Syrian deputy Foreign Ministry rejected on Wednesday the participation of Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the Astana peace talks on Syria next week, stressing that negotiations should not include every party that supports, arms and funds terrorism.
“Once Qatar and Saudi Arabia halt their support to terrorism, then we can discuss their participation in the talks,” he said.
Speaking to Al-Mayadeen TV, Moqdad said that Washington should prove its sincerity to deal with solutions for the Syrian crisis, prevent the support of armed terrorist groups, and exert pressure on Turkey to close its border with Syria.
On the participation of the United States in Astana negotiations, the Syrian official said “anyone who wants to work in good will to resolve the crisis in Syria can take part,” calling to “punish those who finance and arm terrorism, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar.”
The oppressive, sectarian and violent nature of the Saudi state and its foreign policy is increasingly coming under the spotlight, even in mainstream Western media.
Yet the reality is not, as it is so often portrayed, that ‘civilized’ Britain is somehow sullying itself by ‘supporting’ the Saudi rogues. On the contrary, the Saudis are merely implementing a barbaric policy made in the West.
From Syria to Yemen, wherever there is bloodshed and massacre in the Middle East, Saudi money and guns are never far away. But behind the Saudis lies Anglo-American power. The deal today – as it has been for over a hundred years – is that, in exchange for a Western guarantee of their own security, the Al Sauds effectively cede control of their country’s foreign policy to the West. And the architect of that deal was the British state.
Before their alliance with the British, the Al Sauds were little more than murderous bandits, with little chance of achieving lasting power over any significant portion of the Arab peninsula.
Said Aburish, the biographer of the House of Saud, notes that whilst most Arabian tribes were settling or farming, Ibn Saud “was in the business of raiding other tribes to steal their camels, sheep and grain” – after which he typically “murdered all the men of the raided tribe to prevent future retaliation”.
As a result, the Al Sauds were reviled by most Arabs and Muslims, their leadership not even totally accepted amongst their own tribe, the Ennezza. This hostility between the Al Sauds and the other Arabs was deepened by their adherence to a particularly sectarian interpretation of Islam, Wahhabi’ism, which rejects as apostates pretty much every Muslim who does not subscribe to their medievalist philosophy.
Yet it was precisely this divisive quality which appealed to British imperialism. The British empire of the nineteenth century – guided by the philosophy of ‘divide and rule’ – was always on the lookout for groups lacking ‘native’ support to back, as they would be eternally dependent on British support and therefore could be reliably trusted to act as imperial agents. Furthermore, such groups would be utterly incapable of uniting their people into any kind of independent polity – always Britain’s worst fear within its colonial dominions.
From Syria to Yemen, wherever there is bloodshed and massacre in the Middle East, Saudi money and guns are never far away. But behind the Saudis lies Anglo-American power.
According to the leading historian of the developing Saudi-British relations in this period, Jacob Goldberg, the British elevated Ibn Saud above “people who were religiously, politically and strategically more important”. But this was, of course, the point. For the British, his relative unimportance was his greatest asset, for it left him utterly dependent on the British. Unlike his rivals, such as the Hashemites, he had no other source of power or authority beyond his alliance of convenience with the (Wahabbi’ist) Ikhwan fighters.
Thus, two years after Ibn Saud and his followers conquered Riyadh in 1902 – burning to death 1,200 of its inhabitants, and enslaving many of its women as trophies of their victory – the British began paying a stipend to Ibn Saud. The payment was greatly increased in 1911, with Ibn Saud using the money, says Aburish, to “expand and subsidize the loss-making colonies of soldier-saints of the Ikhwan, or ‘brothers’. [These] were fanatics of the Wahhabi sect to which Ibn Saud belonged, who were to provide the backbone of his conquering forces and whose savagery wreaked havoc across Arabia.”
Aburish noted that, “traditionally committed to individual freedom and achievement, the rest of the Muslims found the idea of the colonies and the fanaticism they produced totally unacceptable”.
Over the next few years – with British aid, arms and advisers – Ibn Saud and his warriors were able to defeat the rival Ibn Rasheeds and capture the Eastern Province of what is now Saudi Arabia. In 1915, Ibn Saud signed a treaty with the British which “elevated him to the role of a British-sponsored ruler of central and eastern Arabia”.
They knighted him the same year.
Ibn Saud’s conquests continued (although, as Aburish put it, “his conquests were no more than raids which, through British support, acquired a permanent nature”), and in 1925 his forces captured the Hijaz, where “as had been feared, Ibn Saud’s Ikhwan followers killed hundreds of males, including children, ransacked an untold number of houses, murdered non-Wahhabi religious leaders who opposed their brutal ways and destroyed whole towns”.
The region’s highly developed legal system was scrapped, and its institutions of representative government – complete with senate, cabinet, and party pluralism – were all abolished.
Instead, Ibn Saud appointed a council of advisers headed by the British Resident Harry St John Philby – and without a single native Saudi. The “feeling” noted by Sir Arthur Hirtel of the British India Office a year earlier – “that it would be good if Ibn Saud established himself in Mecca” – appeared to have been vindicated.
Two years later he had signed a new “friendship and cooperation treaty” with the British which ceded all control of external affairs to them. And he was clearly the right man for implementing ‘divide and rule’, creating border disputes with every one of his neighbors during the 1920s, including Iraq, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, the Yemen and the Trucial states (today’s UAE).
The depth of Ibn Saud’s loyalty to his imperial masters – and the shallowness of his religiosity – was subsequently revealed when in 1929 he turned on his Ikhwan enforcers. They had wanted to expand into Iraq and Kuwait (as their evangelism demanded), but Ibn Saud knew this would be frowned on by the British.
So, with British support, he attacked their base in the village of Sabila and massacred them. If the Ikhwan had been his SA, this was his ‘Night of the Long Knives’. As Aburish put it, “Ibn Saud set his relationship with his sponsors above his connection with religious zealots for whom he no longer had any use”. By this time, Ibn Saud’s British stipend had reached £60,000 per year – equivalent to two-thirds of the country’s national income. Three years later, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – the only country in the world to be named after its ruling family – was officially founded.
As Aburish has concluded: “The simple, undeniable fact behind Ibn Saud’s rise to power was Britain’s interest in finding someone to deputize for it on the eve of the First World War… Ibn Saud, homeless and hungry, was there for the asking, cheap and willing to accommodate any sponsor”.
Indeed, Ibn Saud conceived of himself as an agent of the British from the very beginning. Like others before, he sought the sponsorship and protection of an imperial power, any imperial power, and following his rejection by the Ottomans, wrote this to the British resident in the Gulf: “May the eyes of the British government be fixed upon us and may we be considered as your proteges”.
Says Aburish, “Rather than acting as a unifier of the Arabs, Ibn Saud afforded an outside power, Britain, the comfort of keeping the Arabs and Muslims divided and protected its commercial and political interests, which opposed an Arab unifier at the helm.”
In the process, it is estimated that Britain’s protege had publicly executed 40,000 people and had the limbs amputated from another 350,000 during his campaign to subdue the peninsula – that is a total of 8 percent of the population either killed or mutilated in order to realize Britain’s desire that sectarian division should reign.
But for Britain – as, later, for the US – the choice of Ibn Saud as its Middle Eastern deputy has been a shrewd one, with the Saudis being the faithful enforcers of imperial skullduggery ever since.
From the very start, for example, the Saudis have been more than happy to throw the Palestinians under a bus to please the British. Throughout the 1930s, Ibn Saud ignored King Ghazi of Iraq’s call for a common Arab front against the colonization of Palestine, and then in 1936, when a 183 day Palestinian national strike was itself putting the British government under serious pressure, Ibn Saud persuaded the Palestinian Mufti to call the strike off, promising he would intercede with the British on the Palestinians’ behalf. British Foreign Office documents, however, show no record of this ‘intercession’ ever having taken place.
