Middle East Middle East
Let us assess the situation in the region and the prospects for its development, having separately singled out Syria and Iraq, on whose territory the Islamic State (IG), banned in Russia, operates, based on the materials of the IBV expert Yu. P. Yurchenko.
The main point that will affect the development of the military-political situation in the region in the medium term is the conclusion of an agreement on the Iranian nuclear program (Iranian nuclear program) and the lifting of economic sanctions on Tehran. This is part of the US strategy to re-create in the Middle East the system of balance of forces and balances destroyed by the overthrow of the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
The system will be characterized by the preservation of the Shiite-Sunni confrontation, which is based on relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia (KSA). The main points of confrontation will remain Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Bahrain. Tehran and Riyadh will have an impact both on forces in direct military conflict, and through such subversive operations as supporting the Shiite underground in Bahrain and KSA, or sponsoring Arab separatists in Khuzestan and Baloch in Iran.
Subversive activities will not have a strategically destabilizing effect on the regimes of these countries. The KSA and Iran will continue the course towards the creation of their own modern weapons, primarily tactical missile systems and drones. Much attention will be paid to the creation of a cybersecurity system. The instability of the hydrocarbon market will remain a factor holding back these programs.
Sunnis will weaken the contradictions between the main players along the axis of the KSA - Qatar in Libya and Egypt. Saudi participation in the Libyan conflict will increase. Turkey will continue its subversive activities in Syria, increasing its logistical support to its loyal forces. The main vector of Ankara’s strategy will be aimed not at overthrowing the Assad regime, which is unrealistic due to the presence of Russian videoconferencing in the country, but at reducing the danger of creating a Kurdish territorial buffer on the border with Syria.
Turkey is more likely to go for a limited military operation in the case of the capture of Azaz by the Kurds and access to the operational directions west of the Euphrates River. An attempt to resume the dialogue with the Kurdistan Workers' Party on the Armistice is possible. The Turkish-Qatari alliance will be strengthened as part of a unified strategy in Libya, Syria and the Sinai Peninsula.
The military coup in Turkey against the background of a split in the ruling Justice and Development Party has been ruled out. An attempt by political groups opposition to Erdogan (including military and supporters of Imam F. Gulen) to organize an attempt on his life is possible. This can strengthen ties with the United States and reduce the scale of Turkey’s participation in the Syrian conflict.
After the destruction of the IS infrastructure in Syria, the process of its weakening in Iraq will begin against the background of growing Iranian influence in the country. Tehran will influence Baghdad, despite the struggle in the Iraqi Shiite ruling elite. The creation of the Iraqi and Syrian counterparts of the Lebanese Hezbollah is being intensified. Tehran will try to increase its influence on Iraqi Kurdistan (IK) through the oppositional M. Barzani structures of J. Talabani and the Goran Party. The likelihood of attempts by the leadership of the EC to take steps to separate the state will begin to decline due to the growth of inter-factional struggle in the EC and the absence of alternative oil exports from the Iraqi routes. The value of the Turkish route will fall. The revival of this channel is possible only with an increase in world oil prices.
The situation in Yemen can change only if the former president of the country, A. A. Saleh, passes away. This will lead to a weakening of the forces opposing the Arab coalition and the loss of control by the Khousits over a significant territory of the country, but will not affect their ability to hold most of the regions of the north. Assistance to them from Iran will remain at the current level. The regeneration of the fighting potential of the Islamist Islam party will accelerate. Against this background, the tension between the main participants of the Arabian coalition: the UAE and KSA, including on the issue of interaction with the local Muslim Brotherhood represented by the Islah party, will grow. The UAE today limited the boundaries of its participation in the Yemeni conflict outside of the former Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen).
An important element of the operational situation will be the fiasco of the KSA idea of creating pan-Arab forces under its auspices (formally under the patronage of the Arab League) and turning Riyadh into an independent regional force. This was conceived as an attempt to alternative to Iran, given the distrust of the United States as the main guarantor of the security of the kingdom in connection with the agreement on the Iranian nuclear program and the lifting of economic sanctions from Tehran. The plan collapsed, forcing Riyadh to remain in the orbit of US influence, continuing to view Washington as its main military partner.
In the medium term, the Middle East will move towards comparative stability after the “Arab Spring”. This can be expected due to the stability of the regimes, the weakening of the Muslim Brotherhood and the renaissance of the previous ruling elite that began in Tunisia and Egypt.
These processes will have little effect on the situation in the Muslim regions of Russia. The development of events and the fall in world oil prices exclude the possibility of the emergence of an external force that could destabilize the situation through jihad exports. There are no conditions for this, without which it is unrealistic to talk about the emergence of mass armed protest resistance. At the same time, individual excesses and resonant terrorist attacks, like the destruction of a Russian airliner over Sinai, are not excluded. The actions of the Russian Aerospace Forces in Syria will hamper the activity of transferring the centers of armed jihadism to Russia.
