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Avalanche of events redefining the balance of power in the Middle East

How prescient was Sharmine Narwani when she wrote “Security Arc” forms amidst Mideast terror in December 2013! Now in mid-2015 what she described is developing before our eyes:

“… the Russian-brokered destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, a US-Iranian rapprochement, the diminished strategic value of Saudi Arabia and Israel, and a US withdrawal from Afghanistan will all contribute to changing regional dynamics considerably… Washington has suddenly gone from backing a mostly Sunni ‘rebellion’ in Syria to reaching out to Iran. This about-turn stems from the realization that the US has dangerously overplayed its geopolitical game and allowed religious militancy to swell past the point of no return. Neither Washington nor its NATO partners can reverse this trend unaided. Both failed miserably in the decade-long, superficial “war on terror,” which, if anything, helped sow further seeds of extremism. The US now understands that it needs the assistance of vested regional partners and rising powers that face a more imminent threat from militants – Iran, Russia, China, India, Syria, Iraq, – not just to fight extremism, but to cut off its source…in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan and other places.”

arms to iraq

 

Below is the conclusion of Sharmine Narwani’s essay, written in December 2013, describing the security alliance emerging out of a stretch of countries from the Levant to the Persian Gulf: Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran:

Gravitating Toward The “Security” Priority

You can see the calculations changing in nations beyond the Security Arc already. Many keenly understand the vital role these four countries will have to play to stem militancy. All eyes right now are on Syria where the security situation is most precarious for the region – particularly in Egypt, Jordan and Turkey.

The latter three are the regional states most likely to support the Security Arc’s security objectives, albeit with reservations that accompany some fairly stark political differences.

Jordan, for example, has played “host” to an array of foreign special forces, troops, intelligence agencies and contractors, all focused on the task of bringing down the current Syrian government. But even its longtime financial dependency on Saudi Arabia is not worth the thousands of jihadis stationed on Jordanian territory, waiting to enter conflict zones. Arab media puts the number of Jordanian-origin jihadists inside the country at a horrifying 1,000. By contrast, the Europeans are terrified of even a handful of their own Islamist militants coming home.

According to a well-connected Lebanese source, around four months ago, Jordan, Syria and Iraq began quiet discussions (on separate bilateral tracks) about economic and security cooperation. The Jordanians initially balked at the security upgrade, but came around eventually. They’re not just worried about extremism, but about economic collapse too – either can set the other off. Worst of all would be complete irrelevance in a region undergoing rapid change. The Jordanians are not mavericks, and sandwiched as they are between Syria and Iraq, it is not hard to see their new direction.

Already, state security courts in Amman are imprisoning prominent Salafists and Jordanian fighters intent on crossing over into Syria. Jordan has shut down its border, enforced tight security around the Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees, and is likely to take further measures as relations with the Syrian government continue to improve.

The Turks have also taken measures to tighten up their borders – in practice. An internal battle still rages within its Islamist establishment where a hot-headed Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan cast his lot almost three years ago with the Syrian opposition. His intransigence on this issue has cost Turkey: armed militants have found refuge inside Turkey’s border with Syria, political violence has seeped into the country, Turkey’s popularity has plummeted in the Arab world across all sects, Erdogan’s own suppression of protest has marked him a hypocrite, and Kurdish “autonomy” in Syria raises ambitions for Kurds in neighboring Turkey.

The Turks will understand the security imperative, but the clincher will be the economic ones. Syria needs a lot of reconstruction and Iraq has oil wealth to spend once calm returns. Furthermore, a gas pipeline initiative stretching from Iran to the Mediterranean will altogether bypass Turkey – if it doesn’t play ball.

Egypt is likely to fall in line with the Security Arc for the simple reason that it now faces the same problems. Indebted as the interim military government may be to the petrodollars of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf state sponsors, Egypt will be entirely bankrupt if religious militancy takes hold, as it now threatens to do. Jihadists started flocking to the Sinai when former President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in February 2011, and have surged again since last summer when the military establishment returned to power. Furthermore, the recently overthrown Muslim Brotherhood (MB) government is still seething from what it views as an illegal coup, and there is a tendency to Salafism in the organization’s ranks. During the short MB-reign which endorsed Syrian rebels, thousands of Egyptians flocked to the fight in Syria. It is likely that a state governed or dominated by a secular military establishment will follow the Syrian example and implement heavy security solutions to break the back of extremists.