Three years later, in exchange for a £20 million payment, Ibn Saud accepted Britain’s proposal for a Jewish state on colonized Arab land. During the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, Saudi Arabia not only refused to send forces to Palestine, but even tried to prevent fighters from traveling there voluntarily, and ordered its newspapers to tone down their reporting of Palestinian suffering.
Today, of course, whilst publicly opposing Israel, the Saudis are perfectly willing to host the enormous Dhahran airbase of Israeli’s biggest military supplier and ally, the US.
In the 1980s, the Saudis encouraged (and financed) the Iraqi attack on Iran, and then kept oil prices low in order to maximize the war’s destructive effect on both countries. When the Iraqis wanted to sue for peace in the mid-1980s, they asked the Saudis to restrict production in order to prod outside powers into bringing the war to an end. Of course, the Saudis refused.
Saddam Hussein’s adviser Sa’ad Al Bassas commented later that “We knew they wanted the war to continue, but we were too dependent on them for financial support to complain out loud. They were following an American policy which called for weakening both countries”. In fact, this was precisely the British policy formulated in 1915, which called for a “weak and divided” Arabia.
In recent decades, the Saudi state has developed an additional niche role in the implementation of Anglo-American imperialism. As revolutionary liberation movements began to threaten the West’s dominion over the third world, especially from the 1970s and 80s onward, Saudi Arabia became the bankroller and conduit for covert, often illegal, Western policies to terrorize such movements and governments into submission. From the contras in Nicaragua, to the UNITA rebels in Angola, to the fascist Phalangists of Lebanon, to the apartheid regime in South Africa, CIA-backed sectarian terror outfits the world over became the recipients of Saudi largess. But it was in Afghanistan where this policy reached its apogee.
The Afghan revolution of 1978 brought the socialist PDPA movement to power. The new government immediately implemented a series of popular reforms including land reform and the constitutional recognition of women’s rights for the first time. The US and Britain saw such a movement as a threat to their control and exploitation of the third world, and especially feared its alliance with the Soviet bloc as undermining their global hegemony.
Beginning in mid-1979, the CIA began providing weapons to ultra right wing terror groups, who used Islam to justify attacks on the new government, its supporters, and its social infrastructure, including an assassination campaign which killed hundreds of teachers and civil servants. This support was designed, admitted Jimmy Carter’s adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski in 1996, not only to undermine the new government, but also to draw in the Soviet Union and bog them down in a demoralizing and costly conflict – that is, as he put it, to “give the USSR its Vietnam war”.
The US and Britain saw such a movement as a threat to their control and exploitation of the third world, and especially feared its alliance with the Soviet bloc as undermining their global hegemony.
The strategy worked. By 1980, the Soviet Union had sent troops to support the embattled Afghan government, but as the years went by – and US, British and Saudi support to the ‘rebels’ was stepped up – the Soviets were eventually unable to sustain the massive cost in both lives and wealth, and withdrew in 1989.
In just one three-year period during this time – from 1987 to 1989 – Saudi Arabia had provided $1.8 billion in financial support to the anti-government fighters in Afghanistan (around twice the amount it had given to the PLO in the previous 14 years), as well as providing thousands of fighters.
But what is intriguing is that this support was not, as is traditionally believed, premised on religious ideology, but was rather driven, once again, by fidelity to the Saudis’ imperial masters. In “Jihad in Saudi Arabia”, Thomas Hegghammer notes that this financial and military support “Clearly… was not an automatic response to the Soviet invasion, because Arabs had not volunteered for other conflict zones in the past and did not to Afghanistan in significant numbers until the mid-to late 1980s”.
Indeed, says Hegghammer, there were only 16 Saudi fighters in Afghanistan before 1985, whilst “the permanent Saudi contingent would not exceed 50 people until early 1987”. In fact, initial Saudi support for the insurgency was primarily diplomatic, political and humanitarian, rather than military. Indeed, it was only at the request of the US that the Saudis agreed, in 1981, to match US funding for the militia groups themselves – and it was therefore only when the US ramped up financial support to such groups – the so-called ‘mujahedin’ in the mid-1980s that the Saudis were obliged to do the same.
Furthermore, says Hegghammer, the main opposition to the encouragement of young men to fight in Afghanistan came precisely from the “religious establishment”: “A common misperception in the historiography of the period is to present the Wahhabi religious scholars as prime movers behind the mobilization to Afghanistan. In fact very few, if any, of the scholars in the religious establishment actively promoted the Afghan jihad as an individual duty for Saudis”.
Saudi support for the mujahedin, just like Ibn Saud’s violence 60 years earlier, was driven not by religious idealism, but by an undying commitment to facilitating Western foreign policy – regardless of the cost in human lives. The ongoing consequences of this Afghan policy – the creation of the worldwide Al Qaeda terror network and offshoots such as ISIS – are well known. But, as Brzezinski put it: who cares about “some stirred-up Muslims” when the policy helped bring about the destruction of the Soviet Union?
Hegghammer summed up the various parties involved thus: “In Afghanistan… volunteerism [that is, the insertion of foreign fighters] was sanctioned by the USA, welcomed by the Afghans [fighting the government] and facilitated by the presence of a transit territory, namely Pakistan”.
This formula – the foreign fighters, financed by Saudi Arabia, and infiltrated through the willing collaboration of Pakistan – is precisely the one which has been used against Syria in recent years, with Turkey in the Pakistani role. Thus does the British-created Saudi state continue to fulfill the imperial role assigned to it over 100 years ago.
As Aburish put it, “Britain created Ibn Saud to protect its Middle East imperial interests and to eliminate those who threatened them… Without the West there would be no House of Saud. The Saudi people or their neighbors or a combination of both would bring about its end”.
Remember that next time a Boris Johnson or a Joe Biden feigns innocence about the role of the ‘dastardly’ Saudis. Everything they do, Boris, they do it for you.
Dan Glazebrook is a freelance political writer who has written for RT, Counterpunch, Z magazine, the Morning Star, the Guardian, the New Statesman, the Independent and Middle East Eye, amongst others. His first book “Divide and Ruin: The West’s Imperial Strategy in an Age of Crisis” was published by Liberation Media in October 2013. It featured a collection of articles written from 2009 onwards examining the links between economic collapse, the rise of the BRICS, war on Libya and Syria and ‘austerity’. He is currently researching a book on US-British use of sectarian death squads against independent states and movements from Northern Ireland and Central America in the 1970s and 80s to the Middle East and Africa today.
It came as a big surprise that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has recently labeled members of the US-led coalition as promise breakers and supporters of terrorists. According to the Turkish leader, this coalition provides support to various terrorist groups, including ISIS, YPG, PYD and Ankara has the evidence to back up that claim.
But what exactly offended Ankara so much? Over the past few days, Turkey has been suffering extremely painful defeats from the Islamic State in the Syrian city of Al-Bab. Previously the troops employed in the Euphrates Shield operation successfully taken western suburbs of Al-Bab were planning to occupy the heights overlooking the city. However, ten days ago the “shield” cracked, when ISIS units opposed Turkish troops in a frontal assault, inflicting heavy losses upon the Turkish army. Radical militants report that in just one Turkey lost up to 70 soldiers and three modern tank. Immediately after the announcement ISIS started spreading videos featuring the destruction of Turkish armored vehicles. The Turkish General Staff announced that it lost 14 servicemen, 10 German manufactured Leopard tanks, an M-60 main battle tank, personnel carriers and a Cobra armored vehicle. The pictures that can be found now on the Internet depict Turkish armored vehicles severely damaged by TOW missiles that in recent years have “suddenly” started appearing in the hands of ISIS radicals.