Entering the Russian Aerospace Forces in Syria has radically changed the military-political situation in this country. He restored the balance of power between the opposing sides and leveled the deficit of Syrian government forces in manpower and equipment. The air advantage was one of the main reasons for the Syrian army and its allies to acquire a strategic initiative in this campaign, which allowed the offensive to be developed on a number of fronts. At the same time, the Russian operation stimulated an international coalition led by the United States to more actively participate in the conflict.
The West in the Syrian direction before entering the country, the Russian Aerospace Forces adhered to “active neutrality”. Washington arranged for B. Asad’s opposition to the opposition, in which Islamist radicals prevail. The United States did not actively attempt to influence the situation in relation to the pro-Saudi Dzhebhat an-Nusra or prokatarsky IS.
Costly attempts to create a secular armed opposition have failed - primarily because since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, the White House has provided Turkey, KSA and Qatar to shape the agenda in this direction. The United States did not turn the Syrian Free Army (SSA) into a structure that could compete with the Islamist forces. As a result, the Islamists became the main armed segment of the anti-Assad opposition.
The only task that the United States tried to solve in Syria was the problem of the possible hit of chemical arsenals weapons into the hands of terrorists with the prospect of spreading across the region. The Pentagon could not formulate the solution to the problem, therefore the Russian initiative to export the specified weapon was perceived positively by Washington. But this fact itself lifted restrictions by the United States on the actions of their allies in the country to overthrow the Assad regime.
The main American task in Syria was the elimination of the current president without forecasting the development of the situation. Washington did not have any leverage on the situation, which led to the transformation of Syria into a second Somalia or Libya. The entry of the Russian Federation forces forces Washington to react more actively to the situation where the United States has been in the role of catching up without a program of action on the part of the State Department and the security bloc.
Its US had to form on the go, which led to a series of propaganda and political mistakes. The weak link in the actions of the United States in Syria is their lack of military force "on the ground." This moment affects them in a negative way. Washington is looking for ways to create such a force, taking into account the interests of Ankara and Riyadh, and recently went to the participation of US units in land operations. The rate on the Syrian Kurds limits the fact that they are ready to fight and can only in the territories of traditional residence.
The participation of Kurdish troops in the attack on the original Arab cities such as Raqqi causes rejection of Ankara and the Arab population of Syria, regardless of their religious affiliation. Kurdish resource is a compelling tool for US attempts to influence the situation. This suggests that Americans ’logistics and training of Kurdish troops will decline with the capture of Raqqa and Manbij.
This task is the priority of the White House for acquiring the image advantage of the “main force that won the IG”, taking into account the upcoming presidential elections in the United States. As this task is accomplished, the direct US military presence in Syria will begin to decline. It will be limited to the preparation of the Arab segment of the Forces of Democratic Syria (VTS). The action in the direction of Aleppo - Idlib Americans will not take. Given the approaching departure of the current administration, it will not develop a plan of action in Syria for the future.
With the predictable destruction of IS infrastructure in Syria, the United States will rely on maintaining the center of gravity and accumulation of Sunni discontent in the country. Today it is pro-Saudi "Dzhebhat an-Nusra." In the case of the defeat of the IG, it will become the monopoly military force in the opposition.
During a recent visit to the United States by the heir to the crown prince of the KSA and to Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman, the main points of cooperation in this area were identified. “Dzhebhat an-Nusra” should dissolve in the newly created armed opposition. The main role in it will be played by groups that are not included in the list of terrorist organizations, which makes it possible to provide them with material and technical support. This is “Ahrar al-Sham”, which should become the leading public force of the new alliance, disguising “Dzhebhat an-Nusra”. The alliance is also expected to include opposition groups that are trained by American and British instructors in Jordan.
The United States will support the alliance with arms and through diplomatic lines. The main task for the medium term is to organize a truce in Syria using the Geneva format and other tools in order to obtain the necessary time resources for the formation and strengthening of the positions of the bloc. At the same time, the main task of Washington is unchanged: the overthrow of the Assad regime without miscalculation of possible negative consequences, simply as an ally of Moscow.
At the US Department of State and the White House, there is a prevailing belief that the new opposition alliance in Syria is being created is the force that can control the situation after Assad leaves. This scheme completely suits KSA and Turkey. The Americans believe that they have found the right pattern of action in the Syrian conflict, creating a "controlled" Islamist opposition as an alternative to the current regime. The role of Ankara and Riyadh in the logistical and military support of the Islamists will increase.
The scheme is risky in that by legalizing them in Syria, the Americans take the position of a bystander. The resource impact on the leadership of this alliance, which will only listen to recommendations from Ankara and Riyadh, is limited. The opposition will remain radical Islamist without any prospects of becoming "secular".
