New Eastern Outlook
by F. William Engdahl
It’s not at all surprising except in how fast it’s going. Within the space of little more than a decade, since the ill-fated Bush Administration decision to invade and occupy Afghanistan then Iraq in March 2003, the United States of America has managed to lose strategic influence and allies across the entire Middle East. Not only the Shi’ite Iranians, whom President Obama believes are now beholden to Washington, but also for the first time Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab states and Egypt are in the process of finding new allies or cooperation partners, and they are in the east, no longer the west.
On September 11, 1990 in an address to a Joint Session of Congress then President George Herbert Walker Bush triumphantly spoke of the United States as sole superpower, creating what he termed the New World Order. The Soviet Union had just dissolved in a chaos. Under the Bush and later Clinton presidencies, right up until the present day, Washington policy has been to go further and to devalue, destroy, deconstruct and dismember the Russian Federation, much as they did with Qaddafi’s Libya after Hillary Clinton’s 2011 war there.
During the 1990s President Bill Clinton supported introduction of US-financed economic “shock therapy,” with heavy support from billionaire financial wheeler-dealer friend, George Soros, and Soros’ Open Society Foundations. Soros personally brought Harvard boys like Jeffrey Sachs to Russia after they had devastated Poland, Ukraine and other former communist states in eastern Europe. The corrupt Yeltsin regime, busy swilling vodka and lining their pockets with dollars, cared not about their fellow Russian countrymen.
Times have indeed changed for Washington since those days after 1990. Today the Sole Superpower, the Unchallengeable Hegemon, is challenged as never before, mired in its worst economic depression since the 1930’s. The government has a federal debt more than 103% of GDP. Real unemployment, not the phoney Labor Department definition, stands today above 22%. The Federal Reserve is eight years into the worst financial crisis in history, unable to raise interest rates above zero percent.
And now, the strategic fulcrum of global US power projection since 1945, control of the energy flows of the Middle East, is vanishing like cotton candy in the winds.
The most telling proof of their loss of influence in Middle East is the reaction of the Obama Administration to recent Russian activities to bring an end to Washington’s horrible war in Syria, the true source of the refugee crisis presently creating social tensions across Europe.
On September 12 Barack Obama spoke out against Russia’s recent Syrian activities. Obama rejected Russia’s calls for increased military cooperation against ISIS, declaring that Russia’s strategy of backing the Syrian government against ISIS is “doomed to failure.” Referring to the fact that Russian aid was going directly to the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad, whom Washington demands resign, Obama attacked Russia’s recent reported military aid: “The strategy they’re pursuing right now of doubling down on Assad is a mistake.” Double down is a term from Blackjack that here clearly means to engage in risky behaviour when one is already in a dangerous situation.
The logic of Washington’s position of demanding Assad go is absurd. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov repeatedly stresses, Russia, which has been an ally of Syria for decades, will continue to supply military assistance to the legitimate Assad government in their battle to defeat Islamic terrorists: “I can only say once again that our servicemen and military experts are there to service Russian military hardware, to assist the Syrian army in using this hardware. And we will continue to supply it to the Syrian government in order to ensure its proper combat readiness in its fight against terrorism.”
Why the panic
What has Washington freaked out is not the possibility that Russia will make the situation worse in Syria. After more than one year of destructive bombing by US and NATO planes creating the present EU Syrian refugee crisis, the situation could hardly get much worse if Russia’s actions manage to isolate ISIS. What scares Washington warhawks is the possibility that Russia’s strategy could succeed in ending the ISIS reign of terror.
The Russian call is to form an international coalition, inviting the USA to join together with states in the region and with the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). At a September 15, 2015 meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan the heads of the CSTO member states denounced terrorism in Iraq and Syria, particularly of the Islamic State. They declared that they are ready to deploy forces in Syria under UN auspices much as NATO. This is a new development not appreciated in Washington, that two play the game. CSTO states will discuss their strategy of creating a global coalition against ISIS at the UN General Assembly meeting end of September. The CSTO includes Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrghzstan, and Tadjikistan. Russia as well holds the presidency of the UN Security Council this month.
According to the report of Thierry Meyssan, French editor of Voltaire.net based in Damascus, the latest Russian support to Assad regime’s war on the terrorists includes creation of a Joint Syrian-Russian Military Commission, the transmission of Russian satellite intelligence, the arrival of numerous Russian experts, and the delivery of sophisticated weapons. It also includes significant modernization and expansion of the Syrian Port, Latakia.
Russia’s arecent activities expanding the port at Latakia caught NATO by surprise
A recent report in the German Der Spiegel further claims that recent Russian deliveries include the advanced Russian Armoured Personnel Carrier, BTR-82A. The BTR-82A is presently in use by the armies of Russia and Kazakhstan. It’s features are impressive. It can perform combat operations 24 hours a day. Its main armament is a 30mm dual-feed automatic cannon that can fire armour piercing-tracer projectiles, high-explosive fragmentation-incendiary and high-explosive-tracer ammunition. In addition it has a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun, three forward-facing 81mm smoke grenade launchers on each side. The gunner’s station has a day/night fire control system. The commander has advanced communications and topographic maps. A surveillance camera with laser range finder eables the commander to detect enemy targets within the range of 3km. Oh, and the vehicle has some of Russia’s most robust KAMAZ 740.14-300 turbo diesel engines with 300hp, and a maximum speed of 100 km/hour even over rough terrain and, to boot, is fully amphibious with water-jet propulsion.
