Thursday, 8 October 2015

Russia Raises the Stakes in Syria Conflict: The Danger of a New Great War.

The Russian military build up, which started in late September 2015 and the subsequent air strikes that gathered momentum in the first week of October, have been condemned by the Western Powers and NATO for essentially stealing their thunder and exposing their supposed strategies for Syria as failures.

Naturally, this could not be admitted publicly but a series of contradictory statements reveals how Russia has wrong footed the West on Syria. Obama declared Syria 'is not some superpower chessboard', though US officials have, indeed, referred to a chessboard. It could be Obama meant Russia is not a superpower.

However, neither Britain nor the US, nor NATO, have any moral high ground left following two main developments. Firstly, the 'public diplomacy line' maintaining there was a "moderate rebel" force on the ground capable of defeating both ISIS and Assad in Damascus has conclusively been shown to be empty rhetoric divorced from reality.

Secondly, Washington's decision to gain Turkey's cooperation through a deal that gave the go ahead to bomb Kurdish PKK militias, an important part of the Kurdish coalition facing ISIS, demonstrated to the world that the Western Powers and their regional allies had contradictory objectives in Syria.

The Western Powers-primarily the US, Britain and France, as well as NATO, look increasingly hypocritical and petty in condemning Russia for taking on both ISIS and those Sunni jihadists aligned with its allies-Qatar and Saudi Arabia-who are no less ruthless and certainly more bloodthirsty that even Assad's state forces.

The euphemisms for the Syrian jihadists ranged against Assad's troops as they move northwards in an offensive against them, in tandem with Russian air strikes, have given the Western game away. Yet the liberal media continues to refer only to Putin's game while pretending the West is not playing war games.

Stoltenberg's comments about NATO having 'the response' to any air attack on Turkey by Russia were veiled threats of nuclear warfare. He said “We don’t have to deploy the NATO response force or the spearhead force to deliver deterrence”. But, of course, Russia is as unlikely to attack Turkey as Turkey would Russia.

That reality is ignored and used as a pretext to ramp up the rhetoric. The reason is to maintain the façade of "solidarity" and standing "shoulder to shoulder" with Turkey while it does exactly what Russia is doing in using the war against ISIS as a pretext to carry out air strikes to advance its geopolitical objectives.

The Guardian and BBC continue to recycle terms such as "moderate rebels", "rebel groups", "more moderate rebels" or "less extreme rebels" to a degree that insults the intelligence of the educated and informed public in Western nations who realise that these Orwellian terms are explicit propaganda.

Russia could only dare take the military initiative in September 2015 because Putin realised that he would win plaudits from Iran and, as it has turned out, also from the Baghdad government in Iraq as well as many aghast at the repellent double standards of the West and fearful of Saudi and Qatar support for 'terrorists'.

No doubt Russia's entrance has raised the stakes and 'escalated' the war in Syria should Saudi Arabia and Qatar ratchet up their support for the Sunni jihadists. Yet, unmentioned by Borger who goes on about Russia's economy shrinking by 4%, is how the Saudi economy and state is far more in danger of collapse.

Borger draws attention to Putin's use of the war as a means to rally Russian nationalist opinion around him. Yet he omits how an increasingly desperate and paranoid Saudi ally of the West was already pummelling civilians and militias in Yemen as a diversionary war and jihad against Shi'ites before Russia's intervention.

Britain Follows Turkey and Russia in Planning a War for Domestic Advantage.

More to the point, the entire drive by Cameron and Fallon and Hammond towards Britain joining in the air strikes on ISIS in Syria is also about shoring up patriotic support for the Conservative government and outmanoeuvring Jeremy Corbyn in Parliament, a leader pilloried as a 'national security threat'.

Britain's Prime Minister is angered by Russia's actions in Syria and, in a Lilliputian spasm of great outrage, 100 British soldiers are being sent to the Baltic Republics to show Britain means it is taking the threat of "Russian aggression" very seriously. Corbyn, by contrast, is being called a "terrorist sympathiser".

Cameron is waiting for the right time to strike politically and militarily through reasserting his authority over Parliament and getting not only his own MPs but those of Labour to vote for action against ISIS. By winning a vote he would avenge the humiliation of 2013 when he was defeated on a vote for strikes on Assad.

The military logic is less convincing than the domestic political need to get Labour MPs to vote against the new Labour leader so that he could be no longer seen to be at the head of his own party and so his position untenable. 11 nations are bombing ISIS at present and none of it has stemmed the spread of ISIS.

The danger is that the Western Powers become so humiliated and fuelled with a desire for revenge against Russia should Putin's gamble pay off, that they become tempted to support Saudi Arabia and Qatar in ratcheting up the arms supplies to the newly formed united Sunni jihadists militia front against "Russian occupation".

The Dangers of New Cold War Positions in the Middle East.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia would see a new mujahedeen style formation as existed in Afghanistan back in the 1980s as a chance to draw Russia into a conflict as deadly as the one that played a significant role in the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 just some two years after the war finished in defeat.

Should Qatar and Saudi Arabia go for that strategy, it would be the height of folly for the Western Powers, Britain and France-those with very large financial ties and lucrative arms deals with the Gulf states, vital for their ailing economies-to try a repeat of launching into a direct and deadly proxy war with Russia over Syria.

Carter's words at a NATO meeting could be interpreted as a threat rather than a prediction, though the brutal power game requires they could be thought of as either and a dark intimation that Russia the country would be attacked by terrorists as opposed to just Russian military personnel present in Syria being targeted.
“They have initiated a joint ground offensive with the Syrian regime, shattering the facade that they are there to fight Isil. This will have consequences for Russia itself, which is rightly fearful of attacks. In coming days, the Russians will begin to suffer from casualties.”
Carter's warnings about a reprisal from could well mean 'blowback' from Southern Russia should the Saudis threaten to assist Chechen jihadists via Turkey and Georgia. There Sunni militants have been allowed to recruit so as to be redirected as 'assets' by the security services in Tbilisi against their neighbour if needed.

Though these sorts of statements by US officials could well be chiding remarks, there exists the chance the Gulf states would act irrespective of what Washington or London would want and thus put them under pressure either to back the Sunni powers or use the opportunity to push diplomacy to the hilt.

While Western leaders are intimating the need now for diplomacy rather than war as a means to contrast themselves favourably with Putin, there are some, such as Cameron in particular, who live in a fossilised Cold War time warp where they still think they can win another in line with their heroine, Lady Thatcher.

If the Western Powers, especially the stubborn old colonial powers in the Levant, France and Britain, try to pull Washington towards a reckless and impulsive policy on Syria, as was quite evident in Libya back in 2011, the real possibility of the war in Syria spinning even further out of control is present.

Geopolitical and energy interests are an essential part of the growing hostility between Russia and the Western Powers. Yet the personal egos of vain and arrogant statesmen such as PM Cameron and President Hollande as "Global Players" increase the chance of miscalculations of the sort that happened in 1914.

The stakes in Syria are growing by the day and will continue to in the closing months of 2015. If Russia's military actions demonstrate anything, it is the need to start peace negotiations immediately even if it would mean a slight loss of face for Western leaders in the circumstances of Russian and Assad battle victories

Given the level of effort put into absurd spin and 'public diplomacy' used to convince Western publics about "moderate rebels" and "less extreme groups", none of it believable it would surely be not beyond them to try and start diplomatic moves to end the proxy war and claim credit and triumph for that.

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