by Ghassan Kadi
With the accelerating events in Syria over the last week or so, this concluding Part 4 had to be revised several times. The acceleration is two faceted; American and Russian-originated.
On the American side, when American Foreign Secretary Kerry made a conclusive statement in the last few days saying that President Assad has to go, but the timing of his departure is negotiable, he formally confirmed that the American green bottle has fallen off the wall. In the blink of an eye, world leaders within the Anti-Syrian Cocktail rallied to shamelessly echo those same words, clearly indicating who is their boss, and clearly presenting that they do not have minds of their own. We shall look at the Russian side later on.
Merkel, Hollande, and even Australian Foreign Minister Bishop made similar announcements, but none was more pleasing to the ears of Syrians more than the one that came out of the mouth of Erdogan himself.
A few days before any of this, and in a recent interview on “Redline” on Sputnik Radio, I was asked by the host Andrew Korybko what game is Erdogan playing now. My response was the name of the game is “game over”.
Not only has the “Anti-Syrian Cocktail” fallen apart, but in a twist of fate, all of its key players are having serious problems of their own, and thus all the green bottles are falling off the wall.
The main green bottle we need to watch out for after the USA is no doubt Turkey.
Historically speaking, the strongest regional threat to Syria over the last few centuries came from Turkey, and to date, Turkey continues to occupy the Syrian regions of Celicia and Iskandarun. The Saudis and Qataris are the new kids on the block, with no historic experience and depth. The kingdom and the emirate are likely to disappear off the face of international politics once their oil and gas resources dry out.
Erdogan came to power when the Turkish economy was still lurking in its historic wilderness. Turkey was also weighed down by a number of issues needless to mention issues involving the Kurds.
His popularity at home began to flourish as he managed to make huge advances in bringing in foreign investments and to encourage growth. The economy turned around making of Turkey the sixteenth largest economy in the world. He also made amends with many Kurdish leaders, and even non-Islamists and non-Turkish Kurds began to like him and support him and regard him as a reformist and a man of reason.
After the very long post Ottoman standoff with the Arab World and Syria in particular, Erdogan made serious inroads that brought Turkey back into the Middle East.
When Israel attacked Gaza in January 2009, Erdogan was very vocal against the aggression and signaled that such actions were going to make serious and irreversible changes in the cordial Turkish-Israeli relationship. On that note later on after the Mavi Marmara massacre, he even went to the extent of demanding an apology from Israel.
Many observers back then watched Erdogan with a keen eye, because he looked like the Turkish leader that was going to take Turkey out of its regional isolation that it suffered from since the Ataturk era. This is because even though Ataturk was considered as a huge reformer and nation-builder within Turkey, his legacy left Turkey with no regional friends at all. After all, Turkey had dissociated itself from anything Arabic and Muslim, and even joined NATO to further snub its neighbours not mention their European Union membership aspiration.
Erdogan’s credibility started to get eroded when his many stands against Israel fizzled away without any outcome. This was so obvious after the Mavi Marmara massacre and how his insistence to receive a formal apology from Israel did not yield any outcome at all, nor did it affect Turkey’s relationship with Israel. He backed down without any gain, and to many observers, in this stand, he showed his true substance. But his biggest popular demise began when he decided to partake in the “War On Syria”.
One must not forget that Erdogan is an Islamist. He does not wield a sword in his hand and does not ride on the back of a Toyota truck shouting Allahu Akbar, but his ideology is not at all any different from any ISIS/Al-Nusra fighter. And for that matter, his Islamist supporters will always support him unconditionally.
The long and protracted “War On Syria” however began to take its toll on Turkey and Erdogan specifically, and as the “Anti-Syrian Cocktail” was beginning to crumble, Erdogan realized that unless he continued to support ISIS and Al-Nusra despite international outrage, he was going to end up with a Kurdish state at his southern border, albeit not essentially a formal one, but one with significant military power and Western blessing.
So he decided to turn his guns on the Kurds thus creating a huge popularity slump and a parliamentary election loss in June 2015. The upcoming election re-run in November has the potential of him losing more seats and turning into a lame-duck president.
He is therefore now in survival mode and his only obsession is to win the November elections.
After he realized that Syria would not fall, and after facilitating the way for many serious incursions into Syria, the most notorious of which was around Kassab in 2014, his last bid to stay with the “Anti-Syrian Cocktail” was his demand for a buffer zone in the north of Syria. His aim was to separate the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds from Turkish Kurds and thereby hamper any opportunity for them to unite. That was to be achieved by driving off the Syrian Kurds, and have them replaced by the many dissident Syrian refugees who flocked into Turkey during the early period of the conflict. By the way, many of those refugees were Islamist fighters, who were in Turkey on standby, waiting to be deployed into Syria by none other than Sultan Erdogan.
