by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with the Asia Times by special agreement with the author)
The Russia-led Eurasia Economic Union is spreading its wings and gaining strength, with some key projects, big players and big plans in the pipeline
As presidents Vladimir Putin, Hassan Rouhani and Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Ankara for a second Russia-Iran-Turkey summit on the future of Syria, Moscow hosted its 7th International Security Conference attended by defense ministers from dozens of nations.
A more graphic illustration of the synchronicity drive towards Eurasia integration would be hard to find.
Crucially, China sent not only a high-ranking delegation to Moscow, but most of all a loud and clear message. General Wei Fenghe, the new Chinese Defense Minister, side by side with Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu, said: “The Chinese side came to let the Americans know about the close ties between the Russian and Chinese armed forces.” Shoigu, for his part, underlined the “special character” of the Russia-China partnership.
Even before the meeting the Global Times stressed the point that non-stop Russia demonization coupled with the now rolling US-China trade war will only strengthen the “special character” partnership.
And then Iran’s Defense Minister, Brigadier General Amir Hatami, expanded the scope, saying “foreign plans” related to security in the Middle East would inevitably fail – they must be hatched within Southwest Asia.
What happened in Moscow necessarily must be crossed over with what happened in Ankara.
A common commitment
The first Russia-Iran-Turkey trilateral meeting on Syria was in Sochi on November 22 last year. Sochi led to the formation of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress and a 150-strong committee tasked to draft a new constitution for Syria. All these procedures essentially follow guidelines established by the 2012 Geneva peace process. Even the UN praised Sochi as “an important contribution to a revived intra-Syrian talks process.”
For the Ankara meeting, the foreign ministers of Russia (Sergey Lavrov), Iran (Mohammad Javad Zarif) and Turkey (Mevlut Cavusoglu) met in Astana in early April to prepare the terrain.
The final joint statement is unmistakable, emphasizing their common commitment to the sovereignty, unity, independence and territorial integrity of Syria.
The fact that Ankara is Putin’s first foreign trip after reelection speaks volumes. The Russia-Iran-Turkey strategy on Syria, incrementally developed in Astana, established a delicate balance of de-escalation zones – the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta, Idlib, Homs and the Syrian-Jordanian border – and humanitarian corridors, allowing scores of civilians to leave war zones, especially in the case of Ghouta.
The war in Ghouta against a jihadi galaxy has been all but won by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), supported by a Russian mix of air support and negotiation skills and, significantly, no input from Iranian military commanders. So-called “moderate rebel” remnants were dispatched to Idlib. Damascus is free from shelling. That was the SAA’s biggest victory after the liberation of Aleppo in December 2016.
Northern Syria, however, remains a much trickier proposition, as we have a de facto NATO versus NATO subplot; Turkish troops versus the YPG Kurds, a proxy US force.
The fact that the SAA-Russia offensive in eastern Ghouta happened in parallel to the neo-Orwellian Operation Olive Branch by the Turks in the Kurdish canton of Afrin spells out a complex Russia-Iran-Turkey deal worked out in Astana – as diplomats confirmed to Asia Times.
As much as Tehran may be exasperated by Turkish military incursions into Syria, by ordering Iranian commanders not to interfere in both eastern Ghouta and Afrin, Tehran made sure Ankara would not derail the extermination, and or transfer of jihadis threatening Damascus.
The key discussion at the trilateral summit in Ankara was about what happens next to Idlib – now the ultimate jihadi “moderate rebel” refuge, where Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which is connected to al-Qaeda, is fighting a Syrian Liberation Front backed by Turkey that also happens to harbor hardcore jihadis such as Ahrar al-Sham.
It will all hinge on whether Ankara will be able to persuade this congregation of nasty forces that the war is in fact over. Otherwise, the SAA, backed by Russian airpower, will embark on yet another bombing campaign, potentially adding extra hundreds of thousands of refugees to the 3.5 million already holed up inside Turkey’s borders.
What is certain is that Ankara does not feel inclined to leave Syria’s northwest and north-central areas anytime soon. How Moscow and Tehran – not to mention Damascus – will react is an (explosive) open question.
Get me my S-400s on time
The Russia-Turkey partnership is all business – centered on a crucial energy, nuclear and weapons triangle.