But nobody should be really surprised at this point, as Turkish media were reporting in late December that Washington was stepping up its weapons supply efforts to radicals via the Syrian Al-Hasakah Governorate. It’s been noted that as the US Ambassador to Ankara, John Bass kept persuading Turkish reporters that Washington was not supporting militants directly, the airfield in the Syrian city of Rumeylan saw an ever increasing number of US transport planes landing. The payload that they were carrying would soon be transported by US helicopters to different parts of the country. According to Turkish journalists, the last large delivery of weapons occurred on the evening of 27 December. It has also been noted that weapons are being delivered to Syria via hundreds of trucks, carrying their deadly cargo from the Iraqi city of Erbil to the areas controlled by the Syrian Kurds.
We have seen various commentators noting that under the guise of military assistance to the Kurdish Peshmerga, the Obama administration is actively assisting various extremist groups in Syria by secretly supplying them to with all sorts of weapons, along with the so-called “advisers” in a bid to topple the legitimate Syrian government.
It’s no coincidence that after the liberation of Aleppo, Syrian troops found stockpiles of weapons and explosives manufactured in the US, Germany and Bulgaria, including a large quantity of anti-tank missiles.
While the Aleppo operation has been a turning point in the Syrian armed conflict, the White House is still in a hurry to provide maximum support to the so-called “moderate opposition” in Syria, but now it’s clear for pretty much everyone that Washington is assisting ISIS. Last December alone Turkish bloggers spotted the passage of three large cargo ships through the Bosporus Strait, presumably carrying arms for the Syrian rebels. In particular, in mid-December a freighter Karina Danica left the Bulgarian shore, while heading to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with weapons on board, reports Bosphorus Observer on Twitter. This data is confirmed by a specialized tracking site known as MarineTraffic. It is a publicly known fact that the freighter Karina Danica is a Danish vessel, chartered by the American company Cherming, which is the official supplier of non-standard NATO weapons for the US “allies” in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. It’s curious that the Bulgarian Vazovski Machine-Building Plant that sells weapons to Cherming, increased its sales by 12 times in 2016, making a profit of 170 million dollars.
What makes this whole arms supplies story awkward is the scandal that broke out in 2015, when the Chairman of the Iraqi Parliamentary Committee on Defense and Security, Hakim Zamili asked PM Haider al-Abadi to intervene immediately to stop the 300 million dollar ammunition deal involving Romanian weapons being delivered to ISIS directly, while financed by one of the neighboring countries. In 2016, the director of the Conflict Armament Research, James Bevan stated that the weapons from Eastern Europe that were officially designated for the so-called “moderate opposition” are falling in extremist hands.
The decision to supply anti-government troops in Syria with all sorts of weapons, including MANPADS, that was signed by President Barack Obama on December 23, may lead to the further escalation of the Syrian conflict and new victims.
So there’s more than enough reason for Ankara’s resentment of the Obama administration, since it is directly responsible for every single Turkish soldier murdered by radical militants.
East Aleppo is liberated, and regime-change has lost its luster. It’s no surprise Syria’s foes are ready to promote the next big goal: partition. Like most Syrian conflict predictions, of which few have materialized, the ‘partition’ of Syria is not going to happen.
In February, when East Aleppo was still bulging with Western-trained, Al Qaeda-allied militants, Syrian President Bashar Assad was asked the question: “Do you think that you can regain control over all Syrian territory?”
Well, yes, said Assad: “This is a goal we are seeking to achieve without any hesitation. It makes no sense for us to say that we will give up any part.”
Western politicians were having none of that.
First up was US Secretary of State John Kerry who coyly informed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Obama administration may have a Plan B up its sleeve for Syria: “it may be too late to keep it as a whole Syria if we wait much longer.”
Next, James Stavridis, former NATO Supreme Commander and head of the US European Command penned an article for Foreign Policy entitled It’s time to seriously consider partitioning Syria where he claimed: “Syria as a nation is increasingly a fiction.”
Then, CIA Director John Brennan joined the chorus: “There’s been so much blood spilled, I don’t know if we’re going to be able to get back to [a unified Syria] in my lifetime.”
But now the stinging defeat of Western-backed militants in East Aleppo has turned up the dial on the idea of breaking up Syria. Frantic neocons and liberal interventionists are piling in on the ‘partition’ punditry – with nary a backward glance to their five failed years of “Assad will fall” prognostications.
But Assad understands something that Western analysts, journalists and politicians cannot seem to grasp. Syria’s allies in this war – Iran, Hezbollah, Iraq, Russia, China – have maintained only two hard red lines throughout the conflict:
The first is that Assad can only be removed from office in a national election, by a Syrian majority.
The second is that Syria must stay whole.
Their logic was simple. Regime-change, remapping of borders, mercenary proxy armies, divide-and-rule… the old tricks of Western hegemons needed to stop in Syria. Otherwise, they would aggressively find their way to Moscow, Beijing and Tehran.
In short, a new world order would need to emerge from the ashes of the Syrian conflict, and for that to happen, allies would need to thoroughly defeat NATO-GCC objectives and maintain the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Syrian state at all costs.
A calculated shift in the balance of power
By 2013, one could already predict the formation of a new security-focused Mideast alliance to combat the jihadi threat raging in Syria and its neighborhood. (see map above)
It was clear by then that the irregular wars waged by jihadists and their powerful foreign backers were going to force four states – Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran – to cooperate militarily and politically to defeat Wahhabi-influenced terror groups in their midst. A ‘Security Arc’ would thus form to protect the territorial integrity of these four countries, and with it, a converging worldview that would set the stage for a new Mideast security structure.
Today, Lebanon and Iran have secure borders flanking either side of Syria and Iraq. Fighters and military advisers, intelligence, weapons transfers from all four states are in play, with increased, successful coordination on the ground and in the skies.
Russia and China have provided ‘great power’ cover for this new development – whether at the UN Security Council or via military, financial or diplomatic initiatives. Furthermore, galvanized by the ferocity of the fight over Syria, Tehran, Moscow and Beijing have advanced the new multilateral order they seek – bolstering their own regional security, deepening global alliances, forging new ones, and crafting political, security and financial institutions to compete with Western-dominated ones.
As the Security Arc succeeded in beating back extremist groups, it would be necessary for three critical neighboring states to gravitate toward participation in this new regional security architecture – Egypt, Turkey and Jordan – each for different reasons.
But the new adherents would be drawn to the security zone primarily because of the realization that a weakened central government and the fragmentation of Syria would blow back into their states and create the same conditions there: chaos, instability, terrorism.
Egypt: Under the rule of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt has drawn away from its Saudi patrons who have, alongside Qatar and Turkey, been major sponsors of extremism in both Syria and Iraq. Earlier this year, Sisi began to pivot away from Egypt’s traditional Western and regional allies and opened the door to further political, military and economic engagement with Syria, Iran, Russia and China.
SAIS-Johns Hopkins University Fellow Dr. Christina Lin explains: “Unlike Washington, Sisi sees Assad as a secular bulwark against Islamic extremism in the Levant. If Assad falls, Lebanon and Jordan would be next, and Egypt does not want to end up like Libya with the Brotherhood and other Islamists carving up the country.”
In the past few months, Egypt has pursued a diplomatic thaw with Iran, military cooperation with Syria, and publicly squabbled with Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, Sisi has been invited to sit at the Syrian peacemaking table by Iran and Russia, while in the background, China launches plans for a $60 billion infrastructure investment in cash-strapped Egypt.
