|The stunning success of the Syrian Arab Army and its allies in finally liberating Aleppo from brutal occupation by islamist terror groups is transforming the political landscape of the middle east.
It is clear to the whole world that the serious diplomatic progress now being made has only been possible thanks to the Syrian army, assisted by Russian air power and supported by Iran and Hizbollah. The ceasefire agreements hammered out at the end of the year – agreements brokered jointly by Russia and Turkey and endorsed by the United Nations – have left the US and EU grumbling on the sidelines.
The ceasefire deal came into effect on Friday 30 December, with Russia and Turkey acting as joint guarantors and Syria making it clear that it was willing to talk about everything at the projected talks. Russian president Vladimir Putin explained that the deal was comprised of three documents: “The first was signed by the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition to stop hostilities in the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic. The second one is a set of measures to control the ceasefire. The third document is a declaration of intention for a Syrian settlement.” (Russia calls UNSC meeting as new Syria ceasefire comes into force, RT, 30 December 2016)
Erdogan changes his tune
A key precondition of this initiative has been Turkey’s shifting foreign policy. Turkey’s active participation in the current process comes after an agonising reappraisal by Ankara of its options.
Under the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AKP (Freedom and Justice Party), Turkey has throughout this proxy war served as a pliant tool of imperialism’s regime-change agenda against Syria. Turkey’s border areas have served as base areas for the jihadi murder gangs hired by imperialism to conduct its war against the legitimate government of Syria. On a nod and a wink from Washington, Erdogan facilitated the arming, training and funding of Daesh (Islamic State) and the rest, in the mistaken belief that by this stratagem he could realise his neo-Ottoman ambitions whilst at the same time winning slavish kudos as Washington’s little helper.
Instead, by putting the country at the disposal of the west’s destabilisation efforts, all Erdogan achieved was the increasing destabilisation of Turkey itself – a destabilisation which intensified with the flagging fortunes of the proxy war as Daesh increasingly turned to bite the hand that fed it, mounting terror attacks on Turkish soil.
Particularly galling to Erdogan has been the way that Washington has been playing the Kurdish card. America’s cynical manipulation of Kurdish national aspirations to suit its own agenda, alternately raising and dashing the YPG’s hopes of securing an independent state on the Turkish border, has seriously alienated Turkey. And July’s failed coup against Erdogan gave further impetus for Turkey to distance itself from America’s failing strategy and look for other allies in the world.
With the growing realisation of just how much Turkey’s stability and prestige has been compromised by Erdogan’s flirtation with islamist extremism, Ankara is in no mood now to listen patiently to penny lectures on the perils of consorting with Islamic State – lectures being delivered by no less than the terrorists’ ultimate paymaster general, US imperialism.
Responding to accusations from the US that Turkey supports Daesh, Erdogan told a recent press conference that “it’s very clear” that the US-led coalition does exactly the same: “They give support to terrorist groups, including Daesh.” (Turkey’s Erdogan: ‘Confirmed evidence’ US-led coalition supports IS and other terrorists in Syria, RT, 27 December 2016)
How lasting the rapprochement between Turkey and Russia will be remains to be seen, but better relations would materially benefit both economies. Back in October 2016 Turkey and Russia signed an agreement on the construction of TurkStream, a major undersea gas pipeline that would bypass the Ukraine, thereby getting the coup regime’s foot off the pipe and strengthening Russia’s position in the European gas market.
The project for Rosatom (Russia’s state owned nuclear energy corporation) to build Turkey’s first nuclear plant is also being revived, after having been shelved in 2015 following the shooting down of a Russian jet. Moscow has also lifted the ban on some agricultural imports from Turkey. (Russia and Turkey finalise plans for gas pipeline that will allow Moscow to bypass Ukraine by Olesya Astakhova and Nick Tattersall, Reuters, 10 October 2016)
Gulf states wobble
Having for so long collaborated with the corrupt feudal sheikhdoms of Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the grisly business of bankrolling and funding the terrorist subversion of Syria, Turkey is now inviting its former partners in crime to sing from a radically amended hymn sheet, urging them to join with the Russian-led peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana, which ran from 23-24 January. The Qatar Investment Authority formed part of a consortium that, on 7 December, secured a 19.5 percent stake in Russia’s giant Rosneft oil company, perhaps encouraging Doha to review its geopolitical options. (See Liberate Idlib after east Aleppo by Thierry Meyssan, Global Research, 28 December 2016)
Amman too, having for so long seen Jordan prostituted to the west as its spy headquarters and jihadi training ground for the proxy war against Syria, is now fed up with the consequent mass influx of refugees and jihadi contagion. Small wonder then that it is now reportedly sharing intelligence with Damascus, and King Abdullah has himself been having talks with both Russia and China.
More significantly, Egypt, invited by Iran and Russia to the talks in Astana, is showing signs of undergoing a form of ‘Arab spring’ that is not at all welcome in the west, as President Sisi cooperates militarily with Damascus and improves relations with Tehran. This pivot away from the west could be further encouraged by the $60bn infrastructure investment promised by China – another proof of the fact that dependence on Anglo-American and EU imperialism is no longer the sole development path available.
The make-up of the talks in Astana was extremely significant. None of the major imperialist powers was present in any meaningful way. The US’s new president, Donald Trump, did not send any other envoy than the local ambassador to Kazakhstan, who attended merely as an observer. Nor were the imperialists’ terrorist proxies invited to the talks, since even the UN brands them as beyond the pale. And so it was left to Russia, Syria, Iran and Turkey to meet together with those parts of the Syrian opposition that don’t officially come under the banner of al-Nusra or Islamic State to try to chart a way out of six long years of war. (See ‘New level’ Syrian government and opposition talks in Astana tense but promising – Russian envoy, RT, 24 January 2017)
Unsurprisingly, given Turkey’s hostility, the Kurdish YPG was also not invited, and its leaders declared ahead of the talks that the organisation would not consider itself bound by any agreements made there. For his part, President Assad has made clear that “most Kurds want to live in a unified Syria, under a central system, not in a federal system”, and has also pointed out that, in any event, any experiment with federalism would have to be agreed to by the entire Syrian people through a referendum. (What awaits Syria at the Astana talks by Andrew Korybko, Oriental Review, 11 January 2017)
Obama poisons the well
The outgoing administration of US President Brack Obama added the finishing touches to its blood-drenched term of office on Boxing Day by signing into law the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. Speaking for the Russian foreign ministry, Maria Zakharova noted that the act, which “openly stipulates the possibility” of pouring yet more weapons into Syria, “directly threatens the aircraft of the Russian aerospace forces, other Russian military personnel and the Russian embassy in Syria, which has been shelled more than once”.
She concluded: “Instead of joining forces to cut short the sway of all forms of extremism there, as we suggested long ago, Washington has decided to deliver military assistance to anti-government groups that are not much different from the terrorist cutthroats.” (US defence bill ‘directly threatens’ security of Russian military in Syria, RT, 27 December 2016)
With its key allies in the region now melting away or turning their coats, the game for imperialism in Syria may well be very nearly up. Whilst the Israeli fascists can be relied upon to continue their sporadic terrorist attacks – as they did most recently in the bombing of the Mezze military airport on 13 January – and whilst jihadi diehards can be expected to stage the odd nihilistic last ditch stand, overall imperialism is facing a setback of historic proportions.
Though Russia and Syria were too polite to say it, and America will never admit it, the whole world knows that the talks in Astana were in the end about one thing only: the negotiation of the terms of imperialism’s defeat. And that should be a cause of rejoicing in the hearts of workers and progressive people everywhere.
Victory to the Syrian president, government, army and people!