Beirut (AsiaNews) – Bashar al-Assad and Erdogan are expected to meet soon in Moscow. According to Mohammad Ballout, investigative journalist at the daily As-Safir(1), the summit should be held between 18 and 22 September. According to other diplomatic sources, it could be held later, "but before next Christmas." Under the aegis of the Russian godfather, the Syrian and Turkish Presidents should outline "a roadmap to end the armed clashes in Syria." This information, also from several Syrian and Russian military sources, is one of the consequences of the latest rapprochement between Ankara and Moscow.
This warming is demonstrated by the visit of a senior Turkish special services official to the Syrian capital last week to meet with his Syrian counterpart, General Ali Mamlouk to "find convergences on the Kurdish file." After a few weeks, Turkey’s ruler pulled his troops from several positions in northern Syria. Recep Erdogan no longer demands the departure of Bashar al-Assad and has increased his criticism of his US "ally" and its European auxiliaries.
The attempted coup on 15 July against Erdogan abruptly changed things . . . whilst (and this has not escaped the attention of Western intelligence services) Iran has played a leading role in managing its aftermath. Its special services advised Erdogan and his loyalist units to mobilise the population in the large cities in order to occupy the streets ...
According to other military sources of prochetmoyen-orient.ch, it appears that Moscow warned Ankara and Tehran about "hostile Turkish military preparations against Recep Erdogan’s regime" as early as April. The Russian warning was possible through electronic surveillance from the Hmeimim airbase, where Russian fighters were deployed after Vladimir Putin, in a surprise announcement in March, pulled Russian forces out of Syria. Since then, several dozen Russian planes have been parked on the tarmac of the strategic base in northwestern Syria. Next to the main control tower, a giant S-400 radar – the most modern air defense systems in the Russian arsenal – spins continuously.
To support several SU-34, SU-24 squadrons and Mi-8 and Mi-24 combat helicopters, the Russians deployed their most advanced listening systems to spy on the neighbouring Turkish Incirlik air base, headquarters of the US air forces engaged in Syria. "All we need (for operations in Syria) is still" in Hmeimim, Russian military forces in Syria spokesman Igor Konachenkov told AFP. In fact, Russia’s eavesdropping activity became particularly intense after the Syrian army took back the ancient site of Palmyra, on Easter Day, which allowed the Russians to monitor closer cooperation between US intelligence services and several military headquarters in eastern Turkey and the Istanbul area.
In early July, Russian intelligence provided its Turkish counterparts the transcripts of several US-Turkish conversations about military preparations "to seize the main centres of power in the country." The disclosure of such key information appears to have precipitated the attempted coup on 15 July. Launched in haste, whilst several top military leaders of the country had not yet been brought into the coup, it failed despite injunctions from the US Navy intelligence that was closely involved in its preparation. This angered Erdogan, and the rest is history . . . including the acceleration of Ankara moving away from its historic US ally and NATO forces.
The sudden confirmation of the cooling Ankara-Washington relationship marks the culmination of two main disagreements that have been simmering for months. The first is the establishment of an integrated NATO naval force in the Black Sea in response, if not to stem the operational return of the Russian Navy as evinced by the Crimea affair, particularly at the Sevastopol naval base. After long negotiations, Ankara eventually said no to a US-NATO naval force, which was a non-started without Turkish participation ... which angered further the Pentagon.
The second disagreement is connected to a Turkish buffer zone in northern Syria, with Washington seeking to impose a "no-flying zone" as it had tried to do in Libya with the results that we all know. This objective, also stillborn, led to misunderstandings, confusions and contradictions on the aims of the famous war against Daesh, a war of all against all where each plays its own partition ...
In the background, Ankara has long suspected Washington of playing a double, if not triple game on the Kurdish issue. Turkey remains fiercely opposed to any kind of Kurdish entity on its borders, whilst the US has promised the various components of the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) – the PYD in Syria, the PJAK in Iran and the virtually independent Kurds of Iraq – the establishment of various forms of autonomy, if not national independence.
Vis-à-vis Tehran, US services are actively working to support the PJAK to create an "area of destabilisation in Iran." In Iraq, Israeli and US services have backed a Kurdish process of separation from Baghdad. In Syria, Washington has not abandoned its plan to partition the country: two Sunni Emirates (Aleppo and Damascus), a Druze micro-state on the Golan Heights and a small Alawite in the mountains overlooking the ports of Tartus and Latakia ... Can such a mess be solved? Nothing is less sure!
