21:11 GMT +325 February 2017
    Syria. First day of truce

    Is There a US-Russia Grand Bargain in Syria?

    © Sputnik/ Iliya Pitalev
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    Pepe Escobar

    It’s spy thriller stuff; no one is talking. But there are indications Russia would not announce a partial withdrawal from Syria right before the Geneva negotiations ramp up unless a grand bargain with Washington had been struck.

    Some sort of bargain is in play, of which we still don’t know the details; that's what the CIA itself is basically saying through their multiple US Think Tankland mouthpieces. And that's the real meaning hidden under a carefully timed Barack Obama interview that, although inviting suspension of disbelief, reads like a major policy change document.

    Obama invests in proverbial whitewashing, now admitting US intel did not specifically identify the Bashar al-Assad government as responsible for the Ghouta chemical attack. And then there are nuggets, such as Ukraine seen as not a vital interest of the US – something that clashes head on with the Brzezinski doctrine. Or Saudi Arabia as freeloaders of US foreign policy – something that provoked a fierce response from former Osama bin Laden pal and Saudi intel supremo Prince Turki.

    Tradeoffs seem to be imminent. And that would imply a power shift has taken place above Obama — who is essentially a messenger, a paperboy. Still that does not mean that the bellicose agendas of both the Pentagon and the CIA are now contained.

    Russian intel cannot possibly trust a US administration infested with warmongering neocon cells. Moreover, the Brzezinski doctrine has failed – but it’s not dead. Part of the Brzezinski plan was to flood oil markets with shut-in capacity in OPEC to destroy Russia.

    That caused damage, but the second part, which was to lure Russia into an war in Ukraine for which Ukrainians were to be the cannon fodder in the name of “democracy”, failed miserably. Then there was the wishful thinking that Syria would suck Russia into a quagmire of Dubya in Iraq proportions – but that also failed miserably with the current Russian time out. 

    The Kurdish factor

    Convincing explanations for the (partial) Russian withdrawal from Syria are readily available. What matters is that the Khmeimim air base and the naval base in Tartus remain untouched. Key Russian military advisers/trainers remain in place. Air raids, ballistic missile launches from the Caspian or the Mediterranean – everything remains operational. Russian air power continues to protect the forces deployed by Damascus and Tehran. 

    As much as Russia may be downsizing, Iran (and Hezbollah) are not. Tehran has trained and weaponized key paramilitary forces – thousands of soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan fighting side by side with Hezbollah and the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). The SAA will keep advancing and establishing facts on the ground.

    As the Geneva negotiations pick up, those facts are now relatively frozen. Which brings us to the key sticking point in Geneva – which has got to be included in the possible grand bargain.

    The grand bargain is based on the current ceasefire (or "cessation of hostilities") holding, which is far from a given. Assuming all these positions hold, a federal Syria could emerge, what could be dubbed Break Up Light.

    Essentially, we would have three major provinces: a Sunnistan, a Kurdistan and a Cosmopolistan.

    Sunnistan would include Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa, assuming the whole province may be extensively purged of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.

    Kurdistan would be in place all along the Turkish border – something that would freak out Sultan Erdogan to Kingdom Come.

    And Cosmopolistan would unite the Alawi/ Christian/ Druze/ secular Sunni heart of Syria, or the Syria that works, from Damascus up to Latakia and Aleppo.

    Syrian Kurds are already busy spinning that a federal Syria would be based on community spirit, not geographical confines.

    Ankara’s response, predictably, has been harsh; any Kurdish federal system in northern Syria represents not only a red line but an “existential threat” to Turkey. Ankara may be falling under the illusion that Moscow, with its partial demobilizing, would look the other way if Erdogan orders a military invasion of northern Syria, as long as it does not touch Latakia province.

    And yet, in the shadows, lurks the possibility that Russian intel may be ready to strike a deal with the Turkish military – with the corollary that a possible removal of Sultan Erdogan would pave the way for the reestablishment of the Russia-Turkey friendship, essential for Eurasia integration.

    What the Syrian Kurds are planning has nothing to do with separatism. Syrian Kurds are 2.2 million out of a remaining Syrian population of roughly 18 million. Their cantons across the Syria-Turkey border —Jazeera, Kobani and Afrin – have been established since 2013. The YPG has already linked Jazeera to Kobani, and is on their way to link them to Afrin. This, in a nutshell, is Rojava province. 

    The Kurds across Rojava – heavily influenced by concepts developed by imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan — are deep into consultations with Arabs and Christians on how to implement federalism, privileging a horizontal self-ruled model, a sort of anarchist-style confederation. It’s a fascinating political vision that would even include the Kurdish communities in Damascus and Aleppo.