Russia, “at the onset of the creation of the nuclear industry in Turkey,” according to presidential aide Yury Ushakov, will start building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant at Akkuyu at a cost of $20 billion. The first reactor is expected to be ready by 2023, and the plant will be owned by Russia.
Following a contract signed last December, Moscow will also deliver the S-400 surface-to-air defense system to Ankara before 2020, earlier than expected, “at the request of our Turkish friends and partners,” according to Putin. NATO is not exactly pleased.
And then there’s the $12 billion Turk Stream gas pipeline, which is a work-in-progress – with the overland segment about to receive a go-ahead permit from Ankara. Several EU members are not exactly pleased.
All that spells out Russian diplomacy carefully strengthening relations with pinpointed EU-NATO member states. Even as the ultimate target may be to convince NATO to de-escalate from Russia’s western borderlands, or from the Cold War 2.0 Iron Curtain from the Baltic to the Black Sea, that’s still a long way from a game-changer such as Turkey actually ditching NATO.
A stalemate would certainly be reached as a concerted Russia-China charm offensive may lead Erdogan to consider the benefits of joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Ankara is deepening its business ties with both Pakistan, a full SCO member, and Iran, now on observer status and about to become a full member.
Russia, China and Iran are the three key vectors of Eurasia integration, which includes everything from Pipelineistan to trade connectivity networks. Erdogan does not covet the role of sideshow spectator.
And just like clockwork, an extra Russia-Iran integration node may be added as Tehran is expected to join the Russia-led Eurasia Economic Union (EEU) before the end of the year. The free trade EEU – now harboring Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Vietnam – is attracting interest from everyone from China, India and Indonesia to Serbia, Israel and South American nations. Erdogan is certainly paying attention.
And now it’s time to rebuild
From the start, Syria was a Pipelineistan war. A key target was to ditch the prospect of a $10 billion Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline – a memorandum of understanding was signed in 2011 – and replace it with a Qatar to Turkey pipeline via a regime-changed Syria.
Qatar and the House of Saud ended up certified geopolitical losers in Syria. The Saudi blockade of Qatar failed miserably. The new equation reveals Qatar – supported by Oman and Kuwait – getting closer to Iran and even closer to Turkey.
Ankara operates the Tariq bin Ziyad military base in Qatar. Iran and Qatar are deepening cooperation in South Pars – the largest gas field on the planet. Stranger things have happened than foreseeing a pipeline finally being completed in the near future, carrying Iran-Qatar gas and transiting through Turkey, even as Russia and China remain actively involved in the Qatari gas industry.
With the prospect of Syrian reconstruction finally at hand, Beijing will turbo-charge its plans to turn Syria into a key Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) node.
On the Russian front, Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak has confirmed that energy giants Lukoil and Gazprom Neft are already focused on rebuilding – and developing – Syria’s badly damaged energy infrastructure, following a cooperation roadmap signed last February.
The Russian companies have been invited to upgrade the Baniyas refinery and to build a new refinery in partnership with Iran and Venezuela. Damascus and Moscow will launch a direct shipping line to facilitate trade and set up a bank controlled by their own central banks.
According to Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi, nearly US$1 billion worth of agreements on energy, trade and finance have already been signed. Previously, Syrian Ambassador to Russia Riyad Haddad promised that nations which helped Syria fight terrorism “have the right to be at the forefront” of those restoring the country’s economy.
That means, essentially, Russia, Iran and China. It remains to be seen what role – if any – will be played by Erdogan’s new Ottomanism.
Turkey needs to work out a deal where she will have access to Kurdish oil deposits. Such could be accomplished if Kurdistan became a united entity with semi-autonomous regions within neighboring territories. In other words, a political arrangement needs to be worked out whereby Kurdish oil is shared.
This will have Bibi and the Zionazi International foaming at the mouth. What a wonderful prospect. Time for the Zionazis to wake up to the fact that they cannot rule the world-they’re just human beings like the rest of us.
But they’re the choosen people unlike the rest of us
@Mwasa. You mean Syrian oil.
He also meant to say Israel instead of Turkey.