The respected blogger, Saker, citing Russian sources, believes that Russia is also sending the Syrian Army battlefield systems which could greatly help them, including counter-battery radars (radars which spot where the enemy’s artillery is shooting from) and electronic warfare systems. Saker points out that from a military strategy point, the real potential game-changer Russia has added in recent days is selection of the port of Latakia. He notes, “the Russians apparently have chosen the city of Latakia as their delivery point. Unlike Damascus, Latakia is an ideal location: it is safe but not too far away from the frontlines, and it is relatively near the Russian base in Tartus. The airport and naval port are also reportedly easy to protect and isolate. There are already reports that the Russians have lengthened the runways and improved the infrastructure at the Latakia airport and that heavy AN-124s have been observed landing there. As for the Russian Navy – it has been sending ships to the Latakia airport.”
He concludes, “In other words, instead of limiting themselves to Tartus or going into the very exposed Damascus, the Russians appear to have created a new bridgehead in the north of the country which could be used to deliver equipment, and even forces, to the combat area in the north… This, by the way, would also explain the panicked rumors about the Russians sending in their Naval Infantry units from Crimea to Syria: Naval Infantry forces are ideal to protect such a base and considering that the front lines are not that far, it would make perfect sense for the Russians to secure their bridgehead with these units.”
What is also going on as I suggested in an earlier article is a Russian diplomacy that is giving Saudi Arabia and the Arab OPEC members an alternative to their failed war strategy of financing any and every anti-Assad Jihadi terrorist. The new Saudi moarch and his advisers seem to have realized that the neo-conservative warhawks feeding ISIS and Al Qaeda’s Al-Nusra Front and the Muslim Brothers in the Middle East next have their sights aimed at toppling the Saudi and other Gulf monarchies. By brokering or mediating an informal end to the recent Sunni-Shi’ite war that Washington fostered, Russia has removed a major proxy prop that has kept those wars running.
That leaves only Erdogan’s Turkey as the main patron of ISIS. This is a qualitatively new situation since the war began some 4 years ago, and an ideal time for the Russian combined increased support for the Syrian National Army and the legitimate government of Assad and to make a major new international diplomatic offensive to end the fighting.
This is what is perhaps most upsetting the war planners in Washington. They realize they are on the verge of losing or most likely already have lost any remaining shred of power or influence over the countries of the entire Middle East including over Iran, the centerpiece of Obama Middle East policy at present. On September 21 Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian is in Moscow discussing the Middle East and Syria. Iran has been working very closely with Russia in recent weeks to build a strategy to end the Syrian ISIS threat.
Of course a major factor feeding destabilization of Islamic Middle East governments has been Israel’s Netanyahu government. Here Putin has again shown a skillful presence, as Netanyahu distances Israel from Washington over Iran and other issues.
According to the news site, DEBKA.file, said to be a conduit for Israeli military and Mossad intelligence, at the end of August Russia’s Putin proposed to Israel for Moscow to undertake responsibility for guarding Israel’s Mediterranean gas fields, along with the offer of a Russian investment of $7-10 billion for developing Leviathan, the largest well, and building a pipeline to Turkey for exporting the gas to Europe.”A multibillion Russian investment in the field would make it a Russian project which neither Syria nor Hizballah would dare attack, even though it belongs to Israel,” they noted.
The report claims the offer was “made to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in confidential phone conversations and through quiet envoys.” DEBKA.file goes on to say the revelations of recent stepped-up military aid to Syria and Russian cooperation with Iranian forces in Syria have entirely changed the Israeli strategy calculus: “The Israel Defense Forces must therefore revamp its posture on the Syrian front, and reassess its sponsorship of the select rebel groups which are holding the line in southern Syria against hostile Iranian or Hizballah cross-border attacks on northern Israel. The changing attitude was suggested in views heard in the last couple of days from top Israeli security officials, who now say that leaving Assad in office might be the better option, after all.”
They add, “The Russian air force and navy are the strongest foreign military force in the eastern Mediterranean. The US deploys nothing comparable. Israel’s military strength is substantial but no one is looking for a military clash with the Russians…”
If DEBKA.file’s report is accurate, the latest Russian Middle East peace strategy of diplomacy through strength has just dealt a devastating defeat to Washington’s strategy of wars everywhere.
If Russia is able now to forge a genuine, honest coalition of nations to isolate and destroy Washington-created Frankenstein monster called ISIS or IS, and to allow Syrians to settle their problems with the duly-elected President, Bashar al-Assad in free elections without the US-financed NGOs of George Soros or the National Endowment for Democracy, the world will take a giant step away from war.
F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.