    Moscow – and that is absolutely key – supports the Kurds. So they must be part of the Geneva negotiations. The Russian long game is complex; not be strictly aligned either with Damascus or with the discredited “opposition” supported and weaponized by Turkey and the GCC. Team Obama, as usual, is on the fence. There’s the “NATO ally” angle — but even Washington is losing patience with Erdogan.

    The geopolitical winners and losers

    Only the proverbially clueless Western corporate media was caught off-guard by Russia’s latest diplomatic coup in Syria. Consistency has been the norm.

    Russia has been consistently upgrading the Russia-China strategic partnership. This has run in parallel to the hybrid warfare in Ukraine (asymmetric operations mixed with economic, political, military and technological support to the Donetsk and Lugansk republics); even NATO officials with a decent IQ had to admit that without Russian diplomacy there’s no solution to the war in Donbass.

    In Syria, Moscow accomplished the outstanding feat of making Team Obama see the light beyond the fog of neo-con-instilled war, leading to a solution involving Syria’s chemical arsenal after Obama ensnared himself in his own red line. Obama owes it to Putin and Lavrov, who literally saved him not only from tremendous embarrassment but from yet another massive Middle East quagmire.

    The Russian objectives in Syria already laid out in September 2015 have been fulfilled. Jihadists of all strands are on the run – including, crucially, the over 2,000 born in southern Caucasus republics. Damascus has been spared from regime change a la Saddam or Gaddafi. Russia’s presence in the Mediterranean is secure.

    Russia will be closely monitoring the current “cessation of hostilities”; and if the War Party decides to ramp up “support” for ISIS/ISIL/Daesh or the “moderate rebel” front via any shadow war move, Russia will be back in a flash. As for Sultan Erdogan, he can brag what he wants about his “no-fly zone” pipe dream; but the fact is the northwestern Syria-Turkish border is now fully protected by the S-400 air defense system.

    Moreover, the close collaboration of the “4+1” coalition – Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, plus Hezbollah – has broken more ground than a mere Russia-Shi’te alignment. It prefigures a major geopolitical shift, where NATO is not the only game in town anymore, dictating humanitarian imperialism; this “other” coalition could be seen as a prefiguration of a future, key, global role for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

    As we stand, it may seem futile to talk about winners and losers in the five-year-long Syrian tragedy – especially with Syria destroyed by a vicious, imposed proxy war. But facts on the ground point, geopolitically, to a major victory for Russia, Iran and Syrian Kurds, and a major loss for Turkey and the GCC petrodollar gang, especially considering the huge geo-energy interests in play.

    It’s always crucial to stress that Syria is an energy war – with the “prize” being who will be better positioned to supply Europe with natural gas; the proposed Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline, or the rival Qatar pipeline to Turkey that would imply a pliable Damascus.

    Other serious geopolitical losers include the self-proclaimed humanitarianism of the UN and the EU. And most of all the Pentagon and the CIA and their gaggle of weaponized “moderate rebels”. It ain’t over till the last jihadi sings his Paradise song. Meanwhile, “time out” Russia is watching.

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do notnecessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.


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    • avatar
      Pepe cryptically mentions " a power shift has taken place above Obama," but says nothing further. I wonder how much that "shift" resulted from domestic politics since it seems Clinton won't face any charges for her massive law breaking and Trump will face her in November for position of head "messenger." And if such a "shift" has indeed happened, there won't be a neocon Clinton presidency; not that Trump will be an improvement.
    • avatar
      teddy j
      frankly there is NOTHING worth anything the americans can ''offer" in a deal. RUSSIA needs NOTHING from the americans.

      the russians (and the world) need american 'offers" about as much as a person needs cancer.

      the point is -- in just about every matter that the americans tried to ''impose" upon russia - by proxy or directly - the USA LOST. so what ''deal" is there that the russians could actually USE coming from america?

      don't even give the latter the time of day. as far as i'm concerned for russia. just continue to ''share" information that russia could also as well tell the WHOLE WORLD that has nothing to do with russian national security or operations -- ''share" that with americans --

      simply to PUT ON RECORD for the world to see that the russians ''sent information" and the americans have it -- and that it can NOT be twisted by americans for THEIR nefarious purposes the way they did with the information the russians gave on the SUKHOIS flying near turkey that clearly the americans SHARED with turkey and any idiot can connect the rest of WHO really was happy to see russian jets downed and russian pilot killed...using ''turkey" as the ''hand that fired the gun".

      deal - grand bargain with america? WHAT FOR? there's NOTHING america can offer that russia NEEDS.

      end of story.
    • avatar
      Khmemim airbase should not be permanent but hold on in the medium term till MiG-35 export version arrives in Syria with appropriately trained Syrian pilots. This fighter will certainly have a great prospective market in MENA and elsewhere as it is ideal for reduced airspace combat areas.
    • avatar
      Just a small correction - Kalibr missiles are not ballistic; they are cruise missiles
    • avatar
      I don't understand why he thinks a power shift has taken place. Even if there is a new bargain being offered to Russia, perhaps the power faction in charge is just changing its strategy/tactics?
    • Anton KOMAROV
      Bargain always exist in politics and diplomacy. only the fool is astonished when he reads about it in an history book years after the event...One thing is sure V.Putin is far from being stupid...with the Ace's in his hand he would have cut the best bargain
    • avatar
      There is a new political road map and there is nothing the neo-cons can do to stop it as it has been authorized off world.Peace will come and so will geo-political change this is fact.
    • avatar
      I think the American political power structure right now is so fractured that it is not possible to make any kind of "deal" with it that will be honored.

