Shiites against the Sunnis, and thereby restored the entire Sunni world against itself. But we have Egypt - the most powerful Sunni state. How to compare it?
- When trying to find an excuse for a situation, to wishful thinking, you can say anything. Saudi Arabia is negotiating with Russia, and as far as I know, Saudi Arabia is a Sunni state. All Gulf countries are negotiating with Russia, including the procurement weapons. The entire Arab world from Algeria and Morocco, the Sunni world already sees in Russia another country, with which not only it is necessary, but also desirable, to be considered and negotiated. So those who say that Russia has rebuilt the Sunni world against themselves do not just wishful thinking, they are telling impudent, baseless lies, for which there is nothing worthwhile.
- At the very beginning of the conflict in one of the programs you said that the bombing of terrorists in Syria is good, but they are nothing without a land operation. However, the land operation in Syria, in my opinion, does not develop very quickly. Do you think there are any pitfalls here, some outside influence to weaken Russia's position?
- First, quickly and slowly - relative concepts. Secondly, the Syrian army is conducting a war on land. Russia helps only in the field of electronic intelligence and only with its air strikes, not more. The Syrian army is in dire straits. Looking at her, on the frames of the video, it is quite clear what wretched weapons she has, what uniforms. And in general, behavior and discipline leave no doubt that it is more like a professional army, rather than a militia.
They do not have enough and quality weapons, the Syrian army did not show the ability to concentrate a sufficient number of forces, units and artillery fire on a certain sector and develop a rapid offensive.
Probably, they rightly concluded that they would slowly, trying to spare the weak and small Syrian army, squeeze the terrorists out of certain points. In general, although it developed slowly, today the Syrian army is on the verge of breaking the current situation.
After the blockade from the military airfield near Aleppo was lifted, the Syrian army almost opened the road to the Euphrates. The road to Rakka passes through this airfield.
Syrian troops are less than twenty kilometers from Palmyra, and from there, too, is the road to Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor. That is, Syrian troops reach the Euphrates and block ISIS on the opposite bank.
It also opens the road to the north in order to connect with the Kurdish enclave and thereby cut off ISIS from the rest of Syria.
Already started fighting in El Khader. The capture of this city practically releases or transfers power to the Syrian armed forces on the highway that goes from Al Hamma, further Aleppo. And this place is located in 10 – 12 kilometers from Idlib. Accordingly, within two to three weeks, Syrian troops can seize northern Syria and cut it off and everything south of Turkey. Every day — in Homs, and in Al-Hamm, and in Damascus — the Syrian army advances daily, and the only question is when this advancement will lead to a sharp break. This is a question of two or three weeks. Therefore, it should be understood that assistance to terrorists in armament and reinforcement is declining, their reserves are also decreasing. Therefore, it almost does not matter whether the military actions in Syria will end in a month, in two or in three ... The direction of the events is unequivocal.
In addition, I want to remind you that Lavrov, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, proposed to appoint elections in Syria in a year and a half. By that time - and I think much earlier - Syria will be in full power of the government army without any kind of terrorists, except those who, on the one hand, are non-religious, and on the other, will agree to cooperate with the current Syrian government against ISIL, "Al “Qaida” and “Muslim Brotherhood”.
- Clear. Let's talk about the situation around Syria. Over the past month, the number of Saudi Arabian voyages to the Russian Federation has increased dramatically. Even the king himself is going to come. In Turkey, Erdogan won the election. Tell me, what do the Saudis want to get from the talks in Moscow?
- Saudi Arabia had two main directions.
The first thing they really wanted, but I think, wise enough people to understand that this is impossible - to persuade Russia to surrender Assad. Secondly, it is important for them to leave as much of the forces they support as a legitimate opposition.
Saudi Arabia understands that two independent processes are taking place that are quite tangible in the Middle East: the weakening of the role of the United States and the strengthening of the role of Russia. And Russia, in contrast to other countries, in this case has good relations with Iran, Syria, and with all the others. Closer relations with Russia can help Saudi Arabia in stabilizing the situation in the Middle East and minimizing the threats to it from hostile forces. Saudi Arabia today is one of the weakest states.