Francis Lee comments on a clip from Pepe’s article re-posted in OffGuardian:
“Given the Anglo-Zionist bull-in-the-china-shop foreign policy posture this development has hardly been surprising. The fact that an anti-hegemonic bloc is at present coalescing in Eurasia was always going to be the West’s self-fullfiling prophecy. For every action there is a reaction. In its insufferable hubris the west has brought about a counter-force that is growing in strength and resolve as each day passes. Exactly what it didn’t want!
As Richard Sakwa explains:
”A disparate but nonetheless strengthening tide of anti-hegemonic of arrangements and organizations has begun to emerge … The creeping universalization of American law and practices of universal jurisdiction represented a new type of power that threatened the sovereignty of states everywhere. In response counter-hegemonic movements gained vitality and dynamism … In all of this Russia was in the vanguard.” (Russia Against the Rest, p.322)”
As usual, a great article by Pepe.
Two minor points:
“the neo-Orwellian Operation Olive Branch by the Turks in the Kurdish canton of Afrin”
What? ‘Orwell’ and ‘Orwellian’ are NLP terms trademarked by the Jewish Mafia should be used only for Jewish Mafia fictions, fantasies & false flags.
“Syria was a Pipelineistan war.”
As all war are, as far as the cover story is concerned. The Jewish Mafia needs no dirty pipelines, thank you very much, but has to control them anyway, otherwise subhumans could make a little business and wealth and – god forbid ! – start mocking and heckling the bullies. Ha ha !
The war, part of the post-9/11 false flag ‘war on terror’, had most likely several objectives, including regime-changing and shrinking Turkey, and creating ‘Kurdish’ Israel 2.0 with access to the Mediterranean.
China, Iran, and esp. Turkey are (allies and) very important countries related to the Empire’s war on Russia.
See for instance: https://www.yenisafak.com/en/columns/ibrahimkaragul/the-plan-to-corner-russia-stop-turkey-this-plan-is-going-to-be-ruined-2044389
Meanwhile the west, U.S./NATO, Israel want a regional war with Iran and thus Russia in the Middle East real bad. They can barely contain their warmongering. With the U.S. and France putting up small tiny bases with a few thousand troops all around Syria.
The U.S. put up a base in Syria’s Al-Tanf, with a 50 mile red-line of approach. So Iran simply put up three bases right outside the red-line to the U.S. bases north, east and south.
We all know the IDF would get clobbered and routed by the very experienced SAA, NDF and Hezbollah. But if a regional war does erupt, that would instantly involve the whole Shia crescent, including Iraq’s popular mobilization divisions. Iran , as a leading IRGC General recently said, could come up with 5 million armed men with an intense hatred for the U.S./Israel.
How do the U.S./Israel et al plan on stopping that. All the forces from Hezbollah to the SAA to the Iraqi militias to the NDF to the IRGC are all very well experienced in urban and rural war of attrition combat experience. How is the U.S., France, U.K., Austrailia, NATO et all going to stop this fire from spreading and engulfing Israel whole. The IDF are mostly exchange students from the U.S. who have no combat experience except for sniping at civilians, whom are unarmed. How is a pathetic force like that going to withstand very angry, embittered, very determined Arabs and Persians, in their own backyard, from rolling up the acres all the way to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv?
What, Israel or the U.S. use a nuke/s ? Not if Israel wants to commit national suicide. Iran has over 1 million ballistic missiles with up to a range of 2000 km, so every square foot of Israel is mapped out for destruction. No ‘Iron Dome’ is going to save Israel. It would be a sustained severe bombardment that would set the place on fire. Silly European Jews, missing their environment in Eastern Europe and the west, planted millions of pine trees and other shrubs so they could feel fight at home in Israel. Well, the problem is that the sheer density of these trees in the land, dry from Mediterranean-Middle Eastern weather are prime fire hazards. That’s why we always here of fires in Israel. The Iranians know this,nd are planning on total destruction of Israel should the U.S. and/or Israel use nukes.
Iran has a religious ban on nuclear weapons, but that’s just it. You see, a religious ban, or ‘fatwa’ (religious edict or ruling by an assembly of experts). If push comes to shove, Iran could simply reverse the ban by way of a ‘fatwa’, and they should be able to assemble working, missile launched nukes in days, if not hours. I’m almost certain they have all the components ready for just such an eventuality.