      Imo, it is the approaching US elections that is forcing the hands of all the US power factions. All sides need to keep the economy "steady" and neither side wants to get dragged into a major war with substantial loses right now. As such both the liberals and neocons know that Turkey and KSA must be forced to stand down. If a Turkey/KSA coalition were to invade Syria, there is only one response needed - crippling KSA's oil exports. The world would go from a glut to an acute oil shortage in a matter of weeks. Following that KSA would implode on its own - the house of Saud is made of cards.

      As for the Russian Intel services talking to the Turkish Military, more like the Europeans had a change of heart regarding Turkish military intervention in the government. For years, the EU has been warning the Turkish military not to stage a coup, but times have changed and Ataturk's wisdom in is now clear.
    • avatar
      justnfreein reply tokarlof1(Show commentHide comment)
      karlof1, I think Trump could be considered as improvement, at least by today's standards. Anything but neocon democrat that has history of creating ISIL and arming Alqaeda shamelessly.
      At least Trump doesn't need Saudi dollars and it will be harder for AIPAC to manipulate him. Regarding his controversial opinions, others are more vicious than him but hiding it better.
    • Al SAN
      5 stars to Pepe!
      The loosers as Sultan Erdogan can brag what they want about it !!
    • avatar
      I don't care WHAT the neocon riddled American government says or does, if I were Putin I wouldn't trust any of them as far as I could throw them! Whatever they say is just the opposite of what they're up to, so BEWARE is all I can say to Russia. These psychopaths will say and do ANYTHING to accomplish their agenda, which is global domination. Having said that, I'm certain that Putin knows all of this and is two steps ahead of anything these blundering murdering sadists in Washington can come up with.
    • avatar
      Pepe makes the leap about a us power shift that I, like rasoj, don't really get. But we do smell a deal somewhere. What makes me think it's possible is Asia. The aggressive us stance in east Asia, the arms race they've started with china, does leave a lot less arms money for the middle east. In an election year, this matters,
    • avatar
      motherland101in reply torasoj(Show commentHide comment)
      rasoj, He had to put that iin for Sputkiknews to publish the story. He really does not think that. But, there is probably some deal and we will only know, later, based on the end game.
    • avatar
      The Syria crisis is all about Iran.
      Rewind to half a year ago, when Assad was losing. If the Russians chose to see him being defeated rather than intervene, what would be the outcome? ISIS, al-Nusra, and other Sunni jihadists would wage an extermination campaign against non-Sunnis of every stripe, but most fiercely against Shiites and Alawites. Would Iran stand by, watching Shia volunteers from Iraq and Hezbollah being butchered, to say nothing of its own? Make no mistake, it would throw in all of its firepower to exterminate the exterminators. And it would win because (1) radical Sunnis are seen by Iran as an existential threat and (2) no power would be willing to seriously support the headchoppers.
      In an opposite scenario, the Russians might stay and even escalate their operations to help Assad win, but then again, his patron Iran would ultimately emerge victorious.
      Since Russia would hardly want to carry all the risks and costs involved just to see its major competitor in the oil market come out stronger than before, the name of the game is "no win for Iran." In other words, the Geneva talks, Kerry-Lavrov back and forth, and all the hustle and bustle around Syria are merely steps in a pas de deux between the US and Russia danced with one common goal: to keep the cauldron simmering but not boiling over, or else both will have to dance to a Persian tune.
    • avatar
      they didn't pull over voluntarily - they just ran out of gas.
    • Ivan Buckeye
      I suspected something was afoot when I heard the news of the Syrian chemical weapons being handed over. To be frank, I thought that Mr. Putin was maneuvering the situation with the weapons to give an escape hatch from having to go to war with Syria. But that brought the question as to what was happening within the U.S. government, say an uncontrollable faction that could be not stopped from initiating war. I still believe this to be true, and that there is a schism unfolding that is being contained to some degree. This is major news, at least if it's true. Fast forward with Seymour Hersh revealing attempts by the U.S. military to covertly work with Syria and Mr. Assad, at least through others including Russia. There's twists and turns we common folk still don't know but time will probably reveal.
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