Turkey: No state has been a bigger thorn in Damascus’ side than Turkey – financier, enabler, and mastermind of the militancy flowing across its southern border into war-torn Syria. But the Syrian conflict has crippled and exhausted Turkey, in turn, unleashing terror attacks in its cities, reviving its ‘Kurdish’ conflict, isolating its unpredictable President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, squeezing its economy, and triggering widespread domestic political strife.
So when the Russians reportedly tipped off Erdogan to an ill-fated coup attempt this summer – which Turks believe to be US-inspired – the Turkish president’s political orientation began to waver, and he began to inch toward a series of compromises with Iran and Russia on the Syrian conflict.
Erdogan’s first grand gesture to Tehran and Moscow was to peel away a layer of militants from embattled Aleppo, allowing the Syrian-allied forces to focus their military might on the Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups remaining in the eastern enclave. In the aftermath of Aleppo’s liberation, the Turks, Iranians and Russians met again to hammer out their next set of objectives, including a nationwide ceasefire – a move that sidelined Erdogan’s Western allies and highlighted the fact that nobody actually needs the US, UK or France at the Syrian negotiating table.
Jordan: For much of the Syrian conflict, Jordan’s interests were subverted by powerful patrons who turned the Hashemite Kingdom into a covert operations hub for Western special forces, GCC intel operatives and ‘rebel’ training centers. But in recent years, Jordan’s King Abdullah has been forced to disentangle his financially-strapped country from the consequences created by a huge influx of Syrian refugees and a terrifying surge in domestic radicalism. Consequently, Jordan has been quietly sharing intelligence with Syrian authorities to weaken the militancy in southern Syria and has effectively shut down their shared border.
The king himself has been engaging in some frenzied shuttle diplomacy with Russia and China to gain investment and political relevance, so Jordan is well-positioned to follow the lead of its larger neighbors when the regional balance of power shifts decisively in Syria’s favor.
Victors map the future, not the vanquished
The liberation of East Aleppo from Al-Qaeda-allied militants is a significant turning point in the war against Syria. All the major population/infrastructure areas that define the north-to-south western side of the country are now primarily in government hands.
Moreover, East Aleppo’s liberation serves as an important launching pad to cut off the vital Turkey-to-Mosul corridor that has funneled fighters, supplies and weapons to ISIS for years. Syrian troops and their allies will now be able to move east of the city to the Euphrates to sever this Turkish-ISIS lifeline.
With western Syrian hubs secured and militants severely crippled in the south, only the north-eastern areas present a challenge – but those are areas largely occupied by ISIS, where the final battles will be waged to rout the terror group.
So, what exactly do Americans want to partition – and why?
Recent wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Libya demonstrate clearly that a weak central authority only creates a political and security vacuum that extremists rush in to occupy. US President-Elect Donald Trump has himself said he prefers the rule of strongmen, rather than the instability that prevails with regime-change conflicts.
Any partition of Syria would, therefore, benefit ISIS and Al-Qaeda primarily – and all the parties know this.
The Security Arc states and their allies can ably eradicate the terrorism in their midst. Turkey and the United States still remain key irritants, each still vying, against their own security interests, to lay claim to north-eastern swathes of territory that hold some strategic interest.
Funnily enough, these interests pit the two NATO allies against each other. The US’ ‘Kurdish project’ has sent Erdogan fleeing toward the Iranians and Russians for help. It is ironic indeed that the West’s longtime efforts to sow discord between regional actors, sects, and ethnicities could now be reversed in one fell swoop by the US’ support for Kurdish nationalism. There is nothing more guaranteed to create common cause between Arabs, Iranians, and Turks than the unifying prospect of Kurdish statehood. Not even ISIS does that.
In the aftermath of the Aleppo victory, Assad once more addressed talk of partition: “This is the Western – with some regional countries – hope… If you look at the society today, the Syrian society is more unified than before the war… There’s no way that Syrians would accept that – I’m talking now about the vast majority of the Syrians… After nearly six years I can tell you the majority of the Syrians wouldn’t accept anything related to disintegration – on the contrary, as one Syria.”
He is right. For the more than 70 percent of Syrians living in government-controlled areas, the appetite for further conflict is nonexistent – and that’s what partition would mean: conflict. Furthermore, not just Syrians, but the whole of the Security Arc and their global allies are now hell bent on protecting themselves by destroying the terrorism that dwells in the remaining pockets of occupied territory. Like Assad – and much of Europe today – they know that you will never remove the security threat if you don’t rout them all and preserve the state.
In this security context, partition is out of the question. In the military context, a forced partition would require the commitment of troops stronger than the armies of Syria, Iran, Russia, Iraq, Egypt and Hezbollah combined – and that doesn’t exist. In the political context, the international appetite for an ‘imposed’ partition is nil.
So no, there will be no partition of Syria.
Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She is a former senior associate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University and has a master’s degree in International Relations from Columbia University. You can follow her on Twitter at @snarwani
The Syrian military has announced a nationwide halt to fighting starting at midnight, in a move that could promote the diplomatic efforts aimed at ending years of Takfiri violence in the Arab state.
In a statement carried by Syrian state news agency SANA, the Syrian army said the ceasefire, will come into effect at 0000 GMT on December 30, does not include the Takfiri Daesh and Fateh al-Sham terror groups as well as their affiliates.
“The Army and the Armed Forces General Command on Thursday declared a comprehensive cessation of hostilities across all the territories of the Syrian Arab Republic starting at 00:00 on 30/12/2016 in the wake of the victories and advances achieved by the Syrian armed forces on more than a front,” read the statement.
“The ceasefire comes with the aim of creating suitable circumstances for supporting the political track of the crisis in Syria,” it added.
Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Damascus and foreign-backed militant groups had reached a truce deal brokered by Moscow and Ankara.
Putin said the agreement would be followed by peace talks between the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the foreign-backed opposition.
The Russian president also announced Moscow is set to scale down its military presence in Syria following the cessation of hostilities.
“I agree with the proposal from the Defense Ministry for the reduction of our military presence in Syria,” Putin said in televised comments.
Moscow will continue supporting Assad and “fighting international terrorism in Syria,” he said, adding that the Russian military will maintain its presence at an air base in Syria’s Latakia Province and the naval facility in the port city of Tartus.
The Russian head of state also said the agreement is the result of joint efforts by Russia, Turkey and Iran.
“We know that only recently there was a trilateral meeting in Moscow of the foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey, and Iran, where all of the nations made obligations not only to control, but also to act as guarantors of the peace process in Syria,” Putin said.
Putin further said he would contact his Iranian and Turkish counterparts to discuss further steps in the Syrian peace process.
Meanwhile, the so-called National Coalition, Syria’s main opposition bloc based in Turkey, said it backed the nationwide ceasefire.
“The National Coalition expresses support for the agreement and urges all parties to abide by it,” said the coalition spokesman, Ahmed Ramadan.
Separately, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the truce, saying Ankara and Moscow will act as guarantors of the ceasefire in Syria.
“With this agreement, parties have agreed to cease all armed attacks, including aerial, and have promised not to expand the areas they control against each other,” the ministry said in a statement.
At the end of the December 20 trilateral meeting in Moscow, foreign ministers of Iran, Russia and Turkey issued a joint statement on the Syrian issue, in which they emphasized the need for expanding the Aleppo truce.
The three sides expressed “readiness to facilitate and become the guarantors of the prospective agreement being negotiated between the Syrian government and the opposition.”
The countrywide ceasefire came one week after the Syrian army announced full control over Aleppo when the last remaining militants were evacuated along with civilians from the eastern sector of city under a truce deal mediated by Ankara and Moscow.
In an unusual turn of events, Washington accuses Ankara of supporting the ISIS-Daesh.