Whatever one’s political inclinations, there is little doubt that inaction against Salafist militants at this juncture will lead to the disintegration of states throughout the Mideast.

The most dangerous hubs today are Syria, followed by Iraq, because of their political and geographical centrality in the region, and the likelihood of smaller or weaker neighbors being swept into the chaos.

The fight against extremism will therefore start inside the Security Arc, and will receive immediate support from the BRICS states and non-aligned nations. The West may choose to play key roles behind the scenes instead of unsettling their regional allies – at least for a while. But as confrontation escalates, countries will have to “take clear sides” in this pivotal battle, both in the Mideast and outside. Expect opportunism to play a hand – there may be a point at which a “stalemate” may be desirable for some. Few will dare to support the extremists, however, so also anticipate some serious narrative shifts on ‘good-guys’ and ‘bad-guys’ in the Mideast.

This, now, is the real War on Terror. But this time it will be led from inside the Middle East, gain universal support and change the regional political balance of power for generations to come.

So concluded Gravitating Toward The “Security” Priority from  “Security Arc” forms amidst Mideast terror written by Sharmine Narwani in December 2013 and first published by Al Akhbar English on 21 December 2013.

Now, in July 2015, the steadfast Syrian patriot Ghassan Kadi outlined on his Facebook page an avalanche of events that has redefined the balance of power on
Syrian soil, namely and mainly:
1. Erdogan’s loss in the Turkish legislative elections.
2. Hezbollah’s advancements in the Qalamoun region of both Lebanon and Syria.
3. Failure of Operation “Southern Storm” to take Soweida and Daraa.
4. Advances of SAA and Hezbollah in the Zabadani region.
5. Advances of the SAA in the Idlib region.
6. Failure of Saudi Arabia to form an effective alliance against Yemen.
7. Failure of Saudi Arabia to score a clear win in Yemen.
8. The Iran nuclear deal, and much more.

Ghassan Kadi states that the 24-July-2015 article Thaw on the Horizon? Kerry Seeks Russia’s Help Fighting ISIL, at Sputnik International News, puts the whole picture in a very good perspective and from a highly reliable source. President of Turkey Tayyip Erdogan seems to have no choice but to change course. Not only has he lost his parliamentary majority in the latest round of elections, but ISIS
is already hitting home with recent clashes with the Turkish army and terrorist attacks within Turkey. Even his staunchest of supporters would turn against him if he does not turn against ISIS.

Ghassan Kadi opines that he Saudis and Israelis are feeling let down and isolated. (They are securing new security cooperation agreements.) Erdogan is possibly deciding to stay in the game for his own survival, but there seems to be little doubt that his wings have been clipped.

Speaking to a think-tank in New York on Friday (24/07/2015), US Secretary of State John Kerry said he expected to talk with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Qatar in the coming weeks. After the success of the nuclear talks, the two will discuss how best to counter the militant group (ISIS/ISIL/Da’esh).”We have to change the dynamic in Syria,” Kerry told the Council on Foreign Relations, according to Reuters. “And that’s part of why we have been negotiating with Turkey in these last weeks and now have some shift in what the Turks are prepared to do, and there is also a shift in some of the things that we’re engaged in,” Kerry added.

While Russia and the United States haven’t exactly seen eye-to-eye on Syria, both nations are hoping to forge an alliance between regional governments to counter the common threat posed by IS… In the wake of the nuclear deal, Russia has also urged for Iran’s involvement in international anti-terror efforts.