Another ace card up Irans sleeve, is that if attacked, and a regional war breaks out, the first thing Iran would do after taking out Israels air bases, is to target, and destroy every oil and natural gas structure, facility, port, ship/s, pipelines , fields, just everything. That would instantly cause a global meltdown of the Petrodollar when 60-70% of the worlds hydrocarbon supply stops suddenly. The west would suffer the most, but countries like Russia and China have enormous gold reserves and can wether the storm. But the Jewish monetary/financial system we have come to know of for the last couple hundred years would be dead.
U.S. and European troops are lousy on the ground, aside from air forces, they are pathetic, as we witnessed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and anywhere else they set down. Look what the Vietnamese did to the French and Americans both. Look what a bunch of Taliban wearing beach sandals and bedsheets, armed with AK-47’s and a few IED’s have been doing to imperial troops for 17 years now. How do we expect them to function, let alone survive right in the middle of a sea of resentment and hostility towards them. Smack middle of the Shia crescent they want to implant a new Kurdistan, to undermine Iran and Syria. Well, that’s pure fantasy. The U.S./Kurds /Israeli’s/NATO will be facing a severe insurgency that will make Iraq 2.0 look like children playing.
And lets now forget that Russia is, and has said to the relevant parties, Israel, NATO/U.S. that they are ‘all in’ in Syria. They are ready for any eventuality, and they enjoy boots on the ground from their allies, SAA, Hezbollah, IRGC, NDF, Iraqi popular forces and auxiliaries.
And lets not forget China, a very big silent player behind the scenes in all this, with an open checkbook, and manufacturing base to make whatever is needed by her allies in their fight for freedom and injustice.
Let’s give America the credit it so richly deserves.
The American military is quite talented at bombing civilians with Predator Drone strikes, as evidenced in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc.
And the Americans have raised naked pyramids (Abu Ghraib), waterboarding, and CIA “rectal feeding” techniques to an art form.
Support Our Stormtroopers!
God damn…my bad… bless America!
Great summary – me thinks all the West (and Israel) has is posturing and bluffs that Russia, China, Iran and Syria (and other allies like Hezbollah) can see through.
One thing is certain to me, Israel’s ground troops are as intimidating and dangerous as the Italians were in the last world war. They’re spoiled useless bigots that are more concerned with looking the part.
These dreams of Eurasian integration may or may not come to fruition. But one thing Pepe and many others ignore is the oncoming ecological apocalypse that threatens to soon put an end to all our dreams, and confront us with the reality of industrial civilization’s self-created collapse. The unsparing laws of biology and physics are on course to deliver the long delayed karma caused by all our human mistakes, and the hubris that has engendered our planetary failure.
All of these futuristic “solutions” to our problems have a common theme – more, more, more……. And yet, the only real solutions to our exploding problems involve less, less, less……… Sadly, it seems we are unlikely to address our profound addiction to more of everything, and thereby our fate seems to be sealed now. It is just a matter of time for the full impact of the mistakes already made to hit our world like a giant tsunami, washing away our unstable structures like twigs in a flood…..
“All of these futuristic “solutions” to our problems have a common theme – more, more, more……”
Our future will be open, once we defeat the unipolar world order and their way of doing things. This is a necessary change prior to any step toward saving our planet from total anihilation.
Thanks for your intelligent comment. Defeating the Empire is a necessary step towards our survival. But as Aristotle might say this is a necessary but not a sufficient cause for our continuance. Is there a way we could do both a the same time? I hope so, because the time to accomplish these tasks is very short now for both of them.
It seems that those wanting a multipolar world have been drawn into a military arms race that threatens to destroy us all. Peace through more lethal weapons and ever larger armies? I don’t think so. Do you think the Empire will go softly into it’s goodnight without a final desperate (nuclear) war? My tea leaves are telling me otherwise…….
Great, I can hardly wait to see a bunch of rich snots and neo morons joining the US Military to protect the hegemony of the Empire of the United C#nts of Hysterica.
I hope those pathetic losers enjoy their reality knuckle sandwich.
If your tea leaves are correct then all hope is lost and your exhortations are merely empty pleas. Or as Popeye puts it, “If we had some ham, we could have ham and eggs. . .if we had some eggs.”
