Much water has flown down the Euphrates since the 9th round of the Astana Process took place in May. Six months is a long time in politics – especially in Middle East politics. But, paradoxically, while Middle Eastern politics is in turmoil, the prospects for peace in Syria may have improved.
Author: M. K. BHADRAKUMAR
Moscow hopes to work together with its regional partners and Afghanistan’s friends as well as the broader international community, especially the US, to help launch a constructive intra-Afghan dialogue. The American decision to nominate an “observer” to the Moscow conference was an encouraging step.
The New Yorker report by Dexter Filkins, a Pulitzer Prize winner and acclaimed author with long experience in reporting from the frontlines of Middle Eastern hotspots, concludes: “Even if—especially if—M.B.S. hangs on to his position, it seems likely that the Saudi royal family, and Saudi Arabia more generally, are entering a dangerous period.”
The bottom line is that it is the post-war Syrian order that is under discussion now. However, it must be understood as well that the proxy war is not ending but is rather morphing into the diplomatic war that lies ahead, which of course will be keenly fought, given the divergent interests of the foreign protagonists.
The US-backed alliance between Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Israel and Egypt to contain Iran does not make a new regional order. Erdogan will now assert Turkey’s leadership role in the Muslim Middle East. Importantly, he is known to champion the Muslim Brotherhood as the charioteer of a New Middle East.
India will be on a slippery slope once it agrees to discuss with the US its defence relationship with Russia on a case-by-case basis. It will be an affront to India’s sovereignty and self-respect to allow the US to have a say in its relations with Russia.
Clearly, a closer coordination between Russia and China in a concerted strategy to push back at the US was expected to be a key topic at the consultations in Moscow last week. The point is, the quasi-alliance between Russia and China cannot be belittled as ‘geopolitical signaling’ anymore.
In northeastern Syria, which is dominated by the Kurdish militia, there are new stirrings. The situation on Syria’s southern border has calmed down. These substantial achievements and the fact that Syrian government has become more stable and is in greater control will give impetus to the efforts at finding a political solution to the conflict.
The point is, US patience with Turkey seems to be wearing thin. Turkey is no longer a ‘swing’ state in the US’ Middle East strategies, given the poor state of Turkish-Israeli relations, Erdogan’s ‘pivot to Russia’ and the overall trust deficit in Turkish-American relationship.
Khamenei’s speech makes it clear that in the pursuit of national interest, Iran will have to navigate its path on its own steam, as has been the case during its past 4-decade old history. The diplomacy will be supple but purposive (“wise and oriented”).
The Israeli bravado can only be seen as a desperate ploy to cover up its humiliating defeat in Syria with the terrorist groups that were its proxies surrendering lock, stock and barrel in Daraa and Quneitra to the Syrian-Russian forces – especially the hasty exfiltration of the controversial group known as the White Helmets to Jordan via Golan Heights with the logistical help from the Israeli military.
Trump has repeatedly stressed that Russia and the US are the two biggest nuclear powers in the world, and thus the US must live in peace with Russia. On US-Russia relations, Trump is clearheaded. On the contrary, if the US is piling pressure on China today, it is because China, although an economic giant, is still a weak military power.