“We can develop anti-terror cooperation with Iran, first of all, in the Middle East region,” the Russian Foreign Ministry’s challenges and threats department director Ilya Rogachev told RIA Novosti on Monday (20/07/2015). “The notorious international terrorist organization known as Islamic State can be and has to be the object of our cooperation with Iran,” he added. (source)

After all the demonisation of Vladimir Putin and  Basshar Al-Assad that has created such a negative view of these remarkable men of out time, the disconnect that Westerners are going to experience over the next few months while we watch our leaders attempt to backtrack on their past policies may be reduced by considering an article that Ghassan Kadi wrote everal years ago defending Basshar Al-Assad and the Assad legacy:

The Syria that Hafez Al-Assad inherited was poor and corrupt. It had little infrastructure, under developed agriculture and industries, and to top it off, it was in a state of war with Israel. 

What contributed to the Syrian/Lebanese schism was that Syria had an autocratic political regime, and Lebanon was a tax haven that had a political system which was very close to a Western style democracy.

As Lebanon was getting richer and more open to the world, Syria was getting poorer and more closed up. Crossing the borders from Lebanon into Syria became similar to crossing the borders from San Diego USA to Tijuana Mexico.

Nation-building was paramount on Assad’s agenda. For this to happen, very strict austerity measures had to be put in place. And here is something that the West cannot understand. To put such austerity measures into action, a leader cannot be democratically elected. Democratically-elected leaders are not able to implement severe measures without losing the next elections. The continuity of strict nation-building projects demands either dictatorship or bipartisanism which is virtually impossible to find in a place where party politics dictate that any thing can be used as a political weapon.

By the mid 70’s, Lebanon’s golden age was coming to an end. The Western style democracy soon turned into anarchy, and the country succumbed to a long and bitter civil war that had a strong sectarian foundation.

In the 70’s, as Lebanon was breaking loose and as its people were adopting the law of militia groups, the Syrians were ruled by an iron fist that did not tolerate any sectarian divisions and any form of political freedom that would mimic the neighboring chaotic Lebanon.

The wheel of fate started to turn the other way, and this time, it was in the favour of Syria.

All the while Lebanese youths were going off to get military training in sectarian militia camps and were fed with sectarian prejudice, Syrian youths were conscripted in the national secular army and given lessons in patriotism.

Whilst Lebanese militia groups were kidnapping, maiming, torturing and killing other Lebanese on sectarian grounds, it became illegal in Syria to even ask another citizen about his/her religion, with a mandatory jail sentence in place.

The Lebanese citizen grew up believing that he/she can live his/her own way under his/her own law. The Syrian citizen grew up knowing that there is law and order and severe punishments would ensue if those laws are broken.

The Syrian regime gained its dictatorial notoriety by implementing very strict rules of law and order, and whilst the one-party rule meant a continued grab of power by the Baath Party, it also meant that Syria would not slump into a Lebanese-style multi-party anarchy.

The Syrian Intelligence (Moukhabarat) became a very powerful organization. Styled like the KGB, it did not leave any chance for dissent.

In the late 70’s and early 80’s, the Syrian Moslem Brotherhood began to stir anti-Assad passion among the Sunnis. They regarded Assad (an Alawite) as an infidel. They ambushed and killed several top ranking Alawite military personnel and Syria was about to follow the footsteps of Lebanon in its civil war.

Assad crushed the revolt ruthlessly. In an unprecedented move, the Syrian army attacked the brotherhood in a mosque where the rebels thought they would be safe.

Those rebels were not peaceful democracy campaigners. They were an armed bunch of murderers with a fundamentalist Sunni agenda; similar to what is now known as Al-Qaeda.

One of the biggest challenges that Hafez Al-Assad had to confront was his home-grown corruption. His own brother, Rafaat Al-Assad, established a state within a state. He was a corrupt officer surrounded by a bunch of thugs and looters. Rafaat was exiled to France where he could not cause any trouble.

Assad managed to rid himself of many of the corrupt officers and officials but he never was able to do this fully. Corruption is a universal “disease’ and Syria is not immune.

Needless to say that the brutality of the Moukhabarat was invariably unjust and many innocent people were incarcerated and some were allegedly never seen again.

Nevertheless, when Hafez Al-Assad died in 2000, Syria had been transformed. The country became a safe haven, a secular model, and a politically stable country with a growing economy and a good foundation of an infrastructure.

