By Nahed Hatter
Translated by Ghassan Kadi and Intibah Kadi.
The regional and international scene looks like a kaleidoscope of colours in a fantasy painting. However, this is what is currently happening in between two phases and two regional regimes. After the major two powers reached an agreement and the American-Iranian plus the Russian-Saudi talks about the new regional Middle Eastern order took place, the latest development is the secret Syrian-American dialogue. Whilst it is true that it is a low-level dialogue, it has gone past the Iraqi mediators and security communications to become a political discussion that was initiated by American Foreign Affairs diplomats. It is based on the American recognition of the status-quo in Syria that; there will be no alternative for President Bashar al Assad and for having a dialogue with him, that it is not about internal political affairs, but about co-ordinating efforts to fight terrorism, resolving Kurdish issues, fighters who are not classified as terrorists etc.
Whilst Foreign Secretary, John Kerry, continues to blab about excluding President Assad from the political solution in Syria, his superiors have had detailed discussions with their Syrian counterparts.
Americans have agreed to widen their air strikes against terror organisations to include Al Nusra Front and its allies in addition to ISIS. This is considered as a political victory for Syria which had invariably faced the danger of America re-arming al Nusra Front and describing it as “moderate opposition”. With this, 80 per cent of anti-government forces become targeted in accordance to the American–Syrian agreement. This can be considered as the cornerstone for the new anti-terror coalition as suggested by Russia. As for the other fighters, the local ones, as well as those associated with the Western/GCC foreign intelligence, discussions are underway to make decisions about them. This includes merging some elements of the FSA with the Syrian Army and/or with the National Defence Forces.
Ironically, Washington is now closer to Damascus that it is to Ankara which has not yet severed its strong ties with terror organisations, and which continues to take advantage of the war on terror to hit the PKK, all the while its Syrian branch is an ally to both the Syrians and Americans. Turkish President Erdogan will soon have two choices; he will either have to join the anti-terror coalition by action, not just by words, or, he will lose his political cover to confront the PKK and face his destiny domestically.
The American announcement of securing air defence to “moderate opposition” is in reality aimed against Al Nusra, ISIS and Turkey and not against the Syrians. The wording of the declaration however, and which included the Syrian army in the list of targets, is simply for political consumption.
This analysis finds congruence with the ambiguous American endorsement of creating a “safety zone” in northern Syria. Was it really achieved and does it have any meaningful significance on the ground other than turning it into a compound which sorts out what to do with fighters who do not belong either to ISIS, al Nusra or any of its partners? Either way, any step in such a direction will not happen without consultation with the Syrians.
In the meanwhile, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem received a formal invitation from his Omani counterpart Youssef bin Alawi to visit Muscat for bilateral discussions, leading up to a meeting between Mouallem and his Saudi counterpart, Adel Al-Jubeir. A trilateral meeting may also eventuate during this same visit.
The Omani initiative falls within the escalating sequence of events in pursuit of a resolution, the highlights of which have been clarified in the Russian – American – Saudi meeting in Doha the day before yesterday. It does not contradict, as a matter of fact it complements, the amended Iranian initiative that is being discussed by the Iranian – Russian – Syrian trio in Tehran, the launching of which may signal the end of war on Syria.
The new phase will have a bold agenda: fighting terrorism and exterminating fundamentalism, containing the Muslim Brotherhood, regional security, reducing geo-political and sectarian conflict, reaching resolutions on hot topics and, regional and international co-operation for reconstruction.
In brief, failure to isolate Iran and breaking Syria, Hezbollah and Houthis, together with the Bahraini struggle, has led to the acquiescence to a new regional, political structure that recognises Russian influence and regional interests as well as recognising Iran as a major regional power, not forgetting the Syrian Army and Hezbollah as they have been the major partner in combatting terrorist organisations and securing regional safety.
In Yemen, after the military breakthrough in Aden, Saudi Arabia and the UAE may declare victory and enter negotiations to reach a political resolution which in reality will mean a settlement between Riyadh and Houthis who will be recognised as a fundamental power in the Yemeni Republic. Whilst the Syrian and Yemeni files are being dealt with, the Bahraini Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman, who is considered to be a major obstacle for reconciliation, may find that he has to resign. This will open the door for a resolution that is analogous to the Kuwaiti model.
The Deputy Crown Prince, Saudi Minister of Defence, Mohomed bin Salman, was quick to visit his Jordanian ally to tell him “game over!” War Rooms conducting the fight in southern Syria will be shut down and arrangements will be made to separate its military from political wings with the fighters that belong to Al Nusra front left without any protection.
Amman, which did not make any clear statements regarding the Iranian nuclear deal and what followed it in terms of repercussions, has received the green light to move forward with making settlements. The Jordanian government has got logistic, security and trade offers for Damascus. In return, Amman wishes to reach reconciliation and the ability to resolve the issue of Syrian refugees in Jordan. Syrian refugees are also a problem for Lebanon. It is worthy to note here that different Lebanese stakeholders, with the exception of Hezbollah, are excluded from the discussions and settlements.
Throughout all of these developments, it was interesting to see that Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, found the time and enough concern to meet with the Hamas Chief of the Politbureau, Khaled Meshaal, to write two letters, the first of which was addressed to the regional and international leaders, stating that Moscow is committed to the Palestinian cause which has been shelved since the beginning of the Arab Spring and, the second letter was addressed to Hamas, urging it to reconsider its position vis-à-vis the recent developments in the region, especially in Egypt.