Therefore, Uncle Sam's hastily cobbled-together policy has eventually weakened Ankara’s historical ties with NATO, with Turkey regularly wondering if it is not in its interest to join the Shanghai group(2). The last meeting between Erdogan and Putin in Moscow (9 August) is an essential step in this direction, whose outcome has yet to be determined.
Whatever the case may be, the next meeting between the Syrian and Turkish presidents in Moscow has already had several major consequences, such as accelerating the retaking of Aleppo by the Syrian national army; the beginning of the end of the Syrian rebellion; the redeployment of Salafist-jihadist factions to the Caucasus and China's northwest, and the maintenance of Bashar al-Assad at the head of his country with the appointment of three vice-president in charge of implementing political and material reconstruction.
At a broader geopolitical level, the consequences will be equally important. Prematurely announced, the death of Sikes-Picot is not yet fully effective, but that of Ms Condoleezza Rice’s "Great Middle East," (adopted literally, but certainly in a different style, by the Obama administration) is perfectly obvious. Washington will not be able to impose its new Yalta on the Middle East with the help of Israel, its European proxies and the Gulf countries.
One of Washington’s war aims, which was to bind Ankara to NATO for the realisation of the Great Middle East, has turned into a complete fiasco. Iran, Hezbollah and Palestinian nationalist organisations have come out stronger from this new situation. China, having opened a multi-service military base in Djibouti, is about to set up a new military port on the coast of Syria in Tartus and is providing is getting ready to supply its sophisticated weapons to Damascus. To give the finishing touch to this new military cooperation, President Bashar al-Assad will travel to Beijing on an official visit in a few days! The ultimate result of this strategic reconfiguration – from which the French and British Navies will have to draw all the consequences – is absolutely fundamental: the Mediterranean is no longer a western sea!
Safe Mediterranean transit routes through the Suez Canal and the British holding of Gibraltar are no longer the monopoly of western forces. The Americans and the Europeans must now reckon with Russia and China(3). Whatever the outcome of the next US presidential election, the new situation will emerge as one of the key policy challenges of the coming years. Messrs Bush, Obama, Sarkozy, Hollande, Cameron, Ben Salman Netanyahu, congratulations again!
Let us hope that this geopolitical reconfiguration will bring European leaders to distance themselves from NATO’s imperialist aims, or at least regain a little bit of independence and national sovereignty. Let us hope that this will also bring Riyadh to withdraw from Yemen, which the Saudi-led coalition has completely destroyed whilst Houthi forces have entered the territory of the Wahhabi monarchy to a depth of about 50 kilometers. Let us hope that the same plutocrats who run the oil monarchies will re-establish more balanced, if not normal relations with Iran.
Finally, last but not least, let us also hope that the new American and French presidents can seriously revive negotiations to end Israel occupation, colonisation and repression in Palestine, so that all its people can have a right – finally - to a viable state and territorial continuity. With all due respect to many, the next handshake between Erdogan and Assad in Moscow will be the iconic image of a profound change in the world balance of power.
Without absolving Erdogan of his fascistic tendencies, this expression of the emergence of a more multipolar world is certainly a good thing even if it proves painful and deadly. Anyway, it reminds us that it is not enough to hope for the establishment of a "project of perpetual peace" coming down from heaven on a Kantian rope . . . This fractal event confirms one of the first incompressible laws of geopolitics – to cite the strategic thinking Abu Fadi, such changes are always the result of a "balance of power".
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1 As-Safir, 2 September, 2016.
2 The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is an Asian regional intergovernmental organisation that includes Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. It was founded in Shanghai on 14-15 June 2001 by the presidents of the six countries. On 10 July 2015, SCO decided to admit India and Pakistan as full members. On 24 June 2016, this formalises the rapprochement between India and Pakistan as states members.
3 "Ambitions Stratégiques américaines, britanniques et russes en Méditerranée“ (American, British and Russian strategic ambitions in the Mediterranean)," by Alex Bastien Didier Billion, Alain Coldefy and Richard Labévière – IRIS, October 2013.