When Basshar Al-Assad took over the presidency, he fast tracked the process of reform. The tough austerity measures of his father’s era had already paid dividend and were eased. Imports were allowed to flow in as the economy was able to afford them. The internet and mobile phones became a part of Syrian life. The country prospered as private enterprise regained its position in the thriving economy. And last but not least, some political freedom was allowed. Parties such as the Lebanese-rooted Syrian National Socialist Party and the Communist Party, to name some, were given the freedom to operate. The political freedom that Basshar was not to tolerate was the one that had sectarian agendas and/or the one that would call for armed revolt.

Any person who denies that Basshar Al-Assad had embarked on the journey of reform from the day he took office is either ill-informed, or deliberately twisting the truth.

Ironically, the reforms that the West demands of Assad are already getting introduced one at a time. They cannot be rushed in simply because this is what the USA and France demand today.

If anything, France’s biggest promise to the peoples of Lebanon and Syria was to keep them segregated. (Commander of the French Army of the Levant) General Gouraud made this very clear after his troops savagely massacred the outnumbered and ill-equipped Syrian army led by the gallant Youself Al Azmeh in Maysaloun in 1920. This same general is notoriously renowned for stepping his foot on the tomb of Salladin in Damascus saying “we have returned”. It was France which bombed Damascus and its famous Hamidiyye Souk. For the French FM Alain Juppe to make claims today that France cares about Syria and Syrian people is quite laughable.

Basshar’s biggest failing is that he did not do a house cleaning like his father did. Basshar is surrounded by a huge number of very good men and women working with him to serve Syria. However, there is a handful of bad apples around him that need to be plucked out. He knows well who they are and they should be on his priority list after restoring peace and order in Syria.

With his failings and short-comings, Basshar Al-Assad and the Assad legacy have created a prosperous and stable Syria, introduced many political and economic reforms, and domestically stood up against sectarianism and fundamentalism, while on the regional arena stood up single-handedly against the American/Israeli plots. (source)

On 30 July 2015 Ghassan Kadi analysed the new situation:

The time has come for Erdogan for a number of reasons. To begin with, before he loses the ultimate power in Turkey, he wants to score a victory; albeit a partial one. Secondly, for whichever reason, he too fell out of favour with ISIS. Recent clashes between their fighters and the regular Turkish Army did not sit nicely with Erdogan any more than the recent suicide bombing attack of Suruc.

It is not by accident that soon after this event, Turkey allowed NATO fighter jets to use the Incirlik air base. A deal was struck between Turkey and the US, the details are not made to be public, and even though America insists that the deal does not include creating a safe zone for Turkey, in reality it does. The Americans might have kept this condition out of the written wording of the agreement, but Erdogan would not have agreed to open up his air base for NATO and accept an upgrading of strikes on ISIS without a tradeoff.

This has all been discussed in my previous article; The Last Tango of Erdogan. What has transpired since is that Turkey is using this plan allegedly to repatriate its share of Syrian refugees. A cynical analysis indicates that Turkey wants to cherry-pick Syrians who support the opposition in order to relocate them into the buffer zone. This will serve a number of objectives for Turkey; it will enable it to off-load a big chunk of its Syrian refugees, it will create a buffer zone of Syrian-controlled area that is manned by Syrian opposition groups who answer to Turkey, and it hopes that the presence of this group will overwhelm the local Kurds and keep them at bay. Last but not least, as mentioned in a previous article, it will separate Turkish Kurds from Syrian Kurds.

The scenario that Turkey seeks is almost identical to the one that Israel tried to do and failed in South Lebanon in the 1980’s. Even though Israel manned, supplied and financed Antoun Lahed’s “South Lebanon Army” members and their families in an attempt to dilute and weaken Hezbollah, the plot failed abysmally. (source)

Erdogan’s plot will also fail as he will not be able to maintain control of Syrian opposition groups relocated into Kurdish areas. Even though the Kurdish People’s Defense Units known as YPG Yekîneyên Parastina Gel)) collaborated with the opposition FSA (Free Syrian Army) to fight ISIS at Kobane and signed a judicial agreement with the opposition Levant Front in Aleppo, nevertheless YPG attracted increasing numbers of fighters defecting from the Syrian opposition groups, and attracted locals from mixed or Arab villages in YPG-controlled territory along with both Kurdish and non-Kurdish Christians, and the militia has close ties to the Assyrian/Syriac Sutoro and Syriac Military Council. In such an environment, rather than overwhelming the local Kurds, opposition Syrian groups sent into Syrian Kurdistan will either melt into this Kurdish environment or rush to Syrian Arab Army controlled areas to accept al-Assad’s recent offer of amnesty.