And Turkey’s president Erdogan responds by accusing Washington of supporting ISIS-Daesh. “Now they give support to terrorist groups including Daesh, YPG, PYD. It’s very clear. We have confirmed evidence, with pictures, photos and videos.” said Erdogan.
And Washington responds “”he [Erdogan] continues to supply arms [into Syria] as well, with his ultimate aim [being] to go after the Kurds, and ISIS is secondary.”
While Washington has strongly denied Erdogan’s latest allegations, the structure of political and military alliances is in crisis.
Who is supporting the ISIS?
The fact of the matter is that both the US and Turkey provide covert support to the terrorists including ISIS-Daesh and Jabhat Al Nusra.
Both Turkey and the US have collaborated in supporting the ISIS-Daesh in Northern Syria.
From the very outset, the Islamic State has been supported (unofficially of course) by the broader US-NATO coalition which includes several NATO member countries (including the US, France, Britain as well as Turkey) and their Middle East allies including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Israel.
What is of concern to Erdogan is that the US is ALSO supporting the Kurdish separatists YPG forces which have been combating the ISIS. And until recently Turkey has used the ISIS rebels to combat YPG forces, which are also supported by the US.
From the outset in 2011, the recruitment of jihadist mercenaries to be deployed in Syria was coordinated by NATO and the Turkish High Command. In this regard, Turkey has played a central role in relation to logistics, weapons supplies, recruitment and training, in close liaison with Washington and Brussels.
The Ankara government has also played a strategic role in protecting the movement of jihadist rebels and supplies across its border into Northern Syria
What is now occurring is a rift in the structure of military alliances, through the emergence of “cross-cutting coalitions”.
Turkey as a NATO member state is an ally of the US. But the US is now supporting the YPG which is fighting both the ISIS and Turkey.
In turn, Turkey, which is a staunch ally of the US is negotiating with Russia and Iran.
Already in May 2016, Erdogan accused US-NATO of supporting YPG forces:
“The support they give [US, NATO] to… the YPG (militia)… I condemn it,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday during an airport ceremony in the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir. “Those who are our friends, who are with us in NATO… cannot, must not send their soldiers to Syria wearing YPG insignia.” (Ara News Network, May 28, 2016)
What is the underlying cause of this clash between the US and Turkey, which strikes at the very heart of the Atlantic Alliance?
Washington is firmly opposed to Erdogan’s territorial ambitions in Northern Syria. The US-NATO objective is to fragment both Syria and Iraq. Washington’s strategy in Northern Syria consists in supporting and controlling the Kurdish YPG separatists.
Mark Toner, the US State department spokesperson confirmed that Washington would continue to support the YPG “despite the Turkish government opposition towards Kurdish-US cooperation”. (See Ara New Network, December 27, 2016):
“… there are disagreements among members of the coalition as to how we proceed and with whom we’re cooperating on the ground? I’m not going to say that there aren’t. And obviously, Turkey’s made very clear their feelings about the YPG. We have also been equally clear, while we understand Turkey’s concerns, that we’re going to continue to work with the YPG as a part of the overarching Syrian Democratic Forces. So the YPG is not the sole group that we’re working with on the ground. We’re working with Syrian Arabs, Syrian Turkmen, and other groups that are fighting Daesh,”
Officially the US is fighting the ISIS, unofficially it is supporting it.
And now in an about turn, the ISIS which is integrated (covertly and unofficially) by Western special forces (often on contract to private mercenary companies) has turned against Turkey, a NATO member state. This action is largely on behalf of YPG forces, which are also fighting Turkish forces:
ISIS claims it has killed 70 Turkish soldiers during the conflict and just a few days ago the warped death cult released a video of two Turkish men being burned alive.
Turkey has rushed tanks and heavy weapons to its border and blamed the US-led coalition for inadequate air support after Erdogan’s forces which encountered deadly resistance from ISIS militants – 14 Turkish troops were killed. (Daily Express, December 27, 2016)
While Ankara accuses Washington, Moscow is playing at the diplomatic level a skillful “double game”: Foreign Minister Lavrov is talking to John Kerry on the one hand as well as negotiating with Ankara on the other hand.
On December 21, the Foreign Ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey (See image below) met in Moscow “to draft a joint statement aimed at resolving the long term conflict in Syria.” (RT, December 22, 2016)
Moscow also intimated that other countries including Saudi Arabia would be invited to join this initiative. The underlying objective would be to weaken the allegiance of Saudi Arabia to the US.
It is “very important” that the statement by Moscow, Tehran and Ankara “contained an invitation to other countries that have influence ‘on the ground’ to join such efforts,” (RT, December 22, 2016)
According to media reports, Turkey has Moscow’s support in the siege of the Northern Syrian city of Al-Bab which has been under the clutch of the ISIS since 2013. Fierce fighting is ongoing. Ankara reported on December 26 that “the anti-ISIS coalition was making progress in al-Bab”.
Copyright © Prof Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, 2016
It seems hardly a coincidence that the US out-going president announced fresh sanctions on Russia just when the later was busy discussing a deal on Syria with Turkey and Iran in Moscow. Far from being just a sort of coincidence, the act is an apt reflection of the increasing American anger over its failure in Syria against Russia. According to Wall Street Journal, the Obama administration added on Tuesday, December 20, 2016, to its sanctions list Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian restaurateur who, according to Washington, has links to Russia’s Vladimir Putin and is the financial backer of ‘pro-Russian propaganda’ machinery. Obama’s sanctions prohibit Prigozhin from entering the US and conducting business with any American individuals or organizations. This act has come alongside new US Treasury sanctions imposed upon a number of other Russian individuals with connections to a bank US officials have said has ‘ties’ to Mr. Putin’s inner circle. Clearly, the Obama administration is busy casting Mr. Putin as a die-hard villain in its version of political and military history.
Besides the fact that it is an expression of frustration, it is also a fact that Washington has run out of ways to hit at Putin and time is running out for the lame duck president – almost three weeks left before Obama retires.
Without doubt, the Obama administration feels humiliated that Russia, Turkey and Iran have formed a platform to discuss a Syrian settlement, which excludes the US. Even if it is not a defeating humiliation, the situation developing within and outside Syria regarding a US-exclusive peace settlement is politically deeply damaging for the US both domestically and internationally.
Nothing perhaps could explain the damage the Obama administration has done to the US due to its dual policies with regard to Syria and the larger issue of terrorism than Senator John McCain’s recent statement in which he said that what is unfolding is “the predictable consequence of President Obama’s reckless policy of disengagement from the Middle East. And it is ironic that after touting the power of diplomacy for years, President Obama’s refusal to back diplomacy with strength has left the United States without even a seat at the diplomatic table.”
While McCain’s view represents the view of a hawkish club that exists within the US, it is far from true that the Obama administration did not support diplomacy with strength. Neither was the US disengaged from the Middle East during all these years nor was the Obama administration oblivious to the importance of bringing havoc to Syria, in the name of democracy, through proxy groups, some of which continue to receive support.
Yet, the situation now emerging out of the trilateral settlement among Russia, Iran and Turkey marks a direct opposite of what the US and its allies have been seeking in Syria for last five years or so. While the joint statement of the trilateral meeting has formalized a growing convergence between Moscow, Ankara and Tehran, the bottom line and what angers the US the most is their unequivocal support for a Syria that is not only sovereign, independent and united with its territorial integrity intact, but also is “multi-ethnic, multi-religious, non-sectarian, democratic and secular.”
At the core is all parties’ willingness to facilitate an intra-Syria dialogue and to be the guarantors of a prospective agreement between the Syrian government and the opposition. Following the Moscow meeting, at a joint press conference with his Turkish and Iranian colleagues, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made it clear that the new trilateral format will be the “most effective” charioteer henceforth in the intra-Syrian peace talks.