Erdogan, after that US sponsored coup d’etat against him, is accepting reality and moving towards Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union. The mere fact that Russia, Iran and Turkey met is a signal to the US that Turkey cannot be used to attack Iran. It also means that Turkey could be the first member to leave NATO, starting a chain reaction.
BF and Bored M (above):
I see a pernicious trajectory of fulcrum in Turkey, just where Erdogan wants… everybody…
… at his doorstep.
This is why Russian diplomatic corps. are leaving no olive branch left unturned (I couldn’t resist).
While I doubt that the ‘west’/empire has the ‘diplomatic IQ’ (despite this supposed vaunted ‘verbal-IQ‘ of their gangster-masters) to compete with the Russian diplomatic excellence, and any sane Turk must know that the best future is looking east… we’re dealing with Erdogan, and simply put, the trend on him is erratic and therefore, not very predictable (some might see ‘co-incidence…).
Iran treading so quietly is ominous, in many ways, but avoiding any ‘exacerbation’ of the culturally perpetuated psychologically crippled ‘chosen‘ puppet masters of the empire’s titular ‘leaders‘.
In the empire, the war of the 0.1% on humanity continues to grind the souls out of those clinging to their own empathy and independent thought; it’s not so nice.
So, while I have waxed at length on the possibility of Turkey leaving NATO, we really have a wild card there, yet, thus the pressure for the super-goodies in the form of the S-400s.
Interesting article! Turkey, ahh Turkey, what shall we make of you? Seen from a socialistic EU view, Turkey can not be dismissed, and neither can Erdogan. But I, pesonally, am not comfortable with Turkey, I am with its people who have made valuable contributions to the societies they live in, and are valued citizens now. But Turkey is all over the map on so many subjects… Well at least they have set their eyesight east (for the moment) and contribute to deflate the war balloon. Which is good. I suspect a CIA instigated coup was the reason for this.
Even though Turkey is at present aligned eastwards, it should not forget Europe, and Europe should not forget Turkey. We actually need each other. We will in the future too. Both Europe and Turkey are becoming less NATO aligned, and have realized our future is here on this soil: Euasia. We are part of the largest landmass in the world, with all the goodies underground, but we have huge amounts of people thaat still live with war and in poverty, that should be our problem.
Fok the US , a wasted worn out empire, their people living in rubbish. They abandoned their own people for a 20 cent profit, stuff them, they can eat their worthless dollars if they are hungry!
The prime objective of the EU should be to take trade to Turkey ( We already trade plenty with Russia) we need to move Turkey , war at its borders, and we need to rebuild Syria and Iraq. Not rebuild the american way, but the european way. Non imperialistic.
People sre much the same all over the earth. the want safety and just a bit of sunlight. That depends on where you are on the ladder. My 100 $ made a hell. of a difference in Africa, it would have no impact in Berlin…
So it is with Turkey, Istanbul is not Batman (no joke) it is another place , another world. Turkey is not readily definable in the same manner a European country is, it is too large, therefore the Russians have moved in. Not that its is bad, the Russian bear only grows angry when you provoke it.
One thing is made perfectly clear: Turkey is a nation no one understands. Erdogan has taken it into bewildering circumstances. He has nothing but real enemies within his borders and along his borders.
The only salvation and safeguard he has is Russia and Putin.
And he had better get the “story” right on the assassination of the Russian ambassador.
If it was a Gulen plot, he has to prove it to the Russians.
Erdogan will go to SCO. He can be a very powerful man in that org.
All along the Eurasia heartlands are Turkic people. He is the titular leader for those masses. That’s his connection to Uyghurs, Turkic-speaking people.
One way to look at Turkey is to see how Putin acts. He holds Erdogan’s life and destiny. It’s not just trying to figure if turkey will leave Syria. It’s what Putin uses the Turks for. Right now, Erdogan is useful to block the US military. Putin does not want to confront the US head on. So the Turks are a buffer. It could remain so for a prolonged period. Meanwhile, Putin plumbs the Turkish economy for dollars going to Russian enterprises.
Sometimes, strategy in war and post-war is just about the Rubles. Syria has been the biggest economic boom in RF history.