According to a recent interview with deputy Syrian foreign minister Faisal Al-Maqdad, when Erdogan’s last plea did not receive the endorsement of his Western allies, he decided to walk away and dump those refugees and send them to the West.
The wave of Syrian refugees flocking into Europe are leaving to Europe from Turkey now, not from Syria. This was denied initially, but once again, the accelerating events of the last few days have made this very obvious to all observers. Even French President Hollande has asked the EU to help Turkey keep the refugees.
By evicting the refugees, Erdogan is punishing his former Western partners, focusing on domestic issues, and clearly giving the message that he no longer wishes to mobilize militants into Syria.
For Erdogan therefore, the “War On Syria” is a game over and he is picking up the pieces and trying to gain as much as possible, and first and foremost, to save his own skin and survive to win the upcoming November 2015 parliamentary elections.
To clinch it beyond any further debate or doubt, Erdogan has reverberated Kerry’s words and declared that the removal of Assad is not necessary at this stage. For Turkey, it is game over, and the Turkish green bottle has also fallen off the wall.
Speaking of enemies of Syria who are in survival mode, Erdogan is not the only one. Two more stand out more than others; The Saudis and the 14th of March Coalition.
The Lebanese 14th of March Coalition, as mentioned several times earlier, this is a very loosely put together coalition of Lebanese Syria haters. What united their passions was their hatred towards Syria, and the combined Prince Bandar Bin Sultan and Saad Hariri funds. Bandar has lost his office and clout, and Hariri is going bankrupt. Without money to feed the thugs in the streets of Lebanon, this coalition is doomed to crumble, and very soon. Admittedly, the more indoctrinated “Lebanese Forces” will not drop their weapons as easily as the hired Hariri thugs, but alone, they will not have much of an impact on the greater picture. Furthermore, their territory does not have common borders with Syria for them to use for smuggling weapons to terrorists.
As a matter of fact, the standoff that is disabling Lebanese presidential elections is mainly because the two main candidates; Michel Aoun (representing the 8th of March Coalition) and Samir Geagea (leader of the “Lebanese Forces” and representing the 14th of March Coalition) have almost equal support and clout. Recently however, the Kataeb Party, ie the political wing of the Lebanese Forces, has proposed a new nominee; a technocrat by the name of Carlos Ghosn, clearly indicating that they are prepared to dump Geagea. This is an early, but a loud and clear sign of capitulation.
With the 14th of March Coalition facing serious predicaments, one more green bottle has fallen off the wall.
The main remaining players are Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The Saudi attack on Yemen, dubbed “Operation Storm of Resolve”, was meant to be quick and decisive. It is increasingly turning into a very costly quagmire. A few days ago, a Yemeni offensive in Ma’arab, according to some reports killed more than 300 coalition soldiers and injured at least as many. As the Saudis are getting more bogged in, the Yemenis are becoming more daring and venturous.
When the Yemeni Army Chief recently announced that the Saudi capital Riyadh and biggest city Jeddhah are legitimate Yemeni targets, he meant business. The next few days or weeks will show whether he is indeed capable of targeting the depths of Saudi Arabia.
The old guards within the Al-Saud are blaming the young deputy Crown Prince Mohamad (son of current king) for the gamble and its failure. There are even some reports about an original secret document allegedly written by a Saudi Prince asking for the King to abdicate and for his Crown Prince and Deputy Crown Prince to be dismissed. It also asked the old guards to reach a consensus about appointing a new king. This document sent just over a week ago has been followed up by another similar letter sent on the 19th of September .
The dissent is not only based on the infamous military gambles, but also touches on the serious financial troubles Saudi Arabia is under. It further accuses the King and his close cronies of squandering finances and theft to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars.
On financial terms therefore, Saudi Arabia does not only have to contend with very low petrol prices, but also soaring costs of wars, dissent and royal theft (if indeed happening). This is making the situation much more untenable. Saudi Arabia is indeed in a serious budget deficit that can only be lifted if petrol prices go up and its expenses are dramatically cut; neither one of which is likely to change soon, and for any such change to save Saudi Arabia, it cannot come soon enough.
As if this was not enough, to make it worse for the Saudi Royals the Iran nuclear deal was the biggest slap on the face they have ever received from their American “friends”. Ironically, when the deal was ratified, the Saudi King was visiting Washington and his Foreign Minister had to sheepishly praise it.
Whilst it is true that the Russian-brokered Saudi-Syrian talks did not go any further than a one-off meeting between Syrian General Mamluk and the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince, the Saudis however do not have a contingency plan. King Salman returned from Washington empty handed. His refusal to resume talks with Syria under the auspices of Russia is only based on obstinance and no more.
This obstinance is not going to give the Saudis any power on the battle field in Syria. As far as their role in Syria is concerned, they are still providing cash, lots of cash, but the battles they had been waging via Jordan have all failed. There has been some recent news that the Military Operations Center in Jordan has shut down because of the failure of the 5th offensive against the southern city of Dar’aa. With the advances of the Syrian Army and Hezbollah in the Qalamoun and Zabadani regions, it won’t be long before they close in and reach the Jordanian borders.