On 31 July 2015 Wafik Qansouh reported at Al-Akhbar.com that a secret meeting had been held in Riyadh between the Syrian Chief of Internal Security General Ali Mamluk and the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince, who is also Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, Mohammad Bin Salman al Saud. Mamluk was flown on a Russian plane accompanied by Russian officials to make this “miraculous visit” that was brokered by President Putin on 29 June. Ten days before, on 19 June, President Vladimir Putin had a meeting with Saudi Defence Minister, deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman that dealt with nuclear reactors, oil prices, weapons procurement, Yemen, Syria and terrorism. According to this report, Putin convinced the Saudis that ISIS and al-Qaeda are two heads of a monster that is turning back to bite those who co-created it, and that Assad is staying so they need to work with him for their own survival. (source)

At the end of the day, the United States will also have to come to terms with the understanding that the only way to deal with the multi-headed terrorist monster that it co-created is by working with the Syrian government.

Ray Bergmann
editor
July 2015

2 responses to “Avalanche of events redefining the balance of power in the Middle East

  1. Russia’s diplomatic efforts in Syria, Iran, and Yemen over the past few years have once more made the country a Mideast power, and amidst the Syrian stalemate and failed War on Yemen, Saudi Arabia might finally be thinking that it’s time for it to constructively reach out to Moscow outside the supervisory framework of the US… Russia needs Saudi Arabia to retreat from its deadly covert offensive on Syria in order for peace to return to its beleaguered ally (Syria), while the Saudis want Russian arms and nuclear technology both to grandstand in front of Iran (which they mistakenly view as their arch enemy) and make the US jealous so that they can squeeze more supportive concessions out of it.
    In Riyadh’s regional calculus, anything that it can do to seemingly elevate its position against Iran takes precedence over its interests against Syria… Read more at http://sputniknews.com/columnists/20150622/1023693742.html

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  2. On 29 June Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem together with his deputy Faisal Al-Makdad and Buthaina Shaaban who is a counsel for the Syrian President, arrived in Moscow. Putin suggested the formation of a quadrilateral anti-terrorism coalition to be comprised of Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan. Iran was excluded as the Russians were careful not to intimidate the Saudis. The Saudis insisted that the meeting should be held in Riyadh, and Damascus did not object. A few weeks later, a special plane carrying the deputy Russian Chief of Intelligence landed in Damascus and flew with Syrian Chief of Internal Security General Ali Mamluk on board bound for Riyadh. The meeting between Ali Mamluk and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Minister of Defence, was held in the presence of the Saudi Chief of Intelligence Saleh Al-Humaidan. Both parties lashed at each other accusing each other of inflaming the situation, but there is nothing to indicate that this was not done within the norms of diplomacy. The meeting concluded without reaching any results, but the ice has been broken and the significance of this extremely historic meeting is enormous. It has the potential to be pivotal in whatever happens from this point on. It is very important to note at least the following ramifications, corollaries and conclusions :
    1. It confirms that the original anti-Syrian coalition has capitulated.
    2. It is a recognition of Syria’s upper hand on the situation on the ground.
    3. It implies an admission of failure on the part of Saudi Arabia.
    4. It further reconfirms Russia’s role and commitment towards Syria.
    5. It is a further proof that the US is disengaging in the Levant.
    6. In trying to reach a deal between Saudi Arabia and Syria, the only remaining obstinate foe of Syria, Turkey, will be left out alone in the cold. In any future negotiations, Turkey will have to strike a deal of its own without the support of any partners to count on. This will prove very difficult if and when Turkey’s intended safety zone plan in the north of Syria fails.
    Read more details at http://intibahwakeup.blogspot.com.au/2015/07/breaking-news-breaks-saudi-plans.html#more

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