Realism in Astana: The Prequel to a Decade of Peace in the Middle East

On September 18th the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, at the 193-member United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, stated the need to create a “contact group” to discuss the Syrian topic. For those who have had their eyes glued to the UN in recent months, this statement at face value might seem to be confusing, considering that the purpose of the talks in Geneva was supposed to be achieving a settlement of the Syrian crisis. But in reality, the French official just signalled the end of the 100-year-old Sykes-Picot project…

Taking place between 23rd February and 3rd March 2017, the initial talks in Geneva were seen as an arena where the so-called “Syrian opposition” could voice their demands to the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad within the framework of the United Nations Security Council. However, in the end, no tête-à-tête meeting ever happened. The talks in Geneva can be summed up by the following facts:

  • In 2015 Assad proposed a 6-week unilateral unconditional ceasefire in Aleppo. UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura took it to the table, and was rejected by the terrorists. The envoy didn’t follow it up. Thus, Aleppo was destroyed by al-Nusra militants (sorry, “moderate” rebels).
  • de Mistura said that the “Geneva talks aim to explore if there is an opportunity to make progress in regards to a political settlement”. However, it was evident from the very beginning of the war that a “political settlement” was pure idealistic nonsense, since the “opposition” wanted the extermination of Shias and Alawites. Russia knew this very well, and in September 2015 the first Russian jets dropped bombs on terrorists in the Latakia region of north Syria.
  • In late November, 2016, de Mistura proposed giving East Aleppo “autonomy in exchange for peace”. This proposal is still today one of the most idiotic and embarrassing suggestions to be put forward by a diplomat since the beginning of the war in 2011.
  • In December, 2016, EU’s High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and President of the Council Federica Mogherini and de Mistura pushed for a “political inclusive solution” vis-a-vis Syria, but were unable to actually layout a feasible blueprint to implement this frank delusion:
  • In May, 2017, de Mistura voiced his concerns about a “legal vacuum” forming as a result of a “political transition” in Damascus. Seemingly not once did the thought enter his head that both plans for a “political transition” or a “political settlement” were a complete waste of time.

All of the examples mentioned above involve Syria’s UN envoy. Now factor in the constant votes initiated by the US and EU to punish Assad and hinder any progress towards peace. For example, in October, 2016, France drafted a bill that was in its essence a no-fly zone over Aleppo in disguise. If it had been passed, the “moderate” rebels would have received time to recover and reload their weapons To nobody’s surprise, Russia vetoed it. The most bright example of just how useless the UN is can be the Khan Sheikhoun incident, where Russia bombed a terrorist warehouse, and simultaneously al-Nusra launched a shell laced with chemicals nearby. The ensuing circus involving the UN, OPCW, and “White Helmets” further highlighted how the UN as a whole is an Anglo-Saxon marionette designed to obfuscate facts and cover up war crimes (why else was Saudi Arabia offered to chair the Human Rights Council, and then later the Women’s Rights Commission?).

Thus, it should be clear just from the brief description above that the Geneva talks on Syria were leading all sides interested in ending the war promptly down a blind alley. It should be mentioned that Russia was criticised by “expert analysts” for negotiating with the US and for cementing ceasefires in the UN, which of course were violated within 24 hours. One question that receives no answer from the “experts”, however, is: at that time who else was there to negotiate with? Al-Qaeda?

It wasn’t until later, after Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 jet (at the same time hiding under NATO’s skirt), that this question finally had a credible answer. Instead of urinating into the wind and trying to reconcile hundreds of militant groups with the Syrian State (and there literally was no other alternative), Russia was able to negotiate directly with the umbrella’s master – Erdogan. After snapping the spine of Ankara’s involvement in the Syrian war by bombing ISIS in Latakia and severing the illegal oil supply line to Turkey, Putin had successfully removed Turkey from the equation. No longer would Saudi Arabia send money to Turkey to finance the training of “moderate” rebels, who were thrown into the Syrian cauldron across both the Jordanian – through the US/EU training camp – and Turkish border. No longer would the “Free Syrian Army” and Jabhat al-Nusra fight side by side (especially after Aleppo’s liberation). Turkey’s dreams of annexing Aleppo were over, and instead a more pressing issue took priority – the US’ switch from using al-Qaeda in the East of the country, to using the Kurds in the north.

It is the intersection of Russia’s interests and Turkey’s interests (which changed after the failed coup attempt, thanks to Iranian intelligence, and the Riyadh-Doha rift instigated by Trump’s blackmailing) that allowed the former to abandon the counter-productive Geneva talks and instead to work in the framework of a more realistic formula. Thus, the first talks in this new format – known as the Astana talks – took place in January 2017, and involve as guarantors Iran (without the help of which Assad would have already joined Gaddafi in the sky), Russia (the intervention of which was the result of a telephone call from Tehran), and the main controller of jihadists Turkey (who reconciled with Iran after the gulf spat). Fast forward 5 months and Putin and his ally Assad have achieved the following:

  • The creation of “deconfliction zones” designed to reconcile as many militants as possible with Damascus, and to surround those who resist using the Syrian troops freed-up after Aleppo’s liberation. Why were these zones necessary? Because, strangely enough, every time Russia tried to move East towards Deir Ezzor/Palmyra after East Aleppo was brought under the governmental control, al-Qaeda would open up a new front in the south of Syria or in the outskirts of Damascus in order to prevent Russia from taking Deir Ezzor, which the US needed in order to send as many ISIS militants there after Mosul’s liberation, acting as a buffer between Russia (present in Palmyra) and the US (present in Raqqa). With the “deconfliction zones” in place, the strange phenomena where ISIS and al-Qaeda helped each other out to thwart Russia’s plans was destroyed.
  • The inclusion of Idlib in the “deconfliction zones”. Russia and friends spent a long time trying to herd the “moderate” rebels into a corner and to isolate them from al-Qaeda (thus giving Moscow the green light to bomb al-Qaeda positions without the western media crying about “hospitals” or “barrel bombs”). Thanks to many reconciliation deals after key battles (Wadi Barada, Syrian-Lebanese border, East Aleppo, etc) the jihadist plague was successfully backed into a corner – Idlib. Because Turkey now sees preventing the creation of a Kurdish State in Syria as its main priority, it no longer needs Idlib, although it won’t completely hand it over to Damascus until 2018 at least.
  • The sale of S-400 to Turkey and progress with Turkish Stream. There can be no doubts that part of the reason that Turkey was so willing to hand over Idlib is based on the fact that Ankara sees the new Silk Road, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, BRICS, Turkish Stream, etc as the future of the Middle East. It is important to remember that in geopolitics there are no friends, but only interests. Thus, what is good for Ankara on one day may not be good on another day. The Saudi attack on Qatar does not benefit Turkey, and the US-Israeli promotion of a Kurdish State is Erdogan’s worst nightmare. A future exit from NATO cannot be ruled out.

America and its European vassals now find themselves neck-deep in the consequences of their own idiotic decisions. The new reality involves a bloc involving both Iran and Turkey deciding not only the outcome of the Syrian war, but also the next 10 years in the Middle East. The “Syrian opposition”, the leader of which is a legitimate terrorist, hasn’t been very vocal at the Astana talks, and it’s no wonder why. Without Nikki Haley and her script prepared by Tel Aviv, the show is over – jihad is cancelled.

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