Baku, 6 April 2017 – Newtimes.az
Military clashes in Syria and Iraq have become more intensive lately with one of the key features being the air bombardments against the civilians. Such attacks had claimed hundreds of lives and caused displacement of thousands more. The situation in Mosul is dramatic to the extent that the government forces have halted the operations. Elsewhere in Syria, the geopolitical tensions around Manbij and Afrin have spiraled. Washington and Moscow have started to back PYD there openly. If Americans are eyeing Raqqa, Russians are making sure that their people are on the ground in Afrin to secure their interests. Ankara’s response was an anticipated one as it said the Operation Euphrates Shield would continue. Thus, the outlines of an apparent new triangle of tensions – standoff between US, Russia and Turkey – is starting to emerge.
Option: State or Terrorist Group
It is becoming increasingly evident that the big powers are provoking a new phase of tensions. Developments in Syria and Iraq are testimony to that. The U.S., Russia, Turkey, Iran and powerful nations of the European Union are among the key players willing to take the game to the next level. Analysis of the recent developments in Iraq and Syria demonstrates the situation is moving towards a fierce fight engulfing a greater geography rather than establishment of peace. There are few crucial aspects that merit an emphasis in the context of geopolitics.
First of all, it is noteworthy that in the conflicts across the Middle East the U.S. and Russia are betting not on the national governments but the fighting radical factions. This is a high risk game under the current global geopolitical environment. And there are two significant aspects here. The first question is why the big powers opt to side with the radical factions instead of centuries-old legitimate Muslim states? Does not such a practice expose the global security to new risks? Second point is that the Western coalition and Russia are seemingly taking turns in carrying military offensives.
The U.S. protested when Russia bombed Halab. Now the Western coalition is bombing Mosul and that provokes Russia’s negative reaction. They even have taken their feud to the UN Security Council but that has changed little on the ground. All in all, civilians are massacred in Syria and Iraq. Infrastructure in the Muslim populated regions is reduced to rubble and number of people fleeing the conflict is rising. ISIS is yet to be relegated while many other terrorist groups are rushing to fill in the void.
Notably, the U.S. and Russia have started rendering support to the PYD/PKK factions. Those groups receive heavy weaponry and support as they capture towns and villages and build defense installations. This process is most evident in the Syria’s Northern provinces.
The U.S. has deployed its special forces in Minbij. Initially, it was a 500 men strong military contingency but now its number has grown significantly. They are defending the PYD held areas from the north which happens to be along the route of the possible advance of the Turkish troops within their Operation Euphrates Shield. The U.S. has supplied them with 200 armored vehicles, anti-tank missiles and even the notorious Stingers. Judging by the video footages released, PYD and their allies have been crossing the Euphrates River to the West in order to launch the offensive on Raqqa. They are accompanied by the U.S. troops in that endeavor.
Meanwhile, Russian troops are stationed some 40 km away for launching an offensive on Afrin. During the Nowruz holidays Russian officers have been noticed posing for pictures with PYD emblems in the backdrop. Much to the dismay of the Turkish side a sniper fire opened from Afrin has claimed a life of a Turkish soldier. Ankara’s reacted furiously to that incident but no action followed. Russians on the other hand have remained silent.
What do the U.S. and Russia’s actions imply? They have come from thousands of kilometers away aiming to impose their rule. Moscow is citing the official invitation of Damascus while the Americans claim to uphold the opposition’s interests. Yet, they both have something in common – there are undermining the legitimate statehood of the Muslim nations. They wish to create a geopolitical situation in the Middle East where the groups of their choice would be in a dominant position; because only then they can pressure the local governments and keep them on a short leash.
Subject of Threat: Innocent Muslim Population
The situation in Iraq is not much different from the one in Syria. Innocent civilians in Mosul are being literally slaughtered. Social-cultural environment that has taken centuries to shape is imperiled. It seems that plans once nurtured by the likes of Lawrence of Arabia and the Sykes–Picot duo are coming to fruition in a slightly modified version.
Residents of the Western quarters of Mosul are fleeing their homes. According to some experts, this is one of the methods of altering the region’s demographic composition, given certain plans to establish a new entity there. In that context, it is fascinating that the Arab and Kurdish languages were given equal official status in Kirkuk. For centuries, the Turkic population of those areas (primarily Azerbaijani Turks) has been deprived of the right to use native language officially.
Indeed, those developments cannot be overlooked by Iran and Turkey. Apparently, Iran does not mind. According to Pentagon, the Shia factions provided the coordinates during the offensive in Mosul. That could also be another hoax as the U.S. intelligence services have a vast network in the region. It is hard to believe that the CIA with its enormous presence there is unaware of the demographics in the Western Mosul. Therefore, putting blame on Shia could be an effort to foment the sectarian enmity in the region.
Ankara has its own perspective. Turkey is critical of the U.S. and Russia’s joint involvement in the anti-terrorist operations. Turkish official circles insist that this cooperation is only exacerbating the situation. In one of his recent interviews with the Turkish "Show TV” President Erdogan stated that the Free Syrian Army is advancing towards Minbij. That is to say that Turkey is determined in its effort to create a 5 thousands square kilometers security zone.
Ankara is likely to be firm also on the issue of Afrin because that region is close to Turkey’s borders and the former would not allow the dominance of outside forces there. This means that the Syrian conflict is not only far from subsiding but has also acquired new undertones. The West and Russia are both involved there, coming head-to-head fiercely aiming to ensure own self-interests.
The ultimate objective is to make certain that not the regional nations but the external powers have their final say in the Middle East. Indeed, this is a treacherous course of events as war threatens to overspill to neighboring regions. This particular threat has become more pronounced lately. Reportedly, Turkey may face a new wave of some 3 million refugees, whereas Iran has long remained on the U.S. and Israel’s radars.
Spread of terrorism and separatism across the countries of the region will imperil stability and security in the entire Middle East. It does not take great imagination to predict the possible developments in the Caucasus and the Central Asia unless the process is stopped.
Thus, increasing tensions in Syria and Iraq could pave the way for the next phase of volatility in the Middle East. On one hand, the terrorist factions are provided with advanced weapons and on the other hand, the military contingencies of the large countries are being deployed. They meddle with internal affairs of the regional countries, regardless of the capacity they are present in - instructors or directly involved military staff. Hardly can any conflict reach its fair resolution under such circumstances. Conversely, new conflicts are very likely to surface, including the ones with the big nations of the Middle East clashing directly.
Another dangerous aspect has to do with the possible new wave of refugee crisis. The innocent civilians suffer at the hands of those who use the fight against ISIS as a guise. Regardless of the motive, the civilian Muslim population is chosen as an exclusive target. Number of displaced is growing exponentially and majority of those are Sunni. They are forced to leave their homes in thousands while new people are being settled there. For some reason, the international organizations remain idle on that matter.
The Middle East is being artificially drowned in renewed differences and frictions. And in this historical phase, it is yet unclear as to what sort of geopolitical order is likely to prevail. That will remain a source of grave threat for the humanity.