Paradoxically, the decision to pull out from Syria and the rebooting of the Turkish-American alliance can only improve the US’ capacity to influence the Syrian peace process, and regional politics in general.
Author: M. K. BHADRAKUMAR
On the diplomatic front, it is obvious that Washington’s efforts have run aground to drive a wedge between Turkey on one side and its Russian and Iranian allies on the other by luring Erdogan to reach an understanding regarding the US’ long-term presence in Syria.
These are extraordinary times in Russian-American relations. Moscow is grappling with the famous Kissinger question – “Who do I call if I want to speak to Europe?” The point is, there are multiple power centres in the Washington Beltway.
Trump had rounded off his statement by putting American interests first. But this may turn out to be a big gambit. Trouble is brewing in the Congress where US-Saudi relations are in focus not only on account of the Khashoggi killing.
What will be keenly watched in the period ahead, therefore, is how the new alchemy transforms Russian-Saudi relationship on the whole, especially given the backdrop of cloud of uncertainty hanging heavily on US-Saudi ties at present.
No doubt, the steady build-up of NATO on Russia’s western border provides the backdrop to the demise of the INF Treaty. The US seeks a shift in the strategic balance in its favor. And it is shaking off all constraints limiting its arms build-up.
Make no mistake, Trump is going out of the way to help MBS survive and is not taking chances. He even blocked the CIA Director from attending a US Senate hearing on Khashoggi murder, fearing that it might provoke Saudi retaliation against American interests on vital issues such as the world oil market.
Of course, an open western military intervention can be ruled out. But the danger lies in the Ukrainian hardliners drawing encouragement from the Western support to stage more provocations against Russia that might lead to a conflict. A flare-up in Donbass between the Ukrainian army and the separatists (backed by Russia) also cannot be ruled out.
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.
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.