He said Russia, Turkey and Iran are “probably better prepared than others to contribute to the settlement of the Syrian crisis with real actions, not just words”.
The three countries have as such tactfully got rid of the US mentorship in Geneva by agreeing to hold the talks in Astana, Kazakhstan. Hence, the brewing domestic anger over the Obama administration and the consequent sanctions.
While Obama may just be able to pacify its supporters through these sanctions, he cannot certainly turn blind to the danger Europe is facing. This widening of American sanctions against Russia at a time when the bloody attacks in Ankara and Berlin should bring reasonable people together to fight the terrorist threat shows that Washington has completely lost its grip on reality and deliberately decided to turn blind to it. Yet the threat exists and continues to pose a major challenge to Europe’s security situation. The Obama administration’s stubbornness with regard to indiscriminately fighting terrorism and its undue insistence on Assad’s exit are directly contributing to the persistence of this threat and even its territorial expansion into other continents. To an extent, the US’ dualism has even cost it its erstwhile allies.
The US is losing its traditional grip over the Middle East and the Arab world. This is evident from the way Turkey, despite being a NATO member, has weaned itself away from the US-led block and adopted an alternative course of action. The Moscow meeting has clearly shown that Turkey has decided to bury its past Syria policies and expressed its willingness to chalk out a scheme that caters to the interests of all the actors involved. In the joint statement with Russia and Iran, Turkey implicitly accepts, notwithstanding the bargain that might have taken place among all the parties involved, that the toppling of the Assad regime is no longer the agenda in Syria.
While such an outcome and changed position of Turkey vis-à-vis Syria and Assad can be attributed to what it is likely to gain in terms of an assurance from Russia, Iran and Syria against the creation of an independent Kurdistan, it can equally be attributed to the failure of efforts, spanning over 5 years, to topple Assad.
While Turkey has finally come to terms, the US and its European and Arab allies continue to cling to the old agenda. In their calculations, they seem to continue to ignore the fact that Assad does enjoy significant local support. Had it not been for this support, he might have been toppled long before Russia entered the scene.
The Syrian minorities have backed him and fought for him out of sheer self-preservation. Having seen what happened to the Yazidis in Iraq when they were captured by brutal IS fighters, they know they are fighting for their lives, their homes and their wives and daughters. This is an element in Assad’s support that, thus far, has gone unrecognised in the West.
With Assad strong enough to claim its office, with Russia and Iran standing in Syria and with Turkey sliding over to Russia and Iran, the US’ credibility as a reliable security partner has been damaged to a great extent. Fresh sanctions on Russia are just yet another indication of the fact that the US is too weak to achieve its objectives through other means—something that is causing Arab states to re-think their traditional reliance on the US for their national security.
As against the Arab states’ current standing, Russian influence in the region is increasing and a number of other countries, such as Egypt and Israel, have shown their willingness to extend co-operation with Russia against terrorism. Importantly, this co-operation against terrorism is not mere co-operation’; it also signifies a potential rejection of the US version of terrorism according to which a terror group becomes ‘terrorist’ only when it starts hurting interests of the US and those of its allies.
A Kremlin readout on the phone call made by President Vladimir Putin to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad on Friday to formally congratulate the latter on the liberation of Aleppo, highlighted that the Russian leader “stressed that the main task now is to focus on furthering the peace process, in particular by signing an agreement on comprehensive resolution of the Syrian crisis.”
Putin’s remark is an important signpost of the way forward in Syria. Moscow disfavours continuation of military operations by the Syrian government forces to regain control of the entire country (which would be the likely preference of Damascus and Tehran) and prefers that conditions must be made available to open the peace track. At any rate, all 5 major cities in Syria and the entire Mediterranean coast, where the bulk of Syrian population is concentrated, is in government hands already and the opposition is left to hold Idlib and isolated pockets in the south and east, with supply lines under immense pressure.
A ceasefire all across Syria is in the making. This appears to be the understanding reached at the 2-track ‘trilateral’ of the foreign and defence ministers of Russia, Turkey and Iran which was held in Moscow on Tuesday. Interestingly, at a meeting in the Kremlin on Friday to report to Putin on the conclusion of the operations to liberate Aleppo and the successful downstream activities to evacuate civilians and render humanitarian assistance (in terms of a deal between Turkey, Russia and Iran), Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu also made a significant remark that “In our (military’s) opinion, we are close to reaching an agreement on a complete ceasefire across Syria.” Putin responded:
- Together with our partners from Iran and Turkey, and of course with the Syrian government, other countries in the region and all countries concerned, we will need to continue efforts to achieve a final settlement. We must make the greatest effort now to end hostilities everywhere in Syria, and we will, at least, do our sincerest best to achieve this goal.
Of course, the campaign against the Islamic State and the al-Qaeda affiliates will continue. A ceasefire all across Syria has been a key demand by Turkey. Interestingly, Putin referred to the objective of drawing “other countries in the region” (other than Turkey and Iran) into these processes. The reference is to Saudi Arabia and Qatar principally. Conceivably, Russian diplomacy is at work on this front.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said he expected the peace talks to take place in Astana in mid-January. But TASS news agency quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying: “I wouldn’t talk now about timing. Right now contacts are being made and preparation is under way for the meeting.” He said Putin would have a series of international telephone calls later to discuss the Astana talks.
Whether the Gulf sheikhs will be willing to drink from the chalice of poison remains to be seen. But what alternative is left for them now that the ‘regime change’ agenda in Syria is off the rails? Equally, a shift in Saudi and Qatari policies, away from further intervention in the Syrian conflict, will also at some point raise another ticklish question: What about the role of Hezbollah and other Shi’ite militia groups from Iran and Iraq who have been fighting in Syria? How an all-Syria ceasefire will be enforced remains to be seen.
Moscow’s objective will be to create new facts on the ground by the time the Trump administration shifts gear on Syria policies. Moscow has signalled on Friday that it is preparing for the long haul as well, with Putin signing a presidential decree ordering the signing of a deal with Syria that will “expand the territory” of Russia’s naval facility in Tartus and allow Russian warships into Syrian waters. The Soviet-era base is currently inadequate to serve most of the modern ships in the Russian Navy.
If the Syrian peace talks take off in the coming weeks, it will amount to a huge victory for Russia’s prestige in the Middle East and for Putin, in particular. But that is a big ‘if’. The good part is that with a relatively cooperative US administration settling down in Washington soon, which may be inclined to collaborate with Russia.
The bullets of an assassin shook the world on Monday. Shot from behind by a former Turkish police officer, at an art gallery in Ankara, right across the street from the US embassy, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, a man with a long and distinguished career in the Soviet and Russian Foreign Service, died on the spot.
Those who are behind this assassination, for no one can believe that this man acted alone, are exposed by the slogan he shouted after the murder, “Don’t forget Aleppo.” They are exposed by the words and photos which were quickly splashed across the front pages of the western media and set in an editorial context that implicitly condoned the act. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and the BBC made sure those words were in their headlines and the lead paragraphs of their stories, as did the New York Times and the rest. The New York Times posted a photo of the assassin standing with his arm raised in the air, as if an actor in a Hollywood action film, beginning his transformation from terrorist assassin into a martyr “for Aleppo and the people of Syria.” A fanatic acted out his part in life and they will make sure he continues to act it out in death. A member of the Ukraine parliament has already called the assassin a “martyr.”
The western governments issued the required condemnations of the assassination but who can believe their sincerity? For years now the NATO governments have been attacking Russia through illegal economic blockades they call “sanctions,” have physically attacked Russia through Chechnya, Georgia, and Ukraine, have advanced NATO’s military forces right up to the Russian border, put out endless false stories about Russia’s actions and policies, generated a sewer of anti-Russian propaganda in the media and in NATO government statements, killed Russian officers and pilots trying to counter their proxy terrorists forces in Syria, attacked the Russian consulate in Damascus several times, fabricated stories of crimes, and during the American presidential election and its aftermath have descended into the depths of insanity by accusing Russia of trying to influence that process.