There is another aspect that Saudi Arabia has in mind. It turned out that Russia possesses quite successful types of weapons. And Saudi Arabia is ready to weigh all the virtues, and not only it, and to begin the purchase of Russian weapons from both political and purely practical considerations. Russia is profitable. I want to remind that Russia, then it was the Soviet Union, is one of the first states that recognized Saudi Arabia after its creation in the 1928 year.
The Middle East is becoming more balanced, stabilized, integrated into world politics, not so focused on one side.
- But I did not accidentally mention Turkey. After all, if, on the one hand, Turkish Kurds retake Raqqa, and on the other, Iraqi Kurds are attacking from the south of ISIS, the possibility of creating a Kurdish state is not excluded. Turkey is unlikely to agree with this situation. What do you think, what role can Russia play here?
- The position of Russia in the Vienna talks until today, and it is unlikely to change, is a united Syria. This means the Syrian Kurds will remain within the framework of the Syrian state.
Russia explains to Assad that the best thing for him is to give the Kurds autonomy within the framework of a united Syria. The Turks bombed the Syrian Kurds and stopped doing it only with the advent of Russian aircraft. Only within the framework of a unified Syria is guaranteed that Turkey will not bomb the Syrian Kurds in the future. Regarding the Iraqi Kurds, it is still unclear how it will end there.
- But Barzani was once very much focused on the Soviet Union.
- Yes. They said that Stalin gave him the rank of Major General of the Soviet Army and that even he allegedly met with Stalin. It does not matter.
Today, the Kurds of Iraq have their own difficult internal problems: tribal, political. Between the Talabani and Barzani tribes. On the other hand, the Kurds of Iraq cannot exist, being in a military conflict with both Iraq and Turkey, when Syrian Kurds are in Syria. Therefore, I am not sure that the issue of creating a Kurdish state on the basis of the unification of the Kurds of Syria, Iraq, I’m not even talking about Turkey (this is still a single state), is relevant today. In relation to the Syrian Kurds, he is least relevant. With regard to Turkish Kurds, it must be said that as long as the power in Turkey is strong and authoritative, and as long as its economy is sufficient, the country will remain united. Therefore, with the Turkish Kurds option unreal. With regard to Iraqi Kurds, this will depend on the development of events, above all, among the Kurds themselves. Because their last differences sharply weaken the likelihood that even Iraqi Kurds will gain their independence.
You may have to solve the problem in some other way, but that is another question. But I will tell you: there are still peoples who do not have their own state. For example, Balochi (Iranian people) - 18 million people. And if we are talking about Tajiks, then in Tajikistan there are only about 5,5 million. Where are the other 15 millions?
- In Afghanistan ...
- And in Afghanistan. And where does the majority of the iderjadans live?
- In Iran.
- Where do most Uzbeks live? Not in Uzbekistan. That is, a state in which the people are not all within the framework of their national state, unfortunately, still exists, since conditions are not ripening both among this people and in the international situation.
Let's see how this epic will end in such a more peaceful, civilized region as Spain.
- Let's take the last question. Recently a G20 summit was held in Turkey. How to evaluate its results?
- Now everything does not happen under the direction of one state, which had clear plans, but on the other hand, it could do everything it wants. With this arrangement, when the 20 states are assembled, it is very difficult to conduct them. So far we are witnessing a transition period from one conductor to a real international organization, which will take into account the interests of all its participants. During this transition period there may be different variants of the development of events. We are at the stage of transition from a unipolar world to a multipolar one.
- So, the unipolar world has already been destroyed, but the multipolar world has not yet been formed?
- The unipolar world no longer exists, despite the fact that those who created it and those who cling to it, continue to assert that it is. And when the US Secretary of Defense speaks with the words: “We are for the preservation of the established order with the hegemony of the USA And we are against the fact that some individual countries, namely China and Russia, opposed this order and acted. ” He speaks correctly, only he is a little late. There is no unipolar world and order established by the USA. The world is in a transitional stage, from that order to the new.