The United States does not take into account the difference in the approaches of Ankara, Doha and Riyadh on the future leadership of certain forces in the alliance being created and in general in Syria after the Nasadov period. From the point of view of Ankara and Doha, these should be the Muslim Brotherhood, according to the KSA, the leaders are Salafi. So far there is an agreement on cooperation, taking into account the threatening position of the opposition on the front. But as the alliance strengthens and if it succeeds, the differences will grow. If the Assad regime falls, there will come a period of disengagement of the opposition with a repetition of the Libyan scenario. By virtue of geography, the advantage in this conflict will be on the side of the pro-Turkish groups with increasing financial support from Doha.
Thus, the viability of the regime in Damascus will be determined by the participation of Moscow in its support, including the actions of the RF Aerospace Forces group. This will not allow the opposition to achieve advantages on the fronts and to develop a general attack on Damascus, regardless of the degree of intensification of material and technical support on the part of the sponsors. Iran will be able to stabilize the situation in Syria without Russian support only through massive military intervention in the event of the danger of the fall of Damascus, which is undesirable for Tehran.
Participation of Turkey and KSA in the material and technical supply of opposition groups under their control will grow. Given the fragmentation of the IG in the case of the capture of Raqqah, Tabki and Manbij, the Djabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, controlled by Ankara, will remain the monopolistic force in the Sunni resistance. Breaking this strategy of the United States, Turkey and KSA on the Syrian direction can be intensified by an offensive on the Aleppo-Idlib direction without regard to the diplomatic pressure from the United States. Taking Raqqah in this case is only important for achieving propaganda success. In order to disrupt the communication system of the IG units, it is enough to take Tabka and unblock Deir ez-Zor. The fate of the Syrian campaign is decided in Aleppo.
Even local successes in this direction stimulate the accession of Sunni groups to an armistice with Damascus. This process is the only possible form of freezing the crisis for the transition to an intra Syrian dialogue with a discussion of the architecture of the division of power between different faiths. It should be borne in mind that the departure of Assad will not change the situation in the country and will not affect the mood in Sunni and Shiite communities.
Surrender or wait for the Shiites
The situation in Iraq will be affected by the destruction of the IS infrastructure in Syria. As the capture of large centers of Islamists and the fragmentation of IS groups, its position in Iraq will become more complicated. Prime Minister H. al-Abadi will most likely be able to overcome the internal political crisis and reach a compromise with one of the main opponents in the Shiite elite, the leader of the Mahdi Army, M. al-Sadr. This will allow us to concentrate on further fighting the IS, primarily in the direction of Mosul. The process of “national reconciliation”, which is being implemented in Iraq unofficially, will go in sync. This is seen in the examples of the capture of Ramadi and Fallujah. The scheme is used: the army blocks cities and enters into negotiations with the local Sunni elite on the terms of surrender. If the consultations do not bring success, the “Shiite factor” begins to be used as blackmail: the transfer of parts of the Shiite militia to the besieged city.
The prospect of Shiite entering the Sunni neighborhoods is sufficient to reach a compromise. Government troops are given the right to raise the national flag on the main administrative building, leave a small garrison (usually police officers) and representatives of the central government. All administrative and social policies remain in the hands of local Sunnis. IG detachments evade fighting and dissolve among the local population. The same tactic will be applied to Mosul, the taking of which is the main task of Baghdad and Washington. The participation of the Kurds is limited by the blockade of the city around the perimeter. To participate in the assault and street battles the Kurds will not.
In this case, the IG will proceed to the guerrilla war, the intensification of which will depend on the dynamics of incorporation of the Sunni elite into the bodies of local and central government. The question of admitting the Sunnis to sharing profits from oil exports and granting them local economic and social autonomy is fundamental. The number of foreigners in the IS will fall.
The capture of Mosul will entail a massive return of foreign supporters of the IG to their homeland, which is due to the fall in income and the desire of the Sunni elite to integrate into the new realities. Attempts by KSA to consolidate in the Sunni areas of Iraq, using Salafi organizations, have not been successful. Probably a local confrontation between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds for the right to control Kirkuk, which neither Baghdad nor the leaders of the main denominations recognize as part of Iraqi Kurdistan.
The influence of Iran in Iraq will intensify due to the strengthening of Shiite militias and control over the apparatus of special services. Tehran will increase its influence in the Communist Party through the opposition parties M. Barzani. In addition to the economic interest associated with the prospect of building a pipeline from IK to Iran, US activity on building a regular army in IK will be restrained, which the Pentagon started in the middle of last year, which will slow down the growth of Iranian influence.
The overall picture in Iraq will depend on the timing of the destruction of IS infrastructure in Syria and taking control of the main centers of the group — Raqqah, Menbij, liberation of Deir ez-Zor province, liberation of Mosul, Baghdad’s degree of willingness to incorporate power into the Sunni community by presenting it socially and administrative autonomy in the field. Mine-high-explosive war with the risks of resonant terrorist attacks will continue with the dynamics, depending on the implementation of these conditions.
Read more: http://vpk-news.ru/articles/31214
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