Whilst Saudi Arabia has not formally abandoned the fight in Syria, it has been rendered powerless. The Saudi green bottle has surely fallen off the wall.
As for Qatar, the Johnny-come-lately emirate that is trying to make a stand and become a regional leader, has no backing and clout other than the petro-dollar-god. Qatar has little history, culture, and depth of any substance to warrant giving it a stature of regional leadership. If anything, those leadership aspirations of Qatar are a bit of a joke. But such is the ego of oil Arab sheikhs and princes. They genuinely believe that money gives them substance and enables them to buy anything and anyone. One has to only go to Paris and have a look at the Qatari Embassy; a huge building in the most of prominent positions at the Charles de Gaulle Etoile just opposite to the “Arc De Triomphe”; a genuine reflection of the Qatari ego.
Qatar had to operate in Syria via hired agents, the biggest of which was Turkey and the others are 14th of March gangs in Lebanon. Erdogan is now too busy saving his skin to worry about what Qatar wants, but Qatar may continue to pour money into Lebanon. This inflow of funds alone however will not have a great impact on the events in Syria. It can only further destabilize Lebanon.
Five green bottles have already fallen, and counting.
This leaves the bad boy on the block; Israel.
What would Israel do when the Syrian Army win becomes inevitable is any body’s guess. What is certain is the fact that Iran is now a much stronger nation than it was before the nuclear deal. Hezbollah is much stronger than it was in July 2006. Syria is getting stronger every day with the recent qualitative Russian help. The “Anti-Syrian Cocktail” has broken up and each party is searching to find ways to save its skin and score some gain. What is Israel realistically capable of doing other than accepting the new Levant as it will be shaped after the upcoming Syrian victory? Certainly, Israel can act foolishly and launch a major offensive against Syria, and perhaps even include Iran and Hezbollah, but this will be much more than it can chew.
Back to the Russian side. The Russian initiative has changed many dynamics and aborted a multitude of potential scenarios, including any Israeli interference. It is very clear that Netanyahu came back from his recent trip to Moscow very disappointed. Israeli media and analysts are trying to work out what the real outcome of the visit was. Netanyahu tried hard to present it as a win when the real and obvious outcome is that he received a very clear message from Putin demanding that Israel stays out because Russia is now in charge.
Having gone the full circle, we go back to where we started, back to psychopaths and sociopaths. The enemies of Syria fall in these categories. With elements who hate President Assad for no reason other than he is an Alawite, to those who hate Syria because it refuses to kowtow to America and Israel, to those who hate Syria because it stands in the way of their personal, regional and sectarian ambitions.
The only strong passion that united those widely diverse critters was hatred; nothing but sheer blind hatred. United by that hatred, diverged by failure and self-concerns, those deeply troubled fiends will not accept to go away. Even though they know their time is up, and even though they have totally run out of contingencies and tried all the tricks they had hidden up their sleeves, they continue to refuse to lay down arms and stop financing terrorists who have turned against them.
One can only speculate that upon realizing this, President Putin has decided to break the deadlock. With a “speak hand for me” drive, unlike Western leaders who curse ISIS and then feed it, Putin is walking the talk.
The next few weeks, or perhaps days, will hopefully present a whole new decisive balance of power that will further bolster the many recent gains that the gallant Syrian Army and mighty Resistance have scored thus far, and all the culprits will have no choice other than submitting to the new status quo.
The Russian scenario brings to mind thus far unconfirmed news about another role; Chinese. It has been reported, but not confirmed, that China has sent its aircraft carrier to Syria. If this proves to be true and accurate, then the Chinese role brings in a whole new facet to the ever-changing “War On Syria”. For Russia to act alone is a Russian affair, but if and when China pitches in, it becomes a BRICS affair. Is the BRICS alliance giving NATO a clear and loud message that it is now going to be present, and in a very big way, in the Middle East? Will history record that the “War On Syria” was a pivotal war that practically and effectively ended the New World Order hegemony and changed the geopolitics of the entire globe?
And in the end, philosophically-speaking, no one is immune to the hand of fate/Karma. We have thus far seen Bandar come, ride high, and then vanish. So did the ex-Emir of Qatar and his Deputy Hamad. Not to forget Mursi who did not survive longer than a year in the Presidential Palace. As Erdogan sways and Al-Saud turn against one another, engaged with a war in Yemen with half of the Saudi Army comprised of Yemenis, the collapse of Saudi Arabia does not seem very far.
With over two hundred thousand Syrian men and women and children who were killed, thousands of girls who were raped and sold as slaves and coerced to marry against their will, history destroyed and looted, Syria continues to stand tall, and it will return better and stronger than ever.
With this thought, I keep my fingers crossed and pray for the best.