So, their regrets are worth nothing. It is obvious that this assassination was meant to delay a Turkish-Russian rapprochement, but it was also to punish Russia for its assistance to the government of Syria in liberating Aleppo. In light of President Obama’s ridiculous statement that he knew President Putin was behind alleged attempts to fix the US election while refusing to offer any evidence of this absurd claim, we must remember his dangerous promise to strike back at Russia in retaliation and must consider whether this was part of that retaliation, for the assassination took place within a few days of Obama making his “a time and place of our choosing” statement.
President Putin, along with President Erdogan referred to the murder “as a provocation aimed at derailing Russia-Turkey ties and the peace process in Syria.” Putin stressed, “We must know who steered the killer’s course.”
Since the only party conceivably interested in or could benefit from such a provocation is NATO and its allies, Russia is really saying that they are behind this, though caution is their watchword and the investigation has only begun. The Syrian Peoples’ Assembly in Damascus stated Tuesday that, “This cowardly act of terror is a stain on the forehead of the countries supporting terrorism and demands legal accountability at the international level.”
The Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, stated that, ““Both Turkey and Russia realize that the attack was aimed at damaging bilateral relations and compromising the achievements that have been made recently. Turkey and Russia should not let the organizers’ of this crime reach their goals. We should find out who is behind this heinous crime. We can succeed if we work together…the masterminds of the Russian ambassador’s murder wanted to harm the Russian-Turkish relations, but Moscow and Ankara should not allow terrorists to achieve this goal.”
The Russian foreign minister, Serge Lavrov, stated similarly, “The main aim of the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey is the desire to undermine the process of normalization of Russian-Turkish relations and to prevent the effective fight of the two countries against terrorism in Syria. We are confident that the main aim of those who plotted this barbaric thing was to undermine the process of normalization of relations between Russia and Turkey in order to prevent effective fight against terrorism in Syria.”
But we can be sure that it will not stop developing relations between Turkey and Russia. If the Turks convince the Russians they had nothing to do with it, that it was connected to the FETO organisation whose leader Fetullah Gulen is in the United States, living under American protection, though he has denied it, or to the terrorist organisations they have been supporting in Syria, and the western intelligence and military services supporting them, then it is likely to push Russia, Turkey and Iran, closer together against a common enemy. And, indeed, this appears to be the case as those three nations went ahead with talks in Moscow on Tuesday to forge a way ahead to a peaceful resolution of the war in Syria.
But the willingness to assassinate an ambassador means that we can expect the US and its allies to develop new actions in Syria against the Syrian government and Russia and their allies, just as they have reverted back to new sanctions against Iran in violation of their agreement with Iran. The Americans are still invading Syria every day, sending in forces, setting up camps flying American flags, acting as an occupation force along with British, French and other forces and so far the Syrians have not dared to touch them. But so long as those bases are allowed to remain, committing their act of aggression against Syria, they will be the source of more violence and chaos.
Would NATO be willing to assassinate an ambassador? We need only remind ourselves of their attempt to assassinate the Chinese ambassador Pan Zhan Lin in Belgrade in the NATO attack on Yugoslavia in 1999. Five guided missiles were fired at the Chinese embassy from an American aircraft. The one aimed at the ambassador’s room luckily did not explode but 4 other diplomatic staff were killed and 20 injured. Various reasons have been suggested for US bombing of the Chinese embassy but the Chinese ambassador stated later that it was meant to break the will of the Yugoslav government by making it clear to its allies that continuing to support the Yugoslav government was dangerous.
Similarly this assassination was also meant to break the will of Syria by making it clear to its Russian ally that continuing to support Syria in its war against the US proxy force attacking the country is dangerous on every level. It is a threat against President Erdogan as well, since it is clear that his purge of those who tried to overthrow him in July has not succeeded in eliminating those who want to bring him down and stop reconciliation with Russia. It also is an attempt to block President–elect Trump from advancing better relations with Russia, and at the same time can be used, along with the seemingly random terror attack on civilians in Berlin by unknown agents, to support the NATO countries push for more war in Syria, allegedly to root out “terrorists.” These events do not occur in isolation. One has to wonder further whether the assassination was a set up for something else, false flag operations in the Baltic or elsewhere conducted by NATO forces but to be blamed on a Russia intent on revenge for the murder of its ambassador. Nothing is beyond the pale for NATO and their secret services.
Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer based in Toronto. He is known for a number of high-profile war crimes cases and recently published his novel “Beneath the Clouds. He writes essays on international law, politics and world events.
RT | December 21, 2016
Moscow says that Saudi Arabia should join efforts to find peace in Syria undertaken by Russia, Iran and Turkey, Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s UN envoy, said.
The Foreign Ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey met in Moscow on Tuesday to draft a joint statement aimed at resolving the long term conflict in Syria.
According to Churkin, the document was “an extra effort by our three countries” to, among other things, prepare opposition forces “to negotiate with the government, and put them at the same table with the government, so they can develop between themselves some arrangements that would advance the political process.”
It is “very important” that the statement by Moscow, Tehran and Ankara “contained an invitation to other countries that have influence ‘on the ground’ to join such efforts,” he said.
“It seems to me it would be very important for Saudi Arabia to take a similar stance and work in the same direction,” the envoy told Rossiya 24 channel.
The Russia-US talks on resolving the Syrian crisis have stalled, but Churkin says that the situation may change when Donald Trump replaces Barack Obama in the White House.
“I’m going to share my personal interpretation of the things I’ve heard recently,” he said.
According to Churkin’s information, the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said he planned to convene a new round of talks about Syria on February 8, 2017.
“I’m sure he (de Mistura) did it only after he had found an opportunity to contact the people on Donald Trump’s team and to coordinate the date with them,” the Russian UN ambassador said.
“That’s good enough a sign because it could be indicative of the ability of the Trump Administration to steer the situation towards a rapid enough unfolding of the political process (in Syria),” Churkin said, again stressing that it was just his “personal interpretation of events.”
He said that Russia is ready to cooperate with Nikki Haley, who Trump plans to propose for the next US envoy at the United Nations.
“She’s a quite young governor of South Carolina, lacking international experience, but I heard some good comments about her,” the Russian envoy said.
However, he stressed that he doesn’t know Haley in person, which makes it hard to predict how the US delegation will act under her in the UN and with the Security Council.
“Anyway, I think it’s early to relax and expect that we’re going to have some kind of nirvana in our work at the UN. It’s going to be a bit more complicated in real life,” Churkin said.
The pullout of militants from the Syrian city of Aleppo “is being completed,” Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Wednesday.
Aleppo was the last major city being held by the rebels in the country, with their withdrawal being agreed though Russian and Turkish mediation.
According to estimates by Russian officials, the evacuation of civilians from eastern Aleppo, which has been under rebel control since 2012, is expected to conclude in a few days.
The New York Times has been leading the charge against “fake news.” Yet its own reporting and editorial positions are often as one-sided, distorted, or downright mendacious as the worst of the pseudo-alternative websites. The Times’ coverage of wars, especially those of strategic import for the US and/or Israel (not necessarily in that order) is a particularly fertile field of fake news flummery.
Most of America’s armed conflicts and interventions have been driven by New York Times war propaganda, and the current conflagration in Syria is no exception. An especially egregious, over-the-top example of “damn the facts, full speed ahead” warmongering, every bit as bad as the Judith Miller version of Iraqi WMD, is last Wednesday’s op-ed by the Editorial Board, “Aleppo’s Destroyers: Assad, Putin, Iran.”
The headline, like the diatribe beneath it, conceals the identities of the worst of the “destroyers” of Aleppo and Syria: Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, the US and Israel. These governments have created, armed, financed, advised, and otherwise enabled the various militias, mercenaries, and terrorist groups that overran Aleppo and dismembered Syria.
Assad is the elected President of Syria, and Russia and Iran have intervened at the request of Syria’s legitimate government. Naming these three the “destroyers” of Aleppo, while ignoring the aggressors responsible for the proxy war on Syria, is practicing “fake news” at its worst.
The NY Times Editorial Board writes:
“Mr. Putin’s bloody actions — the bombing of civilian neighborhoods, the destruction of hospitals, the refusal to allow noncombatants to receive food, fuel and medical supplies — are all in violation of international law.”
International law?! What about the non-aggression principle and the doctrine of national sovereignty, the twin foundations of international law as it pertains to war and peace? Are not all nations sovereign entities whose borders are inviolable? Are not the Americans, Israelis, Saudis, Qataris, Emiratis and Turks committing aggression by attempting to overthrow the government of a sovereign nation? And is not such aggression “the supreme war crime” according to international law as enshrined in the Nuremberg precedent?
We know who is committing the supreme war crime, aggression. And we know who is fighting in defense of national sovereignty.
What about the lesser war crimes, all of which are the fruits of the supreme crime, aggression?
It is difficult to separate the facts from the propaganda regarding allegations of particular war crimes in Syria, thanks in large part to the lies of the anti-Assad propaganda industry supported by the West and its regional proxies. We do know that the worst atrocity alleged to have been committed by Assad – the August 2013 chemical weapons massacre at al-Ghouta – has been exposed as a false flag whose real authors were Saudi and Turkish intelligence agents, aided and abetted by Americans and Israelis. (Veterans Today exposed how the sarin was manufactured in Georgia at a US-run factory and smuggled through Turkey into Syria, while Seymour Hersh had to find a non-US publisher to explain how the monumental false flag fail at al-Ghouta forced Obama to abort plans for a US aerial assault on Damascus.)
Wikipedia tells us that between 281 and 1,729 people died in the al-Ghouta sarin attack. Why is the New York Times not demanding war crimes trials for the American, Turkish, and Saudi perpetrators of this monstrous massacre, which was designed to be blamed on Assad in order to trigger a US bombing campaign? Why has al-Ghouta, the worst atrocity of the war, been consigned to the memory hole?
The New York Times falsely reported that Assad bombed his own people at al-Ghouta. No more outrageous, criminal example of “fake news” could possibly be imagined — except, perhaps, for the Times coverage of 9/11 … coverage whose monumental lies, concealments and coverups have directly led to the deaths of many millions of people worldwide, including those who have perished in the “civil war” in Syria as well as the violence in the other “seven countries in five years” whose destruction was the main purpose of the 9/11 false flag operation.
The New York Times is not just a purveyor of fake news, it is a purveyor of propaganda for the supreme war crime, aggression, and several lesser crimes including genocide. If we are going to start shutting down “fake news” outlets, perhaps we should begin with the Times and the other mainstream media war criminals.
A report published by The Century Foundation (TCF), a US-based policy think tank, helps shed light on the inner workings of the small northern city of Idlib, Syria.
Idlib is to US State Department-listed foreign terrorist organization Jabhat Al Nusra (also known as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham or Al Qaeda in Syria) as the eastern Syrian city of Al Raqqa is to the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (IS).
It is also home to a wide range of other militant groups cooperating with the terrorist organization, as well as a myriad of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) funded and directed by the US, Europe, Turkey and the Gulf states.
And while great hope resides within statements of US, European and Gulf state politicians, echoed across their respective media platforms for this city’s possible role as an alternative “capital” for an alternative “government,” opposed to the current Syrian nation-state, TCF’s report dumps a cold bucket of water on what was but a spark, not even a flame of hope.
The “Opposition” Exists Solely Through the Support of Foreign Interests
The report titled, “Keeping the Lights On in Rebel Idlib,” describes a city so dangerous and dysfunctional, the authors of the report could not even venture there to conduct their interviews, which were instead conducted remotely from the other side of the Turkish-Syrian border.
The report even admits that the “provincial council” meant to replace the Syrian government remained based in Turkey for years and still maintains an office there today.
The report states:
In Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province, residents have established local governance bodies that provide needed services and simultaneously pose a political challenge to the regime of Bashar al-Assad. No overarching authority has replaced the state after it was forced from Idlib. Islamist and jihadist armed groups hold power at the local level, and have developed relatively sophisticated service coordination bodies. Yet ultimate decision-making power has typically sat with donor organizations outside the country.
The report points out that armed groups compete not only for influence within Idlib, but also for access to the constant stream of resources foreign donor organizations provide. The report admits that this foreign aid (dominated by USAID) sustains Idlib’s occupiers, who themselves lack the ability to unify the city, fund any of their activities, let alone challenge the Syrian state.
The report also admits that initially the Syrian government was able to protect Idlib’s urban centers, and that they only fell after the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey was taken over. This suggests that an influx of weapons, supplies and fighters over the border from Turkey, with Turkish and other state-sponsors’ backing, helped turn the tide against Syrian forces, not the momentum of the “uprising” itself.
Idlib province is now one of the few regions in the country that still has an unsecured border with Turkey, making it no surprise that Idlib remains one of the few areas still left beyond the Syrian government’s control. The report also admits terrorist organizations (Ahrar al-Sham and Al Nusra) dominate this remaining region, contrary to US and European rhetoric.
Dysfunction in Idlib Mirrors Failed Intervention in Libya, Afghanistan
The TCF report explores the various facets of dysfunction plaguing Idlib including corruption, nepotism and interference from armed groups. The crippling dependency on foreign aid and the constant infighting is not only the shape of things to come nationwide should the Syrian government ever be toppled, but it is also a reflection of Libya post US-NATO intervention, or even US-occupied Afghanistan.
With contractors interested only in getting paid, and local groups being consumed with infighting, Idlib provides the latest example of failed US-European “nation building.”
Idlib a Failed City, Would Preside Over a Failed Nation
The report refers to Idlib as a “microcosm of the war.” It states:
Idlib’s governance and service sector has been, in many ways, a microcosm of the Syrian war and Idlib’s fractious rebel scene. As with the province’s armed opposition, an existing tendency towards localism and disparate, uncoordinated streams of external support have resulted in a service sector that is discombobulated and fractious.
Even if the US and its allies believed it was politically possible to announce Idlib as an alternative “capital” to Damascus, Idlib in reality could never serve such a role. Between its small size, the fact that it is transparently dominated by armed terrorists and completely dependent on foreign aid means that Idlib cannot even administer itself, nor the province it resides in, let alone the entire country. Any nation subjected to “rule” from the failed city of Idlib, would without doubt be a failed nation.
All Idlib could ever be used for is the illusion of viable opposition. The city and province’s administration is as artificial as the armed conflict its current state of dysfunction resulted from. Both city and provincial administration depends entirely on foreign support that is interested only in the overthrow of Damascus, not Idlib’s peace and prosperity.
Like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, once the war is over and regime change accomplished, contractors will seek to make as much money “nation building” as possible, interested more in returning home to spend their new fortunes than leaving behind a functioning and “free” nation state.
The report concludes with the question of whether or not the Syrian government could reassert itself in Idlib. The Syrian government possesses absolutely everything the current “administrators” of Idlib lack, namely unity, ability and resources. Just as is happening across Aleppo, when areas are finally returned back to Syrian control and the supply of foreign aid, weapons and support is removed, so too is the illusion of opposition.